Saturday, December 25, 2010

happy holidays!

photo credit: My Fine Garden by SLG Designs

As the year comes to an end, we are grateful to all of our readers, followers, friends and family. We wish all of you and your loved ones a happy holiday season and a happy new year. 

We have a few new things in store for this coming year including a new blog and of course, a big adventure to the UK! Looking forward to a bigger, and even better 2011!

xo
Andrea and Robert

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

aloha

Guess where I am?

Back to regular programming soon... I promise.

xo

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Got Craft this Sunday!


It's been q-u-i-e-t on the blog as I'm busy prepping, and restocking, for the craft fair season. It's a sweat shop made of love over here. Next up, Got Craft! See you Sunday, December 5th at the Royal Canadian Legion at 2205 Commercial Drive from 10-5pm.

We've been busy bees over at the Got Craft blog, so hop on over for crafty events, handmade news and local artists.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

check out :: Gentle Hands Art Auction Fundraiser

A friend of mine is moving to the Philippines at the end of the year to continue her work with Gentle Hands. Located in Manila, Philippines, Gentle Hands is a welfare agency that help at-risk children and youth with their medical, social and educational needs. Caring for children all in various stages of rehabilitation from abuse, neglect and / or poverty, it is the only center in the Philippines that will take children with physical disabilities and the only registered facility that will take undocumented children.

Tracey is an amazing friend that always goes above and beyond. Being a photographer in the wedding industry, she was able to organize photographers and other creatives to help her raise funds to begin the building expansion project of Gentle Hands. The expansion will house many more children, have classrooms and nursery space, along with administrative rooms for the increasing size of the orphanage.

Only 5 more days to preview the fine art auction pieces, so take a look. Bid on your favourites. Support Gentle Hands and spread the word!

Monday, November 15, 2010

sugar cookies

Made these for a friend's going away party on the weekend... We heart the hepp!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Etsy Finds Friday


Etsy Finds Friday is a speckle of random things that have caught my eye on etsy.com. Great ideas and lots of inspiration for your upcoming wedding or to add a little handmade love to your life.

photo credit go to the respective shops listed below

(From left to right)
Top: Something's Hiding in Here, Jumi Felt by JurgitaMi, LBC paper

Middle: Fink Shop, Topsy Turvy Design, Stemellina

Bottom: Tuliya, Sarah Anntiques, Swank Under Pinnings

Thursday, November 11, 2010

life :: craft season

For anybody thinking of visiting the apartment, just a warning... it's craft season. There is fabric, thread, tables, tags and all things craft fair related absolutely everywhere. See that tiny brown coffee table in front of the big purple one? That is where we currently eat while sitting on the floor and the ghetto part is that we lost a part of the leg, so it wobbles and we have to keep any cups that are super filled on the floor in case of spillage.

Last night, Rob and I borrowed a 6ft folding table which is now sitting in the middle of the living room. It's my "practice" display table. Yup. It's that crazy. Please feel free to visit, but don't be surprised if I tell you to start cutting something. Tea and left over halloween candy will be supplied!

Oh, and yes, see that black chair in front of the window? We placed the cat bed on top, so that Cleo could enjoy the heat. So very pampered indeed!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

unicorn love


There's been a lot of unicorn love circulating the internet lately, so I thought I should share this with you. Rob and I were over at a friend's place the other day and she had a huge coffee book about design and hotels around the world. Of course, with over 3000 pages, I had to flip to the one hotel that has 14 "life" sized unicorn heads mounted to the walls of the lobby.

That's right. Next time you are in Buenos Aires, Argentina, you to can stay at the Faena Hotel and Universe and enjoy some unicorn love.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

london :: visa applications pt1


photo credit: ellemoss

I thought that Robert had submitted our Visa applications last week, but apparently, we are waiting on one more thing before doing so. Nothing mandatory, but a nice little addition to beef up the list about how great we are. You know ...
For those interested in applying for British citizenship or one of the many Visa's that are available, here's a little breakdown:

British Citizenship: From what we understand, you must have a parent born in the UK. Unfortunately, neither one of us fell into this category, so we haven't thoroughly researched this option. Here are some links for more information - Home Office- UK Border Agency and Right of abode.

The UK immigration system is divided into two main components - 'non-points baseda and 'points based'. Some of the non-points based options include:

UK Ancestry Visa: Good for 5 years and the cost is 230GBP per person <- this is the route that we are taking. You will qualify if you can show that:
  • You are a Commonwealth citizen
  • You are aged 17 or over
  • You have a grandparent who was born in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • You have a grandparent who was born in what is now the Republic of Ireland before 31 March 1922
  • You are able to work and intend to do so in the UK, and
  • You can support yourself and any dependants without needing any help from public funds

If you or your parent (who you are claiming ancestry through) are adopted, you can still apply for entry to the UK under this category. You must show evidence of the legal adoption with your application form.

As a spouse, I can apply for a dependant visa which allows me to live and work in the UK for five years. Robert and I can either apply for a Visa at the same time, or, since it is his Grandfather with the UK ties, he will apply first and myself second. If you apply for the dependent visa first, it will be automatically rejected with no refund. There isn't much information online regarding dependent Visa's, so if you are going this route, visit this blog for step by step instructions.

Several other non-points based Visa's are available. Some options allow you to work abroad and some don't. Each type of Visa has it's own requirements, restrictions and special circumstances, so make sure that you research everything thoroughly.

Stay tuned for part two where we'll briefly talk about point based visas!

Monday, November 8, 2010

vendor feature :: Hello! Lucky


(image via Hello! Lucky)

Have you heard of Hello! Lucky Stationery? If not, you should really step out of your cave and get ready to check out some of their amazing stationery designs. Hello! Lucky is a specialty letterpress print and design studio that creates wedding invitations, greeting cards and personalized stationery.

With offices in San Francisco and in London, UK, they have an amazing client list including Anthropologie, Kate's Paperie and Liberty of London. If that wasn't enough, they are also the authors of Handmade Hellos, a card crafting book featuring fresh greeting card projects from first rate crafters and have a second book called Handmade Weddings coming out in January 2011.


You can check out Hello! Lucky's portfolio here or be inspired by their blog found here. Interested in adding a DIY touch to your special day? Check out their easy to follow guides and templates as part of Martha Stewart Weddings to make your own projects such as the crepe paper flowers pictured above, donut hole bags, glass glitter crowns to name a few. Enjoy! Happy making!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Etsy Finds Friday


Etsy Finds Friday is a speckle of random things that have caught my eye on etsy.com. Great ideas and lots of inspiration for your upcoming wedding or to add a little handmade love to your life.

photo credit go to the respective shops listed below

(From left to right)
Top: Timeless Vixen Vintage, The shop at no 144, MagnolijaDRESS

Middle: Bayan Hippo Handmade, Lions Gate Designs, zwzzy

Bottom: Sparky Jones, hey chica, silvia66

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

it's only november third


I can't believe it is already November. Time seems to be flying by. Everybody already seems to have their holiday decorations ready to go. This year, Robert and I will not be getting a Christmas tree since we will be gone to Hawaii for most of December. I'm a bit sad about that, but we'll still do everything else and hello! Hawaii!

Found this on Jenny's blog yesterday and spent mucho time decorating my gingerbread house rather than replying to emails. Whoops. If you haven't tried it yet, click here to make your own version.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

london :: driving

photo credit: k e n c h i e

So while I plan on getting a fantastic job in London with a driver (just kidding!), Rob is going to attempt to learn how to drive. We have no plans on purchasing a car, at least not yet, but we will be looking at rentals and possibly trying out Zipcar.

A unique element of the UK driving system is that you can either have an automatic only licence or a standard/automatic licence. The vast majority of cars in the UK are standard, even the ones from rental agencies and Zipcar. While in the UK, Canadians can drive using their current licence for a period of 12 months. After 12 months, or sooner, you can choose to do a direct exchange for a UK licence. The only restriction is that by exchanging your license, you can only operate an automatic vehicle. This is due to the fact that in Canada, we do not normally test on standard vehicles. If you are interested in starting this process, you can read more on Directgov.

To help prepare Rob with obtaining a full license, he ordered an assortment of training materials that you can find online including the official DSA complete learner pack and the official highway code. Which, by the way, took over a month to get here, so we contacted them and they resent the package to us. Of course, the day after, the original package arrives followed by the new ones a day after that which we then give to friends who are also thinking of moving abroad.

Overall, the rules of the road are pretty similar to what we have here in Canada. Some odd facts include:
  • No yellow centre line to divide traffic travelling in opposite directions. They just go with a white line in the UK.
  • Pedestrian crossings are named after the zoo: Zebra- Standard crosswalk, Pelican- These have a button at the sidewalk and a walk signal that appears on the other side of the street, Puffin- These have a button and a walk indicator at street level and Toucan- Same as a Puffin, but includes controls to allow cyclists to legally cross.
  • Sidewalks are called pavement.
  • Curbs are spelled 'kerbs' and during your road exam, you must be able to back up along the kerb and around a corner without striking the kerb.
Two driving schools that I am currently look at are the Automobile Association and the British School of Motor.
Wish us luck.

Monday, November 1, 2010

wedding :: aaron + jay


Sometimes it takes me absolutely forever and back to post about weddings that we have coordinated. Partly due to the fact that a) I always forget to bring the camera b) My pictures are not the greatest c) I'm bad at following up on wedding pictures.
So here you go, my friends .... and if you missed it, you can see more images and Aaron and Jay's feature on Rock n' Roll bride!
Believe it or not, Jay and I met a few years ago when we both worked in the parade at the PNE. That's right. 17 days straight of parade goodness times two times a day for a total of 34 parades together. Fast forward a few years and I run into him at Got Craft where he and his wife Aaron (Locomotive Clothing), would later become vendors at.

Think gingham table cloths, Petunia on stage, Pop Shoppe soda, tons of bunting, fresh flowers in mason jars and tons of handmade charm! Check out these hand written name tags to encourage guests to keep their glasses and reuse them throughout the festivities.

Aaron and Jay wanted a ' Vancouver Special' themed buffet, so food included viet subs from a local mom and pop shop that they often visited, honey doughnuts from Deep Cove, sushi from Nikkyu Sushi - the place they first met and of course 160 cupcakes by the lovely Coco Cake Cupcakes!

You can check out Lynday's pictures and post here! Happy! Happy! Congratulations!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

what time is it mr. wolf?

These O Clock watches remind me of candy.... Designed and made entirely in Italy. The center faces even pop out, so that you can buy different straps... and for the low price of $39.00, you should start thinking double rainbows people!

Cute packaging too! Available at Walrus on Cambie.

Friday, October 29, 2010

make :: handkerchief wedding invites


Have you seen these vintage handkerchief turned DIY wedding invites from Bird And Banner? You can see the samples that Bird and Banner made for Grace Bonney of design*sponge for her wedding invitations. To make the wedding even more personalized, many male guests arrived wearing their handkerchief invites as pocket squares. Cute!

You can read more about their wedding at design*sponge and Martha Stewart.

Psstt... Etsy Finds Friday will begin again next week!

Monday, October 25, 2010

wedding ideas :: buttons


photo credit: Tracey L. Heppner

Loving these button boutonnières spotted on @traceyheppner 's twitter feed a while back. Interested in finding some of your own for your upcoming wedding or just to add a little "wow" to your outfit? Check out Laurie Cinotto's website here and if you are a kitten fanatic like myself, you can also check out her kitten website here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

it's my birthday!


photo credit: HeyZee

Well, it was my birthday, October 22nd and yes, I did go ahead and schedule to work on two event programs to boot. Money is money and I want to squirrel as much away as possible for the upcoming move. So, we are off to Seattle for the day tomorrow. I'm on a moccassin hunt. My friend purchased a lovely pair, but unfortunately the store here no longer has any and apparently, Nordstroms has some in stock. Fingers crossed.

I'm feeling heaps better. Thanks for all of the good wishes. I'm still a-ok with a meal a day, so I know that I'm not 100 yet, but getting there. Oh, and I am SO over the beef, chicken, fish entree. I don't know if it was the number of dine arounds that I went on this year or the number of weddings or my sickness last week, but I can't do it anymore. As tasty as I am sure it is, no thank you. The last two evenings I went on dine arounds to Blue Water Cafe and Goldfish Kitchen, but had to skip the meal.

Oh yes, before I forget, we bumped into R & S at Angel Cafe this afternoon. CONGRATULATIONS! Need a coordinator? hehe.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

london :: mini cooper tours


found via London Relocation blog

Robert just got his UK driving books in the mail earlier this week which often lead to the question of, "Am I going to drive in London?". Which is then followed by "No, way!". A) Almost everything is standard B) I'm driving on the other side of the road C) I barely drive in Vancouver and that's probably a walk in the park compared to downtown London. I know that some of you that have done it before say that it is easier to drive in London than Vancouver, because even though drivers move fast, they have a level of order. You know what my plan is? To get a REALLY good job with a driver. Yeah, wouldn't that be ideal? :) HA!

This is where smallcarBIGCITY comes in. Although, not a commuter service, they offer tours around London by chauffeurs dressed in period '60s attire, set to a '60s music and the best part, they scoot you all over town in a mini cooper! I kind of feel sorry for the two people stuck in the back seat, but we are so doing this! Cars are also available for mini hire - weddings, events, film and for private hire.

At first, I thought they had tours in London given by a group of local hipsters. Well, not quite. Upon closer inspection, I guess the guys pictured would need some skinny jeans.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

sweet valentines high tea catering


I came across Sweet Valentines High Tea Catering on facebook the other day. Their mission? "To serve a superb high tea while you and your guests relax and enjoy each others company". Tea with scones and devonshire cream on vintage china? Yes, please!

Sweet Valentines High Tea Catering is an old fashioned high tea experience filled with vintage china, sweet treats, pin wheel sandwiches, homemade scones and loose teas and coffee from all over the world.


Check out their website and put on your high tea fancy. Have some little girls with birthdays coming up? They also do childrens high tea birthday complete with invitations and party hats!

Monday, October 18, 2010

check it out :: day forty nine


illustration and design by mélanie kimmett

I have some kind of cold bug / flu, so I'm taking it easy today. However, I did want to pop in and just mention that day forty nine of Mélanie's a poster a day project was dedicated to us. If you haven't seen her work yet, you can check out my full post over at the got craft blog here or go directly to her website here.

Thanks Mél!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

london :: blogs to follow

photo credit: Liamatom

I have insominia, so I figured that this would be a good time to post about London. Ha! Being 8 hours ahead of Vancouver, London is just starting their morning.

If you are thinking about moving to the UK, here are some blogs that you may want to check out.

Expat Blog: People blogging about their experience living in the UK wth a heavy London focus

Canuck Abroad: A forum travel site about Canadians living in the UK. Focuses more on Visa / passport information, getting set up in a new country, shipping belongings - logistics of moving.

Canadian Expats in the UK: Another great forum covering everything that goes into a big move such as immigration, emotions, fun things to do, pets, food, driving, etc.

Do you have a blog or forum about moving overseas that I should check out? Let me know!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

pastries ... life ... things to come


I know it's been a week since I last posted. It's been a bit crazy with contract work, weddings and the upcoming Got Craft holiday show. Not to mention that I have 12 days of craft fair shows to prepare for this year. Yeah, what was I thinking? Gah!

Yesterday was the first day off that we had for a long time. I'm proud to say that the only thing we had listed in the calendar was dinner at Vij's with friends moving to Vernon next week, but my goodness, we fail at doing nothing! With lotus events, there seems to always be something that can be worked on and I'm so used to doing multiple things at a time, that I just don't know what to do with myself when asked to relax. Well, besides napping. I'm a champion napper.

Hoping to post some past weddings, tons of wedding inspiration, our plans to move to London and life soon. There is plenty to share, but if you do encounter a long period of silence from this blog, check over at Got Craft and if you still don't see any new posts, then I'm most likely buried under a pile of fabric and paperwork.

Psst... New Town Bakery in Chinatown has the best butterfly pastries in Vancouver. I've been eating these since I was a little girl when my family would go shopping in Chinatown each Saturday. So flaky, buttery and the edges are dipped in sugar giving it an extra crisp! For 85 cents plus tax, you can't go wrong.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

wedding ideas :: paint chips


via Martha Stewart

We had a bride and groom use this idea for name cards for their wedding last month at the UBC Boathouse. Their weddings colours were turquoise and red, so she picked up paint chips in different shades of those two colours.

Brillant!

Monday, October 4, 2010

london :: cost of living

photo credit: field_tripz (images have been polarized)

Whenever we mention that we are moving to London, usually the first response, is "wow, it's so expensive there". Yes, London isn't cheap, but neither is living in Vancouver.

We went grocery shopping the other day and after that Sainsbury has online grocery shopping, Rob decided to hold a little experiment of his own. So how much would our groceries cost us in London? Here's the results!

(this is what the grocery shelves sometimes look like if you go shopping after the lunch hour - seriously)

Below are some price differences:

Avocado- $1.89 vs £1.19 ($1.92 conversion)
Broccoli Crowns- $1.70 vs £0.61 ($0.98 conversion)
Block of Jarlsberg Cheese- $5.49 vs £1.45 ($2.35 conversion)
Organic Eggs- $5.99 vs £4.00 ($6.47 conversion)
Gala Apples - $2.86 vs £1.00 ($1.62 conversion)
Chicken Thighs- $6.67 vs £3.00 ($4.85 conversion)

At the end, our Save On Foods bill was $128.83 vs £75.00 ($121.32 conversion) from Sainsbury. Pretty interesting, eh?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Etsy Finds Friday


Etsy Finds Friday is a speckle of random things that have caught my eye on etsy.com. Great ideas and lots of inspiration for your upcoming wedding or to add a little handmade love to your life.

photo credit go to the respective shops listed below

(From left to right)
Top: Sweet Knitting, Art Deco Dame, Coco Rose Couture

Middle: Skippy Designs, Mrs Eliot Books, Sparky Jones

Bottom: Three Blue Bee, Timeless Vintage Vixen, Vintage 50's Eyewear

Thursday, September 30, 2010

wedding ideas :: photo centerpiece


found via indie fixx from Martha Stewart.com

Great idea for incorporating your family photos into your wedding decor. Black and white photos are printed onto ecru coloured vellum paper set around voltive candles to highlight the images. You can check out a full tutorial over on the Martha Stewart website found here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

inside vancouver feature


photo credit: Tracey L. Heppner

Hey! We have been featured on Inside Vancouver. As part of the Tourism Vancouver website, the Inside Vancouver blog is an insider's view of Vancouver that provides information, stories and opinions from the local's perspective. You can read the full article here. Thanks to Tracey for the photo and Ehren for the great feature!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

cook :: Peruvian Potato Salad

In the summer, our apartment is like a fiery inferno when it becomes super hot outside. So, during the heat wave last month, there was no way I was going to turn the oven on for anything. Good thing, we had some a good mixture of home grown and farmers market vegetables to whip up some homemade potato salad! Potatoes are in abundance right now at the market or even from your own garden, so this can be enjoyed well through the Fall.

This recipe was passed down to me from my Peruvian Uncle who says that it is a Peruvian recipe. The shade of the salad will differ depending on the type of beet you use. Red beets = red salad (and red fingers!).

New Potatoes (choose the small ones)
Beets
Mayonaise
Carrots
Peas (I didn't have any that day)

Boil potatoes and beets. Chop potatoes, beets and carrots into bite sized pieces. Mix in enough mayonaise to make it creamy. Add peas.

It's that simple! Enjoy!

Monday, September 27, 2010

london :: relocation pt 3

photo credit: Living, Etc. UK

Welcome to our final installment of our interview with Colleen Wagner from London Relocation in preparation for our move overseas next February. Hopefully, these Q&A sessions have given you a clear idea of what the process is in setting up shop overseas. Missed the first two interviews? You can find them here and here.

********************

R: When applying for a flat what does the management company or owner look for? Do we need to see our Visa, employment records, submit a credit check or show proof of savings?

C: Letters of reference from one’s employer and previous landlord, passport (well, hopefully you’d have this with you!), and bank account details (including a statement showing you’re good for the funds) is necessary.

Once your offer has been accepted and the lease signed by both you and the landlord, you will be expected to pay your deposit and first month’s rent upfront. The deposit is equal to 6 weeks’ rent, so—barring students—the typical upfront amount totals 2.5 months’ rent, plus any added admin fees the agency may charge (again, London Relocation clients do not pay these fees). We have a blog post offering guidance on facilitating international bank transfers along with some pros and cons of different payment methods.

R: When should an Expat make initial contact with a relocation agent?
C: It can never be too early, really, for getting initial questions sorted out as you try to brainstorm the above key housing questions. It is often easiest to schedule the appointment, though, within a couple months of the actual viewing date when chances are better that your arrival dates are confirmed and you know there will be no hang-ups with the visa. While we can accommodate last-minute enquiries if we have availability, it’s best that we have at least a week’s advance notice to go over the terms of service with you and start researching.

Property searches themselves can be scheduled for as early as 6-weeks prior to the desired move-in date, as by this time existing tenants should have given notice as to whether they’re staying or leaving a flat; thus, we have a clearer idea of what properties will be available. If you can look in advance like this, that’s always great as it helps you beat the competition; however, many of our clients view properties within the same week as moving in—some have moved in as soon as the next day.

R: If someone decided to take up the home search alone what should they look out for? Are their common scams or hidden fees that catch people by surprise?
C: I briefly mentioned earlier the infamous Craigslist scams. These may occur on other classifieds sites as well and basically entail a “landlord” or “agency/property manager” offering a flat for an unrealistically low price (don’t count on finding much for under 200 GBP per week) and then asking you to transfer funds for the deposit/rent without having even seen the place in person. NEVER DO THIS! Always, always view the property in person or at least have someone you trust do so if you can’t be there—money should never exchange hands otherwise. I also mentioned before the absolute sketchiness of a situation where you’re required to pay upfront in cash. No legitimate agency/landlord would ask this.

It is typical for lettings agencies to charge an administration fee for handling the paperwork, and they may charge another fee for performing the reference check. The amount of these fees are not regulated within the industry, so there is no rhyme or reason as to what an individual agency might charge—it could be one to a few hundred pounds in all.

Another aspect of doing it on your own (which I did, oblivious to the relocation agent option…and it took me 2 weeks to see 23 properties) is that it takes a lot of legwork to many different agencies to see an exhaustive representation of what’s out there in your budget and desired area. Any one agency will have a few to show you any given day. They do not use MLS (multiple listing systems), however, so the particular office that you step into only has listings in that immediate area. So you will want to educate yourself on the different neighborhoods and narrow down your preferences straightaway.


R: How does one go about figuring out their monthly rent due to the fact that everything is quoted pw?
C: As a bit of trivia, London rent prices are quoted on a weekly basis because residents used to also be paid weekly; thus, the outflow was scheduled to coincide with the inflow. Why they continue quoting it that way now? No idea ☺ People are paid monthly, and you’ll pay your rent monthly as well (the monthly amount will be specified on your lease).

In any case, to achieve a monthly rent figure, multiply the weekly figure by 4.33.

Why not just by 4? Because not every month is exactly 4 weeks long. So, multiplying a weekly figure by the 52 weeks of the year and dividing by the 12 months is the equivalent of just multiplying by 4.33 (i.e., 52 divided by 12).


R: Are there pet friendly buildings and owners out there? This is very important element to us and one of the reasons we plan to work with a relocation agent.
C: Finding a building that allows pets is indeed an obstacle to flat-finding. If the building doesn’t allow them, it doesn’t matter if the individual flat’s landlord doesn’t mind them. If the building says no, it’s a no. If the building says yes, but the landlord says no, that might rest at a no as well.

However, while many landlords may not be keen on having a dog or cat in their owned property, they may be willing to negotiate. Ways to sweeten the pot for them when negotiating your lease is meeting the asking price rather than trying to haggle it down, if not offering more than the asking price (indeed, some landlords may require an additional fee). In addition, they may be inclined to allow it if you are able to offer them additional months’ rent in advance as a way of bypassing additional costs.

Though having a pet versus not is more of a property-finding challenge, it IS possible, and employing the services of a relocation agent will give you extra backing thanks to their contacts. Beyond flats, London is a very pet-friendly city!


R: What does council tax get you and how much can you expect to pay?
C: Council tax pays for city services like waste disposal, maintenance of sidewalks and streets, social services, etc. It can be paid annually or on a monthly basis and is a cost that the landlord always passes on to their dear tenants to deal with.

How much it costs will vary property-to-property. Each residence falls within a “band,” which is based on the property’s appraised value and in which borough it’s located. In the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, for example, annual council tax ranges from several hundred to a couple thousand pounds depending on what band the flat falls into.

********************

Thank you so much to Colleen for taking the time out of her busy day to speak with us. For more information about Colleen or to read her blogs, you can check out London Relocation and London Living. Stay tuned for more UK goodness as we move closer to the big day!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Etsy Finds Friday


Etsy Finds Friday is a speckle of random things that have caught my eye on etsy.com. Great ideas and lots of inspiration for your upcoming wedding or to add a little handmade love to your life.

photo credit go to the respective shops listed below

(From left to right)
Top: Lisa's Retro Style, Minx Shop, Sprout Studio

Middle: MXM Jewelry, Cosas Minimas, Lisa's Retro Style

Bottom: Golden Ponies, The Clasp of Isis

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

can my next ...


found via bash, please| photo credit: our labor of love

... wedding couple please do this for their bridal entrance? FUN!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

wedding ideas :: chilling out


image and tutorial via martha stewart weddings

Looking for a new way to keep your drinks icy cold? Encase them in icy, fruit-filled molds!

Place a full bottle into a fully opened cardboard half-gallon milk carton. Insert flowers or thinly sliced fruit (we've used nasturtiums, lemons, and limes) around the bottle, filling one third of the carton. Pour water into the container, just covering the fruit and flowers. Place the carton upright in the freezer. When the liquid is completely frozen, add another layer of fruit and very cold water, and freeze. Repeat, filling and freezing a third of the carton at a time, which prevents all the fruit and flowers from floating to the top until the water reaches the bottle's neck. Remove from the freezer when it's time to serve the vodka: Cut away the milk carton with a utility knife; wrap a dinner napkin around the bottle's base, and serve the vodka with slices of lemon zest tied in knots.

Monday, September 20, 2010

london :: relocation pt 2

photo via Living, Etc. UK / found on from london with love

Here's part two of our three part interview with Colleen Wagner from London Relocation. If you missed part one and are thinking about moving to the UK then you should definitely take a peek!

**************************

R: What are the signs of a reputable relocation agent or estate agent?
C: Well, it certainly helps if they have their own car ☺ They would also never require you to make a deposit and pay your first month’s rent upfront in cash—I’ve heard of this happening, and no reputable agency/respectable landlord would ask such a thing; bank transfers, checks, or credit cards should be accepted. Similarly, being asked to transfer funds to secure a flat without your (or someone delegated on your behalf) having seen the property first in person is the sort of thing Craigslist scams are made of, so beware. Okay, so, yes, there are reputable agencies out there that will allow this per the tenant's request (upon which the tenant must sign an agreement confirming that they did not see the space and based their decision solely on the photos provided on the agency website), but you won't want to try this with an agency that has a sketchy website that may be suspect (see below).

If many of the listings you enquire about through an agency are no longer on the market, yet still being advertised, this could be a red flag as well—they may be boasting more properties than they actually have or at least aren’t on-the-ball enough to respect the accuracy and timeliness of their own listings (cut them some slack, though, if a flat has only just gone off the market in the last day or so, as property does move very quickly here, especially in summer!). It can be discouraging if an agent insists you’ll find nothing in your budget, but you may need to also take this with a grain of salt, as more often than not, flats are more expensive than people anticipate, so the agent may earnestly be trying to help you develop more realistic expectations. That being said, do your research in advance to get a good idea of average rent prices to make sure you aren’t ripped off.

Agencies with various branches (an agency with at least 3 different offices is likely a safe one to try) are obviously quite successful and may observe stricter codes of professionalism to maintain their reputations—e.g., Foxtons, Marsh & Parsons, etc. This is not to say that the smaller boutique agencies offer any less in service—indeed, because larger agencies may take for granted that they’ll have a steady stream of business, this runs the risk of breeding apathy toward individual clients. So give the little guys a chance, too, if their office looks presentable and organized, their listings comprehensive, and their staff personable and professional. My husband and I found our flat, for example, through FiveSevenTen (a single-office boutique agency that only services postal codes SW5, SW7, and SW10), and their approach was kind-hearted and truly looking out for our best interests. I appreciate when agents can be honest about the flats they represent, especially if it’s pointing out their shortcomings—then I don’t feel like I’m being schmoozed and promised perfection when they can only under-deliver.

Agency websites can be a good indication as well. You know a good website from a bad one when you first look at it. Does it look like a respectful amount of thought has gone into its design? Is it user-friendly? Are there any client testimonials? A blog or something that provides value-added information and shows some personality? Is their contact info clear and thorough (address and phone number should be there at the very least—raises a lot of questions if they’re not! A web form is nice, too)?

R: What are your thoughts on "Dreams vs. Reality" when looking for a place?
C: Because managing expectations really is a big part of London Relocation’s job, I was inspired to write a mini-series of blog posts a while back called “What to Expect in a London Flat.” Basically, Dreams vs. Reality will part ways when it comes to size, space, and amenities (e.g., older buildings without elevators, having smaller washer/dryers or perhaps only one or neither, no air-conditioning, etc.). That being said, there are new-construction options in areas like Canary Wharf, which is more commercial, though, than residential. London landlords also furnish their flats as inexpensively as possible, so you’ll see a lot of IKEA ☺ Even newer renovations may reveal a compromise in materials over time—there are a lot of quick-fixes that may not be built to last but at least to survive until the next tenancy. Be prepared to wait on maintenance services as well…there’s not much quick turnaround in London.

That being said, there is a tremendous amount of character to these buildings which offer a different type of aesthetic trade-off. Taking the stairs is good exercise, and narrowing down what you actually move to London in view of the space/storage issue is a valuable lesson in learning what you really need. At some point, one has to view this as an experiential phase of life (taking advantage of the history, culture, and travel by virtue of living here) rather than a material one.

R: Does a relocation agent work for us or the flat owner? Will they be on the look out for unfair contracts or illegal acts by the property owner?
C: Absolutely. The advantage of having a relocation agent watching your back is that YOU are the client; the fees are paid by you and not the landlord or lettings agency.

Lettings agencies, on the other hand, are compensated by the landlords—when you sign on with them, you may pay an admin fee (which London Relocation covers for its clients), but otherwise the money you’re putting down upfront is for your refundable deposit and first month’s rent. The lettings agency’s commission comes from the landlord, and I’ll be honest—I’m shocked how much of a landlord’s market it is here. Tenants have many rights by law, but you’d never realize it because unless they’re proactive in researching/asserting them themselves, you won’t see anyone else going out of their way to make them aware.

Anyone else, that is, except for the relocation agent. In our case, the agent is with you through all of the viewings and the entire lease negotiation and signing, ensuring everything is stipulated in your best interest and raising important points that might otherwise get overlooked.

R: I suspect that many people would consider relocation and estate (lettings) agents to be one in the same. What does a relocation agent offer that an estate agent doesn’t?
C: While there are exceptions, one primary difference between the relocation and lettings agent is that the lettings agent holds property listings whereas the relocation agent does not. The lettings agency is consequently paid their commission by the landlords of the properties they list, whereas the relocation agency is paid a fee by the tenants it represents.

What relocation agents offer beyond the lettings agency is more personalized service in their client’s best interest (as explained above) as they do participate in the viewings and lease negotiation making sure terms are fair to the tenant. They also do all the extra legwork to seek out available properties to shortlist for the client’s viewing. An individual lettings agency may have a handful or less of properties meeting one’s specifications on any given day, but the relocation agency coordinates with all the area lettings agencies to compile all eligible properties across their combined listings, resulting in more extensive coverage and with the added benefit of having the same point of contact with you along the entire way.

What distinguishes London Relocation Ltd. from other relocation agencies as well is that we compile a portfolio of approximately 20 properties for viewing in a single day, so our model very much centers on cutting to the chase for an efficient turnaround (without sacrificing quality for the quickness)—other relocation agents that charge by the day have more incentive to drag the process out. I mentioned earlier that London properties can fly off the shelves, so the relocation agent also has the resources to reschedule as necessary on the fly so that it’s business as usual. And as I also related above, our empathy as expats brings an intangible quality that overall helps put our clients’ minds at ease by fielding all of their questions from their perspective and managing their expectations to optimize their London relocation experience.


R: Are there common mistakes or issues that you encounter with Expats?
C: Definitely! And, to be fair, I was a naïve expat, too ☺

To start, we receive a surprising number of enquiries from folks who are not even aware they need a visa to live here. It doesn’t fall within our realm of expertise to sort this out for them, but we’re happy to explain the different visa tiers they can apply for and redirect them to the UK Border Agency for more information and application forms. It’s imperative for expats to already have this in place before officially finding a place to live.

We sometimes encounter issues with people’s work assignments falling through or changing as well. That is usually not the client’s fault, however, as much as the company’s. Situations like these sometimes simply can’t be avoided, but nonetheless, it is helpful if you can provide as accurate a confirmation on your relocation timeframe as possible.

Proper documentation and funds for signing on to a flat is also critical, and sometimes expats do not arrive prepared—I will discuss this in more detail in a later question. Another big stumbling block for students is typically being required to pay 3-6 months’ rent in advance, as they will not be earning a steady income to otherwise earn the landlord’s trust. This may be waived, however, if the student can provide a letter signed by a UK-based guarantor of the funds, along with evidence of their financial ability to cover that amount if need be.

Beyond that, any issues primarily center on unrealistic expectations. We never enjoy being the deliverer of bad news when we respond honestly how much they should expect to pay for a certain flat size or neighborhood, so the best clients are the ones who trust that we know what we’re talking about and approach the discussion/process the way we do for a reason. A London move is full of trade-offs—recreating one’s home environment and/or culture is nearly impossible and unfair to expect. The way to embrace it is just appreciating it for the new adventure that it is.


R: What questions should people moving to London ask themselves about housing? i.e. budget, needs etc.
C: Key questions are:

1. # of bedrooms
2. Budget
3. Neighborhood (bearing In mind desired environment as well as commuting distance to work/school)
4. Need-to-have vs. nice-to-have property specifications (e.g., wooden floors, balcony, etc.)
5. Bringing pets?

When these are known, the rest starts to fall into place.


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Will be posting the final installment next Monday. Stay tuned to what Colleen has to say in her final wrap up.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Etsy Finds Friday


Etsy Finds Friday is a speckle of random things that have caught my eye on etsy.com. Great ideas and lots of inspiration for your upcoming wedding or to add a little handmade love to your life.

photo credit go to the respective shops listed below

(From left to right)
Top: blueberry shoes, MXM Jewelry, Darlingtonia Moccasin Co.

Middle: Whimsy & Spice, Perty.ful.Tings, Heidi Creations

Bottom: Carol Hannah, little pretties, white owl

Thursday, September 16, 2010

shop :: tucker by gaby basora


(Left to Right) Button-Front Dress in Little-Flowers Print, $34.99′ Tie-Front Blouse in Lawn Bird Print, $24.99 / Signature Dress in Diamond Print, $39.99

Tucker by Gaby Basora for Target collection became available at Target stores and target.com last Sunday. Known for her quaint prints in bold colours, Gaby's clothing focuses on wearability with simply cut dresses, trousers and tops. Loving the combinations above and below.


(Left to Right) Ribbed Sweater Dress in Orange, $39.99; Sweater Vest in Floral, $34.99 / Woven Tee in Magenta, $24.99; Shorts in Green Herringbone, $34.99

I'm going to miss my road trips to Target. Oh, how I love you! So, who has an extra seat in their car?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

thanks union photography!


Robert and I had the pleasure of working with Holly and Roger from Union Photography last year on this wedding (not their photos!). Holly and Roger are super fun, super professional, super fab photographers and Holly's laugh, I swear, is contagious! I bump into Holly every now and then at various handmade markets around Vancouver as well as a few times over Twitter, but was super surprised to receive a package in the mail from them.


A package for us!? What could this possibly be? Well, let me tell you what was inside!

A wedding hero survival kit complete with:
  1. A squeeze doll - Squeeze any stress away!
  2. Epsom Salts - to soak your weary toes in!
  3. Chocolate - For those times when you don't get the chance to eat!
  4. Champagne - Celebrate a job well done!
  5. Ear plugs - In case the band plays too loudly!
  6. Tylenol - Enjoy responsibly!


Thanks Roger and Holly! Such an original idea! Love it!

Monday, September 13, 2010

london :: relocation pt 1


photo via pink lemonade / found on from london with love

One of the most daunting, yet exciting, tasks related to moving is finding a new place to live. This is especially so when you consider the size of London, the cost of rent and you have a fuzzy feline moving with you.

The housing market in London, while similar to Vancouver, has it’s own unique nuances.
  • Estate Agents: The vast majority of the London rental market appears to be controlled by them. Private rentals can be found on Gumtree and Craigslist, but with websites such as those, these are no guarantees.
  • 6 week deposits: Whoooaaa, you want how much? When signing a lease, you need to pay the first months rent plus the 6 week deposit.
  • Pets: No one indicates if their flats allows pets.
To help us with our move, we have been in discussions with a relocation firm. These firms specialize in assisting people moving to London and helping them find a place to live. After some research, we discovered London Relocation Ltd and decided to hold an interview with Colleen Wagner who handles the social media for LR and blogs for London Living, to help others interested in using relocation firms or are moving overseas.

Since this is quite a lengthy list of questions, we decided to make it into a three part series.

Hope you find this helpful! Thanks to Colleen (C) for putting up with Rob's (R) many questions.

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R: Tell us a bit about London Relocation
C: London Relocation Ltd. is a personalized destination service provider that assists with an otherwise arduous flat-search. Founded by Anthony Gallo, an American originally from Arizona, our entire staff is comprised of expats from the States and Australia—we therefore bring a special empathy to the table because we’ve undergone the international move ourselves and understand all too well the special challenges that come in tow with such a decision.

Finding a new home is a particularly stressful factor that can be very time-consuming, expensive, and, quite frankly, confusing in an unfamiliar property market, which just compounds the issue when one already feels displaced. London Relocation Ltd. is all about making the process quick, efficient, and, dare we hope, fun ☺


R: Tell us a bit about yourself and London Living.
C: I myself moved to London from Chicago in 2008 as an accompanying spouse. My husband had accepted a new position that brought us here; however, as he wasn’t transferring through an existing employer, we weren’t entitled to any form of expatriate support outside of a monetary moving allowance. As I consequently found the move to be a difficult, isolating transition in the months to follow leaving behind family, friends, and career (I taught high school English at home and am on hiatus for various reasons), when I started working for London Relocation, I wanted to enhance our flat-finding service with helping expats find some social footing as well.

As our London Living members do include both current and future expats, their participation has broadened the ability to field any number of questions, and it’s essentially become one-stop shopping for some of London Relocation’s own social media efforts (i.e., the information we share through our blog and Twitter) as well as London events and advice from our “Londonistas”. First implemented in January of this year, it has grown into a lovely community that has already established close friendships. I am hoping to organize a social event later this month to give Londonistas the opportunity to meet each other—we keep it casual. It doesn’t matter whether London Living members use our service or not—this initiative Is purely about camaraderie and reestablishing a support network far from home.


R: Can you provide a list of online tools for researching London?

Robert's personal favourites at the moment are:
Colleen's Additions:
Beyond my pet London Living, other good practical, interactive guides on moving to London I’ve encountered are:

Canadians & Americans in the UK
Moving 2 London
Yankee Landing

For a mix of the practical and the fun-n-quirky London goings-on, I also like:
Anglotopia.net – the ultimate source for Anglophiles!
Londonist.com
Little London Observationist

And for getting around London, the
Transport For London site is positively awesome (you can read up on the brand new cycle hire scheme here, too!)—a great way to research your commuting possibilities in advance, which in turn can help in deciding on where to live.

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Stay tuned for the second part where Colleen covers basics such as finding a reputable agent and why everything is quoted pound per week.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Etsy Finds Friday


Etsy Finds Friday is a speckle of random things that have caught my eye on etsy.com. Great ideas and lots of inspiration for your upcoming wedding or to add a little handmade love to your life.

photo credit go to the respective shops listed below

(From left to right)
Top: Peppermint Cloud, Chouettes, Vigilante Laboratories

Middle: Sapti, Pasaii Paperie, Mia Beads

Bottom: Chloe and Maddie, Faith and Franny, A.J. Machete and Sons Clothier
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