Our Earth Hour Fun

earth-hour-002.jpgearth-hour-005.jpg Well we did our part last night and participated in Earth Hour. Roo loved it. We used candles and flashlights for the 3 hours that we turned out the lights. Everything in the house was unplugged except for the fridge.

Monopoly was the game of choice, and then we read by candle light and our finale was a walk in our neighbourhood where we found 60 houses that were participating! We could even see the stars and that is rare in Toronto..It really was a fun time and a real reminder that we can still do much to go green.

It’s Party Time!

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Over at 5 Minutes to Mom they are hosting a blog party!!! It is a great  way to find some new fav reads and maybe win some prizes too!!

Welcome to my lil corner of the neighbourhood, and my blog! Well actually I hvave two this one and The Lucky Cannuck. Can I offer you a cup of hot chocolate or perhaps a cup of herbal tea? Would you like a chocolate? or perhaps a maple cookie? These are some of my favorite food and I really want to be a good hostess! Come on in and sit for a bit.

I am Hollie, a solo mom. I am cheaper than cheap! I have to be. I live on less then $1300 a month in Canada’s biggest city. I have been blogging for years now. I had old blogs on both MSN and blogspot. I really like wordpress!

I write about things cheap frugal. On Mondays I try hard to Menu plan, and post my plans here. I also like to participate in What Works Wednesdays. I also write  about my lil girl who is a unique talented child who walks the Aspergers/ADHD line. Sometimes I will even do an opinion piece if something is on my mind.

I have months of archives here for you to browse…and this week I will introduce some of my favorte blogs and my must reads for help. So glad you came to visit, hopefully you will come back often.

New Family Member

For the past number of days I have been following a friend who has been blogging from Africa about Compassion’s work over there. The pictures and videos spoke to my heart and my daughters as well . We see how very lucky we are. How even though by Canadian standards we are considered poor by many we are actually very wealthy by world standards. We made a commitment to sponsor a child…her name is Chelsea and she is now part of our family! For the cost of a can of diet coke or a cup of coffee and a muffin a day you could really help a child and their family become self sufficient… I couldn’t help but think of something that was recently by a very wise man.. “we live in a knowledge based world, and the best way to become self sufficient is through eduction”…so my hats and prayers are with the bloggers who went…they really showed us how blessed and lucky we are!

What Works for Me Wedesday: Valentine’s Day For the Frugal Parent

Yesterday over at The Lucky Cannuck I wrote about Valentine’s day and being lucky in love even though I am a solo parent. Today for me a cheap frugal parent there are lots of ways to make tomorrow special for my daughter and me….I think this year I spent $5 for the day.

1. First shhh..but she will wake up to her favorite breakfast of waffles and at her spot in the table she will find a wee present from mom —I used a left over clay pot, filled it with jelly beans and heart shaped lollipops both bought at the dollar store..it looks like a plant! Also from the dollar store was the cutes lil heart purse so she is getting that too. I made her card.

2.For dinner we will actually be doing something different then I had planned on the menu. We are having one of OUR fav meals —Lasagna.

3. To take care of me and show me some love–after she goes to bed well it is ME time..a nice bubble bath, and a good read are in store.

There are lots of ways to celebrate the day and be frugal at the same time and include the kids. One of the themes we are doing all month so we can really see the love in this house is to document it on our LOVE WALL. When we catch each other being loving and kind we cut out a read heart and write a note sharing what we saw..we then put this up on our love wall( we have one wall dedicated to hearts).

So how are you celebrating tomorrow? Don’t forget that ecards are a great way to show lots of people a little love!  Now off to Dont Try This At Home to see what is working for everyone else today.

Goals for 2008

So what are you doing this first day of the year? For many of us it is a time of reflection and goal setting and YES that is what I have been doing. Last year one of the goals I had was to get by on less and this I did all year long. I had to get creative, and smart but I managed to live off $1240 a month in Canada’s largest city. I coupon collected, I contested, I looked for freebies and cheapies and I got good at it!

This years goal is to really track it! To track my freebies, to note when I really do save, and what I win. My goal is not to spend a penny for birthdays or Christmas this year and with Roo’s birthday being tomorrow here is how I am doing her special day.

Her dad sent $50( not my money his for making her day good) so dad’s present to her is a keyboard($18) and I am taking her to Montana’s (her favorite restaurant for dinner$30-she loves the mini ice-cream cones that come with  the kids meal). I got her a Sankso MP3 player( just had to pay for the taxes($3)-got it FREE with my Optimum points from Shoppers Drugs) and 15 song downloads…all from icoke( another freebie). I made her birthday card and am recycling wrapping paper. On the 19th she gets to have a sleepover, at which we are going to have homemade birthday cake, and FREE pizza from a gift certificate that I won. We are going to do beauty makeovers and play board games –all things we have in the house. For breakfast we will do pancakes and syrup and OJ( and yes I have coupons for all of those). How is that for planning on the cheap?

To track freebies and wins at the end of my posts you will find a add-on where I report and track how it is going this year.

What sites tools am I using to make this an even cheaper year?

If you want to save $$$$ this year and are a Canadian may I recommend these sites:

1. Frugal Shopper Ca – I love love love this site! Kimberly the owner has provided a great forum for learning how to save, coupon, and contest all in a great community. I love the friendships I made there in 2007.

2. Shoppers Drugs– I have their Optimum card, and shop the bonus days and flyer’s..I can accumulate enough points that even with only 2 of us in this household I can walk away with about $300 in free stuff every year!

3.Pigsback-This site is new on the market here in Canada and is a shopping portal site where you can earn points. But wait you don’t have to shop only to gain points, do the daily quizzes and watch you maybe having a cup of Tims on them! So far I have 2 gift cards coming from them.

4. Contest Girl– a great site for keeping track of all my daily contests. Between using it and Roboform this gal is ready to contest.

5. Netwinner( not only for us cannucks)- but play Banko enough and you do get some great gift cards.

6. Craigslist and Freecycle and 2 sites I really rely on when I do need to buy-my as well try and get it second hand.

My other 2 major goals for this year.First to become a working mom and the other to move out of this basement apartment. Anyone know a good landlord in Toronto with a decent clean apartment in the East York area under 850? With that said and done I think that I have set some goals that I can really work toward. Now if you set health goals for yourself may I reccomend www.sparkpeople.com . It really is a great weight loss tool that happens to be FREE. May you have a blessed 2008! So tell me what are your goals or dreams for the year ahead?

Highlights and Lowlights of 2007

Well the year is quickly coming to a close. It has been a year full of many good things. But with the good comes the bad right? So what where the highlights for this cheap mom and her daughter?

First this was the year we finally got an IPRC done for my daughter, and she has had educational assts in the classroom. I really do thank God for Diana especially and her work with Roo early in the year. Roo has come a long way! She is coping well with being a spectrum child. I am a proud mom! It was the year that Webkinz became her toy and site of choice, although with Christmas bring an e-pet and a be-bratz we will have to see which will rule–but she does have as of now 8 of the Webkinz. She also went to summer camp and had a great time. She took trips to Black Creek Pioneer Village, Casa Loma, the Science Center, and High park all without mom. So they are her highlights truely!

This was the year I got both cheap and smart. I started contesting and couponing for real this year. By March I was on a lucky streak! Got to love the concert tickets, movie passes, Argo tickets,music downloads, restaurant GC’s, t-shirts, flip flops, magazine subscriptions, and attraction passes.

It was also also a highlight when I got to visit with family this summer when my sister and family came to stay and play here in Toronto for 10days. I loved having them in the city!

We also got to attend and get to many great events here in the city. One of our favorites was Luminato back in June. What a festival of the arts it was! Roo and I so enjoyed it. In July we were amongst the crush of people down at Bay and Bloor for the launch of the last Potter book. We also loved going to White Christmas in November.

For the lowlights: there were two winter storms-one on Feb14th that stopped me from seeing Keith Urban live because there was too much snow out there at that time in the morning, then in December our city saw the most snow on a day that we have seen in 44 years! I also broke my ankle in Feb and this really laid me up for about a month. This year I also did not work as I had wanted too so this made me become more creative with my money.

So what will the new year bring? I am not sure but I am sure there is an adventure ahead! So come along for the ride.

A Great Contesting Story

I haven’t blogged about this yet and really I wanted too! I wanted to wait though till cheques where out there. That happened last week. Now I can share the story of the school community here in Toronto that could and did win big for our school!

Back in August Please Mum hosted a contest. Parents could fill an online ballot and vote for their favorite school. The school by September 15th with the most ballots won, and10 parents across Canada would win too. Parents won $500 in a Gift Card for Please Mom which I am sure helped make a dent for several families and their back to school shopping.

When I first saw the contest it was post on the Frugal Shopper forum, I filled out my ballot and voted for my daughter’s school: RH McGregor here in Toronto. The more I thought about it I thought hey our school could use the money and we are always looking for an easy “fund raiser” so I sent off an email to the co-chairs of our school advisory and home and school committees. Well the home and school chair took it to her executive meeting that was happening the week before school started and ran with it. On the first Friday in amongst the hand outs was one telling of the contest. Parents basically had a week to get online and enter and enter they did! The parents all have a we can do attitude!

Well almost a month later our dear principal who really didn’t pay attention to all home and school was doing to enter this contest got a call from Please Mum, our school won! So how would he decide to spend an extra $5,000? He could choose from a huge dance party, books for the classroom, gym equipment, or art supplies. What would you of picked for your child’s school? I think he did well when he choose books. So our wonderful librarian now gets to shop for the classroom libraries.

Now the story of the contest win doesn’t end there. You see my daughter’s school is one with a great home and school organization that does have the ability and does raise thousands for the school. So a decision was made to help out another school locally who isn’t as lucky as we are right now. So another school is getting $1,000 to help with their libraries.

For me a mom I thought the win was great but what a great lesson to instill to the kids: when you are blessed, bless others!

Planning Our December

Do you find that this time of year seems to be about hustle and bustle and so much of what is really important gets forgotten. For us it kind of creeps up on us and then from the beginning of December till the new year it is a time of busyness. So this year we came up with a Holiday plan…each weekend there is 1 thing that takes out of of the house besides church no more.

This weekend Roo and I will hit the mall for the last time. I have $75 in free Shopper Drugs shopping to do with my Optimum points. With it I am getting Roo some small presents and stocking stuffers. Then on Sunday Roo is singing at church–a solo, and taking part in the children’s presentation.

Next weekend we have been invited to a party so that will be fun, and on Sunday Eve we will be watching a holiday movie on tv.

Then the weekend before Christmas is about getting down to what is really important, the reason to celebrate. We will go to a live nativity pageant downtown, and to church.

On Christmas Eve it is company coming over, and then Christmas Day will be our traditional pj day..Christmas (my birthday) is the one day I can stay in pjs if I want to and I do!

I find by having a plan there is no longer the need to get caught in the bustle. Roo and I can relax and enjoy things like the pile of Christmas stories on her shelf, a Christmas special or just some time together. So do you have a plan or do you get caught in the bustle?

When Good Plans Fail

As my daughter’s illness started to come under control this year, I began to dream again: dreams like going back to work full time, of Roo fitting in. Well this week this mom got a couple of slaps upside the head and was faced with the realities that can come.

First is on the behavioral end of things, yes Roo has gotten so much better, but she still has far to go. She gets caught up in a linear thought and cant change it and then that becomes her truth, and she will stick to it no matter what. She can become stubborn beyond stubborn when in a cycle like this and until she has had time to first calm her body and her thoughts down she is stuck. At home when I see these coming I try and nip it is the bud and tell Roo to go and have some cool down time, often after this she then she can talk through any problem. In the real world though and when she is dealing with others who can have temporary authority over her some days she doesn’t fair well.

 Yesterday at her new after school program was one of those days.  Roo was playing dodge ball and was supposed to be out. She says she never felt the ball hit her, her teacher asks her to sit and it spirals downward from there. There was no hitting, no biting ( some of the things she used to d0-) just a level of disrespect and not following the rules).Resulting in Roo being asked to take a break from the program which means I at this time do not have childcare for Roo.

Finding childcare for a child with special needs in Toronto is extremely difficult if not impossible and is VERY costly if you have to do it yourself. It makes it that you have to earn at least $15 an hour minimum and then you would be back to what you got on welfare. You see a babysitter would charge at a minimum $10 for 3 hours a day=$150 dollars.  That is something that I can not afford and with Roo turning 10 on January 2nd she no longer qualifies for child care subsides and to get a space in a daycare here lets just say she will in junior high before her name got to where she would have a spot.

So basically this means that the $100 I spent on bus-fare in the last 3 weeks is for naught, as once again I have to pick her up at 3:30 every day. So my dream of returning to the work force are once again on hold.

With this said and done I really had wanted to be working by my birthday which is now 25 days away but I feel that is an impossibility so I am trying hard to just deal with the hand that is dealt.

It has also made for a change in the Christmas budget. There will be less here. We will make due, and we willing be going to less things then I had planned: There will be more things done at home like game playing, movie watching,  and crafts.

It has also changed my volunteering plans for the month as well as I am first and foremost the mom of a special child.

Menu Monday–

We are having company in this week- got to practice hospitality right! So what are we having this week:

Monday- Slow Cooker Lasgna ( I use just regular Lasgna Noodles for this–and it is yummy!) and a salad

Tuesday-chicken nuggets, french fries and corn

Wednesday- Breakfast for Dinner- Eggs, Toast and Bacon, sliced tomato

Thursday- Turkey Tacos ( a good cheap meal)

Friday- leftovers

Saturday-Chicken/Broccoli Bake( makes enough for two days) and it comes from a Campbell’s Label

Recipe: 

Cubed chicken breasts ( we use pieces)
1 1/3 cup of water
1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken
3/4 uncooked rice
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups frozen broccoli florets (we use fresh broccoli sometimes, both are great)
1 cup low fat cheddar cheese

Mix water & soup . .add pepper & onion powder
Mix in rice, broccoli, and chicken.

Pour mixture into baking dish. Cover and bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

Add cheese after you remove from the oven.

This recipe is great because you can really play around with the ingredients.
Campells has tons of recipes that you can easily modify to fit a healthy diet. We love Campbells here in this house!

Sunday-leftover bake!

 Christmas Tip Number# 14–Okay folks we have less then a month to go, if your decorations arent out, and up this is the week to get going on that! Mine are up and we can feel the Christmas spirit here at home!

Today I am so very thankful for a returned wallet! I lost my wallet on the street yesterday and late last night a kind stranger returned it! Can you say honesty in Toronto is alive and real! Thank you Ali!

Now if you want to you can find more meny planning over at the one and only organizing junkies blog