Jaime brings with her 9 years of blogging experience, and is a mother to 2, a full-time university student, and a dance-mom extraordinaire!
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Sunday, July 10, 2016

School supply lists are really getting to be insane. Yes, I realize that perhaps I am being overly dramatic but I'm in shock at the amount of money we are being asked to shell out to a third party who will be supplying school kits to my youngest daughter's class this year. $51 for the base kit!!! And that price tag doesn't even include all the extras that are needed, items that if you purchased them all would add an additional $29.35 to the price tag. That's a grand total of $80.35.

The supply list includes:
14 duotangs
2 packs of pencils
1 pack of pencil crayons
1 portfolio
1 pkg of 150 piece refill paper
2 boxes of Kleenex
5 blue pens
2 red pens
1 fine tip black marker
1 ultra fine tip black marker
2 white erasers
12 key tabbed exercise books
2 40g glue sticks

Now, all my Frugal Mama's and Papa's out there know that us Frugalista's can do a way better job at buying the above noted supplies at a fraction of the cost.

And so I challenge you to share in the comments your child's school supply list, and how much you spent! If you have the option to buy a kit, please share with us the amount you save over their prices too!!!

Grade 4 Math Book - the same
one we had when I was in
Grade 4 - 26 years ago!
I will of course be keeping an eye on the sales, and will share my results too!!!!

My oldest daughter by comparison is required to bring $30 to school on the first day of school, and all of her supplies will be provided for her throughout the school year. I just don't get it!

I realize that as I spend a pretty penny on dance, and because we travel, complaining (venting!) about the cost of school supplies is hypocritical of me in some ways. But in the end it is my frugality that allows me to support my girls, and give them the opportunities they want like dance and travelling. I don't disagree that having proper supplies for school is important, and I certainly agree that schools are under funded, but I cannot justify spending $51 on something I can buy for a fraction of the price elsewhere! I am eternally thankful for the school system that we have, and that through a combined effort at home and at school Malie can produce the level of work shown in the picture below!
Malie's Salmon Life Cycle Project! Hand painted!

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Friday, June 24, 2016

A small step in the direction of sustainable eating is the decision to eat Local. Not only are you avoiding the carbon footprint from trucking your food in, and the processing that goes into foods sold in the grocery store, but you also gain control of knowing where your food is coming from, and how it is grown.

One of my favourite ways to enjoy local foods is to head into my backyard and raid the raspberry bushes and cherry tree, unfortunately one cannot live on raspberries and cherries alone. Which is why I can also be found at the local farmers's market once a week picking up a selection of delicious locally grown produce, meat and eggs.

The eat Local movement pops up from time to time, and while some dismiss it as a fad, I do agree that it definitely has its merit. The decision to eat local is a lifestyle choice, and families from all walks of life can be found wandering around the market, exploring all of the various products available.

We are fortunate to have moved from an area with a very short growing season to Vancouver Island where we have access for locally grown produce for much of the year. We have some great shops who stock local produce, and when shopping in the supermarket those are the products that I gravitate to. While I enjoy the access in the grocery store it's also really fantastic to have the opportunity to buy direct from the farmer and cut out the middle man.

The one downside to eating fresh, locally
grown produce? It tastes so good it's hard to keep the fridge stocked, and you get used to the flavour and have a hard time going back to store bought varieties! My girls and I are obsessed with the amazing goat milk feta cheese made by The Happy Goat from Duncan, BC! The flavour is simply amazing! If you happen to be in the neighbourhood of the Happy Goat or the Beban Farmer's Market make sure you grab some!

I am fortunate to live in Beautiful BC and have access to the BC Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon Program. The program utilizes community partners to provide individuals and families with access to $15 in coupons every week to head out to the market to stock up nutritious food (in Nanaimo our community partner is the Nanaimo Foodshare). This week's collection is shown above! Delicious fresh blueberries, snap peas, cherry tomatoes and a beefsteak tomato.

The program runs from the beginning of June to the end of September, each week you show up, get your coupons and shop, shop, shop. The coupons are valid for any fruit or vegetable sold, plus meat, eggs or dairy products ($9 in coupons are usable on only produce, while the remaining $6 can be used on anything in the above categories).

It's not too late to get on board, as the waiting list allows you to show up at set hours and receive unclaimed coupons. If a participant misses two weeks in a row they forfeit their spot. 

You can read more about the BC Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon Program here.

Do you shop at the Farmer's Market? What is your must have item?

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sunset in Puerto Vallarta
For children growing up in this generation one of the most important lessons we can teach our children is respect of other cultures. (Note...when I use the refer to culture I am referring to learned and shared traditions and beliefs common within a group of people). We live in an increasingly global world and an understanding of how other people live is paramount in ensuring children grow up knowing that not everyone is the same, and nor should we expect them to be. How much fun would it be if everyone wore the exact same shoes, pants and shirts? One of the ways that I choose to instill this belief in my girls is through travelling. I choose to pinch pennies day in and day out so that we can have the opportunity to make memories versus owning more and more things.
Family Photo taken at Allegiance, on Broadway, New York City

My oldest daughter is in French Immersion and will be travelling to Montreal during the next school year with her class as part of the grade seven send off. I am so jealous! And so I was really surprised when she told me she didn't want to go. We spent some time talking and it turns out she's really apprehensive about travelling without me, but is slowly warming up to the idea as she understands the importance of travel. 

The girls and I have a bucket list of places we want to travel to, and form memories in. Japan, Europe and heading back to Mexico top our list of must see destinations, and I cannot wait for our next adventure. We're trying to decide if we want to head off for a couple weeks in Mexico this winter, or head down to California for a quick getaway, or if perhaps we should hold off until next summer and head off to Europe or Australia! At the same time heading to the East Coast of Canada is a trip we must take at least once, and the draw of the Great Wolf Lodge is undeniable! 
Family Photo taken at the Hidden Beach in Puerto Vallarta

Donkey Riding at Las Caleta's in Puerto Vallarta
Our trip to Puerto Vallarta was absolutely amazing two years ago, and New York was an absolute blast in December! Memories of snorkeling and going to the Hidden Beach at the Marieta Islands, and riding donkeys and zip lining at Las Caleta's are memories that will remain with us for the rest of our lives.

The same is true with our memories of watching the amazing Lea Salonga and George Takei in Allegiance on Broadway, skating at Central Park and celebrating New Years 2016 at Coney Island.

Yes, we came home with trinkets from our travels, but the memories are what are the most important part of the trip.

I'm not going to lie. I was absolutely terrified the first time I brought the girls on vacation as a single parent. There were so many unknowns that I spent many hours going over every single option possible, every possible scenario. But in the end, I am so glad that I got over my fears and took the plunge.  Our lives are better as a result!

Do you travel with your kids? What is your dream destination?
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Monday, June 20, 2016

As a parent the dangers of peanut and nut allergies are well known. From the day my girls started daycare for the first time peanut butter and snacks with nuts have been off the menu. While the world focuses on preventing allergic reactions due  to nut exposure, one serious issue has been overlooked, the danger of second hand smoke.

Eight years ago I had a bout of pneumonia and my lungs never bounced back, and I now live with asthma. While for the most part my symptoms were well controlled, for me the major triggers for an asthma attack are cigarette smoke and fire. Last year with all the forest fires burning in our area it was a really rough summer! While avoiding fallout from a fire is practically impossible, avoiding second hand smoke should be an easy feat, but it is anything butt (pun intended).

I totally get that there are regulations in place to keep walkways and public places free from second hand smoke, but who is enforcing those rules?  In BC there are rules that prohibit smoking within 5 meters of a bus shelter, but how can anyone expect those rules to be enforced when the bus drivers themselves smoke at the bus stops? There is nothing worse than taking shelter from the rain while waiting for the bus, and having to share the space with someone puffing away like their life depends on it with no consideration for the other people in the shelter.

Bad Bunny! No smoking!
I was just on a University campus that has very strict policies about designated smoking areas. Apparently those policies are not strict enough as there were cigarette butts everywhere! I took the picture to the left while on campus, and while the bunny is super cute, the general effect of the picture is lost with the cigarette butt in front of the bunny.

Local shopping centres have signs up all over the outside of the building, yet it seems that no one enforces those bans as every time I walk out the doors I am hit with a wall of cigarette smoke. Why?  Why is no one enforcing these rules?

Instead of having clean air to breathe I'm looked at like some sort of crazy person, potentially contagious as I struggle to breathe and in a panic locate my inhaler, prime it and take a puff. Don't mind me here, enjoy your cigarette!

While parents everywhere struggle to find safe snack options for their children's lunches, the majority of smokers feel that their ability to enjoy their cigarettes is paramount to the health and well being of those around them. How is this fair? Asthma can be extremely dangerous, and there is nothing worse than not being to breathe. Not only that but when you smoke around someone its like you're forcing them to smoke as well. The numbers of non-smokers being diagnosed with lung cancer is increasing, due to second hand smoke.

My asthma has recently gotten worse due to prolonged, forced exposure to second hand smoke (long story, thankfully it has been dealt with) yet my new inhalers come with a price tag of $102 every two weeks. That's $2400/year just to be able to breathe.

We need to share the air, much like children need to share their classrooms, and shouldn't we all have a vested interest in protecting those around us from the harmful effects of second hand smoke?
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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Every Father's Day a battle brews on social media, as the validity of wishing single parents, wearing both the Mom and Dad hats should have the right to be wished a Happy Father's Day.

Every Father's day I watch with trepidation as the battles get out of control as those on both sides go to war over the day. As a single mother I can't help but feel a little bit attacked seeing the horrible things people say about single parents and how wrong it is for single Mom's to steal the day away from all the Father's in the world. I have no problem sharing Mother's Day with the Single Dad's out there.

As a full time single Mother, working a full time job, full time student, dance Mom, and the one solely responsible for my household, cooking, cleaning, tackler of that never ending mountain of laundry, the one who comforts my children when they're sick or hurt, helps them with their homework, the one who brings them for haircuts, doctors appointments and dentists appointments, the one who ensures that they get to and from school safety and on time, I disagree with the naysayers.

But maybe, just maybe, we need to move away from single days of appreciation. Why is it only one day a year that we celebrate Mom or Dad? I argue that we should be celebrating our loved ones everyday. Why wait for that one day a year to show our parents that we love them?

Don't get me wrong. I have an amazing Dad, and I sing his praises from the mountain top regularly. I don't know that I could do even half of what I do without my Dad. He is my rock. Because of the important role he plays in my life, and my girls' lives I make sure to recognize him on a regular basis, not just once a year.

While in reality, the odds of me enticing the world to move away from once a year celebrations is slim to none, I still believe that people wishing single Mom's a happy Father's day is a fair thing to do. It is showing appreciation for the work that that person does. In a day and age where we are fighting for equal rights for all gender why do we continue to celebrate a day that divides the two sexes?

And further to that.  How about instead of getting upset about a post on Facebook, or a tweet message wishing single mothers a Happy Father's Day you just scroll past?
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Sunday, March 20, 2016

This post is just a wee little bit selfish as I round up all the best surprises for free birthday goodies. My 35th birthday (there, I said it!) is coming up next month and so soften the blow I'm looking forward to having the most fun possible, for the lowest price!

One of the free gifts that I'm looking forward to the most is from Sephora.  I adore Sephora!  Just last week I popped in for a free makeup tutorial to perfect winged eyeliner.  Current offer listed on their website is a free mini-set from Fresh or Mark Jacobs Beauty!  While I totally need  a new facial routine as (*sob*) I'm starting to notice my youthful glow is disappearing, I'm leaning towards the Mark Jacobs sample set!

While at Sephora you can book your full makeover, free when you buy a $50 giftcard!  Or ask them to focus on one area of your routine for free!

The Body Shop offers members of their Love Your Body Rewards Program a $10 credit on their birthday. This equals the cost of the card so basically it becomes free!  You also receive 10% off your purchases, in store and online, by using this card for a year. If you're a fan of the Body Shop its totally worth it!

Food and Drink
Starbucks offers users a free drink on their birthday through their APP, available on Apple and Android systems!

Booster Juice offers Booster Nation members a free Booster Juice on their birthday.

Boston Pizza offers members a free dessert on their birthday!  Sign up here. As an added bonus - sign up today and get a free starter when you spend $10! Options include Boston's Pizza Bread, Cactus Cuts or Yam Fries.

David's Tea's Frequent Steeper program gives you a free brewed tea on your birthday! You can sign up here

Denny's offers you a free breakfast original grand slam on your birthday! No sign up required, but make sure that you bring your ID!

The Keg also offers a free dessert on your birthday! No sign up required :)

Menchie's Frozen Yoghurt - $5 off your order. Monies will be added to your account 2 weeks before your birthday, and will expire two weeks after. Sign up for a smileage account here.

New York Fries offers a free medium fries on your birthday through their Loyalty Program, Fry Society! App is available for android or apple devices!  Sign up here!

Red Robin's Sign up for Red Robin Royalty account and get a free burger on your birthday!

Are there any awesome deals that I've missed?  Please let me know!

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Just for fun here's a list of things you didn't know you needed to know about the Optimistic Beauty!

1. I am terrified of snakes and spiders and well any sort of creepy crawlies.

2. Everytime I walk past a bunny I exclaim "Bunny!" I equate my outbursts to Amy Farrah-Fowler's excitement over her tiara from Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. No I'm not exaggerating. This happens a lot as my town is overrun with them. While in New York in December I felt compelled to do the same thing with rats! And iguanas in Mexico!
Adorable bunny on campus. What's not to love?
3. I can code! Hooray for python! Plus I'm pretty proficient in HTML and Java. Awesome sauce for geeking out.

4. While we're on the topic of geeking out I once competed in a Magic the Gathering event and tied for first!

5. I spent the day today working directly with human remains, determining sex and age and that my friends is freaking cool!

6. My feet, ankles, knees and hips are pretty much shot after going on Pointe way too young :(

7. I went back to university in my 30s! If I can do it so can you!

8. I totally believe in aliens! And zombies. And ghosts. And sasquatch! My philosophy? If someone believes in it and knows it to be true then it's true.

9. I am obsessed the The 100 show on the CW! If you haven't seen it yet you're seriously missing out! Head on over to Netflix and binge watch the first two seasons and the beginning of season 3. You'll be hooked!

10. While we're on the topic of television...I am obsessed with zombies! I just finished binge watching iZombie on shomi! Omgosh! How did I not see this show sooner?

Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my world!
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Friday, February 5, 2016

While incredibly rewarding, being a single parent attending school full time can be a struggle. Being the only parent at home, with no family nearby to rely on when parental duty calls, the full onus falls on you. This was my reality this week when an outbreak in my house resulted in an entire week of missed classes for this Mom.
Malie and her Ricardo Cat - he
rarely leaves her side when she's
sick - his diagnosis? Not well!
Monday afternoon my youngest arrived home from school seeming fine. By 5 pm she was curled up on the couch with a high fever, headache and upset stomach. A dose of children's Advil and some Mommy snuggles later she was off to bed for the night. The next morning she was even more feverish and complaining of a headache and a sore neck. I called into the school that she wouldn't be in and they advised to bring her to the clinic right away as there were some meningitis like cases being reported at the school. Off to the clinic we went and the doctor couldn't confirm or deny that she has this mysterious viral meningitis mimicking virus or not. But she is told to stay off school for at least 48 hours with a long list of symptoms to watch for and commands to go straight to emergency if any of them show up. Fortunately none of the symptoms popped up, which means her little body either fought off the virus like a champion or she had a completely different virus.

While she is on the mend it is one of the hardest parts of attending post-secondary as a single parent. The balancing act is precarious at times in a single parent household. The stark reality that there isn't anyone else there to step in and cover for you while you run to class for an hour and a half weighs heavily on the mind at all times.

I was asked earlier this year why I spend as much time on the weekends as I can tackling homework assignments and the truth is that I do so to protect against moments like these. If I can focus and get the weeks worth of assignments out of the way before the week gets started I am providing myself with a safety net. As all parents know children can be unpredictable. Working ahead allows me to ensure that assignments are completed on time and if something pops up like an unexpected trip to the clinic that I'm not falling behind. With all honesty, having a sick child at home this week meant very little time to work on assignments, and when I did have time to work on assignments it was hard to focus.

While the balancing act is tedious, attending post-secondary can be a very rewarding experience. It
sets a good example for little ones as they watch their parent succeed and strive towards a better life for their families. Both of my girls are adamant that they will continue onto post secondary education themselves, with my youngest wanting to follow in my footsteps and study anthropology.

My best advice for all parents (not just single parents) attending post-secondary education is speak to your professors about the parameters of your family needs. In my experience many professors are understanding of parents attending school. Work ahead and keep track of all assignments that are coming up. As a parent it is much easier to do a little bit at a time instead of tackling a large project at the last moment.

Through a lot of planning, and cooperation our family makes our system work for all of us.

I want to know - how do you ensure your success in school?
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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Facebook's "On This Day" notification tool has its benefits and disadvantages. While I love looking back on the good times, sometimes Facebook brings back memories that can twinge the heartstrings. 

Today's memory is a happy one though. Four years ago the lovely Ms Bif Naked was in Prince Rupert playing at the Idle No More Rally. The entire day was amazing as I'm a huge sucker for group events where a community comes together. I'm the one who tears up hearing the Canadian anthem being sung.

Bif Naked's music has long been a source of strength for me, providing the soundtrack for my life. Music is my lifeline. My girls through my own passion for her music have also acquired a love for her music.

On this day four years ago the girls had the opportunity to meet their idol, and even had the chance to hang out in her dressing room with her.

In this interaction the girls and I learned that celebrities are just like us. Yes, they are more famous then you or I, but they're still normal people.

As part of an assignment for school I am evaluating the way social media has changed the way in which we interact with celebrities. We now have the opportunity to directly interact with our idols in the virtual world, and opportunity that shows us that those that we place on pedestals are just like the rest of us.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I love science. I mean I really, really, love science. As a result I am always on the lookout for new ways to incorporate science into the lives of my children. I imagine that sometimes the girls would much rather have a "normal" Mom, but where's the fun in that?  As noted in my article Single Parenting During the Holidays one of my favourite ways to bring science into our lives is through gifts.

Under the tree Tala found the Smithsonian Magic Rocks kit from her little sister. Purchased at Michael's for $13.50 this kit was the perfect price for a sibling gift, and fits well within our Christmas theme of gifts that can created on Christmas day to fill in our day.

Due to the excitement of her mannequin doll and scrap pieces of fabric the mad scientist portion of the day was delayed until after supper. It truly amazes me how happy a gift that cost $7.50 can make a child, but in the end it really isn't the cost that matters, the thought and energy is key.

The Review

The concept of the Magic Rocks kit is fun, you add chunks of the minerals, growth compound and hot water to the mix. The "rocks" grow to varying lengths, and while the instructions note that they grow up to four inches long, our experience saw rocks growing to about half of that.
The First Batch, one hour growth time

The actual box that the kit comes in is very large, while the kit inside is disproportionate to the size of the box. Not going to lie, we were a tad disappointed with how small the kit was. The box is definitely deceiving!
First batch, 6 hours in, time to change the water and add the second half of the rock growth

The kit itself is easy to grow, and requires very little care aside from adding the second half of the minerals cubes into the water to complete the growing process. After the rocks have finished growing you drain the water and keep the container filled for the underwater rock garden.  The kit comes complete with four different colours, and an outerspace themed background for the container. The colours, along with the background add an extra special touch to the crystal garden.

The Finished product - 12 hours growth time

Disaster Strikes!

During the earthquake on December 30th our underwater rock garden took a spill which caused a complete and utter breakdown of the garden. Perhaps if we had been at home during the earthquake the garden would have been somewhat salvageable. By the time we arrived home two days later everything had dried out completely and all the crystal formations had been destroyed.

Very disappointing as the garden itself was very neat to look at, and was a great addition to our kitchen display.

In the end, the kit did what it advertised to do. Quickly grew an underwater rock garden. It was colourful and easy to do, and provided a good baseline for the girls in regards too understanding the difference in how different crystals are formed. A slightly larger kit would have been awesome! And perhaps the ability to choose different backgrounds as well would be nice. I can't help but think that the kit itself would have lent itself exceptionally well to a mermaid theme. In all actuality, my desire for other background options could have very easily been solved by printing one out myself.


** Please note that this is an unsolicited review. The product was purchased on our own, and all comments within this post are 100% my own.
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