Followers

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My World Tuesday ~ A Walk on Cambie


Sunday night was a loud night of rattling winds and rain. Monday morning it poured torrential rains and after it stopped, I thought it was safe to go out for a walk and errands. I got caught in the rain and more wind and was a bit chilled despite having 3/4 length sleeves on my sweater and my jacket but I pressed on and managed to get everything done that I had set out to do.  I also managed to get some beautiful photos.

Most of these snapshots were taken on Cambie Street.  The street under which the new rapid transit and subway links the Vancouver International Airport to Downtown Vancouver. Though the train opened in October 2009, I still haven't even had a chance to ride it.  I am hoping to get out to the airport well before I travel again by plane.

Here is a little peek down a side street.

 
I thought this tree showed off the lovely blooming green leaves.

In this photo you can see the clouds parted and the blue sky peeked out for a bit.


The gate at this house was just too cute to pass by without taking a photo. I wonder if the husband of the household gifted his wife with this gate on Valentine's Day? I think that would be a romantic thing to do.


At this time of the season I am pleased to find blossoms on trees and this Magnolia was no exception. Isn't it pretty?  Even the carpet of fallen leaves is so pretty. The rose bush was also a delightful find.


These next photos capture some of the buildings in the neighbourhood. They are taken to show others around the world what it looks like here. If one has never been to a place, one is often curious about what it looks like. Even if you have visited a place, I find that in this day of rapid development, things don't stay the same for long.


The Park in the background is a Vancouver institution and one of the old style movie theatres in the city.


In the photo above there is a tall building in the background with a circular top. It is the Harbour Center. Read about it here.

I end this tour with a panorama of the city skyline.

 

As you can see, the sky above is still very menacing but I'm happy to report that the rain held off until I finished my errands and returned home. I was very glad of that since I was laden with bags and very tired.

 

Addendum: LV over at http://livinatmemescorner.blogspot.com kindly posted this award for me today. I think it is a cool award and it glady accept it because that is what I try to do with my blogs; bring a little ray of sunshine (and it doesn't ask me to do anything *smile).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Saving Pennies in March

I continue to try and cut daily and monthly living costs wherever possible and to save money on food in various ways so I can pay down my debts as quickly as possible. I haven't kept a journal of what I am doing but in thinking about little ways I've saved money this month here is what I remember.

Food Savings

~ I purchased flats of canned mushrooms, canned beans and kernel corn. I usually purchase these in individual cans which is not very cost effective so I don't buy them as often as I would like. After doing a cost per can analysis, I purchased these particular canned goods because they are staples in good home cooking and because the price ended up being between 82 and 88 cents per can.  The savings is about a 17 to 86 cent savings per can depending on where I buy them so I think I got quite a bargain.


~ Of course dried goods purchased in bulk are even less expensive than canned goods on sale. I purchased dried garbanzo beans (chick peas) which cost about a third the cost of canned beans when I am able to buy them in bulk. I soaked and cooked the beans to be used in making a couple of meals. I also used garbanzo beans to make a red pepper hummus this week.  The other beans I soaked and cooked were navy beans for use in the boston baked beans dish I made earlier in the month.
~ I shopped the flyers and was able to purchase, beef roast, chicken drumsticks and whole chickens, all for less than $2.00 per pound or $4.35 cents per kilogram. These are excellent prices for meat and it is not usual to get this good price in my neighbourhood. I always try to buy more meat when it is on sale. Then I cut it and re-package it into portions for cooking. Out of one package of meat, I can usually get 2 or 3 meals to feed 2 people and one of the people is a very large eater. Once I get a small freezer I will be able to buy more meat ahead of time, and also freeze soups and cooked meals for warming.
~ I shopped the flyers each week. This past week I was able to keep the cost of a 12 pack of double roll toilet paper and a pack of 6 roll paper towels to less than $5.00 a package. I like to buy 2 ply toilet paper with at least 250 sheets per roll and paper towels with at least 80 sheets per roll. One hundred (100 ) sheets is preferable but they are sometimes not available. I always do the cost analysis of each roll of toilet paper and paper towel in order to get the best buy. Fortunately paper products are generally on sale at one of the several places where I buy them in the neighbourhood.

~ I made snacks at home this month rather than buy them ready made. I made a batch of chocolate chip and raisin cookies, a batch of cinnamon rolls and some red pepper hummus for spreading on crackers or dipping tortilla chips.

~ I bought some bulk spice to make my own spice mixtures and arrowroot for baking. These ones are pre-packed in small convenient packs and are much less expensive than those in the food stores that come in cans or small glass jars.


Clothing Savings

~ I spent $100 on 2 pair of pants and got $25 back, plus a $40 coupon for spending in April.  I also get points from this purchase toward a gift certificate. I often shop for my niece and my mom at this store as well so it is easy to rack up the points toward a gift certificate. After I shop about 4 or 5 times at this store I have enough points for a $25. off coupon. The coupon comes in handy for buying undergarments or sleepwear for myself or family members and the coupons are valid for up to one year.

Household Savings

~ These next few 'savings' could also be deemed to be bad purchases. I choose to look at them as purchases returned which ultimately saved me money. I bought and returned a personal purchase of much needed undergarments for $186. and taxes. I purchased from afar and the items didn't fit so I returned them. I also purchased a new bedspread for my niece who has recently moved. I found the package was missing the cushion and pillow sham so these purchases were also returned for a "savings" of $60. and taxes. I also bought a 5 drawer cart on wheels. It was on sale for $19 and taxes (half price). When I got it home and turned it over, it had a big hole in it so back it went to the store. These purchases were headaches because they did not pan out and wasted my time as well as the cost of return shipping in the first instance and the cost of return bus fare in the other two cases. If I look at it from a positive perspective, I feel like I saved myself from making about $300. worth of purchases. If I still need these items later (example the undergarments), I can purchase what I need later. I also learned that I will no longer be shopping at this one particular store where I had to return the items. It is not the first time I have had problems with purchases where I get something home only to find out later that something is missing from the package. It is regrettable as this used to be one of my favourite stores to get good value for the dollar.
~ I switched one set of bathroom lights to energy saving bulbs and I also have a new fixture which uses 3 bulbs instead of 8. I am not sure what the total cost savings is but I know there will be some. This is also a move toward green living. The only thing I am concerned about is the toxic mercury contained in the bulbs. I hope I never break one!
~I unplugged several of my appliances and now now I totally shut down the computer each night. Apparently all this saves energy (phantom energy use).
~ There were a few days that it was quite cool in my home. I turned on the ceramic heater rather than the household electrical heat. This little heater is more efficient than the household heat and I can direct the heat to where I need it.

Miscellaneous

~ I haven't yet got around to asking for lower interest rate on my current credit cards and I haven't been able to find a 0% credit card like some bloggers write about when recommending how to get out of debt. However, I did find a credit card with 1% cash back and 1.99 % introductory interest rate for balance transfers. I don't usually go for these kinds of deals because the interest after the introductory period is usually quite high. In this case however, I get an introductory period of 10 months which I think is quite generous. So I'm going to transfer a sum of debt that I can pay off in 10 months and then not use this card at all except for perhaps paying utilities which would then get paid right away on the card. The only thing I did not like was needing to apply for this credit card because it will affect my credit rating but I felt I could save on a lot of interest payments over the 10 month introductory period. The key will be making sure I don't use the credit card other than for saving interest on paying down my debt.
~ I was able to save $10. on Celadrin, an herbal supplement I wanted to try for aches and pains of arthritis.

~ I saved 40 cents on sending a small parcel and another 40 cents on sending a Money Gram. I will add the 80 cent savings to my Snowflake Jar fund.

~ I returned bottles to the bottle depot ($1.70) and saved another 80 cents in posting a parcel and sending a Money Gram. I added these small savings to my new Snowflake Jar fund (see sidebar to the right). This fund was started by gathering my loose change from January, February and March. Most of what I add to this fund will be from bottle returns and a little loose change here and there. As of today the Snowflake jar contains $19.79 Canadian.  When I have built up this fund to $200, I will use it to start a micro finance project for a woman in Kericho, Kenya under the  auspices of the Missions of Hope.
~ I saved $2.75 on a bus fare yesterday. The nice bus driver saw me loaded down with bags of food and he let me take a seat without putting my money in the token box. That was a blessing :-). I purchase tickets for the bus so this saves my ticket for another day's use.

All in all, I am pleased with what I was able to do this month. I will endeavour to keep up the small steps each month to save money, reduce debt and reduce energy consumption.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lazy Sunday Dinners

On a  lazy Sunday I like to make one pot dinners. This past Sunday it was raining and coolish so this dinner hit the spot.


Ingredients:

2 small washed and diced yams
2 small washed and diced russett potatoes
1 1/2 peeled and roughly chopped yellow onions
1 large stalk of celery, washed and quartered
2 medium carrots, washed, peeled and quartered
1 head of garlic with outer skins peeled off and top of head sliced off
1 medium pork roast
salt and pepper

After preparing the vegetables, place the celery, carrots and onions in the center of a baking dish. Then place the pork roast on top and put some coarsely ground pepper and salt on the top to season. Spread the remaining ingredients around the roast and season with more salt and pepper. Cover and cook in a 400 F oven for 1.5 to 2 hours until everything is nicely cooked and the pork is soft and crumbly.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Scenic Sunday in Kamloops

Kamloops, British Columbia is a very different place from where I live in Vancouver. Kamloops is about 4 hours drive north and is located in what is called the Interior of the province. It is cattle country and for years this small city was more like a frontier town.

[Panoramic shot of the North Shore, Kamloops]

I'm happy to say that in the past decade or so things have changed a lot. New commercial buildings have gone up aplenty. New areas of the city have seen significant residential development and there are new facilities and services to be used such as the new downtown library and the one that will open on April 19, 2010 on the north shore. There are also new hotels and restaurants.

[Photo of the newest hotel opened in February 2010]

If you are a golfer there are numerous golf resorts. If you are a mountain biker, the city is known for it's mountain bike trails. If you love the outdoors the entire region is known for fishing and camping. If you like hot weather you are also in luck as the summer temperatures can frequently get over 30┬║Celsius. So you will likely want to hang out in one of the city's many beautiful parks just to stay cool and relax. Or you might participate in a community or national event like Canada's birthday on Canada Day, July 1st.

[Collage of photos taken at park on Canada Day 2009. 
Click on photo to enlarge]

Whatever you want to do, you will likely be able to do it in Kamloops. But you better hurry. Those real estate prices have been going up, up and up.

Here now are a few photos taken downtown in February 2010.

[Plaza Hotel, a landmark in the city centre]

[Zack's Coffee shop, a long time business in downtown core]

[City sidewalks are nice and wide downtown and planter pots await Spring]

[Traffic is not exceptionally heavy]

[Buildings downtown retain their history. Big malls are on the hill & across the river]

[This mall has undergone about 3 complete renovations in last 40 years]

[One of the local radio stations]

[Bus routes are extensive and run every 15-30 minutes depending on time of day]


Scenic Sunday

Click on the badge above for more scenes from around the globe.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Savoury Eats

I was googling recipes for non-gluten eating a few days ago. While I didn't find quite what I was looking for, I did find a tasty looking vegetable dish. Here is my version of it.


Ingredients:

half a red pepper sliced
half a yellow pepper sliced
handful of broccoli chopped in large pieces
handful of cauliflower chopped in large pieces
two small yams washed and sliced lengthwise like fries
half a zucchini chopped in larger pieces
two medium carrots, peeled and sliced in long pieces

olive oil
cracked pepper
tuscan seasoning

After washing and chopping all the vegetables, toss them with olive oil cracked pepper and tuscan seasoning (recipe here).  You can eyeball the amounts. You  just need enough seasoning to taste and enough oil to coat the vegetables.
When done, place the veggies in a nice casserole dish and bake until the vegetables have enough crunch. I think I left mine for about 202-5 minutes in a 350┬║F oven but you can experiment on this as I find that no ovens are created equal in terms of heat distribution.
The vegetables were very good and very filling. I didn't make a salad or any dessert that day. I just had my vegetables with two small hamburger patties (minus the bun) and was very full.



I was reminded yesterday that today is Earth Hour. This is a global call to action for business and individuals alike. During this hour one turns of all electricity from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time. Just think how much energy we can save around the globe when we all stop and turn off our power supply for one hour. At the same time, we can use this time to pray for others, meditate on God's Word and give thanks for all that we have.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in 
Christ Jesus concerning you.

2 Thessalonians 5:18

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tasty Chocolate Chip & Raisin Cookies

Do you ever get a craving for something late at night when you have no snacks in the fridge or cupboard?

The other day I had a craving for chocolate so made these chocolate chip cookies. The recipe was from an old Quaker Oats promotional mini-cookbook I sent away for many years ago. I added the raisins to the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/4 cups of brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups uncooked Quaker oats (or other oatmeal brand)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins


Beat the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy and then add the eggs and vanilla. Blend it all together. Next, combine flour, soda, salt & spice and mix well.Then stir in the oatmeal, the semi-sweet chocolate chips and raisins. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes in a 350°F oven. If you  fing that the dough doesn't stick together simply by stirring, use your hands to mix and form the balls to place on the cookie sheet. You can use the tines of a fork to press the balls of cookie dough down.  Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.



I may have made these cookies once before. I don't remember as it has been awhile since I've used this cookbook or even made chocolate chip cookies. The cookies are not heavy or dense. They are quite light and have a bit of crunch. Yum.


Vancouver Sky ~ Skywatch Friday, March 24, 2010


Song of Solomon 2: 11-12


See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.

Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.


Another winter passes and glorious sunlight is on the way!


Though the skies have been unsettled this week, Winter's earlier warmth meant the blossoms came too soon to the young magnolia trees and to the mature cherry trees. The cherry trees were in full bloom during the Winter Olympics 2010 while I was up country.

On a walk the other day I did manage to find some beautiful blossoms though most trees are now bare in preparation for the late blooming plants and trees. These snap shots will give you a small idea of the annual beauty I so look forward to. With beauty like this every year, it is not hard to see why Spring is my favourite season.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Greetings

Greetings from Vancouver to you my lovely readers!

 

I want to say thank you to my blogging friends for their faithful support. I also want to especially welcome the new readers. Thank you for following me. In turn, I will be reading the blogs of long-time followers and new followers alike. 

Many of you know how I love to post my comments :-) though with an ever increasing list of blogs I love to follow, I may not comment as often as I would like.  I will not be posting every day as I once did but will likely post 4 times a week on average.  This is so that you busy readers can read in a more leisurely fashion.  I know how hard it is for people to make time to read and comment on blogs as well as write their own blogs, especially when they have busy jobs and families also.   Please feel free to comment on any blog, including those in the archives (see the archives of old posts in the side bar to the right). Whenever someone comments, I am notified.

 This blog is primarily one where I get to share the many photos I snap. But it is also a place to share some of the happenings in my life as well as address some of the issues my readers have asked about. I haven't forgotten ;-), nor have I begun to run out of ideas for blogging.  It is just a question of time before I am able to post on some of the things I've been wanting to share for awhile. I also have items to post from the ideas some readers were kind enough to offer up, not so very long ago.

With that I wish all of you in the Northern Hemisphere a wonderful Spring.  To others from further afield, enjoy the season whatever it is where you are. There is something beautiful to behold in all the seasons and passages of time.  See you again soon :-)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Japanese Udon Noodle Soup

I made Japanese Udon Noodle soup today. I didn't use a recipe, I just made up a version based on what I thought would go into it and it turned out rather nicely.

First I boiled a few cups of water in a saucepan and mixed to taste, a few tablespoons of prepared miso mixture into the hot water.

Once the water boiled I put in two small packages of udon noodles, zucchini chunks, a chopped up stalk of broccoli and a small bunch of baby bok choy.

In a frying pan I cooked and browned some minced beef with a finely slice red onion.  This is not your usual meat accompaniment to udon noodles but it was what I had on hand and it turned out quite fine. If you have some prawns or slices of beef you can top the udon soup and vegetables with these if you prefer.


Enjoy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Slow Dinner

Today was a day for a slow food dinner. I made Oatmeal Bread, Pork Roast with Tuscan Salt Rub and Baked Beans. For greens, I had the left over spinach salad from last night.





Cinnamon buns were made later for another day.  Photos above are of the buns before they went into the oven.  First photo has the butter and brown sugar sprinkled on the dough after it is rolled out to size. The middle photo is after the cinnamon spice and raisins have been added and the pieces cut for the pan. The third photo is after the dough has risen a bit and the last of course is the buns right out of the oven.

RECIPES

Oatmeal Bread
This was made in the bread machine and so is simple because all you do is throw all the ingredients into the machine, set it and away it goes until the bread is nice and done.

In case you do not have the recipe here is the one I used.

Ingredients:

9-11 ounces of water
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar or honey 

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  3 3/4 cups bread flour

2 tablespoons powdered milk
  2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order listed. Select White Bread setting, and Start.

This recipe yields a 2 pound loaf.

Roast Pork with Tuscan Salt Rub

This again was easy. I put the roast pork into a small roaster, sprinkled some tuscan seasoning rub on it and cooked it for about 4 hours, first on low heat of 250 F. oven for an hour and then on 350 F. for the balance of time. I have a pre-mixed rub from Suzanne Somers company. If you don't have such a rub readily available or you like to make your own, you can try this recipe from the blog Eating Well.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

6 tablespoons dried basil

3 tablespoons garlic powder

3 tablespoons coarse salt

2 tablespoons dried rosemary

2 tablespoons dried oregano

    Boston Baked Beans
    I soaked the beans last night and boiled them for about one hour today. When I was ready to make dinner I put them in a glass baking dish along with a recipe I adapted from www.allrecipes.com


    Ingredients

    2 cups navy beans

    1/2 pound bacon

    1 onion, finely diced

    3 tablespoons molasses

    2 teaspoons salt

    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

    1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

    1/2 cup ketchup

    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

    1/4 cup brown sugar


    In my version, I omitted the bacon and Worcestershire sauce which I did not have on hand. I added some Louisiana hot sauce in place of Worcestershire. If you would like to use hot sauce, any hot sauce will do. I added the diced onion to the sauce mixture.

    Basically you place the beans in a baking dish and pour the sauce over top. You can add a bit of liquid (from the boiled beans or water) and cover. The recipe says to cook the beans for 3-4 hours on 325 F. oven. I cooked mine for 4 hours and the first hour was at 250F along with the pork roast after which I turned the heat on to 375F for the remaining time. I  had about 3 times the beans so I tripled the other ingredients to taste.

    Cinnamon Buns

    For easy cinnamon buns I made the dough in the bread machine. I then rolled it out to size, placed margarine, brown sugar, cinnamon spice and raisins and then rolled the dough into a log, pinching it together where needed so it didn't fall apart. Once I had a log, I cut the roll into evenly spaced pieces about 1 inch each in width. I set the cut pieces on a baking sheet, covered with a tea towel and let it rise before baking at 350F oven for approximately 30 minutes. You can make a cream cheese frosting, a confectioner's sugar glaze or leave them plain.

     

    Enjoy!


    African Music & Happenings