About Me

Life is learning. Life is change. Life is good. Life doesn't have to cost a lot. I want to make my life greener, healthier, and thriftier. And I want to enjoy doing it!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

And A Good Yule To All!

First, a bit of explanation may be in order:

I am Wiccan.  Most of my family are not.  Therefore, I do two celebrations.

Yule  -  Winter Solstice  -  is for quiet alone time for my own meditations, prayers, chants, and reflections.

Christmas is for family  -  lots of good food and noisy fun, stockings and presents and a tree with lots of shinies.

So it's Christmas Eve. 

All my gifts are ready to be wrapped, except one small knitting project to be finished this evening and tucked into a stocking.  All the goodies are baked, there's a turkey defrosting in the fridge, the house has miraculously stayed clean and tidy since last weekend's gathering, and for once I think we have enough tape!  All my holiday cards went out on time, and I've received more than I expected.

Big Guy is out in his workshop wrapping away, and when he's done and brings the supplies back inside, I'll be shutting myself in my workroom to wrap J's gifts before she gets home.  Then she and I will finish decorating the tree and wrapping P's and Big Guy's presents while singing along to White Christmas and The Muppets' Christmas Carol and swilling eggnog.

Tomorrow Big Guy and I will have a quiet, leisurely breakfast before he starts assembling turkey stuffing and I hop in the car to pick up P and her Damndog (yes, all one word).  Apparently, she can't leave him home alone (her partner will be spending the day with his daughter) or he (the Damndog) will destroy her house.  Granted, he behaves well enough here  -  as long as he has P in view  -  but FatBrat kitty loathes dogs, so she'll hide in the basement all day, and sulk at me all day Boxing Day.  Ah well, at least that means she'll confine her hairball-hurling to the basement for once ...

All in all, I'm more pleased with how everything is going than I thought I'd be.  I only had to make one trip to the mall to find everything I'd planned to buy, the weather is nicer than we expected, the house looks nicer than I expected, and I stayed under budget! 

I really had an awfully hard time getting into the holiday spirit ... but today, I think I'm finally there.

I wish you all a peaceful and joyous holiday and nothing but good things in the coming year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's Official

We got it in writing on Wednesday ... the office is closing much sooner than we expected.  My last day at work will be December 30th.  Happy New Year.

My first thought was "I'm glad I didn't do much Christmas shopping yet."  My second was "I'm glad Big Guy is still working."  I'm ashamed to say it took me until the third thought to feel badly for N (our office manager / supervisor), who has a little one at home and whose husband's work has been somewhat sporadic lately (not his fault in the slightest, the work just isn't there).

So, here I am again  -  job-hunting in an economy that's as unsettled as it was the last time I was laid off, with even bleaker prospects in my particular field.  

And in a corporate move that really adds insult to injury, I get to spend part of my remaining time at work training my replacement!  Now, I'll do the very best I can with her in the inadequate time I have  -  because honestly, even if she spent a month sitting with me all day every day, it wouldn't be enough to teach her everything.  But a couple of hours a day on the phone isn't going to cut it, and I feel badly for her.  I'll do everything I can for her  -  none of this was her doing, and I'm certainly not going to throw her under the bus just because I'm not happy with upper management.  I have to admit, though, that there's a not-so-nice part of me hoping that said management will shortly come to realize how badly they shot themselves in the foot with this particular decision.  I'm also deriving a bit of satisfaction from hoping they all lie awake every night through the holiday season, feeling guilty about their execrably poor timing and the effect it's having on all of our families.


Yesterday's gathering went really well, even though there were some last-minute no-shows.  We talked and laughed and ate  -  and  ate  -  and ate  -  and enjoyed each others' company.  I ended up pressing containers of food on everyone to take home, because there was so much more left than I expected.  There are still enough leftovers that Big Guy and I won't have to make work lunches until at least Wednesday, and today I asked him to please not make anything large for tonight's dinner because there is no space in the fridge for any more leftovers!

Now it's time to get creative with gifts.  The stocking stuffers will be easy  -  traditionally, everyone gets socks and a chocolate orange (addictive, those!) in their stockings, so there isn't too much space left to fill.  A trip to the dollar store will take care of the stockings nicely, and with luck provide a few other gifts.  Thrift stores are always good too  -  in fact, Value Village is daughter P's first choice for gift cards!  I raised her well ... I just wish I'd known a couple of months ago that the layoff was coming; I would have made time to make more gifts myself.

I'll spend this afternoon redoing my shopping list, and shop on my way home from work every day.  We have Friday the 23rd off, so anything I haven't acquired yet will have to be picked up then.  Friday evening is Chinese food and Miracle On 34th Street with Mom and sister S, and Saturday is for wrapping and tree-trimming, and watching White Christmas and The Muppets' Christmas Carol and the original Grinch and Alistair Sim as Scrooge.

So ... my house is cleaned and decorated (except for the tree), I have plenty of homemade goodies on hand, and a plan for an affordable holiday.  I'm more determined than ever to enjoy my family, count my blessings, and not let a little thing like unemployment stop me from having a wonderful time!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's Been A While

Actually, it's been a little over a month.   That's because every time I sat down to post, I ended up going into such a Woe-is-me rant that I shut it down again.  Nobody wants to read weeks of me just moaning and whining about how sorry for myself I'm feeling.

Anyway, here, in no particular order, are the events that kept me from posting anything worth reading until now:

My uncle A died.  It was expected; he'd been very ill for a long time, and I think everyone heaved a sigh of relief that he's no longer sick and in pain.  But at the same time, it was very sad  -  he was the "baby" of my Mom's family (and I think kind of her favourite sibling; they were close), and even those of us who weren't as close to him as we would have liked were sorry to have him leave us.  He was only a few years older than Big Guy; my cousins are closer in age to my daughters than to me, and both have little ones themselves.  It just doesn't seem right that they won't grow up knowing their wonderful, funny, loving, kind, wise grandfather.

I somehow managed to dislocate two fingers in my sleep.  How the heck does that happen?  And in doing so, I also tore the cartilage, and tore the skin on one knuckle just enough for infection to get into the joints.  So I ended up with a honkin' big awkward splint, and two weeks' worth of antibiotics.  Now, antibiotics and IBS are definitely not a good combination ... I'll spare you the details, but believe me, it got ugly.

Halfway through my round of antibiotics, Big Guy got an abcessed molar and ended up on penicillin himself.  It's true what they say about the effect of penicillin on the digestive tract ... and we have one, count 'em, one bathroom.  Let's just say there were a few exchanges of less-than-polite language and leave it at that.

When I went to start doing my holiday cards, I discovered that I'd completely forgotten to clean my favourite fountain pen after the last time I used it.  I had to soak it in water for four days to loosen up the dried ink enough to take the pen apart and clean it properly before I could reload and use it.  Every time I drained the water, shook the pen, and put it in fresh water I felt like an idiot.

Last Tuesday at work, we were informed that the line will be cancelling its Pacific Northwest services mid-February, and "some time between now and the end of February" our company (the agents for the line) will be closing down all their Canadian offices for good.  Hello, unemployment.  Again.  Only this time, I don't know when the axe will actually fall, and so don't know what to plan for.  Of course, come Monday I will once again be sending out resumes and cover letters  -  and this time, I'll also be sending out a flyer advertising my services as a freelance temp.  With the current state of the economy, it's anyone's guess how long I'll be out of work this time.  And this time, I won't qualify as "long-tenured", so I'll only be eligible for five or six months of E.I. instead of twenty months.

But ... I'd hardly done any Christmas shopping yet, so I'm able to scale back my spending budget quite severely without feeling too much hardship.  (Although if I'd known a couple of months ago about the impending office closure, I'd have done this year's craft fairs after all!)  The family party will still be here; sister S has already delivered the gingerbread, and has promised one of her "signature" party dishes.  My second batch of shortbread is in the oven and making the house smell festive, and last week's winds brought down enough evergreen twigs, branches and cones that my decorating will be almost effortless.  And... ta-daa! ... I found the candy canes, so I got to cross them off the shopping list.  The rest of the groceries are in the house, I remembered where I stashed the holiday cookie tins, and I found a super-easy recipe for pumpkin tart filling.  Oh, and J has offered to leave work early on Party Day and whip up a big platter of her killer spring rolls! 

So life isn't so bad after all.  I'm still blessed with family and good friends, I still have a warm, dry home and enough to eat, and I'm blessed with loved ones who understand that this season is really about how we feel, not about how much money we spend.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kicking It Up

October, in retrospect, was a pretty lazy month for me.  For whatever reason, I had no energy and no motivation; I just couldn't seem to get myself going.  I'd look around at all the things that needed doing, and all the things I wanted to do, and then fritter away the time on things that didn't really need to be done just so I could fool myself into thinking I was actually accomplishing something.

It wasn't until Hallowe'en was almost upon us that I managed to pull myself out of that rut ... actually, to be honest, it was Big Guy who got behind me and shoved me out (without knowing that's what he was doing).  I'd pretty much decided to skip the whole Hallowe'en thing this year  -  no pumpkins, no candy handouts, just me and a good book on the sofa.  But when I got home from work Friday night, he proudly showed me the three gorgeous pumpkins he'd scored on his way home that afternoon, and at that point  could hardly say "That's nice, dear, but I'm not doing anything with them" ... So out came the stencils and paring knives, and by Monday afternoon there were three fairly decent jack-o-lanterns on the front porch waiting to have their candles lit, and a big bowl of (nice but cheap-on-sale) candy to hand out.

So today I'm cooking and pureeing the pumpkins, and toasting the seeds.  I think by the time I'm done I'll have at least two dozen pints of pumpkin in the freezer, and the toasted seeds will be a nice snack later when my friend D arrives for our usual Saturday video night.

I've started my Christmas planning too  -  this year will be my first time hosting the annual pre-Christmas family-and-friends open house, so in addition to my usual notebook lists of things to do and to shop for, there's a new page for party menu planning.  It's always nibbles and dessert-ish things, not a full meal, since people come and go throughout the day.  So far I'm planning to have:

spanakopita wedges
smoked salmon with dill mayo on baguette rounds
vegetable gyoza (maybe)
cheeses and cold cuts, with French bread and butter
the usual assortment of pickles and olives
shortbread, gingerbread, and sugar cookies
pumpkin tarts
mince tarts
lemon pound cake
coffee, tea, soft drinks

And I won't be spending as much as you might think.  Our local supermarket deli sells trays of cheese and cold cut "ends" for cheap; Costco has excellent, affordable gyoza, edamame, and pre-made spanakopita in the freezer section; our neighbour trades us his home-smoked salmon (fabulous stuff!) for firewood (which we get free), and I'll spread the baking out over several evenings after work.  No booze, since people will be driving.

Our tree won't be up yet, but I can do some nice decorating with fresh greenery from our own trees and the ivy I'll have to cut back by then anyway, and my stash of holiday-scented candles.  Fir swags along the mantel, bowls of fresh pine cones and shiny glass ornaments, and bouquets of candy canes in my crystal snifters ... quick easy decorating that will be almost completely free ... the only bought elements will be the candy canes, which we get every year anyway to hang on the tree  Oh, and a fire going in the woodstove, with the doors folded back so all can enjoy it.

I guess the best way to describe October might be to say that it was kind of a "burnout" month for me.  Or possibly a short-lived episode of depression  -  which I've never been diagnosed with, though it does run in my family.  I didn't feel depressed, really, so much as just really tired.  And I did have a low-grade sinus thing going on all month ... So, depression?  Virus?  Overwork?  I don't know, and probably never will  -  I'm just glad it's over!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Can't Buy Me Love

I've been seeing Christmas commercials on television for a couple of weeks now, and Christmas advertising everywhere.  Come on, people, can't you let us get through Hallowe'en first?  Isn't life hectic enough, doesn't time already go by fast enough?

When our daughters were children, we had a yearly ritual.  During the last week of November we'd make up a big calendar covering the first 24 days of December.  We'd plan one getting-ready-for-Christmas thing to do together every day.  Shopping trips, wrapping sessions, sending cards, baking, decorating one room at a time ... twenty-four days of fun, togetherness, and anticipation.  The to-do for Christmas Eve was always "hang stockings, make cocoa, and watch 'White Christmas' " .

But now ... they're all adults, with jobs and lives of their own.  The pre-Christmas calendar has become a list in my notebook, the decorating and baking are what I do in the evenings after work, the cards get done on my lunch hour at work.  Shopping is done in one marathon trip through Metrotown, made only slightly bearable by the close proximity of my Mom's place; I shop till I can't stand another minute of crowds and noise, go up to her place to deposit bags and swill coffee, and get my second wind before heading back to the mall for round two.

For the record  -  I'm not shopping just for gifts.  Most of my gift accumulating actually happens throughout the year, when I finish making someone's gift, or see something I can afford that I know someone would really enjoy.  This trip is also when I pick up all the baking supplies, cards and stamps, extra groceries for the family get-together and Christmas dinner, whatever craft/knitting/sewing supplies I need, last-minute stocking-stuffers and thank-you gifts, and whatever else is on the regular shopping list for the next two or three weeks.  It happens either the last weekend in November or the first weekend in December, and its ultimate purpose is to make sure I don't have to shop for anything else (except milk and fresh produce) until after Boxing Day.  (It's also the first time I will buy mandarin oranges; to me, they're Christmas oranges, and I refuse to eat them before December.  I'm just odd that way.)

And it's not just Christmas.  It's Easter, Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparents' Day, Secretaries' Day, Bosses' Day ... I'm sure I've left some out.  It's all the artificially created, overinflated "holidays" whose only real purpose these days is to be used by retailers to encourage / persuade / guilt-trip us into spending money on things.  To convince us that overspending is the only way to show someone we appreciate them.  To make us all believe that true love can be measured only by how many dollars we lay out.

What's the best present you ever received?  I'd bet anything it wasn't the most expensive present you ever got, but the one that warmed your heart with how much love went into something that was truly, uniquely you  -  the one that made you realize how much the giver cared for you and thought about you.

So here's something to think about ... when you're shopping for Christmas gifts this year, are you thinking about how much to spend on each person?  Or about how best to show them you love them, you listen to them, you pay attention to what they like or don't like?  Do you want them to measure your love in dollars and cents, or in time and thought and caring?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Three Weeks On A Roller Coaster

I've been struggling to get this post done for about three weeks now, and I'm still not sure exactly why.   True, I've had a lot going on in the real world, but I've been tired before and still managed (mostly) to post as scheduled.  It's been three weeks of inner and outer ups and downs ... at work, at home, and with both my physical health and my moods / emotions.  But I've blogged through those before, too.  So what's different this time?

The weekend after my last post was our office move.  Not a bad thing in itself  -  the space we were in was far too big for just the six of us, and the new office not only fits our needs better but is in a much nicer building, with a gorgeous view of Coal Harbour and Stanley Park.  True, it means getting a bus to and from the downtown Skytrain in bad weather  -  it's a lovely walk on a nice day, though!  -  but that only adds about ten minutes each way to my commute, and the views alone are worth it.  But the moving process itself was fraught with frustrations.  On the Friday, we had no phones  -  that was the day our phone service was shifted to the new office.  And naturally, in spite of spending two weeks warning everyone (and adding a warning to our e-mail signatures) that we'd have no phones on Friday but would still be in the office and reachable via e-mail, we were deluged with offended e-mails complaining that we weren't answering the phones ... sigh.  Then on Monday, we had phones but for most of the day we had no internet.  Now, literally everything we do, every program we use, is internet-based.  So we could take calls, but that was pretty much the only thing we could do.  And within an hour of finally getting the internet working, our booking system went down for the rest of the day ...

The weather has been cold, wet, and gloomy.  One or two nice days, but overall not pleasant at all.  I did manage to salvage enough apples for a dozen quarts of applesauce, but the tomatoes are pretty much a write-off, and nothing else even tried to grow  -  except the ubiquitous chives!  I don't think they can be killed!

Right after the move I caught a nasty cold, probably from one of the all-too-numerous people on the Skytrain who think it's okay to cough in other passengers' faces.  Nothing too serious, but by the time I got home every evening I was feeling pretty washed-out and used-up.  I kept my germs to myself, and didn't give the cold to anyone else, which pleased me.

As I expected, nothing more happened in the basement until literally the night before the installers were coming to replace the furnace.  I'd already moved everything I could handle without help, and having Big Guy lose his temper with me because he actually had to shift his big heavy things himself ... let's just say his running commentary was not well received.  However, during the whole process I did get four more big bags of donations weeded out, and I'm still working on adding to them.

If I'd been told when they started that the furnace guys wouldn't be finished the same day, I think I might very well have packed a bag and spent the weekend at my Mom's place.  Ditto if I'd known that Big Guy had not, after all, lined up a gas fitter to reconnect the gas lines after the installation was done.  Yeah ... two days with no heat, no hot water, no stove, and all the microwaveable meals we'd bulk-cooked and frozen were inaccessible because, apparently, the best place to pile all the toolboxes, spare furnace & duct parts, etc was on top of the chest freezer.  I suppose it could have been worse  -  I still had my coffeemaker.  Still, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for lunch and dinner two days in a row didn't do a lot for my mood or my digestion.  He finally did find a gas guy willing to come out on a Sunday afternoon, so at last we have heat, hot water, and a working stove again.  The best part?  I'll get to watch our winter heating bill come in at not quite half of last year's, since the new furnace is more than twice as efficient as the old one.  And it's so quiet you can't tell it's on unless you stand on a heat vent!

Righteous indignation being a great motivator, I got a lot of cleaning and clearing-out done in my workroom over those two days ... the family refers to my bouts of anger-based activity as "working furiously".  I'm not quite ready to post the "after" pictures yet, though (you can see the "before" pics here).

My birthday had its ups and downs, too.  Mom got me the lecture series on geology, tectonics and climate interrelationships I'd been  jonesing for, and daughter J gave me beautiful flowers and a gift card to Chapters  -  she knows what I love!  Big Guy brought home three birthday desserts  -  he said he couldn't remember what I like and wanted to cover all the bases, so there were cheesecake, Nanaimo bars, and a coffee-almond torte.  Seriously?  Almost thirty years and you don't know what I like for dessert??  So I was torn between being charmed by his thoughtfulness and resentful of his lack of attention.  And then I felt guilty about the mixed feelings.  And later I felt more resentment, and more guilt ... he'd bought me not the one fall hoodie I wanted, but two  -  black and super-dark brown, just like I wanted   -  but he didn't bother unfolding them or looking at the tags, so they are both about three sizes too small.  And he promised we'd go exchange them today, only now he's suddenly "too busy".  Busy with what?  Reading a cookbook.  Yes.  He's decided he wants to deep-fry our Thanksgiving turkey.  Should be ... interesting. 

I've decided to scale back a bit on Hallowe'en this year.  We'll still put up some creepy fun stuff around the front door and hand out treats, but I just don't feel up for our usual all-out over-the-top decorating.  Partly because this year everyone will be at work all day except me, and I want to use the quiet time for more appropriate Samhain reflection.  And partly because Big Guy's job has lasted months longer than it was originally supposed to and we don't know when the axe will fall and want to spend as little as possible on non-essentials as we prepare for his layoff.  Oh, and of course we'll do several pumpkins  -  which will get cut up, cooked, and frozen the next day, as usual.  I've never cared for pumpkin pie, but I make a pumpkin-cinnamon-raisin loaf that's very popular with family and friends.  I might even give some frozen pumpkin puree to sister S for her pies, if she asks nicely!

Next weekend the guinea pigs will come inside until spring; the indoor cage sits in front of the living room window, so they still get fresh air and what little sunshine there is.  Now that we have three of them (female-free-to-good-home, we couldn't resist!), the old indoor cage is far too small.  Luckily, the vet clinic daughters P and J work at was tossing a perfectly good indoor cage big enough for all three, so she called, Big Guy drove to Kits, and the pigs have a nice roomy safe space until they go back to the outdoor hutch next spring.  And the price was right  -  free.

Yes, even though J is back to cooking full-time, she's decided to hang on part-time at the clinic for as long as she can stand to; she wants to get those student loans paid off quickly, and more power to her!  Like me  -  and unlike Big Guy  -  J sees debt not as just a to-be-expected part of life, but as something to be dealt with and eliminated as soon as possible.

I got a letter from Visa last week, telling me that they had doubled my credit limit.  Since I never ever carry a balance, it really doesn't matter; whenever I use the card, I go online as soon as I get home and transfer the same amount from my chequing account, so my statement balance is always zero.  And I only take the card shopping when I know in advance what I'm going to buy and how much I'll be spending.  I suppose I'm fortunate in that I've never been tempted to be a buy-now-pay-later shopper ... I just don't like to carry large amounts of cash.  It's good to know, though, that if a true emergency arises I have enough credit (I hope) to take care of whatever it is.

Right now, though, I have to go deal with three loads of laundry and a grungy kitchen floor.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Projects And Updates

Yes, I know it's been longer than usual since my last post.  I could go on about getting caught up in other things, or delayed by events outside my control, but the truth is I just kept putting it off until here I am, a week later than I planned.

It's true that a lot has been going on here  -  some of it good, some not so much.

I'll start with a good thing  -  a finished project.  Yes, a sweater is actually finished!  And here it is:

Please ignore the mess behind it  -  the "get-the-workroom-cleaned-up-and-organized" project is not going as quickly as I'd hoped.  But hey, one finished project is better than none  -  isn't it?  And the second sweater is almost finished; I just have to assemble it and darn a few ends in.  So maybe  -  with luck and hard work  -  more things will get done.

This year's food garden was almost a complete loss, thanks to uncooperative weather and steady rain through almost all of pollination season.  So far we've managed to harvest one stalk of rhubarb, two tomatoes, and a handful of chives.  The apple tree, however, contrived to bloom during the only dry few days we had all spring, and the apple crop was so abundant we were afraid branches would snap from the weight of the apples before we could pick them.  One five-gallon pail at a time, they're coming into the kitchen to be canned as applesauce.  We'd hoped to slice a bushel at least and run them through the dehydrators, until we realized that every one of them has had at least one bite taken out of it by the squirrels.

Every.  Single.  Apple.

You'd think that after the first, oh, hundred or so bites, the furry little buggers would have figured out that all the apples taste the same, but no.  Apparently our squirrels, while handsome and sometimes entertaining, are not very bright.

And the basement project is almost at a standstill through no fault of my own.  Or anyone else's, really ... accidents happen.  It's not my co-worker's fault he had a bicycle accident last weekend.  But because of that, instead of having a week off to really clear out the basement, I was called back into work.  Yes, I'll get the days off some other time ... but probably not until next spring, since we are coming into the busiest / most hellish time of year for my department.

This slows the basement work down rather seriously, since the only time left for it will be weekends, when Big Guy always manages to have something "more important" to do and I can't move the big heavy things that need to be moved without his help.  Why do they need to be moved?  So that our huge old clunky noisy 43 % efficient furnace can be replaced with our new (still in its wrappings in the basement) small quiet 93 % efficient furnace.  I would really love to see that happen before we actually need to turn a furnace on again this fall, but I know if I leave it up to Big Guy it will be at least another year before anything happens.

So my plan of attack has morphed into a plan of sneak attack.  I'll be down there in the evenings clearing out all the small stuff, and on the weekends I'll just cajole him into helping me with just one or two large things at a time.  Wish me luck!

In other news, J has rounded up two potential roommates, and their plan is to find somewhere to rent by the end of October.  We'll miss her, and the move to paying rent will slow down her debt repayment plan, but I can understand her reasoning.  She's working two jobs now, one full-time and one part-time, and the almost-two-hour commute each way is killing her.  She goes to work, comes home, sleeps, and gets up and goes back to work, seven days a week.  Living closer to work will give her a little time to actually have a life.  Maybe even get some laundry done ...

This project has had side effects, of course.  Big Guy is not happy with the last "baby" leaving home, of course.  And all the bins and boxes of her stuff from the basement and the attic will be all over the living room until she makes time to go through them all and do the keep-trash-donate sorting.  But ... the day after the last of her possessions leaves that big sunny front bedroom, I'll be in there with a bucket of paint!  That room will become my new workroom, this little 8-by-11 room will become the den / guest room, and she already knows that if things go south and she has to move back in, she gets the den and not her old room.

Some people have said I'm unnatural, or a bad mother, for actually wanting my nest emptied ... but hey.  She's twenty-six, she has a good education and a good profession (chef) ... it's time.  Time for her to spread her wings in the real world, and time for Big Guy and I to be able to sit back, watch our girls all out on their own and independent, and know that we did a good job as parents making sure they could make it on their own.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Am I Redundant?

I've been doing a lot of blog-surfing this past week  -  not just catching up on old favourites, but following links, googling odd thoughts, looking for more information on anything that looked interesting  -  and I'm amazed at how many bloggers there are who are thinking the same things I am, and doing the same things I am.

Am I redundant? Repetitive?  Am I doing the blogger's version of carrying coal to Newcastle?

I don't believe so.

Everyone does things their own way.  A hundred people may be heading for the same goal but getting there by a hundred different paths.  Or as my grandmother used to say, "There are as many ways to make meatloaf as there are people who make meatloaf."  And none of those ways are wrong.

I've learned a lot from other bloggers.  Not just different methods, but different points of view; sometimes even different reasons for doing the same things.  Some of us are just trying to save money.  Some of us are just trying to save the environment.  Some of us are trying to do both.  Some are all-out do-everything-humanly-possible-and-then-do-more types, while some are chipping away at changing their lifestyles bit by bit.  There are radical one-day total life makeovers, and there are one-thing-at-a-time ease-into-it gradual evolutions.

Now, I don't want to open that old can of worms about whether ends justify means.  But it seems to me lately that I'm seeing a number of bloggers who are surprised that working toward one goal has had effects that spill over into other areas.  And I guess what bothers me is: why didn't they foresee any of that spillover?

Decades ago, I set out to find ways to provide the best possible life for my small daughter that I could with a ridiculously tiny income ... we were so far below the poverty line we couldn't even see how far over our heads it was.  But we managed.  I managed.  We ate healthy and stayed healthy, our home and our clothes were always clean and neat, and we had fun.  To me, it was a serendipitous side benefit that we were living so "lightly on the earth", as the saying goes.  We didn't just recycle  -  which was pretty much unheard-of as such back then  -  we re-re-recycled.  We used and re-used everything until there was nothing left of it to use.  We put out almost no garbage  -  because we couldn't buy anything that would produce garbage.  We shopped at thrift stores (they were called second-hand stores then) and cheap produce markets.  We walked almost everywhere, especially to the library every week.  

And how could living like that not spill over into health and environmental areas?

No money = no junk food = eating fresh healthy food = minimal packaging = minimal trash.
No money = no unnecessary appliances = doing things by hand = less resources used.
No money = walking everywhere = healthy exercise and fresh air.
No money = minimal spending = re-using or buying used = more useable items kept from landfills.


Even so, I've learned a lot from other bloggers  -  about creative ways to save money, to use fewer resources, to make what we have go farther and do more  -  and I hope that maybe someday I'll hear that someone out there learned a little something from me.  If karma works, maybe I'll give someone an "Aha!" moment like the ones I find in other blogs.

Redundant?  Repetitive?  I don't think so.  I'm not just parroting the current "popular wisdom", or following someone else's practices to the letter.  I'm doing what most of the other bloggers I read are doing  -  telling my own story, in my own words, and hoping that something resonates with someone else the way those other bloggers' words often do with me.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Much Ado About Something

It's been an odd couple of weeks  -  a lot to do, no time to write about it, and a lot of up-and-down-and-back-and-forth without really getting anywhere.

I did get to spend a weekend with my friends in Seattle, though, and it was wonderful.  I just wish I could afford to get down there more often.

Why do some men seem to go out of their way to find the most difficult, time-consuming way possible to do the simplest things?

All I wanted to do was pick the ripe apples off the old Gravenstein tree in the side yard.  So I went out back and asked Big Guy for one of the dip nets from the fishing gear.  Well, no, I couldn't do that, because the net was too big and I'd knock down too many apples that weren't ripe and on and on ... but he'd fix me up something much better.  Okay, fine.  Two hours later, after much banging and cursing which I studiously ignored from indoors, he proudly presented me with a new, hand-made-just-for-you-dear ... dip net.  Yep.  It's slightly smaller around than the one I would have used, and the handle is almost a foot longer, but overall ... it's a dip net.  Well, after thirty years with him I know when to keep my mouth shut except to smile sweetly and thank him.

So this evening I have a few gallons of apples to wash, peel, chop, and cook down.  The actual canning (or freezing, if I get too tired) will happen tomorrow night.  And by the weekend, lots more apples will be ripe and I'll start over. 

There isn't much progress to be seen in other projects.  The pink sweater sits forlornly on the needles, no longer than it was two weeks ago.  The basement doesn't look any different, although a fair bit of stuff did get either tossed or relocated.  Lots of laundry got done, but no mending, and my workroom is pretty much untouched.  And yet I feel like I've been working non-stop on all kinds of things ... trouble is, most of what I've been doing has been just catching up on the housework that didn't get done while I was in Seattle.  Because of course, Big Guy and J "meant to do it" but somehow it never happened.  Story of my life.  Sigh.

The apples and the basement have to be the top priorities for the next couple of weeks.  The apples because, well, once they're ripe they won't wait, and the basement so that the guy who's coming next week to give us an estimate on installation costs will be able to see what he needs to see and measure where he needs to measure.

Oh, and can anyone tell me how I managed to acquire the head cold from hell this week?  My head is pounding, my sinuses are throbbing, and my nose has already been wiped raw.  Total misery  -  but I'm doing my best not to share it with anyone.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Even More Randomness

How did it get to be Tuesday again already?

I definitely need more days between Friday night and Monday morning ... sigh.


On the up side, daughter J starts her new job tomorrow  -  cue much rejoicing.  In her words, "I didn't spend thousands of dollars on culinary school to be a part-time receptionist!"  So she is thrilled and excited to be back in a kitchen, and we couldn't be more pleased for her.

Daughter P is also sending out resumes in a search for a better job; she's not been happy where she is, and not been treated with any kind of respect or consideration whatsoever ... but in these times, any job is (sometimes only marginally) better than no job, so she's stuck with it so far.  But she deserves better, she's worth more than she gets where she is, and we're all hoping something decent comes through for her.


I'm not at work today  -  stuck home with tummy troubles  -  but there's a lot I can do from here, and I'm trying to help out as much as I can.  My co-workers know they can call me any time, and I've done a lot of the background scutwork, as it were, already, which frees up their in-office time for more immediate / urgent things.  Yes, I'd get a paid sick day anyway, but I feel better about staying home when I can still pick up at least part of the load. 


The basement cleanout isn't going as quickly as I'd hoped.  I refuse to give up on it, though  -  I'm determined that this year will be the year that the big house-open-to-the-elements project happens before December 20th!  Ideally, both the furnace installation and the living room window replacement will both be finished by the end of September ... I'll keep you posted.


I'm heading down to Seattle after work on Friday for a weekend with my bestest friend in the whole world (apart from Big Guy, of course).  Sooner or later they will be moving, so I've earmarked a few weekends this fall to help her junk out some of the house.  We did a couple of rooms two years ago and had tons of fun, but there's so much more to do, and I promised her long ago that when the time came I'd be there.  Besides, a weekend away, with someone I love but don't get to see very often, is never a bad thing!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Random Bits, Large And Small

I can't decide which I dislike more  -  the days when life is just one damn thing after another, or the days when life is just the same damn things over and over and over ...

Now, I'm not talking about my job, which is pretty much a combination of those two kinds of days.  I knew it would be like that when I went in, and there's enough variety to keep it interesting, and I'm pretty darn good at it.

I'm talking about the time I don't spend at work.  The hours spent in the arms of my loving family.  The hours that went pretty much like this, every two minutes, all weekend long:

Mom, I need you to ...
Where's the damn ...
Mrow ...
Honey, can you come out here and ...
Why isn't there any ...

Which is why I didn't get back here to post over the weekend.  Honestly, a five-minute stretch without anyone wanting anything would have done wonders for me!

There's a good chance that some time in the next few days I'll be posting big signs all over the house that say, in large red caps:




I went to work yesterday morning secure in the belief that at least there I could pretty much know what to expect and get some actual work done ... Not so much.  The phones just would not stop, the problems popped up like mushrooms after a rainy night, and the whole day's work was done in ninety-second increments between phone calls and frantic e-mails.  By the time I got home last night, all I managed before I fell over was getting changed and stuffing a sandwich in my face.  Today was a little better, but I'm not holding my breath for tomorrow.

On the home front, I just keep chipping away at things.  Every time I walk into a room  -  any room  -  I look for one thing that needs doing, and do it.  Wastebasket full  -  empty it.  Cat bowl empty  -  fill it.  Something out of place  -  put it away.  Something missing  -  go find it.  You get the picture.  At the end of the day it doesn't seem as though I've done much, but by the end of the week there's a noticeable difference.  Works for me.

I've booked a vacation week mid-September to have the old furnace hauled away and the new one installed.  I'm optimistic about having most of the cleanup done before then  -  or at least enough of it that nothing will impede the installation process.  The real hurdle will be getting the Big Guy's cooperation; he won't do anything during the week because he "worked hard all day" (so did I, son) and he won't do anything on the weekends because he "needs to get the truck running to haul all the crap away".  Sigh.
Since this is a three-payday month, I'm also pushing the idea that the single-glazed living room window can be replaced this month  -  or at least, before October.  I've even offered to use the third paycheque to pay professional installers.  Of course, Big Guy is no end offended by this ... he and his buddy G replaced all the other windows in the house, and did a fine job.  But the truth is, if I left it to him to install this one, I'd be waiting until about this time next year for him to "get around to it".  Not to mention that his favourite time of year for big projects involving exposing the whole house to outdoor temperatures is ... the week before Christmas.  I can't figure it out.  Last winter, he decided on December 21st to paint the kitchen ... doors & windows wide open for days, during the coldest week in the recorded history of this area.  Granted, December 2009 was not his fault  -  we'd had it on good authority that the roof could wait until April, which turned out not to be the case, and we had roofers up there ripping everything back to the bare rafters and replacing it all, right up through December 23rd.  December 2008, he refused to put up the Christmas tree until the living room was painted ... I'm scared to even think about what he might pick as the pre-Christmas project this year.  Probably the damn window.

And something that warms my thrifty little heart:

March 2010, after paying a $900 annual water & sewer bill, I decided to take advantage of the city's free water meter program, and had one installed.  May 2011, I got the quarterly metered water & sewer bill ... and found that since were were no longer paying the city's "flat rate" but only paying for what we used, we still had  -  ta daa!  -  almost $300 credit.  I got the August bill today  -  and we still have a $22 credit.  I'm a very happy water-conserving camper tonight!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Projects Update (Sort Of)

Well, the Renaissance Fair was tons of fun even with the last-minute hitches and glitches I ran into ...

The costume ended up not being what I had hoped for.  The underskirt is great, the blouse is great  -  though I'm not as happy with the lace as I thought I'd be, and will probably change it out before the next event.  The vest just didn't work at all; either a couple of pattern pieces aren't the size they say they are, or I measured myself all wrong (which is quite possible given the rush job it was).  Either way I've worked out how I can fix it without starting entirely from scratch.  The tartan overskirt didn't happen at all, due to a lack of time; when the vest was finally finished I realized there was no way I could get even a few hours' sleep and make the overskirt.  So I caught six hours of sleep and then fringed a length of the tartan fabric as a shawl, which I tied around my waist.  I'm told it looked quite good, and it was still within the "period" of the rest of the outfit, so overall I'm still quite pleased with what I did manage to do.  Since the weather was shaping up to be bright, sunny, and very warm, instead of the tartan tam I replaced the old pink ribbon on my straw hat with the dark green grosgrain left over from the vest and underskirt, and was able to keep the glare out of my face and still keep the costume looking authentic.  I'm thinking about making a new vest and overskirt from plain dark green linen or broadcloth for next year; if I match the green in the tartan, keep the tam and shawl, and put a narrow band of the tartan just above the bottom hem of the underskirt, it will all still look good together and be cooler to wear than the tartan vest and overskirt.

I really don't understand why so many women were wearing black or dark-coloured velvet gowns at the Fair; surely even during the Middle Ages and Renaissance people could obtain lighter fabrics for summer wear?  Shady areas were not overly abundant at the venue  -  it's a horse show park the rest of the year  -  and an awning of some kind over the tournament-viewing stands would have been appreciated by everyone.

Most of the pictures I took didn't turn out well  -  there are only two I like well enough to keep, one of the jousting field and one of a knight in armour on his gorgeous Percheron.  For the rest, alas, there was too much glare, too much dust in the air, and too many people walking into the frame just as I pressed the button.  But that's life at a RenFair; next time I'll try to do better.  And I've learned something else from this weekend  -  next year I'll be giving myself at least three times as long to prepare for the event!

In other areas, there's very little progress to report.  Mainly because I put everything else on hold (except housework) to work on the costume.  So today, as the umpteen loads of laundry chug away in the washer, I'll be mending.  And mending.  And mending.  And maybe catch up on a little paperwork.  But mostly mending.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Projects, Plans, And Possibilities

Projects.  Of the many currently in process, I'm starting to see actual results on a few ...

The sweater is finished.  Actually, it's been finished for some time, but I keep forgetting to charge the camera batteries.   Maybe next week  -  in fact, definitely next week, along with pics of ...

Next weekend's Renaissance Fair costume.  I have all the pieces cut out for the underskirt, blouse, hat, and most of the vest.  All that remain to cut out are the outer vest surface (the layer that shows) and the overskirt; but since they are plaid, and I'm a little obsessive about matching the plaid lines perfectly, I'll be putting the rest of the outfit together over the next three evenings, and tackling the plaid from start to finish on Friday (I have Friday off in exchange for working BC Day on Monday), when there will be lots of nice bright daylight to work by and plenty of time to get it absolutely right.

The mending pile seems to be stuck in some sort of recurring time loop.  I mend and I mend but the pile never gets any smaller.  I suspect my family of sneaking items into the middle of it when I'm not looking.

Replacing what I lost when I hard to wipe the hard drive is slow going, but I'm chipping away at it.  Most of it is re-entering and updating files from hard copies  -  bank statements, insurance inventory, and so on.  And yes, this time everything is being backed up on CDs.  My friend D (the tech wizard) thinks he may eventually be able to retrieve most of the photos I hadn't put on CDs yet.  

I've started another sweater  -  just a nice casual cotton/acrylic hoodie, simple but pretty  -  but I suspect it will end up being a birthday gift for my sister S, because it's pink.  Strawberry-ice-cream-pink, which is one of her favourite shades.  And since her birthday isn't until the fall, I might even get it finished in time!

The basement cleanup is moving along, though rather more slowly than I like.  I'm rapidly approaching the point where I will just haul everything that's not mine  -  in other words, pretty much everything that's still down there  -  out into the back yard.  Anything that's still out there a week later will go straight to either a local charity or the dump, depending on what it is, what condition it's in, and what mood I'm in by then.  Whatever it takes to get that space cleared out so that we can install the new high-efficiency furnace before it's time to turn the heat on again.

I have to confess, as much as I love the Big Guy, this is one area where he makes me want to beat him about the ears with a brick.  He talks endlessly about the things he's going to do  -  replace the furnace, clean up the back yard, replace the old single-glazed living room window, put the new box on the truck, finish painting the kitchen ... but none of it ever actually happens.  The living room window is the last one left to be replaced and it's a huge heat sink in the winter.  Combine that with an ancient, huge, loud, clunky, dreadfully inefficient furnace, and it's no wonder our winter gas bills are so high.  Before the suite in the basement was done, we only went downstairs to do laundry or get something from the freezer, so we heated the main floor with the wood stove.  But now we have a tenant, and when a tenant's rent includes heat, we need to provide said heat. Hence the new furnace. 

Thanks to a cold, wet spring that continued right through June and the first half of July, the garden I had such high hopes for is pretty much a wash.  The rhubarb is looking good, and the chives thrive, but I don't think the tomato plants are going to produce much besides leaves.  One planter of strawberries looks promising, but we'll have to figure out a way to keep the birds and squirrels out of it if we're going to get any ripe berries.

But the apple tree!  My lovely, antique Gravenstein apple tree!  It's covered with baby apples  -  the branches are already starting to sag under the weight, and they're still no bigger than golf balls.  If I can keep the local wildlife (and lowlifes) out of that tree, we'll have applesauce and dried apples all winter.  At least, that's the plan.  Meanwhile, I'm going to go baste a blouse and underskirt.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Things I Learned The Hard Way Part Three: Making Something From (Almost) Nothing

How do you define creativity?  Apart from things like composing music, creating works of art, writing ... I mean creativity in everyday life, creativity that adds something to your life.  There are creative cooks, gardeners, home decorators; there are people who can host a perfect party, or trim a perfect Christmas tree, or accessorize everything they wear with unique flair.

And then there are people like me.  People who can take something old, something worn out, something discarded, and turn it into something attractive or useful or practical.  People who don't have any money but somehow always manage to find or produce what they need.  And most of those people, like me, had to master the fine art of squeezing a loonie until the bird laid eggs.  People who've figured out, of necessity, how to turn that sow's ear into a silk purse, or a pair of slippers, or an Easter basket for a child.

When I was at my most impoverished  -  suddenly divorced, with a two-year-old  -  I discovered ways to turn other people's trash into our personal treasures.  A broken umbrella picked up from the side of the road became a colourful kite for trips to the park.  A discarded roller skate, a slightly bent freezer basket, and a couple of wire hangers combined to make a doll carriage.  A huge garbage bag of old jeans and shirts hauled home for a dollar from a yard sale?  All those clothes were carefully picked apart at the seams, and the fabric became overalls, shirts, and dresses for my daughter.  The pieces that didn't metamorphose into child or doll wardrobes went into a quilt for her bed (stuffed with clean, shredded old socks and pantyhose), stuffed fabric holiday ornaments, quilted potholders, patchwork cushion covers, stuffed toys ... not a scrap was wasted.  Zippers and buttons were traded to a seamstress friend for spools of thread; even thread trimmings all went into stuffing.  Odd half-skeins of yarn from freebie boxes at yard sales went through my corking spool to become braided bath and kitchen mats  -  unless the yarn was cotton; then it was knitted into dishcloths.  Frayed bath towels were quartered and hemmed to become kitchen towels or facecloths, and when they wore too thin to use they were shredded for toy or cushion stuffing, or layered and quilted for hot mats, oven mitts, and potholders.

Tuna cans were carefully bent and shaped into cookie cutters, or used as individual muffin or meat loaf pans  -  the perfect serving size for a small child!  The skeleton of that aforementioned broken umbrella made a great hanging drying racks for socks and other small items.  A yard-sale laundry hamper became a patchwork-covered toy box.  The lids from two large cookie tins were used for baking sheets; the bottoms made good casserole pans.

We'd make a game of it, sometimes.  What do we need?  What do we have that we could adapt or re-work into what we need?  What can we find that could turn into a good whatever-it-is?  What is this, or what was it, and what can we make with it?  A stack of outdated swatch books found next to an upholstery shop's dumpster  -  bonanza!  Tapestry shopping bags, silk patchwork pillowcases, satin Christmas ornaments and velvet stockings, a colourful harlequin costume for Hallowe'en!

The point  -  and it took me a long time to realize this  -  is that being cash-poor doesn't have to make you feel poor; penny-pinching doesn't have to feel like a chore.  There can be a lot of fun in being creative with whatever resources you have.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Things I Learned The Hard Way Part Two: Making Things Work

I've often been heard to say, "You don't know what you can do until you don't have a choice."

This applies to many, many different things ... changing a baby, changing a fuse, changing a tire; unclogging a drain or a toilet or a sump pump; putting up curtain rods, light fixtures, wallpaper, shelves; patching a pair of jeans or a sofa or a roof ...  the list is almost endless.

Today, you can find how-to videos on-line on pretty much any subject.  Stores like Home Depot give free lessons in household maintenance and repair.  There are television shows devoted entirely to home maintenance, remodeling, gardening and landscaping, and interior design.  Many public libraries and community centres have free or almost-free classes in numerous subjects from vegetable gardening to fancy lacework to self-publishing.

But it wasn't always so effortless, finding out what you needed to know.

Yes, I learned a lot of skills as a child.  My mother taught me to sew, my father taught me how to use basic hand tools, my great-aunt taught me to knit.  The most important skill they taught me, though, was how to read.  Because that meant that I could read patterns, instructions, how-to manuals, recipes, maps, yellow pages ... which meant that I could figure out how to find out how to do what I needed to do.

After I left home, there weren't many choices when something needed doing; figure it out on my own, get a library book about it, ask someone to show me how to do it, or pay someone else to do it.  And it didn't take long to realize that paying someone else to do it was, in most cases, not an option for me.  I didn't have much money  -  hardly any a lot of the time  -  so either I managed to do whatever it was for myself, or it didn't happen.

There were things nobody ever taught me that I wish they had.  For example, though Mom taught me how to use the sewing machine, I had to figure out for myself how to keep it operating properly.  And while Dad taught me how to use a plunger to unclog a toilet, he never showed me how to replace the float or the flapper valve.  And oddly enough, I was never encouraged to improvise, to use what was available instead of just heading to the hardware store.  So while people might laugh at my early attempts at DIY home repairs, some of them worked pretty well, thank you ...

I have replaced a broken flapper assembly in a toilet with a canning jar lid and a paper clip chain, and replaced a dead float ball and arm with a bent coat hanger, a plastic peanut butter jar, and a bit of modeling clay.  I've built bookcases out of discarded pallets and carefully straightened salvaged nails.  A hairpin is a quick stand-in for a broken cotter pin, and broken cabinet hinges can be replaced with a piece of a worn-out leather belt and some carpet tacks.  I've used two coat hooks to put up a curtain rod cut down from a broken broom handle, and I've used duct tape and cut-up kitchen sponges to replace a fridge gasket.

I've also learned to take advantage of the unexpected ... when a friend presented me with twenty pounds of fresh peaches that wouldn't even fit in my fridge, never mind my teeny-tiny shoebox freezer, I got a library book and some boxes of yard-sale canning jars, borrowed a stockpot, and taught myself to can fruit.  When I was given a wringer washer and a fifty-foot extension cord, I strung the cord back and forth across my little back porch and used it for a clothesline.  The washer lived on the porch, too  -  I filled it with buckets of water hauled from the kitchen sink, and led the drain hose into the storm drain at the bottom of the stairs.  My neighbours thought I was more than a little odd, but I was happy not to be feeding money into the laundromat machines any more.

My mother still doesn't understand why, even though I can now afford to pay to have things done, I still prefer to do them myself.  Maybe it's because she's never had to worry about money the way I have; she never had to choose between feeding the kids and taking the bus instead of walking, she never had to use the washroom at the corner gas station for a week until payday because there was no money for toilet paper.  I don't think she's ever set foot inside a thrift store in her life, or gone to a yard sale or a swap meet, or bought anything from the "day-old" bakery rack.

As strange as it might sound, I don't envy her that financial security.  Yes, being poor can be hard, and yes, it can mean not having a lot of the things other people take for granted.  But it's given me skills and self-awareness and pride in what I've managed to accomplish.  It's given me self-sufficiency, and survival skills, and a deep appreciation for what I do have.

Most of all, it's given me the peace of mind that comes from knowing that no matter what the future may hold, I can deal with it. 

Monday, July 4, 2011


Small changes first ...  I've removed the money and projects sections from the sidebar.  The money sections because I got to feeling that I was only doing it to pat myself on the back, which smacks of gloating or boasting (both very unbecoming).  The projects sections because, frankly, it was too discouraging.  There are just too many projects I want to tackle that can't be done because of a shortage of time and/or money, and too many that can't be started until a gazillion other things are done first.  Whenever I looked at the blog, instead of being pleased with what I have accomplished, I was disheartened by all the things I haven't.  So those sections just didn't work for me the way I'd hoped they would.

And the big change ... a major change in myself.  A change not in what I do but in how I think about it. A change in how I react to what goes on around me.  A change in how I choose to feel about, and deal with, life in general.

Up to now, when I've talked here about the green/frugal stuff that happens at home, I've said "we".

The truth is, it's mostly me.  Big Guy humours me a little; he dutifully shovels compost onto the garden and puts his newspapers in the blue box, he goes through the grocery flyers and asks me if XXX is a good price to pay for peanut butter, he takes all his beer cans to the depot to get his deposit back.

But ... although he says he "hates waste" ... he wastes so much ...

Time.  Money.  Food.  Water.  Energy, as in in gas and electricity.  Energy, as in flying into pointless rages over things that don't matter or can't be altered ... like the traffic, or the weather.  Any combination of these things.  Perhaps the most frustrating to me is his habit of buying all kinds of materials for projects that actually need to be done, and then talking endlessly about the projects without ever actually doing anything.  Case in point: the basement.  We've been talking for years about turning the unfinished part of the basement into a family room.  We have all the insulation, all the wiring/outlet supplies, all the lighting fixtures, all the shelving, flooring, wallboard, paint ... I've been chipping away at cleaning all the junk out, getting rid of what we don't have any use for any more, organizing what needs to stay, and so on.  Every time I ask him what needs to be done next, he insists that he can't do anything until "everyone gets their crap out of the way".  Guess what?  Ninety percent of all the "crap in the way" is his. I don't tell him that, though.  I just go on quietly working toward the day when I can gently point out to him that it's all his.

What scares me the most when I think of the future?

Him.  I love him like crazy, I have for almost thirty years, I always will.  But I worry that the time is coming when that love won't be enough.

He doesn't see money and debt the way I do.  I see money as a tool, to be used as wisely and efficiently as possible in order to have the life I want.  He sees it as what the world owes him to do whatever he pleases with.  When I decide I want something, I look for the best price and I save up for it.  He needs instant gratification  -  he sees something, he wants it, he buys it, he'll worry about how to pay for it "later".  I see debt as something that eats up energy and resources I'd prefer to put to better use elsewhere.  He sees it as a fact of life, something that everyone has and something that he will always have because that's just the way life is. 

Another thing that's starting to worry me arises from the dark side, if you will, of his declared hatred of waste.  He comes from a family of impulse shoppers and hoarders.  And I'm seeing the tendency developing in him.  Oh, not to the extent of some of his family, but it's there, and it's edging into problem territory ...

Our old dishes and cutlery were mostly mismatched pieces from the years before we got together.  Yes, it would be nice to have dishes that went together, to have knives & forks & spoons that all matched, but there were more important things to spend the money on.  We'd wait for a good sale on something we both really liked ...  Well, the sale happened.  We agreed on a set of silverware and bought it.  But then he went back to the sale and bought three more sets!  One more set went into the kitchen drawer, one set went into the camper, and one set he put away "for spares".  I hope we never need the "spares", because he can't remember where he stashed that third set.  Pretty much the same thing happened with the dishes; he's always had the mindset that if one of something is good, six must be six times better.  But we can't ever get rid of the old beat-up useless stuff we've replaced, because we might need it someday, we might buy a summer cabin in the woods someday, the kids might want it someday ... It's the same story with sheets, towels, lawn rakes, you name it.  If he dies first, I stand to make at least a year's worth of mortgage payments just by holding a tool auction!  As of the last count he has forty-three work shirts, eighteen pairs of sweat pants, three dresser drawers full of socks, and twenty-two plaid jackets.  Twenty-two.  Plaid.  Jackets.  Oh, and nine pairs of steel-toed work boots.  I don't think I have nine pairs of shoes unless I count in my gumboots!

So what does all this have to do with the "big change" in myself?

I've changed how I react to it, how I let it affect my actions and my feelings. I've realized that I can't change Big Guy, I can only change how I cope with the way he does things.  I can stop stressing about how he deals with money, and focus on what needs to be done that I can deal with on my own.  And I can concentrate on all the qualities I love in him, instead of the traits that frustrate or anger me.

When we make a shopping list, I keep it to what we need that's on sale, I go through my coupons, and I try to go with him so I can encourage him to stick to the list.  I can't stop him from impulse buying in the grocery store when he goes by himself, but I can make sure he eats before he shops.  I can't make him get rid of anything, but I can insist that he find a home for it where it's not going to be in the way of something we need to do or to get at.  I can't make him do things ... but I can quietly just go do them myself.

Like I said, I love him.  And I know he loves me.  But it's kind of sad, sometimes, to think of all the ways in which I'm now living my life around him instead of with him.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Things I Learned The Hard Way Part One: Shopping

There are so many things I had to learn them the hard way ...  Basic, frugal tips and techniques that I had to figure out for myself; some based on the principle that price is not always the bottom line, others relating to doing instead of buying.  Today's post is the first of several "roundups", if you will, of the things I wish I'd been taught before I left home instead of having to figure them out on my own.

For example, dollar stores.

Dollar stores (at least in Canada) are great places to pick up stationery, school and office supplies, gift wrap/bags/boxes, cards of all kinds, insulated lunch bags, cotton swabs, cotton balls, bar soap, travel sized shampoos/conditioner/lotion, razor blades, sport socks, storage containers, laundry baskets, plastic or wooden hangers,clothespins, sewing notions, craft supplies, tea towels, facecloths, hand or kitchen towels, freezer bags, glassware, candles, incense, matches, foil products, party supplies, ashtrays, ice trays, sponges and cleaning brushes, hair ties/clips/pins/bands, combs and hairbrushes, toothbrushes, kids' party favours, toothpicks, and all kinds of housewares, kitchen gadgets, and holiday decorations.

Dollar stores are not a good place to go for first aid items (other than elastic bandages and the cheap bandaids the kids go through a gazillion of), food, or anything else that goes in your mouth, such as toothpaste, vitamins or supplements, or OTC medications.  They are also not a good place to get your blank cd's/dvd's/videotapes/audiotapes, batteries, light bulbs, extension cords, or anything that plugs in or uses batteries.

Then there are the supermarket store brands, and the "no-name" or generic items.

Store/house/generic brands can be good value for the money, but you have to try them and compare them with the brands you used to buy.  What at first looks like a great price may not work out so well in the long run ... 

I found that while the generic frozen vegetables were just as good as the higher-priced brands, the canned vegetables were not; they were usually mushier, saltier, and had much less flavour.  Generic canned soups, though, are generally good, as are generic dry soup mixes.  Generic spices are just as good, and can be bought in bulk in most supermarkets here.  The same goes for soup mixes, pastas and noodles, baking supplies, pickles, nuts, raisins/dried fruit, peanut butter, hot and cold cereals, rice, beans, dried vegetables, holiday candy of all kinds, and syrups.  Generic ketchup is thin and watery; don't waste your money.  I'm still looking for generic soy sauce, which we go through at an astonishing rate.  Generic dryer sheets (if you use them) are good value as long as you get the unscented ones.  Generic vitamins, supplements, and OTC medications are by law  (at least in Canada) exactly the same as name brands.

The no-name products I find to be a waste of money:

Any liquid cleaning product  -  dish soap, laundry soap, shampoo  -  they are all so watered-down that by the time you've managed to get the job done, you've used so much more than you would have with a good name-brand product that it's actually costing you more.

Almost all paper products  -  toilet paper, paper towels, tissues  -  so thin and skimpy, and so much less in the package, that again you will end up using more and so spending more.

Pet food.  Mostly cheap fillers.  If you love your animals  -  and if you don't, you shouldn't have them in the first place  -  do not cheap out on their food.

I'm not going to mention thrift stores or yard sales today  -  they're for a later post.  Some of the other topics I'm planning to cover are:

Making do and making it work
Learn to do it yourself
Get creative with what you've got

Stick around!  You might even learn something  -  or teach me something!  Questions, comments  -  share your less-than-common frugal tips, tricks, and insights.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Week Of Ups And Downs

Well, it certainly was an ... interesting week ... and a painful one, since I paid the property taxes on Friday.  Ouch.

Work was crazy busy  -  not a bad thing overall, since they don't pay me to sit around doing my nails.  We do get frustrated with the slowness of our ancient computers, but we're supposed to be getting new ones in the fall, so we grit our teeth and soldier on.  It does make for a fair bit of overtime, and the money's always useful!

Sad times downtown Wednesday night.  I'm sure by now everyone has seen news images of the "Stanley Cup Riot".  What didn't come to light until the next day was that the whole shebang was pre-planned by a small group of anarchistic hooligans, and literally any excuse would have done.  The hockey final was handy, but they were just as willing to use the fireworks competition, or Canada Day events ... morons.  Although I don't live in Vancouver proper any more, I will always think of it as my home town.  I'm saddened and angered by the idiots who went out of their way to provoke senseless violence, wanton destruction, looting and burning cars  -  but heartened by the much greater number of people who showed up spontaneously the next morning to clean up.  They are the real people of my home city, and they are all heroes in my book.

My good friend D and I are doing a "Harry Potter" movie marathon  -  one movie every Saturday night, in order, leading up to the last movie in the theatre.  Is it dreadfully geeky of me to be unreasonably excited over this?  The first half of "Deathly Hallows" was extremely well-done, and in my opinion they couldn't have picked a better place in the story to stop.

The only project I've worked on this past week is the gradual whittling down of a huge pile of mending; none of it is mine, but since J and Big Guy cook for me, I can't complain.  At least they both do their own laundry ...

This being Father's Day, we asked Big Guy what he wanted for dinner.  Turns out he wants takeout fish & chips from his favourite place, so I'm off to pick up the food in a little while  -  trying to time it so that the food is still hot and fresh when J gets home from work.

I got a very nice surprise at work on Friday.  Last week I had helped a friend with something  -  nothing major, just some advice and pointers based on my professional knowledge  -  and out of the blue, she sent a beautiful bouquet to me, with a sweet hand-written thank-you note!  I was delighted, and astonished, and almost a little embarrassed  -  I didn't really do that much.  But it is nice to be appreciated.

Tomorrow our new export csr starts  -  and I get to train him to do things my way.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nothing Much, Really

There really hasn't been anything worth talking about this past week ... unless you're a hockey fan.

I'm not.

I commute though a sea of Canucks jerseys and raucous fan-type noises, and I don't enjoy it.  Good thing I have an mp3 player and good Skull Candy headphones ... otherwise I'd be sorely tempted to call in sick and work from home on game days.  At least there are only one or two games left  -  one if the Canucks win tomorrow, two if they lose and have to play the tiebreaker on Wednesday.

And yes, I do have the good sense not to say (in public anyway) "It's just a game."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Debates & Decisions

When it comes to money, Big Guy and I are not always on the same page ... sometimes I don't think we're even in the same book!  This can often lead to what I prefer to call "spirited debates".

Our television is twenty years old.  Granted, that's still two years younger than my car and fifteen years younger than the freezer, but it's starting to suffer from electronic senility; the picture wobbles now and then, the vertical hold is losing its grip,and volume control is becoming a sometime thing.

However ... the big chest freezer, as noted above, is almost twice as old.  And it is also starting to show its age.  The gasket is starting to leak (unless you lean really hard on the lid when you close it), it takes longer to freeze things all the way through, and doesn't freeze anything as rock-hard as it used to.  This is rapidly  -  in my view  -  going to become an active health hazard due to incomplete/insufficient freezing of food, and I can see myself very soon simply refusing to eat anything that was in it.  Plus, due to its age, it cost a lot more to run, even full, than a new one would.

Now, we rely very heavily on that freezer.  We buy in bulk on sale, we cook and I bake in bulk, he hunts, we go fishing, we have a garden and fruit trees  -  we need a freezer we can depend on.  And this one is rapidly approaching the point where we can't depend on it.

Here's where the "spirited debate" ensues ... 

He sees the television in the living room every day.  He doesn't see the freezer in the basement every day.  Therefore the television takes up more space in his conscious mind, and so to him is more of a priority on the list of things needing replacement.  Every point I try to make about food safety versus mere entertainment is countered with "There's nothing wrong with that freezer" or "A little freezer burn never hurt anybody" or "Ice cream is supposed to be scoopable" or "That just means things don't take as long to defrost, that's not a bad thing".


Big Guy's take on things is that we need a new television but I want a new freezer for no good reason that he can see.

My take on things is that we need a new freezer, and a new television after we replace the freezer would be nice if we can afford it.

And people wonder why he doesn't know I have a nice healthy savings account ....

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ever Have One Of Those Days ...

... where you just can't seem to get moving?  I'm having one today.  And although I feel like I've earned a lazy day, this is not the best time for one.  But every time I think about the things that need to get done today ... I sit back down here and start another game of solitaire, or read another blog/social site thread/news article.

And there are a number of things that do need doing today; the litterbox  and guinea pig cage need cleaning, the dishes are piling up and so is the laundry, the bathroom is grubby, the whole house badly needs sweeping and dusting, the mending pile keeps growing, I still have a few more loose ends to darn into the "project" sweater, and my workroom is still chaotic.  Don't even ask me about the basement ... and here I sit.

Why?  I'm tired.  Deep-down in my bones tired.  Overtime every night at work, family who meet me at the door with things they "need" me to do right that second, a computer on which I need to replace/rebuild a gazillion files because we had to wipe the main drive and reinstall Windows (some files might still be recoverable, but it will take time); it all adds up.  It seems like the only time I had to relax for the last week was during my train ride to work and back, when I could lose myself in a book or put my headphones on and ignore the world for a little while.  That's not enough.

On the plus side, I have tomorrow off.  Even though our office is in Canada, the ports I handle are in the US, so I work the Canadian holidays and take the American ones.  Instead of Victoria Day, I get Memorial Day.  This is actually a good thing, because tomorrow I plan to get my passport pictures taken, get J to sign one (she works an afternoon shift tomorrow so she'll still be here when I get back with them), go downtown to use the birthday gift card the girls gave me last fall for a manicure & pedicure, then take in my passport application.  I'll be putting the fees on the credit card, but as soon as I get home I can transfer the amount out of chequing and so pay no interest and get the card back to zero again.  The passport office, like the photo place, is within walking distance of home.  So are the bank, the library, the computer store, and two grocery stores, all of which I will also be stopping at ... all in all, a very busy day, but a very productive one.

Oh, yes, the bank.

I have a little piggy bank on my desk here, into which I drop all the coins I accumulate during the week.  When it's full, I empty it into an old toffee tin, and when the tin is full, I roll up the coins and deposit the lot into my savings account.  So my trip to the bank will be to deposit  -  drum roll, please!  -  $233.00 !!!  Which more than makes up for having to tweeze my eyebrows into submission and touch up my grey roots tonight so I'll be ready for the passport photos in the morning.

Now, if only the weather would lighten up a little.  It may be the end of May on paper, but it's still March outside.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Frustrations Abound

This has been one of those weeks where I feel like I'd have been better off just hiding in a closet all week ...

Monday was okay  -  for a Monday  -  except that the laundry I'd hung up on the basement clothesline on Sunday  was still damp, which meant I had to scramble around to find something both clean and appropriate to wear to work, and consequently was almost late.  Monday evening our downstairs tenants announced that they were splitting up and he was moving out.  Fine, the return of peace and quiet will be welcome, but we'll also be getting $200 less per month in rent  -  which is only fair, since we raised it by that much when he moved in to compensate for the extra gas/hydro/noise/laundry/general wear & tear.

Tuesday, systems kept crashing on us at work.  Then I got home to find that Big Guy had completely forgotten our planned Costco run and was sitting out back drinking beer with a couple of friends.  Fine, we'll just go Wednesday evening instead (weekend trips to Costco are a nightmare of crowds, noise, overflowing parking lots in which one circles endlessly in hopes of catching another shopper just vacating a spot, and checkout lines that stretch halfway to the back of the store ...).

Or not.  Wednesday  -  same friends, more beer.  And the friend who was going to come over and help me do my roots got called in to work an extra shift.  I can't do it by myself; the glasses (of course) have to come off, and then I can't see what I'm doing.

So instead, I decided to combine a batch of same-general-area errands, and went to the bank, the library, and the grocery store.  Now, normally I would buy one (two if there's a sale) large tub of yogurt, and dish it out into my single-serving lunch containers at home.  But this time I bought a week's worth of little individual yogurts, because I wanted the little containers to fill with slug bait in the garden.  Saw a flavour I hadn't tried before  -  it looked good, it was on sale, I grabbed two of them  -  it's nasty.  It's so nasty even the neighbour's dog turned his unfussy nose up at it.  Live and learn ...

On Thursday we had a group meltdown at work over upper management folks who want one thing one day, the opposite the next day, and no matter what we do, we should have done the other thing ... after a fairly high-pitched venting session we all felt much better!  Nothing changed, naturally, but we did get a whole lot of pent-up anger out of our systems and were finally able to laugh at the whole situation.

Thursday evening, despite all my precautions my computer succumbed to a reboot-every-ten-seconds virus that wouldn't stop even in "safe" mode.  And so ...

Yesterday my friend D who is also my on-call technogeek did his best to fix the problem, but we ended up having to re-install Windows.  All of my e-mail files, address books, desktop work-from-home files, financial records, internet favourites, music, pictures, all the programs I'd painstakingly added, all the games I really enjoyed relaxing with, all the knitting patterns I hadn't printed yet ... gone. GONE.  D is coming back next Saturday to try and recover what he can for me, but I'm not optimistic.  I have backups for some of what I lost, but the most recent is over a month old.  Most of what's gone can be replaced, or rebuilt from other records, but it really hurts to think I may have lost forever all my photojournals of trips to Yellowstone, Arizona, Hawaii, Costa Rica, our family camping & fishing trips, family Christmases and birthdays and graduations ... Mom and sister S have some of the pictures, but not all.

 Next payday I'm investing in an external hard drive onto which everything will be backed up, every day.  I never want to go through this again.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Return Of Randomness

I haven't posted for a while, for several reasons.

1)  The death of our beloved pet hit me very hard.  She was such an important part of our lives for eighteen years, and we are still devastated and heartbroken.  It's only in the last couple of days I've been able to talk about her without weeping ... and kind words about her from others are still enough to set off the tears.

2)  I'm finally starting to recover from what I thought was just a nasty cold but turned out to be a serious bout of bronchitis.  It started to fade, then came roaring back, and left me with no energy to do anything except go to work, come home, and lie down.  I've finally stopped coughing, but I still get tired much faster than I'm used to.

3)  In spite of everything else, I still had to go to work every day; we are an office of 5, only one of whom could have covered for me.  She was out of province (business), which meant that instead of taking sick days, I was there far more hours than usual covering for her.

You may have noticed that I've rearranged my sidebar items.  I realized that I really hardly ever spend money on anything I don't need.  The cough medicine, for instance, turned out to be the only way I could get even three or four hours of sleep per night, and certainly I never would have made it through a single day at work without it.  So I've removed it from the (renamed) "Extra Spending" list.  You'll see, though, that I've added my annual purchase of coffee direct from the plantation in Costa Rica.  Yes, it looks expensive ... but I don't drink it every day; it's my only real "treat" and believe me, I'll make that twenty pounds of (in my opinion) the world's best coffee go a long way.  I'll also be giving some as birthday or Yule gifts to a select few who appreciate it as much as I do, and sharing it with fellow coffee lovers on movie nights.  Break that annual expenditure down to $13.25 a month for personal treats and gifts, and it's eminently affordable within our current budget.

I've also decided to keep track of what I've labeled "Serendipitous Income"  -  money from unexpected or unplanned sources.  On-line surveys, coupon and club card savings, deposit containers found and redeemed, that kind of thing.  I will include any overtime I get paid for, because I don't go to work planning to stay late.  I will not, however, include my tax refund when it comes in, because I did plan for it, and have plans for where it will go.  The overtime from May alone will cover my new passport and my coffee order, and still leave over $200 to go into savings.

Project update:  there isn't one, really.  The sweater is put together at last, but the darning in of loose ends has still to be done, and the workroom organizing is on hold until I'm healthy enough to haul boxes around without wheezing.  For the same reason, the basement-clearing project is also on "pause"  -  though whenever I go down to do laundry, or tend to the litterbox (yes, we still have one cat), or get something from the freezer, I'll try to remember to do one thing towards the cleanup, even if it's just putting away an empty canning jar or two.  Baby steps.

Spring gardening hasn't even started yet; we've had a month of low temperatures, sunny weekdays, and rainy weekends  -  frustrating, since weekends are the only time we have for garden/yard work.  But we'll get there eventually.  My fruit trees all blossomed nicely, and I'm hoping there were enough dry days for the bees to pollinate well and so get us a good crop.  We don't expect any cherries or pears for a couple more years, but the black currants, plums and apples  -  we hope  -  should do well.  I don't know if the growing season will be long enough, or warm and dry enough, for a decent tomato crop.  The herbs will go in containers this year and with luck I'll find a way to keep the squirrels from nibbling them all down to nothing again.  Rhubarb always does well  -  I don't think we could kill it with napalm  -  and I'd like to put in some raspberry canes.

The coupon insert in this morning's paper had several good two-for-one offers on laundry detergent, (recyclable) plastic food storage containers, and other household basics.  An hour after clipping the coupons, I found out that a very dear friend and her husband are both out of work and really struggling financially right now.  So I will use the coupons this week, and set what I buy aside for my friend.  And I'll raid my stockpile of toiletries as well, and add some of our homemade jams and pickles from last fall. I know she won't be offended; we've helped each other out like that countless times over the years.  For us, that's always been a really big part of what friendship is about  -  being there for each other.  I'm only sorry I can't do more, and sorry that it's not later in the year so I could take her apples and plums and tomatoes too!

Now I think I'll go do some mending.  That pile has to get smaller eventually!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Our beloved 18-year-old tabby cat was killed by a dog today.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Joining The "Not Buying It" Crowd

I really didn't accomplish much this week besides going to work, doing my job, and coming home to collapse.  I've had a horrendous cold since early in the week.  On Tuesday I was just sneezing and a little sniffly, which prompted me to wonder if I was finally developing the hay fever that the rest of the family suffers with every spring.  But no ... Wednesday at work I went through one boxes of tissue in eight hours, Thursday's count was two boxes, and by Friday afternoon I'd lost count.  Friday night I started to cough, and I spent Saturday on the couch hacking, wheezing, and going through a couple more boxes of tissues. (good thing I got them in bulk, on sale, with a coupon!)  It's tapering off now, but I'm still exhausted enough that today I did the dishes in several installments, because after ten minutes standing in front of the sink I just had to go sit down for a while.

Big Guy did what he always does  -  he made a big pot of from-scratch chicken soup and kept bringing me bowls of it  -  lovely stuff, full of bite-sized chicken chunks, onions, celery, carrots, lots of garlic and ginger, and egg noodles.  It makes me feel better, at least for a little while ... in fact, I'll be taking a thermos of soup to work for lunch tomorrow.

I spent a lot of the weekend browsing a variety of blogs, following links from one to another, and I was surprised at how many bloggers are on the "Not Buying It" bandwagon.  Not because it's a novel idea  -  I've pretty much lived that way for most of my life  -  but because so many people use that particular label.  Is it easier to be frugal as part of a group?  Does not spending money feel more comfortable if you can see how many others aren't spending money either?  I'm not putting them down for it  -  in fact, I can't help wondering if I'd do better at the whole saving/not spending/paying down debt thing if I followed their example.

So ... as of today, I'm going to actually track every cent I spend, and post the details  -  starting with the generic cold capsules I hauled my poor aching, wheezing self out to get this morning.  Maybe someone can suggest areas where I could spend less, or even items I could eliminate entirely.  I don't pretend to be an expert, and I'm always open to new ideas.  Oh, and just so the tracking will make more sense  -  Big Guy and I have an arrangement.  Since he does almost all the cooking, he pays for the groceries, and I pay the household bills  -  hydro, gas, phone/cable/internet.  So those categories won't show in the sidebar, and neither will our mortgage payments.  What I'll be tracking is just my own personal spending, not the household budget.  The goal is to make myself more aware of what I'm spending on "extras"; we're already pretty darn careful about what we lay out for necessities.  For instance, the coffee we buy as part of the regular groceries won't be listed, but if I treat myself to a pound of a specialty blend I will show it.  I'm still debating whether to show what I spend on my monthly transit pass  -  it's expensive, but it's necessary.  Driving to work (especially with the cost of parking downtown) would cost at least three times as much ... so I don't think the pass can really be called an "extra".  What do you think?

I'm also making a list in the back of my current all-purpose notebook of all the things I have enough of that I don't need to buy more no matter how good the sale price is.  Thanks to my long-standing habit of stocking up when the price is right,  it should be at least two years before I'll be buying office supplies, shower gel, deodorant, hair ties, shampoo, sewing notions, underwear, garbage bags, greeting cards ... the actual list is far more detailed, but you get the idea.

I will have to bite the bullet very soon and buy a new pair of running shoes.  Actually, skateboard shoes, which are far more comfortable (they're wider, and I have square feet and a ridiculously high arch) and don't have the big ugly clunky soles that almost all women's "running" shoes seem to have these days.  I pretty much live in those shoes, unless there's snow  -  our neighbourhood doesn't have sidewalks except on the main streets, and I'm not about to ruin my good/dress/office shoes by commuting daily through mud, gravel, and roadside dirt in them.  A pair of the brand I like best will run me about $75.00 on sale, but once every two years or so turns that from an extravagance into a practical budget item.  Especially since it allows me to make a nice pair of dress shoes last up to ten years.  Yes, seriously.  Shoes I like, that fit properly and don't hurt to walk in, are hard to find; when I do find a pair, I make them last as long as possible.  I don't care about fashion  -  and some of the recent and current styles are downright ugly  -  my "good" shoes are plain, comfortable classics that will always look suitable for whatever I wear them with.

Apart from the shoes, there won't be any clothing in the list.  This goes back to my New Year's "resolutions"  -  to work with what I already have.  As each new garment is started, it will be added to the "Current Projects" section of the sidebar, and I'll try to post a picture of each one when I finish them.  The sweater is almost finished, so (touch wood) next post will include a picture.  I'll also be adding a "Finished Projects" section  -  sometimes I feel like Alice, "the faster I run the behinder I get", and it will be nice to look at that list and reflect on what I have accomplished.