This pandemic is making me do crazy things. Like math.

Heading into these lock downs and the physical distancing mandates back on March 13th (oh, yes, Friday the 13th strikes again. The irony is not lost on me), I never imagined that I would fall prey to a level any higher than my usual for madness. Last night, that changed when I did something that I always thought that I should do but knew I never really would because, well, tedious. And because too much math. And because just plain UGH.

I have done this type of thing before when it involved very simple variables. Like figuring out that price per hamburger patty when I make them fresh vs. buying pre-made or frozen patties. Easy-peasy, right? Exactly, that’s why I would/could do it and then use the results to artificially boost my ego with just how clever I was. Last night though, I raised that bar, and now I’m afraid I may have overshot and will need to keep at it, because my competitive nature will not allow me to stop.

So, what did I do? I calculated just how much money I save each time I prepare our weekly pizza and panzos ritual at home instead of just ordering pizza from Pizzaville (Sutton location only, if you please) for dinner (seven people). As you know, I’m a sharer, so I’m going to give ya’ll the break down (again, the irony is not lost on me that this break down helped to self-diagnose the beginning of own breakdown. Go figure).

Each week (just about), I prepare six panzos and one large eight slice pizza. This serves seven people dinner and leaves enough pizza for Mr. K.B.’s lunch the following day. When we ordered pizza for dinner (back all those months ago when we did such wild and crazy things), we would order one party pizza and one large from Pizzaville. After feeding seven people, leftovers did not really happen, so this was enough for seven dinners, so lunches. It would cost us $38.40 (no drinks or sides and I always picked it up, so no delivery charges), or $5.49 per person. Which is an unbeatable deal if you’re planning say, like, a wedding or a funeral, but for a typical eat-at-home dinner, that’s a bit rich for my budget, and while I would take it from the “Entertainment” or “Restaurant” line from the budget and not my “Grocery” money, it would still equal just over of $150 a month. $150 for weekly pizza dinners!?! *Hanging head in shame*

To make our pizza nights at home, I make a double batch of pizza dough, grate a bar of cheese, cut up the onions, mushrooms and pepperoni, nothing is pre-made or pre-cut. Last night, I used homemade sauce with tomatoes from the garden, so there was no real cost for it, but typically I do use a large jar of Classico. Here’s the break down:
Ingredient Costs:
Pepperoni: $1.99
Onion: $0.20
Mushrooms: $0.50
Cheese: $3.97
Sauce: $2.00
Flour: $0.42
Yeast: $0.14
Olive Oil: $0.72
Sugar: $0.01
Salt: $0.01
Water: $0.00
Total: $9.96

For just less than $10 I can make eight meals, feed seven people dinner and have lunch for one of them the following day, so the cost is $1.25 each portion. Monthly, this equates to $39.84, so in terms of just cash in hand, making the meal at home saves me $113.37 a month. With everyone one home with me 24/7 and no end to that in sight, this extra $100+ helps to cover the extra grocery and sundry costs we are incurring during this first decade of 2020.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It is more time consuming and labour intensive to prepare all of our meals from scratch. At least that’s the rational I remember using when I used to order pizza or we would head out to a restaurant for dinner. If nothing else though, this pandemic has forced me to re-examine some of my favourite go-to beliefs when I’m trying to get out of doing something I don’t want to do. I mean, when you think about the time spent ordering online, deciding who, if anyone is coming with you, getting out of the house, driving to pick the order up, waiting around the pizza place for it to be ready, driving home, getting all set up and eating, it’s no longer really “fast” food. When I order at 5pm, it was usually ready for pick up around 5:30pm, sometimes there would be a wait, so there was another 10 minutes spent hanging around, and then the 15 minute drive home and by then I’ve already spent an hour getting dinner to the house, and about 30 minutes in the car. It’s 6pm. So, I maybe save an hour by ordering, but it’s cost me in other ways, not just financially.

When I start the dough at 4 pm, in the privacy of our own home, the first panzos are on the pizza stone in the oven before by around 4:45pm, the last one (mine), goes in just before 6pm. I haven’t needed to leave the house, I haven’t even needed to change out of my pj’s if I am so inclined that day, and I’ve kept the money I would have spent safely tucked away for the next time I venture out to replenish my pizza supplies. I mean, grocery shop.

It is not a myth. We all do have a price. No, wait. Mine, apparently is $113.37? Putting it that way and in writing makes me think that I may be looking at this issue entirely wrong-headed. This quarantine-brain defect condition of mine is no joke, I tell you. Quickly! More math – $113.37 x 12 = $1360.44. Okay now, that’s better. Saving over a thousand dollars makes me feel WAY better about my choices AND gets me 1/20th of the way to a new (to us) family car. Zoom, zoom!

This one has peppers instead of mushrooms, but the math is the same 😉
Before and after. After is on a full 2020-sized dinner plate, not one of our 1970’s dinner plates (that are a good two inches smaller in diameter). Home panzos are 12 inches long, on average. Baked, not deep fried and SO delicious (if I do say so myself).

Extra veggies because that’s my job, lol. Also, I use the edge of a spoon and sauce to write their names on their panzos, since toppings often vary and heave forbid one get peppers and the other one get meat! Some days, I wonder if my parents ever truly appreciated the simplicity of having an only child to manage?

How is your pandemic grocery budget going? Spending more, less or about the same? Any tips, tricks or strategies to share? Tell me! For us, staying out of restaurants and away from take-away food has been a huge money saver, but I do admit to sometimes wishing that I could hit that virtual “easy” button and let someone else do all the work involved in feeding this crew. Ugh, talk about your first-world problems. Yikes.

Cue the intense privileged class guilt.

P.S. Physical distance with me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.

Also, if you happen to like what you read, please consider signing up to receive updates via email, just in case you decide, like I recently did, that social media is doing your head in but you still want to read things that will make you feel better about your life choices (and stories about my daily life tend to have that effect on people).
xx
~A.

A day late and a dollar short, but I’m still here.

When I started writing this post, I was almost a week late with it. I am now over two weeks late and barreling towards three weeks late with it. Apparently my time management skills hit the skids when I’m surrounded by six other people, 24/7 who all need something from me. Go figure. That said, I am eternally grateful that those six people are here at home with me, where I know they are safe (from the outside world that is, from me, not so much). Meh.

That said, now that I’m over two weeks late with this, I will offer, in my defence, that I have succeeded in other ways these past two weeks. For example, I have only suffered from five self-inflicted kitchen injuries (with more cussing than actual blood being shed); I have showered EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.; I have prepared meals for seven people daily, without skipping any and done so three times each and every day while also providing the occasional (read: constant) snacks; I have only tripped over the cat ONCE; and finally (and I am most proud of this one) I successfully navigated the weekly grocery shopping TWICE without snapping at or stabbing a single other shopper for encroaching on “my bubble” or for being just generally wretched and oblivious. 

So, now that I’ve bragged (read: justified) about me, let me brag about #MyFive. These are pictures of the Mother’s Day gifts each of them made for me this year. All designed, handcrafted, and worked on so enthusiastically and happily. They were each so excited for Mother’s Day this year that it was both touching and a little suspicious. But, my suspicious nature was wrong and they weren’t setting me up for a big confession or repair bill. 😂

While I still have a trunk full of kindergartener macaroni art, tin can vases and recycling-material based crafts that I cherish (even if I can no longer identify the artist or the subject) I have to admit that with this years gifts I won the Mother’s Day lottery. 😂

Happy Mother's Day drawing
Miss Moon captured us enjoying an ‘only child’ moment. Lol!
Carved from wood and painted with love from my Pax boy.
Deacon thought that my letter opener was “a little bit broken” (Read: broke down), so he decided to make me a brand new one. He was particularly proud of the brass screws. Best part? It works as amazingly as it looks like it would!
Deacon, part 2
Handcrafted wooden cutting board
Mas has made this at school and has been waiting to give it to me for months. I admire his restraint almost as much as the craftsmanship. I’m terrible at keeping presents for later!
Declan has been wood working more lately and created this gorgeous set for me. I don’t know how he did the plaque inlay, but I just love it!

2020 has been a weird year so far. Birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions have been celebrated “under quarantine” which is something completely new for most of us, but it’s still important to celebrate these times and milestones. I have now celebrated 26 Mother’s Days as a mother, and I think that this was the first one that my kids were SUPER excited for the day, which made my day that much more special. Since Mother’s Day, we have also celebrated our wedding anniversary and Miss Moon’s 10th (!!) birthday, quarantine-style. In all honesty I think both occasions were so much more enjoyable spent at home and not feeling the pressure to find a restaurant and piling everyone into the car to spend too much money on sub-par food.

Of course, this is only Day 74 for us. Check back when we’re closing in on Day 100, lol!

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Quitting Diet Soda and Finding a company with AMAZING customer service. The two events are related, I promise.

Good bye Diet Pepsi

As many people know, I have been drinking diet pop for as long as I can remember. For the past fifteen years, I have seldom been seen without a 710 ml bottle of Diet Pepsi in my hand, drink holder or purse. I have very early memories of cases of pink TAB soda cans in our kitchen. After that, Mum switched us both over to Diet Coke and then, well, diet anything. Then, as a teenager I had a friend who only drank Diet Pepsi and was so positively scornful of any other brand, that hanging out with him 24/7 started me on a long, sometimes expensive relationship with Diet Pepsi.

I wish I could say that I suffered all sorts of side effects from diet soda, but I can’t. I’ve always been (relatively) healthy, and over the past year lost enough weight (mostly by accident) that I am finally, and for the first time in over a decade, at what is considered to be a “healthy” weight and BMI and not considered to be overweight or obese.

I am aware of the opinions, studies and concerns that have been shared about diet soda, aspartame, caffeine, bubbles, the colour brown, etc. etc. Honestly, I’ve heard them all and I wish that I could say that any one of those things caused me to question my dedication to Diet Pepsi, but alas, no. What caused me to finally look critically at my choice to continue my decades long habit was when I realized that I was feeling what I can only describe as panicky any week that Shoppers Drug Mart was not offering their weekend deal on the six-pack of Diet Pepsi bottles (because I would NEVER pay full price – for shame!). Being stubborn, independent and headstrong I resent being dependant on anything, I was also unhappy spending money on something so completely unnecessary for health or happiness. Thus, I knew the time had come to end my relationship with diet soda.

My first step was to tell Mr. KB that I wanted to stop drinking diet soda, and so I would stop buying “my kind” but that if he wanted to keep drinking it, I would continue to buy his, of course. He has never really liked the idea of drinking diet pop anyway, but I suppose when it is the only “adult” drink in the house he naturally fell into drinking it as well. He quickly agreed that he also wanted to stop and that we’d do it together. I would likely switch to various herbal teas and he to water. And that’s when things start getting spicy around here.

Water

We are not on town services. This means that our house is serviced by a drilled well and a septic system. We have a water treatment system in our cold room, that includes a softer and UV light. Our water is safe, plentiful, lovely and we never have to pay a water bill (thankfully so since these ever-increasing bills seem to cause many Georgina households a huge amount of stress every three months). But occasionally, and especially in the spring, we can get a slight sulfur odour in our water and while perfectly safe to drink, is off-putting if you’re trying to drink a glass of water straight from the tap.

So our discussions commence. Option A: Do we buy yet another Brita filter and keep it filled in the fridge? This sounds economical and reasonable, I know. Unfortunately though, for some reason, I HATE having to fill the jug. I can’t stand waiting for the water to filter through, then add more water, make sure the jug is full, on top of having to make sure to create and maintain space in the fridge for this awkward pitcher. I just find it so annoying for some reason. Embarrassed to admit that this quasi-irrational reaction of mine may be there reason that we have purchased and ended up donating quite a few Brita systems over the years. I mean, I really do like the idea of the Brita filter, but the reality of having one never works out. Or, option B: Do we install the under-the-sink water kitchen filter we bought a few years back and use it for all of our cold water needs, including cooking? Since we already own the under-the-sink unit (and it came with a filter) and the specs for the one we chose still fit our needs, I was quick to vote for the kitchen sink thingy.

Mr. KB agreed and over the weekend he spent time gathering the bits and pieces needed to install the filter. It leaked. Not at the fittings, but right out the top. Mr. KB is very clever and handy and fixy and nothing he tried was worked to stop the leaking. So, since we need water from the kitchen faucet all of the time, he un-installed it and we weighed our options.

Do we: a) Keep trying to fix this unit? b) Contact the manufacturer and hope that it’s an easy fix (since we bought the unit YEARS ago, there is no way to return it or deal with a warranty claim); c) Chuck it and buy a new one? or d) Just buy the dreaded Brita?

We went back and forth for a bit, but finally decided to go with option (b) as our first plan and agreed to regroup if that failed.

The filter system we purchased was manufactured in Canada, in Richmond Hill to be precise, and that is located less than an hour from our home. I called them up and the woman walked me through the possible issues. She also said that if I wanted to, I could just bring it in and they would replace the itty-bitty spring-loaded o-ring on the bleeder valve, which is what she suspected the problem may be.

My ears (and spirits) perked up. Bring it in, you say? For free? And you’ll fix it for me? Yes, please!

A few days later, I made the trip down Highway 404 to Richmond Hill, filter housing in secured in the seat beside me and within twenty minutes of handing it to the secretary, it had been water-tested and had the o-ring changed out and brought back to me along with a new, free filter! How do you win customer loyalty for life from me? Give me quick service and some free swag and baby, I’m yours. Rainfresh, it turns out, totally had my number.

Under the sink water filter system
Oh, hello there you handsome (and now) leak-free giver of water! You’re so much sleeker than a clunky Brita filter! 😍

P.S. Please! Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, but occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it all.
xx

Looking for a great water filtration system for your home? Rainfresh by Envirogard is Made in Canada – check them out on Amazon.ca!

All I can hope for is that he uses his talents for the greater good one day.

Paxton is now at that stage of development when all of his baby teeth seem to fall out at once. Case in point? He has lost four teeth in the past three or so weeks and most of those have been lost in the past week.

These newly liberated chiclets have been conspicuously absent from his bedtime routine though. Turns out that Pax has a theory. He theorizes that the more teeth he antes up the more cash he will net per tooth. So, he has purposely been saving them up in the hopes of a large windfall.

But, like happens with most of the best laid plans, disaster struck. He lost the fourth tooth at the after school program earlier this week and forgot to bring it home with him (this was not a surprise). Staff, thinking it was just a wad of bloody Kleenex left on the table (go figure!), they tossed it out during clean up (the staff remain blameless and still candidates for sainthood because ewwww – kids can be gross!).

So, last night, having only three teeth, not the missing four, to offer up to the Tooth Fairy, Pax got to thinking.

Not to be deterred by his predicament, really rather not interested in suffering potential financial hardship, and completely unable to accept that it may be the result of unfortunate (albeit avoidable) circumstance, Pax decided to make the Tooth Fairy a card to explain the situation and make his pitch for mercy (and money).

He probably could have spent a bit more time, but he was on a mission to write the actual message inside.
Only this kid would show up without the goods and ask for MORE compensation in return. Lol.

Generally the children who board here receive $2 per tooth. I wonder if Paxton’s strategy worked? And if it did, maybe it’s one that I should explore further… (in some other way that does not involve losing my teeth!)
~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Pretty sure that this is a true story

Now, I don’t like to brag (kind of lying to you, right out of the gate here 🤷🏼‍♀️), but I’m almost positive that last summer I was a too-cool, quasi-popular,  bubbly and perky fourteen-year-old with poor curling iron skills, hanging with my friends, sporting heavy electric-blue mascara, crop tops, mini skirts and my amazing white Tretorn canvas tennies (true story).

So, really not entirely sure how this summer I find myself staring into the rapidly falling face a forty-something-year-old bedraggled, unkept mini-van-driving mum with (at best) smeared eyeliner (typically applied hastily to one eye), living in a Costco-special skort, Walmart flip flops and food stained tee shirts that passed “the smell test,” driving to yet another soccer game while asking my twelve-year-old in the backseat to please stop shoving Cheddar Penguins up his nose, no matter how close he is to “the record” while simultaneously pleading with Jesus to “take the wheel” because this just cannot be real life (second true story).

Also, pretty sure that I did not see this situation on the horizon last summer, when I was still young, impossibly cool and had never even heard of Cheddar Penguins (or at least I’m pretty sure that this time existed).

I don’t mind admitting to you that all of this is really causing me to call into question the basis for my belief in my innate “coolness” in a whole new and frightening way. I believe that I may have crossed a line that cannot be uncrossed (truest story of them all).

Now, I gotta run. The umpire is about to blow the whistle or shoot the pistol or whatever it is that happens at soccer games to let the kids know that it’s time to score some baskets, drive some balls or steal a base. Never a dull moment here and see? If nothing else, I am finally figuring out soccer-speak. 💁🏼‍♀️

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

She would have been 106 years-old today and I miss her still.

Julia Winepress Phillips, born on this day in Dundee, Scotland, 1913.

My grandma would have turned 106 years-old today. I spent every weekend from the age of two until twelve with my grandparents. She loved me unconditionally, confided in me, listened to all of my blathers, and never questioned the truth or validity of any of my stories (“Oh, aye now, really? Well, isn’t that just an awffie (awful) thing to have happened to ye? Ah well, dinnae ye worry aboot it, Lovey”). She would sit in the backseat of my grandfather’s car with me (while he sped, swore and occasionally hit things with his car) and sing, laugh and delight in our time together. I could do no wrong in her eyes, nor she in mine. I was her best friend and she was mine.

We would sit and talk for hours on those weekends, she would tell me stories about growing up on Malcolm Street in Dundee, and how they would move house occasionally, but always stayed on Malcolm street. She told me about her brothers and sisters and the one baby girl who did not survive infancy, about her stern mother and wee-Irish father, and going to school and being forced to use her right hand rather than her left (she ended up being ambidextrous as a result) and about how terrified she was when she was sent out to work, delivering milk to houses with dark doorways in the wee hours of the morning as just a tiny five-year-old, because her family needed the money. I’m still not sure if she was more scared of the police officer who brought her home or her mother’s reaction that she’d be ‘caught’ and the resulting at the loss of income it caused.

She talked about being a nurse when she was a young, single woman in Scotland, about her dreams of being a nun and being told ‘no’ by her mother, as she was needed to earn money to support her parents and siblings. She told me about working in the factory during WWII and meeting my grandfather there and how during their first date, his temper got the better of him and he threatened to punch another man in the theatre for being too loud (in hindsight people, the signs are ALWAYS there if we are not blind to them).

She told me about coming to Canada on the boat while she was almost nine-months pregnant and tending to her toddler while my grandfather socialized with other travellers for the duration of the journey. She told me about their early years in Canada, the struggles, the scares, the near-misses.

She always stood tall and proud, she always sat straight-backed and knees together, perhaps crossing her feet at the ankles. She wore skirts with tights and was always clean, presentable, no matter the time of day or the weather outside. She tended to her family, house, and home with a fierce determination and pride. Her house was immaculate and her floors were waxed by hand. She worked outside the home for thirty-odd years (retiring at age 67) and still cooked dinner every evening. She cooked, cleaned, ironed, mended, sewed clothing (she made that dress she’s wearing in the picture above and almost all of her other clothes) and she made ends meet. The beds were always made, the mirrors always shone. She had her hair washed and set by the hairdresser every Friday and never once polished her fingernails.

She refused to let the outside world know her pain, heartache or difficulties. “Don’t let anyone know it hurts. Walk on, like your ankle isn’t sprained, like your back doesn’t hurt, like your heart isn’t broken, don’t limp, don’t frown, and for heaven’s sake, don’t cry. Smile and keep your head up and look them in the eye as you pass. You just need to get home. You can cry there. Never let anyone see you cry.”

My grandma never stood taller than 4’10” a day in her life. By the end of her time with us, she was closer to 4’7″ and could no longer sit or stand quite as tall, and her clever and sharp mind had betrayed her, but she was never less than a titan to me.

I will continue to miss her every day of my life.

Happy birthday, Grandma, until we meet again. xoxo




P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

WEEK 4 Update and Wrap Up: Bringing the Grocery Budget Back to Reality: A Four Week Challenge

Three weeks (or a lifetime) ago now, I posted a grocery budget challenge for the month of May. You can read Week 1 here, Week 2 here, and Week 3 here. If you would rather skip the preamble, scroll down for the Week 4 results and wrap up.

Preamble
This challenge, in a nutshell came about because while most of our children were younger, our grocery budget was consistent and small. They were small. They didn’t eat much and I tended to avoid the more expensive pre-packaged snacks and sugary treats, juices, etc. The bulk of our budget, honestly, would go towards produce. As they have gotten older and bigger, they eat more, and coupled with increasing prices, my grocery budget has also had to grow. And I allowed it to become overgrown.

This year, April was a grocery budget disaster (I have three grocery/food categories that I track: Groceries, Restaurant Meals and Junk Food, and Health and Beauty (includes household consumables, like toilet roll). I generally, at this point in our family’s growth, would like to stay at $600 a month for groceries and HBA and $75 for Restaurants and Junk Food (includes pop, ice cream, etc). Looking at that figure now, it looks crazy high, but keep in mind that I do generally prepare five lunches each day (kids and husband), seven days a week, six to seven dinners a week, six breakfasts a day seven days a week, plus provide all snacks, treats, and drinks (mostly milk and free water for the kids though, truth me told!) out of that budget. Not to mention toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, first aid, etc. etc. etc. So, overall, it’s not horrendous, just mildly alarming, I suppose. Crunching the numbers (well, getting my spreadsheet to do the math, really), it would seem that I have gone over budget by about $170 each month from January to April. YIKES!

So, this month, I’m bringing sanity and reality back to our grocery budget. Drastic cut backs will ensure that I prepare meals with all of the ingredients that I already have on-hand and use up all the bits and pieces hanging around the cupboards. My goal is to spend no more $60 PER WEEK on groceries, knowing that just about all of that amount will go toward milk and fresh produce (my kids consume, on average, around 18 – 24lbs of apples each week, just to give you an idea of the scope I’m talking about when I saw “fresh produce”).

In the spirit of honesty though, I must admit up front that before deciding to do this, I spent $15 on a Good Food Box (local produce) which I picked up last week. We still have some potatoes, onions and peppers left from that box – see the WEEK 3 Update for a picture of the contents. I haven’t included that amount in any of the weekly tallies though, I guess I’ll consider it a “Happy Spring!” gift to the family, lol.

Week 4 Update:

This fourth and final week went fairly well. Now that I’m well and truly on the right side of my gallbladder (the side waving goodbye to it!), I was able to reflect on some of my grocery shopping behaviour and I have come to realize that I may suffer from a semi-severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to great ‘stock up’ prices. Coupled with my resistance and aversion to paying regular price for groceries (or if I’m being honest, paying regular price for anything really), is one of my greatest struggles when it comes to strictly adhering to my (self-managed) grocery budget.

For example I have enough salsa to last a good while, but the one that we like does not go on sale terribly often, and while it is not a super expensive fancy brand, I do have that aforementioned aversion to ‘regular price’ so the it went on sale during Week 3, I bought 2 jars.

Similarly, when I check my weekly PC Optimum points bonus offers and receive a good offer and I find that I can pair it with a sale or good price-matching opportunity, I struggle to let it go and not take advantage of the offer, knowing full well that the item in question is definitely something that we not only will use, but it is something that we regularly run through quickly (like breakfast cereal, berries, milk or apples).

But I’ll stop the blathering and get to down to the nuts and bolts, the brass tacks, spill the tea, give you the skinny, ugh, just stop me – here are the numbers.

Tallies

May 1 – 8th – Goal: $60.00
May 1 – 8th – Actual: $65.54
Result: (- $5.54)

May 9 – 15th – Goal: $60.00
May 9 – 15th – Actual: $30.16
Result: +$29.84

May 16 – May 22nd – Goal: $60.00
May 16 – May 22nd – Actual: $86.46
Result: (-$26.46)

May 23 – May 30th – Goal: $60.00
May 23 – May 30th – Actual: $70.69
Result: +$10.69

Monthly wrap up:
Spending Goal: $240.00
Actual Spent: $252.85
Difference: $12.85 – OVER BUDGET

Average Weekly Spend: $63.21
Average Weekly Overage; $ 3.21

So, I did not make my $60/week goal, but I’m still going to let the Fresh Prince dance for this one, because going over budget by $3.21/week is the equivilant to three heads of lettuce or four pounds of apples, which I cannot begrudge or regret at all.

There are so few who do a happy dance with as much aplomb as the Fresh Prince, amiright?

Now, I still am housing a very well-stocked pantry and full freezers that I would like to cycle through, so I will need to think on a good pantry/freezer challenge to tackle for June or July, we’ll see how the rest of this week goes.

P.S. Please! Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

WEEK 3 Update: Bringing the Grocery Budget Back to Reality: A Four Week Challenge

Two weeks ago, I posted this grocery budget challenge for the month of May. You can read Week 1 here and Week 2 here. If you would rather skip the preamble, scroll down for the Week 3 Update (spoiler alert, I bent the budget).

This challenge, in a nutshell came about because while most of our children were younger, our grocery budget was consistent and small. They were small. They didn’t eat much and I tended to avoid the more expensive pre-packaged snacks and sugary treats, juices, etc. The bulk of our budget, honestly, would go towards produce. As they have gotten older and bigger, they eat more, and coupled with increasing prices, my grocery budget has also had to grow. And I allowed it to become overgrown.

This year, April was a grocery budget disaster (I have three grocery/food categories that I track: Groceries, Restaurant Meals and Junk Food, and Health and Beauty (includes household consumables, like toilet roll). I generally, at this point in our family’s growth, would like to stay at $600 a month for groceries and HBA and $75 for Restaurants and Junk Food (includes pop, ice cream, etc). Looking at that figure now, it looks crazy high, but keep in mind that I do generally prepare five lunches each day (kids and husband), seven days a week, six to seven dinners a week, six breakfasts a day seven days a week, plus provide all snacks, treats, and drinks (mostly milk and free water for the kids though, truth me told!) out of that budget. Not to mention toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, first aid, etc. etc. etc. So, overall, it’s not horrendous, just mildly alarming, I suppose. Crunching the numbers (well, getting my spreadsheet to do the math, really), it would seem that I have gone over budget by about $170 each month from January to April. YIKES!

So, this month, I’m bringing sanity and reality back to our grocery budget. Drastic cut backs will ensure that I prepare meals with all of the ingredients that I already have on-hand and use up all the bits and pieces hanging around the cupboards. My goal is to spend no more $60 PER WEEK on groceries, knowing that just about all of that amount will go toward milk and fresh produce (my kids consume, on average, around 18 – 24lbs of apples each week, just to give you an idea of the scope I’m talking about when I saw “fresh produce”).

In the spirit of honesty though, I must admit up front that before deciding to do this, I spent $15 on a Good Food Box (local produce) which I picked up this week. I haven’t included that amount in any of the weekly tallies though, I guess I’ll consider it a “Happy Spring!” gift to the family, lol.

Week 3 Update:

The third week of May was a tad bit rollercoastery. Recovering from surgery, celebrating our wedding anniversary, having a long weekend (yay Victoria Day!) and celebrating a birthday (my baby girl is now nine!), I definitely faced some physical and budgetary challenges.

Also, I did end up buying pizza for the gang on our anniversary (Mama can’t eat things as lovely as pizza so going out for dinner seemed silly and cooking on my anniversary while also juggling a soccer practice? Um, no thank you. I did though decide to take that from my ‘gift’ category, since who says that every now and then pizza isn’t the greatest gift ever? It would appear that when in doubt or feeling sheepish, I call food a ‘gift’ and slide it right into that budget category, but perhaps that is an issue to explore another time?

Blah, blah, blah. Just stop procrastinating and spill. How did the spending go? Well, in a word, it went OVER.

Did not make special shopping trips, but still, spending money 5 out of 7 days is not cool.

What I did notice from the list above is that 48% of the entries are for produce, 24% for breads and grains, 14% for dairy and just 5% each for meat, fish and salsa. All this means is that of the 21 entries, 10 were for produce (although multiples of each item were usually purchased). This is not pertinent to the budget, more something that caught my interest and confirmed what I thought. This family runs on produce and bread. Lol! We also received our Good Food Box last week, which while not a ton of produce, definitely helped and much of it is already gone.

Tallies

May 1 – 8th – Goal: $60.00
May 1 – 8th – Actual: $65.54
Result: (- $5.54)

May 9 – 15th – Goal: $60.00
May 9 – 15th – Actual: $30.16
Result: +$29.84

May 16 – May 22nd – Goal: $60.00
May 16 – May 22nd – Actual: $86.46
Result: (-$26.46)

May 23 – May 30th – Goal: $60.00
May 23 – May 30th – Actual: $TBD

As usual, I do have carry-over from the last week into this week, so I don’t necessarily need to buy certain things each week. This week I will need to buy milk, as I haven’t been stocking up on it (no PC Optimum bonus offer, no milk stock up – hurumph!). I also check the upcoming flyers as soon as they are available and if something (like berries or lettuce) is one sale this week but will be priced higher next week, I will buy it a day earlier in order to avoid the higher price. This week I also have berries, pop and yogurt on my list (with some nice PC Optimum bonus offers), so I’ll be picking those up over the next few days.

If I can keep the spending to just under $60, I think I’ll have met the challenge’s objective and will be in good shape to move onto June’s challenge (which also involves food – go figure).

There are so few who do a happy dance with as much aplomb as the Fresh Prince, amiright?

P.S. Please! Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

When the long-awaited prognosis is “there’s no hope for recovery.” What then?

To set the scene, you’re at the doctor with a complaint. They diagnose the problem and your first reaction is relief (that you’re not crazy and it’s an actual ‘thing’) followed closely by a practical “okay, so what do we do about it, how do we fix this?” You’re given your options (there are usually at least a few) and maybe a plan is set forth to rid you of this issue, or at the very least, to deal with it. Disgust, fear, sadness, anger, frustration, depression, all of those feelings may come later, and none would be unexpected, depending on the diagnosis and prognosis.

So, that covers what may be a typical scenario, but there are other scenarios, aren’t there? Ones where the outcome is less positive, less reassuring, and far, far less okay.

You attend a hospital clinic appointment for a years-long issue (an issue which was, incidentally, discovered quite by accident when receiving annual follow-up for an unrelated and non-fatal condition). While the doctors have never been able to pinpoint or explain to you how you ended up with this very rare (you meet exactly zero risk factors), and likely non-genetic yet life threatening condition, you have so far endured years of treatments to manage the situation. All the while, never imagining that the mystery of the ‘why this, why me and how?’ will never be answered, but there is it. No answers.

It is while you are in attendance this latest appointment, that you ask the question “so, what can be done to get rid of this?” You are told, for the first time throughout the entire ordeal “nothing. There is nothing we can do for this particular problem.”
“Can it get bigger/worse?” You ask.
“Oh yes, it could.” Your clinic specialist physician says immediately.
“So, I’m a ticking time-bomb? The walking dead, essentially? Nothing will help? No treatment? No laser, surgery, medication, nothing will make this go away?”
“No, nothing. It could stay the same, it could change. We have no treatment options. Please make your next clinic appointment on your way out.”

Now, before I continue, this is NOT happening to me, my husband or my children. None of us are the patient in this scenario and I will not reveal the person’s identity out of respect their privacy. I am, however, a completely entangled and emotionally devastated ‘other’ receiving this news and I am, for the first time in my life, absolutely devoid of coping strategies or ways to either help the patient or myself to deal with the twisted rainbow of emotions, the paralyzing fear and grief upon hearing this news. If I can’t speak the words out loud, or even think them in my head without crying, how am I expected to deal with this?

What do you do when you are given NO hope? How do you cope with the news that not only is there no hope, there is no fight? There is no chance to over come, that no matter what, nothing you do or don’t do will have any impact on the outcome?

How do you prepare to be left? Knowing full well that everyone who is born, everyone who is in our lives will one day die, how do you prepare knowing that it may not be from very, very old age, but rather an unexplainable, unforgiving and untreatable malfunction from within? How can there be no hope?

I can deal with a lot and I have dealt with a lot. I have survived a lot and I will continue to survive a lot. What I don’t know, what I can’t figure out is how to deal with any of this without any hope. I can’t figure out how to survive any of this without even the smallest possibility that it’s all going to be okay.

This is all still new information for me and I am processing while absolutely losing my collective mind at the same time. My immediate rational reaction, to search for studies, treatment, other doctors, specialists, third, fourth, fifth opinions have been exhausted and now I am just broken and sad and trying so very, very hard to pull myself together. My being broken hurts everyone I love and I know that if I am not okay, then none of them are okay either but honestly, how am I going to fake my way through this one? How do I hold on to or even find any hope when I’m told in no uncertain terms that there is none and the only certainty is the loss of this most precious person from my life?

I am open to any and all suggestions, because I got nothing on this one.

~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

This is the price that I gladly pay for raising literate children.

So. Mugsy here insists that her children read. Before these babies could properly sit up, they had shelves of books to look at, chew on, drag around and drop. She also insists upon reading to her children (currently only the younger four, between the ages of 8 and 14). She reads books upon books, chapter after chapter, novel after novel. From the time the children were hardly more than delicious little morsels with chub-chub thighs and wrist-less sausage-like arms over which she could marvel and upon which she could nibble during their 2 a.m. parties (turns out that some babies are really quite crap at sleeping – who knew?) and afternoon cuddles alike, she would read to them. She reads them stories from L’Engle, Dahl, Pilkey, Shannon and Blume. She reads them poems from Silverstein and Mother Goose, and tales from Parks, White and Rowling. She reads them Llama Llama and Dr. Seuss until they can all recite them from memory. She thought she was responsibly and rightly encouraging literacy. Being an only child herself, she had no idea that she was also promoting something else entirely.

One day a year or so ago while she roamed around Costco bemoaning to herself about the price of baby carrots (she doesn’t get out of the house often), she came across an absolutely irresistible boxset of books and before she could stop herself (as if she really tried 😏), she purchased it and once home reverently removed the cellophane wrap. Mugsy and her children were about to enter the weird and wacky worlds and words carefully crafted by David Walliams.

Isn’t it beautiful? 😍

Beginning with first book in the box, The Boy In The Dress, and whipping through one novel after another, in the prescribed order, Mugsy and her children shared in the joy and pleasure of each new chapter. They laughed at the crazy characters and waited to hear the next ‘special deal’ the kind-hearted newsagent, Raj, would offer his next ‘favourite’ patron. Finally finding a story without Raj shocked them all, and not believing that it could be true, they waited for him to appear. When he did not (won’t spoil for you which novel he’s absent from), they all felt, well, a little betrayed. Alas and ahoy however they pressed on, for they were “readers” and not “quitters.” (Whatever that is supposed to mean).

That brings us up to present day. The motley quintet are reading the last book in the boxset, Grandpa’s Great Escape, relieved to find that the world has been righted and Raj is back. Giggles and guffaws from Mugsy’s eager listeners come in short order when Raj tells young Jack “I have an excellent deal going on yoghurt. Well, I say yoghurt, it’s last month’s milk and…” But just a few pages prior to that classic Raj moment, on page 110, is the place where things take a bit of a turn and what inspired this blog post. The passage is on page 110:

Usually, learning new terms and words is something I celebrate, but sometimes, it leaves a little something to be desired.

Fast-forward a week or two later, after still more reading of three-to-five chapters of GGE while the children eat dinner (most weeknight evenings). Everyone is happy and invested in the story, although they do not discuss the book outside of their dinner hour. That is, until one early morning (and all mornings are such early mornings during the week), when Mugsy asks her youngest son if he would like a second egg on a second English muffin for breakfast (his usual school morning breakfast fare). Without looking up from his plate, without batting an eye he says “Oh, yes, please Char Lady.”
“I’m sorry?”
“Yes, please Char Lady” Said now, with an elfish, cheeky smile starting to spread across his face as he lifts his eyes to meet Mugsy’s shocked expression.
“Char Lady!?! Are you kidding me? You cheeky booger nugget!”

The explosion of giggles that follows, from both the boy and Mugsy are the sort that can only happen in spaces were there exists absolute trust, love, and the safety for spontaneous outbursts of silliness.

So now, when I ask any of my younger sons to do anything, they’re apt to reply with either “yes Char Wallah” or “yes Char Lady” and immediately start to laugh. At times when I am giving them a list of things to do, I will end the with “and thank you, Char Wallah” just to make them smile as they set on their way to scrub their toilet or make their beds.

It is in these exchanges, these small moments in time, around forgettable and mundane tasks that we are able to create the happiest memories, the times they will (I hope) one day look back on and smile about, remember yet another ‘inside joke’ that only the four of them will share long after I am gone.

So, since Mugsy here is to be called Char Lady or Char Wallah by a small army of my own making, I can’t think of a more lovely memory to have (and to share) of the moment when I realized that all time spent reading to and with my people has been so much more than ‘just reading.’ The time spent has encouraged them to become readers themselves, helped them discover the magic of being lost inside the pages of a book, and has (gently) forced them to become literate (despite the occasional ‘more better’ that may slip out when one of them is tired or distracted).

Our time spent reading has done all of that, yes, but even more than that, we have been stitching together moments like this “Char Wallah” moment which ultimately help to create the fabric of their shared experience of childhood, of parent-child interactions, of their relationships with one another and with me. Realizing this, it is my dearest hope that one day, when one of them needs it the most and expects it the least, that another one of them will let loose an eye roll and a “yes, Char Wallah” on him and that their memories of this time together and the feelings of safety, of family and love, of happiness and home may encircle each of them like a warm hug and make their hearts happy again. If only for that single moment in time.

Right then. Enough of the soppy stuff. This Mugsy / Char Wallah/Lady must go and prepare the evening meal. The children are hungry and we are all looking forward to reading chapters 47-52 of G.G.E. For now that Mrs. Trifle has finally found a loo, had her tinkle and “shaken it off” (no loo roll left, of course) and she, Grandpa and Jack have resumed their escape attempt from Twilight Towers and it’s matron, the high-voltage cattle-prod-wielding diabolical Miss Swine. We are all on the edge of our seats waiting to find out where the story will take us.

And finally, please believe me that no matter how tired, busy or fed up I am, hearing any of my children ask if I will read to them, do ‘the Word of the Day’ calendar with them or plead for ‘just one more chapter, please!’ makes my heart so incredibly happy (well, happy that is until I stop reading and they kick off one argument or another, for the fifty-billionth time, but that’s a different post for a different day), and I suspect that it always will. 📖❤️
~A.

P.S. Join me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted on one site or another. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, if you like what you read here or hate what you read here, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx