Winter Time Arrives with a Bang

WinterWell today is officially the first day of winter. Winter is my least favorite season. But in my least favorite season you find my favorite day- December 25th…

Across Canada it is either cold or snowing today. Here we are to get a storm. Lots of snow is headed our way. Toronto is to get its 3rd dumping of snow in 5 days! That is what I call coming in with a bang!

Okay so what is good about winter?

  • sledding
  • sipping hot chocolate
  • the beauty of nature after a fresh snowfall
  • snow angels
  • snowmen
  • skating
  • skiing

Those are just a few things that I enjoy in this my least favorite season, they are what makes it bearable for me. What don’t I like? What makes it my least favorite?

  • slush and muck
  • freezing rain
  • ice storms
  • layering clothes
  • cold bedrooms
  • the flu that always seems to go around
  • blizzards
  • winter drivers
  • winter winds
  • shovelling

So for me it is a trade off, I will choose to concentrate on the good as long as I can. What about you?

Twas a Week Before Christmas

Twas a week before Christmas and in this house every creature is stirring even the mice. We are busy wrapping and getting ready for dear daughter’s first Christmas in many years with family. Literally under our tree is a box of presents ready to go. My mom and daughter will head to my sister’s on the 23rd. I will join them in the wee hours on Christmas Day. I have to work till 6:30 Christmas eve, then take the bus to Halifax. I was wishing I could get off early to go and see the Outdoor Nativity Pageant that they do every year with Roo. But at least I got Christmas and Boxing Day off where many of my colleagues are working.

This week has been busy and yes I have been dreaming of sugarplums…actually I have been missing old friends. I am sending out lots of emails this season, trying to reconnect. 

I did get to get my hair done on the frugal side of things. I love having a sister who is a hairdresser, and what makes this better she is a good one! My color cost $7! She also gave me a trim.

Roo has been coughing all week long so this mom has also been a nurse. No fever though, and no flem so that is the good side of this.

The child isn’t sleeping, she is much like I was at this age, the snoop, and the child with eyes full of Christmas wonder still, but as I wrapped my almost 11 yr olds presents this year I was thinking this is probably the last year she will ask for toys. This makes me a wee bit sad because it means my daughter has reached another milestone.

So this mom is ready for a mug of hot chocolate as I read some blogs and get caught up.

Preparing for the Holidays on a Budget

Well it is that wonderful time of the year and the holidays are upon us! This year did you realise almost all the worlds religions celebrate a religious holiday this month. In this house we celebrate two: on Dec 8th is Eid, then we also celebrate with family Christmas. So how is this common sense mom getting it together while keeping cents in her wallet?

For us it has never been about the amount of money we spend. It has been about creating time honored traditions and looking for opportunities to serve others. Our first tradition we have already done here. That is on the American Thanksgiving. We get up early have waffles and watch the Macy’s Parade. At the same time we are decorating our holiday tree. Many of the ornaments are homemade and celebrate the diversity of our family ( we have family members who are christian, Catholic, Muslim and Jewish). Other traditions include baking cookies together and delivering them secretly to whoever we decide, a new one for us this is going to Eid Prayer, another is opening pjs on Christmas eve and reading Twas the Night Before Christmas while having hot chocolate.

We also look for chances to serve. In past years we have participated in food drives and sorted food and toys at local food banks, prepared shoes boxes to send to children overseas, chosen to adopt a child from overseas, adopted animals, cleaned up a neighbours yard, and shovelled snow for those who couldn’t. There are many ways that you can find to serve and often time is the best gift you can give.

When it comes to Christmas presents we also have a time honored tradition: it is called a cash Christmas. I have never bought on credit when it comes to presents. I set a budget for each person: then I shop with that budget in mind looking for something that they would love. For my daughter she knows that Santa has a budget after all he has so many children he needs to prepare for. She has never gone overboard on her list. Last year I was also able to give gifts that I got for free. I had collected icoke points and shopper optimum points and gave gift certificates for the movies, and bath sets that I had gotten basically for next to nothing. For my preteen daughter this year her big request is a guitar. I have found one on clearance for $30. She will also get new pjs ( bought at Atlantic Superstore for $7), a MP3 player bought for $20 at Walmart, and a itunes card for $15 that I got for free. For her stocking I will be redeeming points at Shoppers Optimum. Maybe it will be a necklace or watch, I haven’t decided this one yet.  For gift giving for the rest of my family I make sure I shop within my means and I look for quality on a budget. Here are some generic ideas that do leave cents in the wallet

  • Homemade: one year I made soup mixes and put them in old fashion canisters I got for a $.25 each, another I made hot chocolate mixes and put them in mugs I got for $.50, another I got frames and decoratedthem with buttons and other nicknack’s.
  • Cookies with recipe card attached.
  • Git Certificates you made yourself for services you can do : ie gardening, sewing, babysitting, cooking , game time, reading, really the list is endless for this one.
  • a treasure box: get a small box at craft store: fill it with treasured notes ,etc..

So for me it just makes cents to do it  with cash and creativity, that way you really can enjoy the holidays with less stress after them.

Common Ways to Save Cents Shopping

I have been thinking alot about how hard things are getting for families and how to save cents, because we know those cents add up. Are there certain things that I have to buy new or can I get away and enjoy used just as much? There are certain things that I must have a certain brand  but when it comes to these goods I think it is because I am a smart or should I say wise consumer( I buy on sale or use copouns or both). Now most of what I buy is used. What tips or what is going through my mind as I shop?

For Clothing: I buy used mostly. I love the feel of a pair of well worn jeans. Now who really likes to break in a new pair? When I lived in Toronto at Value Village. I could often get a pair of jeans for under $10. Here in Rural Nova Scotia there is Frenchies. I was able to get my daughter a cute long skirt there for $3. Often I have used Kijiji or Craigslist. If I am buying new I  flyer shop, and was able to get brand new cords for $12 at Zellers recently. I also shop the clerance racks. For me all of these ways add up to cents in my pockets. I am looking for quality at a cheap price. I have ofthen picked up brands like Gap, Roots, Old Navy, and the like for next to nothing.  

For Furniture:There is not a NEW piece in my apartment. Now this means my apartment is a hodge podge but that again is ok with me but I guess if you are trying to achive a certain look then you might buy new. As for colors in my apartment. I use throws and pillows to bring things together. I was able to get the furniture in my new place for less then $100. One of the things I do look for is will it last, what repairs does it need?

For electronics: Most have been gifted to me( ie my current tv). Otherwise I do buy new. My computer was a great deal when I bought it two years ago ( for $349). I got the last one Staples had when they were clearing out stock for me it has more then served me well. My MP3 player was a gift with a purchase I made. Here I look for quality. I want it to last.

For my music needs I don’t buy CDs anymore if there is a song I like I can usually get it for free? How I enter and win enough downloads from contests through the year. I have not paid for music in over a year-Thanks to too many contests I have had over a 100 free downloads in the last yr.  If you like music don’t buy CDs download them it is so much cheaper!

For Food Shopping: When it comes to groceries this is where I skimp alot without losing quality. I coupon collect. Save.ca is great for coupons and then there are the  that line the stores. There are certain foods where the store brand simply will not do. We buy real Kraft dinner and Campbells soups only. They are the main stays of our lunches. Now for cookies I bake or buy on sale using coupons. I spend about $200 a month for the both of us and that includes cleaning and bathroom stuff too.

For Toy Shopping: Now when it comes to toys here is where you have to be careful. Our kids come first right! I buy new mostly–mostly at Walmart or Toys R US when on sale. We have bought some toys second hand ( like Roo’s kitchen), a barbie dollhouse, and  the like. We have bought games second hand at garage sales after checking for pieces. As for books we love second hand and make great use of the library.

Father’s Day

Tomorrow is rather a sad day around this house. My dad has been gone for years now and I miss him still all the time. Even when I was living out on my own and raising my wee girl there was that nightly call from or to dad. He was calling to make sure I was safe and sound and at home.  I miss him so very much especially when days like tomorrow roll around.

I also feel bad for Roo who may never know what it is to have a dad. Yes she has a father but she doesnt have a dad, at least not one who is there for her in any way that matters. She has not seen her father since she was 6 months old. My ex has never tried to have a relationship with her and I think that sucks for both of them. Any attempts were first mine for her and then her own,  but there has never in 10 years been an unsolicited call to her, never a request to see her even when he was less then an hour away from our home. Roo is at an age where she is really beginning to question why, and to be honest I dont have answers for her. I  pray that Heavenly Father fills this hole for her.

For any men that might read this if you are a father, then please make sure you try to be a dad too, your children need you more then you may ever understand, even if it is just a phone relationship over a long distance it is a place to start..

To you who have dads and to the dads that are out there have a blessed Father’s Day.

Volunteering

Just got home and I am so very tired! But it is a good tired. You know the kind after a hard day of work that you love. Today  I volunteered at our local food bank. i am there volunteering my time and talents twice per week. It gets very busy. Between sorting food, getting bags of food ready for clients, getting things ready for a community lunch program that they ruin as well, and working with clients it can be tiring.

But volunteering my time and talents is one thing that I enjoy and it doesnt cost me a penny to do it! As well it allows me the chance to give to my community and meet new people and learn new skills. I also believe in the rule when you give you are really gaining so much more. For me it makes my day even when I come home tired…if you don’t volunteer somewhere somehow in your community may I recommend it. You will come home with a smile I can almost guarantee it.

Works of Me: Hobbies

Okay we all have our evil pleasures right? Well mine arent that evil at all , they are just time consuming and that is so ok with me. What is your favorite thing to do?

I have two: reading and scrapbooking!

First I love finding a good read. Recently one of things that has worked wonderfully for me in this arena is a group on Facebookowned by the publishing house Haprper Collins..They give away free books each month. Last Month I read “Why bad things Happen to Good People” by Debbie Ford. It was a good read that helped me to understand some of my own thinking some of the time. There is nothing better then curling up with a good book, especially in the park on a warm sunny afternoon.

My other addiction is scrap-booking. I love it! For me it is a great way to journal through pictures our lives. One of my favorite websites to go for scrap-booking freebies is one that finds all the free scrap-booking stuff that is out there each week.Digifree is a great resource blog for all your free scrapping needs. For me it gives me great supplies that I can download each and every week.

Well this is what works for me, addictions that I can love! Now I am off to read another addiction What Works for Me over at Rocks in my Dryer.

The Cheap Summer Experiment

Well here we are again at that time of year, when you want to have some summer fun yet do it on the cheap! How am I going to do it? Well after a certain meeting two weeks ago my income level is uncertain as of August 1st so I plan on doing an experiment. First I took radical steps to cut my costs: got rid of the land line because we are never home especially during the summer. So we now have one cell on a decent plan…$45and all the minutes this mom needs.I got rid of the Internet as well and will be blogging for free from cafes and the library. So after rent and bills it leaves me with $450 to go everything with. So what are my plans?  How am I going to cut costs in Toronto this summer and even have money to go away with?

The Cheap Summer Experiment

1. Take advantage of the FREE stuff to do here in the city. From public pools, libraries, and free events there is plenty to do here in town.

 We will only TTC to one event per week, the others we  can walk or bike too. The first event we will hit is Luminato.It was so worth going to last year and we had a blast! It starts June 6thand is a great way to start off your summer with a bang.

2. Use the money jar approach to spending.

Our jars are $4o for groceries per week, $7.50 for laundry, and $12.50 for other–all clothes are bought so there is no need for new stuff.

3.When shopping utilize coupons, points collection(ie SDM), and flyer shopping to get the best prices you can find.

 UsuallyI can spend $40 on meat for a month ( we eat meals that include meat about 4 times a week). Usually2 big bags of chicken pieces and a big club size of lean ground beef that I can stretch with TVP does us.

4. Have a garage sale of all that stuff you don’t need- use this money as summer fun money or use it for something you need. Other great ways are to utilize Craigslist or Kijiji to make a sale.

We are doing this and Roo especially is clearing out stuff as she becomes a preteen on a mission of a new room design which is one of our other summer projects.

By doing this well will have enough money to do what we really want late in the summer and that is take our first family vacation ever. We are headed to Nova Scotia and PEI for a couple of weeks. Roo will get to spend time with her cousins and grandma. For our trip we are using  the train to get there, and have FREE places to stay so we should be okay going with $500.  We can’t wait and are getting excited about our first real chance to travel.

Free Dove Chocolate

 While at Lifefest recently I had the chance to sample Dove Chocolate and well feel in love with the Dusk flavor! Just last week I got an email telling me that Dove was looking for 300 Canadian women who are active on the net ie bloggers to give a mountain full of chocolate for them to share! Well today FedEx delivered a big box of yummy chocolate as well as a few freebies: a great size tote bag that will be great for trips to the library, a wine glass that I promptly filled with Dark and Milk Chocolate and gave it to my upstairs neighbour, a pedicure pamper kit, and oddles of chocolate! I receive 20 purse packs to share with friends, as well as 4 tablet bars and  3 cartons of  the bite size chocolate. Tomorrow all of Roo’s teachers and EA’s are getting a chocolate care package. The rest will go to some of my girlfriends. Don’t you wish you lived close by? Now if you live in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal they are still looking for women between the ages of 25-45 who want to sample and share. Follow this link to get the details!

Now if you want to try this yummy chocolate in a great recipe try this great mini cakes one:

Yield: Makes 8 4-ounce cakes

6 DOVE® Dark Chocolate 1.3 oz Singles Bars or 29 DOVE® Dark Chocolate Miniatures
8 ounces butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 eggs, room temperature (about 70 degrees)
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour, sifted
Powdered sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Butter eight 4-ounce individual ramekins and set aside.
  3. Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate and the butter. Keep it hot.
  4. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, add the eggs and sugar, and begin to whip the mixture on medium speed. Beat for 2 to 3 minutes, just until it turns lemony yellow (not pale or white).
  5. Meanwhile, whisk the all-purpose flour into the hot chocolate mixture.
  6. Add the hot chocolate mixture all at once to the mixing bowl containing the egg and sugar mixture, and whisk for 1 minute.
  7. Remove from the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Divide evenly among the containers filling up just to the top. Place on a baking pan.
  8. Bake for 5 minutes. Turn the pan one-half turn and continue baking for 3 to 4 minutes more. The cakes will be firm on the outside rim and erupting in the center. Lightly dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately.

Menu Monday- Using Food Storage-

Well I am where it is right before check day at the beginning of the week so you will see some menus that have me digging into my food storage pantry. I think digging into food storage should be part of our routine. So what ingredients are from the pantry: TVP, oatmeal, Kraft dinner, peanut butter, tuna,dried mango, pasta, pasta sauce and Kool Aid. These are all things that do get used on a regular basis here in this house so it was important to have them as part of my food storage.

The oatmeal will be used for breakfasts along with the Rice Krispies and Cheerios that are already in the cupboard. So will the PB for toast.

Kool Aid will be for an afterschool drink with Roo taking water for her lunches. Her lunches this week are a pizza lunch that the class won, chicken noodle soup, mini ravoli, ham and cheese sandwich and a grilled cheese. These will have some fresh fruit or dried mango added to them.

For dinner

Monday : Tuna Bake and salad

Tuesday: Mashed Potato Tacos

  • 2 cups TVP 
  • left over mashed potatoes
  • 1 package Taco Seasoning mix
  • 1 package  Taco Shells, warmed
  • Toppings: shredded lettuce, chopped tomato,   Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese,  Thick & Smooth Salsa

BROWN beef; drain. Add mashed potatoes and seasoning mix; mix well.

FILL taco shells with beef mixture. Top with lettuce, tomato, green onions, cheese and taco sauce.

Wednesday-Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce, brocolli and dip

Thursday-Chicken Nuggets, French fries, carrots

Friday- Honey Mustard Curry Chicken, rice, salad, apple crumble and icecream

Saturday-leftovers

Sunday- we have been invited out

 

Well I am off now to read what is cooking for everyone else over at Laura’s!