A year of no activity to a week of craziness

I know, I know, last time I was posted was…well, not just last month but last year. But there really hadn’t been much to talk about. I’ve been in a knitting slump, so nothing report on that front. With the winter being as cold and snowy as it has been, and with the province being in total lockdown since Boxing Day, I’ve barely been out of the house. (Okay, to be honest, I’ve rarely been out of the house since last March.)

Until last week, that is. And, I must admit, technically we broke the lockdown rules. But for a good reason.

Big announcement: My eldest son and daughter-in-law are having another baby. He/She is expected to arrive at the end of May. No, they don’t know the gender yet. The little tyke didn’t cooperate during the 20 week ultrasound and they don’t plan on doing another any time soon.

So they made the momentous and very hard-thought-out decision to sell their teeny tiny house and move to something better.

Backstory: They bought their current house five years ago for $150,000. It made a record for the city’s lowest priced house. It was also probably the smallest house for sale that year too. It was built in 1924 and was probably originally just a shed that has been added onto twice since. Plus it’s not in a great part of town, though the area is starting to see some signs of gentrification as speculators move into the area. It is about 800 square feet and has no basement; it’s wood framed sitting directly on soil, not cement. Which is not good for withstanding Canadian winters. It’s cold all the time, and worse critters can easily enter through the dirt beneath and up through holes for waterpipes etc, which with the closing of a lot of nearby restaurants last summer meant they were inundated with very hungry rats. But it cost them half of what they would have had to pay to rent a place the same size. In fact when they bought it their real estate agent said they could have rented it out even then for $1400 a month, that’s how bad rents are around here. But the land size is decent at 30’X118’. And it gave them room for their two shepherds to play in the backyard. Best yet they could afford to live in it on a single salary as he went back to college. Now however, they are both working and have twin one-year-olds and another baby on the way so have totally outgrown it and need something better.

Except…

Our housing market is insane right now. A standard basic house in Toronto costs over $1 million dollars. One house that’s very similar to my son and daughter-in-law’s house was up for sale in Toronto last August and was listed for a $1,000,000. It ended up selling for $1.8 million! Then, in fall of 2020, a lot of Toronto companies decided that they could operate remotely 100% of the time so they let their leases for their rented offices expire. Which by January 2021 sent a tidal wave of Torontonians to seek housing in the cheaper environs.

Like the city we live in.

The trouble with this is, in the words of my son and DIL’s real estate agent, it has created a false bubble because the demand far exceeds the supply, sending house prices crazy high and also making it impossible for local folks (who are paid less than those in Toronto) to buy affordable housing in their own backyard. Houses that are listed for $474,000 are suddenly getting 20+ offers and selling for $710K. (Yes, that is an actual case of a bungalow in a small town about 90 minutes north-east of Toronto sold for just this week. A house we looked at last week and they thought they might put an offer in for.)

According to their agent, if they had sold their house just last September they would have been lucky to get a $250K offer on it, because basically whoever buys it would need to demolish the house and start again, so they’re essentially just paying for the land. Yet two weeks ago, they put it up for sale with an asking price of $350,000. Even the real estate agent admitted to us that he was asking more than he figured they’d get. He told them to expect offers around $325K. But he also saw the signs of the sellers’ market and how crazy the prices were going and figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask a bit more. Turned out he knew what he was talking about.

It went up for sale on Tuesday. By Friday they had six offers in hand, and sold it for $455,000. (And yes, all six bidders were from Toronto and were buying just for the land and intended to tear down the current house. And rightly so in my humble opinion. The winner plans to put up an apartment building in that spot, BTW.) Anyway, it means that within five years my son and his wife accrued over $305,000 in equity on that little shitbox of a house.

So they spent last week viewing houses near and far that were listed within their budget. Since my DIL couldn’t take off any time from her work midweek, we accompanied our son to view five houses, complete with double masks, hand sanitizer and clipboards of notes of things we were to check out. (Boy, are cell phones with cameras and video capability ever handy for reviewing later!) Out of the five choices, there were two definite possibilities, though I wasn’t happy with either because it meant a long commute for my son and for us to visit them too. However, despite their listing prices (which were reasonable in December) they all sold for several hundred hundred dollars above listing. (Like the one I mention above.) Needless to say, my son & DIL (and we) were starting to panic that they may not find something within their price range in time.

However, last Friday their agent found a local house where a deal had just collapsed and got them in to see it. They put in an offer on Saturday. At just above asking price. From what I’m hearing, the listing agent was based in a city on the west side of Toronto and didn’t want to have to come back out to our side, and so he gave them a deal based on December’s market. If the listing agent had bothered to drive out to our town and re-list it, he could have had a bidding war on his hands and made the original owners an extra $150-200K. But he didn’t so my son and DIL and my grandbabies now have a new place to call home. One with three bedrooms, a beautiful newly renovated kitchen and bathroom and a finished basement. And no rat infestation.

And best of all for us, they’ll still be less than ten minutes away so we can continue to easily drop in to cuddle our grandbabies. All three of them.

BuJo for 2021

It’s been a while since I posted about my BuJo journey. It’s been quite a learning curve for me. Paper quality is a big thing for me — it needs to be thick enough that it won’t bleed if I want to use fineline Sharpies, or even if I want to do a little waterpainting or water-based markers that I want to blend, like my Tombows. The paper also needs to be smooth so the ink doesn’t jump and coloured pencils can easily blend.

As for my pens — well, it definitely has been an experiment that I’m still working on. My choice of pens depends upon whether I am using it for drawing, making lines/boxes or actually writing in my journal. For drawing, I have decided I don’t like the ultrathin nibs, like those on the Sakura Microns that dry out very quickly, or cannot take too much pressure. And the Microns bleed badly when I’m trying to draw lines with a ruler. So they’re okay for Zentangling though I’ve decided I don’t like using anything less than a .3 , preferably a .5 for regular work.

For colouring and the calligraphy classes I have been taking, I have been using Tombow double markers and for the calligraphy alone, Fudenosuke pens. But they’re no good for journal writing. And when I start blending the Tombow markers, I really need thicker paper than the Moleskine — more like what’s in my Happy Planner or my newest acquisition, a Tumbitri journal which has 160 gsm thick paper, which is not quite as thick as the Happy Planner but far thicker than the Moleskine (those are affiliate links by the way.) For some highlight and line drawing or just to make something pop, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Pentel Sparkle Pop pens. Or the Pentel Metallics. I also have some Uniball Signo Metallics which are quite nice, and some Sakura Gelly Roll glitter pens. And for a full confession, some of the Dollarama fineline markers work just fine too. And they don’t even bleed through my Moleskine.

just a tiny sample of some of the pens I’ve collected, mostly these are the Sakura Gelly Rolls and Pentel Sparkles

For actual writing, I love how gel pens flow. I stumbled onto a Uniball Sigma 207 that I like although I find it sometimes smears easily — I’m guessing because it is a thicker ink it takes longer to dry? It smears both on the Happy Planner paper as well as the Moleskine so it’s not dependent upon the weight of the paper. I bought a multi-coloured pack of Stabilo .4 mm fineliners that work okay, though I am not thrilled with the shape and way they fit in my hand–I prefer my pens have a bit more weight to them. But the Stabilo ink flow is good for either writing or drawing. So I’ve been scouring a few groups I belong to on Facebook for some recommendations for pens to use just for plain writing in my journal. I’m thinking of trying some Pilot G2 pens, especially since they are refillable.

The main issue I have had this bizarre year is that I like to try out the pens in the store to decide how they flow, or how they fit in my hand. But with the COVID-19 lockdowns we’ve had here in Ontario, and with me being high risk and not wanting to go into stores anyway, it’s caused some challenges. Most of the stock of pens in my local Michaels has been thin on the two occasions I’ve dared to enter them. So no joy there. And I’ve not dared to go into a Staples at all. I also am hesitant to spend money buying an untried pen via Amazon, but I think I’m to that point now, because it looks like even though I am high risk it may be somewhere between June – September before I will be able to get the vaccine. (and yes I just deleted a rant about anti-vaxxers, you’re welcome.)

Adding a little froth to my afternoon

I grew up as the only Canadian-born child amongst English parents and an English-born sister. Which means I was raised to drink tea basically from birth. And since my father had travelled around the world while he worked with BOAC back in the 40s and 50s, he was introduced to a lot of different types of teas, which he subsequently introduced to us. (My mom’s favourite is a lapsang souchong, which smells a lot like smoked wood from a campfire. In fact, the clerk at the store where I buy my loose tea says a lot of people buy it specifically to use in their smokers.)

But about ten years ago, I made the switch to coffee in the morning, and my husband and sons didn’t drink tea so tea was sort of forgotten about in this house, unless I was visiting my mother and she’d offer a tea midafternoon. Then last Christmas my youngest son decided he wanted to try various teas. He was given several packages of variety packs from David’s Teas from the local mall, but to be honest, those aren’t really teas that I grew up with and he didn’t care for them either. The local store only seem to carry teas that are all about herbs and flowers and fruit additives and it was really hard to get just a plain black or green tea without all the herbal crap added in. At best I’d call them a tissane. Unhappy with David’s Teas selections, I’ve gone back to our local Seven Sisters Teas who offer me a much better selection of teas so this past year we both have been experimenting a bit trying to decide our favourite type of tea–black vs green vs rooiboos etc.

Okay, a confession, I don’t like fragrant teas like Earl Grey — the oil of Bergamot turns me off, which probably also influences me about the flowery teas. I prefer black tea–a standard English Breakfast tea for me, please–though I am developing a taste for green and rooibos. One day I want to try Yorkshire tea, but I suspect it would taste different here with our Canadian water. I know the tea I drank in England certainly tasted different than what we drank here at home–and it put it down to the water quality. But I don’t want all the flowery or oily teas that the local David’s seems to carry. I discovered I do love chai tea–I don’t consider that flowery. It’s spicy. I especially love the chai you get in restaurants with the frothed milk on top. Once I discovered Seven Sister’s Kashmiri Chai (that’s my favourite after a standard English Breakfast tea) I set out to find a way to make it as good at home as the restaurants serve.

I’d tried hand whisking warmed milk, but it never matched what I could get in my favourite coffee shops. So this Christmas I asked for a hand-held milk frother. Holy moly, the little frothing wand my DIL bought me is a game changer! A 1/4 cup of of 1% milk foams more than double in size, sometimes becoming a full cup. The little foam clouds makes the tea taste even more interesting, the foamy cup of tea is guzzled down and disappears so fast it doesn’t have time to cool down. I suspect I’ll be drinking a lot more tea again in the future. Although because of some meds I’m on, I’ll still have to relegate them to late morning or mid-afternoon treats. And I’m pretty sure that my DIL is going to get tired of the photos I’m sending of my latest creations, LOL.

my first attempt at frothed milk on my Kashmiri chai tea

Today’s tea was a Yerba Mate Ginger Chai blend (not the photo above). No I didn’t serve it in a gourd with a metal straw. And yes, against traditional servings, I added some frothed milk to it. It was better than I expected. I’m pretty sure it was because of the frothed milk. Not bad for a $20 little device.

FO: Gramps Cardis

The challenge with being a grandparent of twins when knitting, or any time really, is that you have to knit two of everything. So instead of knitting a single Gramps cardi, I had to knit two and tougher for me they had to match because they would be worn side by side so differences would be noticeable. Now the pattern is easy, and I knit it with worsted weight so it knit up reasonably quickly. But there is all that picking is of stitches for the button band, which causes me no end of grief because you have to make not that two sides are equal but that four sides match. So yeah, months of work, and a year of planning.

Anyway, I finally finished the second cardi, have woven in the ends, chosen and bought buttons, which is interesting considering I had to do that online. And I really am happy with the result.

The buttons haven’t been sewn on yet

Then last night I got a text from my DIL that her aunt had gone out and bought matching-to-their-dad’s cardigans for the twins. And gave the cardis to the twins already. I told them before the twins were even born that I would be making them these cardigans for this Christmas. I spent months pouring through online sights because of the lockdown making sure I found the right colour wools. I bought the pattern and knitted not just one but two matching sweaters by hand, then spent time finding the right type of button that would be safe for the twins at this age. In a reply text I told my DIL it will probably happen a lot in the future, and tried to downplay it, and I know it is minor thing in the scope of larger issues, but I must admit to being somewhat annoyed.