Monday, January 29, 2018

Monday Musings and Signs of Spring

Yesterday was such a gorgeous sunny and mild spring winter day it was easy to think that spring is on its way. Lots of buds on trees - even the maple tree behind my house has buds on it. Poor Mother Nature - things are so out of whack!

I checked my front garden yesterday hoping for a sign of snowdrops but it's the daffodils that are bravely taking winter on!  You might want to dip your heads beneath the soil once again though, as snow is going to be falling most of the day!!

As always the sunshine invited me to Kilally Meadows although the trails were in less than pristine shape! I wouldn't have dared to walk on these chunks of ice below without my trusty walking stick which save me from a few falls by providing me with another point of balance. We've had a lot of rain and a lot of melting followed by a flash freeze resulting in inch thick ice covering most of the trails. In another area I did go through the ice a couple of times but no harm done - it's just empty space under the ice. 

A small pond has formed in a low-lying area.

Oh, but the sky!

Later today I will join the vigil at City Hall to mark the one-year anniversary of the mosque shooting in Quebec City where six men were killed and nineteen others injured, five seriously. One injured man bravely jumped in front of the shooter receiving many bullets which left him a paraplegic but saved the lives of many.

I include below the words of our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau:

Ottawa, Ontario
January 29, 2018
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on the first anniversary of the fatal shooting at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec:

“One year ago tonight, a senseless attack at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec in Ste-Foy claimed the lives of six worshippers and seriously injured nineteen more.

“On this solemn anniversary, I join Canadians across the country to remember and honour those who were taken from us too soon. Our thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones, and all those who still live with the pain and trauma caused by the attack. We also honour the first responders, whose courage and professionalism saved lives that night.

“This was a terrorist attack against all Canadians, meant to test our resolve and weaken our values. It failed. In the wake of the shooting, a solidarity movement formed across the country as Canadians united to condemn the attack and counter hatred with hope.

“A year later, our message has not changed: We are stronger together. No matter our faith or where we were born, we are equal members of this country. We will not let an act of intolerance divide us and make any Canadian feel less at home.

“The Government of Canada stands in solidarity with Canada’s Muslim community. We will continue to fight Islamophobia and take action against it and all other forms of hatred and discrimination, and defend the diversity that makes Canada strong.”

Saturday, January 27, 2018

February Budget

Yup, I'm pretty much done with January.

I'm sporting quite the bruise after walking in Kilally Meadows - the trails are covered in ice about 2" thick - so yes, I slipped while taking a photo. The camera is ok. Yesterday when I was walking through I left my camera at home and walked more carefully. With a walking stick. Lesson learned.

January was an expensive healthcare type of month: renewed a prescription $28, had an eye exam $120 (all is well, in fact my eyes have improved so will be shopping for glasses soon) and dentist $230. You'd think for $230 I'd get more than x-rays, cleaning and maybe a gold tooth or two? But I'm set for awhile. Eye exam is every two years, dentist is now once a year from previously going every 6 months, then every 9 months. Yes, I have excellent oral hygiene :) 

I paid for my healthcare expenses from my weekly misc discretionary spending budget line. So I had to be more frugal than usual with my spending. Luckily I underspent in a couple of categories, not by a lot but it helped. $60 was allotted for gas and I only spent $30. $280 was allotted for groceries and only spent $229. $70 was allotted for electricity - the bill was $$56. All the little extras were re-directed to my misc budget and even after buying wine (a necessity) I had a budget surplus of $116. So I had me a little splurge at the thrift shop purchasing 3 items for a total of $12. I'd been denying myself for quite some time - haven't been to a store other than the grocery store since Christmas shopping.

Nothing too fancy - I like trouser style track pants and was looking for grey - voila!

My eye was attracted to the material in this top - it will go nicely over a pair of black tights.

This v-neck boho top makes me think of summer and screamed "Sunfest"! Both tops are very light gauzy material which also packs well :) and can be layered with a tank top or long sleeved top for warmth. Just another wild spending spree a la Jane!
Oh yes, and my Amazon Prime membership was renewed in January for $90. I am very happy with this service. I order a lot from Amazon and while I didn't keep track I'm sure I saved way more than $90 on shipping fees. (my daughter also purchased a number of things under my name in order to get the free delivery.) Also included in the membership is a streaming service while not quite as good as Netflix, it's pretty close. And no overlap of programming.

I also managed to go to a movie ("The Post" with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks - I highly recommend it! Very timely considering the attack on news reporting in the States), went out for lunch and out to Roxbury's a couple times after volleyball for a pint (and free pizza!). I've also set up a monthly withdrawal to go to Red Cross and January was the first month for that.

So I am really pleased with January's budget results. I still stuck a $1,000 into savings as I try to do every month but did not increase my snowflakes. I'll return to building that in February. I've made up a new budget to begin in February. I've received notice of my pension increases - I wish I could say that the increase more than covers the increase in my bills but my property taxes really went up a lot and there's nothing I can do about that other than grin and bear it. I think overall I came out about even. And that will have to do.

Are you closing off your January budget yet? How did you do this month?

Sunday, January 21, 2018


Over 1300 days of retirement as of today - how bloody marvellous! I appreciate more than I can say the freedom that retirement provides. Instead of spending the weekend racing around in preparing for the next week every day is Saturday! Don't worry; if you're not there yet you will be eventually.
Little ghosties

I spent Saturday walking and taking photos in Kilally Meadows - the sun was shining and the ice was glistening and melting. And then I met a friend coming from the other direction who I haven't seen in months! That was pretty cool so we headed to Tim Horton's to catch up.
What big teeth you have!

Other highlights of the day included my daily yoga practise and visiting with my daughter (SHE AND HER BOYFRIEND ARE LOOKING AT HOUSES!!!!) So we sat with my laptop looking at what's for sale and there isn't much. It's a seller's market right now and it isn't going to be easy finding something affordable. In London Ontario anything under $300,000 is an old wreck or a condo - not a single detached house with a yard. They will have to make some compromises. But STILL! That's a huge step! Am I a bad mother because I started to think of the extra savings in my budget? 😆  I just hope there's an extra bedroom for me!!

All kidding aside, I hope they can find a place they're happy with and I'll be first in line to slap some paint on the walls! Fortunately there's no urgency so they can take their time looking. Holy moly it's FOGGY outside! Mother Nature is digging deep into her bag of tricks this winter! My heating bill is going to be a big one this month after several weeks of -25c so I don't mind the current thaw.

Oh, before I go, I wanted to remind you to "check your spam" once in awhile. I did yesterday looking for something I had deleted and found half a dozen of your comments in my spam folder. I was quite surprised and changed them to "not spam". 

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sugar Withdrawal

Why oh why do I feel like crap? As I went through another night of tossing and turning and waking up at 4am to wander the house I had an aha moment and no, I don't have the flu but that would be

I realized it was day 4 of eliminating sugar from my diet. Unlike Annie at Northern Living Allowance I'm not following a specific programme though it probably would have been a good idea!

I don't have all of the withdrawal symptoms but am not enjoying the ones I do have: mood swings, anxiety and depression, insomnia and cravings of course; the worst being insomnia. My head feels like it is full of wool and concentration is definitely impaired. I can't even claim to be 100% sugar-free as so many foods contain added sugar - even a bagel has refined sugar in it. And dried fruit has a lot and I've still been adding a few currants to my morning oatmeal.  Probably even the pasta I cooked last night had sugar in it...I'm going to go check....nope, surprisingly it doesn't but I buy pasta now made from brown rice and quinoa so that's probably why. But I did go cold turkey on sweets, candy, cookies, leftover Christmas treats and so on. If I can eliminate that kind of stuff and start feeling "normal" again I'll be happy. Man - sugar is everywhere!! is so addictive!

Are you trying to eliminate anything from your diet? If so, how is it going?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Flu Shot Dilemma

Influenza is complicated; there is Influenza A, Influenza B and Influenza C. Usually one strain strikes at a time; here in London Influenza A and B are hitting London at the same time. In less than 2 weeks flu has killed 4 people, caused 24 outbreaks and twice the number of lab-confirmed cases.

You would think I'd be running as fast as I can to get a flu shot, but no. When Kazi was in school and I was teaching we faithfully went to get a flu shot every year. But now I don't bother and I can't remember the last time I had the flu.

Is my immune system that good? Ummm, no, it's that the flu shot is that bad!

Here's what my local newspaper had to say about this year's flu shot:
"Making things worse, the main A strain of the disease - H3N2 - wasn't a good match for this year's vaccine, while the B-strain, called Phuket (say that very carefully!) was in the vaccine for under 18 year olds but not in the vaccine for adults. 

This year's vaccines still provide some protection, but it's less than optimal." 
The London Free Press

I've been told that each year's vaccine is based on the strains of flu from the previous year even though after a year or so they've mutated into new and different strains!

And that is why I don't bother with the flu shot anymore. So far so good. I know the flu will likely catch up with me sooner or later and if it does I'll just stay home and keep my germs to myself. If only everyone would do that. I do worry a little about all the various hands and germs/bacteria that likely cover the various volleyballs I handle for 6 hours a week so I carry anti-bacterial hand gel in my backpack and my purse.
Photo - Shutterstock

Oh, and here's another tip: I recently read that being "slightly overweight" provides more protection against bugs and illness than being "slightly underweight" so here's to those extra 10 pounds! They have a purpose after all!

What about you - do you get the flu shot every year? Do you "bulk up" for winter flu season? 😝

Friday, January 12, 2018


Nope, not a typo in my title. I'm combining "whether" and "weather" into one word to describe my day right now. Whether or not I go out depends on the weather. Clever eh?

On Wednesday the weather was perfect so I went for a nice slog through Kilally Meadows.

Some trails hadn't seen human feet for awhile.
A pristine trail unsullied by human or beastie.

Whereas I was able to follow some deer prints on others...just me and the deer!
No I never caught up to the deer, darn it.

And then there was this area where mine were the only prints and snow was up above my knees! That's my walking stick at the bottom of the picture - I wouldn't have gotten so far without it. I should invest in some snowshoes though, it was tough going.
The sky was interesting...

So far the bridge hasn't been flooded but it will soon!

Enjoying the day...

Two days later and most of the snow is gone. It's been raining pretty steadily and I think I missed the "window" of time to decide whether I should go out. Everything now is coated in freezing rain as we are headed into the deep freeze once again. I might just have to miss volleyball tonight as all standing water is going to be totally frozen. So far today we've had rain, freezing rain, ice pellets to be followed later by snow. Right now nothing is falling but I can see that the cedar trees behind my house are covered in ice.

I have two errand to do but wheather or not I should go out is the question. Just how slippery are the roads I wonder....

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Oh and I almost forgot... say that I went back to my original blog title - Life Begins at Retirement - which is also my blog url.

I've been considering a move to a different blog platform - any suggestions?

Week End Soup

What could be more comforting than soup? Well, maybe these two.

As the title suggests, I make soup at the end of every week.  I just use whatever I have on hand and get rid of all the old limp vegetables that my daughter would just throw out :) In fact, I took several stalks of celery right out of her hand-RRRIP!!! -as she was about to toss them into the garbage. Blasphemy!!

Of course, she didn't grow up during the depression...neither did I for that matter, but I grew up with parents who did and who, as a result, didn't waste anything. To me it was like my parents invented the slogan - reduce, reuse and recycle.

Now I'm not as thrifty as they were, but I do pretty well. Unlike my parents (and fellow blogger Kim) I don't have chickens to eat up scraps and my cats are pretty fussy. Chicken or cheese yes, veggies no! Nor do I have a compost bin. So all the scraps go into my soup. And it is soooo good! I've noticed lately a number of bloggers looking for frugal meal ideas and one blogger said she serves homemade soup twice a week for dinner, usually meat-free and it really stretches her budget.

That doesn't mean you have to give up protein - I always put lentils or barley or kidney beans (all very cheap!) in my soup for protein and if you add a healthy dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt you then have soup with complete protein. When I was a teenager my mother could barely keep up with my soup demands. During the winter I would heat up a bowl of her veggie soup for breakfast...and yes I did have to walk a mile to high school 😋

I keep my pantry stocked with chicken and/or vegetable stock, cans of diced tomatoes and tomato paste and lots of dry legumes/peas/lentils/barley etc. That's the basis of my soup then I add the old veggies and give them a second life.....this week's version has carrots and parsnips leftover from roasting root veggies a while back, onions, celery and zucchini. With red lentils this week. And lots of fresh garlic. Spices include basil, thyme, oregano, black pepper, a wee bit of cayenne and lots of crushed chili peppers.

With the wild winter weather we've been having lately where -23c has been the norm it's been wonderful to wrap my hands around a hot bowl of soup after an hour of shovelling snow. That's not to say I'm not relieved that the temperature is going back to, and above, normal this week. YAY! 

That's my soup tale and now I'm off to eat that bowl of soup pictured above - after I heat it up of course...

Oh...and I'm going to try to remember to save all of the water I cook vegetables in this week and make my own stock. I'll put a mason jar on the counter to remind me. One less thing to buy!

Any tips out there about making good stock?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Life is Messy and That's OK

Our newspaper advice columnist recently entitled a post "Life is Messy and That's OK!" I thought that was a great concept and decided to steal it for my own purposes. My interpretation is that Shit Happens and that's OK. We fail and that's ok. We lose stuff, we get angry, we go to open the tub of sour cream and find it's full of mould, and that's ok.

Expecting that everything is always going to go smoothly is an anxiety-inducing philosophy which ends up making us feel like losers. Let it go...have a laugh at your own expense. It's OKAY!!

I know those anxious feelings intimately. As a Special Education teacher who would often take her students out and about in the school and the surrounding neighbourhood. I drove myself absolutely crazy trying to prepare in advance for every possible contingency. What if Johnny has a tantrum? What if someone gets hit in the head by the baseball? What if they laugh at the wrong moment while attending the school play? What about the allergies, the inappropriate language, the cajillion million questions they ask staff at the grocery store. I could write a list longer than both my arms and legs and still wouldn't be able to prevent every little (or large) mishap!! No wonder I took medication for anxiety!!

Well...repeat after me:    LIFE IS MESSY AND THAT'S OK!

Sometimes family members don't get along and there's nothing you can do about it; sometimes you have a fender bender and then a month later you have another one! Sometimes the electricity goes out and you lose a bunch of food. Sometimes you eat your face off and gain 10 lbs. Oh, I could go on and on but you get the point.

Self care is the resolution of a lot of people here in the blog world. I think it should be #1 on everyone's list. Yeah, we do stupid stuff, sometimes we could make better choices. But we aren't perfect and we're actually really nice, intelligent people! I didn't make any resolutions but my WORD(s) for 2018 is going to be this phrase. When I'm feeling anxious, if things don't work out the way I planned, as they are wont to do, if I do my best and it isn't enough I will tell myself "life is messy and that's ok." 

(Then I'll have a drink or two :)...or a bubble bath, a walk in the woods,  do some yoga, pick up a Starbucks special drink, I'll hug somebody (preferably someone I know), play with my cats, order a pizza, meditate, exercise, or write a list of all of my great qualities! Be nice to me! I'm OKAY! Lighten up, watch something funny on Netflix, reach out to someone else, relax and read a book!

I got this mess covered!

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year!

It remains to be seen whether it will be a HAPPY year or not!

Though being the eternal optimist that I am it can't be anything BUT!

I don't usually make resolutions as studies show most resolutions fall by the wayside after 2-3 weeks.

So...I'll just say this:

  • I hope to be somewhat more productive next year but if I'm not that's ok too.
  • I will take a couple of trips but details are not clear yet - Scotland for sure, possibly B.C. again though different spots, & PEI would be nice so I'll be squeezing those pennies again.
  • I ended December with $500 in my snowflake box. I call that AWESOME!
  • it sucks that I won't know my net income until the end of January. Increased bills will kick-in throughout the month of January so I feel like my pay is always a month behind. Fingers are crossed that the pension increase will cover my increased bills. 
  • My condo fee is going up by $9 a month; that's the only increase I know of for now but have heard rumblings that City Council will be increasing our property taxes this year for sure. 
  • January is an expensive month: dentist, eye app't (want new glasses), newspaper renewal so I'm glad I don't have to pay property taxes this month being on a 10 month payment plan. New glasses will be costly so my snowflake box may take a hit. Better the box than my savings account!
  • I ended up the year with $95 left in my chequing account so that will go in the box and help defray January expenses. 
  • Thrilled that I had money left over after Christmas and New Year celebrations. Usually I go over budget. I've thought of a couple more ways to save $$ at Christmas and will share those on another post.
And now I must adjourn to the sofa as two kitties and a big fat book and a cup of chocolate chia tea await!