Friday, December 16, 2011

Brendon and Akua get hitched.

Well, we did it. Last week we took off to Hawaii and tied the knot. Not quite in time to substantiate the amazing article written about us (as a married couple) in BC Business Magazine. But at least in time to give ourselves the best Christmas present ever - the title of husband and wife. :-)

You might imagine that being married to a photographer would have some perks - like photos. But sadly, I have none to share with you just yet. What I will tell you is that we did it our way. By ourselves, on the beautiful island of Kona. We did it on a deserted beach standing on a lava shelf. Sea turtles lay sprinkled lay in the sand around us warming themselves as the last few rays of sun set on the ocean horizon.

I was given a book soon afterwards by a colleague with advice for married couples. Here is a picture of one of my favourite pieces of advice for Newlyweds. It's from a girly magazine - written in 1949.

Not the most positive or life affirming advice but interesting nonetheless. Any thoughts for newlyweds living in a small home?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The grass is greener in Gregor's Vancouver

Gregor Robertson is hot! Yes, I'm talking about the Mayor of Vancouver and you're right - sex symbols and politics don't often go together. But man that guy is dreamy...

We are getting closer to our municipal elections and both parties (Vision Vancouver and the NPA) are hitting the campaign trail hard. I was at a debate tonight where the candidates talked out the Occupy movements, transportation issues and affordable housing. All of the topics brought out some great conversations and I can't help but share my bias that I found the one on affordable housing solutions the most interesting. So much so that (despite my soccer mom attire) I posed a question to the candidates. I asked them about their vision for innovative ownership models to help the working class break into the housing market. So often people talk about the housing form as the solution - row houses, basement suites, tiny condos, laneway houses... but if there is anything this build has taught us, it's that figuring our a creative ownership agreement is critical.

We had to look to Europe to develop ours between the inlaws and ourselves. In the UK you'll find rent-to-own schemes, shared equity models and land trust housing just to name a few. Anton wasn't able to give much of an answer. She reverted back to talking about the housing form and didn't want to touch financing. Gregor dove in and referred to an innovative project involving Habitat for Humanity as well as pointing to other cities where we can get inspiration. With housing prices so divorced from our salaries we really need to get creative about ownership and challenge the traditional mechanisms we currently have in place to finance, price and sell homes in the city.

And in other news. We have experienced our first landscaping failure.  Because we live in Vancouver we don't get the blanket of white stuff that covers our backyard and we can still plant things throughout the Fall...or so I thought. About four weeks ago I rented a grass seeder and a roller, bought some seed and got to work. It took me all weekend (with some help) to get the project done and when it was over I was pretty happy. Right away, one of the first things I noticed was the number of birds in our backyard. It was amazing. For a moment I felt like Snow White surrounded by her forest friends. Then I realized the truth. I had just laid out an incredible feast and the birds had hit the jackpot. One of my big mistakes was that I didn't cover the seed with a shallow layer of dirt so not only weren't the seeds protected from the birds, they got cold and never germinated. So, there has been no progress. We still have a dirt pile. This landscaping thing is hard.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Brendon and Akua experiment with TV

Have you ever listened to a recording of your own voice and cringed? It's like being confronted by an alter reality - suddenly you sound nothing like how you imagined yourself in your own head. Well, today I found out that it's even worse seeing yourself on TV.  

We were featured on the 6 o'clock news in a short segment on creative housing solutions. Take a look at the video below. What the hell is up with my posture and why does the hair on the back of my head look so bad! 

Now that you've gotten used to us on the big screen - we have news for you. We're going to be on a future episode of the Nature of Things on urban regeneration airing in February 2012. Yes, just last weekend we hosted the amazing father-daughter duo - David Suzuki and Sarika Cullis-Suzuki. This was a dream come true. 

Like so many of us, Brendon and I grew-up with David and the Nature of Things. From an early age we were fed the science of nature in a way that incited wonder and made us care when we saw it threatened. And then when I was 19 I picked up his book The Sacred Balance. It accompanied me on a 3 month cycle touring adventure through the Yukon. Its message was with me through the stark and imposing Tombstone range and along the rushing Donjek river. The book changed the way I saw the world and set me on the trajectory that I find myself today. It help me notice the profound connection we humans have with nature and first put words to a spiritual world view that I hadn't been able to articulate myself. 

Life always seems to come full circle. Sarika and David had both spent time up in the Yukon this summer and raved about the beauty in that place. It's a reminder to me to do as much as we can to preserve wild spaces like the North while we also find ways to nurture and expand nature in our own backyards. 

But I digress. 

Sarika, David, Brendon and I chatted for over 2hrs about everything from our energy efficient appliances to living in a very small home. But really, the theme that emerged stronger than any other was the importance of community and how intergenerational housing arrangements can support vibrant neighbourhoods and people just like us.

While we can't show you any finished products from the filming, I can share some pics with you.

David's beautiful daughter Sarika

Barb and Roger chatting with our guests.

Sorry. Couldn't resist how cute Steven looked. If we're like this with a cat, can you imagine how crazy we'll get with a kid!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Inside Scoop

Well, you've been asking about it for a long time and we finally got to it. Here are pictures of our upper floor. From the photos you can see our bed nook and living room. You also get a glimpse of the balcony that overlooks our lane.

We've had a number of drive-bys lately with people creeping along the laneway and peering into our home. Our house has developed a reputation of its own and now its been booked for a weekend in October to be part of a heritage tour in the city. And tomorrow, we'll open our doors to a group of UBC students.

Whenever we're around we're happy to open our doors for a tour. But, its only fair to give you online followers the full tour as well. Brendon is working on the time lapse video that will take your from our crawl space, up to the garage, through our kitchen and over to our second floor loft. We'll have that up in the next few days.

For now though - check our our fence, finished just yesterday! For you viewing pleasure we've also included an awesome photo of Steven and a refresher on what our kitchen looks like.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Commune

When I was in my late twenties Brendon and I lived in Ottawa and shared a group of incredible friends. We all spent time with each other throughout the week. Many of us lived together, shared groceries, chores and leisure time. I remember when one of my closest friends Rebecca began dating her future husband he nicknamed us the Get-Along-Gang.

The group of friends is still incredibly close but now many of us live thousands of miles away from one another so the type of communal lifestyle we'd dabbled with faded away in concert with the distance that separated us. Something is afoot though and once again we are starting to witness a new version of communal living on our little plot of land.

Many of you know that while we were building the laneway house and for a few years leading up to it, Brendon and I rented Barb and Roger’s basement suite. The two bedroom apartment allowed us to test-drive living close to the parental units and helped us come to the quick decision that we liked sharing air space with such an amazing couple. When we moved out, Barb and Roger hadn't planned on renting out the apartment very quickly but life intervened and withing one week 3597 West 23rd got a new tenant.

I’ve known Allee Wells since I was 15 years old. We went to highschool together and then shared our first big adventure – cycling and hiking through the Yukon. Allee has lived in Vancouver for almost 12 years now and while we’ve stayed close, we haven’t seen as much of one another over the last few years as I would have liked. Well that all changed this July. Allee and her longtime partner split and she needed to start fresh. She moved into the basement suite just as we began taking out the last of our boxes.

Then, in September the two bedroom suite filled up completely as Jean Yves (JY), one of Brendon’s oldest friends, traveled from Yellowknife to Vancouver to complete a 3 month culinary program. Call it "pre-tirement".  Pretirees are folks mid-way through their careers that choose to change course and seek out new work options that allow them to create the life they've always wanted to lead. Many are heading back to school for additional training or striking out on their own as consultants or independent contractors. JY who has worked as a teacher up North for the last 10 years decided to use his pretirement to travel, learn new skills and take a break.

What this has meant is that we have a new Get-Along-Gang – Barb, Roger, Allee, JY, Brendon and Akua. We share meals together in the evening, help with the landscaping during the day and support one another through the hard times and the good vibes. ;-)

If there is one thing that the experience of building a home has taught Brendon and I, it’s how important community is. For all the green building focus and urban planning experiment, the part that stands out the most for me is the fact that our choices have allowed us to be surrounded by family and friends, something that I've come to appreciate more and more the older I get.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Summer's Over

“Summer is like the ultimate one-night stand…hot as hell, totally thrilling, and gone before you know it.”
John Lubbock

Well, it’s hard to believe that it’s been almost two months since my last post. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve felt really guilty about it. Truth is, we willingly threw ourselves into summer activities and frankly, needed the break from publicly writing about our lives.

But we’re back, and despite disappearing into a black hole this summer, lot’s and lot’s has happened to our beautiful little home.

First off, we got blinds. Yes, we liked sharing with all of you but we quickly realized that with 20 windows the goldfish syndrome was too much to handle. But OMG, I cannot believe how much window coverings cost! And after months of hemorrhaging money there was no way we could pay full price. Once again Craigslist came to the rescue and we connected with the Shutter Factory. Their price was unbeatable – 80% off regular retail prices. Amazing faux wood blinds with the same kind of mechanisms as you find on Hunter Douglas blinds. We were in heaven.

Then we were off to the Yukon for a couple of weeks where we left all thoughts of our home behind. Instead we filled them with grizzlies and mountain biking.  Yes, those really are grizzlies!

When we returned, Brendon took charge of the backyard. With some hired help he dug out all of the hard packed earth.  Kevin and his team laid out three beautiful patios and set the stage for all the greenery to come.

Then my father arrived. Now, I know I’ve been a little harsh on Mr. Schatz in previous posts mostly. There many sides to my dad, and this time around he really gave up some long, long summer days to help us get through what sometimes feels like an endless list of ‘to do’s’.  As Brendon found himself drowning in photography work and I disappeared out East for weddings, Ron took charge and built us a beautiful fence, dug a location and built a bamboo planting box, sorted out getting the wallpaper hung and cleaned ever single one of our windows! We are eternally grateful and can’t wait for your next visit. ;-)  (Oh, he did have some fun too...renting a motorcycle and touring around the province.)

With school and work all starting up again, expect to see a more committed blogger.

We’re back! 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Restoration project

Only in the back alleys of Dunbar can you find 10 year old yellow stalk bamboo for free. As we were taking friends of ours on a tour through the neighbourhood that is exactly what we stumbled across, not 5 minutes from our home. Similar to what we did in the winter when we began collecting furniture for our new home, now we are on the prowl for plants and shrubs and have begun stashing our finds in the backyard in anticipation of getting them into the ground. 

Since October last year when the demolition began Barb and Roger have suffered through being sandwiched by two cavernous pits of dirt. One would become our home and the other would carry all our water, sewage and gas pipes to the street. All the while, not only did their gardens take a beating but their home did too. Once we moved in a couple of weeks ago now, we knew that (even though the garden was crying out for attention) the next big thing that needed to happen was a major paint job on their house.

Now first let me remind you of how it looked back in October.

Presto, chango, look at it now!

Steven makes his mark in the wet paint.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Garage Sale!

Yes, we've alluded to it in posts past. The time has come to officially sell off and give away as much of our things as possible. Will you be the lucky one to purchase our wardrobe? Interested in a never used vanity sink? What about an incredible assortment of photography equipment? Well, if you're curious we'll be hosting a garage sale this Saturday July 9th from 9:30am to 2:30pm. You know the place - 3595 West 23rd Ave.

Now we're also interested in some trades (or donations). We are desperately looking for blinds for our windows. Preferably white and ideally wide. Got any that you want to get rid of? We'd be delighted to take them off your hands.

See you this weekend!