"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."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The End of a Long, Dark Night

There is nothing in the world like waking up to discover that your total debt load has been reduced by almost 30%!

One of my bigger loans, for which my father had co-signed, was paid off by a life insurance policy this morning.

I'll be paying off a smaller loan next week, once the unexpected money comes in. The combined payments for these two loans means that I'll be freeing up just about the cost of my rent at my new place. Add to that what I'm saving on gas and car maintenance, as well as home and auto insurance, and I'm definitely going to have a bit of extra money at the end of each month.

Left to pay off:

-credit card;
-line of credit;
-car (paying 0.9% interest, so not my first priority);
-student loan (gives me a decent tax credit, so also not a first priority);
-fridge and stove (did the 'no payments, no interest for a year' thing, still have six months to go before the bill is due, and I have most of the money saved up, so I'm not even thinking about this at this time).

Soon as my insurance payment comes in, I'm paying off my credit card and reducing the balance to the lowest limit possible, and removing my overdrafts from my accounts. The line of credit will be next, followed by the student loan, and then the car.

I need to set aside money for tuition and my surgery next fall and once that's done, I can think about taking a nice little holiday this summer. *makes a mental note to have her passport application processed*

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Book Review Update

I've now read the first three Shopaholic book by Sophie Kinsella and my initial opinion still holds, and then some! That's high praise for me who tends to drop a series after a couple of books (Harry Potter is a notable exception.).

They are extremely funny (the laugh out loud in public and read bits to your cat kind of funny) and still very pertinent to those who want to take better control (or not, for that matter) of their finances.

Very, very enjoyable!


Whenever I think that I've fully grasped the concept of 'faith', I get faced with a trial that tests it... and I always fail. Take today, for example. Early this morning, I encountered a seemingly unsurmountable financial bump in my path. I was completely freaked out and panicked, even though I know from past experience that my gods always manage to find a way to pull me back from the brink, and, without resorting to such things as lottery winnings or an inheritance from a long-lost relative, find me just enough money to see me through the trouble.

I just couldn't imagine such a scenario happening for today. So, my gods came up with one that had only the slimmest chance of ever happening. Well, it did and I'm saved, again, and I am once again humbled by the love these deities have for a Witch who has yet to figure out what she's done right to merit this sort of attention.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Breakfast, and a Book Review

I have breakfast and fresh coffee at work every single morning. Sounds expensive, right? Well, it's not. I keep a supply of peanut butter, powdered milk, and sugar at my desk, a week's worth of bagels in the kitchen freezer, and every couple of days I grind some coffee beans at home to take to work. I know that making breakfast at work isn't an option for everyone, but it's okay here--there's a toaster in the kitchen and I'm allowed to keep a coffee maker at my desk. Since I get up extremely early and have a hideously long commute, I've been shaving off time from my morning routine by not eating straight away. Instead, I dress and go. By the time I get to work, an hour and a half or so later, I've had some exercise and am actually hungry. I eat around 7:30- 8AM and I usually 'last' until 11:30-12, when I have lunch. Before, I used to be famished by 9, so I'd go downstairs for a muffin or other treat. So, by making breakfast at work, I save both money and calories! I do occasionally go get coffee downstairs, but not as often as I once did. I'd rather have my coffee while I start work then to drink it at home or in the car (tried both options). Now that I'll be moving much closer to work, I'll probably start eating breakfast at home again, but this current routine has probably saved me hundreds of dollars and calories!

Now, on to the book review.

I'm reading the Shopoholic series by Sophie Kinsella. When a colleague passed me the first one, I wasn't too interested, thinking that they'd be completely frivolous. I've only read the first one so far, but what I can say about it is that it is only superficially frivolous. In fact, this book has several excellent messages about finding your passion, taking responsibility for you life, and spending consciously. It made me feel better about some of my consumer behaviour, while leaving me horrified about certain habits. They should be a must read for anyone in their eyeballs in debt or who never know where all their money went. They're also hysterically funny! Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I didn't get a lot of groceries tonight since I'm moving on some indeterminate date next week. I wanted to get just a few fresh items to supplement what I've got left in the pantry and freezer for this week and upcoming weekend, and then do the 'day-to-day' thing for next week.

So, armed with a few coupons, a calculator, and my price book, I came to the conclusion that I did not get the 'rock bottom' price for cheese, but I did get a good deal. I must have been a lot of fun in the cheese aisle during 'rush hour' today, trying to figure out which sale cheese had the best per 100 g price. It turned out to be Lactantia (again), but the per 100g price was 1.15$, which is considerably higher than the .83$ per 100g I paid at Bloblaws a couple of weeks ago. I was okay with paying the 1.15$ price since the extra 2 Airmiles were compensation. I'm so proud of myself for taking the time to figure out what the best deal was out of all my choices AND for having a point of reference!

I also picked up some fresh basil for 1.99$ per bunch (cannot wait to have an herb garden again) with coupon, which included another extra 2 Airmiles, and some pitas, thinking that I could use some of my tomato soup to make mini-pizzas on the weekend. Then, as I was looking at the not-on-sale pizzas for dinner tonight, I had an embarrassing epiphany--why not have mini-pizzas tonight?

So, I did.

Mini pizzas are a whole pita, not split, with a tablespoon of tomato soup slathered over, and then sprinkled with herbs and cheese, then either nuked (tonight) or broiled (when the toaster oven is hooked up). With fresh basil they are absolutely amazing. Then again, just about anything is absolutely amazing with fresh basil.... I sprinkled some of the Lactantia mozzarella over the two I made, rolled one up for lunch tomorrow, and then remembered the (fresh) parmesan my mother gave me this weekend. So, the one I had tonight got two cheeses. I served the mini-pizza with a prepared salad (taxable, boohoo, so I spent 72 cent on taxes for my salads tonight) and more beer than I normally have on a weekday (bro gave me an oversize bottle for my birthday and it doesn't keep well when opened. *g*).

Yummy supper and pretty cheap, and took about 2 minutes to make, prep time included!

Contrary Coupon Position

I was just clipping coupons at iga.ca (really!) in preparation for a grocery trip today when I began to think about a common coupon 'tip'--to never buy with a coupon something you wouldn't have bought otherwise.

Why not?

Sometimes there are products I'd like to try, but I find the price a bit steep. Take, for example, the sun dried tomato and artichoke veggie sausages in the tofu case at my local supermarket. They seemed so good, but at a cost of 3.99$ for a package of 4, seemed outrageously priced. When I got a coupon for half off a package, I jumped on it. The sausages turned out to be yummy, but way too salty, so not worth 1$ each as they would have to supplement a meal, not be a meal. But at 50 cents each, I felt that they could be a nice treat. So now, whenever I see a coupon for them or they go on sale, I get a couple of packages and toss them in the freezer.

I also have a bunch of coupons from save.ca. It's a site with coupons organized by province. You select the ones you want and they are mailed to you. Fantastic site!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Frugal television?

On the way to pick up the newest-on-dvd season of a show I like, I found myself wondering if I wasn't being a bit impatient and unfrugal by not waiting for the price to go down. No, I decided.

There are currently only two shows I get on DVD. By the time a new season hits the shelf, it's been about two years since I saw the previous season. I've waited a long time to see how the cliffhanger ends!

'Instant gratification' in this case isn't buying the DVDs the week them come out, but paying the ridiculous price for cable or satellite tv.

I spend on DVD sets (purchases and rentals) in a year what some people spend on cable or satellite each month.

That amount will go down even further when I get high speed as I'll be able to download some of the shows I currently rent. At a dollar per episode for downloads (and some downloads being free as I wouldn't pay for something I could get through rabbit ears), it's still cheaper than renting.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tuna Casserole

I know I should probably eat more tuna and I really don't mind the taste, but the chickeny texture bothers me somewhat. I've come up with a way to make tuna that will feed me for three meals (generous portions with seconds) or five meals (non-piggish portions).

I start by scoping out specials on tuna and 'Tuna Helper.' I'm sure there are more frugal ways to make tuna casserole, but I love the noodles and sauce in Tuna Helper and it's so much more convenient than making a (lumpy white sauce). So, to reiterate, I get the tuna and TH on special.

Once I have the tuna and TH, I wait until I'm in the mood for a hot, filling casserole. I prepare the TH as stated on the side of the box, for baking in the oven. I use 3.5 cups boiling water and no milk. I bake it for 30 minutes, to give time for the noodles to cook and some to crisp up. I then add a generous handful of frozen veggies (usually lima beans/carrots/peas/corn/green beans) and return the dish to the oven for a few more minutes. I then stir some grated cheese (usually yellow cheddar) into the casserole and top it with crushed soda crackers. After another few minutes in the oven, I broil the dish for a minute (watch it!) so that the crackers brown.

Voila! It's not too pretty, but it's sinfully delicious, and fairly cheap, too, if you got all the 'ingredients' on special.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A startling revelation

Stuck in traffic yesterevening, I finally said aloud something that until then only my subconsciousness had accepted: I believe in the 'Judeo-Christian-Islamic god' and not only that, I believe the Bible is his word (twisted somewhat by translation, granted).

It gets better than that, though.

I truly believe that the Christian-Christian-Islamic god is the Aten and, thus, he belongs to the pantheon I honour. However, because he has turned his back on the other gods, is a rebel so to speak, and, thus, I do not have to honour anything he says that is contrary to what the other gods say. But he can only get away from their legacy so much, and while he is a tyrant and a bully, he has inherited the wisdom of the Tamerans (that doesn't make him wise, though), and while he has twisted that wisdom, it is still apparent in parts of the Bible. And what he says that is contrary to what the Tamerans say just further asserts what the Tamerans say.

So, and this is my big revelation: the Bible is as much the word of of the gods for me as it is the word of God for Christians. I can use it to further my knowledge of my gods.

Am I Wiccan, then? I know that if I begin to treat the Bible as one of my many holy books, equal to my book of shadows, to the Book of Coming Forth by Day, to the teachings of past Wiccans, then I am holding a controversial position.

But it feels right to me, and I feel no less Wiccan.

What a contrary faith I have chosen.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Una mona que se viste de seda...

It's only in the last couple of years that I've had any real interest in clothes.

I was very heavy growing up and it was drilled into me that I was 'too fat' for it to be worth buying me 'nice' clothes. I dressed in jeans, tee-shirts, sweats, hiking boots and looked quite 'butch' with my short hair, even though there was a girly girl inside just dying to come out.

Time has passed, outdoorsy jobs have gone, and I now work in an office. And I have developped an Interest in Clothes.

I'm still heavy, but I'll always be a 'big girl', tall with big bones and developed muscles (I work out and run) so I accept myself the way I am. One of the biggest changes is that I decided that I wasn't going to stand my thinning hair anymore. I have alopecia and can see in my mother and grand-mother what my hair is going to look like. It's bad enough now. So, almost two years ago (hey, the day after I became Wiccan, huh), I got my first wig. Suddenly, I felt almost pretty! My clothing choices thereafter were quite different.

I'm not an attractive woman. In fact, when I take off my wig at night, I look like a guy in drag. While I have a massive bosom (and am on a waiting list for a breast reduction), I'm otherwise built like man, with narrow hips, no thighs, no butt. I used to think there was nothing that could be done for a woman like me and I shouldn't even bother. I didn't need to wear 'pretty things' to get a guy, so why bother?

Well, a year ago, I made a huge choice that has changed my life even more than the wig did: I stopped wearing pants! I realised that pants a) make me look fat because they don't fit properly (big stomach with no butt, hips or thighs, makes for ill-fitting pants); b) don't weather seasonal weight fluctuations; c) make me look masculine. So, I began to wear skirts. I now own dozens of skirts in all sorts of styles and for all sorts of weather. Like with all my clothes, I never, ever pay anything full price, so that's how I've been able to build my skirt wardrobe. Now, I always look cute and feminine, even if I'm wearing a boring top like a plain tee-shirt and flat shoes. Once people got over the shock of seeing in skirts all the time and stopped betting that would not last the winter (HA!), opinions began to trickle in that, hey, I was completely right.

And I never wore skirts because I was told they would make me look fat. Gee. I'm glad I stopped listening to that particular person.

Now, I need to build my tops wardrobe, but I'm waiting to have my reduction before I invest too much there. That said, I don't pass up any deals on tops, like the flirty little ruffled knit vest I picked up today for 10$, marked down from 59$! It's not something I'd normally wear, but I love the style, it goes with everything I own, it's a style I've always wanted to try, and it's good quality for only 10$.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

All creatures great and small...

Anyone who claims that an animal cannot love does not deserve the love of an animal.

My cat-daughter and I have a relationship that goes beyond master/pet, human/animal, mother/daughter... it is a visceral dance of souls that I can hardly comprehend and hold dear.

How we came together is a convoluted story, but suffice it to say that I was invited by the good folks at the humane society to meet their 'mascot' because I was not bothered by black cats. If a certain amount of affinity between us could be witnessed by as many staff members as possible, I might be allowed to take her home. Otherwise, I would have to wait until they got in more cats. They invited me me to see her to appease me, but they were certain that she was going nowhere seeing as she wasn't (and still isn't, for that matter) too sociable.

She was standing on a window ledge, looking out at the snow, when I came in. I gently whispered her name (which changed promptly upon adoption) and she turned to see who owned the strange voice and... jumped into my arms.

An hour later, she was home with me.

That was almost six and a half years ago.

We were always close, but our relationship changed somewhat when I brought home her brother. She became more distant and I found it very difficult to balance the love that came naturally for her and that which came through duty for him. I consider her my 'planned pregnancy' and her brother my 'accidental pregnancy.'

At any rate, her brother died suddenly just after Yule last year and I have to admit that I was grateful that if I had to lose one, it was him, not her. I love him and miss him, but our relationship was only beginning to blossom in the weeks preceding his death.

Since then, my cat-daughter and I have experienced a renewal of our bond. I'm home so little these days and she must be lonely. When I am home, we spend hardly a moment apart. She's a snuggler and loves it when I hold her against my bosom, her paws and chin resting on my shoulder, her little body pressed as tightly as possible against mine. At night, we sleep close. Usually, she's on her pillow next to mine, with my face buried in her sweet smelling fur. Then there are the nights like yesterday when she sleeps at my feet, a few inches away, with just one paw resting on me to remind me that she's there.

Oh, I love her. I love her so very much. I've been accused of being abnormal for holding a cat in my highest affection, but she has earned that right. She loves me as much as I love her, of that there is no doubt in my mind, or even in that of those few who have seen us together.

We understand each other well, I recognizing her various meows, she recognizing the things I say most often to her. It is that way when you live so closely with another soul and spending so much time together.

There was another cat before her with whom I had such a relationship, and her death was a cruel blow. I truly doubt I'll have another after; I need to learn to build such a bond with people.

But for now, we have days ahead of us, years I hope, for she is still spry at age eight, and for all the sacrifices I've had to make for being her mom, all the lost job opportunities because she couldn't have come with me, I cannot resent her. I made the decision to accept her choice of choosing me as her human mother and it is a decision I honour, no matter how much it costs me. The rewards are richer than any lost opportunities.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


One of my colleagues retired last week and I watched the celebrations from afar, so filled with horror was I. It was as though she had just completed a 35 year life sentence and was finally being set free, while we poor peons still had years, or even decades, left till we would be free also.

As a civil servant, I know I have an excellent pension plan. I also know that, for some (like my father), to give up this pension plan is foolish. But for someone like me, with lots of experience and education, making money will always be easy. If I combine that with a new resolution to be frugal so I can buy my freedom in short order, I should be able to 'retire' much more quickly than if I stayed a civil servant, and on my own terms.

'Retirement' for me is the period of your life that you reach when you have accumulated enough money to maintain a basic and frugal lifestyle indefinitely and during which you can work if you want, or not, to pay for the 'extras.' I don't want to reach this point at 60. I want it at 40.

I think it's feasible, if I start now and hold fast to my goal, as well as eliminate some pre-conceived notions.

The next two years will be telling. I will be using them to build my escape plan from Quebec (one of the highest costs of living in Canada) to Manitoba (one of the lowest costs of living in Canada). I then plan to spend about ten years in Manitoba working as a civil servant in my field of choice, or back in the private sector.

My entire life so far has been based on the principle of 'let's see what the fates bring me', so I've avoided making long term plans and commitments. I'm resolving to change that and to be more proactive in creating the sort of life I want.

Can this Witch retire on her own terms in 12 years? She believes she can.

Friday, March 9, 2007

One Small Step for Frugality!

Today was a huge milestone for me--I did some 'conscientious' grocery shopping.

For a long time, groceries were the only flexible thing in my budget. I'd buy food when I could, went hungry when I couldn't, and didn't bother looking at coupons or offers for a bunch of reasons I'm sure made sense at the time (stupid, I know).

Today, I decided to start my price book. I think that what did it for me is that mangoes were selling for 1.29$ (regular 1.49$) each and I didn't know if that was a good enough price to treat myself to more than one.

Because I had an errand to run in the area, I decided to go to the huge Loblaws in town. I tend to favour IGA with the odd jaunt to the more convenient Provigo for PC items, but once in a while, I feel like a foray to Loblaws.

I used to love Loblaws until it became too damn big. I don't want to have to pass six aisles of toys, camping equipment, miscellaneous furniture, and clothes to get to the tampons (this Loblaws) or the cheese (the other Loblaws I visit). I'm also not nuts about the fact that they advertise 'sales' in their flyer (no coupons), but don't mark what the 'regular' price is. Guess I'll know once my price book gets going!

Before I went to the store, I loaded up their website and opened the e-flyer. There, you can click on the 'sale' items you're interested in and the site will make up a nice printable grocery list for you! This is the first time I used the site and I will do so from now on. Except for the cheese (since premium and 'cheap' cheeses are sold separately), the list printed everything in the aisle-order of the store! It was so easy and the list was detailed enough for me to know if the item I had in my hand was the 'sale' version or not.

At any rate, I went to Loblaws and paid a lot of attention to unit prices. I know I saved some money:

-52 count of tampons for 8.59$--I normally pay just shy of 6$ for 20 (so they were worth the hike)
-Dr. Oetker pizza for 4.99$--I normally pay 5.99$
-2/5$ on the Europe's best frozen veggies--I normally pay 3.99$ per bag and would have bought four bags had there been two more bags of a type I like (no asparagus for me, thank you kindly)
-Lactantia cheese, 2x300g for 5$ or 0.8333/100g--I normally consider around 1.50$ for 100g a decent price worth stocking up on for 'cheap' cheese (eesh). I don't often buy 'cheap' cheese often now (IBS, remember), but when they're giving it away, it's a treat. I do pay top dollar for premium parmesan cheese from the Italian deli, however (must start shopping for that!)
-Tostitos, 2x300g for 5$--I would normally pay about 2.99$, if I normally bought Tostitos, which I don't because they're overpriced. But there was no 'plain' PC or NN tortilla chips, so I went with the Tostitos. I don't usually buy chips and junk but tortilla chips and salsa was the one 'acceptable' junk food growing up and I can't get it out of my mind that nachos (just plain chips and salsa with a sprinkling of cheese and maybe no-fat 'refried' beans) isn't a healthy lunch, but anyway.

My favourite savings was on the tomato soup. Yesterday I found myself cursing myself once again for having run out of tomato soup. Tomato soup is to me what ground beef is to some households. It has a million uses, from as-is to cake, and I just never manage to keep enough on hand. Zipping through the 'club size format' section of Blobblobs today, thinking there would be nothing there to interest me, I noticed a lonely 12 pack of No Name tomato soup peeking out from behind the cream of mushroom. No Name is acceptable, although I do prefer Campbells, and is the type I tend to buy unless Campbells is really cheap (I stock up then). At any rate, the 12 pack of soup was retailing for 0.158$ per 100mL. I put the pack in the cart and made a note to see how much individual cans were going for--0.173$, a saving of a cent and a half per can. Okay, that's not much, but I did save 18 cents on a product I use a lot instead of buying it at full price. Go me!

Another interesting thing I noted was the cost of a container of hummus is 2.99$ for both PC and Fontaine Santé brands. But the unit cost on the former is 1.317$ per 100g while the latter costs 1.50$ per 100g. Whopping difference! And, yes, I do plan to start making my own hummus again once I have a kitchen; stopping bugging me.

However, PC brand 'ground soy' was exactly the same price as Yves 'ground soy', so I went with the name brand.

Toilet paper is a perpetual irritant; with all the different types of rolls out there, how am I supposed to know if 25 cents per roll is a good enough price to have gotten the jumbo pack? I guess I'll know one day, if I keep building my price book.

I'd budgeted 50$ for today, expected to pay 100$, and came out at exactly 75$, so I'm pretty pleased. I have lots of easy to make without a kitchen foods that should last me a couple of weeks and not too much junk (no desserts, for example). That's what I've tended to call a 'good grocery.'

Taxes paid on this grocery bill: 2.79$; for the tampons and chips *makes a mental note to write to her MP again about the unfair taxation of women for necessary products... then order a Keeper*

I'm off to input my data into my Excel spreadsheet (I'm such a geek).

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Origins of the Judeo-Christian god

By the time I became Wiccan, I had studied just about all the religions and mythologies of the world throughout history, except that of ancient Egypt. I had succeeded in 'pairing' the gods of various pantheons, seeing them as different expressions of the same force. But the Judeo-Christian god eluded me. He felt apart from everything else I had studied, seemed to have no counterpart. So, it's understandable that, as I began to research the pantheon I had adopted, that I found myself thinking: "Ooookay, if the Judeo-Christian god isn't found anywhere else, he's got to be found in the Egyptian pantheon." And I found him, all by myself. Other scholars have theorized that the Judeo-Christian god is the Egyptian god Aten, but I reached the conclusion myself. I find that startling.

Last night, I was flipping through my Bible as I am wont to do, enjoying my favourite passages from Job, finding a second interpretation to the first couple of days of the creation story, rolling my eyes at some passages from Esther, and then settling down for some Isaiah, when I found the passage that made me stop, think, and make the connection that Judeo-Christian god=Aten:

O Lord, Our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone do we honour.
They are now dead, they live no more;
those departed spirits do not rise.
You punished them and brought them to ruin,
you wiped out all memory of them.
(Isaiah 26:13-14)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Robbing the poor to feed the rich

As a 'middle-class' Quebecer (wow, I went from 'way below the poverty line' to 'middle class' in five years), I belong to the most over-taxed group in North America. Yet, I don't have access to a family doctor and the roads in my area are poorly kept. I keep on wondering what I'm paying for, then I remember. Oh, right, all the people on welfare. Anyway.

I just finished preparing my file for my accountant so she can do up my tax report for the year. There were some encouraging changes this year--a whopping 16$ profit on my investments (up from 1$ the year before and .03$ the year before that) and a decrease in 200$ on the amount of interest paid on my student loan (meaning that I'm eating up more principle).

That said, I have a long way to go to recover from my raise a year and a half ago. I jumped a tax bracket and saw my take home pay decrease by about 50$ a month. My accountant and I calculated that I lost close to 5,000$ a year in income and tax deductions because of this raise. Meanwhile, the government was making almost 10,000$ more from me.

This past year, I went back to school, so I'll get a nice deduction for my tuition fees, as I will every year from now on until I finish my certificate (for which I'm paying cash, no more student loans for me, thank you very much, even if it takes forever to finish). I also plan to start buying less on the 'open market' as I like to call it, relying on barter, transactions between individuals, and buying from the States to avoid paying sales tax. Enough is enough!!!

Someone living in a national-socialist state such as Quebec should be seeing value for taxes paid, instead of being worried about her health for lack of doctors and staggering under the weight of student loans.

When I start my own country (my retirement plan), my citizens will receive an itemized list of what, exactly, their taxes paid for and they will be allowed to challenge this distribution.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Dring, dring

When I first moved out, I didn't have a phone for almost a year. Only a bribe of an internet-capable computer convinced me to get the useless device. I've had a phone now for almost nine years and I can say that 99% of the use of that phone line was to access the net. In my dad's final months, it was used a bit more, but not that much.

Now that I'm moving back to civilization in a little less than a month, I'm going through the whole 'do I need or don't I need a phone' debate since I won't need the line anymore for internet access (one month to high speed!!!). I can't believe I've never seen this issue in frugality-related texts.

In terms of incoming calls, I really don't think I need a phone. My only incoming calls are from my mother, telemarketers, and my volunteer organization. My mother and volunteer organization can reach me at work during the day, or via email. Telemarketers can shove it. As for outgoing calls, ha! Now that my dad is dead, I don't make any, except the odd one to my mother.

That leaves 'emergencies.' There is a pay phone right across the street and I am willing to ease my mother's mind by getting a cheap cellular phone for which I would buy the smallest bundle of minutes available per month (via a card, so no contract) so that she can reach me in the middle of the night if she wants (but let's not give her any ideas, please). There is also Skype, which merits further investigation.

I think my mind is set. I'll get the 30$ a month high speed internet package to start, which is half of what I currently pay for dial up, and then upgrade to high speed plus if I find myself going over my 20GB download limit.

Now, I just need to shop for a cell phone. Hell has officially frozen over.

ETA: the decision has been reached; no phone for me and the 30$ I'll be saving will get added to my savings!

Not the most frugal way to get your veggies, but...

Except for the height of summer, when fresh veggies and fruit are cheap and abundant, I like to splurge, several times a week, on the prepared salads, veggies, and fruit that my local supermarket prepares. They're not cheap, but I can justify the expense:

1) more variety with no waste--if I bought all the various veggies (or fruits) that they use, I'd have enough fruit for two weeks, but it'd go to waste in a few days (not currently in a situation to freeze or use up the veggies/fruit in another way). I'm also not paying for peels or stems and whathaveyou that would be throwing out;

2) guaranteed veggie/fruit intake--no excuses about having no time to cook or prepare the fruits and veggies;

3) a healthier splurge than, say, chips or cookies--last time I called the RAMQ to complain about the lack of doctors, I was told to go to the States (!) and get reimbursed. It's cheaper to just stay healthy.

Monday, March 5, 2007

"But it was food, so she ate it"

I was going to make salmon again tonight when I guiltily remembered the disgusting 'stew' I made on Friday. I hate to throw out food, but dreaded trying to eat that again. I thought about what was in it--chili mix, TVP, veggies, celery soup, and decided to add a can of tomato soup. That's something I do too often--take a small quantity of something barely edible and then add to it until it's palatable and I have enough to last me for weeks. At any rate, the tomato soup improved things greatly and I served the 'stew' over pasta. The result was hot and filling, just what was needed after such a chilly day, and I have leftovers for lunch tomorrow. But I'll never make it again!

While I prefer to 'eat well' I will eat just about anything not poisonous when I am hungry and have few options. I mean, food is fuel, right? The Ice Storm of '98 taught me a lot about the dietary concessions I'm willing to make when I have little or no options. While many I know would rather go hungry than eat something that is below their regular standard, I'm not that picky. You wouldn't push your car instead of putting gas in it, would you?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Les poissons, les poissons

I haven't voluntarily eaten red meat in more than ten years. During that time, I've had the odd bit of chicken and sausage, just because it 'smelled so good' (didn't taste as good as it smelled, though!). My vegetarianism started off by being an ethical choice, then a dietary one. I lost sight of my ethical arguments for not eating meat and the choice became more one of 'I can't stand the taste!' than 'save the cows!'

So, for years, I got along fine with veggie proteins like beans, tofu, nuts, and dairy.

Until I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, which pretty much precludes anything dairy... and beans... and nuts... and tofu. My IBS is quite mild and while I have made some concessions to it, and do take it into account when planning my meals, I'm not a slave to it. That said, I just can't eat as much dairy, beans, nuts, and tofu as I once did.

I'd probably be getting enough protein if it weren't for the fact that I work out and am a runner. My trainer and the nutritionist I spoke to suggested that I find a 'light' animal protein I can stand and add it to my diet. Chicken was out of the question, so that left... fish.

I HATED fish as a child but, the more I got away from 'land' meats, the more it became something of a treat to me. I noticed that I was ordering fish more often at the restaurant, was able to eat the same tuna casserole three days in a row without gagging, and had haddock twice a day for four days on a holiday in Maine without getting sick of it. So, I began to add more fish, and seafood, to my diet.

The fish and seafood passed, but just barely. I didn't hate the taste, but it was alien to me. I'd enjoy a meal but 'forget' how much I enjoyed it until the next time I had it, which took me much convincing to have in the first place.

Then came the week when my father died. I was staying with my mother at the time and for ease of convenience in making meals, we had a lot of fish that week (including brand-new-to-me trout). I also had a seafood and fishy meal at the restaurant, and overindulged on grilled shrimp at my grand-mother's. A light bulb clicked on in my taste buds. Suddenly, what had being suspicious and alien was now familiar and delicious! Trout was the first fish I've ever had that made me happy on first taste; my taste buds were jumping up and down with glee!

That was a month ago. Since then, I've made shrimp at home once and I currently have a freezerful of salmon (had it last night, plan on having it tonight, too).

I think my taste buds were getting bored, plain and simple. After years of forcing them to taste Ethiopian and Thai and Greek and Chinese and Japanese and Vietnamese and Lebanese and Mexican and Italian vegetarian fare and who knows what else, there weren't many culinary frontiers left for them to conquer! I think Japanese is what really opened up my taste buds to fish... since I've been able to enjoy sashimi much longer than cooked fish!!!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Suffer Not a Witch

Do I, as a Witch, have a moral and ethical obligation to inform the devout Christians in my entourage that I am a Witch?

I did my volunteer shift at the annual book show with the same person as last year, a devout, Bible-thumping, very sweet lady who really, really likes me. Last year, I hardly knew her, but I got a taste for what is acceptable to her through the books she perused. This year, I got a much clearer answer to a question that's been plaguing me--should I come out of the broom closet to her? For one thing, she has invited me into her home on several occasions and seems to be under the assumption that I am Christian. I haven't done anything to encourage or discourage this belief. She'll probably freak out to learn that I am a pagan!

We passed a kiosk today set up by a local religious publisher. She gasped suddenly and said that her esteem of them just about went down because she saw some kids books about witches (the green kind with a big warty nose who ride broomsticks)... until she realised that the witchy books belonged to another publisher.

Combine that with her opinion of Harry Potter (magic=bad) and I know now that if I come out to her as a Wiccan, Witch, and practitioner of the white arts she will have an issue with that. I doubt that she would try to make my life 'difficult' because she seems to have a good soul, but I'm sure that she will feel betrayed.

So, I ask again, do I have a moral and ethical obligation to her to let her know what I am so that she can choose whether or not to literally honour what her faith tells her she should do with me? The Rede doesn't help me much. I mean, do I cause her more harm by not telling her, or by telling her?

This is the first time that my 'unorthodox' faith weighs heavy on my heart, that I realise the damage it can cause, the sacrifices it requires. Wicca is, truly, a contrary religion, almost as much a curse as it is a blessing, in fact. For I did not choose this, and I wonder why I was chosen.

A Too Rare Occurrence

I belong to the 'stay up all night if you have to, but work gets done before bed' school of homemaking. If I'm waking up to a to-do list as long as my arm, I'm not going to get out of bed, and I'm hard enough to get out of bed when I don't have a to-do list.

Yesterday's shuffle meant that I went to sleep with a pretty neat house. Before I am to leave for my volunteer shift, I needed to take some furniture outside (and cover it) for pickup, and then dress in my uniform. Before bed, I laid out all the uniform bits I tend to scramble for (usually black socks) and positioned the furniture so that it could easily be hauled outside. I also put away my newly clean dishes.

Before bed, I wound down with a hot shower and some DVD watching (I have not 'watched tv' in two weeks) then passed out around midnight. Next thing I knew, I was wide awake and raring to go. It was 7AM. Normally, I need at least 8 hours, if not 10, to be remotely conscious. Lolling around in bed wasn't tempting because my morning would require no effort. In fact, I got up, pulled on some warm things, spent a half hour or so dragging things outside, had a leisurely cup of coffee, checked my online stuff, and am now having breakfast.

I know that the main reason I'm so hard to drag out of bed in the morning is that I don't want to face my house. But when all I have to face is a couple of hours to wile away any way I want, including some exercise in the new fallen snow, well, I can get up!!!

Friday, March 2, 2007


I need to learn how to build a pantry.

When you don't have a pantry and there's too much snow to get in the car and go to a restaurant (thank goodness), you wind up with... creative meals. Tonight, I'm having one of my 'let's see what sort of disgusting-looking stew I can make' nights. Scrounging through my pitiful 'pantry' and freezer, I've combined TVP, dried veggi chili mix, hot water, a can of cream of celery soup, and some frozen veggies to make something that's actually relatively edible. I'll be serving this with Tasty Taters (not as good as I remember).


I used to love to cook and made absolutely everything from scratch. The last few years, cooking's been a pain. I mean, the more you cook, the more you have to clean, right?

The new house will afford me more time and it has a dishwasher (!) so I hope to fall back into positive old habits. Like having a pantry, fridge, and freezer bursting with so many homemade goodies as to make restaurant fare positively unappealing.

Sources of Wisdom--Coq à l'âning

Today's Most Serious Project is making the house presentable enough for people to come over and get some of the furniture I advertised... and clearing pathways for said furniture to get to the front door. :-)

My thoughts meander as I do such mindless work, doing 'coq à l'âne' as we French say, going from idea to idea, each loosely related by a common thought. I began to think of which volunteer shift I would be getting this weekend. My volunteer work is as a medical first responder, doing first aid at various events in the area. This thought made me think, with a smile, of something a friend said, that we first aid volunteers are like creepy vultures hovering around for someone to get hurt.

Which made me wonder, why do I do it?

It's not really that I enjoy it, but, rather, that I'm good at it. I've found so few things in life that I seem born to do, so few things that come naturally. There is only one thing that I truly believe I was divinely called to do--Witchcraft.

The Creation Story I adhere to speaks of the birth of Witches. The whole of it is too precious to cite only bits. But I can say that no religious work has ever spoken so deeply to me, for it speaks of Truths I discovered on my own.

There are times I wish that Wicca had a holy book of its own, and then I remember how lucky I am to be able to make my own holy book, my Book of Shadows. Because I firmly believe that all religions are expressions of the same God and Goddess forces, I can choose to find wisdom in their writings, just as I find wisdom in lay sources. My Book of Shadows is an interesting hodgepodge of poetry, psalms, prayers, essays, and quotes, the sources of which may amuse some.

The Bible is one of my favourite sources of wisdom. I have come to the conclusion that the God of the Bible, the 'Lord', Yahweh, Jehovah, whatever his name is perceived to be, is a god I have come to know as the Aten. To my surprise, scholars have reached the same conclusion.

I choose not to honour the Aten because I find him to be a petty, malicious, selfish, and uncaring god unworthy of the love and devotion of so many devout followers. I choose not to honour his words because they are hollow to me. But the words of those who do honour him are no less wise for the god they honour, for divine faith alone has worth, even if the god honoured is not worthy of that faith.

(If any of that makes any sense at all....)

I've read the Bible cover to cover three times, so my impression of the Aten is my own, founded, opinion. Because I have come to know his word so well, I am no longer surprised by the horrors committed in his name and am all the more impressed by those who lead selfless and honourable lives in spite of his example. The Bible is truly a contrary text and I pity those who have never read it, for it is filled with the stuff of life--humour, romance, horror, sex (incest, lots of incest), action, violence (gore, lots of gore), gentleness, cynicism, wisdom.... Too many are intimidated by this text. Remember, it is just a book and holds only as much and power and magic as you are willing to allow it to have.

Brahm's Bookworks offers truly stunning Grimoires and I look forward to purchasing one, then lovingly transcribing into it, in that awful handwriting of mine, all the bits of wisdom I've collected over the years, even in the time before I was Wiccan and Witch, all the little truths I've come to know about this universe. Now that will be a book of power and magic... that I only I will perceive. For all others, it'll just be another book.

An Epiphany

I've been having Water Issues all winter and now they're as good as I can expect them to be--I have running water to the bathroom and bedroom/laundry room, but not the kitchen... and my drain is frozen solid.

This is not conducive to maintaining a healthy dish washing routine. I've been doing the 'rinse everything, wash what you need in a bucket' method for months now and dishes are piling up. Let me repeat that things are rinsed, so there's no funky mould going.

Sitting here an hour ago, procrastinating on making breakfast or doing something 'useful' with my morning, I started to surf at Frugal Living and came across a page that made me go DOH!

I have a thing in my bedroom called a 'washing machine.' It's working fine in that water comes in and I can put the hose out the window so the contents don't drain all over my bedroom floor. It's also, as the author of the article said, a huge bucket that fills and empties itself....

Five minutes later, I had the machine half-filled with hot soapy water, dishes soaking in it, and a drying area set up on the dryer. Once a dish is washed, you can turn the water back on to rinse, then off again, just like with a sink!

The bucket method works well for only small amounts of dishes since you need to dry-as-you go lest soap dry all over your dishes and also continually replenish the hot water. With the machine machine method, you can air dry since you've rinsed. I did in fifteen minutes an amount of dishes that would have taken me at least two hours using the bucket method and at least forty-five minutes using the kitchen sink (if it was working).

Just make sure you don't have any food stuck to your machine and then rinse it out after!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

A Conundrum

I pass a seedy dépanneur twice a day on my walk to and from work, a dépanneur which, by the way, is located right across the street from my new house. It has had a sign out front all week which has been mocking me: Belle Gueule beer, case of six, any style, for 6.99$ plus tax and deposit. In case that wasn't obvious, that's a really, really, really good deal.

Beer is my second biggest vice after coffee. That said, I don't over imbibe. I think I drink at most twelve a year lately, savouring each one. Beer drinking used to be simple--I'd walk over to one of the numerous pubs near my apartment on a Friday (and sometimes Saturday) night and have a pint. Simple. But now I live in the boonies and have to drive everywhere. I don't like to drive after having a beer unless at least an hour and a half has gone by since I'm a lightweight. Sometimes, you don't need to sit in a pub for an hour and a half, especially not in the pubs near my house.

So, I'm tempted to buy beer at the dép or supermarket and drink at home. It's definitely cheaper, by about two thirds, than getting an equivalent quantity at a pub. But 'they' say you're not supposed to drink alone.

What to do, what to do?

In my case, you wait for great deals like this, let the anticipation mound, and then treat yourself to a case of Belle Gueule rousse, which is a perfectly suitable stand in for Rickard's Red. You have one that night and let the rest sit in the fridge, to be enjoyed slowly, one at a time, over a three to six month period.

Who cares what 'they' say?! Besides, my gods approve of red beer. :-)

For my bread shall be made of the white barley, and my ale shall be made from the red grain of the god Hapi, which the Sektet Boat and the Atett Boat shall bring unto me, and I will eat my food under the leaves of the trees whose beautiful arms I myself do know. (From the Book of Coming Forth By Day)

An Unwanted Gift

Something was confirmed this morning that has been hinted at the past few weeks, that I will be receiving a not insignificant sum of money in very short order.

My financial plan might seem shaky to some, but it works for me. I continually walk the edge of a precipice, spending money today that I don't have, but which should be there when the bill comes due. Somehow, I'm always right, my faith is always justified, and the money appears. I have a lot of big expenses coming due the next seven months and I had a meticulously laid out plan for dealing with everything. In the back of my mind, I knew the chances were I would be inheriting before the year was through, but I didn't spend with that in mind.

When I first learned that this sum was forthcoming, I couldn't breathe or move, paralysed as I was by all the things I needed to pay and those I wanted to buy. How could I make sense of any of this? Financial advisers have never been much help because I have too few assets and I didn't feel I was ready to turn to one at this stage.

So, I sat down and made a list of all the things I owe or am about to owe, all the purchases I've been putting off, all the things I want, and I made a priority list that I feel covers the essentials and leaves enough for a dream or two, but which will give me a solid enough financial base for the second influx of money to be used solely (or almost) as a house down payment.

I'm grateful that my father who never had a cent in his life worked in circumstances that permitted him to leave His Girls with something on which to build a solid for their lives, but, frankly, I was doing okay treading water and I'd rather have my dad.

Not Counting Hours, But Almost!

This day in exactly one month, I'll be getting the keys to my new house! I can't wait!!!

It'll be strange to be a renter again after being a homeowner for the past three years, but I look forward to it! Next time I choose to be a homeowner, it'll be of a home that only needs minor work. I never, ever want to live in chaos for three years straight with no end in sight. It's like that Non-Sequitur cartoon I have hanging on my cubicle wall that offers a man two different hells--burning for eternity or living in his house while it's being remodeled.... and he thinks that it's pretty much a coin flip. Yep.

That said, I don't regret the past three years. I've learned so much! My father had a lot to do with what I learned and my happiest recent memories of him are of the work we did on the house before he fell ill.

I'm trying to get rid of a lot of furniture before I move because I now refuse to have anything in my home that I don't whole-heartedly love. I've tried Freecycle and received a lot of hits, but my first visit was a no-show at 6:30 this morning. Not impressed. When I move, I plan to buy brand new bookshelves so they're all the same (unless I get really lucky at the used furniture places in my new neighbourhood), but the rest, including a new-to-me bedroom set will wait. I was going to go the Ikea route, but that just makes me heart-sick. I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to know how many bookshelves I need until I had an epiphany--measure how many feet of shelf I currently have. I, erm, stopped at 60. I love books. :-)

One of the things I love about moving is that it forces you to evaluate what you own and uncovers new things (for example that I need to organize my ritual supplies a bit better when several days of packing and many pleas to Anubis (and St-Anthony, for good measure) have failed to turn up my favourite spellbook). I'm surprised that I don't have a lot of 'junk' left now. I had a packrat epiphany when I moved into this house that my stuff owned me and I did a massive purge, something that I turned into an annual event. Now, I walk the fine line between been an obsessive purger like my dad and having nothing 'sentimental' left, and being a packrat who never lets go of anything. I'm doing pretty well. My current house is a mess because I have no place to put anything, not because I have a lot of junk.

So my next house, with all its storage should, technically, be neater. I've moved several times in the past 9 years and each time made the same mistake of living out of boxes while I got used to my space and could determine where things should go. Since I wasn't in those places more than a year or two, I never got 'organized' and never had a neat place (except for my first, darling, apartment). I'm going to be in my new house at least 18 mos and I plan to get unpacked right away. I look forward to an Ikea shopping spree for organizational products like baskets. Ikea does have its place in my life, but I couldn't imagine a home full of Ikea furniture.

I get the keys April 1st and hope to move sometime around the 16th, since it's cheaper to move mid-month and on a weekday. I'm in no hurry to leave my current house, so I'll have time to clean my new place, measure, and bring over the awkward stuff I don't want movers to bring. My bro-in-law will be arriving from the Metropolis on the first with some things from my dad, plus a couch my mother has generously donated to replace my cat-destroyed loveseat (I'm not too worried about the new couch since the old one was destroyed by my beloved cat-son who died two days after Yule last year. But that's another story). So, even if I don't have all my 'stuff' at the new house right away, I'll be able to sleep there comfortably the first couple of weeks. I'll be motivated to do this because my current house is 1 hour away from work by car while my new house is 8 minutes away from work on foot. :-)

31 days and counting!