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!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Oops, Let'sTry That Again

I'm moving to Wordpress, and you'll find me here .


Blogger is just giving me way too many headaches lately, including deleting my post about a visit with friends last weekend.

So I'm migrating to Wordpress.  Look for me there next week: 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bleeding Money

Ever feel like you're just bleeding money?  I'm having that kind of week ... and even though I've accomplished a lot in the last two days, I still feel like I spent too much and did too little.

Yesterday we went to the credit union and renewed / renegotiated / revamped our mortgage.  After a lengthy session with our CU rep, going over all our options in detail, we settled on a plan that will take eight years off the remaining time and wiped out what we owed on the line of credit, which we then cancelled.  From now on, if we can't pay cash, we'll wait until we can.  Since all the major repairs and upgrades to the house are finished except for one window, I don't think this will be difficult.

When we got home, I got on-line and paid this year's property taxes.  They weren't due until July, but now we don't have to worry about missing the deadline.

This morning, we planned and did our big bi-monthly Costco/stock-up shopping trip.  $140 later, we now have:

a year's worth of dish soap and laundry soap
4 months' worth of toilet paper (we normally wouldn't have got that much all at once, but it was on sale and I had a coupon)
4 months' (roughly) worth of oregano, black pepper, and thyme
4 months' worth of slab bacon that he'll run through the slicer later (1/3 the price of pre-sliced packaged bacon)
a week's worth of milk, bread, bananas, tomatoes, green beans, and a pomelo (will give me four servings of fruit, they're huge)
2 dozen cinnamon-raisin english muffins (fabulous with peanut butter!)
2 dozen apple-oatmeal jumbo muffins (perfect for a quick breakfast on the run, and cheaper than buying enough ingredients to make them myself)
a year's worth (at least) of filters for my Brita water bottle
4 kilos of sugar for this summer's canning
a nice big sturdy metal watering can so we don't have to try & fight the hose getting water from the rain barrels to the planters

And  -  at last!  -  I got a couple of spearmint plants, which I will go out and bung into a planter as soon as it stops raining.

Altogether, not bad ... not many actual food items, but a great re-stock on stuff we use that won't go bad.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Alas, the money outflow won't stop for a few more days.  My car insurance is due on the 20th, and P's birthday is the 22nd.  Now, with a bit of luck, my income tax refund will show up just in time  -  but I'm not holding my breath.

*  *  *  *  *  *

On the up side, I think I've finally found a new home for about six dozen quart canning jars.  I'm keeping all the pints and half-pints, but there doesn't seem to be much sense in hanging on to the quarts any longer.  Now that it's just the two of us, half of anything I put up in a quart jar would end up going bad before we could eat it all.  I still need new lids for this year's canning, but nobody seems to have them in stock yet, and I'm not going to buy whole cases of jars just to get the lids!  Even after I give the quarts away, I will still have all the jars I'll ever need.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Zero food waste again this week!  Either he's getting better at cooking smaller quantities, or I'm getting better at eating leftovers before they die ... a win either way.

*  *  *  *  *  *

So tomorrow looks to be a busy day as well; if all goes well I will:

get at least two loads of laundry on the line
find at least two jobs to apply for (my goal used to be five per day, but as things stand in the job market these days, I'll settle for two)
finish darning in the ends on the pink hoodie sweater
steam-mop the living room floor

Plus the daily dishes and tidying; and as usual, it'll be movie night at Mom's.

Right now  -  I think I need a nap!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Making A Difference

In my last post, I said one person can make a difference.  Then I got to thinking about what we do here and how we might step things up ...

We compost, and use the results in the garden.  Find out if the new "organics" bin from the city will take animal waste or used guinea pig wood shavings?  What about used tissues, cotton balls, and paper towels?

We try to shop for items in minimal and recyclable packaging.  Find out if the stores will let us bring our own bags/containers for produce and bulk bin items?

I always have a bag with me for any deposit cans or bottles I find on my walks.  Take another bag and pick up litter and recyclables?

I always turn off the coffeemaker as soon as the coffee is made, and nuke a cup of coffee when I want one.  Check Freecycle and/or thrift stores for a ten-cup thermos jug?

All of the electronics are plugged into power bars for easy shutoff, and I always unplug the phone/battery chargers as soon as the phone or battery is charged.  Unplug the toaster and coffeemaker when they're not in use?  Can't unplug the microwave unless I move the fridge, and there's nowhere else for it to go ...

I wash full loads of laundry in cold water with minimal eco-friendly detergent, and hang everything to dry (outdoor line in good weather, indoor line and rack in the basement in bad weather).  Not sure if there's any way to improve this, since we wear everything except socks and knickers (mine) and shorts (his) more than once, use the same towels for at least a week, and don't change the sheets every week.

I use rags for cleaning and wiping up spills.  Try to wean Big Guy off paper towels?  Might work, might not.

I walk everywhere that's a half-hour walk away or less, and take public transit almost everywhere else.  I'd like to walk more but my bad knees won't stand for it, even with my cane.  Can I do the monthly Costco trip on transit?  Tricky, since Big Guy absolutely will not use public transit, and it would take both of my "bag lady" carts to get the shopping home.  Maybe smaller trips every two weeks instead? 

Before a shopping/errands trip in the car, we make a list, collect the relevant coupons and marked sale flyers, make sure our bags are in the trunk, and plan the most efficient route to get everything done in one trip.  Could more of these errands be done on foot or on public transit?  How much gas does this trip take, compared to how much I'd spend on transit fares?  How much longer would it take on transit?  On foot?  How many errands and how much shopping can I manage by myself on foot or on transit?  

I have a long list in my notebook of (non-food) items not to buy, either because we have plenty already or I don't want to use that particular item any more.  How many things can I add to that list?  How many things can I phase out and not replace once they've been used up?

I already get most of my fabrics and yarn, and all of my clothes except for knickers, bras, socks, and footwear, at thrift stores, yard sales, and Freecycle.  Don't get any more until I've used up what I have, no matter how good a deal it is or how pretty it is? 

We have rain barrels, we have a brick in the toilet tank, I save the rinse water from the dishes for the planters, and in the summer I put the drain hose from the washer out the window on the rinse cycle to water the trees and shrubs on that side of the house, and we never water the lawn.  We also had the (free) city water meter installed so we only pay for what we actually use (a bit more than a third of the flat rate for unmetered houses).  Can I redo the flowerbeds with local native plants that need less water?  What can I use for mulch?  (It's been suggested that we use the shavings out of the guinea pig cage, but we already have big problems with wood lice aka sowbugs eating the plant roots.  That's why we can't grow potatoes, carrots, or radishes.)  Can we set up some kind of drip irrigation for the fruit trees and the veggie planters, so less evaporates and we water less often?

Questions?  Answers?  Suggestions?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It Rained

Again.   So I missed seeing the transit of Venus.  Guess I'll just have to wait until it comes around again when I'm 162.

I've also missed the last three eclipses (solar and lunar) because of rain, and several meteor showers.  Does the universe not want me to see these things?

*  *  *  *  *  *

The rain is also keeping the salmonberries from ripening; they'll need at least three sunny days before I can pick more.  The blackberries should be okay, since they wouldn't be ripe for at least another month anyway, and July is usually nicely warm and sunny. And today I saw little teeny baby fruit on my cherry tree and my plum tree and my apple tree!

*  *  *  *  *  *

I've been catching up (yes, still!) on the other blogs I read, and finding a lot of food for thought ...

I don't think we'll ever have a "Zero Waste Home", but every week I see a little less trash, a little less food waste, a little more making do with what we have ... baby steps.

This coming October, we'll be presented with three shiny new bins from the city: one each for garbage, recycling, and yard waste/compost/organics.  I think it's great!  The info that came in the mail says that garbage and recycling will be picked up every other week, and organics every week.  Well, as it is we don't put garbage or recycling out every week anyway, and since these new bins will be bigger we may end up only putting the garbage bin out once a month.  I'd like to get that down a lot farther, but P has a large dog and two cats, and we have two guinea pigs and are looking at a couple of kittens in August, so unless all their waste qualifies as organic it will all still have to go in the garbage.  I'll have to look into that.

Tomorrow I'll be walking over to the Post Office to see if I can stop all the unaddressed advertising we get every week.  It pretty much all goes straight from the mail slot to the recycling bin, and it's such a waste; the only things I don't toss immediately are envelopes with plain insides, which I turn inside out and make lists on.  From the P.O. I will head over to the Shaw office to see about downgrading our cable/internet/phone package  -  it's just costing us way too much for what we currently use/watch.  Then, on to the Safeway to return some deposit Coke cans and recycle this month's accumulation of plastic bags, and then to the bank to deposit my rolled coins (over $100!), and finally to the library.

No food waste in the last seven days!!  Not even the bone from Sunday night's ham  -  Dog is enjoying it out in the yard right now.  And the remains went into a huge vat of split pea soup, which we packaged up for the freezer this morning.  Carrot peelings were welcomed loudly by the guinea pigs, eggshells and onion trimmings went into the compost, and coffee grounds got scattered directly into the garden to discourage snails and slugs (I'll let you know if it works!).

*  *  *  *  *  *

Sadly, a lot of the comments I see on other blogs are of the "One person can't possibly make any difference" variety.  I disagree.  If only one person on the planet tried to change things, to conserve, to stop waste or pollution or excessive consumption, then maybe it wouldn't matter.  But when you add up all the "one persons" working for change, even if it's only in their own homes, it can make a difference.  And I believe it has made a difference already, and will continue and snowball and grow.

Friday, May 25, 2012

All Kinds Of Random

The job search continues ... nothing back from the most promising leads yet, but I refuse to give up!  Sooner or later something will happen for me, even if it's only something to pay me a living wage while I look for something better.

*  *  *  *  *  *

I'm happy to report that the food waste for the last two weeks consisted of one-half a baked potato skin  -  we were just too full to stuff & eat the last one  -  and the skin off my share of last weekend's barbecued salmon.  And even that wasn't really wasted, since Big Guy ended up giving it to the Dog.  I don't count the few wilted veggies from the back of the fridge, since the guinea pigs happily gobble those up.

*  *  *  *  *  *

It rained for a few days, so I spent a lot of time catching up on my blog reading, and following links from old favourites to a number of new favourites.  Isn't that always the way?  One link leads to another ... and another ... and another ... and before you know it, there goes the weekend!

Funny thing, though.  There are a gazillion "green" blogs, and a gazillion "frugal" blogs, but surprisingly few that put the two things together other than in an incidental "oh-by-the-way-this-might-save-money-too" kind of way.

Why is that?  Yes, I know that organic is more expensive than non-organic, and truly green cleaning products and recycled paper products are too.  But isn't there some way to do as much as we can afford to?  Do we have to choose either green or frugal?

Granted, with both of us unemployed, Big Guy and I just can't afford to go all-organic/all-natural/all-recycled in the grocery store... but we still manage to combine green and frugal in lots of ways:

Bar soap  -  we buy whatever non-scented, non-added-to soap is on sale ... and when the pieces get really small, I collect them and tie them into one of those mesh bags our fresh garlic came in, and hang it by the basement sink for grimy-from-the-workshop-or-garden hand washing.

Paper towels  -  are only used for draining bacon.  Which we buy in bulk slabs and slice ourselves, for about half the price of sliced bacon.

Pest control  -  we put out cat chow for the local skunk, so we don't have rats or mice.  We encourage ladybugs in the garden.  We scatter coffee grounds around the base of the rhubarb and tomato plants, so we don't have much snail/slug damage.  Fruit trees are patrolled by the cats. so the birds and squirrels are (slowly, I admit) learning to leave the fruit alone.  And I plant marigolds between the veggies to deter other bugs.

Laundry  -  we've never used fabric softener because of Big Guy's allergies.  Everything gets washed in cold water and whatever enviro-friendly detergent was on sale  -  and a lot less of it than the "recommended" amount!  -  and hung up to dry; towels do go in the dryer once they're dry, but just a few minutes on the no-heat "fluff" cycle to beat the stiffness out of them.  Because if I don't do that ... well, next time you shower, dry yourself off with a cedar shingle and you'll know exactly why I do that!

Groceries  -  we do buy in bulk and stock up at case lot sales, but I won't let him put anything in the cart unless all of the packaging is recyclable.  And I always have our reusable canvas bags handy  -  no plastic bags, thank you!

I guess my bottom line is that life is full of compromises, and I have to find the best compromise I can between what's completely "green" and what we can afford to do.

*  *  *  *  *  *

It looks as though I'm going to have to bite the bullet and either a) leave my herb garden until next year, or b) break down and buy bedding plants instead of starting from seeds.  Sigh.  If I can find the bedding plants, I'll probably get them; I don't want to wait another whole year and a half for my own homegrown mint tea.  (There are times when I think the universe just doesn't want me to have a garden ...)

*  *  *  *  *  *

A couple of weeks ago, Big Guy scattered a whole bunch of lime on the front so-called lawn, trying to kill the moss.  Well, as of today the moss is still there, but instead of greener grass in most of the yard, we have a beautiful lush cover of new clover!  I wonder if I can persuade him that the entire lawn should be clover, not grass?  More clover means more honeybees, which means more fruits and vegetables get pollinated ... plus it wouldn't need to be mowed nearly as often, and the cuttings make great guinea pig fodder ... hmmm.  I'll work on that!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Free Food On The Hoof

Well, actually, on the stem ....

In less than a month, this young forest will present us with a year's worth of blackberries:

The salmonberries are ripening nicely and should be ready early next week:

And the first crop of rhubarb now resides in the fridge, ready to be chopped and baked into tomorrow's muffins:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


How do I get it back?

I had so many good intentions ... I was going to find a good job, finish organizing my workroom, finish all four sweaters, get a herb garden going, plant some raspberry canes, get out for a long brisk walk every day, get started on making a real patio out back, watch a couple of my DVD lectures every evening, post a blog entry at least once a week ...

None of those things have happened, not really.  I'm still working on the first sweater a little bit at a time, I do go for a walk every few days, I did make it to all my job search workshops, and I do chip away at the workroom organization a little bit almost every day.  But ... I just can't seem to get motivated to actually finish anything.  For the last couple of weeks I've spent far too much time reading fiction, overeating, and watching NCIS reruns.

What happened?  I don't really know.  Maybe after being hors de combat for so long, I tried to do too much too soon?  Maybe the loss of FatBrat hit me harder than I thought?  Maybe the job-search stress and uncertainty is getting me down?  It could be one or all of those.  It could be  -  Goddess forbid!  -  that the clinical depression that runs in my family has finally tracked me down?  Though I don't really believe it's depression ... when I do get out for a walk  -  usually with P and The Dog  -  I really enjoy it.  And when I get something significant done in the house or the yard, it makes me happy.  And I do enjoy socializing with friends and family.  But it takes a real effort of will to get off the sofa and do something; though once I'm doing whatever it is, I'm glad I did get up.  So I think my problem is a lack of motivation.  But how did I lose it, and how can I find it again?

*  *  *  *  *  * 

Sister S and I took Mom to the rhododendron gardens at Deer Lake Park on Mothers' Day  -  lovely gardens, a beautiful warm sunny day  -  altogether a very good afternoon.  That's Mom in the bottom pic, asking me to get a close-up shot of the lovely red blooms:

*  *  *  *  *  *

I have a couple of promising job leads, both for work I'm very good at.  One is what I would call my "dream" job; it's local (which means a one-zone transit pass at $81/month), it's in export lumber, it's with a company that only deals in FSC-certified forest products.  Overall, this would be the job I'd keep showing up at every day even if I won the lottery.  The other is also in my field; it's export CS for a shipping line agent, and while it's in downtown Vancouver (a three-zone transit pass at $151/month) it's at a company where I already know some people, have worked with them before, and get along well with them.  So, now I wait to see what happens with those, and in the meantime I keep looking.  Who knows?  There might be something even better out there!

*  *  *  *  *  *

I don't normally talk about specific products by name here, but I'm going to make an exception for this one: I will never again use Avon hair colouring, nor will I recommend it to my Avon customers.  It's touted as a "salon-quality" product, but (at least in my case) that only applies if said "salon" is affiliated with a clown school ...  The brochure, the package, and the website all called the colour I chose "dark brown".  After following the directions to the letter  -  and I've been colouring my hair for nevermindhowmany years  -  did I get dark brown?  Nope ... I got a weird bright purplish red.  Think day-glo maroon; and vigorous shampooing only served to tone down the purple a bit while making the red even brighter.  So it's back to Miss Clairol for me  -  she's never let me down. 

*  *  *  *  *  *

P and I, while walking The Dog, discovered a really nice little park a few blocks from here.  It has a grassy field and a kids' playground, but also has some nice trails through a patch of forest.  We've found blackberry canes galore, of course, and also lots of salmonberry vines.  So we're checking on them every few days and hoping, once they're ripe, to get our share before they're all gone.  Salmonberries are best fresh, while blackberries make fabulous jam; salmonberries also tend to be ripe a few weeks before the blackberries.  I foresee a number of walks with ice-cream pails in hand ... exercise, sunshine and fresh air, and free fresh berries!  And S has said I'm welcome to go over and dig up a couple of her raspberry canes, which I'll probably do next weekend.  I already know where I'm going to put them  -  along the side fence in the back yard, where they'll get plenty of sunshine but will be out of reach of hungry passers-by!

*  *  *  *  *  *

It doesn't look like I'll get my patio this year after all.   Currently it looks like this:


It's actually all paved with 12" x 12" cement slabs; I'd like to keep those, but pull them up and put down a bed of gravel and sand, then lay them back down level with better drainage.  Then I'd put my lawn swing near the left back corner, my sundial (now residing in the basement, alas) in the centre, put up a trellis across the back with grapevines (Thompson seedless if possible), have planters along both sides for my herb garden, and maybe get a little wood-burning chiminea for cool evenings.  I'd prune all the overhanging laurel back to the fence line, but leave the white lilac alone  -  I can't resist the smell of blooming lilacs!  (In fact, I went out a little while ago and cut a bunch for the living room, which now smells heavenly!)

Big Guy is trying to convince me that if he moves all the firewood from the fence side to the garage side, there will be more patio space.  Sure there will, just like Daylight Saving Time actually makes the day an hour longer ... if I cut a foot off one end of a blanket and then sew it on the other end, will I have a longer blanket?  Thought so.

And it's not just the firewood, it's all the other junk.  Windows we took out of the house that he might put in the garage wall some day, outdoor toys the girls outgrew a decade ago but might want back some day, a dozen empty cat litter pails we might need for something some day, a dead water heater he might turn into a smoker some day, dead tires he might turn into planters some day ... scary stuff, some of it.  And you'd think, with a 900-square-foot workshop and a storage shed, he could find a better home for the stuff he absolutely can't part with.  Some day ... I will simply start hauling the crap out of that area and dumping it where he has to deal with it or keep tripping over it.

But for today ... back to the sweaters.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Finally Getting Somewhere

After almost four months of forced inactivity (illness, injury, house guest) I feel like I'm finally starting to make a little progress.  I've rescheduled all my job search workshops, I'm getting out for a long walk almost every day, and my workroom is coming together beautifully.  I have the fabric ready to lay out and cut for the curtains, and nearly all the organizing is done ... only two more shelves to go.  Then some art pieces will be hung up, and I will be a very happy camper.

Even the sweaters are moving along nicely!  The pink hoodie is almost completely sewn together, and the camel short-sleeved v-neck pullover is half-sewn and awaiting its neckband.  After that, the green shell will get sewn together and neckbanded, and then the cream/wine/forest cardigan will get sewn together and its shawl collar and i-cord ties knitted on.

*  *  *  *  *  *

I've been thinking a lot about money lately.  Not surprising, since Big Guy was just laid off again.  Today I emptied my piggy bank and rolled up what I could, and was very pleased, when I added up all the finished rolls, to find I have $200 to deposit into my savings account tomorrow.  (I don't deposit loose coins, just whatever can be rolled.)  This makes up for a third of FatBrat's vet bill, so I'll have that money back in savings quite a bit sooner than I thought.

As the years go by, I find Big Guy's attitudes towards money more and more aggravating and worrisome.  For example, he has no problem at all spending hundreds of dollars he doesn't have on the truck ... but even though he's been the only one driving my car for the last few months, he refuses to chip in a penny for the insurance because "it's not his car".    Well, the insurance expires next month, and if he wants to drive it after that, he'll have to insure it, because I can't afford to.

It just really, really bothers me that he's always taken debt for granted; his view is that everyone has debt, everyone lives and dies with debt, and his debt load is not a big deal.  He actually doesn't mind having thousands of dollars in credit card debt plus a ten-thousand-dollar overdraft!  It completely baffles me that he's never given a second's though to who will get stuck paying that off if he dies ... or maybe it ties into his ongoing conviction that his income is his alone to do whatever he likes with, while my income is "ours" and should all go into maintaining the household.  And people wonder why he doesn't know I have a savings account!

*  *  *  *  *  *

This year's gardening is off to a somewhat slow start.  The tomato seedlings are doing well, and all the varied flower seeds daughter P planted have sprouted nicely.  However, when I went looking for my stash of veggie and herb seeds, they were nowhere to be found.  It turns out Big Guy tossed them all because he thought seeds over a year old were no good.  Cue his red face when P pointed out that all the flower seeds she'd planted were at least eight to ten years old ...

So I'll be seed shopping tomorrow.  Sigh.  I plan to get green beans, zucchini, pumpkin, pickling cucumbers, parsley, oregano, tarragon, dill, thyme, garlic chive, sweet basil, mint, and spearmint.  If the price is right, I'd also like to pick up a few raspberry canes and some lavender.

The apple tree and the plum tree blossomed lavishly, and we had a few nice dry semi-sunny days, so I'm hoping everything got pollinated and we'll have a good fruit crop.  There are a few flowers on the cherry tree and none on the pear tree, but we didn't expect fruit from those two for two or three more years anyway.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Is it cheating or stealing to scan/copy knitting patterns from library books?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Interesting Times

As in "May you live in ...".

And has it ever been an "interesting" few weeks!

First there was the broken elbow.  Ever try to shower with one arm taped into a trash bag, or put a decent bra on one-handed?  'Nuff said.  Even tying my hair back in its usual ponytail was a real challenge.

My very dear friend S arrived from the midwestern USA on April 8th.  Almost the 9th, actually, since her plane landed at 11:35 p.m. and by the time she was through Customs and we got back in D's car it was after midnight.  So far so good; we got back here and sat around drinking coffee and chatting until after 2:30 a.m., then D went home and S and I crashed.

The morning of the 9th, my elderly FatBratCat started throwing up blood.  Raced off to the vet, who wanted to keep her overnight to do bloodwork, x-rays, etc.  Went back on the 10th, and was told that she had suffered catastrophic kidney failure, and that at her age the prognosis was pretty grim.  So I did the right thing ... the only possible thing ... Why is it that so often, the kindest and most loving thing to do is also the hardest?  She did have seventeen good spoiled-rotten years.  And we did know that, like GabbyTabby, it was only a matter of time.  But losing two much-loved kitties in less than a year really hurts.  I get up in the morning feeling like I've forgotten something ... it feels strange not having a cat in the house for the first time in over thirty years.

Honestly, it would have been much easier to deal with if S hadn't kept pushing.  "You're not even crying!  When I had to put my cat down I bawled for days!  But then, I really loved my cat."  Finally I had to tell her, "Look  -  I don't cry in front of anyone, not even Big Guy  -  never have, never will.  It has less than nothing to do with how much I loved FatBrat or how much I miss her.  The subject is not open for discussion."  Rude to a guest?  Possibly  -  although not nearly as rude as what I wanted to say.  Especially after S then asked if I was going to let the cat's death spoil her vacation!  Well, no, I wasn't, but it was ... difficult.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Between the 10th and the 14th of April,  we took S up to Lynn Canyon to hike up and down the river and across the suspension bridge, we took her up to Squamish for lunch and then to Shannon Falls, and D took her up the Fraser Canyon and into the Rockies as far as Revelstoke.  I didn't go with them that day, as I had to see the orthopedic specialist about my elbow.

The doctor very obligingly inspected the new x-rays and removed the cast!  Smiles all around  -  no surgery needed, I just need to be a little careful with it for a few weeks.

The following day we drove down to Washington State  -  D and S dropped me off at J's new place in Everett, then headed into Seattle for a baseball game (D is a staunch Mariners fan).  I just hope they enjoyed the game as much as I enjoyed my evening with J!

From the 15th through to when we dropped S at the airport the morning of the 21st,  we didn't go so far afield, as D had to go back to work and Big Guy had my car every day.  We took public transit a couple of times  -  into Vancouver to have lunch with my girls, and to Metrotown to do some shopping  -  and walked around the shopping areas here a couple of afternoons.  But with no car and the weather turning cold and wet again, we spent a lot of time in the house gabbing, watching movies, and playing cards.  I taught S a variant of rummy the girls and I play a lot, and she picked it up quite quickly in spite of its intricacies.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

In other areas since my last post  -  having a house guest really cramped my style in some areas, and it was very hard to bite my tongue:

Power must be super-cheap where S lives ... she never turned a light off, never powered down the laptop I'd set up in the guest room for her (even when we were leaving for the airport!), kept wanting the heat bumped up about eight degrees above where we keep it, took half-hour showers daily but never used a towel more than once, and ran the washer and dryer every night for whatever she'd worn that day.  Come on, a "full" load for one pair of leggings and a t-shirt?  Please!

Food waste  -  let's not even go there.  Never before in my life have I seen anyone eat half a slice of pizza, throw the other half away, then grab two more slices and do the same with them.  Or take the biggest pork chop and the biggest baked potato, then throw away a third of the chop and half the potato.

Frugality  -  went right out the window.  S wouldn't eat red meat but loves seafood (expensive), didn't bother getting enough Canadian cash to cover more than the souvenirs she'd promised her friends, wouldn't drink coffee but can't survive without a two-litre bottle of Coke a day,  took it for granted that D or I would pay for all her meals out, all her transit fares ...

She's still a very dear friend but it's so true that you never really know someone until you live with them! 

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Garden planning proceeds well, though rather differently than I'd envisioned last winter.  Big Guy decided to try starting tomato plants from seeds rather than buying bedding plants, and they're coming along very nicely.  He planted 24 seeds, of which 20 have sprouted.  Once the weather cooperates, we'll bung the best eight or ten into the outdoor tomato planter, and I'll plant chives and parsley in between.  The rest of the herbs will be in pots hung on the chain-link side fence, and if I can I'll be putting cages made of old window screening around those to keep the squirrels and birds from eating the plants.

My fruit trees are all blossoming, so I'm hoping the rain will hold off until everything's pollinated.  Apples, plums, pears, cherries, black currants ... if all goes well I see a busy canning/freezing/drying season ahead.  Not to mention the rhubarb, which I'll be eating the first stalks of this week, and the mint and spearmint to be dried for tea.  And if I can talk Big Guy into it, I'd love to put in some raspberry canes.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 

What comes next?  Re-scheduling all the Options workshops I missed (between whooping cough and the broken elbow), picking up the intensive job search again, and seeing if I can't get my home-based business up and running again.  Oh, and starting a new batch of crafts for next winter's craft fairs.  And finishing four (yes, four!) sweaters that had to be put on "hold" until my new workroom was ready and I could use both hands again.  And the mending keeps piling up ...

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

If It Weren't For Bad Luck ...

I'd have no luck at all, as the old saying goes.

After eight long, dreary weeks of coughing and exhaustion, I was finally able to start really working on my new room again ... for two days.  On the third morning, I tripped over the suddenly-underfoot cat and smashed my elbow into a door frame.  Ice didn't help, heat didn't help, OTC painkillers didn't help, and after a while I could feel/hear bits of bone grating and realized I'd actually broken something, so Tuesday morning last week I gave in and went to Emergency.  At 6:00 a.m., figuring I'd have plenty of time to get the elbow seen to and still make my 9:30 a.m. workshop at the career centre.

Not so much.

I told the triage nurse at 6:00 a.m. that I'd broken my elbow.  So without anything to eat or drink or dull the pain  -  "Oh, no, nothing by mouth, in case it might need surgery"  -  the doctor sent me for x-rays, after writing up an order for an IV with one of the pain meds I had just told him I'm severely allergic to. And for the next twelve hours he could not be found, and apparently it's against some unwritten rule for another doctor to change the first doctor's written meds orders.  So while I sat there in tears from the pain, the doctor vanished.  Six hours later, he called the nurses' desk to say they should send me for an ultrasound.  He did not, apparently, feel any need to change the pain meds order he'd written, even though if they had given me the stuff it could have killed me ... Four hours after that, they finally actually sent me to Ultrasound, where they stuck a lot of huge needles into the joint and found no fluid or infection.  Finally, they decided to do a CT scan and then I was taken back to Emergency  -  still unfed, perishing of thirst, and in unbelievable pain  -  where the doctor wandered through, was surprised to see me still there, and sent the orthopedic surgeon to look at the CT scan and tell me that Guess what?  I've broken my elbow!  At that point, I'm afraid I may have sounded a little caustic when I replied that I knew that, I'd said so when I came in twelve hours ago.

So here I am in a fibreglass cast  -  at least it's not twenty pounds of plaster!  -  and enormously frustrated by how little I can do and how long it takes to do it.  I see the orthopedic surgeon again on April 12th, at which time he will decide if the elbow is healing fine on its own or whether it will need surgery.

But ... this coming weekend will include two moves and a family birthday.  And the following weekend a good friend friend arrives from far away for a two-week visit.  And though I'm not expected to help with the moves, I do need to come up with a decent birthday gift for J and get the new guest room ready for S's arrival.

Big Guy got called back to work this week.  Much rejoicing, but also a large upswing in my frustration level, since he will no longer be helping me with anything in the house and expects me to cook every night since I'm not working.  Even something as simple as a one-pot casserole takes forever one-handed, and I can't even pick up the heavy cast-iron pots and frypans ... well, if he's not happy with whatever meals I can manage, he can just cook his own supper!  Honestly, I'm not looking for sympathy, but a little understanding of how difficult things are for me right now wouldn't hurt my feelings.

* * * * * *

On the up side  -  I'm happy to report a week (well, nine days, actually) with zero food wasted and, except for the prescription painkillers that Blue Cross paid most of, zero money spent by me.  How's that for frugal?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting Back On Track

Ever notice how the longer you're away from your regular routine, the harder it is to get back into it?  That's what's happening to me now ...

I spent almost four weeks coughing to the point where I could only sleep, at most, an hour at a time.  Now, even though the cough has eased off considerably, I'm finding it really difficult to get to sleep.  Consequently, once I do finally fall asleep  -  usually somewhere between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning  -  I have a tendency to either sleep until noon, or wake up early and then have a long nap in the afternoon.  I need to get back on track in keeping (more or less) "office hours" ... I also need to re-book all the workshops I missed, and get the job search up and running again.

The switch to Daylight Saving time this past weekend didn't help much, either; my body keeps insisting it's an hour earlier than it really is.  It always takes me at least four days to make the mental and physical adjustment; oddly, though, it doesn't take any time at all to adjust to putting the clocks back in the fall.  Of course, then I can just roll over and sleep for another hour  -  and as a person who's chronically short on sleep anyway, that doesn't hurt a bit!

I'm happy to report zero food wasted this past week!  There was one sad-looking forgotten apple in the back of the veggie drawer, but the guinea pigs leaped on it and it was gone in about three minutes, so not really wasted at all.

The work on my new room  -  shifting, weeding, organizing  -  is still going quite slowly.  Even though I'm not coughing much any more, I still get tired awfully fast.  I can work steadily for about half an hour, and then I have to stop and rest; if I don't, pretty soon I have to stop to cough for ten minutes.  Baby steps.  It will be finished before the end of the month.  Most of the furniture is in, the computer gets moved tomorrow, and the last bookcase goes in next week.  After that, it's down to organizing, and making the curtains.  And I already have two big bags of donations ready to go the next time we're headed that way.

It snowed this morning!  I was, naturally, utterly disgusted.  But by early afternoon it had stopped and pretty much all melted, so we were able to do the Costco run for the things that are (according to my price book) better value for the money at Costco than anywhere else in our area: milk, coffee, peanut butter, mayonnaise, and toilet paper.  Big Guy pouted a little when I said "No" to a $20 beef roast, until I reminded him that he had insisted we should eat out of the freezer instead of buying more meat until at least one of us is back to work.  Frugal win for me!

Big Guy spent yesterday pruning the huge old evergreens along the west side of the house.  Now we have a lot more daylight in the yard, and more light in the house.  He was worried that the sunshine might make the yard and the house too warm in the summer, so I reminded him that in the summer the sun follows a different path in the sky and we'd still have plenty of shade.

I was checking some of my old posts earlier today, and ran across something that may have appeared to be a big contradiction, so I'd like to clarify the house-heating situation at present.
When there is no tenant downstairs, we heat with the wood stove, since we only need to keep the main floor heated.  When there is a tenant, we use the furnace, since there is only electric baseboard heat in the bedroom of the suite.  And since we'd like to have the suite occupied all the time  -  after all, that's why it's there  -  we invested in the new furnace.  I'm happy to report that since its installation our gas bill has dropped by almost 35 %.  Combine that with the almost 45 % savings on the annual water and sewer bill since we had the (free) meter installed, and the huge drop in the gas bill we saw when we had the tankless on-demand water heater put in, and you can see why I'm not as unhappy about the cost of home ownership as I used to be!  Now, if we could only agree on what style of double-glazed window to put in the living room ...

I've given P the go-ahead to plant whatever she likes in the raised bed along the west side of the yard, and she has all kinds of alien-looking flowers and ornamental grasses planned.  Considering how little of what we've planted there in the past actually came into the house (as opposed to being eaten by the local wildlife), it's not really a loss for us.  My plan for this spring is to hang planters all along the chain-link fencing, with chicken-wire cages to keep the squirrels out of my herbs.  Fresh vegetables will be dirt cheap all summer at the farmers' markets, so I can buy and freeze enough to last a long time without going over budget.  Now, here's hoping the sun will shine the whole time our fruit trees are blooming!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Feeling Better, Sort Of ...

Wow.  I don't remember ever being sick for this long ... it's been three weeks so far, and I'm still coughing, though not nearly so incessantly or painfully as last week or the week before.  The doctor thinks I probably have/had pertussis (also known as whooping cough).  Oddly enough, though the cough was a killer and left me raspy-throated, achy-ribbed, and utterly exhausted, I had no other symptoms.  No fever, no rash, no green goop, no digestive upsets ... just the damn cough.  Said cough, I'm told, could take another week or two to finally disappear.  I'm finally starting to feel more like myself, though, and getting a lot of my energy back at last.  Which is nice after weeks of being too tired to pick up the remote and change the channel!

Of course, the job search had to be put on "pause" along with everything else; there's no mileage in applying for a job you can't go to the interview for, is there?  "Yes, I'd love to come in for an interview.  How about three weeks from now?"  That, I figured, wouldn't make a very good first impression.  So the plan right now is to spend the rest of this week getting the new workroom in order, and gear up the job search again next Monday morning ... including rescheduling all the Resource Centre workshops I missed.

Big Guy, bless his heart, tried to take care of me.  He made chicken soup, brought me Benelyn (with codeine for the aching ribs), intercepted phone calls ... then again, he also did his usual You-are-a-plague-rat-and-I-will-feed-you-with-a-slingshot routine.

And ... he painted my new workroom.  Just got up one morning, grabbed a roller, and did it.  Over my protests that I would do it as soon as I could stand up long enough,  He claimed he only did it because my new desk is taking up too much room in his workshop, but we all know better.  And I love him too.

So ... the painting is done, the windows are sparkly clean inside and out, the curtain rod is back up.  We're still working on the floor; it really needs professional refinishing, but for the moment all we can do is try to get all the paint splatters and scuff marks (from J's furniture) cleaned away.  I'm hoping to get the desk in there some time tomorrow; after that I can start shifting everything from the current room.  And yes, I'll be sorting and tossing/donating as I go ... nothing is going into that room until I'm absolutely sure it will be used.  I refuse to move things in that I'll just end up taking back out!

Our downstairs tenant gave us notice for the end of March.  Whereupon daughter P and son-in-law N promptly asked if they could move in on April 1st!  The suite is pretty small for two people and a dog (and two cats), but the price is right as P is still looking for work (she was laid off last fall), and N likes the closeness of the Skytrain for his daily commute.  So they have given their notice to their current landlord, and the weekend of March 31st - April 1st is going to be interesting, to say the least.  Oh, and did I mention that March 31st is daughter J's birthday?  "Interesting" may turn out to be far too mild a word for it ...

On the frugal front, things are going well.  Instead of buying paint for the workroom, I used primer and paint we had left from painting the living room a couple of years ago.  It's a lovely soft, warm oatmeal colour, with a white ceiling to reflect more light.  For drapes, I'll be using some fabric Mom gave me; a sheer lightweight silk patterned with pastel flowers.  Not my first choice, but it will work well with the room and is mild and inoffensive.  And if we can't get all the paint off the floor, I'll check out Freecycle and the local thrift stores for a couple of nice light-coloured throw rugs or sisal mats.

Convincing Big Guy to cook in smaller quantities is going to be harder than I thought.  Good thing we have that big chest freezer  -  which he now says we should be eating out of instead of grocery shopping!  I've been saying it for months  -  but now that it's his idea, it's a good idea!  ::sigh ::  But it looks like he might be back to work soon, which means I'll probably have to take over the cooking.  Now, I hate cooking.  Frankly, I'd rather scrub toilets than cook.  But if I do the cooking, I can control how much gets cooked, which in turn means I can cut the food waste way down.  We ended up tossing a quart of homemade chicken soup last week, because he made a huge pot of it and then stalled on batching it up for the freezer, and I was too exhausted most days to eat more than a tiny bit.

I was enormously amused by something I got in the mail a while back.  Last year I joined BC Hydro's "Power Smart" project; a couple of weeks ago I got a little package from them in the mail.  I opened it up to find ... half a dozen wooden clothespins accompanied by an estimate of how much I might save by hanging laundry up instead of using the dryer!  I giggled madly as I tossed them into the basket with the hundred or so I already have  -  I guess they had no way to know I've been hanging all my laundry for years!

Anyway, back to the floor cleaning.  I've been taking pictures at each stage of the room conversion; I'll post them when the room is finished.  Can't wait!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Making NO Progress

Because I've been so sick ...

It started last Saturday.  I cough.  And cough.  And cough.  And cough.  And cough.  And COUGH.

My skull feels too tight.  My throat is lined with broken glass.  My ribs are being chainsawed apart.  I'm too exhausted to eat, let alone do anything else.

I'll be back when I'm better.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Making Progress

Not as much as I'd like, but every little bit counts, right?

My original timeline for getting my new workroom done failed to account for how much my neck and shoulders would ache by bedtime, or how badly I would stiffen up overnight ...it also failed to account for how cold and damp the weather would be all this week.  Therefore, the timeline has been revised.  I work on the room every other day, and spend the in-between days catching up on paperwork, reading, mending, and knitting.  (I'll post before, during, and after pics once the room is finished ... I might even post pics of the knitting projects I've done between priming/painting days.)  And of course, the daily search for a job goes on.
The spackling that should have dried in eight hours took three days!  Followed with an afternoon of sanding and dusting/sweeping.  Two days later, the first coat of primer went on, and two days after that, the second coat ... let me tell you, no matter how good your primer says it is, one coat is not going to completely eradicate bright neon green!

Daughter P has come out on both priming days to help, bless her  -  she volunteered, I didn't ask.  In fact, I was determined from the start that this is my project  -  mainly because Big Guy started grousing about how much he hates painting as soon as I mentioned re-doing the room.  So far all I've asked him for is advice on what kind of spackle/filler to get, and if he offers to help I will thank him sweetly and decline.  Something like "Oh, honey, it's so sweet of you to offer, but I'd really like to see if I can manage this on my own."

So far, the whole room is patched, sanded (except the floor) and primed.  Tomorrow I'll finish off the ceiling; that's a smallish job, so I think I'll be able to do the walls and window on Sunday.  Allowing two days for the paint to be completely dry everywhere, I'll fill the closet on Monday (it didn't get painted, just cleaned thoroughly), measure and hem the curtains on Tuesday, sand the floor and baseboards Wednesday, and by Thursday night I'd like to have all the furniture moved in.  Friday will be for shelving books and organizing everything else, and then it's done!  I can't even describe how much I'm looking forward to having a workroom I can actually work in!

* * * * * *

The job search is going about as well as I expected ... I've had two interviews so far, neither of which went anywhere.  There are so few jobs posted that I qualify for, and so much competition for every opening.  So I'm now signed up for a series of free workshops on such topics as creating a winning resume, writing killer over letters, searching the "hidden" job market, interviewing, and so on.  I have nothing to lose and everything (i.e. employment) to gain.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Hunt Continues

The job hunt, that is.

Yesterday I went over to the Employment Resource Centre, and got a referral to another local centre that does various workshops on resumes, cover letters, interviewing, and so on.  I signed up for six of the workshops  -  it can't hurt!  My work history  -  and job acquisition history  -  has been so full of serendipity over the last fifteen years that I really have very little experience with things like crafting a winning resume and acing an interview.  All my jobs to date have either been through temp agencies, or through being sought out by employers.  Flattering, but not presently useful!

Funnily enough, I actually had an interview today.  A forwarding company had found my current resume (such as it is) on monster.ca, and called me to come in on about five hours' notice  -  was I glad I'd touched up the grey roots last week!  The interview went well, though rather quickly, but I don't think I'll get the job.  They seem to want someone with a lot more forwarding and NVOCC experience than I have.  But you just never know ... as I told Big Guy when I got home, "It's always a fifty-fifty chance  -  either they hire me or they don't."

* * * * * *

Moving J went more smoothly than I'd expected, all things considered.  We had everything loaded, moved, and unloaded, and the truck back at the rental place, by about 6 p.m. Friday.  Her helpers were willing and able, nothing (that I know of) got broken, and I only hit my knees on the trailer hitch six times.  My hands and wrists are still kind of sore, but I suspect some of that may be from a weekend spent almost entirely either knitting or winding yarn.  Once I can get some clear table space (don't go there!) I now have three completed sweaters to sew together.

The room proceeds, albeit a bit more slowly than I'd originally planned.  The walls, ceiling, and woodwork have all been washed, but I won't be doing the primer until my right wrist is less stiff and achy.  So it looks like I'll be priming on Friday, and painting on Sunday and Monday.  Furniture etc will start shifting Tuesday or Wednesday, since I want to give the paint plenty of time to harden up first.

* * * * * *

We got up this morning to another dry, sunny, beautiful (but very cold) day.  I spent the time before I had to get ready for the interview wandering around the yard, making mental notes of everything I'd like to do to prepare for this year's garden, and thinking I'd get started on the winter debris cleanup tomorrow morning.  All the fruit trees need pruning, the lawn needs a good raking to get rid of what the evergreens have been dropping on it all winter, and there are monster weeds everywhere.  Naturally, the morning paper is predicting rain for the rest of the week ... It rains with monotonous regularity this time of year, especially on those rare occasions when I have the energy, the motivation, and the time to get out there and do something.  Sigh.  I may have to console myself with graph paper and seed packets.

Or maybe I'll start another sweater.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Time Flies ...

... whether you're having fun or not.

So far today has been a complete waste of clean underwear.

The job search, of course, continues.  I'm not finding many jobs to apply for, but I keep looking.  One that I did apply for last week  -  a reception/customer service position  -  actually came through with an interview, for which I dutifully coloured my hair and shaved my legs last night.  The interview was today, and I had fairly high hopes going in; everything listed in the posting was stuff I can almost do in my sleep.  They seemed quite impressed with my resume, and it sounded like a job I'd want, and it was fairly close to home  -  ten minutes by car, just under half an hour by public transit.  All in all, pretty much exactly what I've been looking for.  Until they mentioned that the salary is $11 per hour.  I was polite and didn't actually say out loud what I was thinking: Are you freakin' serious?  I'm getting more than that from EI!  I thanked them nicely for seeing me, indicated that I'd wait to hear from them, and came home hoping I don't.  Hear from them, that is.

Upward (with luck) and onward, as they say.  I'll keep looking.

It took three weeks, but I finally got through to a real human on the phone at EI.  Yes, they do have programs for women over 55, for retraining and assistance getting back into the workforce.  No, I can't come in and see someone about the programs, I need a referral.  Yes, the local Employment Resource Centre can give me that referral.  So I called the Centre.  "Yes, we can give you that referral, but first you need to do at least one session with one of our counselors.  No, you can't just come in, you need an appointment.  Yes, we are taking appointments now  -  yours will be for Monday, February 6th."  So now I have to hope that the time limit between applying for benefits and applying for the special programs doesn't run out before I can actually take my referral to the EI office, where I will no doubt have to make another appointment some time in the nebulous future.  So far, the only saving grace is that both offices are within walking distance of home.

J moves on Friday, so tomorrow I'm off to the liquor store for as many boxes as I can cram into the car; I might make two or three trips.  I'd rather have too many boxes than not enough!  If there are any left over, well, that's what our recycling boxes are for.  I still have the tape gun and some rolls of both tape and bubble wrap from when we moved here, so there's no need for her to buy any of the supplies U-Haul keeps trying to talk us into.  Thursday will be for finishing the packing, and staging everything so that once her friends/helpers arrive on Friday it will all be ready to go into the truck.  The truck will be here around 9 a.m. (I set up the rental for her last week, and she'll be paying cash when we return the truck) and her friends will start arriving around 10 a.m. or so.

We will miss her dreadfully, of course  -  she's the last one to leave home, and the place is going to seem pretty quiet for a while.  But at the same time, she's almost 27  -  it's time to empty the damn nest already.  And as previously mentioned in other posts, I have plans for that room  -  and this one!  I have the action plan all mapped out in my "Projects" notebook, the primer and paint are in the basement, and all that's left to do is draw a scale plan of the room and decide where the furniture etc will go.

An unforeseen consequence of having so much of her stuff staged in the living room already is that I have no flat surface left anywhere that's big enough to lay out the pieces of the green shell so I can sew them together.  So I've modified my original resolution accordingly; I've started another sweater and will sew them both together as soon as there's space to set up my layout table.  The new sweater is a classic vee-necked pullover with elbow-length sleeves, in a lovely soft caramel colour.  I did break down and buy the yarn  -  for $4 at the thrift store.  I was there to drop off a box of donations, but when I saw that yarn and realized there was enough to actually do something nice with, well, I just couldn't resist.  The pattern is very plain, so it knits up fast; and I've used it before, so I know it will fit well and look good.  The pattern is also old enough that it gives yarn amounts in ounces and needle sizes in the old British range!  It calls for #9 and #11 needles; after some swatching I find that 3.25 mm and 3.75 mm are the ones I'll be using.

I've come to the conclusion that one of the really difficult things about J moving out will be getting Big Guy to scale back on the amount of food he cooks for every meal.  We both hate waste, and I pointed out to him yesterday that I'd just had to throw two week-old baked potatoes in the compost.  He cooked too many, the two left over got shoved to the back of the fridge and forgotten ... I can see that kind of thing happening more and more often if I don't find a way to stop it.  In a way the potatoes aren't a total waste  -  we do use the compost in the vegetable garden  -  but it's the habit of cooking too much and then tossing it that I want to eliminate.  There will just be the two of us from now on; there's no reason to cook six pork chops, or bake four or five potatoes, or open two cans of corn.

So the short- and long-term goals are:

Get J moved, which will basically be finished by Saturday.

Relax after the move by setting up my layout table and sewing together the pink sweater that's been ready for a while, the green shell I finished last week, and  -  if it's finished  -  the brown pullover I'm currently knitting.  Sans interruptions, I should have at least the first two done by Monday.

Turn her old bedroom into my new workroom, turn my old workroom into a den/guest room.  I think I'm looking at about a month, maybe two.  Both rooms must be finished before mid-April, as that's when my good friend S arrives from Indiana for a two-week visit.

Persuade Big Guy to cook less and thus waste less food.  I foresee an ongoing struggle with this  -  could take years.  I'll keep you posted ...

This week's food waste tally so far:  two smallish potatoes, six olives (they're not supposed to be hairy, right?) and a baby dill pickle that was turning blue.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Last weekend was ... interesting.  As in "May you live in interesting times."

Granted, there was some fairly severe (for this part of the world) winter weather going on.  But it was disappointing to see just how many people who had promised to help with the move use the weather as an excuse not to.  Yes, I can sympathize with the ones who were physically blocked in by ice, snow, downed trees, and broken power lines.  But seriously, D  -  you couldn't walk four blocks to help pack and stage because "the weather is too nasty"?  Besides, by Friday morning it was well above freezing and the rain had washed most of the snow and ice into Puget Sound.  And with J's arm in a brace and sling, and B coughing up a kneecap every time he moved, they needed all the help they could get.

The helpers who did show up were awesome!  They all worked their butts off in spite of bad weather and various ailments, and a lot more got done than we expected.  And on Saturday morning, I made my usual inadvertent blood sacrifice  -  stabbed a finger with the utility knife trying to cut handholds in a box.  It wasn't anything serious, but I did drip blood on one of the boxes.  Within literally three minutes of me announcing that the "offering" had been made, the rain stopped, the wind died down, and the sun came out for the rest of the day.  Coincidence?  Maybe, maybe not.  But when I announced on Sunday morning that I was not going to do it again, the rain returned and stayed all day ...

It was actually good to see just how much of the thirty-plus years' accumulation of stuff was not being moved.  All the people who'd asked if they could leave things there "for a little while" and never came back were e-mailed with the news that the move was January 19th-20th-21st-22nd, and whatever was not claimed by the 22nd would be going to the dump.  We estimate that almost one-third of what was in the house will end up at the dump or one of the local charities.  And their new place is quite a bit smaller, so that anyone who asks if J and B can store anything for them will be told "No".  I can really relate to that, as Big Guy has a relative who is a hoarder and who has tried repeatedly to use our place as a storage facility.

Apart from my jabbed finger, I only collected three bruises, which is a pretty low number for me.  By the time I got home Sunday night, though, I was so stiff and sore all over that all I could do until this morning was lie on the couch and read or knit.  Today (so far) I seem to be mostly recovered; the puncture has closed cleanly, the bruises are fading from purple to green, and most of my joints bend again.  Just in time to help daughter J finish packing for her move next week.  Yay.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Slow Week

I really don't feel as though I really accomplished anything this week.  Things would start well, but end badly, or not end at all ...

The pantry cleanup I had planned got bogged down almost immediately.  I'd look at the date on something and set it aside to be disposed of; Big Guy would promptly put it right back on the shelf.  I'd show him something with the comment that I didn't know where it had come from but I knew none of us would ever eat it, and Big Guy would take it out of my hands and put it back on the shelf.  I'd remark that it would take us twelve years to eat that many cans of whatever, and could I donate some to the food bank?  No, he'd say, he bought that for my work lunches and when he's in the mood for it he'll eat it.  Finally I gave up and came in here to do some mending.  Plan B now comes into play; that's where I sneak one or two things a week out, so he writes the attrition off to normal usage.  Devious and underhanded, I admit, but effective!  And without any more arguments ... anything (well, almost) to maintain a semblance of domestic harmony, I say.

One of my resolutions was to use what I already have in the way of fabric, yarn, etc.  So on Tuesday I dug through the yarn stash, pulled out some lovely pale green stuff, found a sleeveless sweater pattern that called for that amount, and started knitting.  That lovely yarn worked up so fast I had finished the back and most of the front before I realized ... if I wore it I'd look like a peeled kiwi.  On its side.  Wilting badly.  There was just no way it would ever fit the way I'd pictured it, even under a blazer, no matter how much I tweaked the pattern.  And I'm not very good at that with knitting patterns ... Sewing patterns are easy to adapt; all I need is my dress form, the pattern, some scissors, and a roll of tape.  But altering a knitting pattern properly calls for ::shudder:: real math.  And there's not a math bone in my body.  Sigh.

So I did what any knitter would do.  I ripped it all apart and started over.  But ... not until after I'd dug out a different pattern (an "old faithful" I know will fit me properly), weighed the yarn to make sure I had enough, and done a swatch to make sure I had the right gauge.  All of which, yes, I should have done the first time.  At the same time, I matched up several other batches of yarn with patterns; now the trick is to remember resolution #2 and finish the sweater I'm working on before I start another one!

I've been spending hours every day on the job search.  I had no idea how many job boards, employment websites, and job listings there were!  And in all of them, I've found ... nothing.  Nada.  Rien.  Bupkus.  Every job posted all week fell into one of three categories:

Minimum wage for part-time hours spent entirely on one's feet.
Commission-only sales.
"Live-in personal/home assistant / mother's helper"  -  again for minimum wage, less room & board.  In other words, half of minimum wage paid for 8 hours a day, in exchange for being a personal slave round the clock.

Oh, well.  At least I got some of the mending done ... And I'm halfway through my college course on climate change.  Next course  -  either oceanography or economics  -  haven't quite narrowed it down to one yet.

Friday evening, as usual, was movie night at Mom's with sister S.  We watched a classic comedy, "Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House"  -  a great favourite with S and me.  Mom, however, didn't enjoy it that much but had the grace not to say so until it was over.  Then again, she's insisted we sit through a few that she loved but which left us going "Meh ...".  It wasn't until we were done with the movie and were just sitting around chatting that we noticed it was snowing.

Now, I hate snow.  I particularly hate driving in snow; not because I can't, but because so few other drivers can.  So naturally this was the first evening in months I'd actually driven to Mom's instead of taking the train; usually I'd just go straight there from work on Fridays and have dinner with Mom before S arrived for the movie.  But this week I didn't have change handy for the train (no transit pass, since I'm not commuting daily any more), and there was gas in the car.  Bravely fighting back the words "Mom, can I stay here until spring?", I got back in the car and drove home through what was, for this area, a veritable blizzard.  Let me tell you, playing dodge'em with idiot drivers you can barely see is not my idea of a good way to end a pleasant Friday evening!

My friend D is going down to Seattle next weekend for Rustycon, so I'll be catching a ride as far as Ballard to spend the weekend with Best Friend.  Always good times when we get together!  I will, of course, have a knitting project with me  -  probably the next sweater on the list.  Right now, I'm going to see how far I can get with the green one tonight.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

One Week In

A week into 2012, and not a lot to show for it so far ... except on paper.

I've been on the internet for at least four hours every day, and so far have found exactly three jobs worth applying for.  The rest are all either minimum-wage, which wouldn't even come close to paying my share of the mortgage let alone anything else, or commission-only sales, or jobs I'm not even remotely qualified for.  I can hear you now ... "Take the minimum-wage job while you look for something else!"  No.  If I can't find a job that pays enough to live on, I'm better off collecting EI and not working.  And believe me, minimum wage would be far less than EI.  Besides, that's why it's called Employment Insurance.  I've paid more into it over the years than I will ever collect, and I'm not taking anything I'm not entitled to.

Apart from the job search, I have been getting things done, though you'd never know it by looking around the house!  All the holiday paraphernalia is packed up & stowed away and the mending pile is shrinking visibly at last.  And I've been making plans ... not just in my head, but in my "Projects" notebook ... complete with action timelines. 

One thing about cleaning out the basement really hit a nerve with me.  We found a tall stack of boxes that had been shoved way in a dark back corner behind the old furnace when we first moved in.  After seeing what was in them all, I sadly realized that it all had to go, due to age and potential health hazards ... nine cases of home-canned fruit, jams, and relishes, all dated 2004 or earlier.  Lids into the recycling, contents into the compost, jars washed and stored away ... that much waste just hurts.  I try to comfort myself with the knowledge that it will never happen again; as soon as the shelving is all put up in the basement, I'll be organizing the "home-canning centre" to make sure all the home-canned food gets properly rotated and eaten while it's still good.  Which also means that since there's just the two of us (as of the end of this month), I won't be canning in massive quantities any more, except for the jams and jellies I plan to give as gifts.  I suspect that when the boxes were first put there  -  not by me, I assure you  -  they were moved with a dolly as one stack, and someone thought they were boxes of empty jars.  That won't happen any more either; all the empty jars are being packed into milk crates, so we can tell at a glance that they're empties.  The full jars will go into labelled and dated cardboard boxes, with a tally sheet on the front of each box so we can also see right away how many jars we have left of pickles or salmon or applesauce or whatever.

Tomorrow's afternoon project is a pantry cleanout and inventory.  Since Big Guy does almost all the cooking, he also does almost all the grocery shopping.  But he's short on patience and has admitted he can't see what he's looking for if it isn't exactly where he expects it to be, and the result is that he tends to go out and buy stuff we already have.  Case in point: in various cabinets in the kitchen, while helping him look for egg noodles, I found eight  -  yes, eight  -  packages of elbow macaroni ... but no egg noodles.  The really tricky part will be persuading him to mark something off the list when he uses it, so we can keep track of what we have plenty of and what we're almost out of.  I can see myself going through the shelves every week and updating the inventory.  Sigh.

I've also begun making a detailed inventory of all my sewing, knitting, and craft supplies and equipment.  As soon as I've completed the move into J's old room, I'll be able to start putting things together for next fall's craft sales and this summer's Renaissance Faire booth, as well as the items I want to make as gifts for birthdays and next Christmas.  I've already gone through my clothing-fabric stash, and paired up each length with the pattern I plan to use it for, and the necessary notions such as thread, buttons, and zippers.  Next week I'll do the same with the yarn stash and knitting patterns.  I must admit I'm not looking forward to measuring myself all over and adjusting my dressmaker dummy accordingly.  But it will be so nice to be able to look at the "to make" list, pick something from it, and actually have the working space to do it!

This year, as stocking-stuffers for Big Guy, I knitted some wool frypan-handle holders.  His mother used to send him a batch every few years, but since she died the collection has gradually eroded down to two, both very ratty and almost completely worn out.  Well, he loves them!  Not only that, but he's going to take a couple with him on his next trip to his favourite outdoor store, to see if they'd be interested in buying them from me as a regular thing.  I told him even if they are, whether or not I go for it will depend on how much they're willing to pay me for them; they're a business, not a charity, and will need to put enough markup on them to make it worth their while to carry them.  So the main considerations are how much they'd pay me, and how cheaply I can find a source of good-quality pure wool ... definitely not something I can pick up at thrift stores!  In the meantime, I can use up the rest of the wool I bought for a few to put away for the craft sales; I can easily knock out six or eight of them a day.

Have I mentioned the university courses I have on DVD?  Earth sciences, economics, oceanography, anthropology, history, climatology, and astronomy  -  now I have to decide where to start!  Each course is a series of half-hour lectures, with accompanying guidebook and suggested reading list  -  but I want to start them all first!  And I have a lovely tall stack of new books, all received as Christmas / Yule gifts ... does this qualify as an "embarrassment of riches"?  It does to me!  I'm sorely tempted to put the job search on hold while I read, and watch lectures, and work on all my future craft projects and wardrobe additions ... sometimes being a responsible adult has a downside.

I'm ending this post with a question, and hoping someone out there has read this far and perhaps can answer it.

This year, I want to learn to knit socks.  However, I can't wear wool ... do knitting patterns for wool socks work just as well with synthetic yarns?  I'll be grateful for any and all advice received!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

January 1st.  New Year's Day.  The time for new beginnings, new resolutions, new habits ... some say, the perfect time to wipe one's slate clean and start over.

Well, I'm starting over, all right.  As of noon Friday, December 30th, I'm once again unemployed.  The job search begins on Tuesday ... here's hoping it doesn't take thirteen months like it did the last time!

I've lost or left jobs before, of course.  Who hasn't?  But this time it feels different.  Last time, I was grateful; I'd been hating the place (though not the work) and its management for years, and I was just sticking it out until the layoff I could see coming actually arrived (I needed the money, and here if you quit there's no EI to fall back on).  I've left jobs in anger, in frustration, in disgust, or to go to better jobs.  But this time ... I loved that job.  I was very fond of the people I worked with, and got to be friends with a lot of nice customers.  And damn it, I was good at what I did!  This time ... I'm just really, really sad.


Last night  -  New Year's Eve  -  was pretty quiet here at Chez Chaos.  J was at work, so it was just the Big Guy and me.  We watched television for a while, then he went outside to have a few beers and I curled up with one of my new movies.  Eventually he came back in and remarked that it really didn't feel like a special day, and I had to agree.  The whole neighbourhood was quiet all night  -  none of the usual gongs & whistles.  Don't know if everyone was out partying, or what, but I sure did appreciate the peaceful evening!


Today was a mix of the traditional (for us)  -  taking down the tree and packing up all the decorations  -  and the new  -  cleaning out the basement.  We've made a pretty good start on it  -  the truck box is almost full enough to do a dump run, and my car is packed full of stuff to be dropped off at a local charity thrift shop.  Now that we finally have room to work down there, the insulation and wallboard will go up this week, and with luck by next weekend we'll be putting up shelving.  After that, I have a feeling the organizing part of the job will be almost all on me, but that's okay too.  It'll give me something constructive to do besides sitting at the computer all day hunting down jobs and sending out resumes.

J has announced the intention of moving out at the end of January; apparently she has found not only two good (I hope) housemates, but a house for them to rent.  I really hope it works out for her; she's always missed East Van and wanted to move back there.  It will also mean she'll have a thirty-minute commute each way rather than the ninety minutes (and sometimes much more) she has to travel to work from here.  And she's almost 27, so it's time to empty the darn nest already!

I have big plans for that room  -  it will become my new workroom/sewing & craft room/office/guest room.  The day after she moves, I'll be in there cleaning and priming, and the next day I'll be painting.  No more neon lime green  -  that will change to pale grey walls and a bright white light-reflecting ceiling.  Since I'll be working with fabrics and yarn, I'll really need a very neutral background and a lot of good light.

This teeny-tiny room I'm currently in will become the Big Guy's den.  He'll have a nice desk, a file cabinet of his own, good light to read by, television, bookshelves, and with luck enough space for that hideous old recliner presently (dis)gracing the living room.  Maybe then all his assorted papers and junk will migrate permanently from the kitchen table, and we'll be able to sit there and eat together ... maybe ... a girl can dream, can't she?

The resolutions I made this time last year have served me well, so I'm sticking to them for this year:

1)  I will work with what I have.

2)  I will finish what I start.

3)  I will step up my efforts to reduce, re-use, and recycle. 

And I'm adding a fourth:  

4) I will spend at least four hours every single day, Monday through Friday, looking for a new job. 

And of course I'll continue to report my progress on all fronts!

New Year, new start?  I certainly hope so!  


I wish all of you a happy, healthy, and peaceful 2012.  May you accomplish everything you set out to do, and be pleased with the outcome of every choice you make.