100 Packs of Ketchup (and Counting)

When I was in school I was pretty broke.
I went to class during the day, bartended nights and lived as cheaply as possible— which typically involved sleeping on a futon in a “room” that was once a shed or a closet, getting around on a salvaged bike with one working brake (spicy!) and pocketing every condiment packet left foolishly unattended by fast food restaurants.
(A special shout out here to Starbucks for regularly leaving honey packs out, and to Panera for its tasty spicy brown mustard!)

A typical “Anna” dinner consisted of reduced-for-quick-sell-as-tomorrow-will-definitely-be-rotten produce from a nearby ChinaTown stall (a mix of mostly unrecognizable foreign vegetables in a clear plastic bag marked with a big red “X”) “sautéed” with a stolen packet of soy or sweet and sour sauce, served over ramen noodles.
Total cost: $1.33.  Win.

One day I came across Ensure and it totally blew my mind: an entire meal’s worth of nutrition in a can for less than $1?  !!!

I bought two 6-packs of no-name Chocolate Royale and proceeded to drink one for lunch and dinner every day.  Sometimes I even got fancy and blended it with a banana.
It worked out really well…until I got really sick.
(It turns out that even hospitals supplement Ensure with actual food)

My next brilliant money-saving food epiphany happened while digging through the reduced bin at the local grocery store:
A small container filled with organic steak, potatoes and greens.
No preservatives. No salt or sugars added. Only 50 cents!

I threw the small jar into my basket and practically ran to the baby aisle–an aisle I had, until this fateful day, ignorantly passed over–where I discovered, in stacks and stacks along the wall, hundreds of jars of nutritionally balanced, pureed meals, each for less than a cup of coffee.

I selected the fanciest ones—salmon, rice and green beans, filet minion, chicken parmesan and pasta—and smiled all the way home at my savvy discovery and the feast I would have that night.

Now…I’m not sure how many of you have actually tried baby food…
I have.
And it is TERRIBLE.

Seriously. I am not surprised babies spit that stuff up: it is absolutely disgusting.
And I really tried to like it:  I heated it up, added salt and pepper, mixed ketchup into it…but it was just totally inedible.

What a disappointment.

Fast-forward about a million years to today:  I have grown into a responsible adult with a responsible adult job.  I live in a responsible adult house and drive a responsible adult car*.  I buy fancy, not-from-concentrate orange juice and wear comfortable shoes.

And I have about 100 little packets of ketchup in my fridge.

Because even though I am responsible adult, I still take condiment packets from restaurants.  Even if I have access to the full-sized versions: if there are raspberry jam packets on the table (not jelly, not marmalade) at least one will be coming home with me in my pocket.  Who knows when you will need a shot of vinegar, soy sauce or yellow mustard on the go?  Or peanut butter?  Or mayonnaise?

Hello, my name is Anna and I am a single-serve condiment addict.

Maybe one day I will grow out of my condiment hoarding.
And maybe one day I will be able to smell baby food again without gagging.
Until then…


^ In my fridge
(Yes, I am crazy and bag and label my stolen condiments…dont judge me.)



Ice Climbing Confessions

The ice on the weekend had been super rotten and barely climbable, it was now raining and 10 degrees C, and the forecast was calling for a week of more rain and double digit temps….

Ice climbing season was over.

So on March 20, when Spring officially arrived, I put away my ice climbing gear for the season:  I cleaned out my pack, washed my things, lubed my gear, tucked it all away in the gear room and broke out my outdoor rock shoes and harness.
Yeah baby!  Bring on the Spring!*

While I had gone out about 2-3 times the previous winter top-roping on rented gear, I would say that this winter was my first real season ice climbing.

I had all my own gear.  I lead my first ice climb.  And I actually had fun!
(Compared to last year when I was just cold and frustrated, cat-scratching the ice with crampons loosely strapped to over-sized boots wondering miserably why everyone made it look so easy?)

As I reflect on this past ice season, I have some confessions to make.
Things I wouldn’t readily admit too… but will today because I couldn’t come up with any better ideas for a blog post 😉

  •       Every time I go ice climbing when it is really cold outside, I hold my tongue to my ice pick in a secret experiment to see how cold it has to be for my tongue to stick to it (so far, no conclusions)
  •       If I get a cut on my face from shattering ice and someone asks about it at work, I usually tell them I was scratched by a friend’s cat.  It’s easier.
  •       One time, while cleaning, I put a quickdraw in my mouth.  Don’t do that.
  •       If I am feeling lazy and the weather says it will be really cold outside, I will leave my gear in the trunk instead of bringing it inside right away and cleaning it.
    Longest time gear spent in trunk? 4 days.
  •       I believe a day of ice climbing burns all the calories from the french fries, beers, burger, brownies, ice cream and boston cream donuts I eat before and afterward
  •       If I sold all of my ice climbing gear at its full-retail value, I could buy myself a decent new-used car (thinking about this still makes me barf in my mouth a little)
  •       If there is a long approach, I don’t wear a bra because it gets all sweaty in the back while hiking with a pack.  It is a bit awkward later if we go out to a restaurant for food.
  •       I honestly thought ice climbing would make me a stronger rock climber
  •       If you can lead WI 4+ or greater I picture what our children might look like for a few minutes after

Anything you’d like to add to the list?  Oh wait! I’ve got one more:


Picture Confession: I was only waist deep in the snow for the photo.  There is clearly a path dug out on the right we used to get to the climb.

*It turns out this gesture was mostly symbolic, however, as the following week temperatures dropped and stayed between -4 and -12 degrees C.  I stubbornly refused to unpack my ice stuff, so while all my friends went ice climbing that weekend, I took Friday off and drove to Kentucky instead…




Climbing Rage

On a recent climbing trip, I was belaying a girl I didn’t really know on top rope
(a girl “friend” of a friend of mine).
She was super nice and friendly on the ground but transformed into a screaming, thrashing animal as she repeatedly struggled, flailed and fell at the crux.


I’m not one to judge though: I have been known to yell while climbing too.
Like, REALLY yell.
And unfortunately, my belayer too has ended up in the direct path of it.

Looking back, I’ll admit that usually * the yelling was undeserved.  Although, at the time, I
a) thought it was deserved or
b) didn’t realize I was doing it until it was too late.

So, Id like to use this post as an apology:
To my Belayer Friend, Im sorry I yelled at you that time.
I don’t think you are a F**KING MOTHERF**KER (or whatever else I called you).
I feel bad and kinda embarrassed that I called you that.
(I also don’t want you to GO F**K yourself.  Im not even sure how that is possible…)

And, although I’m sure you already know, I wanted to share some of the reasons why I was yelling.  Or screaming-Adam-Ondra-styles at the wall.  Or why I stormed away and vowed I would never climb again:

1.    I was frustrated.
The move was too big.  The hold was too small.  I was totally gassed.  The clip was in a stupid spot.  I hit my knee really hard.   The sun was too bright.  The rock was too sharp.  I was wearing the wrong shoes.  The ice was too hard. The crack was too big.   The crack was too small.  I was running out of time.  I just couldn’t stick it.  I was so close.  Rope drag!

2.    I was scared.
There was no pro.  I was super run out.  My last piece was bad.  I was going to swing.  There was a ledge.  There was a tree.  I was going to hit the ground.  I was pumping out.  I was so exposed. (Or at least it felt that way….)

3.    I was upset about something else totally unrelated

4. #1, 2 and/or 3 plus one (or more) of the following:

  • I was cold
  • I was hot/sunburnt
  • I was hungry
  • I was dehydrated
  • I was hung over
  • I was tired

So, to that girl “friend” of a friend of mine who yelled at me, I want to let you know that I understand. I get it. I’ve been there–It’s not me, it’s you.
And I’m not mad…It actually inspired me to write a blog post!
(I think that means in the internet world we are friends.  Or do you need to upvote me on reddit?  I dont really get the internet…)

BUT, just like me, you are going to have to learn how to deal with your climbing rage. Sometimes while climbing you are going to get frustrated.  or scared.  or upset.  or hurt.
or drop a piece of gear. or hit a rock with your ice tool. or pull a hold off the wall. or grab something gross-fuzzy-and/or-slimy inside and/or instead of a climbing hold.
But these are not good reasons to yell at anyone, scream at the rock, or throw your chalk bag on the ground and swear to give up climbing altogether.

Take a breath.  Relax.
Love and cherish your belayer
And Love and cherish your time on the rock

*Not always…even if it’s an easy climb you shouldn’t be smoking and texting while belaying me!


Suffering from…..CLIMBING RAGE!



10 Tips for Car Living

Before I started rock climbing, my life was all about whitewater.  Three days after I bought my first used car (Beauty), I packed up and headed out west to Canmore, AB to a good paying raft guiding job and new rivers and creeks to kayak! Unfortunately, AB tourism was hit hard that year and trips were WAY down: instead of working 6 days a week I was lucky to do 1.  This gave lots of time to go on missions exploring rivers around AB and BC–which was awesome–but I was barely able to afford gas.


Beauty ready to run shuttle

With dwindling funds and an uncertain future in Canmore, I decided to give up the room I rented in a shared house and move into my car.  I figured I would probably be moving on anyways soon and it saved me a bunch of cash (Unfortunately, living in a tent wasn’t an option because there is no such thing as free/cheap camping in Canmore).

Now, Beauty is no tricked out Sprinter van, pick-up, caravan or Subaru station wagon (all luxury to sleep in).  She is a 2000 Chevy Cavalier with a cd player, manual doors and windows and seats that dont go completely down.  But I managed to make a pretty good home out of her, and thought I’d share some  tips on how to make the most out of living out of your car, whether you are on a road trip or just enjoy a simpler (dirtbag) lifestyle…..

10 Tips for Living out of Your Car 

1.  Curtains:  A necessity.  Not only do curtains give you some privacy, they also block out streetlights and the morning sun.  I tried a Velcro system that didn’t work very well and just ended up screwing some picture hooks into the roof.

2. Get Comfortable:  Try to find a spot where you can sleep as flat as possible and make sure you can stretch your legs out! My car seats did not recline more than 130 degrees, so for me that meant putting down the backseat and sleeping pretty much in the trunk.  (Trunks have more space than you think!)  Have lots of blankets and a sleeping bag handy: they will keep you warm and cover up seatbelts/armrests/other uncomfortable things that always manage to be in the wrong place.

3. Incognito Parking:  Just because you are sleeping in your car doesn’t mean people want you to do it in front of their houses or businesses. Some parking lots do not allow parking over night, and a car pulled over on the side of the road in the middle of the night in a remote area is somewhat suspicious… and may result in a visit from the cops to make sure there is no emergency (or drug deal).  My favourite places to park and sleep include: Walmart parking lots, the parking lot of hotels/hostels/motels, campground or recreation area parking lots, truck stops, carpool parking lots and remote areas that have houses close by.  I recommend avoiding crag parking lots (unless there is camping available there), residential side streets, apartment complex and bar parking lots because you are likely to get hassled. Have several spots and cycle through them rather than becoming a staple at one and risk getting asked to move along!

4.  Baby Wipes:  No access to a shower? Spill on your dashboard? Need to clean a dirty dish but ran out of water? These are lifesavers.  Wipe away smelly feet after a big day hiking or climbing or freshen up after some mobile-sexy-time.  (If baby wipes are not for you, I highly recommend Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap…it cleans everything.)

5. Power Inverter:  If you don’t have a solar panel, this is the next best thing for charging your phone, computer, camera and running electronics or whatever else plugs in.  Keep in mind, if something draws a lot of power it might not run off an inverter (like a kettle or toaster oven…I used one of these to boil water fast). Even if you are not using the inverter, unplug it at night to make sure your car still starts in the morning!

6. Showering: Gyms, recreation centres and campgrounds will usually let you use their shower facilities for a small fee.  I’ve found these are usually cheaper options than stores in resort towns that offer showers (which also usually have time limits and may not be as clean).  If you are staying in a place for a while it is worth looking into getting a gym membership to have regularly access to the facilities. If you are low on cash, I’ve been told if you wait until “off” hours (when the check-in desk is closed) you can casually just walk into campgrounds and use their showers.  And sometimes you can casually walk in and use the pool and pool showers at hotels.  But of course, I wouldn’t know this from firsthand experience…this is just what I’ve heard…

7. Wi-Fi Access:  Because even if you live in your car you want to stay connected!  Many businesses offer complimentary internet (that you can usually access from the parking lot) such as McDonald’s (who also have clean bathrooms and staff that don’t ask questions…), coffee shops like Starbucks or Tim Hortons and Laundromats.  If these places are not handy, many motels/hotels have wi-fi that is not password protected and signals you can pick up from their parking lots.  If all else fails, you can usually pick up at least one unprotected wifi signal while parked in front of an apartment building or find one by driving slowly through a residential area with your laptop open (umm….again, so I’ve heard….)

8. Compartmentalization: Keep your clothes neat and car organized and smelling good by putting your stuff in rubber bins with sealing lids.  I recommend a separate bin for gear and one for clothes so all of your things don’t smell like dirty feet or rotting river gear.  I usually throw a couple Silica gel packs into my bins to keep them dry and avoid that weird musty smell.

9. Out of Sight, Out of Mind:  If it looks like your living in your car, no matter how beater your vehicle is, someone will assume you must have something of value in it.  And even if there is nothing to steal inside (as was in my case…they took a $10 inverter and a Bob Marely cd), fixing a broken window sucks and is expensive.

10. Friends:  Friends can make all the difference: they have warm couches on cold nights, showers, kitchens with freezers, fridges and stoves, basements to store your stuff, backyards to leave your bike or kayaks and driveways to park in. BUT A CAVEAT! Friends also have their limits…which is why #1-9 on this list exists.  If living in your car means living off your friends, you should just move in and pay them rent. To keep your options open I recommend the following:

      • Call or ask first before you show up
      • Bring beer.  Baked goods are good too!
      • If making food, make some for everybody.  And dont leave a mess!
      • Use your own stuff (food, shampoo/soap, towels, laundry soap, etc.)
      • Offer to help (cleaning, cutting grass, chopping firewood, babysitting)
      • Leave no trace!

In the end, I stayed in Canmore for 5 more months.  I eventually moved out of my car/off of friend’s couches and into a friend’s garage:


Awesome low cost garage living