Downtown Adventures

I've been spending a lot of time downtown, so this week is devoted to some of the sites I've seen

View from the balcony at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's production if God of Carnage

The fountain at Portage Place that used to fascinate me as a child (it will periodically shoot sky high).

Cool kids read graphic novels. This sign says so (University of Winnipeg Bookstore)

Oh, and this is the University of Winnipeg castle (or, more formally known as Wesley Hall. I think. I could be wrong)

I love the elevators at The Bay, because they're so old. Of course, I don't trust them enough to use them.

Oh, and The Bay has a canoe in it. Cuz it's awesome.

Remember the other week when I showed you a picture of this building? Good thing I took that when I did:

When every penny counts

Our current "Saving plan" :P
My sister made the hyperbolic claim that 1/8th of a $60,000 was barely any money. Of course, in context, this 1/8th of $60,000 was being weighed against intangible factors, such as time, stress, the value of a human life etc. And you know, now that I think about it, it may have been 1/8th of $16,000 but in the fight that followed that conversation, I may have gotten confused. Sigh. Sisters. However, it got me to thinking.

1/8th of $60,000 is $7500. Assuming this was an annual salary, that is $625 a month. For some, this is barely anything. For me, well, it's more than I make right now, so it seems like a fortune. In any event, let's say you hid $625 in your mattress every month for 18 years. You would have $135,000 ignoring inflation, and interest. Certainly, there are few that can bat an eye at that number. For $135,000 you can put 2 kids through a 4-year university degree, including living expenses (based on the University of Manitoba's estimated cost for a full-time first year student). You can take something tangible, and turn it into something intangible - the future potential of two people.

But $625 is still a lot of money. So I started thinking a lot smaller. I don't buy a lot of coffee - maybe 3 cups a month. As a result, I tend to splurge on a Tall Decaf White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks, coming in a $4.54. However, since our "Sunday Morning Coffee Runs," when we had a large gift certificate from Tim Hortons (conveniently located across the street from us), I've been drinking a lot of French Vanilla. I can get a medium French Vanilla for less than $1.50. Sure, it tastes a little different, but it is the same calories and the same sugar, and we all know that its sugar that I'm after when I'm buying one of these drinks.At 3 drinks a month, over a course of a year, going for Timmies is over $100 cheaper than Starbucks. Not being a coffee aficionado, coffee out of a paper cup tastes the same, so why not save $100 a year?

If it takes virtually no effort to make one change and save $100 a year, imagine how many other small changes can save that much as well!

Some more easy money saving ideas*:
  •  Make your own wine (a good kit runs $90, and makes almost 30 bottles. My favourite wine retails for $10 a bottle, so that's a savings of $210)
  •  Hang your laundry to dry (We end up paying $1.50 a load, as the super cheap machine doesn't get it done in one cycle. At, say, 2 loads a week for clothing, that's a savings of $156 a year)
  •  Bring your lunch to work (A Subway sub is $3.50, whereas a sandwich comes in at less than $2.00 when made at home. That's a savings of $390 a year)
  •  Ride the bus rather than paying for parking (In Winnipeg, an adult bus pass is $77 a month, whereas parking can cost $145 a month, saving you $816 a year, not to mention gas, wear and tear on vehicle, and cab rides when your block heater dies in the middle of winter)
  •  Sign up for Netflix rather than cable ($8/mth vs. $34.90/mth saves you $320 a year)

All together, small changes can save you almost $2000 a year - almost enough for a week long, all-inclusive trip for two to Cancun! (Scott says for the men in the crowd, $2000 a year is almost 7 XBOXes)

What small changes have you made / would you like to make to stretch your money further? What would you spend your savings on?

*all ideas are based on prices available in Winnipeg, and are more for interest than financial advice.

It's about time

When we were in Regina, we noticed 2 friends, who had started getting close just before we left, were SIGNIFICANTLY closer 7 months later. We met up with them, and a few other friends, for supper while we were back. While some of us continued the night elsewhere, the couple respectfully bowed out. You see, Friday nights are their date nights, a ritual they hold dear.

Scott and I have tried, many a time, to hold a weekly date night, but SOMETHING always comes up. We're not very good at it. One regret I have is that I decided against stealing the idea from Meredith (from Boss Report, formerly known as Yours, Mine and Ours: "We count dates later on in the year as presents. Like make a coupon for a specific date idea and cash in on it later on" ), for Scott for Christmas. It's much easier to observe date night when you have ready-made plans.

And that's where my parents come in. They have season tickets for the local theatre (I feel like I'm demeaning it, especially since it was recently give royal assent, or whatever you call it), and they offered us tickets for a weekend when they had alternate plans. Since they drive in from out of town, they do attend the matinee, so we got all fancied up and rubbed shoulders with the early dinner crowd. It may have been an early date, but it was still a date!

Does the outfit look familiar? Maybe you when I pinned it over on Pinterest. Or maybe, you saw the gorgeous Emily from Tinfoil Tiaras wear something very similar last week for her birthday dinner!

When I try to be healthy...

Every once and a while, I go through a fitness kick and start worrying about whether I'm eating properly. It turns out, worrying is the worst thing I can do! You see, I'll track what I eat on a random day, compare it to what I should eat. I compare two metrics: how I compare to my daily "allotted" calories, and where those calories come from (protein, fats, carbs). Sometimes, I track as I eat. Sometimes, I decide to track what I ate the previous day, to ensure there is no consulting the computer to decide whether I should have that second third fourth piece of bacon. Most of the time, I do pretty well. Here are my results for last week:

Graphic from

However, there is a major downfall to this system. Sure, I know I'm not tracking major nutrients (and I know things like calcium and iron are likely lacking from my diet). The main problem is that it proves my average day-to-day eating isn't that far off from where it should be (at least based on these two metrics). As a result, for the next two three four days, I start to get cocky. I not longer question that piece of bacon. And of course I deserve two afternoon snacks. And that Tim Hortons' latte totally doesn't count because it's liquid.

It works the same when I've done a good work out. It lets me justify spoiling myself.

Does anyone else find this happens to them, that your attempts to be healthy usually result in going overboard in the opposite direction?

Indoor Outdoor

The weather is kind of going crazy here. Like shorts and tanks to winter coats in a matter of days. As a result, I felt like I had to re-learn how to do dress to impress in all kinds of weather.

I had to do some typing and clerical testing for an job for which I hope to interview. Since the testing was being done by a third party, I knew I could likely get away with showing up in any thing, without it implicating my chances at the position. But I also knew better than that. For those that weighed in on the defense-dress, you'll recognize the outfit. I initially ruled this outfit out because it was too short. It certainly wasn't as bad as I thought. And really, it pulled together the secretary vibe of the whole situation, too!

A day or two later, my sister and I embarked on a cross-city mission of vehicular shuffling (also known as picking my parents' car up from the airport, since neither of us were good enough daughters to chauffeur them at 4 am). It was a grey day, so I decided to go full on colour!

All right, I didn't actually make it out the door in this - it was far too cold to be barelegged. I swapped out the skirt for my grey skinny jeans.

Both outfits relied on black jackets. Say what you will about expressing personality through outerwear, I do love my basic pieces. Particularly, the leather jacket from the first outfit is possibly the most handy jacket I have, since it dresses up and down so easily!

Curating my Closet - Dye Job

 White Cardigan

Why did I buy it?
Do you really need to ask why I bought a white cardigan? It's a great basic, especially for pairing with sundresses on cool nights (you'll see what I mean)

What worked about it?
So versatile! It was also super comfy.

What didn't work about it?
It was cheap and *maybe* a size to small. With both of these together, you can pretty much guarantee the buttons pulled. I had to decide in the morning if I wanted it open or closed - I would safety pin between each button to make it look more pulled together.

Oh, and the last time I wore it, it was a hot, humid day, and I got caught in the rain. Since I was wearing a purple shirt, any where the shirt and sweater rubbed, the sweater turned light purple. Even after watching.

How have I worn it?
With tweed skirts

With trouser cut dress pants

With my pink sundress

 With prints

With jeans

What will happen to it?
I've already replaced it. I might see if I can turn it into a white cardigan vest, but most likely, it will go in the trash. Sigh - at least I didn't spend a lot on it!

Week in Review: Mar 17-23

This week was weird and wonderful, at least as seen through my pictures

Perfectly round shadows
An odd outtake from my flower pictures
A real picture of the flowers (Thanks Mom & Dad!)
Trying to take pictures of lightening through screened windows
Wondering where city hall was, only to discover it was a non-descript building I'd see many times before

Project Employment

I did not complete a project this week. No, that's not true. My project was to maintain my sanity, which I think I did for the most part. I managed to chip away at little projects, but didn't get that "oooh! Look at what I did" feeling all that much. Instead, unemployed Cara:
 - spent Monday doing post-defense revisions
 - spent Tuesday doing a bit of freelance work
 - exhausted herself on her run on Wednesday, lazed on the couch all day and then played with her niece
 - took a typing test on Thursday, scoring 80 wpm with less than 1% error rate.

Today, unemployed Cara gets to traipse across the city with her sister and niece, go for a run (last day of Week 1!!!) and then make pizza.

You should be jealous of my life. (Mostly, because I'm jealous of yours and it only seems fair)

Getting Defensive

Choosing an outfit for my defense was not easy. I asked Scott. I asked my sister and my mother. I asked my loyal twitter followers (thanks Megan and Hillary!). I changed my mind five hundred times, and then changed it again.

Was it the right outfit? I don't know. I realized the minute I walked into the room it didn't matter. I stopped caring about the clothes. While Hillary may have been right: "in the end the only thing you need to wear is confidence," it really was a time when everything came second to that immediate moment.

Whether or not it was the right outfit for the day, I did like it over all! I apparently wasn't wearing my boots when I took the picture, but nonetheless, you can see what I wore before I tore a giant hole in my tights!!

So you think you're in shape

from the NHS website
It's amazing what motivates me to get back into a workout regime. While we were at the hotel hot tub in Regina, the night before my defense, a group of older ladies reminisced about spending the middle-aged period of their life trying to get back their "pre-baby" body.While it was rather flattering - their wistful conversation commenced after I walked by - I was shocked at the notion that they wanted their "pre-baby body". As a female within a viable reproductive age, I realized this could be the pre-baby body that I reminisce over in the upcoming years.Since I most likely have at least a couple years until babies are a viable financial option (step 1: get a job. step 2: don't quit job), why not use this time to get a pre-baby I want to be jealous of?

Monday morning, full of vim and vigour, I loaded up a new podcast from the National Health Service (from UK). It's designed to take you from the couch to running 5K in 9 weeks. I thought, as I pulled on my knee braces and running shoes, "this will be so easy. I'm not a couch potato, I'm a lapsed athlete".

Nope, no, definitely a couch potato. Week 1 is exactly the right amount of challenge for me to realize that I'm out of shape, without defeating me! The best part of this podcast is it combines both music (timed appropriate for whether you're running or walking) and encouragement as you go through each interval. And it's only 30 minutes (including a warm up and cool down).

It's available for free on iTunes or the NHS website, so you can try it out too! Let me know how you find it!

Day to... Day?

So many bloggers do such a great job of showing how they take their daytime outfits and adapt them for the nightlife. While I finally have the time for the nightlife, I don't have the funds for it. Instead, I am finding my new schedule (of job interviews and distracting myself while waiting to hear back from job interviews) requires an equally as adaptable wardrobe.

Last Tuesday, I had a 9am job interview and a 1pm coffee date with a friend. While I didn't repeat any pieces, I repeated the colour. The interview, I stuck with a tailored jacket and a tweed dress, but added some personality with a bright red belt and floral tights. Not sure I like patterned tights with a tweed dress, but you never know until you try!

For coffee, I started with a black shirt, and threw on a plaid shirt. While I usually am afraid of pink and red, I figured the scarf actually worked quite well with red! And of course, I've been loving getting back into my shoe collection - cowboy boots were necessary.

Curating my Closet

First of all - thanks for all the words of support on my thesis defense - which went very very well! So glad to be done it, though!

I've debated whether this skirt is worth keeping. However, when I looked back at how I'd worn it, and discovered I'd had issues with it since Day 1, I figured I'd let it go.

Why did I buy this skirt?
It was $4 at Superstore, and different from the rest of my skirts.

What worked?
It was different, and was great for layering.

What didn't work?
The skirt wasn't my style. And while I did like it for layering, it had a horrible static issue

How have I worn it?

Week in Review - Mar 9-15

My week was spent surrounded in papers, and then in the car. Since the road trip is more exciting than papers, here is are the highlights of the often-taken prairie Trans-Canada trail!

It's hard to see, but that's a houseboat. In the middle of a field. My only explanation is this video

There are a number of wind turbines between Moosomin and Wapella. At my grandmother's funeral, a cousin spoke about taking my grandmother to see  a similar set of windmills in Manitoba, as she loved to look at them. Since then, I always think of my grandma along this stretch of highway.

Normally, there is snow everywhere at this time of year. Instead, the fields are nearly bare, and the geese are already flying north for the summer!

It doesn't matter where you are going along the TransCanada in the prairies, this is a very familiar sight!

Again, hard to see, but there is a taller grain elevator (still not "life size") beside a number of really small ones in Grenfell SK. They just make me laugh
And don't worry - I didn't take any of these while driving! I was fortunate to be the passenger for the longer leg of this trip!

Major Project Completed

As you read this (assuming you're reading this at 2:30 MDT), I will be undergoing one of the most difficult experiences of my life: my oral defense for my Masters degree.

Here is my thesis experience in stats:

    1 research trip
    2 giant hissy fits*
    3 chapters
    4 sets of eyes deciding its future
    5 Margaret Atwood texts
  19 months from initial research to defense
115 pages total finished length
136 sources in my bibliography

This defense doesn't necessarily mean the end - there are 4 possible outcomes
Pass with major revisions
Pass with minor revisions
Pass with no revisions

The first and the last are very unlikely to happen, so the defense, while it may feel like the end, only lets me know how much further I have to go.

None the less, I am intensely proud I made it this far, and cannot wait for inevitable celebration that will follow!

PS - this is my 700th post! Go me!!!

*(and many small ones)
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