Thursday, October 28, 2010

75. Write at least twice a week for Get Fit Chicks for a month

I did it! I managed to blog at least twice a week for the month of October (yeah, I know it's not over yet, but I already reached the goal)

I think I'll be able to keep up the regular's that thing about taking three week to make or break a habit!

You can catch my posts over at Get Fit Chicks starting on October 4.

98. Bake something yummy for someone special as a surprise


I made something yummy for a bunch of special people for Thanksgiving...You can read about them here.

They were a one knew they were coming. And they were so good. They would be super yummy warmed up a little (or straight from the warm pan) with a dollop of ice cream on top.


Yay, two down, 99 to go...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thanksgiving on the Island

We went to Vancouver Island for Thanksgiving to visit my super wonderful grandma, Mama. We had a great time and I'm just really slow at posting these!

We had our Thanksgiving dinner of lasagne and pumpkin-swirl brownies on Saturday night. Yum!

thanksgiving dinnerDad, Kelsey, J, Alex and me...

bathed babyJ had a bath at Mama's (great-grandma's bath tubs are apparently very exciting...more exciting than the bath tub at home) and was just so excited to be there...Mama, my parents, and Kelsey are most certainly some of J's favourite people!

run kelsey runOn Sunday morning, Kelsey ran the Victoria marathon...look at that smile!

marathonersAnd look at all these people!

don't try this at homeWhile we waited for Kelsey to finish, J ran around beside the museum with her stroller...don't try this at home! Or at least, don't try this with a kid in your "lolo buggy"

big spiderWe found a big spider...I thought it was cool, J ignored it, and Alex got as far away from it as he could!

cheering for auntie kelseyJ spent some time cheering hard for Auntie Kelsey from a special vantage point above the crowd.

treeThere happened to be a cool tree to play under.

a girl and her daddyAnd J appreciated having some special one-on-one time with her daddy.

on a missionBut she was on a mission...once the race was over, she had something in mind...

found her auntieShe was looking for her marathoning auntie. And she found her eventually and brought her back to see the rest of us.

We stayed in some little cabins a few minutes from Mama's house...there was a great view...

early morning....even at the crack of dawn!

dandelion wishesJ learned about blowing dandelion fluff and making a wish (maybe she didn't quite understand the concept of a wish...)

the view
Nice view huh?

We had a great weekend (scary stuff aside) was nice to come home though!

36.8 Try 50 new recipes - Chicken Strips with Yam Fries

Alex has been begging me for chicken strips. We've been trying to eat as healthy as we can so I really didn't want to buy a box of chicken strips. I have been looking for a recipe for a while and I ended up making one up based on a bunch of recipes.

We decided yam fries would work really well with chicken strips so I sliced up some yams, drizzled a bit of olive oil on them, and sprinkled them with salt and tossed them in a hot oven.

Then I made an assembly line of flour with seasoning, egg, and panko crumbs.

assembly line
After all of the chicken was dredged in the spiced flour (I used some chili and cumin), dipped in the egg, and rolled in crumbs, I baked them with the yams.


chicken strips with yam fries
Everyone loved them - J gobbled them down and Alex keeps saying "Make them again!" (Yes, the broccoli and the cauliflower are still J's favourite veggies so they make it to the table many nights of the week!)

36.7 Try 50 new recipes - Turkey Meatball Soup

So, I don't just cook Martha Stewart recipes! I probably have 25 or 30 cookbooks. This one came from a Canadian Living Magazine and it's on the internets! I had a few problems reading the recipe though and I forgot to buy green onions and red pepper. I substituted some sweet white onion from the family garden and some extra carrot and celery.

And I ended up with a mirepoix without really meaning too...

I made the meatballs the night before so that all I really had to do was assemble the soup when I got home from work. I had planned to do the chopping the night before too, but it was too late...if I had, I would have noticed the missing ingredients...maybe...

chicken meatballs
I couldn't get turkey or veal, so I settled for ground chicken. Only problem was my meatballs were more like meat splats. I think maybe they could have done with a half cup of bread crumbs or something...I don't know!

turkey meatball soup
But it was soooooooo good! J loved the meatballs. The noodles were awesome, but they really soaked up the liquid and the leftovers was more like soggy (but really yummy) chow mein with meatballs. And the green onions, they'd totally make the soup so much better...

This soup is now in our regular meal rotation. YUM!

36.6 Try 50 new recipes - Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies

Oh my. Martha Stewart outdid herself this time!

Any recipe that starts with this:

chocolate and butter
has got to be great!

I made these the night before we went away for Thanksgiving. These pumpkin-swirl brownies were awesome. We had a very non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner of lasagne and brownies and wow! MMMM...

deliciousnessThe were moist and gooey and scrumptious and it's a very good thing that I don't normally keep an entire package of bittersweet chocolate on hand or I might be making these more often...

I was going to take a picture of one of the brownies but they vanished too quickly!

To weigh or not to weigh…

This post was originally published at Get Fit Chicks. It may refer to posts on Get Fit Chicks that no longer exist. Please email me if you run into any of those and I will break the links. More information about the reposting is available here

A very weighty question (pun maybe intended, maybe not, I haven’t decided yet)…

My friend Melynda recently posted on her blog about some lifestyle changes she’s making now that her new baby has arrived.

One of the big changes is that she’s not going to weigh herself anymore. She said she was weighing herself daily, but that she has decided that she needs to stop.

To weigh or not to weigh is a big decision…I’ve looked at (and lived) the pros and cons of both…regular weighing – daily, weekly, monthly, whatever – is definitely a motivator and can be very helpful. I have also experienced how it can work in the opposite way. I happen to think (right now) that not weighing yourself can be great, especially for your self esteem, but that it also doesn’t necessarily help if you’re not aware of your body.

I don’t weigh myself very often. I never used to weigh myself at all, but then we moved. And the people who used to live in our house left their scale behind. Even when I was pregnant, I didn’t weigh myself. Because of my back, I had prenatal check ups at least every two weeks, so my doctor weighed me. But after J was born there was a scale in our bathroom. And I started weighing myself. I weighed myself once a week on the same day that J had her weigh ins.

It was great until the domperidone started. And then I began to dread the scale. The needle didn’t move. And when you’re three months postpartum and the needle stops moving before you fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes, it’s not a happy thing.

So I’ve stopped. Almost a year ago I decided it wasn’t helping me at all. It was making it worse. (Take a look at Single Dad Laughing’s post on bathroom scales and his list of steps. It was something like that for me except I didn’t usually do the two to three day junk food binge and I was a lot harder on myself)

Now, I have two guides – one is how I’m feeling – am I dragging myself around or do I have energy. The other is how my clothes fit. Waistbands are getting looser and that means that things are changing in my body. And that’s good. But I’m not stepping on that scale until it’s time to wear a different size and retire all my pants.

Because my weight fluctuates. With the time of day, the day of the week, the week of the month, the colour of my socks. And those fluctuations can really drag me down.

And I’ve decided the fluctuations stress me out and that just makes the extra pounds more determined to stick to me.

Do you weigh yourself regularly or not at all? How did you decide what the best scale plan was for you?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Marie Claire makes me SO angry!

So, a few weeks ago, Marie Claire magazine posted an article entitled The Hunger Diaries. I've linked to it because that's the only way you can read it and see what it's all about.

I officially despise Marie Claire now.

So, if you read the six blogs (Kath of Kath Eats Real Food, Tina of Carrots 'N' Cake, Meghann of Meals and Miles, Heather of Hangry Pants, Caitlin of Healthy Tipping Point, and Jenna of Eat, Live, Run), you'll see that these women expected an article about blogging and how to generate revenue with your blog.

Read the article. Then read the responses.

But what we got was an article that basically slammed these women for writing about their journeys to become marathon runners or just to become healthier. They brought in a sports nutritionist to analyze what one woman ate and determined she wasn't eating enough. Well, yeah, turns out she didn't write about every single thing she ate every single day.

Then there's the crap about the pictures of food. And how that can trigger eating-disorder-prone readers to restart (or start) bad habits. Bah. At least one of the women considers herself a food blogger. That's what a food blogger does. She blogs about food. She usually takes pictures of that food. Sometimes she posts recipes too. That's why it's called a FOOD BLOG.

I read this article and my blood boiled. I am not a healthy living blogger. I'm not a food blogger. I'm just a blogger and sometimes I blog about both of those things. I bet, based on what I posted recently, that if Marie Claire analyzed my blog, they'd decide that I overeat, usually baked goods, and I live a very sedentary lifestlye. I've posted all kinds of yummy things I've made lately. I haven't posted about the baked salmon and steamed veggies we had for dinner or the veggie soup I had for lunch. I've posted about watching hockey games - on tv and at the hockey rink. I haven't posted much about what we've been doing - like going to the park, going for a walk, going to yoga.

Whatever. I'm not here for Marie Claire.

Anyway, this article pissed me off. Big time. And I started following the six women profiled because I actually liked what they have to say.

Now, there is a bigger issue here that Marie Claire could have focused on and that is the issue around eating disorders. It's been in the new a few times lately that there are blogs out there dedicated to "helping" you with your eating disorder - not helping you overcome it, helping you hide it, teaching you "tricks" etc. That's a problem and an issue that is interesting and could have made a great story.

So. Already not a big fan of Marie Claire, I come across this blog post today. (Again, I'd prefer not to link to Marie Claire, but there are copyright laws)

Who titles an article Should Fatties Get A Room? Even on TV?

I mean, really?

If this article where titled Should [insert any religion here] Get A Room? Even on TV? or Should [insert any ethnic group here] Get A Room? Even on TV? or Should [insert any gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, age or other discriminatory term here] Get A Room? Even on TV? Marie Claire NEVER would have published it.

I don't even know where to start. It just makes me mad. And sad. And. GRRRrr...I just want to yell at them. So I'm going to stop typing now.

I wrote an email to the editor of Marie Claire, Kate Schweitzer ( because I'm so grumpy about this...

When a magazine stirs it up...

This post was originally published at Get Fit Chicks. It may refer to posts on Get Fit Chicks that no longer exist. Please email me if you run into any of those and I will break the links. More information about the reposting is available here

So, I know this is my second post today, but grrr….

You may have heard about the Marie Claire controversy around The Hunger Diaries.

Maybe today you saw the controversy around a Marie Claire writer who wrote the blog post Should Fatties Get A Room? Even on TV?

They made me grumpy. Both of them. You can read about it here.

Stacey and I talked about this when the first article came out and we both felt that the magazine just felt threatened by the blogs...I'm not sure what the excuse is now...


Crazy tweaking time

This post was originally published at Get Fit Chicks. It may refer to posts on Get Fit Chicks that no longer exist. Please email me if you run into any of those and I will break the links. More information about the reposting is available here

So, a week and a half into the crazy diet and it’s time to tweak it.

It’s been a lot harder than I expected, mostly because of the things I couldn’t control – meetings. There’s also been the fact that I’m cooking for myself, but I’m also the cook for the rest of the family. And the not-enough-carb headaches.


I did what I could at the meetings. One was in a restaurant, so I checked out the menu before I got there and figured out what fit or was a close fit with the diet. That was easier than the day I had to attend a lunch meeting and pretty much the entire menu was off the list.

My family is pretty happy to eat whatever I feed them, but my kid, who never really asks for anything, has been demanding “ma-co-neeeeeeee” for the last few days. Last night I gave in and made macaroni and cheese for her and her dad to have tonight – I’ve got a meeting, so I’ll grab something small when we get home after work and then grab some soup or a salad when I get home. I don’t like to keep things like cheese or chocolate or bananas in the house while I’m trying to get back into the regular routine of eating with the crazy diet in mind, but J’s been insistent. I find that I need a few weeks of eating the way I should before I’m able to look in the fridge and go, oh, I’m hungry, but I don’t want that…

And then there were the not-enough-carb headaches. This was something I should have thought of and just not done this time. Taking wheat out just makes me more aware when it’s back in about eating things like bread. But I need a good serving of carbs at every meal or I end up with a migraine. Carbs like rice, potatoes, bread, oatmeal. I’m not a fan of potatoes which left me with rice (oatmeal was out because I refuse to cook twice for one meal – we make our oatmeal with milk and J won’t eat it if I make it with water anymore). And I can only eat so much rice. So wheat is back a week early. In small quantities. Like a slice of bread with my soup. And that’s pretty much it.

But it’s made a HUGE difference for my head. Because who can function when their head is exploding, stomach is doing back flips, and light and sound are enough to make you want to scream or hide under the desk or both?

So, week two is much smoother than week one…phew.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Go Rockets Giants Go

We did do some fun stuff this weekend, not just boring, old fall cleaning.

On Saturday we went to a Welcome to the World party. J thought it was great. She "held" the new baby for a few minutes and then had a blast eating chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing and drawing with the new baby's big sister using the fancy new crayon she got as a big sister gift.

But the big event was Saturday night. J had no idea we had a surprise planned for her. On Friday night she had a blast cheering for the Canucks on TV and kept saying "I go hockey. I say Go Rockets Go!" (She's been to lots of games, starting when she was about four months old) I asked her if she's been to a game and she said she had, with her mommy, daddy, Auntie Rebar and Oncle Jado. We were surprised she remembered the Paralympics and not Easter with my mom and dad, but she did know that my dad taught her how to say "Go Rockets Go!"

She got her puppy out and got us to zip him into her rain coat so he wouldn't get wet on the way to the game.

ready to go with puppy
She was pretty excited when we got there - she started looking for the blimp and it's been, oh, six months since she's been to a game.

so excited
Obviously she's her father's daughter...sportscaster in the making?

note taking
Hmmmm....what to write...not sure that was the right move...

We had a great time! She stayed awake (and happy) through the whole game and conked out in the car. She ended up sleeping in her clothes.

She slept in until 8:30 on Sunday morning which gave me 15 minutes to read my book. When I went in to get her up, I asked her what she did the night before.

"I go hockey. I sleep my clothes." So it obviously made an impression!

Oh, and by the end of the night she was saying "Go Giants Go!"

Weekend scrubbing...

Well, we did more than just clean this weekend, but that's for another post...

Yesterday we stayed home. It was a nasty, blustery day. A good day for a blanket and a book and a hot drink (mmmm...maybe Baileys hot chocolate...)

But I have a two year old.

So we decided it was time for fall cleaning. We washed and scrubbed and vacuumed and sorted. And fell into bed exhausted. But it was worth it! I feel so much more organized and prepared to do everything that is coming up in the next few weeks. We have more cleaning and WAY more sorting to do, but we're well on our way to getting our closets cleared. We even took a small load to one of the charity shops.

And today, it seemed to have rubbed off at work - I felt like I was was a million times more productive that I've been for weeks!

Yay fall cleaning!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Whene'er you make a promise...

Whene'er you make a promise
Consider well its importance
And, when made, engrave it upon your heart

Yesterday was a huge day for Girlguiding UK - it was 201020102010...

At 20:10 on October 20, 2010, something like 500,000 members of Girlguiding UK renewed their promises, together. At 20:10 here in Vancouver I renewed my promise in my head. Because my kid wouldn't go to sleep...anyway...and I used the old promise because I'm a bad Girl Guide and I haven't learned the new one.

And all this happened not because of the cool date, but because Girlguiding UK and Girl Guides of Canada (and some other countries that I don't know off the top of my head) are all celebrating 100 years of Girl Guides this year. There will be more celebrations in 2011 and 2012 took more than a year for Guiding to establish itself around the world! Heck, it's still establishing itself some places.

But it got me thinking (and it's not even World Thinking Day)...Alex always marvels at the friends I have in other countries. Real friends, not just people I've met at some point and now because of Facebook they're my "friends". He doesn't have that - mostly because I became friends with most of those people while living in another country and he's never had that opportunity.

But I think about how easily I became friends with some of these people (mostly women due to the nature of the organization) and it amazes me.

Because normally I'm slow to make friends. I make sure I really know and trust you before I decide that we can be friends. Because, especially before I went to Pax Lodge the first time, I am the person who sits at the edge of the group and observes and is anxious and nervous and not really at ease. FOR WEEKS. (I've become more extroverted and less wall flowery as I've gotten older!)

I swear that when I went to boarding school, the first year I had a few friends in the first few months and I didn't really have lots of friends until the last month or so of school. The second year was so much, that's in hindsight and my 16 year old self might not have agreed. And I love how many of those friends I'm still in touch with and would still consider friends not "friends from high school" which is really just another way to say acquaintance...

But back to these very quick (and now lasting) friendships I made in Guiding...

I think it was easier for me to make friends quickly with these women because the thing that brought us together, the thing that we shared, gave us (gives us) a set of values that we try to live our lives by. That even though we came from different backgrounds, spoke different languages, ate different things for breakfast, we already had established that common ground to build our friendships on. Now, I didn't become really good friends with every one of the 80+ women I worked with over 2 1/2 years, because really, even with that same common foundation, there are bound to be people who just don't mesh. But...Alex and I sent over 60 Christmas cards last year. Some to family, some to friends, and many more to my (now our) Guiding family.

These women are an amazing bunch of ladies! I've laughed until I cried with them, I've cried openly with them - not just sympathy crying, and I've eaten (and maybe drank) too much with them...we shared all kinds of new experiences, travel, songs, and stories...we lived and worked together and really got to know each other. There were three or four of them at our wedding. I've been to at least two (maybe three) of their weddings and had to decline a number of other invitations. I've held their babies and played with their kids. They've held our baby. One of them even made me her daughter's godmother. Gifts and cards have been sent over oceans and across continents to celebrate marriage, birth, birthdays, Christmas, and each other. Sympathy and assistance has been extended in times of need, loss, sickness, and injury. I wouldn't hesitate to turn to my Guiding friends for anything - advice (I've done that), a laugh (done that too), or someone who will just listen (ditto!).

When I first made my promise when I was nine years old, there was no way I knew what a huge impact it was going to have on my life. So, as much as a nine year old could, I considered my promise and I made it for the first time. I've renewed my promise countless times since then and every single time I make, I hear that song in my head. I know it's important. Being part of this organization has made me who I am today. And much of what is going on in my life right now is because of Guiding - I started working where I work now because a Guiding friend recommended me to her boss as her maternity leave replacement (that was 5 1/2 years ago!). I met Alex because I became good friends with a woman I met through Guiding who worked with a good friend of Alex's from high school. And if I hadn't met Alex, well, I wouldn't have J, would I?!

I guess my promise (outdated words and all) *IS* engraved on my heart...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why, oh why, am I more tired now?

This post was originally published at Get Fit Chicks. It may refer to posts on Get Fit Chicks that no longer exist. Please email me if you run into any of those and I will break the links. More information about the reposting is available here

The crazy diet started on Friday. I’ve been pretty good, considering some of the challenges I’ve had with meals where I had no control over what there was to eat…the best was lunch yesterday – a deli buffet – cold cuts, cheese, buns, cheese, pickles, more cheese, crackers, and huge chocolate squares. Oh, and tiny little fruit platter – not really enough for the number of people at lunch. And there was a tray of rabbit food – sprouts, tomatoes, tiny little slices of peppers – to go with the buns. But no salad.

So, I had to eat what was there. I avoided the chocolate and had fruit instead, but the rest of it…it was a four hour meeting over lunch, there was no way to avoid it (and bringing my own was not an option)…thankfully these meetings only happen every six weeks or so and tend to have different menus every time, so I shouldn’t run into this problem again….

But today I am so tired. I’d love it if they put a nap room in our building somewhere!

I know it’s not just because of what I ate yesterday, but I also know that yesterday didn’t help. I balanced it out with a yummy dinner of salmon, veggies, and brown rice, so hopefully I’ll get a little energy kick later on today.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Soup for breakfast?

This post was originally published at Get Fit Chicks. It may refer to posts on Get Fit Chicks that no longer exist. Please email me if you run into any of those and I will break the links. More information about the reposting is available here

So besides the challenges I’m facing this week with meetings and food, the biggest challenge I’ve had since the beginning of the crazy diet is what to eat for breakfast.

Our mornings are timed down to the second, well, not quite, but almost – we have about a ten minute cushion. I’m not getting up earlier than I already do to make a special breakfast for me because then I’d have to go to bed earlier and once J is asleep, I’m lucky if I have two hours to get everything done in the evenings before I have to head to bed too…

Do my dilemma was big…weekends are easy – I could have scrambled eggs, an omelette or somethings like that – but I just don’t have time on weekdays. We usually have oatmeal, but I make it with milk so that both J and I get enough calcium. J won’t eat oatmeal with water anymore – it doesn’t matter how much dried fruit and cinnamon I add, she wants her milk. So she can have it. But I still need to eat.

I mentioned that I had control of one meal at our meeting…I got up early on Saturday morning and made carrot and lentil soup. And I was starving. So I had some for breakfast. It was good.

I’ve decided that soup for breakfast is a good choice. This one is warm and creamy and yummy and it kept me full longer than a bowl of stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal. And it didn’t take any extra time. I can make the soup a few days in advance and just heat it up in the morning. So, problem solved, although I’ll probably go back to oatmeal next week when I can have milk again because it’s a pain making two breakfasts.

Tired. Busy. Here's J.

j at the legislature building
Lots to say. Maybe later.

Until then, here's J with her crazy hair in Victoria last weekend.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Kitchen Book - Section Seven

the book - section seven

Everything in this section is either a page protector or a plastic pocket. It's pretty straight forward...The first page has a list of things that we might need - stuff like the cable code for the TV so that J can't buy random movies and some codes for other things around the house.

This is the last section...what's in your book?! What did I miss????

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Kitchen Book - Section Six

Oh those dreaded pieces of paper that litter my house, my desk, my purse, and my pockets. This section of the book has helped somewhat...

the book - section six
I have changed things slightly since I created the pages I'm working off right now - if you check out Section Three you'll see that I've also included the grocery budget below there...I'd put it wherever it works for you. I moved ours to where our menus are, but I might be moving it back...I haven't decided.

As we collect receipts, we put them in the page protector. The idea was that as I paid off the bills, I'd attach the receipts to them. Yeah right. I'm getting there though. Alex goes through and shreds the bills we don't need to keep (groceries, other consumables) about once a month. So far he's just left the ones we might need for a return or something in the sleeve.

This is one part of the system we need to get more on top of...but at least there are very few stray receipts now...for the most part they're safely stowed in these pockets!

Anyone have a good receipt solution they'd like to share???

the book - grocery budgetAll the rest of the pieces in this section are just labeled page protectors

Here goes nothing...

This post was originally published at Get Fit Chicks. It may refer to posts on Get Fit Chicks that no longer exist. Please email me if you run into any of those and I will break the links. More information about the reposting is available here

The crazy diet started today.

I planned for it. I kept it away from Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I made sure our house and the people in it were ready.

I treated myself to a vanilla latte on the way to work yesterday and savoured it, knowing it was my last for a while.

I bought lots of veggies and fruit that work with the diet.

I have been planning meals in my head for days.

I forgot to look at the calendar to see what else was happening.

  • a work lunch where there is very little choice in food
  • an all weekend Guide meeting with more choice, but still difficult as I’m only looking after meal preparation for one meal
  • another work lunch where there is very little choice (and no option to brown bag)
  • a baby shower that I’m hosting (more food choice, but really, why do I do it to myself?!?!?!)
  • Hallowe’en (oh wait, no, that factored into my plan…)

The hardest part is that the first three things are on days 1, 2, 3 and 5 of the diet. The hardest days anyway. But I’ll be okay. The people at my Guide meeting are used to the crazy diet and no one seems too upset when I bring my own food. And the baby shower, well, it is just after the initial two week tough period, so while I’m still restricted on what I can eat, I’ll have many more choices than if it was tomorrow.

Nothing like making a tough challenge more challenging. But the results will be worth it. Getting rid of the fatigue makes everything else go so much better as well!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Kitchen Book - Section Five

This section keeps our bank happy. And our utility companies. And those kinds of people.

the book - section five

It's essentially the following information in page protector:

the book - paycheque and bill paying schedule
the book - paycheque and bill paying schedule

I do most of the bill paying, so we decided we needed a back up in case Alex had to look after it.

We used to have a spreadsheet that went on and on and on for days. I got the initial spreadsheet from Crazy Aunt Purl (the link is about 3/4 of the way down the page) and it grew. And it grew. And then it became a mountain. And our finances were more of a mole hill. And who cares how much I spent on each trip to the grocery store in May.


So I revamped our budgeting system.

We don't have a spreadsheet to track anymore.

We bank at a credit union that offers no-fee chequing and savings accounts. We can have as many as we want. We have two chequing accounts - one for groceries, cheques (we write, oh, fifteen a year, maybe) and pre-authorized debits, like car insurance and the other is just for mortgage payments.

We have close to seventy-five hundred savings accounts. Well, maybe 12, but still. This is the very best way we have found to budget. It's still being tweaked, but for now, it works.

We both have our pay direct deposited into the main chequing account. Every pay day (we're on different schedules) I do the big money transfer so that everything is where it's supposed to be. Some of the transfers are automatic - the mortgage payments and car insurance for instance (bills like car insurance stay in the savings account until they're due so we get a tiny bit of interest). Our grocery money is transferred in every two weeks. We do top it up if we need to, but it's discretionary - we might top up if something we use a lot is on sale or if I buy diapers for J - we have a separate budget for those, but I don't get the clerk to do two transactions at the store...that's just silly.

We can only access the main chequing account and one savings account using our cards. That savings account holds our entertainment money - when it's gone, it's gone. The best part about this system is that we do only have access to the two accounts unless we're using the online systems. It means we really have to think about most of our purchases.

We also both get a small amount transferred to our personal accounts each month - that way we don't have to check in if we want to buy something for ourselves (or each other), grab a coffee on the way to work, have lunch with a friend, whatever.

This works really well for us and our bank likes it too - the last time we were in for something, the man who helped us said he wished all of their customers would set up similar systems - it's a big help, especially for people who have trouble saving.

What budget system do you use? We're always trying to improve ours, so I'd love to hear about yours!

A little bit of London's history

Someone I know is headed to London at the end of the month and I'm just a wee bit jealous.

But that's okay. I'll be back one day.

She asked me about places to eat and one of my favourite places was Fortnum and Mason. My grandpa took me to lunch there. I'm positive it was leagues out my price range at the time (probably a little more within reach but still out there now), but it was so good. That got me to wandering around their website.

And discovering that there wasn't a General Post Office until 1839! Can you believe it? Royal Mail, one of the most talked about mail services in the world, is older - it was founded in the 1500s, but anyone who wanted to could deliver the mail and you paid for the mail when you received it...I had no idea.

The other thing I had no idea about was baked beans. They're such a big part of pub fare and English breakfast and lots of meals with chips that I thought they had been around forever. I have no idea when baked beans were introduced, but Heinz baked beans were first introduced to the UK by Fortnum and Mason in 1886...

Of course I recommended the Hampstead now, here I am, on a rainy Vancouver afternoon wishing for baked beans and a crepe on Hampstead Heath. Now that's a strange combination!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Kitchen Book - Section Four

I'm back from our little Thanksgiving break...I thought I'd have an internet connection so that I could keep blogging lots, but I didn't (well, I sort of did, some of the time). Turns out that after being away for a couple of days I didn't have the inclination to blog anyway!

the book - section four
I don't have anything fun for the daycare section. It's a bunch of page protectors with the daycare contract, the daycare hand book, receipts and anything else that's relevant to daycare in the back. There is also a page protector with the names and phone numbers of the daycare staff and the other children and their parents.

Pretty simple. Pretty straight forward. But it means that everyone knows exactly where to find that information when we need it!


Bread...lots of bread...

This post was originally published at Get Fit Chicks. It may refer to posts on Get Fit Chicks that no longer exist. Please email me if you run into any of those and I will break the links. More information about the reposting is available here

We went on a little family holiday for the long weekend. We met my parents and sister and stayed at some holiday cottages on Vancouver Island close to where my grandmother lives.

We had a great time, some scary moments, but all-in-all a good weekend. We had booked Friday and Tuesday off work, so we got a much needed, extra-long weekend.

Except, well, we all felt sluggish…not all weekend, just on and off.

And my dad and I, we think we figured it out at lunch yesterday. It was all the bread. ALL the bread. We don’t eat a lot of bread at our house. I’m not a huge sandwich fan and I wasn’t brought up in a house where bread was always served with dinner. We eat oatmeal for breakfast and if we need something more, it’s usually fruit, not toast. Bread happens on special occasions (or with specific meals) like family dinner night or brunch or something.

But while we were away, we ate a lot of bread. We had scones for breakfast almost every morning. We had soup with bread for lunch. We had lasagne with bread for dinner. We had bread before our turkey dinner came. Bread…lots of bread…today, I feel a bit better. I ended up with a bagel for lunch as there was not really any food in our house this morning, but we’re having salmon with rice and veggies for dinner, so hopefully, the sluggish feeling will go away. And if it doesn’t, well, the crazy diet starts on Friday and that means for two weeks at least there will be NO bread. (Well, maybe…I planned so well, that I didn’t plan well enough…more about that later)

Anyone else find that bread slows them down??

Thankful on Thanksgiving - a few days late...

This isn't the first time I've posted about the things I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving. This is the first year that I've experienced absolute gratitude accompanied by an insane the adrenalin rush and somehow, I've experienced it more than once. Back in January and again in May, I wrote about it. I thought I was done with that... But Monday, Monday I experienced it again.


We had been on Vancouver Island since Friday visiting my grandma and cheering for Kelsey in the Victoria marathon (she took 8 minutes off, yay!). After lunch today my dad had to drive her to the ferry. The rest of us were heading home the next day. J really wanted to go with him and since she needed a nap and the car has such a sleepy effect on her of course we told her she could go.

Just a few minutes after they had pulled out of my grandma's driveway, her phone rang.

We could hear the male voice on the other end.

We knew it was my dad.

I knew he had been driving and if he was calling, he wasn't driving anymore.

My grandma got off the phone, told us everyone was okay and where to go. The whole way there I was hoping J had just had an accident that leaked or thrown up or something. We came over the crest of the hill and there was a horrible sight...the car had no front bumper and very little front end. But there, on the side of the road, huddled near some kind passersby were my sister, J and my dad.

They were okay.

The people in the other car, they were okay too.

Everyone was okay.

And that's really all that matters.

Poor J thought it was her fault. She keeps telling us she broke the car. Today when we got to daycare she didn't want to go in because daycare-kid might be there and bite her and make her "cry a little bit." Once we calmed that fear, she didn't want to walk in or have me carry her because the cars might "bite" us. We got there. She ran and gave the daycare lady who met us at the door a huge hug. Turns out daycare-kid is away today, so we have a bit of a respite on that. The daycare already knew about the car accident - I called and talked to the manager yesterday when J was out of earshot. They'll take good care of her. And she loves daycare and knows it's safe.

I am so thankful for the guardian angels that seem to be surrounding my family this very thankful...

And in honour of Thanksgiving on Monday, here are a few other things that I am thankful for:
  • My husband, daughter, parents, sisters, and our very large extended family (which includes Alex's family now too)
  • A delicious turkey dinner that hit the spot after a stressful day - bonus - we didn't have to cook it or clean up!
  • A job. A good job. With a good boss.
  • J's daycare. It's amazing. That's about all I can say about that.
  • My health. A's health. J's health. We're a pretty healthy bunch these days.
  • Those guardian angels.
  • The kind police officer and wonderful people who stopped to keep us company, offer first aid kits, and just make sure everyone was okay.
  • A beautiful fall day.
  • A future that looks lovely - as long as everyone stays out of the way of moving vehicles.

This year has reminded me to be thankful all the time, everyday, not just on Thanksgiving.

Happy late Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Kitchen Book - Section Three

This is the section that keeps us running all week!

the book - section threeOn Sunday I start figuring out what we're going to eat next week - this involves a combination of what we have in the fridge, what's on sale at the two big groceries store where we shop, and what has been requested. I do it by hand on this page - writing the groceries we need for each day in the box. This allows me to make sure I don't forget a key ingredient in some recipe and decide that, hey, we're having fish on Thursday, so I'll pick it up on Wednesday or Thursday on my way home, not on Sunday. Then it will be fresher.

the book - menu planningI use the back to make the actual grocery list. I fold the page in three for three lists - one for each grocery store and one of stuff I can get either place. Yes, I do shop at two grocery stores.
the book - grocery budgetWe budget about $250 every two weeks for groceries and I keep a running tally sheet in this section - it's just three hole punched. Our budget is not a firm one. If we need more money in the grocery account before the week is up, we'll transfer some in. If we don't use it all, the extra gets transferred to our savings and we start the next two weeks at $250 again.
the book - menu prep with notes
This is what the finished menu looks like - you can see I've scribbled on this one. Every evening as I make lunches, I do any prep for the next night's dinner that I can - chopping onions, putting together a casserole, anything to make the evening go smoothly. I have 2 -3 hours after J goes to bed before I have to go to bed myself, so I try to use that time well. Our mornings are pretty tight. I have it down to a science that has about 10-15 minutes of extra time...making lunch isn't an option and prepping dinner is only done when absolutely necessary - like loading the slow cooker or something.

The prep column is set up so that the box next to Monday is for Tuesday's meals (or Wednesday if need be). The idea is that anyone could pick up the menu and figure it out.

After the menu I try to put as many of the recipes, in order of use, as I can. I've been slowly typing them into the template below or scanning them (depending on where they came from). Then I have a copy of the ones from magazines or the internet than I can print if my other copy gets ruined. I keep them in page protectors because I take them out and use a magnet to hold them to the side of the fridge or the range hood while I cook. I still use my cookbooks, but these pages are nice because we can annotate the recipes.
the book - recipe templateThis is the template...pretty boring, right?
the book - recipe template sampleSo I included a sample recipe. This is just a random recipe I wrote down, but if it had come from a cookbook, I would have put which one and what page you can find it on for reference.

the book - scanned recipe sampleThese pages I write any annotations on and I also include a grocery list for items that I wouldn't normally have in the cupboard or fridge. Pretty much everything in this recipe is always in our house, so I didn't make a special grocery list.
the book - freezer contentsThe last thing in this section is a list of what's in our freezer. Our freezer is outside in a storage closet and I don't want to go out there if I don't have to. This list also means I don't tend to buy things in multiples by accident (I do buy in multiples if the price is good though). It saves us a bit of money because instead of buying new chicken that's not on sale, I can use up some of the stuff I bought a lot of because it was such a good price. As we use stuff I cross it off and add the new things after I grocery shop.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Kitchen Book - Section Two

Section Two looks small, but it's not...not really...and this is a big part of what needed some help in our lives.
the book - section twoHousework. Chores. Whatever you call it. I don't particularly enjoy doing it, but I like lists, so I'm happier to do it if I can cross it off a list.

At the front of this section is a list of all the jobs and when they need to be done. This is for easy reference. Because not all of the pages in this section live in the book.
the book - housework listAs you can see, there's a note that says "charts inside cupboard." That's because we had tried it one way and that didn't work for us (but it might work for you so I've included it here) so we're trying it a different way that involved the cupboard.
the book - old daily housework sheetWe used to print a week's worth of these, three-hole punch them and put them in the binder. Then we'd check off our jobs as they got done. But we didn't always check them off. So sometimes things got done twice. Which isn't an issue except that it's a bit of a waste of time. The reason we wanted an easy to see visual is because Alex often works nights, so I can't just ask him if he already mopped the floor while we were at work and daycare. For example.

The nice thing about printing this every week was that we could modify it when Alex worked a different shift or if we were going away or one of us was going away or something.

But we're lazy/can't be bothered/too busy/always forgetting to open the book and tick things off.

So we've moved on to these two charts which are taped inside a kitchen cabinet and last for about a month. Extras (with new dates) are stored in a sheet protector after the list of chores.
the book - new daily housework sheetThis is the stuff we have to do everyday. Some of it should be obvious - like whether or not the beds get made, but some of it isn't always that clear. We have wooden floors and a toddler. The colour coding is just to give a visual break between morning, after work and after J goes to bed jobs. It doesn't mean that the dishes HAVE to be done before J goes to bed. Honestly, most nights it's easier to wait.
the book - weekly housework sheetThese are the weekly jobs (the ones that usually moved around with Alex's schedule, but whatever). In the old system if a job didn't get done, one of us just wrote it on the next day's sheet to remind us it to do it that day (if we remembered). There's no rewriting with this system, but it's pretty obviously when a job gets missed.

I think we're going to add a monthly list to - things like pulling out the stove and vacuuming behind it and washing down the sides or wiping the fronts of all the cabinets and flipping the mattress.

I got the idea for these charts from the charts that lived in the staff laundry room at Pax Lodge. We had weekly, monthly and quarterly jobs there and because there was a volunteer staff of seven with a change over of 1-3 people every month, they needed a system like this! Thanks Pax Lodge - you still influence my life on an almost daily basis!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Kitchen Book - Section One

So, Section One is one of the most used parts of our book. We use it for our sitters and we use it ourselves - all the time.

the book - section oneThere's all kinds of good stuff in this section and you could add or delete as needed for your family.
the book - telephone numbersThis list is super useful - In this age of phone with address books, we don't have to memorize phone numbers anymore. I know my parents' numbers, my grandma's numbers and my sisters' cell phone numbers, but that's about it. I have no idea what Alex's family's numbers are. When we have a sitter, we have to leave numbers. This is perfect. It's all there and clearly laid out. As we start to have a sitter (who is not related to J) a little more often, I think I might add a specific babysitter's phone list page that includes the numbers of a couple of neighbours and maybe, because it's in a page protector, a place where I can write where we will be with a dry erase marker. This is also not as important as it was when I was babysitting because I pretty much always have my phone with me, so even if the restaurant number isn't there, I can be reached (I still think it's a good idea for the sitter to know where I am secrets)
the book - strata informationStrata information is very important. Since I made our book we have gone from having a management company to being self managed, so this has changed a bit. This page could also be adapted to use if you rent and need your landlord's information handy instead. Or if you own a home, this could be where you list the trades you use regularly.
the book - medical informationMore important babysitter information - and emergency information for us because sometimes, our brains fail in an emergency. I said to Alex, if something happens and we need an ambulance or there's a fire, this is probably one of the things we should grab and take with us. It has all of our important information and contact numbers in it.

I store this in page protector which also holds immunization records and hospital cards (for quicker Emergency Room service).
the book - monthly calendarI keep a year's worth of these pages and we write on them as we go. The blank box at the bottom can be useful for all kinds of stuff. I keep a page protector facing months that have "stuff" to go with things on calendar - e-tickets for ferry reservations or the plane, reservations confirmations for hotels, wedding or birthday invitations etc.
the book - next year's plannerThis is what we use to pre-plan. My plan is to sit down and enter everything into the 2011 version of the monthly calendar at the end of December and print it. Some things are finding permanent homes on the pre-plan list - things like birthdays and anniversaries and other things that happen every year on the same day.