Christmas Tree Decorating via Skype

Christmas Tree Decorated via Skype

Today my family went out to find that perfect Christmas tree to fill up the front hall. This is my first year ever being away for Christmas but thanks to Skype, Whats App and Facebook, I don’t miss a thing! Sure the time change doesn’t really help for the evening events back home but David and I just take up our family traditions by doing similar activities only 5 hours earlier. We still decorated our place with lights and stockings, started watching Christmas movies and I have started the countdown with my Cadbury chocolate advent calendar David got me. Christmas Outfits

We dressed in our Christmas outfits while the family decorated the tree to add an element on our end of the camera to the festivities, pictured right. The final tree is pictured above as the featured image. My family’s tree is always full with new and old ornaments. About 1/4 of the tree is Winnie the Pooh themed ornaments collected throughout the years, then about another 1/4 of the tree is mom’s owls, polar bears and random fruit decorations. We have a tradition where Grandma will place an ornament on everyone’s gift each year. So, if you do the math, I will have 23 ornaments alone and then I have 2 sisters and parents as well. That’s a lot of ornaments for one tree!!! Every year Grandpa will have to fix a few that fall off the tree as the dogs walk under it and after a few days the tree will start to tilt and we will tie it up to the stairs. A few years ago David was watching us decorate our tree while he was working on a cruise ship and he even watched our tree actually fall over.

Decorating the tree is like the kickoff to Christmas! So thankful for technology and not missing a thing while being away.

Mail from England

We Got Mail

We received our very first piece of mail from back Popcorn sent in the mailhome today. It’s the greatest feeling ever, like waiting for Christmas morning but you’re not sure what day Christmas will be on! The yellow padded envelope was from Grandma and Grandpa and contained 4 packets of Orville Redenbacher’s finest microwavable popcorn. Perfect timing for us since every Tuesday David and I have pizza and a movie night. It was Fridays back in Canada but here it’s just cheaper for us on Tuesdays so we swapped days.

If you need any other great ideas of what to mail us from Canada here’s a list that might just help you out of items that are either unavailable here or they are but will cost a fortune:

  1. Microwaveable Popcorn, ALWAYS a good idea
  2. Brown Sugar and Maple Flavoured Oatmeal
  3. Anything from the Christie cookie family like Oreos
  4. Apple Cinamon Cheerios, my favourite (ask anyone I worked with) and not available here
  5. Chocolate chips for baking, they don’t have those here either except in tiny little bags
  6. Kraft Dinner
  7. Maple Syrup, David is currently rationing the amount we have until friends visit in late December

This list also applies to anyone else reading of what you should bring over with you when you move if you’ve got the extra space.

Home for the Year

After 1 month and 3.5 weeks into our marriage we are proud to announce we got the keys to our very first place together! Since we are miles away from most of our family and friends I’ve included in this post our house warming video tour.

You’ll be quick to notice it’s short. Well, that’s because our place is in fact a room…in a house. It turns out we just didn’t have the budget for our own house in London, who knew. Happens all the time in the movies.

Anyway, our house is in a quiet and safe neighbourhood. It’s close to transit and a 35min walk to my school. Front door to our houseWe’ve got an ASDA (Walmart owned grocery/multipurpose store) nearby as well as many independent butchers, cheese shops and local produce over in Greenwich. We share the kitchen with 4 other people bringing the number of occupants of the house to 6. Best part about this house is it has 2 showers and 2 toilets! The strangest thing about all the places we looked at here is there are no living/communal sitting areas. They have all been transformed into another bedroom by the landlords for someone to rent. At least we have a kitchen table in this place for people to sit at.

We want to sincerely thank all of you for your prayers, tips and encouragement during our search. It kept us sane during all the frustrating paper work, reference checking and slightly intimidating areas we had to check out.

From our new home, Emily & David.

Scammers Beware!

While looking for a place to rent we have come across many scammers!!! Luckily we recognized them as a scam before it went too far. Since this has happened to us we’re going to share our tips with you to help if you find yourself in the same situation. Anyone who is looking for a place to rent no matter what country you’re in please listen up!

1) DO NOT EVER send a Western Union Transfer in the name of a friend or family member in order to “prove” you have sufficient funds. Even if they say they will have a lawyer stop by the house for you to sign papers, they won’t touch the money until they are with you and all sorts of other lies, don’t believe it.

2) If they give you an address and they say the house is empty but they live out of town, verify for yourself that it is in fact empty. Go stop by the house to check it out! You might find it is simply not there OR there are people living in it who are not renting. Today we did just this, no answer at the door so we asked the neighbour. They said their friends had been living next door for years and have never rented out a room out.

3) If you need a place to live immediately when you arrive from overseas I highly recommend booking a place for a few days prior (we booked a place for 2 weeks on airbnb) If you are moving for work your employer should help you find accommodation and verify living spaces for you. If you are moving for school your university will help you find a place and verify for you what is real and what is a scam.

4) Lastly, please don’t pay money upfront for anything until you are positive the landlord is who they say they are! Make sure you see the rooms, not only photos. You have just as many rights as they do to ask questions of authenticity.

Please share with anyone you know who is looking for a place to rent to watch out for these things. After you’ve been searching for a few days straight you start falling for things that might not line up because you want the search to be over. Keep going, you’ll find a place :)

For Rent Sign

Finding a Place to Live

Today we spent the ENTIRE DAY looking for a place to live. We talked to a few people about areas, walked around a bit (no for rent signs anywhere) and then we took our search to the web. David was primarily in charge of search then I would contact our leads through email and set up our accounts.

We used a bunch of different sites contacting as many people as possible based on the area codes we were looking in. The results were low primarily because people’s interest in accommodating married couples is very little. We set our budget to be no higher then £600 per month. We found plenty of ads for students and professionals just not married couples!

Our first source for searching was Gumtree, it reminds me of the UK version of Kijiji. From here we also got our first reply and it was a fishy one. Within the body of the email contained the words “West Union” transfer money request which immediately screams out SCAM to me. The person renting out the room wanted us to transfer money using West Union to a friends name and they would then access it through that friends name…instead of just paying them??? No way, SCAM. So the search continued..

The other sites we used were Christian Flat Share, Flatshare.com and intoLondon.com. The ones with the highest response rate have been Gumtree & Christian Flate Share. We went to look at one place today and have another set up for tomorrow. The one tonight was a disaster. Let’s hope tomorrow’s goes a bit better.