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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Week So Far

Since I returned late Friday from visiting my mom, I've been very busy. I'm planning a far away trip for the summer and have been busy looking at travel routes, checking points for air travel and hotels, reactivating points programs, checking costs & making bookings where I can.

Sweater & top for mom
I've also received a few more things for mom's wardrobe which I have to label, pack and ship to her as they didn't arrive in time for my travels to visit her.

Purple top for mom

Before I went for my short trip, a friend asked for help with his taxes due to the high cost of hiring a tax preparer.  The base cost at one local preparer is $70 Canadian and at another it is $100 (charges for a very simple return and the price goes up substantially if you have more than 2 receipts).  Some of you will remember that I don't really like doing taxes but I was willing to help this friend so he can learn to do it himself. Since I also needed help with my garden and he is a very good gardener, I asked him to at least pluck up the garden weeds. He said he was happy to do it and he did a great job. He is much faster at this sort of thing than most people are.  His taxes are now filed and he stands to get a good refund so he is very happy.  Today I thought the garden could do with some fertilizing but it was so windy here (and cold too) and this task will have to wait for a calmer day. Maybe tomorrow.  My Solomon's seal is almost fully grown and yet nothing new has been planted due to inclement weather. The hosta bulbs I ordered a month ago finally arrived today.  I'm happy I have something to plant in the shaded parts of the garden.



I have an unfinished simple quilt to make for my niece. It's been sitting in my dining room, cum sewing room, since November and I need to finish it soon.  I want it ready for her visit to me this summer for her birthday.  I finally cut out the binding today and hope to sew it up tomorrow.  I will attach it in a day or two and finish up the quilt.  I've also been searching the internet for some beautiful quilt fabrics and trying to decide whether to order them to add to my fabric stash. I've already got several "WIPs" and no more room for it all.  But I do plan on sewing more now that I've made several skirts for mom this week and gotten the quilting underway again.  Perhaps I can go ahead and order the fabric which I'm sure won't be available later and I would really hate to miss out on it.  On my recent out of town trip, my nephew reminded me again that he is waiting for his lap blanket.  He wants one similar to the one I made his grandmother.  I've been planning to surprise him for his birthday but haven't actually gotten started yet. Time is running out as his birthday is in about a month.

Today I felt like having home made pizza for dinner.  I tried a "new to me" pizza dough recipe from Wolfgang Puck, renowned celebrity chef and restauranteur. The dough was far less sticky to work with than other recipes I've made so I will likely use it again. If you'd like to try it,you can find the recipe here.


Other than these few things I haven't been so terribly busy this past few days.  I've had a bit of a cold and have a fuzzy head as well as a headache every day. I hope it all goes away soon.  I did do a bit of reading but not much. I can't concentrate that long.  Currently I'm reading Tess of the d'Urbervilles on my Blackberry Playbook, and Holman Quicksource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls in a paperbook.

I have lots of tasks to accomplish this week. None of them are large in and of themselves but require my focus and attention. If I don't get to visit your blog this week, please do forgive me. I will be by to repay your visit as soon as I am able.

I'm linking up with Our World Tuesday today. Do drop by and see what other people around the world are doing this Tuesday.

Our World Tuesday Graphic

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Zucchini Brownies

I was away for a few days visiting mom. My main purpose was just to visit because I haven't been to see her since the Christmas holiday.  I also wanted to clean out her closets and drawers and cull a lot of her old clothing. Her closet and dresser space is rather limited .  She recently got an entire new wardrobe and needed the space to store them. I ordered or made everything myself, labelled them and organized them in her closet and drawers. I also had a chance to do some general tidying and straightening out for her as she cannot really do it herself.

The weather was very cooperative for my journey.  It was sunny on the drive there.  On the way back the weather was a bit overcast but not cold or rainy.  However, the clouds opened and the rain fell on my first day home.  Today if the rain keeps at bay, I hope to finally clean the debris from the garden so I can plant soon.  This year I will plant a variety of hostas.  Half of my small garden does not receive direct sunlight and so I think hostas will do well. I will also plant a lot of flowers in the containers I keep in the area where the sun reaches, and a few vegetables; mostly like tomatoes, hot peppers and herbs.

When the hot weather arrives I won't be doing much baking. Here is a good recipe for cooler days.  I picked this recipe up at a Monday night cooking gathering I join every now and then. I love the recipe because of the large quantity of zucchini in it. In Africa and Europe I think you call this a corgette (summer squash). I also like the crunchy top and moist insides.


Ingredients: 
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I often mix half white, half whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup chocolate chip (I used half chocolate chips and half chopped walnuts)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups finely shredded zucchini/corgette



Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F. and prepare a 9x13 inch pan.
2.  Combine oil, sugar & vanilla extract and mix well.
3.  In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
4.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix together.
5.  Fold in zucchini/corgette and chocolate chips/walnuts.
6.  Spread brownie mixture into a pan and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes.



Let cool, cut into squares and enjoy! 


Most of us know that vegetables are good for us and zucchini is no exception. It contains manganese, an essential trace mineral, and has a lot of fiber so helps with weight control and lowering cholesterol. It is a good anti-inflammatory, aids in prostate health, cancer prevention, heart attacks and strokes.  Zucchini also has potassium and magnesium which helps in lowering blood pressure. You can see that this summer squash really has so many health benefits.





 

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Bright Spot

Sunday started out pouring rainy, windy and cold. By the time I ventured to take a photo the rains and wind had stopped.



Later in the day, the sky turned blue like the photo below and the sun came out!


To top off my day, I was treated to an early moon in the sky (I think it shows up better if you click the pic).

 

 It helps to have a beautiful day in which to run errands. It is after 6 p.m. and look how bright it is outside.
It's so great to have longer days of daylight now.

In My World this week, I am busily trying to prepare to visit my mom. I'm also linking up with Smiling Sally for Blue Monday.

Happy Earth Day and happy week ahead to you all.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Left Over Soup

Yesterday, I decided to skip another trip to the fabric store.  I need one more piece of fabric for mom's skirt and some plastic bobbins but I can go early next week. It was an overcast day as you can see in the photo; the kind of day that calls for home made soup.

The church steeple is undergoing a face list. It's height has been increased by at least 10 feet and it now has a Celtic style cross which lights up at night. I like the changes.


I had to throw out some veggies earlier this week because I've been too busy to cook them. I resolved to use up some of rest in the crisper before they go bad too.

The soup simmering on the stove.  The sheen on the top comes from the overhead light, not oil.

Ingredients:

- 3/4 cup brown rice
- 2 cleaned and diced carrots
- 2 cleaned and diced stalks of celery
- 1/2 cup red quinoa (uncooked. This was left over from Thanksgiving)
- 1 medium chopped onion
- 1 large can of stewed tomatoes
- 1 medium-large can of kidney beans (rinsed)
- 1/2 cup cooked cabbage left over from earlier in the week
- splashes of hot sauce and soy sauce to taste
- water (as needed and depending how thick you want your soup)


First, boil the brown rice and water together for 15 minutes or so.  Brown rice takes longer to cook so it needs a head start.

When the rice is boiling, add diced carrots, onion and red quinoa and let all the ingredients boil together for another 20-30 minutes.  Next, add the rinsed canned beans, tomatoes, left over cabbage, hot sauce and soy sauce.

After boiling together for a few minutes, do a taste test and add more hot sauce and a very small bit of sugar to cut the heat if needed.  There was only a wee bit of hot sauce left in my bottle but it was a little too much so I added a about 2 teaspoons of sugar. Finally, simmer everything together for another 10-15 minutes or until the brown rice is fully cooked.

The soup is very tasty and healthy.  There is no oil and no added salt, other than what is in the prepared sauces in this soup.  There is also no meat but it is high in protein with brown rice, red quinoa and kidney beans.  Finally, this soup is very easy on the budget.

This week I hope to link up with Homemaker on a Dime when the new linky opens.

Frugal Finds This Week

How many of you have ever shopped and been overcharged for items? I usually watch the scanner when I'm paying for items so I can "catch" the errors. Often there are errors in the posted sale prices and the price at the till when the item is scanned.  Have you found that too?

This month I decided to track my household spending for groceries and all kinds of household items. I had kept my receipts and hope to do this for the next few months to see where my household funds are going. This is not a task I really enjoy but this year I want to see what I can really save on needless expenditures.
This is a sample of cheese from the company that made my purchase.
In creating my list, I discovered something that made my jaw drop. I paid $11.00 for a very small amount of Brie cheese. Now some small wedges of Brie at my local grocery store can cost that much and more. However I would not knowingly pay that amount and was certain I had selected something less expensive. Fortunately I still had some of the cheese and the original bar code and price label.  In checking my receipt, I discovered I had overpaid by about $4.50 (Canadian).  On another trip to the same store, the clerk mentioned I should simply bring in the receipt and the wrapping and I will receive my refund. Normally I would catch this kind of mistake right away but in this case, I was distracted by the friendly cashier when she was scanning my items at check out ;-) (Savings 4.50)
I haven't calculated all the food purchases for the week. I haven't actually purchased much other than 20 pounds of brown rice which will last me for a long time. I should have bought a smaller bag as we head into the warmer months and brown rice can go rancid. I also purchased some milk, cereals and bananas. I will add these to my monthly expenditures. I already know that my food bill for the month is higher than usual because I purchased more for the pantry than I do most months due to sales. This month I've purchased a variety of canned beans, canned tomatoes & canned soup. These will last for many months. I also bought a few cans of ground coffee. I still need to buy a large jug of cooking oil.

How many of you collect points at your favourite stores so you can use the points for purchases on items you need later?

This week I purchased over $40. (Canadian) of items at my local pharmacy. The cashier asked me if I had received any offer of points. I said 'yes' but I didn't have the points coupon with me. He suggested I return the following day with the coupon and ask the owner for a credit. Since the story is close to my home, I did exactly that.  The owner kindly gave me 9000 points instead of the 8000 points I was looking for. Now I have enough points (22,000 +) to get $30 off of a future purchase at the pharmacy.  I will wait to use the points until I need bread, milk, butter, eggs, bacon and household items like glass cleaner, toilet paper, plastic wrap so I can spend all the points at once.  This is the best way to get the full value of the points (so I've been told and so I've learned). (Savings $10.)

I also need to follow up on the store's head office because I made a large purchase in March for which I was to get 20x the points.  I don't think I received the credit.  A simple phone call will determine whether the error is the store's or mine.  A store error means another $10.value in points toward a future purchase.

I think probably most of you shop around for clothing bargains and I'm no different. In preparation for a trip to see mom, she asked me to purchase some clothing for her and she gave me a modest budget.  She primarily wanted some colourful summer tops.

I managed to buy 4 tops, 3 summery sweaters (she gets a chill easily), 3 necklaces and a pair of earrings. The grand total was $111. (Canadian, including taxes).  Shipping was free (normal cost about $10.) and I didn't have to travel to the store and browse the aisles because I ordered on line. Total savings on this shop was $200.  That's astounding!  The very next day, most of these items were back to the full price. It pays to watch the sales. As an added bonus, I will get some points toward a monetary credit to buy things later in the year. I think I will use it for heavy sweaters or nightgowns for winter wear. (Savings $210.)
I never think of savings in a fabric store unless I specifically go as a result of sale. The only fabric store that remains in my big city doesn't have fabric sales as such, but they do have clearance and remnant items.
I am not a seamstress but I do mend clothing and I make simple skirts for my mother. This week I did some fabric shopping in the remnant section for fabric to make skirts and other items like simple vests (savings of approximately $12.00). I also purchased 6 meters of snakeskin printed fabric for $1.00 a meter (a savings of $10. a meter!). (Total savings on fabric $72.00)

Do any of you shop on line for books? You can often get free shipping if you purchase $25. on Amazon (or like companies).  I mostly purchase books at the thrift store where I can get books for $1 to $3.  On a rarer occasion, I can purchase a book for 25 or 50 cents.  If I want a particular book though, I will likely have to buy it in a bookstore or on line. Recently, I wanted a particular book on the Dead Sea Scrolls. I also wanted a memoir of Elspeth Huxley who grew up in Kenya in the early 1900s.

I ordered the books on line and they were delivered to my door within a week. I saved about $12. on the cost of the books and approximately $7. on the shipping. (Total savings $19.)



When you go on a flight do you search the internet for air travel deals or ask your travel agent to investigate a cheaper fare if the first fares he/she quotes you are too high? I know many people who cross the border from Canada into the USA to get a cheaper flight.  I don't go that far.  I like to get to my airport in half an hour; not spend hours getting to the departure airport.

This week I investigated air fares on line then called my travel agent to book. I managed to save about $300 on the air fare.  However I spent some of the savings ($93) by paying for pre-booked seat because I like to ensure I get aisle seats for long trips.  It makes it easier for me to do chair exercises and to get up and walk around the plane whenever I wish. Anyone who suffers from swelling of the lower extremities needs to be careful when travelling long distances. (Total savings $203.)

Total savings this week: $518.50* Not bad. 
I'm always looking to stretch a dollar and this week I feel like I hit the "jackpot".
 
Of course, most weeks I am not buying books, clothes, fabrics and air tickets. Most of the time my savings are far more modest.  But by paying attention and shopping around when one does need to spend we can make significant savings.

Not everything was a "win" this week.  Sadly I did had to throw out about $7.00 worth of vegetables (Total savings minus $7. = $511.50). 

Normally I do not waste vegetables but this week I could not seem to keep up to vegetables and some strawberries before they went soft and moldy.  Sometimes fresh produce doesn't last very long at all before they go bad. If I wasn't busy out of house this week, I likely would have made some soups with the veggies and snacked on the strawberries.

In these economic times, most of us rely on saving on daily needs to help us through the month.  I'm looking for savings everywhere I can to help fund my upcoming travels and also to help all my sponsored kids in Zambia, Ethiopia and Kenya. 

If you are thinking about sponsoring a child but haven't yet done so and have questions, please feel free to contact me. I love to encourage people to sponsor a child or a family if they can.

 
* I adjusted this amount upwards as I had forgotten to include the $10./meter savings on the snakeskin pattern fabric I bought.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Moment at McDonald's

It was one of our rare sunny, Spring days this year. I was enjoying looking out at the green grass, and cherry blossoms at the UBC campus.

This big tree and all it's lovely blossoms made a huge frame behind the McDonald restaurant's famous Golden Arches signage. 


The cherry trees that beautify Vancouver at this time each year, were gifts of the country of Japan.

In the early 1930s the mayors of both Kobe and Yokohama presented the Park Board with 500 Japanese cherry trees for planting at the Japanese cenotaph in Stanley Park honouring Japanese Canadians who served in WWI. And so, as the impact of cherry tree plantings began to reshape the city’s landscape, Vancouverites were soon smitten by their fleeting beauty, their clouds of blossoms, as they heralded spring’s arrival each year. (Source:  Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival).

Vancouver has about 55 varieties of cherry trees.  On the news the other night it was reported that some of the rare varieties of the trees now need help to thrive since the strict plant health regulations prevent importing trees from outside Canada.  The news report also featured a partnership between the University of BC's Botanical Garden and BCIT’s Biotechnology Department to help save these trees. Students are regenerating some of the rarest of the cherry trees by harvesting plant cuttings and growing them in test tubes before eventual transfer to greenhouses and then planting.  They are having good success in growing these cuttings and that means good news for those of us who live in Vancouver and enjoy the beautiful tree blossoms each year.

I'm linking up with Skywatch Friday. I hope you will have a chance to visit the link and view other beautiful skies from around the world.

Happy Skywatching!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sampling Dim Sum



This is how my day looks today. It looks worse than it feels. It is actually cloudy but warm and the sun came out when I went to the laboratory.

When I go to a restaurant, I prefer to have small portions of a lot of varieties of food; rather than big plates of the same food. So I really love tapas, which are small plates of Spanish snacks or appetizers.

The Chinese also have a type of tapas. There is a Cantonese style of cooking called dim sum which consists of small bite-sized or individual portions of food traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates.

When I first came to Vancouver I would attend dim sum for lunch with my work colleagues.  There I would sit entranced as the served walked by with fully laden carts of ready made foods.  You would simply point to the plates you wanted and the servers kept track by punching holes onto a card left on your table.  Each plate was about $1.50 (Canadian) and there was really only one size. You could easily get filled on 3 orders or plates of food but when you went out with a large group everyone ordered what they wanted and so we sampled many things. It was always a bargain at about $7. per person.

These days most of the restaurants that serve dim sum, and there are fewer than before, have gone high scale. You very seldom get carts of food rolled by your table. Instead you order from a menu.  Sometimes the menus feature coloured photos of the dishes for the uninitiated.

In other restaurants you simply mark the quantity of a particular dish you want on a menu list (like the photo below). The server then picks it up and places the order. I had a choice of 4 sizes of plates at the restaurant I went to today. I ordered the smallest size.


Last night and this  morning I had to fast in preparation for blood work today.  I got a late start to my day so by the time I finished at the laboratory I was quite hungry. I went across the street for dim sum and made it in time before it closed the dim sum service.

Food (L to R - rice rolls, shrimp dumplings, steamed buns, pork dumplings).

I ordered:

- pork (dumplings) sui mai
- steamed barbque pork buns
- shrimp (dumplings) har gow
- rice rolls with beef.

The order was a little much for me but I decided to place a 2nd (take out) order of everything except the shrimp dumplings (oops, I meant except the pork dumplings).  Jasmine tea accompanied my lunch. I also had condiments of chili oil, mustard and hot sauce.

The grand total came to $19.95 (including tax). The prices have doubled since my first experience of eating dim sum. I think it is still a good bargain for two meals especially when the food is very tasty.

I took the photos with my camera phone today. The resolution and colours are not the best but it works in a pinch.

 
Update:  My blood work was normal. Praise God! I hope to keep it normal with hard work and prayers.

I'm linking up with Our World Tuesday today. I hope you join in too!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Meet Little Elina

Hi everyone,

I wrote here about the new children I sponsor in Zambia.  I learned there is also a little girl named Elina who desperately needs help.  She has a medical condition where her bones are too soft and they break.  She is not able to go to school and needs help to get special food to help her health. She also needs a special kind of wheelchair to help her family move her around the bumpy terrain.

Photo credit: Chileleko Christian School

My friend Shelby is looking for 5 sponsors who could give $10 a month to help this dear child get medical attention, proper food, clothes and schooling.

Elina now has 3 sponsors who will give $10 a  month.

We are looking for only two more people who can give $10 a month toward Elina's care.

If you can't give monthly but want to help out on a one time basis or give now and then, that is fine too! Some people even give $5. monthly. If you have any questions send Shelby an email here.

You can make donations on the Chileleko Christian School page (click here). Simply write Elina in your description.

We also have raised 200 toward the cost of a wheelchair and are trying to find a supplier in Zambia.  If you could pray that Shelby & Pastor Emmanuel can find a good wheelchair supplier that would help so much.  If you want to contribute toward the wheelchair fund, that would be awesome! You can click here and find the donate button.

There are also many children already in school that need your help. You can browse the blog and read more about the children.


Thank you so much!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Moment at the Longhouse

A view of the sky through the skylights at the University of BC's, First Nations Longhouse.

I'm linking up with other folks from around the world for Skywatch Friday

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reading Goals 2013 & Other Things

I've set myself a reading goal of 24 books in 2013. I've reached half of my goal and there is a lot of year left. I may end up reading another few books beyond my goal but I think I'll use the balance of time to continue with Bible studies and learning languages. (click on the photo to enlarge)

My book collection is rather eclectic this year and includes 3 memoirs (ranging from 353 to 592 pages) and 1 biography (592 pages).  I've also read a couple of books that make good Bible study helps on the subjects of Heaven (560 pages) and managing our money (254 pages); a couple of classics (A Tale of Two Cities (369 pages) & East of Eden (691 pages), contemporary and historical fiction (Vancouver (768 pages) and The Emperor's Children (431 pages) ; and two health books  "What You Don't Know May Be Killing You" (229 pages) and When the Body Says No (320 pages).

My favourite reads so far include: "managing God's money" which is about treating our money as God's money and understanding that He entrusts us to manage it well and for specific purposes.  The other book I really enjoyed is When the Body Says No, a book about the mind-body connection. It was fascinating reading about some of the author's case studies and all the medical research to back up his theories. I'm certain that there have probably been even more interesting medical research developments on this topic considering that the book is already 10 years old. The Julia Child biography and the fictional work called Vancouver are also great reads.

Paris to the Moon by Alan Gopnik is on my currently reading list.  Gopnik was a writer for the New Yorker when in 1995, he and his wife, and their infant son left everything they knew and loved in New York City for the  glamour of Paris.  I actually started this book in 2010 and read through much of it before I set it aside so I've decided to read it all over again.  I've been doing a lot of that lately.  The Zanzibar Chest & A Tale of Two Cities and  are two other books that I'd begun a few years ago, set aside and had to start all over again.  I'm also reading Money, Possessions & Eternity which is a longer version of "managing God's money". I wouldn't have ordered both of them if I had known they were essentially the same book.

I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival in the post of several books for recreational reading and some for Bible study.

The Flame Trees of Thika (288 pages), by Elspeth Huxley

Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence (208 pages) By Craig Evans

Wildflower Hill (544 pages) by Kimberley Freeman

Holman Quicksource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls (192 pages) by Craig Evans

A Yellow House:  A Novel   (368 pages) by Patricia Falvey


I've included page totals for the various books just in case you want to read any of them and want to know how long they are first. I've also added a link the 5 books I'm waiting for in the post in case you want to read a description of them and decide whether they appeal to you.

If you have any books to recommend me, please feel free to leave a comment.  I'm always on the look out for a good read.
~~~~
I am going for a visit to my mom soon. She wants some new, colourful clothes for Spring and Summer. So I've ordered a few bright tank tops and sweaters, along with a bit of costume jewellery that will go with multiple outfits. I couldn't find the kind of pants or skirts she needs (simple, stretchy and washable).  I've decided to make two or three skirts that I was going to make awhile back and didn't get around to doing.  The skirts are in basic colours:  black, teal green and tan. 

I wrote awhile ago about the upcoming Vancouver South African Film Festival which is taking place this weekend.  A friend and I have decided to see the film "Reconciliation:  Mandela's Miracle".  Beyond that it is that time of year for the eye exam and my quarterly blood work so am keeping fairly busy.

~~~

Happy reading and enjoy your week!



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pink Everywhere

Gazing at pink fluff






Everywhere there is pink stuff







Pink is beautiful!
(I managed to get these snapshots at the University of BC today).


I'm joining Our World Tuesday today. Join in and have a look.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring Is Here



Two months ago, I said that Spring was coming, lol. We had signs of new life in the garden. Sadly it ended up being quite cold for much of the time since but at last I think we've turned the corner. We've had glorious sunshine and warm temperatures this past week.

Currently we are back to rain but the sun will return in a few days. I am enjoying the cherry, apple and plum blossoms at this time of year.  I took these photos in my neighbourhood and deliberately shot into the sun on a hurried trip to the market.  I would like to get out to other parts of the city to enjoy more blossoms if I have time before these fleeting blossoms are gone for another year.



I hope you are enjoying your spring season.

I'm linking up with Skywatch Friday where you too can visit and see so many lovely skies from around the world. Have a lovely weekend.

African Music & Happenings