My Wallet.

It's no secret that money, and the desire for more of it, provided a major shove for this move. I wasn't prepared for the amazing change in lifestlye that we experienced (conveniently timing our move to skip winter entirely...woo hoo!), but it's not like our lifestyle now includes the fabulous parties, Jimmy Choo pumps and designer handbags that we were lacking in Ottawa. Those things still...lack. Well, save one favorite handbag, perhaps. It does now include a fun ferry ride to work, sunny lunchbreaks spent wandering around downtown, and weekend swims in the ocean. Still, that original plan focused around our finances has been lurking around in the background of all of the fun, and now, with 2008 looming over us and me on a limited work permit, it's become time to buckle down and deal with it.

I am a spender. When I have money in my wallet, it's not there for very long. And, while the maturity that I've gained (??) in the past few years has encouraged me to be smarter about my spending, I think that the internal spender in me tends to rear her slightly-less-attractive head when opportunity arises. has arisen.'s time to corral her to a budget, once again.

Since we arrived, we have spent a lot of money. It's expensive to set yourself up in a new place with only a limited amount of the complete household you once had. We needed first and last month's rent for our apartment, which, though cheap by local standards, would be a ridiculous amount to spend on rent anywhere else. Except maybe Monaco or perhaps downtown London. This is the most expensive country in the world...there is not much we can do about that. Still, it was unfurnished...we needed a car...and a scooter...and the actual move itself, including shipping and 25% duty fees on everything we own, took a toll. And after all that, we needed to eat. In the past two months, we have spent more money than in the past year back in Ottawa. Not all of it was necessary.

Last year...or maybe the year before...we inflicted upon ourselves a fairly serious spending budget, compartmentalized for our lifestyle and with the intention of saving for a big trip. While we did buy ourselves a very lovely roof and contribute towards our trip to Mexico, we were simply unable to save anything. While we were excellent at sticking to the jar system, we have yet to go on a big trip and did require some financial assistance even to make this move. Not a huge deal, debt-wise, when I think about some of the conversations I've had with friends in similar boats. I've never felt like we were in any kind of trouble and I know that we have made a lot of very smart decisions when it came to what to do and how to deal with our money. But then, on the other hand, I did not need to spend $28.00 on a vegan cookbook yesterday. Or $16 on Chrismas candles the day before (since Christmas is officially dunzo and a peppermint candle will not have the same appeal in February), so it's become clear that we need to get ourselves (me) back on a budget.

In the past week, I did a tally of everything we owe (minus the mortgage, which someone else is now paying for us) and with our new salaries and a strict plan, my goal is to have everything paid off by July 1, 2008. This is an aggressive goal, but not an unattainable one, in my belief. I have not been without some form of personal debt (read: Visa) since I got my first credit card when I was 19 years old. I can't even imagine what debt-free will feel like. I have consolidated as much as possible and we're ready to go. Our main focus in coming here was to put ourselves in a good position to purchase a second home and open doorways for our future, financially. We have every possible reason to be able to do this successfully, so I'm putting this out there here, now, with the hopes that such a personal declaration will make me more accountable to it. I don't want to turn this into a strictly PF (personal finance) blog, but I will be updating on the situation from time to time. In the same way that I log all of my runs online to be able to enjoy the geeky monthly running total graphics, I want to be able to track our progress on this...our top priority.

So, blog friends (both virtual and not), wish me (us) luck. It's going to mean a lot of cutting back, but it's also going to mean that we get an opportunity to enjoy our new surroundings without spending money unnecessarily. I have no lululemon around to tempt me (though I still got my fix, thanks to my sympathetic mother), no Starbucks to eat up at least $10/week...nada. I do foresee more spending on books, since they are great for the beach AND the occasional afternoon indoors, but I figure I can write those expenses off as brain function enhancement. Plus, my current book - an 8-in-one compilation of Jane Austen's books - cost $20 and will last for months. This defines cheap entertainment.

I may put some snazzy debt tracker things on the sidebar, if I can figure them out, and have already started reading up on dedicated PF blogs for tips. I've found a few great ones already that I'm going to link to and blog about in a future post to pass their wisdom along.

Black Swede on a Budget.

P.S. Only JUST realized that my blog initials are B.S. Hopefully not applicable to the above goal.

December on the Rock.

We've had some fun in the past few weeks that has gone unblogged. My camera hasn't been following me around, so I've missed capturing a lot of it, unfortunately. However, I have big plans to actually learn how to use my camera tomorrow, so expect more pictures from now on.

A few weeks ago, we went to the annual Boat Parade. We'd been hearing about it pretty much since we arrived, just like everything else that happens here. It's so small...even the tiniest flea market is BIG NEWS. And EVERYONE goes. So, the Boat Parade, being an actual event, obviously drew a crowd. And obviously, we went. It's pretty much exactly what it sounds Except that they're all decorated with themes and Christmas lights. This year, there were 45 boats in the parade and though it was dark and difficult to see the actual boats themselves, I think that the smallest ones were probably no more than your standard dinghy and the largest ones were....well, multi-million dollar yachts. We found ourselves a seat in a park downtown, along with the rest of the population, and listened to Christmas music pumping over the loudspeakers until the parade started. The Aussie met us down there, and we were all set for the big show.

People were crammed in pretty tight along the waterfront and so I was fortunate enough to be sitting beside a particularly irritating 6 year-old, who was less than impressed with the wait. It was supposed to start at 6:30, but by 6:35 or so, when boats were still not appearing, she began rattling off her very astute observations about the tardiness in comparison with last year's prompt start, followed by an exasperated sigh and lament over how the boats probably wouldn't even be as good this year. By about 6:40, I was ready to shove her and her Crocs off the dock, but was saved by the timely appearance of Boat #1...the well-known-makers-of-rum's boat. When you're the biggest sponsor, you get to be #1. Apparently, there was a prize for "The Boat that Looks the Most Fun to be On", and though I didn't stick around long enough to see (or hear) the prizes handed out, I'm sure it won. I'm assuming being on the rum boat guarantees you just a little rum here and there, and by the time the boat got to us, the passengers were well on their way to a substantial law suit. It was awesome. Maybe not up to the high expectations of certain children awaiting a "realistic looking reindeer...FOR ONCE" (since apparently they ALWAYS look like just regular deer), but it certainly met all of my requirements for good times.
This kicked off a loooooooooong line of good times. My personal favorites were the Bermuda Triangle boat with planes flying into the abyss (though it was slightly out of place amongst the mostly Christmas-themed vessels...and slightly morbid), the pirate boat (complete with pirates fighting onboard) and the tiny little fishing boat with a big red heart and "Peace" spelled out with snake lights. I can't imagine the amount of work involved in getting some of these boats outfitted for this event, and it was really neat to see so many people come out to watch and get into the Christmas spirit.
The brat next to me wasn't thoroughly impressed by the parade, but I was. What a neat idea. I can think of a number of other cities that could and should try to pull something like this off. By the time Boat #30 came along, our asses were freezing (the day had been hot, but it gets damp when it cools off at night, and we were sitting on cement), so we grabbed a couple of drinks and some appetizers and then had a cold-ish ride home on the scooter. So anyways, that was the Boat Parade. mentioned earlier...our apartment has taken a turn for the better. It's not nearly done yet, and lots of the furniture in these pictures (can YOU spot the hotel furniture?) will probably be gone and replaced in the early New Year, but here is a little taste of our new and improved digs:
And look...we even decorated for Christmas...


My blog even bores me lately. It's been a bit hard to find the time (or an internet connection strong enough) to blog over the past few weeks, but I'm determined to rediscover my inner blogger. I think she's still entranced with turquoise ocean views and beeping frogs.

We're finally, FINALLY furnishing our apartment properly. We bought two enormous chocolate-brown couches yesterday, which are being delivered on Monday, and we found a funky coffee table, so now we will be able to stretch out and enjoy downloaded TV in supreme comfort. One of said couches happens to be a queen-sized sofabed...since we've never found ourselves to be more popular than since we moved to Bermuda. People who we couldn't even entice to our Ottawa home with free beer are going to be showing up...and we're excited. This is a great place to be a visitor because you can, literally, experience the entire country in a week. Actually, you can literally see the whole country in under two hours, but there's plenty to do as well. It's going to be fun to show people around and take them fish watching.

The remainder of our stuff has made its way here and is waiting for us at the local airport. The pick-up times are conveniently 9-4, Monday to Friday. This is just perfect when you work 9-5. One of us (Kurt) is taking tomorrow morning off to haul it from one end of the island to the other, where we live, and tomorrow night is going to be like Christmas. I'm almost tempted to save the boxes for Christmas morning, since I really don't remember what's in them. It was so long ago that I packed them, and I was pretty much the living dead when I did, so what's in them is anyone's guess. I know one of them is the rest of my clothes. I honestly don't recall packing the rest of Kurt's clothes. Don't tell Kurt. My memory foam pillow is definitely in one of them as well, which is pretty exciting for me. I love that thing. I wish my iPod docking station had made it in, but I have a sneaking suspicion that in my haze I packed it away, classifying it with the "unnecessary" items. It is, of course, completely necessary.

Besides that, it's pretty much business as usual down/over here. It's HOT though...22/23 degrees every day and we went swimming in the ocean on Sunday, which was nothing short of fantastic. The water is weeds, no rocks...just white sand and clear, blue water. We're planning out our Christmas shopping right now, which is fun, but difficult when you only get paid once a month. You feel like you have all this money available to you, which technically you do, but it's easy to forget that there's not another paycheque coming until mid-January and that between now and then, we need to eat. And pay rent. Quite the switch from how things were for us in Canada. Still, a (careful) Christmas shop is happening later this week, along with my office's Christmas "cocktail reception", another corporate shopping night birthday. Which I forget about continuously because I've never been this warm this close to my birthday. I'm turning 26 this year. Unless someone can convince me that 27 is actually still in my "mid-twenties", in which case I'll succumb to the truth.

Unsolicited Product Endorsements.

I'm long overdue for one of these.

It's now been a month since I moved and that month was full of new places, new food and new things. Some have been great. Others have been just OK. Some were terrible. However, in the spirit of consumerism and my current obsession with online shopping (which never actually results in a sale, since 99% of places won't ship here, but I have loaded virtual carts everywhere!), here is my current list of faves.

1. The "have-it-built-by-a-professional" lunch salad bar. I'll blog about this separately, but I am loooooving the chicken, asparagus, sundried tomato, avocado and feta combo, with balsamic dressing on the side. It's like discovering salad all over again.

2. Perfume. I'm not really a big perfume person - mostly because I'm always afraid of being "that person" who overdoes it. Even one spray in an inconspicuous place can cause major discomfort for someone else, and since I've been that uncomfortable person many times, I'm pretty conscious of pungent perfumes. That being said, I'm actually allergic to a lot of perfumes (like, anything made by GAP, which is unfortunate when you're a teenager and the GAP perfume is the only stuff you can afford), but every once in awhile, I come across a few that are awesome and don't leave me with a splitting headache. This normally happens around this time of year, when most department stores are shoving beautifully packaged gift sets at you, which for me, has resulted in more than one purchase of a perfume that I actually hated. Like the 'L'interdit' episode of 2002. Yikes. This year, I am fortunate to live in a place that sells high-end beauty products at surprisingly low-end prices, so I've started shopping around again for a new bottle to sit next to my Jean Paul Gaultier 'Classique'. My top picks:

Vera Wang - 'Princess'

Escada - 'Island Heat'

and...perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not...

'With Love' by Hilary Duff.

The Duffster has actually rolled out something pretty sweet. Maybe I was biased given that it shares its name with her catchy little tune (however overplayed), but I was impressed. I do enjoy the occasional stuff by Duff.

3. TV via the internet. I'm totally caught up on the Hills and don't actually own a TV. How great is this?

4. 'The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook' by Tosca Reno, which was recommended to me by Laila when I was home in October. Full of great, easy, healthy recipes. We have been enjoying her recipe for baked oatmeal for a month can change up the ingredients and make it differently everytime.

5. Facebook. Ever heard of it? After two months of waiting to get on a plane and living like a nomad, and probably because I chose to wait out the remainder at home, somehow I ran out of time to say all of my Ottawa goodbyes. Thanks to Facebook, I've been able to say virtual goodbyes and keep people updated on everything with minimal effort. Not to sound lazy or anything, but I do admit that it's made everything just a little bit easier.

6. December NOT in Ottawa. Seriously. I would highly recommend this product to anyone. After 5 complete winters in my nation's capital, I was feeling pretty seasoned to the whole ordeal. Until I went for a walk this morning at 6:30 a.m. wearing only a light shirt. And then got to work to find an email from EXH in Ottawa about some further 30 cm of expected snow, expected to fall on top of the existing 30 cm of snow. As much as I miss how pretty snow looks with Christmas lights, I really don't miss one flake of it.
7. 30 Rock. I've been a longtime Tina Fey fan, so it's not a big surprise that I love this show. Hilarious and so smart.

8. Home-made salsa. Armed with a can of diced tomatoes, a small can of pineapple, some chipotle chiles, part of an onion and some Epicure salsa mix, Kurt mixed up the most amazing salsa last weekend. We've been eating it on everything...pita, chips, chicken, a's seriously delicious. He's under strict instruction to ensure that there is a container of it in the fridge at all times.

9. Fish-watching. This may sound like a downright retarded way to pass time, but scarily enough, we're getting into it. It is amazing at how much time Kurt and I can kill watching fish. It's like birdwatching, but instead of looking up, you're looking down. There is some great fish action off the various docks and wharves around our place, so often on our morning walks we will stop and check out what is going on below the surface. It's amazing to watch fish interact, who eats who, which ones swim how fast and wonder why certain fish seem to always be alone. I'm seriously thisclose to picking up some sort of regional fish book so that we can identify our scaley friends. Is that weird?

10. A good loofah. A good loofah, in my experience, is hard to come by. Either they are far too stiff and scratch the hell out of yourskin, or the bristles fall out constantly. In fact, I was completely turned off of loofahs until a new friend pointed out a brand that she'd tried and loved. So, I tried it. And I loved it. I haven't gotten into the whole dry-brushing thing though...I'll save that for another UPE (or the UPE vice, the Unsolicited Product Critique - these are always bad).