Accounting for: January

xx-album-cover

The xx / I See You / album cover

In January, I spent my time…

THINKING ABOUT

In January, my thoughts turn to reviewing and evaluating my life over the previous year. What will be different this year? What do I want to be different? What do I need to make happen?

As far as my personal life goes, if 2017 is like 2016, I am in good shape. But because of recent world events, I feel the need to step outside my personal sphere and live my beliefs out loud more. We’ll see how that takes shape.

DREADING / AVOIDING

I am having a hard time with the news from the US. I am oversaturated with thoughts of the latest evils. It saddens me so much that disempowered people feel the only way to succeed is to take rights away from their fellow citizens. I heard an interview with Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor this week. His theory is that when people feel they can’t effect change, and they may never have had any positive experiences of creating change, and they don’t understand or use the channels available to them, there is a tendency to engage in magical thinking (i.e. that the new president will magically fix everything).

I have been doing a lot of thinking about how I can be an activist within my comfort zone, or whether I need to break out and take bolder action, and what that would entail (and feel like). More on that another time.

Meanwhile I have been doing extra reading of the news behind the headlines so I am properly informed.

PLANNING / MOBILIZING

I have vague ideas brewing for art and photography projects. I’m feeling the need to have more creative outlets. I’ll let you know what comes of it.

MAKING / DOING

As you know, I spent a weekend cleaning out the fridge and cupboards, inventorying the food and restocking. I am happy to know what’s there, to know it’s still edible and the surfaces are clean. Despite the masses of food, I went $30 over-budget on the January grocery bill. I needed to provide snacks for a staff work event (this is uncommon and not an ongoing issue) and I stocked up on some toiletries which should last about 3 months. Last year I averaged $23 over-budget every month but I am going to attempt to keep the budget the same and trim costs.

Once upon a time on this blog, I said I was going to produce a little cookbook, but that has long since fallen by the wayside. This month I started a project for home. Rom and I have been eating vegetarian at home for almost 5 years now, recently enough that we know where all our recipes came from. I have copied all the recipes we use regularly and put them in one place, so now we can just riff through to make up a meal plan. There are about 40 recipes we have made often and turned into mainstays! I am currently making notes on how I have adapted the recipes I use most. Maybe it will turn into a cookbook someday yet.

Meanwhile, following a suggestion from Hawaii Planner, I made double batches of banana bread and pumpkin raisin muffins this month. I often think twice about baking because making one item is a big effort with short-term results. So, doubling the output made a lot of sense to me! I also made yogurt again after a long break from doing so. I tried two new things: paying more attention to technique (as per Lisa’s instructions) and pre-heating my yogurt maker. I found the taste was less sharp and the thickness was acceptable but not the same as store-bought. If I want it thicker I could either use whole milk instead of 2% or I could drain it. I will keep making yogurt whenever time permits because it’s something I like to have every day and homemade is half the cost.

NOT DOING

On December 31, we created a daytime New Year’s Eve by going out for a deluxe lunch and then spending a few hours at the board game café before spending a cozy night in.

Since January 1, we have had zero out-of-home entertainment. No concerts, movies or dining out. I scan entertainment listings weekly and subscribe to notifications, but there weren’t any must-sees. Although I do want to see the movie Hidden Figures before it leaves the theatres.

ENJOYING

My in-home entertainment consisted of 4 books, one movie and a TV series. I read the two books I reviewed in a recent post, and two more I will save for another book review post.

Rom subscribed to Netflix again. We watched the documentary The Minimalists, based on the blog/website of the same name. The story of the two founders and their journeys to minimalism were engaging. What I liked best were the interviews with other minimalist bloggers – it was cool to see them off the blogs and on the screen! We watched the Netflix 10-episode series The Crown together. We loved it! There are three main characters: Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Winston Churchill. Elizabeth becomes queen far earlier than expected and she must adapt to her royal duties while she is a new wife and mother of two young children. Philip refuses to “get with the program.” Churchill proves to have been a much better prime minister during the war than after. The series has non-stop political intrigue. Some would find the pace slow, but I loved the focus on little moments of decision that changed lives. I empathized with dutiful Elizabeth while Rom fell for vivacious Princess Margaret!

One of my favourite bands, The xx, released a new album this month and they have their first hit song! They are a minimalist band. Slow and quiet and uber-chill. Love!!

Other things I am enjoying this month:

  • Mild weather – only one snowfall this month and a few rain storms
  • Living in Canada

BUYING

I normally don’t buy stuff in January but I made a few purchases. I borrowed a book of William Trevor’s short stories from the library and renewed it a couple of times, but didn’t finish. Not because the stories were lackluster – quite the opposite. I felt they needed to be savoured slowly so I bought a copy.

I have been looking for work jackets (blazers) for the past two years without much luck. One I spotted a few months ago finally went on sale (down to $100, which is certainly not cheap) and I snapped it up.

My laddered bond ETFs were underperforming for a whole year so I sold them off and bought a social index fund ETF which is making small gains.

NOT BUYING

My Fitbit ceased operations in late November, outside the warranty period. I could have called support and begged for a second replacement, but I was afraid they’d offer me a discount on a new model and I’d be unable to resist! I rejected the lure of disposable electronics and I’ve now been fitless and bitless for two months. It still feels unnatural not to be able to check my steps and heart rate! Maybe someday I can just get chipped 🙂

Since it was a new month and a new year, I tried to find another life organization app that would meet all my needs. I am still using Trello but it has some gaps. I currently have an old Windows cell phone with a dirt-cheap pay-as-you-go plan for calls and text, and I have a 4-year-old iPad Mini. I debated getting a new iPhone so I’d have a one-stop device with that perfect app. Alas, it does not exist. I was looking for something with a calendar (with day, week and month views), reminders/notifications, task/to do lists, and a work log or journaling feature, all integrated. And the ability to sync between devices and laptops/desktops. So far, I have only found one thing that comprehensive: yet another page-a-day planning diary! I’ve had a few ideas for apps lately. I need to learn to code 🙂

Meanwhile, I have lovely wireless headphones, and no pocket-sized Bluetooth device for playing music, so an iPhone is looking mighty tempting. I have a lead on a used one.

ANTICIPATING

Finally, I love February because it is African Heritage Month (Black History Month) and our library has dozens of fantastic programs to choose from. Hope you will find something, too!

How was January for you? Do you have a personal framework or plan for dealing with the new world order – how do you begin?

23 comments

  1. Jen

    I’m right there with you wondering how to cope and advocate my beliefs in a way which feels comfortable to me. Thank you for the recommendation on the Minimalists on Netflix! Sigh….

  2. Jamie

    It’s lovely to hear from you, Dar. And right in time for my lunch break! 🙂

    Our January was up and down. The first two weeks we were still on our Christmas holidays. My husband had so much time-in-lieu saved up from overtime last year that he was able to take a month off over Christmas without tapping into very much holiday leave at all. It was lovely to have all of that time together. We travelled up and down the eastern side of Australia, visiting family. It was wonderful, but I’ve definitely felt a bit flat upon returning home and getting things back to usual. I think part of it is that last year was really tough and now I’ve returned from holidays to the place where things were so tough. And part of it is probably just the usual post-holiday blues. My husband started a new job when we returned from holidays and I’m sure this year will be different work-travel-wise for him. Fingers crossed.

    I have a chat group with some friends where we share funny things we find on the internet. Over the last few weeks it has become quite political (not in-fighting, just more politics and less funnies shared). I decided yesterday that it was becoming too upsetting and that I needed to stop sharing political updates. Instead I sent them all a photo of our grass growing. 🙂 They all agreed that was better than the news.

    My husband said that a combination of Trello, Google Calendars and Evernote might work for you, but that to have them all work together seamlessly you need a paid Trello account. Without a paid account Trello will sync with Google Calendars, and Trello will sync with Evernote. But to do it all at once you need to pay. My husband isn’t keen to pay, so he uses Trello as a to-do list and workflow manager. If he needs more than a few hundred words of notes then he puts a note in his Trello saying “see Evernote”. For him a calendar is more important than to be able to click in Trello and be taken to the note in Evernote.

    • Since Christmas is only a 10-day school break here, and falls during cold weather, there are lots of post-holiday blahs (and debts). I don’t know what it would feel like to have the post-holiday period be scorching summer! I’m glad you enjoyed your family time, and you will adjust, as always, but meanwhile there’s the hard transition. I get a continuous feed of liberal politics on Facebook and even though my friends are on “my” side, it is exhausting. I have decided to get my news from the news (e.g. Globe and Mail, The Guardian, Washington Post, The Atlantic) rather than clicking on random stories and feeling irritated by the headlines. That way when I see the reactionary headlines, I can just say to myself, yeah, I know the background on that, and keep going. I forgot that Trello even had paid accounts, although I knew Evernote does. Great tip and I will look into it! Happy February.

  3. EcoCatLady

    I enjoyed the Minimalists film too – somehow they seemed more likable and less pretentious in the movie than they sometimes came across in their blog (which I no longer follow because they annoyed me one too many times) and I did love getting to see the other bloggers in “real life.” I love your baking plan – it’s sooo much easier to do a big batch at once than to try to bake all the time. I’ve sorta given up on making yogurt because it takes such time and effort – I don’t actually have a yogurt maker so I have to do it all the old fashioned way, which works, but it is labor intensive. Anyhow, I wish you success with that endeavor.

    I’ve been doing a bit of cooking & stocking up too – it gives me comfort to have a full freezer and pantry. I’m even looking into stocking up on some food in “long term” storage… just in case, you know, the whole country were to collapse or dissolve into civil war or something – which doesn’t really seem all that improbable at the moment.

    Honestly, January has been a real struggle for me. My parents initially thought of leaving the country after the election. My step-mom was born in Nazi Germany, and has a pretty good idea what might be coming down the pike. For the moment they’ve decided to stay, and my step-mom has thrown herself full throttle into the protest movement. She’s been attending marches and rallies at the pace of about one-two per week. She’s an inspiration to me, but honestly, I’m just not sure if I’m “there” or not. I hate to say this, but I don’t really feel safe at the moment. And while everyone I know who has been attending the rallies feels empowered by it, I can’t help but feel afraid of having a target on my back.

    And, then there’s the practical reality of it all. As a self-employed person I’m most certainly going to lose my health insurance. I’m hoping that I’ll still be able to buy a policy, but I’m expecting that I’ll have to pay well over $1000/month for a catastrophic care only policy. So I’m trying to come up with a plan to make more money – like a LOT more money. I spent about a month setting up a new server to expand my web business, only to have it crash the day before I was going to go live with it. I haven’t told anyone this, but I spent about 3 hours sobbing uncontrollably when it happened. It’s not so much the server, because I know I’ll get it figured out eventually, it’s just everything – I really feel like the whole world has turned upside down.

    My next task is to get my passport renewed so that if the worst happens it will be easier to flee. Anyhow, sorry to vent, but that’s the news from the twilight zone!

    • Fiona

      Dar, you have so much brewing that I had to read and re-read. There seems to be lots of creative things brewing under the surface. I can imagine you producing an app and I would really, really love it if you started publishing vegetarian recipes in one format or another.

      Buying long-awaited things is so satisfying…and I will have to look up The Xx (which, of course, I had not heard of…sadly, such lack of music knowledge in my life.) Staying in with books, movies and a TV series sounds really delicious.

      I don’t know what to make of the situation in America. There are times when it perturbs me that everyone is making a big song and dance and feasting on it. But then I get real pangs of worry and feel highly disturbed at the portents of things to come.

      I bought my husband a Fitbit for Christmas and accordingly, I feel your pain at the loss of Fitbit V2. They are great!

      • Really do miss the Fitbit. I won’t rule out buying another one ever, but not this year. A while back I had started photographing my recipes but I usually forget. I will need to make a concentrated effort!

        As much as I tire of the US news, I don’t want to get so jaded or exhausted by it that I fail to act or think, because then the bad guys win.

    • Fiona

      EcoCatLady…if you have to flee, come here! Being half-serious…we always like to keep a spare bedroom. Ours has nothing in it at the moment but we’ll kit it out soon with furniture. I’ve invited some people we met in France so we’ll see who ends up in our spare room. And we have bike trails at the door! Lots of them! And Australia does great free public health.

      I’m trying to ignore the political situation but then getting real pangs of worry and anxiety about portents for the future. It remains to be seen what will pass.

    • Hi Cat, I can definitely understand having a meltdown over a server failure. It kind of symbolizes your livelihood. But you will, of course, get it figured out. I can understand why people with borderline incomes use income support (welfare) if it includes medical and drug coverage. All the best with your new business plans. Getting one’s passport and documents sorted out is a very smart step and you are ahead of the curve on that one. Your thrifty ways will serve you well if you ever have to bug out! I’m joking but it’s also true. Wishing you a more settled February.

      • EcoCatLady

        In terms of the health care stuff, it’s not really about welfare – at least, not for me. Basically, our country has a whole slew of laws that protect people who get health insurance through an employer sponsored plan from practices like being dropped if they get sick, or having their rates go up because they get older. But, before the ACA (Obamacare) there were no such laws protecting those of us who are self-employed and must buy our insurance on the individual market. So we were basically at the mercy of the insurance companies and the abuses were rampant, especially for people over age 50.

        So while Obamacare significantly expanded Medicaid (the welfare part) it also regulated the individual health insurance market to give the self-employed some (but not all) of the protections that people on employer-based plans have enjoyed for decades. So while I agree that repealing the welfare aspect of the law is tragic and inhuman, that’s not the part that impacts me. What I’m worried about is the repeal of the regulation prohibiting the insurance companies from hiking the price of premiums for people because of age or dropping you if you get sick. In the years before the ACA it was commonplace for people on individual plans to see their rates triple or quadruple as soon as they turned 50, and that’s what I’m worried about at the moment.

    • “I enjoyed the Minimalists film too – somehow they seemed more likable and less pretentious in the movie than they sometimes came across in their blog (which I no longer follow because they annoyed me one too many times)”

      I just had to chime in and say, yes, THIS! I had to stop reading their blog for the exact same reason and was surprised that I actually liked the documentary.

      Sorry to hear about your stress over insurance. Not having an affordable public option is so wrong. It’s a big issue that affects so many, the self-employed, younger retirees and those who can’t get or afford employer-provided insurance. *sigh*

  4. Many of us are looking around for action one contributions, anything will do, I feel, it doesn’t have to be important but there has to be something. As an immigrant, I can just leave after next election in this country, I will want to if the polls are an indication of the populism brewing outside my bubble) but it is the man’s country so we will work on humanity and logic for the masses. Before the election.
    Did you all know that “trumpen” is Swedish for sullen, sulky and a little sad? I am it.
    @EcoCatLady: strengthening hug, get that passport, sort out that server, scan your important documents and start any project to make anything in the world better, anywhere, for anyone. And breathe. Hug.

  5. It’s good to stop and take stock at the beginning of a new year – I am looking forward to that cookbook. The petition over here to stop Trumps visit is growing – 2 million signed I heard today at teatime. I am not worried about the visit if it is a state visit and he is presented to our queen I can think of no-one better to sort him out – just one look from her and that should make him quiet – for once!!!

  6. I’m with you on the news thing. I go from voraciously reading everything to boycotting it entirely and watching only watch cute animals and happy movies instead. It’s intense and scary. And what’s more troubling to me than someone like Trump and his cronies exist and got power is how many people I previously thought were somewhat decent and intelligent, fully support his actions. It definitely affects how I see certain people and the world. Ugh.

    Otherwise January has been okay. My transition to eating real, non-highly processed food is going well, now if I can just get rid of this cold.

    As a fellow older ipad owner, do you have an issue with being afraid to upgrade to a newer OS? Mine is so far behind several apps crash a lot and another has given me a cutoff date to upgrade or not be able to use it. Otherwise it’s still working fine and I don’t want to upgrade until it dies. I hate planned obsolescence.

    • Hi Candi, I have the first iPad Mini from 2012 and I have kept the iOS updates completely up to date with no problems (currently using iOS 10). The battery life is still good too so I also plan to keep it until it’s unusable.

      Where I live, it appears that Trump loathing is universal. Anyone and everyone can publicly make comments and jokes about him and his actions with no fear of anyone disagreeing – I have experienced this in store line-ups and everywhere I go. But some percentage of the Canadian population doesn’t support our PM and they wish we would return to a conservative government, so I know those folks are still afoot. They’re just laying low.

      Good for you on the new eating plan and I hope you feel well soon!

  7. HollyH

    Long time no commenting from me, but I am still reading! Normally I embrace the fresh start of January and I did so this year too, knowing full well I’d need to ramp up my activism and put myself out there more. So hard to know how to cope in this political climate. I’m outraged and afraid and sad and bewildered. Sometimes all at once. I’m trying to channel energy positively and for change, but it’s hard going with new outrage at every turn. Hopefully we’ll all get our footing soon. I so wish I was in Canada. Or at least California, ha.
    I enjoy your monthly roundups and I’m inspired to clean out my pantry after reading about yours. Oh wait, I’m redoing my kitchen and it’s currently nonfunctional. 🙂

  8. I had free tickets to aa preview of Hidden Figures. It hasn’t opened here or only just opened. I had to give away my tickets as I couldn’t go. I will see it though. I love alternate stories or the stories of hidden voices.

    I don’t have Netflix but I want to see The Crown. Maybe on DVD one day.

    As to current US politics, it is almost unbelievable. Though it’s clear many many people in the western world are racist and act from fear and hatred. Australian treatment of asylum seekers is atrocious but many here support it.

  9. After watching The Crown, I learned it was the first season of a projected 6 (60 episodes!) Now that I know Janelle Monae is in Hidden Figures, it is a must-see.

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