Monday, August 8, 2011

Bubble Girl

feeling strangely like I've been in a bubble looking at the news of riots in Clapham and Hackney where I slept my last night in London and had a lovely evening. That was Friday night and I headed up to Scotland Saturday with a full day on the train. since I've been here I've spent most of my time watching or pitching comedy shows,and am only hearing about the London riots now. ugh. It's so disturbing to see and think about this senseless violence and waste. It is so glaringly contrasting with the individual experiences I've been having with Strangers giving us lifts and drives, laughing all day long till my cheeks hurt, and buying us drinks and so on.

My sweet UK experiences include sitting on a patio bar in Edinburgh and the owner bringing us blankets. You need a stash of blankets to keep a rainy summer patio business running in Scotland. and the patios are packed full of people despite the October like weather. It's so cozy and charming!

Getting laundry advice from a fellow named Jason. I complained that I had to take my wet clothing on the road with me when I went on to location B, on my vacation, after it failed to dry after a full day hanging at my brother-in-law's place in London. Jason said 'If my clothing takes more than three days to dry, I take it to the launderette'.

Off to bed with a full head.


Sunshine on Leith

I'm delighted to be reporting in from the Edinburgh Fringe. I've come with my wife, who is a delightful stand up and we are enjoying the first rays of sun since I joined her on Saturday. the free Fringe, which she is a part of, is a fitting subject for No New For Tara. we have to pass a hat after her shows and are trying to live on the unpredictable rewards. It meams husbanding our resources, packing 'sammies', walking some places, and kind of acting like we are students. we are having a blast. Strangers are being so nice to us, and we are trying to humbly throw ourselves into the act of drumming up business for the shows and radically accepting what happens after that. so far so good. also, in the lottery of life we lucked out with our land lady who is amazing. She is cooking for us and giving us insider tips and we have friends who are not doing so hot with crowded messy venues and sweating Walls. we have the run of our place and even our own loo.


P.s. If you are in Edinburgh come out to one of the shows and I'll stnd you a pint! 5:15 at the Street or 8:50 at the Medina.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Weekend Update

Hey there,

I'm feeling rusty and out of it, from my long away time here in blog land. I can't exactly pinpoint what the reason is for me being not so able to blog frequently this year, but my gut feeling is that this years goals are kind of different from last year and take more of my time than last year's goals, and so I've been blogging less. Also, some of my goals are things I'm not sure how to blog about or necessarily fit into this blog's thematic zone. I've been getting healthier. And in service to that goal, sometimes I'm spending more on things like food and exercise stuff than I was last year. I'm also letting myself off the hook for buying pricier food things if they are healthy and easy. Because I'm putting a kind of premium on what ever helps me move in that direction. I am in my 40's now, so living off potato chips is no longer such a viable default plan nor particularly forward-thinking for me.

The other thing I've done more of is shop. Mainly for my weakness, clothing. And this is the thing, since I've lost 21 lbs (between January of this year and now), I have this wicked part of me that feels VERY keen to try on new clothing and to tell myself that I deserve new clothing!  Now, don't get too upset. I've not gone bananas, but I've bought myself 4 new dresses (some were gifts I talked others into buying me for my birthday). I also bought myself 3 sports bras. I feel completely comfortable with

In line with my NoNewForTara goals, I've also reached into my personal possession archives and managed to resurrect a bunch of clothing I hadn't fit into for a long time. Seriously gratifying. I also visited my Mom a couple of times, and as you know, she is the queen of re-gifting, and of de-cluttering her possessions unto her offspring. As such, I was able to get new hiking runners, sandals, dress pants, and of course, her signature weakness-cardigans. Most of these items Mom starts passing to me upon arrival in Ottawa to try on. They often still have the tags on them, or she has worn them a maximum of one time, but they fell short on some crucial criterion she rigorously measures all her possessions against. Lucky for me, many of her items do not pass muster, and I get to have that new car smell without the cost.

As far as my goals for 2011 go, besides the not shopping, which is less than the best, but way better than historically, I've been doing pretty well on some, and so so on others. You may recall, I did an Annual Review and rhymed a bunch of goals off in January 2011. I'll be meeting my like minded friend, Christine next weekend to do the mid-year report card on how we are measuring up to our goals. Doing a quick scan of my pretty book dedicated to this I see:
1. re: money, I am not as far ahead as I'd like, but I am still committed to semi-retirement by the end of the year (cross your fingers for me). Semi-retirement basically means giving up my part time job and only having my full time job.
2. trips: I've been to Boston, and am hoping to squeeze in both Newfoundland and Edinburgh. It will be a tight squeeze financially, but Newfoundland is home, and I really want to get to see my wife perform in the Fringe Festival in August.
3. professionally, I'm feeling good, albeit overloaded. I've taken CBT courses, and taken on new job for the year, which was a very refreshing challenge and learned many new things.
4. creative: I've done less knitting and writing, but MORE ukulele playing :)
5. personal: I've definitely gotten healthier. I've been doing out-of-character things like getting up at 7am to go work out, paying attention to what I eat, and I can actually almost hold my own in a tickle fight these days.
6. friend outreach: I've been seeing and being with a lot of old, and a few new friends this year, and for that I am so happy. But, I also realize how impossible it is to keep up with everything. I've had to say a couple of 'No's' to requests and am still working on not feeling guilty etc.

These don't sound like a lot, but I can also say this about the year, I feel really good and I feel really happy. Being more physical and active, more organized and planning does make me feel better. Someone has said (and sorry I can't remember who) that it takes just as much energy to be disorganized mess, as it does to be more on top of things. So, all this packing lunch, getting to bed on time more or less, and one legged squats are seemingly worth the bother. Like my stepmother told me, though, I also don't want to make drastic quick changes to my health that I can't sustain, so I'm trying to be pretty gradual about it all to trick my body into not noticing and doing a big rebound or something. I'm not willing to entertain any food plan that doesn't leave room for tall boys and chips.

Soooo, just thought I'd parachute in and give you an update. I still buy many things second hand, or talk people into buying them for me/giving them to me from their own closets, but my scorecard is not the 'perfect 10' it was last year. But, that just means I am reassuringly human.

Nice chatting with you again, it's been an age.


p.s.: just reconnected with my old friend from grade 1 and 2, Kyran Pittman, who blogs here
p.p.s.: my wife just got uninvited to perform at an anti-homophobia event at a Catholic high school because they found out she was gay-married. Seriously.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Confessions from Boston

I'm writing from Boston where I did indeed come with my wife and two friends for the Women In Comedy Festival.  It's been great seeing her (and Deb) perform and checking out the comedy stylings from women all over the states.  I'm having an evening in at our super cheap four star hotel (Thank you Priceline!) since I've had a few late nights in a row.

I've also been slow to recover from a cold/flu thing that held me hard and fast in it's ugly grip for a week and half. Ugh.

Now, for confession time. I've been shopping.

I let my wife buy me shoes.  Nice, Merill shoes that are well-made, were on sale for 45 bucks and look super cute on me. I also let her buy me a t-shirt from the Harvard Bookstore.  My cousin Tessie took us on a tour, and who can resist Harvard Swag? We had a lovely tour of her campus. The Harvard Yard was ALMOST as great as my epic Harvard Nap yesterday.  Yesterday I met up with Tessie on my own and we spent three of my four visiting hours having a decadent afternoon nap in her newly purchased W Hotel bed in her Harvard undergrad residence, Adam's Hall.  It was the best!

But back to my confessions. I ended up buying underwear, a bathing suit cover up, and capri's with a built in skirt.  I feel okay about all the purchases because they seem justified, but a little weird because I feel like I am 'cheating'.  The underwear are good quality, cheap, and I didn't really get that many undies in January especially of the non-cotton kind.  The bathing suit cover up makes it possible to use the bathing suit in public, which sounds reasonable.

And as for the 'skapris', they are something I've basically been waiting for years for someone to invent.  My wife and I love skorts. In this embarrassing video from my blog's inception on December 31st 2009, I found a pair of capris with built in running skirt the day before my year of not shopping.  I LOVE this thing and wear it all the time, but it is a sportsy article of clothing, with a breast cancer logo on it, and not really appropriate for evening-out wear, for example.  And here I am in the United States at Macy's and low and behold they have 'skapris' (skirt capris) and I am putty in their hands.  I must have them.

So, this year, my goal of not buying new again from February onwards has been besmirched.  I guess I am less committed to it than 2010 because I don't have something to prove in the same way.  I did go a year without shopping already. It's not that I'm going bananas with shopping, but I am allowing myself to make exceptions that I did not make in 2010.  I simply did not get anything last year. This year 'if it's justified' I'm obviously more willing to let it slide. Hopefully I will manage to keep my barometer for what's justifiable reasonable, but clearly I'm having more trouble denying myself this year. Hmmm.

Saving money, not being wasteful, and becoming less cluttered are all good reasons for me to keep on trucking with the no new goal.  And like being healthy, it's probably best to think of tomorrow as a new day, rather than consider the whole of 2011 a wash after one little Boston binge.

Back in Toronto and regular life on Sunday.

Nighty Night
xo Tara


We are thinking about our uncle, aunt and niece, who are thankfully okay in Japan today.  Uncle Ian did post on CBC: on Citizen Byte.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

So Many Money Decisions


It's the end of another break neck week of work and fun.  I've been working overtime on my friend and family outreach efforts and on not buying anything new.  In fact, just yesterday I finally unpacked my many, many new sock's from January's shopping blow out.  If you take long enough to unpack, it feels like a whole nother free, fresh treat - kind of like finding money in your winter coat when you haul it out of storage.

This week also held lots of lovely gatherings and groupings including but not limited to: a work debrief over pitchers of brew; an all-female stand-up comedy recital by some amazing students of my gifted wife ("Special Ops"); My book club ("Room: a Novel", read it!); meeting up with a long lost newly engaged pal for a toast; learning to 'cable' at knitting night with young lesbians in a sports bar...Pictures pending...(thank you in advance, Sera!); yummy mac & cheese and multiple, nostalgic, vintage gifts from my great aunt who is moving in 3 weeks to a condo and frantically downsizing (like wine glasses and decanter from my late Nanny's 1st year of marriage 63 years ago); volunteering; and today a date to see Sandra Shamas' latest show at Winter Garden theatre.All this on top of two jobs. Phew.

Besides this good stuff, I find out today that I might get a chance to go to Boston on March 9th to accompany my wife. She is performing in a female comedy festival there.  If I can get it off work, I can see Boston for the first time, and serendipitously arrive on the day that my youngest cousin submits her thesis to Harvard.  I've been meaning to get down there to see her and tour the city and the university and all that for almost 4 years. The countdown is on before she graduates and it's too late for me to get the real insider scoop.  So, please cross your fingers that work-one and work-two can spare me for three days at super short notice.

Last year around this time I suddenly decided to go to the Olympics - my first trip to Vancouver.  As I think about it, I ended up doing 5 trips to Newfoundland and a trip out to British Columbia last year, on top of doing all that saving and not buying stuff.  This year, I've got these hard core debt repayment goals, but now possible trips are cropping up.  Boston.  Maybe Washington.  (We have an aunt, who amazingly has moved to D.C. right on the main drag in a sweet diplomatic home with rooms to spare for visiting nieces.) Newfoundland  for family and probably my grandmother's 90th birthday. Scotland in the summer. 

All the travel possibilities have me excited, but then a bit of anxiety starts rising as I think of the cost etc.  I do think it's important to take care of business (TCB), but I also want to live and have experiences; acting as our pal Mae Martin would say, more or less, 'young and free'. I want to pay off that albatross debt AND have lots of fun travel memories to look back on when this year is at its end.  I am feeling a little bit more that I should not say 'no' to too many spontaneous opportunities. I don't want to be cheaping out on cool experiences.  Friends who suddenly became ill and now can't enjoy the retirement they saved up and sacrificed for, makes me not want to be erring too far in that direction. So, I'm making my way, two steps forward, one step back, towards both financial freedom, and a life more than half lived.

Okay, enough about me. I've got to go and get organized for the rigors of tomorrow.

xo Tara

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Family Day Eve

Twas the night before family day, and all through the house (aka condo), I could be seen and heard jumping for joy that I have the day off tomorrow.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my work, but a long weekend is not unwelcome.

I've been more of a weekly blogger of late, I'm noticing.  Since the new year and my big plans to follow through on goals from my Annual Review (thanks Chris Guillebeau), I have noticed that simple sounding things like 'getting to bed on time', 'packing a lunch' and 'walking an hour a day' really eat into my discretionary units of internet time.

In the first 5 days of January I was in Ottawa hanging with my mother.  I spent quite a bit of that time, and all of the 5 hour bus ride home to Toronto working on my Annual Review goals for 2011.  I decreed that 2011 was going to be a year of 'Release' and that I was going to focus on my 'Big 9' areas (I've made links to some sources of inspiration for these):

  • Financial (Savings, Debt repayment, Edinburgh, Nothing New after January)
  • Creative (Writing, Crafting, Blogging, Music, Stand-up, Documentary)
  • Travel (Newfoundland, England, Edinburgh, Bard writing retreat)
  • Marriage (Common Goals, Fun, Domestic, Plus some privacy protected goals here!)
  • Family (Twin, Mom, Dad, Steps, In-laws, Siblings, Nanny, Cuz'ins, Other extended family)
  • Friends (Friday night friend outreach, Friday friend lunches, Stitch & Bitch, Book Club, 'Show Up')
  • Health (Weight Watchers, Walking, Multi-task working out, Yoga)
  • Organization (Home decluttering, Bills, Closet renos, Work systems to get more efficient)
  • Personal (Self-confidence, Appearance, Mindfulness)
It's a lot of stuff to think about.  And, as usual, I am a work in progress.  I've recently picked up my gorgeous special Knock Knock organization books from my friend Christine Bougie.  But, as yet, I've gotten started on my work one, but not my 'fun' one (aka the non-work-rest-of-life one).  

I did make some cute icons that I need to figure out how to make electronically so I can share them.  But, in my grubby notebook, just drawing them works fine.

I'll catch you up on where I'm at, progress wise:

  1. Financially: I've decided to place massive laser beam focus on paying off my non-student loan debt before cutting down to one job.  If all goes well and I don't get fired or laid off, and save like a maniac between now and the end of November 2011, I've calculated that I can pay off the $1969 on my CIBC Visa, as well as the $15466 on a personal loan.  I'm using some of the concepts like 'snowball' payments where when you finish paying off one debt (i.e.: I just finished my RRSP loan, so I am applying the $430 biweekly I paid on that to expediting the payment of this blasted personal loan.)  I'm putting on hold radical saving for cottage until debt is paid off, and am saving a modest amount for trips this year.
  2. Creative: I have been blogging, albeit less frequently.  I've been writing a few jokes.  (I'm more theoretically interested in joke writing as I do not feel the need to have two stand-ups in our household, but do like having different modes of creative writing outlets.).  I've been keeping up the crafting with monthly things with my stitch  & bitchers, I've bought myself a ukulele (It is on loan right now to a very funny actress, Linda, in my wife's class.  Perhaps if times get too tough down the road on one job only, I can rent it out!). I've also been mucking about with a cheap, fun, doc idea about twins.  Still needs lots of thought.
  3. Travel: I definitely plan to travel home to Newfoundland, to see my wife perform in the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and possibly to a writing retreat in New York State at Bard College.
  4. Marriage: We've been enjoying working on common goals and finding time for fun things together this year. Travelling to Scotland will be a highlight.
  5. Family: Focused time spent with my twin, visiting my family in Toronto and in Ottawa and Newfoundland are in the works, and in some cases already happening regularly.  I've also got 3 engaged relations (cousins and siblings) which makes for some upcoming fun clan gatherings. And, I read a book about women's family relationships which I think is going to help me strengthen all of mine.
  6. Friends: I'm trying very hard to make sure I do lunch with one (or more) friend on Fridays and get together in the evening with someone/some people I like to hang out with.  My 'friend outreach' has been quite successful this year, with me doing something all but one Friday since the beginning of January.  
  7. Health: I rejoined weight watchers the second week of January, since if I'm not really structured and focused on it, I'm basically gaining.  It's actually been a fun way to start my Sundays.  I have coffee and hang with my sister after and then plan and shop for groceries.  After 6 weeks I've lost 10.8 lbs which is plenty fast, since I'd just as soon keep it off.  I've been walking a lot, packing my ridiculously healthy lunches, swapping stories with my like-minded coworkers, and bringing clients from work to the YMCA (my idea to multitask being healthy for me with getting clients healthier, as well as other coworkers). I've even used our condo gym 3 times in the past two weeks almost shocking my wife into stupefaction. AND, I have an unlimited pass for Mokshatres flexible these days.
  8. Organization: I've purchased notebooks that, ah hem, I've yet to put into action.  I have some unpacked socks from my January shopping spree.  I still do not have sufficient drawer space to unpack them from the shopping bag they came home with me from the mall in.  I do have a small bag of donations waiting by the door to leave our home.  I have done some small organizing baby steps at the office.  MUCH to be done.
  9. Personal: I think that mindfulness meditation has been very helpful for feeling confident I can handle things and feeling peaceful.  Also, I put as a part of this goal, keeping up with the grooming stuff.  I know I'm not the best at this.  I never wear make up.  My wife needs to beg me to brush my hair.  But my 'deliverables' in this category are: keep up with threading eyebrows; keep up with dying grey hair; keep up with pedicure; and wear skirts occasionally.  I'm happy to relate that I am up to date on all of the above.  I even took advantage of Friend Outreach Friday to multitask and met my friend Natalie for a pedicure instead of for drinks.  We got in a good catch up chat, and walked away with less empty calories in us, and delicious burgundy toes.  
That's about all the news for me.  I did want to relay a funny story about work before I hit the Tudors on Netflicks:  I was telling my sister about how at my part time job there are cutbacks, and a fear of jobs being cut, and a general message to do more, spend less money, get more clients out to things, etc.  As Dawn's eloquent Dad would say, to 'eat it and say yummy'.  I was relaying my woeful tale of how tough things are to my twin.  As in, I need to keep this job until the end of November when I've paid off my debt, then I had this meeting with our manager who sort of let us know it's all a house of cards that could come tumbling down so 'do more, better, with less, damn it!'  And my twin hauled out a Toronto Life magazine from her bag, and said, you mean like this? The article was called 'Work Sucks', and begins, "It's not just you. We're all working more, making less and going berserk. Tales from the post-recession office."  And with that we were able to howl with recognition and laughter.

Happy Family Day Eve.  My wife just got home so I'm off for some mutual admiration society stuff.

xo Tara

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Unmaterial Valentine

Not to be mistaken with immaterial.  This year, since my wife had to work from 8pm-10pm on Valentine's Day (Otherwise known as Black Monday - supposedly coined by an old roommate of mine), and I worked until 8pm, we had our celebration yesterday.

Did we go out for a romantic, candlelit dinner and shower each other with expensive trinkets?  I'm guessing you already know the answer to this one.  Instead, we lived out a long held fantasy to eat Chippy's while watching British mini-series at home.  Chippy's, in case you are not in the know, is Toronto's best fish and chips place.  It was voted best the last few years by both of Toronto's hip weeklies.  They offer you your choice of several types of fish, and the fries are home cut nirvana.  They are slightly overcooked to a gorgeous brown and each serving contains way too many fries for health or comfort.  It has been about 2 years since we got Chippy's.  It's not that close to home, and it's not that much fun to eat it hovering over their counter on one of their few stools.  But yesterday, we made a delicious exception to the rule.  I ordered and raced for the subway as soon as it was ready, carefully keeping the top of the paper bag open to keep the steam from making it soggy.  It took 23 interminable minutes to get home, but finally I arrived and we grabbed our portions and hit the computer + newly arranged dining zone for the cued up British cop show my wife had found us.  We enjoyed the show and our eater's remorse thoroughly all afternoon.

We also took some time to appreciate each other and I'm even treating my wife to a hairdo as an adjunct to Valentine's Chippy's.  No new stuff, but a new hairdo will make her feel spiffy and loved.

Today, on actual Valentine's day, my wife sent me off by tattooing me with a red marker. I've got heart. Now, I'm home earlier than her, so I intend to use my solo Valen-time to watch shows she's already seen as I munch on dark chocolate and sip a locovore whisky beverage.  We'll regroup for some mutual appreciation society when she gets back.

Take home message: You don't need to buy stuff to feel the love on Black Monday.

xo Tara

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vintage Cloak

I gave up buying new again as of Feb. 1st and already the universe is providing in terms of me not needing to buy new stuff.  My mother-in-law showed up with a gorgeous long, black, winter cloak made of cashmere and blended wool.  It was made in a Toronto shop, and has genuine vintage cred.  It's original owner is my wife's grandfather's girlfriend.  She has recently moved to a nursing home and was one meticulously attired and groomed lady.  My wife deemed it way too girly for her and perfect for me.  It fits so great. It would seem that my cup runneth over with an embarrassment of riches.  I now have not one but two cloaks/capes (since I bought one during my January shopping frenzy - see yesterday's post for long list of shopping escapades).  This one is solid black, longer, and luxuriant, well made vintage cashmere.  The other one is fuller, shorter, tweed mixed black and white.  Nice enough, but not nearly as awesome.

In other news, it is seriously my bedtime.  I've stayed up too late catching up on email, which goes against my new world order of bedtime by 11:00pm.  But I have kept up with my rigid packing-my-lunch-before-going-to-bed rule.  Honestly, if you are trying to be healthy, you spend most of your life standing in the kitchen packing your lunch.  So you might as well learn to like it, right?  I'm practicing mindfulness as I prepare my lunch.  A handy way to kill two birds with one joyful stone.

xo Tara

Monday, February 7, 2011

Great Expectations

Hi there,

I'm rather tardy on posting.  I've had this problem before.  When I give myself something really specific that I want to do on the blog, I end up postponing writing until everything is right with the universe and I can focus on writing about just that one thing properly.  I've done it with the creativity stuff and the Reverb10 writing too.  It's probably better for flow if I don't be so specific in my head, since my inner blogger often flakes out if I can't do what I set out to do.

What I've been postponing writing about is January.  The first month of 2011, when I was free to shop for the month and have been working on various other projects.  I've been setting lofty goals of doing tidy posts on: 1. my Annual Review of goals, and 2. the stuff I bought and money I spent in January after a year of not shopping, 3. what's next etc.

To be honest, January's end was quite full of, well, shopping.  I spent some time last night tallying up the damage, and it's more than I realized.  All told, I spent......$855.93 on 'stuff' during my sanctioned month of buying new things.  A bit of it was stuff for my wife and I, but mostly for me.  (FYI: in case you don't know this, I'm not buying anything new for the rest of the year again). Some highlights from my list:
  • an orange ukulele with case and song book (turns out I liked it better than the pink one)
  • my favourite, fancy, expensive fine tipped markers (20 colour pack)
  • a bunch of moleskin notebooks in various sizes and colours
  • a couple of bins and tins for craft supply organization
  • a swimsuit
  • a toilet brush, potato peeler, tea towels, paring knives
  • a winter cape, cute boots, gloves, and scarf
  • underwear and sock blowout (got over $100 worth of each)
  • full length mirror
  • earrings from Ten Thousand Villages
  • Winner's shopping spree - 2 dresses, 1 skirt, 2 cardigans ($154.35)
  • Joe Fresh shopping spree - included 28 items (massively reduced, bill was only $131.70-conscience on red alert re: why so cheap?)
I did not end up getting a Tilly Hat, or a kitchen rack for my pots and pans.  Time ran out.  It became easier to shop as the month went on, but I am kind of relieved to be done for the year now.  It is hard to stop once you get on a roll. 

Again, I'll have to work to cull my old crap, to make the new fit in, and not feel over-cluttered and like the walls are closing in on our wee condo.

I also have been going full tilt on some of my other goals around being healthier and doing more 'non-passive leisure' and 'friend outreach'.  Being healthier feels like a bit of a strange thing to talk about.  It's one of those things where you can feel boring or self-righteous if you get it wrong.  Let's just say, I've been working hard to try and take really good care of myself for just over a month now.  I've been walking more, packing my lunch, eating like a normal person would instead of like a sumo wrestler, that kind of thing.  I've also been sleeping better and I definitely feel more calm and less stressed out on a day to day basis.

Seeing lots of friends.  I've been booking lunch dates on Fridays, so that I get to see people I like, and actually leave the building for lunch.  So often these days we end up skipping our break and working hunched over desks with our lunches. By making plans with others outside I am shifting this in a nice way.  Also, I've resumed Stitch & Bitch (Friday we had a great one at my twin's), and I've finished my first 'freestyle hat'.  It is 1000 times better than the giant one I made for my wife.  I will revisit knitting a hat for her now that my improvisation has galvanized me.  Also, our book club met last week and will be meeting again in 2 weeks.  I am doing games night with a friend couple this weekend and bowling with another friend couple on Saturday.  If you don't book times with friends, you don't see them.  Or at least I don't.  I don't seem to just bump into my buddies without some leg work.

Had a sweet visit with my 89 year old grandmother yesterday too.  She can barely see out of the one eye she has left, but is still happy to let you and everyone know if you've gained or lost any weight recently.  Fortunately I fell in the former category this visit. Whew.  It was nice to Laing out with my cousins, aunts, in-laws and other extended family. 

Okay, I'd better get back to work.  I'm using my lunch break to blog today, so pat me on the back for not working through it.

I'll be blogging more about my 'laser sharp focus' on the goal of paying off a loan that is now at $16,151.  I want that beast gone by the time I leave my second job.  Argh.  It's a big task.

Talk soon for reals.

xo Tara

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Last Shopping Saturday

I'm poised and almost ready to run out the door with my shopping list on this, my final weekend of shopping for new stuff before Feb. 1st and my self-imposed, rest of the year, shopping embargo resumes.

Feeling a bit dazed from a wild, late night at my book club's 5 year anniversary last night.  My sister and I had a grand, laughing, good time and didn't leave until after 1:30am, astonished at the lateness.  I ended up crashing at my sister's place.  Our commute from the east end book club site on public transit ended around 2:30am.  I had to endure witnessing the mating dance and the end of night slobbering of what seemed like all the drunks in Toronto, stone cold sober.  It's amazing how surreal 2:30am looks when you've been partying without the assistance of alcohol surrounded by the masses who have. 

It was also a healthy way to keep our egos in check.  My sister and I were accosted by a weaving drunkard during our interminable wait at Bathurst for the street car.  His opener clinched it for us, "Are you two lesbians?"  His close talking, steamy booze-breathed familiarity; coupled with him cornering us in the shelter did not endear him to us."I'm just asking.  You don't know right? Are you Portuguese? Are you Italian? Are you Trinidadian? Do you speak French? I like you hair? Did you do it today? Did you straighten it?"  We answered his steady stream of invasive questions monosyllabically until something shiny distracted him and he moved on to the next person.

There he had more success, perhaps because with her, his opening line was "Are you a model?"  My sister and I ended up cracking up with relief as we listened to their laughter and inanities next to us.  Everything's relative. We found him threatening, but she had no problem joking around and making small talk.  I guess we were just too tired to have his brand of smelly small talk imposed on us.

Enough about last night, oh, except to say, we did the book, "The Year of Living Generously" about a year of volunteering, which seemed to invoke strong and different responses from our group.  We  have a mixed bag of both sexes and ages range from mid twenties to early sixties.  I can't comment on the book yet, since I went at the last minute and haven't read but a few pages.  I will read it, and it was good enough to goad a few members of the group on to want to do more volunteering.  I also inherited 3 used books (we swap at book clubs).  So, another Friday was  put to 'Friend Outreach' successfully.  The upcoming book club, in February, my twin and I are co-hosting, and the book is the superlative "Room" by Emma Donoghue.  Next week will be another such Friend Outreach Friday, with Stitch & Bitch revisited.  I'm so happy.  I love hanging with those gals.

Okay, breakfast then shop till I drop.

xo Tara

P.S.: thanks to Shannon for even more Friend Outreach Friday, with our lovely lunch and the gently used copy of Vanity Fair! I've been trying to book friends for lunches on Fridays and for fun hanging out on Friday nights.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


My wife thinks I've been lying to my readers because I haven't been posting the tax I've been paid for my shopping.  She sure can be a stickler for detail when she wants to.  I argued that tax is different in different countries, so I was being internationally friendly. I'll tell you what, I'm going to do a tidy summary of January at the end so people can ooh and aah at my exciting purchases and I will include the tax.

I'm down to 6 shopping days, and I still haven't spent that much time on it, so some of things on my list are getting down to the wire.  I'll have to step up.  Since I've gotten out of the habit of shopping, it does feel a bit like work!

Okay, I've got job number two to get to, so this will be brief, but expect great things (shopping wise) from me this weekend.

Also, I've finally honed down my Annual Review to 9 sub-headings I want to focus on.  And I came up with little symbols to represent and remind me of each of them.  I'm still searching for the perfect notebook my friend, Christine showed me to write them down daily in manageable chunks.  More on that later.  Christine is a brilliant blogger and magical musician who often writes about ways of being organized.

In the always exciting clean-living-news, I've been really, really good about packing my lunch, walking and going to bed by 11pm with a novel so far this month.  Being so organized and sensible really cuts down on my available time for bad habits and riot starting, however. 

xo Tara

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Another Day, Another 88 Dollars

Today I set out to get a full length mirror.  I think it will help me to clean my closets out, by trying on stuff in front of the mirror and actually being able to see what it looks like.  I also think it will help me to be a tad more presentable.  I'm still working on remembering to brush my hair before I leave the house.  Baby steps.  My wife generally reminds me, 'Honey, you've gotta brush your hair.'

I ended up coming home with a black, A-line, Calvin Klein skirt that fits perfectly and is flattering ($39.99), a red 'flow-y' dress ($22.00), and a brown knit dress ($16) that fits really well, especially at the shoulders.  My sister was a patient wing woman in the lengthy process I took to savour my shopping moments while I have them.

I ended up eventually finding my mirror after a lot of no luck situations.  I saw a bunch of giant, ornate ones in the department store that looked as if they would fit in nicely on the set of Victor Newman's mansion on the Young and Restless.  Unfortunately, in our modest condo, if I brought home one of those mirrors, I'd have to remove the couch or something just to fit it in.  So I got a cheap one that will hang on the back of our bedroom door.  I have big plans for closet thinning once I figure out how to hang it, tomorrowish.  I can cross one thing off my list and three spontaneous girlie clothing items that were not on my list.  The thrills of shopping in January.  Only 9 more shopping days left for me...

Tomorrow we leave at noon to visit my in-laws in Hamilton.  A whole bunch of them.  My mother-in-law, both of my wife's grandparents, and my sister-in-law and her baby - our nephew, Sammy.  He calls me Ra-Ra.  Pretty cool, huh?

Before Sammy, my only nickname was when my friend Rick got a bunch of our friends to start calling me Ta-ra, because he felt bad I'd never had a nickname (pronounced to rhyme with 'Ta-Da!').  Actually, that's a lie.   My friend Mark came up with a new one for me every day.  T-Dog, T-Money, Clubber Laing, The Lainger, etc. etc. I miss working with him and having so many rap star sounding alter egos.

xo Tara

Purse Contents Like the Queen

My twin just read aloud to me from an article on the royals and money. It was mainly focusing on Kate Middleton's singular financial issues as a young gal about to marry the future King of England. So, obviously, highly relevant to my own pecuniary situation.

But something stood out when they brought up the Queen's money as well as the contents of her royal handbag.  Apparently the Queen does not carry money in her purse.  I just about cracked up when my sister read:

According to the book What's in the Queen's Handbag, Queen Elizabeth carries no cash in her pocketbook, instead filling it with keepsakes such as family photos and lucky charms.

It does sound pretty funny.  Like she's touring about in her cute lady like suits, with a purse full of snapshots and children's cereal.  Perhaps, once February comes and I'm gone off the shopping, I shall follow Elizabeth's lead.  If I keep no cash in my unroyal pocketbook, it will be doubly easy to not spend.

As I've mentioned before, 2011 will be all about paying  off debt.  In particular, I am focusing a laser beam of debt reducing intentional energy upon a loan I have that is just over $16,000.  I want it paid before I leave my second job in the fall. It's likely to be very challenging and a bit boring, but in my nerdy way, I'm kind of excited about it.

This week's Now magazine is called 'The Money Issue'.  The link is to their article on 'Slow money wins the race'.  Some of it talks about how money that goes to a chain gets 'whisked out of the economy, often within 24 hours' and discusses ways to slow it down and keep it hanging about serving the community.  An interesting factoid:  'A litre of Ontario wine sold in Ontario puts $8.48 back in the economy, compared to 67 cents from an import.'  There are more articles on various topics including ethical local investing, and a good one on DIY financial planning. I mean to check out a program called '' after reading it.

On the shopping news front, another purchase last night.  I spent about an hour and a half trying on a mile of sweaters.  Slightly ridiculous, because I actually have many cardigans.  But I do wear a lot of them, so they are something I obviously like and use.  I ended up buying two that I am pleased with, and spent $49.98 on the pair of them.  Still lots of work to do to finish getting the items on my list and finalize some goals for the rest of the year.  Hopefully tomorrow will bring the just right coffee shop, blank page, & comfortable writing surface moment to pull all that together.


p.s.: Mom told me to keep a pretty, red, $50 bill in my wallet but not to spend it.  She said it encourages you to feel wealthy, and for just-in-cases you do have that money, so you never truly feel broke. Rather, you feel like you are making a wise decision not to spend it. She also thinks it encourages other money to come and keep it (the red 50) company. I've had my lucky $50 in there since January 5th. So far so good. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

My friend Christine and I had a lovely, nerdy friend date yesterday.  We went to see Chris Guillebeau's Unconventional Book Tour for his book, The Art of Non Conformity.  It was very nice and inspiring.  He seemed truly decent, and came over and shyly introduced himself to us before it started.  It was standing room only and Christine and I were standing on the side near the front and ended up sitting for part of it.  He will be hitting all the provinces, so pop by one of his session if you can.

We then went to a cafe and had tea and fizzy water and talked non-stop for a couple of hours about goals and planning, and how to organize them and how to write them out.  Christine has a lot of good ideas on this and has an interesting combo of artist's brain and ++ logical systems thinker stuff.  She talks about some of these things in her blog and she writes weekly on Tuesdays only for now while she is busy composing a new album.

I left feeling energized about my own goals and also feeling the need to get a little more tidy and specific in them.  Christine also had little symbols for some of her goals and writes them anew each day in her book so they really get ingrained.  It's like an image to sum up the goal.  Kind of easy to call on rather writing it out in full necessarily.  I attended a training once for CBT where the facilitator encouraged us to get our clients to come up with metaphors for their strengths, that they could call on during hard times to draw upon their resilience.  I like the idea of an image or symbol or metaphor for goals to make them easy to remember and focus on. 

Okay, time to hit the road and go knitting for job # 2...

xo Tara

Friday, January 14, 2011

Shopping Update

I've added some items to my growing list of shopping I've done this month. If you're new to this, I didn't buy anything new for a year, but am allowing myself a month of shopping (January 2011) and will resume my nothing new plan for the rest of 2011.

Last night I bought some long gloves (now I have two pairs, so decadent) for my vintage swing coat with 3/4 length sleeves, and after two separate trips to the mall fully 12 days apart, bought a cape style winter coat.  I've always wanted one. You can put it on over things that don't easily fit under a coat (i.e.: a poncho or wrap), and it speaks to the inner vampire in me. Just kidding, it's not black, it's more of a tweed. The gloves were 1/2 price at around $12.50, and the cape was actually about 70% off and came in at $85 big ones.

But this is the most exciting news of the day. I popped into the pharmacy to get some deodorant and toothpaste as we are running low. I thought I'd get the same one we got last time, it was fine and lasted a while. It's called 'Ban'. I scanned the shelves and discovered to my delight that they were on sale for 36 cents! I bought all of them.  I recommend any other people who hate spending money on toiletries rush out to PharmaPlus and stock up on their Ban deodorant. But don't go to the one at Dundas West and Bloor. There's none left. Oh Oh. I think I'm turning into my depression era Nanny.

I'm off to have dinner with my friends Tara and Anya. If you'll recall, one of my goals is to do 'friend outreach' on Fridays. My wife typically works late on that evening, and I get off early. I love it when other people cook for me! A great start to my weekend.

xo Tara

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Geek Out Plan for Sunday

I just realized (or re-realized?) that Chris Guillebeau, who inspired my annual review, is coming to Toronto this weekend.  It's part of his Unconventional Book Tour.  He is a pretty unique dude with a lot of interesting things to say.  He is also working on travelling around the world to every single country, and is popping in to every province in Canada over the next two weeks.  I'm going to see if my list & goal focused friend, Christine, wants to go with me. 

She just wrote a good entry with a link to an article about how we fail at resolutions.  Merlin Mann advises us to consider fresh starts and modest changes and look at failure as 'The sound of beginning to suck a little less'.  Hopefully my resolutions will fall into the fresh starts and modest changes category rather than circling the drain too quickly this year.  Be it resolved that in 2011, I will suck a little less.  It feels quite do-able, actually.

In case you are into the goal/list thingy, the 'Meet up' for Chris Guillebeau on Sunday will be at Indigo Manulife at 2pm, Jan. 16th, 2011.  It's at 55 Bloor St. West in Toronto.

xo Tara

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Gift of Time

I have a rare, not-so-late shift tonight, thanks to some wheeling and dealing on Thursday, where I will be running back and forth between two jobs more than once.  Ugh.  I should just focus on enjoying tonight while it lasts.  I'll be leaving the day job shortly to go home and keep on keeping on with my long list of to-do's. 

A couple of my New Year's to-do's I've been staying fairly well abreast of, including: packing my lunch and dinner, walking to work, and going to bed by 11:00pm.  Last night it was before 11:30, so I consider it an almost victory over my endless evening puttering habit.  Such humble goals are part of my master plan to be a bit healthier and a bit thriftier this year.

Looking forward to some friend visiting and more new stuff shopping this weekend. In the meantime, I'll be practicing the fine art of domestic felicity tonight.

xo Tara

Monday, January 10, 2011

Graduated From Mindfulness Class Today

Today was my final mindfulness mediation class. I'm really going to miss it. It gave me both perspective and a clearer view of how noisy, boring, and repetitive many of my thoughts are, as well as a few useful tools for dealing with that, feeling good, and staying present.

Now, I'm supposed to just keep using it on my own. Kind of like continuing to do homework after the course is done, I'm sure that will be a challenge, but probably a worthwhile one. I could really use a tutor though.

I'm also testing out a new day planner. I start every year with visions of this day planner being the one that 'changes everything'. Ha! Such optimism. But, better than being a pessimist, right? 

I've yet to type up my final version of my Annual Review of goals for 2011 (including spreadsheet), but have used about 30 pages of rough notes so far. Enough to send my wife scurrying for cover when I fanned the pages and suggested a comprehensive chat about our mutual finances. Not the most romantic words ever uttered. Fortunately, we do seem relatively well synced on these issues right now. I'll be posting more details on money goals soon. I'd like to do this as: 1. I'm curious how other people cope with debt, saving, and paying for life, and 2. I could use the 'accountability' factor of sharing them.

Still haven't shopped since my socks and tights spree.  Will keep you posted on any other 'new' purchases that come my way in January month.

Talk soon,
xo Tara

Friday, January 7, 2011

Winning is Nice

I forgot to mention, I won the Kindle eReader contest with  It turns out it's back ordered, so it may take a little while to get it, but it is exciting to be the winner.  And nice to have my efforts (and those of my friends who helped me out) at helping this favour exchange network grow, rewarded so literally.

I am a big reader and am curious to try this new fangled way of getting my read on.  Also, I will be chatting soon with a very interesting woman named Lisa Gansky that I heard about through icancanu. She wrote a book called 'The Mesh' about how 'the future of business is sharing'.  I'm intrigued and it seems to suit my goals for decreasing consumption and the ethos of icancanu, too.  Perhaps I'll read The Mesh on my new Kindle.

Re: my January shopping, I just remembered that during the long year of not shopping I was a bit sad for want of: 1. a new bathing suit I wouldn't have to be 'ashamed for me life' to wear (as Nanny Stuckless might have worded it), 2. a Tilly hat, 3. summery shoes.  I'll keep these in mind during my January shopping.

I've ramped up my new stuff as of yesterday.  I added to the meager Ottawa mall haul (potato peeler and scarf), by getting socks, tights and a pair of on sale shoe-boots here in Toronto.  Very exciting stuff.  Three weeks of shopping freedom to go...

Been enjoying my mini-vacation.  Met friends visiting from living in England at a restaurant (cool, locovore type place called Brockton General - I would recommend it) last night and stayed up a little late. Today I slept in a bit, had an eyebrow threading and then lunch with an old friend.  So decadent not to go to work and be in the city. 

Talk soon,
xo Tara

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Shopping Second-Hand When I Don't Even 'Have' To

We set out today on our Mother-Daughters shopping spree not so full of vim and vigor.  I had spent the night relentlessly awake.  Literally I got less than an hour's sleep due to a misunderstanding about some 'herbal tea' my sister had given mom for Christmas.  It turns out the delicious chocolate-scented tea I drank a full pot of around midnight, was indeed quite caffeinated.  I spent my hours in bed with thoughts at full gallop.  My little sister also had a less than thorough night's sleep at her dad's due to their dog being needy, vulnerable, and noisy following an unwanted bath.

Nonetheless, we prevailed and hit the shops.  I have good news to report.  I spent $5 on an ergonomic peeler for our kitchen at Home Sense.  And, I actually bought my 'new' winter coat at Value Village for $34.99!  I was very pleased to find a coat that looked as nice on me as the ones at the Mall did.  It is a grey wool coat that comes to the knee.  It fits me well, and even my 27-year-old fashionista sister approved.

I managed to survive a full hour of browsing with them at Winner's without buying anything, and when mother I and went into the Jones New York outlet, she suggested I try on a cute winter dress on sale for $19.99.  I liked it, but didn't want to spend anymore until I got back to Toronto, so she bought it for me as an early birthday gift!

I'm feeling quite good about being so dang sensible.  And lucky.  Tonight is my final night in Ottawa, so we are dining out at a local Mexican restaurant.


Shopping for Free

My second day of shopping was not very expensive as I basically just used a gift card I got for Indigo to shop.  I enjoyed browsing around to make my choices and finally fixed upon the following:
1. a Vegan cookbook (I'm NOT vegan, but I'd like to make more meatless meals).
2. a clean food cookbook (I'd like to cook less processed type things, and this is that kind of cookbook).
3. three different sizes of Moleskine notebooks for my wife and I (big ones for planning, little tiny ones for catching thoughts in, and medium ones for carrying).

I'm using one of the the big ones to do my Annual Review like Chris Guillebeau suggests, right now.  I'll have to call it a night and resume tomorrow.   I'm taking the liberty of using week one of 2011 to fine tune the planning, since my vacation didn't begin until the year was upon us. I like these three passages from Chris' blog:
You can have anything you want.  But everything at the same time.  You may have to give up something to achieve something else - so it's better to know what's most important to you in your own version of world domination...
and he quotes Donald Miller writing:
Meaningful lives don't just happen by accident.  (Thus I plan).  You have to make deliberate decisions at some point.  If you know what you value and what you're working towards, it's easier to make those decisions.
and finally:
When we find ourselves stuck in a situation and unable to move forward, something has to change.  It is unnecessary and potentially fatal to rely on others to create change for us.  Who's responsible for creating change? I am.

These, along with his specific guidelines and examples are really helping me to work on this annual review idea.  I am recognizing that without specifics it's easy for me to drift or backpedal.

For tomorrow, I'll still be in Ottawa and our plan is to go to Value Village, then Winner's and Home Sense with my baby sister and mother.  It was my idea to start with the Village, so that we can try to get whatever-it-is second hand first.  They were agreeable.

Check out this gal's post, who is doing a Nothing New Year in 2011: Life's Many Colors, and used some of my ground rules from last year to draft her own!

Talk soon,
xo Tara

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The First Shop

My first shopping trip was today, January 2nd.  Turns out it's pretty hard to find anywhere open on the 1st of January.  Despite my carefully planned list, my enthusiasm, and my mom's help, I ended up coming out of it having purchased only a $7.99 scarf.

So much for going bananas at the mall.  I did try on about 50 coats.  And I narrowed down some favourites.  But it turns out I've become a much pickier shopper than I was in the past.  I wanted things to be cheaper, yet better made, etc.  So, I didn't jump to get anything yet.  I do have the whole month to buy things, and if today's shopping is a sign, I may be on a good track for managing to live within my means more easily.

My family here in Ottawa have been very generous too, and some of the great gifts I got included:

  • a gift card for Indigo (I can use it to get the Moleskine notebooks I wanted), 
  • a gift card for Shoppers (It's great, especially since I've developed an curious resentment towards buying expensive toiletries), 
  • a nice gift basket from bath and body works (see previous point about toiletries), 
  • a pair of shoes my mom has only worn once that are just what I was looking for (sturdy, nice, interesting, and good for walking), 
  • a book called 'How to Change your Entire Life by Doing Absolutely Nothing' featuring 10 Do-Nothing relaxation exercises to calm you down quickly so you can speed forward faster.  I'm on # 3: "Mellow Yellow" -  When you are ticked off, you spend five minutes focusing on just seeing yellow everywhere.  Look around and notice it instead of 'seeing red'.  It's a funny take on mindfulness.
  • Money Sense's Guide to Retiring Wealthy.  It will help me with working on our specific financial goals for the year.  (Oh man, I really wish I'd let that $1000 in RRSPs from my 20's just sit there and grow...)
  • Also, lots of other gifts and good times and meals with family.
I've even gotten a long walk in each day.  Yesterday was unseasonably warm, around +10 degrees Celsius and today, despite being minus 10 or so, we bundled up and walked as well.  And sleep.  I'd been burning the candle at both ends the last couple of weeks and since I got to mom's, I've been like a toddler, taking a daily nap and getting 10-12 hours sleep at night.  Marvelously decadent!  

Today we watched the 'King's Speech' as a family. Such a great, great film. I was so glad it wasn't sold out because mom suggested that if it was, we could all go see 'Black Swan' together.  I haven't seen 'Black Swan' yet, but from the hints I hear, I think it might have made for an awkward family outing experience.  

Talk soon,
xo Tara

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year - Mission Accomplished

About to crack the bubbly with Mom, Scottie, and Tena to put the icing on the cake to 2010.  We've all been hanging out and sharing our goals for the next year and it's been really peaceful and plain nice.  Just missing my wife, but otherwise, all is well.

Looking forward to a fresh, clean, sparkly New Year full of joy, ease, and light, and a little bit of new stuff.

x to the o


Yay! I did it!  And if I can you do it, YOU can do it...