Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fantastically Frugal (and Yummy) - David's Tea

So as I posted earlier...I have just started to change my eating habits. As I mentioned, I have been having major sugar withdrawal as I am not allowing myself beyond meat, fish, eggs, veggies, water, coffee (can't give that up yet) and nuts. All pretty bland and savoury and it makes me miss my sweets even more.

I wouldn't be able to get through any diet with my teas. Specifically Davids Tea! This store is a life saver for tea lovers and I always have a really good stash on hand. The teas range from $6.50-$11/ 50 grams (the oolongs are more expensive because the process in which its made is really meticulous). You can choose from mates, black teas, rooibos, and many others. Some of them are like desserts in a cup. I highly suggest trying Forever Nuts, or Cocoa Chai.

I just placed an order six teas (did so I can take advantage of the free shipping over $50). I got Buttered Rum, Cream of Earl Gray (read about this on another blog and had to try), Tie Kwan Yin (an oolong), Chocolate Chili Chai, Banana Nut Bread (this is a refill because it's awesome), and cloud nine! Most of these are fairly new and I haven't tried but I highly recommend looking at David's if you're jonesing for sugar like me, need an afternoon pick-me-up or just want to try something new!

Weight Loss Journey Begins

So I started yesterday and my poor husband....I was cranky! I am thoroughly excited to begin this process but boy did I ever forget what a sugar withdrawal is like. It really reminded me how dependant my body had become on the substance. Mind you, I was on a cookie binge the last two weeks! YIKES!

I have too many things in life that I want to achieve to have my weight hold me back so it's really exciting to begin the process. I really hope to eventually get to a point where an occasional cookie or cookie binge...won't set me back horribly! Balance is what I would really like. I have so much to lose (looking to lose about 50 to 100 lbs eventually) that I am starting off restricting myself at first. It is usually what makes me feel the most energized.

I am afraid to write my start weight but here it goes....274. EEK! Awful and I hope (and will) never see that number again!

Here's to an exciting 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Beginnings Resolution #2 - Financial

*Disclaimer...I am not a financial advisor or professional. I am just writing based on my own experiences and what I have learned anecdotally.

By laying out my 2011 budget (which I will post more about later) I can now create my 2011 goals. I would like to save more money than we currently have to have a even more solid e-fund. I have made this a goal and have allocated $x monthly to make sure we reach and potentially exceed that, for example.

The other resolutions are to debt snowball our debts. This can be done by making a list of the debt you owe (I exclude our house from this but will say more about that later). You will want to make a list of all your debt (car, credit cards, line of credits, etc). Beside that write the balance owing on each, the interest rates, and your minimum monthly payments. The idea is that you'll pay as much as you can on the highest interest debt and the minimum on everything else. When that highest interest debt is paid off you throw what you were paying into the next one and keep going until you're debt free!

I excluded the mortgage from our debt snowball because it's "good debt" as they say and if you have a really good interest rate on your mortgage you might want to focus on the debt that is costing you the most. However if you switch your mortgage to bi-weekly payments you might be saving yourself a ton of cash over time. Some people prefer to add an extra payment over the year. When you're debt free, I would highly suggest paying what you were paying towards your debt towards your mortgage!

Helpful Tips - Communicate with your Creditors.

Make your Money work for you and pick up the phone. See if you can get your interest rates lowered! There is no need to pay extra amounts if you don't need to and often they can be lowered. If they can't pay off those cards and cut them up so you can't be tempted!

Ask your creditors to change the day your bill is due if you it helps you. Be aware that this may mean your next bill is pro-rated as it will have extra days. Budget for that.

Automate everything. We use our credit card for everything so we can get cash back points. It goes a very long way. Every bill we have is automatically put on so that we can save on stamps and any late charge fees. We also get the points from our credit card. We pay the balance off in full each month (if you don't then your money really isn't working for you)!

Switch Cards. If you use your CC for everything like we you have the right one? We get cash back with ours and it goes a long way. Some people prefer air points but be careful because with inflation this may not go as far as you think! Ask yourself if the card you have has value to you and if not consider switching!

Starting to Work on 2011 Household Budget

I think it's really important to set financial goals for yourself and family before the year starts. Every dollar counts and there's nothing worse than getting through half the year only to find that you're behind where you wanted to be.

It's important to look at each year month by month so that you can lay out which months might be financially cumbersome compared to others. For example, we know that we'll be taking two trips this year - those months will need more of a financial buffer than the others. Christmas 2011 is also on my mind now that I have a good idea of what things cost this past Christmas.

I did our Christmas budget this morning so that I know how much money is required each month to be put aside. I realized this year that I didn't leave nearly enough money in our initial budget for our parents and extended family. So I had to distribute that properly for the upcoming year. I took the total Christmas budget for next year (which is $1498 - including food, decorations and presents) and divided it by 12 (months in the year). So now I know that $124 needs to be put aside monthly for Christmas. We prefer to just take the money out of budget in one month rather than allocating the money monthly. You must do what's right for you!

With setting up our new budget I have to look at what I can improve on from last year. We now have a home improvement category in our budget which wasn't there before. We have also kept the budget realistic. It's not realistic for us to completely cut our our Starbucks coffee but we can significantly reduce it (twice a month). So our new budget reflects this.

A system we're also contemplating is choosing 6 months throughout the year where we live more frugally and throw more money into our financial goals and 6 months where we live more realistically.

More on Budgets Later! :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Beef in Bulk!

One of the topics I hope to write more about in the future is saving, coupon use, fiscal organization and being a little frugal!

We made one leap for ourselves in a great money saving direction today! Our Christmas present to each other was a "beef box" from a local farm. The meat is antibiotic free, grass fed meat. The beauty is that it's cheaper because you're buying in bulk and this beef box should last us two months or so if we have beef three nights a week.

For $249 we got:

14 - 1 lb pkgs of ground beef
8 - steaks
2 - packages of stir frying beef
1- 2lb package of beef cubes (for stews)
1 - 3lb roast

I am so excited!!

Our First Christmas as Three - Pt. 3 - Food

We are having Christmas dinner at my house this year and I am blessed and fortunate enough to be surrounded by the best family on that day. They also want to bring most of the food! It's our first Christmas as newlyweds so each family's side are bringing items of food that have been traditional for them. So we're having turkey (my MIL is showing me how to cook it, thank goodness), a sweet potato recipe that my Mum is making, turnip and carrots. My FIL is making figgy pudding for dessert.

Which means I best get my butt in gear! So I am making cookies to munch on with coffee! I do sugar cut-out cookies every year and am really excited to contribute at least something to our Christmas dinner! So I made my cut out cookies. It's the Better Homes and Gardens recipe with an icing recipe I found online. It's called Royal Icing (3 cups icing sugar, 2 egg whites, 2 tsp of lemon juice).

Here are my Christmas cookies. Santa, present and reindeer (not pictured) cookie cutters were at Shoppers Drug Mart for $0.99

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Summer Wardrobe Ponderings

I have learned that people give you a lot of baby clothes. It's so nice of them and I'll never refuse a gift but I do get a joy out of shopping for my little man. That being said, the frugal side of me knows I must take inventory and buy only what we need. What we need? Sleepers and summer clothes.

We will be taking a family vacation in the spring and he'll also need cooler clothes for summer. So I have been browsing the Baby Gap website.

Please note that although I shop at Baby Gap...I constantly get coupons for 30-40% and really only shop there when I can use those!

Swim Trunks - $14.95

Sleeper - $24.95

Plaid Short One Piece -

Cargo Shorts - $19.95

Octopus T Shirt - $14.95

Polo Onesie - $14.50

Our First Christmas as Three - Pt. 2 - Gifts

I posted earlier on one component of our Christmas budget - decorations! The next big component are the presents. I won't be posting what I got my sweet hubby (because he might read this) but I can post for everyone else!

I have learned that to be frugal and organize you have to "just say no" to getting gifts for some people. Many times a gesture (cards, baked cookies or a "Merry Christmas" is good enough)! That's true for those who are closest to you as well! We restrict buying presents to our immediate family; our children (at the moment it's only Hudson), our parents, my grandmother (she's the only remaining great-grandparent) and each other. This year we put Brian's boss on there too.

Breakdown of presents

1. Hudson

Since our sweet little boy will have no concept of presents we decided to get him things he would need. Mostly I got him baby food, rice cereal, spoons, and wipes (the kind I carry in my purse).

I got him a lot of his 6-12 month wardrobe to put under the Christmas tree. I wish I had known I was going to do this blog earlier because I would have tracked what I spent. I did take advantage of a lot of sales at Baby Gap and went a little nuts with the nautical theme (since Hudson was an explorer).

Here are some of the tops he's getting:

The other things we decided to get Hudson were development toys. We spent about $350 at Babies R Us when we went but $250 of that was for a baby video monitor which wasn't for Christmas. So we spent about $100 on baby food, rice cereal and the toys we got him. 

His Christmas Toys:

- Fisher Price Crawl Drum Set
- Stacking Rings and Stacking Cups
- The toy where you put different shapes in their shaped holes (for lack of a better description, lol)

2. My In Laws and Mum

Brian and I had a photo shoot done with Hudson! :) Not only is it stunning but we knew that it would be such a gift for us and our family. I purchased Pottery Barn farms for our parents ($26 each) and have inserted pictures in there. They have not seen these photos yet. 

We got my in laws a gift certificate to see a play in the city. 

I will make both parents batches of cookies. 

I got my Mum an $8 Shea Body Shop gift set and a Body Butter that I think was 30% off. 

We went a little over our gift budget as we got the gift certificates for my in laws last minute and I think the toys for Hudson were slightly out of the budget but, if I recall, I was a little under budget for his clothes (I combined that with my monthly buffer budget)!

Good choice for Christmas, I think!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Bean Sprout

How cute is he???

New Beginnings Resolution #1 - Weight Loss

I don't want to say New Year's Resolution. I think that sets some up for failure. Starting after Christmas I will really be starting to try to lose some weight. Christmas is a week away and in some ways it's unrealistic to start beforehand.

I have many reasons to start. I think that posting it here will help me visualize.

Reasons to Lose Weight & Get Healthy:

1. My Family

I don't want a cupcake to keep me from spending years with my wonderful men. My husband and son mean the world to me. I want to be by their side for a very long time. I also want to get healthy to set a good example for my children.

2. Expanding Family

Brian and I have already stated that we'll start to TTC as soon as I am at a healthy weight. If that's not motivation...I don't know what is! I would love to give Hudson a baby brother or sister.

3. Aunt Helen.

On August 25th 2009, I lost my Aunt, one of my closest relatives, to pancreatic cancer. Appropriately deemed "the silent killer" her battle was lost after five very short months. Not only did my sweet aunt internalize a lot of stresses, I think, but her cancer was likely due to lifestyle choices. She was heavier set (but to me that always provided an extra warm hug as a little girl)! Hard to believe she's no longer with us.

She always was self conscious of her weight. I understand how she feels because I feel that way about myself too. To me, Aunt Helen was the most beautiful person in the world. I summered with her every year of my life. Much like a second Mum to me, she's truly missed.

She would have lived to see my son if she lived a few short years. She would have seen her second grandson too. I don't want my health to stand in the way of my future

Me, Aunt Helen and my Uncle Jacques
4. Clothing

Might sound superficial but all I can say about myself now is frump, frump, FRUMP! I feel squishy and rolley polley and all kinds of ick! Ha ha ha! All my life I have been dying to look a certain way and dress a certain way. I just can't do that now with the way I look. Period.

5. Being Thinner is Cheaper

You pay more for being fat. Your clothes have more material too them or you buy food you don't need. It'd be nice to save money where we can!

Our first Christmas as Three!! Pt. 1 - Decorations

So 2010 marks our first Christmas not only as newlyweds but as a family of three! That is one of the reasons why this Christmas has taken tons of organization on my part. We've had to budget for food, gifts, and decorations all for the first time. I was a little rusty. Never having done a Christmas budget before for myself...I had no idea what to account for.

The decorations were amongst the most exciting things to plan for. Christmas was always a really big deal in my family. The same ornaments were brought out year after year and became such traditions. I was really looking forward to creating the same traditions for our family.

We found some budget friendly finds but there were a few splurges in there too.

My Budget Friendly Christmas "Shrine"

Most of these were inherited from my grandmother. I remembered so much about Christmas at her house. The reindeer, rocking house and village houses are hers.
The garland, Christmas Tree Candles, Christmas Tree and little nativity figurines are from my mother. The "HO" figurines if from my mother in law
The cookie plate I got for $7 at a hospital gift shop. The music box was a gift from my Mum. The ceramic Santa candle holder was $2 at the Dollar Shop.

The Tree:

Hudson getting his first tree.
Our Balsom Fir - First Family Christmas 2010

All decorated. Some of the ornaments I got from my grandmother and some were gifts from my Mum. Others I have received as gifts since I was little.

Hudson's first ornament. A tradition I wanted to start was to get him a Christmas ornament every year of his life so that he has a collection when he's older for his own home.
Brian and I have purchased ourselves an ornament each year. This was this year's!
A brighter image of our tree. The Star was $19 and the tree skirt was $19 (down from $60). 

So far a fairly budget Christmas as for the decorations. I bought a package of bulbs at Home Depot for $25 and had so many decorations at home that not one got used! So that wasn't budget friendly.

The tree cost $30 (it's between 6 and 8 feet). The stand was given to us by a friend who is now using artificial.

The star: $19

Tree Skirt: $19 (down from $60)

Decorations: Candy Cane: $8, Hudson's woodland creature: $8. All others were inherited or given.

Tree Total: $54


I spent a total of $26 on our shrine (misc. items).

Now we're all caught up!

So I just posted a bazillion blog posts catching up very briefly on all that's gone on this past year. Now it's time to slow it down going forward. Remember, the purpose of my blog is talking about the balance that living an organized life brings us.

I find that if one aspect of my life isn't where I need it to be...others are out of whack as well. I find that when my eating is on track...I keep a cleaner household and when my home is clean...our finances are flawless as well! (More about the purpose of this blog in my original/first post)! So here's to an organized life.

Top Baby Must-Haves

1. FP Little Lamp Swing

This is an amazing swing. Hudson probably spends 4-5 hours a day in this. It swings in three different directions and has a mobile and mirror built in. It has about 10 different speed settings and five different music or sounds. It's amazing. He falls asleep in this like you wouldn't believe.

2. Uppa Baby Vista 2010 Stroller

Okay...the price is enough to make me croak but Brian and I have said we would buy this over and over again. 

This is the smoothest stroller to use and it's so comfy for Hudson. He gets really sheltered and cozy in it with his blankets. The height of the stroller is amazing if you're tall and the baby's also facing you which is great for those early months (the big boy insert can face in or out - great options)! The big plus for us is that it converts into a double stroller if you buy the rumbleseat that goes with it! 

3. Avent Bottles

I can't speak enough about these. They're BPA free and Hudson just loves them. We also just bought some Nuby bottles which he is getting to love as well. They're comfy for him to start to hold and they are a fantastic bottle. The nipple isn't too overwhelming for them either. 

4. Bumgenius One Sized Cloth Diapers

We cloth diaper at least part time. Not only is it good for the environment...the difference in your wallet are well worth it. Over and over again. We cloth diaper except when we know that Hudson's going out or likely to have a huge explosion (saves me some laundry)!

The O/S will grow with him until he's out of diapers. So it's not like we keep buying diapers at every size. A great idea all around!

I picked BGs because they get rave reviews and they're darn cute!

5. Aden and Anais Swaddling Blankets

Hudson doesn't adore being swaddled but sometimes a baby just needs to be. These are light enough that he can barely feel the blanket on him and I can put it over our stroller in the summer months. They're light and really soft. Worth the money as well. 

6. Skip Hop Studio Diaper Bag

I am amazed at how much this holds. Often I can get two outfits about eight bottles, bibs, diapers and wipes in there without a problem. Not to mention my wallet, phone, keys and camera. It's roomy and stylish. I love it so much!

I'll post faves more as Hudson grows!

Bring on the Blue!!!

It's a Boy!!!

Hudson Thomas was born on August 19th after 30 hours of labour.

I went into labour the evening of April 17th and he came into this world at 12:03 am on August 19th. It was the most incredible feeling to have Brian announce to me that we have a son and to hold him for the first time. It was surreal and I wish I could relive that moment over and over to remember so much more of it.

We chose Hudson because it's unique and very aristocratic. We're also Canadian and Hudson is a name common throughout Canada's beautiful geography and history.

Here are some pictures of our sweet boy!

Moments after Birth
Proud New Mum
My sweet little boy!
On his way home!

My wedding day!!!

On July 30th I married the most amazing man in the world and my personal hero.

I met Brian three years ago online. Hard to believe we found each other on there, we instantly formed a strong connection and I feel like I have known him a lot longer. It was pretty instantaneous that Brian began to feel like home.

Brian inspires me daily. He is without a doubt the smartest and most driver person I know. He is also the kindest and most genuine of people. He is without a doubt a family man at heart and it's clear he would do anything for our family.

I felt truly blessed to marry my best friend on this day and can't wait to wake up to his smiles every morning.

I don't think he'd want me posting pictures of him on here so I'll post one of me on our wedding day! :)

The Nursery

Decorating the nursery was beyond fun. We had to wait until we were in our new house (we moved to a new town in my 36th week)! So I was itching to rip open the boxes and get to it! 

I had registered for all my furniture at Pottery Barn Kids. I found that I really loved their style and quality. They had the largest selection of unisex nursery options of anyone I had seen there. 

Another big motivator for not knowing the sex was that everything is gender neutral in an effort to save money. 

Here's baby's nursery.
Pottery Barn Kids' Ultimate Changing Table 
Baby's Cloth Diaper Stash (One Sized Bumgenius Diapers)

Pottery Barn Kids 3 in 1 Catalina Crib with the Jungle Friends Theme

The Arrival of my Furbaby

Long before Brian and I had found out we were expected, we decided we would like to get a dog. We looked up breeds that were companions for both children and cats and the top three breeds listed were 1. Golden Retrievers, 2. Irish Setters and 3. Shih Tzus. 

I am not a fan of the latter and we both wanted a bigger dog. We both had Goldens growing up and thought that a mix breed or hybrid breed might be neat. We came across a breeder that bred Golden Irishes - and we fell in love. 

It was so fun to anticipate his arrival. He came with the name Cessna but we had listed off a ton of names. We wanted something unique but were drawn originally to regal names (which we know were not that unique). King, Duke, and Baron were amongst the top contenders. Then one day Flanagan popped into Brian's head. It stuck and there was no doubt our pup would be a Flanagan.

On January 14th...little Flanagan came to us. Cutest thing in the world!

To Know the Sex or Not

Brian and I were Team Green (ie. didn't want to know the sex). We opted at the 20 week ultrasound to keep it a surprise. We decided as well to keep our name choices at the time secret. Both were amazing experiences....the guessing is fun for everyone. Keeping the names a secret really does avoid a lot of judgement that people tend to have when it comes to names (most of which is forgotten when the cute bundles arrive)!

I was pretty certain from day one that I would have a boy. I always wanted a boy first but would have (obviously) been over the moon with either sex. I just had a gut feeling. There were certain moments where I wondered if I was having a girl but they were less frequent.

First Ultrasound

12 weeks, 4 days

First time I saw my little bean!! I found out my EDD was August 18th (later changed to August 15th). Cutest little ultrasound photo I have ever seen!!

maternity clothes shopping the same week


It's hard to believe that a little over a year ago two pink lines changed my life!

Let's back track....

Christmas time last year was absolutely wonderful and full of celebration. I was spending Christmas with my Mum, baking cookies as usual. We were volunteering on Christmas day at a homeless shelter, serving Christmas dinner for the local homeless community. I baked a countless number of cookies for the event and was completely distracted! It was only when I left her house that I realized how ill I was feeling - really dizzy and nauseous.

Me baking some cookies

Some of my cookies
It wasn't until I got back home that I realized just how ill I was feeling. I remember going out to brunch with my boyfriend (who is now my sweet husband) and his parents. Everyone was passing around coffee, which normally I would have bountiful amounts of. Turns out the mere smell was hard to stomach.

The next day, I was at Brian's. I woke up really early on January 3, 2010 to the beginnings of a snowstorm. Brian was still asleep but I whispered in his ear that I was going to hop down to Starbucks and get us two cocoas and that I might as well pick up a pregnancy test while I was there, even though I was almost certain I wasn't pregnant.

I remember the sweet woman gave us the hot cocoas on the was one of the coldest days of the winter.

When I got back to Brian's condo I couldn't wait to take the test. I took it and there began the longest minute of my life. Low and behold....two pink lines....a big fat positive!! :) I was elated and immediately remember smiling from ear to ear. I didn't want to be too excited yet because Brian didn't know. We always discussed we would want a big family but had never approached the topic of when we would start.

I walked into the living room and told him it was positive. He immediately squealed and picked me up and spun me around! :)

I think his immediate response was "Let's go get us some baby books"!

My first post!

I have been thinking about starting a blog for a while now that my life has so (wonderfully) and drastically changed in the last year. I am at a stage where I have some things I think that I can write about.

I will spend much of the first few posts of this blog backtracking throughout 2010 which involved so many wonderful changes, most notably I became a wife and mother.

Going forward into 2011 my hope is to write about motherhood and general household organization (everything from meal planning to cleanliness). I hope to write about fiscal organization (everything from couponing, smart shopping to saving). As well, journey the starting of my weight loss. I feel very strongly that when you're organized in one area of your life, all the other areas come together. I know that there is a strong link between an organized home, wallet and body. I find when one of these is out of sync for me....the other areas are too.

Please join me as I continue and fine tune my quest for an organized life!