Sunday, November 28, 2010

Beware of Studios and Junior One-Bedrooms

Hi Everyone!

I've been apartment-hunting in Surrey recently -- pretty much the only place I can afford in the Lower Mainland and still be close to a skytrain. Armed with a puny mortgage preapproval of only 160,000, even Surrey doesn't offer a whole lot, unless I'm willing to buy something built in the '80s or even earlier. And those are tricky because older apartment buildings tend to have higher strata fees and more special assessments.

With a purchasing power of 160k, I'm reduced to looking at studios and "junior one bedrooms" -- which, if you didn't know, are basically studios with a nook barely large enough to put a bed. Think of it as a "room" with three sides and no door. Usually it opens into the living room -- which means entertainment will be tricky unless you can somehow block it off, maybe with a curtain.

Cotton lined pencil pleat curtains in chalk flax fabric
Above: Pair of cotton-lined pencil pleat curtains in chalk flax fabric, from the Natural Curtain Company (0%-10% synthetic fabrics).

If you aren't to call too much attention to it, then most of the designs and colours in fabric you can get nowadays is out -- after all, it's not curtaining a window in this case.

One studio claimed to have a living room and a kitchen, but when we had a look, both were actually in the same space. The kitchen was a part of the living room, and so really, there wasn't a living room at all, but a very small dining room. Nevertheless, the MLS data sheet counted the living room and kitchen as separate room and totalled four rooms for the studio. There wasn't any space to put both a dining table and a couch, especially if you wanted to also use one of the corners for a television. This suite was listed at close to 160,000.

Something else I've been made aware of is closet space -- or rather, the lack thereof. My realtor and I saw a tiny studio that had maybe 1 foot of closet space squashed into the same "room" as the washer dryer. You had to reach past the washer dryer to put any clothes in, and then you couldn't put very much. The tenant renting the suite was literally living out of suitcases as a result. Needless to say, we didn't put an offer on it. This tiny suite was also listed at almost 160,000.
One idea to handle such a suite might be to have a bunk-bed and reserve the space beneath as your closet. Some additional gear would be required, of course, maybe either a separate piece of closet furniture or simply curtain rails to hang clothes from.

Overall, slim pickings!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Anyone remember the dangers of cellphones?

Hi Everyone!

In this day and age, it's a bit extreme, but I (still) don't have a cellphone.
(And actually, it's not about the dangers of radiation from cellphones -- I just don't want one, okay?)
If you do have one, you may vaguely remember that there was a bit of a scare with cellphones. Here are some clips from Larry King Live:

The Oprah website had an article in February with basic reminders about cell phone dangers and how to avoid them. (Yeah, it's by "Doctor Oz", but never mind the name -- just read the article).

All of this may have fallen off your radar as news quickly does these days. I was reminded about all this when just the other day, an e-mail landed in my inbox, all the way from the UK. It talks about a quartz device called the PhoneShield, which reduces radiation from a cellphone. Their website includes a slow and boring clip showing that the device actually does reduce radiation. You can fast forward a bit to get to the results of the tests with and without the PhoneShield attached.

There's also an interesting "Kinesiology Test", which may look familiar to you if you've had simple experiments about positive/negative emotions on your body.

Another product, from Canadian company EarthCalm, claims to actually transform the radiation into a healing energy field. No fancy Youtube proofs on the site, but instead they offer a 90-day money back guarantee, during which you are supposed to monitor yourself for improvements.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The decadence of destroying art

As we head into another Christmas season of festive merchandise, I got thinking about all the beautiful things that we like to have around Christmas, only to chuck it all in the New Year.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with Christmas cards, and the idea that "it's the thought that counts". And yet, there's a pleasant feeling of generosity, luxury, and decadence that comes from giving a "premium" card -- thicker stock paper, gorgeous art, maybe even pop-ups or some sort of built-in audio device.

Some people do keep Christmas cards as keepsakes, but for the majority, they will likely end up in the recycling bin, if not in the trash.

That's art in the trash, people.

Then there's art meant to be destroyed. From the time of its very invention, Christmas crackers (those things that look like oversized candies, except you're not supposed to eat them) were meant to be ripped apart and destroyed for the goodies inside. Despite this, like regular Christmas gifts, we like them gorgeously and festively decorated.

And in a world of mass production, some are still carefully hand made for that extra special touch and bragging rights, like the ones from Designer Crackers. Even though one more or less looks just like another, there is a special uniqueness and limited-edition feel to something hand-made.

For any other occasion (say, a wedding) they might be beautiful enough to be a keepsake. But Christmas Crackers are meant to be destroyed. Even if they were stuffed with little gifts of quality (like the selection below, that goes into the best of Designer Crackers) that may well be worth having, the actual fun of a Christmas Cracker is in getting a friend to pull the other end, the bang when it comes apart, the goods spilling out -- The fun is in destroying it.

Designer Crackers connoisseur gifts

Designer Crackers - gold with brown check

Designer Crackers gold with holly and berries

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

EarthSave is Hiring! Office Admin, p/t, $15/hr

Hi Everyone!

I got this in my inbox today from the Vancouver Meatless Meetup, which is run by EarthSave Canada. You'll probably not find a bigger enclave of vegans anywhere else, so if that's your bent and you want to work with them, here's your chance:

Earthsave Canada is looking for an office admin person.

You may not be looking for employment yourself, but maybe you know someone who knows someone who is, so please forward this notice to your contacts. Thanks!

Office & Membership Administrator

Earthsave Canada is seeking a part-time (4 days a week) Office & Membership Administrator for our office in Vancouver. Earthsave Canada is a registered charity that encourages the transition to a plant-based diet for health, environmental, and animal welfare concerns. For more information, visit:

Job Purpose

Oversee the efficient running of Earthsave Canada’s office, including bookkeeping; develop efficient systems; formalize routines; oversee volunteers; and provide administrative support for campaigns and programs.

Duties and responsibilities

• Perform full-cycle accounting: accounts receivable reconciliation, financial statement preparation, accounts payable, payroll, filing tax remittances, and year end
• Undertake general office administrative tasks
• Manage and maintain databases
• Manage membership program: processing memberships, mail outs, inquiries, monthly and weekly routine tasks
• Help with the production and mail-out of our newsletter and other publications
• Delegate tasks to key volunteers and manage volunteers
• Help with events, campaigns, and other initiatives


• At least 3 years experience in bookkeeping and office administration, preferably in a not-for-profit organization
• Well-organized, detail-oriented, and willing to learn and take initiative
• Excellent verbal and written communication skills
• Experience working with volunteers
• Self-motivated and able to prioritize yet still maintain routine of timely weekly tasks
• Excellent computer skills and thorough knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite and accounting software
• Experience with new media and e-marketing, and content management systems would be beneficial

Compensation: Starting $15/hour
Deadline for Application: November 22, 2010

How to Apply

Send an email to nancy at earthsave dot ca. Make sure your cover letter appears within the body of your email and that your resume is attached, with your last name on it, not “Earthsave.doc”

Cheap Frozen Pizza continues into the holidays

Hi Everyone!

You may know I'm into the sinful joys of easy "cooking" with frozen pizzas from SuperStore or Save On Foods, what with the apparent price war they've had on and off this year, with pizzas coming in as low as $5 or slightly under.

Going into the holidays, it looks like SuperStore is helping us out after the +7% HST by offering cheap pizza again. This time at $4 per pizza! Still not as good as Costco's 3 pizzas for $10 in terms of price per pound of pizza, but close, and with wider variety and thin crust option for the waist-conscious.

Sadly, I haven't seen the $4 ones at the Metrotown SuperStore, and the $5 pizzas they did have there looked big as far as the box goes, but if if you let it slide about inside, you'll realize it's probably 1" to 2" less than the box in diameter, if not more. After some unfortunate experiences earlier this year with thin-crust pizza from Delissio, I decided to give them a pass for now.

Instead, I picked up some garlic bread with cheese, in the form of McCain's Garlic Fingers. Superstore entices you to buy two packs for a net $1 discount, making them $4.49 each. Weight-wise they were comparable to pizzas, and they looked like pizzas, so I thought, "why not?" Basically, it looked like frozen garlic pizza.

Now as you know, everything looks better in ad copy. Well, this was no exception. The green herbs on it were so faint you had to look very closely to find them. There was at least a moderate amount of cheese, but overall the taste was very lacking. The garlic flavour was pretty weak for my taste. I suppose this might have been watered down for the masses to some sort of lowest common denominator (like the way Indian restaurants will prepare buffet curries with barely-any-heat spiciness), but with the item named "garlic fingers", I expected a little more oomph.

Overall, I'd recommend you give it a pass. For a few cents more, get a frozen pizza instead.