Sunday, February 24, 2013

From Blog Reading to Basketball

I have to say I've spent a delightful few hours catching up on everyone's blog today. It was so much fun - everyone seems to be posting about my favorite topics: food, books and saving money!! Poor Carla is menu challenged but she did finally organize her week's meals! Lisa had me thinking back to the Great Depression and the meals our mothers made with every little scrap they could find. Jane gave me a good laugh reminiscing about school meals and stodgy puddings! That reminded me me of the lumps in my mother's famous oatmeal that had me gagging every morning before school! Many more of you amazed me with your grocery savings this week, something us Canadians can only dream about! And lovely Lena had me drooling in envy with her snowy day baking - Coconut Cinnamon Rolls - check it out (recipe included)!

 And now.....on to basketball. Last night will be known as the night we had better seats than the mayor!!! That's him looking bored sitting next to the red-haired boy. BEHIND US I MIGHT ADD! We have friends with season's tickets in the first row on the floor and when they can't use them they give them to us! Lucky us!

It was a thriller of a game. Our London Lightning team was playing the team from Summerside, PEI (our FUTURE  HOME team :) but we were cheering for London last night. The Summerside Storm led for most of the game but London went ahead in the 4th quarter. Then, with only seconds left, Summerside tied the game! In a 5 minute overtime period London pulled ahead again and won the game!
This is the initial tip-off, man can that guy ever jump HIGH!!
One of the Lightning team dancers - this girl just happens to go to the highschool I work at :)
I like taking shots from different angles...
 and that got me interested in the colourful footwear on the floor...

 not to mention LARGE footwear...
 I think these were the largest!!

 These take the "brightest footwear" category...
Here's London's coach in the blue jacket. He's very colourful in more ways than one! or two! I took a lot of photos of him but because he's constantly in action they are usually blurry.

Like now for example...
Crap...they tied it up! (Nice muscles...not that I noticed....)
 No, please, say it ain't so!  This young fellow, last name Moss, is only about 5'8" at most but he's always on the court - he scores many a 3 pointer AND almost always gets the rebounds and speedy?, oh my! What he lacks in height he more than makes up for in talent!
 Thought we had that game in the bag...
He's ok but I thought he was gonna end up on my lap....darn....
Summerside's tallest and largest footed player!
 You can see tiny Moss (#6) in comparison to the BIG guys!
This one's going in!! Woot woot!

I had a clear shot of their faces I thought... STOP MOVING!!

We ended the evening by dropping into our favorite restaurant - JAMBALAYA!! I haven't been there for ages. Thank you Kevin and Denise for the spicy rice and chocolate cheesecake and glass of wine - the cheesecake was beyond words :) And so good to see you Sam and Serena!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

By the Numbers - Keeping it Simple

It's been a long time since I've talked about those all important NUMBERS: number of days until summer holidays when we can go east again, number of days until I retire and of course - the financial numbers - how much I'm saving and how much I need to pay off. 

Down the side of my blog....WAY down....are my two counters - and I am happy to report that there are only 124 days until summer begins with the annual trek to PEI and only 491 days until RETIREMENT!!  YOWZER!! Getting below 500 days is so exciting!

Below my two counters are the financials. I just updated them and this is where I'm KEEPING IT SIMPLE! There are only two financial bars now plus the one that I've completed which was the repayment of my Line of Credit last year. I could delete it, I suppose, but it was such a HUGE moment I'm not ready to let go of the reminder of one of the most significant financial accomplishments of my life! Oh yes, and the Line of Credit account is officially CLOSED!

It was either April or May of last year that I emptied every savings account I had (with the exception of RSPs) and paid off the remainder of my Line of Credit. It felt a little scary, no a LOT scary but I felt I could replenish my savings accounts pretty quick since I'd no longer be making payments on the Line of Credit.  Here it is 9 or 10 months later and I've resaved $15,000 plus I made a $2400 RSP contribution today. I am still on track to save $100,000 by the time I retire plus I am steadily reducing my PEI mortgage month by month. I've reduced the amortization period by 8 years over the past 2.5 years by paying an extra $42.00 twice a month and when I renew in August at a lower interest rate the amortization will be reduced even more.

Eventually I'll sell my condo and add that to my little nest egg of savings. People tell me I'm lucky because as a teacher I have a defined benefits pension tied to the rate of inflation. Believe me, luck had nothing to do with it. I've had hefty deductions taken off the top of my paycheques for over twenty years now. That's why my RSP room each year is only around $2400. I've put the maximum into my RSP that I'm allowed annually plus 12% of each paycheque goes into my pension plan.
I won't be living high off the hog. Retiring two years early means a smaller monthly pension.  Happily, my needs are few and my wants fewer.  I have no consumer debt and hope to have my PEI mortgage paid off within the next few years. I'll manage quite nicely on my monthly income and can look forward to getting more pension monies as I age - CPP (can begin to collect at age 60 or higher) and OAS at age 65.
 With low monthly costs I'll still be able to save each month to pay for home and vehicle maintenance as well as travel. I plan to have a barn built on my land and renovate my kitchen.

Best of all I plan to watch the sun rise every morning from my front porch - free of charge!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tomorrow is.....
I wonder if I'll see my family....

My one and only child is now going on 23 years old. I don't really get to see her very much... though I feel her presence every time I walk past her disaster zone bedroom. Today I had to close the door - it looks like 10, no 20, suitcases exploded in there. Her room is more like a walk-in closet than somewhere you would sleep and do homework.

Yes, she has a boyfriend. They've been together over a year now and she spends most of her spare time at his house. He is a single child also and has a "bachelor pad" down in the basement of his parents' house. His mom is a different kind of mom than I am. She keeps her fridge and freezer stocked with their favorite, easy-to-make foods like frozen pizzas and other "instant foods".  At my house you actually have to use ingredients to prepare something to eat. She's a very nice person, this mom, don't get me wrong but I see my role as trying to prepare Kazi to be independent whereas this mom is very enabling. As long as she continues to cater to their every whim they'll be living in her basement.

Oh well, what can you do? Times have really changed. When I was my daughter's age I had been renting my own apartment for 3 years, had purchased my first car and had been working in a bank supporting myself on my measly income. I still remember my first yearly salary - $6,250.00. Wowzer!! I cleared $98 per week! Nowadays kids young adults don't want entry level jobs and they don't a job that they don't LOVE! Well good luck with that! I didn't start my teaching career til I was 36 years old after I put myself through university and teacher's college as a mature student while raising my daughter as a single parent.

But I have no regrets and most of this post is written with tongue firmly placed in cheek :) Sooner or later our kids will grow up, some sooner, some later. My daughter is well-educated and has always had one or two or three part-time jobs at a time. I think she'll find her niche and a job that is meant just for her. Some day. In the meantime she still has a lot of maturing to do and a lot to learn about life. And I'll always be there to catch her when she falls. It's still me she turns to when times get tough.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Pay Day and Sleep Deprivation

So I ended up depositing $$ from my formerly Sealed Pot to cover some forgotten expenses (against your advice as it turns out) but hope to replace it soon :(   Yes, woe is me. But I'd rather owe ME money than one of these guys...)
But it is kind of disheartening to take out in one fell swoop money that I'd been socking away over the past two months. But the bills must be paid.

I got into a bad habit while I was nursing my pinched nerve in January - I purchased quite a few books for my Kindle. Reading was basically all I could do while I was recovering (recovering at 90% of my usual paycheque I might add). So.......EARNING LESS - SPENDING MORE = NOT ENOUGH MONEY IN THE CHEQUING ACCOUNT WHEN THE PIPER NEEDS TO BE PAID!!

Lesson learned....I hope.  I should know better. I DO know better but I was feeling sorry for myself. Now I feel even sorrier.

Happily today was payday and included one week at 90% and one week at 100% pay. I have a whopping $257 (after bills are paid and $$ put into savings) for gas and groceries til Feb. 28th. Michael and Kazi will also contribute to these two categories so as long as nothing Murphyish happens (there I go just inviting disaster to happen!) we should be OK. Sigh.

The other piece of good news is that Monday is Family Day here in Ontario so we have a long weekend. Just what the doctor ordered. I have developed another bad habit - one that I can't seem to fix. Every morning I wake up around 4:30am after about 4-5 hours of sleep. I toss and turn til the clock reads 5am and then get up. I am arriving at school at 6am! I am so bloody exhausted! Today I came home from school around 3pm and took a nap til 6:45pm - and I am not a napper ordinarily. I take calcium before bedtime, drink a glass of warm milk, take melatonin to regulate my sleep patterns but to no avail. My alarm is set for 5:30am but it never  wakes me up - my whacky inner clock gets me up long before that. I have no problem falling asleep but I just can't STAY asleep.

Any advice?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

From Bad to Worse

This is me, minus the moustache, counting my loose change. However there isn't enough loose change in this house to cover my messy chequing account. Just when I thought I had everything under control my insurance bill comes through almost $40+ higher than I thought it was going to be. Must read renewals more closely in future! And yet another little Paypal payment went through today that I forgot about...what the heck!?!

So now I'm more than a nickel short, I'm $57 short. That sucks. Do I transfer from savings or dip into my "not so sealed" POT? It never fails...I hate this time of year. More month than money even though it's a short month.

That's it, I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Big Poop! I mean Scoop!

Can I just say that I'm glad Michael's colonoscopy is over and done with?? The three days of purging, while not fun for him, was also not a treat for me! I'm thankful we had no house guests for the past few days!!

Sorry, no photos! And everything was normal - hurrah!

Moving on...I'm back working full days now, thankfully. I spent a couple of weeks on short term disability once my sick days were used up. So my paycheques which are always lower at this time of year due to whopping big Canada Pension deductions, were reduced by another 10% - OUCH, that hurts!

I thought I had about $20 left in my account til next payday which is Friday. No such luck. I just checked and a $32 payment came out that I had forgotten about - some camera batteries that I had bought through Paypal and was delayed for awhile. So I was a few dollars short for the next 2 payments that are coming out this week - PEI mortgage and insurance. I quickly did some transferring of tiny balances in a few otherwise very empty accounts and now I'm only a nickel short. A NICKEL!! Sheesh, times are tough! I'm hoping my payroll deposit goes in before those 2 payments are deducted.

Yes, a few of my accounts are empty, one being the Emergency Fund - a big no no! I'm trying to save a certain amount each month for other upcoming expenses and have neglected my Emergency Fund. (The $$ went to fixing the furnace - definitely an emergency!; car repairs, and a new Dyson vacuum - a cleaning emergency!!!) So while we're living on the edge here I am hopeful that I can replenish that account, among others, with my tax refund. No, I haven't figured out my taxes yet, in Canada we often don't have all the paperwork and receipts and T5's and T4's until Feb. or March but I know my refund will be higher than last year. I have NO consumer debt so will be able to save the whole thing!

I'm just praying the dreaded Mr. M_ _ phy (he who shall not be named!) stays far far away!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tutti Frutti

 Isn't fruit pretty? This is one pile of many piles in the kitchen. I tell you, the saliva starts flowing just looking at this pile! I'm just hoping someone doesn't pull one out from the bottom though because - AVALANCHE! We certainly are blessed in this country to have access to such a variety of fruit at reasonable prices. I was trying to figure out in my head the other day if we're spending more or less on groceries now that we're buying so much fruit and vegetables but I gave up. I need pencil, paper and a calculator to figure that one out.
 But, if I were to GUESS I'd say we're spending about the same. (Yes, you're right - if I was keeping track of my spending a wee bit better I'd know the answer to this....but that's another post.) We're trying to eat a mostly whole foods diet, so no boxes of crackers (FAIL), no packaged side dishes like Knorr Sidekicks (SUCCESS) and trying to reduce our meat consumption (MOSTLY A SUCCESS).  It's a work in progress and I'm not going to cry over a box or two (or three) of Triscuits, especially those Crack'd Pepper ones or a chicken wing or ten!
I read something very upsetting the other day - RICE has the highest levels of ARSENIC of any foods and you know what came in second - VEGETABLES!! I mean isn't arsenic a poison used in Agatha Christie's murder novels??  Do I really want to eat food that's laced with arsenic?? This really bothers me and I don't know what to do about it. Here's a link to an article that talks about it in depth if you're interested. I could give up rice but not vegetables!!
The other day a friend posted a photo on Facebook of a "root vegetable" stir fry she had made, well, actually her husband made it. I thought it looked delicious so made one last night full of parsnips, potatoes, carrots and turnips. We also roasted some sweet potato fries in the oven. It really was as good as it looks and super easy to make.  Very satisfying.
Just a bit of olive oil and lots of seasoning - onion, garlic, sea salt, pepper, some cayenne etc. I'm glad there are leftovers for tonight! And they're all for me as Michael is fasting for a medical test he's having tomorrow.
Nothing serious. I hope.

Well, that's my food update for now. This is all part of a desire to take better care of my body so it will hold up a while longer. Missing a month of work and having to live on a reduced paycheque because of a pinched nerve just isn't acceptable. And now it's time to get my butt in gear and ride my bike - yes I'm still pedaling away but have added a little twist to my routine which I'll tell you about later.

Hope your Monday was memorable!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Jane the Juicer

What the ----? Jane's a little tied up right now so she asked me to jot down a few things for her. (But really, what the heck is she doing??) That is one ginormous carrot she's got there and why is she wearing a plastic bag boa?
Well, it's like this...Jane or Michael, I can't remember which one, thought it would be a good idea to buy a juicer. They enjoyed going to the Organic Works Bakery and drinking one of their delicious juice concoctions but figured they could do it more cheaply at home.

So Jane did some research on juicers and found a great one at Sears by Hamilton Beach, powered by an 800 watt motor. It's pretty heavy duty but easy on the wallet. Before they knew it they were pushing whatever they could find in the fridge through the juicer.
Then they had to find a good source for fruit and veg - good quality and not too pricey. After trying out a few places the verdict is in: The United Store (asian grocery store) has the cheapest produce and the most variety! Unlike most grocery store the produce section takes up at least 1/3 of the floor space - it's huge! There are fruits and vegetables there that they've never seen before (but are willing to try!)
Doesn't that look yummy? Our (yes, this is Jane talking now - Michael unwrapped me!!) usual concoction contains carrots (naturally :), a green apple or two, celery, cucumber, tomato, grapefruit, pear and grapes. We also add ginger root and turmeric root to help us with inflammation. Both Michael and I have suffered from pinched nerves over the past couple of months...weird huh? He has two discs that are compressed (C5 & C6) while I have advanced osteo-arthritis of the spine in C5 & C6. Freaky.  Both conditions put pressure on the local nerves so it's recommended we live on a diet of ibuprofin and Tylenol. No thank you.  So we've decided to go the natural route instead and add anti-inflammatories to our diet. It seems to be helping and I no longer take any pills.

We're trying to improve our overall diets. We're eating way less meat - I've had a small bit of chicken twice in the past 4 weeks, other than that NO meat. We make lots of veggie stir fries, soups and stews adding dried legumes, lentils, quinoa and brown rice. Keeps me satisfied. (I'm talking about the food here!) I also purchased a bread maker recently and have experimented a little. We're planning to go gluten-free once I can find and test a really good gluten-free bread recipe. Pinterest is a good source. Some people say going gluten-free has changed their lives...for the better. I'd like to test it out and see for myself. I read Wheat Belly over the Christmas break and accept that the wheat we eat now is so genetically modified from what existed 50 years ago it is barely recognizable and has next to no nutritional value.

Lots of changes but made gradually over time. I'll let you know if I feel any different!
 Until then - CHEERS! Our breakfast version is usually orange or pink in colour as it has more fruit (strawberries, pomegranates, melon, oranges etc) in it while the lunch version below is greener - it may contain spinach, watercress, celery, cucumber plus a number of other vegetables.  While I was home recovering from my pinched nerve I would have juice for breakfast and lunch.
Now that I am back to work I take my morning juice with me in a thermos to drink throughout the morning and take a nice vegetable soup for lunch. It's those after school munchies that I still have to tame - especially when it's been a more than usually stressful day. And most of them are!

Friday, February 8, 2013

In the Land of the Living

 Our weenie storm has been overshadowed by the gigantic Nemo on the eastern seaboard. But it garnered us a snow day so who's complaining? Not me, no not me.
I went back to work this week, still recovering from cervical ridiculopathy, otherwise known as a pinched nerve in my neck (but doesn't ridiculopathy sound way cooler?!)  So I was up and heading out the door at 6am when Michael wondered out loud if the school buses were running? So I looked online and nope, no buses running today. Oh YAY, I thought to myself, I can get caught up on the piles of paperwork that have accumulated during my absence as I won't have any students!!
Just to make sure I checked my school board website only to find that the schools were all closed too! Double YAY! Who doesn't like a snow day, especially on a Friday or a Monday creating a looooong weekend!
So since we were up and wide awake we decided to go for a walk through the neighbourhood. It was a bit of a slog since not many streets were plowed yet but we had our boots on and our snowpants and made the best of it.
Yes, there is a house in behind all of those trees and bushes, a lovely corner lot.
It seemed somehow appropriate and cheery that this house had its Christmas lights still up...and turned on! Makes you want to just break out into a Christmas carol doesn't Not so much?
It was very quiet and peaceful - some of the streets we walked on hadn't seen a car on them yet.
The fearless early morning snow walker!

Nothing like a layer of snow to make the perfect picture.....
unless it's a good-looking smiling man :)
The snow falling was light and fluffy, but gradually built up into quite a thick layer.

Isn't this just the perfect tree? What a gorgeous shape! So perfectly symmetrical!
Isn't this just the perfect man? What a gorgeous shape! So perfectly symmetrical! Tee hee hee!
This is the view from our neighbourhood Tim Horton's. It took some doing to get there but as you know we Canadians are strongly motivated to get our morning coffee...come hell or high snowdrifts!
Here we are back in our complex. Michael's cleaning our cars off for the second time. I tried to get out later to go to a doctor's app't but the snow was up past my tires and I couldn't get out. So I rescheduled. And good man that he is Michael shoveled me out after going in to work for awhile.
If it wasn't for the need to drive here and there winter would be perfectly bearable!
So I spent the day safely inside, catching up on some seriously overdue blog reading. Time well spent. When I got to Sharon's blog  and saw how much baking and cooking she was getting done on HER unexpected day off I jumped up, scurried about and made a big pot of soup and a nice loaf of banana bread! Thanks Sharon for helping me get my butt in gear:)
What a wonderful way to spend the gift of a free day - I hope I can continue to stay caught up with your stories and adventures!