Saturday, 21 September 2013

Money, Money, Money

My process for permanent retirement has gone through, and suddenly for the first time in my life I was faced with the issue of what to do with a lump sum of money.

Obviously, the first thing was to clear all my debts.  Not paying interest on debts will make a huge difference to my regular budget. 

Next was to lock away the majority of it in a long-term investment that will pay me some interest. 

And then to have an "emergency fund" for those crises that in the past a credit card would have covered, things like medical expenses that I hadn't counted on and emergency trips to the vet with my animals. (No more credit cards for me.)

My son came with me for the run around to the banks, sorting things out. He made notes for me, and understands my whole financial plan probably better than I do.  He says he's not looking out for my interests, he's just protecting his inheritance. My daughter's also been told all of the details. So if my cognitive function gets worse, there's people around me who know what I'm doing (even if I don't).

So that's all good news for me.  

Along the way, I learned a few things that might be useful for other people who've had to give up work because of illness. (Some of which may also be helpful for people who are still working.)

When I went from working to being on a Disability Support Pension, I didn't think to notify the bank of the change.  I should have.  If you're on a DSP and still using a regular bank account, it's a good idea to go to the bank to change over to a specific pension account.  Centrelink has a "deeming" process.  They deem your savings to earn a set interest rate, and count that as your income, whether or not you actually earn that interest. In response to this the banks have set up pension accounts, which earn the "deeming" rate.  This is higher than the regular savings account rate.  You will need to show your pension card to get your new bank account. 

It's important to ensure your bank has your Tax File Number. I hadn't even thought of this.  I had a bank account long before the time when banks started collecting tax file numbers.  (OK, I'm clearly getting old.) If the bank doesn't have your tax file number, it has to withhold tax from your interest at the highest possible rate.  

Have a plan for what happens if you get too sick to manage your money. You need to decide who you trust to manage your affairs if you can't manage for yourself.  This applies to health and personal decisions as well as financial decisions. Are you going to make a formal Power of Attorney? Are you just going to give a close family member or friend the access code and password for your on-line banking (and trust that next-of-kin will manage personal/medical choices appropriately)?

Further information:
Australian Taxation Office information on taxation and bank accounts
Queensland Department of Justice information on Enduring Power of Attorney

Thursday, 19 September 2013

His Name Was John....

It was the end of May 2012.

There was a story on 612ABC radio about a man whose friend put a notice in a shopping centre notice board asking for a girlfriend for him.  He was a nice guy, according to the female friend, who was concerned that he just wasn't be able to find love.

I tweeted to the radio station: "You didn't embarrass that man enough, you forgot to broadcast his phone number."

They tweeted back, they'd direct message me the number if I was interested.

I thought about it for a while, decided I had nothing to lose, and got the number.

We texted a couple of times, then met.  He talked at me constantly and gave me the history of a number of city buildings I really wasn't interested in.

After that, my kids persuaded me he was probably just nervous about the first meeting, and I should give him another chance.

So I met him a second time. Again, he talked at me constantly, and there was no sign of the monologue growing into a conversation.

That's when I told him I really didn't think it would work out.  He texted a few more times, and after I got tired of answering "no", I just stopped answering. Eventually, he stopped texting. I deleted his number from my phone.

End of story. Or it should have been.

Apparently, he didn't delete my phone number.

His current girlfriend found my number in his phone.  She's been calling and texting me constantly. She's used at least three different phone numbers so far.

Initially she claimed she'd found him cheating on her with several women. (I find it hard to believe that several women at once would want a relationship with this particularly boring man, but who can say what others' tastes are like?)

So, initially, I had politely explained that I'd only met him a couple of times and that was a long time ago. For any rational person, that would have been the end of that.

Now, I'm just getting constant barrages, of "Have you seen John?" "I found your number in John's phone", etc.

I thought of changing my phone number, but the effort of letting everyone who has a legitimate reason to contact me of the new number is just far too much brain work for someone with my current brain fog issue.

I tried explaining that I'm sick, and at this point in time there is no way I could handle dating anyone, and that all I want is to be left alone to be with my kids and my soon-to-be-born grandchild.

That didn't stop the texts and phone calls.

Since then, I've just been ignoring the text messages, and hanging up and blocking numbers when I realise calls are from her.

Hopefully, she'll eventually give up contacting me. After all, John gave up after a while.

Why did I post this?

Apart from needing to rant, I think, it's a reminder that for everyone with lupus who is going through all the rotten things that this disease throws at us, there's still everyday life going on. Everyday life can throw its share of rotten things at us too. It just all adds up.

PS - I've just ordered a portable tens machine.  It is battery operated and can clip onto a belt. That means I can be wired up to a tens machine while I'm out of the house, not just when I can be plugged into the machine here. That's extra pain relief for trips to the supermarket, or movies, or well, just about anything!  (I'll show you a picture when it arrives, and tell you how well it works.)

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Multi-purpose Tool

Retrieving cat toys from under the couch.
I struggled to come to terms with the idea that a walking stick would be helpful.  But now I have one and have been using it for a while, I've found it's got endless purposes.

So far I've used it for:

  • extra balance when I have the clumsies
  • leaning on when my hips hurt and don't want to hold me up
  • pointing at things I want my son to get down from shelves in the supermarket
  • threatening my son: "you may be bigger than me, but I'm carrying a big stick"
  • my son used it to get a neighbour's toy helicopter from the roof
  • as an explanation: when I have the stick no-one looks at me strangely when I ask if there's a lift to use instead of stairs
  • to get down a bucket from the top shelf at a shop
  • to push the cat out from under my feet when I have my hands full
  • my son tells me it will be of great use if I'm ever caught in a street fight
  • for a slightly better chance at a seat on public transport
  • to intimidate small children (as in the mother of the kids I babysit said: "You behave for Mrs Iris or she's allowed to use her stick." I probably should explain that the kids did know it was a joke.)

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Two Kinds of Gluten Free Cupcakes

Here's two gluten-free cupcake recipes I made for my daughter's birthday yesterday.  

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes and
Mandarin and Macadamia Cupcakes.
One is based on the Chocolate on Chocolate Cake recipe I shared earlier in the year.

The other is a variation on the orange and almond flourless cakes which are so often the gluten-free cake option at coffee shops.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

For cake:
125g dairy-free margarine
90g caster sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
1/2 cup gluten-free self-raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
100g dark cooking chocolate (check it is dairy-free)

For icing
1 cup gluten free icing mix
2 tablespoons pure cocoa
1 tablespoon dairy free margarine
1 to 2 tablespoons lactose-free milk

For decoration
25g dark chocolate (dairy-free)

  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C. 
  2. Cream margarine and sugar together and add eggs, one at a time, beating in between.
  3. Fold in almond meal, baking powder, sifted flour and cocoa.
  4. Melt 100g dark cooking chocolate, and mix into the cake batter. (To melt chocolate, place in a bowl, sit bowl in a larger bowl of hot water and allow chocolate to melt - do not allow any water to get into the chocolate.)
  5. Place spoonfuls of mix in paper patty cases. (Makes 24 patty cake size cakes or 18 muffin size cakes.)
  6. Bake for 20 minutes
  7. Place cakes on a wire rack to cool.
  8. Beat together icing ingredients, until light and fluffy.
  9. Pipe or spread icing over cakes.
  10. Decorate by grating chocolate over top of cakes.

Mandarin and Macadamia Cupcakes

For cakes
4 mandarins
250g raw macadamias
250g dairy-free margarine
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1 cup polenta
1 teaspoon baking powder

For icing
1 cup gluten free icing mixture
1 tablespoon dairy-free margarine
1 to two tablespoons mandarin juice

For decoration
Skin of 2 mandarins
2 tablespoons caster sugar

  1. Shred the mandarin skins (for decorations).
  2. Put whole mandarins for cake, and mandarin skins in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to the boil.  Drain and repeat twice more.
  3. Set aside the whole mandarins to cool.  Toss the mandarin skin in caster sugar and set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
  5. Process macadamias in a food processor. Stop processing while you still have some slightly larger pieces, don't let it just become nut meal.
  6. Cut whole mandarins and carefully remove the seeds. Then process the mandarins in a food processor until pulpy.
  7. Beat margarine and sugar until light and creamy. Add in eggs, one at a time, and beat between additions.  
  8. Gently fold in polenta, baking powder and nuts.  Then mix in mandarins. The mix will be "sloppy" - which is OK, polenta soaks up a lot of liquid while it's cooking.
  9. Fill paper patty cases with mixture. This will do 24 regular paper patty cases, or 18 muffin cases. (You will need to have the paper cases in patty tins or muffin tins, the mix is far to wet to just have the paper cases on a flat oven tray)  It's OK to fill the cases right to the top, as the cakes do not rise much at all.
  10. Bake 35 minutes.  You will  notice that they just begin to brown.
  11. Allow to cool. (Cool ten minutes in the tins before putting on to wire racks to cool completely.)
  12. When you remove the cakes from the oven, leave the oven on.  Spread the sugared mandarin peel over a baking-paper-lined oven tray.
  13. Place peel in oven for ten minutes, then turn off the oven and leave to cool with the mandarin peel inside. (The idea is to try the peel out thoroughly). 
  14. Beat icing ingredients together until light and fluffy. 
  15. Spread or pipe icing over cakes.
  16. Decorate with dried mandarin peel.
Both of these cupcakes can be stored in the freezer.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Gluten-free Chocolate Brownies

Gluten free, low lactose and freezeable, this is one of my family's favourite desserts.  It's rich, dense, and if warmed before serving very gooey. I usually make a double batch and freeze them.


150g dairy free margarine
375g dark cooking chocolate (broken or chopped into small pieces)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup light sour cream
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup gluten-free plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon extra cocoa

  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
  2. Line a lamington tin with baking paper.
  3. Melt margarine and chocolate over low heat, stirring.
  4. Add in brown sugar and cook, stirring for two minutes.  Allow to cool.
  5. Beat together eggs and sour cream.  Mix into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Add in almond meal, and sifted plain flour and cocoa.
  7. Mix well, pour into lamington tin and bake for 50 minutes. (Note: you cannot test this like a cake - while it's hot it's gooey. When it's cooked, a skewer inserted in the middle will come out covered in chocolate goo.  Just trust the timing.)
  8. Sprinkle with the extra cocoa (I put the cocoa in a strainer and shake over the brownie to spread it evenly.)
  9. Allow to cool thoroughly while in the lamington tin.  Do not try to cut this while hot - it will just stick to the knife.
  10. Cut into 20 squares.

No Comparison

Sometimes I get mad at myself.  Other people with "mild" lupus are still able to keep working, why couldn't I?

I'm frustrated of course.  I've just been advised my application for permanent retirement has been approved.  A very big door has just closed.

Really, I'm sure retiring at 47 must be someone's ambition. I'm living the dream, right? Well maybe not in quite these circumstances.

As it is, I was comparing myself to other people. I was thinking that I'm clearly not as tough as other lupies.

Then my physiotherapist, valiantly trying to improve my tendonitis in my left hip said: "It's good that you have such a high threshold for pain."

Maybe I'm not such a wimp after all.

Maybe I shouldn't try to compare myself to other people who have lupus.

After all, the one thing that seems consistent about lupus is its utter inconsistency.  No two people have exactly the same symptoms. We all just do the best we can with the limitations we have.