Thursday, 4 December 2008

Credit crunch concept isn't new... just ask the Romans!

Cicero gave a speech that talks about credit crunch-type events that happened in 88 BCE!! Apparently, Rome had been in an expensive war with Mithridates of Pontus (now modern day Turkey) that wiped out the coffers and caused credit issues all the way back to Rome itself.

The orator told his audience: "Defend the republic from this danger and believe me when I tell you - what you see for yourselves - that this system of monies, which operates at Rome in the Forum, is bound up in, and is linked with, those Asian monies; the loss of one inevitably undermines the other and causes its collapse."

Gee, why am I having a deja-vu moment?

Monday, 17 November 2008

Simple pleasures: Chickpea soup

There's nothing like a hearty, hot soup on a blustery, cold day. A friend introduced me to this soup earlier this autumn, I find it to be delicious and comforting. My friend and I are both "cook-by-feel" kinda gals, so there is no official paper recipe per se. My attempts to reproduce it with the following proportions have been wonderfully successful, but if you are an experienced cook, you can easily "doctor" it to your own tastes.

Chickpea Soup

Saute the following in a dutch oven with a bit of olive oil or butter until the veggies are soft:
one medium onion, diced
two stalks of celery, chopped
two large carrots, sliced into half-inch chunks.

Add 4 cups of soup stock (I use stock I made from the thanksgiving turkey) and bring to a gentle boil
Add the following:
one 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (don't drain!)
one can of chickpeas (I drain them and rinse them to get rid of the excess starch)
a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste
2 teaspoons of ground cumin (or amount to your taste)
1 teaspoon garum masala (or to taste)

Bring all of these to a boil, then simmer over low heat for an hour or so to let the flavours blend. You may need to add more water (I freeze my homemade soup stock in a rather concentrated form, so I usually have to add 3-4 cups of water).

Simple, easy and tasty, this soup warms from the inside out, is easily doubled, freezes well and is generally loved by anyone who tries it.

Yields 6-8 servings.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Payback: CBC Massey Lectures

I just had the pleasure of reading Margaret Atwood's latest book: "Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth". It isn't yet another book about debt management or personal finance. It is, instead, a description of debt as "a human construct".... an academic, literary and sometimes very funny work that every person who reads books of a personal finance, economics, money management, and business genres.

CBC Radio One's show "Ideas" is running the 2008 CBC Massey Lectures. Ms. Atwood is giving these lectures. The five lectures align to the five chapters in the book, which has a large reference section.

Drippychick's view: worth the read and the listen.

For more information about the 2008 CBC Massey Lectures, go

Sunday, 12 October 2008

drip, drip....

The fall of dropping water wears away the stone -- Lucretius

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

This, too, shall pass...

Neatorama has a great article about some of the big financial crises in the American market in the past 100 or so years. We've weathered them in the past, we will weather them again.

Here's the link

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Of charity and giving...

BigCajunMan at Canadian Personal Finance Blog posed a good question in today's entry: "What is giving? What is charity to you?"

To me, charity is as much about the gift of time as it is about the gift of dollars. Dollars are the easy part... write a cheque, sign up for auto deduction during the United Way drive or hand twenty bucks to the kids who come to the door looking for sponsorship for their team. The gift of time can be more difficult because it involves getting out there, actually putting hands and heart into action in ways that may be outside our current realm of experience.

Being between jobs is a great time to do some volunteer work, any volunteer work. If working with the Shepherds of Good Hope or The Mission or at one of the women's shelters isn’t within your comfort zone, how about checking out Habitat for Humanity, or one of the local theatre groups, or your local church or service club, or the local animal shelter, or at one of the museums, or Meals on Wheels. There are a bazillion ways to give back to the community, whether for a few hours one time only or for a few hours a week on and ongoing basis. Volunteer Ottawa ( and Charity Village ( are two of a number of places to look for a volunteer gig. It feels great to get involved.

I’ve discovered that my project management skills (which are part of, but not the main focus of my for-pay career) are even more valuable when volunteering in the arts and for non-profits than they are when working for pay in high-tech!!! When we work in high-tech, we take certain organizational and office skills necessary for that job for granted... many groups outside of high tech could definitely benefit from these skills. It has certainly been eye-opening for me to discover that something as simple (to me) as a powerpoint presentation can make a big positive impact on the communication channels within a group that doesn't use a lot of powerpoint.

Also, it feels great to come home after a day of volunteering with the satisfaction that you accomplished something for someone else.

And you never know what contacts you will make… you will be exposed to a different cross section of the population than you are currently accustomed to. This is good for the soul, great for the networking, and an interesting topic of discussion at future job interviews when asked how you spent your time “in between”. Sometimes, helping others results in helping yourself, too!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Sour grapes

Every Saturday I read the Financial Facelift column in the Toronto Globe And Mail. I read this column as a combination of a bit of education, entertainment and schadenfreude. This past weekend was no exception.

The article I'm talking about is here

Basically, its about a fairly well-to-do couple who had saved diligently, invested conservatively, amassed substantial wealth, but were concerned that the income that their combined pensions, investments and other sources brought in would not support the retirement lifestyle that they were accustomed to or wanted. They were looking for a professional opinion, and likely some assurances that what they have been doing financially is sound and sensible and will carry them through their retirement.

It was refreshing to see an article that was not a doom and gloom scenario. What surprised me (but perhaps shouldn't have) was the vitriole left by some readers in the comments. The couple basically has had their act together for years, but some of the commenters were griping because it wasn't a hard-luck story. Geez, guys!!! Get a grip!!! Everyone needs advice, reassurance and a second opinion now and then. Personally, I'm happy that the Globe and Mail chose to run this story, because it shows a breadth of possibility, not just the "we've messed up our finances and need help" scenario.

Here's a situation that should be common, but sadly isn't: Imagine if you had maxed out your RRSP in your year of your first job right after university, and did so every year until you were 50. If you invested sensibly during that time, you could have amassed on the order of half a million dollars or more. Would you still need advice on your finances? Possibly . Would you benefit from a second opinion? Likely. Would your story be a appropriate for the Financial Facelift column? Definitely. Should you be abused in print by those who were financially irresponsible, lazy or spendthrift? Definitely not.

The nasty comments by the article's detractors (i.e."boo f'**in hoo") say so much more about the commentors than anything else. To those detractors I say: Why don't you learn from the actions of others instead of being jerks? Sour grapes, dudes. Sour grapes.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

All these lovely people, where do they all come from?

Now that I have the perception of having more time (I don't, really, but I'll get to that in a moment), I've been spending more time at the gym during the day. It's a co-ed, with all sorts of cardio and weight machines, as well as a goodly number of group classes. When I used to (try to) go in the evenings, the place is absolutely packed to the rafters... 20 minute or more wait times just to get a treadmill or a recumbent bike! Now that I go during the day, I see that the place is still busy.... not packed to the rafters, but busy.

Where do all of these people come from?

Sure, there is the noticable crowd of seniors, and the moms who drop their kids off at the daycare so that they can get in an hour of selfcare, but the majority seem to be 25-50, well-dressed, professional-looking folks of both genders. Are there that many people out of work? Are there that many people who work shifts? Are there that many people who have planned their lives carefully and can retire early?


I tried my first group class this week... a combination of tai chi, yoga and pilates. I was always a big leary of attending group fitness classes... there's something about the really buff gym bunnies that I found intimidating (I am many things, but buff gym bunny is not one of them!). Must say that I absolutely loved the class!!! I wasn't the only one struggling to hold the balance positions, but the instructor was very encouraging, saying that it takes most people 6 or 8 sessions before their balance is improved enough. I will definitely be finding time in my busy schedule for this class!!!

So what am I spending my time on? Preserving fruit and vegetables (75 jars full of jams, salsas, fruit in syrup), volunteering with two different organizations, a couple of garden/yard projects, working out with a personal trainer a couple of times a week, working on my art, reading my favourites on the personal finance blog-o-sphere, reading books, listening to audio books, connecting with friends and family, doing a bit of contract webwork, meditating, and, oh, yeah... looking for a lucritive full-time-ish job. I start a night class in a couple of weeks time.

These past two months have definitely convinced me that I am on a good path... a life of financial independence allows one the ability to choose what she wants to do, when she wants to do it. While I am not yet completely financially independent, I am working on it DRIP by DRIP, little by little, one step at a time. The journey is a good one....

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Thane's Thigh Memorial Team for the Terry Fox Run

Four years ago, Thane Eisener was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the same type of cancer that Terry Fox had. After extensive treatment, which included surgery, bone from a cadaver, a lot of metal and many months of physiotherapy, Thane is running again. He and his team will be again be running in the Terry Fox Run on September 14th.

To join the team click here:

To donate click here:

Those who can, run. Those who can't, donate! I don't run, but I am proud to support this team!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The joys of a forced "sabbatical"....

My last "sabbatical" was about five years ago. It was a tougher job market then, post tech bubble burst, and to be honest, I was more than a little burned out. Working 14 hours a day, seven days a week for that startup (I managed to get away for a 10 day vacation and came home to a pink slip. Nice!), coupled with post divorce upheaval, I was ready for a break. I needed the break. I didn't realize just how much I wanted a break.

After packing up my office belongings, I bought some groceries (I'd actually have time to cook now, instead of catching all of my meals on the run) and headed home to let the news settle in. To ruminate on my situation. To sit on my back porch, scritch the resident furball's head and to watch the hummingbirds at the feeder. It was the first time in a long time that I had had a chance to do that... to sit and just be.

It occurred to me that this would be my first summer off since the end of grade 11.

I called my folks and invited them to come tour the Maritimes with me. None of us had ever been east of Montreal, and it gave us a chance to spend quantity of time together. Cape Breton and PEI are a long way from my parent's Saskatchewan home, but the love of old time fiddle music drew them as much as the scenery, food and friendly people. We got to spent time together just the three of us, as adults... it was a learning experience for all of us!

At first my sabbatical was filled with a lot of "if I only had the time" type activities... clean the car, sweep the garage, build a compost box. I spent a lot of time volunteering with a local theatre company, helping out with props and costumes and whatever other support was required backstage. I read a lot. I napped every day and finally got enough sleep in a day. I actually used the gym membership that had been long since paid up but ignored. I treated myself to a visit to a museum or gallery once a week. I did a lot of work in my garden. I learned to meditate.

My summer off stretched into September. When my friend came to visit from Australia, we explored the hiking trails and coastal vistas along the Gaspesie. I started volunteering at one of the local women's shelters and eventually ended up on their Board of Directors. I dusted off my piano and started playing again. I watched three seasons of the Sopranos in two weeks. I canned tomatoes from my veg patch, and tried at least one new recipe a week. I was rarely bored, and joked with my friends that I would make a great "retired person".

I effortlessly dropped close to 50 pounds. A combination of home cooked meals, sufficient rest, more exercise and minimized stress were definitely contributing factors.

Summer became Autumn which drifted into Winter. Sure, I sent out resumes, applied for positions, and had a few interviews, but no offers resulted. It wasn't until Christmas time that I came to a conclusion that I was READY to go back to work. Early in January I had several interviews and two offers to choose from.

My summer off ended at the beginning of February. I was relaxed, refreshed and ready for the new challenges.

When I look back on that almost eight month period, I remember it as being one of the most positive experiences of my life. Yes, finances were stretched and there were times of concern, but I got to do the things I wanted to: I spent time with friends and family. I spent time by myself and for myself. I spent time giving back to my community. What could be more wonderful or joyful than that?

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

In praise of Fringe Festivals...

Just settling back at home after some time away. My family had a reunion of sorts out west. I usually make one trip back to the Prairies every year, but that's usually at Christmas time. I actually got to see Saskatchewan when the temperature wasn't -20C and the ground wasn't covered with snow!!!! It was fabulous to see old family friends and distant relatives for the first time literally in decades. A lot of chinwagging, reminiscing and reaquainting going on. It is always good to be surrounded by supportive friends and relatives.

I also got the opportunity to do a day at the Saskatoon Fringe Festival. I'm a big fan (can we say obsessed?) with Fringe! Once you fringe, you will become addicted. Not a bad addiction to have!!!

My sweetie and I are big into Fringing. In Ottawa this year, I managed to see 46 out of the 53 or so shows on offer. Some shows are incredible, others are more mundane. Occasionally one runs into a dud, but for the most part, they are entertaining, engaging and often thought provoking.

In Saskatoon, we lucked into a particularly exceptional show called "Spiral Dive", the story of a young man from the prairies who becomes a fighter pilot during WWII. It is the first part of a three part series... I can't wait for part two!

If you are reading this from Saskatoon, or Edmonton, or Vancouver or Victoria (or within possible travel distance to any of these cities)... there is still time for you to partake of some fantabulous live theatre, coming soon to your city! For the rest of us, we'll have to wait until next year.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

What sort of billionaire are you?

During my regular surf of the internet, I stumbled upon this link:

What sort of billionaire are you? My answer doesn't surprise me (I'm an idealist), but yours might surprise you.

A bit of fun for a Sunday afternoon....

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Things that make me smile: Feist on Sesame Street

1 -2 -3 -4 Monsters walking 'cross the floor
I love counting. Counting to the number four
Are you counting? Counting with me?
To one less than five, but one more than three

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Simple pleasures: Gardening

One of my favourite ways to spend a fine summer's day is to putter away in my garden. Pruning, transplanting, mulching, weeding, seeding.. it's all good. I spent a good bit of today playing in my garden, catching up on some neglected bits.

Mow a little. Pull a few weeds. Sit in the shade for a bit and sip a cool drink. Transplant a heliopsis. Mow a bit more. Prune a bush. Sit in the shade for a bit and watch the birds. Repeat all day or until the weather forces you indoors. The perfect way to spend a day!

My garden has quite a variety of visitors these days... mourning doves, robins, goldfinches, chickadees, a pair of cardinals, chipping sparrows, the occasional bluejay or raven to break the peace. Chipmunks chase one another, as do the big grey squirrels. I see groundhogs squeeze their way under my back gate from time to time, but luckily no skunks. The raccoons treat my compost box like a salad bar at night... sample the bits they want and leave the rest behind (the lemon rinds, however, get strewn across the yard for some distance).

The starlings and grackles were very quick to pop onto the lawn after I mowed it today. They really seem to love the freshly mown grass. Some of them were displaying behaviour I had never observed before... sitting down and spreading their wings wide to absorb as much sun as possible.

The weather for tomorrow looks to be reasonable... another reason to create a perfect day!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Some advice to the newly laid off...

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was laid off from a job where he was the technical superstar. The company was in dire straits, but had tried to hang onto him as long as possible, giving him other people's tasks as they departed. He asked me for advice as to how to cope with the situation once the layoff came (I had been laid off once or twice before... a fact of life when you are on the high-tech startup treadmill as I was in the early part of the decade. Startup funding runs out and angel funding isn't always readily forthcoming.). The following is a summary of what I sent to him, as a reminder to self in my current situation.

1) There is life after __ insert company name here___. Most people don't realize how much their current employer is holding them back until their current employer is no longer the current employer.

2) Don't panic. Spend some time analyzing your finances and realize that unless you've been really reckless with your credit, you are going to be just fine.

3) Don't allow yourself to feel self pity, or fall into self-destructive behaviour (one guy I know decided to empty his liquor cabinet by himself in one week! Think Leaving Las Vegas, but in Kanata. Not pretty.).

4) Set up a networking group of your former colleagues... a yahoo group works well for this. Keep in contact and give each other moral support.

5) Spend some time in the kayak/gym/driving range, contemplating what you want to do with the rest of your life... this change is an opportunity to do something you've always wanted to. Start your own woodworking business? Kayak school? Are you truly tied to your current city? Wouldn't this be a great time to go travelling and live off the severance? Paint the living room? Read that stack of books/magazines. Clean up the basement. Make some sawdust.

6) Your company will have to issue you with a record of employment over the next couple of weeks. This entitles you to a bit of Employment Insurance money... it's not a lot, (and if you are a professional with a reasonable income, it is likely that you will have to pay some of it back at tax time next year!) but it pays for groceries for a while. You've paid into EI for years, don't feel guilty about receiving a bit of it back. There is a waiting period that is influenced by your severance. It's always good to file the paperwork early, even if you don't get a chance to claim on it right away.

7) It's summertime... you probably haven't had a summer completely off in years, so update your resume at your leisure and send it out if the mood suits and the job opportunity seems a fit, but mostly, treat the next couple of months as a sabbatical! After all, how often do we get opportunities as an adult for a summer off to play! Travel, garden, learn a new skill that you've always wanted to learn, read the books that have been piling up on your bedside table, watch that season of the Sopranos that someone gave you for Christmas, rest. When you do decide to go back to work, you'll be refreshed and ready, and the right job will come along.

8) When you are ready to look for work again (and even before), spread the news to everyone you know that you are no longer at your newly-former company. One of my best job leads came from my hair stylist, who cuts the hair of a lot of wives of high tech managers.

9) Make use of any career counselling programs your company may have arranged for you... they help with writing/updating a resume, interviewing skills, business networking possibilities, wardrobe consulting etc. You may not agree with everything they have to tell you, but they can get you thinking about the right things.

10) The job market in Ottawa is pretty hot in many sectors, including high tech, and there are a number of good websites with job leads.

11) Make contact with a decent head-hunting agency, one that specializes in your area of expertise

Thus my sabbatical begins....

Sunday, 13 July 2008

If I only had the time...

Who hasn't said to himself... gee, if I only had the time I would do ______.

If I only had the time, I would read the New Yorker and Economist from cover to cover every week, and would read through the stack of magazines that have gone untouched due to lack of time
If I only had the time, I would spend more time at the gym
If I only had the time, I would learn to play piano
If I only had the time, I would paint my garage door
If I only had the time, I would volunteer more
If I only had the time, I would catch more afternoon movies
If I only had the time, I would finish writing the book I've been working on for years
If I only had the time, I would update my will
If I only had the time, I would blog more frequently
If I only had the time, I would spend more time with my stay-at-home-mom friends
If I only had the time, I would clean my basement, and my garage, and my car
If I only had the time, I would meditate
If I only had the time, I would spend more time creating beautiful things
If I only had the time, I would finish some of my projects in progress

I was laid off from my job on Thursday. While there are details still to be sorted out, and plans to be made, I now have some time.

Where will I start? Stay tuned...

Sunday, 6 July 2008

The ideal husband

I came across an interesting article today entitled "The Ideal Husband". I've summarized the main point here, and yes, what is good for the goose is good for the gander... the criteria apply to both partners in a relationship.

1) Never marry a man who has no friends. Be sure that you like your man's friends, because we tend to be like our friends
2) Be sure that you have compatible spending habits... a miser and a spendthrift won't be happy together in the long run
3) He must have a sense of humour
4) He must be able to clearly and honestly communicate his feelings
5) You are marrying into a family, not just the man. Are there signs of mass disfunction in his family?
6) Are your belief systems compatible?
7) Be sure that he has a good character: politeness, courtesy, respect win out over violence, lying, control issues, secretiveness

For the full text, go here:

I would also add
8) Be certain that you both are clear, honest and on the same page about wanting children

-- DC

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Spring Cleaning....

Many Saturday nights, a group of friends get together to play board games. Last night was no exception. Since everyone usually brings something in they way of refreshments/snacks/other shareables, I decided to bring some softdrinks. I usually bake something, but ran out of time on a particularly busy Saturday.

Now I don't usually drink softdrinks myself, but I do try to have a bottle or two around to serve to guests. For last night's gathering, I dug through my bottom cupboard and came across a 2 litre bottle of Red Ruby Grapefruit-flavoured Crush. The bottle was more than slightly caved/sucked in, not the usual plumped up cylindrical roundishness that one would expect. It had been there a while, as there was a funky sediment in the bottom of the bottle. Then I read the label.... there was some blurb about a contest, and how the bottlecap liner points had to be redeemed by October 31st, 2002.

Two thousand and two!

I really need to add cleaning out my kitchen cupboards to my list of my spring cleaning tasks this year. Who knows what other "treasures" I might find. There are advantages and disadvantages to having a well-stocked pantry...having to remember what you have in stock and how long it's been there is one of the downsides. Rotation, rotation, rotation!

And no, I didn't take the ancient bottle to the gathering... I dumped it down the sink, tossed the bottle into the recycling bin and popped into Costco for a yummy chocolate mousse cake instead.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

That just about sums it up!

"If your outgo exceeds your income, then your upkeep becomes your downfall".

I'm reading Larry Winget's book "You're Broke Because You Want To Be". This quote is on page 68. While the "broke" part doesn't apply to me any more (it did, once upon a time before I wised up!), I find that I am really enjoying this book. A bit of schadenfreude? Perhaps. A bit of "been there, realized that"? Definitely. I like his no-nonsense approach to life, success and everything, and think it can be applied to much more than one's financial situation:

"You're Fat Because You Want To Be"
"You're Beautiful Because You Want To Be"
"You're Miserable Because You Want To Be"
"You're Lucky Because You Want To Be"
"You're Unhealthy Because You Want To Be"

I also like his distinction between "broke" and "poor". Poor is lacking in resources and opportunity. Broke is about squandering/wasting the resources you have.

This is the first of his books that I've read, and since I don't watch tv, I haven't seen his tv show (I'd rather spend my time reading or listening to audio programs). He comes across as a hardass in the book, but for some people, the soft approach to self-help just is not going to be effective.

So far, I give this book a DC two thumbs up. I'll be checking out his other books once my current stack is depleated.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Whoo hooo! Gail's going to republish "A Woman of Independent Means"

Great news from Gail Vaz-Oxlade... she's about to publish an update to her most excellent book "A Woman of Independent Means". If you haven't already read this book, it's well worth the cover price!!! Practical, sane advice about personal finance that covers all sorts of big "life events". I've given away a number of copies over the years to women about to finish university, about to get married, about to have babies, about to deal with divorce, as there is good advice and helpful checklists of things to think about and to do in preparation for any of a number of life changing scenarios. I love the fact that this book is written from a Canadian point of view, discussing Canadian laws and institutions.

(and guys... there's good advice for everyone in that book, not just for women!)

You can check out Gail's regular blog is here:

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Shoes for Darfur

I caught a brief segment on CBC's Intown and Out yesterday with Julie Houde. She is an Ottawa-area teenager raising awareness of Sole Responsibility, an organization that collects old running shoes, walking shoes, hiking boots. Collected footwear is then send to Chad (Africa), where they are distributed to people in refugee camps displaced from their homes in Darfur.

Drippychick kudo goes to Julie Houde for caring enough to get involved, and to Sole Responsibility for doing good work for people who need help. Bravo Julie and Bravo Sole Responsibility!

For more information about the Sole Responsibility initiative, go to

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Hatching an idea....

"Drippy Chick?!?! You're going to call your blog Drippy Chick?" My closest girlfriend and I were sitting at my kitchen table sharing a steaming pot of vanilla almond rooibos. She was obviously underwhelmed with my idea. "With a name like that, some people may get the wrong idea."

I sighed gently and began again... "It would be about building big things out of humble beginnings. People will get that. Small starts and spectacular results. Little things that make a big difference. Drop by drop. Drip by drip." Her brow wrinkled.

"I've been following other people's blogs for quite a while now. I think it's time to get into blogging myself." She took a cookie off of the plateful that I offered her. "My idea is to create a forum to discuss enjoying a good life, simple pleasures and those things that take time, good work and patience to build on."

"I would write about some of the volunteer work I'm involved in, or the travelling I like to do, or the hobbies that bring me pleasure. Part of the blog would be about building up the financial resources to support a good life of simple pleasures."

"But the name Drippy Chick?!?". She seemed unconvinced.

I took a sip of my tea and continued. "I've been reading a lot lately about dividend reinvestment programs. They are called 'drips'. I could write about them, too. I'm a woman who wants to build a nestegg to support an early retirement. A chick with DRPs. A DRP chick. Drip chick. Drippy Chick".

She chortled and took another cookie from the plate. "I still think people are going to think it's about sex!"