Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Month End Update: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Oopsie - I forgot to do my Weekly Wrap last week which goes hand in hand with overspending, don't you think? Yes, if you find yourself forgetting to check your budget and your numbers on a regular basis it's easier to just throw caution to the wind.

I wasn't what you would call a spendthrift on my weekend away, in total I spent about $86.00.  I bought a top (clearance price - $38), a couple of candle holders to take to PEI at Ten Thousand Villages ($33), a pair of earring also from Ten  Thousand Villages for $1.99 and a gift of a tin of toffee from the Scottish Loft for Kazi. ($13)  Sounds reasonable, no? HOWEVER, (don't ya hate howevers) I only had $40 cash so had to overdraw my account until I got home and made a transfer out of savings to cover the difference. STILL...not a million dollars or anything.

Boy, those "stills" will get ya though.  Add up all the "stills" and "howevers" over the month of May and you get "overspending". All in all I overspent this month by about $500. That is a big no-no! That meant less $$ to savings and less $$ to debt repayment and that hurts!! Goals won't be met if I keep these  bad habits up!!

So June is going to be a frugal month, or at least that's the plan.  Smart electricity meters are going into effect this month and they SCARE me! I'm at work during peak use time (highest rate) but Kazi and Michael are both at home during peak use time and I won't be there to follow them around and turn things off. So, I'm a little worried about my hydro bill increasing! Our habits are going to have to change!!

Well, that's all for now. Time for some supper and bike riding. Yes, that's another habit that I've let slide lately. 

Good golly I'm just falling to pieces!!

Monday, May 30, 2011


What an incredible gift it was to be whisked away for a weekend to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Michael had never been there before so it was a treat for him too! I used to take Kazi there every summer from when she was four years old. As soon as she started to hear the Marineland commercials on TV we'd start to plan our annual pilgrimage. 
Who can forget this catchy (irritating after the 2nd or 3rd time hearing it!!) C'mon...sing along!

"Everyone loves a holiday,
watching the whales how they swim and play,
they jump in the air splash waves in your hair,
everyone loves Marineland,
Niagara Falls Ontario,
is always the fun place to go, 
see friends you miss a great big kiss,
everyone loves Marineland!"

After a fun-filled (exhausting) day at Marineland and seeing the sights we'd spend the night in a motel in Niagara Falls and then head to Niagara-on-the-Lake the next day. When she was little Kazi would swim in the huge fountain and because she was a highland dancer she loved visiting the Scottish and British stores but our most favorite store of all (sadly not there any longer) was the candy store that had every kind of candy made since the beginning of time!  So good!

Here are a few pictures of my adventure there with Michael:

It was cool and cloudy Friday - not much difference in colour between the sky and the water which is Lake Ontario.
Saturday the weather improved and eventually we were able to shed our sweaters and scarf. I'm going on record that the sun DID COME OUT!!
Just finished tasting some ice wine - VERY sweet! (Too sweet!)
No post of mine is complete without a picture of two of flowers and these poppies were just screaming out to be immortalized! I couldn't get
too good of a shot as they were on the other side of a fence but
the colour is just amazing.

This is the theatre where we saw "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" - some of you may remember the movie starring Elizabeth Tayler and Paul Newman which was based on the play by Tennessee Williams. We enjoyed it immensely!
This is our bed and breakfast and our hostess was Rosie, a fearless German woman who served us homemade waffles with homemade peach preserves and maple syrup and huge sausages - yum!
The second morning she served vegetable and ham omlettes, buns with preserves, marble cake, yogurt and fresh fruit - we certainly didn't starve!
Rosie is an avid gardener and her backyard was an oasis filled with flowers, a pond and waterfall, an arbour covered in wisteria (my #1 favourite flower) and cozy places to sit.
New friends met at the B and B - Beth and Marco
Great conversation!!
Hello to my American friends!  United States is on the other
side of the Niagara River!
A very hazy day!

We just happened to come across a group of little ones waiting to go
into a church for a First Communion?  (I'm guessing)
They were so precious I had to take a few photos!

And finally, just one of hundreds of vineyards surrounding Niagara-on-the-Lake.  This area is Canada's answer to Napa Valley!
That's it for today. I have much catching up to do on your blogs and...
P.S. - notice how I'm not all sarcastic and flippant in today's post? A little mini-holiday can do one a world of good.  Any bets on how long my calm, cool and collected mood will last??

Friday, May 27, 2011


Thank you thank you and thank you for all of your birthday wishes! It was wonderful to hear from so many of you!! I had a wonderful day full of surprises!  I was expecting a quiet evening with Michael and Kazi but at 6pm a bunch of our friends showed up for a surprise potluck supper and boy was I ever surprised!! What a great evening :) Thanks Michael and Kazi for your underhanded organizing - I didn't suspect a thing!

Just wanted to thank you all and let you know that I'll be away for a couple of days.  I am being whisked off to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a special weekend! We are seeing "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" at the Shaw Theatre, staying two nights at a B&B, going out for romantic dinners and I just might not have time to do any writing :)

I hope you all have joyful weekends and that wherever you are it doesn't rain!

Talk to you all soon!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Happy Birthday to ME!

Since I'm at school I had to choose a photo from what is stored on my work computer, so this is a picture from my birthday a couple of years ago eating cake with Todd. Todd is graduating this year and I am going to miss him more than I can say. As one of my EAs said to Todd once "you light up my life!"

There is somethings so wonderful about a person you can lavish all of your affection on and who just soaks it all up and freely gives it back.

Just try it. One day, when you're feeling blue, give a friend or a family member a big hug, you'll feel better for it.  Not a day goes by that I don't give Todd several hugs (and a few kisses but shhhhhh, don't tell anybody)!!

It's still only 7:20am but already two people have bought me coffee, I had a "Happy Birthday" note on my mirror this morning and on my blackboard at school.  I found a cute card from Kazi, Michael and Dane (Michael's son) on the kitchen counter.

How wonderful to be able to give and receive love!

Gotta go!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Falling off the Wagon

This week is all about getting back up onto the wagon.  The wagons of "exercise" and "no spending".  I was doing so well there for a few months and so I got cocky and sat on the edge of the wagon.  "I've got everything under control" I said to myself, "I can handle dangling my feet off the back of the wagon...I can see better back here"...

And then the wagon hit a few bumps and I fell off.....

Mind you I enjoyed the bumps just like a kid would...but now the adult in me says "you've had your fun, get back up on the wagon!! You can't spend all of your time being lazy and loose with your money or you won't meet your goals!"

"Remember your goals?" a little voice said to me.  "You know, the ones where you were going to bike all of the way to PEI by the end of June? And pay off $20,000 on your Line of Credit by September?  Are you just going to forget about those goals and let down the team?"

So here I am.  The wagon kindly pulled a U-turn so I could climb back on.  Nobody gave me the evil eye, in fact a few others moved over so I could sit far away from the edge. They told me that they too had fallen off the wagon before, sometimes more than once. 

"It's getting back on that's important...so welcome back!"

Monday, May 23, 2011

Today's Weather Brought to You by...

What a weather-filled weekend we had. It seemed to change about every 30 minutes or so. Over the course of the hour long outdoor wedding I attended it started out sunny, clouded up, rained, was sunny again, then more clouds. With respect to the bride and groom's wishes we aren't allowed to post any pictures of them til after they return from their honeymoon in Montreal, as they want to be the first to see them. So here is a pic from after the nuptials in the groom's parents' backyard. There are my friends Kelly and Bob under the tent and my friend Sue just stepping into the frame on the right.

The reception was held at a hall about 5 minutes down the road where we continued to have more weather which centered around the 100% humidity as evidenced by Michael's sweaty shirt, seen below. To give him his due he never stopped dancing once the music started - a span of about 4 hours or so.

I think it's ok to show you a picture of the cake:

Isn't that gorgeous?? The bride, being east Indian and having done two stints of mission work in India, chose an Indian theme for her wedding with the main motif being the "elephant". There was also a "cupcake cake" and chocolate cheese cake to top off a buffet laden with indian food - sooooo good!

We spent the night at a motel we nicknamed "Shady Rest" due to the questionable characters sitting out front of their units, many of whom had lived there for a number of years. But then that's what you get for $59.00!!

Sunday morning we had our "trucker's breakfast" at a diner in Acton, ON. We stopped and asked people who were walking down the main street where a good place for breakfast was and we were not disappointed! Three eggs, bacon, toast and homemade absolutely scrumptious homefries for $4.65. We dropped off our friends and wedding duds in London, threw in our trailer clothes and headed to Bayfield where...guess what?  More freaking weather!!

Sunday afternoon was perfect - sunny and warm. We were tired so we laid around in the sun and alternated between reading and sleeping, sleeping and reading - pure bliss!  Michael BBQ'd, we rode our bikes into town for icecream, then had a fire while watching the fireworks. During the night I woke up several times to hear the rain hitting the metal roof - nothing better!

Monday the weather was very changeable: rain, sun, cloudy, storm, cloudy, rain, thunderstorm, sun, cloudy, rain, cloudy... you get the idea...

So that meant spending the day reading the paper, then finishing my book while sitting on the porch protected from the elements. One thing I do really enjoy and that's a good thunderstorm and today's was a doozy! Lots of thunder and lightning, a dip in temperature, but we wrapped up in blankets and stayed cozy on the porch. Now we are home, doing laundry and getting caught up on email and such to a constant barrage of firecrackers and fireworks going off nearby. Back to the ol' grind tomorrow :) It was fun while it lasted!

Tell me about your weekend!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Just in Case...

 Just in case the world ends tomorrow while I'm at a wedding in Georgetown I thought I'd better post some pictures from a midweek hike Michael and I took. Otherwise you might never get to see them and I know how much you ALL love my nature shots.  In fact, if you get really stressed out about the end of the world you could calm yourself by scrolling slowly through the photos while chanting "I just want to live"...."I just want to live"...
Once again we were out by Fanshawe Lake - everything is so green (gee, maybe it's all the rain we've been having...)
 Flowers are everywhere, bursting forth to create vibrant jolts of colour...
 I've never seen so many trilliums...perhaps it's because of all the rain...ya think?
 Here's a gnarly old lady with fungus for feet - reminds me of a gym teacher I once had - I'm not even kidding! She was the worst! She had been frenemies with my oldest sister and took it out on me. One time she made me take off my pinkie ring, engraved and given to me by my best friend, because I was playing volleyball...then when I asked to have it back she said she couldn't find it...I don't think she even looked! Miserable old spinster!!
Alright, breathing deeply now....this one makes me thing of a Chinese watercolour, ahhhhhh, that's better, feeling calmer....  I leaned way out over the edge of a cliff to get this shot - can you see the ripples of the lake water behind it?  No?  Look harder ...
 Isn't this one precious? 
 This one is called "Living on the Edge, Part 1". This tree still has a couple of roots holding it onto firm ground, but I don't know for how much longer. And yes, he was scared like a little girl!
 Just kidding honey! This is me "Living on the Edge, Part II", looking far into the future, envisioning a time when we have two days in a row without rain...
 Puddles are joining together to form ponds which are great for reflection photos...

like this one...and maybe for ducks, fish and ...arks! Oh, horrors!!!
Oops!! How did this one get in here?  Oh well, if you're looking at this on Saturday this could be the last thing you see before the world en-----------ds----------------oh no!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's turning out to be one of those times when the $$ is going to run out before the month does. Gail would not be pleased. I'm sure she'd be smackin' me upside the head if she were anywhere close by. 

I suppose I could have declined the wedding invitation for this weekend but that wouldn't be much fun now would it? No indeedy! So instead of moping about watching my $$ grow wings and fly far far away I'm going to grab a bottle of vino, watch my friend's daughter become a newlywed and then dance my little freshly painted toesies off during the crazy caribbean party afterwards, fill my face with east indian cuisine, hoot and holler and make considerable merriment into the wee hours. I'm sure it will be a terrible time.

Then we'll spend the rest of the night partying at the motel where we're all staying, crash for a few hours, go out for a trucker's breakfast and go spend what's left of our long holiday weekend (we get a long weekend to celebrate a former Queen's birthday from 130+ years ago - go figure! ...not complaining!!) at the trailer where I'll read, recuperate from the festivities and figure out how I'll make it through one more week before it's payday again. 

It can be done....it WILL be done...and I'll force myself to put a smile on my face and party like there's no tomorrow because isn't the world supposed to end on Saturday anyways??? So what the heck am I worrying about $$ for??

Happy weekend everyone!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Most Thrilling Post Ever

 While driving to the trailer a couple of weeks ago I happened to espy out of the corner of my eye "the perfect barn"!!! Yes, I know, it's an amazing specimen isn't it? This is the style of barn I want to build, or is it "raise"? out in PEI?
Look at that solid stone foundation, the board and batten siding, the cedar shake roof, the coachlights...

 the double doors so I can drive out on my tractor vroom vroom, the mansard roof, the side porch...The mansard roof allows for maximum height up in the loft - I'll have a real glass window from my insulated writing nook so I can look out over the trees and fields...

 and my side porch will have a hanging swing for two and perhaps a railing to put our feet up on...
One end will have a leanto added on for seasoning wood for our woodstove
like this sorta...

So now that I've put you all asleep I can sneak by you that I just lost all my money buying some swampy land in El Salvador and I can't afford to pay my bail after I was caught shoplifting penny rollers at Walmart...sob!!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

C'mon Baby.....Kindle Me!!

If I don't seem to be around much anymore blame my family. They Kindled me for my birthday - I actually jumped for joy!! (And my birthday is still 9 days away!! They must really love me!!)

I was planning to purchase one for myself when we moved east in 3 years because my favorite newspaper, "The National Post", isn't delivered to my remote farmhouse or surrounding area. Knowing that I can't live without my newspaper meant investing in a reader of some sort and having the paper delivered by "whispernet" - (doesn't that sound cool, kind of CIAish) at 5:45am each morning. Perfect!! That's the time I get up in the morning!! And I'll never have to go outside on a winter's morning and find an empty mailbox because the newspaper van couldn't get through the snowdrifts!!

Recently my nephew was showing me his Kindle (sounds kinky but it's not, Mark), and all of it's cool features and I thought to myself (though I may have said it out loud)..."wow, I want one of those!" This from an avid book fan, this from a person who said they could NEVER use a reader, that's just blasphemy!!  Well, I'm converted! 

I will always love to hold a book, but there is definitely a place in my life for a Kindle. 

On another note I am happy, actually overjoyed to report that finally, in it's third year, my lilac tree is going to bloom!!! 

Yay! I'm not a failure as a gardener after all!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Life Changing Earth Shattering Stuff

I'm a day late, but what the heck - there are no rules in the blogging world...are there? If there are, that's it, I'm done! Hah!

So, picture this: Friday afternoon at the trailer - the grass freshly cut, wood stacked by the firepit, weeding all done, supper on the grill (jerk chicken, lots of roasted veggies & sweet potatoes mmmmmmmmmm), cold beer. What could be better?

Well, add to that good conversation, great tunes on the iPod/dock, a blazing fire and a spicy-sweet single malt....it was heavenly! When a Bob Marley song came on the conversation turned to music and how meaningful this particular song was in Michael's life. That led to us talking about how certain songs are like "signposts" in our life - marking the way to changes, turning points, high points, low points, relationships beginning (or ending), momentous occasions like births, deaths, weddings. 

There are so many songs that when I hear them on the radio or on my iPod I am immediately transported back in time - I can remember where I was, what I was wearing, what I was doing and who I was with. 

There is a certain Neil Diamond song that takes me right back to my friend Jill's basement - I'm 13, it's dark, my steady is sitting beside me holding my nervous, sweaty hand.  Andy Kim's "Rock me Gently" finds me rollerskating at our local arena (you don't want to know what I'm wearing lol), "Last Kiss" (sniff) has me slow dancing in my highschool gym.

When I hear the opening chords of "House of the Rising Sun" I think of my brother Gord, trying to learn to play the guitar and repeating those chords about 10,000 times a day! "Hurt", the Johnny Cash version, always has me in tears - Johnny sounds so much like my dad when he sings that song it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  

It's like we each have a soundtrack to our own lives. There was a song we hit repeat on about 10 times Friday night while sitting by the fire - from now on when I hear Beyonce's "Halo" I am going to remember May 13th, 2011 as a very special night.

Here's a song to remember me by. Next time you hear this song, think of me!

What songs are on the soundtrack of your life?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Weekly Wrap & Other Crap

Some sort of Blogger problem occurred over the past couple of days which prevented me from posting and commenting, then I was at my trailer in Bayfield for a day with no internet so I'm feeling a bit discombobulated. I guess I'll start with the numbers and add any other interesting tidbits of news that I can think of:

Reducing my line of credit continues to be my #1 priority so I love seeing my debt-crushingly huge blue tower dominating my financial landscape. Poetic, no?  Hey, I gotta do something to liven up the numbers.

Last summer I added $20,000 to my line of credit when I purchased my PEI home and by this Sept. I will have paid off that major expenditure leaving me with another $36,000 to pay off before retirement. At the pace that I am currently reducing my LOC it will be paid off at least a year (maybe two) before I retire! Keeping my fingers crossed here that no life-altering events occur like I get pregnant or something - hahahahahahah I kill myself sometimes!

Savings represents both long-term and short-term goals - $$ for retirement and $$ to pay for bills over the next year. Once my LOC is REPAID IN FULL I can really ramp up the savings by adding the blue tower to the green tower which will give me a greenish-blue tower I guess...

The gift savings account took a hit this month - it felt quite remarkable to transfer money out of my gift acc't and into my chequing account to cover a wedding gift and concert tickets for my daughter's birthday this coming September! I can barely believe I've PAID for Kazi's gift in MAY!! I am a changed woman - I am a financial PLANNER - hear me ROAR!!

The not-so-good news is that my hydro bill was up $10 from last month and I have no good explanation except that my daughter is finished her year at university and has taken up permanent residence on the couch watching TV with all the lights ON, her laptop open on the floor beside her in the ON position. 

Yes, she does work - the latest news is that she passed her BARTENDER exam and somehow I'm supposed to be as overjoyed about this as she is...I did muster up a forced smile/grimace and gave her a hug/slap on the back/head. Do you know you have to get at least 95% on the Bartender's exam in order to mix up a bloody Caesar?? Yeah, yet to drive a car you only need a minimum of 80%... huh?? I guess it's more important to know how to mix an Orgasm than it is to know how much space to leave between your car and the car in front of you - does this seem odd to you?

Anyhoo, my daughter's a bartender. Not that there's anything wrong with that. She works all night and sleeps all day. But.. she knows her vodka from her gin!

When I start getting too sarcastic it's time to close down the computer. I guess I just wish she wasn't so captivated by the bar scene and all the drama that goes with it. Hopefully it's a phase.

I'll be back tomorrow with further life-changing and earth-shattering updates from the past few days. I know, I know, what a tease. 

Until then, I leave you with a picture of my new BFF:


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

There Will Never Be Another May 10, 2011

Feeling a tad philosophical today...I have been in deep thought since driving home from work. A fellow being interviewed on CBC radio paraphrased a quote by Henry David Thoreau: "the measure of a man (person) is not how much he has, but how much he can live without." I thought to myself - this is the perfect quote to describe how I want to live my life in three years time when I retire.  I am going to challenge myself to see how much I can live without.

I've been sitting in front of my computer for awhile reading up on Thoreau, about whom I have limited knowledge. He felt that the closer one lived to nature the more "spiritual" one's life became. I tend to agree with that also - perhaps that makes me a transcendentalist? I do know that being out in nature on a regular basis has been a life-saving practice for me. Does that seem like an exaggeration? Well, read on...

I've always known that going for a hike in the woods, or walking along a beach, weeding in my garden, biking down a country road or falling asleep in my hammock at the trailer while listening to the doves crooning makes me feel better - happier, relaxed, calm, peaceful, less stressed.

A week ago I heard another snippet of a CBC interview related to this topic which completely piqued my interest. I jotted down the name of the fellow being interviewed (Psycholigist Marc Berman) and later looked him up on the internet. It seems that the theory that spending time in natural surroundings can be calming is no longer a theory - it is a proven fact.  

It has been proven that living in an urban environment takes a toll on our brains:
"Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control."
If you'd like to read the whole article - How the City Hurts Your Brain - The Boston Globe 
 In the city our minds are alway being vigilant - there are so many things to pay attention to - distractions, dangers, noise, smells, cars - it's a continual assault on our prefrontal cortex. This tires our brain and we can no longer focus very well. This part of our brain also controls our ability to resist temptations (our ability to control our impulses) so when our brains are zapped we are far more likely to make purchases that we don't need and eat food that isn't good for us (drink alcohol, consume drugs, smoke) which can lead to addiction, over-spending and being overweight.
 This explains why, at the end of a school day during which I've been on high alert with all my spidey senses tingling, I am utterly exhausted and want to eat everything in sight! 

Is there a cure? Yes there is. It's very simple. Give yourself a frequent nature break and if you can't get outside to a park then look at nature photography like the ones I've included in this post. Simply looking at photos is beneficial.

It's been proven that patients in hospital who can see trees and the sky from their windows recover quicker than patients who can only see a brick wall. Amazing no? There have been all kinds of studies done and they all show a huge positive impact from accessing nature. 

Being able to get away on weekends to my trailer helped me get through the breakdown of my marriage. Hiking and biking out in the country has also been therapeutic and my habit of recording these treks with my camera means I can relive those experiences over and over again.

Thank goodness for trees and flowers and soft billowy clouds - without them I'd probably weigh twice what I do now, I'd still smoke and I'd be drinking a bottle of red everyday after school!! 

I have found several you tube nature videos that I am going to look at on my lunch, or I'll go outside for a walk, sit under a tree and listen to the birds. I'll see if that helps me be more focussed in the afternoon and if it helps curb my appetite once the school bell goes at 2:10pm. I already know it works - it just needs to be part of EVERY day.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fairyland and Other Cool Places

Breakfast was excellent yesterday! I decided to really live it up and had steak and eggs, oooh how reckless - haven't had that in years! (It wasn't me paying so I threw caution to the wind!) But there was a method to my madness too because Michael and I had planned a 25km bike ride so thought I'd load up on protein;) (Pretty good excuse huh?)

Many thanks to Little Lamb who told me about www.gmap-pedometer.com. I was able to plot out a cycling route that was a 25km round trip and had us biking out in the country on the east side of Fanshawe Lake. Let me tell you that even with a gel seat I have a few tender places today! 

After we got home Michael threw himself into making dinner while my DD went and got us a case of chilled beverages - I really got the full treatment yesterday! Michael's son, Dane, was in town too so we had a great family dinner - BBQ'd chicken, steak, shrimp and tilapia, broccoli, asparagus, rice and for dessert - DAIRY QUEEN!! 

Here are a few photos from yesterday's bike ride:

Evergreens vs Dandelions - Who will win?
On Rebecca Rd.

Getting close to Fairyland

Here it is - Fairyland!

Exploring Fairyland

Fields and fields of trilliums

Such delicate beauty

Even Jack stopped by to welcome me!

Part of the bike path we accidentally found that meanders
around all of Lake Fanshawe, can't wait to explore it further.

Paused here for a bit, ate my grapes and enjoyed the calm and peaceful surroundings.

Looking for trolls

Can't help it - I'm a sucker for flowers!

There's something about the unfolding of petals that touches my soul.

Jack standing at attention!

Hope you had a magical weekend!