Cards, Uggs and a potato masher

26 March 2012
When we returned from the book tour, I received emails from two readers eager to know what I bought while I was away. I thought it was quite odd to assume I'd bought anything seeing as I write about moving away from a consumerist mindset. And mindset really is the key word here - you need to have thought about your spending and materialism and have turned your back on it for this kind of life to be your new "normal". That is not saying that I will never buy anything frivolous again, it's saying instead that I only buy necessities and what will give me pleasure, and therefore enhance my life.

Bottoms up!

So, where did we shop while we were away for those two weeks? Well, we went to book shops, naturally, to sign books. While I was in two of those book shops I bought a packet of stationery in one and two cards in another. They were for thank you notes to send to people who had gone out of their way to help us during the trip.  We also bought Hanno a new pair of shoes when the ones he brought with him cracked along the sole. We bought food and drinks to sustain us - these were generally bought at small supermarkets and market stalls along the way.

I know what you're thinking - surely she bought more than that! Well, yes, I did, and I'm still not sure what category I'd place these purchases - necessities or pleasure; I think they're both. I need a pair of new slippers for winter. I wanted to buy real Ugg slippers and had already priced them on the Sunshine Coast. Too expensive. I wanted quality but I knew I could get quality at a better price so I was prepared to wait. When we moved here I bought a pair of real Uggs. They lasted me for eight years. Then I bought cheap slippers, and each time I did, they lasted about two years. I wanted to get back to the Uggs - to buy the best quality I could afford - but I wanted the price to be right. I found them at Blue Mountains Uggs at Faulconbridge. We bought a pair of Ugg scuffs for Hanno and a pair of short ankle Uggs for me - I like my slippers to cuddle my feet. Both are real sheepskin and wool. Both pairs together cost the same price I was quoted for one pair here. Well worth the wait.

The other thing I bought was a vintage potato masher. The one I had been using had a very long handle on it, much longer than any person would need. It is uncomfortable to use and doesn't do a great job. I wanted one like my mother used, although I didn't know that until I saw it sitting inside a beautiful vintage glass mixing bowl/jug. It cost $8 and has remnants of the old green paint on the wooden handle. This was made in the days before plastic. When I picked it up I felt like I'd picked it up a hundred times before. I bought it. When we came home, I soaked it in vinegar water for an hour, gave it a good scrubbing with hot water and soap, and added it to my kitchen utensils. It makes the best mash. 

I found this masher treasure in a place called Frou Frou in Springwood. My nephew Danny told me about this shop, I tried to get there last time I was in Springwood at Easter, but they were moving then and the shop was closed during my visit. If you're in the Blue Mountains and like vintage clothes and bits and pieces, it's well worth a visit. Just looking at the stock brought back a few memories for me and made me smile.

And that's it, folks. No big shopping spree, no souvenirs, just cards and a stationery set, shoes for Hanno to wear on the trip, Uggs and a potato masher. All necessities that will bring pleasure too; I reckon that's good shopping. We didn't need anything else and we certainly didn't go walking through shops looking for "stuff" to buy.

Are you having trouble stopping shopping? What are your downfalls? What are you doing to get back to frugality? Maybe you've found not shopping much easier than you imagined it to be. If so, tell me your story.


  1. Hi Rhonda,

    Your potato masher brought back memories of my childhood when it was my job to mash the potatoes with a masher much like the one you've shown us. Back then I had to really mash them so that there were no lumps in the potatoes; today it's fashionable to have lumpy mashed potatoes, LOL. I'm afraid for many years now, I've been guilty of getting out the portable electric mixer just to mash potatoes. Well, no more since seeing your masher. From now on, I'll just grab the one I started out housing keeping with 47 (gulp) years ago. Why I ever changed, I don't know. My downfall is books. I have to fight spending the grocery money on books. I'm working on it, but it's still a challenge. BUT, if I can ever get a copy of your new book here in America, I WILL spend the grocery money, if necessary!

    Isn't it amazing how something like seeing a potato masher reminds us to simplfy and in the simplfying, we realize that we don't really need some of the things we thought made our lives easier?

    Thanks for the post; I learn something from all your posts.

    Diane in North Carolina

  2. Hi, Rhonda. Long time since I commented but thought I'd dive on here before you get a slew of comments (from non-Australians) trying to tell you that your Uggs aren't "genuine Uggs".
    Throughout most of Europe and the US, the only Uggs that are seen as "genuine" are the designer brand "UGG Australia". It's very frustrating as they are owned by US company Deckers and they are made in China (admittedly with Australian sheepskin).
    (I understand that the word Ugg has been around in Australia for a long, long time but that isn't the case in Europe and the US where the word Ugg has been trademarked by Deckers for their exclusive use.)

    When I bought my sheepskin boots, I deliberately sought out non "UGG Australia" (by Deckers) for three reasons.
    1. They cost a crazy fortune, mostly for the name.
    2. The company bullied many small Australian Ugg companies out of business before the Australian courts sorted out the trademark issue.
    3. They are made in Chinese factories but mislead that they are made in Australia.
    4. Small sheepskin companies (like the Blue Mountain ones you purchased and the Kiwi Sheepskins I have) are more local and offer quality products - only missing the designer name.

    Hope you don't mind this being a bit long-winded but I know many of your readers are concerned with the ethics of big businesses and I know you would find this interesting too.
    (Full story on wikipedia and many Australian sheepskin companies give a good summary too.)


    1. Very interesting! I had no idea (coming from Brazil and living in Canada) that UGGs, the ones in the market here, were actually owned by Deckers. I have never bought a pair because of the price, but now I will consider the politics too!

  3. Hi Karen, most Australian know of the legal case involving the use of the term UGG. After a legal battle here the Deckers brand UGG was removed from our trademark list. Genuine ugg boots are still being made here in Australia and New Zealand and are made with Australian and New Zealand sheepskins, just as they have been for the past 80 years. I'm happy to report the ugg boots we bought are made in Australia using genuine sheepskin.

  4. Oh Rhonda we have more in common than our first names.

    Quality always around here.

    The does not mean I don't buy secondhand - that is always my first choice for environmental reasons as much as economic.
    We even recycled our house - it is an old Queenslander on 5 acres.

    But when we do buy new it is always with an eye on quality.

    It is a puzzle to me how so many people spend their days in those giant shopping centers - a trip in about once a year will do me.

    I have my own "spending " money budgeted and often find that it sits in my purse for ages as I can buy what I want and need at our local op shops using hubbies spare change that he throws into a dish on his duchess.

  5. Another excellent post, Rhonda. Almost all of our purchases are food to sustain us or materials for projects around our home.

    I did buy a pair of sandals from the op shop on Saturday when mine broke while we were out. I was prepared to go barefoot if I could not find something suitable but my luck was in and I got a pair of almost new, good quality sandals.

    I began to realise how little I buy in the way of clothes when I started choosing my items for Project 333. I have written a post about it.

  6. Good morning Rhonda

    The potato masher led me to thinking how I used to wander up to the local antique market on a Saturday afternoon when I was a young married. I'd spend a contented hour or so fossicking around and usually came home with some small purchase. After a few years of this my house started to look a bit cluttered. After mum and dad died we siblings then had the mammoth task of getting rid of all their stuff. They saved everything even old receipts! Not wanting to leave a similar task to my two girls, I gradually divested myself of the clutter. I had by then fallen in love with minimilism. So now my unit is pretty bare of clutter although I can't resist a couple of groups of family photos dotted around. When I look around I feel proud that I have got rid of so much, but a little bit wistful too for all that clutter!

    Love your blog Rhonda. Have just discovered it a couple of months ago, so now I start my day with it,and what a lovely start it is!

  7. Over the past few years I have been a lot more discerning in my purchases. We still have the occassional spend up but only on things that we actually need or give us pleasure (knitting books, patchwork supplies or books in general :) ) but mostly I am pretty content with the way we kerb our spending.
    I have even started getting soem clothes for myslef at op shops - since I have lost some excess padding, I can now find clothes suitable in the op shops LOL.
    Have a lovely week Rhonda and Hanno

  8. Great to hear all your purchases were done in a place so close to my heart - and home! We lived up there for a few years but since having children we moved back to the city. Seems the wrong way around, but with the commute my husband never saw our daughter and it was too big a price to pay. But we still get up there frequently.

    I still do love shopping sadly, but thankfully for the past few years I have either been pregnant (so not really shopping) or so repelled by the fashion it's easy to stay away. At the same time I've been sewing on a regular basis with a dear friend and I love my creations much more than anything I can buy in the shops. With cheap patterns on sale online and a great seconds fabric shop around the corner, most of my pieces cost about $5.

    We're also living in an area with great markets and second hand stores and I get the same buzz buying cheap, quality, interesting clothing from there as something new that only lasts a wash or two.


  9. Strangely enough I have an almost identical potato masher, complete with green paint, bought in the Blue Mountains at a vintage shop many years ago! It works a treat.

  10. I was interested in your post Rhonda as I am going to Thailand next month for 9 days. My eldest brother will be 80 in July and is going to the UK then. I was thinking of going but the cost, crowds etc at that time - his birthday is 3 days before the Olympics start that I canned that idea! He lives in Thailand so thought I would see him before. We were there 3 years ago but I am thinking what I could buy over there - NOT touristy type "stuff". I am going to be very selective and keep my money in my purse until I see something useful or that I really like. Duty free might be the go!!

  11. Thanks for the tip about Blue Mtn Uggs and the Frou Frou shop.....I'm going to be in both Faulconbridge and Springwood after Easter doing some workshops, so will have a chance to have a look. The uggs are reasonable, we have a sheepskin shop in the Tweed, but the prices are very high. Like you, I've bought cheap ones and they're ready to throw out after one winter. Have you been to the Old Post Office Antique Shop in Katoomba, lots of nostalgic yesteryear there...a bit pricey, but lovely for a wet Saturday browse.

  12. Hello everyone! Nanette, Tricia took me into the Katoomba Old Post Office last Easter. It's a wonderful place to browse.

  13. Good morning Rhonda. How lovely that you came back with a handful of items that will give you many, many hours of pleasure. I am always reminded that it is not about non-consumption but mindful consumption. A long held-off purchase of something useful can give so much joy and satisfaction.

    With your new masher you should definitely try the Pioneer woman's 'Crash Hot Potatoes" - they are delicious. We made them for the first time last night and my husband has already declared he doesn't want any other type of potato served in future:)

  14. As a child I have strong recollections of the souvenir shops that lined the streets of the English seaside towns where we spent our holidays. Mostly, they sold tacky, plastic useless items that were made in China with 'Souvenir from ...' stamped on the front but it was almost obligatory to bring back something from a trip to remind you of your time there! At least the tea towels that my mother would buy did serve a purpose in the home but there again she had a thing for linen and we actually didn't need anymore tea towels! It's funny to see similar souvenir tea towels repurposed and turned into cushions selling for mega bucks in an upmarket store near me!
    My downfall would be country/vintage style upmarket homeware stores where everything is artfully arranged in room settings. I do enjoy browsing in these more unique stores especially the ones you come across in different places and you can get ideas for your own home but it is very enticing and sometimes hard to resist the temptation to buy something that appeals to you. Husbands don't usually like these shops but they can be useful to take inside as they say things like 'What do you need another teapot for?'!
    I'm wondering what your views on 'collecting' are Rhonda? I'm not talking about the novelty or bizarre stuff that people fill bookcases with but more about homely items that may be used on occasion that homemakers are drawn to - china plates, teacups and vintage kitchen items such as rolling pins. I bet there are people that collect potato mashers but in reality you only need one good one like the one you found! Might make an interesting subject for a post and to find out what people collect and when they decide that it is all too much and are prepared to let it go in the pursuit of a simpler life or clutter free home.

  15. Rhonda,
    I am in my early thirties, have two small children, and in the last year my husband and I purchased a home that we intend (unless life says otherwise) to raise our children in. I HATE shopping. I become overwhelmed of too much merchandise, stress about spending money, and I hate nagging my wonderful girls to "stop touching stuff". That being said every once in a while make myself "wander through the aisles" of one of the more "tolerable" housewares stores. My husband and I are trying to build our home with quality items that we need and things that bring us comfort. When we find there is something we need for our home we keep it on our mental list and every so often as I wander through such a store I notice if they have such items and if they are of good quality etc. I also notice other home items and contemplate if they might be worthwhile someday or are just junk waiting for purchase. Someday when I am older, when I feel "established" in my routines and household belongings etc. such shopping may not be necessary (I can only hope). Until then I will roam occasionally. Just last week, I purchased stainless measuring spoons (my old ones were in real bad shape), salad tongs (cause using our bbq tongs was very unpleasant to me when company was here), and I purchased pots for plants at my front door (they are very nice, far below retail, and scream "welcome home"). This was just a random, forced shopping trip but I did get things to "bless our home" and we didn't go into debt over our purchases.
    PS I do enjoy blog posts by people like you that speak about your homes so that I can better choose the items that I bring into my home. Thank You!

  16. Hi Rhonda,
    I definitely have my weaknesses. Books is one of them.
    I was wondering - what are your thoughts on internet shopping?

  17. Just recently I went on a backpacking holiday to Malaysia and Borneo with my daughters. I really, really wanted a stone mortar and pestle and that is what I brought back with me in my backpack! Every time I use it I remember being with my lovely daughters and the wonderful trip we had.

  18. The potato masher is the same as my mother used & as I've always used. However I am out of practice for the most recent mashed potatoes here have had a few lumps & I am not a fan of lumpy mashed potatoes! I invested in one like Tasha Tudor uses, from her family website. If I don't have the strength to mash like I use to, well maybe the heavy solid wood one will do the job. A plus for me is it will fit a small pan for a single portion.

    Love your slippers! Went to the site & of course saw some short boots to fall in love with. I wonder if there is arch support in them. Maybe next Christmas, if I "need" new boots.


  19. Oh thank you so much for the link for the Ugg slippers. I desperately need a new pair of slippers and have been wanting these but they are so expensive but these are reasonably priced so I will order for myself and my husband! Our feet will be toasty warm now for winter :)

  20. I rarely buy anything other than food & cleaning things these days. Clothes shops where I live in Greece are either hideously expensive, or cheap & nasty - nothing in between (no Marks & Spencer equivalent). I stock up on undies, shorts, shoes, trousers & tops in M & S when I go back to the UK, and that's it! Living a simple life here means I have no need for "posh" clothes, other than a couple of decent skirts, which I've had for several years already. Like you, Rhonda, I'd much rather buy something of good quality that will last rather than cheap things which wear out in no time.

    I do have a weakness for kitchen stuff, and indulged it before we moved here as we were setting up in a new home, so I don't need anything more, really!

    When I go back to the UK I'm horrified by the amount of "stuff" in the shops. There are so many things which would be just "clutter" in my home, and I've got enough of that already which I'm trying to get rid of.

  21. Hi Rhonda,

    Exactly the same experience with an egg lift about 5 years ago. I hadn't realised how much I wanted one the same as my mother and grandmother used until I spotted it in a second hand shop. It has brought me much joy since I bought it.

    Thanks for sharing your life experiences friendship is a great gift notwithstanding when it comes from someone I have never met.

  22. My weaknesses - mostly wool and fabric with a dash of books and glassware (preserving jars at present). I haven't been to a mall for over a year now and that was only a quick in and out for something special. I hate shopping but do like to browse junk/antique shops occasionally with a friend or so.

    viv in nz

  23. I can appreciate your purchase of that beaut old potato masher - it was a great find. I recently found a beautiful old bowl for $10 - my friend bought one exactly like it last year for $45! It was definitely worth waiting for the op-shop version rather than the antique store variety. My most recent addition to my bookshelf was your book Rhonda - I'm happy to say it was gifted to me by my family. :)

  24. Scarfs and purses...especially under $15!!! I have such a hard time to resist those... Sometimes, I just look and look and go away. Sometimes, I just can't resist. The best remedie for me... Not go to the shopping mall if I have nothing in particular to buy.
    My husband and I are enrolling in Dave's Ramsey's Financial Peace University next week. Right now, we are in a total money makoever mode... We have made up a budget, started an envellope system and have started to build a $1000 emergency fund. It works very good for us.
    Strange how we are not making more money but it seems we have a lot more than before.

  25. It's monday morning here in the always gives me a chuckle that yours was yesterday and I can expect your Tuesday post to hit about 3pm here. :)
    I'm not much of a shopper. I think it started as sort of a rebellion against my mother who grew up quite poor and in adulthood rebelled against those memories by becoming quite the consumer - good at finding sales but desired more of the "high society" type lifestyle. I tend to shop only for necessity and have no hobbies. I LOVE looking through a thrift or antique store though...imagining all the people and uses things got, that most things were made differently than today. The intentions were different, to make something that lasts and won't need replacement any time soon...unlike now when things are made to wear out sooner so they can get you to repurchase something sooner than later.
    My Mr and I are in process of losing some weight so that has led to more clothing purchases as things get too big. The most fun has been that now I can easily find nice things in the local thrift stores!
    It is interesting to ponder about the ways people purchase and why...I was raised being heaped on with things and my Mr was raised without much. As an adult I am driven to frugality and he struggles with wanting things he can now afford, doesn't necessarily need, but wouldn't have been able to have in his youth.
    Loving your book by the way!
    I purchased online through Fishpond with saved pocket money.
    Bless you!

  26. Thanks for the info on the Uggs. I bought a pair at Costco for $35.00 two years ago. They have no brand name, but are excellent quality with Australian sheepskin. Very well made, and I wear them every day! Uggs are very overpriced here in the stores, too. I have been spending too much money at thrift stores. I don't want to buy things I don't need, so I'm spending more time in the garden and on chores.
    awakened soul

  27. I'm not a shopper, thanks to a very frugal mother who taught me to stretch my pennies! However, I do visit a thrift shop here regularly because they import things from the US that you cannot find in Guatemala. I've found a bread machine there in wonderful shape and we also purchased many clothes (at a steep discount) for our newest baby . . . plus I bought extra large T-shirts for ten cents a piece to cut up and turn into little hats and onesies and mittens for the baby. It does bring me joy to see him wearing things I made that are cheaper and cuter than what you can buy. Oh, and the hats I made stay on his head, whereas the storebought ones given us by a friend slip off every ten seconds!

  28. Those purchases were very wise ones! And useful!! Practical!! They do fall in line with your principles of life, imho anyway. Thanks for sharing!!
    Elizabeth in NC

  29. A late comment Rhonda. Just wanted to say that in Sweden the potato masher is alive and kicking. You find them in every kitchen shop and supermarket. Every household would have them. I love mine. You can even buy a potato press without looking too far. Hard to describe, but it´s a hand-held metal utensil where you pile the potatoes into a kind of basket with loads of fine holes flip down the flat part and squeeze for dear life. The result is a very fine and fluffy pile of potato. Very tempting to eat too much I must say.
    Greetings from Uppsala where spring is just awakening.
    Ramona K

  30. Hi All, love the blog! Ramona I think we call that gadget a potato ricer.?

  31. I think that necessities that bring pleasure are the very best thing one could hope for. I'm glad the trip went well. Have a wonderful day!

  32. Quite right Denise - should be potato ricer. I´d forgotten the term and just automatically translated the Swedish word "potatispress". I´ve lived so long in Sweden my English suffers at times and becomes Swenglish. I agree this is a great blog. Been reading it for years!

  33. I have the same masher given to me by my mother. It was hers and I use it every time I make mashed potatoes, turnips, sweet potatoes, etc!



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