A Year Later

Today my good friend Emilie came over to see our new place and catch up. The same Emilie I was sharing a hotel room with in Ho Chi Minh City exactly one year ago. We both couldn’t believe it had already been a year. How time flies! And how life changes in just one year.

Last year, Emilie and I were just a couple days into our Vietnam trip. This was my big escape trip. It was the kind of trip you book last minute and your stomach does flip flops as you finalize the flights. It was an exciting trip. It made me smile uncontrollably. It was also a great way to run away. It was a nice break from real life. It marked the end of one chapter of my life.

When I left for Vietnam, I had just quit my job at UBC. I was living in a studio in Kits. I had a couple of writing gigs but nothing long-lasting or high-paying. We were still fresh off of the loss of Randy and so many things were up in the air. My life seemed very uncertain at that moment. Vietnam was kind of like the fork in the road.

If you had asked me a year ago, over eggs and fresh fruit for breakfast at Hello Hotel in HCMC, where I would be in a year, I would have optimistically said I would hope to be writing part-time, working another part-time job I didn’t hate and looking for apartments with Colin, maybe in Burnaby or East Van.

But of course, I was wrong.

Emilie was visiting me today from Victoria where she is living now and going to law school. Last year, she was working at Science World, pretty fresh off leaving her Master’s program at UBC. Now she’s in a completely different field and different city!

And, of course, I was way off for my predictions for myself too. I’m working full-time from home as a writer. It’s not exactly what I thought it would look like. In fact, a lot more of my time is spent in content management and social media than actual writing. But I am loving it! I didn’t even know I was interested in those fields. I’m learning a ton and there is so much room to grow. It’s scary and there’s a lot of unknown but I actually love what I do for work. I definitely wasn’t saying that when I worked at UBC.

I’m no longer in my Kits studio or even looking for rentals with Colin. We live in the home that we OWN in SURREY! I could have never predicted that.

And then there’s Ellie 🙂 We had talked about getting a dog sometime down the line. But Ellie coming into our lives this soon was a big surprise (even though I pretty much orchestrated the whole thing).

So life is totally different than it was a year ago. It’s way better than I thought it would be at this time. I’ve been catching up with a few friends over the last couple of weeks and it’s crazy to see how much has changed in such a short time.

Everyone keeps asking me (or us) what’s next. But I’m pretty happy where we are. We did quite a bit in a year. It’s been a lot of big changes. They were all positive changes. But it was a lot very quickly. I would be so happy if the next big things in our lives were awesome work promotions, really cool trips and new successes in the kitchen or at the gym. We can hold off on rings or babies or any of that business for a while now. We have this awesome life with our own home, a dog and jobs we love. And I just want to take a breath and enjoy it all.

Of course, that being said, if I had to predict right now where I would be in November 2018, I’m sure I would be way off. Life is just funny like that! Let’s hope that like my 2016 predictions, things are different for the better!

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Home Sweet Home

After all of our house buying crazy, we finally did it. We bought a house.

Okay, a condo. But in Vancouver, that’s as close as we’re ever going to get to a house.

It was a lot of work to get here! There was so much paperwork, meetings, emails, signatures and endless to-do lists. But finally FINALLY we are finished and fully settled in. Last night, Colin and I popped the bubbly our realtor had given us on the day we got the keys. We decided to save it until everything on our Moving To Do list was crossed off.

Cheers to our new house!

So we met with the notary on October 3rd I think it was. I don’t remember the day but I do remember feeling so awfully sick. I had the worst runny nose and watery eyes, which everyone had to endure for like an hour while we signed all the papers. It was gross.

But then two days later, we got our keys! We met our realtor at our brand new home and she had a huge gift basket for us full of fun goodies (like the bubbly). We had also brought over a few boxes and a dining room table we had bought off Craigslist, so we moved that in too.

The next few days were all about running back and forth from New West to Surrey. We wanted to bring over as much as possible in Colin’s car so on uHaul day, we’d just have the big stuff to worry about. Honestly, these days were probably the most stressful. As well as moving things, we were still packing, eating Thanksgiving dinners, arranging for painters, etc.

And then on October 10th, we moved! Colin’s amazing friends helped us out and it was the fastest and easiest move ever. Well, it was a little bit complicated because we had to board Ellie at the vet for the day and then go to Coquitlam to pick up a couch we had bought (another online find). But the actual loading and unloading was super easy and we finished ahead of schedule – even with a huge rainstorm in the middle!

So why has it taken us two more weeks to actually settle in? It’s not because we’re bad unpackers. In fact, we had the place basically all unpacked the next day. And we had done our IKEA run ahead of time, so there wasn’t too much to buy. But there was the issue of our old apartment.

We had our lease until the end of October. So to save a little money, we decided to rent it out. We had guests book to stay at our New West place from Oct 14-24. So after we moved to Surrey, we still had to go back to New West to clean, ensure they had everything they needed and meet them with the keys. And worst of all, we had to leave our internet behind.

Lucky for us, our guests checked out a few days early (not because they hated our place but because they rented a place in Vancouver and were just staying at ours until they found something). So on the 21st we headed over to pack up all of our stuff and bring sweet WiFi back to our lives. Sadly, our internet company is the worst. We didn’t get connected to the internet until the 25th, despite being told every day until then that it should be working. Dealing with our internet provider was a nightmare.

And then yesterday, we headed back to New West to do a final clean, move our second bed out of the apartment and return the keys to our landlord. Once we got the bed all set up here in Surrey we were finally, blissfully done moving! The only thing left on our to-do list is to copy our mail key (which, in our defense, we tried to do but the key copy place didn’t have the right key) and buy some plants I won’t kill.

Okay, enough rambling! We’re home and we’re loving it. It’s so fun to have this much space. I love having my own office (/guest bedroom). There’s a great green space right across the street for Ellie. Our local mom-and-pop cafe is the best – and I would know because I spent a lot of time there in our pre-WiFi days. And the building next to us is going to become a Shoppers, grocery store and bank. Yay!

Here are some shots of our place. Please excuse my horrible phone-quality photos! I promise our place is actually beautiful and spacious.

Our first plant – courtesy of Margie. Hopefully we dont kill it!

Our built in shelves featuring our beloved Funko Pops 🙂

Colin’s desk

Our little gallery wall!

The kitchen

Our bedroom. It’s actually a good size with two big closets but tough to tell in this shot.

Our ensuite bathroom! It is so luxurious having two bathrooms.

One part of our balcony featuring our recycling bins 🙂

The view from our balcony. Sadly, not the mountain view we all wish we had.

Second bathroom!

In suite washer and dryer! One of the best parts!

My office/the guest bedroom

Ellie thinks the guest bed is hers…

Where all the freelancing magic happens!

Ellie wondering why the heck I’m running around the apartment taking photos instead of rubbing her belly. Fair question.

Welcome home!

The Mommy & Me Adventure Express

We just got back from our latest trip: The Mommy & Me Adventure Express!

The MMAE was a trip down the west coast by train with me, Colin, my mom and his mom. Adorable, right? Not only were we going old school and travelling by train but we were doing it with our moms. None of us had travelled extensively by train before (actually, I did a train through France and an overnight in Spain) and our moms had only met once before. But despite that, the trip was a huge success!

We started our adventure bright and early, arriving at Pacific Central Station for 5:30am on September 15th. We boarded our train and got to watch the sun rise over the coast. It was stunning!

Train views! Excuse my terrible phone camera…

Portland

Many hours later, we arrived in Portland, Oregon – our first stop of the trip! We took an Uber to our AirBnB, an adorable basement suite just a few minutes from downtown. That night we walked over to the local Hillside area and had a delicious Mexican feast (complete with giant margaritas, of course) and locally made ice cream. Yum!

Hanging out with the mascot of the Mexican restaurant

The next day we headed out to pick up our rental car and then spent the rest of the day exploring Portland. We hit up Powell Books, which was amazing. It was a bit overwhelming; I can’t imagine actually just browsing for a random book in there. Next we walked over to Voodoo Donuts, but couldn’t justify the line (don’t worry, we get to Voodoo eventually). So we settled for some delicious oysters and a glass of wine.

Powell Books!

Next up was the Saturday Market. By the river, a huge multi-block market sets up every Saturday selling food, crafts, clothing and everything else. It was awesome! We enjoyed browsing, picked up a few things, and then hit the food stalls when we got hungry.

Mom enjoying her mango on a stick!

After eating, we walked over to Old Town Brewery, which is supposedly haunted. It wasn’t quite as eerie or tourist friendly as we were hoping. In fact, the only creepy part was the bathroom. But we enjoyed a tasting flight of beer nonetheless.

By this point, my mom and I had pretty much converted Colin and Margie (his mom) to our preferred family-style sharing techniques. And by that, I mean that instead of each ordering our own beer or even splitting up the tasting flight so everyone got their own beer, we took each tiny tasting glass and passed it down the line, each taking a sip. We all gave our rating and the person who enjoyed the beer the most, got to finish it off. Genius, no?

After our beers, it was on to even more food (you’ll notice a theme over this trip). Our first Uber driver recommended the Portland City Grill, a restaurant on the 30th floor of the US Bancorp building. We arrived just before the 4:00pm happy hour to find a line up in the lobby. The elevators don’t start operating until 4:00pm but we learned quickly that you have to get there early if you want a window seat.

Despite being in the second or third elevator car up, we didn’t manage to snag a coveted window seat. But we did get a booth with some views. It was awesome to see the city and the happy hour food was really yummy. Would’ve been better if Portland wasn’t so smokey, but it was still great.

After eating, we walked to the downtown area and decided to pop into Target for a quick shop. Of course, we ended up spending a good 2+ hours at Target. They have everything! I honestly could’ve spent a day there. But we all packed only carry-on sized luggage, so we had to be careful not to overdo it.

With full stomachs and full bags of Target goods, we walked back to our car and drove home. We watched some Netflx and then headed to bed.

Florence/Eugene

The next morning, we got up bright and early to start our day. The plan was to drive down to Florence, about three hours southwest of Portland, to check out the famous sea lion caves and sand dunes. Then we would drive east an hour to Eugene for lunch and to catch our train.

Sadly, the weather and the roads weren’t so cooperative. The way down to Florence was pretty much one single laned winding road. And while the scenery was nice, save for the rain clouds, the car sickness was not.

Even worse, there were no sea lions to be seen in the caves! But since we had driven all that way, we headed down to the cave anyway. Even without the sea lions, it was a very impressive cave. And at the viewing points, we saw a few sea lions playing in the waves and a whale!

Sea Lion Caves

Walking the path down to the cave

No sea lions – but still a cool cave!

We didn’t have time to do the sand dunes – and weren’t so interested in doing them in the rain. So we went into the old town of Florence for lunch (such a cute spot!) and then drove some more winding roads to Eugene. In Eugene, we stopped into the other Voodoo Donuts location where we only had to wait behind five people, instead of 50. But even with five in line, it was a long wait. We picked out a few interesting looking ones and enjoyed them on the train. Like many people had told me, the donuts were a bit overrated. Or maybe we just picked the wrong ones. I liked them, but I wouldn’t stand in line for them.

And then it was back on the train! We boarded our train around 5:00pm in Eugene. This time, we were in Business Class where we got a couple seats each to ourselves that reclined way back and had a foot rest. It was almost as comfortable as you can be on a train.

The train experience was interesting. The WiFi was spotty and the steak dinner was scary. But the scenery was awesome. We sat in the Observatory Car for a while, which is all windows, and it was so cool to see the sights of Oregon passing around us. Of course, sleeping in reclined seats on a moving train right next to the dining car doors that kept slamming wasn’t ideal for a restful night. But it wasn’t the worst sleep I’ve ever had!

The Observatory Car

San Francisco

We pulled into Emeryville around 8:00am where we got off the train to take a bus into San Francisco. Our bus was supposed to drop us off in SF for 9:30, giving us an hour to make it to our Alcatraz tour at 10:30. Sadly, that didn’t happen. The bus took FOREVER to leave the station and then forever loading and unloading people at each stop before ours. When we did arrive in SF, we had to run to drop off our bags, use the bathroom and rush onto the boat. We just made it!

This was my 3rd visit to Alcatraz in the last five years. But I still really enjoyed it! The tour was the same but there were lots of parts I had forgotten. And as a cool bonus, an ex-prisoner of Alcatraz was in the gift shop signing copies of his book! We bought a copy so it will be interesting to learn more about his perspective.

Alcatraz in the background!

After Alcatraz, we met back up with my mom and headed to Boudin for the famed clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. You can’t come to SF and not have a Boudin bread bowl! We then walked over to Pier 39 to see the sea lions and do a bit of browsing. The sea lions were so adorable! It totally made up for missing them in Florence.

Next, we went to Enterprise to pick up our rental car. It was convenient having a car, but such a headache to rent one. Once we finally got everything sorted there, we headed to Lombard Street to show Margie the most crooked street in the world. And then it was on to Ghiradelli Square for some more shopping!

After shopping, the last iconic SF site on our list was the Golden Gate Bridge. It was super foggy in the morning so we hadn’t been able to see the bridge yet. But because the weather in SF changes every time you blink, it was nice and clear when we decided to drive over. We drove over to the other side of the bridge and checked out the views from Battery Spencer. I’ve never been to that viewpoint before. It was GORGEOUS! It’s clear to see why all the SF postcards get their shots from this angle. The wind was insane but it was so worth it.

Can you tell it was windy?

We then drove to dinner. Colin and I wanted to take our moms to Surisan, the Korean fusion restaurant we had really enjoyed during our July visit to SF. The moms loved it too! It was a delicious dinner and we got to try lots of new things. My mom liked it so much that she’s heading back again on Friday.

Napa Valley/Sonoma

After dinner, we drove out to our hotel in Vallejo, which is just outside Napa. The hotel had some issues (broken phones, broken toilets) but it was nice to be in a big king bed, especially after spending the night before sleeping on the train.

The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel we drove out to Artesa, a winery in Napa that boasted the best scenic views and a reasonable tour price. We were blown away by the views. It was so stunning! Artesa is up on a hill so you can see all the wineries in the area.

How gorgeous is Artesa?

After picking our jaws up off the floor, we went inside to join our tour. We got to see the cellars, bottling process and hear from someone who had worked in wine production for 10 years. It was interesting to learn a bit more about wine. We also got to do a tasting of five wines, plus one to drink during the tour. Sadly, the red wines were wasted on me but I’m sure my mom and Margie enjoyed my leftovers. We also met a very sweet couple from Florida who were heading to Vancouver and Victoria.

We drove out to Sonoma for lunch at The Girl & The Fig. It was such a cute place for lunch! We sat in their beautiful little back patio area and enjoyed really yummy meals (steak, scallops, duck confit!). After lunch, Colin and Margie checked out the square while my mom and I indulged in some chocolate-y goodness.

Next was a quick trip to the Cornerstone, a nearby outdoor mall. It was a bit out of our price range ($50 placemats? Hard pass) and we were losing steam, so we didn’t spend too long there. We headed back to the hotel for a bit of a break.

For dinner, we had a mish mash of leftovers from Surisan and our take-out order from Red Lobster. It was way too much food, as usual. We had also stopped at Kohls while we waited for our Red Lobster order, and couldn’t wait to go back in the morning.

Alameda

The next morning, us ladies got up a little bit early (well, early for me) so we could get to Kohls for their 9:00am opening. That gave us one hour of shopping before we had to be on the road at 10:00am. We walked out at around 10:15am with baby clothes, leggings, shoes, dresses and more. A successful shoppng trip indeed! I think a Bellingham trip is in order soon because there are just some things in the States that we can’t get up here. And now that we’re moving, there’s so many home goods I want to buy!

We then drove to Alameda, a suburb of SF, where we were meeting our family friend, Kaitlyn, for lunch. Kaitlyn is from Toronto but is out in Alameda for a semester of co-op. We met her at Hang Ten to enjoy a seafood boil lunch.

It was Margie and Colin’s first time doing the seafood boil, and they loved it. We all did! It’s so fun to eat with your hands and, of course, the fresh and flavourful seafood doesn’t hurt. We finished off our big meal with cute little macaron ice cream sandwiches.

Seafood boil!

And then it was time for the Mommy & Me Adventure Express to come to an end. We said goodbye to Kaity and drove back to SF. We dropped my mom off at her AirBnB (which was in a classic SF building with views of Alcatraz!) – she is staying in SF a few more days, going to Santa Barbara, then to Santa Monica and flying home to Toronto from LA. We returned our rental car and took an Uber out to the airport. Sadly, our flight was delayed by a couple of hours, so we just got to hang out at the airport for a while. We finally arrived in Vancouver around 9:30pm.


The Mommy & Me Adventure Express trip was so much fun. It was very cool to take the train and see parts of the west coast I’ve never seen before. Highlights definitely have to be the food – we ate so well! And I still have to say that SF is my favourite city in the States. If I had to live anywhere in the US, it would be San Francisco (as long as someone else can pay my rent to live in the city).

Of course, it was awesome to spend that much time with my Moo (who I’m sure is reading this. Hi Mom!). It’s been a while since I’ve seen her last so it was great to spend time with her here in Vancouver and then on our train trip. The whole trip was her idea and her planning, so thank you Moo for doing such a great job! It was a blast!

And now it’s back to real life! Which for us means all of the crazyness of moving into our first home in a couple of weeks. There’s been lots going on with that (which probably means another Becoming a Homeowner blog post coming your way) and it’s getting so real. We’ll have the keys in just over two weeks!

Becoming a Homeowner, Pt 4

Note: This part was written on September 1st. Currently, it’s the last in the series, but I suspect there will be a couple more parts coming. Those ones should be written and published in real time. While this one was written on Sept 1, I do my best to catch you up on everything that happened (SO MUCH) since part three. And yes, it’s as lengthy and rambly as usual.


Part 4: In which I, the incessant rambler and over-thinker, finally become a homeowner.

Welcome to our new home! We own it 🙂

That’s right: I AM A HOMEOWNER!

How insane is that? Even more insane, it’s not the townhouse we first fell in love with.

Let me catch you up, because so much has happened in less than a week.

So last Saturday, Colin and I went to see the townhouse and fell in love (part 3 of this series). The next day, we went back to the townhouse with Margie, Colin’s mom, and our realtor, Leslie. 

We pulled up as Leslie was just coming out of the house. She greeted us and then very quickly said, “Well, they’re definitely overpriced.”

I was intrigued. Did that mean we could get in for way less than we thought? Score! But then she continued to list some of her concerns with the house. Things we hadn’t noticed, like older appliances and a hole in the basement ceiling, came to light. Leslie also mentioned how busy the open house was, how the sellers had only lived there a year and how the realtor didn’t have any strata documents for her to look at.

To say we were deflated would be an understatement.

So we went to tour the house again and it was kind of painful. While Colin and I tried to point out all the parts of the townhouse we loved, Margie and Leslie continued to voice their concerns. There were the uneven floors, the heat in the second bedroom, the paint in the basement, and so on. It hurt to hear people talking bad about our house.

Despite the issues, Colin and I still felt that if we could get it for a good price, it would be worth it. We loved the location, the amenities, the space and the fact that a townhouse gave us three separate levels. But we were ignoring some of the issues. The complex is old – built in 1970. And there’s upkeep with a three-storey 1500+ squarefoot house. Plus, all the issues like ceiling holes and slanted floors we had missed the first time we toured.

So we drove off, feeling a bit less keen on our dream house but still holding out a bit of hope. We decided to check out another open house by Gateway station. We were in the neighbourhood, so what’s the harm, right?

As we pulled up, Colin and I noted how much we liked the look of the complex. The complex, Access, is right by the skytrain, but off on a quiet road. It was much newer (built in 2002), looked great from the outside, and was a four-storey condo complex, which we like much more than the high-rise condos.

We arrived intending to look at just one apartment but ended up touring three.  The first was a one bedroom plus den loft apartment. We knew that wouldn’t be enough space for us but the realtor was waiting outside happy to show the space, and we were excited to see a loft.

We loved the loft! It was awesome to have the levels and the super high ceilings. And there were even mountain views! Unfortunately, it was more of a home for one person or two people without much stuff. A two bedroom loft might be an option but we’d get priced out of that pretty soon.

The next was the apartment we had come to see – a two bedroom on the third floor for $375,000. While I loved the wood laminate in the living space, the layout was what I’m calling “skinny rectangle.” It seems to be the default condo layout. The skinny rectangle is when you walk in and it’s just one straight line of space for the kitchen, dining room and living room. Everything always feels very tight and would be impossible to try and put desks or even a proper table in there.

As we were planning to leave, someone mentioned that there was another two bedroom having an open house in the next building over (same complex). We figured while we were here, we might as well check it out. Funny how a fluke tip to check out the next building would totally change everything for our house hunt.

We headed up to the apartment on the second floor. We stepped in, and immediately we were all smiling. The space was big, it was bright and, most importantly, it wasn’t a skinny rectangle. There were multiple spaces, little corners and tons of windows. The bedrooms were a good size, there were lots of closets, and the floors were nice. The kitchen was good and the balcony was large. We were pretty impressed. Until we heard the price.

$409,800.

Well, that’s why we hadn’t seen this place online. I generally ignore everything over $400,000. I understand paying over four in New West but in Surrey – c’mon! But at the same time, we had never seen a layout like this before.

I mentioned to the realtor that she was priced over $30,000 more than the other two bedroom we had just seen, and she replied that it was due to the space. She also slipped in that they would be reducing the price the next day. I nodded politely, assuming this had been a wasted open house for us since there’s no way we could afford it.

So we emailed our realtor and casually mentioned that we were interested in this place and the potential price drop. We also sent a couple more apartment complexes that we were interested in, Ethical Gardens and Pacifica. Our realtor let us know that this unit in Access had actually been on the market for over 40 days, which was a promising sign. On Tuesday, they reduced the price from $409,800 to $398,000. Our ears perked up.

At the same time, we were dealing with all of our mortgage issues.

The main issue was our push to use the mortgage professional we had been working with and Margie’s reluctance. To do our due diligence, we agreed to take a meeting with her bank. On the way there, Colin and I agreed that we would keep open minds, but not sign anything. We wanted to be loyal to our mortgage professional who had been so helpful thus far.

To our surprise, the meeting at the bank went way better than we thought it would. Margie’s guy, Saj, was personable, knowledgeable and definitely looking out for her best interest. He broke down all the numbers, was able to offer us a great rate and was patient with any questions we might have.

To summarise a lot of back and forth, we ended up going with Saj and Margie’s bank for our mortgage. We felt bad that we couldn’t continue with our mortgage professional. But having Margie’s support was important for our mortgage. And for Colin and me, we wanted to make sure we were getting a good rate and working with a good person. We get both of those things from Margie’s guy at her bank.

During this time, we also let go of our townhouse dream. The age of the complex and the issues brought to light were starting to make sense to us. And the fact that both our realtor and Margie were against it wasn’t a good sign. Colin and I agreed that our next home could be a townhouse, but we could let it go this time.

So on Thursday, we arranged with our realtor, Leslie, to go back and visit the unit at Access again. We were excited to tour it again and liked it even better the second time. I didn’t let myself start thinking that it could be ours yet – I didn’t want to get disappointed. But I was definitely getting attached to the place.

Leslie really liked it. She pointed out how rare the layout and location of the unit in the building was. She understood why they were trying to price high but believed there would be some wiggle room. It was really reassuring to hear Leslie speak so highly of the unit as she’s had experience in that complex. She said she hadn’t seen anything like that one before. We got even more excited.

We also checked out a unit at Ethical Gardens. I could tell as we were walking through, Colin was already sold on Access. While there were some pluses about Ethical Gardens, like a super long kitchen, giant closets and proximity to the mall, there were some noticeable downsides. For one, the living space was tiny and likely wouldn’t hold a couch and a dining room table. It wasn’t the one for us.

Ethical Gardens. Lovely building, but not the right one for us.

So as we walked back to the car, Leslie gave us some more info and said to call her if we wanted to put in an offer on Access. We headed home to crunch some numbers but I think we both knew what we wanted to do by then.

We called and officially put in an offer.

And then that’s where the real drama and waiting by the phone began. There was a counter, and another counter. There were multiple contracts to sign. There were emails. There were calls with the realtor, with the bank and with each other. And there were rushed texts and constant inbox refreshing.

All to say, just over 24 hours after our initial offer, we were signing the final contract. We accepted their latest counter and we were officially buying a house. Ahhhhhhhhh!

Of course, there’s a little asterisk next to that. We have the next week to remove subjects which means we need to do the home inspection, appraisal and make sure all our financing comes through with the bank. If no red flags come up, we’ll pay the deposit next Friday and officially be homeowners. And then we pay up on October 5th and get the keys October 6th.

How crazy is that?

It’s insane to think how fast everything has gone. In the big picture, it’s a little crazy to look back and see all that has happened in a year. Next Friday, the day our subjects are removed and we officially get the house, is September 8th – a year to the day when Colin’s dad, Randy, passed away. I would have never believed if someone told me at this time last year that by now I would be living in a condo in New West with Colin and our dog, working fulltime as a freelancer, and now buying a home. Unbelievable! Colin joked that we might as well get married and have a baby this year just to get it all done.

And while it feels like I’ve been looking at homes forever, this part of the process went way faster than I thought it would. I’ve been looking online at homes for a few months. And in that time, we’ve probably been to about a dozen or so open houses. But I never would have imagined that we’d go to an open house, schedule a viewing, put in an offer, go through negotiations and have a signed contract on a house in less than a week. We saw the place for the very first time on Sunday and had a contract signed before Friday night’s dinner. Insane!

Colin and I were also saying to each other how lucky we got on this one. The very first home we put an offer in was the one we got. Of course, our first offer wasn’t accepted; we had to negotiate. But still – it was all with just the one home. And we weren’t in a situation with multiple offers where we had to outbid someone else. I always assumed if we bought a home in the Greater Vancouver Area, we would be searching for months, putting in offers on a few places before one worked out, competing with multiple offers and being forced to pay way above list price. But nope, none of that happened! Maybe that’s why people move to Surrey…

So yeah, that’s my life right now. I still can’t truly believe that we have a house – that we are homeowners. It sounds so crazy to me. I’m not sure it’ll feel real for a while yet. I wonder if it will feel the same as just renting in a new place. I hope not. I hope it’s different. I hope it feels like home. And I hope we’re happy there for a long time. Or a long-ish time.

And until then, my brain gets to be filled with all of the logistics and stuff we need to get done. For the next week, we hold our breath and wait while the financing, inspection and appraisal get done. We cross our fingers and hope that nothing bad happens and we can get everything finalized on Friday. My mom is also coming in from Toronto on Friday, so we get to bring her to the place, which is even more exciting.

And then there’s all the fun of moving. We have to tell our landlord we’re ending our one year lease super early and hope he’s forgiving about any penalties we have to pay. We have to switch our internet over, which was such a headache when we moved here from Kits. We have to cancel our utilities and start new ones in Surrey. We have to figure out home insurance. We have to pick paint and hire painters. We have to get boxes. We have to rent a uhaul.

I sort of feel like we just moved – which I guess we did, since it was only Feb 28 that we moved in here. So crazy that we’re going to be doing it all over again in such a short amount of time. But hopefully after this one, we don’t have to move again for a long time.

I’ve never lived in the same place for very long, and even less so in my adult life in my own homes. The longest would have been 14 months at my place in Kits before this one. So it’s interesting to think that this is going to be a long-term move. We don’t think this is our forever home, but it could be good for a long time. There’s enough space for us to be comfortable there as two with a home office/guest room and space to move the office into the main room, should we want to put a kid in the second room sometime down the line.

And it’s a move to Surrey, which is bittersweet. I know Colin is so excited to be closer to his friends and close to work. I’m excited for him. And I’m excited we’re by a skytrain so I can go and see my friends. And I know our neighbourhood is just going to keep getting better. The sad part is being just that much farther from Vancouver and leaving New West after such a short time. If we are going to be looking for more space for less money in our next move, it will likely still be in Surrey or even farther out. So New West isn’t really in the cards, at least not for a long time. Maybe we can come back here as retirees 🙂

But it’s all exciting! It’s nerve wracking and there’s still so much to do and wait on. But it’s exciting! We bought a house. We’re homeowners. That is just bananas!

Becoming a Homeowner, Pt 3

Note: This post was written on August 26. If you’re following along in the series, this post was written after our meeting with the mortgage professional and after some refinement on our down payment number (not as huge as we once thought it would be but still a good number). It’s the third part in a long and rambly home buying journey. You’ve been warned.


So you know how window shopping is actually the worst because you see all the pretty things you can’t buy?

Yeah, that’s what open houses are like.

We’ve been to about 10 open houses by now in New West and Surrey. We popped into a couple around our neighbourhood and then scheduled out a weekend to see some in Surrey. So far, it’s been really informative. It’s great to get a feel for new neighbourhoods, see what is available, figure out what we like and don’t like, etc. When asked if we were working with a realtor, we’d say that we were just getting a feel for the market and were probably looking to buy in the new year. The selling realtor would praise us and our great decision to do some market research. Our parents were supportive and our mortgage professional thought it was a good idea.

So where did it all go wrong?

When we saw our dream house.

Okay, the outside isn’t that dreamy but I swear it’s nice in there!

During a late night scroll through my phone, I received an email alert that a new house had been listed in our Surrey areas. Curious, I clicked on the link. And I was intrigued immediately. It was a townhouse. The place was 10 minutes from the skytrain and mall, had an outdoor pool and playground, was three storeys and over 1500 square feet. Our current apartment is just over 500 square feet, so you can imagine how excited I was for the prospect of three times that!

I sent Colin (who was sleeping at the time) a message asking him to remind me to show him the place the next day. The next afternoon, I walked him through the listing. Colin was also intrigued. There weren’t too many photos so we were curious what the place really looked like. Was it actually three floors? Where did they put all that square footage?

So on Saturday, we rolled up to the open house. As we pulled into the abundant visitors’ parking across from a swingset, playground and basketball course, we began joking with each other saying, “I hope we hate it! The inside better not be very nice.”

But, it was really nice.

We had arrived a bit before the 2pm open house start time but were ushered in by the realtor. Arriving early allowed us to have the home to ourselves and we were free to ask the realtor all of our questions.

We walked into the living/dining room and were immediately impressed by how big it was. The photos online made it look way smaller. Next we checked out the good-sized back deck and discovered a shared, enclosed backyard where we could let Ellie roam free (if our neighbours were cool with it).

We headed upstairs to find two giant bedrooms. Seriously, such huge spaces! We were always thinking the second bedroom would be my office and when we have guests, we’d put a bed down on the ground. But with a second bedroom of this size, we would easily be able to fit a bed and all my office stuff at the same time. The bathroom upstairs was also giant and very modern.

One small corner of a very big second bedroom

The kitchen was updated and had pretty good cabinet space. We talked about where we might put a microwave and already I could see us living in the house.

Last, we went downstairs to see the finished basement. We were warned that it wasn’t quite finished but were pleasantly surprised. The space was huge! There was in-suite laundry, a half bath, storage and tons of space for hanging out.

Colin and I were getting kind of giddy. We started asking the realtor more serious questions such as the date for offers and when the current family was hoping to move out. We left with nervous smiles – what the hell were we going to do?

We sat in Colin’s parked car for a good 10 minutes just talking through the situation. Our original plan was to get our pre-approval in October and start looking for homes in the winter with a move-in date of Feb/March. We talked through the money situation and whether or not we could afford the $398,000 list price (or more if it goes above asking). And then we started talking about the logstics – could we get pre-approved fast enough to make an offer? Would our parents be willing to commit to down payments and get that money to us? Could we find a realtor?

ARE WE CRAZY?

The way I felt in the car is the same way I feel when I book a big trip. “Am I crazy?” keeps flashing in my mind. I’m nervous and I’m excited. I can’t stop smiling but I also can’t stop letting out exasperated breaths. It’s that feeling of taking a risk but knowing the outcome could be so good. I never thought I would feel that way about a house.

And best of all, Colin was totally on the same page. A part of me was scared that I would fall in love with the place and Colin would not be feeling it. Honestly, that might have been better because then he could have talked me down. But Colin was just as into it as I was. We both walked through the townhouse and actually felt like we were walking through a home. It felt like someplace we could live and be happy for a long time. We saw our futures there.

So after crunching a few numbers and assuring ourselves that it wouldn’t hurt to at least try, we decided to go for it. Could we pull this off? Remains to be seen.

Our first step was to talk to our parents. I texted my mom and called my dad – no reply from either. Colin’s mom had called us just as we were leaving the house to make plans for dinner – perfect. On the way to her house, we sent our mortgage professional an email asking if our crazy dream of getting the world’s fastest pre-approval was even possible.

Over the rest of the afternoon, dinner and dog walk, we talked to Margie about our dream home. I was so impressed and grateful that Colin totally took the lead on this one. He was the one who started using words like “dream house” and “we fell in love with it.” It made me feel so good to know that this wasn’t some scheme of mine I had pulled him into. Colin was just as into this as I was.

I also got to talk to my parents that evening. And to our surprise, all three of our parents were on board. Of course, they wanted to make sure we were doing our due diligence and asking all the right questions. But they were all super supportive. Colin and I kept expecting someone to say, “What? Of course you can’t buy a townhouse. Are you kidding?” But nobody did. We were expecting to be talked off the ledge but instead we were encouraged to jump.

So we emailed a realtor I had been communicating with to try and get the ball rolling. And we made plans with Margie to go back to tomorrow’s open house so we could show her the place.

When we finally got home, Colin and I were mentally and physically drained. Poor Colin had worked at 5am, so he was super tired. But I think our brains were also fried from all of the what-ifs and how-abouts of the day.

Lying in bed, Colin asked again, “Are we crazy?”

I mean, we probably are. It does seem incredibly fast. But there are also so many good points. I’ve been looking at homes for a couple of months now and I’ve never seen something this big, this nice, in this location for this price. And it’s the first one that has really felt like a home. There’s something about having multiple levels in a townhouse and not being able to see every square inch of your house from the front door that’s pretty cool. We asked the realtor about other units in the complex and he said they don’t come up often. The last unit to sell was winter 2016 – almost an entire year ago. So I’m scared if we don’t act on this one, we’ll lose out. And if this is a home we spend 5, 10, 15+ years in, will it really matter if we put in an offer two months earlier than we had planned? Doubt it.

But it still feels crazy. And maybe, even impossible. I’m trying not to get my hopes up. I know it is still such a long shot for this house to be ours. First, we have to hear back from our mortgage professional and see if she can help us out. Then, assuming she can, we’d have to get all our financial documents to her. Next we’re waiting on the lender and praying we get a good mortgage rate. Banking (pun intended) on a good rate and this place being in our price range, we then have to work with a realtor and come up with a good offer. And then there’s hoping that our offer is accepted over everyone else’s.

So yeah, we have a ton of hoops to jump through. Our mortgage professional could write us back tomorrow with a simple, “Yeah, you guys are nuts. You can’t get pre-approved fast enough and you’ll never be able to afford that place.” Or by the time we get approved, the place could have sold. Or if we manage to get an offer in on time, there could be a bidding war that totally goes over our heads. Or maybe some money bags will swoop in tomorrow and offer way more than asking and this will all be for nothing.

But despite this mountain of obstacles we’d have to climb, I’m still hopeful. I can’t deny that part of me fell in love with this house. Walking down the stairs, I actually felt like I was in a home – not just an apartment or a rental. It felt like someplace we could grow into. There were little things we’d want to change right away (like painting the very pink and very blue bedrooms) but nothing major. And there were still enough projects to keep us busy down the road (like re-doing the weird textured walls in the basement). I could see us cooking in the kitchen, Colin playing video games in the basement and me typing away in my office/second bedroom. I could see Ellie running around the backyard while Colin fires up the grill. And I could even see our future kid playing on the swings right next to our house and inviting his or her friends over to swim in our pool.

What was that about not getting my hopes up?

I know real estate isn’t supposed to be an emotional thing. But how can you not get attached to the biggest purchase of your life that you’ll spend so much time in? I can’t imagine buying a house I didn’t love. So since this one has already won my heart, I guess I just have to be prepared to have my heart broken…

… while still holding onto a glimmer of hope that we could actually end up living there!

Becoming a Homeowner, Pt 2

Note: This part of the series was written in mid-August. Again, if long and rambly posts on home buying/life updates are not your deal, feel free to skim or skip!


So this has been one fairly eventful week. It all culminates in an update on the home buying front, but there are some other life details thrown in there, because buying a home isn’t supposed to be straightforward, is it?

At the start of this week, I was thinking it would be business as usual in our disgustingly hot apartment in New West. I figured it would be lots of working from Starbucks (I need their AC), wee pup walks and absolutely no travel or home updates. Clearly, I was wrong.

We actually decided to leave New West for a bit and headed out to Kelowna to visit Colin’s brother Kyle, his girlfriend, Corbie, and their brand new baby, Jordan.

I hadn’t been to Kelowna since 2012 when I went up for Residence Advisor Orientation at the UBC-Okanagan campus. To be fair, this should barely count as visiting Kelowna since we never left campus. I’ve been up to Kelowna three times before this and every single time I only saw UBCO. So this trip was a nice change.

It was a bit of a trek up to Kelowna, but we had our awesome road trip playlist, wee pup snuggles and a really good chat about life and money. I read somewhere that the best time to have serious conversations with a guy is when he’s driving. He’s in his element, he’s able to focus on the road, he doesn’t have to look directly at you and you’re not distracted by anything since it’s just the two of you. Turns out, that advice held true. Colin and I were able to have some really good talks about our money issues/goals, mental health, plans for the future, potential wedding ideas, etc.

Once up in Kelowna, we spent some awesome time visiting with Kyle, Corbie, Jordan and Kyle’s first son, Jaxon. Their house was awesome, as was the pool and the cute little cabin we got to stay in. Even without air conditioning and in Kelowna’s heat, that cabin was way cooler than our apartment. We got to try some great restaurants and visit Kelowna’s downtown.

Colin and baby Jordan!

We were super excited to meet Jordan and spend some time with Kyle and Corbie. I’m glad we got to go up and see them since they won’t be down in Vancouver until late September. At that point, Jordy will be almost 2 months old. However, we did feel like we were in the way sometimes. I really wanted to help out with the baby but it seemed like often, the best thing for us to do was just to give them some space.

All in all, it was a great trip. While in Kelowna, we also came across an awesome flight deal. And by “we” I mean that I saw the deal on Facebook and clicked through to the booking website, confirming with Colin once I had it all loaded up.

Colin and I have been wanting to get back to Europe for a while now. He visited in high school and I was there on exchange in 2014. We had talked about doing a big Europe trip in 2018. However, with all the talk of home buying, we assumed we’d have to postpone it.

But then, this amazing flight deal fell into our laps. Colin was a bit hesitant, but even he couldn’t argue with savings like this. Plus, it’s nine months away so we have lots of time to save and plan. So we officially booked flights to Ireland! We’ll be flying roundtrip from Vancouver to Dublin, April 9-19 for only $344 per person! How insane is that?

We’re stoked on the trip. Neither of us has been to Ireland before and we both have a bit of Irish in our bloodline. I would’ve wanted to stay for 2-3 weeks to see more of Europe, but I know Colin is worried about the cost. To be fair, I should be more worried about the cost so 10 days is probably the right move. We’ll spend all of it in Ireland and have an amazing time drinking beer, driving through the Irish cliffs and praying for sun.

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Can’t wait to see this in Ireland next April!

So we got Kelowna and Ireland – what more could we want out of a week? Oh, that’s right – something related to home ownership (the title of this post!).

Just before we left for Kelowna, Colin and I booked an appointment with a mortgage professional in Vancouver. I was excited about it because this is the first step we’ve taken in actually getting this househunt off of our internet browsers and into the real world. But it was also super scary. Colin remarked that we could be packing for Ireland from a new house that we OWN. Ahhhhh!

Another scary part of the mortgage meeting was filling out the online form and getting real about our finances. I’ve recently written about talking money with your SO and realize it’s something Colin and I are going to need to do if we are planning a future together. It was eye opening to see where we both were and what concerns we had.

There was also the controversy of meeting with a mortgage professional. In my research (articles I’ve found online and podcasts I’ve listened to), it seems that mortgage professionals are the way to go. They specialize in mortgages, have relationships with multiple lenders and can usually get you a better interest rate than you could get at your bank. Plus, like a realtor, they are free for buyers to work with. So what could be wrong?

Well, turns out not everyone is into that strategy. My mom immediately nixed the idea when I told her over text. She touted a friend of hers who had gone the same route and got screwed. After I explained my research findings, she softened to the idea a bit. She still wanted me to work with someone based on a personal recommendation. I get where she is coming from – it would be awesome to have a friend recommend a mortgage broker to us. But it might not be possible. We just don’t have that many friends buying homes. And personally, I prefer to go with the stats and research I am finding online over an anecdotal story from a friend who had a good or bad experience.

Colin’s mom also pushed back against the mortgage professional idea. She wants us to get a mortgage through a bank – specifically, her bank. Colin explained the research we had done but she still thinks her bank is best. And, seeing as she just bought and sold a home with them, I can see why. She has a great relationship with her bank and believes that she can use that to help us get a great deal. I’m less sure.

So all that to say, we are still meeting with our mortgage professional on Monday. But we haven’t signed anything yet and we’re not committed to her. We’ll likely take a meeting at Colin’s mom’s bank as well. It won’t hurt to try out a few avenues and see what is what.

And lastly, another big whopper on the house front: our down payment number changed. So all along, we have been counting on Margie (Colin’s mom) to help us out with our down payment. At first, we thought the money was a gift but now we understand it’s an investment. We still have to figure out all of the paperwork on that front. Our plan was to use her investment, possibly a bit of money from my parents, some of our savings and then the first time home buyers program to put together a pretty good sized down payment. 

Well, Margie just informed Colin on the phone that her contribution to our down payment was going to be more. Significantly more. So much more that we ran the numbers on some of our potential mortgage payments and they were laughable. I’m talking less than $600 for a monthly mortgage payment!

So obviously, this is a game changer. It’s way more money than we were expecting and it really could shake things up for us. Now, more than ever, do I want all of us to sit down and put this stuff in writing. Often, it’s Colin talking to his mom on the phone and then trying to relay as much of the information as he can back to me once they hang up. So it’s time to get things in writing once we meet in person. Of course, I want Margie’s investment to be protected. And I also want to make sure Colin and I are being fair to ourselves and our future. And I think it would be good to chat and get everything out in the open. It seems like the information we glean from her changes all the time – so it’s about time for us to be direct, sit down and talk like adults doing business.

We’re not quite sure what that sum of money means. Would she be signing the mortgage with us? Because if she does, we don’t qualify for the first time home buyers program. Is that bad? Or are we taking out a second mortgage with her? Colin said she mentioned something about a 0% mortgage we could do. How does this impact our other mortgage? How do we determine her investment pay off once we sell? Can we now start looking at higher priced properties because we have a larger down payment? Or should we continue looking at our current price range and just drive down our monthly payments/pay off the mortgage sooner?

So many questions! Basically, all of this new home ownership stuff has just resulted in a ton of questions. I’m hoping we can get most of them answered soon. I have phone calls planned with my parents for this weekend. I want to share all of this with them and get their opinion. Plus, if they were planning to contribute, as a gift or a loan or an investment, I’d love to know the number going into our meeting with the mortgage professional. Colin is also trying to get a ballpark figure from his mom so we have that information. He’s going to the bank with her on Tuesday but our meeting is on Monday.

And then I’m hoping everything else will get answered soon after that. I’m hoping our mortgage professional can answer a lot of questions at our meeting. And I’m hoping we can book a meeting with Margie’s bank this week and sit down with her to figure out all of the details. It’s scary! Things are really starting to move. The process is happening and the puzzle pieces are starting to fit together. Wish us luck!

Becoming a Homeowner, Pt 1

Note: This was written in early/mid August (I can’t remember exactly when) and is part of a lengthy, rambly series on our homeownership journey. Feel free to skip or skim if you’re not interested in homes! 


Image result for house hunters

No, we weren’t on this show. And no, we’re not buying a house on the water. But a girl can dream!

The first step to becoming a homeowner is deciding you want to become a homeowner.

Sounds obvious, right? Like, does this even count as a step? It sounds like it’s more of a pre-step.

But no, it is a bonafide step. At least, it was for us.

Home ownership was never something I gave much thought to. I grew up with divorced parents who would move everytime the lease was up. My mom finally bought a house when I was about 10 years old and sold it a couple of years later. My dad bought a house when I was 13 and actually still lives in that house. But by that point, I had lived in more than 20 homes between both parents so the stability of a mortgage over a lease didn’t mean too much to me.

When I moved out to Vancouver, I always assumed I would just be a renter. I liked the idea of being able to pick up and go. And I really loved the thought of moving abroad whenever I wanted.

Plus, if you know anything about Vancouver real estate, you know that buying here is a lofty aspiration. In fact, affording a home in Vancouver is more often the punchline of a joke than an actual reality.

But then we have Colin, my sweet, stable-home raised, boyfriend. Colin grew up in a single storey home in Surrey with his mom, dad and at least two pets at any given time. This is the only house Colin has ever known. He even has his height marked on the inside of a doorway. (Which, as someone who moved around a lot, is something I am so envious of).

Last year, after Colin’s dad passed away, his mom decided to sell the house. After many months of cleaning, donating items and taking truckloads of crap to the dump, the house was finally empty. Colin and I moved into an apartment in New West and his mom moved into a condo in Port Coquitlam.

The house in Surrey was no more.

Check out that stunning cherry blossom tree in front of the Surrey house!

But it lives on. We still talk about fond memories on the beautiful backyard porch. We remember the converted garage that served as Colin’s bedroom suite. And we even drive by every now and then just to see what the new homeowners are up to (they keep the blinds closed so we actually have no idea).

So that’s where we came from. I believed I would rent forever and that having a mortgage was too much of a commitment. The longest I had lived in one place as an adult was just over a year. Colin, on the other hand, was signing a rental lease with me for pretty much the first time in his life (he lived in North Van for four months during school but that barely counts).

We’re about halfway through our one year lease on our first apartment together. And naturally, the dream apartment we found in the middle of a snowstorm in December has begun to lose a bit of its charm.

The kitchen, which we loved because it was updated and had a dishwasher, is far too tiny. Two people in there trying to cook is ridiculous. The desk I bought from IKEA that we spent a few late nights spray painting and wallpapering has now become a glorified shoe rack.

Basically, our one bedroom has become too small. With me working from home full-time and our place being just over 500 square feet, this was only natural. It’s hard to make things work when my “office” is the dining room table which shares space with our TV, Colin’s desk and the couch.

This “dining room table” is now my desk

So, we knew we wanted two bedrooms in our next place. Being obsessed with research like I am, I got right to work looking up two bedrooms. I wanted to know what kind of places were available and how much more they would cost us.

I’ll be fairly open about our financials here. Our current 500+ square foot, modern, one bedroom apartment in a high rise in downtown New West costs us $1250/month. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is a pretty great deal. When we were first looking for apartments, we found that a lot of the nice new buildings in downtown New West were asking $1600+ for a one bedroom. And then the older buildings farther north had one bedrooms for around $1000, but we didn’t like the look or location. There was very little in the middle so I think we were lucky to find our place.

But my research showed that moving up to a two bedroom and still staying in our location was going to cost us. We were looking at places in the $1800-2000 range. The increase scared us a little bit. Before moving in with Colin, I was paying rent on a bachelor apartment in Kits (a steal at $850), so I was a bit more comfortable with the price jump. But I knew it would be a big change for us. Was it worth it?

I’m not sure how it happened, but I began to move my research away from Craigslist apartment ads and towards realtor.ca. I was curious! And the idea of homeownership had been dropped in my head. A friend of mine in Toronto was starting to look at the housing market with her husband (sending good vibes her way cause their market sucks like ours). And another friend and her partner had just purchased a place in Kelowna.

Plus, when we were looking for our rental last year, Colin’s mom had offhandedly mentioned that maybe we should buy instead. She was even willing to help us with the down payment, as she would have the money after selling her house. I was vehemently against the idea. I love Colin. But at that point, we hadn’t even celebrated our second anniversary. I had never lived with a partner before and Colin had barely ever lived away from home. I was not ready to sign a mortgage with him. Colin felt the same and after one morning of trying to look through house listings, we called it off and stuck with our rental plan.

But here I was, five months into our lease and looking at realtor.ca. What was happening?

I told myself it was just research. I just wanted to get educated. I was bored with the same old listings on Craigslist and I wanted to see something new. But was that it? A part of me that I hadn’t really acknowledged before was super excited scrolling through the home listings. And when I returned to the Craigslist ads, I was noticeably disappointed.

I spent a lot of my university and post-university years rejecting the ideas of traditional adulthood. I never really dreamt about settling down, marriage, kids, the mortgage and the minivan. I would’ve been just as happy travelling the world, moving countries every year and maybe having a partner by my side – kids were optional.

So I went out and I got those travelling experiences. I studied abroad in Amsterdam for five months. I volunteered in Swaziland for an entire summer. I travelled through Australia for a month. And I loved all of those experiences. But I also loved coming home. I loved decorating my apartment and picking out furniture. I loved having a neighbourhood sushi restaurant (my equivalent of having a local coffee shop) and house plants that I tried my best not to kill. I was craving a bit of a fixed life. I loved travelling, but I wanted a home.

And those home feelings definitely magnified when I met Colin. I got to see the world from his perspective, growing up in one home with both parents in the same place for his whole life. I found myself daydreaming about the fixed life we could have together. Slowly, the marriage, kid(s) and mortgage didn’t sound so bad – I’m still out on the minivan.

That’s not to say I completely gave up on all of my travel dreams the minute I got a boyfriend. It’s not like that at all. I was having those fixed life cravings long before I met Colin. In fact, I think things worked out with Colin because I was already in the mindset of placing some roots. And I haven’t given up travelling. Colin and I have gone on lots of trips together in our 2+ years of dating. And I even headed off to Vietnam for a month with a girlfriend while Colin stayed here. It was never and it will never be a matter of trading in my passport for a mortgage.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Sorry, I digress (again).

All that to say, I was looking at homes for sale and I was getting excited. And when I get excited, I have to start researching. So I started reading blogs about buying homes, what we could afford, what markets were hot and when was the best time to buy. I downloaded real estate podcasts and started sending questions to the podcast hosts. And, most importantly, I started talking to Colin.

Colin and I had already been talking about the move to a two bedroom. The idea of buying had come up but we thought it might be too expensive for us. These were all hypotheticals. And then, my research started to seep in. I would fill Colin in on everything I was learning, in small bite-sized chunks so he didn’t get too overwhelmed. Seeing as my previous obsession was talking about weddings, Colin was much more receptive to housing talk.

He started to get into it with me. I would call him over to my laptop to look through house listings. We would run the numbers together and see if we could afford it. We talked through neighbourhoods (more on this later) and sent each other links to relevant articles. Once the house hunt moved to Surrey, Colin got even more excited. We even spent one weekend in July going to open houses!

So, we were more than seriously considering it. We are more than seriously considering it. We are very much looking to buy a home when our lease ends in February 2018. We have crunched the numbers, gone to the open houses and started to reach out to realtors and mortgage brokers. We’ve started to discuss down payments with our parents and the state of our finances with each other. It’s happening! It’s kind of scary to admit but….

We want to be homeowners. We are planning to buy our first home in early 2018.

(Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Am I the only one freaking out? Typing that sentence gave me heart palpitations!)

Five Days in Frisco

Colin and I just got back from “frolicking in Frannie” – our trip to San Francisco!

We’ve been looking forward to SF for a while now. I bought Colin tickets to the SF production of Hamilton (our musical obsession) way back in December when they went on sale. I gave him the tickets for his birthday in March and we’ve been planning our trip ever since. Even though this was my third time to San Francisco, I discovered there was still so much to see and do. I love the city by the bay and if I had to move to an American city, it would probably be this one!

Here’s an overview of our five days full of Frisco!

Day 1:

We arrived on Friday after what felt like a full day of skytrains, getting through customs, flying and finally taking an Uber to our hotel. We don’t have Uber in Vancouver so we were psyched to use it in SF. Once we arrived at the Fisherman’s Wharf Marriott (we scored an awesome deal on Priceline), we headed right down to the wharf for a famous bread bowl of clam chowder. Colin LOVED the Boudin Bakery sourdough!

If you squint, you can see apx 6 sea lions behind us

After dinner, we walked over to Pier 39 to see the sea lions and the shops. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many sea lions in the summer. And then it was back to our hotel for a change of clothes – I still can’t believe how chilly it gets in SF! We were in California in July and I was freezing in long pants and a sweater. We put on our warmest and headed out for ice cream sundaes at Ghiradelli’s. We both forgot that we are pretty lactose intolerant so those sundaes didn’t sit too well.

Day 2:

Started our next day with brunch at a nearby diner. After that we headed to Pier 41 where the Alcatraz cruises depart. Unfortunately, we had not booked ahead and were informed that the next available tour wasn’t until August 20th (this was July 15). Whoops! So instead we headed for Coit Tower. Google Maps said it was a 12 minute walk. They neglected to mention that it was also 450 steps up to the base of the tower. My legs were DEAD! Luckily, to get up Coit Tower itself you take an elevator, so my legs got a break. The views were awesome! It’s a San Francisco landmark I’ve always known about but this was the first trip I actually went to visit it.

View from the top! With a foggy Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

Coit Tower!

After taking in the view we walked back down the hill and hung out in Washington Square admiring a beautiful church while we waited on a table at Tony’s. 30 minutes later we were enjoying a delicious wood-fire pizza and a giant meatball. YUM!

We didn’t go for a ride but we did pose next to a cable car – that counts, right?

From there we decided to walk through Chinatown to Union Square, taking in lots of SF sights. We took a break at the Starbucks in Macy’s after doing some window shopping. Next was an impromptu wardrobe change when we went to Target and bought new outfits. And then we took an Uber over to West Portal where my friend, Robert, is a chef at a little diner. We had a delicious dinner there and then visited crooked Lombard Street before getting back to our hotel. It was a busy day!

Hello, Lombard!

Day 3:

Day 3 was our Golden Gate day! We started our visit on Baker Beach with awesome views of the Golden Gate Bridge. I wish we had thought to bring a blanket and a picnic so we could have enjoyed it more. Then we moved on to Sutro Baths, another SF first for me. These are the ruins of old public baths that existed in SF before the 1906 earthquake. There were also awesome lookout points, caves and Seal Rock (with sadly, no seals).

From there we drove over to Golden Gate Park (which is actually nowhere close to the bridge). We walked around Stow Lake and saw waterfalls, gardens and the California Academy of Sciences. We had lunch in the park and then walked out on the other end into The Haight. I love this unique neighbourhood of San Francisco. Colin and I both admitted that it was probably a little too cool for us, but we appreciated walking through nonetheless.

Back at the hotel, we got changed and then went out for dinner. We headed to Surisan, a Korean fusion place by our hotel. And it was DELICIOUS! Probably the best meal we had all trip. The atmosphere and decor were really cool and all of the dishes were so tasty. With full bellies (and light wallets), we headed back to our room for the season premiere of Game of Thrones! Yes, the Marriott had HBO!

SO YUM!

Day 4:

Day 4 was my birthday! I turned the big 2-5! Unfortunately, it was also the day that I woke up with an awful head cold. I had a runny nose and watery eyes all day – it was the worst! But despite my gross-ness, we trekked out to enjoy the day. We started with breakfast at IHOP and then took the ferry across the bay to Sausalito.

Sausalito is a super cute little waterfront town with lots of great shops. I’m sure if I was feeling better I would’ve enjoyed it more. We shopped around a little and then went into a fancy restaurant for drinks and an appetizer. We took the ferry back, picked up a late lunch at the San Francisco Ferry Building (awesome food options!) and then returned to the hotel so I could have a Nyquil-induced nap.

Colin woke me around 6pm and we made our way to the Giants baseball game we had gotten tickets for. I’m not a huge baseball fan but it was the only day the Giants were playing while we were in town and live sports games are always a good time. It was a fun evening, even though I was still sniffly and the Giants lost. Back at the hotel, Colin held up a video of a candle behind a mini cheesecake for me to make a birthday wish before passing out.

Day 5:

Our last full day in San Francisco was the reason we had come in the first place: Hamilton! We started off our day by going for brunch at Mama’s in North Beach. Mama’s is a famous brunch place that, according to the lady in line in front of us, is always lined up no matter what time of day and is Michelin rated! We waited 90 mins from the time we got in line until the time food arrived on our table. Colin even went to get us pastries to tide us over while we stood in line. The food was great but, if I’m being honest, not worth the wait.

Worth the wait?

After Mama’s, we had to lie down in the park for a little while to aid in our digestion. Then it was off to walk through some neighbourhoods and explore some more. We started in the Castro where we got to see the home and camera shop of Harvey Milk. Then we walked through the Mission and Delores Park. And then we took an Uber to San Francisco City Hall – the most beautiful building! It was so gorgeous and we got to see a few couples taking their wedding photos there.

How gorgeous is this building? The inside is even prettier!

We grabbed a beer and then a quick bite before it was Hamilton time! Colin and I (and everyone else in the theatre) were so excited to be there. Even though our tickets were for the very back row, the show was amazing. Everyone was on the edge of their seats – the energy was so electric. It’s the kind of musical where you cheer, laugh, cry and dance in your seat the whole time. It was 100% the best part of our trip and I would give my right arm to go see Hamilton again.

HAMILTON!!!!!

Leaving Day:

On our last morning in SF, we thought it would save time to get room service breakfast delivered to our room. Sadly, we didn’t read the fine print about service charges and delivery charges and ended up paying $81 USD for breakfast! Not a great note for our last morning. We checked out and then headed down to Anchor Brewing Company where we had booked a brewery tour. It was fun to learn about America’s oldest craft brewery and see how they make their products. But I’m not a huge beer fan to begin with, so I think all of the free samples were probably wasted on me.

After the brewery tour and one too many sample beers, we went across the street for sushi lunch. And then it was time to Uber to the airport and head home! We got through security with little trouble and were back in Vancouver before 7:00pm. And by 9:00pm we were reunited with Ellie and at home on our couch watching Parks n’ Rec!


An awesome trip to San Francisco for sure! We had a great time and were so psyched to finally see Hamilton after singing along to the soundtrack for the last year and a bit. And we’ll be back in SF for a day in September with my mom when we visit Portland and Napa Valley! But I think that’s it for summer trips for us – save maybe a couple days in Kelowna when Colin’s sister in law has her baby.

A Family Weekend At Pender Harbour

2017 marked my third year of going up to Pender Harbour with Colin and his family for their annual vacation. Every year, Colin, his parents and a bunch of other relatives spend the July long weekend at cousin Larry and Marnie’s property in Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast.

On one of our early dates, Colin told me about Pender and how he has spent every July long weekend of his entire life camping with his family there on the coast. I was blown away. I’ve gone on lots of trips and family vacations but never anything this consistent. We talked with family this weekend who have been coming up to Pender for 20, 30, 40 years! One cousin, Carl, who is probably in his 40’s has been coming up since he was in his mom’s womb!

On my third year up at Pender, I’m starting to feel like part of the tradition. I love the idea of this being an annual trip that Colin and I continue for the rest of our lives, bringing our own big tent (I don’t think we’ll ever be trailer or RV people) and kids one day. One thing I’ve done for the last three years at Pender is keep my phone off (save for a few photos!). They do have WiFi up there but I really love being able to disconnect for a long weekend.

Ellie loves belly rubs no matter where we are!

Firewood for our nightly campfires

This year was amazing! We had great weather: sunny but with a cool breeze. There was tons of delicious food – Marnie makes an incredible seafood chowder and Jackie brought out so many great snacks. And we got to bring Ellie, which was so much fun! There were almost a dozen dogs up there (and between 20-50 people depending on the day) so she had a great time running around and playing. We hiked through Francis Point Peninsula Park, swam in the chilly water, got warm by the campfire and read in the shade. And I didn’t have to participate in the horseshoe tournament, which I think everyone appreciated!

Happy Canada Day from Ellie!

And Happy Canada Day from Margie’s dog, Doodle!

One thing that made this year’s trip incredibly special was a boat ride we took on Saturday. We went out on Larry’s big boat, which I haven’t gotten to do in the years previous. He took almost 30 of us out and we got to see some amazing views of the bay. But the really special part was the tribute that Colin’s mom Margie had planned. Randy, Colin’s dad, loved Pender Harbour. It was definitely his happy place. And he loved nothing more than being out on the water with the guys, catching fish on Larry’s boat.

Living the luxurious boat life!

Colin and his friend, Connor, enjoying the yacht life

So to honour him, Margie brought some of his ashes up to Pender Harbour so we could lay him to rest in his favourite spot. Once we had boated out to a calm area in the open water, the ashes were distributed into little cups so everyone could get one. Dave said a quick toast and we all raised our cups to Randy while his favourite Adele song played in the background. We tossed his ashes into the water and threw some beautiful flower petals in afterwards. It was a really beautiful moment to be with so many of Randy’s favourite people in his favourite spot. You could definitely feel his spirit there.

Flower petals floating on the water

Pender Harbour was amazing! It was a trip both Colin and I have been looking forward to for months. We had a great five days on the coast and I’m already looking forward to going back next year. I usually hate repeating destinations because there is so much more in the world that I want to see and explore. But there’s something different about Pender Harbour. It’s a special place and I would be so happy to visit it every year for as long as I can!

Colin and Ellie at Francis Point Peninsula

View of the house from the dock

We ❤ Pender!

Camping at Weever Lake with Ellie

Last weekend, we went camping with Colin’s friends and our wee pup, Ellie, got to join us!

10 points if you can spot Ellie!

Growing up, I was never much of a camper. It wasn’t a huge part of my childhood growing up in Toronto. I do have one distinct memory of going camping with my dad, Ali and Jade. And we really camped! We had to portage in to the campsite, which meant carrying a canoe overhead with my dad who is 6’4″. And because there were no toilets, I decided to build one out of rocks. Jade also ended up getting spooked by potential bears, forcing us to share a tiny tent with our parents overnight.

And then two summers ago, Colin and I went camping with some of his x-ray friends. Except, it rained the entire time. Like, POURED! Our tent was soaked so we decided to sleep in Colin’s old beat up car where the seats didn’t even recline all the way back. I think it’s still the worst sleep of my life.

So suffice to say, I’m not huge on camping.

But this weekend was actually pretty fun. There were a few snafus, but on the whole it was a really great weekend. For one thing, the sun was shining and we didn’t have to deal with any rain. We were able to drive right up to the campsite and the outhouse was actually fairly clean, so no need for a DIY rock toilet.

Ellie & Colin singing along to our roadtrip playlist on the ride up

We spent our first night playing card games and drinking with Colin’s friends. Unfortunately, that meant I did have to wake up in the middle of the night and walk out to the outhouse, which wasn’t my favourite. It was also so cold at night! I always underestimate how chilly it’s going to be sleeping outdoors in a tent. My teeth were literally chattering.

The next morning was nice and relaxing. Colin played boardgames with his friends while I read my book and Ellie chased butterflies and chipmunks. Ellie loved running around the campsite, hanging out in nature and picking up food scraps that we dropped.

Hi Ellie!

Around noon, we all decided to head to the lake and do some swimming. Colin and I were under the impression that we would be going straight to the water so we brought Ellie, her life jacket and a bag full of towels and sunblock. But instead of walking the two minutes up the road to the rock beach and dock, we were led on a weird and winding 30 minute hike through the forest. And when we finally caught up with the group, we were super disappointed to find a sad little muddy trail into the water. Colour me not impressed.

Hiking through the forest

We headed back to the campsite with a few friends while the others carried on trekking around the lake. Back at the site, we ate some lunch, played some boardgames and then headed to the much better (and much closer) lake access point. The water was freezing! I only got in as far as my waist, and even that took me a good 20 minutes to achieve. Ellie was in and out in about 1 minute. She was not having the cold water. Colin was the bravest. He headed out to the dock and dove headfirst into the icy cold waters.

Ellie modeling her life jacket

She’s testing out the waters….

After swimming we hung out with the rest of the group, played more games, snacked and got firewood. Later in the evening, we headed over to the fire to cook our hotdogs. Colin and I weren’t horribly inventive with our camping menu. We came up with hotdogs, marshmallows (which we never even opened) and store bought muffins. But one of his friends packed the most impressive meals! She made spaghetti, chicken, baked potatoes, chilli and omelets all over a campfire.

We spent the rest of the night sitting by the fire, chatting with friends and giving Ellie belly rubs while she sat on our laps. It was a really nice evening. We headed to bed and this time I was sure to put on a sweater and grab an extra blanket.

The next morning, we got straight to work taking down our tent and packing up all of our stuff. One part of camping I really dislike is how you end up packing an entire carload just for two people and a dog to spend the weekend. But we did manage to pack everything up pretty quick. That’s also when we discovered Colin had a flat tire. The bumpy road on the way in must have popped a hole. We were a bit worried about it but luckily we were able to fill it up with air on the way home and get it repaired (for free!) the next day.

Our first camping trip of the year and our very first camping trip with Ellie was definitely a success! In July, we’ll be “camping” on Colin’s family property in Pender Harbour. We’ll sleep in a tent but will have access to bathrooms and a kitchen, so it’s not totally proper camping. Which, to be honest, is probably what I prefer. So we’re really looking forward to hanging out by the water, reconnecting with family and introducing Ellie to a new area and lots of other pups.

PS: Yes, I swear other people were camping with us but my phone only seems to come out to snap cute pictures of Ellie or goofy pictures of Colin and me!