Friday, January 30, 2015

I don't want to do anything...

......but EAT!!

My jeans were a little snug this morning. Granted, I just washed them. But still it's a reminder that comfort eating during the winter isn't calorie-free. And by comfort food I mean roast chicken, great gobs of mashed potato and gravy, corn and squash. And that's after soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.

In my favour when I go out for coffee I'm NOT having a muffin or anything else to eat..
.though sometimes I have a hot chocolate instead of coffee.

Just when I thought all the Christmas goodies were gone, eaten up, over for another year I discovered a few things I bought at the Bulk Barn - spearmint leaves, beer nuts and chocolate-covered bits of Crunchie Bars. I enlisted Kazi's help but I ate the lion's share. I have a problem throwing things out that I've paid for. I also have a problem with

So Sharon, you aren't alone in the weight battle. It's just not SALAD time of the year!! I do juice a couple times a week but have no interest in a juice fast at this point. And we've been in the deep freeze again which means fewer hikes - I just couldn't face getting out of bed bright and early when it's -15c or -25c including the wind chill. I need to get back on the bike.

It's just that my hips hurt. After that 20km hike last Saturday, and 4km on Sunday my hips were complaining. To keep myself limber I rode 15km on my bike on Tuesday. That night I couldn't get comfortable as both hips hurt. I think I put the tension too high! So since Tuesday I've been a lard-ss, it's only 3 days but I've been eating like it's Christmas again all week!! Arrrrrgh!

I've been researching another hiking trip in England - Hadrian's Wall. I've done everything except click on the PAY button. It's that eternal struggle between spending my money and having my money. I think I'll do it, I think I'll click on PAY!!


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cost of the Cotswolds (and Norwich)

A reader, Jan, asked me a couple of questions the other day - how much approximately did my hiking trip cost and how did I physically prepare ahead of time for the kilometres of daily walking?

1) I am somewhat ashamed to say I have never tallied up the costs but will do so today.  I told a friend yesterday it was somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000!! Great estimate eh? goes...bear in mind these costs are in Canadian dollars.

  • Flight: $760 ( you can't seem to get a flight to the UK from Toronto for under $700 anymore)
  • Robert Q: $126.81 (transportation from London to the airport in Toronto and return trip)
  • Cotswold Walking Tour (guidebooks, accommodations, breakfast, daily transportation of luggage) $1331.48 (9 days)
  • Hotel in London for 1 night - $44.11
  • B&B for 3 nights in Norwich - $240
  • Oyster Card (for the underground, buses) $46.33 (I still have the card with lots left of on it for my next trip)
  • trains: $260 total (Heathrow to Paddington, Paddington to Moreton in Marsh, Bartley to London, London to Norwich, Norwich to Gatwick)

  • RBC Travel Insurance - $58.00
  • Airport Meals - $80.00 (bloody expensive!!)

  • Spending Money: 300L -> $555.00 Canadian.   I came back with maybe 20L - I tried to use it up before I left. I found this amount more than adequate to cover all of my dinners and lunches and cream teas :) plus entrance fees into Sudeley Castle, Broadway Tower and several other places, one taxi,  souvenirs, local beer... 

For other shopping I used my Mastercard - I didn't go too wild as I had to fit everything I purchased into my suitcase. I spent $465 Cdn. using Mastercard and that includes the duty-free and most of that was Christmas gifts for Kazi and other members of my family.

So, for flight, Robert Q, accommodations, trains, Oyster card, Meals, insurance the trip cost was:
(+ $465 on Mastercard for Christmas gifts)

Not as bad as I thought!! And well worth the enjoyment I had from the experience.
2) Physical preparation:
Something that would have helped - more hill climbing! It was a lot hillier than I expected but I managed. My strategy was to walk backwards when my muscles started screaming. Walking backwards uses different muscles and was sort of like taking a bit of a break. I would still have to take a breather now and again - even stopping for 2 minutes really helps in the middle of a long climb.

For at least 6 or 7 years I've had a stationary bike in the basement that I use quite faithfully (15km last night) and for the past 2 years I've used my real bike to ride to work and back daily (not in the winter though!!) I also joined two hiking clubs and still try to hike 3 times a week (though I won't hike when it's colder than -10c!!)

The most important bit of preparation was wearing my hiking boots on all of my hikes prior to leaving on my trip - these are the most important things you'll need. My feet are size 7.5 but my boots are size 8 allowing ever so important wiggle room for toes. Expensive hiking socks with liners will prevent blisters and every night I massaged a ton of lotion into my feet. Take  care of your feet and they will take care of you!

I've ordered a guide book for a couple of hikes in the East Anglia area which is where Norwich is. I might try organizing my own hiking trip and use just a larger backpack (no suitcase). I'd like to try that sort of a trip (where I carry everything I need with me) to see if I can do it before I attempt something huge like walking the Camino.

Well Jan I hope that answers your questions adequately. It's certainly an amazing way to see and experience a place and has whet my appetite for further adventures!

Monday, January 26, 2015

January's Budget

It might seem a little premature to close off my budget for January today but everything is pretty much done and paid for the week and the month. Let's just say I'm "tentatively" ending January!  And I'm happy to report (touch wood) that my new "Pension Budget" was a success.  Thanks to a few factors:

  • low price of gas right now - I set a budget of $180 for the month for gas and had $88 left after filling up today!!
  • creative meals and careful grocery shopping - buying only what I need for the week means lower costs and less waste. Out of a budget of $280 I had $17 left and my fridge is PACKED!!
  • having a set amount for misc spending really works for me. Not that I was deprived at all but I'm selective about what I spend my money on and sometimes I have to say NO - some of the money spent is for February's fun - a Bryan Adam's concert on Feb. 24th so I'm ahead of the game a little bit. I had over a $100 left in my misc budget so sent some of that to savings along with the surplus in the food and gas budgets making total saved for this month - $608.00!! (Remember I had extra $$ this month due to not having to pay property taxes and getting a break on insurance. I won't be able to save that much every month! Darn it!) 

I want to buy new living room furniture but think I'll put that off til the kittens are older. My next major expenditure will hopefully be a trailer in the spring. And I will be taking a trip east to PEI - I hope the gas prices stay low for awhile! I ordered a guide book for a couple of hikes in England and am wavering back and forth whether to go this year or wait til 2016. I was kinda hoping to walk the Camino in 2016 when I turn 60 but not sure if I'm ready for that yet. I'm having a tough time making decisions. It's a question of having my cake and eating it too! I like having my savings AND I like spending it too! 


Sunday, January 25, 2015

My glutes hurt maximus!!

...but I'll spare you any photos of my glutes!!! You'll just have to take my word for it, aren't you relieved?!

Yesterday I decided to challenge myself. After 2 two hour hikes earlier in the week (Tues. & Thurs.) I signed up for a 4-5 hour hike on Saturday with a hike leader who is known to keep a brisk pace. We left at 9am and were back by 2pm and I was never so glad to get into my truck and SIT DOWN!! Wow, what a workout! The trails were frozen slush and I never knew before what part our glutes play in maintaining one's balance while walking/hiking/climbing on ice. We ended up slipping and sliding our way through 19 kilometres!!

We hiked along the Thames River - the temperature hovered around 0c and we encountered some freezing rain for awhile - really lifted our spirits!!

I didn't have a lot of time for photos - occasionally we would stop for 2 minutes to have a drink of water and blow our noses so I snapped what I could during those breaks.

Drink break!

Listening to our leader's instructions...the guy is turning 73 next month and looks about 50! I think I'll keep hiking - maybe I can turn back time!!

 No sunshine unfortunately, it was a pretty dreary day...but the company was good!

This call's for you! (not)

Stopping for lunch - this guy's an experienced hiker - he had a rubber pad in his pack to sit on while he ate.

 Here I am using a handy log to put my stuff on during a break.  You have to be fast - take off backpack, get water - glug glug glug - grab some almonds or a cheese string for protein - munch munch munch; blow nose, snap a photo if there's time, put backpack back on - trudge trudge trudge!

What luxury!! A park bench to sit on while eating a quick lunch -  rice crackers and hummus (gotta have lots of protein), a cheese string and an apple. Still lots of almonds in my pocket if I need them.

Once home I ran a hot bath and had a good soak and at bedtime I popped a couple of Advil. My hip joints were feeling it along with my glutes, other than that I was fine. I even managed to go to Games Night at a nearby school with some of my hiking friends. But by 9:45pm I was ready to crash on the floor so I went home to bed. Today I was a bit achy but not bad. I thought I'd better get out for a walk and loosen up my tight muscles and achy joints (such a gorgeous sunny day today but COLD!) so walked 4 km to Timmy's and back. I'm surprised that I have so little pain - surprised and HAPPY!

I've been keeping track of my mileage in the sidebar - since October I've walked/hiked and biked 711km give or take. I'm pretty proud of that. 

Did you get outside this weekend? What's the weather like where you are?? The East coast is in for a MASSIVE storm!!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha!

**This is my experience and is in no way meant to put down the benefits of  "Laughing Yoga"!

Laughter Yoga - No no, no no no!! I won't be going back to Laughter Yoga any time soon. You know that song by the Eagles - Hotel California?  Specifically the line "you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave?"  

I was a little spooked, I'm not going to lie.  First of all the setting was very weird - the group met in a very old section of a local hospital which seemed to be entirely empty except for us. One member of my group wandered empty halls going in circles for what felt like hours before finally finding the right room. The room was not a typical hospital meeting room - it was like walking into a 1930's Hollywood horror movie set - formal ornate couches and chairs, heavy draperies covering floor to ceiling windows, large empty fireplaces, gilded candelabra and enormous chandeliers.

We worked our way through a number of "laughter exercises" which consisted of acting out "laughing phrases" such as "electric shock laughter" and "animal poop laughter" while walking around the room making eye contact with other group members. I tried to "go with it" and thought I did pretty well but I'm telling you the fake laughter and peoples' faces seemed more maniacal than playful. Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind...perhaps a different group might have been more comfortable for me...I don't know.

Thankfully I had two friends with me and we made it through a really strange and surreal hour and were safely back on the streets of London once again. I felt like I had escaped an asylum!! Perhaps I'll try it again someday, I'm not sure, but definitely not this group. I feel more inclined to go for "real laughs" with my friends, and by reading funny books and watching funny stuff on youtube and Netflix. I found "faking it" kind of tiring after a while.

It seemed a lot like this...

Would you try Laughing Yoga?  Should I give it another try now that I know what to expect?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Life's Schedule - Full of Laughter!!

Can laughter be scheduled? I don't know but I'm willing to be a guinea pig and try! Last week at my Wed. night yoga/meditation the yoga leader had us do a little bit of laughing yoga. In my past life I might have poo-poohed such an idea but this year - THE YEAR OF BEING RIDICULOUS - I'm giving it a chance.

After years of being told by Reader's Digest that "Laughter is the Best Medicine" I am attempting to HEAL myself with laughter: laughing with friends, laughing at video clips (Monthy Python etc), laughing at books & movies, playing games, laughing at standup comedians on Netflix, laughing at silly cartoons and finally - Laughing YOGA!!

The video below should come with a "hysterically funny" warning! The fellow in the video is Dr. Madan Kataria - the inventor of Laughing Yoga.  Always the skeptic I surprised myself by laughing til I cried as I watched - I don't think I could ever be successful though at "laughing soundlessly" as he tried to do in this video. The funny thing is I felt like I was right in the room with Dr. Kataria - an intimate bond was created by joining in and his laughter (as is often the case) was contagious!

Tonight I'm attending my first full session of  "Laughing Yoga with two friends plus there is an upcoming free workshop on the topic coming up in another month. Apparently one's stress level and depressed negative thoughts can be helped a great deal through laughter. I'll get back to you...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Budget Update

I have TOO MUCH money. Yes, you heard me right. And somewhere, somehow it'll be taken from me, I just know it. It's not a large amount but I've gone wrong in my budget calculations somewhere even though I use a calculator!! I would be more worried if I had TOO LITTLE money which is what usually happens. I'm just going to sit on it til the end of the months and all the bills are paid. If that little extra bit is still there then off to savings it goes.

Today's budget adjustments were small as predicted. It only cost $20 to fill up the truck!!! That's how much gas I used since last Monday. I've been more strategic in my driving - car (truck) pooling to hiking spots with a friend :), doing all of my errands on one day and so on. It helps - and so does paying only 84.7 cents per litre of gas!! I only have one more gas fill up til February (fill up every Monday) so I will have gas money left to move to savings as there is still $108 left in the gas budget. Woo hoo!

After shelling out $115 last Monday on food & household items today's total was only $30 plus $4.25 spent at Dollarama. I only needed to add to my produce as I still have about 2/3rd's of the food from last week's shop left in the fridge/freezer/pantry!! There is one "shop" left in January and $107 left in the food budget so no worries there. I foresee sending about half of that to savings at the end of the month!
My misc items for this week - I love the little dustpan/sweepers, they are so handy for little cleanups - one for the upstairs bathroom and one for the workshop.

The rest of the money I spent was for luscious produce. Stuffed peppers are on the menu this week, and obviously lots more guacamole :)

My misc budget is getting low however. I decided to bite the bullet and buy an air purifier for the workshop. I can wear a mask while I'm working but my lovely Luna can't and if I'm in the workshop then she's in the workshop.  And then my friend invited me to go with her to see Canadian rocker  BRYAN ADAMS who's coming to London in February so I said YES!! Plus I overspent on art supplies, got the oil changed and new windshield wipers on the truck, bought a couple of books, indulged at the Wine and Food show, went to see "The Imitiation Game" and went out to dinner with my nephews!! I HAVE been busy and spendy haven't I? So I have $120 left in my misc budget which I need to stretch over 12 days - I can do it!! Plus I have some $$ in my wallet. As long as nothing unexpected comes up I should be ok plus there's the cushion in the gas and food budgets if I need it.

February's budget will see a few little adjustments with the drop in car/home insurance covering the increase in condo fees and taxes. AND joy oh joy I get a cost of living increase on my pension amount starting January 31st. A whopping $20 extra per month - woot woot!! It doesn't sound like much (it ain't much at all) but it would pay for FOUR $5.00 movie nights at Rainbow Cinema!! That's something!

Today's cuteness:
Staying cozy

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Winter - grinning and bearing it!!

Skating with Anestis at Victoria Park - it was a brilliantly sunny day which does wonders for the soul but it was bitterly cold and after about an hour I couldn't feel my lips anymore and I was starting to drool.  Everything I said sounded fubby.

 Indoor winter fun! My living room finally has ART on the walls!!  I did that yesterday while actively procrastinating beginning my "foyer project." I think I have re-thunk the foyer project right into spring as where would I put our numerous wet boots and 47 winter coats??

Hiking - where would I be this winter without hiking? At home, sitting on my ever expanding butt!!

This is my attempt at capturing the "beauty" of the icy cold hell that is outside - about -35c with the wind chill. But ain't it pretty?? The sun is setting - oh goody, it's going to get even colder!!

A bit of blue sky poking through today. I got snow inside my boots in order to get this shot! Oh hydrangea - I remember when you were green with the wonder of spring and white during the heat of summer. Now look at you! Drooping your head in shame!

I suppose I could take a page from Luna and curl up inside a box with a soft warm blanket. Of course I'd need a refrigerator box!! And a quilt or two!! But it is

That's my snow angel created a week ago - on a Sunday!! That's what I do instead of going to church - make snow angels!! Until that moment it was an untouched pristine field!

Taking pictures of unique outdoor natural objects fills a moment or two with wonder and awe - then I awkwardly shove frostbitten fingers back into my mittens while muttering "stupid, stupid, stupid!!"

The ice await-eth!  And with a windchill of about -30 it might wait-eth all day!!

Even the not-so-bright doves are all puffy-breasted to protect themselves from the icy air!

Trudge, trudge trudge! We had to blaze the trail through a few untouched fields - my glutes were screaming at me after a couple of hours! FUN! 

Thank goodness for the annual Wine and Food Show!! I wonder if I can warm this guy up? He's a bit stiff at the moment.

 Did you know that Shock Top breweries produces a chocolate-flavoured wheat beer now? Pretty darn scrumptious!! But I'll settle for the car!!

Oh look - it's my daughter (on the left) promoting Black Buffalo scotch and bourbon!! I'd never had bourbon before so gave it a shot....or I should say she gave me a shot! And a free T-shirt too!! I got warmed up on all counts!!

Today it was back to the relative warmth of Sifton Bog - it was all of 0c today - almost balmy...or is that barmy?  Oh no, that was me!  It was a battle between snow and rain with the snow winning out in the end. A bit on the gloomy side but I was able to wear a light jacket over a couple of layers instead of my heavy duty Canada Goose coat! What a treat!

Not easy to see but this is all that's left of an owl? after a coyote got the better of it!

Not exactly a postcard shot...

...but here the view is much improved by our smiles...SPRING - only two months away!!

Are you getting outside to enjoy what winter has to offer? What DOES winter have to offer??

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday's Feelings: Nostalgia and the Firemen!!

I had fun with my scanner yesterday; uploading and editing a bunch of old photos (1,000's left to do - gack!!) This is my Dad and I about 30 years ago. It looks like one of his better days - he suffered a lot from depression and anxiety. We had a deep love for each other and this picture makes me think of when I was little and we used to dance around the dining room table to the country tunes of Johnny Cash, Buck Owens or Patsy Cline. One of the nicknames my dad had over the years was the "Silver Fox" - he had one hell of a head of hair!! All 5 of us kids however got my mother's dark hair. Durnnnn...

I wish my waist was still that size!! I remember that skirt - I bought it at a second-hand store...of course! My thriftiness started at a very early age, that sweater came from there too as I recall - it was a vintage store in London called Layman House.

I had fun editing this faded little scrap of a photo. I must be around 6 or so and I can see some of the old Norwich neighbourhood behind me. It doesn't look like that anymore.
 And here's Kazi, age 4, with our first two kittens Ruby and Tisky. I love how cute Tisky looks peeking out from her hiding place - she's our cat who lived to be 20 years old and died just last September.

Nothing like the annual Firemen's Fashion Show to perk one up!! Sorry about the poor photo quality but these guys were on the move! 
Oops, this guy forgot his shirt!!

They say clothes make the man...

An appreciative audience :)

And finally - here's what one of my finished soapstone pieces looks like all polished up by hand using a dozen or more fine and finer grades of sandpaper.

Here's the chunk I've chosen to work on now...

And here it is after 3-4 hours of carving. My right arm really ached after 4 hours of carving - it's the arm with nerve damage after the pinched nerve of January 2013. However, after yoga Wed. night it's not too bad. Maybe I just have to get back into it and it'll eventually strengthen my arm? Maybe??

It's coming along but lots of work to do yet.

Once the carving is finished the polishing begins.

My process is to carve the piece down below all its bumps and bruises and see what's left.

It usually ends up looking very organic and free-flowing - like birds, seals, full of curves, twists and turns.

Of course none of this could be accomplished without my workshop helper, Luna. She oversees all goings on from her bin on a shelf behind me. I replaced the scraps of screening that were in the bin for some nice soft shammies - I thought that might be a bit more comfortable...Luna concurs :)

Happy Friday everyone! I'm doing my update at Starbucks this morning and they just gave me a free drink!! Sweet!! I hope your day is going well and something FREE comes YOUR way!