Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Racing to the Next Holiday

Yom Kippur is over and Sukkot is on the way! Okay, a fast day isn't generally very expensive but Rosh Hashana was and Sukkot will be too.

At least we have our very own top quality 8 x 10 foot sukkah. It cost us about $800 three years ago and should last us for at least 20 years. We've had at least 4 or 5 sukkahs over the years and none has lasted more than 5 years (some less, or had to have major parts replaced within a year or 2). This is the first nylon body on a metal frame kind though. The others have been wood based with plywood, 2 x 4s, lattice, clear tarps, etc. I'm sure I've spent more than $800 total on all the previous incarnations.

So we have the sukkah (and it comes with a bamboo mat skach or roof covering). We do need to buy longer 2 x 4s this year to go across the top. The ones we bought in the Okanagan a couple of years ago were just a few inches too short to fit in the holders that go on top and we've had to lay them creatively (on the diagonal, etc.) in order for them to hold the skach up but we've also had them crash down in a wind or while unrolling the skach and have a couple of serious chunks out of our big table as a result. At least we didn't have chunks out of anybody's head! This year we'll get 10' ones to lay across the 8' sides, so they'll extend nicely.

What else do we need? More wine! I still have some of the wine I bought before Rosh Hashana, but I think we need a couple more bottles. And food. We want to have another family dinner, since we're staying in town this year, and that means feeding 14 people again. Even if I go for veggie lasagne, it'll probably cost at least $30. It's a lot cheaper than brisket though! And at least a bottle of Crown Royal. Plus there are 4 holiday days (8 meals), not just one big family one. I have to have what to serve for those other meals too. Plus the everyday food needs to be warm, stick to your ribs type stuff as the weather is getting colder and we only eat in the sukkah (yes, even when it rains!).

If the weather is decent tomorrow, we'll try to put the sukkah up except for the skach. I don't know though; it rained today. It has to be fully up by Friday at the latest because the holiday starts Friday at sundown. Oh yes, and we need a table too as our usual one is sitting in my dining room in the Okanagan! My Eldest Daughter said there was one at her work we could probably borrow. We have to check that out. And chairs. Damn, I should have brought the folding chairs when I brought the sukkah. Again, we have 6 of them at the other house! And the electric heater is there too along with the outdoor timer. Sigh. I brought the little LED light string though...

I've ordered our Lulav and Etrog and it will be in sometime this week. I don't know what else I need, but I'm sure I've forgotten some other things!

It's late and I have to get up early to get people to work and school, so I'm just going to go. If you don't know what a sukkah is or about the holiday of Sukkot, check the labels for all the previous posts about Sukkot. I know I had links there. I'm just too brain-dead post fast to look them all up again right now and I really should be trying to get to sleep.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Good Health for the New Year

Just wanted to get in a quick post before Shabbos to say that I've been working on some things that pertain to my health. I had been to the doctor a little while ago and finally finished the various tests I was supposed to have. They only call you in if there's a problem and I haven't gotten a call, but I should go in again anyway. I want a referral to a dermatologist for a couple of moles that I can't see well and that should probably come off (since it's hard to see in between one's own shoulder blades).

I've been going to the physio now for about 6 or 8 weeks and my shoulder is much improved. If I'm still doing well at my next appointment in a couple of weeks then I'm done with that, although I'll keep wearing the core shorts and sitting on my little round thingy that makes me sit straight. I paid for them, so I'd better keep using them! Now, I just have to put the paperwork in for the reimbursement for the cost of the physio sessions themselves.

And, today I signed up for a free month at the gym here at work because I want to see if I can actually force myself to just go downstairs and use the treadmill for 20 minutes or so every day or two. I get half off for working here but I had given up our family membership earlier because we weren't using it and it was costing about $45 per month. If I don't keep it up there's no point in taking on even a single membership for myself but, if I do get in the flow of it, it's a little cheaper (about $30).

First of all, my health is important. Second, I'm still wanting to lose about 10 pounds and my weight just isn't budging (other than the normal 1 to 2 pound variance I see over the course of the month). It's a new (Jewish) year. It's a good time to take charge of my health and I'm trying not to bite off more than I can chew.

Are you doing anything now to improve your health? Even for non-Jewish readers, the kids are back to school and it's a good time to make some changes!

Days of Awe

Hooray! Blogger likes me today. It let me in.

This month is just speeding past. Sunday night is the beginning of the 25+ hour fast of Yom Kippur. No food. No water. Walking to services (in non-leather shoes). An entire prayer book to read out loud in that length of time. Lots of standing. Lots of reflection. It's a very challenging day.

For some reason, all the spiritual stuff I'd been breezing along with for so long seemed to sputter and falter at some point a few months ago. I don't have any event to tie it to, nothing to point to, no place to lay blame (other than with myself).

I've done a fair bit of thinking intellectually in the recent past, figuring out what I should do, setting some smaller goals for myself, but nothing has really rekindled my passion. Even Rosh Hashana didn't do it.

Then, last night, I went to a talk for women. I received a new insight into certain things, nothing earthshattering, just novel. I haven't burst into flame, but I keep thinking about what I heard. I think that's a good starting point. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shana Tova

I won't be posting again before Rosh Hashana, nor during the holiday, so don't expect to see me posting before Sunday night at the very earliest. I just wanted to give a quick update.

The car is still in progress. We may get it back tomorrow. If not, we'll have to pick it up on Monday. No biggie. It's not like we'll be driving it on the weekend!

I have everything I need for the cooking tomorrow but was out for an hour or more with my Eldest Daughter this evening, so didn't really get the kitchen ready.

I have to do some banking tomorrow morning (if I don't want to bounce a cheque I wrote on the account I don't use regularly anymore) and I have to work until noon. But nobody is going to school, so I don't have to get anybody else anywhere. That makes it easier for me to get to work early in the morning.

Going to bed now. Shana Tova to everybody!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Black Hole aka The Car

I am fed up to the teeth with cars and car repairs. Hubby took the car in to have the bushings done and ended up going to a different place than at first (one that had been recommended though) and there's both good news and bad news.

The good news is that this place will do the bushings and tie rod for less than we were first quoted. Much less, like half the original quote. The bad news is that the bushing repair is the least of our worries. This place actually *looked* at the car obviously (unlike every other place we've been to for the past year it appears), because they figured out what's wrong with it and told us why it's been going through rear tires at a rapid pace.

The. Back. Axle. Is. Bent.

Yes, bent. They asked if we'd been in an accident. Uh, no. They showed Hubby the damage and he says it's pretty clear. Too bad we don't know what caused it. The only thing I can think of is the time last winter when we bottomed out badly in the alley about a block from our house during that bad snow. It took me several hours to dig the car out because it was actually wedged onto that icy snow so badly that the wheels weren't quite touching the ground (like by a fraction of an inch). Maybe we bent the axle when we bottomed out?

Regardless, now we know what the problem is and the solution is clear. It's not going to get better unless we replace the axle so that's what we're doing. It won't be ready until some time tomorrow and we're getting a "good" price on the work but it's still going to cost $1,000!

I've mostly finished hyperventilating (although we'll see if I manage to sleep through the night or wake up with an anxiety attack). What's really crazy is that I was looking back through my own blog archives to see what my menu was for last Rosh Hashana and I realized that it was at this very time last year that the water pump problem manifested. That repair ended up costing us $2,000! What is it about this time of year? This is also when both the fire and the flood happened in the condo I used to own.

As for Rosh Hashana, I got paid today and went grocery shopping. When the dust cleared I'd spent $300 and I have food for the holiday this weekend plus another 4 or 5 meals. Actually, $50 of that is a payment for food I charged 6 months ago at Pesach, so it's not quite as bad as it sounds but I still don't have enough money to pay all my bills, let alone do anything much extra. I'm very pleased that this is a 3 paycheque month. If it wasn't, I'd be in big trouble.

What did I get? Round challahs, salmon and a brisket. I was pretty dead on with my cost estimate too. The brisket cost just over $57. Half a salmon was just over $20. I got the items for the various simanim too (carrots, dates, pomegranate, squash, etc.) and all the disposable table items for the meal, as well as some everyday food needs, things for Dear Child's breakfasts and lunches, etc. And some junk. Hey, I've been waiting a very long time for the full size Oreo cookies to be kosher and they were all labeled with the OU dairy today! I bought a package of them, but they were on sale too. But I figure the healthy stuff, like the cheese sticks, cream cheese and yogurt balance the cookies out.

I have to get the kitchen ready tomorrow and we're closing the office at noon on Friday so I'll be cooking then. Luckily, Eldest Daughter will also be home so I won't be cooking with kidlets underfoot. Candlelighting is at 7 pm so I should have enough time to get it all done....

Before I close, I'd just like to say something to each one of my readers. If I've upset you this year, hurt your feelings in any way or whatever, I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Have a happy and healthy year full of all good things!

Payday and Rosh Hashana are Coming

I should be in bed. It's technically Wednesday already because it's so late, but here I am reading blogs and writing a post.

I went to physio this morning and feel better now after all that physical work and driving on Sunday. I still haven't done the first thing about Rosh Hashana and the meal I'm supposed to be having for 13 or 14 family members. My paycheque will be in the bank in the morning and I'll have to do the shopping tomorrow afternoon, preferably after my Eldest Daughter gets off work and can have the little girls. I find grocery shopping with all of them traumatic enough at Safeway. The thought of having them running around the deli while I pick out salmon and a brisket is enough to give me an anxiety attack.

We're also kind of celebrating Hubby's birthday, which we would have done last weekend if a) I hadn't been away and b) it hadn't been a week before a big family dinner anyway. He said he'd like to have steak but realized it was unrealistic (at about $16 per steak, I'd say so!) and we settled on brisket instead. At least a small brisket shouldn't set me back more than $60 or $70. That's pretty insane but still better than $200 or more for steak for over a dozen people. We'll have the simanim too, of course, but I have to think about side dishes as well. At least I have the wine on hand, including 2 bottles of sparkling Moscato wine (all the better to toast the New Year and Hubby's milestone birthday with). And I have to bake a cake. And come up with a parve frosting, since all the readymade ones are dairy.

Plus, did I ever mention that one of my upper kitchen cabinets fell apart some time ago? Hubby opened the cupboard door and the door and side of the cabinet as well as the bottom fell apart in his hands! As a result, my kitchen is more cluttered than usual. I have cans and packages stacked on the already too-small meat counter and more items in a box on the kitchen floor. Given the timeline we've had for our bathroom reno, I'm not holding my breath for getting the kitchen done any time soon. For one thing, if I put in one cabinet (I'm going for IKEA) then I have to replace the other 2 cabinets beside the ruined one that are still holding together but are that super-ugly 1980's almond melamine with an oak strip at the top. All in all, it will be about $500 for 4 cupboards (adding one over the fridge to hold all the cereal and other breakfast treats) and about $80 for a new range hood.

No, that's not happening before Rosh Hashana. But that means I have a mess out that I can't really put away. We'll have to see how it all works out. I could stay up all night, figuring out what to buy but I should probably just post this now and go to bed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Over the Mountains and Far Away

I was going to post last night, but I was just too tired. I took Dear Child and Dog and went to the house on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, Hubby has been too busy to come, so we went by ourselves again.

I really didn't mean for 5 weeks to go by without making the trip but every weekend there has been some reason why we couldn't go. Since 3 out of the next 4 weekends are religious holidays when I can't drive or do anything (and when I want to be able to go to shul) I was determined to go this time.

DC had a wonderful time playing with her friend. On Sunday, starting at about 9 am, I mowed the back, front and both side yards (with the push mower), pulled weeds in about half the front garden and around my grapevine, did 2 loads of laundry, loaded up the sukkah into the van and then drove home Sunday evening.

Gee, I wonder why I was tired....

We didn't even drive into town. The furthest we got from home was on Shabbos afternoon, when we went for a long walk with Dog. I'd like to go back either the weekend after Rosh Hashana (although that's tricky because Sunday night is the beginning of Yom Kippur and I'd have to be back in time for Kol Nidre services) or the weekend after Sukkot. Heck, I'd even consider going out the night of Sunday, October 11th and return the following night (since the 12th is Canadian Thanksgiving). Later than mid-October, and we'll be running into the possibility of snow in the mountain passes.

In fact, I think that unless I go just before Yom Kippur, I have to buy 2 new snow tires first. I don't believe I blogged about it but we spent almost $700 on the car 2 weeks ago (including 2 new all season tires for the rear) and have to spend maybe $600 on it this week. So, I'm just dying to buy some snow tires but you have to have both snow tires on the vehicle and carry chains from the beginning of October until something like the end of April in order to go through Manning Park.

What happened to our previous snow tires? The same thing that happened to our last pair of all weather tires on the rear. The tread just gets worn right off in about 4 months. Clearly, there must be some kind of alignment problem (the back end of the car seems to shimmy a little) and yes, we need to get bushings done, hence the $600 this week. That should at least help although it's been pointed out to me that there may be some kind of rear suspension issue too. I hope not, but we'll see.

The only bright spot in all this is that Hubby finally got the commission from a big job and we paid cash for car repairs this time! So much better than borrowing from family, putting it on the card or other things we've had to do in the past.

Anyway, I want to go back at least once more before the snow flies to do more yard work and put together that IKEA bookshelf I took there when we went out on the August Long Weekend. I'd love to spend Sukkot there the way we usually do, but that's just not happening this year.

Last winter we didn't go there for about 5 months. That was awful. I mean, the drive is no picnic when the snow is bad but I miss the house and I'd like to go at least somewhat more regularly this year. Even every 6 weeks would be okay.

All of a sudden I'm falling asleep at the keyboard, so maybe I'd better quit for the night.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stockpiling Revisited

I wrote about stockpiling back in May 2009, the first month I was blogging. Today Rina has a post about stockpiling on her great site, Gotta Little Space and asked what her readers stockpile and whether she'd missed anything.

I've commented but I thought I'd write a little more about the kinds of things I stockpiled several years ago, since my earlier post was kind of a "stockpile lite" version of some things I was planning to stockpile again.

Water is vital. You can live for weeks without food but for only a few days without water. It's also one of the first things that will likely not be available in an emergency. Since I don't drink tap water (I'm allergic to chlorine and my rural home is in an area where there are periodic "boil water" warnings) I always have bottled water on hand. The 2 litres/person/day amount that Rina refers to is for drinking and cooking. You also need additional water for bathing and handwashing, dishes and laundry. You may also need water to flush your toilet if the water supply is off. The usual recommendation is that you store 1 gallon/person/day for a minimum of 3 days. While it can all be commercial bottled water, it's also possible to store bottled water for drinking only and to store tap water in approved containers for washing. I try to keep 3 to 4 of the 5 gallon bottles on hand, one in use and the others in reserve and I rotate them so the oldest one is always the next one to be used.

Coffee beans (regular and decaf)
Coffee, instant (regular and decaf)
Grape juice (case of 750 ml bottles)
Instant hot chocolate
Tea bags (Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Chai, all decaf)
Tetra paks of Almond Breeze, especially the chocolate one
Tetra paks of soup (Tomato)
Wine, red and white

Dry groceries
Whole wheat pasta (elbow macaroni, rotini, spaghetti, linguine, lasagne noodles)
Wacky Mac (mac & cheese)
Basmati rice
White beans
Ramen noodle soups in a cup
Oatmeal bulk and instant, packaged
Sugar, granulated

Canned items (tins or jars)
Jam, jelly or marmelade
Peanut butter
Chocolate spread (like Nutella)
Olive oil
Sunflower oil
Tomato sauce
Tomato paste
Chili tomatoes
Kidney beans

Butter (2 lb per month)
1/2 Salmon
French fries
Hash browns

Ready-to-eat food
Cold cereal
Soft granola bars
Fruit rollups

Dental floss
Feminine products (3 months per female)
Cotton swabs
Contact solution, if needed
Diapers, disposable & 12 flat flannelette plus pkg of diaper pins (if there are babies or toddlers)
Baby wipes (even if there aren't babies, always useful!)
Toilet paper
Liquid soap
Waterless hand cleaner, antibacterial
Multivitamins (even if you're not a vitamin person, very useful when your food is limited & you're under stress)

Cleaning Products
Dish soap
Laundry detergent
Multipurpose cleaning product for counters and floors
Toilet cleaner

First Aid Kit
St. John's Ambulance makes a good one.

Migraine meds
Children's Advil
Prescription meds (3 months supply if possible)
Anti-diarrhea medication

Other (very important!)
Manual can opener
Bottle opener
Aluminum foil
Ziplok bags (heavy)
Coleman camp stove with at least 3 small cans of propane (or big tank and converter)
Candles, Shabbat (72 to a box)
Candles, yahrzeit (in metal tins, burn over 24 hours)
Candles, tea lights (from IKEA 100/pkg)
Matches and waterproof container
Manual coffee grinder (I have my grandmother's)
Coffee filters
Stir sticks (I buy the long hollow ones that double as straws, they come 1000/box)
Garbage bags (many uses in addition to holding garbage)
Space blankets 1/person (in case of extended power outages during cold weather)

Dry food
Water (2 litres/pet/day)
Any meds
Litter for cats (I don't have cats now, but have in the past)

So, those are the types of things that I have stockpiled or would stockpile. My ideal is to have a year's worth of stuff stored. This is not because I believe we'd go through a year long emergency but there could be a series of emergencies or the family breadwinner could become unemployed for several months or we could need to provide for more than our immediate family.

As Rina said, the easiest way to stockpile is to do it a little at a time, buying doubles or triples of items you use when they're on sale. Always rotate your stock and make sure you don't have a cupboard full of expired food! This is the biggest reason for stocking items that your family will actually eat. Eat your stockpiled food on a regular basis and keep replacing it. Then, you won't have a problem convincing your family to eat something new during an emergency. The food I've listed is food we eat.

What would you do differently? Is there anything you think I've omitted?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday Once Again

Today was Wednesday and payday. Usually I'm busy getting things done, paying bills, figuring out what needs to be taken care of and so on.

Today, not so much. I'm still having a hard time getting off my rear end and doing anything. My resistance is getting worse, if that's possible. I wrote a lot of cheques the other day and in some way my mind is telling me I've done a lot and to chill. There's money in the bank to pay the cheques that are coming through right away so that's fine, but I have bills I should have paid and I haven't done so. That really sucks.

I finally forced myself to go look at my account online and it's not too pretty, for a couple of reasons. First, the cheque I wrote for the dentist came through just before my paycheque hit the account and put me in the red. Luckily for me, they just charged me a few cents interest and didn't hit me with an NSF! The $360 or so is a problem because I won't get any of that money back from extended medical. The second issue is the money I've been spending on physio. Now, I will get most of that back, but I need to get the receipts together, fill out the form and send them off. This is a task I'm definitely not good at and I know it. Paperwork, especially financial paperwork and I are not the best of friends. But, if I don't send it in, I won't get any money back. It's a pretty simple concept. And I can't keep spending $100 to $200 per month on physio if I'm not going to do what I need to do in order to get reimbursed.

So, I can tell that I don't have enough money in the bank right now to pay all the bills and that makes me crazy. It's lucky that this month is one of the two times a year that I get 3 paycheques. That will help get me straightened out but I need to do more.

I need to cut down some spending. I know that the one area where I'm really bad is with food I eat out of the house. It's probably lucky in some respects that we keep kosher because I can't just eat out anywhere. There are only 5 places in the city where I can eat a real meal. Four of them I never to seldom eat at. Ah, but that fifth one is a killer! It's the cafe in the building where I work. I always used to have breakfast before I went to the office, mostly my protein drink, which costs about $2.50 per serving. Then I started "forgetting" to buy it or not having enough time to have it at home but "forgetting" to bring it with me. And, wonder of wonders, I discovered how much I liked the coffee and giant cinnamon bun at the cafe. Of course it costs more than my protein drink. I think it costs $4.25 but I'm not positive because, worse than having it on a regular basis, I also tab my breakfasts and pay my tab (or pay it down) when I get paid.

Okay, that's bad enough. Then there's lunch. When I'm home I usually make myself a couple of pieces of cinnamon toast and a cup of coffee. Sometimes I have a couple of cookies or brownies too. Other times I barely remember to eat.

When I work the better part of the day at the office I'm usually ravenous by about 11:30 am. And the cafe has really nice food. Sushi ($7.50), a great sandwich ($7.50), salads ($4.95 to $6.95). I think even the cheese pizza is now $2.95 (and I'm not really full afterwards) and the cold drinks are about $2.50. I've been gradually spending more and more money at the cafe, particularly when I have both breakfast and lunch there and I realize that it can't continue at this rate.

No, I'm not going to suddenly start brown bagging it. Sorry. I've tried it and it doesn't work well for me. I never have the time to make it, we don't keep a lot of food on hand like fruits, veggies and salads because They. Always. Go. Bad. Always. In fact, that's probably my second biggest waste of food money. I keep thinking that "this time" I'll really eat that bag of salad (and I'm not talking the family size bag, just the one for one or two people) but I always end up throwing out a half empty bag of liquified lettuce! I'm wasting both food and money. At least, when I eat at the cafe, I'm eating every bite.

But here's what I'm planning to do. Cut out the breakfasts. Just drink my protein drink. It's cheaper, better for me and probably has less calories! For lunch I'll either have a slice of pizza or a $4.95 salad. This again is cheaper than a full meal because I won't buy a pop or a lemonade or Snapple to go with it and it's healthier (the salad at least) because I never eat veggies at home. And it also has less calories. Do you think that possibly those 2 pounds that snuck onto my body recently could have come from all that food I'm eating at lunch?

So, for now, this is the plan. We'll see if it works or if sometime next week I suddenly crack and start stuffing cinnamon buns down my throat! If I just save $5 per day, that's $100 or more every month! And, just maybe, I might finally be able to lose a pound or two.

September and Back to School

Today was Dear Child's first day of Grade 1, her first day with a new English [secular] teacher, her first day in uniforms and....we were late. Sigh.

I went shopping for school shoes with her yesterday afternoon after Hubby came home to watch our granddaughters and we had mixed results. Just like last year we had to try on pretty well every shoe in Payless that was likely to fit her. This year that meant everything between size 10 and size 11 1/2. Some of the shoes came off when she ran. Some shoes hurt her toes or cut across her instep. Some shoes hurt her heels. Sometimes her heels came up when she walked.

We eventually settled on a pair of brown suede Airwalks for indoor and gym use (with Velcro straps for easy on/off several times per day) and the same black boots she had last year in a bigger size. It was BOGO but the boots were $50 so I spent about $68 all told. We had no luck at all finding "outside" shoes. Even the cute black shoes she had last year and wore out didn't work in a bigger size (they were among the ones that hurt the top of her instep). She ended up wearing her pink crocs as outdoor shoes today. They can't use crocs as inside shoes but they're okay as outdoor shoes. Don't ask me why.

I also took care of getting the school all the money I owe them in tuition (post dated cheques), textbooks and workbooks, school supplies, field trip money, etc. so as not to be in the huge crowd of parents who had to do that today.

The other thing I did yesterday was to get my new flipper. It's smaller and more comfortable than the old one, but it cost $361.60 because I hadn't had the old one for enough years to be eligible for a new one on our dental plan. Tell that to the Dog! Heck, if I could convince him to get a job maybe he could pay for it (seeing as how it's his fault I needed a new one in the first place). But, no. I show him all the working dogs on TV and he just ignores them....

Today, after I got Dear Child into class (with no tears!) I headed to my physio appointment where I got politely chewed out for not doing the exercises I've been given to do at home regularly enough. He wants to see me again in a week and I'm supposed to shape up in the meantime. Oh, yay. Fun.