Saturday, March 26, 2011

I'm Sorry...That Was How Much?!

It's that time of year again when we are all freaking out about filing our taxes. Every year since I have moved to Quebec I have been whalloped with taxes! Seriously. Like smack in your face, punch in your gut, where the heck do you expect me to come up with that kind of money type taxes...(that's what you get for working in a different province and then bringing income across the border into another one...) but as the French here say, "c'est la vie"! I have learned to set up a savings account separate from all other expenses and put money away off each paycheck so that when the tax man comes calling in the spring I have some set aside (phew!!) ....This year the jury is still out on how deep into my pockets I will have to dig (haven't filed yet). Mind you, for the first 10 months of 2010 I was on maternity leave on reduced salary and my husband and I bought a second house that we rent out so I am unofficially a "business owner". But I'm not holding my breath that either of those things will help out too much....LOL forever the cynic I expect another bill in the couple thousands like usual.


So with money in mind (the dreaded B word) got tossed around recently. Dan and I both work full time (he owns his own General Contracting Business and I work at the hospital)we have never followed a strict 'B'udget, we don't set ourselves "allowances", we always have paid our bills on time and other than our mortgage and car payments we don't have debt. However we have started to try paying a bit more attention to where we spend and how much so that we can grow our savings a bit more.

For Lent this year we gave up ALL online shopping...well let me rephrase that...I have given up all online shopping. Dan isn't a shopper and I'm pretty sure I'm addicted! Not having to leave my house and with a single click have things delivered to my front door is addictive to me! LOL! I have to admit, it's been super tricky! Between Scrapbooksteals and Amazon a big chunk of my expendable income seems to disappear pretty quickly every month! LOL! But I have been good, 18 days in and not one single thing has been bought using a computer or mobile device :) I estimate that I have saved about $150 so far! (maybe more)

Another way we have started to save money (and this is not a new concept) is to follow a menu plan during the week. Too often I go grocery shopping and have to scrape my jaw up off the floor when I see my total...especially once I'm home and I unpack my behemoth amount of food to then wonder what the heck can I make for dinner?! What did I actually buy?! LOL I'm sure there must be others like me out there that come home from a shop to look down at all the groceries and think "What did I actually buy?". I do look at flyers and am pretty good at cutting out coupons and buying things when they are on sale but I don't plan ahead so the groceries that I "saved" on don't really go together so I end up making a 2nd trip during the week to fill in the really what did we save?
Back in college I used to live on $20/week on groceries!...I was a starving student and new how to stretch a dollar to it's furthest! Mind you there was less fresh fruit and veg in my diet but for a year it did the trick for a non working full time student living away from home. So how did I stray so far away from my old habits?! Although having a husband and son who are both bottomless pits when it comes to food does not help ;) Oliver devours all fresh fruit and vegetables more than anything else we serve to him, we could buys shares in bananas and blueberries!

Two weeks ago I was browsing the Kraft Canada website. I use this website quite a bit to find meal ideas and I also subscribe to their magazine. I came across their "1 Bag 5 Meals" section which does not directly advertise that this is a tool to save money on groceries, it focuses more on just having 5 meals for the week using the same ingredients in different combinations so that you're not buying half the store!

Ok seriously?! This is brilliant for me! We have followed two different plans (two 1 week menus) and we have basically cut our grocery bill nearly in half! (yes I say this and feel embarrassed for being such a poor shopper!) The recipes have all been fairly easy to prepare and I always add my own twist on most them, more seasoning and always more vegetables. The "Friday" meals always seem to be Velveeta with noodles or Kraft Dinner, I guess fridays are easy end of the week meals...I refuse to serve Kraft Dinner as a meal, especially dinner(we were never allowed to eat it as kids and I really truly hate the stuff...homemade Mac n Cheese, sure!) But we have had leftovers usually from one of the other nights so we have that instead :) I also don't follow the recipes word for word...if they say to use a jar of plain pasta sauce, I will thaw out some spaghetti sauce that I have made myself (plus that way it sneaks in some more veg!) and instead of buying the name brand ingredients, for certain things I find the store brand is just as good.
Week 1 we followed Chicken and Pork Bag #4
Week 2 we followed the new Vegetarian Bag(we found out that week that Oliver ADORES black beans! LOL)
Week 3 (this week) we're going to use Chicken and Beef Bag #2
In all I think there's over a dozen "Bags" to choose from so we're going to slowly go through them and keep the ones that are our favourites and try to keep using them on a regularly basis, at least until I can get into the habit of trying to plan our meals a bit better on my own! LOL

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Still Around After All These Years?!

This is not like my usual posts. It's not even anything particularly exciting or important. It was a very odd occasion that Oliver and I were actually watching Sesame Street to begin with (although nowadays it's not even called Sesame St anymore) anyways these 2 popped up and I was immediately thrown back to my own childhood and these 2 little guys were by far my favourite! We weren't big TV watchers growing up (a habit I would like to continue with Oliver) and Sesame Street wasn't even a show we were allowed to watch very often but I still remember brief encounters with these little aliens and couldn't believe they were even still around!

Dan and I since we've been together have always joked about watching these guys as kids and we still go around the house "yup yup yup yup uh huh uh huh"-ing at each other but it has been YEARS since either of us has actually seen those 2.

Through the wonders of PVR I rewound the TV and will admit (shamefully) I watched it several times and laughed like a baboon while Oliver moved on to playing with his trucks (a much more interesting past time than watching Mummy being a dork)


Saturday, March 19, 2011

One Week of ATC Creating!

Last weekend I had posted about my clueless knowledge of what an ATC was. After joining in with the ScrapbookSteals ATC Swap I must admit I was completely intimidated about making my own. These are little cards that have no guidelines, no right or wrong, no inspirational sketch to follow....they are truly one of a kind, made from scratch "works of art"....

Something I have not really tried to do before!

I have never created much from scratch all by myself before (other than my baking ;). When I put together pages in my scrapbook I have always drawn inspiration from the weekly Mojo Sketches that are posted by the uber talented Kristy Lee or the wonderful Guest Designers. I may not translate the sketches literally but it gives me a starting point to at least get an idea on the go. The challenge with Artist Cards (a challenge for me at least) is having to think for myself and create something based on ideas that I've found on my own. A totally daunting task!!

My first couple of cards I made last weekend and I think they took me a couple hours to do, I think I like how they turned out but for a piece of cardstock that is 2.5 x 3.5 inches big, an hour a piece seemed a little crazy! (and I have to make 16 of these?! Yikes!) I was focusing too much on making them look perfect...although what "perfect" means, I have no clue! Nor does it matter! They are cards that reflect me, no matter what they turn out like :)
So this week I focused more on just creating on the spur of the moment, to make myself NOT think about what I was doing and just do it! LOL! and the remaining 14 cards took no time at all! The cards that I like the best are the ones that I spent the least amount of time on and just "threw" things together. I now know that I need to practice not over analyzing and over thinking everything that I'm trying to create because there is no right or wrong why am I hung up on that all the time?

So they may not be "perfect", they may not be "amazing" but to me I feel like I've accomplished something big! I realize for most, making 16 cards can be done with ease and isn't a huge deal, but for me it was hard! LOL! This week I learned to just trust myself and to have confidence in myself to create something on my very own. :)

I can't wait to see what everyone else in the swap have created! I know they will be beautiful!!

P.S - I finally figured out why my lack of Mojo has come super messy desk!! LOL The past couple weeks I've been working on other projects so my desk and surrounding area is littered with half finished projects, flowers, ink pads, glitter, embossing tools the whole nine yards. I'm by no means a neat freak (anyone who has been to our house knows that! haha!) but it makes my skin crawl when things are so incredibly disorganized! Before going to work tonight I spent 45 minutes putting everything away and cleaning my desk (which is covered with embossing powder and glitter which then sticks to EVERYthing!) Once everything was back in its proper place I couldn't believe how motivated I became to start scrapping again! I have lined up photos to use and have papers in mind that I need to find and I'm finally excited to sit down and catch up! YAY!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

ATC's - Another New Crafty Discovery

Having only really been stretching my artsy creativity since August 2010(and I use those words loosely as the last time I participated in anything crafty was when art class was still mandatory in grade 8 in public school and my artistic capabilities seemed to have peaked shortly after grade 3) I'm finding I am learning new things on a daily basis. So it was not surprising when the ScrapbookSteals site mentioned an ATC Swap that I was completely in the dark as to what that could possibly mean!
After reading through their blog post I learned that ATC stands for A.rtist T.rading C.ards and so I have challenged myself to learn and to create something I have never done before and joined the ATC Swap.
Being forever the Bookworm, I went online and searched ATC's to try and find out some more information about them.

Artist Trading Cards are little miniature works of art created by an artist on a 2.5 x 3.5 inch piece of card. They can be made using any medium and are traded amongst the art community and are not to be sold for monetary gain. They can be themed, or individual, and it sounds like the sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to making cards of your own.
I'm sure if you traced the history back ATC's must have been around forever, but they became popular in 1996 when a Swiss artist in Zurich, M. Vanci Stirnemann, wanted to keep track of all the artists that he had come in contact with, so he handmade 1200 of his own cards and then invited people to come to his exhibit to trade them with cards of their own.
I definitely do not claim to be an artist by the stricter meaning of the word but since starting to scrap, I am certainly enjoying creating and learning new techniques. The ATC Swap is going to be a challenge for me as I have never made anything like this before, but it will be wonderful to swap cards with other Scrappy Sisters and collecting little pieces of beautiful creativity from all over Canada and the States with the amazing and inspiring women I have come to know through SS!
Last night before work I sat down at my desk and attempted to make my very first ATC's:

The very first card I used different coloured inks and sponges to try and create a tie-dyed look by using scrap strips of paper, lying them down on the card then inking over top. After I moved the scraps to different spots and inked over the whole card again...not sure if it turned out how I imagined but I think I still like it. I used a leafy vine stamp in a darker shade of green in the corners, but it's very faint and hard to see unless close up. Using another sponge, I inked the edges of the card with sepia ink. The butterflies were made using a stamp with a glue pad and some sparkles.

For my second card I used a negative stamping technique, so instead of inking the stamps, the stamps are "clear" and the rest of the card is coloured. I did this by using transparent embossing powders and heat sealing them to the card. After it had cooled, I inked over the stamped images using sponges. Once the embossing powder is melted it does not pick up pigment so the colour is only picked up on the parts of the card that were not stamped. Again, I'm not sure if I like how they turned out but for my first attempt I'm happy :) I also broke out my I-Rock tool to add the gems on the flower!
The great thing I am liking so far about ATC's is that they are not time consuming! They are meant to be put together quickly instead of poring over them for hours which I like when I only have a small amount of time to sit down at my desk.

So 2 down and a few more to make and then mail away to swap with all my other Scrappy Ladies!
I believe there is still time to join in if anyone is still interested in giving ATC's a go! All the info can be found here

When the Hubby is Left In Charge.....

I came home from work this morning and promptly plunked myself down in bed for a few hours sleep.
When I woke up this afternoon I found that Dan had decided to take our dog, Primer, to the groomers (he was due for a trip!)

This is what the result was:

...Look familiar you say?

Yep, exactly.


as the theme song from A Team plays continually in my head...
Primer is definitely rocking his new look ;) hahahaha

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Project for the Little Dude (Part 2)

It's been awhile since I last posted. Here is the continuing story of Oliver's Matching Book that I was making for him. In Part 1 I had started gluing together papers to file folders and cutting out the Animal Cards. Also, as mentioned before, this idea was not my own, I saw it on the SS blog post just over a month ago and wanted to try making one myself :)

Alright so onto Part 2:

After cutting out all the scanned images of the cards, I glued them to some cardstock and cut them out again. These will hopefully be laminated and be used as the Playing cards.

After some more time spent with the Silhouette, the Front Cover is all done!

The First Match-Up Page: All the Herbivore Babies and Mummies

The Second Match-Up Page: All the Carnivore Babies and Mummies

The Third Page: Going to be the storage page for all the playing cards

Back Cover:

A couple weeks ago I took both of the file folders and the playing cards to the "Maples" Office Supply Store to have them all laminated. Because of the size of the store, they did not have plastic backing big enough for the file folders so they have sent them away to a satellite store to have them done there. I received a phone call earlier this week to say that they are all done and are ready to be picked up!!
Stay tuned for Part 3 when hopefully I'll be able to finish up the little book :)