Saturday, December 9, 2017

Just a Little Fib and Christmas Prep

I just commented on Anne's blog that it wasn't snowing here in London, ON, Canada while in Alabama they received some snow!! But now I can see little white specs of snow in the air - at the rate it's coming down we might have an inch by Christmas! Christmas 2018, that is...

Oh, and thanks to Anne for organizing the Christmas card exchange. It got me off my duff and over to the post office to buy postage. Except I forgot to buy Canadian stamps. For those I'll go to the Variety store close by as they sell "regular" stamps. My sister said she paid $2.00 extra per pack of stamps because they were Christmas-themed! WTH!

If someone gets upset because I didn't use a Christmas-themed stamp for their card - TOO BAD!

On  second thought....these are SO 

Slowly but surely things are getting done. I dug out my Christmas baking recipes and next I'll make a list of what ingredients I need to buy. After purchasing two gift cards for my nephew and sister-in-law I am down to one person left to shop for. I don't usually get done shopping this early so feeling very accomplished :) Nothing is wrapped however, and it looks pretty empty under the tree. Lots of time, lots of time!

After my cash withdrawal last Monday of $120 I have $30 left. Normally I would plop that right into my snowflake box but because it's the Christmas season I'll keep it in my wallet for now. There are usually a number of extra and forgotten expenses to cover...meals out, extra groceries, another bottle of wine or two, hostess gifts and OOPS - haven't got the kitties anything yet!! :) Do you think they'd notice if I put fresh catnip into old toys??

Lily Pad is no sucker!!

How is your Christmas prep going?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What is a Snowflake Box?


A reader asked me today "what is a snowflake box"? So I am putting this question out there to my fellow blog writers because I think there are a variety of answers to this question. I hope my bloggy friends will add their own unique answers in the comment section that will help to explain this concept.

Here is my answer and I hope it makes some sense:

I was fortunate in being given a bright red box with a snowflake  design on the lid. It previously held aromatherapy bottles that I've used up over the years. This has absolutely nothing to do with the snowflaking concept. It just happens to be the right size for keeping money in. I know people who use a jar, an envelope, whatever works.

My understanding of "snowflaking" is finding extra money somehow and storing it in a container to use sometime in the future. This can be done in a multitude of ways. Here's how I find extra $$ to add to my box:

  • I am the beer and wine bottle returner in my household. My daughter and her boyfriend tend to leave their empties in my house. Every two months I return those bottles and get the deposit. I add this to my snowflake box. Free $$  :)
  • Many people have "side gigs" from which they earn extra $$ - they then add this money to their container.
  • I over estimate my bills. Ex. I budgeted $70 for Union Gas this month but the bill was only $54. The extra $16 increased my misc budget line. This is one of the easiest and oldest tricks in the book and it motivates me to try to save on utilities
  • I'm on a 10 month property tax plan. I don't pay in December and January. That is an extra $300 for the snowflake box. The idea being to save anything extra!
  • Some people buy and sell on Ebay & Facebook. I hold one garage sale a year and add those funds to my box. 
  • Other people, myself included, save and roll their change, turn it in for bills which they add to their container. Living in Canada those loonies and toonies really add up quickly. 
  • I use my President's Choice Mastercard to purchase absolutely everything! This results in a minimum of $500 extra each year in points that I use very judiciously. 
  • My biggest contributor to my snowflake box is by using a strategy I call "Grandmother's Purse" - I hope I can explain it properly. It's based on a very simple system my gramma used. She did it on a monthly basis whereas I do it on a weekly basis. It really works. For me. And did for my gramma :) 

Both my gramma (she passed away in 1986 but her incredible impact on me is still alive and well today) and I live(d) on pensions. Most of our "snowflakes" are derived from our set monthly pensions. We haven't had side gigs so we learned to squeeze our money extra hard. 

When my gramma got her pension cheques she would cash them and put the money in her purse. Her "everyday" purse. At the end of each month whatever was left in her purse, however little, would be transferred into purse #2; I guess you could call it her "snowflake purse".  She didn't spend the leftover money, didn't splurge on anything she didn't need, she would tuck it away and forget about it. She kept the snowflake purse hidden behind a pillow in her spare bedroom. Each month she would do the same thing: cash her cheques, pay her bills, buy food and tuck the leftover amount away. 

Since I also live on pensions, a set amount each month, I've had to get creative. I follow zero-based budgeting methods (create a budget where every penny has someplace to go) and after bills are all covered the rest of the money goes to savings, gas, groceries and misc. I divide the misc amount by four and take out that amount once a week. For December that amount is $120 each week. Every month it could be a different amount depending on my bills. I always try to have a few "no spend" days so that the misc amount will stretch out to cover 31 days. 

So far this week I've used $80 towards Christmas supplies - napkins, Bailey's for morning coffee, wine and chocolate. I also used $80 worth of my points to buy stocking stuffers. The remaining $40 may or may not end up in the snowflake box, depending on expenses for the rest of the week. It's funny but you'd be amazed at how motivated you can get by the idea of adding extra money to your snowflake box. I think and rethink every purchase. I can't tell you how often I've been tempted to blow the money on something. But my inner dialogue goes like this: do I need more clothes? NO!! Do I need more Christmas decorations? NO!! Do the cats need more toys? Hardly!! That usually stops me cold. So the hope is that I won't use the remaining $40 and I'll tuck it into my box. I admit this is harder to do in December but I'm trying :) 

Before you think that I am poor and deprived (or depraved :) let me say that my snowflake box paid for over 700 British pounds for my last trip abroad. I paid cash for my car. (That $$ came from multiple savings accounts in addition to snowflakes.) I recently purchased a Yamaha keyboard using savings. That is to say...I purchased with my mastercard to get the points then paid it off the same day. What a racket!! summarize - at the end of each week whatever I have left in my wallet from my misc budget line goes into the box. I am encouraged to spend less so that I can put at least a little bit into the box. It really adds up. I don't think I could wait and do it only once a month - I find weekly is more gratifying for me. And I can hardly feel deprived when every week I give myself an amount usually in the $160/week range to spend on whatever I want! Right now there is $1000 in the box. Yes, I have a really good hiding place for it!! If for some reason I need to use some of it this month I will - I'm not a miser. Though once I put $$ into the box I really hate taking it out - it's some sort of psychological barrier - it becomes "untouchable" once it's in the box!! Whatever is left at the end of December will go towards my trips planned for 2018. 

Having something you're really passionate about, like I am with travelling, is also motivation for saving vs spending. I know a couple of bloggers who would agree with me on that!! 

Fellow bloggers: What is your version of you use a box?? Where do your snowflakes come from?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Counting Down or Counting Up?

I've had the idea for awhile to add a "count up" timer to my sidebar. I think I had a "count down" timer for at least five years leading up to my retirement. Now I would like to keep track of how long my retirement lasts before, you know, My Time is UP!

Not to be morbid or anything but my teaching career lasted 22 years and I hope to spend at least that many years being retired. My retirement age was 58 so if I make it to the age of 80 I will have been retired for 22 years as well.

I have really good old-age genes from my mother's side of the family: my great-grandmother, Lydia Jane, lived to be around 105, my grandmother lived to be 94. Two of her sons, my uncle Fred and uncle Arthur, recently died, one being in his mid-90s. There is one remaining uncle and he is around 92 and going strong.

Lydia Jane; getting a visit from St. Nick

The Harrison side of the family hasn't fared as well with cancer taking its toll. My Aunt Betty who recently passed was 85, but she is a Harrison through marriage. I have a cousin battling a brain tumour and it was his 50 year old son who passed away a week or so ago from cancer.

Do you ever wonder how long you will live? I've posted a link below to a quiz you can take to find out - of course the quiz can't take into account the possibility of falling off a cliff or being hit by a bus but it is kind of fun. Kind of fun if your results are at the high end of course!

How Long Will I Live?

My estimate is 97. My hope is 100. Stay tuned....hahahaha!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

How's it Going eh?

I'm back to using my fingers splint again thanks to a bad hit in volleyball last week though it doesn't hurt as much this time around. But it does make typing a challenge :) 

All around this has been a challenging week or so. The son of my first cousin, so my second cousin, passed away at the age of 50, from cancer. During his cancer battle his dad was also being treated for a brain tumour. Then an aunt passed away a few days ago and when I went to the funeral home I saw a notice that an old friend from childhood days and to whom I was related to by marriage had passed away - another battle lost to cancer.

Hey Darth - did you drop something?
My grandmother had a saying - "a green Christmas fills the graveyard" and I believe there is some truth to that.  Viruses and superbugs that don't get killed off with the milder winter temperatures wreak havoc in hospital wards. The hospitals here in London announced recently that 9 people have died from a streptococcus outbreak! And they are running out of ways to treat this which is very scary. We've had several mild and green Christmases the past few years - on my way to Norwich yesterday the golf courses were very busy!
Eyes everywhere!
While I love to walk through Kilally Meadows in mild sunshine I would embrace a cold snap right about now. And let's not forget how farmers rely on deep snow cover in their fields during the winter months.
Climate change is here and denying it like ostriches with our heads in the sand isn't going to do any of us any good in the long run. Other bugs (and I don't mean viruses this time) and beetles are heading into Canada and the northern states as their territory expands. Longer warm seasons encourages migration of various creepy crawlies - the pine beetle is an example of this and is killing trees by the thousands, maybe millions!

Okay, really didn't plan on going off on a tangent there!  Sometimes it just happens.
So....onto the financials! Those are looking pretty good thankfully. My snowflake box now holds $1,000 - Christmas is officially covered. And I only have 3 people left to buy for - yippee! And the house is decorated...well...the tree is up and has its lights on but the decorator - Kazi - hasn't had time to put on all the baubles yet. Maybe later today...she is with her sister Hannah today - Hannah is being raised Catholic and today is her confirmation. Kazi went over early to do Hannah's hair and makeup. Told her to take pictures so hopefully...
Faces galore!
 With regard to the budget:

  • my share of the car insurance has shrunk by $10 a month - I'll take it!
  • internet has decreased by $30 a month - hurrah! (now I'm going to look for a better, cheaper cell phone plan)
  • I'm on a 10 month property tax plan so no taxes to pay this month or next :)
  • I budgeted $70 for heat, hot water heater and dryer and it came to only $54!
  • I budgeted $70 for electricity but don't have that bill yet - in winter we use an electric fireplace in the TV room so that it's nice and cozy in there, down there?
  • I increased my food budget for December and have $80 set aside for gas. I may use it all this month what with trips out of town but that's ok. 
  • The budget is balanced and hopefully I can keep spending in check. I must admit I've been tempted to buy new clothes, new hiking boots etc but so far so good.  Tis the season for shopping but not on myself!! Not til the new year and boxing day sales!!

 I'll have a nice pay raise in January so looking forward to that. It would be super nice if the raise in pension was higher than the increase in my bills! Well, I can dream, can't I? So far I think property taxes are being raised by 3.8% - boo! Condo fee is being raised as it is every year though I'm not sure how big the increase is. I've stuck the notice in a drawer and am too lazy to get up and get it for you.
Sorry. Not sorry.
I have about $500 in misc spending for December - hoping I don't use it all so that I can start buying British pounds. The $500 has to cover the remaining Christmas gifts, extra food and alcohol, stamps for cards, entertainment and so on. I'll stretch it as much as I can.

That wraps up my update for today. How are your Christmas preparations going?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mendelssohn - Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave) (Abbado)

This song from youtube is to do with the next post:)  - Hope you enjoy it!

November Crunch is On...

Apparently a snow squall warning is in effect for these parts- meanwhile the sun is shining. I am not complaining!

I am considering this photo of Lily and her Christmas mouse for Christmas cards this year...

My chili stretcher week was a success (chili with buns; chili on top of a baked potato with sour cream and taco salad - romaine, scoop of chili, grated cheddar and crushed tortilla chips) but there are still 9 more days of eating before the next budget takes over. I grocery-shopped on Monday and used $20 of PC points in addition to the $70 that was left in the food budget. Not to worry (though no doubt I will anyways) as I have put a meal plan into place. After reading all of your posts the past 10 years or so I don't know why I wasn't meal planning sooner!!

Upcoming yummy dinners include Tuna Melts, Chicken Fajitas, Salmon Patties, and/or Salmon Steaks, Stuffed Peppers, Jerk Chicken and Breakfast for Dinner. 

That's not quite 9 dinners but I get two meals out of some of these recipes and sometimes more if Kazi eats at her boyfriend's house or goes out with friends like she did last night. So I'm pretty confident that I'll make it to the end of the month before the end of the contents of the fridge :)

My Snowflake Box (extra savings squeezed weekly out of my misc budget) currently holds $620 with about the equal amount being added in December. Christmas is paid for - hurrah! And my PC points will cover extra food, what I need for baking and stocking stuffers. Yes, I still do a stocking for Kazi although she is 27 years young. She says it's her favourite gift. All I do is go to the Superstore and purchase lotions, facial masks, hot chocolate, toothpaste and other drugstore type items and then wrap each one with the odds and ends of leftover Christmas wrapping paper. Covered by points it costs me nothing but time. So why mess with tradition?

I don't usually do a lot ahead of time though I do have a turkey frozen since the Thanksgiving sales. I have gifts for one of my brothers (he's so easy to buy for) - I bought him a book by an author we both love about the "WILD" parts of Scotland, a CD called "The Secret Path" written by Canadian superstar rock god Gord Downie of the band "The Tragically Hip" who recently passed away from a brain tumour. The CD is about a young indigenous boy who ran away from a residential school in winter and was found frozen to death. True story. My brother makes his living as an oil painter and told me the last time I visited that he wants to explore stories of Canada's First Nations people for inspiration for his paintings. Whenever he tells me these things I tuck them away in my mind as gift ideas :) The other thing I got for him is sheet music for Mendelssohn's song about Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa. My brother plays piano and we plan to see the Isle of Staffa next year if all goes well! 
I'll post the song by Mendelssohn in a separate post.

Now if only the rest of my family was so easy to buy for! My great-nephew is 10 and I have not a clue about what 10 year old boys are into these days - his Thomas the Tank Engine days are over unfortunately!

Suggestions??? Anyone???

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sunshine on my Shoulders Makes me Happy

It seems like forever since the sun was shining around here but today it finally is. Flood warnings are in effect though as the Thames River has received a ton of rain recently. Not to mention that white stuff. See? I'm not going to mention it!

Life has been chugging along satisfactorily. I would say my only problem (if this can be called a problem) is that I need a few more hours in each day to get done the many things I want to get done. I complain frequently that there are not enough hours in the day. Years ago, before retirement, I imagined that most of my time would be spent lounging around reading from a big pile of books.

What I didn't imagine, but should have, is how much time my other hobbies/sports & recreational activities would consume in a day. If I had then I might have fewer hobbies and more reading time. So the point of this is do I try to be more efficient with my time, ditch a few hobbies or try to make reading a priority?

Perhaps a combination of all three:

  • I have ditched, sort of, a couple of hobbies - I'm never going to be an expert crocheter or spool knitter. Now that I've put my outdoor bike in storage I spend time at night riding my stationary bike (and watching Netflix) to make up for the hours I had been spending cycling outside. Instead of long hikes I walk 2km twice a week to volleyball and then try to find ONE sunny day each week for walking in the forest. I also play volleyball on Friday nights. Each day I do 30 minutes or a bit more of yoga and stretching. My back has been giving me fits but I find yoga really helps. If you ever have lower back pain the cobra pose (start with baby cobra) provides instant relief!

BABY Cobra


  • Time management is not one of my strong suits. Today is genealogy day and Wednesday is workshop day.  So far I've done zero genealogy today. I've read the paper, made a meal plan, had breakfast and gone grocery shopping. And I have to say that the sunshine is compelling me to go to the forest. **just checked the forecast and tomorrow looks like a really nice day so I will delay the walk until tomorrow after volleyball and today I will do research all afternoon. There, that's solved!

  • I guess instead of complaining I should be happy (I am) that I have so many choices of "things to do"!  On the bright side I finished a book during all of the rain and am partway through three others (part of the problem!!! I need to stick to one book til it's done - it's just that others beckon me with their wonderful covers and promises of what's inside!!). I'm reading a lot about Scotland especially the Isle of Skye. I am trying to find more times throughout the day when I can pick up a book. It's pretty much my most favourite thing to do yet I keep putting it off. No more!! 
See ya!

Hah, just kidding! Sort of.....first yoga, then reading while eating lunch and then research! 

See ya!