"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pantry Cooking, Redux

I made Raven's Food Fatigue Pantry Pasta again tonight with two substitutions. The first, broad egg noodles, didn't change the dish much. The second one, however, really brought out all the flavours and tied the shrimps/veggies to the pasta. All I did was add about a tablespoon of sour cream to the shrimps and veggies before removing them from the pan. I'm sure regular cream would work, too, but I like the taste of the sour cream. It works well with the garlic and lemon and really coats the whole meal.

I normally watch my calories a bit more, but I washed all my floors on my hands and knees today, so I figure that a tablespoon of sour cream won't add very many calories to my day. :-)

Housecleaning

I used to hate housecleaning. I was so disorganized and encumbered by stuff that cleaning was a daunting task involving moving piles of stuff to another room, cleaning, moving the piles of stuff again back to the room I just cleaned, cleaning another room, etc. It could take me a whole day to do just one small room... and at the end it looked no cleaner since it was just as cluttered.

My slovenly ways haven't ended. I still face housecleaning sometimes with piles of stuff not where they belong. But the piles are smaller (much smaller) and they have a home. Yesterday, I couldn't look at the living/entry room any more and resigned myself to spending a couple of hours cleaning it up. A half hour later, I was sitting at my computer looking around at a spotless room! It took about 10 minutes to put stuff away (easy when stuff has a home!) and make a couple of trips upstairs. Then I spent about 10 minutes vacuuming (including moving furniture) and another 10 minutes washing the floor. When I was done, the room looked great AND I didn't have a pile in another room to move before I could clean that room.

This morning, the kitchen has taken about the same amount of time. I love cleaning the kitchen now that my dishwasher cleans the dishes while I do the rest. :-)

After, it's off to the upstairs to spot clean the bathroom and then vacuum and wash the floors, about forty-five minutes worth of work. It's amazing to not have to spend whole days cleaning my house now.

I tried the 'do a bit every day so you don't have to clean on the weekend' method, but I don't like it since the whole house never looks good at one time.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pantry Cooking

I've been suffering from food fatigue lately. I've just been bored with everything I normally make and been going out to restaurants a lot. But even there, I have not been satisfied. I came to the conclusion that I needed to come up with new recipes or, at the very least, integrate new ingredients into my daily cooking. So, I decided to start with shrimp.

My first few times making shrimp were a disappointment. Tonight, I decided that I needed to use up the rest of the shrimp instead of going out for dinner again (at least, I'm still on budget for the month!). But my pantry seemed bare and I wasn't sure I could come up with something yummy.

Still, I pulled a few things out of the pantry, fridge, and freezer and a half hour later, I had the first home cooked meal in recent memory that made me go WOW!!!!

Here's a picture of the final result:



Raven's Food Fatigue Pantry Pasta With Shrimp (catchy name, no?)

Ingredients (for one person):

13 shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1 small splash olive oil
2 tbspish butter (real butter, not margarine!!!)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 big splash lemon juice
1 cuppish frozen veggies
2 portions pasta (preferably Barilla)
1 dash salt
1 dash pepper

(c'est tout!)

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. With about six minutes left before its done, start working on the shrimp:

-Melt butter, then stir in the minced garlic
-Nuke the frozen veggies with a bit of water for about two minutes
-While the veggies are cooking, heat up the olive oil and start the shrimp in it by cooking each side until they turn pink
-Add the garlic butter to the shrimp and stir to coat
-Stir in a generous splash of lemon juice
-Cook the shrimp until pink all the way through by occasionally flipping them
-Drain the veggies
-Remove the shrimp and stir in the veggies to coat them with the butter, cook about one minute
-Turn off the heat and add the shrimp to the veggies to heat through
-Drain the pasta, arrange on plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper
-Top with the shrimp and veggies

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ouch

I very slowly came to a realisation in the past two weeks: the way I've been tracking my spending is not working. By tracking how much tax I was spending, I wasn't painting a full portrait of my spending in each category. In some, it wasn't a huge deal, in others, like gas, it was. So, I've cut that out and am now counting my tax in with whatever purchase I paid it on.

Here's the ouch factor. Being the insane person that I am, I went back all the way to the beginning and fixed all my transactions in Buddi to correctly adjust the amounts. It took me more than an hour, but I'm glad I did it.

At least now it'll take me less time to enter each pay cheque.

I'm almost three months into tracking my expenses. Go, Raven, go!

Monday, December 17, 2007

More fun with yarn

My favourite winter outfit involves tights, a cord skirt, a long-sleeved or three-quarter sleeved tee-shirt, and a cardigan. Therefore, I cannot have too many cardigans.

I found a cardigan at Reitmans in a lovely blue, but I wasn't that crazy about the style. The cardigan was most certainly not worth 50$ to me, or even half that. 10$, that's what I felt I would be willing to pay. I liked the length of it and how it looked with a long top layered under it. I checked for my size and they had only one left, marked at 20$. I examined it carefully and was thrilled to find a ton of problems with it, including a half dozen pulls. This was the worst defect:



I was thrilled because I knew I could fix it!

The manager said that she couldn't just give me the cardigan and that she'd sell it to me for 4 dollars, taxes included. Perfect!

So, I took it home, pulled out my knitting kit, tucked in all the pulls, and repaired the run:



It took less than 10 minutes to effect all the repairs.

The bit that still looks like its a run is just the stitch, stretched. I'll be able to reduce the effect when I reblock the sweater.

There is no way I could have knit that sweater for 4$!

I repaired two other cardigans of mine this morning and yesterday... I got through my darning pile! I'm completely up to date and I feel like I have a new wardrobe! LOL

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Table results

Forgot to post my pics of my newly revived kitchen table!



It doesn't look quite that good in real life as the stains are still very much present, but it is a vast improvement. I am quite pleased.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A realisation

At the last minute, I decided to sign up for another course, starting in January. I'd planned to skip a semester, but finally conceded that delaying the completion of my programme wouldn't be a good idea no matter how tired I am. So, I signed up and, since I was at the last minute, I had to pay immediately, by credit card. I'd already reallocated tuition money on other things this fall and didn't immediately have the cash to pay off my card. Rather than carry 600$ over on my card at 18.5% (plenty of motivation to always pay off my card in full!), I was able to 'refinance' myself by transferring the balance to my line of credit at 8.25% percent. This balance will be paid off by the end of January at the latest.

When I did this transfer, I realised that I'm no longer 'poor' because I have options open to me that I could never have dreamt of just a few months ago. Another solution would have been to cash in some investments to pay off the card, but those investments are making more money than I'll end up paying in interest. Instead of being stuck again in credit cards at 18.5%, student loans at 11.5%, or personal loans at 9.5%, the latter of which would have meant requesting new credit, I could use existing credit. Most importantly, I'm choosing to carry some credit for a few weeks.

This isn't true financial freedom, not yet, but compared to where I was this time last year, it feels pretty good.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The library

I was going to post some pics of what I did today in the library, but without a 'before' set of pics, I decided there was no point. Other than the basement, the library has been my sore point in this house. It's been my 'catchall' room and I was growing weary of it. I consider that it contained the 'flotsam and jetsam' of my life; all the little bits and pieces that don't fit neatly into any other rooms. So, over the course of the past eight months, I've been, without even realising it, steadily dealing with the issue.

The first step was to take out of it anything that didn't belong there. It was amazing to see how spread out my junk was--I found kitchen bits and bobs, tools, clothes, cleaning supplies, car supplies.... It was just wow.

One of the next things I did was recycle or shred a ton of paper; something that happened slowly over the course of these eight months. I went from having the equivalent of six full file drawers of paper to one and a half. I look at that as being four fewer boxes to move next time.

Another thing I did was edit the furniture. I had an old PC AND an old Mac and a desk in there and it became evident in the past few weeks that I would never have use for any of these times. I put ads on eBay and Craigslist and cleared all of it, also ridding myself of a big box of miscellaneous PC junk.

Finally, I got rid of about a third to half of my books!!! That was one of the most freeing things I have ever done.

There wasn't much to purge after that, but I still had a lot of work to do. It was time to consolidate what was left, which was especially my sewing, knitting, and cross-stitch supplies. This is the step I took today. Each activity is now properly containerized... and I have no excuse not to get through my darning pile tomorrow. Shucks!

Well, all that's left now that needs serious work is the basement and I do not look forward to a much needed afternoon there. But at least the visible parts of my house look pretty good and definitely better than any home I've ever had before.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Finally ready for winter!

Well, the winter coat, boot, and accessories saga is over! My budget was 750$ and needed to cover a good coat, good boots, and accessories.

It started with my gloves. They are chocolate brown kid leather with a discreet orange stitch going across the length of the hand. The orange perfectly matches my orange pashmina scarf that I wanted to wear this winter. The gloves were 25% off.

Then came the coat. I won't go into all the details because it's quite a sordid tale, but finding a coat was a disaster and I finally wound up at Danier Leather. I'd been looking for camel-coloured wool and wound up at a leather store. That's how sordid the tale is. At any rate, I purchased a chocolate brown leather coat good for three seasons, including fairly cold winter days, deciding that my current coat will do for the really cold and/or snowy days. This amazing and gorgeous coat (which I'd shopped for online so I'd be prepared since sales work on a commission basis), and for which I've gotten a ton of compliments, fits perfectly in the shoulders but is a bit loose at the tummy (a necessary evil), but has a cut that the leather tailor says can be taken in for when I slim down again. The coat was 50% off.

Finally, the boots. I went out this evening feeling a bit more desperate than I would have liked. My current boots were starting to leak and... my colleagues and I discovered that the bad smell in the office that we've been tracking for weeks was... my boots. *dies* So, I did a few 'cheap' stores today since December is not a time to spend a couple hundred on boots and I had expected my old boots to get me through to January. I wanted brown or tan boots, mid-calf length, without heels, and in a 'shiny' material (ie. no 'suede') with a Thinsulate or similar lining. I found nothing. Then I stepped into a new-to-me store and found kid leather chocolate brown boots without heels, full-calf length, Thinsulate-like lining, and 50% off (bringing them to the price I was ready to pay for 'cheap' boots). I figured that there would be no way these boots would fit since I have quite the well developed calf. You can probably see where this is going. They were the most perfect boots I could have ever hoped to find and they FIT.

Total cost for my gorgeous chocolate brown leather outfit (not counting the pashmina scarf that was bought last year), including taxes: 425$

Tracking My Spending Update

I've now been tracking my spending for just over two months. I honestly cannot imagine not doing this anymore. It's amazing!

I tried to set up a 'budget' before completing the three month exercise, and now I'm seeing how absolutely pointless that would have been. At least, now I have a real portrait of how I spend.

My biggest potential tweak is food.

October

Groceries: 201.28 (this was my 'build up a pantry' month)
Restaurant: 82.93
Total: 284.21

November

Groceries: 121.18
Restaurant: 114.49
Total: 235.67

November's totals do not include restaurant and food purchases in Halifax which were part of the trip budget.

I've noticed that I now go to the grocery store once every two weeks, but that in the days before going grocery shopping, I tend to do a bit more restauranting.

I'm laughing at an earlier post I made where I said that I wanted to go down to a 100$ per month food budget. Right now, that's completely unrealistic. I think I'll aim for 250$ for December, which will need to include at least two restaurant meals.

Personally, I don't care if I hit my budget with groceries or restauranting. I tend to eat a lot at the foodcourt at work and always get something healthy that I couldn't have made at home for that price. This is especially common in the winter when I hit the salad bar where they have better produce than I can find in grocery stores. I know that for a family, restauranting cannot possibly make financial sense over pantry-cooking, but when you're single, it can. My dad made the same analysis. So, I'm not going to obsess over how much I go to the restaurant. Instead, I'll pull out 250$ for this month and see how much month is left before I'm forced to eat the chickpeas at the back of the pantry. :-)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

thinking outside the box



I received these two beautiful glasses from a colleague yesterday. Thing is, I currently have more drinking glasses than I truly need and I'm not sure I'd want to use these for drinking. They're fat and slick and I have short stubby fingers, so I'd be worried about them slipping.

That said, I think it's silly to relegate things to the back of a cupboard for years. Their pleasing shape immediately made me consider using them as a vase. Then I thought about all my little seashells and bits of sea glass I've got scattered throughout the house in no proper display container.

Not sure about leaving the basket there, but I think the seashell glasses look mighty purty.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Huh huh

My financial adviser suggested that I try to have the interest rate lowered on my line of credit. So, I finally called the bank this afternoon to ask. I was told that my rate was automatically lowered by .25% per cent last week and that they couldn't go any lower unless I doubled my limit. I refused. When it's time to buy a house (hopefully in the next 18-24 mos), I'll ask my financial adviser if I'm better off having 7.5 or 12.5K of 'available credit' (combining LoC and credit card) when I start mortgage shopping.

Right now, my line of credit serves as my emergency fund because I'm making really good interest on my 'real' money and the only real emergency that could happen right now is my car going kablooey and even that isn't really an emergency since I don't really need my car. So, I really don't need much of an emergency fund, or have much need for one. Its only real purpose right now is for any credit card spillover; if I need an extra week or two to fully pay off my credit card in a given month because the pays don't line up, I take the excess from the line of credit (which has 10% less interest than the card). I pay on average 55 cents in interest when I do this; which I can more than live with even if it seems like bizarre financial planning. That 55 cents usually guarantees me a 25$ Amazon gift certificate which I use on stuff I'd be buying anyway, so I figure that I'm ahead.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Luxury can be frugal!

I did my grocery shopping this morning and decided to go to Loblaws. On my list were shower gel, lotion, and a lined wicker basket (Loblaws is a bit of a general store and carries home products for prices comparable to Wal-mart or Zellers). The gel and lotion had to be in my scent, lavender.

I found this:



The basket alone is worth 20$ full price and there is at least 30$ worth of products in there. I know because I only buy lavender body products and there isn't much of it out there so I'm very cognizant of the pricing of the items and brands that exist. I also have a use for everything in there (the sisal 'sponge' is a real bonus).

I got the whole thing for 25$. One day sale. Bwa ha ha!

'Fettucini Alfredo'



I love Parmesan cheese, especially in a creamy sauce. But I don't like the fat content in those sauces. Parmesan is one of the lower-fat cheeses, so why ruin it with tons of cream and butter?

The recipe for one-pot mac&cheese located on a wrapper of cheddar cheese helped me 'relearn' a cooking technique I haven't used in about seven years. I gave it up because cleanup was difficult after. Now that I have a dishwasher, that excuse is no longer valid!

The technique is: cooking your pasta in milk

The recipe called for 1 cup of low-fat milk and 1 cup of water. I use 1 and 3/4 cups water and two heaping tablespoons of non-fat milk powder. Bring to a boil over medium heat, add about a cup of pasta, and cook until the pasta is done the way you like it (about 11 minutes). Remove from the burner and stir in the grated cheese.

Voila! Low fat 'Alfredo'! Can you believe that the yummy plate shown above has only less than 5 grams of fat compared to 15 grams or more for a traditionally prepared Alfredo?! Sure, it's still a calorific plate, but it's a treat.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Operation: Table

I've been wanting to refinish my kitchen table for, oh, five years now. *sheepish grin*

A friend/former boss gave me the table and while I've probably spent more refinishing materials (about 50$) than the table's worth, I can't see any point to buying a new table because this one's just perfect for the space.

At any rate, I woke up this morning and decided that today was going to be the day! I was just itching to work with my hands after a long fall spent glued to a computer. Tonight, I am exhausted and incredibly sore, showing just how much further I need to go to be fully recovered. But I'm half-way there (I hope)--the table and chairs are stripped!

I had the stripper at home, so I just had to dash over to the home store to get the rest of the supplies this morning and then I was able to start a little past ten. I worked until about 6, including two stops for food and one excursion back to the home store to get more stripper. This job required a lot more stripper than I would have expected!

This is what the table top looked like at the beginning:



The issue there is, of course, the big black water marks. I decided to focus on the table top first and see how close I could get to restoring it before I bothered to strip the rest.

After stripping:



Better, but barely.

After applying bleach (table's wet):



A further improvement.

After sanding:



Okay, not fantastic, but not bad. I planned to sit the chairs on the table to strip them, so I didn't go any further with the table top, knowing it would get a pounding.

Even though I'd bought stripping gloves, they were almost useless by the end. I thought my left hand was cold, then I couldn't feel anything, so I pulled it out of the glove to find my fingers red and raw. OUCH!!! They're fine now, no pain, so no major damage was done, but still!!! I learned that stripping of the furniture kind should only be done in full body armour!!! I had my sleeves rolled up for a spell and I kept on getting little flecks on my arms. OUCH!!! The worst was the glob that hit me in the corner of the mouth. That left a mark that I hope will be gone by Monday. :-S

Tomorrow will be sanding to smooth out any rough spots, then I will use the time left to begin rubbing oil into the wood. The final step after that will be a second coat of oil buffed in with 0000 steel wool. Based on how much time it took me to strip the table and chairs today, I'm not expecting to be done tomorrow, but that's okay. At least, I'm done with the messy and painful part!

I've missed this so much, the working with my hands thing. You just know your day was seized when there's a knot between your scapula and your arms are spotted with little acid burns and you've got a bruise on your elbow and a scratch on your wrist and you're trembling with fatigue. These are truly the best days of a life.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Urban advantage

I had a date this evening downtown, at rush hour, in a snowstorm. This would have required digging my car out from under several feet of snow, manoeuvring my way to the restaurant while dodging insane people without snow tires, finding parking, and then doing it all in reverse to get home.

Instead, I tossed on my walking coat and boots, hiked two blocks, got on a bus, got off a bus, hiked four blocks, and arrived unflustered at the restaurant, after taking a few minutes to pop into the Italian grocery store for some fresh Parmesan cheese.

Being able to walk and/or take the bus this winter is going to rock!

Bus fare is 3$ cash or two tickets, 1.90$(!), for an adult. It's a bargain. Best part is that you can do a perfectly legal round trip on your tickets, provided you're within the transfer's time window! This is perfect for when I just want to pop over to pick up something quick at the pain-in-the-mitka to park at downtown mall with the unique stores, or the aforementioned Italian grocery store.

Use What You Have

When it comes to paper, I tend to be a 'pile' person. That sort of works for me, but I sometimes find myself scrambling to find a particular piece of paper. Looking at the huge pile of paper on the 'desk' in my computer armoire, I realised that it could be divided into three piles: 1) notes for the current school project which should be left out (and which accounted for 99% of the pile); 2) bills that were paid but not ready for filing or shredding; 3) miscellaneous papers that could be brought up to the library for filing but I might need again in short order. These were the two piles I wanted on hand, but off my desktop.

The obvious solution was the armoire doors. There are lots of filing systems to attach to doors, but I didn't want to damage the doors. I also thought it would be silly to spend money on a container for holding just a small handful of sheets.

So, think, think, think, and I came up with this:



Two envelopes, held up with painter's masking tape (sticky but non-damaging). The top one is for current papers, the bottom one for filing. This system is self-maintaining in that the envelopes can only contain a small amount of paperwork, meaning that I will need to deal with said paper before it becomes a burdensome and overwhelming task.

Brilliant in its simplicity, no? :-)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Yes, I'm procrastinating. Why do you ask?

My normal way of procrastinating is to waste my time playing computer games or rewatching DVDs. This weekend, I've been procrastinating with five minute decluttering and organizing sessions between spurts of creativity. I'd call that an improvement even though I really should be doing my homework. :-)

The only thing left to organize and declutter in the bathroom was the area under the sink:



After a bit of purging and moving my overnight bag to its real home:



I have a cleaning supply caddy like that in the kitchen, too. Don't worry, I won't be sharing my undersink area in the kitchen as there is nothing to organize there!

The bathroom is on the second floor of the house, so its cleaning caddy is for that floor while the one in the kitchen is for the first floor.

Why are you disorganized?

I used to be disorganized for psychological reasons; ie. I couldn't bear to rid myself of my clutter because having things made me feel more secure. When I moved past those barriers, I decided that I wasn't organized because I didn't have the right tools. Certain people scoffed; I was just a slob and always would be even if I had the right tools.

Turns out I was right. My bedroom provides really good evidence of this. I have always, always had a 'tornado just blew through here' style room. The following are pictures of what my bedroom looks like. I did not straighten anything up before I took my pictures. This is what it looks like during the day, every day.

When I moved here, I inherited my mothers' old bedroom set. It offers an amazing amount of storage (as they say, it was designed for two people to use). There's room for just about everything I need in this room. Let me just add that I do NOT, NOT, NOT like pink, but I inherited the bedspread and accessories from my grand-mother and the blue in it just happened to match the blue of the walls, so I decided to just go with the pink for now. :-)

Bedside table:



This is the side of the bed I sleep on, obviously. :-) The book I'm currently reading is laid out on the night table. The books in the basket are next on my reading list. The two drawers are stuffed to the gills with the rest of my reading pile! When I buy or borrow a new book, this is where it goes in the house; either in the drawers or in the basket. When I'm done reading it, it is returned or put away alphabetically in the library.



The matching night table on the other side stood empty for a long time until I realised that its large deep drawers were perfect for storing bags and purses!

The top of the armoire holds sweaters and cardigans, neatly folded on two shelves behind the left door. Behind the right door is my jewelery and catchall box.

The top drawer holds my scarves. The second drawer holds my exercise clothing and the bottom drawer has, *gasp* my one pair of jeans (which I haven't worn in two years) and my 'grubby' clothes for painting and doing other messy work. I used to have drawers filled with this sort of clothes and now contain myself to one drawer.



This dresser is awesome!

Top left: tank tops
Middle left: my 'sewing needed' drawer
Bottom left: my 'give away' drawer
Top right: underthings and lightweight PJs, sorted into baskets
Middle right: socks and tights sorted into baskets for 'brown', 'black', and 'comfy'
Bottom right: winter pjs and slippers

Finally:



This room has just an itty-bitty closet. It is my skirt closet, believe it or not! The top shelf holds suitcases, and my clothes hamper is on the ground. My tops are all hung in the upstairs hallway closet (just a step away). It seemed silly to pay money for a second, lower, rod for hanging tops (which I would have had room for) when I had a whole huge empty closet right next door!

This room is a bit spare, but the kitties like to knock things off table tops and won't let me have any plants, so I'm enjoying having uncluttered surfaces that are a breeze to keep clean!

Anyone else have bedroom pictures to share?

Revive tired denim


I'd read sometime ago that you can 'revive' faded denim by washing it with a new dark denim item. I never had the combination of the two to test the theory until today. My faded denim is a much loved skirt that has, unfortunately, begun to see better days as the hem is starting to fray and it is seriously faded. But it's still perfect for hiking, camping, cleaning the house, gardening, etc. and I wanted to freshen up the colour. Today, I tossed it into the washer with a new dark denim skirt I bought recently. A half hour later, my faded skirt was about two shades darker!

The second part to this story is to, of course, wash new dark denim separately as it obviously does run!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tights Update

A short while ago, I blogged about how happy I was to find 'perfect' tights at Reitmans for the awesome price of 3 for 18$.

I bought some more on Wednesday and was shocked to see that they'd changed their price.

They're now 3 for 15$!!!

This weekend's project is to go through all my tights and figure out exactly how many I have and how many more I need to get me through the winter.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Speaking of organizing

I finally took the time to clean up the labels for my posts, removing a ton and consolidating others. Now, my blog is organized. I am definitely addicted.

*bemused*

Several months ago, I signed up to receive a 'free trial issue' of 'Real Simple' magazine. I love that magazine, but find it pricey considering that it's mostly ads. So, when I got the bill for the subscription, I immediately cancelled it online and immediately got a confirmation that my subscription was cancelled. I enjoyed my 'free trial issue.'

Guess what came in the mail yesterday? Another issue.

If I get another bill, no biggie; I kept my cancellation confirmation email, so I'm covered.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I just might be addicted...

Because I absolutely could not go to bed tonight without first organizing my bottom cabinets.

The left side wasn't that bad since I'd recently rearranged things to fit a small basket for recyclables:



But the right side was giving me nightmares:



Reading up on organizing techniques this week, one thing stuck in my mind--set limits and stick to them. This cabinet was full to the brim because I had way more plastic stuff than I need.

So, I decided to sort my plastic into two main categories: storage (large pieces) and leftovers/lunch. The small ones had to fit into a basket with their lids. The large ones had to stack. After a bit of puzzling, I wound up with this:



I don't know if the Ikea drainer looks silly or not, but to me it was an 'aha!' moment. The lids are accessible, long containers have a place, and I just have to pull the whole thing out to access rarely used items in the back. Same thing for the stack of storage containers, it moves as one. I can pull the basket of smaller containers out from the top without upsetting anything else. I'd call that progress.

Here's the left side now, with tins replacing the formerly useless dish drainer:



Finally, these items were fired for having poorly fitting lids, no lids, no containers or just being generally a useless nuisance. I'll add the usable pieces to my box for the comptoir familial.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Okay, I concede

It's THAT time of year again.

How's a Wiccan to enjoy Yule with all the commercialism out there?! *sighs*

Maybe I'll just play Santa Claus is pagan, too over and over and over again to get me in the mood (I particularly like the bit about Jesus probably not being a Capricorn). This song makes me want to have kids just to have the whole family sing it as we trim the tree.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Exorcism of sorts



I'm only about a third of the way done.

I'm shredding anything with personal information as well as anything I'm afraid I'll fish out of the recycling, AGAIN. The former includes old statements and info about debt I no longer have and no longer want to think about. The latter involves special school papers I've been lugging around for far too long.

Since 2003, I have done an incredible amount of purging, but I know I need to go even further before my cross-country move.

Once the shredding is out of the way, it'll be time to be merciless with the books. I currently have eleven full bookcases; eight for trade and bigger sized and three for paperback. I want to weed that down to one for paperback and four for over oversized. Yeah, I bought my bookcases just seven months ago and lugged them up and down a kazillion number of stairs, but who cares; I got my money's worth out of them and I'm confident I can make my money back on them. I just need to figure out where the books are going to go. Lazy route; drop them off at a comptoir familal. Semi-lazy route; drop them off at the Bookmarket and get whatever they want for the lot. Least lazy route; grab the best stuff and sell it in Chelsea, then take the rest to the Bookmarket. We'll see. :-S

How to tell your customers 'you don't matter!'

This morning, I decided to pop over to the Best Buy in Gatineau to pick up a shredder and a set of DVDs. I went online first to make sure they had shredders in stock. At the last minute, I printed off the page showing the models and prices....

I went to Best Buy because it's conveniently located, has decent selection, tends to have the best prices, was offering a 'US pricing' sale on most merchandise, and I had a 5$ off reward coupon.

Upon arriving at the store, I looked up at the signs to get an idea of where shredders might be, but they offered no clue. I wandered around the store three times before stumbling on an associate. She said "We don't stock shredders." I replied that the site said they had some in stock and she shrugged. "Try the computer area," she said and then left.

So, I went back to the computer area and wandered around a bit, waiting for an associate to free up. I tried standing around the really expensive computers, but the associate in the section was too busy to help and told me to find someone else. So, I went across the store to the tv section and stood in front of the most expensive one there, pretending to be very interested in buying it. That still didn't bring help.

I decided to go get my DVDs then wander around the printers one more time before leaving. On the way to the printers, something made me walk up the keyboard aisle. Way at the end, on the shelf lowest to the ground, were three shredders. Two had prices, the one that interested me didn't. As I was about to whip out the sheet I'd printed with prices (aren't I a smart cookie?) an associate cut in front of me, causing me to fall backwards as I'd just been crouching, not kneeling. I don't think he even noticed I was there.

I managed to stand up with the shredder (I'm still weak from my surgery, remember) and made it up to the cash where no one thought to either bring me a cart or make me some room on a counter (not the hugest deal since the shredder wasn't that heavy once I got a grip on it).

After a few minutes, I made it to the cash. The cashier was the same girl who had brushed me off at the beginning and she off handedly mentioned that I'd found them. "Sans votre aide, ça fait dure" I retorted ("Without your (directed at staff in general) help, the store setup is pathetic"). She shrugged again and then stared blankly at my Rewards certificate. I told her that instructions on it said to scan all articles, then scan the certificate. She couldn't do that, though, since the certificate was in English and she doesn't read English. So, I had to wait for her to find an associate who reads English who could confirm what I said.

I came to the conclusion quite a while ago that this is the norm for Best Buy, Staples, Futureshop, Walmart, Zellers, Canadian Tire, etc. and that I'm just punishing myself if I walk out without buying, so I saw my transaction through to the end.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Okay, now I'm spamming

But I couldn't resist sharing this picture of my darlings:



Hard to tell that they spent the day growling at each other, isn't it?

Interesting Corrolation

When my house is messy and dirty, I just want to bury myself in mindless activity. But when it's tidy and clean, I find myself going on an organization binge. It's 9:36PM as I post and I just finished organizing my pantry. I've been putting this off since, well, since I moved in. It took less than 20 minutes to fix!

BEFORE



Beyond the obvious 'it's messy and I can't find anything' problem, I had these issues to fix:

a) cans were making the second shelf curve and I was worried about permanent damage (pantry belongs to the owners of the house);
b) I could never find small items such as tea, spices that I don't use enough to put them on my counter spice rack, various sauces and sweetners, etc.
c) I wanted to be able to put the excess cat food in there somewhere instead of under the table.

AFTER



This should work for me!

Top shelf: bakery products
Second shelf, left side: teas and sweeteners
Second shelf, right side: various sauces, spices, condiments, etc. (the lazy susan from Ikea was used in a similar fashion at my old house)
Third shelf, left side: dried protein (beans, lentils, tvp)
Third shelf, right side: grains (bulgur, couscous, rice, pasta)
Fourth shelf: non-food items (Brita filters, temporarily empty containers, coffee filters, baggies, plastic wrap, etc.)
Bottom shelf, left side: cans (like sorted with like)
Bottom shelf, right side: cat food!

My father once looked into my pantry on a day when it was particularly full and complained that I had 'nothing to eat, just ingredients!' True; I don't have a ton of pre-packaged stuff. (By the way, miss ya, dad!)

Speechless Saturday?

Friday, November 16, 2007

to-do list

Maybe if I publicly post my to-do list for the weekend I'll actually get through some of it?

In no particular order:

-deep clean the bathroom; (done Friday evening)
-deep clean the kitchen; (finished Saturday afternoon)
-deep clean the catbox area; (done Friday evening)
-wipe down all mouldings, window sills, door tops, etc. in the house; (upstairs done Saturday morning) (finished Saturday afternoon)
-vacuum the whole house and wash all the floors; (upstairs done Saturday morning) (finished Saturday afternoon)
-get through my darning pile (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha);
-find a vegetarian sausage recipe and make huge batch of it;
-go grocery shopping (big, need to fill up the pantry, trip); (done Friday night)
-hang the curtains in the living room; (started Saturday afternoon, gave up again)
-get through all the laundry; (done Saturday morning; let me point out that we're talking a mere 3 loads here!)
-take the huge and very full 'for charity' box I have been tripping over in the bedroom for three months and *gasp* drag it up two blocks to the nearest comptoir familial; (done Friday night; mental note for next time: just post an add to Full Circles!)
-buy a shredder and shred the huge and very full 'for shredding' box I've been tripping over in the library for three months; (shredder bought Sunday morning, stuff shredded Sunday afternoon)
-finish organizing my tools in the basement;
-go pick up more cat food (quite the expedition); (ordered for pickup tomorrow! picked up between doing the laundry and cleaning the upstairs; also got litter; one hour field trip total)
-start working on my final paper for my university course. (Saturday morning, looked at the details required)

*rubs eyes*

My reading has definitely passed the 'fluffy' stage to academic. The Spiral Dance was an easy read. Drawing Down the Moon required more effort. The Triumph of the Moon is taking all my energy. Two nights in (one hour of reading), I haven't even made it past the introduction yet.

I have a BA in history, so I'm no stranger to dry as toast literature and I know that I can and will get through this book, but I can't say how long it'll take.

My reading pile is THIS high (should take a picture of it, LOL), but I'm definitely making my way through it slooooooooowly.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Travel 'damage'

Whee! I had a great trip! Whenever I 'budget' for a trip, I always add 20% for contingencies to come up with my 'real' budget. Taking that into account, I only went 60$ over budget on this trip!

It took me about 45 minutes tonight to update everything in Buddi, including entering the info for my last pay cheque, planning the next two weeks' expenditures, paying bills, and moving money. I can't believe how easy it was... and how lost I felt this weekend without Buddi at my fingertips!

I thought that doing my 'accounting' for the trip would be a nightmare. Nah! I had receipts for all my credit and debit purchases, as well as most of my cash ones. When it came time to balance, the first two did so to the penny. Cash was missing 60$, but I could account for every single penny of it--parking, shuttle transport, two coffees, one dinner, etc.

I'm so pleased with myself for keeping on top of things on my trip, having fun (ie. not worrying about money, but being mindful), and not mucking up my budget.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Too funny

I just got a letter from Staples thanking me for buying a printer from them and offering me 10$ off my next purchase of toner.

Thing is, I wound up NOT buying my printer from them!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

'Traditional Values'

I became an aunt for the second time today. My sister now has two strong, beautiful, perfect little boys.

For me, I think the time to have children might have very well passed. People scoff at that because I haven't even reached thirty yet, but that strong urge I had in my early twenties is all but gone.

There are so many things that would be lovely about having a child, like being able to raise it in my faith and to share with it all the wonders I've seen.

Having children today involves too many decisions when it was just a natural and expected process until just a few generations ago. I simply could not imagine myself having a child in my current circumstance, unless one were to fall out of the sky for me; that is I was made the legal guardian of an older child or something along those lines.

Apparently, my values are very 'traditional', even 'Christian' by Wiccan standards. Others may do as they please and will think neutrally of their decisions, but for me to bear a child, it would have to be in wedlock; if a man wants my child, he can darn well slip a ring on my finger!

Another thing is that I cannot see myself raising a child in a world of daycares and babysitters. In fact, the only way I truly see myself as a mother is that of a homemaking and homeschooling mama tending her brood of eight (plus or minus a few!) on her family's partially self-subsistent homestead where hubby brings home the proverbial bacon.

I'm told that's not exactly the most 'feminist' viewpoint out there. *snorts* I'm all for feminism if it gives me the choice to be what I want. Single, I want to travel around the globe and be selfish. Married with children, I want to be glued to the hearth.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bathroom update

I put aside some money quite a few months ago to update the bathroom. My shower curtain and towels both coordinated well with each other, but not with the bathroom, since they had tons of brown while the bathroom is white, baby pink, baby green, and grey. It looks okay, but is not my favourite colour scheme by far. I wanted dark grey towels and a single-colour shower curtain. This morning, I took advantage of a fantastic offer at Sears to get the towels, an okay shower curtain, 'fancy' hooks, and a soap dish. I also added flannel sheets to the pile.

-Towels: 50% off;
-Sheets: 25% off;
-Soap dish 50% off;
-Shower curtain and rings: full price (but...)

by buying more than 100$ worth of stuff, I got an additional 20$ off, which essentially paid for the shower curtain and rings.

I'm tickled pink with the soap dish (on which I plan to put my nail brush). Its colours (the yellows are identical!) and style fairly match the pot I bought a while back, without being so coordinated as to look silly:



(I also scooped up leather gloves and more tights at 25% off... making it worthwhile to get up eeeearly on a Sunday morning!)

We've got a couple of hours of sunlight left and a nice breeze, so my clean new sheets and towels are on the clothesline. I'm looking forward to going to bed!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Halloween disrespectful to Witches?!

http://paganwiccan.about.com/b/2007/10/27/halloween-disrespectful-to-witches-really.htm

A school cancelled Halloween celebrations to avoid offending Wiccans.

What, they'll cancel Christmas next to avoid offending Christians?!

I'm out of the broom closet with my immediate colleagues and gave them all a laugh on Wednesday when I showed up wearing all black, striped socks, and a pointy black hat. I enjoyed the secular aspect of the day, but never forgot that the point of the day is religious observance. So, after the sun set, I put away my pointy hat, pulled out my robes and partied with the gods. Best of both worlds, if you ask me.

Next up is Yule, which I celebrate on my own, then Christmas, which I celebrate with my family. I really wish that people (ie. my family) could remember that Christmas is about Jesus first and foremost, and that if atheists, agnostics, and those of other faiths insist on celebrating it, they could perhaps treat it as a time for family togetherness, instead of focusing on how much money was spent on gifts. Bah, we're getting into the time of year that makes me cranky!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tools and Sabbats

I received a truly unexpected magical gift today:



I have searched for a cauldron for about a year and a half, forgetting the magical rule that governs my life--tools come to me and will hide if I seek them out. This precious gift came to me through divine intervention, as do all tools. I casually mentioned to a new friend with certain connections that I was looking for this tool. Then I helped my friend with a deeply personal project, expecting nothing in return. I never dreamt I would have such a large cauldron, nor one with a non-typical shape. Pleased cannot describe how I feel.

The cauldron is in poor shape and I had to do some creative Googling to find a site about how to clean and season a cauldron. Really, any site about caring for cast iron would have worked, but I wanted a witchy perspective. I found this wonderful site.

First order of business: scrub a dub dub with an SOS pad and tons of elbow grease; the interior is nasty. Then wash. Then season. Then dedicate in my Samhain ceremony. How perfect is it that my new tool arrived just in time for the holiest of our Sabbats?

The wheel of the year has turned again and Samhain is once more upon us. A year that has felt like at least three is over and a new one dawns, filled promise, passion, and purpose.

This year's lesson is best summed up by Khalil Gibran:

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

This Witch's chalice runneth over.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tights!

I don't wear pants and it's too cold to go barelegged for about six months of the year. So, understandably, I go through a lot of tights in a year. It's hard to find good tights--ones that fit, are reasonably priced, and last. Until recently, I've been going out of my way to Sears to get tights and paying about 15$ a pop for them.

Couple of weeks ago, I finally caved and decided to try Reitmans brand tights. How good could they be? They were way too conveniently located (building where I work) and very cheap (6$ a pair if you buy 3 at a time). Turns out that they fit, they're reasonably priced, and they last.

Moral of the story: just because something is way too convenient and seems too good to be true... doesn't mean it is.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

21,000 steps later

My order of environmentally friendly cleaning products having arrived, I decided to walk over to pick it up. It was about a 12km round trip. With one pace being about .75 metres, I figure I took roughly 21,000 steps this morning (if my math is correct). That's not really an extraordinary figure for me, except for the fact that it's the most I've walked in one shot since my surgery.

One thing I like about walking through my cities is that I get to pop into all the little boutiques I've noticed but could never find convenient parking for as well as read historical plaques.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Grocery Deals of the Day

On the way back from dropping off a colleague after the funeral, I decided to go pick up some fresh fruits and veggies at a grocery store. Having yet to find a new favourite grocery store, I stopped at the first store that was on the way home (Loblaws), but couldn't find parking, so I headed to the Independent Grocer's across the street. IG was tiny, but they had a decent selection of products (and PC brands). I got more stuff than I'd planned, but the deals couldn't be beat:

-orange peppers, 1.99$/lb (can reach 4.99$/lb);
-'Deliosso' brand pizza, 4.99$ each (normally 7.99$ each; I bought two since frozen pizza is worth getting on sale);
-Asian five Spice sauce by VH for 1.99$ (regular 2.79$).

The latter item made my day. I LOVE Asian spice sauce and use it the way most people use ketchup, putting it on everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to (veggie) hamburgers to stir fries. As usually happens when I get addicted to something, stores stop stocking it. So, when I find some, I just about raid the shelves! I got four today since I still had a bottle and a half in the fridge (because I'd been doling it out, afraid to run out now that it's so rare, *sob*).

My big treat of the day was a loaf of fresh cheese bread. My absolute favourite breakfast is a tomato sandwich, so I can't wait to make that tomorrow with the cheese bread. Add salt, pepper, and basil and it'll make a nice treat.

A Rainy October Day...

I attended my second Catholic funeral today, so now I have a measure of comparison. They were both very similar, so I can say this, generally, about Catholic funerals:

-they're very good exercise: you stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, sit, kneel, sit, stand, sit, etc., and then the practitioners have to go all the way up to the front of the church for the little bread thingie and come all the way back. Oh, and there's some genuflecting involved whenever they pass the altar;

-the prayers are lovely (I'm very partial to Psalm 23);

-the music is lovely (I particularly enjoyed 'Amazing Grace' on a violin today);

-Catholics use 'tu' when speaking to their god??? I didn't realise that they use that level of informality with him;

-incense is used for the same reason Wiccans use it; to carry our prayers to the deity on the smoke;

-they pass around a plate for donations (thankfully, I had some change on me to contribute).

A colleague thought that I was a 'lapsed' Catholic and was therefore surprised by my level of unfamiliarity with the rituals. I informed her that I was raised by the atheist branch of my Catholic family. :-)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Attitude Changes

It's been a full month now since I made some radical choices as to how I was going to manage my money. It's working. It's amazing how it's working. I'm freeeeeeeeeeee! Ahem, to a point. :-)

A month ago, my credit card balance was at a 0 balance as I had just paid it off in full, like I'd been doing for a few months. Then I had an Incident With the Car and a few unplanned events and the balance skyrocketed.

My 'normal' reactions would have been to:

a) panic;
b) say "Okay, I blew it, again, might as well start living the vida loca, again."

Instead, I used my financial planning software to map out my income for the month of October as well as my fixed expenses. October has been an unusual month in that I have three pays. I also knew that a cheque for overtime would be forthcoming this month, but I didn't count on it (yet it arrived 'on schedule').

When my credit card bill for September expenses came in, I looked at my info in Buddi to figure out how I could pay it off in full before the bill came due and I would begin to accrue interest on the September expenses. I paid off the bill in full a week before it was due. I've now done the same for the remaining portion of the bill (MUCH smaller, thankfully), due a month today.

This has meant that I've worked a huge attitude shift, in that I've lived a pretty miserly month without my usual whining of 'oh, I'm so deprived, I'll just go rack up credit card debt.' Instead, I've come out of this proud to have survived two unexpected events without racking up bad interest and by using my 'regular' cash flow so I wouldn't have to touch my 'recurring' and/or 'emergency' funds! AND I've contributed to all my savings and investment accounts, on schedule! October sure was tight, and November doesn't look much better (except, of course, for an already paid for jaunt to Halifax) since I'll need to start looking at buying holiday gifts at some point, but I'm in better shape financially today than I was a month ago!

At least, all these unexpected expenses in late September and early October mean that I'll be eligible for 50$ in gift certificates from Amazon, so I can look forward to a few treats in November. :-)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Well, I'm Not Paranoid

At least, not about this.

Since my blog is largely about my journey to frugality and simplicity and uses clean language, I thought I was a perfect candidate for the 'Frugal Blogroll.' I applied, but heard nothing. I thought I'd done something wrong in the application process, so I tried again. Still nothing.

Now that there are so many blogs on there to compare mine with, I can pretty much surmise why I've been ignored and why the organizers should be a little, ahem, precise/truthful in their advertisements, ie. non-Christians need not apply.

Pity, my blog is no different from a lot of the Christian-owned ones, filled with little domesticities, a healthy does of spirituality, and some good old frugality.

*shrugs*

Sweeeeeeeet

points.com definitely rocks!

I was already using it to exchange Aeroplan miles for HBC rewards to get Airmiles. Well, I just discovered that you can convert Hotspex survey points to HBC rewards on the site as well!

I used to be active in Hotspex until they converted to their new rewards structure and I stopped getting anything out of it. Let's just say that this discovery is going to make me return to Hotspex! I still had a balance there of a couple hundred points that got me a couple thousand HBC rewards which will get me a couple of Airmiles. Talk about tangible results for taking surveys!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fun With Wool

My sweet potato fries being a qualified success (I'll make the sticks even smaller next time), I had a whole evening ahead of me. The logical thing would have been to work on an essay for the course I'm taking, but I was feeling brain dead. So, with winter bearing down on us, I decided it was time to start my favourite fall activity: Knitting a New Scarf. It's not quite an annual event, but almost.

I started by looking for a pattern. I tend to repeat the same favoured patterns and wanted something new and a tad challenging. I found: this pattern which seemed just challenging enough, but radically different from anything I've ever knitted.

The first challenge was to translate the pattern as I've never worked with an English pattern before beyond basic knit and perl stitches. That done, I had to find materials!

Going through my yarn bin, I found a 70% acrylic/30% wool blend in 'paprika' by 'Red Heart: Cozy Wool' in 100g (3.5oz) weight that seemed suitable, and for which I had an ample quantity in the same dye lot. The wool label recommended 6mm (10US) needles, which are my favourite size, so I went with those (I have every needle size, and more than one for the smaller sizes so I can knit in the round).

Supplies in hand (isn't it cool that I can go 'shopping' at home???), I cast on and spent a couple of pleasant hours getting a feel for the pattern. Here is the result of 2 reps of the pattern:



I can usually finish a project like this in two to three nights, so looking at my commitments for the next few days, I'll be able to wear it to work next Monday morning. I wear lots of browns and greens, so this scarf will go with most of my coats and sweaters. Probably one of the reasons I bought the yarn in the first place!

I might try to make mitts after since I have tons of this paprika left. The first (and last) time I ever tried to make mitts, I got discouraged since the second one wound up being bigger than the first. I know why that happened (too wound up for mitt #1 and too relaxed for mitt #2), so it'd be worth trying again. There might even be enough paprika left to make a tube-thingamabob ('passe-montagne' en français) that you slip over your head to cover it in lieu of a hat. That'll require knitting in the round with circular needles in a simple stockinette stitch, so it'll be more mindless than is the scarf.

Rambling on cold and wet autumn afternoon

-Cold and wet indeed. I can't believe that yesterday we beat a heat record! Considering what's going on in California, I can't complain. May the goddess protect those caught in the conflagration. Dear sweet humans, how long did you think you could abuse her before she rebelled? It is not her 'wrath' we have been seeing unleashed upon us in the past few years but her desperation. Listen to her!!! And, while you're at it, listen to the god, too!

Moving on to more mundane matters:

-Trying something new for dinner tonight: sweet potato 'fries.' I've had them elsewhere, so I know I like them, just not if I can make them. For some reason, sweet potatoes have yet to make their way into regular my diet. I think this is the second time I've ever bought them!

-For protein, my obvious choices tonight were fish or legumes. Soon as I saw the jar of lentils, my tummy rumbled, so lentils it was. I threw them in a pot with veggie broth, a bay leaf, a minced onion, and some soy sauce. *takes a moment to dash back to the kitchen to add turmeric* That's my basic 'recipe' for lentils; quick and easy and flavourful. Sometimes I make a huge pot of this and add dumplings on top. Yum! I just adore lentils; they're so versatile! And cheap! For veggies, I'll either add frozen veggies to the pot of lentils or heat up a can of beets.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rewards Programs Updates

-Best Buy. I read the fine print and it clearly boiled down to 'spend 400$, get a 5$ gift certificate.' So, I appreciate the illogic that they just sent me 5$ for buying nothing. *blank look* An item I wanted there is on sale this week, so I'm pleased. Of course, they were probably just trying to get me into the store, but since I was going anyway, they didn't 'get' me, so I'm thrilled with the 'gift'!

-Aeroplan. Well... I signed up at points.com where you can register the rewards programs they're associated with and swap points between them. Aeroplan and HBC are both participating members. So, when I get a ton of Aeroplan points, I can convert them to HBC points which will then automatically convert to Airmiles!

-Airmiles. I almost redeemed for a 25$ gift card for Chapters when I discovered that I could get 40$ at Reitmans for just a handful of points more. Reitmans is having their fall sale. The certificates arrived today. Guess who's going shopping tomorrow? :-)

Hypothetical Situation

The wildfires raging through California have made a lot of people reflect on what they would take with them if they had a few minutes to pack before being evacuated. The only time I've ever been evacuated I knew I wouldn't lose anything, so I didn't have this conundrum. But I've thought about this scenario a lot and come up with this list of what would make it to the car and in what order:

1) the cats;
2) my Book of Shadows;
3) my purse;
4) my computer;
5) the top drawer of my filing cabinet, which holds all my Important Papers, all of which are essentially replaceable using data found on my computer.

Depending on how quickly I get the cat-kids in their carriers and how much time I have left I'd grab toiletries (I have an always packed travel kit with all the essentials ready to go); a change of clothes; and my pillow.

What would you take?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Starting to feel like work (but in a good way!)

Balancing my expenditure transactions with my bank account, that is. It reminds me of the days when I worked for accountants and had to reconcile accounts.

Work has been on my mind this week.

I have a job the likes of which I never, as a child, imagined myself having. I work in an office and stare at a computer for 8-12 hours per day analysing legal documents for the federal government. The job has its moments, but it's usually tedious, frustrating, pointless, boring, and irritating. I wouldn't have hacked it two years (and plan to keep hacking it for another year or two) if I didn't have an incredible work environment with the best boss ever. The pay cheque doesn't hurt, either.

It wasn't so very many years ago that I worked at my dream job, a job I stuck at way too long because I loved it, even though more than one financial adviser informed me that I wasn't being paid enough to live. But that was okay; work was my life and I hacked it out until the job environment became unbearable and I realised that it would nice to be able to eat on a regular basis, take vacations, buy clothes, pay down debt instead of accumulating it....

The decision was tough to make, but it was made, and I've been working in an office now for three years. I'd done some office work before, but it was not my full-time job and there was always the chance of being able to spend time outdoors.

A friend said to me a few weekends ago that she remembered a chat we had, way back when I was in school, in which I adamantly said that I would never work in an office and do the nine to five grind, and yet there I am today.

Yes, there I am today. Older, wiser, and more cognizant of the kind of life I want to lead. The life I had before, with that dream job, was just half of the life I want. The life I have now is still just half of the life I want. But of the two jobs, this current one is the only one capable of putting myself on an expedited path to the whole life I want.

Lovely weekend

I've had one of those quiet, domestic, and spiritual weekends that I love, one where I nurtured my body and soul.

The first thing I did was 'create' an entrance closet. The owners put in pegs for hanging coats and whatnot, but that gets messy fast since I have several coats, shawls, scarves, etc. It was okay for the warm months, but I needed something more aesthetically pleasing and organized for the winter. What I did was make use of a big piece of 'catchall' furniture that I had placed in the general vicinity of the entrance with the vague idea of one day doing something practical with it:



This armoire had been my pantry for five years and was outfitted with removable shelves. When I moved to this house, the owners left their pantry so I figured that I could eventually turn this armoire into a wardrobe of sorts. One trip to Réno-Dépôt and less than 9$ later, I had an entrance closet:



I already owned the fabric shelf thingamajig. The green bin is filled with all my canvas bags for shopping. My original intent was to leave the bin in the car since I never knew when I'd be going shopping, but then I realised that I hardly drive now and that I always plan my shopping. So, the bin never makes its way back to the car and I've been tripping over it in the kitchen for months. Yay for giving something a home!

Another thing I did was process a huge pile of leeks bought on mega sale. Okay, six leeks. But when you're single, six big leeks is a lot!

Here are some of the tools I use:



I start by slicing the roots off the leeks with the chef's knife. Then, I use the scissors to cut the tips off the green part. I remove a couple of outer leaves, then use the scissors again to slice the green part until I can't cut anymore. I turn back to the butcher knife and slice the rest of the green and the white into half-inch (or so) slices. I throw the whole lot into the colander and pressure wash the bits until I can't see any more dirt. Then I shake the lot and start again. When I'm done, I empty the leeks onto a grill to drain.



Once they're drained, I pat them dry with a clean towel (too lazy too take out the salad spinner!) and then bag them in freezer bags. Of course, I leave some out to make a potato/leek casserole which takes about an hour to cook, by which time the green parts of the leek have turned brown-black and crispy and oh-so-sweet. I love leeks!

While the casserole was cooking, I made some brownies but messed up somewhere since the gluten developed as I stirred the batter. So, I wound up with 15 chocolate bread buns. Still good!

Finally, after doing the usual routine of laundry, vacuuming, and floor washing, I took advantage of the fact that I'm now allowed to lift and move things again and rearranged the living room furniture. I'm not quite done yet and not entirely satisfied, but the room is awkward and I doubt I'll ever find a thoroughly satisfying layout; that is one that blends aesthetics, logic, and function. But I'm close!

Spiritually, I read, meditated, prayed, and began to create a master bibliography, using the bibliographies of the books I've read, of all the books I 'should' read at some point or another. I have so much to learn, but so far my education has been manageable as I've noticed the gods tend to parcel out the information, keeping new levels out of reach until I'm ready for them.

I also organized my songs on iTunes, which motivated me to go hunt out some pagan music when I realised that the most spiritual music on my list is country songs about Jesus!!! So, I did some research and got some names of cds I might want to try out. I think I'll go to HMV first to see if it has any of them since HMV lets you try out a cd before you buy it. If not, I'll just buy online. *makes a mental note to pick up the newest Bon Jovi cd at the same time*

Dinner tonight is spaghetti squash (for which my secret weapon is a grapefruit spoon for scooping out the innards) and some mystery tomato sauce I found at the back of the freezer when I was making room for the leeks.

A weekend like this makes going back to the weekday grind almost bearable because I'll have a clean, tidy, and organized home to return to and lots of goodies in the fridge and freezer!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tracking My Spending

I continue to absolutely adore Buddi.

Reading about financial tracking, I've come a lot of people who can't figure out how to split the tax between items in different categories on one receipt.

Easy.

I'm tracking how much tax I pay. So, when I go to, say, Walmart, and I buy one grocery item, two household items, and one article of clothing, I put the grocery item under 'groceries', add up the total of the two household items and put that under 'household', and well, you get the picture. I then put the GST under GST and the PST under PST. Same thing for gas, I even track the FET and PFT when I buy gas. Adding all the taxes up, I have paid more than 455$ in taxes since September 22nd! That's income tax, sales tax, gas tax, and other smaller taxes!

I won't go into my usual medical rant. :-)

Books!

This morning was a lovely cool and slightly overcast fall day... and I had nothing pressing to do at home. So, after tidying the kitchen and passing the vacuum upstairs, I headed off to Chapters to check out books and treat myself to a now rare cinnamon soy latté at Starbucks. Part of the exercise was to get some exercise, so I parked about fifteen minutes from the Chapters. :-)

Chapters had nothing I was willing to pay for, their Wiccan books completely fluffy and everything else overpriced. So, I got my latté and ambled down to the Sunnyside Bookshop, the place in town for all books Egyptian. There, I found a huge pile of wonderful books at greatly marked down prices (probably remainders), so I pulled everything that interested me off the shelf and then went through the agonizing process of weeding down my selection to a reasonable total. I took a chance on An Enchanted Life: An adept's guide to masterful magick and Devoted to You: Honoring Deity in Wiccan practise. But my real find just about made me faint: Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. This book retails for 95$ new and the cheapest used copy I could find was on Amazon for 55$. I got a pristine, brand new copy for... 15$. Woohoo!!! It won't be pristine for long though as I'll need to add to it by putting in the various ways things are spelled and including any other info as needed (Post-Its will be great for this), but I've FINALLY got my most coveted book. Patience pays off yet again! Thank you, lord Thoth; I recognize your doing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Feeling... zennish

I can always tell that I'm walking my Path when I feel like this for several weeks straight: serene with a need to nest. When I start to wash my floors on my hands and knees, I know that my life is on track! LOL

This fall is crazy busy with an insane university course and tons of overtime at work. The most precious time of my days is the half hour before I go to sleep, when I'm lying in bed after a hot shower, reading something soulful and/or talking to my gods and/or meditating. The busier your day is, the more important it is that you take care of your soul.

I'm currently rereading Cunningham's Wicca: a guide for the solitary practioner for the first time since embracing my faith. I can't believe how much I've grown since I first read it! I am two years and three months older and wiser. :-) That is not to say that I dislike the book, far from it! I just recognize broader statements now and what's truly 'negotiable.'

*waves*

Wow, according to Site Meter I seem to have actual readers! Even someone in India!

If you're reading, please comment to let me know you're here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rewards Programs

I signed up for three rewards programs this week: Best Buy Rewards, AeroPlan Miles, HBC Rewards, and SCENE rewards.

Before that, I was only collecting Petro-Points and Airmiles (and CDN Tire money, if that counts as a 'reward').

I prefer to be 'loyal' to one program so that I can accumulate lots of points and get free stuff, rather than spreading points around. Petro-Points is my catchall reward program since I get points for anything I buy using my credit card. I double my rewards at places like Shell, IGA, and Jean Coutu to get both Petro-Points and Airmiles rewards by using both my credit card and my Airmiles card. Between both programs, I get several hundred dollars worth of rewards every year.

I signed up for Best Buy rewards because it doesn't cost anything and I shop there frequently. I doubt I'll ever get a reward since the points expire and you need to spend 400$ to get 5$, but I don't lose anything by using the card.

HBC Rewards used to be the Zellers rewards program and I was peeved when the switchover came because I lost all my Zellers points. I'd taken all the steps to have my points transferred over, but my paperwork got 'misplaced.' Since then, I've satisfied myself with the Petro-Points on my credit card. This week, I got an offer that made me look at HBC Rewards more closely and I discovered that the points can be linked to my Airmiles card, with HBC points being automatically converted to Airmiles. Great! Another place where I can 'double' my rewards.

Jean Coutu has a great selection of products, but their prices aren't great and they're not located conveniently. There's an Uniprix in my building at work and they have most of the products I want (including the only shampoo and conditioner I use) as well as great sales. I don't shop there often and it's usually for amounts too small for me to want to use my credit card, so I conceded to not getting any points for transactions there. But they recently associated themselves with Aeroplan Miles so I figured I might as well get a card. Even though it'll take forever to rack up enough points to get anything from them, it's still better than not getting anything at all!

Finally, I'm kicking myself for not getting a SCENE card sooner. You get points for both movie and concession purchases. I think that the 'worst' you can do with this program is watch 10 movies, get the 11th free. I don't see a ton of movies at full price now, favouring 'discount' cinemas, but this program seems pretty sweet, and they give you a pretty good signup bonus, so I'll probably get my free movie in 6 or 7 movies rather than 10, even if it takes a couple of years.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ah, I love turkey day...

As is fairly customary, I was invited for Thanksgiving dinner on a Sunday to a friend's mother's home. This mother has never been fooled by my overweightedness and has always believed that I need feeding. Even though there are plenty of dishes I can eat during the Thanksgiving feast, she always insists on making me my own special meal, and then she sends me home with enough leftovers to get me to Yule (only slightly exaggerating).

One of the many offerings I left with was a margarine tub filled with the night's leftover veggies:

-mashed rutabaga
-mashed squash
-carrots
-parsnips
-cauliflower
-broccoli
-broad beans

Normally, I'd eat those veggies over the Monday and Tuesday, but today was our first cold, rainy day of the fall when I was out and about. I came home craving hot soup.

So, one tubful of veggies (see above)+1 cup of veggie broth+1 blender+1 pot=



Yum! Soooo good for you and soooo easy (and quick!) to make and non-fat to boot! The parsnips really gave it a unique flavour. I love these improvised soups; you never know what they'll taste like and you never get the same one twice. I served this with a low-fat grilled cheese--sharp cheddar in a tortilla, toasted in a non-stick non-greased skillet. Dessert was one of my dubiously healthy, but definitely low-fat, brownies. :-)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Baking



A colleague asked me to supply something for this year's charity campaign bake sale. I decided to be brave and accept; baking just isn't my thing. I made my vegan no nut brownies. These are truly 'mine'; I came up with the basic recipe and fine tuned it to the point of perfection (if I do say so myself). The theme of the bake sale is Halloween, so I ruined my brownies with icing, but I think they look pretty cute (and, okay, a tad messy). The Smarties are supposed to be the eyes and mouths of the 'pumpkins', but I ran out of brown ones, so I'll just say that the topping is Halloween candies. :-)

One nice thing about baking for charity is that you can put staple purchases such as flour and sugar under 'donations' rather than 'groceries' in your budget, leaving more money for other food. :-)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Patience pays off yet again...

I go through about a purse a season, then I lose patience with it because it starts to show wear. That's what you get with vinyl, even 'nice' vinyl. So, for some time now, I've been looking for a unique-looking (perhaps tooled?) genuine leather purse in a neutral colour such as tan. I was prepared to shell out several hundred dollars for the 'perfect' purse.

Long story short, one of my cats destroyed my latest vinyl purse last Friday (don't ask), which motivated to go 'hunting' in Toronto while on holiday there. Lo and behold, I found THE purse at Winners! I couldn't believe it! For one thing, I never, ever find anything at Winners! With tax, it came to a mere 40$! Let's just say I didn't need to think too hard about that purchase.

This afternoon, while looking at wallets at Bentley's (just looking, no hurry to replace my current one *g*), I saw that they'd brought in new leather purses. One was strikingly similar to mine, but didn't have quite as many pockets and the hardware was shiny gold, rather than the brushed bronze I favour so much that all the hardware at my old house was made of that metal! Benley's price for the purse? 100$. Sad thing is, I've been looking so long, I would have probably been thrilled with that one and bought it!

Now, I don't recommend driving 1,000km to save 60 dollars, but sometimes it's a good idea to look in new places when you've exhausted all your usual haunts.

Wish me luck with my next search: for the perfect winter coat and boots!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Financial Software Update

Well, my love affair with Cashbox was short lived. I was having a difficult time with the report functions and discovered that, lo and behold, I wanted to track my spending by very anal categories!

So, I did some more research and found another freeware app with potential called Buddi. I'm definitely at home there. It's easy to use, full featured, and the developer responds to emails very quickly. I've already made a donation, and this less than 24 hours after migrating over from Cashbox! It's even supported on a bunch of platforms, including BOTH Windows and OS X!

I recommend checking out the 'Developer's' site to download the still-in-beta version 2.9, which is much more intuitive and full-featured than the current fully tested 2.6. The developer is using the beta version for his own personal use, so that gives me confidence in it. Moreover, the more people who use the app and report bugs, the better it'll be!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

One person's trash...

Whenever I see a pile of trash, especially on a non-trash pickup day, I sneak a peak. Today, I saw some cruddy looking shelving units, a filthy broom, and... a perfectly good Swiffer broom.

My house has two stories and both get coated with cat fur very quickly, so I like to Swiffer between vacuum cleaner jobs. I was thinking the other day that it would be nice to have a Swiffer broom on each level, much the way I have a cleaning supply caddy on each floor. Too often, I head downstairs to get the Swiffer, get caught up in something else, and forget to go back up with the broom.

The gods sure do work in mysterious ways! Woohoo!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Slow on the uptake sometimes...

My 5x1$ General Mills coupons were going to expire this week, so I was determined to spend them during tonight's grocery pick up. I couldn't believe that there wasn't something on my pantry list for which the coupons could apply. When I got to the end of the last aisle, I found myself looking at the Old El Paso products and debated whether I should 'treat' myself to a taco kit or two using the coupons. Then I made the connection between the shelf and my cart. Tortillas. HELLO! I buy the store brand tortillas normally, but they're just 20 or 30 cents less than the Old El Paso brand. With the coupons, the OEP tortillas became 50 to 70 cents less than the store brand (and they taste SO much better). I put five packs in my cart, patted myself on the back, and shook my head at how slow I can be sometimes. LOL

'Course, passing through the cash was a different story. Coupons are just not that common here when compared to the States and a lot of cashiers don't have the training and/or authority to scan non-circular coupons. So, checkout took a while and the cashier kept on apologizing to me when I think she should have been apologizing to the poor couple behind me! I didn't mind the wait since there was no issue with acceptance of the coupons, just how they would be processed in the computer. Someone goofed at some point because according to the receipt, the store owes me 761,367.11$... The manager who processed the coupons just looked at the before coupon total, subtracted 5$ in his head, and punched that into the Interac system. Once my transaction was approved, he said that he was going to go have fun undoing his more than seven hundred thousand dollar mistake. Hee hee.

Money 'saved' today: 10$. 5$ on the tortillas, 1$ on frozen strawberries, 4$ on cheese. Not a bad haul.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Isolation

I am five days into a spending moratorium.

That's five whole days where I haven't spent a single penny!

I've been on a whirlwind spending spree since the spring and know from experience that the best way to stop a habit is going cold turkey. I do have to say that this is a wee bit more rigourous than I'd planned, but I'm pleased. I'm taking a mini-holiday this weekend and it's nice to know that restaurants and movies will be genuine splurges.

But I do feel a tad isolated. One of my colleagues and I often take breaks together, but I've been avoiding her this week. When we go on break, we usually end up getting coffee and/or a piece of clothing at Reitmans. Yes, I am able to resist peer pressure, but it's just easier to not have the temptation in the first place.

I'm also five days into the 'diet' and can tell that things are working since I'm seriously craving McDonald's (something that normally happens every, oh, five years or so, LOL!). I just hope I can still be 'good' this weekend, although I won't be a stick in the mud when I get invited to my favourite Toronto restaurants. :-)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Money Management Software

I've been looking for an intuitive and comprehensive, simple!, money management application that could give me a realistic portrait of my financial situation. I think I may have found my home in Cashbox (for OS X.4).

Much as I like the fancy-schmancy software with a million bells and whistles, I haven't had any success with them since I haven't demonstrated the dedication needed to make such software work for me. What I like about Cashbox is that I can manage money by account rather than by transaction category. So, I sat down and totaled up all my accounts, right down to my pig (spare change collector) and Canadian Tire money!

At the end of the day, I can simply hit reports to see how my global financial situation has changed, for better or worse. If I feel like being a bit fancier, I can even give my transactions labels to see how much I'm spending on rent, chocolate, health, beer, my nails, taxes, etc.

One thing I like is that I can enter transactions before they happen, so I can enter a paycheque and then immediately allocate money to my fixed expenses so I know how much I have left to 'play' with until the next paycheque.

The ultimate benefit is seeing my actual net worth rise and fall as I invest, save, spend, and rack up debt. It makes finding a penny very exciting!

Let's see how long I manage to make this software work for me. :-)