Younger boys’ school has an outdoor ice rink in the schoolyard. Every other Friday my kids take their ice skates to school. As a treat, they are allowed to go skating for 1st period.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Younger boys’ school has an outdoor ice rink in the schoolyard. Every other Friday my kids take their ice skates to school. As a treat, they are allowed to go skating for 1st period.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Not bad at all!
In the US, without healthcare, we could not afford to see a specialist regularly for our son. So.....poor boy often went without the medical help that would have helped him manage his asthma.
Photo courtesy AP from Huffington Post Shahien Nasiripour.
Is it just me? I just don’t get these corporate bailouts.
AIG got 182 billion, and Goldman Sachs got 2.9 billion of that money. Add that to the bailout funds received by all the companies who contributed to the current recession/mortgage foreclosure crisis, and I cannot imagine how much money has been given to these companies. What a win-win situation for them – earn huge amounts of money by fleecing the American people, and when the deck of cards you have built collapses get the US Government to cover your losses. It is said they are “too big to fail”. If they are too big to fail, then they are too big. Why not let the free market work, let them fail, and have a fresh start here. Are these mega bailouts a precedent for future corporate recklessness?
Yet, so many American families are homeless due to the foreclosure crisis. As a real estate broker I’ve worked with many families who could afford their mortgage but had missed a few payments due to illness or some other one-time incident and could now pay. Sometimes all they need is a very small loan modification to get back on their feet and pay their mortgage regularly again. Often when they tried to get their mortgage back on track again the lenders didn’t want to modify even a small amount and forged ahead ruthlessly with the foreclosure.
A subsidiary owned by Goldman Sachs, Litton Loan, was one of the larger sub-prime lenders who profited from the housing boom. Mortgages were being made so carelessly, that someone on minimum wage was able to buy a substantial house due to the super low “teaser” mortgage payments that would increase so much over time the home would become unaffordable. This little fact was often not explained to the unsuspecting homebuyer when the loan was taken out.
So...let’s see if I understand this. The US Government has paid billions of dollars in bailout money to the large corporations who contributed to the recession by reckless lending practices.
Meanwhile more and more Americans are homeless, and without healthcare.
The irony here is that the American taxpayer is footing the bill.
Yeah, makes perfect sense to me now. Unfortunately.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Photo of Igloo on Vermillion Lakes, outside Banff, Alberta, courtesy of Banff Lake Tourism on Flickr
A few months ago we were living in a hot climate (Florida). Last August the weather was so hot that the car registered 106F (42C).
Now we are at the opposite end of the spectrum.
We have had several cold alerts recently. January and February are the coldest months. It’s been really unpleasant outside with highs ranging
-13C (8F), and the low hovering around -19C (-3), and a wind chill making it closer to -26C (-15F).
So, we have gone from 106F (42C) last August to -15F(-26C).
A couple of nights ago I took the dog out. For some unknown reason I decided not to wear my gloves. Well, I could just put them in my pocket, couldn’t I? I forgot that I couldn’t put my hands in my pocket because I had the leash. By the time I got home with the dog, my fingers were bright red, and I had trouble maneuvering my fingers to manage the leash. My hands hurt from the heat when I got inside, and for some time afterwards.
This morning on the way to the gym the car registered a temperature of 23F (-5 C). Compared to yesterday, it was a welcome change.
I cannot believe (at 23F or -5C) Eric and I were talking about how mild and pleasant the weather was this morning!
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Eldest boy came home recently and told us what he learned in his 10th grade science class.
* You cannot tell by looking at someone if they have AIDs.
* The only 100% certain way to avoid AIDS is abstinence, but if one is going to engage in intercourse, you must always wear a condom which may prevent AIDS.
It made a big impression on him.
There is no way this would be taught in his last school in Florida. Son’s last school focused on “abstinence only” classes.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Canadian border photo courtesy of scazon on flickr under creative commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/scazon/3312858421/sizes/z/
When we decided to move to Canada we heard all sorts of things about how hard it was to import a vehicle into Canada and that we would be charged all kinds of duty, but we did our research and it was not difficult at all. It cost us $635.00 in fees, new auto tags, and modifications to import our car. It is a multi-step process, but if you know what you are doing it should be simple.
I’m also going to give you tips on how you might save on auto insurance and homeowner’s/renter’s insurance after you move to Canada.
a. Whether you are a new immigrant, ie: an American immigrating to Canada for the first time, or
In our situation, my husband was a new immigrant from the US, whereas I am a Canadian citizen returning to Canada. Because I am a returning Canadian, any car title with my name on it made the car I imported subject to duty if its value exceeded $10,000. We had a tense moment as the customs agent looked through the Canadian red book to see what our car was worth, otherwise I may have been charged duty. Fortunately, the value of our car was listed as less than $10,000. so we were not charged any duty.
Here is a step by step account of what we did to import our car.
Before you move to Canada
2. You must check with RIV that your vehicle is not prohibited for importation into Canada. They have a list of vehicles that you cannot import. http://www.riv.ca/VehicleAdmissibility.aspx
4. You must pay off all the liens on your car. You cannot import the car into Canada without the car title, and you cannot get the car title from the lender without paying off the lien. This makes it nearly impossible to import a leased vehicle.
5. If you have a car warranty, it may not be recognised by Canadian dealers. Check with a Canadian dealer whether they will recognise a US warranty.
6. Very Important......You will need to export the car from the US before you can import it into Canada. Find the US crossing point that you will be using from the RIV website. http://www.riv.ca/USCustoms.aspx Contact the US Customs and Border Protection authorities at that port and ask them what they will need from you, and ask for instructions where they want you to go when you arrive at their facility to complete the export of your car. Pay close attention to everything they say, as they can be vague in their instructions. Get their fax number.
Tip 1: Get a copy of your driving abstract from your state. This shows your driving history. You don’t need it to import your car, but if you have a good driving history it could make your car insurance in Ontario a little lower, and may be helpful when you get your Ontario driving licence.
Tip 2: Contact your auto insurer in the US to get a letter of your auto insurance history showing any claims. We had no claims on our insurance and as a result our auto insurance premium in Ontario was lower because of this.
On the day of your move to Canada
4. Next is the RIV fee which is on their website. We paid $195.00 plus HST which came to approx. $220.00. We had the option to pay this at the border or pay it later. We chose to pay at the border because the customs agent knew what paperwork to fill out and she went over it with us to make sure it was filled out correctly. They will take credit cards for this payment.
After you arrive in Canada
First, we took our RIV paperwork that we received in the mail (at our new address in Canada) to Canadian Tire and let them do the modifications. After the modifications were done, Canadian Tire sent the paperwork to RIV.
Here is what Canadian Tire did:
Third, we went to purchase auto insurance, so we went to an auto insurer and took (1) our new (temporary – until photo licence arrives in mail) Ontario driving licence, (2) driving abstract showing our driving history, and (3) letter from present insurance company with our driving history showing no claims so we could get a lower rate.
Downsides to importing a car into Canada.
What I have noticed. As our car was imported from the US, the speedometer is in miles. It has kilometers, but they are smaller than the miles. This means when you are driving you have to look very closely to see what speed you are going. We’re used to it now, but having a car in kilometers would be easier on the eyes.
I know there are a lot of steps, I think I have detailed them correctly but please double check the RIV site to make sure in your case. It was worth it for us to import our car because it was only 3 years old and we didn’t want to buy a car as soon as we moved to Canada.
Photo courtesy of naxaimages.org cc licence.
Today is a beautiful sunny day. I always think sunny days with blue sky are the coldest. The wind blows the snow, which makes it sparkle in the sun, and it looks like someone has shaken a snow globe.
A little snow plow came by this morning to plow the sidewalks. I only have to shovel my driveway and front steps – love it!
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
In to see doctor at 9.30,
out at 9.42.
Total time at doctor, 12 minutes.
Doctor works very efficiently, was attentive, and spent enough time with us to evaluate the situation. X-ray does not show pneumonia. Boy is on mend, but doctor wants further testing, due to chronic asthma cough, and referred us to a pediatric pulmonologist (called a respirologist here). Should get our appointment in approx 4 to 6 weeks as this is not an emergency. He's had the cough for years we can wait a few more weeks.
I was a real estate broker in Florida with my own brokerage for 20 years, I have never seen anything like the last few years. Home prices at least doubled, and some homes tripled in price. Little 2 bedroom starter homes with 600 square feet that used to be priced at $60,000 to $75,000 were within a few months selling for $150,000 to $175,000. The increase in prices were so sharp I likened it to the Space Shuttle launch.
Fuelling this increase were exotic mortgages. Mortgage lending requirements were loosened so much that people who could not afford these prices were approved anyway with an exotic package of “teaser” rates that homebuyers didn’t understand that allowed an artificially low mortgage payment for a few years.
When I left Florida in September most of the homes for sale were in foreclosure. The value of the homes had plummeted. If the sellers wanted to sell they had to offer their home as a “short sale”. This means offering your home for sale for less than the mortgage value. The little starter home that has a mortgage of $150,000 could sell for as little as $50,000. This means a $100,000 loss for the bank and ruined credit for the home seller.
I have read many articles as to why there is a shortage of home buyers. Most articles stop short at the real reason there is a home buyer shortage.
The Florida Association of Realtors recently concluded that the real estate market's problems were caused by buyers who were “sitting on the fence” who refused to buy. While that may be true, it's not the reason there is a widespread shortage of buyers.
Are buyers afraid to buy! Probably. Home prices are dropping and it’s hard to tell if they have reached bottom. I don’t think this is the reason, however, because the price drop is not as steep has it has been, and if you live in a home for the next 5 years home values should stabilize.
Here is the number 1 reason that the US is running out of homebuyers, and I have not seen this addressed anywhere yet.
1. Many home sellers are in foreclosure!
2. Home sellers usually become home buyers.
3. They are unable to get another mortgage because of their foreclosure and their ruined credit.
4. So.....they are unable to buy another home.
5. These previous home owners become renters instead of buyers.
It's that simple!
Monday, January 17, 2011
At 9:00 sharp the clinic opened. There was a receptionist/technician, Sue, who helps the doctor. Sue was wearing a mask, since she had recently had a cold.
As we were new patients she took a few minutes to take our details. She took our OHIP card and swiped it, and that is all that is required for billing. The doctor will be paid automatically on the next billing cycle. Very efficient. Doctor’s practices are quite a bit smaller here because there is no billing staff.
At 9:10 we were taken back to see the doctor. We were asked to remove our shoes to keep the carpet clean. Everyone did, and there were shoe racks, so we walked back in our socks. It makes sense, especially in winter when boots get so muddy, to remove footwear.
Sue put a mask on our son, since we said he had a cough. Now we have both Sue, and middle boy, wearing masks. Another patient waiting in reception was also wearing a mask. They are very much into preventative measures here. Hand sanitizers are in abundance. Every precaution is in place to prevent ‘flu from spreading.
Doctor was very nice, and wanted middle boy to have an x-ray straight away due to excessive wheezing and to rule out pneumonia. He wants him home from school to recuperate and so he does not infect others. He gave us a prescription for an antibiotic, and x-ray. We were seen very quickly and the doctor was attentive. Doctor’s office will call us straight away if x-ray shows pneumonia.
Next we went to an x-ray clinic and were seen straight away. A sign posted just inside asked us to remove our shoes – love it! Staff here was also very pleasant. By 10:00, we were done with the x-ray. In 50 minutes we had seen the doctor, got a prescription, and had an x-ray.
In Florida we probably would have refused the x-ray due to cost.
It was nice to be able to afford the doctor’s advice.
PS: School here starts at 9:00. There's no Martin Luther King day here, so today was a school day. At 9:40 the school called us on our cell phone to inform us that our son had not arrived at school and to check with us that we were aware of this. This is done as a safety precaution in case a child goes missing on the way to school.
We always asked the kids' schools in Florida to the call parents if children failed to show at school, but were told it would be too much work, even though there were 3 or 4 people working in the front office. We were concerned that it would be 6 or 7 hours before a parent knew a child was missing. This school in Ontario has only 1 member of staff who runs the front office and is still able to call parents to check on the children.
There is a school across the road from us. We hear the kids twice a day playing outside during recess. Even on a cold snowy day they are outside. Today – silence! The kids are being kept inside today.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
It has been 5 years since the “stand your ground” law (nicknamed the “shoot first law") was passed in Florida. This law allows Floridians, when they feel threatened, to shoot anyone they feel is a threat to them, even if that person is running away from them. Gun homicides have increased in Florida since this law was passed.
I’m certain gun violence in Florida will increase if this should come to pass, but at least we will be able to see who is wearing a Glock on their holster.
Mary Kool holds a rose outside a church in Tucson, Ariz., Friday before the funeral of U.S. judge John Roll. Photo by Morry Gash, The Associated Press.
I read an interesting article in the Guelph Mercury: “Arizona shooting raises unsettling issues” which compares some differences between Canadians and Americans.
The shooting in Arizona highlights differences in attitude between the two countries in relation to guns, and whether an affordable health care program that would have addressed the gunman’s mental health problems would have prevented this tragedy.
Many Americans do not believe that health care should be made available for everyone. Most Canadians feel that everyone should have access to health care (including mental health care) and that we are all healthier if everyone has access.
Further, the current political rhetoric is full of “it’s not my fault, we are a nation who embrace individualism, therefore, we are only responsible for our own actions”. This does not seem to address that people with mental health issues may have difficulty understanding that a political opponent who says "Get on Target for Victory in November - Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly," does not mean go and shoot someone.
Tim D'Annunzio, House GOP candidate for North Carolina's 8th Congressional district, held an unusual fundraiser last year at Jim's Guns Indoor Shooting Range in Fayetteville, N.C. The $25 ticket got guests a plate of North Carolina barbecue, sweet tea, and a semi-automatic machine gun magazine, and a raffle ticket for a chance to win an AR-15 assault rifle. Guns are so engrained in the American psyche. This is very disturbing?
I believe if your political campaign remarks cause someone who is mentally unstable to get a gun and shoot and kill people, you are also responsible for the carnage.
It’s not good enough to dismiss the shooting as “just a random lunatic with a gun who shot some people at a grocery store”.
Friday, January 14, 2011
This small bag contains 2 weeks of trash for a family of 5 after recycling! The bag is nowhere near full.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Canadian threatened with $300.00 fine (brown print = link to story) for attempting to entering US with $2.00 Kinder Surprise chocolate egg. US Border Guards told her the egg was banned in the US because it was a choke hazard for children 3 and under. The surprise is, Kinder Eggs are not listed on the Homeland Security site list of items you are not allowed to bring into the US.
So...Kinder Eggs are considered too dangerous to allow into the US, but in the United States I can get an AK-47 free when I buy a new car!
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
Hubby and I have been real estate brokers for years. Our real estate qualifications are not recognized in Ontario. Often when you move to a new country you have to re-license, and this is the case with real estate. So.....we are reading our textbooks, studying, and working hard so we can take our exams as soon as possible.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Toronto General Hospital.
Our youngest son fell off his bike and broke his arm. Here he is, December 2008, in All Children’s Hospital, St Petersburg, Florida, waiting for surgery to re-set a broken arm.
Our family so far has been healthy with no pre-existing conditions. Then our health insurance premiums started to increase so much, that health insurance was almost unaffordable.
A couple of years ago our monthly health insurance premiums were almost as much as our mortgage, and our deductible was $10,000. This means that our insurance company would not pay for any medical treatment until we had incurred more than $10,000 in medical debt. In addition to the large deductible, we paid large co-pays ($100.00 to see a doctor), and had no prescription coverage.
Monday, January 3, 2011
It seemed very strange at first, to start to throw something away, and look under the kitchen sink and see 3 containers with the coloured bags and then find the list to see what gets put where. It doesn’t take long to get used to it. We’ll have even less trash than we did before, and all our recyclables are now collected from our front door.
Recycling is really very easy to do once you get used to it.