Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Chaos

Ok, who has it?  Because I've lost it and maybe you know where it's gone.

I'm talking about Christmas chaos. I thought it was a permanent part of my life but I can't find it anywhere!  It's not in the neatly stacked Christmas bins that are quietly waiting to be unpacked this weekend. It's not in the pile of gifts that have already been purchased with money just sitting in my gift account waiting for shopping season to arrive.  Nope, I looked. It's not hiding with the stack of handwritten cards that I just took to the post office. 

Hmmmmmphfff! I'm stumped. Well, if you see it tell it good-bye for me because I don't think I'm going to be seeing at again any time soon. 

This is the first year that I set aside an amount each month for Christmas (and birthday) gifts. I went out and paid $562 on Kazi's bed "just like that" (sound of fingers snapping!) No credit card, no withdrawing from long term savings, no skipping the debt repayment. It's a little unsettling and I'm sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop - something is going to go wrong, I just know it.

I've even booked our yurt for winter camping (Jan. 1st til the 3rd) and paid for it out of the same fund as it's for Michael's 55th birthday coming up in January. THAT should be an experience!

But the best thing of all is that, barring an appearance by that dreaded Murphy guy (is he Irish? anybody know?) I'll be able to paydown my line of credit and get it down below $30,000 by Dec. 31st!!  $29,900 to be exact! And then only 15 more months to go! 

Ok, I'm getting scared now, things are going WAY TOO WELL! 

I'm going to leave you with a little something I found while cleaning out a junk drawer in the kitchen (I was looking for a recipe, not really cleaning - I'm not THAT obsessed):

Awwwwwwwwwwww, now isn't that a great reason to clean out a junk drawer?? You just might find some treasure!

Tomorrow is hump day already! Hang in there and I hope you're all having a great week:)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Red Cross workers arriving in Attawapiskat with aid | CTV News

Judy shared a link yesterday about the increasing numbers of homeless people, including thousands of children (especially in Florida) yesterday, mostly due to the high numbers of foreclosures in the recent economic downturn.

While Canada has fared a wee bit better in the number of foreclosures we have our own dirty little secret. Perhaps not so secret anymore as an article finally appeared on the front page of the National Post today. By the way, a state of emergency was declared in Attawapiskat over a month ago. This is how we treat our aboriginal peoples. Although much is made in the article about the millions of dollars handed over to help people in the most remote areas of Canada why are the most vulnerable citizens living in tents and other substandard "houses/sheds" with no running water or toilets?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Move over November - December is Coming Through!

I've decided to call it a month as there is nothing left to come off my chequing account.... good thing considering it's empty! Now I just need to make it to payday on Wednesday with the $10 I have in my wallet. No stops for coffee in the morning until Friday. Only going to Timmy's on Fridays instead of Monday through Friday saves me in the neighbourhood of $1.80 x 4 = $7.20 per week or $375.00 per year and that's nothing to sneeze at! Of course that's assuming I could last a year which in all honesty I couldn't so the point is moot.

Really, I have nothing to complain about - the money went as planned which is to say it's gone!

Happily (or unhappily, depending on your point of view) most of my $$ went to the payment of debt. I'm happy about being able to make large debt repayments but if I didn't have that debt to begin with think how much $$ I'd have saved by now, so you see....(ok, just spent the last 20 minutes talking to Kazi about people who claim unemployment benefits but who have no interest in working, her cold, what the difference is between the 2 kinds of onions in the pantry (well 1 was potatoes not onions so that is the difference), her boyfriend's cousin who is staying with his family now after spending a night or two in jail after a fistfight with her boyfriend (ex-boyfriend I'm assuming but you never know) and now I have no idea where I was going with my thoughts sorry folks!) 

No doubt I was going to say something profoundly life-altering but now we'll never know!

That's it for me tonight folks as I'm  headed downstairs to cycle another 15km on my journey to Brighton. I hope y'all had a great Monday!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Night Chit Chat...Chit Chat

 Tonight - another edition of Sunday Night Chit Chat coming your way, courtesy of Carla, over at My 1/2 Dozen Daily!

Our annual Christmas Jamaican Sorrel Rum Punch is in production
What are you cooking/baking today?

 It was a Scottish day in the kitchen today - I made my weekly ration of oatmeal.

And as if that wasn't enough oats for me I made the only thing I could bake better than my mother - oat scones!  Mmmm, nothing better on a rainy afternoon than a warm buttery oat scone with homemade jam!


I loved Ami McKay's first book "The Birthing House" so much I immediately bought her second book "Virgin Cure" - I'm already 2/3's of the way through and it is impossible to put down for long.

I highly recommend it!

Listening to?
First I was listening to the Grey Cup football game while I was biking/reading and now while I write this post the movie "Love Actually" is on in the background. It's an excellent movie with an all star cast.

Looking forward to this week?
It took about 57 emails but my brother and I finally agreed on a night to go out for dinner.  So we have a family get together to look forward to this week - we will meet up at Morrissey House next weekend.

Happy that you accomplished this weekend?
For the 3rd weekend in a row I cleaned up a section of my basement sending two bags to the dumpster, several box loads to Talize and 2 more boxes in my car going to the hazardous household waste depot tomorrow. I ROCK the decluttering!! 

Oh yes, and I put the Christmas wreath on the front door and put my Christmas runner and placemats on the table!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

 Look at my roses!

One of my student's parents gave me these gorgeous roses on Friday. I don't think I've ever received roses from a parent before. I've been to their home twice over the past couple of weeks to help with an assessment on their son who has recently turned 18 and is now eligible for adult services. It was my pleasure and the blueberry cake was really enough, but it is nice to be appreciated once in a while!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

On my way to Brighton, ON and the weather is groovy!

Today I left Toronto, headed for Brighton, ON, where my friend Christy (a fellow teacher) lives. The distance between Toronto and Brighton is 140km minus the 20km I pedaled today. I can't get over how mild it is outside, 13c right now even though the sun set 3 hours ago. Absolutely perfect for a little bike ride! 

Yup, it's 8:38pm on a Saturday night and I'm really living large sitting here in front of my computer. Though I do plan to meet Michael when he's done at Jambalaya, we might take in the new Twilight movie if he's done in time. 

In addition to sore knees from biking my hands hurt. I literally dug into the scary room that houses our furnace and hot water tank and where I used to do my carving until it became so full of our overflow of stuff there was no longer any room for ME! I didn't think to put on gloves til I noticed my hand was bleeding - yes it's like a jungle in there! 

See for yourselves: (I have no pride)
 Besides lots of junk (and a furnace - see it way over there?) this is a room full of tools, nails, screws, files, carving tools, sandpaper galore, ladders, snow shovel, coolers, etc etc etc. 
 Believe it or not that's my work table underneath that recycling bin, toolbox, hammer and other paraphernalia. Once upon a time (when I had no love life:) I would sit there for hours carving away creating wondrous sculptures made from stone, fossils, wood and soapstone....then I acquired a man and his life's accumulation of stuff and the wonder stopped! 

Not that I'm complaining (well, yes I am so shhhhhhhh!)! Usually my house gets super clean and organized over the summer when I'm off but that didn't happen this year as the moment school was finished we headed off to PEI and I put it all out of my mind. That's the thing about stuff though, it's quiet. As long as I kept the door to my workroom closed I could almost forget all that stuff was there. I think I'd be better off with noisy stuff that yells at me til I deal with it.

Stupid stuff.

I got about halfway through the room; here's what it looks like now.

 Yes, this room does have a floor. AND I found my cute black and white wellies and a nice pair of black boots. It's a bit like Christmas when you find things that you had actually forgot you owned! 
 Tools are organized and are feeling all happy now. 

And here's what's left to do - still a daunting day's work ahead of me - there's still lots to get rid of. 

And get rid of stuff I did!

 I'll be making a trip to the hazardous household waste depot this week - I'm getting rid of spraypaint and fixative some of which dates back to my days of teaching art almost TWENTY years ago. Yes, indeedy, we teachers like to hang onto stuff...just in case we might need it in another life...
 Many old cans of paint. That very bright pinky-orange is the colour Kazi wanted her room painted a couple of years ago. How many coats of primer do you think it's going to take when I repaint her room come time to sell the condo?
Along with several bags of garbage, already removed from this picture, I'm sending this stuff to Talize - more computer parts, Kazi's Hunter plaid comforters from her "bunkbed" period, old upright vacuum, curtain rods, wicker baskets and more. I'm really starting to make some headway and it feels grrrrrrreat!!

How did you spend YOUR Saturday??

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Its exciting to be at the first stop on my long international journey -  Toronto - having biked 167km over the past three weeks. These two pictures are of the famous Swarovski Christmas Tree in the Toronto Eaton Centre. My daughter has a picture of this tree as the backdrop on her phone. It is a sight to behold for sure and I'll try to get her there to see it again over our Christmas holidays.

A while back I asked Sarah what were some of her favourite "free" things to do in Toronto (since I'm on a tight budget, actually there is no money, so no budget) and here is what she had to say:

"free things in TO! You have to bike ride in to High Park; around the playground, the pool, tennis courts and rink. Then down the hill past the green houses and the Grenadier Restaurant, down the hill some more past the pond and then back up to Colborne Lodge. Ride along the lake shore to Ontario Place and the EX. You have to stop into Queen's Park, its very interesting. On your way out to the east end of the city make sure you stop at the Cadbury factory and sample the mini-eggs right off the line."

Thanks Sarah - I'll do my best to take that all in!

High Park

What a playground!!

Grenadier Restaurant - nice!
Colborne Lodge - an early 19th c Regency style home
(now a museum)

The ass errrr seat of our Provincial gov't!
If only our politicians were so stately and upright!

The Cadbury Factory - where the world famous mini-eggs are made and where the secret to how they get the caramel into the Caramilk bar is kept
in the VAULT!!!

Sarah - I loved your "free" tour of Toronto. What a great city - there is so much to see and do - no wonder my daughter wants to live there. Oops, almost forgot the lake shore!!

This old postcard shows part of the lakeshore and the Canadian National Exhibition grounds where I first saw the Beachboys many many moons ago!!
(Beachboys twice, Peter Gabriel once, David Bowie once and a few others I don't remember so well!  Shhhhh, don't tell!)

Moving on, literally moving on, I am now headed to Brighton, Ontario to see my friend Christy!  

I wonder what there is to see in Brighton!

Happy Thanksgiving my Friends!

Wishing you and your family a blessed day filled with
the joy of the season. May today find you with
many reasons to be truly thankful.
your Canadian friend,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Marking a Milestone

Oh my little one, it seems just like yesterday when you were my beautiful, precious baby, holding my hand when we crossed the street, hiding behind my leg when someone spoke to you, always sitting on my lap so you could turn my face towards you - you thought I was the most wonderful person in the world. 

And then you discovered "friends" and "peer pressure" and my star began to fall. Oh, I was always there to pick up the pieces when the mean girls struck or "the boy" as you called them moved on to another girlfriend. When you needed a "mommy hug" I was always willing to oblige even though those moments became few and far between.

You remember, don't you, when you thought you knew everything and I didn't know anything?

And then - today happened! You texted me to tell me you had an "interesting" day and you would tell me about it when I got home. Needless to say I rushed right home to hear what you had to say.

You said: "I took your advice" blah blah blah and now I need your opinion blah blah blah."

I said "wait, I have to remember this day - Nov. 23, 2011 - it's a banner day! You took my advice AND now you want my opinion!!"

I've been waiting a long time for her to come back to me! I knew it would happen eventually, but I didn't know when. She's only 21! I know I was at least 25 before I started listening to my mother again, valuing her advice, respecting her opinion and applying it to my life. Hallelujah, saints above! Miracles do happen! 

More to come...

P.S. I cycled 20km last night and I am officially in Toronto!! Woot woot! Hi Sarah...more to come...

P.P.S. Today is my 3rd no spend day in a row! I have 18 cents in my wallet. AND I even GAVE Kazi a quarter yesterday to help her pay for parking at the university.  I'm skint AND generous at the same time! 

P.P.P.S. I am going to hit 100,000 page views sometime this week! Wowzers!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's only Tuesday so Why am I so Tired?

Since I was so darn lazy on the weekend I rode my bike 25km last night and only have 20 more to go before I'm in Toronto. I am going to try and cycle those last 20km tonight but I know better than to make any promises. Hey - what do you think about the bike/bed sleeping arrangements?? I know eh? That would save me a pile of money on virtual motel rooms!!

That's not why I'm tired though, because I'm not physically tired so much as I am mentally exhausted. My brain needs a break from thinking.  I've got so much whirling through my mind I can't really follow any thought to its conclusion. 

I haven't been staying up late - it's been "lights out" around 10:30pm at the latest the last two nights. I lay in bed, open my book, read two sentences and that's it, I'm toast!  Right now I have to pee and I'm starving but here I sit not wanting to make the effort to literally "get up and go".  I hope I'm not coming down with anything. I think it's work related as everything else in my life is good. Well, mostly. 

My problem (one of my problems) is that I think too far in advance about...well about everything. Instead of tackling what is right in front of me - the kitchen, the bathroom - and getting those things taken care of, no I sit here and think about how my house in PEI is doing, will it weather another winter ok without me there to look after it? Should we rent a second vehicle next summer and take a huge load of stuff out there? Should I leave the heat on or off? Did Leigh close all of the windows? Should I replace the septic system next summer or wait til we're moved permanently? 

Other things in my head (maybe if I write them down they'll go away and leave me alone for awhile): money (never ending!), students (will end eventually), co-workers (same), Christmas shopping, my quarreling older sisters (long story),the logistics of putting Kazi's bed together, what to eat for dinner, cleaning the candle wax off the table...from the sublime to the ridiculous...just make it all STOP!

Our brains should come with an on/off button!

Sorry, I'm not very interesting tonight, I'll try again tomorrow.

Oh yeah, one more thing...I fit ALL of these criteria...I'm doomed!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Quinoa - A Miracle Food for Meatless Monday

For the past month I've been following an eating plan (NOT A DIET, yeah right!) based on the Glycemic Index.  I'm including this link in case you'd like to check it out for yourself. In a nutshell, if you eat foods that are low on the glycemic index chart you will feel full longer because they digest more slowly. "Cool beans" as my daughter would say. As a comparison think of slow-cooked oatmeal (LOW G.I.) as opposed to Cornpops (HIGH G.I.), or dark chocolate (LOW G.I.) vs jelly beans (HIGH G.I.).

The proof is in the pudding so they say, or in this case the oatmeal - I've been eating oatmeal every morning at 6:30am and having NO problems making it til my lunch time (11:30am) without snacking. The chart is my bible. I've discovered things about food I never knew before.

For instance, apples are very low on the index, whereas watermelon is very high. Who knew? Not me! So guess who's eating an apple everyday for her after school snack?? YUP - me, that's who! I've been learning about complete proteins (meat, eggs and dairy) as opposed in incomplete proteins (grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes). If you're not eating meat, eggs or dairy every day you're not getting all of the essential  amino acids your body requires! Shame on you!  There are, however, two plant-based foods that are complete proteins: quinoa and soybeans. 

Since I've discovered quinoa I've been eating it almost every day! I add it to my homemade soup and put a couple of tablespoons on my salad. I really LOVE the chewy crunchiness of it and besides, it looks really CUTE!  Just look!

 Awwwww, it IS cute!!

So, it's possible to have a meatless meal (which is good for you AND the environment) and still have a complete protein! That's the good news. The great news is this link for one of my favourite quinoa recipes: Puy Lentil Quinoa. With this recipe not only do you get to enjoy quinoa, you also get another of my fave food - LENTILS!! Let's hear it for LENTILS -YAY!!  I have modified this recipe by adding any old veggies kicking around in the bin that need to be used mushrooms.  So when you're browning up the onions add some diced mushrooms, broccoli or whatever. This recipe is DELICIOUS!! I kid you not.

Here's an extra benefit - quinoa and lentils keep in your pantry for a really long time. And they're CHEAP! Especially the lentils. The quinoa is costly until you look at the price spread over the length of time you have it in your pantry. I paid $17.00 for a bag of the red quinoa from the Bulk Barn back in September (the white is cheaper and there is NO difference in the quality) and I still have lots left! And NOT eating meat a couple of times a week will also save you money. Your body will thank you for it on a regular basis:)

So, quinoa is a complete protein, it tastes great, it keeps you full longer so you don't eat so much snack food, it's fairly frugal AND it's cute! What more could you ask in a food??

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Night Chit Chat from London, ON

Check out Carla's Sunday Night Chit Chat!! 
Here's my little bit of chit chat:
What are you cooking/baking?
My favourite winter food - SOUP!!
This was my el cheapo purchase last week at Chapter's. On the thrice marked down table:) I'm only 22 pages in but already I can tell it's going to be an excellent read.  I've also decided I will need to do a personal interview with the author, see below.

Listening to?
Michael talking to his auntie on the phone. He slips into his Jamaican patois and I like trying to figure out what he's saying. I'm also listening to the microwave go beep beep beep beep every 2 minutes because Michael forgot he was warming something up before he got on the phone! I will eventually get up and reset the microwave but right now I'm busy! Ya mon!

Looking forward to this week?

Decorating the house for Christmas!!!
Yes, this is really my living room (not) - can't you just see me
sitting on the white sofa with my glass of red wine....OOPS!!
Happy you accomplished today:
Taking another big load of unwanted, unneeded, unnecessary, unloved and unpretentious STUFF to the thrift store!! With each load delivered I feel lighter - unfortunately only figuratively. 

Join in with your Sunday Night Chit Chat!

 This is today's sundry collection sitting by the front door waiting for me to drive it over to Talize (done now!)  I am the pillow queen! I divested myself of 4 more pillows, a bunch of books, several coats, lots of shoes, a black and white striped sweater that always made me feel like I'd done some that a siren I hear?  
 Most of these books I brought home from the trailer. Espionage, horror and mystery - nice light summer reading! Oh yes, a few unneeded computer parts: a scanner and a keyboard.
 School books from long ago - I won't ever be using them again so off they go, along with some random craft materials. I am NOT a crafty person, artistic yes - I carve wood, soapstone, rocks, fossils, plaster of paris - but make a wreath?? I would glue my fingers all together!
 Pots, old gardening supplies, old insulators from a bygone era. Old art books from my days as an art teacher (over 13 years ago!)
There - you can sorta see my black and white striped sweater. I think I got it on the clearance rack at Joe Fresh - my daughter worked there a couple of years so I also got a staff discount. Which was no doubt the reason for purchasing that blue/grey jacket you see there too which I wore exactly once. Why do I do that?
 I had a ton of pillows that I brought home from the trailer, barely used, we kept a bunch for the occasional overnight guest. So we replaced our old pillows with the newer ones, tossed the oldest ones in the garbage and donated the rest.
Don't ask me about my previous decorating style, just don't ok?? Moving on.....

My new vacuum cleaner has been broken in and it really SUCKS...big time! With a cat I need a vacuum that can really pick up cat hair and this one is dynamite!! So happy!  And bagless - love that!! Of course, every time I vacuum I take a year off my cat's life, poor thing. She's really an old old scaredy cat. I feel really guilty when I vacuum knowing how scared she is, she hides under the bed and howls and howls. She doesn't stop shaking for hours. Maybe I should just give up vacuuming til she passes on - I mean she's 17 years old - she can't live for THAT much longer?!

Had a nice quiet (other than the vacuuming) day. Finished off the newspaper, did more laundry (found some things I'm going to list on kijiji so washing them up), made a pot of soup and my weekly ration of oatmeal. 

It feels really good to get SOME stuff organized in the basement. I still have a long way to go but now that I've made a start I don't feel so overwhelmed. I've organized things into a donate pile (gone for today), garbage (also gone), going to PEI (all on one set of shelves) and yard sale (all on its own shelf). So I'm done in the laundry room and storage area, next weekend is the furnace room/workshop which I can barely get into. I'll do a before and after picture.

Oh yeah, and I IRONED all of my clothes for the week! What a busy girl I've been today! 

Well that's it for now my friends. Michael and I are sitting in Starbucks because for some reason he can't read at home. (I think the real reason is that he stayed in bed til 3pm and needed a reason to get dressed lol!) So I had a skinny Peppermint Mocha (good Jane!) and a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie (so bad Jane!) 

When I get home I'm going to ride my bike. Didn't get around to it yesterday though my intentions were good. I was just about to change into some workout clothes when Michael called to say he'd be done earlier than usual so I went and picked him up instead and we went out for wings and entirely too much wine and single malt scotch. Woe is me.

Well it's Monday tomorrow - my favorite day of the week har har har! I need to pick up a few things for salads for the week but other than that I'm skipping grocery shopping this week. Yup - it's the week to use up what we've got again - things roll out of the fridge when we open the door. 

OK, now this is really IT, THE END, I MEAN IT, GOODBYE!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Frugal Date Night

Did I ever tell you that I got TWO offers for my trailer this summer? Yes, it's true. After I agreed to sell it to my friends for one price I received a second offer a few days later for $2500 more. I was on the horns of a dilemma. Do I screw over my friends for a bit more cash? I was sorely tempted. The two offers, by the way, were a YEAR after having it on the market and on kijiji. I had a few emails and phone calls but no firm bites. So when Michael told our friends about it and how much I hoped to get I jumped at their offer when they made one- they didn't lowball me or anything, they offered me just what I wanted. How was I to know that shortly thereafter I'd get a better offer.

Or was it.............?

Before you leave this post scratching your head in bewilderment thinking the crazy lady has finally cracked up for good and what the heck does this have to do with a frugal date night let me enlighten you.

Hello...are you still there? Oh, good...ok here goes.....

Our friends who I DID sell the trailer too with still a few regrets own a restaurant called Jambalaya - yummy Cajun & Caribbean food with a bit of Thai thrown in for fun.  Is it starting to make sense yet? Last night when I picked Michael up after work we had less than 1.5 hours before our movie started at the Hyland. Since Jambalaya is two doors down from Fodemisi Shoes where Michael works we decided to eat there. Needless to say, once we'd eaten our way through soup, cornbread, pad thai for me and Black Pepperpot (Guyanese chicken stew) for him, plus drinks (sour green apple spritzer for me, red wine for him), we were pleasantly surprised when head chef and owner Kevin said "folks, it's on me!" 

When I made the deal with the owners to buy my trailer I did jokingly say they could give me "free pad thai" for life but I know when you're in the restaurant business in a city with way more restaurants that it can sustain it's not in your best interests to give away food so I appreciated the gesture very much. (It's not the first time he's done this for us either, though I never expect it.)

The pad thai is such a huge meal that I always bring half home and have it for lunch (I just finished it up and it was so delicious!)   So our only cost for our "date night" evening was the price of two movies each (yes it was a double header we couldn't resist) and 1 bag of popcorn for a total of $30.00! Frugal indeed!

Which was good since I splurged on a new vacuum cleaner yesterday when I was Christmas shopping...oops! I would say that our old vacuum cleaner SUCKS but clearly it doesn't "suck" very well at all. And if there's one thing you want to be able to say about your vacuum cleaner is that it SUCKS!

Today is a relaxing day - I've balanced my books (that's another story in itself!), done all the laundry, read the paper, read all of your posts, went to the farmer's market, filled the car with slightly less expensive gas (as compared to last Saturday) and now I am heading down to the basement to do some more de-cluttering followed by some cycling. Happy days are here again!