Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Craving Fulfilled

Hello friends,

I've been very sick this past week. I contracted food poisoning and I think it was from some boxed fish purchased at the supermarket. I ate it a week ago and by the next evening I was suffering. By Thursday noon I was suffering even more. I finally went to the doctor on Saturday.  I'm happy to report that I'm doing better and am finally getting back to normal.

Just yesterday it started to rain here. It didn't rain a lot but the sky is gray and the earth is a bit wet. have to say we have had a LONG run of sunny, hot or very warm weather. I guess Fall has now caught up with us.

As I was taking a shot toward the mountains, a plane flew overhead. It looks lonely up there against a dismal sky.

Whenever I have a bout of sickness, combined with overcast weather, I tend to want some home cooked "comfort" foods. I seldom make white bread any more but today I made both pizza dough (using Wolfgang Puck's recipe) and French Bread rolls (actually these recipes are almost identical
with the bread rolls requiring more flour).  Yesterday I made home made lentil and vegetable soup. I wish I had some today to go with the rolls but the rolls with butter will be nice!

The pizza dough will be use used today to make one vegetable pizza.  I think I will use cauliflower, peppers, eggplant and feta.  The other ball of dough will be used to make one meat pizza (pepperoni, salami, onions).

While my bread bun dough was rising, I roasted the vegetables for my pizza. It would have been nice to use some cherry tomatoes. Usually I have some on hand but none today.

A mix of garlic, yellow peppers, eggplant and cauliflower. I would have added cherry tomatos but I didn't have any on hand.

Before it goes in the oven.

After baking.

I almost left it in the oven too long.

Sorry about the shadows in the photo.

The buns are nice and crusty on both sides. I guess that's why they are called French bread rolls but I almost left them too long in the oven.

I'm off to eat. 

Tomorrow I will make some vegetable soup to go with the buns.

Enjoy the rest of your week!
Afterwards: Taste test for the buns. These buns were absolutely delicious. So soft and fresh inside and slightly crunchy on the outside. The pizza was slighlty salty with the feta and the crust was nice and crunchy.   Just how I like it though I know I will love it more with the addition of cherry tomatoes.

Joining in with Skywatch Friday here. Happy weekend to you and your loved ones. xx

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fading Colour & Parting Gifts

I've mentioned in earlier posts that my garden did not grow well this year. I also didn't do much to try and help it along other than watering but that didn't seem to be enough.  It was so hot and humid this summer and it wasn't until a very late season heavy rainfall that the plants started perking up a bit.

Despite all that, my garden is still giving me some brilliant pops of colour and I am grateful for these gifts.

I apologize for the quality of the photos. I tried hard to get some clear ones but it just wasn't happening today. Perhaps my camera has seen it's better days. In any case, I wanted a photo record of what the summer ended like.

Joining Skywatch Friday this week. Happy weekend!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Precious Water

Recently, my friend Jonah went on another mission to the Pokot people of Kenya, near Lake Baringo (circled in red on the map).

I have travelled to the area a few times and can tell you from first hand experience that is a very dry place.  (Over the last year the general area has been hit hard by flooding and lake overflow causing destruction of several hotels).  There isn't much in the way of towns and cities and amenities beyond a place called Marigat which I have written about before.

Jonah is pointing to some water but this isn't Lake Baringo which is much larger and has resident hippos and crocodiles.

Water is a scarce and precious commodity.

Jonah joins the others in refreshing his hands in the wonderful water.
See all the water bottles and oil containers. The people will fill them with water.

Close Up of Some of the Women 

I love their faces and their smiles. They still show much joy despite the harsh living in a dry climate.

I also love their traditional beaded adornment.

You can help Jonah go on future missions to help the vulnerable.

Please donate if you can by

clicking  the donate button

 If you have any problems please let me know.

Thank you for your kindness.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My Great Nephew

It has been awhile since I posted.

To be honest, I have tried posting earlier but I've discovered that since I upgraded to Windows 8.1 a lot of things don't work (phone to computer connection, printer, scanner). Of course they still work but they all need to be reset somehow. I'm no good at that kind of thing. I usually get my brother to set everything up. He will do so but then neglect to tell me he didn't download a certain program or connect up my printer. That kind of thing.

And isn't it Murphy's Law that you always need something the most when it isn't actually working as it should? I discovered that last week when I was trying to scan some documents and help my nephew out with some on line research. The computer connection would just "spin around". I'm not sure what the technical term for it is. Later on we discovered that my wi-fi signal wasn't working. A call to the telecommunications company resulted in them changing the modem frequency remotely.  Now at least the scanner and printer are working again.

The cell phone connection to the computer isn't. I tried to figure out how to do that myself but have no patience for it so will need to wait for help. In doing some on line research I found a forum which told me that others were having similar problems.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was preparing to go out of town to celebrate my mom's birthday.

Since then I've been to her place and back but most of the photos I took didn't turn out so I don't have too much to share with you photo-wise.  I was too busy trying to set up the room and be the hostess as well as taking photos for both my niece and myself on two different cameras.  I didn't even get a photo of the cake which looked lovely.  Sadly too most of the photos on my camera were blurred. I hope they turned out better for my niece.  The main thing is we all enjoyed a good meal.  Mom enjoyed her special day and she really enjoyed seeing her 2nd great-grandson for the first time.  Of course she also enjoyed visiting with her children, grandchildren and her 1st great-grandson.  

My picture of the fruit plate is the only thing that seem to turn out fine, lol. Everyone also enjoyed this dish at lot or at least the fruit.  All the fruit on the plate was gone and I brought home the cheeses home.

Hunter, born June 14, 2014
Oodles of food was left over. We packed it up and left it for the staff and an extra plate for mom for a snack later.  The remaining cake had to go in the garbage.  The weather was so hot that the cake frosting (cream cheese) melted and the top layer slide off the bottom layer when cut. Each of us had a piece and I threw the rest away. It was a strawberry cake and looked lovely but it wasn't nearly as good as the cakes we've had in previous years.

Besides trying to ensure mom enjoyed her day, I was so happy to see  my little great nephew. He is only two and half months old and the cutest little thing (of course we all say that). He is like a miniature man and very strong. His preferences and character are already so evident and he is the spitting image of his dad. His name is Hunter. His father is a huge outdoors man (hunter, fisherman and cowboy) and will no doubt take him hunting at the first opportunity.

This is the quilt I made back in May for the baby.

While I was there I was able to take the little guy's measurements to see if I can tailor a sweater that will actually fit him.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Frugal Thursday & Party Plans

There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, 
But a foolish man swallows it up.
Proverbs 21:20

It was a very busy day Thursday dealing with mom's birthday party planning and financial matters.

It is only a small party but because I live out of town it is always a bit more difficult to get everything organized. I've bought her a small gift that she will really like. It is a child size pendleton blanket that she can use as a lap blanket. It will be much warmer than the one I made her a few years ago.

I hope mom will enjoy herself and feel special for the day. I've been rather worried about her as she has been feeling frail and weak for some time now.  This will be her opportunity to see those that mean a lot to her. She will be 79 on Sunday.  Many years ago I used to tell her she will live until she is at least 82 because she used to think she wouldn't make it to the age she is now.    If we are blessed to be able to celebrate her 80th birthday party I hope to try and do something special.  Maybe invite relatives from afar. I have to start thinking ahead for that one.  It would have to be a surprise or she may not like all the fuss so we will have to see how it goes.

 I sourced out the place to purchase the cake, appetizer tray and food. I also made sure my niece will be escorted to mom's residence and invited my nephew and his family and his mom (my SIL). My other nephew won't be there as he is going for a few days holiday to Las Vegas. He has been doing double duty this summer at his job and studying for his GRE exam to get into graduate school so he has long planned this one weekend away before university starts again. He told me yesterday that he will visit his grandma next week before classes begin.

Mini version of a blanket I bought mom many years ago. I have her big one.

I also undertook a number of activities to shave a few dollars from my monthly costs. I'm always looking for ways to be frugal and cut monthly costs. How about you?  Do you spend time looking for savings too and what do you do with it?

I have a friend in Kenya who could use a little help to finish his university and graduate and that is where I put some of my savings. His name is Elvis and he is finishing his medical studies in Kenya (read more to the upper right of my blog). Let me know if you would like to help him. Any amount would be appreciated by him and his single mom who looks after 3 other children on her small income as a worker in a flower factory.  If you live in Europe, just think she might have picked the flowers in your vase.! Life is very hard for your average person in Kenya. The vast majority are not privileged to have a big income or eat more than a meal a day.

Today I saved money by doing a number of things:

* cancelled my movie package on my television programming.  This is a savings of $18. (Canadian) per month.  Initially I purchased it when it was a promotional deal. I don't usually do this but was feeling extravagant at the time. I meant to cancel the deal after 3 months but ended up keeping it for 6.

* opted into another package of channels because of a 6 month promotional deal at half price ($9.00 Canadian). The cost of the package is the same as my movie package but is currently 50% for half a year. I'll decide in that time whether I want it or not. I will likely cancel it before the 6 months is over or just at the 6 months.

* switched my long distance call plan. The cost is half of what I have been paying ($6.00 a month).  I haven't been using that many minutes per month so this works out for me.  It is easier for mom to reach me when she needs me than for me to reach her. So she is the one that needs unlimited long distance calling plan. Her plan is $20. (Canadian) per month.

I also look after my mom's bills and try to save her money wherever I can. Given her many moves last year, the telephone company made a royal mess of  a number of things. After several attempts to straighten things out I discovered that they are now giving her a $10 discount each month for the next year. They call it a loyalty discount.  She really has been loyal to them in choosing to stay with them over 40 years!

* I asked my telephone company where else I can save money on my bill?  Apparently I am already paying for the least expensive options for the telephone, internet and television bundle.  But I have been a loyal customer of the same company for a very long time also so they gave me a 6 month discount of $5. for each of the services. It amounts to a total savings of $90. They said it was in recognition of the fact that I do have other options for my telecommunications needs.  I can get a much cheaper telephone rate somewhere else or cut my home phone altogether. I have Skype and I have unlimited cell service. However I keep the home phone the same for my mother's sake (reliability of service, same phone number, voice mail, etc). I would also probably be paying more on the internet and television without a bundle. Of course, I am always assessing whether to stay with the company or go elsewhere. I've determined that for my needs at this time, this company gives me the best rates and the best services for those rates. If things change, I can always change providers

* they also suggested I delete my paper bills for a monthly savings of $2. but I wasn't quite ready to do that given all the issues I've had over the last year (or so I thought with my mom's bill and my bill.  It turns out I misread my bill but I still like to check them over on paper not on the computer screen.  I dislike looking at documents on line but once I feel comfortable that things are straightened out with the service providers I can easily give up the paper bills. Update:  the very next day after posting this I learned that the telephone company has been challenged over the issue of charging people for paper bills. I also understand that they have recently stopped charging seniors, the disabled and those that don't have internet (another $2. saved on my mom's monthly bill).  In the not too distant future, the federal (national) government will prevent the telephone company from charging anyone for a paper bill. Now if only they would also stop the banks from charging us for the paper bills too and let the consumer decide how they want to receive their bills. Many would opt and have already voluntarily opted to receive bills on line to save paper and impacting negatively on the environment.  For those that can't or don't have internet usage (the economically disadvantaged, the disabled and many seniors), should not be charged for the privilege of having a paper bill.

* colouring my own hair. I have saved quite a lot of money by buying and applying henna to my roots every month. I go to the hairdresser only once or twice a year to get my entire head of hair coloured, get a few highlights and/or a trim. This usually costs $45.00 and I save $25 a month doing my own hair. I actually save more than this because my former hairdresser charged $45 a month to apply the henna, wash and blow dry and I now only pay $25 (different hairdresser).

* contacted my financial advisor to let him know I want to eliminate critical illness insurance. This costs $120. (Canadian) a month. I've been paying it for 16 years and I think it is time to stop especially since I am not working any more. I've tried to eliminate this several times before. My advisor always convinces me to keep it and to cancel my life insurance instead. I keep my life insurance mainly because lenders like to know you have insurance and I want to have a small amount for loved ones if needed when I ultimately pass.

* returned a pair of winter woolen socks and exchanged them for a different pair. Savings: $3.36 (Canadian)

* purchased an African basket from Ghana for a savings of $15.00 plus tax off the original price. Believe it or not, I purchased the basket at a postal outlet of all places.  Chatting with the proprietress I discovered that she was born in Kenya, a land that I love so much. She is clearing out old stock to make way for the new.  My basket got quite a lot of compliments as I wondered about the west side neighborhood doing my errands.

* shopping at a new to me store for a food items. I was pleased to discover that a lot of things I like are much less expensive there (examples: flax seeds, some cheeses, whole meal bread, molasses). I saved about $8.00 (Canadian) off just a very few items that I would normally purchase in my own neighborhood.

My work on "tweaking" the budget is not done. 

I still have a number of areas that I know I can eliminate and which I hope to do very soon. 

That brings me to the question how many of you my dear readers have critical illness insurance.

How much coverage do you actually have and do you think it is worth it? 

Personally, I think that once you hit 55 years or older, the critical illness is not so important. Most people are going to get critically ill before that time.  If they get critically ill when they are older then they usually have no need for a smaller lump sum for vacations or bills.  You usually have equity in your home for those purposes and some more fortunate people have more than adequate income in savings. If you don't have either of these, you probably wouldn't buy critical illness insurance as it would cost too much.

My benefit is not that great in the event I was to get very ill. When I purchased the insurance I was a lot younger but because I noted every little, small thing that was wrong with me at the time it ended up costing me a lot of money.  The primary issue was whiplash and back problems brought on by car accident and also some ear, nose and throat issues caused by a skating accident when I was a teenager.  These few problems and a bit of excess weight caused me to end up paying much more than I was expecting. Whenever I ask my advisor why I need this insurance he says to pay off bills or take a vacation if I should live long enough (3 months) after getting critically ill (cancer, stroke, heart attack...that kind of thing). When I was working and not retired it made more sense to me.  I was far too busy to scrutinize expenditures and maximize savings by implementing frugal measures and routines.  Even now that I am retired, I still don't have a lot of excess time for these two activities but I make time every year to evaluate where I'm at.  I'm retired now and eliminating critical illness insurance seems to be a good way to go. I've already notified my advisor by email so he wants to meet next month if I am free and get me to sign some papers. Perhaps he will try to convince me again but this time I am pretty certain. I also want to give up the accidental death coverage through my previous employer.

Total savings:  Approx. $265. dollars. $54 savings is spread over 6 months. The $120. on critical illness insurance won't be saved until my advisor gets me to sign papers next month. So real savings this month of August is about $ be used for charitable works and mom's birthday present.  Not too bad and soon I will have more savings. More tweaking of the budget and any resulting savings will allow me to continue with my ongoing charitable work in Kenya and also toward saving for household needs (renos, appliances, etc.).

 I'd like to hear your thoughts about your own experiences, if any, with critical illness insurance.

{Photos of flowers were all taken in Kenya.  Please do not use for Pinterest or any other purpose.  I hope I don't offend anyone but recently I found a number of my blog photos on Pinterest and no one had ever asked to use them. I guess this is kind of the purpose of Pinterest but I don't subscribe to that kind of usage.}

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