Thursday, March 31, 2011


First financial mistake of the year - NEVER ASSUME!! 

What did I assume? I assumed (and now I feel like an ass) that after doing my daughter's tax return that there would be the same amount of tuition credit that she would then transfer to me (her parent who helped pay for her tuition!) as there was last year. Are you with me?

Well, darn it all if she didn't earn too much $$ last year and she needed all of her tuition credit that she didn't use last year plus ALL of her tuition credit from THIS year in order to reduce her income by enough so she could get a decent refund.  

Which meant there was none left for moi.

That leaves me with a tax refund of almost $1,000 less than last year. That means it's over $200 shy of what I owe the trailer park for my lovely large lot plus $250 short of what I owe my brother for the painting I (shouldn't have) bought last week.  

That's $450 that I will have to squeeze out of my April budget. Something is not going to get paid the way I had planned and that makes my upper lip curl in horror and disgust!!  Also the other $550 I thought I was going to get back was going to go towards a few things I needed around the house, but oh well. 

It was the one little bit of extra $$ I thought I'd have to play around with this year.  Now I'm going to have to figure something else out. 

Moral of the story?  You got it - NEVER ASSUME!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Marching into April (yuck yuck!)

It's funny how when you look at the chart as a whole you notice the errors. Like I had a category that was called "Shoppers Drug Mart Sympathy Card" as if I'm buying those in bulk or something! So shifted that to my favourite of all categories - "Misc"!

But then I noticed another troubling trend - I can't seem to make up my mind if coffee (Starbucks, Timmy's, Red Roaster - yup, I like my coffee) is "Misc" or "Entertainment"!  Sometimes I put it under entertainment and sometimes I put it under Misc. Perhaps it's because sometimes I am just picking it up and leaving to go somewhere else, like work, and other times I'm actually staying, sitting at a table and chatting with Michael or a friend which could be classified as "Entertainment". That sounds sort of reasonable doesn't it?  

However, the truth of the matter is that I'm just inconsistent and forget from one day to the next where I should put it. 

Actually, I'm also afraid that if I put them all under "Misc" then there's next to nothing listed under "Entertainment" which makes it look as if I don't have a life and that's simply not true!

Why....just this evening Michael and I are planning an amazing night of entertainment!!! Yes indeedy!  As soon as I finish this post I am going to borrow a few movies - yes, I'm at the library so I can borrow them for FREE and then we are going to go home for a lovely home-cooked meal and we will have POPCORN while we watch the movie reclining in our most comfortable bed which means I'll fall asleep about half-way through it, gently snoring while Michael watches the ending of the movie very carefully so he can tell me tomorrow what I missed!!

it doesn't get any more entertaining than that!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Parent Teacher Interviews

One cool dude!
A loooooooong day - I'm so tired I can't really think of anything particularly interesting to say. That's the way it is on parent/teacher interview days. I've been up since 5:30am...took a quick coffee break around 3pm to inject some caffeine directly into my veins and then back for round two. My last parent left at 7:45pm.  

It wasn't a difficult evening - I find that instead of me talking to the parents about how their child is doing I usually just listen. My parents are dealing with issues totally unrelated to academics, scholarships and diplomas. 

My parents need to unload to someone who understands what they're going through - they tell me about their frustrations with doctors who just keep referring them to other doctors who put them on a wait list for the next six months. They tell me about medication changes, lack of support workers, the scarcity of recreational programs and how little sleep they get. 

It's a whole different world.  And now my brain needs a rest.  Good night all!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

What to do When You Run out of FOOD...? Use MAGIC!!

My mother could work magic, I swear. I can barely remember a time when our fridge didn't look as empty as the one pictured above.  The only time her fridge looked full was after all of us kids moved out!!

BUT, when I was a kid I'd come home everyday and ask the same question - "ma, what can I eat?" And her answer would invariably be - "nothing, we'll be eating supper in an hour!" Curses!! 

Luckily for me, my ma - a writer AND a food magician, would usually be holed up in the living room with the door closed and the constant clacking of the typewriter would cover any sounds I might make as I foraged through the cupboards looking for something...anything...that would make a good snack.

My siblings and I had to get pretty creative when it came to snacks. My mother wasn't one to spend money on "extras" like cookies or potato chips. She had to make do with about $80.00 per week - not just for food but for EVERYTHING - mortgage payment, utilities, insurance, food - EVERYTHING!! I remember the counting ritual that took place in the kitchen every Friday. My dad would bring home his pay packet at lunchtime and count 5 twenty dollar bills into my mother's hand. Then, without fail, she would count 1 twenty back into his hand. That was for him to spend on what he needed - gas for the car, seeds for the garden, feed for the chickens and maybe an ice cream bar for us kids during our regular Sunday drive.

So what did we eat for snacks? Well, we'd get into the raisins or dates if there were any.  Crunchy homemade dill pickles seemingly as big as my arm - yum! and I've enjoyed many a raw potato with some salt sprinkled on it. There were usually apples around if we were desperate but my all-time favourite snack was smushing butter, brown sugar and cinnamon on a couple of slices of bread and putting them into the toaster til the sugar was all bubbling hot!! 

AND the piece de resistance was those old stovetop cookies that my brother and I used to make on those rare Sunday mornings when my parents slept in. Cocoa, coconut, rolled oats, white sugar, butter - the perfect Sunday morning breakfast. So we wouldn't get caught we'd take the whole pot and a couple of spoons down to the basement and watch TV while we got high on sugar!

Meanwhile, back at the typewriter, my mother continues to clack out another story for the next issue of that old kid's magazine "Jack and Jill." I look in the fridge and see nothing that would constitute "supper". I look in the oven - nothing.  I sniff the air but can detect no cooking smells. What the heck are we going to have for supper?  Not too worried, I take my dill pickle, my apple and a handful of raisins up to my room and pick up whatever book I'm reading - either one of the "Little House on the Prairie" series, the latest Reader's Digest or an Edgar Allan Poe story, honestly I'd read anything, and snack away.

Lost in my story ma would have to call me two or three times before I'd make my way to the supper table.  I'd ask the usual question - "can I read at the table?" and get the usual answer - "no".  I'd put down my book and sit down to a supper complete with dessert. Somehow, in the space of time between arriving home from school and getting called to the table my mother would "magically" make supper "appear".  Although a short while before I had scoured our seemingly bare fridge and cupboards for food my ma had whipped together a meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, half a loaf of bread AND tapioca pudding with sliced bananas for dessert - we always had dessert. (AND I WAS SKINNY AS A RAIL - GO FIGURE!!) 

I I was a totally self-absorbed child I never found out what her secrets were. Honestly I was just used to it. Day after day, month after month, year after year - there was always supper on the table by the time by dad got home from work - 6pm sharp!

Since I never learned to do "food magic", now when I start to see past the initial layer in the fridge and the cupboard I start to panic and my "Little House on the Prairie" pioneer instincts kick in.  If I let the pile of turnips get too low we could starve before the spring thaw ya know...and when you're a pioneer you just can't run down to the local grocery store!!

Well thankfully in today's world I can run to the local Real Canadian Superstore and so today I did just that. I've already overspent on groceries this month but when I start to get a little panicky I have to stock up. I'm sure we wouldn't have died if I had waited til payday (Thurs) to shop but there it is, it's just the way I'm built. We had no salad - well ya gotta have salad! We were almost out of bread, not quite but almost!! And there were no more bags of milk - can't eat cereal (our family staple) without milk!!  However, in the interests of my budget I used $40.00 worth of my Presidents Choice points so my little shopping trip only cost me $9.00 and change. 

Seeing as how I bought two bags of salad, zucchini, green pepper, bananas, blueberries, bread, two kinds of bagels, milk, grapes, two tubes of toothpaste, ibuprofin, body wash, and a few other odds and sods all for less than $10.00 I guess I CAN work a little food magic of my own after all!!

Hittin' the Beach!!

Yessiree bob, it's that time of year again...a time for beach blankets, flipflops, sunscreen, sunglasses and ice cold beverages! Yes - it's time to hit the beach!

Due to the cancellation of other plans yesterday, Michael and I found ourselves at Timmy's, coffee in hand, the car all gassed up and no place to go! So, with the sun shining brightly, beach blanket in the trunk of the car and sunglasses firmly planted on noses we, like any other Canadian couple with nothing to do, headed for the beach! Yahoo!

First we toured Pt. Burwell, famous for its wind farm and Lighthouse Restaurant (um...not so much), not to mention white, sandy beaches as far as the eye can see:

Wind turbines

Dabbling my boot-clad toes in Lake Erie - refreshing!!

Did I mention the ice floes??
Yes...well...on the bright side they're not in the water anymore!

Beached ice floe

New and old technology: wind turbine
and abandoned tobacco kilns

Michael chowing down on his toasted chicken sandwich
and homemade fries at the "quaint"
Lighthouse Restaurant

Travelling east along the Lake Erie coastline we stopped to snap
some photos of the wind turbines and tobacco kilns only to
happen across this gorgeous view.
You can almost convince yourself it's summer!

Final destination: Long Point, ON
Looking a bit like the surface of the moon!
Here we are in Long Point; a gorgeous "point" of land extending
far into Lake Erie. Here all of the ice was still in the lake.

No dipping my toes in here!

The day's end...but we'll be back!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Happens When You Rush the Season (and by you I mean me)

I know, I know, I promised.

But if I don't laugh at myself...well then I'll just break down and cry!

Does an Art Attack Constitute an Emergency?

 This has been a family week. Sometimes I go months without seeing any family members beyond my immediate wee nuclear family of Michael and Kazi but this past week saw us connecting with extended family members on a couple of occasions.  

The week started with the death of my brother-in-law. His health was poor and an illness took him quickly. My niece and nephew, who I think of as kids although they are both over 40, handled the arrangements with sensitivity and maturity. The service was casual, yet intimate, a time to reflect on the life of a  good man. 

As the week progressed there was some good news: my brother's wife who has been in hospital the past three week due to bronchial pneumonia was finally well enough to come home! 

Then, last night, some of us gathered to support my other brother who was holding an art show in his studio here in London. These pictures are from his art show, which continues today and tomorrow. However, visitors will find that most of his paintings have been snapped up by his many patrons, friends and family members.  In fact, by the time we arrived at around 8pm (the show opened at 7:30pm) most of the work was sold. I still managed to purchase a painting, so did my oldest brother, another nephew and my daughter! 

Yes, I had an "art attack"!! As I look around my living room and think of the other rooms in my house I know I didn't NEED another painting - every wall in my home contains original artwork - mostly paintings by my talented brother. But when it comes to art NEED doesn't really play a deciding role. Art tends to be an emotional purchase - one prompted by the feelings that are evoked upon viewing said work. A painting can transport me to another place, another time and fills me with a longing to be inside the frame rather than outside of it. The purchase of such a piece can provide moments of quiet contemplation and the fulfillment of little pockets of yearning in my soul that need filling. 

For me, that is a very important function. That is why I never feel a moment's hesitation or guilt in purchasing paintings from my brother. And if that means writing a cheque from my emergency fund then so be it. In this case a piece of my tax refund will cover the payment. And I will be the richer for it.
My brother is in the centre of this photo with his hand
on someone's shoulder.

See anyone you recognize? Yes, there's Michael and my
daughter in her bright red shirt is hiding behind him
being camera shy.

Lots of supporters! My brother paints both portraits and landscapes.
The past few years has seen him concentrate on landscapes of
Ireland. He visits there usually once or twice a year.

Even this painting, which was labelled "work in progress",
was sold. Sure which I could see it when it's finished!

Here is my purchase, entitled "The Shannon".  For me this painting
makes me think of my view of the HUGE sky in PEI, the
way that I see it from my yard at Crofters Lane.
The unusual light, the stormy clouds, the infinite expanse of it.

Both of my brothers are in this photo. The artist is busy talking while my other brother is standing next to the lady in red - all you can see is part of his little grey head peeking over someone's shoulder.

Ireland influenced landscapes.

Would have loved to buy this one too, but someone beat me to it.
It is entitle: "Snowdrops"

Tomorrow I will be spending more time with my niece and nephew as they
need help with my brother-in-law's house. It needs to be cleaned,
decluttered and readied for sale.
More family time :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Islanders By Choice

Crofters Lane

This shows my PEI home last spring when the lilac tree was in bloom.
Isn't it a pretty shot?
The previous owner/renovator has such a sweet, sentimental side to him - he loves this house and continues to care for it. Oh yes,
he also has a wicked sense if Island humour:)

Here's a message he sent me just the other day:

"We walked back to the house snow around the perimeter of the house...and none in the house either...that is also good ! I never noticed any new tenants the squirrel type . So...all is good . Oh...about 8 feet of snow still in the driveway . There was a big tree that fell in the woods...par for the course considering the winter we endured . See ya..."

The is typical of my "Islander" experience so far - friendly, helpful and always with tongue tucked firmly in cheek! 

A note to my fellow "Islanders" - if you are on facebook check out a page called Islanders by Choice Alliance (this relates to a comment about living on the island but being "from away"). A group of islanders from all origins have started a group that every Islander can join for socializing, networking, for newcomers, for long-time dwellers, for every person who has decided to an IBCer (Islander by choice).  The group has grown beyond all expectations and now has 413 members. One very successful social event has been held already with another planned for the end of April. 

Some folks who have moved to PEI found it very difficult to form friendships with Islanders and felt they were treated differently because they were "from away". (This has NOT been my experience so far but I appreciate that it has happened to others). So a group of Islanders By Choice thought they would form a welcoming committee of sorts and it has become something much much more. I can't wait to attend one of these events and meet many more IBCers! Even if you were born on the island and have lived there all of your life - this group is for YOU! 

Check it out!  Besides...I hear Islanders give great hugs!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekly Wrap

Who wouldn't want a wrap like this?

Okey dokey, let's roll out the numbers for the past three weeks:

I've painted myself into a bit of a financial corner this month. The numbers all worked fine at the beginning of the month but I find that the $$ are quickly running out and that I'm going to have to pull a No Spend final 10 days of March. There is very little wiggle room.

We have spent all of our grocery money plus a little more
and that little more was all for ICECREAM - oh my poor thighs!!
(This month seems extremely loooooooong!)
I have a bit of gas money left but not a lot so trying not to do
any extraneous driving.
I have a grand total of $33 left in misc spending and that's all she wrote.
The rest of the $$ that is sitting in my account is earmarked:
$130 for bi-monthly PEI mortgage
$152 for property tax
$87 for heat/dryer (natural gas)
$56 for electricity
$70 transportation (gas & due for an oil change!)

If only I could get my hands on my daughter's T4 and get our income tax finished then we would have two hefty refund cheques in our
hot little hands and I could inject a few more dollars into the budget.
It was supposed to have been mailed a week ago in the same city...
do you suppose they forgot to put on a stamp??? I being taught some sort of lesson here?
Well, if so I'll have to figure it out later.
I am starving and then I need to jump on my bike and race another
25km north/east on my trek to PEI.

How's your budget doing - will you make it to the end of the month before the end of your money??

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday's Hike: A Story in Pictures

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say.  Therefore, I will let the following series of photos speak for themselves. Let's just say the only thing injured was my pride.

Oh, look at the pretty orange mushroom........

Sarah McLachlan Concert Cancelled!

Well my post title says it all - the concert was cancelled due to "medical emergency"! And we didn't find out til 5 seconds after we bought two glasses of red wine in plastic cups for $13.00! Oh snap!

So we sucked it up and walked down to the Rainbow Theatre and saw "Limitless" but good as Bradley Cooper is in that movie (really enjoyed it!) he ain't no Sarah McLachlin. We will find out in a day or two if it will be rescheduled or not.

Just trying to figure out where to go for our Sunday hike - it's nice and sunny though not as mild today. No doubt wherever we end up it will be muddy but that's ok.

Talk to you later!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Stuff

Can you see the three black pins in my map of Canada? Squint a little - it helps! I started my incredible basement biking odyssey in London, ON which is the pin at bottom left. The pin that is near the centre is where I am now having cruised through Montreal, and the pin top right is stuck into Alberton, PEI, my final destination. It would appear as if I'm halfway through my journey, but alas, due to the scarcity of roads in New Brunswick I will be travelling around New Brunswick more so than through it.

After last night's ride I have "travelled" 722km and have 1180km left to go. I would like to be halfway there by the end of March which is 221 more kms. I don't think I can manage that in only 12 more days but I'll give it my best shot. I fell behind quite a bit with that virus hanging on and on but am pedalling like a mad witch now. (think Wizard of Oz!)

Tonight Michael and I are heading to the John Labatt Centre (we Canadians are so proud of our beer we name our stadiums after it!) to see Sarah Mclachlan, one of Canada's most talented singers. The tickets were a gift for his ____th birthday. You can guess! He loves to tell people I'm older, though really only by 8 months!

Here's one of her more famous songs:

After the concert we'll likely head to Maggies, listen to some jazz, and sip a couple of martinis, or Blueberry Tea(Grand Marnier & Amaretto...oh yeah and a little orange pekoe) - yum! A couple of lowbrows having a highbrow night - tee hee! I'll make sure I hold my pinkie out at the correct angle:)

Hope your weekend is going swell and that it's not snowing where you are!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gotta Have a Goal

* I almost missed by blogiversary. I've been blogging since 2007 and started THIS blog March 17, 2009. To celebrate I am reposting my first post. I think the content will sound vaguely familiar:) Just a few changes over the past two years: I acquired a BF (exactly 1 month after I started THIS blog!); I didn't plan to buy my retirement property before I retired but am oh so glad I did, AND it turned out to be in PEI, not Nova Scotia. Otherwise I am still on track!

Every summer I play at being retired. I relax at my trailer in Bayfield by reading, snoozing, swimming, bike riding etc but then on August 1st I start to lose my focus. Being a school teacher I begin to get anxious and have recurring nightmares about not being prepared. Last summer it was so bad I got "shingles" on my right arm and hand, which sort of hindered the getting ready part being a right-handed person.

So naturally, I look forward to the summer when I am no longer whacked in the head when I rip July off of the calendar. Being a goal-oriented person I have decided to embark on a five year retirement plan (a little early)(nothing like getting a head start), which will hopefully see me retire two years early on a reduced pension. I think I can do it and will use this blog as a way to chart my progress and hopefully inspire a few others to get off the treadmill and start enjoying life.

My goals are thus: pay off my remaining debt in 2 1/2 years; increase my savings by roughly $80,000; get rid of a lifetime of accumulated stuff including my 18 year old daughter (but not in the same way!); redecorate and sell my condo and purchase a retirement property somewhere out east, probably Nova Scotia.

That should keep me occupied for the next 5 years and will hopefully provide a creative outlet for all that pentup anxiety that we teachers (among many other professions) carry with them constantly.

Guess What's Lurking Under the Snow and Old Dead Leaves and Other Signs of Spring OR How I Spent St. Paddy's Day

It's time for a change. Perhaps you've noticed the preponderance of green on my blog today. Perhaps you've noticed the ridiculously long post title. Rest assured, dear readers, that I haven't gone totally bonkers, in fact, I think my sanity is being restored...AND I vow NOT to post one more snow-related photo AND perhaps nothing WHITE for the rest of the ENTIRE YEAR. That's right, nothing related to WINTER until January 1st, 2012!!! I don't care if it all SNOWMAGEDDON breaks out - that's it, I'm done, forgeddaboutit!

Thank you for listening, that was very cathartic!

Yesterday Michael and I drove to check out our trailer in Bayfield. I hadn't been there since mid-November when I raked the last of the leaves and battened down the hatches. Over the winter....correction....over the horridly long, snowy, blowy, storm-ridden winter I had visions of the flat trailer roof caving in from the weight of all the great heaping mounds of snow. OR, a rather large mouse family looking for shelter from all of the, you guessed it, SNOW!!

Happily, there was no sign of leakage or rodent squatting. And on our property there was no sign of SNOW! It was gone, melted, and under the rotting, wet leaves were lovely green growing things that lifted up my heart and made me smile from ear to ear. Michael got up on the roof and cleaned out the eavestrough, gently raked the leaves off of the flower beds while I went into town for supplies. On my way to town I heard a robin sing and I was able to snap a couple of pictures from the car.

We ended the day at the local pub - The Albion - with chicken wings and beer (although NOT the green kind...of beer that is...) It was a perfectly wonderful day!
Fiddling on the Roof

Buds on the Lilac Tree

Got a lot of compliments on my fancy rubber boots!
No fire in the firepit today - it was full of water.

One lone tulip poking up through a leaf.

The myrtle always bounces back quickly. It won't be
long til the lovely purple flowers are blooming.

I removed the dead leaves and look what was underneath!
The hens and chickens multiplied while I wasn't looking!

Humble yet so photogenic!

Bursting with life!

No wonder the robins are so fat and sassy -
look who's coming to dinner!

Very happy to be back in the neighbourhood!

The kids are already down on the beach
throwing rocks into the lake!

Lunch on the patio: whole grain bread, hummus, grapes
and our friend Stella:)

Our yard waste was the first to arrive at
the garbage area!

After clearing away the dead stalks this year's
growth of hollyhocks are well underway.

I'm a real swinger!

If you're happy that spring is here SMILE!

I'll wait til all of the ice melts though
before dipping my toes in!