Friday, April 30, 2010

A Surprise

My wife is treating me to a surprise date night tonight for my birthday (which is next weekend).  She had to tell me, because I was making plans to do things with visiting family and she had already bought tickets to one of our favourite British stand ups - Eddy Izzard.  So that is exciting.  Last night I got the pleasure of seeing her do some excellent stand up and showing her off to visiting family.  I love it when she does new material that I was a part of (i.e.: a story I was there for etc.).

Tomorrow is a family wedding (for my cousin) and I might have to break down and make a card (I can't buy one according to my ground rules) and my wife says she's 'too busy'.  And she is pretty busy.  And seeing as she just gave me an envelop full of cash from her gig last night, (so we'll have money to put in the theoretical card), I'll let her off the hook.

I'm struggling a bit with burning the candle and both ends, but hope to achieve more balance next week.  Wish me luck. 

And oh my, at midnight tonight I will have gone four months without buying anything new.  Pat me on the back already, please.

xo Tara

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Phony Baloney

Tonight I had a conversation with a client who lives in subsidized housing about my project of not buying anything new for a year.  She brought it up after hearing about it a while ago.  I always feel a bit funny - or should I say phony - when I talk about this with someone who has less options than me.  Someone living in real poverty, versus my self-inflicted debt, student loans, and condo-payment kind of scenario that I am trying to make better.  The two situations are clearly not the same.  I know that I have choices some people don't have when it comes to buying what I need or want, even bad choices like accumulating more debt.

The conversation ended up being really positive though.  She liked the idea of what I was doing and said she was considering doing something similar to save up for furniture for the new unit she just moved into.  She loves it, but it is very spartanly decorated, as she has few possessions.  Unfortunately, many people on fixed incomes can no longer trust the used furniture they used to rely on because a lot of it has been discarded due to bed bugs.  Ugh.  The nice thing is, she started thinking along the lines of giving up frivlous quickly disposed of 'junk' (i.e.: junky jewelry, make up, hair things, trendy cheap clothes, etc.) that she buys 'out of boredom' or 'to make myself feel good for about a minute' to save up for something that would be more significant and lasting.  Not a bad idea for most of us to think about where our pennies and dollars go, and redirect them towards more personally meaningful ends.

I think I'll check out.  I'm beat to a snot - as we sweetly say - going full tilt just to catch up.

xo Tara

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


It's back to life today, with work at both jobs, and all in all it wasn't so bad.  In fact, it was pretty good.  I have two new students from Dublin.  I just met them today and they seem lovely.  I had a pleasant gig co-facilitating a workshop with a large group of cool people.  I got to eat tasty Vietnamese food with someone I have a talent crush on, and I got to incorporate exercise into my part time job.

As far as No New Stuff goes, I am still on track.  But, despite not buying anything new since before the January 1st, with all the other kinds of expenses this month has dealt us, we'll be more than scrambling.  On top of our punishing biweekly bill schedule, I have to cough up some dough for a wedding gift on Saturday ($100), to pay off flights home for the funeral ($1100), to pay the hotel bill for wedding ($150), to pay the locksmith for our new mailbox lock ($115), to pay the accountant for doing our taxes ($393), to pay the taxman for the privilege of working two jobs ($753), I have to pay my professional college to be able to practice ($690), and I have to pay the library $11.10 in late fees... 

I'm going to revisit the blog of Man Vs. Debt to get reempowered re: finances.  It's a drag to be in the hole, but at least it's not for possessions I don't need.  And on the bright side, my wife and I brought back a load of frozen moose meat from Newfoundland, and our first batch of Moose Chili is cheap, low fat, and delicious.  Looking forward to making variations of 'Nail Soup' with the rest of the moose.

Re: my End Cancer walk, there's also good news.  I've reached 60% of my $2000 fundraising goal.  If you are a euchre player, please let me know.   We are going to be having another euchre tourney fundraiser since our first one was such a success. 

xo Tara

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bittersweet Vintage

Still in Newfoundland.  Had bittersweet moment of getting some vintage gear when I got to choose a cardigan and cap of my grandfather's today.  I'm feeling quieter and sad, but okay.  It's been full on family time here and I got to give the grandchildren's reflections at his funeral, and that was a very good feeling.  We actually waked him in the family home around the clock until the funeral, which is kind of old fashioned, but so intimate and lovely.  We were very glad to have done it that way.  There is a big family wedding in 9 days - a way to get together for something really positive soon.

I also got to climb Burnt Hill three times, which is an excessive quantity of exercise for someone who's barely walked the length of myself these two weeks.  It will help balance out the excessive quantities of generously gifted food and drink we've all been packing in.  A small community in Newfoundland is a beautiful place to share grief.

No high speed internet here in the cove, so I'll keep this brief.

xo Tara

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Sky Has Fallen - Time Out

I had to take a time out.  Unfortunately, my grandfather, Poppy Laing (also known as Clarence Valence Laing) died yesterday.  My wife and I are heading out to Newfoundland on a late night flight with a crew of many cousins who are all heartsick over it.  It has been a horrible and strange experience having to go to work and act normal today as I tied up loose ends, redirected my brand new students, and cancelled multiple appointments for the coming week.  I can't wait to get out of work and just be with my family in Newfoundland to properly wake my grandfather; to celebrate and grieve him, and to say good-bye.  I will check in and keep you posted, I'll likely have some limited online availablity during my week away.

Thanks to all my friends and readers who have expressed such kind wishes and thoughts.

I'll be bringing a new knitting project, so I can hopefully distract my grandmother a little with it.

xo Tara

Friday, April 16, 2010

Shopping in My Sister's Closet Again

Cindy, you are going to be mad, because I'm going to have cleaned out all the good stuff out of my sister's closets.  My stepmomma got us started on this regime of trading clothing and now we can't seem to stop.  We had a feed of fishcakes from some Newfoundland salt cod and then I got to sorting and claimed a couple of bags full for myself.  I think it has almost inspired me to go through my own closet again and doing a 'moral and searching inventory' with some purging.  As always it feels nice to get something new to me, but used. And my sister is finding it good to let go of some things that have been taking up space in her house for some time now.

In Poppy news:  He made it through his surgery but was in quite a bit of pain last night and earlier today.  We are keeping our fingers crossed and praying they find a way to sort that out.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Earth Day Approaches

And Starbucks responds by having free coffee today if you bring your travel mug.  A small treat in a world of expensive.

In Poppy news, I just got off the phone with Poppy (and Nanny) not long ago.  They are waiting for him to be wheeled down for hip surgery - a high risk procedure for an 88 year old with a heart condition and a history of a couple of strokes.  The alternative (remaining bed-ridden and on pain meds for the rest of his life), of course, is also untenable.  He sounded wore out, but brave-faced, and told me 'I'll be feeling better when you're home the summer.'  I wish Newfoundland were closer. 

xo Tara

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hard News

I am struggling tonight as I just heard that my Dad's father, Poppy, fell and broke his hip tonight.  I got to speak to him briefly, but he was already sounding a bit doped, as they'd given him some pain meds.  He's 88.  Essentially he is the absolute heart and soul of our family.  He is our centre.  We've all come from him, look to him, and owe him a debt of some kind.  Some emotional kind.  He is an orphan who got to live his version of a dream by creating a giant, sprawling family.  His village is the place I fondly refer to as my 'ancestral homeland'.

When he had a stroke, more than 12 years ago, I was lucky enough to be there to ride in the ambulance with him the almost two hour ride into the city.  He soon after learned to use a computer for the first time (since he could no longer build boats and fix engines) and wrote his memoirs.  We happen to be currently in the process of ordering family copies of his updated version of the memoirs (280 pages, which include the history of the community in Newfoundland where he lived, and also, of our family tree as it grew).

Around 3 years ago, I was there the night he had a heart attack, and shared in the sense of blame we all nursed about him eating a 'big feed of salmon and having some wine'.  Later he had to remind us on many an occasion that having a good feed, and a drink from time to time was one of life's greatest pleasures, and in his late 80's that was no small thing.  His nickname in our family and the community is the Skipper.  This is a respected term, as he has captained more than a few boats.  No matter that I am 40, I will never be ready to lose my grandfather.  Tonight, as I await news, I am tearful and bereft.  We are all children when it comes to facing the fragility or mortality of our elders.  I have been so fortunate in reaching 40 with 3 grandparents still in my life, but strangely, this in no way makes me feel prepared for any kind of bad.  Here's wishing my Poppy safety through the night and I guess I thank the universe for this yucky reminder of what is most, most important to me and many of us.

xo Tara

Monday, April 12, 2010

Quick Note

I am about to head home to do cooking with my wife.  I love it when we cook together.  We are making 'nail soup' but I will be picking up chicken to add to the mix.  (I use that term for anything I make where I just dig for ingredients and find something in what we already have.

It was a gorgeous, but cool day here and I'm happy to report I walked to work and also talked a group of clients into going out for a walk, so I got in about an hour and 15 mins of walking today.  This evening work was a pleasure, with me hosting 5 tenants at the book club for 1984.  Still feeling ambivalent about the book.  It was brutally hard to read the end, I felt betrayed!  The only money I'll spend today is on chicken.

xo Tara

Sunday, April 11, 2010


My wife felt I was 'cheating' on my ground rules for No New is Good News yesterday with the boots - 'It's cheating if you get to pick out and try on your own gift' was her cogent assessment.  What do you think?  To be honest, I know it was not exactly negotiating in good faith, so consider my knuckles rapped.  But, according to the letter of the law, I squeaked in, since I didn't buy them.

In more conscientious news, I did my first official practice walk for the big 60k end cancer walk today and it was great.  It combined vigorous exercise with beer.  What a winning combo.  Also, last night's fundraiser brought in a good haul that my team members got to divide up towards our totals, and was also pretty fun.  It was kind of cool to do something where we (me, wife, sister, and sister-in-law) were the youngest by about 10 years.  Makes one feel so youthful and vital. 

That's about it for tonight, I have some vegging out to do before my early-to-bed-for-a-change plan kicks into high gear.

xo Tara

P.S. Stella, I'll call you soon to figure out a way to meet up for a visit and a book borrowing!  FYI: I am down around U of T on Thursdays...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Moral Grey Area

This is probably wrong, but in according to Trina, my sounding board for 'ground rules' early on, it is okay for me to accept gifts.  The part of me that is 'following the letter of the law, but not the spirit' is the part that allowed me to go to the Dufferin Mall today with a chronically generous relative.  Being at the mall, meandering through stores full of shiny new things on sale, makes it way harder not to think about WANTS.  Everything combines to feed your temptation.  So, after milling about several shoe stores as she tried on pair after pair, we came to one where there was a sale, plus an extra discount on the second pair.  She offered to buy me a pair as a birthday gift.  I halfheartedly replied 'I only want donations to my walk for my birthday gift this year'.  She didn't have to push me very hard to accept her offer.  And then I was trying on shoes.  All kinds of shoes.  I ended up getting a pair of grey swede, low-heeled, shortish boots.  Grey to match me pushing the limits of the grey area of the strength of my convictions.

But, come on.  They were $150 dollar boots and cost her $35.  It was a crime not to let someone buy them for me, right?

Your very human pal,
xo Tara

P.S.: In other news, it is my fund raising euchre tourney tonight.  Wish me luck.  I cracked open the piggy bank to have money for the 50/50 draw and the 'suggested donation cash bar'.  I will wear my new boots for luck.  Or because I clearly have no shame.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Being Broke in a Good Way

I was able to present my coworker with her handmade slippers today and it felt really nice.  I hope they fit her.  They are my second pair and, without my grandmother to spot me, turned out rather more unique than I had planned.

I'm about to head out into the SNOW to start my weekend.  After the 20+ centigrade last weekend it's a sobering thought.  But the weekend itself is promising - with Fun, Family, and Fundraising.  I'll have to bundle up so I don't end up adding 'Freezing me arse off' to that list of F's.

If you are wondering how the 'No New is Good News' is going, I still haven't purchased anything new this year.  And this month, sticking with it is not going to be one bit difficult because we are broke.  We are.  But it is the kind of broke I've chosen.  i.e.:
  • I'm not cashing in my Canada Savings Bonds, (which, as I've mentioned before, have always served as my very short term savings - i.e.: I'd cash them almost as fast as they deducted them off my pay cheque to deal with bills or buy stuff.  As part of my 'doing things differently' new world order, they are now my non-retirement savings, and my goal is to allow them to accumulate for at least a year to make a nice safety net.) 
  • I'm paying off our giant RRSP loan, which I don't regret, but it sure is a big bite every two weeks.  As a married all-girl couple, who do not expect children or inheritances, I do feel strongly that I want us to end up in a safe, financial situation as we creep into our dotage.  I also don't want to have to work until I'm a thousand years old.  And my wife is an (amazing) artist, so income is not always predictable.
  • I just maxed out my tiny visa to buy plane tickets to my ancestral homeland for this summer - that is Newfoundland.  A well worth it expense, but it needs to be paid off stat. 
  • I need to pay professional college fees ($690) and income tax ($750) this month as part of 'paying my dues' for having a job (actually two jobs) that I love.  As my old West Indian roommates would say, "There's a time for the bitta and a time for the sweet, and this is the time for the bitta!"
So, I'm not the kind of broke where I don't have options, rather I'm chosing to be uncomfortable now, in order to be more comfortable later.  Wish me luck.  I haven't had a lot of practice at this kind of not spending + savings combo.

xo Tara

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thin Lidded

I am positively thin lidded with fatigue today, but not too tired to check in.  On the 'universe provides front', I got a nearly new pair of really good quality leggings from a visiting family member who read about my shortage and took pity on me.  I'm wearing them right now (gratefully!).

I stayed up too late girl talking last night, so I do need to squeeze in a cat nap somehow (on TTC maybe?), but am looking forward to supporting local comedy tonight by checking out a show my wife is doing stand up in called 'West End Girls'. 

I've continued to be delighted by people donating to my fundraising efforts and this weekend will (with any luck) be showing everyone what a terrible winner I am at our fundraising euchre tourney.  I really am a mouthy euchre winner. 

I heard about this book from a client today called No Impact Man.  He and his wife are doing an extreme experiment for a year to decrease their footprint to zero (technically not possible, but they are going to extraordinary lengths - including giving up elevators and toilet paper!).  He says "The reason there's a malaise in our culture is we spend our time doing things we don't believe in doing, for organizations whose goals we don't believe in, with people we don't care to spend our time with." "All this", he says, "so we can buy things, which are supposed to make us happy."  It sounds very interesting and he has a sense of humour about it.  I will try to borrow a copy.  Anybody got it?  I'm almost done Not Buying It.  Also, I'm looking to borrow a book from Stella about living free... Stella can we meet up sometime?

xo Tara

Birthday Gifts

It's my baby bro's birthday today and I am nearing the end of 'Not Buying it'.  Judith Levine talks about a performance art show she attended by Reverend Billy who says something along the lines of 'Leave the logo behind. Go for the old gift.'  Baby brother, this year it's gonna be a wee bit of cash, but next year, beware, it may be something old that I love.
xoxo Tara

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thank you, Chips

I'm tipping my hat to the chips I discovered when I got home and my wife's improv class was all gathered with snacks and drinks at our condo.  I had forgotten about them coming, and was so delighted about snacks someone else had brought into my home!  The ladies, who are doing a female virtuoso version of improv called Broadprov - expertly led by Kate Ashby, came to watch their (Hilarious, I saw it live) class show in our movie room.  Not only did these 'broads' bring snacks and wine, they also were all excited to meet me and made all manner of flattering comments about how I look just like the picture of myself on the wall (taken in grade six at age 11 - my fav school picture of all time).  They've all tramped downstairs now and I am enjoying these unexpected snacks and having a little chill out time on my own before they come back.  But seriously, they can come back any time.  What a nice welcome home after a semi-grueling day.

Also, on my list of thank youses, are the people who have spontaneously donated to my walk.  I'm at 34% of my fund raising goal as of this afternoon and it's so relieving and also nice to be making some headway on a goal that is not purely selfish. 

So, that's my thxthxthx nod.  Now, I'm off to get some belly laughs in.  (Merci Cindy and Alison for your notes on giving thanks and being grateful).

xo Tara

Monday, April 5, 2010

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

Just a short post today to share a site my sister pointed out to me that is kind of cool.  This woman does a new and playful take on the gratitude journal.  Apparently her mother always drummed into her the importance of writing thank you notes and she has taken this to a new level with a thank you note per day.  I'd recommend reading Leah Dieterich's for a reminder to mind your manners, be grateful, and not to take yourself too seriously.

xo Tara

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter and Some Spending I can Feel Good About

I opened up the purse strings a little after no spend week, and some of the expenses were stupid stuff from the drug store and liquor store.  But today I sat down and sponsored two friends in separate fundraiser events for kids.  I'd been putting off the sponsoring during no spend week, so I was glad to be able to do it.  I don't want to get so stuck into penny pincher mode that I only think about our needs. I've also gotten started on a pair of slippers for a coworker.  My first request and only second pair.  What I can say about the slippers is that the colour is nice, they are thick and warm, and they are full of adorable character boosting flaws. 

We've had a fun, lazy Easter celebrating with a less traditional DVD watching marathon and a vegetarian spaghetti meal.  I am still trying to make creative, tasty things from supplies on hand.  We used edamame for protein in the spaghetti and it was good.  And we've been working our way through our stash of Easter creme eggs.  I think we each have one left.  I'm trying to save it so I can enjoy the anticipation not just the gluttony.  I estimate it's lifespan holds another 30 minutes of existence, max.

P.S. I think I forgot to note the milestone of passing the 3 month mark with no buying anything new :)

xo Tara

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In-House Social Times

We are in the middle of Easter weekend here, and I've been enjoying visiting friends (in our building last night) and family (yesterday and tonight for dinner).  Although No Spend Week is done, I didn't end up spending yesterday either.  I planned to.  I went by the liquor store to pick up a bottle for the nice roommate of my sister who gave me boxing gloves, and for our friends we were going to visit and discovered that oops, it's a stat holiday.  So, I got one more day of being a cheapskate/conscientious consumer.  It's been very enjoyable spending time hanging out in homes versus having to go out to do that.

Today, besides a nice family dinner at my sister's, I am looking forward to some spring cleaning interspersed with my new addiction - finishing up the season of '24' on DVD we've borrowed.  I've devised a game to make it more fun.  We will set the timer and do 24 minute bouts of cleaning between episodes of watching 24.  Clever, no?  I'm just waiting for my wife to wake up so we can get started.  In the meantime, I think I'll do something nerdy and crafty and sort through the free yarn I got from my friend Sarah.

May your weekend, like mine, be full of joy, ease and light.

xo Tara

Friday, April 2, 2010

No Spend Week Successfully Completed!

It's Good Friday morning and I'm very sorry I did not update yesterday - I got sucked into the vortex that is a DVD box set of the TV show '24'.  My first time watching and I'm 7 hours in.  It's hard for the characters to get much shopping done with all the prison breaks, counter terrorism work, drug cartel infiltration, and computer hackery.  So I didn't find it very much of a trigger to shop as we calmly sweated out the last hours of day 7 of No Spend Week.

We did get a bit anxious because we almost had friends pop by to watch a show airing on Out TV last night where my wife and the visitor girl performed stand up.  The last minute visitors were zooming towards us on the highway and we were trying to figure out how to graciously word our lack of snacks, drinks etc. and our inability to purchase any before they got here.  My wife ended up texting simply 'We're all healthfood and tea here.  Pick up junk if you want any.'  They got stuck in traffic and had to cancel and we got to spend the show laughing in our pyjamas.  It was great.

The last time I wrote to you was from the eve of Day 6.  I had been at my sister's mooching on her food and drink supplies.  An exciting supplement to that came a little later on when her roommate arrived home.  Her roommate is moving (today), so that night she was ruthlessly packing up her room and purging.  My sister called out to her, 'Hey, Tara's not buying anything new this year, so if you come up with something that might fit her, let us know'.  Smart sister.  The evening went from good to better.  I got a lovely Nine West skirt that her roommate let go of stating "I realized I'm too ghetto to wear this", and a matching top,  I also got an unworn silk and pashmina scarf (gift from a 'so over that' ex), a pair of flats, AND a brand new pair of professional grade boxing gloves.  I just have to put up with the corporate logo stamped on them (I'm hiding it in the photo!), and I can easily live with that.  (Serendipity-do-dah note: Our building just got a punching bag in the gym.)  Also, my sister lent me one of her new shirt dresses she got on a trip to Texas.  When I left her place to head home a strange and lovely woman on the subway even offered to help me lift my granny cart up the stairs.  This all conspired to make No Spend Week unfairly fun and full of bounty for me.  Sorry, guys.

I even managed to squeeze in a funny April Fool's Day joke I stole from the Happiness Project, where I froze my wife's bowl of cereal the night before and when she tried to take the spoon out she discovered my great gag.  She laughed and I got to say, "Who's the comedian now?!"

As for my last day (yesterday, day 7) it was in many ways the hardest.  Mainly because I had to work at two different locations away from my usual work site.  I had to carry my books, binders, agenda, as well as snacks, lunch, and coffee.   (At my day job I have a stash of these things plus fridge and stove, and dishes and a tap for water etc.).  I carried a coffee and a baggie of extra instant coffee which I whipped up in the cafeteria with their milk (instant is low brow, but my favourite - I like it strong), a peanut butter sandwich and some trail mix of my own devising (cheerios, almonds, walnuts, raisins, and two chocolate squares).  It was fine, but I usually crave a cold drink, or a fizzy drink, or just something, you know?  And, once against, the universe in her benevolence smiled down upon my overcaffeinated thirst and provided.  An unknowing but kindly coworker walked into a meeting with me and said, 'Hey these fresh orange juices were two for $3.  Want one?'  Oh yes I do. 

So, guess where I'm headed this afternoon?  My sister's place.  Her roommate is leaving today and I want to see if anything else shakes out of that closet of hers before she goes.

xo Tara