Monday, 30 March 2009

Busy week ahead

Once again I have put off working on the latest baby quilt until the 11th hour. The baby shower is this coming Sunday. The quilt top is now finished, but needs to be sandwiched and then quilted and have the binding added. I'll try to add photos as I progress.

My MIL might be coming for a few days again and so I also have to fit a fair amount of house work into this week as well.

I also have a bunch of baking planned...planned being the operative word here. I did make a loaf of whole wheat bread on Friday when we ran out of bread. I used a highly rated recipe from It rose well and looked nice but has a horrible bitter aftertaste that I just can't get past. Too bad. What do I do with it now? Anyone know why I got that aftertaste? So we had no (edible) bread in the house until Sunday when we went grocery shopping.

Back to quilting...

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Frugal Friday - Next Frugal Steps

We already do several things that are frugal, such as:
  • Rarely eat out
  • Cook from scratch
  • Keep lights off when not needed
  • Keep heat down, wear sweaters
  • Keep showers short
  • Use less than recommended amounts of shampoo & laundry soap
  • Alway price check and buy generic
  • Wash everything in cold

I have to come up with some new frugal things to do as well.
I have been thinking of doing the following:
  • Having more meatless meals (DH will fight me on this one a bit)
  • Bake bread more often. I have a bread machine so it isn't difficult. The no name bread is up to $2.49 a loaf now.
  • Make more cloth napkins.
  • Make matching placemats instead of buying new (using fabric I already have).
  • Start using rags more instead of papertowels for spills and such.
  • Figure out how to create a garden bed that the dogs can't get into (inexpensively) and plan what to plant (herbs, tomatoes...)
  • Find a local farmers market (in a couple months once they open) and compare prices to grocery store.
In the past couple of weeks we have stocked up on several sales.
We bought a lot of the following:
  • chicken leg 1/4s
  • lean ground beef
  • pasta - all shapes and sizes
  • pasta sauce - several flavors
  • Shrimp - frozen raw
  • Kraft Dinner (reg price is $1.59...we got them for 12/$5.99)
  • Toilet paper
  • Butter (I've been doing a lot of baking and that uses butter faster than we normally do)
  • Cereal - a few different kinds that we all like.
I am planning on doing more baking/cooking and freezing too.
Some of what I have planned:
  • Cheeseburger hot pockets
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Cinnamon rolls
  • Brownies
  • Italian bread
What are you doing to save a buck, stretch your dollar or make do?

For more frugal hints & tips, go to Life as Mom

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Kitchen Tip Tuesday - Actually Using Leftovers

I'll admit, I am usually really bad about using leftovers. I was much better while I was working, I would simply take the leftovers for lunch the next day or so. But sometimes, the leftovers just get lost in the fridge until it is too late.

I will only eat leftovers for 3 days - then they get tossed. If I remember, I will put them in the freezer before the 3 day limit if I know I won't eat them.

While back on the frugal bandwangon with everyone else, I am trying to do my best to save money and not waste food.

On Sundays we have my father in-law to dinner. This Sunday I roasted two small chickens. I made seasoned rice and caesar salad to go with it. I cut the chicken into quarters before cooking. My husband had 2 leg quarters, my son & I each had one leg quarter and my FIL had a breast quarter. That left 3 breast quarters for leftovers.

Monday morning I looked at them in the fridge, trying to decide what to do with them. I decided to make my version of the PioneerWoman's Chicken Spaghetti. I made another caesar salad to go with it. And I have enough leftovers for two lunches - one for today and one for the freezer.

It feels nice to know I actually am doing my best ti use food up instead of tossing it.

What other recipes do you recommend to use up leftover cooked chicken?

For more great tips, go to Tammy's.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Interview Update - long

So I had my interview with the Ministry today. I think it went well. I won't know for a couple weeks if I got it or not.

I realized once there, that I had interviewed with the same two people, for the same position back in 2006 at the beginning of the project. Obviously, I didn't get the job then. I don't know if they remembered me. I didn't mention it to them.

I am still a bit concerned about the agency that submitted me for the job. Here is the back story.

Job ad is placed on Craigslist - not the usual place I seek work but anyway, I answer the ad and get called by company ABC (not real name:)).

They provide all the specs for the job and say they think I am a good fit. I say ok submit me to the Ministry. Couple days go by, company ABC calls and says I have an interview in a few days.

Day before interview, I am still awaiting interview details. I finally get a hold of recruiter at 6:30pm the night before the interview. He send me a contract to sign. I don't sign contracts unless I have a job offer. He wants me to sign a contract with his company before I interview.

The way the contract is written is that I work for ABC company from Mar 19. 2009. No end date. No client name. No way for me to terminate the contract. And all this for the crappy rate I accepted because the Ministry job is longterm and close to home. I explain to the recruiter that if I sign this contract, and I don't get offered the job at the Ministry, then I am still obligated to them (ABC) whenever they decide they need me. He says yes...he doesn't see a problem with this.

Note: Also in the contract is the company address which turns out to be a house in the next town over. He works out of his home office. This is a one man show. He's only been in business for 2 years.

I refuse to sign a contract until the job at the Ministry is offered to me, and only then will I sign a contract for that client for that amount of time. He finally agrees and sends me the interview details, which I haven't yet received. It is now 8pm the night before my interview and I am just now finding out where I am going and whom I am meeting. At the end of the email with the details, he writes..."Don't forget to mention you are from company XYZ."

WTF?! who is company XYZ?

I don't bother calling him back because I am tired of trying to make sense of what he is saying. I go to the interview today. The project sounds very interesting and challenging. I felt it went well.

I called him afterwards to let him know how it went and asked who XYZ was. Well XYZ is the vendor able to submit to the Ministry. They hired company ABC to find a writer. Are you following this?

Now in my business, this is something you disclose up front. The did not do that. This is very fishy to me.

The way it will work, if I get offered the job, is: Ministry will pay XYZ, XYZ will pay ABC, ABC will then pay me. Both XYZ & ABC will also take a cut of what they charge the Ministry before paying me. It is becoming clear why my rate is so low.

The way it usually works is if a consultant (me) charges $10 per hour (obviously not real amounts) then the agency charges the client $13 per hour and keeps $3 for themselves. In this case I will get $10 per hour, XYZ will get $5 per hour and ABC will get $5 per hour. I can tell from how low my rate is that they are gouging (taking too high a cut), and it is worse because they are both taking a cut.

I cannot accept this job without dealing with these 2 companies now. It would be professional suicide on my part to try to approach the Ministry independently since XYZ (ABC) submitted me.

I look up company XYZ. I have never heard of them before either and I am familiar with a LOT of agencies. There is nothing online about them except their website. Apparently, no one else has heard of them either. They have also been in business 2 yrs.

I will have to wait and see if I am offered the job, but if I am, I am definitely asking for more money.

Finally the last thing that concerns me is, the payment schedule. I am to invoice ABC at the end of each month. They then have 15 days to pay me. So I could work for 45 days and have them skip out and not pay me. It will also look unprofessional to the Ministry if I stop working because I am not being paid.

It would be so much easier if I could just win the lottery. Super 7 is 17 million tomorrow night...we have tickets. :)

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Kitchen Tip Tuesday - Keep greens fresh longer

We often buy spinach, or mixed greens in those long plastic containers. They are usually a good deal and are really packed full, so you get value for your money.

However, sometimes after a couple days of eating salad, we get sick of it and still have more than half a tub left.

The trick to keep if from going soggy is to place a paper towel inside on top of the greens once you open the container. The paper towel absorbs all the moisture and keep the lettuce from getting soggy. I check the towel every few days and change it if needed, but this way I am able to keep a container like this fresh for at least 3 weeks.

If I forget to do this, the moisture gets the entire tub soggy in just a few days. And if one bunch of leaves is slimy and soggy, I will toss the entire thing.

So save your greens with a paper towel :)

For more great tips, go to Tammy's place.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

March Break & Taxes

Friday afternoon marked the beginning of March Break for the kiddo. He's home for a whole week Yippee (add sarcasm here :)).

The weather was wonderful this weekend - very springlike.

I bought my tax software today and got started doing our taxes. Mine is a tad more involved then DH's as I am self-employed.

I knew I had been slacking on keeping my bookkeeping up-to-date (I haven't even started my 2009 file yet) but when I checked, I realized I hadn't started a 2008 one either!

So once I got the 2008 bookkeeping straightened out, I did my taxes. I actually end up get a small return as I didn't work much this year. I usually have to pay, because I don't have taxes removed from my pay cheques.

We went to our local Boston Pizza for dinner. We hadn't been there before. It opened shortly after moving to this house in 2007. About 2 months after it opened we dicided to go there. It had just the week previous had a major fire and closed down. They leveled the building and rebuilt it. It has been open for about 4-5 months now. After all that long wait - I wasn't at all impressed and I doubt we will go back.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Reasons why I need a job

Well the number one reason would be that I need an income, but besides that, there are several reasons why I want to get back to work.

I miss interacting with people on a daily basis. Days go by that I don't see anyone other then my husband and son.

My brain is slowly turning to mush. I am constantly having senior's moments. I need to get back to work to challenge my brain more.

I miss wearing my dress clothes. As much as I love my yoga pants, I miss my nice dress pants and blouses.

I miss having a reason to style my hair and put on make up each day.

I miss my high heels. I just got the heels fixed on my favorite pair of black pumps at the end of my last contract, and haven't had any place to wear them since. I also have several other pairs of heels in my closet being neglected.

I miss the natural transition from work time to home time. While home, I feel that I should constantly be in housekeeping mode (not that any house keeping actually gets done).

Now if I get a job, I will have much less time for quilting, sewing and blogging, but I have had a decent break and am now ready to get back to work, I'll manage to fit them in sometime.

I have been submitted for a 12 month government contract with the Ministry of Finance. It is located in the next town over, compared to downtown Toronto where most of my contracts are. So a 15 minute drive instead of an hour and half commute. Which translates to saving about $120 in train and subways costs per week too.

I should find out tomorrow if they want to interview me.

While this job is close and a 12 month contract is great, the money being offered is less than half my usual rate. That bugs me quite a bit, but beggars can't be choosers right? I'm hoping I get it and also hoping something better comes along soon.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Works For Me Wednesday - Thrift Store Shopping

Post partially recycled from July 2008

I LOVE thrift stores!

I mostly buy fabric at thrift stores. I find brand new fabric. I have gotten some really good deals.

Check out my finds here, here, here and here!

This quilt is made completely from fabric I got at value Village. Total cost of fabric is approx. $13.

Last week my sister and I made a trip to two different Value Village stores. I was looking for fabric and wool for my granny squares. Neither was to be found this time, however, I did find these two fabulous table cloths.

The beige one will be used as a topper over my current dining room table - it isn't large enough to be used alone. It was $4.99.

Please note, those are water marks from my
not-supposed-to-leak iron, not stains of any kind

I'm not sure what I will do with the second one. I don't have a table it will fit - it is a small square. But for $3.99 I couldn't pass it up.

This photo doesn't do the tablecloth justice -
it really is a nice white on white embroidered pattern
I didn't iron this one yet as my new iron has some gunk
coming out of it and I didn't want it on the cloth - why
can't they make decent small appliances these days?

When my son was younger I was able to get him clothing in good condition - but now that he is older, not so much.

My sister buys most of her wardrobe at thrift stores. She often finds item with tags still attached for only a few dollars. She is able to update her wardrobe each fall and spring due to the savings.

Even if we don't find a good deal at a thrift store, we always have fun checking out all the stuff and saying "wow didn't Mom have one of those?" or "I remember that!"

It's also a great place to buy books.

So if you haven't recently, go check out your local thrift store - they work for me!

For more great Works For Me Wednesday tips, stop by We are THAT family.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Branching out

I've recently joined as a paid blogger. It's more like article writing than blogging actually and I don't think there is that much pay involved, but I needed to get my creative juices flowing again, so thought this may help.

I won't be giving up this blog though. I still need a place to blog about my crazy life and I doubt anyone over there wants to see photos of my adorable kid and puppy :)

My first post there is about the poor writing I found all over the place there...ya I know, it's going to make me REAL popular :)

If you want to check it out, go here.

Thanks for reading.

Kitchen Tip Tuesday - New use for an old tool

One day last week I was cooking a roast and making a bunch of sauteed mushrooms to go along with it. I was slicing away at the mushrooms when I realized this was going to take a long time - I had two containers of mushrooms to slice.

A light bulb went off and I started searching the back of my utensil drawer. I found my egg slicer and stuck a mushroom in and pushed down the top. It worked like a charm! I finished slicing all those mushrooms in no time.

I just have to remember it for next time.

For more kitchen tips, stop by Tammy's place.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Bits & Pieces

What I've been up to:

Not cleaning - MIL is not coming to visit cause the kid and I have a cold and her immune system isn't very strong. I suppose I should still clean though...

Working on the crocheted striped afghan.

Made Peanut a little quilt for her crate out of baby flannel scraps and wanted to try out my free motion quilting - not too bad

until she started chewing it!

Here are some recent pics of the lil chewer.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Funny Story

A few years ago I was working a contract for the Ministry of Health.

For the first week or so, I used someone else's computer (they were on vacation) as my laptop wasn't ready yet.

Once I received my laptop, I started working away. Happily humming away and typing, I noticed something odd. Even after I stopped typing, words would appear on the screen...words I did not type.

I pondered aloud how odd that was and more words appeared on my screen...real words, not just gobbly gook, but the sentences didn't make any sense.

The IT guy was only a couple cubes away so I went over and asked him if my laptop had virus protection installed and had it been run lately as the laptop was now typing by itself.

As we walked back to my cube, chatting about the weirdness of it all, we both saw more words magically appearing on the screen. "Look!" I said excitedly, feeling validated that I wasn't crazy.

He didn't have a clue, he hadn't seen anything like this before either (he was relatively new to the job). He checked a few things and as he told me what he was doing, more words would display.

He finally had to call his boss, to see if he knew what was wrong. While on the phone (and words still being typed) he says "Oh!", clicks a small icon in the task bar, selects disable and hangs up the phone.

It turns out that the voice recognition software was turned on. The previous user of this laptop had been handicapped and used the software and had also been male. So the software didn't recognize the words I was saying and just typed what it thought I was saying.

We all had a good laugh, but a while there I thought my new laptop was possessed.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Kitchen Tip Tuesday - Soup's On!

While it did warm up here for a few days, it is back to being frigid again. During these cold spells, I really enjoy a good hearty bowl of homemade soup.

Today, however, I am not going to talk about homemade soup...I'm talking about canned soup.

Last week one of our grocery stores had a dollar sale. They had Campbell's Ready to Serve soups on sale for $1 each. We picked up a LOT of them.

Now for easy no-fuss meals when we are in a hurry, we can simple heat up a few of these, serve some easy Focaccia bread or a side salad and we have a meal!

As these are not condensed soups, even if we had to use 3 tins, the cost is only $3 plus whatever we serve with it (bread, crackers or salad). That's a nice inexpensive meal and it is also nice and light.

For more great kitchen tips, check out Tammy's website.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Late Monday Musings

What I have been up to:

  • Playing around on my new-to-me sewing machine - free motion quilting is FUN!
  • Crocheting on my striped afghan - pics coming soon
  • Baking nana muffins to use up dead nanas
  • Should be cleaning but I'm not
  • MIL may be coming back this week for another stay - must get cleaning soon
  • Tending a cold ridden kid (he feels fine when playing Xbox though)
  • Trying to figure out ways to make money online - nothing yet :P
  • Daydreaming about winning the lottery
  • Lots of planning - not so much doing :)