Thursday, December 25, 2014

Not A Creature Was Stirring...

Merry Christmas from the Witch and all her crew!

Friday, January 3, 2014

First Grocery Shopping of 2014

Okay, here it is, our first grocery shopping of the new year. And we did it on the coldest day that I can remember. It was -26 C (about -15 F for those of you who might be metrically challenged) according to the readout in the truck but it was at least nice and sunny. It almost seems pleasant now because it is storming outside again today. The wind and snow are bad enough that they have sent everyone home from work. Good thing I'm still on holidays! I’m just hoping the electricity stays on.

The first groceries of 2014.
The first groceries of 2014.
It was nice that I got to go shopping, though. Usually, Hubby does the shopping by himself after work so that we can avoid having to go on the weekend. I love reading labels and squeezing produce but he really gets grumpy if we have to fight the crowds to check out. So we had a nice afternoon at the Superstore and I got some healthy ingredients for my new diet. Have a look at that picture, not a single bit of junk except for the oven fries and the cheese slices and those are all Hubby's! The cheese slices were on sale, $3.00 instead of $6.99 so it was a great time to stock up. I don’t use them very much but Hubby has them in sandwiches all the time.

The veggies are always a staple in our house but I purchased more because of the new diet.  The pantry, as you can see, is full of temptation from Hubby’s well wishers this Christmas. I think they are trying to kill us with kindness. These I will have to remove from my view because there is so many good chocolates calling my name. They will make excellent Games Night prizes.

The Temptation: a pantry full of chocolate!
The Temptation

After the madness of the Christmas spending spree we're back to budgeting. I'm serious about paying of our mortgage this year. We figure that if we can put down $5000 against the principal this year, we can be done by November. This sounds more than doable. We have both cashed out our banked overtime (hundreds of hours each) and will use that, with some savings, to fund this year's RRSP contribution. The tax rebate will be used to pay down the mortgage.

The Bill

Grocery bill: The Total
The Total
With that in mind, I spent some time earlier looking for a way to track our spending. I found a good spreadsheet on Sqawkfox's site to analyze my monthly and annual spending and Hubby made one using mostly her categories to track daily spending. Now I just need to be diligent in filling in what we spend everyday. Retirement is still on the near horizon and I have to know how much we'll need to survive.
Hubby's Daily Expense Form
Daily Expense Form

So, the diet starts on January 6. That's when I return to work. Unless I win the lottery, then I’ll just jump for joy and book a flight somewhere warm and toasty. Of course I’ll have to buy a new bathing suit. No, forget the suits, we’ll go to a private beach where no suits are required. Oh to dream as it’s storming outside and everything is closed. Hope you are all safe and sound and your vehicle starts.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Did Granny New Year find you?

Happy New Year All,

Did Granny New Year find you?

I’m hoping everyone’s New Year will be off to a great start.

There is always promise, hope and of course, new year's resolution to be had. I don’t usually go for this sort of thing because I know it’s just a huge letdown when I break my promises to myself. Which is why I mostly don't announce them to the world.

Anyway, this year I’ve decided to post a few.
  1. Have the mortgage paid off by the end of this year.
  2. Find a forever fur friend pet. Yup the witch has been looking for a small dog or fun loving cat or even a bunny who needs a good home.
  3. Lose some weight and eat even more healthier than we do. Sorry Hubby I’ve found lots of great tasting veggie recipes with kale. Plus walking a dog will help, right!!!
  4. Buy a set of snow shoes so we can enjoy the outdoors more in the Winter.
  5. Paint the upstairs bathroom and add a new mirror and shelf. Oh Hubby I have some plans for you. Don’t worry this will be easy compared to the Gazebo you built us.
  6. Finally buy a generator.
  7. Host a murder mystery party
  8. New lamps for computer room and down stairs.
  9. Try to do acts of kindness more often so I can watch the recipient's reactions. I find they cheer me up more just giving them anonymously .
  10. The last one I won’t be sharing with anyone but myself because it is the hardest and most personal decision I will be making. I don’t need the added pressure of having printed it out if I fail.
So there you have it the goals and challenges for 2014.

Thanks for all who still hung around during my absence. That’s what great blogger friends do. (Canadian Saver, I miss you!)

I’ll leave you with a few pictures of my beautiful Amaryllis


Amaryllis Closeup

Amaryllis Again

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013, Everyone

My first gingerbread hous!
My very first gingerbread house and I made it all from scratch. I just had to share.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Games Night is Always Lots of Fun.

A new Easter flag to welcome our friends to Games Night!
A new Easter flag to welcome our friends to Games Night!
Well, Games Night has come and gone for another year and I think it was a great success despite the fact that I was suffering with a miserable cold. Luckily, I had made most of the preparations and gathered all the games and prizes the previous week so all that was left to do was clean the house and prepare the meal. This being Easter weekend there were bunnies everywhere.Everything was done nice and early, and because it was such a beautiful day outside, Hubby washed Black Beauty (again!) so that he could show it off to our friends. It does look great when it is clean and the sun is shining on it.

Every one arrived shortly after 3:00 and Hubby took the guys out for a spin around the block in the new truck (so much for it being clean, sigh). When they got back we put out some snacks and got everyone a drink and the we got right into the games!

It was a beautiful day so Hubby decided to wash Black Beauty, (AGAIN!).
It was a beautiful day so Hubby decided to
wash Black Beauty, (AGAIN!).
It is a pretty truck, especially when it's gleaming in the sunlight!
It is a pretty truck, especially when it's
gleaming in the sunlight!

The first game was the Elimination Game. Last week I mailed each of the four guests ten playing cards and I gave Hubby his own set of ten right before the game. There were two cards left over in case anyone wanted to trade. I had a matching set of cards in a bag and, one by one, I pulled out each card and the corresponding card was eliminated. After each group of ten cards there was a small consolation prize and the person with the final card got to select a prize from the Prize Basket. All the prizes were wrapped so that nobody knew what they were getting but these guys have all been here before so the knew to go right for the packages that felt like boxes of chocolates! Everyone loves chocolates, right? The other prizes included shower gel, packs of Kleenex, a novel, a puzzle book, lottery tickets, etc. There wasn't anything really expensive, it was all just for a laugh. The winner of the Elimination game, not surprisingly, managed to find the biggest box of chocolates!

The Easter Bunny Girls.
The Easter Bunny Girls.

The dining room / games table is all set for a night of fun!
The dining room / games table is all
set for a night of fun!

A close-up of my beautiful birthday orchid.
A close-up of my beautiful birthday orchid.

Home-made butter tarts were just part of the dessert menu.
Home-made butter tarts were just part of the dessert menu.

Here are the games and the prize basket.
Here are the games and the prize basket.

The Elimination game is underway!
The Elimination game is under way!

The winner of the Elimination game gets to select the first prize from the basket.
The winner of the Elimination game gets to select the
first prize from the basket.

The next game was trivia contest. I found a great and timely quiz on the CBC website about the recent demise of the penny. The quiz is just below and I'll put the answers at the end of this post if you want to play.

1. Four of the five designs that have appeared on the reverse side of the penny have included maple leaves. What was the fifth design?
A portrait of a rock dove
A rendering of the Atlantic puffin
A view of the St. Lawrence River
A sketch of the Canadian Rockies

2. About 35 billion pennies have been minted since 1908. If they were stacked on top of each other, this would be the equivalent height of this many CN Towers:

3.The federal government announced plans to withdraw the penny, owing to production costs. How much did it cost to make one penny?
1.6 cents
2 cents
3.1 cents
5 cents

4. The net cost of redeeming the six billion pennies expected to be turned in over the next six years will cost the federal government:

5.How many pennies can you cram into a four-litre pickle jar?
344 pennies, or $3.44
4,992 pennies or $49.92
12,280 pennies or $122.80
175,333 pennies or $1,753.33

6.This country has also eliminated the single-unit coin from circulation:
New Zealand
All of the above

7.The last penny was produced in May 4, 2012 in which city?
London, England
Ottawa, Ont.
Winnipeg, Man.
Calgary, Alta.

8.A rare Canadian penny sold for $402,500 US at auction in January 2010. The penny, one of three ever made, bears this unique feature:
A misspelling of the word "Canada"
A small dot below the year
Renderings of both King George V and Edward VII
A hexagon shape

9.The letters KG appear on the penny below the maple leaf. This stands for:
King George, in honour of the monarch who preceded Queen Elizabeth
Kingston and Gatineau, to mark Canada's bilingual tradition
George Edward Kruger Gray, the artist who designed the maple leaf twig design for the penny
Kilogram, a reference to the metric unit of measurement standard in Canada

10.Pennies produced from 1982 to 1996 were unique in this respect:
They were made of copper-plated zinc
They were no longer round but rather had 12 sides
They didn't have "Canada" printed on them
They were extra lucky

After that we tried playing a game called "Don't Fall" but Larry got a perfect score of eleven on his first try so we stopped there and moved on to the Memory Test. This proved to be a lot harder. Everyone got to study a plate that held 13 items for 30 seconds and then the plate was taken away. The most anyone could remember was 11 of the 13. More surprisingly, when we we repeated the test later in the evening with the same items, most people did even worse!

Larry played this winning entry in the "Don't Fall" game in his first try!
Larry played this winning entry in the "Don't Fall" game
in his first try!

This is the Memory Test Game. The best anyone could do was 11 of 13 items.
This is the Memory Test Game. The best anyone
could do was 11 of 13 items.
We stopped for supper at that point. We had Cabernet Beef Stew and Home-made Cheese Biscuits for the meal and pumpkin pie with whipped cream, key lime tarts and butter tarts (all home-made as well) for dessert. Nobody went away hungry!

Freddy was the King of backgammon and, of course, crokinole!
Freddy was the King of backgammon and,
 of course, crokinole!
The only game I won all night was Blockus!
The only game I won all night was Blockus!
After supper we went back to the games. We had a game of Yahtzee with everyone and then we broke up into  a couple of groups and played crokinole and Blockus. Blockus was the only game I won all night but by then all the prizes had been given out. Oh, well. It probably wouldn't have looked good if I awarded myself a prize! We had great fun even though I didn't feel well and I'm looking forward to the next time we have Games Night, maybe it should be a semi-annual event!

(answers to the penny quiz - (1) A portrait of a rock dove, (2) 100,000, (3) 1.6 cents, (4) $38,300,000, (5) 4,992 pennies or $49.92, (6) All of the above, (7) WinnipegMan., (8) A small dot below the year, (9) George Edward Kruger Gray, the artist who designed the maple leaf twig design for the penny, (10) They were no longer round but rather had 12 sides)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

So, Big Red is Gone, Here's Black Beauty!

So, Big Red is gone. Do you remember how excited we were three years ago when we bought her?
After the heartbreak of losing the deal on the 2010 truck we were indeed lucky to find this beauty last weekend. It took some real thought to decide to spend this amount of our savings on a vehicle but we think that we chose well. It took us a week to finalize the sale but Big Red came home yesterday and we think that it is just gorgeous. It is much prettier than the new truck we were considering and much better equipped. Oh yeah, and almost $20,000 less than the list price of the new one! I guess that the a__holes at the first dealership actually did us a big favour, and they probably didn't need our money anyway.
Big Red was beautiful when she first came home.
She was such a pretty vehicle that we had to think of it as "her". It turned out that it wasn't a good choice and it wasn't long into our relationship, that we started regretting our purchase. The issues stared early. We had an $800 brake job that was needed 4 months after we bought her, a failed 4 wheel drive system that took the dealer over 2 weeks to properly fix (thankfully I had insisted on the extended warranty!), seat fabric that was worn through to the foam, evil handling over bumps on the highway, faded and failing paint on the rocker panels and wheel wells and worst of all, rust in the rear quarter panels. It soured our feelings for this truck.

Before the disappointment set in...
So, Hubby started looking for a replacement early last year. He still wanted a full sized 4X4 pickup, primarily for winter driving even though the fuel costs are significant. It didn't help that he goes past the local Chrysler dealer on his way to work every day. Their lot is full of new trucks and they are offering huge discounts (as high as $12,000 off on some versions). He watched the inventory come and go on the dealer's websites waiting for just the right one to become available and every once in a while we would go and peer into the windows in the dealer's lots and gasp at the list prices. This is exactly what we were doing a couple of weeks ago when we came across Black Beauty!

Black Beauty, a 2011 Ram 1500 Sport
Pulling into the lot we were wondering why this new truck was parked with the used vehicles. As it happens, it was used, a 2011 Ram 1500 Sport with just 50,000 kilometres on it. It was exactly what Hubby had been looking for, the correct model and equipment and even the right colour.

We took it for a drive and it was nice. It drove well and felt solid on the road. The interior is loaded with just about everything you can imagine including automatic headlights, automatic dual-zone temperature controls, touch screen satellite radio that will also connect to a cell phone, built-in garage door openers, partial leather seats and auto-dimming mirrors. The outside has body coloured bumpers and mirrors, fog lamps, running boards, remote start, security alarm and 20 inch chrome wheels. Another very pretty vehicle, I decided to name her Black Beauty.

The interior wasn't muddy until
we brought it home!

The centre stack includes the touch screen
radio and climate controls.
The dance started as soon as we returned from the test drive. The dealer had looked at Big Red while we were out and had come up with a very disappointing offer. We went home to think things over and to do some research. Consumer Reports rated the model as above average in everything except fuel mileage. The asking price the dealer wanted was at the extreme end of the range according to the Canadian Black Book website while the amount they were offering for Big Red was thousands less than the minimum. We haggled with them for over a week, adding extended warranty again and a cover for the back end and don't forget the bloody taxes, before finally agreeing on a price. We came out at about half of what a new 2013 version would have cost. Vehicle depreciation is very scary in the first few years!

We were back to the dealer yesterday to pick up a missing spare key and found out that Big Red is already sold. The dealer was going to recondition her, fix up the paint and her other issues but they decided that that would be too expensive. So they have sold her off to used car wholesaler and we will probably never hear of her again. Too bad, she held such promise when she first came home. Maybe her problems stem from the financial crisis the manufacturers were in at the time it was made or maybe she was just a lemon. We'll never know I guess. I just hope someone buys her and fixes her back up and maybe loves her a little.

For us, I just hope that this new vehicle will last us a few years. Retirement is looming!

Poor Big Red, back on the dealer's lot.
You can see the missing paint from the rust bubble over the
wheel arch.
The new truck getting its first wash at home. You can see
why the floor mats are muddy in the shot above.
Saying goodbye to Big Red. She has been sold to a vehicle
wholesaler already. I hope she will find some love out there.
Clean again for a short while.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Groceries For The Year.

Well, this week we did our last shopping for the year. For a change, I was able to go with Hubby who usually does it by himself after work. Shopping is just another chore for him but because I only go while I'm on holiday I always look forward to it. I love to go and read all the labels and squeeze all the fruit; Hubby just fumes and tries to get it over with as quick as possible!

"Grocery" shopping at Shopper's Drug Mart
This week Shopper's Drug Mart had great sales on coffee, peanut butter, paper towels and toilet paper. I saved $56.90 on just 14 items! As an added bonus they were having one of their 20X Optimum point promotions and now I am only a few points shy of saving another $60.00. It still feels weird though to be doing this kind of shopping in a drug store.

Shopper's bill
We were shopping in the Big City this week, and because it is cold outside, we were able to get to our favourite fish mart. They close so early on the weekend that we are usually not finished with our day by that timeand you really don't want to have a bag of fish sitting in a hot car for hours so we come home fishless. This week Hubby bought six pieces of salmon side fillet (enough for three meals) for about $24.00. I'm looking forward to a salmon dinner later in the week.

Yummy, yummy salmon fillets!
The rest of the shopping.
The rest of the shopping was done at the regular old grocery store and while the bill was over $108.00 it did include some expensive items like freezer bags, parchment paper, cocoa powder and corn flake crumbs. Nothing much was really on sale except for the cheese slices and the steak (4 striploins for $11.50). I'm all set now for a good start going into January. It's time to use up the freezer stuff. You know the items bought weeks ago that have migrated really far down to the bottom of the freezer. Yeah,  those items. Time for them to come to the top and get ready for menu planning. I'm not going to buy any meat for at least two weeks.

Superstore grocery bill.
I don't know about you but I  haven’t made any resolutions for 2013 because I really don’t stick to whatever plan I come up with. That in itself can feel disappointing. Lead a good life, appreciate what I have and love the people around me, that's essentially what I try to do every day anyway. So I'm going to go with that. What about you, dear reader? Have you made any resolutions, or any that you think you will be able to keep?

One thing that I am going to do next year is to try some new recipes. This week I am going to make a dish from the Pioneer Woman's site for "Zannie's Black-Eyed Pea Dip". It looks delicious and a good way to start the New Year off with some good luck from eating the black-eyed peas.

So, New Year's Eve is tonight and usually I would maybe have a visit from Granny New Years but, honestly, I have it all and don’t need anything else but love, good health and great friendships and the odd funny joke and a game to be played. C'mon Granny, bring me all that you can of that! Life is good.

Happy New Year!!!