Thursday, 19 October 2017

Trimmimg the Fat

Well, with the old house sold and the new house bought there is only one thing to do. Sell all that stuff you don't want to move! We got organized and had the first of three garage sales. Saturday was a hum dinger and we sold a lot of our bits and bobs that we just no longer need. A lot of cook books and travel books, some novels and Christmas decorations. Then as the day progressed we started adding more stuff.


Shelagh, aka Miss Moneybags...

We told people to come back tomorrow for more new stuff. Our nine year old patio furniture set fetched $250.00! And the lady who bought it came back on Sunday to pick it up, then she saw some of the new stuff we added and bought a bunch more! We met a lot of interesting people, a couple who have lived many years on Vancouver Island chatted for quite a while about the beauty of the place. We have much exploring to do. And a guy who has travelled all over North America as a musician playing gigs from Mexico to Yellowknife. He gave us a CD that has his own creations on it and left with a scented oil burner, complete with about a dozen scents, for which he paid four US dollars! As he walked off I realized that we should have traded the CD for the oil burner but he did not seem the type. But our largest clientele were our own neighbours. They shopped our garage down like experts. The next Saturday without rain in the forecast will be our third, and final, garage sale. Whatever is left after that will go to the local hospice society outlet.

It was nice to have a visit from our friends Hans, and Stuart & Cindy. Hans walked off with my old iMac and some tiki torches. And Stuart offered us his utility trailer with a car equipped with a trailer hitch. That will come in handy for the run to the dump with old stuff that just can't be put to another use. We will miss our friends here, but we're not going far. Plus the new house has four bedrooms and three bathrooms! Some good visits will happen.


I posted our dining room suite for sale on Kijiji and got some interest the next day, a lady in poor health and hospitalized wanted to buy it for her grandson. A Christmas present. After some back and forth and some exchange of information it became clear that I was being phished! I won't go into details about how I was being conned, but rest assured, I completely lost it! But this is when Shelagh becomes the calm and collected one and she spent many hours on the phone dealing with officials and getting our accounts protected against sheisters like this. I guess we'll keep our diningroom suite unless someone shows up with cash in hand, even then, there's a lot of counterfeit out there, especially American money... Be like Fox Mulder, the guy from the X Files, and trust no one... That is not my nature though, so I will have to leave matters like this to Shelagh, who has spent many years working with the RCMP and knows when to become suspicious.

I'm looking forward now to getting our last garage sale done and then the packing will begin. Fun days ahead...

Friday, 13 October 2017

The deed is done!

Up earlier than normal. Got showered and packed up the car. Ate some fruit and drove the two blocks over to the Remax office to meet up with David. We decided to follow him in our own car because we needed to get to Duke Point for the ferry at 11.45, one hour before the sailing.

The house we were to see is number 25 and the door was open for us... Upon entering the house, there is a den to the right perfect for my solo time with music. Then onto the master bedroom with ensuite on the left, then a full bathroom followed by a spacious great room with a vaulted ceiling, we always wanted a vaulted ceiling...


Then downstairs a full basement with three bedrooms, a bathroom and a large media room. Also a utility room perfect for my winemaking hobby. "I thought we were downsizing?" Said Shelagh. "Four bedrooms is easier for resale!" Said I. So we came to the conclusion that this was the place, our final home before the crispy kennel. A small front yard and a small back yard which we will landscape with zero grass! Flagstone patio with perennial shrubs and river rocks. We'll do that over the winter months. Possession is December 15th so we will be homeless for only two weeks... Now the challenge of moving and two weeks storage begins...


By Tuesday we have to submit our choices for exterior and interior paint colours, that will be Sunday's homework, after that we need to choose a stone kitchen counter top. Thank goodness Shelagh has a great eye for interior design...

We drove the slow road to Duke Point while David prepared the documents for our offer. That's all done electronically these days. By the time we got home the documents were in our e-mail. We signed them digitally and fired them back to him. We beat out another offer because we could come in with a no subject offer, it always pays off to sell first, then buy...


The coastal drive is so nice along highway 1A through all the little towns that soon will become our playground...

Now we're getting ready for our first moving sale Saturday from 09:00 'till 14:00. If you live near us, please stop by and buy some of our stuff!


This is what these neighbourhoods typically end up looking like...

Monday, 9 October 2017

Off farther north

Just to be sure we decided to have a look farther up Island to see what could be had within our budget. So we packed the dog in his crate and drove the two hour treck from Duncan to Courtenay and Comox. Downtown Courtenay is wonderful, the high street peppered with high end shops selling anything from beautiful furniture to fashion and designer boutiques with prices for the rich and famous. Many delicious eateries offering a miriad of tastes from all over the globe. A little Mecca. But as we drove around the neighbouring areas, including Comox, we found our budget sadly lacking. Typically free standing homes start at around the $650000.00 mark and going up weekly. Add that to the fact that this area is an hour and a half drive north of Nanaimo, the nearest link to the lower mainland.

Casey had a ball, so many new smells to sniff and so many new people to get acquainted with. He is a very grown up dog, even when a young poodle type thing wanted him for lunch, he just stood there and looked at him as if to say, "You are some special kind of stupid eh?" We found a few beautiful areas in this part of Vancouver Island, but they are way beyond what we want to spend on our final home.

We drove the fast route up there along highway 19, and decided to drive the slow route back to Duncan along highway 19A, the original Island Highway. So nice along the coast through all the quaint little towns. Vancouver Island is a gem to be enjoyed whenever you can... Once we got back to our house-sit I took Casey for a walk and then we settled into the house, had some dinner and relaxed, while we waited for David, our realtor, to get back to us with news about the two properties we were hoping to deal on.


Property number four...

The annoying part of this is that while their properties were listed for sale, they were not ready to build on because they had not yet filed their plans with the land title people in Victoria. How can you possibly put a building plot up for sale when you can't build on it yet! Frustrating to say the least... David had put in a request for more info on the properties we were interested in, but that was slow going. To get a property through the land title office could take up to four weeks. Our house is sold, we need action soon. The next day we were still none the wiser so I dicided that we needed a distraction and planned a visit to Cowichan River Provincial Park.

The Cowichan River

Taken from the old railway bridge.


Cowichan River Provincial Park is located west of Duncan. It has a few picnic areas and a campground. The scenery is amazing and there are some wonderful hiking trails. We wiled away a few hours here strolling through the greenery. Shelagh's arthritic knees are getting worse every day so a long walk was out of the question, but we are sure that we'll be back here many times for a picnic by the river's edge. One of our favoutite pasttimes in all seasons except winter.

On the way back to our house-sit we stopped by Keystone drive for another look. We both like this street, but if they can't start building for another month we'll not be able to make the dates work, frustrating... We decided to drive by yet another complex in the works on Gibbins road. It's slightly farther out of town and surprisingly way more quiet. The wheels in my brain began to churn... Quiet, backing onto a green belt with a walking trail, and by the state of construction I figured completion could happen end November to early December. We went home and I took the dog for his walk and, when home, talked about this third possibility.


Could this be the one?

On Monday morning we packed up our stuff, did laundry and house cleaning, changed the bed and made everything ready for Sharon's return from Victoria. We left the house at about 14:00 and checked into our hotel. The Thunderbird Motor Inn is the place for us. We got a wonderful room at a wonderful price and had a glass of wine. Then we decided to fire off an e-mail to David to set up a viewing on Tuesday morning, he was right on it. We were ready to meet him Tuesday at 09:30 to take a look...

Sunday, 8 October 2017

House hunting in the Cowichan Valley

We reached our hotel, the Thunderbird Motor Inn, in Duncan early at about 13:00, but the room was vacant and clean so we could check in right away. Rita, the receptionist who manages the hotel with her husband, is an absolute sweetheart with a smile that will charm anyone. We booked in for two nights. They had just installed new, super fast internet and it is blazing. We got our stuff into the room and regrouped for a bit. Shelagh was still a bit upset so we took it easy for a while. In the room I contacted Dean, our realtor in Langley and asked him to recommend a realtor to us in Duncan. We soon had the name and number of a realtor for our next search. I fired off an e-mail to David Lowes from Remax Duncan to let him know he had been recommended and that we would like to meet with him and get to know each other. Just then an interesting e-mail showed up in our inbox...

Sharon, who has Casey the Cairn Terrier, wanted to know if we could house sit for 11 weeks starting Christmas eve. This would coincide with our plans very well. If we were to choose to build a house here, we could live in Sharon's house while she snowbirds, and watch the  progress of our home being built. Shelagh replied to her message saying that we just happened to be in town looking for our next home and that it would be so nice to meet up and give Casey a ruffle. Well, Sharon replied that she would be going to Victoria for Thanksgiving and that we would be welcome to stay at her house 'till Monday! The universe is working with us. Three nights in her house with Casey would be great and save us about $300.00! We gladly accepted. We phoned the lovely Rita at the hotel counter and she happily cancelled our second night at the hotel, after we officially cancelled this night with "hotels.com". We were all smiles and the woes of our Victoria experience faded a bit.


 Casey, such a sweet little guy...

By now we were hungry so we walked across the parking lot to the York St. Diner. This resaurant serves enormous plates, so it is a good idea to share a dinner, or you will bring plenty of it home. We ordered the Ukrainian plate complete with Pierogis, Sauerkraut, Kielbasa Sausage and Sour Cream. Delicious and one dinner was enough for two people.

We waddled back to the hotel room across the parking lot and settled in for the evening. David had replied to my e-mail and we were to meet at 09:00 at his office just two blocks away. We had some wine and relaxed, then to bed, sleep came quickly for me but Shelagh still struggled a bit through the night...

Up at 07:00 coffee on, check e-mails, shave and shower and ready to go. We were at David's office at 09:00 precisely and we chatted for about half an hour letting David know what we were looking for. New build, rancher, maximum 1500sqft, two or more bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen with stone countertops and a modern appliance package. Easy peasy. As usual inventory is low, but David had some properties to show us. First we went to a development called "Stone Village" it is a "Bare Land Strata" where there is a council elected who will regulate the way things go in the community, nothing new to us, we have lived in stratas for many years and we kind of like rules that people need to live by. But the development was a bit too high density, houses too close together and from experience in Walnut Grove, we concluded that this would become a problem place over time. However there was one unit on offer that was, for the price, almost too difficult to ignore, 2700sqft for $495000.00!

Then we went on to "Keystone" the final phase in a large neighbourhood called "Stone Manor Estates". This development is a bit more low density and no strata. We liked the last phase very much and told David to proceed on getting a detailed builders list as to what exactly is included in the final price. We also informed him that we might make a few additions to the plan, like adding a natural gas outlet at the patio for a barbecue and a 220 volt outlet for a hot tub and a gas outlet in the kitchen because I like to cook with gas. David took all these notes and we parted company at 11:00. Then on to Sharon's place to meet up and pick up the keys.


The house we like and phase four called "Keystone" in "Stone Manor Estates".

Sharon was happy to see us again, it had been a couple of months, Casey remembered us right away and gave us lots of love. We left her house to return a few hours later after she had left for Victoria. In the meantime we returned to the construction sites and snooped around trying to figure out how we would manage in these new neighbourhoods. We came to the conclusion that a 2700sqft house would be much too big for us at this stage of our lives, even though it is a bargain, why would you live in a place that you would not use completely? So we nixed it. We will spend more money on a smaller place but it will be in a better setting... Hopefully we will build on lot #15...

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Goodbye Victoria

The next day, Wednesday, Frank Chan, our realtor had a conference to attend, so we had the morning and early afternoon to ourselves. We planned a tour of the city visiting many buildings around town. The problem with the areas around downtown is that the buildings are old and in need of major upgrades. Most of the residenets in these buildings are not in favour of spending large sums of their savings on these upgrades, so the buildings fall into a state of disrepair. We have seen so many buildings that have a very posh address, but when inside all you see is old carpets, single pane windows, tired stucco and trashy design. It is a bit of a dissappointment. Also monthly strata fees in the older buildings are generally very high because of heat loss issues.

We were getting depressed, and returned to the hotel to regroup. Then we got a message from Frank, he was texting under the table during his conference, he was alerted to a new listing in a modern building in Langford. We agreed to meet him at the listing address later in the afternoon. When we arrived Frank was there ready to show us the place. It looked beautiful, nice design, wonderful condo with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, stone kitchen counters and all the mod-cons. We loved it and went to his office to write up an offer. We were there for nearly three hours going over the ins and outs of the contract. Frank added a clause the we would be able to get out of the deal if we did not like the reading material that is supposed to be supplied by the seller. Two years of strata minutes including AGM reports and a building depreciation report etc. Our offer was countered and we accepted the new price. Then we went back to the hotel to do our homework. We ordered a pizza to be delivered to our room, delicious by the way, and we did a lot of reading. I was on the depreciation report while Shelagh was reading the minutes. Then it became clear that there are serous problems in this building. The minutes were peppered with owner's complaints about excessive heat buildup from the geo thermal heating system. Geo thermal heating is an expensive system to install, but relatively cheap to run, the problem is that you also need ventilation. This building lacks that and the heat keeps coming. We decided to opt out of the deal. No problem for Frank, he is a seasoned realtor, a true proffessional with an incredible manner about him, so helpful and patient. We would recommend him to anyone looking for a home in the greater Victoria area.


This is the building we almost bought in. (Photo borrowed from Google maps)

Just a ten minute drive from this building is the beach at Esquimalt Lagoon...


The next morning we met with Frank in his office and snuffed the deal... Then we headed north to the Cowichan Valley to look for a home there. The search continues...

All this house hunting is a very emotional exercise. It is tiring going from one place to another feeling dissapointment at the state of the older buildings. Trying to stay positive through it all. It all became too much for Shelagh and as we said goodbye to Frank she started to cry, and cried all the way up the Malahat 'till we got to the turnoff to Cowichan Bay. "Let's go to Cowichan Bay" said Shelagh. I turned right and soon we were sitting on a bench, overlooking the bay eating leftover pizza and taking in the view... Slowly Shelagh calmed down and we talked about the previous couple of days. We decided that this has been a learning experience and that we will carry on and find our new home soon. With renewed hope we got to our hotel in Duncan and contacted Dean Hooseman, our friend and realtor in Langley to recommend us to a realtor here in Duncan. We will meet David Lowes tomorrow at 09:00 and get crackin'.

In the Cowichan Valley $500000.00 will get you a brand new house, in Victoria that budget will get you a dump...

Our hotel room in Victoria has two pictures on the wall, the first one is over the bed and the second one is over the sofa...


Monday, 2 October 2017

A busy day

Up early at 06:30 (getting up before 07:00 is so uncivilized) only to realize the we should have gotten up at 06:00... Thankfully we had most of our stuff organized the day before so no worries. A quick shower and an apple with our coffee and we were ready to head to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal for our 09:00 sailing to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. We pulled into the terminal waiting area and got comfy for a half our wait. This is when the phone rang, it was Frank, our realtor in Victoria; his seminar for today was cancelled so he would be at our hotel at 11:30 to pick us up for a tour of the city and surrounding areas and to show us some condos he had lined up for us. We were really excited because we had planned just an afternoon by ourselves scouting the town. However that day by ourselves will now happen on Tuesday. The crossing is just an hour and thirty minutes and we were disembarking on schedule at 10:30. We drove southbound for Victoria but stopped first at the Golden Arches Supper Club for some egg McMuffins. When we arrived at the Ramada Victoria Hotel we walked up to the counter just to get a parking pass because check in is not 'til 15:00. Just as we were arranging this, Frank walked into the lobby and after some introductions and a general chat about the city we were on our way.

We headed north to Saanich and checked out a development where condos come on the market regularly and this is one area we will return to tomorrow on our day cruising through the area. Then up Mount Tolmie Park for a view over the city. Some pictures for you...


In Active Pass en route to Swartz Bay.

On top of Mount Tolmie.


We spent the next nine hours touring various neighbourhoods in the greater Victoria area and were treated to dinner at a restaurant that Frank co-owned with his sister. Such a generous, kind and patient man, who's aim is to get to know all about us over the next few days so that he will have a very clear image of what it is that we are looking for in our next home. For me it is peace and quiet, this may not be possible in or near the dowtown area, for both of us it is a newish and clean condo, both inside and in the common areas. A tall order for our budget, and it may not be possible. It might result in us looking for a home further north in the Cowichan Valley... Time will tell.

Like I do every morning, I start with coffee and Google News and learned about the horrible event that occured in Las Vegas... It's a sad world in which we live...

Friday, 29 September 2017

Big changes ahead

After an eight day house sit in Duncan we made the desision to move to Vancouver Island. But the big issue is where on Vancouver Island. We are both a blend of urban and suburban people. Shelagh has lived in downtown MontrĂ©al, I have lived in downtown Toronto and Vancouver. Bust most of our lives have been lived in the suburbs. The suburbs provide you with a larger living space while unban living gives you a more vibrant community. Confusing eh? So what is it to be? An urban lifestyle with everything you need within walking distance or breathing room and a hot tub in the back yard... Time will tell... But first, a little more about our Duncan House sit.


This is Casey, a Cairn Terrier cross, 13 years old and full of life and joy. We had the best time with him staying at his small cottage like home just off the main drag through town. Close to the Cowichan river where we took him for two walks daily to meet his many human and canine friends. He could stay home alone for about four hours at a time... After that he gets bored and might eat the furniture.

While we were with Casey we toured many local towns and little beaches including a day trip to Victoria where he was very much admired by locals and tourists alike. We also met a dear friend and collegue from a previous employer, who met with us in Duncan for lunch. It was great to catch up again and we will definitely reconnect in the months to come. Lorna and her husband Paul now live in beautiful Chemainus...

When we returnd home to Langley we listed our house and it sold within two weeks for slightly above the list price. The hunt for our new home begins now as we start purging the house of all that stuff one accumulates over a couple of decades. Thankfully we are good at purging our stuff, and we do it regularly bringing boxes of slightly, gently used things to the local "Hospice Society" thrift shop. So even if at times it seems a bit overwhelming, the task at hand is not a huge one. We are now in the process of putting together a moving sale which will take place next weekend on Saturday and Sunday.


Our home for the last 20 years was amazing. Shelagh's decorating sense made it look so nice and peaceful. But as the Lower Mainland swells with new arrivals, so do the roads and traffic is so congested and noisy it drives me out of my mind. Hopefully Vancouver Island will be a bit more tranquil. We will leave for Victoria on Monday for a four day stay and tour the town with a realtor who has spent his entire life there and knows the city like no other. It will be very exciting. If Victoria does not produce a house or condo to our liking, we will continue to the Cowichan Valley and look for a nice bungalow style house...

We will keep you posted...

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

I am having a terrible time using blogger. Nothing works. I am now looking for a new, different way to blog, failing that I will have to stop. I no longer use a computer. Just an iPad, and with my new iPad 5, my blogging app is not compatible... Heavy sigh.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Time to go home

Bodhi and Fuzzy

As with anything, all good things must come to an end, and so must our stay in Port Alberni. The home owners are returning to their pets and we must go home. The day before we went through the house with a fine toothed comb, cleaning up and gathering our things. Slowly but surely putting things back the way we found them. A final laundry in the morning of our departure day, clean bedding and towels go up, and a last minute sweep to tidy up and check if anything got missed. The car gets loaded up, and all the while the dog is taking it all in with a slightly nervous cocked head, looking on and wondering... Cats don't care either way!

For dogs everything is forever. You come into their lives and you'll be there forever, you leave to go shopping and they fear you'll never return. That's why they are so happy when you do return.... For nearly a month this was our home and these were our pets. You develop a routine with them. You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom, make coffee while the dog is outside because he needs to go too. Then Shelagh gets our breakfast ready and also the pet's. We read the morning news on our iPads and check out the new blogposts, followed by showers and eventually a one hour walk with the dog. The snowfall had wiped out our plans for hikes in the forests surrounding town, but the dyke path was kept clear of snow so we still got good walks in. When we return from our morning walk we let the dog lose in the backyard, Shelagh patrols the garden looking for little doggie droppings while I check the three freezers making sure all that is stored there in in good nick. Freezers can fool you, the light might be on, but that does not mean it's working. They need to be checked daily...

Mount Arrowsmith
One last look at the waterfall

Back in the house my thoughts turn to lunch and I either make it myself or we try out one of the restaurants in town. We had some great lunches in the city, there is no shortage of good eateries. The Chinese is good, the Greek and the German are excellent as well as the fish and chips. And there is pizza galore. We also cooked some wonderful salmon dinners, donated to us from the freezer. Our landlord had reserved a shelf for us with various cuts of venison, home made sausage and fish for us to enjoy...


New construction

We also looked at real estate. Some new construction is under way and the homes we saw would suit us perfectly. The houses not too small and the lots not too big, perfect for a retired couple or a young family. House prices here are some of the most affordable on Vancouver Island and I would not have a problem living here. Port Alberni has everything you need and is surrounded by beautiful nature. It is a great spot for fishing and hunting as well as hiking and camping.

The phone rang at about 12:30. Robert and Debbie were boarded on the ferry from Departure Bay and headed home on the final leg of a very long travel day from Belize City. They flew from Belize City to Houston, Texas, then to Mexico City and finally to Vancouver! A pretty strange flight plan and totally exhausting. We said goodbye to the pets, a bit tearful for Shelagh, and crated the dog. Then locked up and got on the road. We made the 3:15pm ferry from Duke Point to Tsawwassen and relaxed in the forward lounge with our e-readers. The drive home was uneventful. The house was cold so that got remedied first by reprogramming the thermostat. Then the water heater got turned up. Now, the next day, we are preparing for our next house sit in south Surrey. Leeza, a Borzoi, and Rocco a Cairn Terrier are waiting for us...