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!

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.