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Subscription cleanup

Subscription cleanup

The Amaryllis is finally blooming

Saturday was Epiphany or 12th Night. The kids cleaned the house and put away all of our Yule-related decorations for another year. The house is clean and looks a little empty now but it’s a tabula rasa as we get ramped up for school to start. The snow has decided to join us for winter, which is great because The Youngest started their snowboarding season yesterday and The Eldest starts her new job as a ski instructor tonight. Today is also the first day back at school and as I anticipated we all dragged our feet after two weeks of partying, over-indulgence and sleeping way too late. The season of merriment has come to an end.

Speaking of cleaning, around this time I do a bit of subscription clean up. I don’t necessarily DO ALL THE THINGS right on the first of January but as the hubbub of the holiday season starts to die down & I ease into the quiet blanket of winter, it’s easier to have a good, hard look at all of the things vying for my attention. I hate how much time it takes me to delete things I am no longer interested in, so I try and take stock of these things in January.

Email sign-ups
I tend to sign up for more email lists in the fall of every year as I sign up for discounts on gifts or to get free shipping. I am pretty good at unsubscribing quickly but there are always one or two I forget. Truth be told, I also subscribe to my old union’s mailing list and I should just say goodbye. I don’t know why I haven’t in the past few years…but it’s time to let go.

I have a few newsletters I enjoy reading but some have either a> gone paid-only & I don’t find the content relevant enough to pay for it; or b> it’s information I don’t really need or haven’t been reading. For example, I’ve signed up for newsletters from a major newspaper that I also subscribe to. I realized that these were just articles I had already read in the physical paper. I unbsubbed.

Paid subscriptions (digital)
This is where things get a little tougher. I have a few content creators that I like to support and I wonder if I should actually review and then maybe even add some new ones. Money is super tight right now (fixed income! *jazz hands*) but should ease up shortly when the condo sells, so I am making a list of creators to consider.

We have basic subs for the house, namely Netflix and Spotify. We get these for the kids. Mr. Tucker’s work also paid for a year of Disney+ so we have that until next fall as well. I’m happy with these.

Paid subscriptions (analog)
OOF. This one hurts. It’s hardest to consider my magazines and newspapers because I love them so much. The reality is though that I need to cut back:
– I am way behind on reading The New Yorker, Canadian Notes & Queries and The Canadian Literary Review. These I am giving up for sure. I just don’t have the time.
– I picked up Celtic Life International this year and it’s been lovely, so I will keep that.
-The Walrus is only a few times a year but it’s quality content, Canadian and I do get a partial tax rebate as a subscriber.
-The New Escapologist. I love this magazine. I will keep it. I would subscribe to The Idler as well if the price point for non-digital was reasonable. (Brexit man, boy howdy!)
– The Globe and Mail. This one is super hard for me. On the one hand, I do want to support legacy media because I feel like once it’s gone, there will be no more (mostly) neutral coverage of events and I do enjoy reading a paper front-to-back and not being spoon fed my own opinions back to me like an algorithm does. I don’t want news to just be what I want to hear rather than things I should consider outside of my own echo-chamber. I mean yes, there are different political slants to all legacy media but generally you will find conflicting viewpoints. The problem is the price: $32 a month for 4 skimpy papers is about what I pay for an entire year’s worth of The Walrus. For now I will keep it, if only because Andrew Coyne is one of the most infuriating opinion columnists…and mostly never wrong. Also: tax rebate.

Social media
I cleaned up a bunch of accounts that I follow that a> are dead/haven’t posted in a while, b> I am not longer interested in, c> deleted me from their followers. As for the last one, it’s mostly self-styled “influencers” who add an account and then delete them as soon as they follow back to fudge their numbers (to make it look like they have more followers than they do, ergo get more free stuff). I do still follow accounts that don’t follow me back if the content is great. What an age we live in!

The 8 weeks of the winter sport season is always just chaos here at The Mullet. Mr. Tucker does the bulk of the running around and getting the kids to places. The Eldest has two jobs this winter plus early morning band and harp lessons across town one night a week. The Youngest also has activities on Saturday and of course snowboarding on Sunday. The next 8 weeks are just pure survival for us but it does break up what would otherwise be a gloomy, cold, dark period of time. As for me, I will organize things the best I can, making sure dinners and lunches are planned and other than that I think I will sit by the fire, drink tea…and try and get through the backlog of magazine subscriptions!

The lemon tree has giant lemons. In the background, winter

2023 round up & looking ahead to 2024

2023 round up & looking ahead to 2024

This year was dominated fully by the last half of the year. I tried going back to my (paper) journal to see what happened earlier on in 2023 but it was very low-key. I like low-key, in fact, as I get older all I want is my cozy little life with good food, good people, and fun hangouts. Still, here is a bit of a roundup of how 2023 went:

The shortlist of wins:

– We paid off our house in July!
– We increased our retirement savings by 26%.
– We increased the kid’s RESPs by 29%.

– We managed to do book clubs inside again! I got to go out twice with them to restaurants/breweries.
– I went back to dragon boat this year!
– We did family games nights most months with a family we are friends with. It’s come to be one of my favourite parts of the month. We also did a play together and had dinner yesterday.
– We rented a cottage for Thanksgiving with other friends and had a lovely weekend together eating a lovely shared meal.
– One of my besties and I share a birthday so this year we took a pottery class together with another friend.
– We hosted a family birthday party for Mr. Tucker’s dad for the first time in years.
– I deleted discord and mostly stay off social media (Instagram seems to be my big hold out).
– I wrote more in this blog.
– We bought seasons tickets to the Professional Women’s Hockey League and plan many dinners and games with the kids!
– We finally (FINALLY) had a Winter Solstice party again!

– We moved The Eldest to basement where she has a bigger room and now Mr. Tucker and I share and office upstairs (I had previously carved out a section of the living room).
– We built gaming computers! I finished the first Witcher game!
– The garden did really well (also see: losses).

Sadly, the second half of the year was a lot worse than the first. I won’t break it up into categories and instead just BLAH them right on the page.

The longlist of losses:

– I tripped over a tree root at dragon boat and ended up with a broken foot that put me out of commission for 9 weeks. In case I haven’t mentioned it, when you have PLS it is imperative that you keep moving to keep up strength and balance. So I lost a lot of ability this year by not being weight-bearing and am just started to get it back.

– In the early summer it was determined that I had to have a hysterectomy after we exhausted all other options. So having to undergo a small surgery in July (cancer screening) followed by a huge abdominal surgery in September all while having limited mobility due to a broken foot sucked. It brought Mr. Tucker and I to the brink of despair at times because he was on the hook for everything while also trying to work a full-time job. That man is my hero.

– I was renting my condo to a relative who suddenly went no-contact in the spring and stopped paying completely. Mr. Tucker and my dad had to go in person to evict him. After he moved out we realized that he had caused thousands of dollars worth of damage that we now had to pay for. He hadn’t even been paying enough to cover the bills so the losses to our family were huge. It’s been 5 months and we still haven’t got it renovated (just one more thing!). No good deed goes unpunished.

– Mr. Tucker’s company was bought and as the kids say, “the vibes are off.” It’s a culture clash for sure between an established, mature company and a VC funded young company that is basically winging it. I don’t plan for him to be there long but it is frustrating to merge companies in the best of circumstances.

– We tried an art video project but couldn’t dedicate time to it so it’s been put on the backburner until Mr. Tucker retires.

– My uncle died on Christmas Eve.

– Mr. Tucker’s biological nephew died of an aggressive cancer at 24 years old, which is absolutely heartbreaking.

What’s in store for 2024?

Sell this damn condo: we have ONE MORE thing to accomplish before we can put it on the market and so hopefully this will be done next week.

It’s going to be a sober year: we have an all-inclusive trip planned this winter which will be exempt but 2024 will be alcohol-free. We had a sober year from Halloween 2020 to Halloween 2021 and it was amazing. I realize that so much of my health is affected by alcohol. I can’t even drink fermented alcohol anymore: it makes me violently ill. So it’s my body probably telling me just to…not drink alcohol.

It’s going to be a social year: I want to see people in person, outside of our homes, in different environments. Picnics, dinners, coffees, museums & galleries, events – you name it, I’m IN! I also would like to have more pool parties. If there is anything the pandemic has taught me it is that virtual interaction is no substitute for in-person hangouts. I will also be prioritizing people who prioritize me and shuffling people from friend to acquaintance relationships. If I am constantly doing the legwork with maintaining the friendship, if you need me to transport you all the time or if I feel that you are fitting me just around the edges of your life (when you have nothing better to do), we probably will not be friends in the upcoming years. OFC I will continue to maintain my daily group chats, which are lovely – especially with The Americans* and hopefully see a few of them this year!

It’s going to be an analog year: I realized when my uncle died that if I had to contact family and facebook disappeared, I’d be screwed. So I am rounding up people’s contact info into an address book so that I will have a hard copy of it all. It’s so funny that I spent years in the early 2000s until recently to digitize EVERYTHING for ease of use & now I am reversing course. I also want to log all the books I am going to read. Now I feel like there is value in physical things. I want to send more mail, do more art, and set up the record player in the living room and just…listen to an album from start to finish? Do nothing else but lay there and listen. Remember doing that?**

Health-SCHMELTH: I need to walk/bike, stretch and work on balance. I listened to a podcast recently and someone said, “Stop saying ‘oh when X day happens I will do Y health stuff’ when you should just start incorporating healthy behaviours now into your life. There is no moment where it’s suddenly going to be perfect.” UGH, I am so guilty of this. I need to stop saying If X, then Y because X never happens. I need to fit everything into my day-to-day somehow.

Organize: If there is ONE thing that I can say definitely contributes to a better home life, it’s having a meal plan. I know it makes our lives so much easier to plan everything in advance by shelf life but yet, I fall off the planning wagon all of the time. I think if I had one New Year’s Resolution, it would be “keep up with the meal plan!”

Have Mr. Tucker retire: this is a stretch goal it feels like (because it depends on us selling the condo) but we are in position to have him retire should he want to. We have enough a> savings, b> insurance, c> income to have him leave paid work as soon as we don’t have to pay for the condo anymore. That one feels really nice.

I am writing this on New Year’s Eve. The Eldest is at a sleepover and Mr. Tucker would like to stay up, so I took a nap. He’s making an elaborate dinner for us and our plans include sitting by the fire, having a few drinks and then ringing in the year with The Youngest.

Happy (Gregorian calendar) New Year to you and yours, friends.

*These are my Americans, get your own.

Resolution, dream, goal or plan? Maybe all of the above

Resolution, dream, goal or plan? Maybe all of the above

In 2020 we had found ourselves suddenly homeschooling and stuck at home. Like most people, we also found ourselves drinking a wee bit more alcohol than we usually did. By October it was clear that not only were we spending scads of coin on booze, we also felt like shit and the consumption of alcohol was severely affecting our mood. So on October 31, 2020 the last alcoholic beverage for the next 365 days was consumed.

I won’t lie and say that it was an easy year, there were many times where one or both of us wanted to celebrate with a glass of something stronger than club soda. But we stuck to it and found that not only did we lose some weight, we also saved a pile of cash. In October 31st, 2021 we went to a friend’s outdoor (belated) birthday party and toasted her with some spiked punch.

Since then, we haven’t really consumed alcohol like we used to. Aside from the fact that we are old and more prone to hangovers, alcohol also makes me incredibly spastic the next day. More and more we found that we don’t like losing the next day to recuperating so while we drank often we didn’t find ourselves going too crazy. We also discovered that we prefer more higher-end brands as well, so when we did drink alcohol it could often get really expensive. So when we mulled it over, alcohol consumption – while fun in the moment – was incongruent with our long term health and financial goals. So we decided that 2023 would be an alcohol-free year for us.

When I mentioned our sober year goals to a friend, I mentioned that one of the reasons was to help us pay off our house in 2023. She replied with, “It’s can’t make that much of a difference, can it?” So I ran the numbers and in Beer and Liquor store purchases alone (not cash, not bars/restaurants, not gifts) we spent $5500 on our credit card*. Of course, alcohol in this province is super expensive but actually running the numbers was pretty shocking to me because looking back it didn’t even seem like we drank that much last year. What an eye-opener!

Resolution #1 – a sober 2023

As mentioned above, our mortgage is up for renewal later this year and we want to just pay the entire thing off completely. We had already planned to do that before the prime rate had climbed to dizzying heights but now I am doubly glad that we had it in the hopper for 2023! We don’t have much further to go so if we tighten our belts we will be mortgage free by the end of the year.

Resolution #2 – pay off the mortgage on the house

We are also aiming to have an ultra frugal year. Generally speaking my budget style is to make categories and just try and spend within the categories. I don’t typically budget down to the cent or make an effort to track every penny. As long as we stay in the green, meet our goals and don’t carry debt, I generally just have an idea of where everything is going.

But as inflation increases and a recession looms as workers are getting laid off, it seemed like a good time to experiment with living off of one salary – my disability income. With Mr. Tucker’s work salary we plan to save it for retirement, use it to pay off the house, save for our road trips next fall and put some away to purchase local food. When the house is paid off, these last two things will then come out of my disability income, freeing up every cent he makes to put towards early retirement.

This is the one goal for 2023 that I am apprehensive about. Since we’ve always had low expenses, a good savings rate and still have been able to do the things we’ve wanted to do, having to check ourselves may be a steep learning curve. Still, 10 years ago we had an incredibly tight budget because I was a SAHM and we had a large child support payment when Mr. Tucker made about half of what he makes today. Of course, prices have gone up and two t(w)eens in the house make everything more expensive. But I am 100% sure that this will be achievable with some work. Much like 10 years ago, I am going to track our spending carefully and look for ways we could be more efficient with our money.

Resolution #3 – Live off of one salary and track all of our spending

If there is one regret I had about 2022 it’s that Mr. Tucker and I didn’t get out for walks as much as we would have liked to. Sure, I spent a ton of time swimming in the pool during the summer months but we always had planned to walk while the kids were in school and with his new job it never seemed to happen.

Worse, we actually purchased some cardio equipment last year on sale and while we started off strong, eventually the machines sat unused as life got busy in the spring between Puerto Rico and school drama.

I have no crazy exercise goals except: move. Any sort of movement is better than no movement so I am just going to try and get outside, get some fresh air and walk/trike. On days where it is too dangerous to go outside due to snow & ice, I can use the equipment. Mr. Tucker and I really need to prioritize any exercise over the nothing we’re doing now. Once we’ve made it a habit again, we can increase and add to our routine. Hopefully by the summer we will have some weight training and flexibility training incorporated into our routine.

Resolution #4 – Move more

A part of these goals is to start living in a way that supports our health and get us used to habits that Mr. Tucker can take with him into early retirement. We need to make space for ourselves over the next year and live our life as less focused around his job as we can. Of course, he still has to work and there will often be challenges to being life-focused vs. work-focused but after a year into his new gig he has a better handle on the job and its expectations.

I think overall 2023 will be characterized as a year where we make conscious decisions and really focus on the life we want to lead. Not just this year but going forward as well. The world is constantly chaotic and these past couple of years have felt so heavy between the pandemic, economic changes and war. Hopefully 2023 will be a little calmer, the kids will continue to thrive, we’ll see our friends and family a lot more than we have these past few years and if all goes well, we’ll meet our goals.

Happy New Year!

*we get extra Aeroplan points for using the card, which makes it also easier to track our spending on alcohol because we tend to always use the card

**Mr. Tucker will need to listen for alerts on his phone due to work but there is no reason it needs to be right beside him

2022 roundup for the Tuckers

2022 roundup for the Tuckers

Christmas this year was perfection. After completely giving up on large holiday dinners, this year we had my brother, my dad and his partner over for Christmas eve. It was low-key and we ordered Chinese food and had some drinks. My brother slept over and we all ended up playing cards super late into the evening. Christmas day was sleeping in and opening gifts and instead of spending the entire day cooking, we all just ate leftovers from the night before. Perfection! Then Boxing Day my stepson and his girlfriend came over and he and Mr. Tucker cooked this incredible prime rib dinner. We stayed up late drinking bachelor’s jam with Prosecco and watching Violent Night (again. It’s that good.). It was the perfect amount of socialization and relaxation and we had zero drama.

It feels weird to be heading into 2023 when 2020 feels like it was just yesterday. We basically got off of a Caribbean cruise, went to Universal Studios for a few days, flew home and then the lockdown happened. The past (almost!) 3 years have seemed like a dream. Still, a lot has happened in that time, with this year seeing some pretty big milestones. Here is a recap.

In January, Mr. Tucker took over as head of a new team. This came with a pay bump and so we redid our budget. Overall, it was a bit of a learning curve but Mr. Tucker enjoys his new role. He ended up having to travel to Arizona that month where he got to meet a lot of his colleagues. He has worked from home since 2009 so this isn’t a new thing.

March: we had planned to go to Jamaica that month but instead of a direct flight, the airline kept changing and changing the route until they had us traveling for over 24 hours. On top of that, covid seemed to be ramping up in the area. So my friend and I booked two weeks in Puerto Rico for our families instead. The trip was simultaneously chaotic and fun but it pretty much turned us off of air travel for awhile. If a trip can be measured by the amount of stories you bring back, we have enough stories for a lifetime!

Many of my closest friends live in the US. During the pandemic my core group often played a weekly Trivial Pursuit game online and it was nice to connect. Still, most of us saw at least one other person in the group about once a year, so we were missing each other. In May we planned to get together in Denver as it just made sense given that we were in Ontario, Pennsylvania, Colorado and California. We had an awesome 5 days together despite the fact my scooter got busted up by Air Canada and I had to buy a new one (and get the old one fixed).

April saw us moving the youngest out of public school and into a private school after months of constant struggle in the public system. We all just needed a break. While our kid loved the private school, the school was poorly run by an ineffectual leader who had no conflict-management skills. Back to the drawing board.

June for the first time in years we had no summer plans at all. We typically always rented a cottage with two other families but the pandemic had made cottage rentals explode in popularity so we couldn’t get three cottages together and in our price range. While I am glad my kids had all of those years of camping/cottaging with friends, it was nice to have no plans. I am also not a cottage person and would much rather be home enjoying my pool all summer. Which I did. Which was glorious.

July was a doozy of a month. Mr. Tucker turned 50, which we celebrated by going out for dinner with my stepson and his girlfriend to a steakhouse in The Market. It was such an abysmal experience and was so expensive that it basically turned us off of dining out for the foreseeable future.

While that was happening, the kids went to Paris with a family member and came home violently sick with covid. They also had an awful time but were glad to be home. Thankfully, Mr. Tucker and I escaped catching it by a combo of making the kids hangout outside, masking inside, and constantly running our air purifier.

Come to think of it, July was a life-changing month all around!

August was low-key and saw the kids doing sailing camp and not much else.

In September the eldest started high school and joined band for extra credit. That means Mr. Tucker has to drive her at 7:30am two mornings a week. He doesn’t mind though. Since we both had families who wouldn’t have done the same for us, he doesn’t mind supporting our kind in her artistic endeavors.

The youngest started at a new public school in the Alternate program. After a terrible previous year we were all apprehensive – especially since they need to take a public bus and walk quite a bit. In the end though, it was the perfect choice. Not only are they succeeding academically, they have made a bunch of new friends and are thriving socially as well. They like their teachers, their teachers like them and the school conference gave us nothing but positive feedback about how well they are doing. Sometimes you just got to try and find a place that works for you.

OH – and we also made our mortgage pre-payment!

October is one of our favourite months because we are HUGE Halloween fans. Thanksgiving weekend is our new preferred travel weekend so we went to Toronto once again to enjoy the Halloween Haunt at Canada’s Wonderland and get the most out of our yearly passes (which we got for two years for the same price, thanks to Covid). We also went to Medieval Times which was piles of ridiculous fun. We paid 1/3 of the price to go to MT than we did for two people to eat on Mr. Tucker’s birthday – and that had no jousting!

We also planned two group friend outings: a Haunted Walk of our city and a Halloween installment at a local farm with haunted houses and hayrides. Then of course, the kids got to go out trick-or-treating. It was a great month of activities.

November saw me heading out on a trip with friends (again!), this time with my book club. We rented a house in Prince Edward County and toured wineries and ate delicious food all weekend.

A friend offered up one of her cafes to enable our group of friends to have Christmas party at the end of the month. So I ordered us a liquor licence, we planned a potluck, made arrangements for people to bring their air purifiers etc. and…then Mr. Tucker and I got Covid and weren’t able to attend. What was funny is that we had just got our bivalent shots and while Mr. Tucker got it first, he also got super sick. He had every symptom – in order – like a textbook case. I caught it when I was at peak immunity post-vaccination and to me it felt like a bad allergy attack or a mild cold. It was super interesting to compare our experiences.

Then, Mr. Tucker’s biological mom came in with some news: she had found his biological father but he had sadly passed away a few years ago. So that has led him down a weird and wonderful path of learning more about his biological family.

So that brings us to December! I already mentioned our holiday plans and we have some big financial goals for 2023. We still don’t plan to do any air travel in the new year but we do want to do a fun road trip at some point, so we’ll be saving for that.

At some point I will update a longer post about our plans for 2023 but tonight the only goal is to maybe watch a movie, play Jackbox with some friends and probably miss midnight altogether because I am super old and my bedtime is 10pm, dammit!

Happy New Year!