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!

Perhaps my most favourite spam email of all time has arrived.

In this day and age, it is rare that I see any of the spam emails that come through my Inbox. These new finagled Junk Mail filters have greatly improved since the early years of email (remember those days of dial-up and seemingly endless waiting for downloads? Sigh), when each email had to be sifted through in order to figure out which were from people I knew, people I wanted to know, people I didn’t want to know / or was hiding from and which emails were from people I should seriously consider obtaining restraining orders from. Ah, the 90’s. Bless.

But those days are a long, distant memory now. I almost never think of email spam, since I never see it and only notice the Junk Mail folder when the numbers creep so high that I feel obligated to right click and hit ‘delete all’. Until, that is, yesterday.

Glorious, wonderful, yesterday. The second day of the second decade of my second witnessed millennia, January 2, 2020. It was on this day that this marvelous beauty nugget of prose arrived and landed squarely in my Inbox, addressed, as it was, to my first initial and my maiden name, I was instantly hooked. So impressed was I, that I decided to share it here. With you. Because I’m a giver and this here, this is a gift.

It would appear that this email was sent to me in error. Poor woman. She is far too young for me. And I am decidedly female. And I am married (to a man). And I do not live in Toronto and avoid visiting there if at all possible. And, well, truth be known, I’m just not that into her. *shrug*

BUT WAIT!

In case anyone reading this is (or knows someone who may be) interested in following up with this stable, clearly sincere and trustworthy person on her/their offer of love (even though she/they is/are trite), mutual communication and more than likely a solid financial and emotional fleecing and is currently (or will soon be) in possession of “a real man’s characteristics” ( and just as an aside, I want need further details as to what these characteristics are, just in case I do have any), this gorgeous mood-lifting email was sent from (spelled out so as to not create a riot or a clickable link) gregorxharriettee at outlook dot com.

If any of ya’ll give it a whirl, please share the update with me and the rest of us? I love a good happy ending as much as the next girl…

Have you gotten any note-worthy unsolicited emails lately? Ones that aren’t telling you that you’re about to get $26 million dollars from a bank in Nigeria (as soon as you send them a few thousand dollars for paperwork) or to “click here” to enhance your manhood/bank account/secure your account? I wanna know!

P.S. Join me on FacebookInstagram 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.

Is that WEED?

Ugh. So, this is 2020?

I spend a fair amount (read: half) of my life driving my people from place to place, mediating arguments and pulling over to allow any number of body functions to happen outside of my minivan. In other words, kids are fairly gross and my life is the definition of dazzling glamour. Don’t hate. Someone has to do it.

Thankfully, today on our way home from our first outing of the year, there was no call to pull over, threaten ejection from the vehicle or any other emotionally taxing and scarring action on my part. Unless, of course we count having to listen and participate in the conversations that occur behind me while I’m navigating our roads in my quest to keep everyone alive (which, incidentally, is how I spend the other half of my life – trying to keep everyone alive – ugh).

This afternoon’s conversation was one of those.
Driving north on Woodbine Avenue:

D13 – Ewwww. What’s that smell?
M15 – I dunno.
M9 – Ugh. It’s probably just from the fields. I don’t even smell anything.
D13 – Well, Mummy smells it.
M9 – D, just because Mummy smells it, doesn’t mean I have to, you know.
D13 – Ugh. Whatever, M.
M9 – Whatever, D.
P11 (appearing to just tune into the conversation) – Wait! Is it WEED? Is that what WEED smells like? I don’t know what WEED smells like – does it smell like this? This smells really bad. Mummy? Mumma?
Me (age withheld) – It is not weed. I am not sure what it is, but I’m actually fairly certain that it is smell is my brain frying combined with bitter regret and the tears of angels.
D13, M15, M9, P11 (in unison) – Oh.

P11 – Do angels really cry, Mama?

And that, my friends, is the sound of the “Mother of the Year” people shredding my entry and striking my name from the eligibility list forevermore.

Happy New Year, from my motley crew to you and yours! May 2020 bring more convoluted conversations, grey hair and teenage eye rolls. Those are a few of my favourite things ever. xo

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.

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

Last week, I posted this grocery budget challenge for the month of May. You can read that post here. If you want to skip the preamble, scroll down for the Week 2 Update. 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 will pick up later this month when it is available. 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 2 Update:

The second week of May was a bit of a mess for us here. I have been battling gallstones all month and was scheduled for surgery. Friday brought an attack of pancreatitis secondary to gallstones which lead to my admission into the hospital that afternoon and my surgery was fast-tracked to Sunday evening. I came home on Monday morning. Needless to say, our stockpile and freezers came in very handy in keeping the troops fed during this unscheduled interruption. On the upside, I wasn’t able to do any grocery shopping until last night, so this week the total is nice and low! I will likely use that money to splurge to buy the crew pizza for dinner tonight (none for me and my battle-scarred carcass) to celebrate our anniversary (which is today, yay!).

Since I did end up spending about half of my budget last night though, I will list what I got for the money.

Food Basics:
5x 3lb bag macintosh apples – 1.67 each
2.07 kg red grapes – 2.80/kg
1.5 kg Barlett pears – 2.16/kg
Total spent: $17.36

Shoppers Drug Mart
2x PC snacks (clearance) – $.79 each
2x Danone yogurt (clearance) – $.59 each
1x 4L 2% milk – $4.39
3x 2L Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi – 3/$5
Total spent: $12.80

Grand Total – $30.16

The apples will last almost a week if I’m lucky (except that at one point last night, I did notice that Pax had an apple in each hand, ugh) and the grapes should make it through the weekend. The pears will be gone before Sunday. The PC snacks will last just over two weeks and the yogurt will provide 12 servings (total), or three days of yogurt for my smalls. The pop will last the entire week from Saturday to Saturday. Overall, can’t be sad.

We still have romaine, cucumbers, other apples, broccoli, frozen veg and pretty well stocked freezers, so this week I will need to restock the milk (tend to use 16-20L a week) and pick up berries, but overall, I think keeping to the $60 should be completely doable.

Oh! And I get to pick up our Good Food Box this afternoon, so I’m excited to see what produce we have to work with from that source as well!

Tallies

May 1 – 8th – Goal: $60.00
May 1 – 8th – Actual – $65.54

May 9 – 15th – Goal: $60.00
May 9 – 15th – Actual $30.16

May 16 – May 22nd – Goal: $60.00
May 16 – May 22nd – Actual: $TBD

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

If there is any interest in knowing that I manage to procure for what I spend, I’m more than happy to share my weekly shopping results as well, just let me know. 🙂 Also, I tend to have carry-over from the previous week to the present week, so I don’t necessarily need to buy certain things each week. 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. I think that as long as I come out of this challenge with an average spend of $60 a week for four weeks then I’ll be able to truthfully call the challenge met.

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

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

Money. Some people have so much they never notice where it goes or how much is going. Other people never seem to have enough dollars to get to the end of the month without using credit and wracking up debt. Others of us though, do have enough dollars to get to the end of the month and carefully track where each and every dollar and dime go, updating the spreadsheets or notebooks daily, weekly or at least regularly. I fall into this last category. For the past five or more years, I have maintained an annual budget spreadsheet wherein I have tracked each and every expense, in sometimes painstaking detail. Before the spreadsheet, I maintained our budget in notebook and tracked bills, expenses, and income. For some people, the idea of doing this is sheer agony, but for me? I love it. I like knowing where our money is going, knowing approximately how much we’ll need for this expense in the upcoming year or where our spending has gotten a bit heavy and needs to be cut back in order to stay within our family values.

For years, 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. The fact that I also like to maintain a small pantry/stockpile and shop the sales, while it definitely ensures that I tend not to pay full price for meats, tinned goods or grocery items, it does mean that sometimes, the weekly outlay is more than I have allowed for in my budget. An occasional month of that, here or there, does not have much effect, but when it happens a few months in a row, I know that it’s time to pull back and re-evaluate. I also know that it’s time to start whittling down the freezers and stockpile in order to make room for new products, so nothing goes to waste.

This year, May is my month in which to do this. 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, 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 will pick up later this month when it is available. 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.

I will update weekly with my actual spending on each Thursday.

May 2019 Weekly Grocery and Food Spending Challenge

May 1 – 8th – Goal: $60.00
May 1 – 8th – Actual – $65.54

May 9 – 15th – Goal: $60.00
May 9 – 15th – Actual $TBD

May 16 – May 22nd – Goal: $60.00
May 16 – May 22nd – Actual: $TBD

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

If there is any interest in knowing that I manage to procure for what I spend, I’m more than happy to share my weekly shopping results as well, just let me know. 🙂 Also, I tend to have carry-over from the previous week to the present week, so I don’t necessarily need to buy certain things each week. 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. I think that as long as I come out of this challenge with an average spend of $60 a week for four weeks then I’ll be able to truthfully call the challenge met.

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