Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mendelssohn - Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave) (Abbado)

This song from youtube is to do with the next post:)  - Hope you enjoy it!

November Crunch is On...

Apparently a snow squall warning is in effect for these parts- meanwhile the sun is shining. I am not complaining!

I am considering this photo of Lily and her Christmas mouse for Christmas cards this year...

My chili stretcher week was a success (chili with buns; chili on top of a baked potato with sour cream and taco salad - romaine, scoop of chili, grated cheddar and crushed tortilla chips) but there are still 9 more days of eating before the next budget takes over. I grocery-shopped on Monday and used $20 of PC points in addition to the $70 that was left in the food budget. Not to worry (though no doubt I will anyways) as I have put a meal plan into place. After reading all of your posts the past 10 years or so I don't know why I wasn't meal planning sooner!!

Upcoming yummy dinners include Tuna Melts, Chicken Fajitas, Salmon Patties, and/or Salmon Steaks, Stuffed Peppers, Jerk Chicken and Breakfast for Dinner. 

That's not quite 9 dinners but I get two meals out of some of these recipes and sometimes more if Kazi eats at her boyfriend's house or goes out with friends like she did last night. So I'm pretty confident that I'll make it to the end of the month before the end of the contents of the fridge :)

My Snowflake Box (extra savings squeezed weekly out of my misc budget) currently holds $620 with about the equal amount being added in December. Christmas is paid for - hurrah! And my PC points will cover extra food, what I need for baking and stocking stuffers. Yes, I still do a stocking for Kazi although she is 27 years young. She says it's her favourite gift. All I do is go to the Superstore and purchase lotions, facial masks, hot chocolate, toothpaste and other drugstore type items and then wrap each one with the odds and ends of leftover Christmas wrapping paper. Covered by points it costs me nothing but time. So why mess with tradition?

I don't usually do a lot ahead of time though I do have a turkey frozen since the Thanksgiving sales. I have gifts for one of my brothers (he's so easy to buy for) - I bought him a book by an author we both love about the "WILD" parts of Scotland, a CD called "The Secret Path" written by Canadian superstar rock god Gord Downie of the band "The Tragically Hip" who recently passed away from a brain tumour. The CD is about a young indigenous boy who ran away from a residential school in winter and was found frozen to death. True story. My brother makes his living as an oil painter and told me the last time I visited that he wants to explore stories of Canada's First Nations people for inspiration for his paintings. Whenever he tells me these things I tuck them away in my mind as gift ideas :) The other thing I got for him is sheet music for Mendelssohn's song about Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa. My brother plays piano and we plan to see the Isle of Staffa next year if all goes well! 
I'll post the song by Mendelssohn in a separate post.

Now if only the rest of my family was so easy to buy for! My great-nephew is 10 and I have not a clue about what 10 year old boys are into these days - his Thomas the Tank Engine days are over unfortunately!

Suggestions??? Anyone???

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sunshine on my Shoulders Makes me Happy

It seems like forever since the sun was shining around here but today it finally is. Flood warnings are in effect though as the Thames River has received a ton of rain recently. Not to mention that white stuff. See? I'm not going to mention it!

Life has been chugging along satisfactorily. I would say my only problem (if this can be called a problem) is that I need a few more hours in each day to get done the many things I want to get done. I complain frequently that there are not enough hours in the day. Years ago, before retirement, I imagined that most of my time would be spent lounging around reading from a big pile of books.

What I didn't imagine, but should have, is how much time my other hobbies/sports & recreational activities would consume in a day. If I had then I might have fewer hobbies and more reading time. So the point of this is do I try to be more efficient with my time, ditch a few hobbies or try to make reading a priority?

Perhaps a combination of all three:

  • I have ditched, sort of, a couple of hobbies - I'm never going to be an expert crocheter or spool knitter. Now that I've put my outdoor bike in storage I spend time at night riding my stationary bike (and watching Netflix) to make up for the hours I had been spending cycling outside. Instead of long hikes I walk 2km twice a week to volleyball and then try to find ONE sunny day each week for walking in the forest. I also play volleyball on Friday nights. Each day I do 30 minutes or a bit more of yoga and stretching. My back has been giving me fits but I find yoga really helps. If you ever have lower back pain the cobra pose (start with baby cobra) provides instant relief!

BABY Cobra


  • Time management is not one of my strong suits. Today is genealogy day and Wednesday is workshop day.  So far I've done zero genealogy today. I've read the paper, made a meal plan, had breakfast and gone grocery shopping. And I have to say that the sunshine is compelling me to go to the forest. **just checked the forecast and tomorrow looks like a really nice day so I will delay the walk until tomorrow after volleyball and today I will do research all afternoon. There, that's solved!

  • I guess instead of complaining I should be happy (I am) that I have so many choices of "things to do"!  On the bright side I finished a book during all of the rain and am partway through three others (part of the problem!!! I need to stick to one book til it's done - it's just that others beckon me with their wonderful covers and promises of what's inside!!). I'm reading a lot about Scotland especially the Isle of Skye. I am trying to find more times throughout the day when I can pick up a book. It's pretty much my most favourite thing to do yet I keep putting it off. No more!! 
See ya!

Hah, just kidding! Sort of.....first yoga, then reading while eating lunch and then research! 

See ya! 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Here I Am

Your know you haven't posted in a while when you have to "sign in" on your blog site! I've been busy playing volleyball, going into the forest, going to rallies, visiting friends and relatives and going to a "blanket exercise"and other workshops and a memorial service.

Here's a few photos:
Oh...oops! Here's a photo of Lily binging on "The Walking Dead"! Bad girl...., but she is a carnivore after all!

The following photos were taken in Toronto where there was a rally against privatization of public resources - oh look, there's Kathleen Wynne, the premier of Ontario! She loves to sell off so-called public corporations for a little bit of easy cash that she can spread around while making more false promises. Election time next year Ms. Wynne - I don't think it's going to go your way!

 City Hall and Nathan Philip Square where soon there will be an outdoor rink for ice skating. We did get a bit of a snow squall last Friday but it's melted thankfully.

For over two years the Council of Canadians has been protesting weekly against the sale of Hydro One. Sadly we did not win that battle so while in Toronto we walked down the street where there is a memorial to Sir Adam Beck whose wish it was that everyone have access to cheap electricity. He is now rolling in his grave which you can see in the photo below! Since this campaign is now over we left behind our signs and props. I wonder how the gov't will cover the loss of $750 million per year in revenue that they received from Hydro One??

Last Wednesday was a beautiful day so I headed out to do a little forest bathing :) There are still beautiful photos to be taken...milkweed...

 ...wild turkeys...let me know if you need a turkey for the upcoming American Thanksgiving!!

Most of the colour is now on the ground...

Grape vine always makes for interesting photos...

The sky was as blue as it could be...

Still small areas of enchantment...
I had a number of burrs stuck to my clothing when I left...

Lily lapping up the sun...

...and trying to get used to Daylight Savings Time!  Extra naps needed :)

An event I attended last Thursday is called the "Blanket Exercise" which is considered a form of reconciliation with our indigenous peoples through education. It was an emotional, gut-wrenching experience but so worthwhile if you get the chance to attend one, do it!

We started off with the floor covered in blankets to represent North America.

Gradually the areas where aboriginals were allowed to live grew much smaller as treaty land
was taken away from them. 
Also, as aboriginals were killed, mistreated and abused the blankets were decreased in size until there was barely anywhere to stand.
Everyone has a different role to play in order to walk in the shoes 
of a disenfranchised person.
My role was of a woman who left the reservation and her family to become a teacher. As a result
the government took away my Indian Status and I wasn't allowed to return to my home 
and my people. I had to leave the circle and stand alone, isolated.
The toughest part was the loss of so many children who were literally torn from their parents' arms and sent to residential schools where "teachers" tried to erase the Indian from them. 
It was a very emotional night and the shame and guilt I feel from the terrible mistreatment of our aboriginal peoples is heavy indeed. Being a member of an Anglican congregation for many years I have watched as the Anglican Church has tried to right the many wrongs done to First Nations people. Mostly with money. And mostly inadequate to their needs. If you would like to learn more about the blanket exercise I have included a link below.

Blanket Exercise

Friday, November 3, 2017

November Numbers: New Budget

Good-bye October and HELLO November!

I experienced some belt-tightening in October due to the new car purchase which left me with a much smaller amount of Misc money for weekly spending. Knowing I couldn't play "fast and loose" with my funds I was way more careful with misc spending than I normally am! So...even on a reduced budget I managed to squirrel away more money than usual in my snowflake box! Yippee!!!

A number of factors helped me stash away extra snowflakes:
  • I had set a gasoline budget of $80 for October. I didn't use any of that! When I bought the car the tank was full and I didn't buy any gas during the rest of September or October. When gas went down in price Nov. 1st I filled the tank for a cost of only $40! Looks like I won't be overspending on gas though I anticipate using more now that it is getting colder. If I can make it til the end of November without buying more gas I'll have another $40 to add to the snowflake box :)
  • Both electricity and natural gas bills came in under the budgeted amount. It's been a mild fall so far and I haven't had to use the furnace much yet or the electric heater downstairs in the TV room. 
  • I was very frugal with my grocery shopping this month. I'm still eating from the package of 5 chicken breasts that I bought: first I made fajitas (lasted 2 nights), then I used some in a pasta dish (1 dinner and Kazi took the rest the next day for her lunch); and then I made chicken vegetable soup with the remainder which I am still eating. (yes, chicken was frozen after being cooked!) I had $50 left in the grocery budget which went into the snowflake tin. 
  • November will brings its own savings opportunities. I have switched to a cheaper internet package (more gigs at a lower cost!) I have been paying $93/month for 200g. I was browsing my internet company's website ( and saw a different, cheaper package so I switched. I don't know how much exactly my new bill will be what with taxes and so on but should be in the area of $60 for 250g.
  • My share of car insurance is going down by $11/month - that's not a lot but it's money in my pocket instead of the insurance company's!
  • I've also paid off $2,000 on my credit card: this was the maximum the car dealership would accept from using a credit card to pay for a car. As interest could accrue it was the first part of the car's cost that I paid off.
  • I have made another purchase (a Yamaha keyboard-Merry Christmas to me!!) and paid most of it off (a different credit card). When I receive a GIC interest payment later this month it will go to pay off the rest owing on the credit card. By the end of November I will be 100% debt-free once again. 
  • Now that one c/c is paid in full I have also repaid my savings in the amount of $500. Having no debt means that starting in December over $1,000 per month will re-build my savings to my pre-car purchase balance. If I didn't travel my savings accounts would be totally repaid in 10 months but as I have plans for a couple trips next year it will taken longer to rebuild my savings but that's ok. Can't be frugal all of the time! 
  • Come January my pension will receive an extra bump up due to increased cost of living raise. When I first started receiving my pension not ALL of my pension received cost of living increases. That was due to the pension plan not doing as well back in the financial crisis of 2007-8. But now that the stock market has recovered my entire pension will receive the cost of living increase. I'm very happy about that! I know how much the gross amount will be but not what my net increase will be. 
  • By the end of November my snowflake box should hold about $500.  Along with my PC points from using my President's Choice Mastercard for all purchases (currently around $100) I will have $600 saved for Christmas. I will also have an extra $300 from not having to pay property taxes in December or January (I pay my taxes on a 10 month plan)! That should cover any additional expenses during the very expensive month of December:) 
And there you have it - my spending adventure (car and keyboard) is over for now. Snowflakes are growing and by the time the real snow is on the ground I'll have Christmas expenses covered. Having a plan and sticking to it really helps. I must remember that as I plan my travelling for next year: Prince Edward Island, British Columbia and SCOTLAND

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Weighty Subject

No, I'm not referring to the tree which by the way was light as a feather HAH!
No...I'm referring to my own weight.
I did something I've never done before while at the doctor's office last week but forgot
to mention it in yesterday's post.
The nurse wanted my height and weight.
Nothing unusual about that.
When I stepped on the scale I just looked at the ceiling.
YUP, never done that before. 
Usually I anxiously watch the scale and want to tell the nurse that my
clothing must weigh at least 10lbs so please deduct that from the overall total!!
But...I don't need to know my weight any more or obsess about it.
I don't care what I weigh. 
It took me awhile to find a photo of myself in my khaki hiking pants
but I finally did. Why?
These are my favourite pants of all time.
As long as they fit then my weight is perfect!
There have been times when the zipper is hard to do up so
I modify my diet a bit and/or exercise more.
But when I put them on last week for my jaunt through Kilally Meadows 
they slipped on and did up easily.
That's all I need to know.
I'm the perfect weight!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Medical Report - Gross Photo Warning!!

Last week was a very physical week - 6 hours of volleyball, long sweaty bike rides in rather steamy weather ( I am NOT complaining) and a trip to the doctor's office!

As for my health...I've had no call back after my pap test last week so hurrah for that!

I had a "push biopsy" scheduled for today with regard for a bump on my shoulder but since the doctor made that appointment the bump gradually got smaller and eventually fell off!! Woohoo - the biopsy was cancelled after the doctor had a look.  Which is fantastic as here is a description of a "push biopsy" -
a metal, rodlike instrument with one pointed or cavitied end and one propulsion end to be pushed hard with the palm of the hand or driven with a hammer in order to drive a hole or to excise a small round piece of tissue. punch biopsy. a circular piece of skin excised by a hand driven biopsy punch.

And another different kind of bump on my back was frozen off a couple of weeks ago and has healed perfectly! I'm batting a thousand so far!!

* gross photo warning

There is just one area where the healing FEET! ...specifically my toe nails!

Warned ya!
My poor toesies

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Workshop Weather

4C this morning - YIKES! On Sunday it was 28C! I suggest a petition that the temperature only decrease by 1C a day...or week!! These sudden changes cause me seasonal anxiety! And also cause me to overuse exclamation marks!!!!!!!!

At least the sun is back. We had 5 or 6 straight days of rain. Which means no biking, no long walks through the does mean the workshop is now open for business!

From unpolished...

to polished!

 The leaf is a piece I snapped off a larger carving - I wasn't happy with it and this small piece didn't seem to belong. I turned it into a leaf and gave it to my artist brother who has recently named his studio "The Silver Branch". He put the leaf in his storefront window underneath a large vase holding a silver branch. It looks as though the leaf has fallen from the branch! :) I'll take my camera with me next time I visit him so you can see how it all looks.


...polished!  * The base is made of soapstone as are the pieces above. Soapstone comes in a variety of colours - I really like the rich browns in this piece.  I didn't alter the quartz.

In progress...(this is the sculpture that I took the piece off of which became the leaf). More shaping to be done before I begin to polish...

This one is partially polished...will finish tomorrow. I am going to place this one in a shadow box as it is a thin relief sculpture and needs support. I like the other side better but didn't photograph it for some reason.

This one is partially shaped; will work on it more tomorrow.

Future works of art :) Both are quite large so I will be taking a hammer and chisel to them first to make several sculptures out of both - I prefer to work with small pieces.
And there you have it!
This is week two in the shop - I am quite pleased with what I've accomplished so far. As they keeps me off the streets!

Friday, October 13, 2017

So Far So Good

So far so good with the food budget. I made a big pot of turkey soup, didn't use a recipe just used up leftovers that needed to be used along with what started as 1 cup of soup mix (various dried beans, split peas, lentils, rice, quinoa etc) and turned into 4-5 cups after absorbing lots of water while being soaked. I threw in some oldish carrots and some limp celery, half of a leftover sweet onion, about half a can of tomatoes that had lingered in the fridge long enough and a bunch of soft and squishy grape tomatoes, cut in half. I added some chopped up turkey, of course and some basil, thyme, and a healthy serving of crushed chilli peppers to spice it up a bit (a whole lot!)
                                                          I have to say it is delicious!
*I didn't take any photos so am using google photos that look similar to what I made.

While rummaging around in the fridge I realized I had four green peppers and Kazi's favourite meal is stuffed peppers. It is one of my favourites too because once again it allows me to hide things in the mixture :) Kazi saw the peas ( about half a cup leftover from Thanksgiving dinner) but she didn't identify the leftover stuffing!! Kind of apropos don't you think? Stuffing in stuffed peppers? I mixed it up with some of the soup mix, the leftover peas, some marinara sauce and lots of grated cheddar. You can hide a lot of stuff under cheddar! Oh, I almost forgot...I had half of a medium-sized zucchini which I chopped up and sauteed in a little olive oil and added to the peppers. Yum!

Today I did take myself off to the grocery store as planned as I needed to reload up on fruits and veg, along with a few staples like bread, soy milk and a large package of chicken breasts 30% off. I spent about $60 and hope to NOT shop again for at least a week, preferably 10 days but we'll see. After today there is only about $60 left in the food budget. I'll be making mostly meals that stretch to two nights instead of the usual one.

Future meals will include:
Chicken fajitas (always lasts two nights :)
Cheese and spinach ravioli
Spinach and mozzarella omlettes with mashed potato & onion patties
Shrimp & veggie linguine
Greek lentil soup (get 2-3 meals out of this)
Veggie chilli ( several meals)
Salmon steaks and sweet potato fries
Cheese and potato pierogies
Tuna Melts

We have tons of fresh veg and fruit on hand to augment meals, plus a lot of frozen fruit for smoothies. There is always a pot of soup for lunches and we both eat oatmeal in the morning. This should work. I don't usually make a meal plan I can definitely see the purpose.

Do you plan your meals by the day, week, or month?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

October Budget a Bit of a Challenge

Are you squeezing your budget extra tight this month in order to stay in the black? Me too! Just about everyone whose blog I read is trying to make the most of their food budget in order to stay on track.  I just went through Thanksgiving Day long weekend and spent twice as much on food/drinks as I usually spend in an ordinary month.  I have a fridge full of leftovers but we're a little tired of eating turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. It looks like I need to freeze the remaining food and haul it out again in a couple of weeks when I won't be faced with moans and groans...and that's just ME!

But here's the problem: there are three weeks left in October but there is not three weeks of grocery money left! So how to get to the end of October, providing a variety of healthy meals, while staying within the remaining budget. The age old problem. Doesn't seem possible does it?

And this is where you think I'm going to present an imaginative and tasty solution but I'm afraid I'm going to let you down. Because I don't know. If there were only two weeks left in this month I think it would be a snap...but three? Without hauling out the frozen leftovers? This is when having another freezer would come in handy. But I don't have one and never have so I have to work with what I've got.

Yes...I should have increased the food budget for October but the money still has to come from somewhere! So...I've decided to transfer the $80 I set aside for gas for the as yet unnamed car into the food budget line. Fortunately when I purchased the car they filled it up with gas. It still has over 3/4 of a tank so I won't need to put anymore in til next month, and maybe not then either. There, with a little bit of budget magic, I have my three weeks of groceries covered. That being said, I'm still going to try to get to Friday, my usual grocery day, without going to the grocery store.

Fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Happier Thanksgiving

Recently I came across an article with a phrase that I keep at the forefront of my mind at all times now. It really has caused a paradigm shift in my way of thinking and so I thought that on this long weekend of feasting and giving thanks here in Canada I would share it with you.

The phrase is "self-compassion".  Think about it for a minute or two......what does it mean to you? Don't confuse it with "self-pity", that's a different kettle of fish altogether.

I don't think it was a coincidence that I encountered the phrase shortly after my aborted trip to Scotland. I was being pretty hard on myself for not pushing through the pain and the injuries which in retrospect don't seem that bad now.

Showing myself compassion has always been difficult for me to do. Family members and friends (which includes my wonderful readers) showed me a lot of compassion and understanding and NO judgement after I came home.

So why am I so hard on myself? Is that a female trait? Is it just me and my particular set of circumstances? Don't I love myself? Speaking recently with a sister I wondered why I'm not more compassionate to myself? Why do I set myself such big challenges? How can I show myself compassion instead of punishment?

My first action in being more compassionate with myself was buying my new car. Why was I making my life so difficult when it didn't have to be?

Then I ordered myself a full-size Yamaha keyboard and am anticipating it's arrival with great joy! I took lessons for years and years and was my piano teacher's top student. It was during a search in a used bookshop in Bracebridge that I came across some sheet music that I thought my brother would love and which I bought for his birthday. That compelled me to dig out my big box full of piano books that my siblings and I shared over the many years we took piano lessons. That was quite a teary trip down memory lane looking at those books so I decided to give myself the gift of music which always soothes my soul  :)

I am going to try to be more self-aware and treat myself with compassion accordingly. Last night the first of my toenails fell off; several more to go. I can't imagine how I would have survived hiking another 150kms with my feet in the shape they were so I will ease up on myself and accept that that journey was not meant to be but there are more trips and adventures in my future.

Being thankful for my life can't be celebrated in just one weekend. It has to be on-going the whole year through.  Everyday when I wake up I immediately lay down on my yoga mat and through my practise I feel such a sense of well-being. Instead of only directing those good feelings towards others I must remember to also direct them inwards. Finding ways to show myself compassion everyday won't be easy but it is a necessary and worthwhile cause.

All through the year I march and protest for I will march for myself.  I hope you will join me.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Back to Walking

Words cannot express my happy feelings for being back in Kilally Meadows, my home away from home. I walked for a couple hours and my toes caused me no grief.

I received as a birthday gift this year the book called "The Hidden Life of Trees" and it is fabulous. If you are a lover of forests, as I am, you should read this book. It is an amazing read and the research will help you understand that trees live in very social communities and are much better at supporting each other and communicating with each other than we are. 

Anyhoo...there is still a lot going on in the forest at this time of year. We've had cold weather and hot weather and everything in between. Except for rain - we really need more of that! I went on a sunny day that was around 18c and it was perfect.

          So inviting isn't it?

I love fungi! Fungi play a huge role in the lives of trees in the forest.

I've always loved the way fallen branches create works of forest art.

Look at these sweet little seed fluffies. (definitely a scientific term!)

Still lots of colour to be found.

And lots of wildflowers still blooming brightly!

The last of the phlox. 

I chased this Clouded Sulpher butterfly around til it settled long enough for a photo. 

This is the ugly part of things - invasive species.  Mostly we should leave forests alone.
But sometimes certain invasive species try to take over and kill the whole forest and then
man must step in to try and stem the flow.
In this case it is the European Buckthorn population that has been taking over.

For some reason these milkweed pods below remind me of 
Heckle and Jeckle :)

I'm dating myself! 

Whatever flowers these were is a mystery that will
have to wait until next spring.

Two very fat ducks - they better stay hidden until after Thanksgiving!
.....this weekend in Canada.

A clothesline of sumac leaves - such glorious colours.
And that's it for this week's walk. Hopefully I will get to Kilally Meadows again soon; possibly tomorrow. Today is volleyball - I played a couple hours on Tuesday and am happy to report that my fingers held up quite well :)  And yesterday we had the first rain in weeks so I took the opportunity to work on a couple of soapstone carvings.

I LOVE autumn!