Friday, August 27, 2010

Viva la Frugalista!

Here's a little unsolicited financial advice from me to anyone who stumbles upon this: don't get a Phd using credit cards.  Okay? Just really don't.  Oh, and read that again, because it said P.H.D. not iPod (I know, they look almost the same right?  Except one of them costs, like a million dollars and the other one you could probably buy with your birthday money plus six months worth of wine bottle deposits.  Not that you would have to buy a new iPod that way.  Unless, of course, you lost it on vacation or something like that....)

So that being said, it's time for me and the Good Doctor go get our financial house in order once and for all.  And the only way to do that is to apply ourselves with the utmost of rigor, to getting rid of high interest, nonsecured debt, by spending less money on incidentals like food, shelter and clothing, and giving much, much more to MasterCard each month.

So we put together a new, very stringent "use cash only" household budget and went at it.  For about fifteen minutes.  That's when the 12 year old HAD to have new shoes, and five extra people showed up for dinner, and the car needed a brake job. Immediately.

So back to the drawing board.  Next thing we did was go through an exercise called "What Stuff REALLY Costs and How Much of it Do We Need.  Turns out that the basics, not even including the good coffee and wine and olives and baguettes, or goat cheese or bath bombs from Lush, were going to cost far more than we'd budgeted.  We pay a premium on everything, and I mean EVERYTHING living here in paradise.  It doesn't seem like  a big deal to pay .15 extra for a can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle, but it adds up bigtime!  Once we figured out What Stuff REALLY Costs and How Much of it Do We Need, we revised our plan again to make sure we had enough money for the 50 litres of milk, 10 dozen eggs, 10 rolls of toilet paper, etc., that we need each month.

It's going to take a lot of self-discipline, but we'll get there. Here's what I learned this week: sunflower seeds cost half what walnuts cost, and pine nuts cost more than twice what walnuts cost. But, after the Frugalista Pesto Taste-off, I can confirm that any of the above used to make a decent pesto (though we all thought that pine nuts were the best, followed by walnuts and then seeds, but all were good).
Spaghetti with pesto image stolen shamelessly from the worldwide web. We were too busy chowing down to figure out the food-porn settings on the camera and take pictures of our dinner
   This weekend we are doing back to school shopping with a list and a budget, and I'm thinking of making some cloth napkins. Film at eleven.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

This is what 46 looks like!

A great big Happy 46th birthday to ME!  It was a lovely day.  John and I took a drive out to French Beach where (because I promised myself I would) I actually went in the painfully cold water, and here's the proof!

What a good sport I am!
Hard to run when you can't feel your legs

Aaaah, that's better!

Now this isn't something I ever, and I mean EVER, thought I would say about myself, but damn I look great in my bathing suit - yes there's some saggage, some cellulite, a varicose vein here and there, and a lot of stretchmarks - hey, I'm a 46 year old mother of two with bad genes, who has battled obesity her whole adult life.  What a great gift I have given myself this year: a body I feel really comfortable in for the first time in my life - a body I'm just a little bit proud of.

Anywhoo, after the beach, it was family dinner with the lads, the now-annual trip to Dairy Queen for Blizzards in lieu of cake, a drive down to Clover Point to watch the sunset...

 I managed to squeeze in a few squeezes!
To finish off the evening, we drove up Mount Tolmie to see the city lights. Cam took some cool pictures.

It was a perfect day, all engineered and executed by my favourite guy. I couldn't imagine a more excellent way to celebrate. Thanks JTM!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Holidays

So after what might have been the worst work day ever, I figure the best therapy will be to spend some time reflecting on my "real" life.But seriously.  I am the worst blogger ever.  I've been home for, like, two weeks now.  I've even already lost most of the weight I gained on vacation (almost but not quite - just wait 160s, I'll be back soon!).

I took the lads back to Winnipeg for a very long (12 days) week's holiday. Like all trips to Winnipeg, it didn't feel like the break we all hope to have on holidays. My parents, where we stayed: well, they are getting pretty old and that can be a real challenge, especially with the teen boys. And the emotional side - it's so hard. Things are just not the way they used to be, and that becomes more apparent with every visit. I love them so much; it breaks my heart to see them struggle the way they do.

All that maudlin business aside, it was so wonderful to be home again, nestled back in the bosom of friends and family - people who've known me forever and ever.  We can so easily just pick up where we left off.

I spent an amazing time with my very best, oldest friend, Sue, at the lake - I will never forget the morning we got up before the kids and headed out into the middle of the lake on the Seadoo, sat on the quiet morning water with trees and cliffs all around us, and just talked about our lives.  And I reconnected with my cousin and his family - Ian is one of my favourite people of all time and I feel privileged to be related to him. I saw my old pals, Megan and Lianne: super-high-powered chicks with MBAs, professional pedicures, and handbags to envy, and I love them so much (the women, not the bags, although EVERYONE in Winnipeg has LUG bags of various shapes and sizes and fun colours, and my sister, Sue treated me to a Green Moped bag for my birthday.  And yes, I do love it.  But not as much as I love my friends).And like we do every time I visit, we gorged on amazing sushi. When I say gorged I'm not exaggeating - I mean who gets major heartburn and needs gallons of Maalox after Sushi (*raises hand sheepishly*). But it was spectacular (Wasabi Sabi next to La Grotta, Winnipeg people- check it out!)

My sisters, what can I say - on the surface they are about as alike as...uh...two things that are not very much alike.I finally had a chance to visit Liz and her partner Henry at their little farm (drove for nearly two hours on minor highways with sheets of rain coming down all around - both ways!). What an amazing place, crazy, cobbled-together, hand-me-down house complete with "humanure" toilet, surrounded by forest and bush, with enough land cleared to keep some pigs, chickens and grow more than enough herbs and vegetables to sustain them through the winter. All organic, of course.

We ate one of their chickens, served up with green and yellow beans picked by me just before dinner, and their very own potatoes, also freshly harvested by Henry, barefoot and shirtless in the potato patch.  It was a great eye-opener for the lads to see, and then taste, the fruits of Liz and Henry's labours. And I was inspired and shamed - I got six whole tomato plants in this year, and three basil. So glad we finally got out there; it was totally worth the white-knuckle drive.

Here are some pictures Cam took at the farm:

Sue's new place, which she and Rick were in the middle of moving into while we were visiting, was the polar opposite of Liz's.  Every detail thought out. Perfect in every way (except the new kitchen floor that just wasn't working, and that would be replaced just as soon as they could get the flooring guys back in).  Just like at Liz's, it was so fascinating to see all the familiar objects that they'd each collected over the years in new and different environments, and to see, reflected in their homes, how their lives had evolved over the years. Kind of like how my family must see me and my stuff when they visit here.  The same, only so different.

Winnipeg really felt like home this time, even though I barely saw any of the city - I seriously did not get downtown even once - my trips though town were routes I've taken time and time again over the years, first as someone who lived there, and then as a visitor.  To Safeway - the grocery store of my childhood - the first time I walked from the sunbleached parking lot into the overly air-conditioned store this visit, a wave of nostalgia washed over me that was so strong, I had to fight back tears.  And the Pancake House - it's moved from the Polo Park parking lot into the new hotel across the street, but their Giant Apple Pancake is exactly the same as it was 35 years ago.  And Perkins still sucks. And Nick's in Headlingly still doesn't (though we recommend it for breakfast moreso than lunch). And Dad Meldrum's ashes are still sitting safe in their niche in the Catholic mausoleum. And the Winnipeg Blue Bombers can still put on a good show.

But lest we forget the closest destination of all: the pool in my parents' back yard, still my ultimate happy place.  Visions of myself floating around in that turquoise water, or skinny dipping with my mom (OMG, don't tell anyone!), have gotten me through more than one root canal and pap smear over the years - THAT's how happy of a place it is!  Here's a picture of my mom going down the slide.  She does this every year around her birthday, even though she's in her 80s!

And all the places and things - yes they brought back memories and it felt so good to wallow in the familiarity of it all.  But really what felt like home was the connectedness I felt to everyone - the sense of belonging I had when I was with my family and friends.  I love Victoria passionately, and it felt so great to get back here after Winnipeg- I mean, this is the most brilliant place on earth - every day I see something here that lifts my soul - but really we are alone here.