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You Had Me At Free

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I am cheap by nature, but that doesn’t mean I’m not generous.  I am generous with my time and affections, for sure.  Money? Not so much, teehee.  I clip coupons every week, much to my husbands annoyance.  I have stopped telling him how much I spend in a shopping trip.  At the beginning of the month I find out my budget and instead come home reporting how much I saved.  Coupons and flyers do take over our tiny kitchen sometimes, but I am learning how to keep them more organized.   

First place to start? Get a purse-sized organizer with accordian folds.  I got mine at my favourite dollar store, and it has ten pockets to organize my coupons.  I sort them into categories, and put the closest expiry dates in the front of the pile.  My every week shopping list gets tucked into the front.  This list has items I need every week because I can’t rely on my memory anymore.

Coupons can offer a way to try something new without wasting too much money.  Two weeks ago I got a FREE MAIL-IN REBATE for the new Lysol No-Touch Hand Soap Pump.  I bought the pump for $9.99, filled in the rebate and mailed it with my original receipt.  In a few weeks I should get a cheque in the mail.  I make sure to only do this with brands I trust. 

I plan my meals and purchases for the next week, based on the new flyers I get on Thursday evenings.  This is when the second list gets made, list your needed items by store and include the prices advertised.  This saves you from reading through all the flyers over over and over again.  I decide who has the best deals then bring ALL my flyers to the store that will price match.  There are people that still don’t know about price matching.  It is practised in many grocery stores, but in some stores it can also be applied to appliances, electronics, health & beauty, pet food, and baby items.  Sometimes it is only a matter of saving a few cents, but other times it means getting a $50 video game for $20.

Patience is important when it comes to getting good deals.  I will wait for the perfect sale and still hang on to every receipt.  Just in case the item goes on sale even more in the next two weeks, I will wait in line to get a price adjustment.  Some stores will give you money back up to a month after original purchase (Future Shop, I love you for this reason).

When I find a really good deal, will ask friends for the coupons in their newspaper too.

Visit websites of  the companies that make or promote your favourite things.  There are also free coupon websites that will let you browse through the brands that have offered deals.  Companies want your business.  They will give out free samples, coupons, and hold great contests to get your interest.  I just got 30% off my OLD NAVY purchase and saved more than $30 including the markdowns on the clearance items.  I got a long sleeved T-shirt for $1.23!!!  My total bill was $36 (for two T-shirts and a pair of yoga pants for me, and spring outfit including; 6 pairs of socks and a pair of sandals for baby girl).

Can you tell that I love a bargain?  I could go on and on about how much I love free stuff.  I am happy to do a little bit of work every week, to clip coupons, search the web, or pour over flyers to find the best deals.  It means that we get to live well, and within our budget, so we may have enough money to treat ourselves to a dinner out.  In the really tight budget months it means we don’t have to use credit cards just to eat and put diapers on the baby.  With a little time and planning, a good deal could mean stretching your budget a long way.  For me it means sneaking in a cute shirt, or a new lipgloss.  Especially when I shop at a department store that has everything under one roof.  Happy Savings!

*stock photos courtesy of dreamstime.com

Sugar Sugar

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Well, day 10 of sugar detox is going surprisingly well.  I am not crazy hungry, and no one has run away from home in fear of my mood swings.  I am not going to use the “D” word, that begins with “DIE”.  I prefer to call this new eating plan, downsizing.  Mostly because I hope it results in downsizing my pants, shirts, dresses, etc.  It is also a prettier word to describe something that isn’t always pretty or easy.  I have lost significant amounts of weight in the past, and even managed to keep most of the pounds off.  For me it requires constant vigilance, and that is the part that wears me down eventually. 

Here are a few things that keep me moving forward in my downsizing plan:

Before you start: See your doctor for a check up and tell them you are thinking about losing weight.  Then talk to a dietitian and find out healthy ways to reach your goal.

Set goals: Set a weight loss or health goal and figure out how you are going to acheive it.  Do you have more success with a work-out partner?  Do you need a weigh-in buddy to be accountable to or give moral support?  I am a lone ranger for the most part, but do need a meal plan to give me specific examples of what I should eat.

Keep positive: Don’t let negativity keep you from reaching your goal.  If you have a bad day or week, move on and try to do better, allow yourself a do-over.  Reward yourself with ‘non-food’ treats when you have success.

Educate yourself :  Read packages, you will be surprised at what is hiding in some of your favourite foods.  Learn about portion sizes, invest in a good food scale, measuring cups, and digital weight scale.  I find that using a smaller plate, or bowl will help me keep portions in check too. 

For example, I began to measure portions, and took note of just how much the serving sizes are for some of my favourite foods.  They aren’t necessarily all junk foods, but things I eat everyday, and contain some sugar.  I don’t eat a lot of take-out or junk food, ‘normal’ foods are making me fat because my servings are often super-sized!  My morning cereal regime was double the suggested serving.

cereal serving 1

Suggested Serving

 

serving 2

Normal Serving

 

More ideas?  Some people find that counting calories and keeping a food journal helps them.  I opted out of those routines.  I have a meal chart from my dietitian that tells me how many starches, proteins, veg, and dairy I should be aiming for during the whole day.

Last, but not least, get moving!  I enjoy walking, but not much else when it comes to exercise.  Find something that works for you and your schedule and stick to it.  Consistency is important, it is hard to reach any goal without it.  Whether it is working toward a promotion at work, or teaching your toddler to potty train.

I am finding it difficult to fit some of my new goals into an already busy schedule.  I find that I have to constantly give myself permission to ‘think of me’.   Like a lot of people in a caregiver role, I sometimes feel guilty for putting my needs into the list of priorities.  I realized that if I don’t take care of myself, I am an unhappy mommy who can’t keep up with her toddler.  I’m sure you will get to hear a lot more about this new ‘sugar-free’ adventure!

Live the Change You Want to See.

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Well it is Wednesday.  And I am extra late getting a new blog out into cyber space.  I have a few blog drafts saved, but couldn’t decide on one that was appropriate for this mid-week post.  My heart is heavy with the images I see on the news.  Even while having it play in the background, sound turned down, the images of what is happening in JAPAN are so heartbreaking. 

I am BLESSED beyond measure and repent for these things I grumble about; our 20-year-old car,  mis-matched chairs around my 30-year-old table, a TV made in 1977, a minimum wage job, and clothes that are hand-me downs or bought at Value Village

I don’t have a house, but I have a HOME.  My family and friends are scattered around the world but I am LOVED.  I don’t always have much choice in what I eat, but I am NEVER STARVING.  I have HOPE living inside of me. And I don’t live in FEAR because of my gender, religious beliefs, or for expressing my opinions.

Earlier today, I watched a video about A. Krishnan.  CNN paid tribute to him during their HEROES show in February 2011.  He gave up his job as a chef because he saw the desperate conditions of people on the streets .  And began showing compassion to people who are otherwise ignored or forgotten.  It broke my heart wide open and reminded me that I am a millionaire compared to how some people are forced to live.  

Mr. Krishnan you recognized a need for change, so YOU changed.  You are a friend to the friendless, an inspiration, and a hero.  You are right, people don’t only need food to live.  A hug, a place to shower, and kind word can “nourish the mind and heart”.

To view the video that moved me to tears, click on the Link obtained from CNN

Donate:
Canadian Red Cross 
American Red Cross 
 

My Not-So-Secret Addiction

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Mabel's Labels Hoard

It all started with an order of Tag Mates and Skinny-Minis, but has quickly grown into something that can no longer be contained in my Buzzmama Welcome Kit box.  But I’m getting ahead of the story, let me rewind a bit…

Last year I was contemplating putting my daughter into childcare for my return to the full-time work force.  Being a preschool teacher for many years, I knew that personal items can go missing on a daily basis.  It was frustrating enough for us teachers, looking at ten pairs of Spiderman shoes in a size 7, and trying to figure out which child they belonged to.  Now I am a parent and really get the full spectrum of the cost of raising a child.  Of course you start out a school year with labeled clothing, shoes, and bottles, but labels made of masking tape and markers don’t last long.  So I had remembered in my adventures as a teacher, that Mabel’s Labels, made our lives a lot easier.  When I saw a parent arrive with their children’s items in those colourful, custom labels, I could breathe a sigh of relief.  In fact they could only make life easier if they changed diapers and wiped runny noses too.

So back to the beginning…I searched Mabel’s Labels on google, found them very easily, and within moments had placed an order for Skinny-Minis (custom sticky labels that are dishwasher safe) and Tag Mates (custom sticky labels for clothing that survive the washing machine).  I knew the Skinny-Minis would be small enough to put on my daughter’s soothers and the Tag Mates would fit even the smallest tag on her favourite sleep stuffie.  My order came in the mail, FREE of Shipping charges, later that same week.  I went on the site again and shopped around.  I soon found a link for something called the Buzzmama Program.  This peaked my interest.  So I applied and was chosen into this volunteer, word-of-mouth ‘club’ to receive perks for spreading the love of Mabel’s Labels

As you can see in the picture, I have amassed a small mountain of quality items from this Canadian company.  There are other items missing from the shot because they are in my purse or in use already.  Return Address Labels, Mama Cards, Shopping List pads are never out of reach.  The Buzzmama reusable canvas bag is folded and kept in my purse, which comes in handy very often.  I can’t seem to visit any friend without talking about it, and even have strangers stop and ask where I get those cute labels.  I had lost my daughters sippy cup in Zellers one day and didn’t know until my last name was announced over the store intercom…My husband thinks I have gone Mabel’s crazy, which reminds me.  I need to go check the mailbox before he gets home, I’ve got a Neat Freak Combo on the way…

In the 18th Month of Life My Sweet Girl Gave to Me…

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This speaks for itself...

As I reflect on life post-baby, I recognize that each month of her life has brought new changes.  Sometimes these changes are visible in her development, or personality.  Others are visible in me and my approach to parenthood.  I am often asked “What is your favourite stage?”.  I believe that every age and stage brings it’s own joys and challenges.  Sleep issues have been on the top of our challenge list from the beginning.  The nurses kept telling me her newborn sleep would come soon.  I’m still waiting… I have strived to consciously find the joys in this new challenge.  I fear that the terrible twos have crept into our home, 6 months too soon. 

*sung to the tune of  “12 Days of Christmas”*

In the 18 th month of li-fe my sweet girl gave to meeee.

 Head spinning tantrums, fly-ing fo-od, cab-in fe-ver, days with no shower,

5 slop-py kisses! 

Crayon on the walls, laundry to the ceiling, more general whining, and

bags from the la-ck of sleep.   

I’m not kidding; within four days of her 18 month ‘birthday’ this sweet child has flipped her lid!  And it happened very suddenly.  I put my sweet angel down for a nap as normal, with hugs and kisses offered to me, she snuggled up with her favourite stuffy, and was asleep within 10 minutes of her head laying on the mattress.  I went to work for a few hours while she was still sleeping.  I came home to a tantrum that would rival the head spinning scene in the Exorcist.  The whining, crying, kicking, and screaming continued on throughout the evening, and stretched to bedtime.  Now it was my turn for a tantrum, nothing is allowed to interfere with the precious and oh so fragile bedtime routine.  That routine has been shattered, along with her naptime as well.  As soon as there is even the faintest whiff of bedtime the wailing begins.  It took her an hour to fall asleep this afternoon!  By then it was supposed to be wake up time!  And she isn’t even easy going during the non-sleep routines anymore.  It is as though the extra hours of daylight are fueling her crusty attitude, making it extra crispy in it’s golden rays.

So I am certainly not looking forward to the time change this weekend.  Lose an hour of sleep? Can I opt out please?  I haven’t even set my watches to the correct time for the last three time changes.  I choose to live in my own alternate universe. One where my sweet girl returns to the sleeping angel that was.  And where I don’t need to have 3 cups of coffee to make it to noon.

What used to be

SICK Stages

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My gloomy view

Here we are, Spring around the corner.  A time for birds to start singing, and tulips to poke their fresh green tips out of the soil, as a thank you to the sun for it’s increased daylight.  Yet here I am up to my hips in nasty laundry.  Sickness has descended on our little slice of heaven.  All I can say is EWWW.  I would rather have a cold for a full year than to have the ‘stomach flu’.  The bug started making its ugly presence known at the beginning of the week. My daughter gave us a beautiful 18 month ‘unbirthday’ present, and I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible.  She was sick twice during the night, and I in my denial, thought she seemed fine. 12 hours later I was kicked out of my denial as the sickness trend began: sick child, wash, dress, spot treat laundry, rinse and repeat ad nauseum. 

I have already visited five of the stages of dealing with a sick child.

Stage 1) Denial; “You have never had Melon, it must have upset your stomach”. 

Stage 2) Blame; “Who brought this sickness into my sanctuary?!  Did Daddy bring it home from work?  What, no one else has this sickness at play group?” .

Stage 3) Acceptance; “We could have picked it up anywhere.  It’s only a few extra loads of laundry, and 2 sleepless days/nights”. 

Stage 4) Hope; “You’ve been sick for 24 hours, let’s go to the doctor, but you’ll feel better soon”. 

Stage 5) Anger; “What? This could last another few days? This is normal? She is still too young for over the counter medicine to treat her symptoms?” 

I am hoping that Stage 6 can be titled Joy; “Yay, no more poopy laundry, cranky baby, tired and showerless mommy”.  But alas, that stage will have to wait as I am revisiting the previous stages.  It is three days later, my daughter is still cranky because of the lingering fever, but thankfully free of clothes and blanket ruining symptoms.  Also, my husband has been up all night with his own version of the bug, and my own stomach is not feeling too good today.  I am hoping that the rumblings and queasiness are a result of exceeding my usual caffeine intake.

Stranger Danger

For someone who never really had the nerve to speak up about anything for most of my life, things have really changed in the last year.  It is easier to talk to strangers than it is to people I have known for a long time.  I find myself talking to strangers more and more everyday.  Not just behind the privacy of my computer aliases, but in line ups at stores, coffee shops, and random places that my wander lust brings me. It used to be that I would stand stoic in line, waiting for my turn to be next, sometimes grumbling under my breath at the hold-ups.  I used to be able to stealthfully slip into stores and get my purchases home with little attention being drawn to me at all.  Now, I feel like I need to have a little more patience and to put on a happy face during shopping trips. It’s not that I am in any less of a hurry now, or have less on my mind.  I feel like everyone is watching the crazy lady with the cute kid to see what she will do next.  Paranoid?  

The biggest change in the last year and a bit?  For those that don’t know me, I am usually wrestling with an 18 month old while loading and unloading a cart, loading bags, handing over coupons, and paying the cashier.  And then if the totals come up wrong, hold on for another endless wait for correction, or worse yet, be sent to another line up @ the service desk to get your OWN money back.  Phew…excuse the mid-blog rant.  The physics of shopping have changed, so I have had to change too.  It is almost impossible to travel unseen or unheard in public places when you have a baby.  And the odds seem stacked against you for even the simplist of outings: 

1)A stroller or cart loaded to capacity, almost impossible to turn a corner without being Hercules. 

2)The Toddler screaming for the snacks on the shelves or in the hands of other people nearby.

3) The mommy brain that won’t let you remember what was on the list you left on the kitchen counter.

4) Getting on or off a bus with a fully loaded stroller and traversing 3 foot high snowbanks so carefully carved by the plows, and hard packed by the cold.

5) I forgot what I wanted to write for this one…

That being said, I can choose to let the frustrations come out and bombard the people who happen to share my personal space.  Or I can try to put a humourous spin on the situation.  The talking to strangers factor can sometimes pay off.  And generally I find that a smiling baby brings out the best in people, and somehow gives them the desire to be friendly in a situation that could be stressful or irritating.  Yes, I know there are people who claim to hate children, I have met many over the years.  I’m not addressing them today.  A smiling baby also distracts people when you cut in front of them in line.  Talking to strangers has become a newly learned social skill for me.  Apparently it’s not too late to teach this old cat some new tricks. Now if only I could remember what my closing point was supposed to be.

it’s all greek to me

i always claim to be adventurous, but here i am in a new domain and floundering around like a fish out of water. OCD issues are rampant. everything looks different. will just have to get over it and feel my way around this place.  and yes, i’m being literal.  i am too distracted to actually write a blog today, though i have promised myself that Wednesdays would be my writing day. i have been trying to edit this page since yesterday and have at least gotten so far as to find a way to edit out the generic “model” blog posted by the site…so i think i can let myself be pleased at that small success. and try to write a real blog later, afterall Wednesday doesn’t end for another 13 hours.

In the Beginning…Imported blogs

childhood visions 02/16/2011

 it’s amazing how a few simple ingredients can be mashed together to form something delicious and comforting. i can close my eyes and see my grandmother pounding bread dough on her wooden table. how many times did i pinch a piece of dough when i thought she wasn’t looking. and i can still smell the fresh out of the oven buttery loaves laying under a fresh tea towel on her counter.  if only life were really that simple again.  i know now that life wasn’t that simple. it seemed simple because my needs, goals, tasks were more focused. i envy people who seem easy-going and wonder what they are really thinking under that “nothing bothers me” veneer. one of my fav authors is Walter Wangerin. my copy of  “Little Lamb Who Made Thee?” has been read and re-read many times. every time i read it, i am left with knew understanding. He has a wisdom and insight into human nature that resounds within my heart.  he delves into his own childhood and parenthood then offers explainations about life issues affecting children, parents, and adults caring for aging/sick loved ones. why should we understand childhood? God has declared that unless we approach him as a child, we will not enter the kingdom. Wangerin’s writings have helped me reconcile the many short-comings i feel when i look at my relationship with God. i see who i want to be, and have even had small glimpses of who i could be. but am so far away from that woman in the vision. i don’t even know where to meet her in the middle. Mr. Wangerin you almost convince me that i can be that meek child that approaches the throne to receive her new glorified being.

 liar 02/14/2011

 a blazing “L” needs to be branded to my face some days. there are no such things as white lies. that statement is just as bad as ugly truth. where did we get the right to convince ourselves and others that some lies could be painted with a different colour and therefore become safe. do they give less injury if they are white? if they don’t injure the listener they will injure the teller.  a teen asked me for a dollar the other day. i was minding my own business waiting for my laundry to finish tumbling in the dryer. i lied and said i didn’t carry cash. i felt a burning sensation creep deep into my gut, and prayed that it wouldn’t creep to my face as the blush so easily does. even when i am innocent my cheeks and neck flash red in a single heartbeat. but now in my guilt i had something to hide that i didn’t want betrayed by my blush. i did have a dollar to give. but my truth was covered in a lie. my truth is so much harder to form out loud. my truth can sting like a slap to the face. but my guilt can lay in the pit of my gut like a fiery little creature looking to hibernate. i had a dollar to give, but i decided that i didnt’ feel like being generous. again my mind raced with 100 excuses. $$$ is tight…i have to work twice as hard to get half the pay i used to… i was down to my last dollar…i didn’t feel like giving my last dollar to someone who is probably lazy and should be out trying to earn their own. even as he asked for the $ i could picture it sitting at the bottom of my purse nestled amongst a handful of pennies and a couple dimes. the asker didn’t seem too bothered by my denial of $$. he shrugged and walked out of the room. i have been reminded of it constantly with a feeling worse than indigestion. it bothers me even to this moment, and it’s been nearly a week. i still haven’t been able to spend that dollar sitting in the bottom of my purse. it may as well be glued to my forehead as a constant reminder. you see, i know the ONE who gave everything so we could have a better life. if Jesus had one $ in his pocket he would have given it away. better to be open than to be revealed (a). the Truth will set you free (b). THE WAY THE TRUTH THE LIFE (c).  HIS TRUTH stings with a gentle whisper… i still lack faith to trust that giving away my last $ will not leave me destitute. faith without evidence is dead (d). there is spiritual life in truth, therefore the consequence of lies/sin is death (e). death must be the creature that sits in my gut right now.

Luke 12:2 (a), John 8: 32 (b), John 14:6 (c), James 2:17,20,26 (d), Proverbs 10:16 (e), Romans 6:23 (e)

 100 pieces of me 02/08/2011

 a perfect square. 10×10=100. 100 dollars for a new jogging stroller. 100 sins. 100 loads of laundry. 100 hugs. 100 kisses. 100 x 20 years since Jesus walked the earth. 100 days to break a bad habit. or in my case 100 m&m’s and 100 doritos since i resolved to try and lose 100 pounds in 2011. 100 times falling off the diet wagon. 100 times getting back up to try again. simple math. eat less move more.  logically if i eat 100 less calories a day and burn 100 more calories in exercise i should shrink.  unfortunately that logic doesn’t always translate easily to weight loss. human emotion and error tend to get in the way.  my mind is weighed down by the guilt of 100 mistakes today.  have you ever tried to lift something that weighs 100 pounds? it is usually too heavy for one person. if you take it apart pound by pound it will be easier to shift. why am i willing to carry the extra 100 around day by day by day by day? instead of taking it apart piece by piece and relieving myself of the physical burden? i have to be honest with myself. sometimes it is easier not to try at all, rather than risk failure. admitting we need to change, means admitting we are doing something wrong.100 negative thoughts stand in the way of progress. if my negative thoughts had weight i would never be able to get out of bed in the morning. wait a minute. they do have weight. for every donut, french fry, and milkshake binge is fueled by negative thoughts. and given physical evidence in the climbing numbers on my digital scale and waistband.  100 guilty pleasures. 100 foot steps. 100 pieces of flesh.  i need to find a way to lose 100 pieces of me.