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.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thrifting for Clothes

Jockey shirt $5.39
Here are all my thrifting wardrobe finds from June and July.  In June I bought the dress and black camisole and this Wednesday I took Mom along and went on a bit of clothing shopping spree.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Unexpected House Guests

These rotten buggers have set up housekeeping in our back yard.  Hornets - nasty business!  Neither of us are allergic fortunately  but they shall be dispatched tonight, under cover of darkness when they are drowsy.  We cannot sit out and enjoy our patio furniture until this issue is taken care of.

In other news I seem to be having a week of making more work for myself.  First, I accidentally paid the wrong company for a bill using online banking.  The money went to an account that was closed for over a year.  I had to spend 1/2 hour on hold yesterday to try and retrieve the money and hopefully, I will get  a cheque back in 7-10 business days.  Note to anyone who does online banking, delete old accounts off the list!  I also managed to delete part of our corporate blog by accident so have techies at work as we speak to reinstall the widget I deleted.  Fortunately, they are on a year-long contract and we are due a bit of maintenance on that contract each month so likely not to cause an extra bill in the mail.

Finally, if you are interested in treasure hunting at all read this article regarding a stash of new-found treasure found in a British Cave.  Cool!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Quadra Island Getaway

We just got back from a wonderful weekend getaway at a nearby island called Quadra Island.  Friday afternoon we made a short 45 minute drive then ferry ride over to our rustic cabin on the ocean.  All we wanted was some rest, ocean time, kayaking and to get away from our business for a couple of days.  We got far more than that.  It was truly a memorable summertime experience, with hot 30 degree celcius sun filled days and lots of wildlife to see and the ocean to explore.

Quathiaski Cove Ferry terminal, Quadra Island

That little ferry just rounding the bend is the one we took from Campbell River, only a short 15 minute ride away.  Part of what drew me to this resort is I was looking for someone we could go kayaking and this resort included use of them free with the stay.  We went both Saturday and Sunday for a couple of hours each day.  We were in a protected harbor made up of several smaller islands so lots of close shoreline to explore.  I left my big digital camera at home and opted for my small waterproof camera and iphone camera for this trip.  We saw a racoon, sea otters, seals, herons, eagles and lots of other creatures.

Underwater shot - starfish

A new creature spotted on this trip was a 4 inch nudibranch which happened to be swimming right where we launched the kayaks.  I have never seen one outside of aquariums or on TV.  They are very much like a snail without a shell and come in dozens of colours and shapes.  So neat to watch it swim away.

Giant Dendronotid Nudibranch spotted on Quadra Island

One of my favorite pictures this trip was when we were sitting on the dock, dangling our feet in the water to get some relief from the heat.  This spider had built a web between two boards on the dock.  That is the sun and clouds reflected off the water in the background.

This was the view to the front of our cabin.
Seascape Resort Marina

View from our upper cabin bedroom
 We only left the resort once, to check out the local farmers market.  We got there late in the day just before closing.  It was so hot, it looks quiet but was much busier earlier in the day.

Both evenings after making scrumptious BBQ dinners we sat out on the dock with a cocktail and enjoyed the sunsets.  Such a lovely weekend away - days like these make you happy to be alive!