Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Exploring the Humber River

This past Sunday, Matt and I finally took advantage of a gift we'd received for our wedding - a 2-hour kayak tour of the Humber River.  We've had a busy summer and this was the earliest date we were able to book for.  After a week of brisk, fall-like temperatures, we feared that it would be too cold for our liking.  But we lucked out and got a gorgeous, sunny, warm day!

It was so neat to explore this area of the city that neither of us had ever really seen.  The funny thing is, we live just minutes away from the Humber River, but really knew nothing about it, other than the fact that we sometimes ride over it on our bikes in the summer.

We started up at Bloor Street, and winded down towards a Marsh (just near the placemarker on the map below), and then headed back up.  We were with a group of about 25 people, of varying skill levels, so that took the full 2 hours. At some point, I might like to go a little beyond the Marsh, and see what the river is like as it approaches Lake Ontario.

The narrow river is only about ankle-deep for much of the distance, and not much more than that for the balance.  On this particular day, there was virtually no current, and it was the most quiet, peaceful little oasis.  We spotted several fishermen, and we were told that most are getting ready for the anticipated salmon run, but that a variety of other fish are often caught as well. 

Another surprise was the Toronto Humber Yacht Club.  Although we didn't see any big yachts, the club did have quite a few big boats docked.  I'm not sure how easy it would be for these boats to navigate the shallow waters of the river, but I imagine when the water is deep enough, these boats head straight out for Lake Ontario. 

We also spotted several private docks and boathouses which were in private backyards.  I had no idea that any homes backed onto the Humber River, so it was so neat to discover this.  One home had a "For Sale" sign on it's dock.  Of course, curiosity got the better of me, and I looked it up when I got home.  It is priced at $1.69 million for 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and a "Temperature Controlled Boathouse With Deck And Wet Bar".  When I looked at it on a map (since I lost all sense of direction and location on the river), I realized it's only blocks from our house.  I had no idea this existed in our neighbourhood!

Photo credit: - MLS #W2198249

Photo credit: - MLS #W2198249
This was a great wedding gift - a nice way to spend time together, and a relaxing activity that allowed us to explore the city.  Thank you to the gift-givers!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our new old dishwasher

When we moved into our house last summer, one of the first things we noticed was that the interior of our dishwasher was a bit of a mess, and that the racks had rusted quite a bit.  In fact, they had rusted so much, that some of the prongs were entirely gone - making it a bit difficult to prop up plates and glasses.  The racks had also deteriorated in some places, leaving sharp edges, and making me nervous that dishes could get chipped mid-wash. 
Tops of the prongs were all coming off; I've jabbed my fingers on these a few times.  

Just some of the rusted and deteriorated parts

Grungy and rusty at the door hinge
Rusted and deteriorated

I investigated, and buying new racks isn't really cost effective.  So we've been contemplating buying a brand new dishwasher.

And then last week, I was talking with a coworker about how great Craigslist can be for getting rid of old stuff when you move into a new home.  He was telling me how he'd listed all his kitchen appliances for sale, since he was completely renovating the kitchen in his new house and had purchased all new appliances.  He said "if you know anyone looking for any kitchen appliances...." and I piped up that I could stand to use a new dishwasher.  So he offered it to me - for free!

I'll be honest - my first hunch was to stay 'no thanks'.  It's such a nice offer, but I was tempted by the idea of buying a shiny, new dishwasher.  So I asked Matt, who is sometimes more practical than I am, and he couldn't see any reason not to take it.  We'd be no further behind than we are right now.  And in fact, we'd be saving at least a few hundred dollars that we didn't really need to spend at all.

So we borrowed Matt's Dad's van on Saturday and picked up the dishwasher.  Well - what a pleasant surprise - the dishwasher is in great shape.  Probably about the same age as the one in our house (a few years), but with no rust!  As a bonus, some of the prongs in the new one are on hinges that fold up or lay down flat, so you can reconfigure the racks to accommodate large pots, platters, or bowls. 

Matt went right to work and removed the old dishwasher himself.  But after removing all the pipes and hoses, we realized that the electrical was not as simple as a quick plug-in.  There was some wiring to be done.  We wondered whether we could do it, or whether we should call someone in to complete the installation.   We both felt frustrated thinking about paying someone far more than is reasonable for something that might actually be so simple - especially since we really believed we could do the majority of the installation ourselves.

YouTube to the rescue!  Matt did a little video research, and figured it all out!  I'm not going to lie - I wasn't the best wife - I actually had a little nap during the process and missed some of the steps... so I'm not as skilled at dishwasher installation as I would like to be.  But I'm so proud of Matt for figuring out how to do it himself!

We now have a rust-free dishwasher, albeit a little louder than the last (despite being called a "QuietPower").  Thanks to my coworker!

Now I just wonder if anyone on Craigslist would like to buy a rusty old dishwasher...

Friday, September 16, 2011

The light goes on... and then off!

A little while after we moved into our house, we found that a lot of the light bulbs in the house were burning out, and we were replacing a ton of bulbs. 

In our basement TV room, there are 6 pot lights, and about 4 or 5 of them went out right away.  But we figured that those bulbs must have all been put in at the same time, and had now reached the end of their life.  So we didn't really think twice about that.  But in the past few weeks, I've noticed some of them going out again. 

There are light fixtures in our bedroom and the office, that each hold 3 bulbs.  Sometime in the past year, I replaced two of the bedroom bulbs and all three in the office.  Now 1 is out in the bedroom, and 2 in the office.  At least *some* of these have to be the same bulbs I already replaced!

The kitchen has a set of halogen track lights with 4 bulbs - at least 2 or 3 of those have been replaced in the past year.  And the same type of track in the bathroom has had at least one bulb go.  I've also replaced both bulbs in our stove's hood fan.

And in the basement hallway, I've replaced the same bulb - twice. 

I buy average quality bulbs.  And since the house has a variety of different types of light fixtures, I don't think this is a small coincidence - because this is happening with halogens, incandescents, pot lights, floodlights, etc. etc. etc.

This leads me to wonder - what is wrong!?  Could this be an electrical problem with our house?  I will be honest - I really know nothing about all the fancy electrical terminology.  But I do know that our inspector thought our electricity was current and up to standard.  I think we have 100 amp service?  So is this normal, or should I be calling in an electrician?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Triplex, four-plex, (red plex, blue plex?)

Over the summer, I've been thinking about my plans to own more real estate.  This is a VERY long-term plan since A) we would need a downpayment and B) it would need to be at least 20% to qualify for CMHC on a rental property.

Still, there's nothing to stop a girl from dreaming! 

After honeymooning in Florida for a few quick days after our wedding, Matt and I were talking about how many luxurious condos were for sale there at rock-bottom prices.  It definitely holds appeal, since we could rent it out as a vacation home, and also use it for our own vacations too.  There are too many drawbacks for me to even consider Florida though - for one, we would need to pay for a service to help manage the property.  I also don't want to feel obliged to spend all my future vacations in Florida!  And on top of all that, I don't know the complexities of owning an investment property in the US, but I don't imagine it would be all that straightforward. 

So keeping it more local, I recently noticed an old triplex for sale, not too far from our house:

This triplex is on a street with many similar complexes, most seemingly leased years ago by families and couples looking for a deal a little distance out of the city.  The area is now seen to be "up and coming" with more young couples and new families moving in, and definite improvement in pride of ownership.  But the nature of this particular street seems to be that of the days before these improvements started taking place.

I got to thinking - wouldn't it be great to buy one of these triplexes, modernise it a bit, and rent it to a young "urban" couple?  The location is great - very close to the GO Train, easy access to highway, near the waterfront, bike paths, parks, etc etc. etc.!

The units in these older apartments tend to be bigger than the more current condos being built, so it would be a great alternative to some of the newer product.  And with newer finishes inside and a little curb appeal outside, I would think this could be a real draw.  This particular building also has the benefit of yard space, and private balconies.

I noticed another similar triplex is currently for sale downtown:

This one, at twice the price, is located on a very popular street, especially among new students, recent grads, and young couples.  I would imagine a premium rental rate could be achieved here.  This building also comes with the added bonus of 3 parking spots - a real gem in the downtown area.

I envision these buildings with some new windows, an entryway with some "oomph" and some updated balcony railings.
Imagine how different the building would look with one of these doors:

I suppose the brick could be painted or stuccoed, but it may not even be necessary.  Ivy always adds some charm too.

In the midst of all this dreaming, I just so happened to ride my bike by this great do-over in the Queen West & Dovercourt area.

I have no idea who is behind this project, but I am impressed!  I was wowed by how modern it looks - almost like a California beach house.  But it totally fits in in the neighbourhood.  I wish I had a "before" picture to show you, but let me just say that judging by the side of the house, as well as the surrounding homes, I can tell you it was a drastic change!  Kudos to the developer!  I'm sure there are some very happy tenants living here.  I would love to be involved in a project like that!