List of Lost Wishes

Christmas 2012

As I was walking to the grocery store, the wind blew a bright pink slip of paper against my leg. The paper clung to me, begging me to pick it up and see the secrets it held. It was crumpled and damp from the snow. And not just pink – the edges were graced with green and white flowers. And black graceful words inked on the white lines. A grocery list fallen from a pocket.

The list was simple:
Cheese slices
Baby crackers
Baby food
Tomato soup
Sour Cream
Mini Bagels
Cream Cheese

A rather basic list telling a simple ordinary story. A mother with an infant. Most likely a young woman from the style of notepaper and the fanciful doodle of hearts and flowers. On the back some more words:

‘Check bank account – see if enough for shampoo? Bottle of wine? Candle? Call Brian invite over to watch movie.’

Then a doodle of a little smiley face. And a phone number – most likely Brian’s.

Then written and underlined: Maybe buy winning lottery ticket and change my world! HA!

Not sure why – but I placed the lost list in my wallet.

By this time I had reached the grocery store. Just inside the door was a young woman with a stroller and a sleeping infant. She seemed frazzled. And she was searching through her pockets and her bags. On a whim I said, “You look like you lost something.”

She sighed and gave a half-smile. “Yeah my grocery list. And my brain.” Her lovely green eyes tired and sad – encircled with dark rings of fatigue.

I chuckled saying, “Looking after a baby will do that to anyone. Glad mine are grown. I think I may have your list – found it in the snow.”

She bounced as I pulled out the pink notepaper. “Yes that is it! Thank you!” Her fingers touched mine as she took the paper – and melted my heart.

“Oh and this was also on the ground – it must be yours.” She stared at the twenty-dollar bill in my hand and shook her head. “No sir, I didn’t have any money to lose.”

“Then it is destined for you. Someone lost it and you will make better use of it then I ever will.” I pressed it into her hand, “Have a Merry Christmas” and walked away. From behind me I heard, “Thank you. Thank you.”

As I was leaving, I saw her at the check-out and could see she had bought extra items for her child. She paused at the wine display looking at a bottle of white. She glanced into her purse, and then walked out of the store.

I bought the bottle of wine and went outside. She was organizing her purchases in the stroller basket, when she saw me. She gave me a big smile, “Thanks again!”

“No problem,” I said. “How old is your little one? May I see?”

She hesitated. “Sure.” she said . “She is 7-months.” She unzipped the cover and I peeked inside.

“She is lovely!” I kicked over one of my bags sending a can rolling. The young woman skipped after it and I slipped the bottle of wine underneath with her other groceries.

I took the can from her, and she zipped the cover again over the sleeping child.

“Have a lovely evening!” I called as I walked away – content to have rediscovered the real purpose of this time of year: to share without expectation.

It really is better to give.

The Secrets to Perfect Pie!

The first secret is lard. Oh my goodness – am I allowed to say that word in public?

Lard – there said it again. Oh it is tasty – this is why bacon is so good. 🙂

There is absolutely nothing better to make a pie crust. For those that just got all crinkly-faced at the word lard – go for your politically correct “vegetable” shortening as a substitute. Basically what we need is a “fat” to hold the flour together so we can shape it. The difference between the fats is in the melting temperatures and how the fats behave under heat – lard just works best.

The second secret is cold. Pie crust ingredients must be cold when mixed. If the fat is “warm” the flour will absorb the fat, and then the flour will become hard when baked. This is why pastry must be cut with a pastry cutter – to keep the warmth of your hands from melting the fat. Here is a tip – chill all the ingredients including the flour and the bowl!

The third secret is speed. Do the mixing quickly so the fat doesn’t warm up and begin melting. Yet thoroughly so that the fat is mixed evenly through the flour. Overworking the dough will activate the gluten and make the pie crust hard.

Once you have the dough mixed – ball it all up, wrap it in wax paper and chill it for at least 1-hour in the fridge. Then roll out the dough (again do this quickly and don’t overwork the dough!) and place in your pie plate. Chill the pie-plate and the pie crust for 20-minutes before filling to avoid the soggies!

My final secret is use a glass pie dish. Other kinds do work – I just find that glass transfers heat more evenly during baking.

My Pie Crust (Basically from the side of the lard box!)

1/3 cup of lard
1 cup of pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 teaspoons ice water (OR 4-teaspoons ice water and 2-teaspoons white vinegar)

chilled bowl and pastry cutter.

In a chilled bowl cut lard into flour and salt with the pastry cutter until particles are the size of small peas.
Add the ice water one teaspoon at a time and mix with a fork until just combined and holds together. Do not use all the liquid if it seems to hold together. Do not overwork!

Form into a ball, wrap in wax paper and place in fridge until ready to use. (Best if used in 24 hours – but I have kept dough in fridge for a couple of days)

A dough blender; also called a pastry blender.

A dough blender; also called a pastry blender or cutter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Money is Time and Debt is Slavery

I have been pondering time. I am celebrating a birthday in a few days and every tick of the calendar into yet another year marks the passing of more time.

There is a saying that “time is money” meaning that to waste time is to waste money. It is a loss of productivity. I think that saying is only partially true.

There is a flip side to that concept and that is to think of money as time. Now that may seem like an odd thing to say or even read. Some might say that money is not time but a measure of value, or worth. However, I would argue  that all we ever really have is time – and a rather finite amount of time. And it is the spending of time that then creates value, and so the utilization of time is measured in money.

Consider this: you are paid in some value/hour. Here in Canada we measure that in dollars so we will say dollars/hour. Now the typical Canadian worker apparently earns around $40,000/year, and typically works a 40 hour work-week to earn that wage. So 40 hours times 52 weeks gives us 2080 hours of labour, and $40,000/2080 is about $19.25/hour. I like to be simple so let us say the typical wage earner gets $20/hour.

Now at $40,000/year the typical worker would pay 15% in federal taxes and around 10% in provincial (this will vary by province) so for illustration purposes about 25% in taxes. So about $10,000 in taxes. Now ponder that in terms of time – 25% of 2080 is 525 hours. That is 525 hours of your labour just to pay the government.

Think of how you might have spent that time doing other things…

Now apparently the typical Canadian is about $115,000 in debt.

If the typical Canadian earns $20/hour how long do they have to work to pay off the debt?

Basic math is $115,000/20 = 5750 hours of labour.
5750/2080= 2.8 years

Oh but wait we already noted the government takes 25% of our time.
Okay re-calculate: 5750/1560 = 3.7 years

Of course that is assuming all one does is use their time to pay off the debt.
And it assumes that the debt has no interest – and well we know that debt does have a penalty to bear.

We have been too simple it seems – so lets add in some basic living. Various sources place the yearly income required for a single person to meet all their basic needs at around $20,000/year. That $20,000 will cover all the costs of living (food, shelter, clothing, health etc).

If you earn $40,000/year – right off the bat you require $20,000/year to live a basic lifestyle. Okay so 50% of your wages are gone.

Now back to our debt that would take 5750 hours to pay off at $20/hour.

Well, we only have 1040 hours to use for that debt payment:
5750/1040= 5.5 years of your working life.

OH and plus Interest. Gotcha…

Let us assume 5% interest on the entire time-debt amortized over the 5.5 years of payback. Well 5% each year compounded monthly would add over 950 hours of payback time…so almost another full year (with more interest on that year)…

In the end it seems that if an average worker with an average debt living a basic lifestyle and paying every extra cent toward debt reduction it would take them about 6.5 years of working to pay off the debt.

That isn’t too bad really – of course the reality is we wouldn’t ever be so dedicated to paying off the debt. At best we might dedicate 25% of our free income to debt reduction – because we certainly want to enjoy life. And typically much less…

And we might want to buy other things on credit and run up more debt. Borrowing against our future time – pledging hours from tomorrow and next month and next year to get what we want now.

And that 6.5 years of debt servitude becomes 15 years…and 20 years…

My point after all that really really over-simplification is before you borrow money think about how much time it will cost you in the future – and how many other things you will be giving up for that “gotta have it now” itch.

Your time is limited so spend it wisely…