Monday, February 4, 2013

The Great Return to Blogging!

A quick text-heavy update before more goodies and tips for a financially modest life in Kits!

Hello dear Readers!

Shibaraku desu ne? (It's been awhile, no?). While my career pursuits still leave me with precious free time, I am so glad to quickly log-in and update Green, Broke & Living in Kits this morning!

There are so many topics to cover, so many new tips and treasures to share! And my appreciation of all things cheap and frugal and wonderful in Vancouver has reached new heights as my husband and I consider our pending relocation overseas.

Running away together is a romantic dream, and the ability to fly as far as possible from the nest has always been my goal. One of the few perks of being a broke graduate student is the opportunity for international employment and starting a life for myself free from the limitations and snares of the 'nest'. I desperately need my own air to breathe, my own country (or continent! Or both, in the case of Australia!), my own life, you know?

Vancouver is the greatest city I've ever known. And it's home. Apart from a half-baked retirement plan that involves running a B&B in Costa Rica (our friends Tom and Zoe are living that dream right now and are those who inspired the whole idea in the first!), Vancouver will forever be "home" in many senses.

Kits, Spring 2012


We've got itchy feet, folks! We've got experiments to run, new vistas to see, and a land to call 'our own'!

We haven't precisely pinned down a location, but we've got a few forerunners which we will keep to ourselves for now. For reasons most people will not be able to understand (consider yourself extraordinarily blessed if you are among them!), we have to keep our movements relatively secretive, lest we end up being suffocated and smothered by the same 'problems' we look forward to distancing ourselves from most of all.

Welcome New UBC Students for Fall 2013! 

Kits bustles around the first week of September and I do NOT envy those of you desperately seeking an apartment! A tip for apartment-hunting in Kitsilano - bring a wad of cash ($1000 or more) and a large friend to act as your security guard, and show up EARLY in the morning to the 'open houses'. I got scooped once though I got there first, said yes first, but only had a cheque... the person behind me brought cash, and from what I can gather, offered a 'tip' (bribe) to the landlord/building manager also in cash to bump me. They did. I got a better apartment in the end, but that stung!

Good things for new residents of Kitsilano (particularly UBC students) to know of:
  • The U-Pass. Definitely OPT-IN for this discounted transit pass option! It's like a monthly all-access transit pass, but it's much cheaper as it is subsidized! If you don't get a U-Pass right away, buy a booklet of Faresaver passes from a convenience store (7-11, Macs, even Shoppers Drug Mart and bigger grocery stores like Safeway sell them). These are cheaper than paying with cash for transit tickets, and they don't expire. You also won't need to carry exact change with you for the bus when you have a booklet of these in your wallet. When your friends come to visit, they can use these fare slips to get around. They cost just over $20 for a pack of ten.
  • Buses are PACKED during the first two weeks of September. Get to campus EXTRA EARLY to avoid being late, late, late! It's always terrible for the first two weeks, particularly at morning rush hour. After this period, miraculously, the volume of people lessens (or spreads out over the morning). Don't despair - I promise the B-Line and the SkyTrain will get more pleasant in a few days' time. Be patient; it's ugly for the first couple of weeks!
  • - People giving away things for free. Mostly junk, as you'd expect for 'free', but sometimes wealthier folk don't feel the need to haggle for $10 for an old DVD player, for example! Craigslist (both free and for sale) is also a good place to know about, but be WARY - people often run scams on such sites. Always have a friend with you when making transactions.
  • Bed Bugs. Vancouver recently has had an influx of these horrid beasties, which seemed to coincide with the millions of people that travelled here for the 2010 Winter Olympics. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN YOU BUY USED ITEMS! If you're paranoid (or wise), you can put your newly acquired used items into the freezer for a week, assuming it fits, and that should alleviate your fears. (Incidentally, our building does not have bed bugs, thankfully! And we'll be moving soon, so if you want anything from our place that I can guarantee is bed bug-free, stay in touch!). Dorms on campus are often fumigated for bed bugs, which is also nasty in a noxious-chemical sense. Always inquire about bed bugs before you move into a building.
  • No Frills (Alfie's on 4th at Fir, or Joti's on Broadway at Yukon, or Paul's on 4th at Alma) for cheap groceries and food. These grocery stores are less pretty than a Safeway, Save-On or IGA Marketplace, but they are cheaper. Plastic bags cost extra (a few cents each), so bring a reusable cloth bag or make use of the excess cardboard boxes they have at the exit of the store to cart your groceries home. Other good and affordable groceries can be found at the independently-owned (often Asian) grocers, like New Apple Farm Market or Central Gourmet. Safeway and Whole Foods are the most pricey options and are best avoided unless you wish to buy a particular item that can't be found elsewhere. Kewpie mayonnaise, for example, costs $6 at New Apple Farm Market (Asian-owned and operated), whereas it costs $9.50 at Save On Foods. It costs about $5.50 at T & T, but generally speaking the prices at T & T (which sadly is not in Kits) are largely comparable to the smaller independent stores.
  • People generally move in on the first of the month (sometimes the 15th, but the vast majority are at the start/end of the month), so if you are into 'dumpster diving' or trolling the alleys for discarded furnishings, the 29th-1st is generally your best bet. I have been both the beneficiary and benefactor of this practice. Not something I'd brag about, but in just casually glancing out my own back-alley, I've scored some pretty good finds! Just be prepared to clean, clean, clean, disinfect, refinish, paint and clean some more. Also note that if you see something you might like, grab first and consider later. There are literally people who drive in from the suburbs with pick-up trucks to scoop up these moving leftovers for profit! (Please note that you can donate your items to the local Salvation Army so easily, and you should if they are nice enough for someone else to want. And you can also use FreeCycle or the 'free' section of Craigslist to advertise your things. Please don't be the jerk that just throws half their belongings next to the dumpster and leaves a mess for others to clean, though!).
  • WIND Mobile has no-contract cell phone plans which are cheap, have great reception and has a network worldwide. We recently switched to this and are very pleased. They have POOR customer service, however, so if you're a "I want to negotiate and create my own tailor-made plan" sort of person, try elsewhere. But WIND is cheap and efficient and hassle-free (unless they screw up your bill, then it's a pain in the butt! Someone else paid into our bill accidentally and screwed up the payments; it took forever to get them to understand what went wrong, and they weren't particularly nice about it from the call centre, either. Apart from this one mix-up, it's been fantastic!). We have Telus for internet, which I like better than Shaw, but they're both terrible, greedy companies - no one is a fan of either. Make sure you get the Student Rate and the specials that they offer in September and October. These specials are good deals, and they disappear quickly! Jump on them! You can't sign up for a Student Package in November or in the spring, typically. Just September and maybe October - act fast!

Are you moving to Vancouver?

Then we should talk, friend! Our moving sale, which will involve 99.9% of our 'stuff', all of which are requirements for comfortable living here in Kits and throughout greater Vancouver, will have to be left behind. (We will be moving overseas and taking just our clothes with us!).

We are estimating that we will move around September 2013, but that is tentative as yet.

Here's some of our much-loved furnishings and appliances that will probably not be worth shipping in a crate by oceanic freighter (there's an Ikea just about everywhere in the world after all!):
  • A lightweight but sturdy Ikea kitchen table (unfinished, with a gorgeous collection of table linens - check out my photos on earlier posts for examples!) with two Wedgwood-blue Ikea chairs and ecru chair pads (all of these are LIGHT but strong and fold flat for easy transport! A major perk!)
  • My beloved Klippan couch (with an off-white stock slipcover... note that snazzy new fabric covers are available from Ikea! A great way to get something sharp and 'new' looking that is a very good deal and won't depreciate! I recommend the Klippan couch highly, btw, if you're looking to purchase new. Mine is 7 or 8 years old and is still in fantastic condition! Would take it with me if I was staying on the continent for sure. It's light to lift and move, too!)
  • Two computer desks (one is HUGE and dark and masculine and has been 'adopted' from former institutional office use; the other is compact, cute, easy to carry and more practical!)
  • A leather 'corporate-type' desk chair (on casters with swivel)
  • Our beloved Poang armchair... I feel sad about this already, but we know we will just buy it's twin once we find a flat overseas! This is only a year old or so, and it goes perfectly with the Klippan couch (such comfy pieces - I will miss them dearly!)
  • A large, tall Billy bookcase in a warm-light wood (beech?) veneer (I don't even want to think yet about what will happen to all my lovely books! Yikes!)
  • A square Expedit black bookcase (low enough to be a bedside table, with storage)
  • A Lerberg powder-coated steel (charcoal grey) lightweight shelving unit (stores our towels in the closet, along with folded jeans, etc! Handy thing for a closet!)
  • A small table, handmade, inset with medium-sized teal and blue tiles (made in the 1970s in Victoria) which I use as a bedside table, but which is cute enough to be a focal point in a hallway, for example.
  • A tall wooden dresser from the 1930s with patterned inlaid wood drawers. It's a little worse for wear on the top as it's been well-used, but it's very pretty. And useful!
  • My all-time favourite Salvation Army score - a huge, deep chest of drawers with a large arched (comes to a gentle point) cathedral-window-esque mirror, from the 1920s-30s is my guess. It's SOLID and beautiful. I use it as a sideboard in the living room / kitchen area (the huge mirror makes the room seem bigger). It's awesome, and I've already decided that it's only going to someone who will love it as I do! So speak up if you might fit the bill!
  • Similarly, a solid (HEAVY!) wood construction early 20th century armchair, the likes of which interior decorators with the money (or the ability to DIY it) to reupholster an article at will would fight over! This is a solid wood (probably oak) framed lowish arm chair with "GREAT BONES" that I have been meaning to do justice by educating myself on reupholstering and trying my hand on other pieces before I got to this absolute treasure. It doesn't look like I'm going to have time to do that, so I'll have to pass it on, for a price, to someone who will cherish and covet it like I have!
  • A queen-size bed and boxspring (and risers, if you like to use the space under for storage, as we do!), which is firm and still relatively new. And VERY IMPORTANTLY, it's bed-bug free! (I wouldn't ever recommend buying a used bed in Vancouver for this reason! But our bed is still in fantastic shape and I couldn't stomach just sending it to the dump - it's got at least 10 years left in it; it's not even a decade old yet, and it was a high-quality mattress set. You'd also get all the bed linen and duvets and even pillows to accompany it, if you so desired! I would recommend buying a cheap Ikea linen set in new, bright colours to make it your own!
  • Kitchen appliances: an expensive (1 year old, wedding gift) Cuisinart coffee maker (with internal grinder and digital doo-dads and everything fancy); my beloved and quite new still (1.5 years!) Cuisinart 9-cup food processor (if I could bring this with me, I would! A little hefty for a suitcase, and the electrical outlets aren't going to match!); a microwave (nothing special); an electric kettle (white) and a simple toaster (black); both of my Crock-pots (one a genuine 80s solid Crock-pot, the other a Bravetti slow-cooker from the past decade); all of our dishes and glasses and stemware and cutlery and crockery! (I haven't decided if I should keep all my Lagostina pots and pans, and my Hawkins pressure-cooker yet - I would very much like to, but we may not be able to find storage for these. And would I still need them years later?). I also have this T-Fal Vita Steamer apparatus, which steams EVERYTHING (whole meals in separate compartments!) which has only been used twice because it's quite large and we have virtually no counter space here. I could sell this immediately, and for cheap. It works well, but it's bulky and difficult to store.
  • A countertop dishwasher, a Bekvam (Ikea) birch wood kitchen cart on which the dishwasher sits, and then a cartload of resealable glass jars (Korken (Ikea); 1L & 2L, with gaskets and metal spring tab-closure) which are very nice for displaying grains and flours and pasta, etc. (I've got all of my lentils and dried beans and oatmeal and popcorn in them).
  • A heavy (studs required) shelving unit from Ikea (Varde): birch-veneer two shelf and lower rail (with 5 s-hooks). I think it's a pretty thing, and it's definitely helped make the kitchen look nicer! I like hanging aprons, oven mitts and utensils from it.
  • Deck chairs and table (like the dark wooden Askholmen at Ikea, but slightly different and quite sturdy; originally Ikea 'Bollo' - see photo)
  • An old Husqvarna sewing machine (heavy and tempermental); a Noma space-heater (radiator-variety, on casters); a still new Ikea step-stool (I keep it in the front hall for sitting on when lacing up shoes); an iHome iPod/iPhone docking clock-radio (black, newer model); two Ikea table lamps (glass; one is white, one is frosted clear glass); all of our towels and curtains; throw pillows; blankets; speakers (computer, TV, stereo - we've got a lot of these for some reason!), and probably two desktop computers without the hard drives (but with everything else, though we might take one of the monitors with us, depending).
  • A couple of nice looking houseplants to sell, and the less nice to be adopted.
  • A vacuum (which sucks lit. and fig. speaking); hair dryer; bathroom wall cabinet; two folding laundry racks (both powder-coated steel and no rust!); two folding tables (TV-dinner style); rudimentary wooden shelving (ugly but practical) and a shoe rack (Ikea 'Portis'). A good and newish iron and a folding Ikea half-sized ironing board (folds flat and hangs from closet rail when not in use); a laser printer; a stereo receiver; a DVD player...
Bollo (Ikea) - two chairs and table (sturdy!)

Anyway, just about anything you'd need to relocate to Vancouver will be here and for sale, tentatively August or September of 2013.

If you're reading this and would like to reserve one or more items, contact me! We can negotiate prices as well, but I know that if you're reading this you're relatively broke like me. So we'd be on the same page, I'm sure!

In the meantime...

There are still many things to discuss about living greenly and living frugally in Kitsilano (and in Vancouver in general) that I'd love to share! So stay tuned for more cheap and eco-friendly ideas. I promise I'll be blogging again more often. Thank you to everyone who follows me!

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