Sunday, August 31, 2014

Feeling the First Signs of Fall

Pena Palace, Sintra Portugal

I haven't taken any good pictures lately so am sharing a couple more shots from our April 2014 trip to Portugal.  

It rained a couple of times this week signalling a hint of the Fall to come.  September is usually just an extension of summer on Vancouver Island, with warm weather but the leaves start turning color, the light is fading faster in the evening and the mornings have a crisper cooler feeling to them.  

 Hubby is flying out of town next Sunday and will be gone for 10 days on a long business trip.  Until then we are working madly to get all the preparation done for it. Dinners this week have suffered, I admit to serving up hotdogs and frozen french fries for one meal, a frozen pizza for another.  Yuck.  In order to gain control back of our life and our diet I have decided that this week I will give my part-time employer notice that I will be quitting at the end of September.  We own a business and I need be able to be there for it.  That is four weeks notice and also means I will not  be leaving them high and dry in their busy season which ends at the end of September as I consider them friends and a very decent employer.

View of Lisbon from the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal

We managed to take advantage of a few sales this week due to back to school sales.  Good quality copy paper was on sale for $3 for 500 sheets, which is way cheaper than even Costco so we bought 27 sheafs for the business.  That should be more than enough for the year and hopefully we can take advantage of a similar deal next year at this time.  We have a college in town and there seemed to be a few college-aimed deals as well.  I got bulk laundry detergent on sale, again, cheaper than Costco, so bought a six month supply (there were only a couple containers on the shelf).

Town of Sintra, Portugal

We have only been in the house for two years after downsizing and purging before our move but my linen closets were overflowing.  We had used extra bedding to cover most of the furniture when we moved ourselves and instead of giving some of it away when we got here it went into the closets.  I cleaned them out and hauled away two huge garbage bags to the thrift stores.  The linen closets look so much better now.

Pedestrian only street in Cascais, Portugal

I also went through all our old towels and anything that looked beyond redemption went to hubby's rag pile for the garage (for washing cars).  We now need a couple new towels so those are next on my list to find in the coming weeks on sale.

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thrift Store Decorating

Anyone who reads this blog realizes that I am a big fan of thrift stores so my decorating tends to come from there as well.  Here are some recent finds:

Very large bottle.  This is about 1.5 foot high and 1 foot wide.  The opening is stopped by a cork and I bet someone paid a lot more than I did on this as a decorative item.  I have decided to place all my smaller shells and beach glass in it from travels around the world.  As you can see, I have lots of room to add to the collection.  This will live in my second bathroom window sill for sort of a beachy theme along with some larger shells.  Thrift Store cost?  $6.75.  It was a Happy Birthday to me gift a week and a half ago.

The candle was a gift from one of my Stepkids this spring but I needed a pillar candle holder.  This little number does the job well for 99 cents.

I am a sucker for Mexican pottery and glass.  I found this cute little burro a few weeks ago for 50 cents and the glass vase a couple years ago for 99 cents.  That is a succulent trying to multiply.  This little scene lives in my kitchen window just above the sink, but I have so many windows in this house (a good thing!) the only way I could get a decent photo was shooting them away from the light.  I am not a nick-nacky person and tend to rotate the same objects around the house, but once in a while I find something I just have to have.  At these prices, who can blame me?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Birthday, Freebies and the Ocean

We had a really nice week as my stepdaughter flew into town for five days and we managed a brief holiday from work to spend some time with her.  This week:
BC Ferries - the Comox to Powel River Ferry
  • I celebrated my 45th birthday.  Along with my mother and stepdaughter we went to my favorite hole in the wall Chinese food restaurant (they don't take credit cards and service is brisk but efficient and the food incredibly tasty) and then went to a movie theatre to see Guardians of the Galaxy.  None of us were expecting much but each and every one of us enjoyed it (ages 16, 45, 52, and 71).  Seeing as how that was the first time I have paid to see a first run movie in a theatre in 1.5 years I am so glad we all liked it, and if you like Bradley Cooper, this is possibly his most adorable role yet (speaking only).  My birthday just happened to coincide with discounted rates for Tuesday night so that was nice.  I also signed up online earlier in the day to accept emails from the theatre and as a reward was given a coupon for a free medium popcorn which hubby and Stepdaughter enjoyed. 
Guardians of the Galaxy
  • I took advantage of some birthday freebies:  a smoothie from Booster Juice, 50 swagbucks and 8000 Shoppers Drug Mart points, no purchase required.

New Birthday Bedding, sorry for the lousy picture, this was the one hubby got to approve the pattern
  • Finally found a bedding set after a two year search, and paid for it using a gift card my stepdaughter and stepson gave me for my birthday.  I really like the bedding, but why do they have to include so much packaging?  I managed to recycle 100% of it but still, lack of packaging is one of the primary benefits of why I shop thrift stores.  I had been hunting for something with a bit of turqoise, light green and black as we have two original paintings purchased from local artists in our bedroom and I was trying to match something to that.  This fits the bill perfectly.
  • Had a mooch around the local thrift stores.  I found nothing (that sometimes happens unfortunately) but my Stepdaughter found two shirts to add to her wardrobe that I bought for her.  I am so proud that this beautiful 16 year old girl likes thrift stores, something that I can say was 100% influenced by ME!  Her mother wouldn't be caught dead in them and hubby has only recently started liking them (my influence as well).  When she was young and over for the weekend I would often drag her along to the thrift stores.  She says it is so hard to justify buying new clothes when she can buy a complete wardrobe at a fraction of the cost.  Smart woman!  She also shies away from expensive brand labels - so refreshing as most of the rest of the world is caught up in that!  I did find a couple of thrift store items last week that I will share with you in my next post.
  • Spent lots of time by the Ocean.  We went shell picking at the beach, had nachos and beer (hubby and I, pop for stepdaughter) at a Oceanside cafe at Qualicum Beach then wandered around the small town like tourists. I bought two books from a used bookstore, hubby and stepdaughter bought two items from  a thrift store.  Cause that's how we roll :)
Seal right in front of my kayak
  • Took my stepdaughter sea kayaking for the first time.  She liked it and we were so fortunate to see a family of four seals catching a 20 pound salmon and eating it right between our kayaks.  At one point three seals were directly below my kayak, as shown in the picture.  I took a couple pictures but then my battery died-lesson learned, always carry spare batteries for the waterproof camera.  It was something that you so rarely get to see in nature and we sat and watched them for 20 minutes as they completely disregarded us while finishing their dinner.  The salmon are running in the river that leads to the ocean right now or this sight likely never would have been possible.

4 Seals sharing a large salmon right under/beside my kayak, click on picture for larger image

It was a very nice week but now we have to get back to work as have an extremely busy fall planned with our business.  Have you enjoyed any last of summer outings?

Monday, August 18, 2014

They Emerged Scratched, but Victorious

We managed to pick 8 liters of wild blackberries this week, the equivalent of four icecream buckets.  Many scratches later from the brambles we have one of the best harvests of the past few years.  Mom joined me in picking my usual patch which is in an abandoned field directly across from where she lives.  If we wanted there are many more ripening but there is only so much room in the freezer.  These will be used for blackberry brandy (berries, vodka, sugar, put in canning jars for months turning each few weeks, will be ready for Christmas), frozen blackberries that will later be turned blackberry jam when the weather is cooler, and several containers for muffins and pancakes during the winter.  It is not easy to harvest blackberries, as you must wear jeans and long sleeved shirts and be prepared to fight the thorny vines in a battle for the berry.

The first night we picked Mom got a rather bad scratch on her arm and due to medication, started bleeding more than normal.  We called it an early night since someone drove by right at that very moment and we were sure they were going to call the cops saying that an elderly lady had been assaulted in the neighborhood (*Mom is a spry 71 and would be insulted if I called her elderly, I say that in jest).  We finished off last night with only scratches and no major wounds.

Do you forage for berries this time of year?  If so what kind of free food is harvested?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Planning for the big C

I saw Christmas decorations in our Costco this week so it is officially not to early to talk about saving for Christmas.  We have a large family with my four stepkids, two mothers and one nephew that we give gifts to.  Once the nephews graduate high school we no longer buy presents so that number has decreased over the years. We have minimized the hassle around Christmas by giving our kids one small gift and the rest in money.  We are travelling to Alberta but are doing so before Christmas so we will be tucked back home safe and sound by December 22nd. The kids all have busy lives, jobs, boyfriends/girlfriends and their Mom so we are all ok with celebrating a few days before the 25th.  

I save all year long for Christmas and here is the Christmas fund so far:

  • $800 for gifts.  Every paycheck I tuck away some money into that fund.  The budget is $1000 so I have a little more to save.
  • 1 gift purchased for one of the kids.  We bought each of them a souvenir in Europe but found one item for my stepdaughter that will make a nice Christmas gift.
  • $60 in Shoppers Drug Mart points which will likely be higher by the time December rolls around.  This will be used to supplement Christmas groceries and chocolate.  Even grown kids still like treats like chocolate.
  • $16 with in PC Plus (Loblaws) points which you have to have $20 worth before you redeem. I will have sufficient points by December to do so.  This will also go towards Christmas groceries, maybe even the turkey!
  • The flights to and from Alberta have already been booked using points and taxes were paid out of the travel fund.

Here is the plan:

  • December 11, fly to Alberta and visit with kids and mother-in-law for two nights.  
  • December 13th jet off for one week beach holiday - details to be nailed down once I can get a cheap sell-off out of Edmonton.   The weeks prior to Christmas are considered low season  as long as they don't include Christmas for charters(*this I know from my travel agent days) and should go on sale approximately 4-6 weeks prior. We are flexible as to our destination but likely will end up in Mexico because we love it and we miss it.  There are several departures the day I want to travel and I will watch it like a hawk until we find something in our price range.  Packages are way cheaper than airfare when they go on sell-off  - for instance $1000 per person for airfare alone, $500-$900 per person on package sell-off including airfare, hotel, transfers, meals and drinks. 
  • December 20th fly back to Alberta celebrating Christmas with the family on Dec 21st and flying back to the Island on December 22 to have some R&R and spend Christmas with my Mom. We own our own company and in our line of work (training/consulting)there is little business that can be done after the 10th of December so it is fine to take this time off as no billings will be lost.

Fortunately, when we went to Europe this Spring that trip was fully paid for before we departed including all spending money.  The second we landed I started tucking money back into the travel fund and it is 2/3 funded for all the above plans.  Our bills have decreased this summer as well, and as of September we are down to paying child support on only one kid which will continue for a few years more.  Child support has always been our biggest bill and hubby paid it on four kids on time every time since his divorce 13 years ago.   All education costs had been saved for them as well (he was very diligent putting away money from the time the kids were born) so we don't have to be forking out for that either.

None of this would be achievable without preplanning for both time and money.  Have you started planning for the big C?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rain Please!

Bistro Set $40
 Just bits and bobs today:

  • It has only rained once in the last 6 weeks. It has been such a hot dry year.  It is a battle to keep our lawn and flowers alive.  Lots of people just let their lawns die but neither hubby nor I want to do that.  When we first moved to Vancouver Island friends didn't know how we could consider moving to a place that has so much rain.  The truth?  Alberta has had far more rain.  Even this past winter we hardly had any rain.  If we don't get some soon we will experience the forest fires that the rest off the Province has had as everything is tinder dry.  Rain please!
  • I was grocery shopping the other day and spotted the perfect bistro set for my Mom's back covered patio.  She is a senior on a very limited budget so I called her.  She checked it out the next day and for $40 she now has somewhere to sit outside and eat if she wishes.  The other other piece of furniture she has out there is the "found on road with free sign" (see original post) wicker furniture that I dragged home in 2012.  Hubby painted it ($20 paint - lots of coats required) and Mom bought a cushion for $16.  She loves the wicker chair as she sits out there and reads. It just goes to show you do not have to spend big bucks to decorate.  Now is the time to buy yard and outside patio furniture as it all seems to be on sale.  We would have been lucky to find the bistro set at that price used, let alone new.
Wicker Chair and table - found free on side of road
  • I found this very interesting as a lovely city on Vancouver Island made the cut as one of the friendliest cities in the world, go Victoria!  Friendliest and Unfriendliest Cities in the World.
  • I would really like to do a rotisserie chicken on the BBQ.  Unfortunately, the cheapest whole chicken I can find is $12.  Are you kidding me?  Why is it I can buy different parts including skinless boneless chicken breast cheaper than I can buy a whole chicken?  
  • I scored another free box of cereal on Freebie Friday at my local Quality foods.  Unfortunately, I think this promotion is at an end but we certainly were enjoying the free cereal.
  • We have so much work with our company that we have been working extremely long hours every day.  As a result we have been eating out more.  I need to get back on track!
  • I have to do some hard thinking.  At some point later this year I likely will quit my part-time job.  The extra income is nice but our company is doing so well it is no longer required.  I am working more than full-time right now between both our company work and the part-time job and I don't know how long I can do that for.   I did not move to paradise to work myself to death.
I hope everyone is getting out there and enjoying what is left of summer.  Cheers!

A dry field of pumpkins waiting for Fall

Monday, August 4, 2014

Letting Housework Slide

I have been really bad this summer letting the housework slide.    I try and do housework in little "bits".  Fortunately, we have a small house with two adults and no pets so I can do that relatively easily.  I completely understand this is not possible with those with kids or pets out there but I have figured out  a way to give the least amount of my life hours over to housecleaning.

We make sure every room is immediately picked up when we leave it and bed is made as soon as the last body is out of it.  Dishes are done immediately after every meal.  We hide the rest of our dishes in the dishwasher. In this way, our house always looks"clean" even when it is not.  We are slightly minimalist so probably have way less nick nacks than others. I dust every two weeks and vacuum the same amount.  The bathrooms get the 5 minute cleaning every 5 days(or more if needed) and a full clean every two weeks and shocker of shocker, nobody has died yet due to this.  I don't dust and vacuum on the same day, trying to spread out the work. Laundry is done on the fly - put a load in before work, dry afterwork and immediately fold and hang.  I never waste whole days doing laundry. I hate ironing so hubby has that job on his clothes and I only have a couple shirts that I iron about every two months.

A similar system was in place when we lived with the kids and their friends often came over and remarked how clean our house was.  Not so much but it was neat and that counts way more than clean in my books.

Our carpet needs a good steam clean but frankly, we can live with a little dirt as there is no energy right now for that.  Mom owns a carpet cleaner that we share so the cost is not an issue.

Hubby has been busy slaving away on the grass and cutting and trimming hedges and that takes a lot of time and energy too.  Fortunately, we both do jobs inside and outside the house and usually the work is about even.

Do you let your house work slide in summer?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Date On The Water

Tuesday night we decided we needed to get out on the water so we rented two kayaks in the late afternoon and went for a 2 hour tour.  The wildlife was out in force.  Click on any picture for a closer shot.  First, a heron who seemed to have no concern over us.  He was clutching a stick and gazing at the water for fish down below.  A mere glance or two in our direction and he just remained where he was.  Normally these birds are very shy, this one not so much.  We got within five feet and just sat and watched him then eventually paddled off and left him to his supper.

There are Canadian geese who live here year-round as well as some who just winter here.  I was REALLY hoping these guys didn't make any "deposits" while flying directly overhead.  We were lucky this night.

I only had my small waterproof point and shoot or would have gotten some amazing shots of the wildlife that night as there were at least 7 seals within a 200 meter stretch that kept bobbing up around us.  I still get water on everything when I kayak so the DSLR camera that I have made a hefty investment in shall stay safely on land until I can kayak with no water spray.

Sea monster! Nope, just a seal

Seal between hubby and I
 There are two domestic geese that believe they are part of the Canadian Geese clan.  In winter they stay in a farmers field with thousands of other migratory birds that come here for warmth.  In summer they cross the road and hang out in the estuary with their friends.

I should have just given hubby the camera as it seemed like he was a seal-whisperer.  This little seal popped up right in front of his kayak.

And these two, which I believe were mother and baby since the second was so small popped up right next to mine. In addition to the heron and the seals we saw kingfishers, bald eagles, ducks, grebes, and sandpipers.  The estuary is certainly a birding paradise.

 It was a lovely evening topped off by a beer and burger at a local pub - because that's how we roll.

Had a nice evening out lately?  What do you do for fun?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Simplifying Life

I have made a decision to discontinue my budget posts at the end of each month, for various reasons but the primary one is to simplify my life a bit.  I just ran out of pages in my dollar store budget book and realized I don't want to buy another one. It shouldn't be a chore to do a blog post and I am finding those posts a bit of a bore.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Freebies, Flowers and the Farm Market

Perennials in full bloom at the front of our house
Yesterday was a great freebie day.  I redeemed some of hubby's Avion points for two tickets to Alberta at Christmas (book now if you haven't already as Christmas space is already filling up - you will only pay more if you don't!).  We still had to pay $325 in air taxes and surcharges on the tickets but saved $821.  I also created an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all mine and hubby's point programs.