My Beloved Olive Oil

I have been busy recently working on other blogs, etc and haven’t really written on the frugal end. Although there is so much to say on the subject. But today I came across an article online

Your Olive Oil is Fake

that has me seeing red, not green! First let me thank the poster of the article for bringing this to our attention. Yes the truth hurts but we need to hear it. Next let me say that although I am frugal there are some things I simply do not skimp on because of health benefits. Olive oil being one of those items.

I am absolutely livid to learn I have wasted hard earned dollars, and if you don’t know this, olive oil ain’t cheap. Even these so called fake brands are expensive.

So what did I learn today from this painful truth. First you cannot trust anyone when it comes to your health. Before you purchase anything that is a significant health benefit to you, do the research, and second “real olive oil” is apparently not great to cook with.

Sigh, more New Years rethinking on the horizon.

 

 

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The Christmas Credit Card Bill

Yes it arrives just after we ring in the New Year without fail. Time to pay the piper for the excessive celebrating right?

Two years ago I asked myself that question. Is this really the price I need to pay every year in order to enjoy celebrations with friends and family? My answer was “no”.

I asked myself a few questions.

1. Am I willing to give up the Christmas fun to save money?

2. Is there any other way I can stop the pain and anxiety of that horrible bill that slides into the mail box each January to destroy the holiday high?

To the first question I answered no way. And so in January of 2013 I started budgeting for Christmas so as not to increase our debt load further and at the same time still enjoy the season.

I am no brain surgeon, and clearly those who know me will readily agree 🙂 But I did make a smart move a year ago. I pre budgeted for Christmas 2013 in January of 2013.

The results:

SAM_0620With this successful result under my belt, next steps blog about and implement a weekly/monthly budget plan.

I read somewhere that millionaires actually plan out their weekly spending. This got me thinking, why on earth shouldn’t we do the same?

Happy New Year and stay tuned. We are on the way to becoming debt free!

Christmas Ice Storm 2013

The area where I live was hard hit by an ice storm on December 22nd 2013. It was like nothing we have ever experienced, and honestly I hope to never see again.

Saturday December 21, 2013 was the first hint I had that there might be an issue. I was watching the weather channel and getting ready for Christmas. The weather person said, “a 1-2 degree fluctuation in temp, once the precipitation begins could be the difference between freezing rain capable of reeking havoc on the area, or merely rain that  can wash away the accumulated Christmas snow. I looked out the window. A tree in the backyard had lost a branch.

The backyard:

SAM_0440“It’s only one branch, maybe the tree was dead,” I reasoned. Most of us are happier being complacent and taking on a “wait and see” attitude when it comes to weather predictions. I mean what else can you do with news like that, right?

I slept restlessly that night and kept waking up to vague noises coming from the park behind the house. I needed sleep as Sunday was going to be a very busy shopping day. Although the Christmas presents were ready to go, well most of them anyway, there was still a lot of fresh produce, meats and fishes to  purchase for Christmas Eve/Day festivities.

I awoke Sunday morning and stretched expecting to find a few downed trees outside the house. I sat up and looked out the window. Something was VERY different. Why was I looking at grey sky when I should be seeing the branches of the 50 ft Maples splayed just outside the windows across the horizon. Disoriented I got up and went to the window.

I started to cry as I tried to comprehend what I was looking at.  Each of the tall trees lining the back yard and those beyond in the park  had shed many of their large branches and were lying on the ground. Not just one or two , but most of them. Everywhere I looked the beautiful mature trees had lost many of their branches.

The park:

SAM_0451The Backyard:

SAM_0508I have a lower roof that obstructs the view of the backyard from our bedroom window. Feeling a little disoriented, I went downstairs to get a better view. What I saw when reaching the windows brought a fresh flood of tears. The backyard and garden I write about in a gardening blog was completely devastated. Large branches, the tops of the missing skyline trees I usually see from the bedroom, were lying across the yard creating an impenetrable barrier between me and the garden. Thankfully the house was spared from damage.

The Backyard:

SAM_0470“Oh no,” I thought. “What about the old maple tree on the front lawn?” I opened the door and peeked outside, not really interested in seeing a branch laying across the car in the driveway.
I experienced a moment of relief. Although caked in an inch of ice, the maple was intact. Its branches hung precariously under the weight of ice but were still attached to the main trunk.

The Front yard:

SAM_0529 We started calling around and checking on the kids and friends/family to ensure everyone was o.k. My daughter along with our granddaughter came over and we spent the day together as my husband went out with the rest of the guys to help with the removal of trees from roads and driveways. Honestly I was quite upset at the sight of the storms devastation and so happy to have them there with me. They are wonderful girls and I want to say thanks and “I love you and guys!”.

We had coffee and watched the news. Hundreds of thousands of people across the area were without power. No serious injuries or fatalities had been reported. I said a prayer for all to stay safe.

While we tried to carry on with some degree of normal routine it was impossible. Branches were crashing down outside, bouncing off roofs and hitting fences. With each thud, I jumped out of my skin. If I never hear that noise again it will be a blessing. It begins with a crackling of ice as the branch starts to give way under the weight, turns into the harsh sound of wood tearing as the branch separates from the tree. Next the sound of ice chunks falling and hitting the frozen snow, and finally ends with a sound I can only describe as similar to a traffic accident.

The Park:

SAM_0500 Each thud made my heart sink. I wished I could stop it, and knew that wasn’t possible. For a few hours the branches were breaking off every few minutes, and we just watched helpless to do anything about it. I was terrified one of the branches still clinging to the tops of tall trees in the backyard would come down on the house or car.

After a coffee we dressed and ventured out to see how neighbors were doing. We kept to the middle of the street avoiding trees full of ice on front lawns. I was amazed how much debris had barely missed several cars.

The Street:

SAM_0455SAM_0460People were outside shoveling and trying to clean up the mess. Everyone we spoke with was safe and had amazing stories to share about the storm.

Sadly we heard on the news the next day of several fatalities related to improper use of BBQ and generators during the storm. A result of those without power doing their best to keep warm. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who lost loved ones due to the storm, or its aftermath during this holiday season ice storm.

We Canadians are for the most part a hearty bunch able to withstand and recover from Mother Nature’s quirky whims and furious temper tantrums.

The following day my husband told me to look out the window. I really didn’t want to see the devastation again. He coaxed me over to take a peek. What I saw was a beautiful, stunning and blinding sight. The sun had finally come out and its rays were hitting the ice covered trees turning it into something beyond a scene on a Christmas card or anything technology can mimic or cameras can accurately capture. It was absolutely glorious. Each and every branch covered in twinkling diamonds of ice. It was so brilliant we had to shield our eyes in order to see it.

The Backyard & Park:

SAM_0539There is beauty in everything, or so they say. The beauty of our Christmas Ice Storm 2013 is in the way community came together and supported each other and the stunning view the storm left behind in its wake.

After loosing December 22nd to the Christmas Ice Storm, we were still able to pull off our Christmas Eve/Day celebrations. We lost Sunday which created extra work, however Christmas arrived, storm or no storm just as it always does!

I want to wish friends, family, fellow bloggers/readers and all who stumble upon this blog a wonderful and safe holiday season and only the best this coming year has to offer.

Santa’s Bag is a Little Lighter This Year

SAM_0423
Over the summer our daughter’s cat had kittens. We were able to successfully find homes for all 7 kittens. Recently one of them was returned to us because the child in the home is allergic.

I have been under a lot of pressure to allow the kitten to stay and finally relented. He is an adorable little guy. I must be honest the decision wasn’t that hard to make.

So this frugal Mama was sitting around today worried about Christmas budgets and also costs associated with having the  kitten, who will be 6 months old in January, fixed.

We can take him to the local SPCA and, at a cost of $60.00 have the procedure done. However, the wait time is 3-4 months on average and if for any reason (which you will never be aware of) they don’t receive your phone message request for appointment, you may never get a call back. At $60 this is the most cost effective way to go, but I am uncomfortable with the uncertainty of the process.

The next option is our local cat clinic. This thought strikes terror in my cheap little heart. Costs associated with veterinarian services here are through the roof or so I am told.

Finally tired of worrying about the unknown price, I made the call. Better to gather the information to help make the best decision, not only for the kitten, but the bank account as well.

Through a very polite, courteous and helpful person at the clinic I was delighted to learn the price tag was a mere $110. Here I was stressing an astronomical amount I had learned of through the rumor mill and internet for no reason at all. Can you say happy dance?

The frugal tip here, is make the calls and do your own homework.

As an aside for those interested, females are significantly more expensive to fix because the procedure is more complex. Just an FYI for those considering adopting a furry feline friend at some point.

I am one happy lady over here. Come the new year our adorable little Tigger2 will be all fixed up and good to go!

Please have your pets neutered/spayed. I have just heard too many horror stories of what happens to these unwanted little ones.

Thanks!

Oh, and pun in title. Totally intended on every level 🙂

Debtless & Cheap – Is Bigger Really a Bargain?

Gone are the days when buying in bulk guarantees savings.

My brand of laundry detergent is on sale right now for $4.88/25 load bottle. So yesterday I went to the shops to pick some up. The larger bottle $16.89/ 54 loads was beside it on the shelf.

I did the math:

Small bottle – 25 loads @ 4.88 x 3 = 14.64 & nets 75 loads

Large Bottle – 54 loads @ 16.89 x 1 = 16.89 & nets 54 loads

3 small bottles total $2.25 in savings and 21 more loads, significant!

Guess this proves the old adage, “Bigger is not always better” or in this case cheaper.

Debtless & Cheap – Now That`s Frugal

SAM_0332SAM_0328

Recently we received a phone call about an appliance pick up. The person on the other end insisted the unit, a fridge, was under two years old and in perfect working order. They had only changed it because a plastic light covering inside the fridge had warped slightly due to heat coming off the bulbs.

I wondered if this was too good to be true. The caller’s timing is perfect. We know someone who can really use a new fridge. If it works this will make an excellent Christmas present.

Anyway my husband picked the unit up a couple of nights ago and brought it home. It is a gorgeous LG stainless steel refrigerator and definitely only a couple of years old. We plugged it in, I crossed my fingers and we left it to cool overnight. The next morning and to my delight it was working.

I spent a couple of hours in elbow grease cleaning the unit and it looks brand new.

This piece would easily sell for between $100-$200. Instead, and in keeping with the season, it is destined to become a fantastic gift for someone special.

This is definitely the sort of Frugal Christmas miracle I enjoy. Merry Christmas Baby!

The Christmas Tree

We’ve had the same Christmas tree for 20 years. It is a highly valued family possession. Standing a humble 6 1/2 feet tall with branches of bright green the color reminds me of a child’s finger paints. Yet the shade sets off the delicate ornaments hanging from its bows beautifully. The tree is lush and full which makes up for its lack of height. It reminds me of trees we used to see when driving north to Santa’s Village with the kids. As long as you avoid touching the limbs, which are paper thin, it passes as real.

The tree is always covered in tiny white lights, save one lower bow reserved for a string of multicolored bulbs. The colorful strand pulsates to the sound of tradition Christmas songs coming from a box near the plug in a gentle music box style. The smell of pine wafts from the tree, an artificial aroma created by air fresheners hung from branches. Legend has it cats are repelled by the spicy scent. Both of our furry family members seem to enjoy the aroma as they climb the tree, lounge on their favorite branches and bat at the air fresheners. Thankfully the tree is heavy which makes it impossible for the little felines to knock over.

So what makes this tree so precious to us? It is the ornaments. Each one carefully chosen over the years to reflect the stages of life or the story we lived in any given year. Everything from our first Christmas together as a married couple, to baby milestones,  items the kids made in elementary school, to handmade ornaments created during leaner years. More recently a hand crafted beaded felt heart all the way from SA. This item was created by a group of women in South Africa who sell the items to help support their families. A friend who visited the town gave it to me as a gift last year.

At Christmas time these ornaments displayed amidst a backdrop of bright green and under tiny twinkling lights is a beautiful reminder of all we have lived and shared together and it is our story.

As the grandchildren have started to arrive, and just as I envisioned 20 some years ago; we make a warm cup of hot chocolate sit back and share stories associated with each ornament.

In our home this is so much more than a Christmas tree. This is a story tree.