Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tomato, Tamata

These yummy tomatoes were a gift from a coworker from my part-time job.  I am sure we will be friends after I leave that job, she and her husband are funny and kind people.  The green ones are called Zebra tomatoes and are fully ripe.  I shall be having a bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich for dinner to try them out.  It is funny how free produce can make you so happy!

I managed to get one more job off the "get done before hubby gets home" list - cleaned out the fridge.  I cannot recall the last time I cleaned it although it always get a quick wipe weekly, it still needed a really good thorough cleaning.  No pictures of that, just lots of veggies, eggs, cheese and booze (yes, booze!)

I cashed in $20 worth of Superstore points (Loblaws) today to get even more veggies so the fridge is full for hubby's return on Friday.  Only 2 more sleeps!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On The Path to Belt-tightening

This fall I am getting back on the belt-tightening bandwagon, in the fiscal sense.  I have three weeks left at my part-time job.  That job has added an outside income to our household taking pressure off our business.  Now that the business is doing so well instead of increasing my wage, at least until next year, we are leaving it as is and instead having the business pay back in a lump sum part of a loan for monies we had used for initial business start-up costs.  That amount will be approximately 80% of what I would have made for the next 3 months at the part-time job.

I am like a squirrel, with each pay tucking away dollars for our various goals and dreams - travel, Christmas fund, weekends away sealed pot, and big bill fund (house taxes, car insurance, house insurance).  I don't want to decrease any of the monies that I put there so there will need to be a 20% belt tightening to make it work.

With hubby away I shut the furnace and AC off completely (it was 25 degrees celcius here, yes, we on occasion are still using AC as we work from home and furnace has not been used since early June).  I have gone around the house unplugging anything that is not being used or that must be left plugged in to save on electricity.  It is surprising the amount of energy you use for just keeping things plugged in.  Since August we have been eating anything that is a wee bit older in the freezer so that we can eliminate any unnecessary food waste.

I updated and organized my coupon folder, although I haven't been using many coupons this year.  Still, there were a few I could have taken advantage and didn't.  As my Mother always says, every little bit helps.  When he is away on business I virtually stop buying groceries, only eat what is in the fridge that needs using up.  The only time I stray is if there is a "too good to let pass" deal that comes up.

In the last several months we had gotten into the habit of eating out more, and that is going to need to slow down.  Once I am working only from home again in October there is really no excuse for not making sure we eat healthy, well balanced home cooked meals that are better for us and much easier on the pocketbook.

Anyone else out there doing some fiscal belt-tightening this fall?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Not Happy/Happy

Lots of things on the brain lately:

Not Happy:  Ordered 100 copies of hubbies book(just published) off amazon for our business.  Amazon shipped them in 3 separate shipping boxes with 3 separate shipping numbers.  DHL called with one of the numbers to advise duties were owed before they could deliver.  Went online, paid, they delivered one box and left notice that the other 2 still had monies owing - inefficiency at their best.  Not sure who to get angry at on that one, no one let us know about the other 2 shipping numbers.  What a pain in the petootie!

Happy:  Weather is beautiful and sunny 22 degrees Celcius while most of the rest of North America seems to be having cold weather (hubby is in Edmonton where it snowed on Monday lol)

Not Happy:  Who thought it was a great idea to book hubby on a 12 day business trip?  We have total control over this yet didn't think about the emotional consequences. Never again, 7 days max.  We own the bloody business, we can make sure this doesn't happen again.

Happy:  Hubby will, in fact be back just in time for our 9th Wedding anniversary.  Now, what shall we do?  Dinner out maybe?

Not Happy:  Neighbors keep letting their cat run wild in the neighborhood.  While I like all animals, including cats, I happen to love my birds and the cat has taken to stalking them at my feeder, making me put the run on him every time he steps in my yard.  So far, bird 1 cat  0.  Fingers crossed they continue with their good luck.

Happy:  Going thrifting/antiquing with Mom tomorrow.  I really like having Mom so close that we can make plans, even when life is busy.  If I find anything cool I will be sure to share it here on the blog.

Not Happy:  After cleaning all the carpets in the house and managing to get all the yard work done on Wednesday night (mowing and weeding) my fibro gave me a major setback Thursday Friday.  I feel like poop and have spent most of both evenings attached to my laptop watching movies with zero energy.

Happy:  Scored yet another free box of cereal today using my Quality foods card on their Freebie Friday - I love this promotion - this time Peanut Butter Cheerios.  I don't think it sounds that tasty but hubby will likely love it.

And that, my friends, was my week in a nutshell.  Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Force To Be Reckoned With

Hubby flew out of town yesterday afternoon on a 12 day business trip.  I drove straight from the airport to the store to buy carpet cleaning solution.  Between yesterday afternoon and this afternoon, in addition to working both my part-time job and company job I managed to get the ENTIRE house carpets cleaned with our steam cleaner.  I only moved the dining room furniture as the rest is too freaking heavy.  Total cost?  $32 in cleaning solution.  I also managed to organize our kitchen junk drawer.  I have a large mental list of a  bunch of items that I hope to accomplish before he gets back.  Frankly, I am a little scared to write it down on paper.  For someone who lives with a chronic fatigue disease (fibromyalgia) it sometimes even surprises me how much energy I have on occasion.  It helps that I didn't need to cook or do any other chores.  I ate left over BBQ yesterday and leftover rice today.  I am trying to eat up items in the fridge so I can do a massive clean in there as well (its on the big mental list).  After finishing the carpets this afternoon I went and picked the very last of the blackberries and have an apple blackberry crumble (to share with Mom) baking away in the oven as we speak.  It is a wonder what you can get done when you don't do any of your regular chores :)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Street Art in Lisbon, Portugal

Here again are a few more shots of life in Portugal taken this past April.  There are many abandoned buildings in Portugal, as they continue to struggle with a shaky economy.  Most are several hundred years old, passed down family to family.  If the family does not have the money to keep them up, they generally brick over the windows until one day they either have the money or they are able to sell the property.  A guide on one of the tours we took told us that they are effecting legislation requiring owners of these derelict buildings to maintain the outside of them.  The owners of these two buildings took a step further.  Rather than trying to continuously combat the graffiti they encouraged local artists to paint scenes on the outside.  

Street Art in Lisbon, Portugal, my favorite one

I don't really like crowds but with only one or two exceptions we did not run into many except at one of the castles we toured.  I just loved a quiet little town we took a tour to called Tomar, where one of the Knights Templar castles was located.  The trees were in bloom, not sure what type and the only debris in the streets were the purple petals.

Town of Tomar, Portugal
 There are some pretty narrow alleyways in the oldest part of Tomar.  I tried to make friends with this black cat but no luck.  That is the Tomar Castle right above the village.
Tomar, Portugal alleyway with Tomar Castle above

We spent a couple days on the coast right between Estoril and Cascais.  Life is pretty quiet in these two towns except in summer when the throngs of tourists arrive to enjoy the beaches.  It is still completely lovely in Spring time and I am so glad we were there when it was quieter.

Cascais, Portugal
 There were families out enjoying picnics on the beach, and others just having a coffee by the water.
Small beach at Cascais, Portugal
Many properties are up for sale for years before they are sold in Portugal.  In the town of Sintra, which is known as the palace town as many European families had, and still have summer palaces there, we spotted this old palace up for sale.  I have no idea on the price but if anyone out there is looking for a fixer upper, this might just fit the bill :)

My future DIY dreamhome, Sintra, Portugal

I managed to hand in my resignation on Friday to my part-time job.  I gave them four weeks notice to assure them I will not leave them high and dry in their busy season which ends at the end of September.  It came as a relief to me, as I have been working far too many hours between our company and that job.  Hopefully, starting in October, I can make sure we get a better work-life balance back which seems to somehow have gotten out of kilter this year when our business got so busy.  Well, hubby is off to pack for his 12 day business trip which he leaves on tomorrow and I am off to do laundry.  We have set a date this afternoon for a couple hours of beach time to enjoy the 27 degree celcius sunny weather we are having today and we will end it off with a BBQ tonight with Mom and a movie on Netflix.  Have a great weekend everyone!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Feeling the First Signs of Fall

Pena Palace, Sintra Portugal

I haven't taken any good pictures lately so am sharing a couple more shots from our April 2014 trip to Portugal.  

It rained a couple of times this week signalling a hint of the Fall to come.  September is usually just an extension of summer on Vancouver Island, with warm weather but the leaves start turning color, the light is fading faster in the evening and the mornings have a crisper cooler feeling to them.  

 Hubby is flying out of town next Sunday and will be gone for 10 days on a long business trip.  Until then we are working madly to get all the preparation done for it. Dinners this week have suffered, I admit to serving up hotdogs and frozen french fries for one meal, a frozen pizza for another.  Yuck.  In order to gain control back of our life and our diet I have decided that this week I will give my part-time employer notice that I will be quitting at the end of September.  We own a business and I need be able to be there for it.  That is four weeks notice and also means I will not  be leaving them high and dry in their busy season which ends at the end of September as I consider them friends and a very decent employer.

View of Lisbon from the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal

We managed to take advantage of a few sales this week due to back to school sales.  Good quality copy paper was on sale for $3 for 500 sheets, which is way cheaper than even Costco so we bought 27 sheafs for the business.  That should be more than enough for the year and hopefully we can take advantage of a similar deal next year at this time.  We have a college in town and there seemed to be a few college-aimed deals as well.  I got bulk laundry detergent on sale, again, cheaper than Costco, so bought a six month supply (there were only a couple containers on the shelf).

Town of Sintra, Portugal

We have only been in the house for two years after downsizing and purging before our move but my linen closets were overflowing.  We had used extra bedding to cover most of the furniture when we moved ourselves and instead of giving some of it away when we got here it went into the closets.  I cleaned them out and hauled away two huge garbage bags to the thrift stores.  The linen closets look so much better now.

Pedestrian only street in Cascais, Portugal

I also went through all our old towels and anything that looked beyond redemption went to hubby's rag pile for the garage (for washing cars).  We now need a couple new towels so those are next on my list to find in the coming weeks on sale.

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thrift Store Decorating

Anyone who reads this blog realizes that I am a big fan of thrift stores so my decorating tends to come from there as well.  Here are some recent finds:

Very large bottle.  This is about 1.5 foot high and 1 foot wide.  The opening is stopped by a cork and I bet someone paid a lot more than I did on this as a decorative item.  I have decided to place all my smaller shells and beach glass in it from travels around the world.  As you can see, I have lots of room to add to the collection.  This will live in my second bathroom window sill for sort of a beachy theme along with some larger shells.  Thrift Store cost?  $6.75.  It was a Happy Birthday to me gift a week and a half ago.

The candle was a gift from one of my Stepkids this spring but I needed a pillar candle holder.  This little number does the job well for 99 cents.

I am a sucker for Mexican pottery and glass.  I found this cute little burro a few weeks ago for 50 cents and the glass vase a couple years ago for 99 cents.  That is a succulent trying to multiply.  This little scene lives in my kitchen window just above the sink, but I have so many windows in this house (a good thing!) the only way I could get a decent photo was shooting them away from the light.  I am not a nick-nacky person and tend to rotate the same objects around the house, but once in a while I find something I just have to have.  At these prices, who can blame me?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Birthday, Freebies and the Ocean

We had a really nice week as my stepdaughter flew into town for five days and we managed a brief holiday from work to spend some time with her.  This week:
BC Ferries - the Comox to Powel River Ferry
  • I celebrated my 45th birthday.  Along with my mother and stepdaughter we went to my favorite hole in the wall Chinese food restaurant (they don't take credit cards and service is brisk but efficient and the food incredibly tasty) and then went to a movie theatre to see Guardians of the Galaxy.  None of us were expecting much but each and every one of us enjoyed it (ages 16, 45, 52, and 71).  Seeing as how that was the first time I have paid to see a first run movie in a theatre in 1.5 years I am so glad we all liked it, and if you like Bradley Cooper, this is possibly his most adorable role yet (speaking only).  My birthday just happened to coincide with discounted rates for Tuesday night so that was nice.  I also signed up online earlier in the day to accept emails from the theatre and as a reward was given a coupon for a free medium popcorn which hubby and Stepdaughter enjoyed. 
Guardians of the Galaxy
  • I took advantage of some birthday freebies:  a smoothie from Booster Juice, 50 swagbucks and 8000 Shoppers Drug Mart points, no purchase required.

New Birthday Bedding, sorry for the lousy picture, this was the one hubby got to approve the pattern
  • Finally found a bedding set after a two year search, and paid for it using a gift card my stepdaughter and stepson gave me for my birthday.  I really like the bedding, but why do they have to include so much packaging?  I managed to recycle 100% of it but still, lack of packaging is one of the primary benefits of why I shop thrift stores.  I had been hunting for something with a bit of turqoise, light green and black as we have two original paintings purchased from local artists in our bedroom and I was trying to match something to that.  This fits the bill perfectly.
  • Had a mooch around the local thrift stores.  I found nothing (that sometimes happens unfortunately) but my Stepdaughter found two shirts to add to her wardrobe that I bought for her.  I am so proud that this beautiful 16 year old girl likes thrift stores, something that I can say was 100% influenced by ME!  Her mother wouldn't be caught dead in them and hubby has only recently started liking them (my influence as well).  When she was young and over for the weekend I would often drag her along to the thrift stores.  She says it is so hard to justify buying new clothes when she can buy a complete wardrobe at a fraction of the cost.  Smart woman!  She also shies away from expensive brand labels - so refreshing as most of the rest of the world is caught up in that!  I did find a couple of thrift store items last week that I will share with you in my next post.
  • Spent lots of time by the Ocean.  We went shell picking at the beach, had nachos and beer (hubby and I, pop for stepdaughter) at a Oceanside cafe at Qualicum Beach then wandered around the small town like tourists. I bought two books from a used bookstore, hubby and stepdaughter bought two items from  a thrift store.  Cause that's how we roll :)
Seal right in front of my kayak
  • Took my stepdaughter sea kayaking for the first time.  She liked it and we were so fortunate to see a family of four seals catching a 20 pound salmon and eating it right between our kayaks.  At one point three seals were directly below my kayak, as shown in the picture.  I took a couple pictures but then my battery died-lesson learned, always carry spare batteries for the waterproof camera.  It was something that you so rarely get to see in nature and we sat and watched them for 20 minutes as they completely disregarded us while finishing their dinner.  The salmon are running in the river that leads to the ocean right now or this sight likely never would have been possible.

4 Seals sharing a large salmon right under/beside my kayak, click on picture for larger image

It was a very nice week but now we have to get back to work as have an extremely busy fall planned with our business.  Have you enjoyed any last of summer outings?

Monday, August 18, 2014

They Emerged Scratched, but Victorious

We managed to pick 8 liters of wild blackberries this week, the equivalent of four icecream buckets.  Many scratches later from the brambles we have one of the best harvests of the past few years.  Mom joined me in picking my usual patch which is in an abandoned field directly across from where she lives.  If we wanted there are many more ripening but there is only so much room in the freezer.  These will be used for blackberry brandy (berries, vodka, sugar, put in canning jars for months turning each few weeks, will be ready for Christmas), frozen blackberries that will later be turned blackberry jam when the weather is cooler, and several containers for muffins and pancakes during the winter.  It is not easy to harvest blackberries, as you must wear jeans and long sleeved shirts and be prepared to fight the thorny vines in a battle for the berry.

The first night we picked Mom got a rather bad scratch on her arm and due to medication, started bleeding more than normal.  We called it an early night since someone drove by right at that very moment and we were sure they were going to call the cops saying that an elderly lady had been assaulted in the neighborhood (*Mom is a spry 71 and would be insulted if I called her elderly, I say that in jest).  We finished off last night with only scratches and no major wounds.

Do you forage for berries this time of year?  If so what kind of free food is harvested?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Planning for the big C

I saw Christmas decorations in our Costco this week so it is officially not to early to talk about saving for Christmas.  We have a large family with my four stepkids, two mothers and one nephew that we give gifts to.  Once the nephews graduate high school we no longer buy presents so that number has decreased over the years. We have minimized the hassle around Christmas by giving our kids one small gift and the rest in money.  We are travelling to Alberta but are doing so before Christmas so we will be tucked back home safe and sound by December 22nd. The kids all have busy lives, jobs, boyfriends/girlfriends and their Mom so we are all ok with celebrating a few days before the 25th.  

I save all year long for Christmas and here is the Christmas fund so far:

  • $800 for gifts.  Every paycheck I tuck away some money into that fund.  The budget is $1000 so I have a little more to save.
  • 1 gift purchased for one of the kids.  We bought each of them a souvenir in Europe but found one item for my stepdaughter that will make a nice Christmas gift.
  • $60 in Shoppers Drug Mart points which will likely be higher by the time December rolls around.  This will be used to supplement Christmas groceries and chocolate.  Even grown kids still like treats like chocolate.
  • $16 with in PC Plus (Loblaws) points which you have to have $20 worth before you redeem. I will have sufficient points by December to do so.  This will also go towards Christmas groceries, maybe even the turkey!
  • The flights to and from Alberta have already been booked using points and taxes were paid out of the travel fund.

Here is the plan:

  • December 11, fly to Alberta and visit with kids and mother-in-law for two nights.  
  • December 13th jet off for one week beach holiday - details to be nailed down once I can get a cheap sell-off out of Edmonton.   The weeks prior to Christmas are considered low season  as long as they don't include Christmas for charters(*this I know from my travel agent days) and should go on sale approximately 4-6 weeks prior. We are flexible as to our destination but likely will end up in Mexico because we love it and we miss it.  There are several departures the day I want to travel and I will watch it like a hawk until we find something in our price range.  Packages are way cheaper than airfare when they go on sell-off  - for instance $1000 per person for airfare alone, $500-$900 per person on package sell-off including airfare, hotel, transfers, meals and drinks. 
  • December 20th fly back to Alberta celebrating Christmas with the family on Dec 21st and flying back to the Island on December 22 to have some R&R and spend Christmas with my Mom. We own our own company and in our line of work (training/consulting)there is little business that can be done after the 10th of December so it is fine to take this time off as no billings will be lost.

Fortunately, when we went to Europe this Spring that trip was fully paid for before we departed including all spending money.  The second we landed I started tucking money back into the travel fund and it is 2/3 funded for all the above plans.  Our bills have decreased this summer as well, and as of September we are down to paying child support on only one kid which will continue for a few years more.  Child support has always been our biggest bill and hubby paid it on four kids on time every time since his divorce 13 years ago.   All education costs had been saved for them as well (he was very diligent putting away money from the time the kids were born) so we don't have to be forking out for that either.

None of this would be achievable without preplanning for both time and money.  Have you started planning for the big C?