Thursday, July 29, 2010

Natural Playground, Ahoy!

Hello again! Thanks so much everyone for sharing some of the things your families do to save money - it was so nice to get your comments, and thanks also to everyone who phoned to tell me their ideas. What I love most about all this, is that most of the ideas are really quite simple and easy to incorporate, and really a lot of things we should all just be doing anyway. Hopefully in another couple of weeks, I can add some more things to the list. For now, though, I just wanted to stop in quickly. I don't even have any new photos uploaded or anything. Some weeks I'm so on top of all this, and some weeks I'm just not. It seems like we have had a busy week, visiting with friends and enjoying being outside with Griffin as much as possible. He started giving kisses earlier this week, and has been kissing Jai and I with abandon. It's the sweetest thing... ever!

And in addition to all the things we normally try to fit into a week, I have taken on a new project. For years now, I have been lobbying town hall to try to get a playground put into the park behind our house. The sad truth is that the only playground in town is situated on the elementary school grounds, which is far from ideal (half of the classrooms look out onto the playground, and you just can't go there during school hours.) Anyway, maybe this will sound bad, but our town council is made up of older men, and they have less than zero interest in putting playgrounds anywhere. Our town recreation officer has just been kind of shrugging his shoulders and telling me that if I want it that badly, I will need to design it myself. So I did. Finally.

It's a natural playground, made of boulders and logs and sand and stone and wood. Plus a hill. The place where they have agreed that I can put it is among a nice little stand of trees, so I have designed a little dry stream bed (otherwise known as a gravel path) that winds through the trees, with stepping stones and log bridges and fern beds and sand pits and boats. And my preliminary sketch got approved! Tomorrow I am getting together with another local Mom who does cartography and geographical mapping in the hopes that she can help me transform my tiny sketch into a beautiful presentation. The day after that, I take on the World! Just kidding, but it is pretty exciting. One of the first things Jai and I realized about living in a small town is that one person with a vision can really make a difference. There's a lot of work to do, but maybe, just maybe, that person can be me this time. Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Living Frugally (Lauren's Top Tips)

Hello! I don't often write about really personal things like money on here, but I thought this might be something that we might like to look back on one day, so I would like to document it. And since I consider this blog kind of like a diary of what's happening at a particular moment in our lives, here goes! I did write a bit last time about how we are going to be needing to budget ourselves very carefully. Basically, my maternity leave ran out at the end of April, and since then we have entirely spent all of my savings (even though we thought we were being pretty frugal.) Now, since I don't really have a job to go back to, and there is no child care available anywhere in town, we are trying to live off of the money the government sends out to people with young kids, at least until I can (hopefully) get my photography business off the ground. Jai's salary covers all the bills, and the mortgage, but there's not enough left over to pay for anything else. In other words, our shopping budget for the month is about $340. It cuts what we were spending by about half. But still... should be possible, right? Here's what I've learned so far (a top ten of tips, shall we say?)

1.) Make up a menu. We try and do our grocery shopping every two weeks, so we have been making menus for two weeks at a time. This step alone can cut your grocery bill drastically. Partly because we try to
2.) Use Meat wisely. For example, we figure we could buy two chicken breasts, or a whole chicken for about the same price. We roast the chicken one night, make stock from the bones, use the leftovers in quesadillas the next night, then use the stock for soup the night after that. One chicken, three meals.
3.) Use your local farm market. Buy as much as possible at the local market, it's better, fresher, and cheaper. No down side.

4.) Stick to the list when you are in the grocery store (or market.) If you aren't going to use it in the next two weeks, you don't need to buy it. Look at the flyers when you make up your menu, so you can take advantage of sales, and then Stick to the List.
And 4b.) Don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry! This is just asking for trouble.
5.) Get to know your local librarian. We go to the library a lot. Griffin is entertained by the colouring centre, and I get to hang out and browse, guilt free.
6.) Stop buying magazines. See 5 - the library has a great selection of magazines, for free, for anyone to borrow - and there's no guilt factor if you read through the whole thing right there, then put it back on the shelf (unlike at Pharmasave, where you can get a couple of dirty looks from the clerks.) And, as an added bonus, when you're done with them, you just bring them back, so they don't build up in piles around the house.
7.) Watch t.v. on-line. Most stations now have many of their shows posted on-line as streaming video. There's way less commercials, and you can watch them when it's convenient for you, and cancel your cable.
8.) Buy toys at your local flea-market. Just because we're broke, doesn't mean I don't want Griffin to have lots of fun toys. But it's not an issue when you can buy awesome wood toys for 75 cents (see below), or a paddington bear stuffie for $1.25. Last week we picked up some stocking stuffers - seven Hot Wheel trucks for $1.00!

9.) Hooray for popcorn in the hot air popper! Seriously, it's ridiculously cheap to make up a giant bowl of popcorn, and it's just as tasty as any bag of chips, any day.
10.) Bake your own treats. I've been trying to do this at night (it's just too hot during the day right now.) It's totally worth it. I make enough to freeze some, and we can snack on delicious treats like cheese biscuits and peanut butter cookies all day long.
And, why stop at ten,
11.) Use your local U-Pick. Pick it yourself and pay about half price. This means you can get twice as much, and have enough to preserve (our favourite way to keep fruit is to turn it into fruit roll-ups in the dehydrator, but most things freeze really well, too.)
12.) Hang stuff to dry. I'm one of those people who love the idea of the laundry line, but not so much the reality. I never think of it early enough, and I find the whole thing a little awkward. But that doesn't mean I don't want to stop using my dryer! Jai and I found an antique drying rack at a local garage sale. It's perfect for me, I can put it wherever I want (out in the sun on hot sunny days, or inside by the stove on wet days), and if I need to, I can hang stuff before we go to bed at night, which is usually when I think about laundry.

And, the surprisingly effective,
13.) Bring water with you wherever you go. I'm one of those people who often doesn't drink enough water. As a consequence, I don't notice that I'm thirsty until I am really thirsty. Like, I need a drink right now, or I feel like I might die, kind of thirsty. Which used to mean stopping at the nearest store and buying something to drink, or the nearest cafe or restaurant, where we might end up buying food, too. If you have water with you, not only can you avoid places where you will be tempted to buy a four dollar drink, you can probably wait until you get home to eat, too (which will help you stick to your menu.) We've been using a jar, filled with water. It's glass, so you don't have any of the icki-ness associated with plastic bottles, and it's got a lid that seals (no spills), plus Griffin can drink out of it, too (he has trouble with bottles still.) And you can't beat free for the price - some of those aluminum water carriers are pricey.
Last, but not least,
14.) Say Thank You. If someone offers you something - gas money, dinner, or some kind of help - don't turn them down, just say Thanks.

All right, now I know there's more stuff out there that we could be doing, so if you would like to add anything to the list, please leave me a comment. These are all pretty basic things, that make it relatively easy to maintain the sort of lifestyle that we're used to. I'll try and share some more next month, maybe, when we've been at this for a little longer!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Weekly News

Hello. We had a bit of a sad week this week, with the passing of Webster the Bunny. He was a good little bunny, who had a very eventful life for a bunny. He will be missed by all of us, but most especially by Peanut, his best friend in the Whole World.

And, although that was certainly the saddest, other things have been happening this week, too. Griffin got his own little wading pool, which is a great hit, and seemed like an absolute necessity in this wave of heat we've been living through.
It was the last purchase we will be making for a little while, as we realized that our budget needs to be scaled back drastically. We had already started on our way to doing that, but realized this week that we will now need to go a lot further. I'm pretty sure it is theoretically possible to live on the amount of money we have left over when all the bills are paid, I'm just not totally sure how to do it. Jai and I have never been rich, but often been comfortable, and we're just not used to every dime counting - literally. We don't buy ourselves big treats very often (no televisions or sofas for us!), but we do like those little treats - the ice cream cone, or the Tim Hortons coffee - that add up so very quickly. It will be an interesting challenge to come up with ways to figure out what's really essential, and what will be considered a treat. Some things are obvious, but we're going to have to go a little beyond the obvious, this time. So if anyone has tips or stories to share about living frugally, I sure would love to hear them!

And I'll leave you with this little video that Jai took a week or so back. If things get really bad, we can always put Griffin out on the street, with his little hat in front of him :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Word of the Day: Soggy

Hello! We're in the middle of a torrential downpour! It's Crazy Rain. And it's HOT, and Humid. Yuck! These are the days we need to try and remember when it's the middle of Winter, and we can't WAIT for Summer to arrive. So, anyway... what to do, what to do. Luckily the Little One is napping merrily right now after our stroll through the rain (had to dig out my raincoat AND galoshes for that one.) Since we can't go out and enjoy the World's Smallest Sandbox, I decided to build one inside. So, I'm proud to introduce: The World's Second Smallest Sandbox! Well, Noodlebox, to be more precise.

We got this idea at one of the parents and tots groups we went to in the Spring (sadly, they all finish for the summer.) It's super fun, and a lot easier to clean up than sand. Griffin's been having a great time climbing into it, and pouring noodles over his feet. And, yes, he ate a couple, but whatever, he eats the sand, too.
Yesterday we went over to the Reid's and took some photos of baby Morgan, six days old. It was my first newborn shoot, and it went pretty well. She slept through most of it, and only pooped on one of my backdrops. Not bad! She's so adorable, and I got some pictures that I am very happy with.

Plus, I got to try out my new prop - check it out!

I saw it at "Treasures," our local consignment shop, for only $20. And I love it! I had gone to find a basket to put babies in, but came away with this instead.

While we were there, Griffin and I perused the toy section, where I found the cutest little soft duckling. Griffin liked it, too, and played with it (and sucked on it) all through the store, while I browsed. Turns out it was a $45.00 collector's item. I thought it said $4.50! We sheepishly turned it down at the checkout, but didn't quite get away with it, as the poor thing was awfully soggy! (Oops.) Luckily the man was very nice, although I'm sure he'll be keeping a closer eye on us next time!
Well, gotta run - enjoy your day (and stay dry!)

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Hello! Gosh, I have some pretty weeds! I have to try and enjoy them, because they are definitely the healthiest plants in my garden. (As in, I didn't have to bend over at all to take this shot!)
We've been Busy, Buzzy Bees around here this week. Griffin's friend Ella got a new baby sister (hopefully pictures coming sometime soon - she's a total cutie!) I got a haircut. Griffin picked up several new words (including useful ones like "cracker" which we've been hearing a lot.)
And we did a photo shoot with my friend Erin and her two beautiful daughters. It went really well, and was a lovely way to spend the day. You can see a couple of the pictures on the Lauren Kaye site, if you're interested. They have an amazing yard for kids, including a sailboat, a hill to climb, a Proper sandbox, a teepee, a swing and a hammock, a deck with stairs to go up and down, a screen door to open and shut and crawl through, and a wading pool. Griffin was in heaven. Not to mention two little girls who were happy to entertain him as much as he wanted. He was fascinated with them. And I just couldn't resist this picture, it was such a cute little scene:

He is just LOVING playing Peekaboo these days. He'll hide behind anything - a girl's skirt, the table top, the door, or, when all else fails, just a couple of his fingers. We'll say "Where's Griffin? Griffin, where are you?" and he just giggles away. The reveal is always very dramatic and exciting, and often involves hand clapping.

Anyway, I should run - hope your week will be full of exciting surprises, worthy of handclaps and giggles galore.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Poking our heads out (Occasionally!)

Hello! I'm sneaking in a moment here. It's been blazing hot (39 degrees, with the Humidex yesterday!) and we're all melting, and gooey, and sticky. We've got every fan in the house going, and we are being a little less adventurous than usual. Does it still count as lazy when it's this hot?

Having said that, we did get out to pick raspberries at the local U-Pick this morning. Yum! We have raspberries on the property, but can never seem to grow enough to actually have some make it into the house. It was bad enough with just Jai and I, but Griffin is a raspberry-eating-Machine! He ate so many that the U-Pick that he ended up throwing up (although that may have had something to do with the grass he added in, you know, for texture.) Anyway, I'm way too lazy to make jam, so will probably do what I did with all those strawberries - fruit roll-ups! I finally got myself a Dehydrator, and have made four batches of fruit roll-ups already. We all love them! And it says you can store them for up to a year, but I doubt they will last anywhere near that long.

Griffin's Grandma came out for a visit this weekend, and lucky Griffin ended up with a new desk and chair. We've set it up in the Bay window of the living room, and soon we will set up a little colouring station for him. Anyway, you know me, I couldn't resist taking a million pictures! And then I couldn't decide on my favourites. I'll put some here, and some on the Lauren Kaye Photography site, in case you want to see more (if your name is Griffin's Grandma!)

I also decided to try an Introductory Rate on the Photography Sessions and Prints. I researched the prices before I set it up, but was looking at different photographers throughout Canada. I'm thinking that maybe because we are in a more rural area, I will need to be way below what I would charge if we were in the city. (I mean, really, you can get an awesome haircut here for SEVEN DOLLARS!) People are pretty used to very cheap labour around here. Anyway, I haven't made it cheap, just a little more affordable, and if it's still going to be too much for people, then maybe it isn't a good business idea for around here anyway. Fingers crossed, and full speed ahead!

Or, at least, poking our heads out to take a look!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Canada Day Bash #4

Hello! I know it's a little late, but... Happy Canada Day!!!! We had our fourth annual celebration in Bridgetown. Four years of good friends, yummy food, live music, and spectacular fireworks - all from the comfort of our back yard. Plus, this year we added home-brewed cider to the mix. Yum!

I didn't take a lot of pictures, but I do have a couple:

It was so nice to see everyone - thanks to all who came out, from near and far!

Other than that, we've been doing more of the same, mostly. I finished off a couple more little pieces, so we drove up to the Gallery in Mahone Bay and dropped them off. Hopefully she can sell a few more!!!

ANd on the home front, Griffin has been enjoying this whole summer living thing. The less clothes, the better. We continue to get great enjoyment from having a proper deck. And Griffin had been enjoying his makeshift, home-made jobbie sand box. No proper sandboxes for us! At least for this year, he is happy with his roasting pan - the World's Smallest Sandbox.

I might have gone a little overboard on the pictures!

What a happy baby!