Thursday, December 6, 2007

December 6, 2007 - Chase the "Brown Eye"

Our first big snowfall arrived a few days ago, now the Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland and odours of pine are in full swing.  It certainly makes one anticipate Christmas much more when the ground is white - last year there wasn't a bit of snow until January so it made Christmas a bit anticlimactic.

The kiddies are very excited for Santa, especially Magnus.  It seems that 3 must be the magic age where the concept of birthdays, Christmas and presents start to make sense because he sure gets it now.  Our little boy is an incessant hummer and singer and Christmas has given him the opportunity to greatly expand his catalogue of tunes.  His favourite now is Jingle Bells and he hums it almost constantly.  He is also fond of removing all his clothes, dropping to all fours, and galloping around the house at rapid speeds which provides little Stella hours of rollicking fun playing "Chase the Brown Eye".  As you can see, we have built in entertainment at home so we don't go out much.

My mom was in town for a few days while Ana breezed off to New York to meet up with her friend Alana for some well deserved away time.  It was quite a learning experience as mom brought her cookbooks, pans and everything else required for a weekend of baking.  We made heaps of goodies, even Christmas cookies which the kids got to decorate.  We don't do much baking around here so it was a great treat and will provide plenty of snacks for the visitors we'll be having over Christmas.  The "Eastern Canada Olson Christmas" will be happening at our place on January 29th, all Olson-ites welcome.

We did a short trip to Florida to meet up with my dad, brother Marty and families a couple weekends ago.  I love Florida, mainly because you can get Bahamian Kalik beer there but also because it's always warm, everything works, prices are reasonable, and people are friendly.  We were in the St. Petersburg area this time and since we enjoyed it so much we're going back for a full week in January.

I just remembered that it's time to crank out my annual Christmas letter....stay tuned.


Monday, October 22, 2007

October 22, 2007 - Monday morning

The dazzling autumn colours in southern Ontario are peaking making Paris an especially amazing place to be considering it is engulfed in mature old maple trees.  The weather has been beautiful and we've been making the most of it.  We planted two trees in our backyard last weekend; an apple and a plum, as well as a few shrubberies.  The autumn clear out sales were on at the nurseries so we got an amazing deal on the trees, probably less than a third of what we would have paid in the spring.

Since the last journal entry I have found "gainful" employment with the city of Brantford (a 13 minute drive from Paris) as their JDE administrator.  I had started looking around, mainly for shorter term consulting jobs but when this job came up I decided to apply for it.  Thus far, I have really enjoyed it, and that's telling the truth!  I think I've also realized what a terrible mistake I've made in the past with my approach to the working day.  You see, I've typically had work days which begin at 7am and finish at 5:30 or 6pm.  My new job is based on a 33.25 hour work week which translates into a 8:30 start, 4:30 finish and over an hour for lunch.  Since I usually get up at 6, I have lots of precious "quiet and alone" time in the morning where I can do some business stuff, have a workout, do some reading, whatever.  Though I have to go to work every day I honestly feel like I've had more spare time in the past 3 weeks than I have in the entire past year.  Ana has been spending more time on our property business and holding up that end of things.  One great part is that I work in downtown Brantford which is blocks away from all of our properties, making lunch an ideal time to go out and fix toilets, show apartments, collect rents, etc.  All in, the change in routine is working out well for everybody, including the kids.  We have them with a sitter for two half days a week which gives Ana time for spending focused on her WestJet job.

Since the last journal entry, we made a long weekend trip to Newfoundland which was most interesting.  That reminds me, I need to get our digital pictures organized and put up a webpage for that (mental note).  We found St. John's to be quite the city and not what we expected.  It is beautifully lush and rich in lakes, streams, rivers, not quite matching the mental picture I had of rocky and desolate.  We did a few day trips around St. John's including a coastal boat trip where we saw enormous fin whales, dolphins and puffins.  The people were, as expected, extremely hospitable and friendly.  Next time around we'll have to stay for longer and venture further into the province.

Off to work!


Saturday, September 8, 2007

September 8, 2007 - A full summer, what next?

This has been one fantastic summer for us.  To begin with, the summers in southern Ontario are long and very hot which makes for a perfect beer drinking and cigar smoking climate.  I must admit, this is a welcome change from the summers in Calgary which, at times, were indistinguishable from the winters.

The biggest news of late is that Stella has taken to walking on her hind legs with enthusiasm.  That gives us a grand total of three bipeds in the family since Magnus has reverted to galloping on all fours as his primary method of travel.  She is still a bit wobbly but is getting stronger, faster, better each day.  We also celebrated their 3rd and 1st birthdays a couple weeks ago which confirms our fears that Stella will probably never have her own single birthday party due to her parents wonderfully efficient family planning and general stinginess.

Our trip to the Azores was excellent, subject to a few incidents of severe toddler naughtiness.  As we've been there a few times now, this trip wasn't a race to see as much as possible by driving all over the island.  Instead, we had a lot of nice walks, beach days, lounging on the patio and going to family sponsored "events" which included vast quantities of food and alcohol.  In fact, Ana's cousin Paul arranged for a nice beer tap and seemingly endless supplies of kegs.  It was, in fact, a "traveling" beer machine as it made an appearance at every single family function we attended.  One afternoon the great man Toddy Van Hees and I spent an entire afternoon on our back patio with the lovely beer machine and we all got well acquainted.

Every time we travel to the Azores we see more and more development.  If I had unlimited resources I would be buying up property like mad there as I expect a huge increase in tourism dollars finding its way there.  There are also a lot of foreigners moving to the Azores which is sure to put even more pressure on property values.  This is quite unfortunate for the locals as there are not a lot of high paying jobs on the island so every day owning a home is further and further out of reach for most people.  I am certain that sometime in the future, we will be spending a lot of time there as both Ana and I find it to be one of the loveliest places on the planet.

We spent the last long weekend of the summer with my brother Marty and his wife Jen in Ottawa for their son Leif's baptism.  I had the privilege and honour of being chosen as Leif's godfather which I am very proud of.  I hope to be a great spiritual mentor to him and also help out with getting his enemies "wacked" when required.

Ana was very fortunate to return to a job with WestJet after her year of maternity leave.  She is working in the same department as before but now in a "casual" role where she's doing 12-15 hours per week from home.  This particular job may only last until December, but at least that gives her some time to explore other options within the company (and keep our travel benefits!).  She really has enjoyed her time there so I hope something works out for her to stay with them.

As far as me, I've been keeping busy with managing and improving the rental properties we've acquired as well as being on the hunt daily for great property deals.  I've also been looking around for a new IT/consulting gig as I feel like I'm not quite ready to move away from that career which has treated me very well over the years.  I think that we will be able to balance our business endeavors with employment, which gives us the best of both worlds - steady cashflow and our "own thing" which will eventually provide for some nice long sailing journeys.

Over and out.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

July 1, 2007 - Happy Canada Day!

One beautiful little happy girl, one handsome curious boy, one spectacular country.  It's nice to reflect on life during holidays such as this.  Ana and I have been so fortunate with everything we've done and a lot of this we owe to growing up in Canada.  After living in so many different countries we have a good perspective on the differences between them and what constitutes a great country.  Growing up in Canada gives you a great head start - an excellent and free education, safety, unparalleled natural beauty, freedom of speech and freedom and ease of mobility.  It really is an easy and fun place to live and we are so happy to be back here to offer this gift to our kids.  For me, after I had lived away from Canada for several years I never expected to return to live here permanently as I had built such a nice life for myself elsewhere.  But once I met Ana and we decided to start a family, that changed everything.  We couldn't imagine ourselves living away from "home" and raising children that would not grow up playing with their cousins, spending time with their grandparents and being spoiled by aunts and uncles.  Yay Canada!

In other news, in two days we'll be sitting with our toes in the ocean drinking cheap beer on the wonderful island of San Miguel in the Azores.  The best part about it is our old buddy Toddy Van Hees will be joining us there for a few days.  He's sick of the crap weather in the UK so needs a nice sunshine break.  One thing I've learned about meeting up with Todd - the place may change but the hangovers remain the same.

Last weekend we drove up to Ottawa to visit Marty, Jen and the big Leif.  I haven't seen my nephew since he was a small raisin-like creature so I was surprised and happy to see a sturdy, tough little boy looking back at me.  He's still a little young to start giving him gotchie pulls and the "pull my finger" trick but it won't be long.

That's it for now, here's to a great Canada Day and a superb summer.


Monday, April 30, 2007

April 30, 2007 - Where has the year gone?

Hmmm, two journal entries so far this year and it's almost May.  It seems that two kids and a new business keeps our days too occupied for much website work.  I'm happy to say it's Monday morning and I didn't have to go off to somebody else's office this morning.  It's true that I was up at 6:30 in the home office catching up on paperwork, emails, etc, but it's a whole different thing when it's for yourself on your own schedule.  Do I sound happy?  Yippee!

We've just finished a big renovation project on a property we bought and are now reselling.  This is the first so called "buy and flip" property we've done so we're hoping it will sell fast.  The project took almost exactly 4 weeks and it was a very busy 4 weeks at that.  We have found that this type of project is all consuming and pretty much everything else in our life grinds to a halt during the renovation time.  Now we've done the work and can now concentrate on the selling part and after that....well, it 's almost summer here so I'm hoping there will be some fishing and nice long walks in our near future.

As far as the summer goes, we're heading back to the Azores for two weeks which is sure to be a lot of fun.  We're also planning a couple trips back to Saskatchewan as well as at least one trip out to see Marty, Jen and Leif and Ottawa.  We also have plenty of exploring to do in and around our new home so it's shaping up to be a busy and fun summer.

I've just updated the site with a few new pics of the kiddies (here for Magnus, here for Stella).  They are both doing great - Magnus is constantly on the move and Stella is just about starting to crawl.  We're happy the weather is finally shaping up so we can spend more time outdoors with the kids instead of inside watching Toy Story 2 for the hundredth time.

Wow, this is a really boring update.  By this point in the journal I've usually had some sort of comical inspiration but I just don't feel it today.  I'll have to give my funny bone a workout and see what I can come up with.  Come to think of it, I haven't written a story in a while, might have to do that this week.  The last story I wrote was about some dance lessons I received in Suriname - click here for a story break.

Major news flash - Ana just called me upstairs to see Stella crawl across the room for the first time!  Way to go Stellazinha!

That's it for now, gotta rush out to get one of those kiddie gates to put on the stairs..


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

February 6, 2007 - From the new corporate headquarters in Paris, Ontario

I'm finally an uncle!!!  Marty and Jen's little boy arrived on February 4th, just one day before Marty's 32nd birthday.  He was named Leif Peter Olson and was a healthy 8 pounder.  We can't wait to meet the little guy!

We are now all settled into our new house.  It was built in less than 2 months and we are extremely happy with the builder and the finished product.  The first big event we have planned to "break it in" will be Stella's baptism on Feb 25th.  We are planning lunch for 43 as a way of stress testing the new digs.  The style is a 4 level side split which means lots of livable space and lots of stairs.  The whole family has been developing super sized calf and thigh muscles due to the extensive stair climbing, which is not a bad thing considering it's practically the only exercise we're getting these days.  We've also realized that the size of this house no longer allows Ana and I to talk loudly to communicate when in different rooms.  Now, we have to scream at maximum volume to garner attention.

Magnus is very happy with his new "Playboy Mansion" styled bedroom.  In it, he has vaulted ceilings, a huge colour tv, surround sound, a race car bed, a beautiful view to the horse farm next door and, to top it all off, a red leather La-Z-Boy chair courtesy of his grandparents.  The only signs of his existence now is the frequent screams of "MORE MILK" which vibrate from his quarters every half hour.

Stella is growing like a champ and has surpassed the 20 pound mark some weeks ago so is looking quite butterballish.  She has been a star baby in all respects.  The love of her life is her big brother Magnus, who ignores her completely but it doesn't seem to dampen her enthusiasm much.

As for Ana and I, we have been working hard on getting our new business up and running.  We bought our second property yesterday, an interesting 4plex near downtown Brantford so this week we are doing our "due diligence" to ensure the property is up to standards. We are also showing one of the units in our first property to a potential tenant today.  We actually take possession of that one on Friday so all hell will break loose then since John and I are planning to develop the attic space in the upper unit into living space so that will be the first full-on construction project.  I've been focusing on networking with other real estate investors in the area as well as bankers, mortgage people, tradespeople, etc so it's all been a great learning experience and a lot of fun.  That is the name of the game.

That's about it for now, adios.