Refuse to be Passive

Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Living Thrifty

In Food, Life in General on April 29, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I’m currently reading Thrifty: Living the Frugal Life with Style by Marjorie Harris. While I embrace many of the things written within the pages already, there are some things I need to get back to. For example, I haven’t hit up the Goodwill for clothes in a long time. I know they don’t ever carry pants that fit me, but why I shouldn’t I find my shirts there? Also, I really do need to start using that water saving feature on my showerhead. Even if my water bill is included in utilities, that’s no reason to waste it.

Part of the book is about creating a thrifty home– not cheap, but somewhere that isn’t full of stuff, only what you need to enjoy your life. If you’re going to buy, buy well, and if you can get a deal on it, all the better. But there was one line that really stood out, and for the life of me I can’t find the page it was on, so I will paraphrase. When giving someone a gift, only give things that can be eaten, drank, or used up in some way. The only time this rule can be ignored is when you know what you are giving to the person is something they will want to take ownership of. That concept is brilliant. For the most part, I already follow that rule, but how many people get stuff at Christmas or birthdays and think, “Oh goody. What am I supposed to do with this?” I once bought a friend a bamboo cutting board as a hostess gift, as she had no cutting board. Considering that it still sits proudly in her kitchen three years later, I’m guessing it was a good buy. But I would rather receive a bottle of wine (remember, good and expensive are not the same), than a journal or candles. While touching, I have four journals that still have to be used up, and candles tend to collect dust. My friend, when I invited her over for Easter, brought me roses. How brilliant! It brightened up the table, but we weren’t loaded down with an extra desert we really didn’t need (although the pecan pie we had was divine), and, when the flowers faded, the compost heap was most grateful. So I think I might adopt as my mantra, that if I’m not sure what they’d want to keep, I’ll get them something they don’t have to keep. To some extent I already do this. I’m more likely to bring a loaf of bread or a batch of cookies than anything else. But it’s something to keep in mind. Quite brilliant.

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My Little Garden

In Life in General on April 27, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Yesterday evening I got my plot for the summer in the community garden that’s on the greenstrip behind my house. For a whopping $30, plus some manual labour helping keep the garden boxes in good repair, I can grow my own vegetables this summer. A perk of this is that the garden is completely organic. No herbicides or pesticides. However, that causes some challenges too. So, I’ve been doing a lot of Googling on which plants are companion plats (symbiotic), and which flowers should be planted near which vegetables to keep the bugs and grubs at bay. Some of it is absolutely fascinating. The best plants for acting as a natural pesticide are unfortunately usually harmful to humans and animals at well. And since this is a garden in a fairly public space, I should probably be careful about what I use. I am thinking though that I might let a toad loose in my plot. They’re one of the best natural pesticides there is– they eat almost anything. So, once the weather gets a wee bit warmer, I’ll head out to my patch and prepare the soil for the seedlings. After months of debate with myself over growing from seed or buying the seedling, I chose the seedling route as they’re more likely to have a good root system and as the growing season here is rather short, a good head start is necessary. So, soon I’ll be out plant shopping. Goody! What fun.

It’s the Tax Man

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm

If you’ve ever seen the movie Stranger than Fiction, you’ll know why I love Maggie Gyllenhall’s character, Anna Pascal. She’s fun, confident, and knows what she believes. In fact, she’s so firm in her ethics and values that she chooses not to pay a portion of her taxes to protest things like the military budget. Thus, she get’s audited. She’s a bit of a rebel, which makes her great. Quite frankly, if I were to get audited, I’m not sure that I could face it like she does. “Tax man!” she taunts him from across the counter of her bakery.
I filed my taxes today, but didn’t hold anything back from the government. I suppose that was easy to do as I didn’t owe the government a balance anyways, I’m getting a refund. And my taxes are taken directly off of my paycheck by my employer. But I always get a little antsy during tax season and wait as long as I can before hitting up UFile and fill out the paperwork. This year was easier than last, and once again I find myself asking why I dread filing taxes so much? It’s never actually caused me any pain, and with the online services you can now use, it’s actually rather painless. All it takes is gathering your paperwork, sitting down at your laptop, and filling out the form and submitting it. Half and hour, forty-five minutes tops– the forty-five is if you’re like me and triple check it just to make sure the numbers are right. So simple, and never painful, yet I dread it every year. I don’t understand. Maybe next year I’ll actually file at the beginning of March. Ha. Yeah right.

The Move

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Today has been a day of running back and forth from one building to the other at work. We’re moving our offices to a temporary location so that renovations can be done on our current space. The move has gone really well, although considering I hurt my back yesterday, I’m probably doing too much lifting and may be regretting that tomorrow.
Two of the five of us had asked for this day off months ago, before we knew today was the day we’d have to move. So, as such, there were only three of us to finish packing and to get the move going. Thankfully, three of the guys from facilities graciously moved the big stuff, and all we had to do was pack the boxes of our paperwork and such and put them on carts. It’s a good thing they were there to move the desks and bookshelves because I’m certainly in no condition to do that. On top of the sore back, I’ve also got a nice little headache, and I’m really tired since every time I turned last night, the pain in my back woke me up. I must admit that I’m looking forward to having a quiet evening at home. I was supposed to go out with some friends and do karaoke, but I don’t feel up to it. I’m sure they’ll manage to have fun without me.
One of the perks of today though, is that jeans and a t-shirt are considered appropriate work attire, and unlike the rest of the university, my boss doesn’t believe in casual Friday, so this is a rarity.
Also a perk of today was the Second Cup run that happened this morning, and the delightful Bombay that I had as a result. And then lunch was a Sante Fe salad from Tony Roma’s. I’ve never had it before, but it was nice, if not slightly unhealthy with the bacon, cheese, tortilla, and ranch dressing. Ah well, I tried to be healthy.
The day is almost over though, only 40 minutes left– yes, I know, what a time to take a break!– the move is finished though and it’s the first chance I’ve really gotten to sit down. Ah glorious.
Tomorrow morning is brunch with friends. Should be delish!

Drink beer, gain insight

In Food on April 21, 2010 at 9:37 am

I hate it when I chat with people about eating chocolate and they say something like, “I choose to just have one piece of really good chocolate, and I’m satisfied.” I think this might be a total lie that even they themselves have bought into. Eat one piece of chocolate? Yeah, right.
Or the French, who are known for eating rich foods in small portions. I’m all about the big portions, which might be why I always seem to have weight issues, but that’s really not the point of this post.
I discovered that while I’ve scoffed at people in the past who have said that they can have just a little and feel like it’s enough, there is one area of my food life that that’s also true for. Beer. I would rather have one really good beer, than drink on a more regular basis and drink crap.
I’d never thought of this until I was out with a friend at the Druid, we got the bill, and he commented on how expensive good beer was. I think a pint of Kilkenny was $7.25, which is pretty high, but they had it on tap and it was oh so delicious. But my friend normally drinks Lucky or something like that because it’s cheaper so it means he can have more on a regular basis (no, I’m not convinced he’s not an alcoholic). But for me, drinking cheap beer is worse than no beer. I’d rather have the occasional beer and really enjoy it than drink substandard beer.
This discovery makes me very happy, as it means I can probably transfer this concept to my other eating and drinking habits, allowing me to eat better in general, in both taste and health benefits. So, for the next while I’m going to try passing up substandard food, and only indulge when there’s something divine available. And the key after that will be to walk away. Divine food is only divine for the first serving, the second inevitably makes me feel a little ill. This should be interesting. Who knew I could learn something by drinking beer?

Completely Unacceptable

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 at 11:16 am

I’d canceled an online subscription a couple of weeks ago. I’d turned off the auto-renewal function and closed my account a couple of days before. Today I checked my Visa bill online and saw that they had charged me for the upcoming month. I’d been warned about this by other users who had finished with this company. So I called in and was told that when charges were made they were non-refundable and that if I cancelled less than 24hrs before my subscription was renewed, that I would be charged for it. I pointed out to him that I’d turned off the auto-renew function, and that I’d canceled my account at least 48hrs before it expired. The representative told me that for the inconvenience he could refund half the amount and still give me access to my subscription for the rest of the month. I told him that I wanted my full refund, as there was no error on my part. After putting me on hold for a few minutes he came back on and said that although it was against company policy, this one time, he’d refund my money. Dang right he’d refund my money. But at least it got done.
I have to admit that by the end of the phone conversation I felt rather sorry for the guy on the end of the line. He must have to deal with annoyed people all day long. I was stern, but polite. I’d imagine some people actually yell at him. He sounded tired. And it must be company policy to tell people their money is non-refundable, then if that doesn’t work, offer the next month at half price, and if that doesn’t work, then give them the refund. How tedious! But I got my refund, and he was polite through the whole thing. While this whole thing was annoying, ultimately it just made me glad I have the job I do.

Another Weekend Gone

In Food, Life in General on April 19, 2010 at 9:05 am

The weekend is over and it’s back to work. I have to admit that while most weekends seem to fly by quickly, this one seemed rather extended. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a single night with more than 5 hours of sleep, so really, it was extended, by around 8 hours. My sister is heading back up to Grand Prairie today, but it was great having her down. The three of us girls went to garage sales Saturday morning, and hit up the Dutchess for some divine treats– try the brownies! On Sunday evening we were all together at the family and friends night before the opening of the new Transcend Coffee location. It was fabulous. Great coffee, some nice wine, great snacks, and of course, great people. I really like the Transcend crowd. They enjoy coffee, good beer, and good conversation. They’re intellectuals with soul. I met some new people, caught up with some old, and got to spend time sipping chai lattes (fabulous!). Also, I got to spend some more time with my nephew who is just a little charmer. Everyone at the opening was taken with him. Even when that kid is overtired he’s still smiling and getting to know new people. I took him outside for a while and discovered he has a fascination with cars, motorcycles, and bright lights. He also tried getting into some drawers over the course of the evening, and tried to steal a beer out of the ice chest. What a boy.

After the opening Martha and I got a chance to just hang out and chat. Yes, we’d seen each other over the weekend, but we’d been busy, or with other people, and really hadn’t had time to catch up. So, last night was a late night, and this morning was an early on as I got up to go for a jog. It’s amazing how good it feels to get up in the morning, when it’s already light outside, and get your blood pumping. It’s the getting out of bed that’s a challenge, but I did it.

Now I’m sitting at my desk, nursing a coffee and feeling completely thankful for caffeine.

First Jog of the Year

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 1:35 pm

I’ve just come back from going for my first jog of the year and I have three words to describe me: out of shape. It makes me sad every spring that I no longer have the stamina or strength I had at the end of the previous summer and must start again, almost from scratch. Because while I remain fairly active throughout the winter, playing volleyball and swimming (which I must admit I gave up a couple of months ago, but that’s a story for another post), I am just so much more active in the summer. Also, I hate going to the gym. Workout rooms make me severely uncomfortable, and who wants to run looking at the same thing ahead of them all the time? Not me. Give me scenery, things to notice so that my mind isn’t so focused on my burning lungs. I also hate lifting weights. Give me boxes to lift, or in yesterday’s case, a filing cabinet, and I’m there. If I’m going to build muscle, I want to do it by doing something useful. Whenever I lift weights at the gym and come out I feel like I’ve been robbed of an hour of my time. There’s nothing to see aside from a wee bit of defninition in my arms that you won’t even be visible for at least six weeks. Give me physical labour to grow muscle, not giant hunks of metal to be heaved up and down just for the sake of it.
But, as a result of hating the gym, it does mean that every spring I start from scratch. But I’ve also noticed that every summer I’m going a bit further than the previous. For example, for the first time in my life, last year I took up jogging. That was the first time ever I was volunteering to jog, rather than being forced into it by a high school gym teacher. I’m pretty proud of that. And now, this year, my goal is to go faster and farther than last year. Yes, I have a specific goal, but I’m not sharing, as I fear that it will make me sound pathetic, especially next to my cousin who runs five miles a day. Yikes! I nowhere near there yet. But all I can worry about it myself– not my cousin. I need to measure my success by myself, and I’ve got a good feeling, it’s going to be a successful summer.

Jonny Lang and Buddy Guy– Bring on the Blues

In Art, Life in General on April 18, 2010 at 8:52 am

What a weekend! It’s been busy and tiring, but good.

Friday night’s Jonny Lang, Buddy Guy concert was fabulous. I had started to get really excited at around 10am at work, and the day just dragged on! But the evening came, and walking from the parking lot to the venue the excitement really kicked in. My sister and I tend to feed off one another and then we can become something scary. So, since were were there really early, due to misreading the tickets, we did a little scouting and tracked down Jonny and Buddy’s buses. From there we headed inside and our ears were treated to some world-class guitar. It’s truly amazing what those men can do—and their bands were amazing as well. It’s not surprising that the event sold out and there wasn’t an empty seat in the Jubilee. I still get a bit of a shiver when I remember Jonny playing “Turn Around.” Mm…great song. Really great song. And Buddy, well, that man is something else. Talented, yes. Slightly crass, yes. One of the most amazing guitar players I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to? That too. Buddy and Jonny came across so differently. Buddy had a bit of attitude to him, and wasn’t above throwing in the occasional cuss. When Jonny talks though, he just comes across as a really nice, gentle guy. He doesn’t have that general air of confidence nearly toppling into arrogance, that so many famous people have. He seems humble and if you ever met him in person (which I have, although not last night), he even comes across as a bit shy. It’s a surprise because his music is so passionate and makes strong impacts on people, but he himself is fairly unassuming. That’s what I love about him. So really,  I went for Jonny– and my sister did too. And while Buddy was icing on the cake, and was an experience to hear, Jonny for me, was the apex of that show, and I’ll welcome him back to Edmonton anytime.

It’s Friday

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 at 8:52 am

It’s Friday. The day before the weekend. I have a cup of hot black coffee sitting beside me. I get to see my sister from Grand Prairie tonight and go to the Buddy Guy/ Jonny Lang concert tonight at the Jubilee. Life is good. I am finished my final exam for volleyball, and while I’m sure I didn’t ace it, at least it’s done. My work stress level is taking a one week break before spiking again. Life is good. This weekend I’m going to Lee Valley Tools and picking up gardening stuff. Last night I cleared out my flowerbeds of winter debris and cleared off my deck, sweeping away the leaves and wiping down the tables. Life is good. And while there are things I could worry about, what’s the point? I won’t ignore that they’re there, but it’s funny how the things we worry about often take care of themselves, all without our help. so today, I’m going to listen to my Jonny Lang and get done what I can. And from there, the day will take care of itself. Oh, and last, but certainly not least, I get to see my nephew this weekend! His birthday is in a couple of weeks, so maybe I’ll just have to get him a present to send back up with Mom. He’s turning one and he’s a handsome little man.