Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Boxing Day Fun ...

In this province, the Boxing Day sales are on the 27th so we headed out today to see what we could find. After an all-you-can-eat Tex-Mex buffet bought on gift cards, we went downtown. We had fun using up our gift cards from a local kitchen store (sporks, olive spoons, grapefruit spoons, a new rolling pin and a pizza stone - all the essentials!) and then headed to the mall.
Oh my.
I never really thought every parking spot in an enormous mall parking lot could be filled but this one was. I wanted to leave then and there but I was persuaded to stay and I eventually found a spot. Inside, it was crazy busy but we still managed to find what we wanted. I got a prepaid smartphone for $59 at a major electronics chain, which surprised me since I just assumed they would be sold out. In fact, nothing was sold out which makes me wonder if people were just out looking instead of buying. I also got lots of half-priced chocolate, nuts and cookies so I am well-stocked for a while. Alas, no tea sales though!

Monday, December 26, 2011


Who knew I could eat so much? Two turkey dinners, carrot cake, pumpkin pie, endless chocolates, salsa dip and chips and now a chocolate Chex mix that's just too addictive - yup, there's going to be a diet in my future! Maybe even starting tomorrow.
Fortunately tea's got no calories and I got a nice selection of 12 for Christmas from David's tea so some fun ahead trying those. I also got a selection of hot chocolates - Gourmet Village - in such flavours as butter pecan and peanut butter. Unfortunately, they're not calorie-free but hopefully I can show a little more restraint than I did today.
Yup - fruit and salad days are definitely coming my way again and not a moment too soon!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I wish for loads of food and good tea for everyone!
I confess one of my favourite Christmas Eve traditions is hitting the grocery store late in the afternoon to take advantage of the markdowns - yeah, cheapness is part of my holiday fun! Anyway, today's haul was small but delicious - half price fresh cranberries which will be stored in the freezer for later use, honeydew melon which has already been eaten, fresh trout and haddock for a healthier new year and which have been frozen and a half price rotisserie chicken, which will end up being our turkey, which means savings on cooking costs as well. Gotta love those bargains!
Best wishes to all!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New computer!

I finally broke down and ordered an iMac on Black Friday. Earlier in the year, I had bought a PC netbook because I thought I could get by with it - but no. For one thing, it's a PC, which means the constant threat of viruses and just the plain annoyances of that system. Secondly, it was just too small and therefore uncomfortable for me. My old eMac was about 7 years or more old and while it still worked, was getting slow and couldn't be updated so I knew I had to do something. Being me, I ordered the expensive exactly-what-I-want-Mac in its most basic forum and on Monday, it arrived.
Yeah, Macs are more expensive but it arrives with everything I need (Garageband, iPhoto, TextEdit and a pile of other stuff I haven't even looked at yet) and it works. Easily. It sets up easily and it works logically. The fact it looks great is just a bonus but an important one - who wants to look at something ugly all day? The fact I bought it on Black Friday essentially meant I saved the tax and I also got a reduced price on Microsoft Office since I need that program for freelancing.
I love this machine, mostly because I was able to set it up all by myself and it works exactly as I want it to - and who could ask for more?
The weather here today is heavy rain and high winds. 13 C, which is pretty amazing for the 8th of December. A perfect day for a spicy tea like Orange Spice or Upton's New England Harvest Blend - which sounds like a fine idea right about now.

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's not hard to do

A few years, we pretty much stopped going out to eat for financial and culinary reasons. Financial is pretty much self-explanatory but the culinary simply means we tend to make better stuff than anything we get out - I'm not bragging - it's just that homemade food tends to be tastier. The interesting offshoot of this is that we never get indigestion or food poisoning any more, which in itself, is a disturbing thought.
I also allow myself $5 a week for either a snack or an outing with a friend. When you're out Christmas shopping at the mall, a break for fries or a chicken salad wrap at Tim Horton's (big and only a $1.54 here) can be a welcome break.
As a result, when events occur and we do get a free meal out, we really enjoy the outing. This weekend saw us attend two such events, one a thank you party for volunteers and the other was a staff party for my part-time job. The volunteer party was held at a hotel and featured an all-you-can eat buffet with very limited selection. The staff party was held at a gourmet restaurant and featured a traditional chicken dinner and orange ginger cake for dessert but it was nicely done. Both were good but I confess at both, my tummy ached afterwards. The interesting thing was the tea. The gourmet restaurant served up lukewarm dishwater while the hotel's was piping hot and quite tasty. I've never been able to figure out how places which make good food can goof up something as simple as tea. All you need is boiling water and decent quality bags - is that so difficult?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Oddly thrifty

It's after 4 on a cold dark December day and I'm sitting here in front of the computer, with nary a light on in the house. I don't really consider myself a thrifty person but there are some things I really hate spending money on. One's electricity during the day for lights and the other is heating oil.
For some odd reason, buying heating oil is to me the same as burning dollar bills. But since my house is heated by an oil-fired furnace, some has to be bought every winter. But that doesn't mean I plan to buy a lot of it - I keep the house warm enough to prevent any pipes from freezing but the rest is done through extra blankets and plenty of warm sweaters and fleeces to get through the worst of it. Luckily, I love wearing cozy clothes so this has never been a hardship.
And while I do like electric light, paying for it is not something I enjoy so I deliberately refuse to turn on any light, even at this time of the year, before 4 pm.It helps that I prefer natural light, especially the softer light at the end of the day. As a result, my electric bill is pretty low but I do live in a province where the electric utility seems to come up with new ways to gouge the consumer on an almost monthly basis - my usage keeps falling but the darn bill keeps going up!
I'm not thrifty when it comes to my weaknesses, tea and chocolate. I know of people who actually re-use their tea leaves - that's not going to work for me - but I'm also willing to try anything so it's led me to some pretty good lower-cost alternatives. Sometimes taking a chance on a new product or a sample given out at a shop can lead to great new taste adventures. So it's all about spending what you have on what matters to you.
And yes, heat and lights are important but I'd rather splurge on other things.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Another Christmas season

I've always liked this time of year although there have certainly been some unhappy times during the years. I enjoy decorating, the foods and yes, even gift giving. I am disturbed by the recent uncharitable trend that seems to be appearing with people doing their darnedess to get out of giving presents.
Oh sure, if times are tough, certainly. No one should ever expect those who are having financial problems to go into debt so others can have presents or treats. What I am talking about is a general lack of wanting to give, to help others. You see it all over blogland - people complaining about the pressures of finding the right present for people "who don't need anything."
Says who? Everyone needs something - maybe you just need to put a little effort into finding out what it is. But don't limit yourself to tangible things, like the latest gadget.
My favorite gifts have run the gamut from an expensive musical instrument to a book to an inherited plate. The musical instrument has led to thousands of hours of enjoyment and a career as a professional player. The book is one I still reread on an annual basis. And the plate cost nothing - it was simply passed on from my mother to me but it's a pretty one and it still makes me marvel whenever I look at it.
Unfortunately, many people seem to equate gift-giving with buying stuff or expensive presents. There's much more to it than that. To me, it simply means putting a little extra effort into a relationship, something to make it more special. Sometimes it does mean buying an engagement ring or something expensive but most of the time, it can simply mean making a special meal or dessert for that person - their favorite cookies, for example - or even a promise they'll have complete control over the remote on certain days (not everyday - we don't want to be ridiculous here). Gifts don't have to cost anything but they do have to be specific to the person - otherwise, there's no point to the whole exercise. The plate from my mother cost her nothing but it was a good choice for me because she knew I loved fine bone china and beautiful things.
Some of the nicest (and cheapest) gifts revolve around food. We all have to eat and most of us have favorites but it's always nice to try something different that could end up being a favorite. Here are some food-related gifts that I have given over the years.
1. Tea - surprise! But seriously, there are thousands of teas out there to try - and very few cost much.
2. Coffee - this can range from a Tim gift card for those who need their daily fix to a single cup coffee maker or a container of K-cups. A pound of coffee beans is also a nice gift.
3. Mugs, teapots, implements - all the essentials for making your favorite brew. A good teapot may cost less than $50 but could last a person for a lifetime.
4. Chocolates - not necessarily a box of the usual but a box customized to their tastes - for example, a box of chocolate covered apricots or strawberries for the fruit lover. Or even a collection of favorite bars.
5. Food baskets customized to that person's tastes.
6. Gift certificates or cards to favorite lunch spots so a person can indulge on that cold, miserable February day when you really need a treat.