Links I Love: 6

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Links I Love: 5

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Links I Love: 4

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Links I Love: 3

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Blogger Business Cards

My new business cards arrived today!

Now that my new blog is up and running, it was time for me to work on some additional collateral to support my new site. First up were business cards. One of the big takeaways from The Blogcademy was the importance of business cards because, “you never know who you might meet.” I’d been hemming and hawing over designs for the past few weeks before finally settling on a super-simple minicard design.

The cards I used at The Blogcademy.

I didn’t have any business cards prior to Blogcademy, but it was suggested everyone bring some along to the workshop. I panicked a bit because I didn’t have long before the workshop, and I knew I wouldn’t be using Becoming British much longer. So I decided to go the homemade route. My cards were a bit lack-luster. I did a bit of searching on the Internet to figure out what I should put on my cards, and came across this guide to blogger business cards on Mom Comm. After seeing some of the cards in her showcase, I was a bit shocked–how the hell am I going to create super-awesome business cards? As you can tell, mine weren’t super-awesome, but they did the job, and they were actually on-brand.

I originally thought about going with double-sided full-size cards, but was having trouble coming up with a design that I thought suited California Love Letters’ brand. I was poking round, and was intrigued by their minicards. I played around a bit using just my header logo on one side, and putting my details on the other. I thought it was better than other designs I’d thought of, but didn’t quite look complete for me. I saw the option for changing the background color of the detail side, and then it popped.

Moo is fantastic. The prices are reasonable, there is loads of choice in cards (sizes, paper type, gloss or no gloss, etc.), and they are super fast. I wanted my cards for the upcoming Blogshop workshop in London this weekend (which I’m super stoked about, by the way). Minicards start at £16.13 ($23.24 in the US) for standard printing and delivery (via Royal Mail or US Postal Service), but they have plenty of options of quick printing and delivery if you’re in a pinch. I’m really happy with how these turned out, and pretty excited that I will be fully prepared for the weekend; you never know who I might meet!


Sigor Rós at the Brixton Academy

Darren and I were completely jazzed when we heard Sigor Rós were bringing their tour to London. In 2008, we saw Sigor Rós at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA, and it was probably the most amazing concert I’d been to in my life (and I’d like to think I’ve been to some good ones). It was a Friday in early October. The weather was just starting to turn in the Bay Area, and it had been raining a bit earlier in the day. We drove up to Berkeley from the Peninsula just after commute hours, but the freeways were still busy, and a tad bit treterous in the rain (anyone who’s driven in the rain in California will appreciate how challenging and freightening this can be!). We both brought our winter jackets along because we’d been to a show at The Greek, an outdoor venue, in August of the same year, and by the end of the evening we were absolutely freezing–we’d completely underestimated how far the San Francisco fog travels.

The Sigor Rós show at The Greek was sold out, and we’d timed our arrival pretty close to the start of the opening act. We essentially had just enough time to locate our seats and get comfortable (as far as sitting on concrete goes). Sigor Rós’ set was absolutely magical. It really was one of the most emotionally moving concerts I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, and this is what I was looking forward to this past Thursday.

I was eagerly anticipating Sigor Rós taking the stage.

Electronica act Blanck Mass opened the evening. Admittedly, I’d never heard of him, but a quick search on Wikipedia indicates that in addition to opening for Sigor Rós on their UK tour, one of his tracks was used during the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. His music was OK, but I’m not sure if it really set the mood quite right. It was some ambient electronica music, that while nice for relaxing at home, isn’t the best at getting a crowd jazzed for the act ahead, which might explain why so many people filtered in after his set, and those who were there continued to merrily chat away.

Sigor Rós took the stage just after 8 p.m. I have to admit, that while I like Sigor Rós, I’m not overly familiar with their music–especially anything that isn’t from Ágætis Byrjun. So I have no idea which song they opened with, but it was good, and set the tone for the evening.

The light show was the best part of the concert.

One issue I had with the show was that we were only able to procure standing tickets. I’m only 5 feet, 3 inches tall, and I wanted to stick near the back of the venue in case I needed to exit quickly, and to keep myself from being crushed by other concert goers. Unfortunately, it meant I could see nearly nothing (the photo above is the best depiction of what I could see–and that was with my hands above my head). The good news was that the quality of the light show meant I was still able to take in a lot of the visuals without having complete visibility, but there were details that I couldn’t take in very well. For example, I distinctly remember seeing Jónsi Birgisson take a bow to his electric guitar during the show at The Greek–seeing this live really helped me connect the dots to the music last time, but that just wasn’t possible this time around.

Overall, this show fell a bit flat for me. The build-up to the show was completely different than it was in 2008. This time, I traversed South West London via a packed train and Tube with little more than some cash and my phone (not even the company of Darren). In 2008, we had a 50-mile journey together which involved crossing the Dumbarton Bridge, listening to Sigor Rós in the car, and devouring British candy we picked up at the posh grocery store in Menlo Park. Nothing about the show in the Brixton Academy felt magical, while the show at The Greek moved me emotionally. Yeah, the light show was amazing, but the music didn’t resonate the same way it did at The Greek. As Darren said, it was like listening to a favorite album when the mood isn’t quite right, and it sounding boring instead.

Even though I wasn’t thrilled with their show at the Brixton Academy, I’d get tickets to a future Sigor Rós gig. But next time, I’ll make sure I have a seat, and that we psych ourselves up appropriately before the show.

Have you seen Sigor Rós live? What did you think? Tell me in the comments!

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Links I Love: 2

Photo by Xandra Bee of Fashionably Light.
  • Minimalist blogger, Xandra Bee, has a brilliant tip to help you remember those pesky items you keep forgetting to pick up while you’re out. This applies to non-minimalists too!
  • It’s no wonder tulips are my favorite flowers. Not only does this look amazing, but I bet it smells amazing, too!
  • Some funny hiakus about San Francisco’s Muni system: “Clutching this bus pole / like it was you in my arms / was going too far.”
  • Did you see Reader Digest’s modern-day tribute to Dr. Seuss?
  • Last week, Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, made a controversal move in the tech industrying calling for all employees to stop working from home, or leave the company. Here’s a counterargument from another tech giant, Cisco. Where do you stand on the issue?
  • San Francisco’s Bay Bridge is getting a flashy make-over by artist Leo Villareal.
  • The Sartoralist found a fab shop in Paris filled with photographs taken by photographers across the globe. Talk about inspiration!
  • Love coffee and cheesecake? Try this delicious-looking Coffee & Cream Cheesecake.
  • Shauna Haider (aka Nubby Twiglet), another of hte Blogcademy headmistress, is doing a great series on blogging.
  • Are you a cat-lover and looking for an easy weekend DIY project? Why not make these cat magnets?

Have you found any interesting links this week? Share them in the comments!

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Spring Weather, Lost Phones, and Pub Quizzes

Enjoying my first-ever pub quiz at The Britannia.

It’s funny how something as simple as beautiful spring weather can transpire into a whole chain of events.

Yesterday, the weather in the South of England was amazing. Highs were just over 60ºF, the sun was shining, and people seemed in a happier mood than usual. Darren came home from work and remarked how nice it was outside, and I suggested we take a walk after we had dinner.

So, around 7:30 p.m., we stepped out of the building, walked along the road until we were at the spot were we like to commence our walks along the River Thames. It was dark, and regardless of the lovely temperatures, even at that time of night, there weren’t many people out. We were nearly to the Richmond Bridge when I spotted a phone and pair of sunglasses that had been left unattended on a bench. I picked it up and asked Darren what he thought I should do; it was a nice-looking phone, and I was certain someone would be looking for it.

As luck would have it, the phone started ringing. I didn’t pick it up at first, just in case it was a friend of the phone’s owner (or worse yet, a female partner wondering why some American woman was answering his phone!). The person called again, and since number was the same as the one who’d called just seconds earlier, I figured this may be the owner. I answered, “Hello? Yeah, I just found this phone near the Richmond Riverside, are you the owner?” He confirmed he’d lost his phone, and said he’d noticed his phone was missing after he’d boarded a bus heading out of town. Arrangning a meeting place wasn’t too difficult–I suggested he just come back to Richmond and I’d meet him at the bus stop in the center.

Unfortunately, he’d gone quite far before he’d noticed the phone was missing, and said he’d be at least 15 minutes. OK, no problem. Darren and I started walking in the direction of the bus stop, and I was thinking it would be nice to have a pint if there was a pub nearby. Enter, The Britannia. This is a lovely, small pub tucked just off the high street on Brewer’s Lane–one of several small cul de sacs that branch off the high street. We’d been before for food, which was great, but hadn’t been in for several months.

We got our beers, sat down, and only a few moments later, someone came round asking if we’d like to do the pub quiz. Since it was free, and we had time to kill, we were happy to play.

This was the first time I’d taken part in a pub quiz. I know what you’re thinking– “you’ve lived in the UK for three years and this is the first time you’ve done a pub quiz?” Yes, it’s true. I don’t go out all that often, and when we do go out, it isn’t usually on the days of pub quizzes.

I had loads of fun answering the questions. We were lucky to catch a bit of the news just before we left for the walk, as there were some questions relating to current events (Justin Beiber’s late apperance for his recent London show), and I really shined when there was a four-question section on American sitcoms. Unfortunately, we totally bombed the picture questions, the true/false, and song lyric rounds. All told, however, we did pretty well for only being a team of two.

Between rounds four and five, the guy who lost his phone dropped by, so I stepped out for a minute to return it, and the sunglasses. He was grateful I’d not run off with his phone, and I was happy that he was reunited with it. If we didn’t have such a lovely day yesterday, who knows if he would have gotten his phone back? I certainly know I wouldn’t have had such a great evening.

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British Coffee Culture and a Confession

Occasionally, I enjoy the odd cup of decaffinated coffee.

I have a confession: sometimes (often) I drink decaf coffee. Not only that, but it’s usually instant decaffinated coffee. Yes, I know, it really is the worst case scenario, but I just love coffee so much that I want to be able to enjoy it in the afternoons and evenings without staying up into the wee hours of the morning.

Coffee culture in Britain, when compared to that in America, is still a relatively new fangled thing. In my experience, the average person in Britian still drinks instant coffee at home instead of filtered, or press-pot coffee. It makes sense, really. Electric kettles are a staple in the British home because they can boil water very quickly (no one has the patience to wait for thier afternoon cuppa). If you’ve already got a kettle taking up precious real estate in your kitchen, you probably don’t want to fuss with a coffee maker, too. Or, if you’re like me, you despise oily, gritty press-pot coffee. Whatever the reason, the go-to coffee in this country still seems to be instant.

Taylor Street Baristas serve up the best lattes in Richmond.

So I begrudgingly went along with this for the first two years I lived here. Coffee makers aren’t particularly cheap, and there weren’t too many places selling decent coffee beans. Then I discovered a little slice of coffee heaven in Richmond: Taylor Street Baristas. Taylor Street are a small, independent chain of coffee shops with only a handful of locations in London; how we managed to get one in Richmond is beyond me, but I’m so glad it’s here. These guys know espresso, and they know coffee. You can safely walk into Taylor Street and order anything off their coffee menu, and it is guaranteed to be delicious. Taylor Street played a massive role saving me from instant coffee drudgery.

I started thinking about how I could enjoy better coffee at home. I discovered a local shop that roasted coffee in store and sold coffee making accessories. I stopped in and stocked up on supplies: a pour-over cone (think of this as the bare-bones part where you put your filter in a coffee maker), filters, a hand grinder, and some coffee beans. My love of good coffee was instantly restored. When I was in that neighborhood, I’d stop by to replenish my stock of beans, otherwise, I relied on the grocery stores in Richmond.

There was a problem with my rekindled passion for coffee, however: I craved more coffee, more of the time. Drinking copious amounts of caffeine into the later hours of the day isn’t a wise decision for anyone wishing to get sleep, and I most definitely need all the sleep I can get. So I browsed and browsed the selection of coffees at the grocery stores, but was unable to find a non-instant decaffinated alternative. So there I was, looking at all the coffees in the aisle, and the one I finally settled on was instant; I came full-circle in my British coffee drinking experience.

Do you have any coffee horror stories from travels abroad? Where have you had the best cup of coffee? Tell me in the comments!

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Five Reasons I’m Excited about March

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Twin Peaks in San Francisco.

Spring is just around the corner, and I am stoked. Here’s a short list of what’s getting me excited this month:

  1. Darren and I are going to California!

    This is just a visit to make sure that we are absolutely certain that moving is what we want to do. After a few disasters in our flat’s building this month, we can hardly think of a reason not to start running for California now, but you know, we don’t want to rush into things, and make rash decisions!

  2. Sigor Ros at the Brixton Academy

    OK, so this Icelandic band may not be your thing, but Darren and I went to one of their concerts at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA in 2008, and it was amazing. Seriously, it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to in my life–and I’ve been to a number of great ones.

  3. Blogcademy meet-up in Cambridge

    I’ve taken pretty much every opportunity to surround myself with the sparkly Blogcademy graduates (chocolate meet-ups, dinners in Central London, etc.). Seeing my fellow Blogcadette’s blogs evolve, is inspiring, but hanging out with them is an entirely different matter. It’s a pity that Blogcademy came along so late in my stay in London–it’s been a fantastic opportunity to make new friends!

  4. Easter!

    Not only does this holiday come with a four-day weekend in Britain, but my trip to California is timed such that I will be able to pick up my most favorite Easter candy while I’m in America. Does anyone else think Easter has the best candy? Last year I stocked up on coconut Hersey’s Kisses, and had my parents bring me some Whopper Eggs when they came over last April (how I forgot these the when I was there in the US last March is beyond me). I am looking forward to that sugar high in a few weeks time!

  5. Daylight saving time begins

    Right, so losing an hour of sleep is most definitely not something to get excited about, but that extra hour of daylight gained is totally worth the excitement. If the weather hasn’t already improved by then, the fact that it will still be light at 7:30 p.m. will make things more bearable.

Are you excited about anything happening in March? Tell me in the comments!

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