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, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ...)

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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?

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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:

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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!

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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. 

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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