Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Count Down is on!!

Just a couple more days and off I go! This week has been busy getting last minute items, cleaning and waterproofing my boots, waterproofing my coat, packing and repacking and finishing off my September budget.

I ordered a couple things from and am so glad I purchased Amazon Prime back in January. I paid around $80 for the year and in exchange I get super fast delivery on most items, no shipping fee and thrown in for free is their movie and TV show streaming. I am hooked on "Justified" (watching for the second time!) In shipping costs alone I have saved more than $80 so this membership more than pays for itself.

A couple days ago I ordered Granger's XTreme Repel spray for my gore-tex raincoat. Apparently the DWR (Durable Water-Repellent) wears off and needs to be replenished from time to time. So I washed my coat, sprayed it, wiped off the excess and dried it in the dryer and did a little water test on the sleeve. Water beaded up and rolled off. Here's hoping it will continue to repel water over the course of my trip. (I am taking a back-up coat this time around as it rains a lot in the Scottish Highlands. )

Then on Tuesday I ordered a new cable for my laptop as old one was making a crackling sound - THAT can't be good! Shipping is free again and the cost of the cord is less than half of what I have previously paid here in London. It is supposed to arrive today - just 2 days after ordering.
Amazon has done well by me so far and I do love getting packages in the mail rather than driving
all over the city looking for what I need. Win/win!

For packing I used a list from previous years making note of what I did and didn't use, for example last year I took a pair of shorts and never wore them. Also took a nice black top which I never wore. So I won't be taking those items with me this year. I also made a note of what I could have used more of - like hiking socks. I was able to wash the dirty ones thankfully after sloshing through the peaty bog.

I think I've finally got my suitcase figured out. On one side I put my hiking boots, socks, sock liners, undies, tank tops, PJs, toiletries and first aid supplies.

Then in the pouch on the flip side I put extras & misc, safety pins, kleenex, duct tape etc.

On the other side are my clothes...under a couple of plastic bags which I will use to put dirty clothes in.  Three pairs of pants plus I'll be wearing my jeans on the flight to Scotland, T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts and a couple of cozy fleece sweaters.

Some I lay flat and some I roll depending on the spaces available.
 My daughter bought me a new hat for the trip - I like a hat with a large bill so that my glasses are protected from the rain. Plus this style of hat fits well under the hood of my coat.

I am taking my wonderful Gregory backpack with me as per usual - it holds my daily snacks while hiking plus backup rain gear, first aid kit, flashlight, whistle, rain proof backpack cover, bug spray, bug hat, bug jacket, gloves, head band & skull cap with omni-heat interior so my head stays warm on those windy days, emergency blanket and emergency chocolate, just in case, my extra litre of water in addition to the one I attached to my backpack...I think that's about it. Then for travelling and city exploring I have a fabric purse with many compartments for passport, money, phone and maps.

So I am just about set. Left to do is tidying up the house, taking out garbage etc. That and throw in my suitcase the last few items I need such as toothbrush and rechargers.

So...why is it I feel as though I'm forgetting something really important??

Monday, August 28, 2017

Where's the Money at??

It's been a long time since I did a budget recap. As August rolls to an end it's time to close out this month's budget and look ahead to the fall.

The Good:

  • My upcoming trip to Scotland (leaving Sunday!!) is fully paid for after I pay off my President's Choice Mastercard this week. 
  • September 1st I'll be able to put $1,000 into savings once again - I haven't transferred a full $1,000 to savings since May as I was paying off my trip; booking trains, airport shuttle from London to Toronto, Airbnbs and so on. So it's nice to get back into my savings routine. I also paid $800 off of my Mastercard this month in addition to the $400 that will pay off the card in full over the next couple of days as my pensions get deposited. No consumer debt owing after that.
  • I added nothing more to the Transportation budget line since my previous post! Next month there will be no deductions for car insurance or gas. There will be NO transportation costs for September as they are all paid for as part of my trip.
  • Property taxes went DOWN from $158 to $139. I don't know why but I'm not going to complain!
  • Utilities are at their annual lowest point - $34 for natural gas (heat, dryer, hot water tank); and $43 for electricity (central air, stove etc). It hasn't exactly been a HOT summer so the A/C didn't get used much. Again, not complaining!
  • Used over $100 of my President's Choice points to purchase things needed for my trip (bandaids, lotion, toiletries etc) as well as groceries.
My favourite recent photo of Luna and Lily. Luna has one paw over her eye, in apparent disgust, as Lily sprawls below to lick her belly and nether regions!!
The Bad:
  • Still had to pay car insurance for August but that's it for now! That money will now make its way into savings.
  • The cost of internet went up by $5.00 monthly. I may shop around when I return.
  • I've been buying a lot of odds and ends for my trip: I've ordered a special spray to renew the Gore-Tex waterproofing of my super duper rain coat. Should arrive on Wed., snacks, new water bottle, thrift shop clothing, bug repellent, midge-proof clothing and so on. Necessary expenses.
  • Two of my siblings had landmark birthdays in August so there were gifts and cards to purchase.
  • Reloaded my coffee cards - I have two. 
The Ugly:
  • costs involved in trip to Bracebridge to see sister for her 70th birthday: $200 - my portion of Airbnb and gas. Another $200 put towards eating out and groceries. A wee bit of shopping. That's the only semi-UGLY cost for August and really it wasn't very costly and all planned in advance so it wasn't a surprise expense at all. 
Looking ahead to Fall:
I look forward to getting back into my fall/winter routine of volleyball, carving and genealogy research after September's trip is over. Kilally Meadows is really nice in the fall and I much prefer cool weather hiking to HOT so I hope to get out for a lot of hiking!! In November I will start receiving annual interest payments for several investments. Free money :) Anything extra like that goes right into savings. I'm considering less travel/more redecorating in 2018 but who knows, I may change my mind. It would make sense to travel while still relatively young and do renos and redecoration (hire someone) when I'm too old to hike around the world and spend more time at home. So I'm going back and forth with that idea. 

That's about it for now. Yesterday I cleaned and water-proofed my hiking boots and did a trial packing of my suitcase. All trip clothing has been laundered and rolled - I feel I have improved suitcase organizational skills and am trying to not make it too heavy. I won't be taking my laptop with me, just my iPad, phone and camera. I likely won't post on my blog but will try to post a daily pic to facebook - if you are not a Facebook friend of mine and would like to be send me a friend request. 
Jane Harrison - and the profile pic is a shadow picture of me. 

Okay, must continue to get organized...!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Zip Car

I tried and tried to copy and paste a chart that showed the different plans a person can have when using a car share service called Zip Car. When I finally found one that worked I realized it wasn't in Canadian dollars! So suffice it to say that most rental plans worked out to be about $7.00 per hour. Some a bit less, some a bit more. That also includes insurance and gas.

While visiting my brother yesterday he told me about a friend's experience with Zip Car that left me thinking that it might not be for me...a broken key fob, a gas card that didn't work, damage to the cars that doesn't get fixed, dog hair and garbage left in the vehicles and so on. I have yet to try the one that is near me - it's a Prius and I have walked by it to see how it looked. There was a little bit of damage to the plastic over one of the headlights and the inside looked clean. We are allowed to "test drive" the service for one month so I think I'll do that in October, after my trip, before making any kind of a commitment.

A couple of people have been encouraging me to try the bus and I have found that there are a number of buses nearby that would be very handy and when I looked at the London Transit website I noted that at age 65 the price of a ticket really drops. So I am reconsidering the city bus system.  Once winter settles in I promise to ride the bus a few times.

There was also an article in the paper today which made me look more favourably on our bus system. A driver picked up a young woman, late at night, who was being harassed by a man at the bus stop. He managed to redirect the man and then went off route to take her right to her home. Apparently the transit system has declared buses to be "safe havens" and encourage anyone encountering any type of problem - violence, sexual assault, robbery etc - to find and board a bus. The drivers are trained to deal with these situations and to provide safety and transportation to an area or building where the victim feels safe. Wow - I felt really impressed by that!

Another positive fact about buses is that many of them (I'm not sure about ALL buses) have a bike rack on the front so for long distance rides I could use a mix of bike and bus. That's pretty cool! So London Transit has risen in my estimation.

See? I may be old but I'm not stuck in my ways!

So, here's my chart - a very simple chart. It shows the cost of using Zip Car vs Enterprise vs bus.

Vehicle                    Time used                       Cost
Zip Car                        1 hour/24 hours            $7.00/$72
Enterprise                    24 hours                       $19
Bus                              1 trip (varies)               $1.90 per ticket (includes a 90 minute transfer)

Zip Car is best for short trips like getting groceries or going to a store/location that is way the hell across the city. Depending on how much time I want to use I could choose between Zip Car or city bus. ($1.90 vs $7.00 or $14.00 or more depending on the distance and amount of time spent there.) Enterprise is better for longer trips ($19 vs $72) There is no ONE solution but a combination of types of transportation, including of course, me feet and my bicycle.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Wow, what just happened? Sweated like a little piggy yesterday and woke up this morning frozen solid... just about! Thank you Luna for snuggling with me in bed. Why do the season changes have to be so abrupt? Keeping my frozen fingers crossed that there are still a few warm/hot days left!

Because even though I don't like crowds I would gladly put up with them for a few more weeks of beach weather. I'm not ready to put summer behind me yet!

Day at the Pinery 

Another day, another soggy Dorito.
Last Sunday - Jazzfest in Wortley Village along with 150 craft vendors - including my brother!
Love the image on this guy's T-shirt!

There's my bro below...he makes and sells birdhouses so that he can buy a new T-shirt. I think it's Day 12 for the Pink Floyd shirt!

                      Here he is wearing it on our visit to see our sister in Bracebridge!!

The rest of the photos were taken at Pt. Bruce on Monday during the eclipse. While we didn't see a total eclipse in SW Ontario we certainly felt the effects. The sparkling lake became less sparkly, the air became much cooler temporarily and it got quite a bit darker.

It got so cool that I came out from under the beach umbrella and sat on a blanket instead. Eventually the sun came back and I had to retreat to the umbrella once again. It was a very interesting experience.

August Transportation Update:

  • two car rentals of $19 each for a total of $38
  • gave my brother $40 for gas on the way to Bracebridge
  • $134 for last car insurance payment (now cancelled - I am on Kazi's insurance policy to ensure continuity in my car insurance history)
That's it. The total for August so far is $212, most of that being the last insurance payment. If we have more nice weather I might squeeze in one more trip to the beach before leaving for Scotland on Sept. 3rd.  I've used my feet and bicycle to get around the city. I cancelled one bicycle outing due to stormy weather.  When I rented a car I took the opportunity to purchase the heavy things I needed, specifically cat litter. 

The total for September will be zero! I'll be using my feet, shuttle buses, airplanes and trains to get around Scotland. All transportation has been paid for as part of my trip. Starting in October I will sign up for Car Share and see how that works for me.  There is a Prius parked a couple of blocks from me which I can rent by the hour. For longer trips I'll continue to rent a car from Kazi at Enterprise and use my feet/bicycle as much as possible. I am considering this an experiment. It may work out and then again it may not but I'm not ready to give up yet!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Wow, What a Week.... American history!! And that's all I've got to say about THAT!!
Because my life is much more interesting...NOT!! But it has been a busy and productive week here in little old London, Ontario. 

Transportation Update:  after walking with me around my neighbourhood in my last post (thanks for tagging along :) I realized I had forgotten a few things...important things...other places I get to by walking or cycling. 

Such as... our dentist is a block west of the library - very handy - but my doctor is a 20-30 minute bike ride away which is ok in the summer but not so much in the winter. I only go a couple times a year so it shouldn't be too onerous - that trip will be a CAR SHARE trip. (There are two medical walk-in clinics near by that I could use in a pinch but regular appointments will remain with my family doctor.)

My best friend is a 30 minute bike ride away but we have other ways of getting together, like meeting halfway, sharing a car rental or Car Share. I'll be seeing her tomorrow at a craft sale which I will bike to. 

Thursday (the day before yesterday) was my weekly get together with my brother, Kim. However, it rained all day and there was a Severe Storm Watch in effect so I had to cancel. That was disappointing and I'm not sure how I can get around in bad weather when it's "at the last minute" type of thing. 

I am waiting til after my trip in September to sign up with Car Share. I can use that when the weather is bad. Or use Uber, whichever would work out to be the cheapest. I haven't mentioned taking the city bus - I'm not fond of taking the bus and am not really familiar with the routes near me. I'd rather not go down that road (haha) if I can help it. 

I also forgot to mention that I'm only 1km from London's system of bike trails. I certainly cannot go without forest bathing at least a couple times per week. It takes me about 5 minutes to get to scenes like below, which calm my nerves and make me feel whole once again!

Okay, this is a bit random but I am thrilled that a vegan restaurant - Globally Local - has opened up near me. It is only a block and a half away and I rode my bike there last night for vegan tacos and fries. Soooooooo good!!

Also random - on Tuesday I rode my bike to the final protest and laying to rest of our Hydro One action that I've been involved in for almost two years. Here we are all gathered one last time at our local MP's office after the gov't sold a company that belonged to the people of Ontario to raise a little short term cash. BOO!!!

 Then on Wed. I rented a car to take Julie and I to the beach - it was a perfect weather day! Booking the car through Kazi I paid only $20 for a 24 hour period!!! Less than the cost of gas if we had gone in Dougie the Dodge!

 And, in other news, Luna kept a close eye on me while I made up 10 bags of trail mix and other energizing snacks for my upcoming trip to Scotland. Isn't she helpful?

Overall I am happy with how "transportation" is going but there are definitely some kinks to work out. I don't know if I can do this forever; time will tell. It's difficult to be spontaneous and hard to work around bad weather.

On the other hand it's wonderful to not have to worry about costly repair bills, insurance and the price of gas :)

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood...

Two weeks ago today I sold dear old Dougie the Dodge. How has it been going? So far, so good.  As I may have mentioned before my neighbourhood has almost everything I need within
 a block or two radius.
Come and walk with me. 
There's my condo with the crabapple tree out front - hence "Crabapple Landing". 

 As we leave the condo complex we are walking east towards Northland Mall - I can see it from the end of the condo road. If you squint really hard you might be able to see a yellow shopping cart that someone has abandoned in the mall parking lot - it's just beyond the No Parking sign and sitting between two cars. We'll see it again later. For now we're going to turn left.

 About 150 steps from my front door, but invisible due to many trees, is a plaza called Huron Market Place. There used to be a movie theatre where the World Gym is now. I took Kazi there many times - her first movie theatre experience there was "Lion King" when she was four. She found out that life isn't always fair and sobbed her little heart out.
 I do my own taxes so I don't use Liberty Tax Service but further down is Dollarama which is very handy - I was just there yesterday buying trail mix and nuts to pack for my hike in Scotland.
Across the street from Dollarama is my local library. Most of my library interactions take place on my iPad as I download books to read but lots goes on there - bookclubs, lectures, movies, a knitting group, English Second Language classes, crafts and so on.

There's the Huron Market Place sign - another
store I go to frequently is Giant Tiger. I get good bargains on produce and it carries
pretty decent brands of clothing and household products.

Here's one spot I won't be going to for awhile! My local gas station! 
That price is per litre, not gallon.
 A bit further down from the library is another plaza which I use once in a while. It has a pet valu store along with an LA Fitness, several restaurants, a bank, a used sports equipment store (it's where I purchased cleats for slo-pitch). 

Across the other street from the gas station is yet another plaza with my favourite thrift store -
 Talize  :)

There are three coffee shops nearby - Williams, Tim Hortons and Starbucks. I don't
often go to Williams though I do like their food better than the other places.

Further down from Talize is my pharmacy - Shoppers Drugmart
We're not heading in that direction today. Just past Shoppers is the
Bank of Nova Scotia which is where I go.

Right now we're on the other side of Northland Mall - we haven't crossed 
any roads or walked on any streets - we've just walked through parking lots.
Ummmm....I guess one Dollarama store isn't enough!!

My favourite restaurant is in this mall. It used to be several blocks to the east but when
the mall was refurbished it changed location which makes
it even closer to me. Sweet!

Further down the front of the mall is my favourite grocery
store - No Frills. It has really improved over the past couple of years - also being
refurbished. The best thing is the increasing variety of foods due to serving a large ethnic community.

Here we are inside the mall - you can see the Wine Rack :) and the Health Food store, both used frequently! There is a nice area for socializing.

Here is that shopping cart again, we are seeing it from the other direction.

We are now heading back to my condo complex, the entrance of which is past those
apartment buildings. We are still walking through parking lots.

The apartments are kept up nicely - they have access to a swimming pool which is
just beyond that atrocity of public art. I read an article yesterday about so-called
"public art". It stated that public art should be ART first and PUBLIC second. I have
to say that in this hideous example PUBLIC came first and ART second!!

 Here is the entrance back into my condo complex. The mall and apartments are 
behind us now. All of the trees in the complex
have grown very tall in the 23 years we've lived here.

These condo owners used to be able to see their neighbours on the other side
of the cedars, not any more. The street light is being
swallowed up by the trees!

 There's my place below. To the left of the crabapple tree you can see some branches
 from a maple tree. It was just a sapling when we moved in and now is 40+ feet tall. 
There is another one shading
the back side of the house. I had to change all of my perennials from sun-loving to shade-loving 
over the years but I don't mind. When it's 30c outside it's 24c inside. I rarely have to turn on the A/C.  
 Home sweet home.
I didn't even show you all of the many many restaurants/fast food places. Within a couple of blocks there is: a Macdonalds, A&W, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Harvey's, Fireside Subs, two pizza, no three pizza places, Dairy Queen, a place that sells greek food (can't remember the name), Fast Eddies etc.
Most I haven't been to as I cook 99% of our meals at home. 
BUT - I am excited to say that a "Globally Local" restaurant has just opened in the old Harvey's location and is open 24/7!! 
 Kazi and I have already eaten there and it is fantastic! And affordable!! 

So there you have it - what the heck do I need a car for? 

I rode my bike to my optometrist app't in less time than it takes to drive there.
Yesterday I went grocery shopping with my cart. The last time I used
my cart for groceries I was a student at university without a car. I'm glad
I never got rid of it! (the cart, not the car!)

On Wed. I'm renting a car for 24 hours to go to the beach. It will cost less than putting gas into Dougie for the same trip.
I went to Bracebridge in my brother's car and I gave him $$ for gas.
I know that once we start getting cold weather and snow travel will be more difficult. 
Hopefully I can figure out ways to make life easier.