"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, February 28, 2008

Did Some More Research...

And discovered that my new Matt and Nat bag is considered eco and vegan friendly and the profits go to a local company in Montreal.

There's a really nice message in the bag:

chose life choose positivity chose the golden rule choose to be at peace with yourself choose salvation scegliete di fare una differenza choose to make a difference choisissez de faire une différence choose to be different choose to be a rebel choose to be funky choose to be yourself choose to create a fashion statement

Feeling Extremely Sheepish

One shopping tip I find very useful is to make a list of things you need and/or want with dimensions, reasons, and other info. It's wonderful for those situations where you're at a flea market or garage sale and something catches your eye, but you're sure if that something would be of benefit to you.

The most important thing is to carry the list with you.

Had I been carrying my list on Tuesday I would have realised that the wonderful purse actually fits the description of an item on my 'needed and/or wanted' list. I've been looking for a large purse to use as a day bag while traveling. It would have to be large enough to carry a wallet, guide book, notebook, lunch, snacks, water bottle, camera, and a change of clothes and toiletries when just popping into a motel for one night while on the road, but not be so big that I would be tempted to stuff the kitchen sink into it. I also wouldn't want it to look like a travel bag.

So, two days later, after obsessing over the darn thing, I went back to the store, looked the wonderful purse over, checked off all the requirements, and bought the darn thing!

And the Winner Is...

Angela! Congrats! I hope they do help you organize your baby's DVDs!

Contest Results

Dum, da dum, dum.

I have used the Random Number Generator to select the winner of the Kassett Box Contest. The winner has been alerted by email and will be announced upon reply to my email.

Ikea 'Kassett' Box Contest

***this is a static post, please scroll down for the latest news***

Get all the details here.

The short of it is:

-Ikea 'Kassett' boxes are great for organizing DVDs;
-My blog's first anniversary is February 28th, 2008;
-I have a set of two 'Kassett' boxes available and they're up for grabs to commemorate this illustrious event;
-I will ship anywhere, so this contest is open to all;
-Get an entry by posting a comment to either this post or the original post;
-Get one extra entry for each of the following:
*blogging about this contest
*subscribing to my feed (points to Bloglines icon at the top left)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Musing, Dreaming, Scheming, and Planning

My big move is coming up in about seven months and I keep on imagining potential scenarios and numbers to go with those scenarios. There are just so many 'whatifs' when you're planning a cross-country move with no guarantee of finding a job before you go. Ah, I do so love adventures!

At any rate, I finished my taxes yesterday and am doing some research today and finally, finally am beginning to really understand the retirement plan my financial adviser came up with. It all has to do with the power of an RRSP.

One tidbit of financial advice I'd held onto since starting my career as a civil servant is that RRSPs are not the best savings vehicle for us since we have an amazing pension plan. That changes, though, when you're a civil servant who wants to retire before her 30 years are up.

So, my planner had me take all my money out of my emergency fund and put it into an RRSP. I balked, but ponied up the money. Then, I did my tax return. Where I discovered that my RRSP contribution meant a refund of just about the same amount. Waitaminute. I put money in an RRSP and the government pays me for it? Okay, the catch is that I have to pay taxes at withdrawal but until that day, the government is giving me money for my retirement.

Yes, that's probably a bit oversimplified, but it's not insignificant. The obvious thing to do with my refund is add it to my RRSP for next year. And so on. Until I reach the one million dollar mark my adviser says is realistically within my reach in the timeframe I'm looking at and which I'll be able to combine with my partial pension to have enough to live without working full time.

I'm going back to my move, hold your horses.

So, I finally understand why savvy people move heaven and earth to max out their RRSP contributions every year.

Okay, how can I do that myself?

I've come to the conclusion that housing is the expense I need to drastically reduce for a few years. Sure, I could buy a house cheaply in Manitoba, but when I factor in repairs and whatnot, owning a house is not cheap. I can't wait to own a house again, but I'm beginning to accept that doing so at this stage of my life would be a mistake for more than just financial reasons.

You see, I haven't been 'free' in ten years. I've been encumbered with a household and debt and studies and work and whatnot since the end of my teens. I never had/took the chance to do something cool like travel around the world for a year. Wouldn't it be nice for just a few years to be in a position to 'just go' whenever I want?

So, why not take this move as an opportunity for a fairly radical, but temporary, downsize?

My cats make some potential scenarios tricky and unlikely, but I am exploring all options. One that I really like for its whimsy is to rent a room with kitchen privileges for the winter months and then tent-camp all summer. I'm sure my cats would have a blast. :-)

But the more serious idea I'm entertaining is to move this fall to a room with kitchen privileges so that I can research two purchases in the spring: a small piece of land on which I could later build my dream home and a gently used motorhome (both paid for with cash).

My expenses when 'at home' would be land taxes and propane (or whatever I use to heat and power the RV). I have yet to explore the centre and north western halves of this continent and could do so in my own home with my own cats at my leisure.

I'm learning that I can have everything I want, but not at the same time, and not if I order them incorrectly.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Curbing Impulse Spending With Standards

Today, I found an amazing purse. It was love at first sight. I have a weakness for unique handbags, but I rarely do anything stupid and I'm not one of those gals who accumulates purses. I try to buy them inexpensively so I can rotate them out of my closet within a year.

Today, I came very, very close to being stupid, however.

The purse was 70$, marked down from 140$. For that price, I assumed that it was leather and, thus, worth buying. I'd made a decision a while back to not buy vinyl/PVC purses any more unless they're practically being given away since they simply don't last.

I grabbed the purse, but slowed down enough to thoroughly search it for confirmation that it was indeed leather. Instead, I found a label that said '100% PVC.' Obviously, the price tag was for the designer name, another pet peeve of mine. Back on the shelf it went. Phew.

But now I want that same purse. In leather. Oh, what a beauty.

Did I mention that it's orange?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

In Need of a Bigger Freezer

Whew, I sure did a lot of cooking in the past few days. There isn't a smidgen of space left in the freezer!

Thursday last, I made a bizarrely edible concoction vaguely reminiscent of shepherd's pie. I mixed Ethiopian spiced lentils with veggies and half a can of cream of celery soup. I topped that with rice mixed with the other half of the soup, and then sprinkled cheese over the top. I know it sounds revolting, but it was a culinary experiment that worked. It's not gourmet, but it's definitely good. I put two portions in the freezer.

On Saturday, I made a huge batch of baked farfelle with tomato sauce and cheese and froze one portion. I then made pancakes in the evening so I wouldn't have to in the morning.

Today, I made a big pot of caramelized leek and Yukon gold potato soup and froze three portions. I made a beer bread to go with it.

Add to the freezer a loaf of commercial bread, tons of trout (on sale this week for half price!), shrimp, frozen pizzas (3$ each), and several bags of fruits and veggies as well as more Ethiopian spiced lentils and I can barely close the freezer door!

A full larder is most definitely a Good Thing. :-)

Saturday, February 23, 2008


How can you know if what you think god wants for you is what god wants for you and not what you hope god wants for you because it's what you want?

Friday, February 22, 2008


I'm sitting here looking at my almost 170$ gas bill for the past month which I received this morning (and promptly paid in full, thank you kindly).

The bill is 50$ more than last month. We've had a proper winter with lots of deep colds.

I decided this year that I wasn't going to cheap out on heat. I've had it with that. I vowed that I would never again go through winter having to wear a coat and mitts indoors.

While the upper floor of the house remains positively chilly and uninviting, I've managed to be comfortable on the main floor, provided I wear thick socks and a warm sweater, all of which is quite reasonable. I've been cranking the heat up to 19 or even 20 some evenings. It's still chilly in here, though, and I have to hike the temp up even higher when I have guests, as well as run a space heater upstairs. So I'm guessing that I'm not being completely unreasonable.

The furnace has a programmable thermostat, so at least I'm only heating when I'm home, and that only when I'm awake. I've also programmed it to go up a few degrees before I get home or rise in the morning so that I don't end up cranking it up from 15 or 16 degrees straight to 20. At night, the temperature goes down to 17, which is just perfect for my outfit of flannel pjs with thick socks and a bed dressed with flannel sheets, a thick blanket, and a down comforter. I tried 16 for a while and that didn't work; I'd wake up in the middle of the night because I was too cold to sleep. It's amazing the difference a degree makes.

So far for the year, my heating bills average out to 50$ per month if I were to spread them out over 12 equal payments. Add to that the 50$ hydro is costing me thanks to the price hike and energy costs for this house average out to about 100$ per month. That's fifty dollars less per month than I was paying at my old house and could explain why I've been positively non-frugal about using electricity and gas here. Run the dishwasher? Sure! Have a fifteen minute boiling hot shower? Why not!

Eventually, I will return to more frugal and energy-wise ways, but that won't be for a while yet since I still associate those things with poverty. I can't wait to associate them with a new, energy-efficient, off-the-grid house of my very own. :-)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

THAT Time of Year is Here Again

Tax time, that is.

My accountant has left the province, so I decided that this year, I would do my taxes myself once again. Picked a good year for it, too, she adds sarcastically, as I have to deal with investments and RRSPs for the first time. The latter are particularly confusecating.

When I do my own taxes, I like to start early and then add information as the T-slips and other paperwork comes trickling in. Whenever I get discouraged, I look at US tax filing information to remind myself that Canadians have it pretty easy when it comes to tax time (except for the amount of money we have to shell out, of course).

Next year should be another interesting year for filing since I'll have to do a federal return and a Quebec return, as well as figure out the Manitoban system. I'll probably get professional help, like I did when I lived in Ontario, but filed in Quebec. That was fun, especially the audit. CRA flagged me for living in Ontario, going to school in Ontario, filing in Quebec, and working in the US, Quebec, and Ontario. It was really nice to confuse them for once, but it all got sorted out. Then, the MRQ (Minister of Revenue for Quebec) got their nose into everything and started to recrunch numbers only to find out that they owed me several hundred dollars. Ha, ha, ha!!!

I've always received a refund and I imagine that this is going to be my last year of getting one since I've paid off my student loan. At least, I'll no longer be living in Quebec when the perks of being indebted run out.

Anyone (from any country) have any scary tax stories to share?

Monday, February 18, 2008


Tagged for a meme (!)

1. Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.

1001 Petals

2. Share five random and/or weird facts about yourself on your blog.

-I think grilled cheese sandwiches taste best when cut into triangles;

-My favourite type of coffee is Sumatra;

-I like to do things that scare me so that I never have to do them again (like rappelling, falling in love, rafting over a waterfall, and eating raw clam);

-The magnetic stripe on my bank card has begun to fail, but I don't want to change the card because I know its number by heart, have had it for about fifteen years, and have used it in a kazillion places between Los Angeles and northern Scotland. Bonus factoid: I get sentimental about the silliest things;

-My favourite word of all the languages I've ever been exposed to is 'quincaillerie.'

3. Share the five top places on your “want to see or want to see again” list.

Life is too short and the world too vast to go someplace twice, much as I'd love to return to Scotland and Colorado some day, so...

-Abydos, Egypt;
-the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro;
-the Canadian north;

4. Tag a minimum of five random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment in their blog.

Eeeeeeeeep, I don't 'virtually know' anyone well enough to do this part! If someone other than 1001 Petals is reading, consider yourself tagged!

Friday, February 15, 2008


I went out for lunch with my colleagues today. Now that I hardly eat out beyond getting something at the foodcourt, I find that I'm a lot pickier and that I come out much more satisfied. Today was no exception!

We went to an Italian restaurant I'd suggested called Pacini. I hadn't been there in years, but remembered that it was really good and reasonably priced. I'm pleased to say that my memory still held!

The 12.95$ lunch special got me:

-unlimited grilled bread at the bread bar;
-a fantastic cream of vegetable soup (I would have been thrilled with just the soup and bread for lunch, they were that good!);
-haddock en croute (coated with asiago cheese, sundried tomatoes, and basil then grilled) served over garlicky (and slightly too oily, but still delicious) linguini with napoletana (tomato) sauce;
-unlimited coffee (since I don't drink soft drinks).

The haddock was soooooo good; sweet, firm, and flaky. I'd wanted shrimp, but the shrimp offering for the lunch special didn't inspire me, so I made an excellent alternate choice. I loved the warmed, but not cooked, halved cherry tomatoes swimming around in that lovely garlicky goodness!

I added a 3.95$ 'mochaccino terrine' which was essentially mocha-flavoured mousse; very light and the perfect complement to my lunch.

Total cost, including tip: 21$

I know that for some frugal people, eating out means cutting corners on costs by not having desserts or drinks, etc., but I now eat out so little that when I do, I want the full out treat!

Monday, February 11, 2008


I'm not good at sticking to routines, but I've got a Sunday one that's been going on since after the holidays and which is working out great for me.

Sunday morning, I take an hour and make a double batch of pancakes while listening to the Sunday morning oldies show. These pancakes are super healthy and filling. A double batch gives me enough breakfasts for the week. I've been having these pancakes every single morning for four weeks and am not tired of them. I think I might have found my miracle breakfast food. I eat them as is after nuking them for about a minute; the raisins providing more than enough sweetness.

Mid-afternoon, I cook up a huge batch of something and prepare my lunch for the next day. I've noticed that if my Monday lunch is prepared ahead of time (whether I eat it at home or at work), I tend to be more on track for the rest of the week as to having a good lunch. I then pack the freezer with the leftovers. This way, I've accumulated the following in the freezer in one-meal portions: Ethiopian spiced lentils, chili, and pasta with tomato sauce and cheese.

If I don't eat dinner at home or am too lazy to make something with leftovers or what I'm making isn't suited to creating leftovers (eg. fish/seafood), I can pull one of these meals out of the freezer for my lunch the next day.

Before I go to bed, I make sure my lunch is packed, take out a portion of pancakes, and prepare my coffee (my coffeemaker has a timer).

Mondays are so much more pleasant now. I've never really had to rush in the mornings, but it's nice to not have to think about breakfast or what I'll be bringing for lunch.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

This Week's Deals

My uncouth neighbours were playing music too loudly for my taste today, so I decided to escape and do something rather unfrugal--recreational shopping.

I headed to two Value Villages to see what they had in stock. The pickings were slim today, thankfully. All I brought home were a puzzle by my favourite puzzle artist Charles Wysocki (1.99$), and two stainless steel bowls. I've been wanting to buy my cats stainless steel water and food bowls for years, but resented the prices for new ones. At VV, I found a large food bowl for 1.99$ and a smaller water bowl for .99$. Yay!

I also perused the skirts and found two skirts I own (!). One was marked 14.99$ and the other 19.99$. I bought them new for 1.99$ and 9.99$ respectively. Proof, that it's not always worth it to buy used.... Also, VV sure isn't the 'value' it used to be.

Yesterday, I went to GT to get some groceries and got some decent frozen pizzas for 2.98$ each. I'd bought them before and found the crust and cheese awesome, but the sauce bland. So, when I cooked one for dinner tonight, I sprinkled some dried basil and oregano on top and it made all the difference. YUM! I can't believe I used to buy an individual slice of pizza for 3$ when I can have a whole one for that price!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Some People Just Don't Get It...

I'm very close to two of my colleagues, so I told them about my new car. One replied: "Wow, you must be rich!" and the other "You make no sense. You won't buy a 10$ top or a 1$ coffee, but you'll buy a new car."

The first gal doesn't realise that being debt free really increases your buying power. I asked my dealership what the price of the car would be if I paid cash vs. financing it and was told it was the same thing. Whether I paid cash today or gave them 60 equal payments at 0%, I would not save one penny. Why not finance and keep my cash in my investments where it's making money? Since I have no debt, getting approval for financing wasn't an issue. I'm not rich, but I have financial flexibility.

The other gal doesn't get that little purchases add up, that by not buying the top or the coffee I'm keeping my monthly spending at a low enough limit to live within my means and afford luxury items like cars.

But that wasn't my favourite bit of financial cluelessness for the day.

I treated myself to lunch on Friday as I normally do and decided to splurge since there was a lot of really nice fresh fruit being offered. My total was 7.10$. I gave the teller 20.10$. She gave me back 17.00$ I told her she'd made a mistake and was about to hand her back the money when she said, and I quote: "I don't make mistakes, the cash [register] tells me what to give back." Then, seeing that I was about to protest, "I'm too busy to deal with this, go see the manager if we owe you anything."


Thursday, February 7, 2008

New Wheels

I bought a new car today.

The decision was made at 7:30 last night although it had been hemmed and hawed at for months. I went in at 3 today for a test drive and by 4 the whole thing was buttoned up. Had I decided to not be picky about colour this time around, I could have literally driven home with my new car.

I'm not going to get into all the details, but will only say that it made perfect financial sense and except for the fact that I quadrupled my current debt (something that sounds scarier than it is in reality) this transaction was definitely in my financial favour.

I bought the current year model of my old car and got the deal of a lifetime. I could not have bought a used car, not even for cash, and gotten all the financial advantages that this new car is giving me.

One of the things that helped was my excellent relationship with and loyalty to my dealership. They gave me more for my current car than I could have had anywhere else. My car is not even four years old but it has the mileage of a car that is about six. I've maintained it perfectly and the cosmetic shape is good. The dealership knew that they could give me a bit more for it to motivate me to trade up. Makes sense.

I went in today with all my numbers crunched and I came up with the absolute lowest figure that I could hope to pay for this car, as well as a more realistic figure to talk the dealership down to. Well, the dealership crunched its own numbers... and arrived at the same low number I did. Then, as I sat there stonefaced (jumping up and down in my head) they asked me what goodies they could add to sweeten the pot....

The way I see it is this: I've been an excellent customer for 4 years, but they know I'm savvy and always looking elsewhere for a better deal; I never take anything they say at face value. They want my continued business, so it's in their best interest to just straight up tell me what's the best deal they can give me. No haggling, no condescension, no gypping, no bs. It's refreshing.

I can't wait for my road trip next month. :-)

There Are No Words

This is a new PC (Loblaws) product for children touted as an alternative to chicken nuggets: fried mac & cheese nuggets... which they're claiming are a healthy choice.

I think I've now seen it all.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dreaming of Home

I've always thrown myself headlong into my projects and plans, deciding that I'd figure it out as I went along. That's probably why my life does not yet resemble what I envision it should be.

So, when I decided to uproot myself again and stake a claim on the prairies, I vowed that I would be smart about it. I would take at least a year to plan it all out, to declutter my living space and in doing so my soul, and to clearly identify what I would not compromise on this time and what I had to let go.

I've done all that. I'm ready. I'm beyond ready. I can't wait to own my own home again now that I know exactly what that home should look like (hint: there would be a Chambers 1930's gas range in the kitchen and land as far as the eye can see from the window above the sink). I can't wait to get involved with a community again, to fall into habits again, to befriend people. I'm ready to retry my hand at putting down roots.

Fall can't come soon enough.

A Full Year...


I've survived a full year without my father. I miss him terribly.

Now that all the 'firsts' are done, I hope that life without him will continue to become easier.

I know that he is in a good place and that we will see each other again before he is reborn, hopefully into a happier life. This brings me great comfort.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Frugal, Not Poor

I really tightened the purse strings in January and this will continue through to April.

I haven't given up on the 'pantry method' of shopping, but am combining it with another technique. Now, I'm stocking up the pantry and not doing a 'big' grocery until it's completely empty. Until then, I'm stocking up on a few items that will encourage me to finish what I have at home. For example, last week I went out and bought some cheese and a package of chili spices to make chili, using up tomatoes and beans from the pantry. I know that all these 'systems' I'm trying out seem silly, that this shouldn't be a big deal. But I've never wrapped my brain around it. Perhaps one day I'll make my peace with grocery shopping. :-S

Yesterday, I went to visit a friend and passed a grocery store that I otherwise would not go to. I happened to have a 5$ gift certificate for that store. So, I went in and decided to stretch that 9$, plus another 4$ I had in change, as far is they could go. I will be eating out with my colleagues once this month and probably going to visit my family, so I want to tighten the grocery budget at least as much as I did in January. Therefore, my 9$ had to go for 'necessities', not treats.

Problem was, that grocery store is insanely expensive.

What I got for my 9$:

-2 oranges;
-1 loaf of good bread;
-2 lbs sugar;
-1 can tomato soup
-1 package pasta

I desperately wanted to get some fish, but I could not justify spending 6$+ on one meal when I got things that would give me several meals. The can of tomato soup might sound silly, but combined with the pasta and the cheese I have at home I can make three to four meals out of it!

The whole time I was shopping and trying to figure out how to combine what I had in my basket with what I had at home, I had to keep reminding myself "Raven, you're not poor. You're frugal. You can buy anything in the store but you choose not to."

Looking back on almost a year's worth of posts, I'm proud of the changes I've made, of going from poor and barely frugal to comfortable and more frugal, but I see how much further I need to go.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sunday Confessionals

The following would have been overheard at my house this weekend:

1) *mutter, mutter, rummage, mutter, rummage, rummage, mutter* How can I call myself organized when I'm always looking for these darn pants! (The (snow) pants in question were exactly where I thought they were supposed to be, but I missed them the first three times I looked there!)

2) Oh. That brown stuff was dirt?! (I wipe down my sink every day with cleanser and it's always had a sheen of brown around the drain. Today, I decided to scrub with Comet... and the brown sheen lifted. I've ascertained that it's from coffee... and I'm completely grossed out and embarrassed.