Tuesday, August 31, 2010

$5 Worth of Blueberries

Due to my stunned ineptitude I am in the unenviable position of having to wait for my 'manual paycheque' to clear the bank.  My mortgage will go through okay, but the wiggle room money is severely compromised - aka frozen - until further notice.  Ugh.  I've been contemplating how to blow the last $5 burning a hole in my pocket. My wife, who is home sick and finally today feeling a flutter of appetite, asked if there was any chance I could get some blueberries.  So folks, that's what I'll be spending my last 5 bucks on.

I remember a few years ago...  Okay, 20 years ago, to be more precise...  Being down to my last 5 bucks. My twin had moved to London, Ontario to spend the summer with me (from Quebec City).  She was looking for work and I was making about $6 an hour working at the campus convenience store 20 hours a week.  We were not very rich.  She didn't like me smoking and was quite judgemental about it.  She decided to hide my cigarettes.  When I discovered what had happened I calmly told her 'Give them back or I'm going to go and spend our last $5 on a new pack.'  She cried and wailed and ultimately gave them back.  Then we ate Ramen Noodles like kings for a week.  We also ate something horrifying to think about called 'macarroni and cheese loaf' which looked like sliced bologna with mac and cheese chunks peppered through it.

The moral of this story?  You gotta blow that last $5 on something, and it could be a lot worse than blueberries.

My wife finally gets to see her GP tomorrow.  Here's hoping it ain't pneumonia.

xo Tara

Monday, August 30, 2010

Value Village Mother Lode

I actually did it.  I got up at 7 a.m. today, threw on some slim fitting shorts and a t-shirt, lined my granny cart with a giant see through garbage bag and raced to Value Village for their 50% off sale.  I have been meaning to do one of these all year, and finally managed by going first thing in the morning instead of at the end of the day.

I only had a small window of time so I wouldn't be late for work, and I also wanted to spend less than $80.  I succeeded in that I only spent $59.33 - but I was about 15 minutes late for work.  Shhhhh, don't tell.

I brazenly tried on the wardrobe I had pulled in front of one of the mirrors at the end of a row of dresses.  Skimpy outfit was strategic, as I avoided change room lineups.  Guess what I got for my $59.33?  12 tops and 6 skirts!  All with work-worthy credentials.  I'm feeling quite pleased with myself.  What I didn't have time to do is grab a shower since I stayed longer at Value Village than planned.  I barely had time to tie off the bag and hurl it into our vestibule to await deep cleansing. 

If you're in Toronto today, you'll know to steer clear of me, as it's a heat alert and besides spending the a.m. neck deep in second hand clothing and not getting a shower, I've just spend about 2 hours commuting all over hell's half acre on several airless, crowded streetcars or waiting for said streetcars in spots with zero inches of shade and it's something like 40 degrees out.  Ugh. 

This dreadful weather keeps me in a constant state of inelegance.  (I love to use this Jane Austen quote when I've worked up a lather in a heat wave.)

p.s.: Thanks Renee for letting me know about Mark Boyle's moneyless lifestyle.  You can YouTube him.  (He's gone 18 months without using money.)

xo Tara

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gifts and Wardrobe

It's a lazy Sunday evening.  My wife has taken ill this week with a bad flu - or if we let our imaginations go to dark places, viral pneumonia.  A trip to the doctor tomorrow will hopefully sort this out.  She's had a fever for several days, bad cough, and most worrying to both of us, no appetite.  Very unlike her.  I'm having sympathy pangs.  Not pains, fortunately.  So after some lackluster hours at work accomplishing very little, I'm taking to the couch with a bowl of ice cream and a book, as she's taken to our bed for a spell.  It is an evening when I should be doing a lot of catching up, prep and getting my house in order etc.  But try as I might I cannot goad myself out of my inertia.  Ah well.  I guess being an on-call nurse to my wife for the evening can be a semi-productive role for me.

I had a great friend wedding last night.  For this wedding and a family one that we are unable to attend next weekend, my solution to gift giving without 'buying anything new' was a sort of compromise.  Last year I put a big chunk of cash down on my Sears card to pay off my new washer and dryer.  I accidentally overpaid.  So I have a bit of a credit.  I got the two couples each a Sears gift card as a present.  Technically money I spent last year.  Also, since I'm not buying them the stuff, it's not stuff as far as I'm concerned.  What do you think?  Grey area??

As far as my burgeoning professional wardrobe goes, I got a few items from my sister yesterday and I do have high hopes of getting arse in gear early tomorrow a.m. to get to Value Village's 50% off sale before work.  It opens at 7am!  I may need the jaws of life to pry me from my bed.  I also have to do some organizing here at home to sort my new work-worthy get ups and closet etc.  But, as I said, the couch and my book beckon.  I diagnose myself with motivational influenza for the day.

xo Tara

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Feeling Better

I know yesterday I sounded a bit miserable, but today things are looking up.  I am someone who prefers to enjoy myself if at all possible, and my motto at work is generally 'grease your back and let it slide off you'.  This has served me pretty well.  So, after griping yesterday, things are looking up.

Today, I put on one of my new (used) $4 skirts.  I love it.  It's a heavy stretchy cotton cut on the bias, in fuchsia with a black criss cross pattern.  It worked great with a gift shirt I've never worn.  I felt a bit dolled up and good.  Also, a nice stranger on the subway offered to carry my heavy granny cart down a major set of stairs when the escalator was boarded up.  And I had two farewell meetings with clients that were positive and pleasant.  There is a 50% sale on Monday at Value Village, so I may just manage to squeak in before quitting time and plump up my fancy work wardrobe even more.  Only six more working days (plus weekends full of working for free...) until my new job begins...

I'm now going to enjoy a way-too-late supper and a new DVD of my wife doing some of her incredible stand up.  It just came today!

xo Tara

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Hey there,

I just wanted to share a bit of my ambivalence this week about not buying anything new.  To speak plainly, I definitely feel like shopping.  This probably has something to do with a few things going on in my life.

Like my new job.  Like being over-stressed, over-worked, and slightly overwhelmed preparing to leave one job and take on another.  I'm also feeling under-organized.  I know this will pass as I move on and get settled, but in the meantime, I've done some stupid things due to not being organized.  Like miss the deadline to submit my payroll so my next pay will be late.  I'll need to cash in Canada Savings Bonds to cover our mortgage payment.  It makes me mad just thinking about it. 

And I haven't been taking the greatest care of myself (translation: zero exercise + eating everything in sight).  I realized yesterday that this is a powerful trigger for wanting to shop.  Wanting to find something new and shiny to make me feel better physically, when I know that if I just got out for a bloody walk and started eating sensibly again I would feel way better than a new outfit from Winner's or where ever could make me feel. 

But knowing that doesn't stop me from wanting the quick fix of shopping to fill in the gaps in my not-fancy-enough-for-my-new-job wardrobe.  Or to find a magical new article of clothing that instantly sheds 15 lbs.  I felt very grumpy walking through the mall yesterday looking into windows at things I can't have.

Okay, just so you don't think I'm all negative all the time, here are some things I've done lately for my new job without buying anything new:

-went to $2 used clothing sale I mentioned to you before
-went to Value Village specifically for work items and got 2 dressy culottes and two dressy skirts (items ranged from $5-$8 each)
-went to sister's house and borrowed a basket of clothing with potential for new job
-found iron (have not used iron in approximately 20 years, since I was a waitress at the Keg and had to iron seams on my uniform shirt)

Other good news:  My wife and I are going to get radical about our Roger's bill and give it up.  We have a plan that involves cutting all but her cell phone and using Distributel for our internet.  Friends in our building shared their system with us, and it sounds like a WAY better, WAY cheaper method. 

That's about it for today.  I have 7 working days left to wrap up everything and it is keeping me in a constant state of nervous elevation. 

xo Tara

Friday, August 20, 2010

Funny Addendum/Correction

Just a few minutes ago, I somewhat hesitantly posted a link to my baby brother's blog.  But it turns out I left out one letter and typed it as 'blogpot' not 'blogspot' at the end.  Instead of a rude, funny, irreverent, frat guy's take on finance it turns out to be a 'megasite of bible studies and info' and one prominent text box stated 'It's time to repent! The rapture and tribulation are near.'

I wonder, Al, if you knew how close and yet how far www.guynance.blogspot.com and www.guynance.blogpot.com are?

xoxo Tara

Turning Points

I used to really miss the feeling of September Back-to-School renewal when I stopped being a student after 11 years of university.  In case you think I'm showing off, it took me that long to get two undergrad degrees, and NO masters. My friend, Brenda finished her PhD in less time.  Ugh.  But back to Septembers.  They were a clean slate.  New school supplies, new classes, new prospects.  A fresh start.  The air crisp and filled with promise.

When you start working full time (if you're not a teacher) you think nostalgically back to the days when you actually could start AND finish something.  Even if you did it badly or failed, projects were done when the school year ended.  Not so with the working world.  So many things are unfinished.  And often you have little control over how long they last.  They can drag on creating mental and physical clutter, like teeth gone too long between cleanings, like closets never purged between shopping sprees.  And the stuff.  Oh dear God, the stuff you accumulate - just by having the good fortune to keep a job for seven years.  It defies credulity.  It beggars belief.  It is a lot of crap.  Well, that's not entirely true.  Some of it is very good stuff.  But sorting through which is good, which is necessary, and which is not so, is a Herculean task.  Each time I sit to my desk now, I feel a welling up of overwhelm.  Where to start?

I got the word, belatedly, that I'm starting my new job on September 7th.  Which gives me just 11 working days to clean house, say good bye to  dozens of clients, make a tidy explanatory list for my replacement, and catch up on a few years worth of unfinished business.  Plus other sundry tasks.  Each goodbye feels a bit like a mini break up.  'It's not you, it's me.  I thought we'd have more time.  I'm sorry, I just have to do this.  You'll be great.  These are some other people you can talk too'.  I'm going to miss a lot of what I do and who I spend time with.  But I'm grateful for the chance to be starting something new, and being forced to finish off all my loose ends, and while it seems impossibly soon, it does seem like a perfect day for a fresh start at my new gig, the day after labour day.  Back-to-School day.

In other news:  My team, the Rainbows, just met our fundraising goal of $15,200 (for seven of us).  We all get to participate in the 60 K walk now on Sept. 11 and 12th.  :)

Also, my baby brother has his blog up and running.  I'm following it anonymously, due to serious language/offensiveness content, but if you are interested in some smart, funny, rude financial advice from a 24 year old frat boy, check it out at www.guynance.blogspot.com.  Use at your own risk, my friends.

xoxo Tara

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Interview Clothing etc.


So the reason I was keeping a bit mum was that I had applied for a job.  I ended up getting it (yippee!) but I didn't want to jinx it or to share that info, unless I was offered the position.  You know, just in case I didn't get it, I didn't want my current job to get the idea I was unhappy with where I was.  And in fact, I'm not unhappy.  But I've done my day job for 7 years now, and when the opportunity to do a 12 month maternity leave with an incredible team of strong, smart women presented itself, I couldn't stop thinking about it.  Maybe I was having a slight case of 7 year itch.

I feel like it's my chance to have a sabbatical and freshen up some old skills and learn some new ones.  For the interview, I was able to pull together a few options without even using anyone else's closet.  My wife and my twin (via emailed photo) gave feedback on what I should wear, and the winner was attractive and businesslike enough to suit all.  This job is a bit more posh than my usual gig, so I will need to spend more time planning my getup, and should take advantage of the benefits of laying out an outfit the night before.  I did slightly ramp up my wardrobe this weekend with a trip to a benefit clothing sale (which I just found out happens monthly).  The sale supports Dress Your Best (a charity that provides a week's worth of almost free interview clothing to people looking for work on limited incomes).  At the benefits, the deal is that every clothing item is $2!  The hard part is the sifting, on the third floor of a community centre, sans air conditioning in a heat wave.  I did manage to chock up a full $20 worth of gear.  And next time, if I'm not swooning of heat exhaustion, perhaps I'll do more.  Some of the items I bought are work specific and some are not so much.  But it was testing the limits of my physical endurance to try on cardigans as my body positively rained sweat.  Ugh.  I got it all home and have since sterilized the washables and have bagged the dry-clean-only's to be taken off.

I will post about the next $2 clothing sale in Toronto, Ontario, Canada:
I looked it up:  Every month in 2010 on the 2nd Saturday of each month at 188 Lowther Ave, 3rd floor.  (1 Block North of Bloor, 1 block West of Spadina).  All items $2 and next one is Sat. Sept. 11th.

I mentioned this earlier: I am working on becoming a good belated depression era housewife, with my thrifty shopping and cooking skills.  This weekend I fashioned another meal out of the thin air of our cupboards, featuring mung bean noodles (soak don't boil), dried chick peas (soaked, then boiled), with some fried veg and onion and ginger and sesame oil.  It turned out really nice.

My cheerleading reunion was a success.  We had 10 cheerleaders show up, which is pretty impressive after 22 years!  (In my first year of cheering only 10 showed up for the yearbook photo). So thanks to Denise Malley for organizing it.  We had some good laughs and a few photo opps.  We were pretty much evenly divided down the middle between looking like supermodels and looking like cute middle aged women.  Not sure what accounts for the difference, but perhaps things like discipline and exercise play a part.  I'll have to the ask the supermodel contingent.  A highlight was spending extra time with my old pal, Julie, who also lent advice last post re: a black turtleneck and pair of pants never going astray.  I DO plan to invest in a couple of 'good' outfits come January 1st,  i.e.: like my post re: Tilley hats etc.  I have a cute pair of black dress Capri's my sister gave me recently (she lent them to me new, and after 2 wears, they already seem 'long in the tooth' with their dragging and sagging).  They are evidence of the need for quality in my wardrobe. 

What else can I tell you?  My little bro has posted his blog, and I have to go check it out!  I think it will be offensive to some (generational language alert), but I will check er out and report back if I am comfortable sharing a link.  If I do share a link, it might come with some disclaimer, but I think it is nice he is trying to share his 24 year old financial wisdom with the world.  In defense of his being merely 24, he does have a lot of 'book larning' on the subject, and even some 'on-the-job larning'. 

Folks, that might be it for tonight.  I confess, I am run a bit ragged trying to prep to leave one job and enter a new one for a year.  There are a lot of cues I can take from my clutter busting hero, Brooks Palmer.  I will likely review them before I decamp.  I need to remind myself of what I actually use, what is useful and brings me joy, what I want to take with me, and what 'I can just let go'.  It will hopefully be a very cleansing time for me.  I am a bit in limbo as I await my new and old managers duking out to negotiate my leave/start dates so I can more specifically plan and panic.  I have always felt that a drawback to enjoying a job and staying put for a long time is the inevitable heap of clutter you accumulate.  I am now in hardcore cleaning out my closets mode - work edition.

Okay, good night and may your tomorrow (and mine) be full of joy, ease, and light.

xo Tara

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What to Wear - Not the TV Show

Hi There,
I've been a bit of an ungreat blogger this week, and I'll let you in on a little secret.  But only partially.  I've been non-blogging because I'm keeping a secret, and I haven't really known what to say.  Suffice it to say that within the next two days or so, I should be able to reveal some things that have been going on with me, and the related 'Not Buying Anything New' news to go along with it.

I will, for now, regale you with tomorrow's dilemma.  I need to plan an outfit that will take me from day to evening that involves: 1. a meeting with an intimidating senior manager at my day job, and 2. a cheerleading reunion in the town I went to high school in.  I need to dress for both, and almost race between them to catch the train to make it to the reunion.  I didn't decide I was going until today, because I had a conflict I just got out of.  My wife is part of a stand up comedy documentary that is shooting tomorrow night so I was going to miss the cheer reunion to go to the filming.  But it turns out, it is also shooting on Sunday at a show she is doing - and she was totally cool with me going to the reunion.  I'm glad because I love seeing her perform, and I really did not want to miss out on seeing her being filmed and all the excitement around that. 

Now that I've made the impromptu decision to attend Reunion 2010, it feels funny to be going back to a town I sort of lost track of since my parents (Mom and Step dad), twin and I moved away from it, at the end of grade 12.  I kept up with it by going back for summers for a couple of years, but to give you a 'for instance' in the past 9 years I've been there twice.

I obviously won't be able to get a new set of duds for the event, and I am a bit nervous to see how limber and fit my co-cheerleaders are 20 odd years later.  I don't want to fall too many standard deviations away from the mean.  I was the co-captain back in grade 11.  It was interesting, because I would describe myself as a bit of a nerd in high school.  My two year career on the team I voluntarily cut short to be the yearbook editor in grade 12, but I must say that it was an important part of my high school experience.  And one that I look back on with a funny mixture of irony and pleasure.  It appeals to the Kinda Femme part of me.  Our cheerleading was well before the robotic, death-defying stuntsmanship you see from the Glee Cheerios, for example.  My twin cheered for three high school years, and has kept up both her cheering skills and her yearbook skills decades beyond me by doing both as a teacher.  She is part of a pep rally team of ex-cheerleaders at her all-boys elementary school that do fun assemblies once or twice a year, AND, she has had the joy/job of being the yearbook staff all the years she has taught since high school. 

She was my unofficial co-editor for yearbook.  She helped me a lot when I was editor.  But yearbooks have changed significantly since my baby was published in 1987 :)  We used to literally cut and paste.  With scissors and glue.  Onto those blue grid pages.  It was a very hands-on experience.  She has seen generations of technology bow to the service of yearbook creation.  The comparable example in my own life was when my wife was able to create a 'yearbook' of our wedding this year for our 'paper' anniversary.  She did it all on a Mac, to great effect, for a very reasonable price and not a pair of scissors, nor a typewriter involved.

I often think how interesting it is for our generation to have been born at a time that got to straddle the cusp of low-tech to all-tech-all-the-time.  We get to see such sweeping changes.  We also can relish the unplugged sensation better than some other generations.  And I really do relish it when it occurs.  I admit I am struggling with the 'bad manners' of people who can't put down their apparatus, whatever it might be, and just hang out and chat with me with a modicum of eye contact.

Talk soon

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Take the Elevator Home

Socializing in our condo tonight with friends who live two floors down.  It's been a nice week of hanging out with friends in a low key way, and just enjoying company and some simple pleasures with pals, and the ability to simply take the elevator home. 

xo Tara

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tilley Hat Store

I had to go inside to get out of the sun recently, while waiting for others, and I ended up in a high end mall.  I decided to check out the Tilley Hat store as I have plans to buy one on Jan. 1st, 2011.  It turns out they have a whole bunch of other stuff too, including suits and dress clothes that are made in Canada, guaranteed for life, and really well made-washable even.  It made me think.  When I do shop next for something, maybe I will buy a decent version of a dressy work outfit there, versus something made like crap/made with crap that pills and pulls and warps and wears out in a flash.

I was reading this nice book on vintage clothing not long ago, and it was talking about how generations before us didn't have as much clothing, and that the stuff they had was much, much better quality.  In fact people would insist on quality fabric etc. so things would last and wear well.  Also, now most things are mass produced in 3 generic sizes and don't fit as well.  Both fabric quality and sewing skills have declined.  They apparently mainly rely on dye colour to distinguish items rather than great quality.  So, I think I will try to make sure stuff I get is actually something I need, and then I will look beyond cheap made-in-China stuff to find a version I can get some real use out of.  That's my plan anyway. 

The other nice thing was that I was at the mall without a brass farthing to my name, and looking for a drink of water.  I was having a hard time finding a water fountain, and like finding a cool stream on a desert island, the lovely clerk at Tilley said, "Did you know we have complimentary coffee or water?  Please feel free to help yourself."  I shall remember that and pop in to browse more often.  Of late I have been on a bit of an austerity program.  (Tell me, is this ironic?  In a household of two wives, we are husbanding our resources.  I think it's ironic, but sometimes I mess up the definition with just plain old coincidences...)

xo Tara

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tee Shirt on the Subway

I took the subway to and from my part time job this evening.  It's deadly hot in the city and it could have been horrible (air was not on in my subway car), BUT two cool things happened.
1. I found and charged and wore my iPod.  I listened to K'naan most of the ride and have been literally unable to stop myself from dancey-grooving to it.  It felt very different than just sweating it out with the grumpy masses on the subway, to be doing it with K'naan's company.
2. A gorgeous guy snoozing across from me said 'Hello' and I checked out his tee shirt because I had been curious and unable to read it from a distance.  It had three cartoon pictures in boxes horizontally across the chest with words underneath. 

The pictures were: 1. an army tank, 2. a shopping cart, 3. an iconic person character (like you'd see on a men's toilet door).

The words under the pictures were: 1. Fear, 2. Consume, 3. Belong.

I told him I liked his tee shirt and I was going to write about it in my blog on not buying anything new for a year.  He said, 'I appreciate that.'  Nice to see a cute, hip guy sporting that message and also to have a small human contact with a person on public transit of a positive nature.

Going to see some local comedy with a $20 bill burning a hole in my pocket with my wife.

xo Tara

Monday, August 2, 2010

Baby Brother's Blog

I'm back from the wilderness.  I am glad to be back, but as I said before, it is nice to go nature-ish and not be too plugged in for a bit. 

A few updates re: My No New is Good News:

1. I've bought nothing new for 7 months as of yesterday.  Yee haw.
2. I am in a bit of a panic as I have an important interview this month and can't go shopping for it.  I will need to pull together some borrowed togs.  I shall have to go begging from well-dressed, same-sized pals.
3. After my camping and cottage week, I have added these items to my Jan. 1st, 2011 shopping list: bathing suit, water shoes, Tilly hat.  I really need a hat to keep the sun off me.  (hmmmm, that might carry as a health purchase, but I'll forgo it until 2011).  What I've been wearing to swim is so embarrassing.  A giant pair of patterned quick-dry shorts, a threadbare flowery tankini top, with a faded bikini top underneath.  None of these pieces matches, and I'm not sure where any of their missing brethren are.
4. I had to cash in $1000 bucks of my Canada Savings Bonds because my latest pay cheque came in at just $888.  Ugh.  I had several unpaid days apres summer vacation due to a miscalculation of how many vacation days I had left. 
5. I heard about an app I can put on my iPod for budgeting.  I need to look into this to help me make my goals of getting ahead, keeping up with day to day, and also making my cottage a reality.  We just got our latest Roger's bill, which is a staggering $441.09.  It is for cable, Internet, cell, and land-line,  But, seriously, somethings gotta give.   That is just too much.  Is anyone else paying this much for that stuff?

An interesting thing I found out yesterday is that my baby brother is going to be starting a blog on finances.  I read some of his preliminary prose and found it very entertaining.  Keep in mind, he and I could probably not be farther apart in terms of taste, lifestyle, etc. but I am keen to see him get going on it.  His goal is to explain economics and financial principles to the masses (or at least his girlfriend and his fellow frat brothers, all of whom are around 24 years old).  He did a degree in Money, and works in Money, and is a 24 year old frat boy.  But, he is my baby brother, is turning out to be pretty darned smart, and was both a bride's boy at my gay wedding and a student of my wife's comedy class so, there's hope for him yet!  And I look forward to learning more about economics etc.  I will also encourage him to read my more micro take on things. 

Speaking of that, I need to go inspire myself to thrilling new heights of privation by reading some thrifty blogs right now...

xo Tara