Living in a Dollarama world…

Years ago, if someone asked me to think of a dollar store, my mind went to a dimly lit room with shelves stocked full of crap. Plastic dolls that vaguely resembled Barbie (if the lights were bad and you squinted enough). Ones with arms and legs that didn’t move and heads that popped off. Plastic wrapped note sets with pens that didn’t work and pads barely wide enough to write a single word. Plastic cars with wheels that fell off. And gaudy ceramic vases; I’m pretty sure the vases simply moved from one dollar store to the next as one store closed and another opened. I certainly never saw anyone buy one. Then I entered Dollarama.

I can’t remember why I was at that end of town. I just remember I had too much time to hang around the bus stop and not enough time to go anywhere… but there was a new dollar store right there. Right where Biway used to be. I walked in and WOW! It was bright and clean, an actual store instead of a hole in the wall. The first aisle held gift bags, nice ones at that, and real toys. I wandered up and down the aisles, keeping track of the time, and promising myself I’d go back. I definitely went back, I ended up working there.

Many years have passed since then. Dollarama’s spread a lot and improved even more. Of course their price has increased as well from a buck (or less) to $4 (or less) but I think the quality makes it worthwhile. I’ve found things that were regularly double, triple, or even quadruple the price in other stores. Same brand… same packaging. Recently Dollarama was selling RO tablet holders which were shaped like wooden bread boards. They retailed for $45, Dollarama sold them for $4. Sadly I never found any.

I raised my kids as a single Mom and never had much money. There were so many birthdays and holidays that simply wouldn’t have happened if Dollarama wasn’t there. But the events all happened with happy kids and fond memories. Dinkie cars, toy Spiderman, art sets, stuffed dolls, figurines, articulated wooden snakes… they were all loved and played with.

These days I’m in my empty nest but I’m also living off disability so money’s still tight. Luckily I found a Facebook group called Dollarama Hauls and Finds. The group is amazing. People post about the purchases they’ve made, items they’ve found, and what they’ve done with said purchases. Many include photos. My favourites are when someone goes around the store taking photos then shares forty pictures. It’s like window shopping without leaving my room.

new kitchen artI use the group to sort out what items I really want to buy, either for myself or to put away as a gift. It’s helped a lot because I know exactly where to look when I go shopping and there’s been a few items I would have missed if I hadn’t actively been searching there. The downside is there’s gorgeous items I’ve missed out on, like the aforementioned tablet holder, that I never would have known about otherwise. But I have found incredible things. Watercolour canvases, funky pop art, wooden word art, artificial succulents in clay pots, ships in glass bottles, Cuisinart wooden knife blocks… the list is extensive. My home would be almost barren if it wasn’t for Dollarama.

And tomorrow I’ll be off to another Dollarama because one thing the group has sucked me into is barnwood stickers. They are being stuck everywhere on any flat surface and I have an ugly front door to cover.

Falling into fall…

April was the longest year I’ve ever had. Then May and June gently entered and July and August whizzed by in the blink of an eye. Last month I found a lovely fall pillow at Shoppers Drug Mart (which I didn’t buy at the time then they ran out of stock and finally my Mom picked one up for me in a store three towns over). I also found a gorgeous glass pumpkin dappled with glittery bronze splatters at Winners and this time I bought it right away.

Between those two items I got right into a fall mood and, as soon as September arrived, I dug out my  Rubbermaid tote bin from the storage room in the basement and began swapping my regular decor for my fall decor. The twins were absolutely enthralled. As soon as the bin hit the table they were right up there with it. It became a cycle of them jumping up and me shooing them off only to have them jump right back up again.

My Mom bought me a set of copper butterfly lights which I taped onto the fireplace mantle. They ended up looking amazing with the fall decorations. I’m so happy with how everything turned out. I joined a Dollarama group on Facebook and I’ve seen a couple more items I’d love to have (like those stacked pumpkins and the knit pumpkins) but really I’m happy with what I have.

In some ways I love fall. It’s not too cold and it’s beautiful out, especially once the leaves start turning. Plus Thanksgiving is stuck right in the middle so there’s a good dose of family time. Then Hallowe’en tags along at the end and soon afterwards it’s time to start decorating for Christmas. What I don’t like is how it heralds in winter.

I am not a winter person. I don’t like the cold and I’m not overly fond of the sun setting at 4:30pm. And sidewalks become hard to navigate, especially with a bundle buggy or wagon. I took a wagonful of groceries home last March and it was a nightmare from start to finish. Especially when I got to the second last road to cross and realized the snow plow had gone by and plowed a knee high drift across the curb. I had three 32 tin boxes of cat food, three bags of kitty litter, and an 8kg bag of dry cat food in the wagon along with my food. It was by no means an easy wagon to lift.

But that is months away from now. The sky’s still sunny and the air is fresh and warm. Tomorrow I’m having a picnic with my parents and Colin and tonight I’m going to turn on my butterfly lights and sip a mug of hot apple cider. The best is yet to come.

fall decor

Pretty much all my decorations

fireplace mantle

Decorating while (really) broke…

I’ve had a few people ask me how I manage to decorate on a limited budget. They want a nice looking home but just can’t afford the prices they see pretty much everywhere. They can’t be the only ones who are curious so I figured I’d post my tips here. And, if you have any tips, please feel free to comment below.

My first tip is to check the dollar stores. Seriously, you can find some amazing stuff there. You just have to go often and be selective. Don’t pick up a picture or other decoration just because it’s there and in your price range. My favourite shop is Dollarama. Sorry everyone else in the world, Dollarama’s only in Canada. I’ve found some fantastic finds. They get items in regularly that were from everyday stores. Maybe they were overstock, maybe they’re out of season, maybe the store went under. Either way Dollarama’s got it for $4 or less. You can buy pictures, wall art, pillows, lap throws, table cloths, dish towels, artificial plants… the list goes on and on. But you can’t just go once in a blue moon. Often the good stuff comes only in the amount of two or three and they go fast. If you see something good, get it then, it might not even be there tomorrow. Plus check different stores. They mostly have the same items but sometimes you’ll find something special that wasn’t in your usual store.

Dollar Tree is okay. I find where they stand out is with wall art. They get some amazing wall stickers there and those can really tie a room together. I found a cute glittery unicorn sloth on a rainbow once but otherwise I’m not impressed with their decor.

Second hand stores are great too. They’re obviously hit or miss but they can have some gorgeous things. I’ve found ficus trees there before (I only have one now) and a lovely ceramic hot chocolate container. Colin found a ceiling lamp that looked like it belonged in an old bar. I think they’re called tiffany lamps. Google says I’m right and, oh my goodness, they’ve got some pretty ones out there.

Don’t forget to check out the clearance section. I have found so many things at Icing, Marshalls, and Homesense. Icing has a buy three – get three free deal which includes their clearance rack too.

I also order online. I use Aliexpress but I know other people have used Wish. It is buyer beware but I’ve had good luck with their wall art stickers and small items. Just remember it’ll take up to two months to arrive.

And, of course, what you need are pictures of what you can find for inspiration. Remember, when you go to the dollar store or thrift shop, you might find nothing at all or you might find something you adore. It’s all part of the adventure.

Just breathe

This Just Breathe sign was bought at Dollarama. It wasn’t there for long. The vase in the back was also a Dollarama find as is the flowers (which I sadly cut off in the picture). The table’s a freebie I found in the laundry room. I’ll get around to refinishing it… someday.

fit happens with blurry m

Both “Fit Happens” and “every day – is a – fresh START” are from Dollarama. They certainly don’t look like they are though.

desk wall

The word art starting with “each day” is from Dollar Tree and is very sturdy while the gold glittery picture is from Dollarama. They still have glittery pictures but not this particular one.

bedroom wall

The two pictures on the left are from Dollarama, the circle is a glow in the dark moon from Aliexpress and it glows really well, while the last picture was on clearance at Icing. I love that store!

kitchen

The folding dish rack and mat are from Dollarama as are the miniature topiary, spice racks (under the spices), wire utensil containers, potted plants, and the lemon “live your life with zest” hanging. The lemon wall stickers, the towel saying “Love, laugh, & gather together”, and the word art on the cupboard reading “The secret ingredient is always love” are from Dollar Tree. And the tree “window” is from Aliexpress

Just breathe and sloth

This “Just Breathe” sign is also from Dollarama as is the metal bucket. The flowers are from Clair de Lune and were on clearance. And, as said above, the rainbow unicorn sloth is from Dollar Tree.

living room wall

The “home is where your story begins” sign is from Dollarama and was one of two. “This is my paradise” is also from Dollarama. It’s fabric and held to the frame with twine.

Dream big

This is one of my Icing finds. I absolutely adore it. I’m a sucker for glitter!

word art2

This is another Dollar Tree find. I love having family photos on the wall and this just ties them together.

kitchen finds

This is an old picture from 2016. It shows my hot chocolate jar and a plate (with apples on it) that I found at Value Village. The “Today’s Menu” chalkboard is from Dollarama. Oh, and the rice container/cookie jar is from Goodwill going back years ago.

Obviously if I went out and spent all that money today it would be a fortune, dollar store and thrift shop or not. But spread out over the course of a year or two(ish) it’s definitely manageable… anywhere from $4 to $12 a month and the results are very much worth it. Happy shopping!!!

 

It’s the little things…

As the saying goes, it’s the little things that make a house a home. And my apartment is no exception. I shared pictures of my apartment last week, stepping back so I could take in the whole room, but that meant the little things were minimalized or overlooked entirely. Now it’s time for them to shine.

rainbow unicorn on my monitor

This little guy sits on my monitor so I see him every time I look up. I love all the rainbows and glitter

glow in the dark moon

I got this moon via AliExpress and it really does glow

dare to be different wall sticker

When I’m feeling anxious it’s nice to have a small pep talk on being myself. It’s hanging on my closet door

Super Mario

Colin got this for me. Mario lives on my bedroom windowsill

rainbow unicorns in my shower

No, I don’t play with them, they’re just decor. I actually don’t even have a bathtub, I have a bathtub sized shower stall. Somehow, even though my apartment is not a handicapped unit, I ended up with lowered lightswitch plates, a lowered peep hole and an accessible shower stall.

salt and pepper shakers

These salt and pepper shakers are part of Walmart’s Pioneer Woman collection and I though they were too cute not to buy.

unicorn sloth on a rainbow

Another “had to buy” purchase. I bought my little sloth unicorn at Dollar Tree and he lives on my hutch. So sparkly… so rainbowy

Shrieky Poulet

Shrieky Poulet, my rubber chicken, lives in my ficus tree in the living room. If you look to the left you can see one of my colour changing lights. At night it’s like he’s in a disco, minus the crowds

sequin unicorn

I saw this unicorn at Superstore and just had to have her. She was the last one in their $5 Christmas bin. Ironically they had the identical unicorns in the Valentine’s Day bin for $25

And that’s it. Well it’s not exactly it. I didn’t share my squishy blue unicorn with a rainbow mane, or my red light up pound symbol with Toad sitting on it or… well you get the picture. I hope you have things in your home that make you smile just as much as mine make me smile!

Jeremy’s fabulous room…

Back in the spring I painted my bedroom and blithely announced that Jeremy’s room would be next. I figured we’d be painting zir room within the month but every time it was cleaned zie’d trash it within days. Plus I’d bring up painting and Jeremy would insist zir room was just fine the way it was and zie certainly didn’t need paint. Just buy zir a video game instead. Like zie needs any more.

I thought about how nervous I’d been when I first started painting. I was terrified I’d made a horrible mistake and I’d end up hating my room. The reverse was true. I settled down to tell Jeremy just that and promised it would be the same for zir. The next day we found purple floral sheers on clearance at Giant Tiger, which Jeremy loved, and then zie was tentatively on board.

We bought Palace Purple paint then settled into painting. Or more honestly, I settled into painting while Jeremy drew happy faces on the wall.

happy face

Jeremy was disappointed because I apparently took a picture of zir worst happy face.

After reminding zir a few times to focus and actually paint, I went into the kitchen to make dinner then came back to discover zie’d painted about three quarters of the room. I was right *jots this down in my calendar* Jeremy saw zir favourite colour and suddenly painting seemed a whole lot more important. I went to work the next day and came home to discover zie’d bought a new can of paint and was busily painting the final corners.

“Take a look around Mom. Can you see any spots I missed?” Jeremy asked as soon as I walked in the door. I peered inside with my work shoes still on.

“The trim there,” I said pointing at a pale spot on the wall, “and that corner there. Otherwise it looks good!” Zie quickly hurried to paint those last two spots.

We got all zir furniture back in place that night, which is good because zie was diagnosed with bronchitis the next day. Talk about timing! At least Jeremy could collapse into bed with all zir stuffed animals and not trip on paint supplies on zir way. The hardest part for me was I wasn’t there. Zie called me on my break to say zie really wasn’t feeling well and thought it would be good to see the doctor. I suggested which walk in clinic to visit then went back on the floor and waited for zir call. Jeremy’s both trans and autistic, I did not wait well, but the doctor was amazing and zie came home with a prescription for antibiotics (and had those filled too by the time I got home).

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in Canada. It’s a harvest festival loosely based on a minor religious celebration in England. I don’t know what it’s like there but here it’s a time for family feasts and going for walks to look at the autumn splendour. My parents came over for dinner and a short walk through the nearby park, short because my Dad hasn’t fully recovered from February. Then my Dad and Jeremy hung up zir new floral curtains.

installing the curtain rod

Everyone was suitably impressed that Jeremy’s drill has a built in light.

And, with that, Jeremy’s room was done. Well, done until zir next big project at least. This is zir room before…

before

The pictures were hung primarily to hide the holes left by the previous tenant, who had mounted some pretty heavy electronics. The blinds were from the previous tenant too.

And this is Jeremy’s room now…

the finished room

The paint’s not perfect and at some point zie’ll have to touch up the heater but it looks good and zie loves it. Jeremy picked it all out, from the paint colour to the wall art to the stuffed animals. This room is zirs…

candles2

… and it looks fabulous!

The most wonderful time of the year…

I am a huge Christmas nut. The lights… the decorations… the sparkles… the music… the candles… the food… the family time… I love it all.

Emma came over yesterday afternoon then we picked up Japanese food (we’d like to order half your menu of battered, deep fried vegetables please) and got out the decorations from the storage closet. Jeremy insisted we really only needed to make one trip so while I carried our tree, Jeremy stacked four rubbermaid bins on top of a skateboard then stuck the box of mini trees on top and wheeled them down the hallway to the elevator. I so wish I’d brought my phone downstairs to take a shot of that. The boxes were stacked higher than Jeremy and zie’s over 6ft tall.

Then we got started on the decorating…

Jeremy decorating the tree.

Jeremy decorating the tree.

TARDIS

Jeremy took this photo of our new TARDIS ornament.

The chandelier ornament Jeremy picked out at BouClair in remembrance of all the chandeliers we didn't buy.

The chandelier ornament Jeremy picked out at BouClair in remembrance of all the chandeliers we didn’t buy. We’d need a mansion to fit all the ones zie wants.

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Emma, Mark, and Jeremy all sat around my Christmas village to play, showing that some things don’t change. Well mostly don’t change. Jeremy would spend hours walking the little villagers around. Now they find unusual ways to leave the villagers. The lady in pink is suicidal, the man in the tree thinks he’s a bird, the man in blue thinks he’s Batman, the kids on the bench are homeless, and Santa just killed someone and stuck their body behind the fence. Umm… merry Christmas? I’m thinking I should start sleeping with one eye open.

This is the final result…

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Doesn’t everyone have a Christmas spider on top of their tree?

 

And a close up of our mini trees. Jeremy picked out rainbow lights last year and we got purple sparkly stars to go on top so they’re pride Christmas trees…

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Jeremy and I went to our first PFLAG meeting on Thursday and it went quite well. I got to talk with other parents and zie got to hang out with several kids around zir age. Both of us left in good spirits and Jeremy’s already looking forward to the next meeting. Plus I put out a shameless request in an online parenting group I belong to for friends for Jeremy on Steam so zie now has several other trans kids to play games with.

Yesterday morning we went to a meeting for Jeremy to change schools and it not only went well but it looks like Jeremy should be transferring *soon*. I have no idea how quick their definition of soon is, hopefully before Christmas. Jeremy is quite happy about that as well.

The poor kid is currently asleep on the couch after suggesting maybe we go shopping tomorrow. Between the two I know zie has to be feeling sick (Jeremy turning down a shopping trip?). I kissed zir forehead and zie doesn’t have a fever (phew). I’m thinking today’s going to be a “watching Doctor Who in pjs” day.

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