Tuesday, May 14, 2013

From Firsts to Lasts

From Life Oceanside and Penguins, Pasta & Polka Dots.


















1) First Major in College?
I did a joint-program with a local college and university here, so I officially graduated from college first with a diploma in Communications, majoring in Advertising. A year later I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Communications/English.

2) First Date Success Story
It was definitely with Husband! We "met" online and decided to meet IRL. It was a warm August day, so we met up to grab ice cream around 7 pm and we walked around the Forks and talked for a long time. We then decided to catch a movie (yup, such a successful date that it turned into a second date on the same night!). Because it was so late, there was only one movie that hadn't started playing yet... It was some Angelina Jolie action movie, but I can't remember the title right now. I knew on that first date that he was the one. I talked to a girlfriend of mine the next day and said he was it!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

From Firsts to Lasts

From Life Oceanside and Penguins, Pasta & Polka Dots.


















 1) First Store You Head To In The Mall?
It usually depends on where I park and what I'm after that day. I usually walk through the mall in some sort of order based on where I'm parked, and not so much about which stores I want to go to first.

2) First Aisle You Hit In The Grocery Store
It's almost always the pharmacy section of the store to stock up on toiletries, make-up, vitamins and feminine products! Then I can get down to my food shopping.

Friday, May 3, 2013

About Me

Halie on Penguins, Pasta and Polka Dots did this today and I love it! I haven't done anything like this, so figured I'd copy borrow her post! :)  Here's a reverse pyramid to get to know me!

10 Favorite Foods
  1. Chocolate cake
  2. Cupcakes (okay, really sweet!)
  3. Sushi
  4. Husband's lasagna
  5. Ravioli
  6. Crab
  7. Grilled cheese sandwiches
  8. Pesto
  9. Cheese
  10. Chinese food (the crappy Americanized stuff, like chicken balls and lemon chicken)
9 Favorite Movies
  1. Dirty Dancing
  2. Pretty Woman
  3. Crazy, Stupid, Love
  4. Speed
  5. The Hunger Games
  6. Cinderella
  7. Grease
  8. Cutting Edge
  9. The Princess Bride












8 Favorite Musical Artists
  1. Dixie Chicks
  2. Carrie Underwood
  3. The Band Perry
  4. Rascal Flatts
  5. Adele
  6. Taylor Swift
  7. Dido
  8. Jewel
7 Things I Love Right Now
  1. My husband!
  2. Zombie Run app
  3. My new sneakers
  4. The sunshine
  5. Goat's cheese
  6. How I Met Your Mother
  7. Planning surprises
Able Township in Zombie Run - sooooo much fun!



















6 Places I'd Love To Visit
  1. Greece
  2. Italy
  3. San Francisco
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Maritimes
  6. France
5 Favorite Games
  1. Bohnanza
  2. Settlers of Catan
  3. Skip-Bo
  4. Munchkin
  5. Ticket to Ride
Bohnanza (a.k.a. The Bean Game)
Photo credit















4 Things I'd Like To Do Again
  1. Go back to Egypt
  2. Have another wedding (but still marry Husband!)
  3. Play in rain puddles like when I was a kid
  4. See my dad


















3 Things I'd Like To Do in 2013
  1. Spa weekend with my girlfriends
  2. Surprise Husband with something special
  3. Improve my French
2 Facts About Me
  1. I have had bangs my entire life and I'm only now trying to grow them out for the first time!
  2. I didn't get my licence until I was 22 and I only got it because my dad bought a convertible!
1 Meaning Behind My Blog Name
  1. I love playing with budgets and crunching the numbers. I should really post more financial stuff on the blog!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Goals

I didn't do so well on my April goals... :(
  • Lose 3 lbs. FAIL. I have definitely hit a weight loss plateau. I'm not going anywhere. I've started using a new nutrition app that tracks using the Weight Watchers method and I've already noticed a change though after only a week!
  • Put $500 towards our foundation savings goal. DONE! We were actually able to put aside the planned $500, plus an additional $1,300! The extra money came from Canada Revenue Agency for adjustments to my 2010 and 2011 taxes. (I didn't realize I could get credit for my schooling because my company pays for it, but apparently I can get credit for the actual act of being in school, not just the costs of it! Now I kinda want to go back to school again!)
  • Go to hot yoga 3x. FAIL. I was hoping I could say that I at least went once or twice, but this was a huge fail. I am putting a positive spin on it though and telling myself that I'm just finding what works for me and apparently I'm not a hot yoga person. I do still want to use up the pass and I have six more session to use before the end of June, so maybe I can try again next month.
  • Do an inventory of our possessions. FAIL. I started the list, but haven't gone through the whole house yet.
  • Give myself an at-home facial. DONE! I did a yogurt/lemon mask which was quite nice (2 parts plain yogurt, one part lemon juice).
  • Book my spa trip with the girls. FAIL. But not because of lack of trying! The spa wasn't taking bookings for September, so I'll try again a bit later. 
  • Spring cleaning! PASS. I got a bunch of spring cleaning done one Saturday and the house is looking nice and clean! I still want to do some research on prepping a house for the spring though and make sure we're not forgetting anything.
We actually got a lot done around the house though so I feel like April wasn't a total bust. We had the bathroom door fixed and a screen made and installed for our weirdly-shaped kitchen window (the only window in the house without a screen). 
 
Our roofer came by and looked at the roof over the addition so he can put together a proper estimate. His worst-case scenario estimate was almost $11,000! But luckily when he got in there he found that it's not as bad as he thought it would be, so I'm hoping that the new quote will be dramatically less.
May Goals

Sadly most of these are just items that didn't get done in April! 
  • Lose 3 lbs. Let's try this again!
  • Go to hot yoga 3x. I'm not sure if I'm setting myself up for failure again, but I should really use my 10 sessions which will expire in June. 
  • Put $750 towards our foundation savings goal. I get three pay cheques this month, so we can put aside a little bit more in May. 
  • Do an inventory of our possessions.
  • Go see the movie The Big Wedding. I love romantic comedies and I haven't seen a new one in a long time, so this will be a fun goal to achieve.
  • Put away winter clothing/shoes and bring out summer gear.
  • Buy an armband holder for my new phone. I have been using my phone in lieu of my iPod during my walks home latel because I'm in love with the Zombie Run app. Right now I can just throw my phone into my pocket, but once the temperatures heat up, I'll need an alternative way to carry it. Budget is $30.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Five items a month

I think people today get too much happiness from stuff. We live in a society that loves shopping, hoarding and one-upping each other. And I am definitely not immune to this. I love shopping as much as the next girl. I love clothes, the latest trends and new gadgets. But as I sit in my house filled with knick-knacks, t-shirts and DVDs, I know that these aren't the things that make me happy. What makes me truly happy are my relationships (with Husband, family, friends and co-workers), my fur babies, my cozy home in general and the feeling it gives me, memories and experiences.

So to honour the things that truly make me happy, I decided to purge some stuff each month for six months. I want to give away/donate, sell or throw out at least five items each month. I actually started this a couple months ago, but with most things in my life, I start doing them and then blog about them way too late!

Items I've already purged:
March - I sold a bunch of DVDs that were just collecting dust in our tv stand. I actually made about $50 too!
April - I went through my closet and got rid of a pile of fall/winter clothes. I also cleaned out our ottomans and got rid of a pile of "Learn French" materials that I've never used (I prefer to take classes), as well as a picture frame that I was able to sell for $20.
May - TBD! I will have to go through my summer clothes, but I may wait until mid-way through the summer once I know what fits and what I'm actually wearing on a regular basis.

Right now it's quite easy to come up with those five items and I've been exceeding that number easily. But I know that as I get closer to the end of the six months it will be hard to give up those five items, but hopefully it will make me appreciate those other non-materialistic things a little bit more.

Anyone want to join me?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Night Chit-Chat

When I do these posts I normally just play by myself, but I figured I'd link up with My 1/2 Dozen Daily tonight.
  • Reading? I finished Black Beauty this weekend. It wasn't what I expected, but still a very good book. I'm still working on Skipping a Beat. 
  • Listening to? A Quantum Leap episode.
  • Watching? See above!
  • Cooking/Baking? Not a whole lot. Trying to be better about my diet, so salads are my current thing to make for dinners.
  • Happy you accomplished this week? I walked home from work every day this week! (I didn't work on Monday, but I did go for a walk around the neighborhood.)
  • Looking forward to next week? Seeing the scale go down! I've started using a new diet tracking app and I'm already seeing results in just a few days.
  • Thankful for today? My sister and sister-in-law - they brought my home cinnamon raisin biscuits from Hardee's in the U.S. (We don't have Hardee's in Canada and these were a childhood favourite on road trips.)
  • *Bonus Question* What is your preferred method for contacting someone? (email, text, phone, letter, etc...) Depends on the person, but usually text. Is it sad to say I'm too lazy to actually email someone? Although I find depending on what needs to be communicated, a phone call is often fastest. 
 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Things First


I found this link up on Wifessionals and thought I'd play along!

Today's First Things First topics are:

1. First thing you would do/buy if you won the lottery?  I would pay off our car loan and our mortgage first and foremost. After that, Husband and I would go on a trip somewhere and just relax and have some fun before we put the rest into savings.
 
2. First person you call when you get amazing news? Usually I can't get a hold of Husband as he sleeps all day, so either my sister or my best friend Jen. Or I pop into one of my co-worker's cubicles and tell them about it.
 
3. First thing you do when you've had a bad day? Vent to the closest friend, buy junk food and watch tv.
 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Night Chit-Chat


















What are you….

Reading?
Black Beauty and Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

Watching?
Quantum Leap on Netflix (I loved this show growing up!)

Listening to?
The purring of happy cats.

Cooking/Baking?
Sunburst Lemon Bars but they were not good! I made the recipe once and the filling didn't turn out for some reason. So then I tried again and while they turned out, they did not taste good. The crust is very plain and I think the filling has too many eggs. They were so bad we actually threw out the whole pan.

Happy you accomplished this last week?
I got a ton of cleaning done yesterday - I was on my feet almost the entire day cleaning the house so now it's spotless.

Looking forward to this week?
Using the Zombie Run app on my walks home. I'm addicted!

Thankful for today?
A quiet Sunday at home - no errands to run, no places to go, no people to see. It's lovely. I might get productive later, but for now I'm enjoying some cuddle time with my fur babies and watching tv.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

$40 well spent

Our house will be 100 years old next year, so it has a few quirks. One of them is that the bathroom door was difficult to close. The door itself is original, but the hinge on the door is not, so the two don't work together very well. Plus the frame where the door sits when it's closed wasn't in quite the right position.

For the past nine months, we just lived with it as is. The door still closed, but you just had to turn the knob a certain way, give it a specific look while biting your tongue in a certain spot, while pushing on the door to latch. Husband and I both knew the tricks, so it didn't REALLY bother us. However, it was troublesome when guests came over. Plus, because it wasn't quite in the right position when closed, the lock didn't work. So finally we decided to make it a priority on our house to do list.

As neither Husband nor I knew how to fix it (heck, we didn't even know all of the issues until someone told us!), I responded to a few handyman ads on Kijiji and got immediate responses from all three. I emailed the last guy back as he had the best email (clear, concise, and included a rough price, but also an hourly rate if it was more work once he saw it). A couple emails later, we had arranged for him to come over that evening to take a look.

Within one hour, he had the door fixed and it works like a dream now! And he only charged us $40, which is $10 less than he quoted in his email to me. He was friendly and easy to deal with and we'll definitely be contacting him again for other projects.

I know we could have lived with the door as is for longer, but for only $40, it's probably one of the best things I've paid for in the house. It isn't much, but it makes the day-to-day life that much more pleasant. We can close the door quietly and not have to wake each other up (key when your Husband works the night shift) and guests don't have to do a dance to get the door closed.

Does your home have any small quirks that you just live with?

Friday, April 5, 2013

The house saga continues

We love our house and ultimately it is the right house for us. It's the perfect size for us - not too big, not too small. It's been updated in a style that suits us. Both the front and back entrances have two sets of doors (with a small room in between) so our cats can't get out, which is a huge paranoia of mine. It's the right house for us.

BUT - holy crap it has been a PITA sometimes.

I'll recap what we've gone through so far:
  • We moved in to our first house and two weeks later it rains for the first time. I discover during this rainfall that we have a leak in the roof. The leak is in the sun room which is in the addition portion of the house.
  • To deal with the leak, we bring in a roofer.
  • Also, we're curious if there is anything else wrong with the addition so we ask a contractor to take a look. He finds that the foundation under the house has been recently worked out and it is not done to code.
  • So our real estate lawyer starts working to get us money from the title insurance company. Essentially the title insurance company pays for any outstanding orders on the house or any work that wasn't done to code.
  • We pay out of pocket to have the roof of the house done, but the roofer cannot work on the roof over the addition as the foundation has to be replaced first. (Cost - $5,900)
  • We pay out of pocket for an engineer to draw up plans to fix the foundation of the addition. (Cost - $750)
  • We find out that the insurance company won't pay for the foundation claim because we don't have an order from the city. That's all that's keeping them from paying the bill even though we have sent documentation showing that the work wasn't done to code.
  • The lawyer tries to fight them, but just last month we found out they won't budge.
  • I talk to the Chief Housing Inspector from the City and he says if we can get our engineer to send him a letter simply stating that the foundation isn't to code and needs to be updated, he will issue an Order for us.
And now here's the latest - I emailed my engineer to ask him to send this letter to the City. It's a very simple letter that could basically write itself. But he has just today informed me that he will charge us again for a site visit and to send this letter/email. 

I am livid. I mean, we have already paid money for the plans to be drawn up and all I'm asking for is a simple letter saying it isn't to code and it needs to be replaced. Why not do something nice for someone and just write the letter? Heck, not even a letter. It could be an email to the guy.

So now I've left a message with the engineer to discuss things with him (versus his staff) and perhaps he will have a heart and change his mind. But assuming he doesn't, do we pay him more money for this letter? This is our last hope of getting money from the insurance company, but it's not a guarantee. We could get this order from the city and still get denied. I don't honestly see that happening, but it could. So we'd be out more money for nothing. It's not a ton ($350) but after spending so much and having a huge bill looming, I can feel my heels starting to dig in.

Oh, and on the roof issue - once the foundation is fixed (this June), the roof over the addition will need to be done. Worst case scenario - it will cost $10,000 because the roof in this section is very badly damaged and the entire thing needs to be replaced, so it's not just a simple shingle replacement. 

Once the claim is settled with the insurance company, one way or another, we can then go after the previous owner for the roof and possibly the foundation depending on what happens. But the chances of getting money from them is (as our lawyer said) slim to none.

Not a good way to start the weekend. I'm hoping by Monday I will have calmed down enough to talk to the engineer rationally.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thursday's This & That

  • The painting of our upstairs is finally happening! I gave up waiting for Husband to do it and I hired our neighbour who is a professional painter. He's giving us the friends and family rate, so it's a cheap job and well worth the money! The office and the spare bedroom are already done, minus some touch ups. Up next is the hallway and staircase, which is just a basic white, so that won't take too long.
  • My shopping fast is coming along nicely. I haven't bought new clothes in five months!
  • I am re-watching Veronica Mars after news that a movie is finally going to be made! I loved this show when it was on and I own all of the seasons on DVD, so it's a free way to entertain myself at home. 
  • We got a cheap oil change from Canadian Tire (thanks to a coupon) and they also changed our winter tires for us free of charge!
  • We may get the insurance money to pay for the foundation! I talked to someone at the City and all we need is a letter from our engineer and then the City can issue us an Order on the house saying the work isn't to code and needs to be replaced. This is the key component that the insurance company said they needed before they would pay out. So I've emailed our engineer, but getting him to send that letter should not be a problem at all. Once we have the Order, we can hopefully just fax it to the insurance company and wait some more. I don't want to get my hopes up, but this is the one thing the insurance company said they needed...
  • Husband and I both got new phones - the Samsung Galaxy S3! I'm loving the OS and it's a lot faster and easier to use than my old BlackBerry. I'm getting used to the touch keyboard, which I figured I would hate, but it's much easier to use than I thought. Both phones were free as we signed new contracts. The monthly charges will be higher, but Husband really wanted a smart phone and my old smart above average phone wasn't cutting it anymore.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Goals

First, how did I do with my March goals?
March Goals:
  • Lose 5 lbs. PASS. I have been getting lazy again, but I did lose a few pounds. I need some more motivation as once I hit my 120s, I found that I relaxed a bit and these last 5-10 pounds are killing me. 
  • Put $500 towards our foundation savings goal. DONE! We have put aside $3,302 thanks to our tax refunds! As long as we put aside our allotted $500 each month from now until June, we will easily meet our goal. This also frees up my freelance income which I had earmarked for the foundation and we won't have to use our home repair fund. (I know that this is what we have the fund for, but I'd rather keep saving than have to use it so soon after buying the house.)
  • Complete two freelance interviews (and articles, depending on when the interview falls). DONE! I was finally able to get people on the phone and I completed all of the freelance articles I had to do for April 1st, plus some work that came in at the last minute! I did a total of four freelance articles in just a couple weeks!
  • Buy new runners. DONE! My goal was to spend $150 before taxes and I the before tax price was $145 or so. My old runners have been retired and I'll just pull them out when we go on vacations. 
  • Install new shower head.  DONE! I'll be curious to see if our water bill goes down thanks to the new low-flow shower head.
  • Complete Husband's taxes. DONE! And we have already gotten back both refunds.
  • Buy and install new kitchen faucet. DONE! We had some trouble finding a faucet that would fit our sink (it's built in to the concrete countertops rather than sitting on top, so there isn't much room available where the faucet sits). We finally found something that works and that we like, but it was a bit more expensive than we had originally wanted to spend, so we're putting next month's planned spending money towards it too. Unfortunately the soap dispenser that comes with it is a little bit too big still, but Husband should be able to sand it down at the back or do something so it'll fit. That's not done yet, but the faucet itself is in and that's what matters!
Overall, very successful I think. We have also been getting a lot of small home reno's done, like re-caulking the tub and finally *gasp* painting! (More on the painting in another post.)


April Goals:
  • Lose 3 lbs. As I get closer to my goal it's tougher to lose weight, so I'm going to be realistic and aim for 3 lbs this month. That will get me to the higher end of my goal weight.
  • Put $500 towards our foundation savings goal.
  • Go to hot yoga 3x. I bought a 10-session pass on Groupon awhile back and I have 6 more sessions to go. It's not my favourite activity, but I'd like to get my money's worth and it will probably help with my weight loss goal.
  • Do an inventory of our possessions. I want to be sure that if something happens (fire, theft, etc.) we have a clear list that identifies what we own and the approximate retail value for insurance purposes.
  • Give myself an at-home facial. I would love to go for more facials, but it seems a bit extravagant when we're trying to save money for the house and some trips. I'd like to give myself an at-home facial so I can enjoy some of the benefits without the high cost. There are some great homemade facial recipes here to try.
  • Book my spa trip with the girls.  
  • Spring cleaning! This will be our first spring in the house, so I have to do some research on what to do to prep the house for summer. Any advice?
 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cats vs. dogs

My babies!

Gail Vaz-Oxlade had a blog posting today about the costs of pet ownership. While I agree wholeheartedly with most of what she said, I think that the majority of those people who are spending obscene amounts of money on their pets are dog owners.

Let me start this by saying that I love dogs. We had both dogs and cats growing up and my mom still has a dog and I know many people who have dogs. I have dog-sat and walked dogs for friends. I am a huge lover of all animals.

But dogs tend to rule their owners lives and cost a lot of money:

Grooming

Have a dog professionally groomed can get expensive. The bathing, trimming of hair, cutting of nails... some of these things dog owners can do themselves, but sometimes not. With a cat, they are self-cleaning! And you don't have to worry about trimming their hair. You do have to trim a cat's claws, but that is easily done at home. I can wrestle with my 10 pound cat to get his fine little nails trimmed a lot easier than I can hack away at a large dogs thick nails... I've done both and I can see why a dog owner would want to pay to get the trimming done - it is a PITA.

And yes, cats do shed, but so do dogs!

Costumes

You will rarely see a cat owner dressing up a feline. Not only will the cat not take it, but those types of people have a certain stigma (*cough* crazy cat lady *cough*). Dogs on the other hands are dressed up for every holiday under the sun and then some. I don't even want to think about the costs to buy those costumes.

I know that not all dog owners dress up their pooches all the time, but to all the dog owners out there - can you tell me that you've never purchased at least one clothing item for your dog? When we owned dogs growing up, we didn't dress them up much, but I do remember my mom buying the occasional cute item, which was then used once and forgotten about in a closet afterwards.

And even if it's not costumes, there are those who have to buy their dog shoes for walks in the winter and sweaters/coats to keep 'em warm (even though they have fur!).

Time

Lastly, there is the amount of time that dog owners put towards their pets. I have heard countless time from my dog lovin' friends that they can't meet up or they are going to be late because they have to let the dog out, or take him for a walk or make sure the new puppy hasn't torn the house apart. (Don't even get me started on the costs of damages from puppies.)

My cats expect food at a fairly regular time, but that's about it. They have a litter box to do their business in and they don't need me to be there to hold their paw while they do it. They don't require me to walk them or take them outside at all.

I don't know about you, but the only person who runs my life is me (and maybe Husband). It doesn't feel that way for dog owners.


I will say again - I do like dogs. But am I the kind of person who would own a dog? No. But it seems that cat lovers are stuck with a certain negative stigma, yet dog lovers are the ones who often go a little crazy with the amount of time and money they put into their pets. I am in no way saying don't own a dog because that's your choice. If you have the finances to back it up, go right ahead. My issue is when people let their dogs run their lives and rack up their credit cards. Or when people laugh at cat owners, yet there are dogs being carted around in purses, spending a day at the groomers or perusing their wardrobe.


Friday, March 15, 2013

March Goals - Update

I have been cruising along on the goals this month! Here's the mid-month update:
  • Lose 5 lbs. On track! I've lost 2-3 pounds so far this month and I've lost 10 pounds in total since January!
  • Put $500 towards our foundation savings goal. DONE! We have put aside $3,302 thanks to our tax refunds! As long as we put aside our allotted $500 each month from now until June, we will easily meet our goal. This also frees up my freelance income which I had earmarked for the foundation and we won't have to use our home repair fund. (I know that this is what we have the fund for, but I'd rather keep saving than have to use it so soon after buying the house.)
  • Complete two freelance interviews (and articles, depending on when the interview falls). I have been calling and emailing and still no luck. The deadline is very quickly approaching, so the time to threaten has begun!
  • Buy new runners. DONE! My goal was to spend $150 before taxes and the before tax price was $145. My old runners have been retired to the closet and I'll just pull them out when we go on vacations.
  • Install new shower head.  DONE! I'll be curious to see if our water bill goes down thanks to the new low-flow shower head.
  • Complete Husband's taxes. DONE! And we have already gotten back both refunds.
  • Buy and install new kitchen faucet. We have purchased the faucet, but it's not yet installed. I'm hoping I can get Husband to do it this weekend or next. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Girls weekend at the spa

One of my best friends lives in Calgary and I live in Winnipeg, so we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like. Her family is still here, so she visits once or twice a year, but when she does come in, her time is divided up between all her family and friends. So, this year we've decided to go on a girls weekend to the spa. The world-famous Temple Gardens Mineral Spa in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan is about halfway between Calgary and Winnipeg, so it's the perfect venue. But even though this trip is fairly close to home, it will not be cheap.

Here's a rough estimate of the costs:

Spa treatments: $500
Hotel room for two nights: $210
Gas: $50 - $75 (I'm planning on driving out most of the way with my mom and dropping her off with family in SK, so she can visit and I'll continue on to Moose Jaw - this will help save costs and I won't have to drive alone.)
Food: $150 ($50 a day)

TOTAL: $935

Not a small amount by any means! I don't think it's fair to take money out of our vacation fund to pay for this since Husband won't be coming, so I've been trying to put together a plan to pay for this trip strictly with extra money. Here's how I'll pay for it:

Allowance money: $100  (I've been putting aside a bit of money each month from my allowance.)
Selling items: $200  (So far I've sold some of my old TV shows/movies on DVD and an old watch that an ex-boyfriend gave to me.)
Overtime: $400  (We shot our new TV commercial this past weekend and I've asked to be paid out for the overtime instead of time off. It's unusual for me to request the money, but right now we could use the money and I have a ton of vacation days available.)
Freelance: $200  (I'll be getting about $1,000 from freelance in April or May, so I'll use a bit of this towards the trip.)

What do you think? Have I over/underestimated some costs? 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday Night Chit-Chat

What are you….

Reading?
I couldn't get into One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, so I'm re-reading Five People You Meet In Heaven.

Watching?
Catching up on Hart of Dixie and How I Met Your Mother re-runs.

Listening to?
How I Met Your Mother (the show is on in the background).

Cooking/Baking?
Avocado quesadillas and spinach salad - delish!

Happy you accomplished this last week?
Getting our taxes done! I'll be happy to see the cheques come in later this month.

Looking forward to this week?
Dinner and movies with my sister on Tuesday and then a much-needed hair cut and colour on Thursday!

Thankful for today?
New runners! I got a new pair and I'm excited to try them out! Hopefully it'll help with this foot pain that just won't go away.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pantry Challenge - Update

Husband and I did our pantry challenge for the month of January and February and while we did okay, I would say that overall this was a fail! Husband, about part way through the challenge, announced that he hated it and didn't want to do it, despite having agreed to it in the beginning and enjoying it last year.

Of course, since he does 80% of the grocery shopping without me, we didn't do so well. I would send him to the store with a very specific list of what to buy and remind him about the pantry challenge, and he would come home with random things, like nacho chips, cookies, boxes of pasta (even though we had tons!) and cans of tomatoes. He would somehow rationalize it to me and I would get annoyed, but what could I do at that point? A week later, it would happen again. Ugh! Thankfully we still brought in less packaged food than normal, so it wasn't a complete waste.

For the first month, we came in just under our normal budget of $500, but we blew it in February. Our total for January was $477.14 and we spent $637.68 in February. Towards the end we definitely started buying more packaged food as we were running out of a lot of basics, so there's definitely something to be said for buying fresh food.

On the bright side, I'm happy that our pantry is a little less chaotic. There is still a lot of food in there, but we did work on getting rid of some stuff.

Before:

Husband loves his sauces and marinades, so those take up an entire shelf on their own!

I really should make some banana bread with all those frozen bananas!



After:

You can see the difference mostly on the two middle shelves. And since this photo was taken, we donated a few items for a food drive my office is doing right now.

The freezer looks really full, but Husband made a ton of food and divided up for quick, easy meals. We've actually already gone through all of those containers already!

I'd like to try the pantry challenge again in the summer when Husband may be more keen due to the better selection of fresh produce.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Thank you tax man!

I am happily shocked to say that my tax refund is about $2,750! Normally I get a refund anywhere from $750 to $1,500, but this year was especially good! It's partly because of the house purchase (first time home buyer credit) and I didn't make as much in freelance last year, so I didn't have to pay much in taxes for that. Whatever the reasons though, I will take it!

With this pleasant surprise, we won't have to dip into our home repair fund for the foundation work this summer. I know that it's what we have it for, but I was worried that if we used it right after buying the house, we would be at a disadvantage should anything else go wrong. I'd like to get it built up more before we dip into it.

Husband can now do his taxes and I'm hoping he gets anywhere between $500 to $1,000. Keep your fingers crossed!

As well, I found out that while my workplace pays for my schooling, I can still claim the months I was in school, which I didn't do in 2010 or 2011. So I've sent off a letter to Canada Revenue Agency asking them to adjust accordingly. Hopefully I will get a little bit of money back for that too.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

March Goals

Wow! I can't believe tomorrow is March. I am excited for spring to get here, and eventually summer, as I'm sick of the cold weather. 

Here's how I did on my February goals:
  • Lose another 5 lbs. PASS! I had a few hurdles this month - I hurt my foot early on in February and couldn't do much work out-wise, and I had a few too many cheat days, so I only lost 1-2 lbs. My foot is slowly getting better though and I'm feeling more motivated now, so I think next month will be better. I'm just happy I didn't gain considering what a crappy month it was.
  • Put $500 towards our foundation savings goal. DONE! Thanks to my overtime at work from last month, we put aside $850.
  • Put real pictures in our standing picture frame. DONE! It looks really nice with photos of Husband and I, some trip pics and a couple of our fur babies! 
  • Complete one freelance interview (and article, depending on when the interview falls). PASS! Unfortunately I wasn't able to get any interviews/articles completed, but not for lack of trying. I called and emailed each person several times, but got nowhere. But, I did get two posters done for a friend's new business and I got another quick freelance project that I completed this week, so I'm considering this a pass as I did complete some freelance.
  • Study French. PASS! I've been studying somewhat - not as much as I would have liked to though. I'm trying to watch some beginning French videos and Husband is helping with my vocab. Slow and steady, right? 
  • Install new light in our master bedroom. DONE! It's so nice to actually have light in our room! 
  • Get taxes done! DONE! I dropped off all my tax stuff a couple weeks ago, but I needed one more document from the university. They finally put it online today (talk about last minute), so I quickly sent that in. They said it should be done this afternoon as they were able to get most of it done before the last document was received. Once my taxes are done, Husband can do his.
All in all, not too bad. I really have to work on the weight loss though.
March Goals:
  • Lose 5 lbs. Any tips for increasing motivation? I'm feeling much more motivated than last month, but I think I still need a kick in the pants!
  • Put $500 towards our foundation savings goal. I'd like to put aside even more, depending on what we get back in income taxes, but this is the minimum.
  • Complete two freelance interviews (and articles, depending on when the interview falls). I have to complete three articles for mid-April, so the harassing phone calls/emails is going to increase until these people get back to me.
  • Buy new runners. My current runners are quite old and while I don't think this caused my foot injury, it's definitely not helping. I'm going to use some of my freelance income to buy new ones. I'd like to keep the cost under $150 (plus tax). 
  • Install new shower head. The one that came with our house has decided to start leaking, so this must be done asap. Luckily our hydro company sent us a "power smart" box of goodies for free, which includes a new, low-flow shower head. We'll be sad to see the old one go, as it's quite nice and looks better, but it has to be done.
  • Complete Husband's taxes. Husband can't do his until mine are complete (I typically use all of our deductions, but every year we get my taxes done first to make sure it actually makes sense for me to claim them and not him. It always does, but just in case...).
  • Buy and install new kitchen faucet. I detest the one that came with the house. It's just ugly and doesn't match the rest of the kitchen, so this change is purely a want and not a need. We found a faucet that we both like already, but the cost is quite high (about $180 after taxes). So the money will come from our planned spending budget ($100), and my freelance income will cover the rest. I'm hoping to dig up a Home Depot coupon though to get the price down!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Night Chit-Chat

What are you….

Reading?
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I'm not quite into it yet though, so we'll see how it goes.

Watching?
The Oscars and How I Met Your Mother re-runs.

Listening to?
The sounds of Husband's siblings playing games.

Cooking/Baking?
Turkey Sausage & Cranberry Quinoa. I didn't put in the turkey sausage, but it's delicious! I also made red velvet cupcakes and I may or may not have had three of them...

Happy you accomplished this last week?
Cleaning out our pantry and baking cupboard. I'll post an update on our Pantry Challenge this week.

Looking forward to this week?
Picking up our new-to-us apartment-sized chest freezer! Someone posted it on freecycle and we were the lucky recipients. Husband has been wanting one for as long as I can remember and it'll be nice for us to be able to keep ice cubes in the freezer! We haven't seen it yet, but she said it's 12 years old and still going strong, so that's all that we care about!

Thankful for today?
My sister-in-law who hooked us up with the American version of Netflix. It has soooooo much more than the Canadian Netflix.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Avocado Quesadillas

From biggirlssmallkitchen.com















It's no surprise to anyone who knows me even remotely that I don't cook. I think it's a combination of my fear of being injured (from cutting or burning myself) and the fact that I love to multi-task, so I can't just cook... I also have to be cleaning, paying bills and doing laundry at the same time, so something is bound to go wrong. I am the person who will put on a pot of water to boil to make Kraft dinner and then get sidetracked until the water has boiled away!

But, I've been trying to learn how to make a few meals so I at least have a few back-ups if I’m forced to make dinner (rather than go to my stockpile of frozen meals). Here is one recipe I tried recently that I’ve fallen in love with: avocado quesadillas.

Not only are these super easy to make (hey, if I can do it...), but they only require a few ingredients most people have on hand and they are super tasty! Plus, you can easily make it for just one, two or more, depending on how many mouths you have to feed! Here’s the recipe, plus notes on what I changed.

Avocado Quesadillas
Makes 1

Ingredients:
1/2 avocado
1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice (I didn't measure - I just squeezed half a lemon and it came out very well, although I love lemon!)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter (I used Pam spray)
1 tortilla
1/4 cup grated white cheddar (we didn’t have white cheddar, so I used marble. I think you can pretty well substitute any ol’ cheese).

Directions:
Mash the avocado with the lemon or lime juice and salt. (Easy how-to for cutting an avocado).

Melt the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat (or spray with Pam). Lay the tortilla down and sprinkle the cheese across the surface. Cook until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the tortilla is golden. Spread the avocado mixture across one side of the tortilla. Remove from heat and fold the tortilla in half and press until the melted cheese glues the tortilla together. Cut into wedges and enjoy!

I found that my cheese would melt faster than the tortilla browned, so I kept mine cooking and some flipping action had to happen after the tortilla was folded. But this only warmed up the avocado and made it (I think) more tasty. You can add salsa on the side for dipping too. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

February Goals - Update


  • Lose another 5 lbs. - My motivation has decreased a bit as I don't have diet bets going on and I've had more cheat days than I care to admit (thank you PMS). But I am still losing, so I'm just happy the scale is going in the right direction! Not sure if I can do the 5 lbs. this month though based on how short the month is and how poorly I've been doing so far!
  • Put $500 towards our foundation savings goal. DONE! I had a plan to put $250 away each pay cheque, but thanks to my overtime from last month, I was able to put $600 away already. I'll still be putting in the other $250 when I get paid again too, for $850 total! 
  • Put real pictures in our standing picture frame. Almost done! I sorted through our pictures and got Husband's input on which ones he preferred. I then had to measure the various frames and figure out which pictures should go in which slots and re-size them accordingly. And I sent them to be printed via Shopper's Print Centre online a few days ago. I'm hoping to have them early next week so I can actually put the pictures in the frame before the end of the month. The pictures are various ones from our trips, our wedding, engagement photos and of course, our fur babies!
  • Complete one freelance interview (and article, depending on when the interview falls). No luck so far! BUT, I did get another freelance project (writing and designing two posters) and those are in the works. If I can get those done for the end of the month I'll consider this a pass.
  • Study French. I've been doing a little bit here and there. Husband is good about answering all my French questions that probably seem to come out of nowhere sometimes, so I'm slowly improving my vocab. 
  • Install new light in our master bedroom. DONE! My mom came to install it and she had some difficulties (long story short, but the hole in the ceiling where the wires come out was cut too big), so my friend's dad who is in construction (and who has been amazing since we bought the house) came the next day and got it installed. It's so nice to have a light in our bedroom that is brighter than a candle! 
  • Get taxes done! I'm still waiting for my T4 and a few other documents from the bank. Hopefully will have those soon!

Friday, February 1, 2013

February Goals

I thought I did pretty well on my January goals until I saw how many fails I had. I still think I did well on what I could control though.
  • Stick to my diet. DONE! I wanted to lose 5 lbs this month and I did that, plus some!
  • Put $500 towards our foundation savings goal. DONE!
  • Set up interview for my third freelance article. FAIL! I tried to get that interview set up, but I was never able to get a hold of the guy despite repeated emails and phone calls. I'll try again in February. 
  • Install new light in our master bedroom. FAIL! My mom was set to come over to install this a couple weeks ago, but she cancelled and we haven't been able to re-book yet.
  • Organize files and receipts. DONE!
  • Paint one room. FAIL! We found out there are a few other projects that need to be completed before we can do this, so it's off the list for now.
  • Start walking home from work again. DONE! The only times I didn't walk home were when I had a work car or there was a wind chill warning in effect. But I got to walk most days!


Here are my goals for February:
  • Lose another 5 lbs. 
  • Put $500 towards our foundation savings goal.
  • Put real pictures in our standing picture frame. We have a large standing picture frame that I've had for over 10 years now. I never bothered to print my own pictures back when I got it, and instead printed cute photos off the internet that I liked and stuck them in. I'd now like to finally print our own photos and put them in the frame. 
  • Complete one freelance interview (and article, depending on when the interview falls).
  • Study French. I'd like to avoid taking an intro French class as it would be too easy for me, but there are so many basic things I've forgotten. I'm hoping that reviewing my old French textbooks will help me get my basic skills back and then I can start classes from there. 
  • Install new light in our master bedroom.
  • Get taxes done! I like to do our taxes early as normally we get a rebate and why would I want the government to keep it for any longer than necessary?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday's This & That

  • I finished Gone With the Wind! All 959 pages of it. Although I love the book and would highly recommend it, I was a bit disappointed with the ending. I'm now reading Tina Fey's book, which I started last year, but never finished. 
  • It was so cold here last week that our dishwasher, which is on an outside wall, froze! Well, the pipes froze and no water would run through the dishwasher. Thanks to a space heater and warmer weather this weekend, the dishwasher is working again. Now we know to run the dishwasher more often when it's freezing outside so the pipes don't freeze up again.
  • I won the online diet bet! There were 10 winners in total (out of 29 people) and I walked away with $4.93. Not too bad for a $2 bet. My bets with Husband and my friend are still pending (we're weighing in tomorrow or Saturday).
  • I had a lovely and free facial on Tuesday at Zealous Medi Spa. The spa was offering a free relaxation facial if you subscribed to their mailing list. It was a nice experience, although based on the location (not too close to my house) and the atmosphere, I don't think I would go back unless there was a really good deal. It's a nice enough place, but definitely more of a salon than a spa and if I wanted an easy, cheap salon experience, I would go somewhere closer.
  • I'm trying to get my French speaking skills back - I've been reviewing French videos and books over my lunch hours at work and Husband is helping me out at home (he's fluent). My hope is to get the basics under control again and then start classes at level 2 or 3. Once upon a time, I was fairly fluent in French (after taking it all the way through high school and doing advanced placement in the later years). I'd like to get back there or at least close to it! When we went to Quebec in 2011, I was so dependent on Husband to speak for me it was kind of sad. 
  • The latest collective agreement at work was accepted, so no strike! I'm not sure if I mentioned it on the blog before, but we had rejected the first offer and if this offer wasn't rejected, a strike was imminent. While I'm all for trying to get the best deal, I have no interest in walking the picket line! I'm glad everything is settled for another few years. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

A wonderful day off

Husband and I had planned to book today off work and spend the day together. Unfortunately he wasn't able to get the day off because his co-worker already had the day booked off, but before I knew that, I had asked for the day off and I figured I'd still take it. And it was lovely! Although Husband has to work tonight, we went to Ikea this morning and bought new dinnerware. This was our planned spending item for February.

We got this set in purple and in white:



















It's very simple, but the combo of the purple and white ooks really nice together. And honestly, just the fact that Husband and I could both agree on it was a big deal. We tried to find dinnerware we both liked when we were registering for the wedding, but could never settle on anything that we were both happy with and that was reasonably priced. And we've been on the hunt ever since to no avail. So in this way, simple actually worked out well for us. And the fact that Ikea finally opened up here!

Our budgeted amount was $100 and the sets were only $29.99 each, so we got our new dinnerware for $67!

Then, we grabbed Subway and went home where I watched How I Met Your Mother on DVD. Then I tidied up a bit, got my old iPod ready for my mom who's going to use it now that I got my new one. I went to the early hot yoga class - the one I can never get to because of work. And now I'm relaxing, watching more HIMYM. I'll wake Husband up soon and spend a bit of time with him before he has to go to work.

It was a nice, chill day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I'm not walking home today

and this is why... 


How to motivate your husband

I've been with Husband for 4.5 years (married for just over one year). I am in no way an expert on men or even my husband, but here's what I've learned about how to motivate your husband to do something....

You don't.

Seriously.

You can't.

Don't even try.

You cannot force someone to do something. You can't create motivation in someone else. I've tried nagging. I've made "honey dew" lists. I've screamed. I've cried. But when all the dust settles, nothing has really changed. Because you can't change your husband/boyfriend/partner. And that's the issue that I think many women face in marriage. The "I love my husband, but...." issue. There's always a but. But I wish he could pick up after himself more. But I wish he sent me flowers at work. But I wish he didn't smoke. But I wish he had different friends. But I wish he cleaned more. But I wish he worked less. If wishes were horses... well, you know the rest.

You can't change anyone but yourself. When you met your husband, there was obviously something that made you like and eventually fall in love with him. The key is to focus on that. Maybe he's a really great cook, but he hates cleaning. Don't try to force him to do half the cleaning chores, but instead ask him to cook the meals. Maybe he doesn't send you flowers all the time, but he does compliment you a lot. Focus on those things! Accept the person you married and remember that you married them for a reason. Don't try to change them.

Husband and I did premarital counseling before our wedding, which we loved! One of the big things that came out of those sessions was to accept the person you were marrying for good and bad. There are things that drive me nuts about Husband and while I am human and I do wish some things were different, I know that I can't change it. And trust me when I say I learned that the hard way sometimes.

That's not to say that I don't have my moments even now - I've had some epic temper tantrums in our year of marriage. One recent one started when Husband put peppers in lasagna (I hate peppers, but of course the peppers weren't the real issue). Sometimes I need to remind myself that I can't change him and there's no point in trying.

One other key point that we learned while doing our premarital counselling was that some things are more important to one person than they are to the other and that's what can cause issues. If something is important to me, I want Husband to do it, but he could care less, so he doesn't. And this is really what it all comes down to. Husband doesn't care if the vacuuming is done or if there are papers laying around on the dining room table, but I do. So why should I make him do something that will make me happy, when he could care less? Just like I don't care if the car is clean, so he knows not to ask me to take it to the car wash.

That's not to say that you can't have a certain amount of expectations, such as not leaving dirty clothes all over the place, but just be realistic. Remember who it is that you fell in love with and focus on his good points. Life is too short to be negative.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Top 12 of 2012

Looking back on 2012, we had a roller coaster of a year. We had some really good times, but then we also had some tough times. But isn't that how it always goes? Focusing on all the positive things that happened last year, here is our top 12 of 2012 in no particular order:
  1. Cruised through Hawaii
  2. I completed my management certificate
  3. Visited the capital of Canada and saw Parliament
  4. Celebrated our first year of marriage!
  5. Delivered hampers for the Christmas Cheer Board
  6. Rode the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls
  7. Bought our first home!
  8. Visited family in Toronto
  9. Went horseback riding on the beach
  10. Volunteered together at a soup kitchen
  11. Swam in the Pacific Ocean
  12. Made a baby boy! (I struggled with putting this on the list, but Husband said the miracle of making a baby is something to celebrate, even if we lost him.)


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Night Chit-Chat

What are you….

Reading?
Gone With The Wind... still! I'm two-thirds of the way though and still enjoying it!

Watching?
I'm going to watch Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 right away.

Listening to?
The sounds of football (Husband is watching it while I sit here).

Cooking/Baking?
Nothing - I've been working 13+ hour days at work off and on and when I do, we get catered meals, including tons of leftovers. So our freezer/fridge is filled with food.

Happy you accomplished this last week?
Not doing too badly on my diet this week despite not having much control over my meals thanks to all the dinners at work.

Looking forward to this week?
Tuesday evening after all my overtime is complete and I can get my week day evenings back!

Thankful for today?
A free microdermabrasion appointment! This was one of the free gift cards that Husband's stepmom gave to me in the fall and I finally used it this weekend.  My skin feels very soft and smooth! I have another one that I'm going to use in a few weeks too. (When I got the gift cards, I got two of each and most were only good for one use per person, but this company is letting me use both myself!)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Life would be better if...

I saw this idea on Becoming Fabulous and thought I'd play along. I changed it slightly, from awesome to better, as life is already pretty awesome! :)

Life would be better if...

  • we didn't have the car payments anymore.
  • we had a maid.
  • our title insurance company covered the cost of the foundation repair.
  • my skinny jeans fit.
  • Husband would sign up for his disability benefits at work already!
  • food didn't disappear so quickly and have to be replenished so often.
  • my cell battery didn't die so fast.
  • there were more long weekends.
  • people called me back about freelance articles.
How would you life be more awesome?


Planned Spending

Ever since we bought our house, we've had a line in the budget for planned spending. For the first six months of being first-time home owners, we were just throwing this $100 on the Mastercard (which we use for everything) and never really put much thought into it as we bought whatever we needed for the house when it came up. Earlier this month, I finally sat Husband down and we figured out what we would do with this extra $100 each month for the next year. I figured this will help us get the house looking how we want, and also keep us accountable and not buying willy nilly whenever we so desire. It'll be a good lesson in patience for me!

January - new light for the bedroom. I have lamented a few times about how much our current light fixture sucks, so we bought a new one. My mom still hasn't come by to install it yet, but I've been too busy this week to set a date with her. But it's purchased and ready to shine!
February - new dinnerware. This is something we've been wanting for a couple years now. Our current set is chipped and cracked and several pieces have been broken. We'd like to be able to buy a whole new set so we can entertain and not be embarrassed! The difficult part here is that we can't agree on something we both like. Thankfully Ikea just opened up here, so I'm hoping we can find something there that makes us both happy.
March - faucet for the kitchen. Our house is old (built in 1914), but it was updated and actually has a great combination of old world and modern tastes. But the faucet is somewhere in between and just doesn't go with anything. I'd like to replace it with something more modern that fits the rest of the kitchen.
April - screen for kitchen window. One of our windows in the kitchen doesn't have a screen. We'd like to add it so that we can open the window in the summer, which will be great when we cook/bake. (With our two cats, we can't open it now for fear that they'll jump out.)
May - paint for master bedroom. We have already bought the paint for the rest of the upstairs with our Groupon deal, but we also want to paint the master bedroom.
June & July - birthday presents. Both mine and Husband's birthdays are in July, so this money will go towards our gifts to each other.
August - closet organizer. Our closet is fairly small and right now only fits my clothes (and not even all of them). I think with a good closet organizer, we can make better use of the space.
September - shelving unit for office. As mentioned in an earlier post, our current bookshelf in the office is a cheap 3-tier shelf from Walmart. I'd like to do an upgrade!
October - picture frames for dining room. We have a huge wall in our dining room that is begging for pictures! I want to print really cool, bright pictures of our favourite foods. I can easily print the pictures for cheap, but I'll need about a dozen pictures frames.
November - table for front hall. Definitely low on the priority list and I'm not even sure if we really want one, but by November, we'll have been in the house for well over a year and we'll have a better idea of whether or not this is wanted or needed.
December - Christmas items. In case we want to buy a few additional decor items or if we need some extra money for our Christmas spending.

Although we have decided it is flexible (i.e. if we find a great sale on something that isn't on the list until a later month, we'll buy it in lieu of the item that month), we'll stick to this as much as possible.

Does anyone else have a line in their budget for stuff like this? Do you plan ahead or just buy what you want that month?