I haven’t written a blog post, in a very long time. And today, I was reading my Mother’s blog, she is a good blogger, she posts regularly. And thus, I was inspired to write my own blog post.
Things have been really flying into high-speed for me over the past few weeks, I started working with the Kidlettes again (the two kids I take care of a few days a week), its crazy how much I missed them. I have been trying to quit smoking, after 2 days of cold turkey I was going insane, and realised that I couldn’t quit that way without hurting someone, but I have managed to reduce my smoking by over 50% which is a huge accomplishment.
Part of my quitting smoking, involved checking out http://www.albertaquits.ca which is a quitting smoking support site. They have a lot of really good resources available for smokers to gain a bit of an understanding of their addiction and how far it goes. For instance, I learned that I am not very physically dependent on cigarettes, it’s a psychological thing for me, and after 2 days of cold turkey, I realised that I needed to concentrate on “why” I smoke, “when I smoke” etc. For instance, I like smoking in the car, while I’m reading a book, while im on the phone, etc.
So what I have been doing lately, is eliminating smoking from those times. I am using reading as an excuse not to smoke. I stopped at chapters, and I picked up the book “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. I haven’t gotten that far into it yet, but 10 pages in, the book had made me laugh, made me think, and made me relate. Which in my mind, is a good book. As I read more I will try to post more of my thoughts about it, but I need to finish the book before I see the movie… For some reason the book “Eat Pray Love” isn’t making it onto my reading list for the next few months…
Whats on my list? “The Help”, “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts, “The Naked Millionaire” by Maxine Hyndman, and “The Dove Keepers” By Alice Hoffman. That keep me busy for a while.
Also, I have been drawing. I don’t like drawing, and my style tends to be very un-realistic, which doesn’t really work too great when you want to draw something that is “real”… I never really like what I come out with, but if I have a rough outline, that I can tweak and fine tune, and then add the color too it, I love it. It has been an excercise in patience, also not one of my strengths.
I picked up an Alice of Wonderland coloring book at chapters for $5, its got poster sized pages, the whole story with color illustrations, and full-sized coloring pages. I am currently working on the picture where Alice meets the Caterpillar. I have gotten Alice done, the flowers behind her, the Caterpillar (he took FOREVER to get the final shading done), the two small mushrooms (im dreading the big one, its next) and of course, the first thing to be done, was the Caterpillars infamous Hookah…
I am attempting to do it with the same coloring as the original drawing, the difference is that I am doing mine in pencil crayon, and the originals are water-color (just beautiful). It looks a lot different, while at the same time being the same. The process of doing the shading and the coloring has been fun and exciting and I cant wait to see it finished !
That’s all the typing I am willing to do right now, I will honestly try to do my best at blogging more often.
You can check out my Mom’s blog at http://shortshoestring.wordpress.com/
Have a great day !
~Emma

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A penny saved is a penny not spent… you already earned it…

So, this couponing thing. Couponing is very different in Canada. For instance you cant possibly get a $600 bill down to under $35, but I have personally achieved, through coupons, sales and other discounts a 23 and 30% savings on my 2 grocery trips last week. A friend of mine has had 50-62% off. For me, it is not a matter of extreme savings; so much as it is simply about… savings.
Saving every penny I can, because… a penny saved is a penny not spent. One other thing that I have been doing, is shopping by flyer. We shop at Co-op and Safeway, which is convenient because they are directly across the street from each other. When I go in, I ask at customer service for there next week flyers so I can plan my next shopping trip. If it isn’t on sale, we don’t normally buy it, except of course for the necessities like milk and eggs. Bread, when the kind we like is on sale, we normally buy several loaves, and put them in the freezer, this way we have bread, normally until the next time it goes on sale. Same goes for cereal, cheese, yoghurt, jams and spreads, sugar etc. basically, anything that you would normally buy, if you buy it on sale, its savings.
I don’t agree with extreme couponers tendency to “horde” his or her purchases, what can someone possibly do with enough deodorant to last 100 years… I think it is lunacy, those people do deserve to be on A&E’s Hoarders: Buried Alive, except for the fact that that most of there stuff is OCD organized on shelves. It is taking materialism to a whole new level.
I think if it was possible for me to coupon to that extreme, the local homeless shelter/food bank/etc would love me, because there are a whole lot of people who could benefit by the “free product” that these people have horded away.
So in regards to my “stockpile”, it is minimal. I used a Mr. Clean coupon last week, for $1.50 off of 2 products. They were currently on sale, 3 for $6, which means that I paid $4.50 for 3 bottles of cleaner, that I use for cleaning on a regular basis… so 3 cleaning sprays. French’s mustard was on sale 2/$5 and I had a $1 off coupon. We have 4 things of mustard, 4 different varieties. I use it to make homemade salad dressings so having quite a bit is good. I also had a coupon from the SUTP for $4.00 off a Safeway lasagne, they were on sale for $5.77, meaning I paid $1.77 for a lasagne, a simple dinner for when I don’t feel like cooking.
I am not extreme couponing at all, but for me, it is simply using sales, coupons and other discounts to give myself a bit of peace of mind.

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Keeping Track

Spreadsheet Example 2 by Emmasgnomes
Spreadsheet Example 2, a photo by Emmasgnomes on Flickr.

First Update, June-July 21, 2011

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Extreme Couponing, Canadian Style

Yes, I have joined the world of extreme couponers. With some exceptions. I do not have room in my house to start a huge stock-pile that includes a one hundred year supply of deodorant, but I am using coupons for items that I do use and in the quantity that I need.

I will not say that couponing is easy, it takes a lot of work, first off, you have to find the coupons. Coupons are not as readily available in Canada as they are in the USA, which means a longer search and a bit more work. Then, after you find your coupons, it is wise to make a spreadsheet with the coupons so that you know what you have. And then, you need to look for sales, if you find a sale on an item that you have a coupon for, its more savings.

So, first off… Finding the coupons. There are always coupons in the flyer inserts of your newspaper, as well as coupon inserts. We are still deciding which newspaper to subscribe to, so for now I have been using the internet to find coupons. Here are some great websites I use to find mine !

Smart Canucks

this website has a link to all coupons, as well as hidden coupons from other sites

Save.ca

sign up to this site to have coupons mailed to your home,

no charge

Brand Saver.ca

another sign-up and mail-to-home site

Web Saver.ca

sign-up and mail-to-home site

Right At Home.ca

sign up for this site for hidden coupons on web-saver

Go Coupons.ca

sign-up mail-to-home site

Save A Loonie.com

coupons for a lot of clothing stores and shops in the mall

Flyer Land.ca

website with some coupons, and a link to all flyers for stores in Calgary

Canadian Coupon Queen

an awesome site for information about couponing in Canada with links and updates !

One of the things you need to do, is make sure you check up on these sites at least once a week, in order to check what is new. I find that going through these sites takes about 15-25 minutes, depending on how much there is. After you check the sites and get your coupons, any printable coupons that you have saved to your computer need to be entered into your spreadsheet. At the end of this post I have included a picture of one of my spreadsheets. I make sure that I have them clearly labelled, the discount, and the expiration date is a must. Using Excel helps me to be able to constantly be sorting my list so that the quickest to expire would be the first that I use.

I have a bunch of different sections that I file my coupons under.

Groceries, Body Stuff, Household Items, Things to Do, Fun Things, GTL, Fast food, mall stuff, Golf, Hotels, and Automotive. Yes, GTL is a pun on Jersey Shore, I have coupons for gym memberships/trials, and I have coupons for tanning services, the laundry turns into “haircuts” as to what else I put in that envelope. It just made me laugh.

So, once you have coupons, and they are categorized, and easily available, go shopping. Remember that I am only getting coupons for things that I will use. Yes, I prefer to use the Lysol apple spray, I have coupons for scrubbing bubbles… so which one will I be buying? I always buy sale items, and I am not overly picky about using specific cleaning products, as I base what I buy on the price at the time that I need it. I do of course have products that I don’t like to use, so I don’t get coupons for those products, and if I can’t get a coupon for what I like, I wait for it to go on sale.

If there is a product that you like using more than others, consider contacting the manufacturer and requesting coupons for that specific product from them. Quite often they will comply.

Another way to save in Calgary, is buying gas. Now this only works if you do quite a bit of your shopping at Calgary Co-op, I do, and as such this works for me. Buy your gas at CO-OP, don’t bother looking at the price of the Macs across the street, just get it at CO-OP. the reason, is because if you have a membership (costs only $1 with amazing perks), you get so many cents/litre added up in a coupon form for savings in groceries. I am unsure of the exact number, I will find it out, but when we put gas in the truck, about $25-$30 will normally get us at least $1.00+ off of groceries. Lets say, there are 2 vehicles parked in front of our house, 1 fill up a week (just ballpark here) gives us about $1.75 per car in savings, which adds up to $3.50 savings a week. Now, take that $3.50 and take the four weeks of the month, and that makes $14.00 in savings per month, and A total of $168 per year in savings on groceries. Adds up pretty quick.

In the next post I will have an example of how I keep track of my coupons used. I’ve missed quite a few, but from now on I will be keeping track more precisely.

More updates to come !!!

Spreadsheet Example by Emmasgnomes
Spreadsheet Example, a photo by Emmasgnomes on Flickr.

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Deal with it… July 14, 2011

Here it is, the final day of transformation. Over the past few months, I have been going through a lot of changes. Its almost like I started caring. Don’t get me wrong, I cared before, it’s just that I have started caring more. Its like my epiphany, having a clean house, makes me happy. I feel happy, inside and out. The whole house seems brighter and having everything organized and in its place seems to change the entire energy in our home. When my back porch is clean and not covered in seedpods from the tree next door, its nicer to sit outside with my plants, and as such I have made a habit to sweep off the porch every day when I water my plants.

The same can be said for, “embracing my feminine side”.  I have recently started doing regular manicure/pedicures, the Willow Finishing Course says to clean hands and nails thoroughly in the morning, and so 2-3 times a week, I go over rough edges with a file, push my cuticles down, put cuticle cream on, and I have the 4-edge nail buffer from the Body Shop which is amazing. Another great thing I have found, for those of us who have naturally brittle nails, which I don’t understand because my hair is strong, my teeth are strong, but my nails aren’t…. but the “green tea” nail stuff that they used to advertise on TV (you can get it at certain CO-OPs) One bottle goes a very long way, and it really helps to naturally strengthen and harden your nails without coating your nail with something and it doesn’t smell like chemicals. And it works

So, back to this being the final day. I have not gotten a hair cut in 3 years. I have had my fair share of bad haircuts, including one that was supposed to be a “Audrey Hepburn Pixie Cut” that ended up being a buzz cut that should have been on a guy… since then I have been so picky about how my hair gets done, and after another very bad haircut I have been leery of going to get my hair cut. So I just let it grow… However, it was so long that it went past my belt… and it weighed a ton and with my back and neck feeling the strain, I buckled down and went in to Marvel Hair College to get my haircut. The cut feels amazing, and I broke down and got bangs.

Now, my hair is straight, straight as an arrow, and its long, and thick and smooth, and as a result, I can never get my hair to curl, and if I do get it to curl, I need to load it up with hair spray in order for it to look half way wavy an hour later. So I have decided to try and see if my hair will take a perm, and if it does, and I really hope it does, I will have curly hair, finally! So I was originally booked for the perm on Tuesday, but I was told, that because they didn’t ask me what the length of my hair was, they didn’t realise how much time it would take to perm my hair, let alone cut it. The cut itself took almost 3 hours, and apparently the perm is going to be an “all day” thing so I am going in at 9 this morning!

I am so excited, and I feel so good. When you feel better about yourself, and your environment, its almost like it seeps out of you. I have more energy, I’m not tired all the time, and I have been up at 5 am with Eric every morning without going back to bed, also going to bed by 8:30 so I get my 8 hours of sleep.

All I have to say to people is take care of you.  Eat healthy food, brush your teeth, take time on your personal appearance, drink your water, and get fresh air and exercise every day. Not only will you feel better, but also you will most likely find you get more done.

Sometimes, you get stuck in ruts; I’ve had really bad allergies the past few weeks, which I originally thought was a cold. So of course, I was giving myself different cold medications, starting with the usual, Buckley’s and Benalyn and the likes, and then switching to some homeopathic remedies, and finally I just took a Reactine. Man I hate allergies. However, back to my rut, being on the cold medication, coughing, etc just wore me out, I was tired, and I couldn’t seem to get myself off the couch. I kept giving myself excuses for not doing things, like laundry, posting a blog, (even though I spend ages being a Facebook creep), cleaning, dishes etc. See, sometimes it is all in your head. As soon as I realised it was just allergies, and that I didn’t need to rest in order for my body to heal itself, it was like I just snapped out of it. The house is getting cleaner again, the laundry is almost caught up with, the bedroom looks like a bedroom again and the back porch is once again my herbal haven of bliss.

All I can say is that life is grand. It hasn’t always been that ways, sometimes its just plain hard, and sometime you just shake your head at the stupidity around you. But one thing I have learned, is that if you focus on YOU, and YOUR happiness, YOUR life will be full. Whatever makes you unhappy is in your control to change. All you need to do is figure out how to change it. Sometimes the changes we need to make aren’t what we want to do, but if you don’t weigh out all your options, you could find yourself in a permanent rut that takes even more effort to get out of.

Life sucks, deal with it and it will get better.

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And with thoughts of perfume…. June 29, 2011

I want to share a blog, that I have mentioned before, called the Willow Finishing Course . Since my mother shared this gem with me, I can honestly say that I have seen a transformation in my “poise” if you will. I don’t always get everything on the list done, but I average about 75% so I can’t complain. Some of the steps are a little bit harder than the others, but the ones that I am getting done every day, have improved the way that I look and the way that I feel about myself on a day-to-day basis. I feel more womanly, more feminine. I have always struggled in a way with my femininity, or more so blending my feminine side with my personality, which those who know me will agree, is one of a kind. When I was younger I definitely had a tomboy-punk look going on, and pink, lace, and frills were the last thing you would find in my closet, and high-heeled shoes… don’t even think about it. I then kind of molded into a sporty-chic look that included sweat pants (nice ones), t-shirts, tank tops, the occasional lightly heeled flip-flop and sneakers. It wasnt until recently, with a combination of discoveries, number one being introduced to the show “what not to wear”. I used to spend my spare $ on tabloid magazines, I now purchase fashion magazines. I like the articles and I like the fact that they have so many pretty things to wear and accessorize with. It was with this discovery, that I started thinking about what I wore, and what I accessorize with. I started buying scarves, and statement jewellery, I love unique necklaces and rings, and I discovered that I can indeed fall in love with bracelets. I have learned, watching “What Not to Wear”. that it is a struggle to find your fashion identity, and that having a nice look doesn’t mean that you are vain or arrogant. I have also learned to use discretion, because there is a very thin line between elegant and eccentric. I normally have a bit of an eccentric look, but I have learned how to piece my eccentric pieces with different styles to look better put together as opposed to a Picasso painting with a million different colors and textures. The willow finishing course, is a guideline for your own daily routine, and doing all of these things will lead to looking better, feeling better and living better. I don’t agree with everything, and like i said, use discretion, for instance she says not to use a foundation, as if your skin is clean and clear you shouldnt need it. However, I live in Calgary, which means that I have to deal with extremely dry conditions which means that I use an oil based moisturizer. I find that it is essential to put a thin layer of powder foundation, to minimize the shiny look my lotion leaves behind. It’s all about what your body needs to make it look and feel good. Follow the rules, pay attention to your body and image, and notice what makes you feel good and what doesn’t. Only if you pay attention to yourself can you actually change your image. Did I mention that I love shoes now?

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wonderful epiphany… gotta love em! June 12, 2011

Ya know when you have those moments? Where everything just… clicks? When you dread your mothers next phone call because, of course your so excited about this “epiphany”, and your mother will simply say “I told you so”, or “finally”. And to be honest, I don’t think I have actually had my mother on the phone long enough to go completely crazy about my new found “joy”. But, she does find the time to read my blog when she gets the chance and on those rare occasions I have time to sit down and type. Like now for instance. Well, mainly I am ignoring Eric’s night stand mess as I just finished cleaning the entire bedroom + laundry, and I deserve a sit down with a cold coca-cola.

The puppies are whining to go sit on the back porch, but I have put a bunch of blankets and rugs and stuff out to air out, and when I gave them the chance, Charlie and Baxter proceeded to pull the feather duvet off the railing and I was so scared that they would rip it and feathers would be flying that I have banned them from the back porch for the morning. I do have the screen door open, which I’m not sure if that is good or bad, because they can see and smell the outside, they just cant get there, so sad. They are going to get a good 2 hours at the dog park of running and sniffing and playing so they can exercise patience.

We have just spent the last week with my best friends family over, she has an adorable 2 year old that is just something else. She became fast friends with both the pups, who have been looking around for her ever since she left! I think they miss having someone to play with all the time. Especially when mommy cleans all day!

And back to my epiphany. I am, I think I should say, the queen of tangents… So, this week, my kitchen, which with 3 people who cook and hate cleaning, and dishes, is normally disastrous, however, I finally had enough, and with Briley’s help, we got the kitchen 100% clean. I was so pleased with how clean my kitchen was, that I was determined to keep it that way. And it honestly, has not been too hard. I have 3 rules, only 3.

1: there is nothing in the sink at night, unless the dishwasher is full and running. NOTHING !!!

2: my stove must be clean and white and sparkling. No pots and pans on it either.

3: my counters must be clear and clean. Nothing that doesn’t belong.

Its funny, how when you do these 3 things, your sink ends up cleaned as well, and normally when the stove is whipped down, we notice that the fridge could use a little TLC and then when all of the surfaces are clean, we notice that the floor needs to be swept.

Voila! 3 rule instant clean kitchen effect.

So that was my epiphany. And since then I have been on a bit of a mission to keep the rest of the house just as clean. And today I have been doing the bedroom. It is amazing how messy the bedroom can get. Because for the most part, you just sleep in it, and you don’t think about all the other things you do. For instance. Why is my nightstand the messiest all the time? Well, it is because Eric always gives things to me, like the q-tips we needed to clean the pups ears, and the freezy wrappers, and papers, and books, and magazines, tea cups, water bottles and the list goes on and on.

I need to work at keeping it clean, and with the kitchen, I am realising that keeping it clean is as simple as making new habits. It takes a lot of work, and anything worth having is worth working for. So I’m going to stop my bitching, stop my procrastinating and complaining. I’m just going to buckle down and get to it. Because it makes ME feel better.

It is just like laundry.

Before I get started on laundry, Id like to say, that one thing that was really good that came from Briley being here, other than the memories and laughs, was the fact that my “junk room” became my “guest room”. The bed was relieved of its “couch” and the other stuff that had been collecting all winter was taken to the dump, the whole room was re-done, the bed got a blanket, and pillows, I took some of the extra boxes, stacked them and covered them with some cloth that I had and made night stands, and I just replaced my desk in the bedroom with a proper one, so that one that I have had for years and years and years is now in that bedroom, and I covered that with a nice cloth, and I put up an extra mirror that I had, and put some decorations, and a painted pot with rolled up face cloths and some shampoo and lotion that I stole from the hotel we stayed at on our trip to the dinosaur capital of the world. I made my guest room into a regular hotel room. I was so proud to usher my friend and her family and say welcome home for the next week!

So I am determined that that room is going to stay like that, my guest room. But what to do with it while no guests are here? I have decided, that when void of friends, the room shall be my laundry room.

So on to the laundry. I don know how we get so much, and for some reason, I always seem to have a backlog of laundry. And it ALWAYS ends up in my bedroom. Well now that that is clean, and has no laundry in it, I of course want to keep it that way. So my spare room becomes laundry room. I can keep my 3 baskets in there, one for whites, darks and towels. When we have laundry, it’s a skip across the hall into the bedroom to put them into the proper basket. When I have clean laundry, I can put it on the bed until I have time to fold it, and therefore I am not tying up any of my laundry baskets, and creating a laundry “pile” instead.

So now, I am going to invest in one of those portable laundry hangers, as pretty much all of my clothes get hung up, as well as Eric’s work shirts and all his sweaters. This way I am making it easy on me, as I can hang up my clothes on the portable rack and then wheel it to whichever closet the clothes are going in. and really, I think my plan is genious.

It is all about creating order and methods to maintain that order. I have been going through, room-by-room, cleaning and organizing so that the next time I clean it is easier. Which will mean that my house, my hobbies, and my work will be convenient, organized and accessible.

And what I am discovering, about having your life maintained like this, is that it truly makes me a happier person. I feel better about myself, my home, my life, and my image, which is also being improved by the Willow Finishing Course.

Like everything, I have not been consistent, considering that I came on for day 3 and it is now day 23 or something. But Eric and I have decided, that we are going to do it together. Ok, so technically it is written for women, but it is so simple to transfer it over to men. Even men need to keep their lips nice and supple, nothing like doing it yourself and kissing rough lips. Everyone can benefit from the willow course, and even though I haven’t been following it completely, I have been making huge progress in the little things, I am focussing on my posture, and keeping my nails clean, I put on perfume and I am wearing jewellery, I am brushing my teeth, drinking my water and I normally remember to put on chap stick. So far all in all, I do most things, what I suck at is sitting down at the end of the day and tallying up my accomplishments. So with Eric and I doing this together, starting tomorrow, being Monday, I think I will be better at that. It always helps when you work with someone else, to keep you accountable, to celebrate with and to have someone to pull you up when you need it. And who better than the man who has to fight for his share of the bed from the puppies as well as me. Its true, the dog rules the roost. Just don’t tell our Alpha dog that.

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