Bunker in Strathconna

The Bunker

The front of the building.

This is an amazing property. It was built by a Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor. He had his office on the main floor, he lived upstairs and sat outside on the roof top deck. The building was a mixed use building but has been changed to Residential. Here are a few snaps of the space.

This is the livingroom. The livingroom and dinningroom are all part of one big space. The windows are what are called, turn and tilt. They either open the usual way with the window swinging out or tilt away from the top to let in air. They also have metal shutters so you are totally safe when they are closed.

I win the 2010 Academy Awards for Best Dressed Matron

best dressed matron 2010


Jeannie Kamins won the Best Dressed Matron Award at the Oscar Ceremonies this year. She was wearing the Rose Dress by the famous designer, Ralph. When asked how come we hadn’t seen her on the Red Carpet, she replied, “I know you probably missed me as I stepped out of my pink flocked limo on Sunday night, but unfortunately I arrived at the same time as J-Lo. Next year I will have to plan better. Notice that I am wearing the Hopeless Diamond and carrying the famous Scrappy Coco”.

I Thee Wed

I was married in 1962, and when I married I thought it was forever. I was pre-the baby boomers. I believed it was ok to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen… well, not exactly. But I did believe that I would marry a man who would take care of me and bring in a good income. I would stay home with the babies and cook and clean my house.

We lasted 10 years, had 2 children and then we went our separate ways. About a year later I found Henri and we started to cohabit – but I was ruined for marriage. I didn’t believe anymore. I no longer believed in “forever and ever”.

Henri and I lived together for 17 years before we “tied the knot”. And that was only because we were living in Quebec and they would have taken our inheritance away as we had to prove that we were “as-good-ahs” married. Actually Frank, my son proposed, but that is another story.

The point of this ramble is that I went to a same-sex wedding and I had an epiphany. Marriage is relatively unimportant to me. “Been there, done that”.

But that was not true for Sam and Alijandro.

They were ecstatic. Their joy was contagious. Alejandros mother and brother flew up from Southern Mexico for the wedding and it was a dream come true. They could stand in the church. That edifice of sanctification of our mores and prove to the world that they were more than “as-good-ahs”. It also was a way to protect themselves from the vagaries of the state.

Here are a few photos.

They say their vows


The family

The Happy Couple

European Chafer Beetles


European Chafer – A New Pest in The Lower Mainland

The European Chafer, Rhizotrogus majalis, is a serious pest of turf in eastern North America. In 2001 it was found in New Westminster, British Columbia, in lawns and boulevards. It is probable this pest has been in B.C. for a few years, and has now spread beyond New Westminster. In fact, while doing a bit of gardening in our yard we had a rain of beetles falling on our heads.


The adult beetle (Figure 1} is tan coloured and resembles a smallish June beetle. The larvae, or grubs (Figures 2,3}, have a C -shaped body and brown head. Mature chafer grubs are smaller than mature June beetle grubs. A microscope is required to confidently identify the grubs.

Adult European Chafer Figure 1: Adult European Chafer.
Chafer Grubs Figure 2: Mature European Chafer grubs


The European chafer completes its life cycle in one year. The adult chafer beetles swarm in conspicuous mating flights on warm evenings in late June and early July. The beetles fly to tall objects, usually trees or other vertical structures to mate. The adult females then locate nearby lawns to lay their eggs in. The females deposit up to 50 eggs each.

Eggs hatch in late July or early August and the larvae or grubs begin feeding on roots until the ground freezes. In colder climates, the larvae migrate down below the frost-line to overwinter.

From April to mid-May, the larvae migrate close to the soil surface and feed on turf roots. From mid-May to early June, the larvae stop feeding and pupate (undergo metamorphosis), and the adult beetles emerge two weeks later.


The grubs are the damaging stage. They feed on all types of grass and, if numerous and food is scarce, may move into vegetable plantings to feed on corn, potatoes and other crops. European chafer grubs prefer to feed on fibrous roots, and can damage ornamental and nursery plants by reducing their fibrous root system. Most of the damage is done by the the third (final} instar grubs in the fall and early spring, but damage can be masked by the abundant moisture at these times. Drier weather can quickly result in the appearance of brown, dying patches. Considerable damage to turf can occur in the fall and winter from animals, especially skunks, and birds digging up the grass to feed on the larger grubs (Figure 4).
The adult beetles feed at dusk on the leaves of deciduous trees but, even when numerous, seldom cause significant damage.

Chafer Grubs Figure 3: European Chafer grubs in turf
Chafer damage Figure 4: Boulevard damage caused by skunks digging out grubs.


In the Spring or Fall, turf that has been damaged by white grubs will lift away from the soil easily because the roots have been eaten and they no longer anchor the turf to the soil. Often, raccoons and skunks will pull back the turf in search of a meal of grubs. This secondary damage is usually more extensive than that caused by the grubs.

Turf that has been severely damaged by birds or other animals may also be brown, wilted or tufted in appearance. Grubs will often be visible when the turf is pulled back. Damage is most severe in the fall and the spring when the grubs are increasing in size rapidly and feeding near the surface.

To confirm the presence of European chafer grubs in your lawn this spring or fall, do the following:

European Chafer - Chafer Monitoring

  1. Use a garden shovel or spade to cut three sides of a 12-inch square.
  2. Grasp the open edges and peel back the turf like a carpet, towards the attached side.
  3. Look for the white, C-shaped grubs (larvae) or cocoons (pupae) in the soil, and just underneath the turf roots.
  4. Repeat Steps 1 to 3 in at least five different sections of lawn.
  5. If you count five or more white grubs per square foot, consider applying a (non-toxic) biological treatment in the summer.
  6. If you are unsure of what you have found, place a grub inside a jar or plastic bag, and take it down to your local specialty garden centre for identification.


Healthy, vigorous, well-irrigated turf can withstand low levels of grub feeding.

Biological Treatment

A 2005 study commissioned by the Western Canada Turfgrass Association, the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, and several local municipalities, revealed that biological treatments could be very effective at controlling the European chafer population, when used in combination with healthy lawn care practices.

According to the study, the most effective biological control measure was the nematode (or roundworm) Heterorhabditis bacteriophora – a natively occurring species that has been used successfully in BC to control other pests. The H. bacteriophora nematode is a “cruiser” species that actively seeks out white grubs (such as the European chafer), and quickly destroys them from the inside-out.

Treatments are most effective if done in late July, after the European chafer eggs have hatched and when the young grubs are most vulnerable to nematode attack.

Book your nematode treatment in the spring, by doing one of the following:

  • Inquire at a specialty garden centre about ordering nematodes and applying them to your lawn in late July. “Nemasys G” is one of a few brand names to look for. Stratas may inquire about bulk purchase rates from wholesalers/distributors of these products; OR

  • Find a lawn contractors in your area by searching in the phone directory under “Lawn Maintenance”. Receive one or more quotes for the application of H. bacteriophora nematodes to your lawn in July

What is the long term solution? 

In order to prevent European chafer damage in the long-term, many residents are now considering the use of alternative ground covers – particularly on sites that are sunny and well-draining, and prone to yearly infestations.

Groundcovers can be selected to be aesthetically pleasing year-round and to require minimal maintenance. They may also be incorporated with foot paths to increase their aesthetic value. Mulch or paving stones can also be considered in high traffic areas.

Trifolium repens (Dutch White Clover) is one example of a low-growing plant that will form a green, durable ground cover that is easy to maintain. It also produces tiny white or pale pink flowers that may attract bees and other beneficial insects to your yard.

Some of the options of a turf yard. White clover mixed with grass and wildflowers.




Edit this entry.

By The Skin Of Our Teeth

turning in my tax form

Every year we are called upon to do our taxes. And every year we are doing them at the last minute. This year was no exception. But there is a ritual that we join with others of our ilk. Those who also only get them done by the skin of our teeth.

Here we are joining the parade of last minute entrants between 11 and 11:59 pm turning in our tax forms. We got to the site at about 11:15 so we had time to meet the Posties outside the post office. Every year these same people stand with a truck ready to take only tax forms down to Surrey for processing.

Here I am with Postie Friendly turning in my tax form while Postie Pete stamps the date on my envelope so I don’t get a penalty.

Me and Postie Friendly

Buying a Heritage Home

Getting an Electrical Inspection to facilitate insurance access.

I went to the big Vancouver Real Estate Conference at Canada Place last month. Following the breakfast meeting we had the choice of lots of work shops that seem to have two perspectives – one to make me richer and one to tell us how to service our clients better. I know I missed out on wealth years ago when I spent 30 years as an artist, but it is never too late for service to your customers.

Most interesting to me was a workshop on buying an old house with outdated electrical systems. They covered knob and tube wiring among other problem systems. The speaker stated that the problem Ken and Morgan’s Housewith old wiring is most often not that it is dangerous, but that you cannot get insurance on your house. (A major biggie.)

Most insurance companies refuse to insure an older house that has aluminum or knob and tube wiring. Up until recently, the only option available was to have the outdated wiring removed (at considerable expense), even though the wiring might in fact be perfectly safe.

To solve this problem, Brian Cook (the presenter), formed a new company called “PowerCheck Home Electrical Safety Inspections”. He approachedLinda’s house BCAA and proposed that they support an inspection that assesses any risk posed by the knob and tube (and other old wiring) to get them to accept the assessment for insurance purposes. BCAA agreed to insure heritage property with this inspection.

According to PowerCheck, (providing there has been no tampering), about 95 per cent of all knob and tube wiring is fine. In such cases, PowerCheck prepares a list of “Corrective Actions”. Once the corrective actions have been remidied, the home is automatically re-rated at a respective lower risk rating.

The insurance companies will automatically give you insurance (at a premium rate) when you buy using PowerCheck with an agreement that once you bring the risk down you will have your insurance lowered.

For more information check out http://www.powercheck.ca or call (604) 684-3630Red house in snow

Vegetables Here I Come



My life has been transformed. I have been reading about plant protein verses animal protein. The book is called The China Study by Colin Campbell. I wont go into the details, but he says that by eating a whole food, plant protein diet most of the diseases of affluence can be avoided and/or cured. This includes heart disease, cancer, diabetes etc. Over the past few weeks I have gotten my blood suger to be normal and have reduced my medications. Give me a call if you are interested in the details. I have become a Vegan.



Here are a couple of recipe for Indian food without milk or meat.

Aloo Gobi (potato’s and cauliflower)

Ginger, Garlic
Turmeric 1/2 Tsp.
Cumin Powder 2 Tsp.
Coriander Powder 2 Tsp.
Red Chili Powder 2 tsp.
Garam Masala 1 Tsp.
Cilantro Few sprigs for Garnishing.
Oil 1 Tbsp.

Wash & drain cauliflower florets. Dice potatoes.Heat Oil,
add Onions & fry till translucent. Add ginger, garlic, stir,
Mix in Potatoes , cover to cook.When the Potatoes are half
done , add the florets, turmeric. Cover to Cook. Open
after a few minutes, add all the dry powders & mix.
Garnish with Cilantro leaves and salt to taste.

Sag Paneer

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
pinch of cumin seed
2 cardamom seeds
1 stick of cinnamon
2 or 3 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon each fresh ginger and garlic
1 small fresh tomato, sliced
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pound fresh spinach, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
fresh cilantro leaves
Diced firm tofu.

Heat oil in saucepan and saute chopped onion until light
brown. Add cumin seed, cardamom, cinnamon stick, bay
leaves, cloves, ginger, garlic, sliced tomato and black
pepper and saute about 30 seconds. Add chopped spinach
stirring until it begins to change color. When it goes dark
green add salt, cumin, turmeric, coriander powder and
garam masala. Mix well with spinach. cilantro and tofu
cubes. Cook it well, stirring so it doesn’t scorch.

Serve above with rice mixed with peas.

Reverse Mortgages

The end of the rainbow

The Reverse Mortgage – why not?

I am totally against the Reverse Mortgage. It is a con game organized by the bankers to steal your house and your inheritance.

You know the hype about Reverse Mortgages, “If you are age 62 or older and are “house-rich but cash-poor,” a reverse mortgage may be an option to help increase your income.” They go on to say, “It allows you to access money which is not required to be paid back until you leave the house or it’s sold. However, because your home is such a valuable asset, you may want to consult with your family attorney, or financial advisor before applying for an RM.”


Here are a few of the down sides to the reverse mortgage that you should consider before you jump in.

1. Interest is added to the balance starting with the first month and each month thereafter. This means that the total amount of interest you owe increases significantly because interest is compounding and you are paying interest on the interest.

2. Insured plans charge insurance premiums and some have mortgage servicing charges. Even though you can put these costs on the loan, this reduces what you can borrow.

3. RMs use up a portion of the equity in your home, leaving fewer assets for you and your heirs in the future.

4. Interest on RMs is not deductible for income tax purposes until you pay off all or part of your debt.

5. Because you retain title to your home with an RM, you also remain responsible for taxes, repairs, and maintenance.

The most damning information I have received related to the RM came from a friend whose parents had gotten one and who lost thousands of dollars. Here is her letter!

“I would like to tell you about the experience my parents, both 82, had with the reverse mortgage company, Canadian Home Income Plan (CHIP). I’m sure that you have seen their very seductive television ads; even Gordon Pape is speaking for CHIP suggesting that it is a “good investment”. I believe that the business practice of this company should be exposed. They are preying on the elderly, low-income people in Canada.

Five years ago, my parents signed an agreement with CHIP for a reverse mortgage of $43,000, over a 10 year term. At that time they owned their home outright. Five years later, halfway through the term, they were encumbered with $88,000.00 worth of debt on their home. In exchange for this, they had been receiving an annuity payment of $360.00 per month. So essentially, they had paid $88,000.00 for $21,600.00. Had they let the term run the ten years, they would have been encumbered with $125,000.00 worth of debt on the home, so paying $125,000.00 for $43,200.00. And they would have absolutely nothing to fall back on if either one of them had to go into long-term care.

The implied idea in selling reverse mortgages is that the value of your home will increase, so you are not really “losing” anything. Their home is presently worth about $145,000.00, and is located in a rural area of southern Vancouver Island. Home prices in this area have stayed steady for the last 7 years, and they are not likely to rise much in the future, as it is a fairly depressed area economically.

In order to stop the erosion of the equity in the home they decided to take out a mortgage. Luckily, rates are now low, and their monthly payments are also fairly low and manageable. When I was searching out lawyers for them to draw up the mortgage papers, each one of them agreed with me that the CHIP reverse mortgage was something to be very wary of.”

So, what are your choices?

Had they taken out a standard interest only mortgage of $50,000 at 5.5% for five years – amortized over 20 years, and put the $50,000 in the bank their yearly interest payment would have been 2,750/year. That plus $350/mon ( $4,200/year), would have given them over 7 years before they used up the$50,000 (not counting the interest they would have gotten from the $50,000). It would have dropped their property value down only the 50,000 rather than 125000, and they still would have had a nest egg for emergencies.

Again I urge you to see a lawyer before you get into a reverse mortgage.

Perhaps a more suitable way for you to deal with a need for monthly income would be to downsize your living situation and investing the difference in an RRSP or a retirement fund. Give me a call and let’s work out a solution together, and remember, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Buying with Others

Joint Ownership

in the context of residential property joint ownership is where more than one person owns a property together. There are forms of joint ownership that have specific legal grounding. There are two main types, joint tenants and tenants in common.

* Joint tenants: neither party can sell without the other’s agreement. If one party dies, the other automatically inherits the other’s share. This is ideally suited to married couples or partners buying together who are in a long-term relationship.
* Tenants-in-common: each party can dispose of his or her share, either whilst alive or through a will. This is more appropriate for friends buying a property together, where they do not intend to live together as a couple.

(I recommend that you hold the property as ‘tenants in common’ so that if one of the owners were to die, their share in the property passes to their estate.)
If the joint ownership of the property involves a mortgage, then the mortgage will be on the basis of ‘joint and several liability’. This means that each buyer is liable to repay the whole of the mortgage if the others are unable or unwilling to do so.

A lender will make the offer of mortgage on the basis of the joint incomes of all applicants but ultimately it is up to the borrowers as a group to determine how they divide the monthly repayments on their joint mortgage. For example, if one applicant earns more than another, they might have a bigger share of the mortgage (and potentially, the property itself).

In fact, as long as all applicants are comfortable with the repayments, even if they have varying incomes they can agree to split repayments equally giving each of them a straightforward equal share in the mortgage.

Of course, the situation can be complicated where applicants have different deposit amounts. Even with different deposit amounts, it is possible to have equal ownership overall once the mortgage is taken into account. This is because the mortgage can be divided according to how the borrowers choose, and they can choose to divide the monthly mortgage payment so as to ‘even out’ the differences in deposit.

Because buying with others is a complicated process a proper legal agreement between the buyers is of great importance. It sets out the responsibilities one owes to the others and is there for the protection of all the owners.

Key points of a legal agreement for buying together.

1. The share each owner has in the property.
2. The percentage of the mortgage for which each owner is responsible.
3. In the event of one or more owners wishing to sell it specifies that they must first offer their share to the remaining owners, at the current market valuation:
* If the other owner/s wish to buy, they apply to the lender to take over the share of the departing person and if they are successful, the person selling their share is removed from the mortgage.
* If the remaining owners do not wish to purchase, either singly or together, or the lender will not increase the lending to enable them to do so, then the share may be offered on the open market.
* If no purchaser for the share can be found within a period of four months then the seller can require that the whole property is sold, each owner receiving their share of the remaining equity.
4. In the event that an owner wishes to vacate the property but retain their stake in it, he or she may rent out their part.
5. All owners agree to put in place and maintain life and critical illness insurance to the value of their share of the mortgage. Where an owner is unable to obtain cover due to medical reasons, he/she must advise the other co-owners. They may proceed at their discretion.
6. All owners undertake to put in place and maintain Accident, Sickness and Unemployment protection cover, sufficient to cover their share of the mortgage payments..
7. In the event of the death of one of the owners, his/her estate will be required to meet the cost of the deceased’s share of the monthly mortgage payment until redeemed (policy will be payable to the estate/beneficiaries). Their estate must offer their interest in the property, firstly to the other owners at the current market rate and, if they are not willing/able to purchase, then the estate may seek another purchaser – or indeed rent until a purchaser can be found.
8. In the event of a successful claim for critical illness being paid, the policy holder agrees to use the funds received to repay their share of the mortgage.
9. If one of the owners deliberately goes into default by absenting themselves without making arrangements to maintain their share of the mortgage – subject to a time-limit of two months, then the remaining owners can rent the absent party’s space (paying his/her share of the mortgage and retaining any profit for the aggravation) or purchase or sell his/her share of the property at the current market rate. Any residual monies, after deduction of reasonable expenses, will be placed, where possible, in the bank account of the absconder.
10. If one of the owners is in breach of the Agreement by failing to make their share of either the mortgage repayments or insurance premiums, then the other owner/s either singly or together can require that person to remedy the situation and should they fail to comply within a period of two months from the onset of the default, force the sale of the share of the defaulting owner as if they had absented themselves.
11. The owners will open a joint bank account or designate an account for the purpose of the payment of mortgage repayments and any insurance premiums. Each owner is responsible for making a timely payment into the account to cover his/her share of the above payments. Please note that it is not compulsory to open a joint account and a designated account of one of the applicants may be used until one is open.