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!

Monday, February 28, 2011


Lately I've been thinking about connections.  More specifically, about how a random thought, a phrase overheard by chance, a glimpse of something caught in passing, can lead us to renew connections with people or places or things that we hadn't even realized we'd missed.

I was walking from the Skytrain station to the office last week  -  taking the same route I always take  -  when I looked up at a building I'd been passing twice every day and suddenly realized that was where my friend E was working when I was at my old job.  I wondered if she was still there; later that day I made a call and found out she'd left that job at about the same time I was laid off.  But ... I didn't know that the person I talked to would call E the same day to let her know I'd been asking asking.  End result?  E learned where I was working, called me, and we're getting together next weekend.  As it happened, not long after we lost touch, E had moved out to this area and now lives about a ten-minute walk from my house!  I'm looking forward to renewing the friendship, and I think E is too.


On the "Projects" front, the sweater is coming along nicely.  I finished the sleeves on Saturday, yay!  So now it's back to the workroom cleanup, with added motivation  -  until it's done, I can't set up the ironing board to block out the sweater pieces before I sew them together.


Elderly Cat had her every-six-months checkup and blood work done last week.  The vet says she's doing exceedingly well  -  she's even gained weight!  We're all very pleased, even Big Guy who pretends he doesn't care for cats.  She still needs her meds every day; one pill for her digestion, a quarter of another pill for her kidneys, and an eighth of a pill for her heart; I crush them all into her food every evening and so far she hasn't caught on.  She may be eighteen years old, but she's still happy and active; when she thinks we're not looking she plays like a kitten, and I still catch her jumping up on the kitchen counter to drink from the sink on occasion.  Not bad, considering that in human terms she's about ninety and the counter, proportionally, if she were my height, would be about twenty feet over her head ...


I stopped at Costco on my way home from work today, to pick up a month's worth of my work breakfasts and lunches  -  two boxes of sausage rolls, two dozen apple-oatmeal muffins, a bag of apples, a bag of bananas, and two tubs of yogurt. (I love my wheeled shopping bag!  It folds up to fit into the tote bag I carry every day, and holds a lot.)  My co-workers think my diet is really dull, because they see me eating pretty much the same things every day  -  a muffin for breakfast (the office provides coffee), a sausage roll and some yogurt for lunch, and a piece of fruit mid-afternoon.  S, who goes out and buys her lunch every day, asked me if I don't get bored eating the same thing every day.  The truth is, I don't.  It's nutritious, it's fairly balanced, and it's a huge time-saver in the mornings, when I am definitely not at my best.  I just grab a sausage roll and a muffin from the freezer, a pre-filled one-serving container of yogurt and a piece of fruit from the fridge, and I'm good to go. Plus it's cheap ... I sat down and did the math one day, and discovered that the two meals and snack I eat at work every day cost me roughly $2.10 per day.  That's not much higher than what S spends on whatever pastry she picks up for breakfast in the mall every morning, and about a third (or a bit less) of what she usually spends on lunch.  So while I'm spending $10.50 a week to eat breakfast and lunch, S is spending, on average, $40.00.  And most weeks my total is lower, because sometimes there are some pretty nice leftovers to take the place of the sausage roll.  Then I did some more math, and found out that buying good bread and sandwich makings would cost me closer to $3.50 a day, plus the muffins, yogurt, and fruit.  So I feel both well-nourished and virtuously frugal.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Thoughts

Life is, as always, interesting, sometimes entertaining, often complicated, and full of choices and tradeoffs.

I really want to get my current knitting project finished.  I'd like to be able to wear the sweater to work while it's still cold enough to wear a sweater to work ... and I already have the yarn and pattern for the next one.  Which will be pink, so it's even odds sister S will try to talk me out of it, or into making one for her.

I really want to get my workroom completely cleaned out and reorganized.  But that uses up knitting time ...

I have three shelves full of books I haven't read yet.  Quite a few of them are hardcovers that are too bulky and/or heavy to carry to work and back every day for train reading.  And every time my friend D comes over for our weekly movie-or-board-game night, he brings more books to lend me.  I read on the train, I read through my lunch hour, I read when my hands cramp up from too much knitting (is there even such a thing as "too much knitting"?), and the books still pile up faster than I can whittle them down.  I'm like Robert Heinlein's character Hilda Corners in "The Number Of The Beast", who said she read in bed, she read while she ate, she read on the john, she read in the bath, and she'd read in her sleep if she could figure out how to keep her eyes open.

I have a lecture series on DVD that Mom lent me, and another one she bought me for my birthday, that I really want to see.  I could pop them in the DVD player while I knit, but they're subjects I like to give my full attention to ... I'm not so good a knitter that I can knit without paying any attention to what I'm doing.

For someone like me, an embarrassment of riches!  It makes me wish our lotto pool at work would win big, so I could say goodbye to working for a living and have, finally, enough reading/knitting/sewing/everything time.  I could never be one of the "idle rich"  -  life is just too full of interesting things to do/see/hear/learn, and not nearly full enough of time for them all.


Am I a bad person because I enjoy watching someone with a highly inflated sense of their own importance shoot themselves in the foot?  Especially people who've grown a sense of entitlement where they should have cultivated some kind of work ethic?

Two weeks ago, our office hired New Kid.  The Monday he was supposed to start, he called in sick.  Well, things happen, benefit of the doubt and all that.  When he did show up, he seemed from the start to be very young  -  in attitude as well as age  -  and very, very full of himself.
The following Monday he called in sick again.  Hmmmm.  He also had to be warned more than once during the week about things he was doing when he should have been doing what we hired him for.  Warnings he apparently didn't find worth taking seriously.  And frankly, he wasn't nearly as good as he thought  -  and said  -  he was.
Today, Monday, the beginning of his third week with us ...yep, you guessed it.
If he shows up tomorrow, he'll be handed his final cheque and told not to come back.
We amused ourselves speculating on whether he has quit but doesn't have the cojones to say so to our faces, or whether he was too hung over to care what we thought and is counting on coming in tomorrow morning as if nothing had happened.  I guess we'll find out in the morning.  It certainly is glaringly obvious that he has no idea what being a full-time employee in the real world is all about.  He's currently pursuing a business degree (evening classes) and fully expects that as soon as he has that diploma in his hand, companies will be lining up outside his door with high-paying career offers.  Yeah, good luck with that.  Especially since our field is not thickly populated, sooner or later everyone in the industry knows everyone else, and word gets around ...


It's slushing outside.  One minute it's snowing, the next minute it's raining ... if you don't like what's happening, wait five minutes ... it'll change.  Nasty.  I wonder what it'll be doing in the morning?


Exchange between two daughters and me earlier this evening, after I had obliged them by stopping on my way home to pick up concert tickets for them:

"Yay!  We have concert tickets to see 'Favourite Band'!"

"No, I have concert tickets.  When you pay me back for them, then you will have concert tickets."

I'm such a meanie.


I just realized something possibly odd about myself.

I remember learning to swim, and to roller skate, and to ride a bike, and to do cursive writing (a disappearing art these days, it seems).  I remember not yet knowing how to drive, cook, thread a sewing machine, ice skate backwards, or chop kindling.  I remember when we got our first television  -  a black & white Phillips, with the rounded green screen and "wood-grain" cabinet and rabbit ears sitting on top.  I remember the first day of first grade.  I even remember bits of my second birthday.

I don't remember not knowing how to read.  And I don't remember not knowing how to knit.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What's In A Name?

People often comment on the way we choose to live, and some of them apparently feel compelled to label us.  I don't know, maybe the labels they use make them think they understand us.  But I got to thinking today about all those labels and whether or not they really fit us ...

My family sometimes laughingly call me "Farmer Kate".  That's okay with me.  We do plant a new fruit or nut tree every year, we do try to put in a fairly good vegetable and herb garden every spring, and I do freeze, can, or dry everything I can save from the squirrels, raccoons, and assorted birds  -  who all seem to think we're growing the stuff just for them.  I like knowing where my food came from and what's in it, and I believe in "eating locally" whenever possible  -  and it doesn't get any more local than my own back yard!  I'm not quite ready for chickens or goats yet, though.

Big Guy and the girls call me the "Recycling Police".  True, most of the time.  I confess I have been known to pluck an empty toilet roll or shampoo bottle back out of the wastebasket and shake it at the offender while yelling "Blue box, dammit!"  I will also make Big Guy put something back when we're shopping if I think it's over-packaged, or if the packaging is not completely recyclable.  I make sure everyone's lunches are in reusuable containers, in insulated cloth bags, and include our own non-disposable cutlery and stainless steel water bottles or thermoses.  I even bring home my banana peels (for the compost) and apple cores (for the guinea pigs).  I'm proud of the fact that between our buying habits, the compost, the recycling bin (our city recycling program is very good), the plastic-bag-recycling bin at the local Safeway, and the wood stoves, we produce less trash for the landfill than anyone else we know.

We've been called cheap, miserly, penny-pinchers, and tightwads.  Possibly true  -  but words that all have negative connotations.  I prefer to be known as frugal, thrifty, or economical.  Our financial resources are our own business, as are our financial decisions and practices.  Those decisions, those practices, are what got us through a very difficult year; I was unemployed from September 1st 2009 to October 4th 2010, and Big Guy from December 15th 2009 through to two weeks ago. And in all that time we did not go hungry, we paid all the bills on time, we paid the mortgage and property taxes on time, we didn't go without anything we needed, we replaced the entire roof, and we continued paying down our line of credit.

We've been called "survivalists".  Not true.  Yes, we have guns  -  because he hunts  -  not for sport, but to fill the freezer with meat that's cleaner (we butcher and wrap it ourselves), leaner, additive-free, and healthier.  What we don't have, and never will, is any kind of hand gun.  Yes, we have kerosene lamps  -  most are antiques collected over the decades, all are kept clean and filled, and do they ever come in handy during power outages!  Yes, we heat the main floor and workshop with wood stoves  -  why not, when the fuel is free?  And we stay warm during winter power outages, and can also cook on them if necessary.  Yes, I have a treadle sewing machine that I keep in good working order.  For years it was the only sewing machine I had, and I clothed two small daughters and innumerable dolls with it.

We've been called "odd" because there are some things we refuse to have in the house, and some things we have but very rarely use.  We will never have a dishwasher, electric can opener, electric pasta maker, electric frypan or griddle, air conditioning, carpet shampooer, or plug-in air fresheners.  The juicer, rice cooker, electric kettle, electric waffle iron, and electric carving knife are J's and will go with her when she moves out (she's a practical little cookie and has been gradually collecting everything she'll want in her own place).  And I'll probably give her the vacuum cleaner since our floors here are all hardwood.

Don't get me wrong (as some have done)  -  I'm not anti-appliance.  I love my fancy sewing machine and my serger, I really wouldn't want to go back to living without the computer or the washing machine or the coffeemaker, and I seriously crave a tabletop steam presser for my sewing room.  I do my floors with a steam mop (yes, bought on sale with a discount coupon!) and I have a toaster oven just for baking my polymer clay projects.  What I am against is people becoming so dependent on powered machinery to do things that they forget there was ever any other way.  It saddens me to realize that I know people who literally don't know how to sweep a floor, wash a sink full of dishes, darn a sock, or use a hand-crank can opener or eggbeater.

We know we'll probably never be one hundred percent self-sufficient.  But we're going to get as close as we can  -  not because we're survivalists, but because we're survivors.  We've both been poor, we've both been hungry, we've both been homeless.  And we both believe that the more we can do for ourselves, the less dependent we are on the good will or expensive skills of others.  We know that the less money we have to shell out to the power company or mechanic or plumber or dry cleaner, the more we can keep in our pockets or use for other things.  Things that are more important to use than the momentary convenience of, say, an electric can opener. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Random Ramblings

I've had a few things on my plate the past week or so, and a lot on my mind, so tonight's post will be a little jumbled ...rather than try to put events in order, I'm just going to ramble about whatever occurs to me.

The job continues to be very good.  My office wardrobe could use some upgrading, but I'm very fortunate in that there isn't really a dress code as such, except that we only wear jeans on Fridays.  That takes a lot of pressure off, since any additions this year (other than shoes and underthings) will be made by yours truly.  I'll try to remember to post them all in the "Projects" sidebar, but don't expect too much all at once!  Since one of my semi-resolutions was to finish everything I start, I think my best hope of doing that will be not to let myself start a project until the previous one is finished.  In the past I've had a tendency to start a dozen garments at once and take forever to finish any of them ... I don't have the space for UFOs to accumulate any more, and I no longer have the time or the patience to sort through a big pile of pieces figuring out which piece goes with what.

* * * * *

The memorial service for L was last Saturday, and I must confess I found it a little depressing.  Partly, I think, because apart from Big Guy, his brother and nephews, and one friend, I didn't know anyone there.  Partly because although the service itself was fairly dignified, I'm not a fan of organized religion, especially when its adherents natter on interminably about "God's will" and "in a better place".  How can there be a better place than the home she'd worked hard to make and keep with her loved ones?  How can it be "God's will" that she go through what she did because a doctor she trusted misdiagnosed a malignant lump as "just a cyst, don't worry about it"?  And did the video presentation really need so many photos of L in a hospital bed, dying?  I don't think so.  But ... it's not my place to judge; if that's what gave her husband and sons some comfort, I certainly would never dream of telling them what I really thought.

Anyway, on our way home, Big Guy and I agreed that whichever of us goes first, the other one will not do that kind of thing.  We're both pretty much set on "give away whatever parts still work (organ donation), burn the rest, and have a party when the ashes get scattered".  And in the meantime, enjoy each other's company as much as we can, because who knows what might happen tomorrow?

* * * * *

I spent most of Sunday happily knitting away, thinking I'd have the back of the sweater finished and the front started by bedtime, and then ... I discovered that I'd left out one small but critical step at the beginning of the armhole shaping, and had to rip out about eight inches of work.  I'm calmer now, but still feel rather foolish.  After all, I've been knitting for almost fifty years  -  how could I have not noticed something so basic?  Can I plead a mental hangover from Saturday?

* * * * *

Daughter J volunteered at a foodie event a few days back, and for her trouble brought home, among other things, a huge bag of assorted exotic mushrooms.  After work today, I helped her get them all set up in the dehydrator; when they're done, we'll vacuum-seal them for future yummy goodness at her hands.  That vacuum sealer has to be the best $5.00 yard-sale purchase I ever made!

* * * * *

Big Guy is finally back to work, for which we're both grateful.  We don't know how long it will last  -  in construction, when the building (or whatever) is finished, that's it until he gets a call for the next one.  So as long as he is working, we're putting as much $$$ as we can toward paying down debts.  The mortgage is set up so that we can keep up with it on just one income  -  I insisted on that from day one  -  and still eat and pay the bills.  I also insist that whenever one of us is not working, the credit cards don't come out except for the most dire of emergencies  -  the ones that can't be dealt with any other way and can't wait until we can afford them.  Like the roof that started leaking four months before we had planned to replace it ...

At least the past year of dual unemployment showed him that maybe some of the things I'd been trying to tell him all along weren't so "out there" after all.  Things like:

never shopping without a list
never shopping without going through all the flyers first, or without checking the kitchen & pantry to see what we really needed
never shopping hungry
never shopping without my coupons

Actually, the tricky part isn't making a list  -  it's persuading him to stick to it.  I couldn't begin to count the number of times I've said "Put it back, it's not on the list."  Or "I don't care what a great deal/sale/price it is, we don't need it."  At this point, I count any shopping trip that ends with us bringing home fewer than four "off-list" items as a victory of sorts.

I also counted it as a real victory when he finally agreed to let J and me clean out the big chest freezer in the basement.  He's always had the firm belief that anything frozen stays good forever, and that a little freezer burn never hurt anybody.  Um ... no.  J pointed out to him how many of my bad IBS flareups coincided with him cooking something he thought was still perfectly good, and that I wasn't just being "picky" about food that he ate without any ill effects ... I'm told she said something along the lines of "Come on, Dad, we all know you could eat pureed tin cans and be okay!"  So we dug and sorted and defrosted while he sat in the workshop and sulked, but in the end we threw out a lot less than I'd been afraid we might have to.  But folks, I don't care how well-wrapped and solidly frozen something is  -  if it's dated 1999, I am not letting anyone eat it.  And I don't want to hear about that edible mammoth meat they dug up somewhere in Siberia. 

* * * * *

I've started a list of blogs I read along the side; I'll be adding to it periodically, once I'm all caught up on the ones I try to read regularly. Right now, though, I'm going to go and knit.