Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Almost payday!

Boy this has been a   long month!  There was far too much month at the end of the money. Since deciding to be stricter with our finances this year (out of necessity, mainly) I have faced a shocking reality. Yes, things do cost more, and no, I don't remember it happening. Just woke up one morning and thought to myself "Self, how on earth can two old people motor through so many dollars at Costco, and still need to stop off at a couple of other stores on the way home?" Of course, being me, the answers flew fast and furious.  I am such a brilliant conversationalist when I am alone!

We both love good, nutritious healthy food. And since hubby couldn't eat for so many months, it is just not in my heart to deny him anything at the grocery store. So, when we have tomato soup, it is made with real tomatoes with a bit of  cream (try it once, and you will never go back) and we both decided that we absolutely NEED strawberries out of season. And we do not like too many convenience foods, which are actually cheaper to eat, when feeding only two.  It would be so easy to just zap something and put it on a plate, rather than make everything from scratch.  But truth be told? What else do we have to do that is more important than stoking these old fires?

There is also  a lot that is bought and not used. Enter the kids to the rescue. They passed on a fabulous vacuum bag sealer that Pete won at a tournament.  This gadget is working out incredibly well for us!  We scooped up lots of bags when they were on sale at Costco, so now we are definitely "loaded for bear" - or any other protein!  We can buy big packages of meat at Costco and seal them up  to last for many months...no more frost bitten food!  And more importantly? No freezer taste.

I have come to the realization that I am just not fond of pork, other than the odd ham steak, piece of bacon or a pineapple glazed chop  once in a blue moon.  Hamburger? I could eat every day of the week, but because it isn't one of the leanest things in the world, we eat it very rarely. Fish and chicken are our mainstays out of preference and ease of cooking. Those two things didn't take well to time in the freezer. And since it is part of my prairie heritage to want a good supply of food on hand (a real necessity in case Pa can't get through the blizzard to the barn to hitch up the team to go to town woops! that was Little House on the Prairie)

As we grow older, I see the wisdom in shopping the European way...just what you need for a day or two at most, to take advantage of the freshest produce and the best prices!  And of course, I do need a supply of gluten free bakery products as the "pusher" is on the other side of town and is a nightmare to drive to, hence the mini freezer in the laundry room. As usual, I am going two opposite directions at once! Simplifying is my goal, but reality dictates a fair supply of food to be kept in house. And of course, that very "Sheldon" part of me needs to have a plan in even the smallest area of life, let alone the most important feeding department! I may not stick to a menu plan to the last detail, but it has to be there!  So, this month, my intentions are to shop more frequently, buy less, and to continue to buy meat and staples in bulk. In reality, it does makes life easier to have the complication of having a pantry.

In the last couple of weeks, I have not stuck to my menu plan at all. I have not felt well, so standing in the kitchen to cook was one of the things that I eliminated without guilt. I know have a fair bit of frozen food to plan around for next month...so the task of planning the menu will be shorter and sweeter!

We are leaving for points west on Friday, and the frig is getting nice and bare. While we are away, I will plan a menu for the remaining weeks of the month, and post it then. I am also compiling a list of favourites to draw from when my mind is a complete blank on menu planning day.  As it stands, there are about five or six things that I love to eat when I am left to my own devices, and although  they may not be more traditional supper items, they satisfy me, and cater to my lazy side. Strawberries and cottage cheese anyone?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Anybody else got this bug?

I haven't even had time to spend on the computer...life has become a blur of daytime cooking shows and trying to muster enough energy to use the bathtub!  But it seems to be on an upturn, as today, I actually made myself some breakfast and glory be! I AM HERE!

So, the weather is really throwing everyone for a loop. Winnipeg. January. Nice. Not a string of words we are used to hearing. They say that allergies are cutting up because of the mild weather, and I am sure that is part of the problem. My get up and go got up and went.

That being said, I have managed to make one trip to the drugstore. While there, I indulged myself in a few goodies as well as the necessities for nursing a flu-y, achy body. It was seniors day. Now whoever says getting old doesn't pay, couldn't have heard that they give you money20%  off products just for being old. SWEET!

Not only that, but for every fifty dollars spent, they gave you a ten dollar gift certificate!  So, I was in like flint. Now I have a couple of new products to test drive...primarily a new L'Oreal Mascara that promises me "false" lash lushness. Right.

My motivation primarily,  is to prevent blindness from the stinging that most mascaras have inherently built into them!  Visible lashes would be nice, though. I actually have not tried it yet, since I haven't had the opportunity to actually get out of bed since buying it, but I will let you know what I think of it. The mascara I have been using is ELF which is as cheap as dirt, and doesn't bother me in the least. But of course, there could be something better....sigh. Always looking for that holy grail.

Hopefully, this blue funk will lift soon, since we will be leaving on Friday for points west....our first trip out for more than a month. I was home so long, I am starting complain about the grocery bills!  Who knew that eating at home on your own coin was so expensive these days?  Strawberries in January are a necessity, aren't they? Hmmmmm...speaking of which....

Monday, January 16, 2012

Do you think cottage cheese a good substitute for cake?

In my world, the answer is a resounding YES!!!!

Tonight for dessert I served a lovely iced angel food cake to my guests, served with the prettiest, plumpest strawberries. I ate my berries with cottage cheese. I can honestly say that I think I got the better part of the dessert trolley!  MMM  MMMM good!  I sent the rest of the pretty little cake home with my guests.  It isn't the calories, it is the gluten that makes me quake in my boots. (and as you know, that is not all I would find in my boots if I put gluten into my system!)

Anyway, it was a lovely evening, and that happily ended with a lovely dessert...for all of us. I think my point is, that when everyone else is having a treat? I want one too.  And tonight? I  think found the perfect substitute for cake!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What shall it be in week number three of 2012?

In order to keep up with my "52 Weeks of Organizing" list, I have to pick my project for this week - and I have to choose quickly, since it is already Wednesday.  Since the office is finished and I don't have any clothes left in my closet to purge, I guess that leaves the kitchen...hmmm. I have been meaning to clear out a few of the bottom cupboards, and the one over the stove...  and of course the under sink area is always a challenge.  Yep. Kitchen cupboards it is.  May even get around to redoing the island and the metal shelving unit as well.  Or not! What really needs tackling is the hidey hole in the basement, but I am just not up to doing that while the man is away.

One of the first basic rules of organizing, is that you never take out more than you can put back in your allotted time. The theory is that you prevent getting  in a muddle and make things worse. Well, I was born to break the rules. I pull everything out at once, and put it back...several times until it feels right! I have learned to relax and enjoy the process.  Just when I begin to think that I will never get through it? All of a sudden, POUF!  It is all put to rights as if the shoemaker's elves had hit town!

The second rule of organizing, is not to clean.  Well, that is just not my cup of tea either. Granted, you can organize at lightning speed if you fore go the cleaning, but in the end, you have a neat dirty space. That makes no sense to me, but then again, advice from experts seldom does!  It takes a few extra minutes to clean things up as I go, and it is well well worth the time spent.

When it is all placed and polished there is always that twisted little "bonus" for the next few months - every time hubby empties the dishwasher items end up in the most unusual places...and of course, not their previous location! I find things in the oddest places. What exactly is goes on in his head?  However, in the end it is all worthwhile - the hours that I spent analysing the kitchen "real estate", putting things in their place  of optimum efficiency,  enables me to cook our simple meals within a 15 minute window  of prep time.. Although I love to try new recipes and experience different foods, I am not willing to do so at the expense of my time! Every moment counts, and often, just being able to lay your hands on a special piece of equipment will save you minutes.  Just like pennies add up to dollars, those minutes add up to hours! So, there you have it. The kitchen cupboards it is. Welcome to my decision making process! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The house has an echo....

of little footsteps, which just makes our snoring that much louder!  It was such a joy to have all the members of my little family under one roof!

We had a light supper tonight, and fell into our recliners. Napping on and off through the Monday night line up of mundane TV shows and catching a giggle or two from the sit coms before falling into a stupor! Tomorrow is another day, and I can catch up on a little housework then.  'Dust can wait, children can't' is my motto. NOW, that is. When I had our son at home, I always seemed to be rushing to do something or the other, and how I regret wasting that time now.  It is not going to be repeated with our little Gelly Belle!

I have the guest room sheets in the washer, and the toys picked up in the family room. The cushions are lined up on the couches precisely, and everything is back in place. The house has reverted to it's usual peacefulness. How boring!  I will miss having a naked giggling toddler streak  through the hall from the bath while I sit at the dining room table in the morning sipping my coffee!  I will miss having her dust our big coffee table with her bottom swathed in fleece pajamas while she played! But what a lovely gift of time we have all shared at the beginning of this nice new year.  I greedily hope there will be many more to come. For now?  I am content. I love and am loved. What more can a woman ask for?  Rhetorical question. We all want better looks and more money!  LOL

Monday, January 9, 2012

The System

When I was setting up our household notebook, of course, I needed a  "FINANCIAL" section. I have strayed from Quicken or MS Money for the simple reason that I was always crashing my computer and losing data. Which, basically made all those entries an exercise in futility. Going back to the pen, paper and simple math has been very easy. Although there aren't any pie charts at the click of a mouse, I do have a clear picture of what is going on with our funds!

There are eight basic categories needed to sustain life as we know it. Food, car, clothing, entertainment, gifts, household, personal, and yearly. (mundane recurring expenses like utilities and taxes were accounted for before I budgeted amounts for these more interesting categories) Since life happens, I can rob Peter to pay Paul, but so far, there has been enough in each category to meet our needs. Easy peasy, since it is only the ninth day of the month! LOL We have recently changed banks, so it was getting a bit confusing as to where the funds for each category would come from. Well, that little problem was solved when I realized it doesn't matter! What is important, is how much I spent! If we keep on track with the budget, everything will work out just fine.

Basically, the system is this. Under each category tab I placed a three column ledger sheet. (I bought a tearaway analysis pad at Staples that is perfect. I can easily print the headings on the computer, too, which tickles that "perfection" gene)  I start the month by entering the budgeted amount for each category.  When I purchase something in that category, I simply deduct the amount  to keep a running total.  That tells me exactly what I can spend on that particular category at any given time, or if I have to wait awhile to purchase something. Since there is a reasonable amount placed in the category every month, the "leftovers" will add up over time to purchase the more expensive items.

The 'yearly' category covers insurances and our vacation fund.  On the first of every month, I will simply transfer those amounts over to a separate checking account, to keep it out of  harm's way!  Then, when the funds are needed I will write a cheque from that account.  I am very pleased with how my household notebook has turned out, and especially with how simple this system will be to keep up. As with all plans, the proof is in the pudding. I will let you know at the beginning of next year how it all worked out!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day is done....

and so am I. I picked up a bug and am running at less than half speed. Thank goodness for my wonderful daughter-in-law, who picked up the reins I dropped! We have been staying home and just enjoying each other's company. Since I wasn't up to going out for supper, we enjoyed pizza and a movie, compliments of our son. He wanted to take us out for supper and a movie, but that would have meant getting out of my robe, which is pretty impossible these days. Besides, watching a children's movie in the comfort of your own recliner  is good for old people! (Just watching Gelly's face as she took it all in was the majority of the entertainment!) Alas, Monday we go back to being empty nesters. After the initial collapse, I know there will be a great emptiness without the activity we have so enjoyed so much since the 23rd. The time flew by so quickly.

The first week of 2012 has already past. In another week, I will get on with more exciting tasks, but for now? I am quite content to keep up with the daily chores!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

For the life of me...

I can not understand how people can be bored at home! In the early seventies, when we first married, my sole ambition was to be a home maker. When I did work outside the home, things just did not run as smoothly, and I quickly realized that when I did work, there didn`t seem to be that much more money anyway! There have always been  so many things for me to do, and  although often you are repeating tasks, there is a lot of creative energy to be spent right behind your own front door.  Although there isn`t a lot of money in my career choice, I have had a lot of satisfaction in keeping a home for our little family.

I did manage to finish my basic weekly chores today, although with the little one around, it did take a bit longer than usual, since those willing little fingers take time to instruct!

The treat for the day was supper at Perkin's, and yes! Kids do eat free on Mondays and Tuesdays. Our little one polished off two hamburgers with the grace of a linebacker. The highlight for her, was a trip to the 'garbage bag toy store' - named by our son when he was just her age. Now they put your purchases into a big red plastic bag, but back in the eighties they just used regular garbage bags! They have great bargains on toys of all sorts.  Stickers, pencils, books, dolls - everything a little girl could possibly want. Our little one walked in not knowing what she was in for, but left with the savy of an experienced  Rodeo drive shopper!  In no time she was instructing her Grandfather in to keep her sunglasses while she shopped, and making her choices with a definite opinion. No thank you, she had cards. And yes, please! That ``My Little Pony Air Balloon`` musical night light was just what she needed! And ooooooh these dolls are so pretty. I need two!(Even though Gramma thought they were wearing outfits that could have easily have been purchased from Tramps-R-Us, they ended up in the basket too!) Admittedly, we are spoiling her just a little, but that is what happens when you don't see them every day.  You have to cram a few months of attention into a mere week or two when there is such a distance between you. I am all too aware that when her parents return tomorrow, the jig is up! But, we have one more day. McDonald`s playroom here we come!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Starting '52 Weeks of Organizing'

On one of the blogs I enjoy reading, I found this concept...complete with a printout to keep track of my progress, and plan ahead a little.  The first thing I did was put "filing system" in the number one spot, followed by "Household Notebook" and "finances".  I have been meaning to make a household notebook for years, and finally, I have done it. I have been working at this over the last couple of weeks...I spent my time in the office instead of cleaning house for our visitors. HOWEVER it all turned out well, and I got rid of tons of paper that was clogging my life! Plus, I am 'covered' until the third week of January!  I like to get ahead of myself a little!

I switched from using file folders to using binders.  SUCH a good idea! Not sure where I first saw it, but it is so much more convenient than having a zillion floppy papers in a drawer! Of course, being able to buy the binders at Costco for very little helped, too.  It took a dozen 1" binders to hold the necessary papers to keep our home running.  They store very compactly in the filing cabinet, spines up and labelled,  and it is very easy to find anything now! The bonus was having a clearvue front that I was able to keep a few sentimental things and  to serve as a decorative cover.  (the receipt for our first new car, my engagement ring, something pertinent to what is in the binder).

As for the household notebook? Everything is in there now. Telephone numbers and addresses, with lots of room to add new ones due to the letter sized format, plastic pages of business cards for service providers,  our simple financial records ( I have given up on using a computer program, since I am famous for crashing the things and losing my data) Basically I have ten looseleaf three column sheets  to track our spending categories, and a seperate Dayrunner "Household" book that holds the bills in pockets, by month. I will always have twelve months at hand, replacing Jan 2011 with Jan 2012, if you get my drift. I mean really, do you need to keep your Visa bills for five years, and clutter up your files? I think a year will work out just fine.  I also have sections in the Household notebook for special projects (52 Weeks of Organizing for instance!), cleaning lists. The only thing that didn't fit, were food related! So, there is a seperate binder to keep track of my menu plans and recipes that I want to try. There are sections to list cleaning lists for the different zones in our home, and scheduled task lists.  I followed some of Flylady's reccommendations, and added some of my own. If everyone had the same categories for their Household book, it wouldn't have taken me ten years to build one! But there is a genuine feeling of security in having things in black and white. The next step will be to take hubby through the book, and explain it all to him. You never know what could happen in life, and it is a good thing to have us both aware of what it takes to keep the house running smoothly.

Which brings me to another topic! Our little house guest. This child is a complete dream to look after. She is so sweet natured and happy...her father all over again.  She hasn't shed a tear since her parents left, and has been so much fun to have with us! We have craft projects every day and have kept them in a decorated binder to give her parents on their return...lesson learned, though, three year old plus glue? Not a great idea. Three year old and stickers? BRILLIANT idea! 

There are so many resources on the web now, that finding things for little people to do is very easy. Gone are the days when you just handed a kid a box of crayons.  Of course, with my compulsive nature and a few trips to the dollar store, I think I have enough craft supplies to last  a lifetime!  But who can resist glittery princess stickers and coloured card stock?  She is so much like her father, with a very long concentration span. She happily spends hours making her projects. It is well worth the time spent to clear up the cutting scraps and bits of nonsense that hit the floor to see her so engaged in her work.
So, that is what we have been up to at our house. This has been a great way to start the new year!