Monday, March 26, 2012

I have strange hobbies

So, as promised, my latest and greatest "small (Winnipeg) world" story. There are similarities between this story and my last one - it also involves the MLS and chairs. So, Winnipeg Girl has a few strange hobbies, one of them is trolling the MLS; you'd be amazed at the interesting things you can learn off that site (like for example, someone on my street clearly smokes crack as they think they can get $179k for a ~800sq. ft bungalow). Every now and again it even does what it's supposed to do and drags me down to an open house.

This brings us to a few weeks ago, I went to an open house on Rupertsland (the street just past the Green Brier on Main) down by Scotia. It was one of the most fantastic houses I have ever seen. It was 2236sq. ft of 1955 original goodness. Gleaming hardwoods, amazing built-ins in every nook and cranny, an untouched all original kitchen with turquoise countertops and a turquoise upstairs bath to match. Even a triple garage to house all of my cars! If I had to find fault with the house (and I'm grasping at straws here) it would be that someone had dared to renovate the main floor bathroom, so while it retained the original layout, what I can only dream were pink tiles had been replaced with, ugh, beige nastiness. As well, in an attempt to update? the exterior and add insulation what I would guess was likely wood siding had had styrofoam added and hideous terracotta coloured stucco.

But my obsession with this house is only the starting point to my story. As we all know, I have a hoarding problem, specifically regarding arborite tables from the 1950s/1960s. I can't help it, I'm looking for my holy grail. So sometimes, when it is particularly out of control, I release one from the herd, via kijiji. Usually I've done some mini-restoration work to it or in the case of the set below, completely recovered the chairs (if anyone out there would like to donate an air compressor and air stapler to me, I would be forever indebted to you). I have to say I've gotten pretty good at it, and it makes me feel less guilty for watching tv as I am doing something while I "watch".

Arborite table and chairs in Winnipeg Girl's awesome dining room
So, since I am saving up for a jukebox (yes, I'm a crazy person) I did a blowout sale on the table and chairs and a lovely couple came to take a look. The wife mentioned that they had just bought a 1950s house that still had the original kitchen and that they were looking for a table to go with it. I jokingly asked if it was "the beautiful house on Rupertsland". Ok, so, since clearly I'm not the master of suspense, you've probably guessed it, but it was the people who bought my dream house!! They hadn't even taken possession yet!

What are the odds of this? Does anyone else have experiences like this? I mean, how do the stars even line up to make something like that happen?? I begged them to buy the table just so I could know it was in that beauty of a house, and they did. Of course it might be because I frightened them with my knowledge of their new abode, but we'll pretend it was because it truly was the perfect table and chairs for them. Yup, the MLS has been good to me for life's little surprises and coincidences. One time I'll tell you all the story about how I found my house, it was entirely an accident! In the mean time, if you have any old tables and chairs kicking about here or at the cabin, I'll take them off your hands and show them some love and give them a second lease on life!

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's a bit of a cliche to talk about the weather but...

...I really just can't help myself - it's so fantastic!! Shattering records all over the place, for days on end! It also meant that I saw neighbours that I haven't seen all winter as we all slowly shed our parkas and went out into our yards again. My yard is almost officially ready for spring, shame I have to wait a few months to put plants in. A few interesting things happened whilst out in the fresh air.

Since before I could really do anything I needed to clean up the winter garbage, I grabbed a bag and my ridiculous (but handy) garbage grabber thingy. Just on my corner, and extending two houses down, I picked up almost a bag full of garbage. Now, that in itself is not all that interesting, however, not finding any used condoms or condom wrappers says tons; clearly my street is on the upswing! Please note, suburbanites may not want to use this as a barometer for their neighbourhood.

After spending hours and hours raking up leaves (#$%^& poplar trees don't lose their leaves until the snow weighs them down) I then had the mammoth task of picking them all up. Enter random community encounter. One of the guys who picks scrap metal out of the autobins was hard at work in the back lane and I asked if perhaps he'd like to help me bag leaves and sweep along the curb (yes, I sweep along the curb - I take this house pride thing seriously!) for some cash instead. It was an unconventional way to meet a neighbour (turns out he even lives on my street) and saved me some back breaking labour, we'll call this another win.

Something I've been meaning to mention for a while but haven't had a chance, is, has anyone else noticed the distinct decline in crime in the North End this year? Of course, there is still crime, and just last night there was a violent incident in Lord Selkirk Park, but it seems as though after the "shot in the eye but wants to finish her beer lady" incident late last year that crime has shifted. Now, as I hold down two jobs, neither of which is in journalism, I have not tracked all of the violence in Winnipeg in 2012 so I don't have hard and fast stats to back this up. What I do have is the knowledge that as my radio wakes me up every morning with news reports and I wait for the inevitable North End street announcement following every "Police responded to a stabbing/robbery/arson/murder last night" I've been hearing a lot more from the south side of the bridge than usual. I suppose it could entirely just be my perception (and I was away for most of February...) but we all know I am a little sensitive to things be mislabeled as North End so my eagle (elephant?) ears are usually listening for mentions of my 'hood.

I had one more exciting thing happen this weekend, but I'll save it for another post, but a teaser is that it's another "small world" sort of story (and it involves me stalking the MLS, again). Gotta keep you wanting more ;)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Investing in the community

I think I've only just found out about this as the press conference is about to start, however the opportunity should be available for the foreseeable future. Neechi Foods, as I'm sure many of you are aware is a Co-op here in the North End on Dufferin, however is soon going to relocate to their new space in the former California Fruit building at the corner of Main and Euclid.

According to the News Release I saw this morning,
You are cordially invited to attend the public launch of our first Investment Share Offering. The purpose of the share offering is to help raise capital needed to complete the development of Neechi Commons community Business Complex at 865 Main St. The Investment Shares will be sold to the general public marking the first time that any cooperative in Manitoba has offered shares to non-members as well as to members. Residents of Manitoba will be eligible for the Province's 30% Community Enterprise Development Tax Credit on share purchases of up to $30,000.
Neechi Commons, which we hope to open in June, is expected to help bring badly needed revitalization to Main St. north of the CPR tracks and to adjoining North-end neighbourhoods. It will feature a neighbourhood supermarket, a fruit and vegetable courtyard and farmers' market, cafeteria restaurant, specialty boutiques, a bakery and an Aboriginal arts centre. Over 50 new jobs will be created, drawing heavily on local are residents. The complex, a a make-over and expansion of the California Fruit Market building, includes geo-thermal heating and cooling and has been awarded Green Globes certification for its high environmental standards.
Neechi Foods Co-op is incorporated as a worker cooperative, owned and operated by its staff. The existing store on Dufferin Ave. has been in operation for over 22 years.

So whadda ya think folks? Instead of investing in intangibles with your current investments, why not watch your investment at work? It will be interesting to see if Neechi ends up having the same success as Pollock's, which exceeded all expectations (see below from the Pollock's website).

In the first year, sales were up 22% above the projections outlined in the business plan and member equity investments were 38% above the established business plan targets.
Pollock’s continued to surprise by exceeding expectations and becoming a financially stable business. Most recently, in 2011, Pollock’s Hardware Co-op paid 5% interest to those who bought investment shares and has also expanded the investment share program. The co-op has also purchased the building at 1407 Main Street and has thereby guaranteed it’s continued presence in the North End neighbourhood. Membership has continued to grow and has nearly reached 2000 members.

Also in 2011, Pollock’s Hardware Co-op entered into a Social Enterprise Centre with BUILD and Manitoba Green Retrofit. Together they purchased a warehouse at 765 Main Street and will use the location to bring social enterprises and non-profits together. Pollock’s will rent 5000 square feet to use as a warehouse and supply BUILD and Manitoba Green Retrofit, as well as other contractors and the general public, with building supplies. This second location will open its door in the spring of 2012.

I personally can't wait to see the lumber side of Pollock's open up at 765 Main (entrance will likely still be off Austin St.). That has been the one major thing that they have been unable to compete with the big box stores on.

I hope the next big thing for the North End is some high quality shops and services (not service agencies!) for Selkirk Ave. Lotto Max is $41 million tomorrow - a girl can dream!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Opening up a can of worms

Mmmm.... worms.

So, in Winnipeg Girl's world it is apparently Wedding Season already, having attended two in the last two weeks and at least one more this year. We will save the discussions about why Winnipeg Girl is not planning her own nuptials for another time.

The wedding I attended this past weekend was that of a girl I attended Jr. High with and although we no longer get together for sleepovers or to sneak out and meet up with boys that our parents wouldn't approve of we are still friends, albeit more of the "see each other once a year in person but keep up via facebook" variety. Of course one could argue that even though these sorts of friends no longer are privy to what exactly makes you tick these days, since they knew you as you were getting to know yourself they might just know you better than some of the friends you made later in life. But this post isn't just so you can know what fascinating things I've been up to the last two weekends. Oh no, that would be very safe and boring.

This post is to talk about giving money at weddings, good ol' presentation. Winnipeg O My Heart did a great post on this last summer and I think I read that post before most of the comments went up, was great to get to re-read it with tons of local comments now. What brought on my need to open the can of worms all over again was attending the wedding this past weekend.

I brought my best friend as my "date", but only after checking with the bride. Although my invitation did say +guest, I wasn't sure what size of wedding she was having and if she had gone to the trouble to invite me and a guest meant that she had had to leave someone else off. In fact, in this case it probably worked out better, my best friend and the bride were acquainted from our teenage years so rather than me a stand in male guest that the bride didn't know she was able to have one more person there who was genuinely celebrating her marriage. I asked my friend if she wanted to sign the card to the couple and when she went to open it she was flabbergasted that that I was giving $100 - she thought that was way too much!

I'm not sure where I got the idea in my head that it's about $50pp that you give for presentation, but in my mind that's what it is and has been for quite a few years (also not sure why I've never adjusted for inflation). I think it was once explained to me that you want to be sure to cover the cost of your dinner, drinks and leave a bit left over for the couple. I rightly or wrongly estimate dinner to be around $25 a head, sort of a "they should be able to feed people dinner for that amount, if they want to spend more that's their choice" sort of thing, and with the assumption that people are level headed adults there is probably no need to consume more than 3 drinks or so, so the other $25 should cover that and leave a bit for the couple, voila - $50.

Now, it just so happens I usually don't even have the three drinks - why oh why do people only have beer, rum, vodka, gin and rye to drink?? Where is the Bailey's dammit? Or the signature cocktail that all the damn brides on that Four Weddings* show seem to have??? Of course the bride and groom don't know that I'm not using the open bar as an excuse to get blotto at another persons expense so I do give the "extra" for the sake of social norms. If I know it's a cash bar, personally the way I think it should be, then I would probably give $40 if I attended alone or $60 if it was me and a guest. Mostly because 20's are convenient. As for giving more for close friends and family? I seem to go the other way actually, I figure my close friends and family are more likely to know me and better appreciate a thoughtful gift or donation of my time to the event so I would probably give differently. I might also give a bit less if I knew the bride and groom weren't footing the bill and their parents were well off.

So basically, like most of the online discussions I've read (a post with lots of comments here, although most replies seem to be Eastern US) it depends on a bunch of factors; the "right" answer is whatever is right for you, however, one comment that really stuck out from the above thread was "you wouldn't attend a birthday party for a child without a gift" so I would say that the whole "the couple should just be happy you wanted to attend" thing doesn't really apply. Even with couples who specifically request no gifts making a donation or something in their name to celebrate their marriage seems like a nice idea. Buy a goat! If you too, are desperately searching the internet for how much to give in Manitoba for wedding presentation, you could always use this online calculator.

Of course, you may throw all of my wisdom out the window if they threw a damn social. We ALL know how I feel about socials.

Feel free to throw what you think is appropriate in the comments section - hopefully between this post and Winnipeg O My Heart we can create a bit of a resource for Manitoba folks!

*We shall not discuss that Winnipeg Girl watches such drivel as Four Weddings. I would blame it on the fact that it's on right after Say Yes to the Dress but I fear it would not help. At least with a PVR I am not necessarily watching it on Friday night with take-out.