Friday, December 31, 2010

My Crazy Coupon Lifestyle: the Results

This week, I've used my final EXP 31/12/2010 coupons, and thrown away the rest. I've sorted through my stockpile, rearranging a few items, gleaning out some that I probably won't use before the early spring best before dates, then bagging those up to go to the food bank. I've looked over my last receipts, tallied my coupon savings totals, and I'm quite satisfied with the results.

In 2010, I have calculated $4200 in savings. My goal for the year was $2000. I've been able to lend my support to 2 shelters for abused women, 2 shelters for homeless people, a food bank, and shared with family and friends. I have enough laundry detergent and bleach to see me through until summer, and enough chicken noodle soup for a flu pandemic.  Judging by the contents of my upstairs linen closet, my family should be smelling good, be cleanly shaved, and have sparkling smiles for months to come.

This year, I'm setting my goal at $3000. I have a feeling that time is going to be an issue for me this year. When I graduate from university this spring (can you believe that???  I only have 13 more weeks of university!!!!), so no more spare hours between lectures to sneak off to the shops.

I also am setting a goal to donate 600 items to charitable causes I care about.

I just got an Airmiles card a few weeks ago (I don't know why I never had one before either!) I am setting a goal to accumulate enough AirMiles to redeem for a fancy-schmancy coffee maker. I don't know if that's even possible - but I will definitely be turning my attention towards it!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Went on a date

Hubby and I went to the movies to see "The King's Speech" and then out for dinner together today.

Definitely "two thumbs up" - it was beautifully filmed.  I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.  And the story was incomparable.  Here's the official site.  I think twice in my entire history of going to the theatre has the audience actually applauded at the end of the film. I was suprised at the number of people in the audience as well.  We were somewhat late, arriving just as the previews were ending, and had to take front row seats.

I found myself physically engaged with the movie - nodding encouragement to Colin Firth, clenching my hands together as tightly as Helena Bonham Carter was gripping the arms of her chair. The lady next to me was TALKING to the screen! I thought I was going to have to smack her, but managed to restrain myself

I dunno.....

....but with all of his limbs tucked under his bulk, Gibby sure does look like a fur hat.  I think he's recovering from his splendid mousing of two nights ago.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gibby - a paradox

That cat of mine, never ceases to amaze/annoy/amuse me.

Sailor boy followed Gibby into my bedroom at 10pm last night, and upon crashing through my door, announced "GIBBY HAS A MOUSE!"

Sure enough, Gibby sat on is haunches, his back to the wall, with a lifeless mouse body (its head halfway down Gibby's throat) in his mouth, growling and hissing at Sailor Boy.  Gibby is not one for sharing!

I woke Itty Bitty up, and as Sailor Boy jumped on the cat, Itty Bitty wrestled the rodent carcass out of Gibby's vise-like jaws. 

Never was I sooooo proud, and yet sooooo nauseated at the same time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bah Humbug!

*** Christmas Eve 2011 -- I've noticed a LOT of traffic on this particular posting, with the majority of the hits coming from Britain. If you're visiting this posting, can you leave a comment and let me know where you saw the link?  Thank back to Christmas 2010.
Get set for the most politically incorrect posting of the year!

I don't "do" Christmas.  Hubby (who channels the Ghost of Christmas Present!) thinks I am a Grinch, and a Scrooge.  I haven't "done" Christmas for the last four years, each year getting more and more comfortable with my decision to abandon it.

Now I'm not a Christmas HATER - I have lots of sweet memories from childhood Christmasses, and I'm still charmed by Hubby's childlike eagerness and holiday spirit.  What I hate is that Christmas has become a long list of obligations, and many of them are commonly loathesome to lots and lots of people.

No, the list of reasons I've decided to give up celebrating has become longer and longer each year, bolstering my commitment to remain tinsel free in the future.  I'm not sharing this list because I think EVERYONE should renounce the festive season, just perhaps to highlight a few areas that could cause you Claus pause, and challenge you to think about some of your traditions.

1 - I hate forced friendliness.  Okay - I'm not kidding here.  Twice already this year I've had people admit to me that they take medication, or medicate themselves with alcohol in order to deal with complicated family dynamics.  I recently had a chat with someone who was outraged that a particular family member was not attending a holiday gathering, even though she ordinarily can't stand this person.  What?  Really??

Why do people do this to themselves?  Are they expecting some kind of Christmas Miracle in their stocking this is going to erase years of horrible communication, painful memories, and hurt feelings?  Is grinning and bearing it what Christmas is about?

2 - I hate gifts.  Okay, maybe that's exagerating.  Gifts make me uncomfortable.  I loved the fudge and date squares in the cute cookie jar that my friend Lorraine left for my family (although, really? coulda been more of your famous date squares Lorraine!). It makes me smile when I imagine the fun and laughter my mom and sister shared as they cooked up the jars of home-preserves and creatively packed into beautiful gift baskets covered in colourful cellophane, topped with a pretty handcrafted tag.  I can tell these gifts were a pleasure for the givers to give, and so it's a pleasure for me to receive.

Anything else makes me really uncomfortable.  "It's the thought that counts" is bull$#*!  With plenty of gifts, it's clear that not a lot of thought went into it. It isn't easy for me to pretend that I'm really excited by the packages of crap that are going to the thrift store come Boxing Day.  And yes, partly it's because I'm disappointed, but the greater piece is that it embarrasses me that I may be hurting the feelings of the giver, because I can't fake surprise and gratitude.  On the other hand, I suspect that the giver is just thinking "well, that's another one off my list" because he or she feels an obligation to give a gift. And that just makes me sad.

3. I hate Christmas plays. No, not the cute little school concerts, but all the draaaaaaaaaama that plays out over the Twelve Days of Christmas. 

Now since this is a confessional, I gotta confess a good deal of schadenfreude on my part - this is why we like reality TV so much in our culture.  I enjoy a little gossip about  who lost their marbles, who ruined dinner, who stormed out, who got drunk. 

But upon reflection, I'm ashamed that I listened to the stories, I'm ashamed that I badly want to get the other side of the story, and I'm really sad that bad things happened, and these incidents are going to forever colour what is supposed to be a joyful time of the year, for many years to come. 

4. Christmas offends my sensibilities. Gross consumerism and materialism (that's a given). I don't have to expand on this, do I?  Okay, I will. 

Especially since I've been working so closely with poor people in the last few months, and particularly at the food bank these past two weeks, I've become keenly aware that nothing contributes so much to the loss of dignity for the poor than the awareness that they can't provide the kind of Christmas for their families that our culture expects.  Nothing draws a deeper line between the "haves" and "have nots" than the decision to pay the rent or buy the kids a few gifts.  At the risk of sounding cliché or trite, it's not fair that Christmas is a time of reckoning for children.  It breaks my heart that this is the precise time when children are most likely to recognize that they have less, ARE LESS (when you consider the average outcomes for kids who grow up in poverty).

And while I'm not what you would call a passionate environmentalist, I do think we should try to be as kind to the planet as we can.  A lot of resources, energy, and waste tallies up this time of year.  Will I ever use any of the calendars that I get this time of year from every bank, politician, pharmacy, and realtor?  Nope - into the recycling box. 

Twice this year I have already been asked about what I thought was appropriate to tip day care providers, so the giver didn't seem "cheap". To me, this kind of tipping is paradoxical: this gift is so you will hold me in esteem, and guarantee future good service, NOT because I want to demonstrate my gratefulness for your fine work and dedication. Just this morning I received a "tipping etiquette tips" article in my email. Dollar amounts were stated ($15 for the newspaper carrier) with clarity, but at the end of the list a suggestion that one shouldn't break one's budget:
 "Although there are a lot of grey areas when it comes to holiday tipping, experts all seem to agree on one thing: It shouldn’t break the bank. If you have to go into debt to tip this year, stop. Pull out a stash of stationary, and get writing instead. You can even allude to the fact that you were, say, out of work most of the year, says Blais Comeau. “Respect your budget. That’s the important thing,” she says."

OHHHHHHH!  THAT'S the important thing! Thanks for clearing that up.

But just before you click the comment button to tell me what a Scrooge I am, there are still some things I do like about Christmas.

1. I'm a sucker for Christmas lights.  I can't drive down night-time holiday streets without rubber-necking to-and-fro to take in all the sparkling and glittering.  I love me a Griswold house!

2. Turkey and cranberry sauce.  We just don't get that enough during the year.  I'm glad we save up all that specialness for holidays.

3. Christmas carols.  Not hokey Christmas songs, but beautiful traditional choral arrangements.  Or give me Mahalia Jackson singing "Oh Holy Night" - when she gets to the "fall on your knees" part, I get goosebumps. I like to sing Christmas carols too, but try not to get caught doing it, lest I be accused of having holiday spirit.

4. Snow.  Combined with those twinkly coloured lights?  Can it get any better?

5. Black & White holiday movie classics.  You simply can't see "It's a Wonderful Life" too many times. And I adore any version of "A Christmas Carol". Those happy endings are eternally satisfying.

6. Charity.  People come together and do great things at Christmas.

God bless us, every one!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It can snow all it wants - - what do I care???

This semester is officially over for me!  My last class was today, but the university has closed due to "snowmagedon". Against my better judgement, I drove in to London yesterday, and handed in my final assignment --it wasn't due until Friday, but since it was done...and I HAD arrived alive despite the horrific road conditions, and nightmarish driving habits of those I shared the road with.

Soo....I'm technically "off" until January.  What will I do to fill my hours?

  • I'm reading:

The Best Laid Plans  by Terry Fallis

The Birth House by Ami McKay

The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou

Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Unless by Carol Shields

Yes, I heard the finalists for Canada Reads 2011 on CBC radio, and Lorne Cardinal (the actor who plays the dopey cop on Corner Gas) was waxing poetic about "Unless". A day or two later, I saw it at the used book store, and I had a 50% off coupon in my hot little hands.  It was meant to be!

The only other book on the list I have already read is "Birth House" by Ami McKay.  It was a great story! (And I generally loathe Canadian fiction, but read it anyway - - sort of like getting vaccinations...'cuz it's probably good for me.)

  • Renovations/redecoration:
The bedroom that was formerly Sailor Boy's is painted, and the new flooring is all but done.  I think we can probably finish it up today, since all three of us are home due to the snow.

  • Volunteer work:
I'm going to be doing some community outreach work at the food bank in the new year. However, I'm going to be spending some time there this month, getting familiar with the operation, and deciding on how I want that work to look.

Also, I'll be doing some time at the law clinic over the school holidays, just to keep some continuity going for my clients.
  • Dare I say it?  Some crafting?