Thursday, May 31, 2012

May is Toast!

There are more than just a few of us who are glad to see May quietly disappear.  Just a few days into  May I was already overspending. And what with my birthday and a weekend away, new car license sticker, renewal of passport, new fireburner, new fridge and stove for PEI, new fans for the early summer heat, some new clothing and shoes...well, let's just say it's time to pay the piper and pull the belt a wee bit lot tighter for the month of June.

Thankfully it was payday today so I took $1300 and paid off most of the fridge and stove which was sitting on my President's Choice Mastercard. Don't worry, it's only been sitting there for a few days. I've had the card for several years and have yet to pay a penny in interest charges. However, the cash back has provided me with several hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise and groceries. It's a great little system as long as I keep good track of purchases and pay them off quickly. I usually check my credit card purchases daily online and pay them off then and there.

June SHOULD be a fairly frugal month except for one occasion and that's my daughter's graduation from university on the 19th. I'll be taking her out for lunch after with her boyfriend and family members but I don't know what to get her for a gift! Her boyfriend bought her a big gold watch.

It seems that girls wearing huge men's gold watches is all the rage right now. Ok, so now, how do I compete with that?  I'm on a fairly tight budget this month and I didn't plan for this purchase, yes, all my own fault. My daughter is hard to buy for, she only likes certain things and being her mom I don't know what those "certain things" are, because I'm like, NOT COOL!

For example - she is looking for a dress to wear UNDER HER ROBES during graduation and to lunch after. She has shopped, so she says, in every store in London and there is NOTHING suitable. Nothing. In the entire city. There is not a single store in London that sells the certain type of dress that she wants. So I'm a bit stymied. Obviously I can't go out and buy her a dress. Just the fact that her MOM picked it out would mean she wouldn't like it even if she DID like it. You see how hard this is?

So I've asked her to think about what she might like as a gift. I'd love to give her a weekend away somewhere like we used to do BEFORE boyfriend. She thought that might be nice but WHEN??
Hopefully it will all work itself out, it usually does but not without the requisite amount of sighing and angst!

Are you as glad that May is over as I am?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Birthday Treats

Do you buy yourselves birthday gifts? I do.  And sometimes it isn't even my birthday hee hee hee...I found a lovely bin full of fans in  a shop in Niagara Falls.  I've been meaning to get myself one for ages and ages and this paisley number was just the ticket... know...those moments when I get a tad overheated!!
Speaking of getting overheated.....

Awwwww....aren't they just the sweetest??  How could I not buy this pair of salt and pepper shakers!?! And they're hugging....!!  They're so symbolic!! I mean...Michael and I fell in love with just one HUG!!  What did you think I meant??

The owner of the store was so funny...everything was 100%, as in, 100% ceramic!!

100% real stone earrings!! Like that's something rare! But yes, I still bought them...I mean....they're heart-shaped...and we were in Niagara Falls!! A friend called us while we were there and asked if we'd gone to a drive-in wedding chapel??  Ummmm, that would be a.....NO!! A 100% NO! Yes, my friends, we are living in sin...
Gifts from Michael to expand my mind!!  Books and movies, movies and books!! My favourite gifts!
100% real leather candle holder!! 
The "sun, moon and stars" hold special meaning for Michael and I so I thought, why not? 
Yes, there is one born every minute!!
Also at this store Michael espied with his little eye this interesting garment and made me try it on in the sweltering heat and OMG it was so CUTE!!   I could just imagine myself wearing it in MUCH COOLER WEATHER with black leggings and knee high boots!! So he bought it for me, just like that!!
When the store owner heard it was my birthday he gave me the above very expensive 100% stone frog incense holder for FREE!! He really shouldn't have.......but he did... telling me that the frog symbolized longevity and a few other things that I've since forgotten.
My beloved daughter bought me my very own pair of TOMS shoes for my birthday!! I've coveted her pair for quite some time and I love this denim pair. For each pair of TOMS sold they donate a pair of shoes to a needy child so it's really two gifts in one!!
 Oh, and Sunday I did a wee bit of shopping in Niagara-on-the-Lake at my most favorite store - 10,000 Villages!!  I bought a gorgeous ceramic bird bath for PEI and...
 FOUR of these gorgeous plates at 50% off!!  (now I wish I'd bought eight!)
And since I was taking photos I took one of the pot and petunias Kazi got me for Mother's Day.  She also took me out for dinner so I could get to know her boyfriend better and meet his parents. That's a huge step for her so I was duly grateful!

So yes, you could say I was spoiled!!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Niagara Falls - Friday Night

 Home again, home again, jigitty jig! It's so lovely to go away and leave your problems behind even for just a couple of days. This is the lovely B&B we stayed in - I sat out front to drink my coffee and read each morning because it takes Michael much LONGER than me to get ready!! It's true!!  My one complaint about this place is their coffee - TOO weak so we'd head to Timmy's for some REAL coffee after our complimentary breakfast.
 As we were travelling around Friday evening looking for a restaurant to have dinner in I snapped this "sky" picture out of the car window - I'm amazed at how well it turned out (and I'm not going to show you all of the ones that DIDN'T turn out!)
We ended up eating at the Tandoori Hut but this picture of my butter chicken really doesn't do it justice!
 See? I'm smiling as it was DEEEEElicious!
And it wasn't so much a hut as an actual restaurant, thankfully! Though we were the only customers?!? but perhaps that was because it was around 8:30pm? We'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
The restaurant was Michael's choice...can you tell? It put a little "kick" in his step!
Afterwards we went next door to get a...........NOPE, just kidding!!  Though you never know....
We sort of saw the fireworks - they were on the OTHER side of the Skylon Tower so we had to make do with our partial view.
 We strolled around inside the Skylon Tower and found a really nice shopping area - designed for tourists but not junky like most of them are. I forgot to take pictures of my purchases so I'll do that and post them later.
We explored a bit more then it was back to the B&B for some R&R. I love the headboard of our bed - made from two large antique windows turned sideways and backlit creating a soft glow in the room. The bed was very comfy and I slept well - sometimes I don't sleep very well when I'm away as I miss my own bed but no problems here!

More later!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Birthday Weekend

Hellooooooooooo! Just letting you know that Michael and I are leaving in a couple of hours to go to Niagara Falls for my birthday weekend. As always, photos to follow! We'll be back Sunday night :)

Have a great weekend everyone, hope the weather is lovely wherever you are!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

To Do Lists

So many of us are avid list makers. See Carla's angsty post about her list making habits HERE!  I used to feel like Carla does when she doesn't get every item done on her list. But a few years ago I somehow managed to shift my mindset about my impossible to complete list. Whatever doesn't get done I put at the top of the next day's list. It'll all get done (or not) eventually.

At this time of year I usually have several lists going at the same time: one for school (not working on that one at present), one for home and one for PEI. Today I was feeling a little panicked about all of the things I need to do over the next few years to get my PEI home just the way I want it. The panicked feeling was about how to fund all of the things I need to get done, for example:

  • new septic system - the current septic system is OLD, no one really knows how old. It still works as can be evidenced by the very lush green lawn in a certain area of our acreage but a septic system is not something you want to replace AFTER it breaks down so that's at the top of the list. Once a new system is in place I'll likely never have to replace it in MY lifetime.
  • install a woodstove and all that goes along with that such as tiling the floor where it will be sitting, install a steel liner in the chimney and check to make sure the chimney is in good repair, perhaps remove a wall or partial wall
  • purchase several cords of hardwood
  • build a deck
  • level the driveway: this involves removing topsoil, inserting shale, covering with pea gravel and probably a few other things I'm not familiar with!
  • lots of items to purchase like a riding lawn mower, furniture, washer/dryer, freezer etc
  • hardwood ceiling on the front porch
  • plants: native trees, shrubs, perennials
  • tankless water heater (solar?)
  • new fence
There are also a couple of larger items I want/need to do: renovate the tiny kitchen and build a barn/wood shed/gardening shed. THAT money will come from what I can save over the next two years.  But I wasn't sure how to fund all of the smaller projects.....then I remembered my RSPs! Once I retire I will stop contributing and start withdrawing to the tune of $5,000 per year. I will have to deduct $500 from that (10%) for income tax leaving me with $4500 per year to complete all of my "extra but necessary" projects. 

I am SO glad I've got that figured out. It means I can't do everything at once but how could I anyways? The first two plus the tankless water heater are the most important, then we'll work away at the rest. 

I think I can do this...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Loooooooong Weekend!

We just had our first long weekend of the summer and the weather was everything you could wish it to be: warm, sunny, absolutely delightful. On Friday night a friend of ours was playing in his band at Me and Suzy's in Pt. Stanley so naturally we had to go along and cheer!
 Pt. Stanley is one of my favourite places to visit: it's only a 45 minute drive (shorter if you speed!), it has an active harbourfront, great beaches, quaint shops and lots and lots of live music.
I love taking pictures of kids, especially kids at the beach. While we worry about our cellulite and sprawl on our blankets like beached whales the kids are having a blast playing in the water. Amazingly, due to our warm spring I guess, the water was FILLED with people, mostly kids!
 There's nothing more precious than the sight of a bare bottom on the beach, I should say a baby's bare bottom! There were a few bum cheeks on display that I wished I hadn't seen, c'mon some modesty!!
Ahhhhh, to be young again!
 One of the other things I love about Pt. Stanley is its architecture and bright colours!
The marina is separated from the lake by a lift bridge. Some little person sits in the tower all day making the bridge go up...and down...up...and down...
The pansies were in full bloom and guarded well!
Here are the three members of Sonic Buddha! We're friends with the drummer, Ken, and that's his son playing bass guitar behind Jerome, the guitar player. All three sang and their harmonies were really quite good.  (think Beach Boys type harmonies!)

Here we are trying to keep warm! It got quite chilly Friday night but we didn't let that get us down. Nope, just brought out the blankets and kept the Irish coffees coming!
In other news my mug rug from Carla arrived and has been packed into a box headed to P.E.I. I love the bicycle and travel theme and especially the quote from Herman Melville: "It is not down in any map, true places never are!" Makes me think of Bilbo Baggins and his journey.

I'm starting week two of my work refusal and stress leave. I haven't really heard anything from work as to whether any changes have been implemented yet. Time will tell. I start physio on my neck and shoulder this Thursday. I'm getting a lot of reading done and trying to relax. Tomorrow I'll book a massage. I won't truly be able to relax until a) the recommendations from the health and safety committee are implemented and b) I'm back in my classroom and c) summer begins and I hit the road.

In the world of finance I am eagerly awaiting June's budget! I'm going to try and forget about May although there are still 9 days left!! OHH! and exciting news!! I've already spent June's money too!! Woot woot; I'm on a roll!! Watch out!!

OK, so here's the explanation.  I went on to check out stoves and fridges as this is the summer for appliances for my PEI home. make a long story short...I would get a good deal IF I made the purchase before May 22 (today!), then the sale would be over. So, I used my credit card (lots of points earned!) and will pay it off May 31st when I get paid. So the money won't actually go in and out of my PEI Maintenance savings account except in theory only. They will be delivered to my new home on July 3rd! Less than $1500 including taxes and delivery charges for both stainless steel fridge and stove! I'm so excited!

How was YOUR weekend??

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sealed Pot Blues

My lovely sealed pot has become  ......... undone.

I've been keeping bills inside my little pot but I couldn't keep all of the rolled coins in there (my pot was much too small) and I also had a huge jar of loose coins.  So a couple of days ago I rolled all the coins I had and marched off to the bank. My other purpose of going to the bank was to close my checking account and close my line of credit. Unfortunately it cost me $272 to discharge the mortgage attached to my line of credit. I handed over the $192 that I had received for the rolled coins plus another $80.

Right now I have no way of paying back my sealed pot the $192.  Even worse, it looks like I might have to make use of the bills in there for my birthday weekend away next weekend. So I feel like I'm having a little Christmas in May! It does make me sad though to have to use that money now but the money is going towards two things that make me VERY happy! My line of credit is KAPUT and I really need a weekend away right now.  I will consider the time away as some much needed stress therapy.

I am going to continue to save $$ in my sealed pot. And when I can I will make up for what I've taken out. It's all my stupid fault for thinking I could afford that lovely fire burner which I purchased at the beginning of May.  And I forgot how much it costs to get my passport renewed ($87) along with the cost of new photos for it($18). Then there was the license sticker for my car ($75) and the new fans/frying pan/sandals at Zellers ($108) and the little splurge at Talize ($40).  Oh, and let's not forget the $288 for my property taxes out in PEI!!

The only thing that makes me feel better (well, not the only thing) is that with the help of my sealed pot I am not adding anything to my credit card.  True, I didn't get to save quite as much as I wanted to but I did save a fair bit. And I think I can make it to the end of May without too much more trouble. (I probably shouldn't have said that - leave me alone Murphy!!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Home Equity Line of Credit - GOOD OR BAD?

Recently I read the good news in the National Post that Canadians were averaging less money owed on their credit cards.  Hurrah I thought - people are finally getting it, they're paying off their credit cards and charging less, reducing debts - yay!  Credit crisis averted!

Then I read the bad news...people weren't really paying off their credit cards, no, instead they were transferring their credit card balances to their Home Equity Line of Credit!! Now, if they'd just stopped there things might not have been so bad because the interest rate on HELOCs is usually much lower than the interest payable on credit cards. BUT, and there's always a BUT isn't there, once people had cleared the balances off their credit cards they just went right back to using them again.  So in reality people's homes, the equity in their homes, was paying for dinners out, tanks of gas, several new outfits and the million other sundry items people regularly put on their credit cards.

I've had a HELOC for the past seven years. It worked really well for me and the interest rate varied from a low of 2.25 % to 3.5%.  I used my HELOC to buy my trailer.  I also used it to buy a car three years ago. The best rate I could get on a car loan was 7.99%.  I NEVER EVER transferred any credit card balances to it or used it for anything foolish. In April I paid off my HELOC and I went to the bank yesterday to close it as well as my chequing account. I now bank only with ING.  What I didn't realize though was that I would have to pay lawyer's fees to have the HELOC discharged. So now I need to somehow squeeze $272.00 out of May's budget which has already been squeezed dry. Perhaps I could put that fee on a credit card hahahahaha!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Saving for a Dream - May Goals Met!

** At the end of THIS POST the background colour of my post made some of my words disappear. Just wanting you to know I fixed this and didn't I just post a few months ago about always previewing my posts so that doesn't happen again?? Yes, I did, and ignored my own good advice. I guess I didn't learn my lesson after all!

Now back to regularly scheduled programming.....

In April I took the drastic step of emptying a number of savings accounts to pay off the remainder of my Line of Credit, a total of $27,000.00.  That left me with no savings other than my RRSPs. You would have thought that would have severely curtailed my spending in May but I guess I was feeling the euphoria of being almost debt-free (other than my small PEI mortgage) because I did buy a few things, not NEW CARS or anything like that but enough to make spending tight for the rest of this month. Silly me.

Today, however, being payday I am happy to report that I have fully REfunded two of my savings accounts. One is my Emergency Fund:
I now have $2000 back in my EF. Hurrah!  I feel pretty fortunate in that I don't have a lot of emergencies. About the only thing I use my EF for is car repairs and the odd household repair like when my basement flooded back in January. I maintain a separate account for my home in PEI (which is empty at the moment!) so I feel fairly comfortable with a small EF. By the end of this year when I have all of my savings accounts REfunded I'll start putting a monthly amount into my accounts once again and would like my EF to rise to about $5000 eventually.

The other savings account which is now fully REfunded for 2012 is my PEI Home Insurance and Property Tax account which now stands at $873.60 - the exact amount I need for the remaining two property tax payments....

 and the home insurance bill which is due in August.
I will sleep a little easier now that I know I have these important expenses covered.

June will be the month I REfund my PEI Maintenance account with a minimum of $2000 but likely around $3000. This is the summer we purchase a fridge and stove - so we'll be high class campers!! Last summer we managed with a beer fridge and a BBQ and the firepit.  I tell you when that PEI wind is blowing (which is ALL of the time) it can be one heck of a challenge keeping the BBQ lit.  When we build our deck eventually it will include a BBQ shelter!

It was exciting today to update my savings goals in my sidebar (way down on the sidebar!) That's how exciting my life is. Woo hoo.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Work Refusal - Day One

So I did it. Today I refused to work in my classroom due to it being an unsafe work environment. Knowing support was on its way in the form of the co-chairs of the Health and Safety Committee I walked into the principal's office and told him what I was doing...or not doing in this case.

After a meeting several hours long a list of eight recommendations were made to help try and resolve the situation. It remains to be seen if and when any changes will  be implemented and until then I am on a stress leave starting tomorrow.

I prefer to solve my own problems but there are times when you have to admit that the problem is bigger than you are. It feels a bit like failure but I know deep down that isn't true. There are many contributing factors to my toxic classroom and there is no ONE solution.

I'm glad I've taken the first steps towards resolution - that does lighten my step to some extent already. No one questioned my reasons for refusing work - they all offered support and possible solutions. Some may help, some may not, but at least we're moving forward as a group instead of me suffering on my own. There is definitely "strength in numbers."

I will keep you updated and hope to be able to turn out a few more lighthearted posts soon, with perhaps a serving of sarcasm on the side. In addition I've been advised to walk, read, garden and rest. Sound advice indeed.

On a more lighthearted note look what Carla made for me!!!
I find my new mug rug absolutely delightful! And it contains an embroidered quote from Herman Melville:
"It is not down in any map; true places never are!" A wonderful tribute to my bike riding ways! This special mug rug will be tucked into a box headed for PEI in only 45 more days!!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thought I'd say hello...

See, that's me!  I do exist.

I've missed you guys. I mean, REALLY missed you guys. I thought I should give you a little update on my situation....the GOOD, the BAD and the UGLY.

The Good:

  • last weekend Michael and I went to Chatham to help a friend celebrate her 50th birthday. We had a great time, so many laughs and so much dancing my knees are still recovering!
I'm with the band :)

  • my daughter is now officially a graduate of Western University!! One more year of post-graduate work and hopefully she'll then be gainfully employed.  She is gainfully employed, don't get me wrong, just not using her degree yet!
  • only 47 days til we hit the road to PEI!
  • only 778 more days til I retire!
  • both my electricity and natural gas were only $45 each!!! I budgeted $55 each so saved $20
  • I paid $83 interest on my now non-existent line of credit - the last interest payment and now I can close the account!
  • made my 4th $88 payment to my mastercard to cover my half of the cost of our new TV, only one more payment to go! 
The Bad:
  • unfortunately those are the only GOOD numbers! I would advise you that if you take a week or so off from posting don't also take a week off from keeping track of your money or if you're like me the money will grow wings and fly away!!  I have made the following purchases - the lovely "fire burner" as seen in my last post (it arrived safely via UPS); two fans, a frying pan and a pair of sandals from our local Zellers - it is going out of business (it's been bought up by Target!!), a few much needed (not really) clothing items from Talize (a little retail therapy - $40 worth), lots of stuff for school which will be reimbursed to me eventually, and I paid my May installment of PEI property taxes - $288.  I guess that's not so bad. I'd rather use fans than the central air since electricity is so pricey these days.
  • I only have $76 of misc $$ left to last the month plus $30 in my wallet. This isn't going to be enough as we are going away for my birthday weekend in two weeks.  I didn't plan that too well now did I?
  • Michael has had his hours cut back at the shoe store and at Jambalaya
  • I have yet to pay the $74 for my car's license sticker...grrrrrrr.....looks like I won't be saving as much as I thought this month!
The Ugly:
  • the work situation I'm in continues to be UGLY!! Although I have an additional educational assistant it hasn't lessened the violence. I don't think I have any other choice but to do a work refusal.  In the words of the Health and Wellness person I have contacted:
"It sounds like you are working in a land mine with
explosions ready to happen at any minute and I don't know how you have
done it!"

     I have the option of taking a stress leave and while that would help ME it wouldn't do anything about                      the classroom situation.  Unless a miracle happened.  So it looks like I need to bite the bullet and take a stand. I wish I didn't have to do it, being the introvert that I am I hate to have the spotlight shone on me but once in a while you have to go outside of your comfort zone to enable change to happen. 

So here goes....

Monday, May 7, 2012

Taking a Break

Hi folks: just letting you know that I'm taking a much-needed break. Although I have some extra help in the classroom there are still ongoing issues with other staff and students that I continue to work on. I am putting in a lot of extra hours with many more meetings coming my way. I'm feeling drained and just don't have it in me to blog right now.

But I'll be back!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kind of a Drag

This week was a "bit" of a "meeting" week (slight understatement there).  Things are going slightly better with my two 250lb. 6'3" boys however so it's all worth it. I did get my arm twisted again last week and I told my admin team and a few higher ups that I was very close to a "Refusal to Work" as was being advised to me by my Union president because of my unsafe work environment. It's amazing how those three words, or threat of those three words can actually make things happen.  The very next day (Thursday) a young, strong (and may I say very easy on the eyes!) male supply EA who has worked with me in the past and knows both of my big boys very well walked into my classroom at 7:15am. What's even more amazing is that he was on an LTO (long term occasional contract) at another school yet the powers that be were able to pull a few strings and give him to me for the duration of this school year. So on Thursday and Friday I was able to change up the boys' programs a bit as we could move them from area to area more safely. We now have two good non-violent days under our belts with the hopes of many more to come.

We are going to try to get them over to the local YMCA for swimming a couple times of week and to a park with a playground that is just a few blocks away as well as introduce some new, more challenging and hopefully more interesting work tasks that require two adults for supervision instead of one. (learning to use a hammer and a screwdriver culminating in building a birdhouse!)


While I'm on the topic of school I'm happy to report there are only 54 days left until I take off to PEI!! My older sister is there right now for a few weeks working on her farmhouse which is undergoing extensive renovations. 

She just sent me this picture yesterday as she was walking around her property. It's a little hard to tell in this picture but last year they put on a bright red metal roof - I love it! They've put in some new windows and have a few more to go. They took the rooms all back to the studs and insulated it well - how did people survive all those years in un-insulated homes??? Or did they just get used to being cold all of the time??  Or did they stay in bed for hours and hours?? That would explain the larger families back then I guess :)

On the financial front I went and spent some money - oh no!! I bought one of these:
Cell Glass Fireburner
I bought it through a pop-up store connected to my favourite newspaper - The National Post. It was on sale for half price and I got free shipping plus a $25.00 coupon. We have a lot of wind on our little hilltop in PEI so this will enable us to have a fire safely on even the windiest of evenings. We have friends in Stratford, PEI who had a smaller ceramic version on their patio table while we had dinner outside one evening and I loved it! You can take your fire from place to place. We could be sitting on our front porch while it's raining and still have a fire! It makes me happy so there! Money well spent!

So now I must get busy. We are going to Chatham tonight for a 50th birthday celebration which is being held at a hall with a band and lots of dancing and carousing! And yes, we're staying over. So I need to get my housework and schoolwork done today. Better get crack - a - lacking!

Have a happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Time for a Quickie!!

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!! Thunder and lightning and Michael's outside at the BBQ!! Whereas I am safely tucked up inside :)  Oh man, there goes the first siren - a fire truck I think! We just got back from a bike ride - it was HOT HOT HOT today so we got the bikes out and hit the nearest trail. At the other end we stopped for about 15 minutes and watched some kids playing soccer. Brought memories back for Michael as he coached his son in soccer, whereas I watched my daughter do pirouettes and pick daisies whilst on the soccer field. Yes, soccer just wasn't her thing. "Oh mommy, look...there's a butterfly!!"

So she became a dancer instead and it all worked out fine.

Ooooooh the wind is really picking up and yikes...what a flash of lightning!!  Is it ok to be using your computer during a thunderstorm? When I was a kid there was a long list of things your weren't supposed to do during a thunderstorm according to my mother:

  • stand near a window
  • sit out on the porch even though it had a roof
  • take a bath (that lightning could travel right up the water pipe and getcha!)
  • sit on the toilet (same rationale)
  • have the TV or radio on or even leave them plugged in
  • use the telephone
  • play outside...duh...especially not in the puddles! 
I always thought she was making this stuff up until one time when Kazi was a kid our condo unit (4 condos in a row) got struck by lightning at the furthest end from ours thank goodness. We lost our phones and had to replace our cable box so I guess there was some truth in my mother's warnings. There was no fire but there was a black scorch mark on the second story of the last unit.

Ok, gotta go - dinner is served. We are eating stylishly late this's 9:15pm for goodness sake!
Have a good evening and remember - TGIF!!