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...