Saturday 2 December 2023

Christmas, curling, and cold

Being a bit of a number nerd, I did the calculation on items that I can purchase here in Canada as compared to the US prices (after conversion to Cdn dollars). Overall I saved nearly 40% on those purchases. Some items were definitely worth it - like the Skechers slip-ons and Christmas pj's for Eli. Others, not so much - I could have picked up the sweatpants for Eli's for (slightly) less here in Regina since they were on sale here too.

I also picked up some items that we just don't have here - Dot's Pretzels (not as good as I was assured they'd be), Dolly Parton cake mixes, and specialty flavours of Oreos. The amount I saved in Canadian dollars offset almost half the cost of the trip. Had I stayed home, I might have saved money, but I wouldn't have completed my shopping in such a short period of time and probably run all over town looking for the "perfect" gift. On this trip, I had to make my decisions quickly - do dithering allowed.

The rest of the week has been fairly quiet. I did a little grocery shopping on Tuesday in order to pick up some needed items and a few sale items. The furnace guy dropped by later that day to check out the furnace as I've been hearing a whine occasionally when it starts up. Yes, we had the home inspector check it, but he didn't mention the whine and the furnace is 22 years old. Of course it didn't whine when he was here, though he knew that it would like be the inducer motor. He did a couple of tests and everything is working well though did say when it starts getting very loud, we'll want to replace it. The part is about $1000, but a new furnace is about $6K so I'll ensure my son knows to keep an ear out.

I also finished off the six cocoa cups for teacher's gifts for Eli. (Photo of the two was posted on Wednesday). I've started a couple of small ornaments for my nephew and niece to go along with their gift cards. Last year I gave them little snowman ornaments and they couldn't stop talking about them. Perhaps this can become a annual tradition and when they are on their own, they'll have a start of decorations for their trees.

Wednesday was stitch and chat. I puttered around the house in the morning, doing a bit of laundry, dishes, reading blogs, and working on the Christmas letter. My travel agent called before lunch and we chatted about her trip to Portugal, my bus tour, and my upcoming March 2024 cruise. Final payment is due next week, so we took care of that. She's keeping an eye out for airfare for my August 2024 cruise as well though prices at the moment are quite high. I'm hoping for a price drop though that's probably wishful thinking.

On Thursday I had planned to visit the nearby community center to meet some local women and try to learn Mahjong. However, I woke with a cough and a drippy nose. I decided that I'd best stay home and after some Buckley's and a sinus and cold Tylenol, I felt well enough to get some more cleaning done, got my Christmas cards written and ready for the mail, as well as some crocheting. I cannot locate my safety eyes in my craft room boxes, so ordered more as I'll need them to finish off the ornaments. In the afternoon I discovered another curling event on You-tube. It was only the second draw, so I should be able to amuse myself for the rest of the week.

I was feeling quite a bit better on Friday morning, so I masked up and went to the mall to mail my Christmas cards and a parcel for D & Eli. A stop at Safeway was on the agenda too, where I picked up some ingredients for Christmas baking. At home between curling games, I mixed up a pan of gingerbread cake. I also finished Chilly, the penguin I started making for a friend back in October (before the packing began in earnest). He's a little crooked and not perfect but I think he turned out pretty cute.

My son is learning all about the trials of home ownership. On Friday, the light in the main bathroom started to fail. It's an enclosed LED vanity light fixture with no way to replace the lights, thus a new fixture is needed. I checked on-line at our local outlets and none had the appropriate size in stock, except one and the reviews for it were abysmal. I ended up ordering from Amazon, so he'll have to remember to take his cellphone to the bathroom for light in the morning, as it won't be in until December 9th (at the earliest). I'll convince my brother to help us install it. I'd done an install on a light in the old house a few years and it worked fine but this one is quite a big bigger and heavier.

Today, getting my little tree decorated, gifts wrapped, and more crocheting is on the agenda. And, of course, more curling to watch.

Oh, and the best thing to happen this week is: I found my tea canister. I have absolutely no idea why I packed it as I did. The darn thing was tucked in among toilet paper rolls in the original product packaging. I mean, it was a safe place for it, but I don't remember putting it there and I never would have thought to look for it, I just happened upon it when I was getting more paper for the loo.

Have a wonderful week ahead everyone!

Monday 27 November 2023

Great great-away!

The bus trip to Minot was a success; I finished my Christmas shopping, spoiled myself a little, found some real bargains, spent some time relaxing in my hotel room, and met a wonderful group of women. Apparently this tour has been happening for many years and some of the participants have been on multiple trips. However, there is no guarantee it will happen again next year, as the bus company has recently been bought out and the new ownership may decide to cancel it. There were originally around 38 tentative bookings but by the time we left, we were down to 23 (plus hostess and driver) on a 54 passenger bus. I'm glad they decided not to cancel.

We left Regina on a very cold Thursday morning (-18C/0F) at about 9 a.m. There were several women on the bus who had boarded in Moose Jaw, and I think were about 12 of us from Regina. We had one more stop to pick up a woman in Weyburn before we headed to Estevan in time for lunch. We were expected to arrive there about 11:30 but actually reached the city a good 30 minutes early. After a quick lunch at Taco Time or Subway, we hit the road again for the border crossing. There was a short stop on the Canadian side at the duty free.

At the crossing, the bus was directed to a separate area, and an agent boarded the bus to collect our passports. I don't think we were sitting more than 15 minutes before he returned and gave the passports to Diane, our hostess. She handed them out and we were on our way. To pass some time, we played a game of "Survivor" at a cost of $5 USD. We selected one card from each of decks of blue and red playing cards, which we tore in half. One half went into a bucket and we held the other cards. As cards were drawn, the other half was handed in and the last card to be drawn would win the pot. I lost my first card very early and figured I had no chance, but I was still holding on when there were only four cards left. The gal in front of me also had a card, and said "I'll make you a deal, if we're the last two cards, I'll split the pot with you." I agreed, and yes, we were the last two cards. However, she would have won the entire pot had she not made the deal with me. In any event we both had $50 additional cash to spend.

We arrived at the hotel about 3:30 p.m. and were greeted by the staff with bottles of water, our room keys, and information about the hotel and its amenities. After unloading our luggage and at little time at our rooms, we headed back to the bus for a short drive to a truck stop diner for dinner. We were told basically everything in the city was closed and it certainly appeared that way on our drive. We had what my kids call the senior dinner, eating by 5 p.m. The food was fine, the company much better. I was ready for an early night and quite happy to be back at the hotel and settled by shortly after 6 p.m.

I DID NOT get up early the following morning to go shopping at the mall. Others did, however, and several were in line-up at the J.C. Penney doors at 4:45 a.m.! I slept in until 7:15, took my time before heading down for breakfast, and joined several others on the bus for the drive to Hobby Lobby and Kohl's. We were given three hours! for this jaunt - mostly due to the thought there would be long line-ups. There weren't and I was back on the bus after an hour. Hobby Lobby's sale items were primarily Christmas and leftover from the fall/Thanksgiving. No yarn on sale though I did find a item for D's Christmas gift. At Kohl's I found some towels and a blanket for Eli, but nothing else sparked my interest. Thankfully, I had my Sudoku book of puzzles to amuse me while I waited for the others.

In the afternoon I shopped and ate at the mall. I had hoped to find a specific book at Barnes and Noble for my brother, but they had none in stock nor in their warehouse. Carter's, Ross Dress for Less, and Target were provided some clothing for Eli and me. Later in the day, we made a trip over to Walmart, where I purchased some grocery items, some yarn (just 2 skeins), a duffle bag (to pack things in) and a couple of gift items. 

Saturday was a very successful day - some relaxing in the morning, and shopping in the afternoon. The bus was going back to Hobby Lobby and Kohl's so I stayed behind, walked over to T. J. Maxx where I found more items for Eli and me. Back at the room, I did some crocheting. I cannot locate the amigurumi cocoa mugs I made on last year's cruise, so I found another pattern that I actually like better, and worked on those. I used some yarn I'd brought with me, as well as the yarn I bought at Walmart. I also spent some time on my cross stitch project.

D messaged me to say that the local store was out of brown sugar, so after lunch at the mall, I wandered down to Target and found a couple of bags of brown sugar for her. I'll mail them to her later this week, when I finish the cocoa mugs as those are meant to be gifts for Eli's teachers, teacher aides, and the principal.

Our trip to Menard's that afternoon was amazing - what a store! I thought of it as a hardware/lumber store, but it is much more. They have a grocery section, and at this time of year a huge section for Christmas. I was able to finish off my list of gifts, with a few extras to boot. Who wouldn't want a cordless screwdriver for $4.99? Well, I don't know if they do or not, but both my kids are getting one. 

Later in the evening, we had a another jaunt, this time to Joann Fabrics. I was looking for permanent vinyl for D's Cricuit, but though the vinyl was on sale, the package she wanted was out of stock. I did look at the yarn, and fondled a few of the pound balls, but left them on the shelf. They were definitely a good price, even with the conversion rate but I reminded myself I have a closet full here that needs to be used. Maybe next year.

Speaking of pricing, I did the math on the sale prices and found I saved about 33% overall according to my receipts. I haven't done the calculation of a comparison of USD to CDN as yet, primarily because several of the grocery items I purchased are only available in the U.S. That included Dolly Parton cake mixes, special flavours of Oreo's, and Dot's Pretzels. My best deal was a pair of slip-on Skechers for $32 ($45 C), which is a 40% savings over the cost the same pair here. 

Now, I agree, that I probably didn't save a whole lot when one considers the cost of the trip itself. However, I could not have booked a hotel room for three nights and driven there and back for the price I paid for the tour. It was worth the cost if only for some time away especially after the stress of this move. I stayed well within my spending budget and enjoyed the company of my fellow shoppers as well.

We were all loaded and on the bus by 9 a.m. on Sunday, with a short stop at the U.S. duty free before the border. There the bus was directed to a building where we all off-loaded with our passports. Two agents met us, one scanning our passport while the other reviewed our declaration cards. As long as the amount was $1000 or less (the limit is generally $800) we were through the line quickly. We had to wait until they finished with everyone and did a quick check of the interior of the bus before we were permitted to re-board. Two of our passengers were sent to another building to pay the duty on their over-limit purchases. See the photo below...and they had two more large suitcases in addition! After a quick stop in Estevan for lunch, we dropped off the passenger in Weyburn, and were in Regina by 3 p.m. 

I did learn, I need to take a large suitcase with me, as I had to buy a duffle bag and still had two more bags to carry besides my craft bag, my purse, and my small bag for clothing. It was good to get home, unpacked, and I even managed to get my laundry done before bedtime. All in all, a very good weekend!

Thursday 23 November 2023

And she's off

I'm posting early this week, as I'm heading out this morning on my short break, a bus trip to Minot for the weekend. I'll be back late Sunday evening, assuming the weather and roads are good, so there will likely be an update on Monday.

It was a busy few days this week, with a visit from my daughter and grandson on Tuesday overnight. They came into the city in the morning for his autism screening at the university. Results are expected by mid-week next week. Eli cooperated very well, and what was thought might take four hours was completed in just over 2 1/2 hours. D had found something called a wiggle seat for him - it's like a cushion but has raised bumps on it. The sensory boost it gives him as he sits helps to keep him still. I saw it in action that evening when we were having dinner.

Before they arrived, I had the fridge repair man out to take a look at the freezer fan. It does need to be replaced, however the part won't be in for two to six weeks. He checked on-line while he was there and there isn't a single fan available in the country! Fingers crossed he's correct, and the part will become available soon, as replacing it will be far less expensive than buying a brand new fridge.

Eli had fun exploring the new house and later when Uncle C arrived home, he spent some time gathering rocks in the back yard for me. (I didn't ask, he thought it was a good idea.) This is the area where I plan to put in micro-clover in much of it, and C wants to put in gravel in part of it for a fire pit. After a short visit with my brother, Eli and C went to basement to play with nerf guns; the war continued after dinner too. Bedtime was a bit chaotic but he and his mother finally settled in about 8 p.m. They used my bed, while I slept on the couch.

Eli told me he was taking a nap in the cupboard. Silly kid!

They got away the next morning about 8 a.m. as D wanted to make a stop at the Dollarama on her way out of the city. After a bit of shopping, they stopped at a cafe in a nearby bedroom community to visit with a friend and her fairly new baby (also named Eli). I had a message about 10, that they were on the road home.

Once I knew they were settled back at home, I headed out to the bank to pick up some USD for my trip, then onto to Stitch and Chat. I've started on a new project, a counted cross stitch Christmas stocking. There is no possibility I'll have it finished in time this year, so the goal is to finish it by December 2024. There were the three regulars today, myself, S and I, and a new lady who came for the first time, M. She explained her husband is going through cancer treatments and she needs a little time away from everything. Later she said she enjoyed herself and would be back next week. 

We head out this morning about 9 a.m., with an anticipated arrival in Minot around 4:30 p.m., with a stop in Estevan for lunch. The group will be getting together for dinner the first evening.  Then the shopping begins in earnest tomorrow. I've been researching possible gifts and have a good idea where I'll find them. 

Have a good weekend everyone!