November 30, 2013

Dear Anonymous....

I got an anonymous response to my post on Friday.  I've obviously really hurt someone's feelings. Comments on my blog don't get posted if they don't have a name attached but I wanted to share it with you.

"This is just plain mean - a lot of those incidents are from years past - and many are "alleged" meaning that the police have NOT confirmed them. It is bad enough to have things like this happen - but then to have someone from another country print them as ALL the truth is even worse. You make us look like a bunch of horrid people - intent only on taking taking taking, Did you report the thousands of people that spent their entire day at a kitchen, feeding the homeless? Did you tell of the millions of dollars that are spent each year on gifts for underprivileged children - we take a name and buy what the kids have listed on their list, clothes, toys, sometimes they ask for a blanket for their grandma. Did you tell about that? Did you tell of the millions of dollars raised by the Salvation Army Bell Ringers - where people going into and out of stores drop money into the red buckets? Did you tell of the families who took dinner and treats to those in convalescent hospitals so they would not be alone on Thanksgiving? Did you tell of the people who teach their children to do good to others and help out whenever possible? Did you tell of volunteers bring entire meals and set them up in hospitals so hundreds staff and patients' families can have a little bit of Thanksgiving during a hard time in the hospital? I don't think you did - yet that is who America is - not just the rough and ignorant people who will trample someone for a cheap price. I bet there are people in Canada who would react the same as the Black Friday people - fortunately we don't go around spreading such news as the "truth" about all of Canada. I'm ashamed of you - I hope you are too."

I wish this person would let me know who you are.  I am sincerely sorry if you thought I was taking a stab at Americans. That is definitely not my intention.  I was actually expressing a personal opinion about how much I hate shopping in large, pushing crowds.  Nothing could get me out.  In case, you weren't aware, I suffer from bipolar disorder and being in large crowds just gives me a panic attack. 

I'm glad you pointed out all the wonderful things people do for each other during the holiday season (and all year) but I was writing a post about shopping and specifically about an article in Flare magazine I had read about gift-giving.  The author used research from "Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending".  I found their messages intriguing and wanted to share but obviously didn't express myself well if it was taken as an attack.  Here's a couple of Youtube videos that may make the concept clearer.

In my defence, I would like to say two things.  The quote I had added to my post was directly from NBC News and they are all incidents from 2013 and can all be "googled" individually but here is a link to NBC's website.

And secondly, if you think Canadians think they are "superior" to Americans, you haven't been watching late night TV in the States.  Just "google"  Rob Ford. Trust me, we are no better or worse...people are people.  Please feel free to contact me directly if you'd like to talk.


November 29, 2013

Frugal Friday has been Pre-empted by Black Friday

I had planned a post for today but then I realized it was Black Friday.  Yes, Virginia, Black Friday has made its insidious way north to Canada.  Nothing could make me go out today so I will pick up next Friday with my frugal tips.  Shopping the big sales does seem like a frugal thing to do but in those environments, I wonder how many people get carried away with the thrill of the hunt and spend more than they planned anyway.

Funny thing for a shopaholic girl like me to say but I can't stand crowds and there is something I find so repellent about crowds of people; lining up for hours, pushing people against glass doors and fighting like dogs in the street over a bone.  (I apologise now if you are one of those Black Friday revelers. Normally I'm the first to agree to a shopping trip.)

Finally got the tree up and lit after it fell over 3 times today!

NBC reports "some violence marred the Black Friday kickoff:
  • A Las Vegas shopper was shot late on Thanksgiving Day as he was attempting to take his newly bought television home, police told NBC News.
  • In the Chicago area, a police officer shot the driver of a car that was dragging another officer who was responding to a call of alleged shoplifting at a Kohls. Three people were arrested, police said.
  • At least three people got into a brawl in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in Rialto, Calif., because shoppers allegedly were cutting the line. Two were taken into custody, according to police.
  • At another Wal-Mart in West Virginia, a man was slashed to the bone with a knife after threatening another man with a gun. The altercation was over a parking spot, police said.
  • A Wal-Mart in White Plains, N.Y., received two calls about a bomb on its premises, police said, prompting a storewide evacuation. No explosive device was found and the store reopened a couple of hours later. 
  • A woman apparently used a stun gun on another after an all-out brawl inside of the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia, according to NBC10. Mall security, however, told the station no taser was used.  
  • And in New Jersey, a shopper was charged with aggravated assault after getting into an argument over a television set with a Wal-Mart manager."

Wow, just, wow.  Things were a lot quieter in Canada but it's still not my scene.

Besides, I'm making almost all of my Christmas gifts and they might be ready for Christmas or some people may get IOUs.  It's the thought that counts, right?  Well, not really...

I was reading an article in Flare magazine today that confirmed what I always knew in my heart.  Gift-giving is a selfish act.  That's right, you heard me and they have studies and statistics to back it up.  Whether you buy a gift or make a gift and whether or not it is exactly what the "giftee" wants, it doesn't matter.  You still feel joy.  You still feel the connection that comes from giving.  

What is it with cats and boxes?

I've always felt that giving was good for your soul.  Making something for another person or buying something that I think they would really like, gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.  It's my quiet declaration of love; that this person means something in my life and I want to express that feeling. I don't ever give with the expectation of getting anything back.  Getting something doesn't give me the feeling of bliss I get from giving.  For me, giving something I've made is so much more meaningful.  I've spent my time, that precious commodity, and thought about the person while I was working.  It really is better to give than to receive.


November 27, 2013

Little Drummer Boy - Getting a Little Christmas Spirit

I woke this morning to our first real snowfall.  Out early on the way to the doctor's office, the snow on the trees was magical.  All too soon the warm wind was carrying the downy balls plopping to the ground and smashing into the windscreen of my car.  Good news from the doctor - my retina has not been torn and hopefully my vision will improve.

I'm going to get my Christmas tree tomorrow and start decorating - YAY!  In the meantime, I thought I'd share a couple of Youtube videos with you.   These are two Canadian renditions of "Little Drummer Boy".

and here's a cute little Christmas buddy I bought in Port Perry last week.

Finn likes him too.  He thought he was getting another kitten!


November 22, 2013

Frugal Friday #14 - DIY Part 1

Hi, thanks for the messages of concern.  I am fine for now.  A few years ago, I had a detached retina in my left eye.  Unfortunately yesterday afternoon, I started experiencing the same symptoms in my right eye.  My doctor wasn't working Friday afternoon and so I went to Emergency.  We didn't have any on-call ophthalmologists in Peterborough (go figure?!?) so my lovely sister drove me to Belleville (about an hour and a half away) in a rain storm so I could see a specialist.  The lining of my eye is tearing and bleeding but no tears in the retina.  Fingers crossed it will stay that way and settle down a bit.  My vision is pretty obscured in that eye right now.

I wanted to cover some do-it-yourself projects on Frugal Friday.  There are some projects that are dangerous to take on without proper training...for example gas fitting, electrical, etc.  For other things, don't be afraid to give it a try, especially now that you can find instructional videos on the internet.  I'm not going to give you a play by play as you can watch great videos on Youtube.   Often DIY projects can save you quite a bit of money but beware, if you take on too much, too fast - you might just cause a costly mess that you have to pay a professional to fix.  Start small, start cheap and build up your skills and your confidence.

I decided to give upholstery another try.  Quite a few years ago, my sister gave me a chair for free (I rescued it from a dump load if truth be told).  The upholstery was a disaster and needed replaced. Below is my first attempt.

It was a complete fail.  The seat was fine but for the life of me, I couldn't get the upholstery around the wooden arms.  It sat in its' unfinished state for years and years.  Third picture is 2 chairs stripped, ready for re-upholstery.

So I gave it another try...

Still a bit of a struggle...but the finished product was passable.  Free chair, $20 of fabric and about $5 of supplies.  Not too bad for a second attempt and a heckuva lot cheaper than having it done professionally.

I lived with this chair for a couple of weeks and then decided that I really didn't like the light lilac and white striped denim with the dark wood.  Originally I was going to paint the wood white but my Mom wanted it to stay as is.  So I decided that I would strip it and upholster it again.  Practice makes perfect, right?

I set myself up in the sunroom and started stripping the chair again.  I saved the fabric for use in the future.

I had a purple panel of drapery fabric that I got for $5.  It was just enough to do the chair.

This fabric was a little more difficult to work with but I was able to do a fairly smooth upholstery job.

Everyone here is pretty happy with the result of my $10 makeover.

Eilish has claimed this chair as her own!

I got some professional tack strips for a $1 and they helped me do a smooth job of attaching the back panel. Pretty happy with my first frugal DIY.  It is now part of the furniture in my new living room.  Even if you're not sure you can do it....give it a try.
Frugally Yours,


November 21, 2013

Christmas at Ikea

I'm heading off for a little Christmas shopping trip today with my girlfriends.  We're heading to Port Perry and I thought I better share some pictures of our last little jaunt to Ikea a couple of weeks ago before I take more photos!


Three of my partners in crime.

Welcome to Ikea!

Most of their Christmas seems to be in black and white but every now and then you are jolted by a hit of colour.

Traditional Red and Green always looks right.

Ohhhh, I'd love a new kitchen but I'd also like it to be twice the size!  Like these!

Grey seems to be the bedroom trend this year.

I don't really know why but this light fixture has always intrigued me.


November 20, 2013

A Vintage Christmas

I spent yesterday doing a little "antiquing".  My friend's nephew, Lindsay is a "picker". He posts his ads on Kijiji and displays his finds in his Dad's barn.  I made an appointment to go out to poke around the barn and buy a couple of Windsor back chairs.  I've always wanted Windsor back chairs painted matte black so I'm half way there. They are going to go in the dining room when they are finished.  I got some cute napkin rings and a couple of Christmas cookies cutters and an old rusty tin box, absolutely covered in flowers.  I'm thinking it will look great with my McCoy pottery.  I'll share these things with you later but right now...

I wanted to show you some Christmas pretties that I bought at Craftworks. I love old Christmas decorations.

I've really been wanting some bottlebrush trees but everything I've found is in bad shape and very expensive so I broke down today and bought some cheapos from Walmart.  Hopefully I can make them look better in a vignette.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here....


November 18, 2013

Random Thoughts on a Monday Night

I was hoping to have some dinner pictures to share with you from my Chinese dinner on Saturday but with three dishes in the oven and four woks on the go, I didn't have enough hands to stir and take pictures.  My niece sent a camera shot of her plate...

I did take some pictures of the dining room before dinner.  I was able to set up three tables and seat 16 for the meal.  After I was reading Brenda's post, I thought I'd share my little bistro too.

Can't wait to get my chandelier installed.  This room is quite dark without lamps.

Two romantic tables for four in my dining room.  My lovely nieces, Morgan and Britt brought their boyfriends.  My niece Allyson and her new boyfriend, Dave and my nephew, Eric and his lovely Sable sat at the other table.  That girl, Sable is a keeper!  She washed the dishes after dinner.  I don't have a dishwasher and hate washing dishes so she was much appreciated as was my brother, Howie for drying.  It was funny listening to Howie and Connie's (my big sis) stories.  I think the kids were a little surprised at some of them.  Things really have changed in the last 50 years since they were kids.

We all had a great time and it was the first big dinner I hosted in my new dining room.  Everyone approved and it was nice to be able to seat so many, so comfortably.  I'm loving the blue and white and with a few more touches, it will be done!

Do you like my new jug?  I saw this white cable knit jug in the grocery ad and just had to add it to the shopping list ;). I just love it!

My brain's been busy the last few days.  Dinner for 16, grocery shopping, laundry; oh and planting tulips this weekend.  I've never planted them so late.  Hopefully I won't lose my yearly battle with the squirrels.  I also got my paperwhites and amaryllis potted up. That is one of my favourite things every Christmas.

Today was a great day!  I hosted Rummycube today.  Every Monday afternoon, I get together with 3 girlfriends and play this game for the afternoon.  We take turns hosting...a little lunch, a couple of spritzers and a whole lot of laughs.  Girlfriends are the best.

I got great news today.  My friend, Heather became a Grandma today!  I need to finish her quilt now that I know Iyla's birthdate.  She must be feeling jubilant and joyous!

Tomorrow, I need to make some chili sauce and get those tomatoes out of the freezer.  It's just too packed and we need to get eating out of the freezer so I'll have room for Christmas cookies.

Some personal decisions about my future and my life are weighing on my mind but I'm not ready to talk about those right now.  They are still keeping me awake at night but I'm working through the issues.

Finally I need to say that I am terribly preoccupied and excited by Christmas this year.  Not the presents, but the decor and spending quiet time with friends and family.  I plan on taking December off.  Really relaxing, lots of books and magazines, tea and hot chocolate, homemade goodies, some handmade gifts and no pressure.  No big parties are planned. I'm hoping for spontaneous joy instead.  Slow walks in the snow and the smell of pine wafting through the house.  I wonder how Eilish will react to her first Christmas.  
My friend, Rose's tree last year
I also have a trip planned to Port Perry this week.  I'll take pictures to share with you.  I went to Toronto with the girls a little over a week ago.  I'll download those pictures soon and show you how beautiful the stores are looking in their Christmas finery.  It gets me very excited to see all the glitter and the lights.  I'm ready to start pulling the decorations out now.


November 15, 2013

Frugal Friday #13 - Party at Home

Make the location of your next celebration your own home sweet home.  Better yet, make it a potluck and at least in my family, people bring their own beverages to share as well.  Instead of celebrating in a restaurant or bar where the price tag can add up quickly, we have cosy dinners at home for family and friends.  Almost everything is made from scratch as well so that saves too.  We find it much nicer than going out - comfortable, familiar and everyone can be included regardless of their means.

I come from a family of cooks so we consider it fun to try out new foods and recipes but there are a lot of very simple things you can make.  Master a dish everyone likes and make it your specialty.

Tomorrow night we are having a Chinese themed dinner to celebrate my sister Connie's birthday, C and B's 40th anniversary and H and M's 40th anniversary.  Today I'm doing some prep - chopping, cooking rice, and marinating beef.

Sorry no pictures today but I'm busy cooking and tidying the house.  I was planning on making my own egg rolls (which would have been cheaper) and I was going to post those pictures but I couldn't get all the ingredients I needed.  I will post some pictures after the party.

Instead I went to our tiny Chinese grocery and picked up some of Mrs. Minh's homemade spring rolls and pork wontons.  I did have to spend about twice as much but I didn't have to spend hours making them.


November 13, 2013

A Special Shower

I had a great time last evening.  I went to a Grandma's Shower.  I bet you haven't heard of that before!  That's because my friend, Linda invented it and I predict it will become the newest craze.  During one of our Wednesday knitting nights, we were discussing our friend Heather who is poised to become a Grandma for the first time.  Linda wanted to make the baby something and Cindi and I agreed.  That's when Linda suggested a shower for Heather.  Perfect suggestion....we don't know the Mom and the Dad is Heather's son.  They aren't our contemporaries and it wasn't a case of just wanting to have a gift passed along.  Grandma needs to have baby supplies at her house too, right? Some toys and blankets and clothes and we wanted to have a party, a surprise party. Martinis and wine and lasagna and salad and buttertarts...oh boy!  Thanks Linda.  And Heather was surprised, really surprised....until it was explained to her.  Of course, she hadn't heard of a Grandma's shower before!

I decided to make a quilt.  We knew the baby will be a girl (she was due last Sunday but hasn't made her appearance yet!) so I chose bright pinks and greens, made with random squares.  Originally we were talking about a shower after the baby was born.  So I wanted to embroider a piece on the quilt with her name and birth date.  A personal touch, just for her.  Then it got moved up so...

So I laid out random squares (it's hard to be random) and decided to applique a butterfly (something I've never done before).

Epic Fail.

So back to Plan A and I'm going to finish my quilt when the gorgeous girl arrives...hopefully by next week.  Check out Cindi's baby blanket here and I'll show you my quilt when I can finish it.


November 11, 2013

November 11, 2013 - Lest We Forget

In Honour of  My Father and Grandfather

My Father, Howard

My Grandfather, Hiram

November 07, 2013

Frugal Friday #12 - Listen to the Pros

I'm not advising you to make an appointment with your local financial guru.  I have no experience with financial counselling so I wouldn't presume to suggest you spend money on something I know nothing about.  However, I can share a little personal story (don't worry it has a happy ending).

The Tale of the Indebted Princess

About 14 or 15 years ago, I was deeply in debt.  I lacked any kind of financial know-how and I had shopped myself into credit card purgatory.  Maybe I can blame it on my bipolar disorder because running up your credit cards is a symptom but I really don't need an excuse.  In fact, I was so deeply in debt that I made no attempt to pay much more than the minimum.

I was living in a cheap apartment that I loved but I never had any money, zero savings, and no hope of ever owning a house.  Then something happened and it was like the universe was talking to me.  I was going to come into a lump sum of money (about $20,000) as a result of a human rights settlement through my employment.

The way I saw it; this money could be a godsend or I could use it to pay off most of my credit card debt.  Does that sound contradictory?  Let me explain.  I could accept the money like many of my co-workers were doing, pay the taxes on it and I would be left with almost enough to pay off my credit cards. Then I would be back at square one and I guarantee I would have just run those balances back up.  Or it could really make a difference in my life and I could realize my dream of home ownership.

In Canada, we have a nifty program that would let me deposit money into a Registered Retirement Savings Plan, pay no taxes on it, borrow money back out of my plan to make a downpayment on my first house and allow me to pay it back over 15 years.  This is what I wanted but I had the millstone of credit card debt around my neck.  My other concern was Could I afford a mortgage payment every month?

So I knew about 8 months prior that the money was coming.  I knew I needed to get rid of my debt and I started watching a Canadian TV show hosted by Gail Vaz-Oxlade.  This woman tells it like it is.  No sugar-coating - just practical "get you through the week" advice.  I put myself on the tightest budget I could.  She uses Mason jars now but back then I had envelopes.  They were labeled and filled (maybe not so full) with money every pay day. The labels said things like rent, groceries, gas, parking, cable, phone, electricity.
This is Gail

There were no envelopes for clothes or entertainment or magazines (that one was hard!).  I gave up spending anything that wasn't absolutely  necessary and every penny I saved (about half my wages) went towards paying off the credit cards.  When my first payment of my pay equity settlement was coming, I had about $3000 balance left on credit.  I had paid off over $10,000.  I took the first payment and paid a little tax.  That way, I was done with the credit cards.

Now, stage two commenced.  I got $15,000 that I put into a RRSP.  It had to stay in there for 90 days before I could withdraw it to buy a house.  So I got myself pre-approved for a mortgage and found out how much my mortgage payment would be.  I started looking for a house.  The smartest thing I did was live for those months as if I was paying a mortgage.  The difference between the mortgage payment and my rent was put aside.  That way, when I moved in to my house, I knew I could comfortably live and pay my mortgage.  The money I had put aside paid for my new appliances and lawyer's fees and all those last minute "I just bought a house" surprise expenses.

The moral of the story is I would never have been able to buy a house if I hadn't found Gail.  She made me believe I could get out of debt, her practical advice gave me the tools I needed to succeed and her words of wisdom gave me the confidence to take charge of my financial independence.  The best thing I learned from Gail?  "You earn enough money".  No matter what I earned, it was enough to realize my dreams.  The amount of money didn't matter.  What mattered was what I did with it; what I was willing to sacrifice; how hard I was willing to work.

So, find your own financial guru.  Maybe it will be Gail or David (Chiltern) or Suze (Orman) or Jean (Chatzy) or Dave (Ramsey) or your neighbour, Joe.  Find someone who you can trust and learn everything you can!  Good luck


November 06, 2013

Meet "Stick"

When I went to the garden show in the spring, I bought a plant.  Well actually a small branch that when planted (after following many convoluted instructions and procedures) was supposed to root and grow...lots of leaves and pretty flowers and turn into a tree.  It should look like one of these.  (From E-bay- thaiperfect_gems)

Most of the summer, it was a just a stick, no leaves...nothing.  We affectionately call it "stick".  We say "looks like nothing is happening with Stick but he hasn't died so that's good news".  Finally we got to say that "Stick is finally growing.  Look at all the little leaves starting".  Then we worriedly watched as Stick lost his leaves. Now I've brought Stick in the house.

Poor Stick.  We're not sure if he's going to make it but I'm going to repot him this week in some nice fresh soil.  Hopefully that will help.