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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.




Bugs & Spiders

Happy Saturday everyone,

I trust you are all doing fine. As I mentioned in my Skywatch Post here, the weather has cooled down a lot since last weekend but it hasn't started to rain yet. In fact today the sky was bright and sunny. At least the temperatures were definitely milder and great for a walk. Unfortunately when I started snapping some new photos for the blog I discovered that my camera card was still in my card reader at home!

Here are a bug and a spider I snapped earlier in the week.

I'm joining in with our host Eileen at Saturday's Critters
I hope you will stop by there and see some great pics of critters.

Happy weekend to you all.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Night Sky in June

Early Spring in these parts was mild with lots of sun. Then we had a lot of rain. Then it was very dry and hot. Now it seems we are moving into cooler weather again for at least a few days. (At least that is how I remember it, lol).
 I always welcome rain or cooler temperatures after a hot spell.


You can see the clouds are gathering to the north.

How about you dear reader.
Do you like a bit of rain interspersed with hot, sunny days? Or do you like heat and heat alone?

I'm joining in with Skywatch Friday so have a look there for more awesome skies from around the globe.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My World Tuesday & Poppy Love

Hello dear friends,

I hope you are all doing well.

I've been fairly busy as usual as I'm helping build a house and picking out paints, looking at bathroom and kitchen cabinet design, water connections, electric connections and building flower boxes to set outside the kitchen window and gaze at flowers. It is a lot of work looking for design ideas and figuring out everything from scratch on a budget.

I am also busy trying to keep my little garden growing. It has been very hot for several days.


I found this guy in the bird bath on the hottest day so far. I don't know if he was trying to get cool or if he had fallen into the water from the tree above.

My garden soil is of mixed health.  There are parts where I need to water a lot because the soil doesn't hold the water for long.  This is the area where the vegetables are planted.

There are other areas where I've over watered and see I've drowned a few anenome plants that were not that hardy.  I also have a few seedlings I started a few weeks ago that need to go into the ground but I haven't had the time or energy to plant them. Maybe tomorrow.









My vegetables are doing fairly well.  But I've discovered there are lots of tiny holes my cabbage leaves.  Last night I looked up the problem on line and see the holes are made by cabbage loopers eating the leaves. But I haven't caught any of them in the act yet and I'm not quite sure what to do about it as I don't want to use any chemicals. I will have to do a bit more research.

The petunias I planted just the other day are starting to flower already and the geraniums are doing well too.  The pansies easily wilt under the hot sun and need some good watering and deadheading on a regular basis.

I've also been busy trying to get the blood glucose under control. I have been doing my very best for years and it doesn't seem to make much difference to my average blood sugar levels which are slowly rising. The doctor now has me on another drug and I'm cautiously optimistic that it is going to work.  I should have a better idea in a few weeks time.

I made a nice Greek dinner recently just for something different. I had a rack of lamb in the freezer that I had been saving and wanted to use it before it got too old. I didn't get a good photo of the lamb but didn't much like it anyway. I prefer lamb in a stew.

Greek Salad
Roasted Greek Potatoes (garlic and lemon)
Homemade Tzadziki (cucumber) sauce & toasted pita bread
It has been a long time since I did any crafting or extensive reading. I've been trying to do both but haven't gotten very far. Hopefully I can do more of both over the coming weeks. One book I'm reading is called London by Edward Rutherford. I am at about page 700 and have about 500 more pages to read.

I went to the eye doctor for my annual check up the other day. I was relieved to discover that my eye sight had not deteriorated even more. There is a new optometrist I was booked in with. She is a young and bright doctor and gave me some new contact lens to try. They are for presbyopia and can eliminate the  need for reading glasses on top of contact lens. I'm trying them for a month and have to see her again at the end of the week to see how things are going. I think the prescription still needs a bit of tweaking.

Well that is what is going on in my world this week. I'll be by to read about your week.

Joining in with Our World Tuesday this week and I Heart Macro.



Friday, June 5, 2015

Not My Garden


(If you missed my sky post which was posted on the same day, you can  see it here.)

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One of my favourite things to do is to take photos of flowers in someone's garden as I walk around doing my errands. 

Mostly I photograph flowers planted by guerrilla gardeners; that is gardeners who plant in public spaces. 
Today's flowers were taken with my phone.

The flowers in this post were planted by a retired Asian man who simply loves gardening.  I often see him out planting and tending to his many flowers.  He is planting in spaces around his condominium building that do not belong to him. I don't know if he has asked for permission or if he just decided to beautify the space and didn't bother seeking approval.

Over the past two years the garden has really mushroomed and is getting quite gorgeous.. 

His flowers seem to grow like weeds compared to mine.  I've notice the soil in the space is very dark and rich compared to what I have in my small patio garden.  Every year I add bags and bags of manure and soil hoping to make the soil nice and rich. It has improved a bit but still has a ways to go.  It is a lot of work to carry the bags of manure and soil required every year for the small garden otherwise I might do a big job of it and get it all over and done with but I have to do it bit by bit.












Do you like to garden dear reader? 
How is your garden growing this year?


Please don't be shy to leave a comment. I love to hear from my readers and always try to return the favour.
 Enjoy your weekend!

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