Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bye Bye January!!

It looked like I was going to end up with money left over at the end of January's budget but, alas, I had to replace my laptop charger after a kitten who will rename nameless decided to give it a good chew! Woe is me.
Hard to believe that these precious munchkins love
to eat my cords!! Such dumplings!
 And, prior to that happening I had a little thrift shop splurge at Talize so I actually ended up spending about $5.00 more than I should have. Woe is me again.

Meh, no biggie. I'll just take that off my misc budget for the first week of February. Actually, I'll be ahead of the game as Kazi is paying me back today some money I loaned her for a car repair - that will go directly into savings.

Happily I also got a $30.00 monthly pension raise :) which along with a $5.00 weekly decrease in misc spending allows me to put $400.00 into savings monthly instead of the current $350.00. That puts a smile on my face!! When I look at my budget it seems like I spent a lot of money this month AND I managed to tuck a little extra into savings over and above the usual automatic transfer of $350.00.

Misc Spending:

  • $120 for an eye exam
  • $50 for charitable donation
  • $38.19 Walmart (?) no memory of what I bought! Must have been really important!
  • $14 - movie
  • $11 Value Village ( a brand new area rug and a shelf for my treasures)
  • $17 - Shoppers Drugmart (chapstick and lipstick)
  • $8 to play volleyball
  • $40 - wine and food show
  • $8 - music from iTunes
  • $58 - Michaels (yarn, 2 frames, rub-ons)
  • $9 - pint at book club meeting
  • $45 - new charger (that hurts!)
  • $55 - thrifty splurge at Talize - a lovely black and white quilt (for $10!), brand new set of flannel sheets!, a gorgeous green/gold paisley throw that is backed with sheep skin!, 3 new tops (2@ 50% off) (will post photos once I take some!)
They look so innocent, don't they?

As I allow myself $150.00 weekly for misc spending these expenditures represent $473/$600 misc spending for January. The discrepancy is cash withdrawals (and a couple little transfers to savings) throughout the month which paid for a breakfast out with a friend, a lunch out with a friend, 2 movies that I saw last week, yoga fees, coffees, newspapers and so on. 

I came in under budget for gas (spent $67/$160) and food (spent $242/280) so that helped with extra amounts I put into savings. Also received some interest from an RSP that bumped savings up a bit.

At the end of 2015 I decided that I want to give a monthly charitable donation of at least $25.00. I exceeded that in January by donating $50.00. The other thing I want to do is buy one Christmas gift per month to lessen the sting in December. I accomplished that by purchasing a large piece of material for my friend Julie who creates banners for activism purposes. 

This fiscal year is off to a great start. My taxes are finished and ready to netfile on Feb. 15th. Due to decreased income and income tax paid thanks to now living on a pension I will only receive a refund of $200 (last year's was $1236) but I am thankful I don't owe any money to the tax dep't!!

Did you end up with money at the end of January or did you break even? 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Quiet Day

I have a lot going on this week, every day but today, so I took advantage of the peace and quiet that was available. I've been reading an audio book called "The Good Girl", an excellent mystery currently on the best seller list. Well, I say "reading" but really I'm listening while someone reads to me and quite often I fall asleep! I take my iPad to bed with me and listen for as long as I can stay awake. Unfortunately the reader keeps reading even when I'm sleeping so the following day I have to find my way back to the point where I dropped off.  I decided today that I would finish it while in an upright position. Finish it I did even though I did start to get quite drowsy near the end and had to backtrack a little bit. Which is a good thing because the mystery is solved in the very last sentence!!
Last night I went to my very first book club meeting ever. Which just happened to be at The Sweet Onion Bistro where lovely local libations were available. The book club is sponsored by the London Public Library - the club is called Books on Tap - catchy huh?  Over pints my friend and I talked with the facilitator and about 10 or so other members about our favourite Canadian authors. We got more and more interesting as the night wore on and we continued to wet our whistles! I'm already looking forward to the next drunken meeting!

My other new activity is VOLLEYBALL! You may remember me giving up volleyball a few years back as it had gotten rather violent! The young male players just loved to impress each other with how hard they could spike the ball.  I was tired of getting whacked in the head and getting my glasses knocked off.

I went to a one-off volleyball game a week or two ago and realized how much I missed it (the volleyball not the whacking!)  A fellow there told me about a small group who gets together Friday nights - they're friendly, they don't spike hard and have a range of abilities.  And they're looking for a few more players. Two hours of play for $2.00. I went and it was great - I really enjoyed myself. My days just get busier and busier.

Went to see "The Revenant" yesterday.  If Leo Dicaprio doesn't win an Oscar for that role then there is something wrong with the world! He slogged around in the snow and ice constantly, got "mauled" by a grizzly bear, ate raw bear meat, was buried alive, darn near froze to death making it as close to the real thing as he could. Impressive.
Tomorrow I'm hiking, then have yoga and meditation.  On Friday I'm meeting a friend for breakfast, then joining my fellow Council of Canadian members for a sit-in, then meeting a friend for lunch. I have to miss volleyball because a friend of mine has an art show opening at the same time and I promised I'd come.

NEXT week I plan to be more of a homebody. Winter is slipping by quickly and once the nice weather returns I will want to be outside more. I finished another piece in the workshop and mounted it in a shadow box. I'll show photos soon. And that, my friends, is that - now I need to make something for dinner. I'm starved!

What has been the highlight of your week??

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Cauliflower and Potato Casserole

Hey Val! 

I did a copy and paste of the cauliflower casserole i made last week. Also, if you click on the recipe title it will take you to the website hopefully. I tried to print but wasn't successful even though there is a send to print button on the page. 

I really enjoyed this recipe though kazi said "where's the meat?" 

hee hee...little does she know I am going to continue to make meatless dinners at least twice a week! My search for cauliflower recipes that could be used as a main course brought me to this website -  Check out this blog if your are interested in fantastic recipes with NO waste! And she's from Ireland! Meatless meals are good for my budget and good for the environment.  This week, in order to use the 2nd of my 2 for $5.00 cauliflower deal I'm going to make "mashed cauliflower" to serve as a side dish for roast chicken! 

One thing about this recipe is I found the leek and cheese sauce to be quite thick so I ended up adding more milk, and then more cheese, and then more milk, and then more cheese :)

Cauliflower and cheesey Bake


  • 1 small cauliflower, broken into small florets
  • 2-3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2 medium leeks, washed and sliced
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 400ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 85g / 3oz grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. In a steamer if you have one, boil the potatoes in the bottom pan and steam the cauliflower – or boil each in separate pans until just cooked
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in saucepan and saute the leeks until soft
  3. Stir in the flour and cook for two minutes
  4. Add the milk, stirring all the time
  5. Continue stirring until the milk has thickened and boiled
  6. Add the paprika and half the cheese
  7. In a lasagne type dish, place the potatoes in the bottom. Add the cauliflower on top.
  8. Pour the leek and cheese sauce over the top
  9. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese
  10. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for about 30 minutes until browned
  11. Serve hot with a vegetable or salad

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Weird and Wonderful Kitties - Heavy Photo Post Warning!

I love all the weird little idiosyncrasies Luna and Lily have. They are sisters but look quite different and act way differently from each other.

One dark, one light, one big, one small, one that runs
like a hippo, one that runs like a cheetah!

First of all, Luna has chosen Kazi as her human and Lily has chosen me.  When we settle downstairs in front of the TV for a couple of hours Lily always snoozes on my lap while Luna lounges luxuriously in the prone position alongside Kazi. Luna and Kazi are both couch potatoes with a capital P.
When Lily finally stops for a nap she is out cold!

Luna LOVES naps!
Luna loves to be covered up. Because Kazi closes her bedroom door at night and I don't I am frequently visited by both cats. Luna noses her way under the covers and Lily tucks up behind my legs. Very cozy to say the least! Luna has the most luxuriant fur and is larger and heavier than Lily. Lily loves chicken, turkey, cheese and icecream whereas Luna only eats her cat food. They each have their favourite toys - Lily loves her furry little mice that she tosses up in the air and tucks away under the china cabinet or electric fire/TV stand. It's a little ritual every few days to get down on my hands and knees to gather them up for her to hide once again. I get the flashlight and Lily kneels down beside me peering under the furniture. Luna's choice of toy is a piece of Christmas ribbon which I often have to hunt for and a stick with a bell and dangly ribbony things which I have to throw 100 times a day.  She runs off to get it and then brings it to me to throw again.
Luna bringing me her favourite toy!

Any door that's open they're in. Wherever I go in
the house they are there, whatever I am doing
they want to help!

I wonder if Lily misses last summer's Heavenly
Hash ice cream  cones as much as I do?

This play wrestling sorta looks a bit vicious! Look at those teeth!

As content as any kitty can be.

Helping out in the workshop.

I discovered recently that Luna likes to be carried around in a container - first the laundry basket and now a cardboard box. She's like the Queen of Sheba! She spends much more time napping than Lily and will give up bird and squirrel watching in order to snooze. She's beside me on the couch now while Lily is still watching CAT TV. When it's time to run up and down all the staircases Lily beats Luna by a mile while Lily's feet barely touch 3 of the steps on her way up or down - she's an absolute speed demon!

They love love love boxes. I made a kitty condo by duct taping a bunch of boxes together and cutting doors in the top and sides - I throw a furry mouse in there and Lily happily entertains herself for hours. Luna prefers to observe.

Of course they have annoying habits like chewing plants and computer cords. But they have both learned to use their scratching post instead of the furniture through positive reinforcement - a treat when they use their post or a spray of water when they don't! Lily's most annoying habit is to climb my legs whenever I go into the kitchen...she's hoping for a morsel of cheese. Luna's most annoying habit is tipping over garbage cans to get at the Qtips. They are not allowed in the bathrooms and we have to keep those doors closed all the time and the toilet seats down! Otherwise there are little wet footprints everywhere because they like to dabble their paws in the toilet water! Grrrrr!!

Lily's favourite hangout!
From here she can see the front door, me making a meal
in the kitchenor she can look to her left and see out the
patio doors.

Luna has a love of boxes and bags, so does Lily.

Keeping warm last February when it was -17 to -25 for three weeks.

They both love to play with water. 

Lily is always watching and waiting for
me to come home.

Of course they also have many endearing qualities - they are sooooo cute and love to be cuddled. Luna gives kisses and totally spazzes out at times chasing her own tail and racing from place to place. She likes to come up to me when I'm sitting and tap me on my shoulder to signal play time. Lily loves to play and we have developed many games. She has a little habit of letting her tongue slip out a little while she's snoozing which is just the cutest thing ever!

There you have it - my social life is great isn't it?  Are you very attached to your pets (if you have any)?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Foto Friday

One year ago today....

...Luna and Lily were soaking up the sunshine - last year we had such a frigid winter so any way to warm up was appreciated.

Oh, here's another way to warm up :)  I was laying on the couch reading and Luna was laying on a pillow behind my head. Gradually she got closer and closer til she was hanging over my shoulder with her head on my chest.  I was able to reach my phone and snapped her with a big smile!

Last year I did a lot of winter hiking and ended up with an injury that almost put my UK trip in jeopardy. And was one of the reasons I slipped into depression. This year I'm not taking the chance and will only hike if the trail is clear. My hip muscles (piriformis - the muscles that maintain balance as you walk) have healed but I still have some pain in my glutes.

I remember this day -  we walked along the river in the city - it was very sunny and very cold!

We got to see some of the lovelier parts of London like this graffiti laden underpass.

Instead of seeing the fronts of houses we get to peer into their back yards! Much more interesting.

 Ooooh, an untagged underpass - it might not be now though one year later!

Urban decay vs. nature.  Who's winning?

Guess what this is? You're's part of Labatt's Brewery - yes, we got to walk behind the beer factory!

In place of hiking I've been riding my bike, going to yoga AND tonight I'm going to play volleyball!! I'm so excited! I went once before last Sunday with another group but it's only once a month. But I found out about another group that plays every Friday night - yahoo! Oh, and I'm down 4 pounds from juicing twice a day and then eating a regular dinner. Double YAHOO! 9 more pounds to  go!

Any plans for the weekend?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


A number of fellow bloggers have chosen "a word" to live by in 2016. I like this idea and had a sort of mantra last year that really helped me get through some tough times. That word was ACCEPTANCE. I've thought and thought and cannot come up with a better word...for me. So again I will accept "what was" and "what is". Accepting and being present in each moment is so freeing. Of course I still get caught up in the mind games where my mind whirls back to certain events or is so busy processing the day that the present moment is lost and unacknowledged. Therefore, I choose ACCEPTANCE as my word to live by.

  • ...what is. Kind of silly not to accept "what is" isn't it? Yet a lot of people, dare I say most people, are unhappy with some part, of their life.  Life's that "shit that happens" when you're busy making other plans. As Robbie Burns Day is coming up I'll steal a quote from him - "there is no such uncertainty as a sure thing." There I was all ready to live in PEI when I retired, I thought it was a "sure thing", had bought the house and everything. And yet, here I am, writing from London, ON. I have to accept that as my truth because I have to "accept what is." Spending time wishing for "what isn't" is a big time waster and brings a person nothing but sadness.
  • ...that I am short and that I'm not the slender little thing I was 30 years ago. If only I could be a tall, athletic, nordic blonde then I'd be happy. Well, no, perhaps I wouldn't be happy but you know what I mean. 
  • ...that I've lived an unorthodox life and have made mistakes - leaving my bank career and going to university for Visual Art when I was 28; having Kazi when I was 34, not marrying her father etc etc. But I accept all of that - hey, it makes me interesting :)
  • ...that my aging body is breaking down a little bit but yoga helps!
  • ...that I'll never be rich! I won't have a fancy new car or a big house. But I can be comfortable and accept and make the most of the money I have.
  • ...where I am at in my life right this second. I don't want to go back in time or forward in time. I am happy at this precise moment. 
Eckhart Tolle talks a lot about accepting yourself and living in the present, the moment. Here's a sample:
“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? what could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
I say YES to life! We all have such active minds that take us all over the place instead of being in this moment. Twice daily meditation has helped me with that. I'm trying to live in the moment though it isn't easy. I'll keep trying. 

Acceptance of what is.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mid-Month Money

I was thinking yesterday, yes thinking, that I don't post that much about money anymore. There's only so much excitement one can wring out of an unchanging monthly pension. Before I retired, two years early, I had to meet a few goals: pay off all debt and increase savings to a level that felt comfortable. I had a Five Year plan and I worked away at it and was able to retire early, thankfully.

Now I still try to sock away some money every month into savings and most months I'm successful at doing that. My budget is very simple: take my net pension, subtract all variables and invariables (is that a word?) including savings, and the rest is my spending money. I divide the spending by 4 weeks so that every week I can put cash in my wallet. I've been following this plan since I retired in 2014 and it works for me. Occasionally I have to use long term savings for big purchases and travel but I rebuild month by month.

There IS a little bit of exciting money news though...

  • I will receive a cost of living increase starting the end of January which increases my net pension by $30 a month. Not a lot but it covers increases in condo fees, insurance and increased utility bills (almost)
  • I did my income tax online to see whether I would get a refund or not. I don't have any tax receipts yet but it was pretty easy to guestimate. I will receive a refund but nowhere near what I used to receive. Only about $200. But I don't have to PAY which is the important thing. I needed to know this because...
  • I filled out my forms to start receiving my Canada Pension in June and they want to know how much income tax I want taken off. So I had to see what my income taxes look like before I could answer that question. Woo hoo!! Looking forward to that additional money every month and all the fun it will bring!
January's Budget - Am I on Track?

I would say that I am! My $150 weekly allowance seems to be multiplying somehow. I've paid $120 for an eye exam, $50 to charity, an extra $50 to savings, $38 to Walmart, $17 to Shoppers Drugmart, $14 for a movie and $11 at Value Village and $10 on yoga. My ticket for the Food and Wine Show ($32) will come out of next's weeks allowance. If you did the math you'd see that I've spent more than my $150(x two) weekly allowance. That is because I overestimated some of my bills. I estimated $75 for natural gas and the bill was only $47; electricity was $65 and I estimated $70 and so on. Those extra little snippets go into my misc budget which funds my allowance :) Aren't numbers fun??

I have $127/$160 in my gas budget and Dougie's tank is almost full and $158/$280 in the food budget. So far this month I've only had to put $33 in the gas tank (I see that oil dropped to below $30/barrel!!!) and have spent $122 on food. That's for two adults. I'm pretty good at stretching my food dollars - I got 3 meals out of 4 chicken breasts! And 4 meals out of 1 package of ground turkey!

So that's how it rolls for January so far...I hope I haven't jinxed myself by proclaiming that I've had a good month so far...!!

Friday, January 15, 2016

RUN don't Walk!!

To my Canadian readers: RUN don't walk to the nearest Real Canadian Superstore where cauliflowers as nice as those pictured above are on sale TWO for $5.00!!

Foto Friday

Let's see - what's in my foto folder from exactly one year ago today...ohhhh....
that's appropriate - photos of former projects in wood and soapstone.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Soapstone From A to Z

Here's a quick look at my soapstone carving from start to finish. I would estimate about 8 hours of work on this piece over 3 days. I could probably "whittle" that down a bit if I stopped jumping up and dancing with the kittles when a favourite song comes on my iPod! In the top photo is the rough piece of stone. At this point I don't really know what I'm going to do with it yet - first I file away all the rough stuff around the edges. I work on a rubber mat that helps to cushion the soapstone so it doesn't break, having learned from experience. It also helps keep my work area clean as the soapstone dust falls between the grooves.

Then with my rifflers, rasps and files of all different sizes I start to cut away material to find the shape I want. I like this shape below but I know there's more I need to do.

After cutting away a bit more and giving it a more defined shape, I'm happy. Kazi came in and saw a heart and said she really liked it so it has found its recipient!

What an amazing colour (photo below) - this is after a couple of hours sanding with wet/dry sandpaper starting at 180 grit and going up to 12,000 grit. Then I switch to fabric/mesh "sand paper" which is really flexible and can get down into the grooves starting at 1800 grit and going up to 15,000 grit. With soapstone I do all of the work by hand as it is so easy to chip or break. (I put a couple of old hand towels on top of the rubber mat for extra cushioning and have a tub of water to help with the sanding)With wood and harder stones I can use a dremel to do some of the work.

I have tried a lot of polishing compounds but what I like best in common floor wax. I rub a little on with a piece of felt and take a piece of cheesecloth or shammy and give it a good buffing....very carefully as now it's pretty slippery.

In the photo below my brother saw a stylized ram's head and a friend called it celtic/feminist/modern. I told him he was bang on! In this lighting it looks dark green/grey...(using an overhead light)...

...while in this photo (window light) it looks a light grey with bits of blue. I'm really happy with how it turned out.

I use rifflers, rasps and files of all different sizes:
 and these are the rubber thingamajigs to get to those "hard to sand" places. OK, I see by the photo they are called "sanding pads" but I prefer thingamajigs!

The wet/dry sandpaper is available in some hardware stores and the mesh sanding stuff I send away for online. There used to be a hobby shop not far from me that carried very fine grit sanding paper, not really paper, it looked more like plastic, but they have closed.

I just heard from Annie, with whom I hiked Hadrian's Wall that the piece I sent to her arrived safely so now I can post photos of it:

Once again, I had no idea what the final piece would look like - I just knew I wanted to create a spiral shape. While we hiked we kept finding examples of spirals in nature - especially snails. Annie took some amazing photos of a few of the many snails whose lives she saved :)
Looked at in a certain way (pointed end to the left as in photo below) the snail-like shape is more noticeable. Right? You can see it right? :)

I am thankful to the postal service for flying my little carving across the big pond safely so that it arrived in one piece.

No workshop post is complete without a photo of my faithful helpers: zzzzzzzzzzz!