Followers

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Liebster Award Times Two



A big "thank you"  to Bethany of Liberty or Death  and John of John's Island, for nominating me for the Liebster Award. The Liebster Award is a way of learning more about fellow bloggers by asking them questions. Read all about the Award and its rules here. I answer Bethany's questions first, then John's. Normally I do  not engage in awards and answering questions.  Today I'm making exceptions because I want to encourage young Bethany in her blogging and because John has been so kind to me as a fellow blogger.  Thank you to all who visit and comment.



Questions from Bethany

1.  Why did you begin blogging, and how long do you think you'll continue?

I like being positive and finding reasons to be happy, joyful or content.  It seemed that a blog would be a good way to help help me stay in that mindset. Back then I was dealing with several big changes in  my life and learning to make adjustments.  I had also just returned from my first visit to Africa and wanted to challenge myself to live more simply, be a good steward and support others in Africa in a more sustained way.  Since those early days I have expanded my blog to deal with numerous other interests: health and cooking, reading, missions in Kenya,  travel, photography and my appreciation for the natural world (sky, flowers, gardens, etc.).

For the last two years, I've thought about ending my blog but I am still here. I will continue as long as I feel I am not yet "finished" but these days I blog a little less frequently. I'm also trying to manage my time better in relation to reading and commenting on blogs.

2.  What is your go-to meal for when you need to cook something quickly?

It would have to be some kind of soup. I make a variety of soups with whatever is on hand.  Some of my regular soups are:  vegetable, turkey and rice, spinach, fish chowder, lentil, navy bean & ground beef and pasta or ground beef and vegetables. Now that I have a pressure cooker it is more of a joy to make soup because it is much quicker. I make spinach soup on stove top and blend it in the blender.

3.  You're shipwrecked on an island; what one thing would you have with you?

Lots of books to keep from getting bored.  Otherwise a radio & some batteries  to be able to listen to the news and some music.  A smartphone wouldn't last too long without a power source to keep it charged or I might want one of those with me to research, text and make calls.

4.  If you could choose any profession, what would it be?

Humanitarian aid worker or a missionary.

5.  If you could meet any of your long-distance blogging friends, which ones would you most like to meet?

There are several blogging friends I would like to meet. Too many to mention really but closer to home is John of John's Island. Really he is from Seattle, a beautiful city with a climate almost like Vancouver's. John and I share a love our our beautiful coastal cities as well as other interests.  Others I would like to meet include my friend Jo of Memorable Meanders.  We met in Kenya when she lived there for a year and I've been hoping to visit with her again.  She and I share a love of humanitarian work in Africa. My blogging friend Caroline of England blogs at Lonicera's World, Images and Stories.  I'd dearly love to meet her as I've been reading her wonderful stories for years.  She is ill right now and not blogging much anymore.  Another English woman I'd like to meet is Joy who blogs at  Loving Crochet.  We have a mutual love of gardening, crafting and missions in Kenya.  Last but not least, there is Lala who I've been following for years. Lala is a stylish woman who currently blogs at My Castle in Spain.  She is also a multi-talented artist who creates in a number of mediums. Over the years I've also learned that Lala support work against FGM in Africa.


6.  What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Until relatively recently I always ordered Neapolitan ice cream because I couldn't make up my mind as to which of the 3 basic flavours I like best. These days I prefer Vanilla ice cream and I add fresh berries to it.

7.  Describe a perfect day.

A perfect day is warm but not too hot, a gentle breeze blowing, a walk or ride to a quiet park full of greenery or along a quiet, sandy beach.  After I've savoured the sights and sounds of nature, I would like to sit down at a nice cafe with a great cup of coffee and a wonderful book. Otherwise, i would like to sit and natter with a good friend over coffee or lunch.  In the old days I also enjoyed having a walk with my mom and my sister.  Unfortunately that is no longer possible but we always had fun just conversing, looking at the beauty around us and having a coffee or light snack at a local market. Another perfect day is spending time visiting Kenya and meeting with Kenyans everywhere I go.  Or spending time meeting the widows and orphans and sharing in fellowship with them.  They say that Kenyans are some of the friendliest people on earth.  In my experience they are some of the friendliest people I've met to date.

8.  If you could witness any event of the past, present, or future, what would it be?

Oh wow, that is a difficult one to answer. I think I would love to go into the future and see the land of Kenya in 50 years and then again 150 years after it has experienced democracy for 100 and 200 years respectively.  In the last 7 years I've seen much positive development in Kenya despite their numerous and on-going challenges and political turmoils.  They also have to contend with active terrorism on their soil.  Despite these hardships they press on and hope for a better Kenya and a brighter future for all.  It would be exciting to see how far the country can advance with the passage of time.

9.  Have you ever been in a choir or singing group, or played an instrument?

As a child I sang in a very small church choir.  In elementary school I was in a chorale speaking group. While I've never been good at playing an instrument,  I taught myself to strum a guitar with a bit of help from my mother.  It was a form of relaxation for me and I loved to sing in my room after homework was done and on weekends.  I've long since given up both guitar playing and singing.

10. What is the most encouraging thing anyone has ever told you/or that you've ever read?

This is difficult to answer because I look for inspiring, encouraging and positive things almost every day and I've been the recipient of many encouraging gestures. I think  I would have to say a most lasting impression is left by my maternal grandfather who always believed in me and my ability to do well in school. He was a huge supporter of higher learning for his grandchildren. It was as a result of this that I attribute my success as a student.


11.  Would you share a favorite quote or Bible verse?

A favourite scripture is "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James 1:17


Questions from John


1.  Would you share a favorite quote and/or a favorite Bible verse?

"Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody". Kid President

2.  How did you get interested in blogging?



I can't quite remember how I came upon a few blogs that I found simple, peaceful, meditative, beautiful and grateful in their response to life. Their blogging examples inspired me to start blogging as a way to do the same.  To inspire myself to maintain and build a positive frame of mind and to stay gentle with myself.  All of us are constantly bombarded daily with negative people and negative things. We must sometimes work to find the good and the beauty in every day life. As the saying goes "life is a journey not a destination". (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

3.  Which one of the four seasons is your favorite and why?

I've always loved Fall. I think it is a spectacularly beautiful season with the multi-coloured leaves. I also love the crisp air. Once September 1st arrives, I always feel the distinct shift from warm air to a crispness in the air.  I do however feel sad about the approaching Winter season which seems to go on for so long.


4.  How do you follow global news ... TV, radio, internet, or other? Or no news for you?

I read a tremendous amount of news daily on the internet. That is my preferred way of getting the news though I also watch television news now and then. I prefer the speed of internet news and ability to skim through stories or to spend more time researching something in depth.

5.  Do you have a favorite bird or flower?

The pink flamingo has always been a favourite of mine just because it is so exotic and different from other birds where I grew up. But I also love the eagle. As for flowers, I have too many favourites.  The delicate, yet hardy, Pansy is a one of them and I grow them each year. I think they remind me of a pleasant time in childhood where my family was living far away from relatives.  Each day when I walked to school through the morning dew on the grass in our yard, there were also some pretty Pansies. 



6.  Do you have a pet(s) and, if so, what kind(s)?

My pet Turkish Angora cat died some years ago of cancer. I have never gotten another cat mainly because I don't have time to properly care for a pet. In future, I do see myself having another cat or possibly two. They say it is good to have a companion for your cat so we shall see about how many I end up with.  I also love tea cup and lap dogs. When I was a child I preferred dogs and always had a German Shepard. Times have changed and living in the big city makes owning a large dog somewhat more difficult.

7.  What is your go-to meal for when you need to cook something quickly ... 30 minutes or less?

Various types of soups.  Enlarged description above in answers to Bethany's questions.

8.  If you could travel anywhere in the world and stay for up to one month where would you go?

Through various countries and major cities in Europe or down the Dalmatian coastline. There is too much to see in Europe so I'd probably limit to two or three countries to start my explorations. Travels in Africa are always fun and interesting. I'd like to expand my travels in Africa to include: Ethiopia, Egypt, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa.

9.  Do you have hobbies other than blogging? What are they?

Yes! Too many probably and there are still things I'd still love to learn.  For now my hobbies are: reading, crocheting, sewing, quilting, knitting, photography, cooking/baking, travel.

10. If I were to visit you in your hometown, what would be the first place you'd want me to see?

My preference when travelling as a tourist is always to get an overview of a place I think when someone is new to my city, one thing that would be good to do is to take a ride on the 'hop on, hop off" bus. This way you can cover a lot of the key places of interests in the city and get on and off the bus at the places you like. Many major cities of the world have this tour bus service.

If you don't have time or interest in the bus tours, I recommend a trip to Granville Island located under the Granville Street Bridge. While there, take a little boat "bus" around the inlet and see the city from the water. It is a refreshing ride. Also, you can go to the Harbour Centre downtown near Gastown. You can purchase a ticket to the observation deck where you can see the city on a clear day.

You can also take a sea bus from Waterfront Station to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.  It is fun to ride over the water from one municipality to the other and look at the city skylines as you travel in either direction. Once you get to the Quay in North Vancouver, you can eat and shop at the many market shops.

Last but not least, you can hop on the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) and take it all the way to New Westminster.  This is the original LRT rail in Vancouver and is above ground so you can see the city as you travel.  Once you get to New Westminster, get off at the Quay and there you can enjoy the waterfront as well as some good food and shopping.  Afterward stroll along the waterfront before returning to Vancouver. Enroute you might want to stop at the famous Metrotown Mall if you have the energy for more shopping and if you have time before the shops close.

~~~~~

One thing I haven't done is identify several bloggers for this award. My reason is simple, I've found that most people I know won't participate. I think a lot of people (including myself) think answering a lot of questions is irritating and also sometimes intrusive. Yet, it is also true that those same people (myself included) LOVE to read the answers that others post. lol.

If you are my blogging friend and you haven't answered any awards lately and don't mind doing so (the benefit is others get to know you better and you get some new readers), then please let me know.
I will be more than happy to feature you on my blog and prepare some questions :-)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Night Skies Around Vancouver

These night sky photos were taken hurriedly as "drive bys" or "walking bys" in various degrees of night sky.

The first 3 photos were taken on the Lion's Gate Bridge connecting Stanley Park in Vancouver with North Vancouver and West Vancouver.






This next photo was taken from the Salmon House on the Hill restaurant in West Vancouver where a few of us gathered to celebrate my nephew's graduation from university.


A photo of the graduate and his girlfriend who also graduated but on an earlier day in the week.
Both of them will commence their master's level studies in their respective fields come September and are now on much deserved holiday.


Church in the 'hood. Photo taken with cell phone in late evening.


Joining with Skywatch Friday. Have a look at the beautiful skies from around the world.

Thank you for visiting my sky post.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wild About Colour

As I've mentioned a few times already the weather in this part of the world has been very unusual. I think that is true the world over these days. In Kericho, Kenya where I do missions work, they have been having so much rain and that is also unusual at this time of year. One of the things I've always loved about Kericho is the temperate climate. It rains virtually every day but outside of rainy season it is just enough to make everything fresh and new and then the sun comes out.  It can get quite hot for a Canadian girl like me but nothing like the dry, arid areas of the north and south.

I'm mentioning the weather again because we've had a spell of hot days. It was supposed to rain or cool off for a few days but I don't remember it really doing so.  Too much rain or too much heat is not good for my little garden which is very fragile.

I go out to water the garden late at night and try and soak the ground but there are still so many very sandy patches despite all my efforts over years to enrich the soil. It makes it rather difficult to grow things. I have better luck with growing things in containers but I keep trying to grow something edible or pretty in the small patch of land I call my garden.

Here is what the garden is growing right now.  These photos were taken at night so aren't as clear as they might be. All the drops of water on petals are from the hose. Not the sky.



















Cherry tomatoes are coming up. Cabbage in back.


The leaves still show hail damage from a few weeks ago but the plant is growing well.



I love this tree but it sheds so much throughout the year. It is responsible for a lot of my time in the garden.

Thank you for stopping by. I'm joining in with Our World Tuesday this week.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saving Money


It has been awhile since I did a post on how I save funds and s-t-r-e-t-c-h my income. I've been working very hard since last Fall to save funds as I'm planning a trip which I've been looking forward to for awhile and which has been delayed on several occasions already (more about the trip later). The trip has been delayed by factors other than monetary but the careful spending I've been doing really helps me stretch funds and gives me less anxiety over spending on my trip. It bears repeating that frugal living and frugal spending is now a way of life for me. I can give more freely to charitable causes and my work in Africa when I watch my own purse strings at home.



One way I save funds is to always shop the sales.

Clothing

In that vein I've managed to buy a lot of things that I will need on my travels.

  • 2 pair of twill capris at 40% off
  • 2 cotton t-shirts at 40%
Not only did I get 40% off of these items but I also received an extra $10 off. This particular store often gives a $10 off card to get people to shop it's sales. (Savings $60.)

I live in a rainy climate and yet have never owned a proper rain jacket. Now I have two! I purchased the first one last Fall for about 35% off. It is a quality rain jacket but I need to hem the sleeves and haven't done it yet. It is supposed to be breathable but I wore it once (with sleeves rolled up).  I found I was very hot running my errands throughout the day but I intend to use this heavier rain jacket i the dead of winter.  The other day my brother asked me if I wanted or needed a rain jacket, a packable light one for travel. I didn't really want one but he needed one.  In in order to get a discount he needed to buy 2 rain jackets.  So I went with him to check out the jackets and see what I could find. Both of us were able to find packable jackets in our sizes. They are made of smoother material than my first one and pack up to hardly anything. I also find it very comfortable to wear and it has a hood and deep pockets.  It will work great for my travels and only cost $15 marked down from $59. (savings $43.01)

Other things I purchased several months ago: 7 maxi dresses (4 with small cap sleeves and 3 sleeveless). Two of the dresses are the exact same pattern but one is a smaller size. I purchased these on line at clearance prices. The best savings were the 4 dresses that cost $79.99 reduced to $19.66 (savings $60.33 x 4 = $241.32).  The other dresses actually came with coordinating scarves and bangles (a total outfit) and were considerably reduced.  I don't remember the original price but think they were $89.99 I paid $19.99 (Savings $210.00). I've actually worn all the dresses but 1 already and have gotten a lot of use out of them. They are a lot more comfortable than wearing pants and capris on a hot day and look a far sight better. Everywhere I go I get admiring glances and outright compliments. I feel so well dressed when I walk down the street and see women and girls in their short dresses and short shorts.  For various reasons, I just cannot dress like they do and I do like to be comfortable. Total savings on dresses $415.32.

Total Clothing Savings:  $ 554.33

Telecommunications

I cut the special channels I had ordered on a 6 month promotion. Initially I opted in to these special channels as a way to see what I might be missing and because the channels were half price as an introductory offer for 6 months. I ended the first offer at about 5 months and took another package but ended it at 3 months. I just felt these channels offered nothing interesting but was glad of the chance to test them at a reduced price. Technically this isn't savings because I spent some money on channels I did not need. But it is a good use of funds to experiment and try out channels at reduced prices so you don't waste money paying full price. I could save a lot more money if I cut back to basic service altogether or cancel my subscription.  For various reasons I have not done this. Now I'm waiting to see what changes are coming as the Canadian Broadcasting regulatory authority is reforming the telecommunications industry in Canada.  This includes banning 3 years cell phone contracts and now looking at changes to television channel packaging.

I reduced one phone bill by cutting out voice mail ($10 a month) and increased long distance plan from 300 minutes to unlimited (which is really 1000 minutes), an increase from $6. to $20.  (This is to save the overuse of minutes in the plan which cost almost $19. dollar a month on top of the $6. plan).  These minutes are used for talking to mom every day and 300 minutes isn't enough time for the entire month. The operator also gave me a $10 monthly discount because I asked whether the package deal was the very best they could do. I am not sure how long the $10 discount will last but however long it lasts it is a real savings. I will assess things in another few months. Savings $20 a month for voice mail and discount.  Another $4. a month or so will be saved on long distance charges.

Total savings on phone plan: 24.00 a month.



Gifts

I don't give so many gifts anymore but I still do like to give birthday and Christmas gifts to family members or very good friends. I have a few birthdays coming up in August and so I've been keeping my eyes open to gift ideas.

1.  For my pastor I've purchased a wonderful CD of instrumental Christian music - Regular price $13.98 purchased for $.99 (Savings $12.99)

2. For a friend I purchased a beautifully wrapped tea set for 2 which includes 2 china cups, a box of tea, and spoons placed in a reusable basket and wrapped in cellophane. Not sure the original price. I purchased it for $3.99 at a local thrift store. I placed it with nice gift paper in a large box along with a pair of denim jeggings marked down from $69.99 to $9.99 (Savings $60.00)

3. For another friend I bought a pendant marked down from $69.99 to $19.99 (Savings $50.00). This one is for a friend who lives in USA and so has to be small to reduce mailing costs.

Total spending on gifts is  $30.97.  This spending was not totally necessary but I like to appreciate the people in my life now and then. Especially if they have been a good support to me or they are celebrating something special.

Total savings on gifts:  $122.99

Household

I regularly shop sales for food and all household items too. Since I last posted about savings at the pharmacy and points I've managed to save and use points worth $85 on two separate occasions since about March. I now have another $85 earned.  I don't normally earn so many points in such a short time but I've been getting wonderful multiplication of my spending by using promotional coupons.

I manage to earn  points by buying necessary household needs like toilet paper, paper towels (use sparingly), laundry detergent (I no longer use home made liquid detergent in my HE washers. If anyone has done this I'd be interested in knowing if you've experienced any issues with the washers), etc. I will be using my next $85 on purchasing vitamins which are very expensive. I can further increase my savings by waiting until the vitamins are on sale and they seem to be on sale right now. I didn't tally all the savings on monthly spending for household items purchased at the drugstore but it is huge. That is how I save the points to get more spending dollars to use on other things I need.  One thing I have learned not to do is spend on items I don't need just to earn points. Instead I rapidly earn points by looking for items that multiply the points earned by up to 20x. I also signed up for special offers to get significantly higher points for items I regularly use.

I also regularly save money on the food bill. This is getting harder and harder to do so I no  longer shop every week for meat. This might happen once or twice a month now when there is a decent sale.  Savings still add up but I don't tally this. I don't have time.

Last but not least, earlier this week I purchased a wool mattress pad (for aching back). I purchased it at a store closing out sale marked down from $139. to $85 (savings $54.00) . This wasn't the best sale but I know the price of wool and the mattress pads made of wool. Even at the regular price it was a bargain. I've actually been using it all week and it is comfortable to sleep on.

Total household savings:  $54.00 + ($85 x 3) $255. (dollars earned at drugstore since March) = $ 309.00

Other

I don't just stretch the dollars by careful shopping on clothing and household food items. There are many other ways to save funds.

Eating out is one of the biggest sources of monthly expenditure for many people. When I go out I try to limit my dining budget to coffees/cool beverages and small, inexpensive places where I can get a wholesome meal (there are few of these places around but you can usually find one or two in your jaunts around the city). I prefer to have my coffee and meals at home so I can control what I eat.  But from time to time you can't and I'm not at that stage where I pack my lunch with me (I may get there). Also you need to get together with friends now and then over coffee and a meal. Most of my friends like to "go out" rather than eat at home. That is the social scene in Vancouver.

Entertainment is another big expense for most people. I limit my spending on this to one concert in a blue moon. I seldom go to concerts due to the expense but if I really want to take in an event I will. Last time I went to a concert it was for the Soweto Gospel Choir. That was a real treat and it was already 4 years ago!  Movies are something I like to enjoy. I save money by going to matinees and cheap days. I also don't bother with the snacks. I always carry a backpack and have my own healthier snacks inside if I really need to eat something. I carry water wherever I go also. Every time I go to a movie I earn points toward a free movie. If you go more often you get a free movie more often. I haven't been to a movie in a long while. Though I've certainly been meaning to go I have just been too busy. I busy myself with other entertaining things: books, television, blogging, crafts, gardening, day to day life.

Crafting is very expensive too especially since I have numerous hobbies. I always look for products on line and have now built up quite the stash of yarns. The last balls of yarn I bought were marked down at Michael's from $7.99 to $3.99.  I don't really need to buy more. If I had more room I probably would have even more yarn and other craft items for I also love to crochet, bead, sew, quilt, etc.



Books and magazines can be very expensive but such a source of pleasure. I get most of my books at the library. Recently I've been buying a few new books again because I've been looking for specific books that I can't get second hand in local shops.  I'm limiting the purchases to what I am definitely going to use as reference books right now.  They are books I've already read at the library and know I will use and related to health and/or cooking.The library also has magazines but you need to read them at the library. I just do not have time to sit and browse through magazines there but would love to do that some day. They also have printed news if you like the newspaper but I do most of my news reading on line in bits and spurts throughout the day. It is a lot quicker.

Hair care is a huge expense for most women. I've cut down on the cost of salon visits. I only go 2-3 times a year now for a cut and sometimes colour. I do my own hair at home using henna (a $10 bag lasts me about 1 year) or reduced price hair colouring ( a box costs me anywhere from $6.99 to $8.99 on sale and lasts one month or 1-2 uses).  I stopped using store bought hair colour to reduce my toxic load. I used only henna for 2 years.  Lately I have reverted to colour in a box again because it takes too much of my energy to put on the goopy henna and let it sit on my head for 2 hours then try to wash it all out.  It is much easier if I get the hair dresser to do it.  After my travels I will likely return to using henna to reduce chemicals on my body and also to save the pocketbook.



Running the home and paying for things like electricity is also very expensive. I monitor my power bills and try to reduce expenses by keeping the heat off through much of the winter as possible. I make use of heavy socks, sweaters, far infrared heating pads and mattress pads (I'm aware of concerns over emissions so have been moving to flannel sheets, more blankets, socks in bed, thermal pjs). Another huge savings is to use energy efficient appliances. All my appliances are energy efficient and save not only water but power usage and is my little bit to preserve our natural resources. This has made a big difference in my monthly household costs. Whenever I can afford it I want to update the bathrooms and install water efficient showers and toilets.

Conclusion

Since November I've managed to save just over $1000. Canadian dollars on clothing and household food & toiletry items (toilet paper, etc.).  These are things I need to buy.  I haven't included savings on all the other ways of saving money which I've mentioned (electricity, etc.).  If I wanted to do a really detailed analysis it would take me far more time than I want to dedicate to this exercise.  I know I've actually saved more money but the savings are on things that are more wants than needs. For example, massage services and acupuncture.  There can be considerable savings to be had if one looks through Groupon first. Only look if you need something and will use it soon otherwise you will be tempted to spend more than you should. Though these kinds of items are more in the want category they can also fall into the need category.  For example, I take massages, foot reflexology and acupuncture for pain and muscular issues. So it is a form of health care and health care costs are never frivolous if the aim is to improve or maintain health.

Saving money is a constant challenge and a constant task.   I said to the young clerk at the pharmacy the other day that all this coupon business was a lot of work and it is like having a job.  She knows me well and said 'yes, I'm sure it is but you are really saving a lot".

If you are like me you get a buzz by savings of 50-60% and if I can get the 90% savings now and then, so much the better! I feel very pleased with myself when that happens. I am pleased because I know I am spending wisely the funds that have been entrusted to me. I can also give to others less fortunate and help the most vulnerable in Kenya. One thing to remember though is not to spend for the sake of spending and accumulating.  There are also many other ways to reduce costs and expenditures. I've highlighted a few of the things I do regularly which adds up to significant savings over time. Here's to wise spending and happy savings.




African Music & Happenings