December 10, 2011
At least here in Vancouver, the laneway house is the newest form of housing densification. On a 33′ wide lot with lane access, you can build a one and a half story house (i think 500 – 750 sq feet) of living space to either rent out or use as you will. some resistance in the wealthier parts of the city (Dunbar), but pretty enthusiastically embraced elsewhere – especiallyamong more ethnic neighbourhoods with a cultural tradition of multiple generations living in close proximity.
September 16, 2011
September 15, 2011
september in vancouver means precipitation – and we’re back to digging out rainboots and jackets, just in time for school to start.
gardening pursuits in sad disarray after a very disorganized summer. bumper crop of raspberries (thousands, literally more than i could keep up with) and blackberries too. but the rest was sinfully neglected as i hunched over my keyboard and wrote about things that had nothing to do with gardening (bruce lee and the russian mafia and creative ways to incorporate pickling into a martial arts movie).
it’s been crazy for me personally and professionally over the last year (and hence the blogging neglect), but i’m back, for better or for sporadic worse.
my garden is neglected, my front yard is a dirt wasteland that the neighborhood boys (including my own) congregate on daily. and yet – is this not what the goal of a yard or garden IS really? a place where people gather and play and enjoy the space. i don’t mind the dirt fights so much – but what do the neighbours think?
August 11, 2010
July 10, 2010
I’ve been obsessing about all things financial lately, and I thought I’d pass on some of the tips I’ve read about or learned from friends and relatives. A lot of it (I’m told) is just common-sense. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be a quality that comes naturally to me.
1. Cash is key. Unless you’re an advanced practitioner of financial management, or otherwise incredibly good with managing your money, paying for things with cash is critical. A number of people have suggested taking out $X for the week’s groceries and keeping it in an envelope. Take the envelope (and your grocery list) with you when you shop. When the envelope is empty, that’s it for the week.
I’ve been trying this and it’s true – for whatever psychological reason, it’s way harder to let go of dollar bills than it is to hand over your bank card.
What is reasonable to budget? Depends on your tastes – I’ve heard everything from $50/week per adult to $260/week for a family of 6 and on up from there. I’m still trying to figure this one out. What do you think?
2. Save your 10% first. If you’ve read The Wealthy Barber, or most other financial planning books, they suggest saving 10% (of gross or net, however you operate) off the top, before you ever see your money and directing it to savings. If you’re Canadian, this means funneling it towards your RSP; if you’re American, an IRA, 401K or equivalent. If you’re self-employed (like us), plan on saving even more, because the words pension plan are just a mirage on the horizon. This money is the starting point for your long-term financial health. If you actually want to be wealthy, you need to save more. Sad but true.
3. Pay your mortgage off fast. This means bi-weekly payments, which will save you a schwack of interest and significantly shorten your amortization period. Increase your payments to whatever you can comfortably afford – even a little can make a long-term difference. For example, by using a mortgage calculator, I figured out that bumping up our bi-weekly payments by $19 shortens our amortization period by 1 year. Pay down the principal whenever you can – with your tax return, inheritance, etc. If you’re comfortable with fluctuating interest rates, a variable-rate mortgage is a good bet, according to the spreadsheet wizardry of Mr. Naki.
4. Watch your Latte factor. This is the catchphrase of David Bach, who looks like an elf, but has some good basic financial advice to offer. He uses the phrase to refer to all of those moments when money slips through your fingers – the Starbuck$ run in the morning, the mid-afternoon muffin, the lunch at a food court, the magazine you pick up at the grocery checkout (my personal weakness). All of these $2-$10 expenditures add up significantly.
5. Online savings are to be had. The Internet (what did people do before this?) is a great source of info. I’ve found flyers, coupons, and online deals for family activities here:
6. Show me the money. By this, I mean get rid of the crap you have cluttering up your home (that you never use, that you’ve always hated, that you don’t need, doesn’t fit or doesn’t look good) and sell it. In the last week, I’ve offloaded a fridge, a dishwasher, a boxspring, books, and a toddler bike seat on Craigslist. All of this hard-earned cash is going towards #7 (see below).
7. Get off your ass. Driving a car around is super-convenient, but costs a lot of dough. We used to be so environmentally friendly before we got one! Not only do you save a car payment and the environmental cost of burning fossil fuels, but you get fresh air and exercise if you get off your butt and walk or bike or use public transit to get where you need to go. If you have situations where you really need a car, there are some great alternatives (we use the car co-op) to actual ownership. Having said this, I’m not giving up our car. Three kids was my breaking point. But I am trying to cut back, so my Craigslist earnings are going towards a new bike and tagalong for the smallest person.
There are tons of other ideas out there – what do you use that works for you?
July 9, 2010
what do you want first – the good news or the bad news? I’m usually a bad news kind of person – get it out of the way, and then you know you have something good to look forward to.
So here it is.
The garden this year? Not up to snuff. Between the cold wet spring and poor plant selection/soil issues, some of my plants are positively runty. I have a tomato plant that (bless its little heart) is only about 6 inches tall and is still manfully putting out two cherry tomatoes. Five pepper plants (home depot – boo!) are still the same size as when i planted them about three months ago.
Tried some new veggies out this year – the fava beans grew like stink and then got infested with little black bugs, and the cabbages grew big and also got infested (for some reason i keep writing invested) with green worms and greyish crap. My solution is to repeatedly blast them with water, but i’m thinking there’s room for improvement.
My strawberry bed was decimated by the reno – only 5 strawberries have made it to fruition Also, the plum tree that put out forty-odd plums last year has one single solitary fruit growing. Is it on sabbatical? Am i doing something wrong?
Now for the good news. The potatoes in the front yard are coming along nicely.
the newly planted apple trees are putting out fruit.
bumper crops of raspberries.
Finally, (and unrelated to gardening), we headed off to granville island last saturday to gorge on seafood and admire the houseboats. very chic, no?
stupendous flower baskets.
happy 11th anniversary!
July 1, 2010
I’m on the hunt for bargains this summer and I’ve found a few if you’re interested.
Free bowling for kids this summer (valid US and Canada) – www.kidsbowlfree.com (two games/day all summer; shoe rental extra)
Free family swims in Burnaby:
- First Sunday of every month from 12:30pm – 2:30pm
- Eileen Dailly Leisure Pool at 240 Willingdon Avenue in Burnaby
Free swims in Ontario and Northwest Territories: http://www.timhortons.com/ca/en/difference/free-swimming.html
July 17 is Parks Day (Canada) – free admission to national parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/progs/celebrations/ouverte-open.aspx
June 29, 2010
with all of the strange (un)summer weather here in vancouver, kits beach was deserted sunday afternoon.
this morning’s harvest: 100 raspberries :0
June 26, 2010
first time doing the mixing/rising in the bread machine before rolling and baking the bread in the oven. When i read the instructions, it just seemed like extra work, but the finished quality is nice – lighter than some of the loaves i’ve done entirely in the bread machine. Used sea salt with ground herbs and it adds a lovely flavour to the finished product. Next time – spritz the inside of the oven with water to crisp up the crust.
June 25, 2010
the raspberries are coming in! three days of harvest with the help of my small but able assistant (it takes a little prompting to pick just the berry and not the whole branch).
a lovely rose that we were given as a housewarming present – i think the tag says queen elizabeth.
bacopa spilling out of a terracotta pot is always a Good Thing.