Three hundred and thirty-eight

Welcome to A Photograph A Day month

The last month!  I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since I started this project!  And what a crazy year it has been.  Through lots of ups and downs we’ve made it to the month chosen by you, the reader.  You chose that I take a photograph a day, post it, tell the story behind it, and work the photos into a little recap of certain events from the past year.

I’m still figuring out exactly how I’m going to structure this.  I was originally thinking of working on photos in a chronological order from extreme couponing to poverty line, but I think I’d rather be inspired and post what strikes me as important on the day.  I’d like to add anecdotes and perhaps some stories I didn’t write about on the blog because they seemed too personal at the time, but now that time has passed I feel like I can share them.  I’m also going to try to work in those things that I didn’t get a chance to do during the months, but wanted to (ie. stand-up comedy for out of my comfort zone month – yes, Peter and Chris, I will be doing this still!).  As this topic was chosen by you, if you have anything you’d like to see be part of this month, please comment and let me know.

“I’m blogging this.”

Without further ado, my first photo.  I thought this was appropriate as a beginning to this month, and a representation of some of the struggle I went through this year balancing blogging (and trying to share as much as possible) with deciding what I should keep personal (for my own sake, or for other people in my life’s sake).  Sometimes my decisions in this regard worked out better than other times…

(Oh, and the underwear were a Christmas gift from my friend Meredith.  Thanks Mere!)


Three hundred and seven

Welcome to Life at the Poverty Line Month and Happy 2012!

I’ve somehow made it to 2012 and my second to last month of my year-long journey.  I can’t believe it’s already January and this project is in the home stretch.  As a reminder, make sure to “suggest my last month” in the next few days, as on Friday I’ll be posting my top five ideas for you to vote on.

Life at the poverty line

This month I will be living at the poverty line level.  Although the Government of Canada has yet to set an official definition or measure of poverty, there are several ways that this number can be determined for the purpose of this blog.  In all the research I’ve done so far, poverty is generally looked at and measured in one of two terms: absolute or relative.

Absolute terms “compare household income with the cost of a basket of specific goods and services. The Fraser Institute’s Christopher Sarlo has written extensively on poverty in Canada in recent years. His publications on the subject of poverty measurement are considered by many as the bibles of the absolute poverty measure in Canada.” (  This is usually referred to as the “basic needs approach”, where it is determined what minimum resources are required to sustain a healthy life and how much money you are needing to make in order to fulfill those needs.  According to the 2010 “FEDERAL POVERTY REDUCTION PLAN: WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP TOWARDS REDUCING POVERTY IN CANADA, Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities Basic Needs Poverty Lines by Household Size, 2007 (from The Fraser Institute)”, the basic needs poverty line for a household size of 1 person is $10,520 per year.

Relative poverty measures household income of individuals and groups compared to the income and spending patterns of the general population.  It changes as the income of the population in that area does.  Many people refer to Statistics Canada’s Low income cut-offs when referring to relative poverty measures, although the Government of Canada makes it clear that they are not defining poverty, but low-income.  According to Statistics Canada’s 2101 Low income cut-offs , the low income cut-off after tax for a household size of 1 person living in a metropolitan area of over 500,000 inhabitants (ie. Toronto) is $18,759.

There is much debate over which is the best method to use to determine poverty – the more right wing and the more left wing views. What’s most interesting to me is that I could not possibly live off of the basic needs poverty line of $10,520 determined by the Fraser Institute.  After my rent of $750 (an amount which is fairly average for an apartment in Toronto), I would have just over $4 a day to survive off.  That $4 would have to cover my food, transportation, emergencies, health care if needed, entertainment, phone, and any other bills.  That is not possible, unless you are getting all free food, walking everywhere, and nothing went wrong.

So I’ve decided to use the Stats Can Low Income Cut-off as my working poverty line for this month.  Dividing the $18,759 by twelve months, leaves me with $1,563.25 for the month of January.  Minus my rent of $750 and bills of $150 (some of these can be reduced and I will talk about that more in other posts later this month) and divided by the 31 days of January allows me $21.40 per day to pay for my food, transportation, emergencies, entertainment and any other expenses I have.

I will still be working and making money, so in order for this to work I’ll be setting aside any extra money that I make this month over the $1,563.25 and at the end of the month donate a percentage of this excess (still to be determined) to food banks and other such organizations that aid poverty-stricken Canadians.

I realize that is a lot of numbers, so below is a very quick summary.  Tomorrow I’ll talk about my plan for the month and how I’m feeling about this journey.

  • Low income cut-off for a one person household in Toronto per year: $18,759
  • Amount of money per month after tax: $1,563.25
  • My amount of money left per day after rent ($750) and bills ($150): $21.40

Two hundred and seventy-six

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” -Audrey Hepburn

Welcome to Good Deed a Day Month!

I’m really excited about this month!  Who doesn’t love helping other people, the environment, animals?  Ok, there are probably people out there who don’t enjoy doing good deeds, but those people aren’t worth the time I’m taking to write this sentence…

In honour of the commercialized holidays that dominate our Western culture, I’m going to celebrate December by doing a good deed every day.  I’ll be picking up trash, baking yummy treats, walking dogs, volunteering with charities, donating.  I don’t want to give away all the exciting ideas I have for this month, but I’m warning you, if you read this month I’m hoping you’re inspired to do some good deeds of your own!

Lots of bigger issues come up with this idea of “good deeds” as well.  How can I help others?  How does this make others feel?  How do I feel?  Is there really such thing as a selfless act?  Does it matter if it’s “selfless”, if it’s making other people’s lives easier?  What really qualifies as a good deed?

It’s going to be a good month – I can feel it!

Two hundred and forty six

Welcome to my month of holiday celebrations and Happy World Vegan Day!

When a friend originally suggested this idea as something I could do during my year of month-long social experiments we had talked about picking random holidays and matching them up with random days during the month of November.  Celebrating Christmas on the 1st, Easter on the 2nd, Bring Your Child To Work Day on the 3rd (no I don’t have a child, and I’m not sure it would be legal to have a child following me while I’m serving pints at the pub, but would be a very amusing blog post), etc.

The more I got to thinking about it, though, and the more this year has developed, I realized the blog is about learning just as much as about my silly experiments.  So instead of random holidays, I’m going to celebrate holidays that happen around the world on the actual days of November (yes, there is a holiday for each day).  Not only can you follow along with my bizarre escapades, you can also have an excuse to celebrate every day in November.

I’m going to set things up a bit differently this month.  Every day I will write about the holiday – history, traditions, etc.  Then the following day I will share any fun stories that came from my celebrations of that holiday (and hopefully photos and videos).  Therefore, every day (besides today) will have two parts: information about the holiday of the day, and a recap of what I got up to celebrating the day before.  If this is confusing, follow along and you’ll see what I mean… I have a feeling this month will once again have some embarrassing moments in it…

Happy World Vegan Day!

It worked out perfect that I can celebrate World Vegan Day the day after I finish my first month ever of being vegan.  November 1st marks the start of World Vegan Month, the creation of the term ‘vegan’ and the founding of The Vegan Society in November, 1944.  It’s a way for people to celebrate being vegan and get their message out to the public through events around the world (check out The Vegan Society’s list for some of these events).

I wrote yesterday about some of the things I learned about veganism, so I won’t go into too much detail.  I do want to mention, however, that although I don’t believe everyone can be vegan (and I won’t be strictly vegan), we should all be aware of the health benefits, the environmental benefits and the animal rights issues that vegans preach.  Eating more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, quinoa, etc. can only be good for our bodies and our planet.

So Happy World Vegan Day!

Two hundred and seventeen

“You can cheat.  Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone.” – my mother on our way to lunch yesterday with the family.  “Mom, that defeats the purpose.  If I’m going to be vegan for a month, I can’t just cheat whenever finding vegan food is inconvenient.” – my response.  Finding a restaurant where my meat-eating family can enjoy their bacon and eggs and I can have a non-meat, non-dairy brunch was hard, but not as hard as I thought.  Luckily, living in the west end of Toronto there are a lot of restaurants that offer vegan options on their menu.  Although, my tofu scramble didn’t look or taste as good as the eggs benedict or the french toast.  And having toast without butter is really dry.

I’m on day three of being vegan and although I feel like I’m eating more to keep myself from feeling hungry, most of the things I’m consuming are healthier and pretty tasty (especially the home-cooked stuff).  I’ve been eating lots of veggies and fruit, quinoa, chickpeas, hummus and whole grain crackers.  Grocery shopping was a bit of a challenge, as it took far longer to read every label to see if it was vegan.  I’m definitely going to have to shop more in specialty stores or do some research on what products don’t have dairy or eggs in them (meat is pretty easy to spot).  I haven’t started craving cheese or chicken yet, though, which is good, but there has been no change in how I feel physically or emotionally (I’m sure that will take some time).

I posted on Facebook that I was starting vegan month and I was surprised and pleased by the response I got.  More of my friends are vegan than I knew about and I was offered lots of tips, tricks, ideas of places to shop and recipes.  I will be using all these to help me through my month and sharing them.  Thanks guys!