crystal's capers

one girl's international adventures

Sunday, August 26, 2007

English History Festival

A few weeks ago Riccardo and I treated ourselves to an outing. As we are proud members of the English Heritage Club, we get deals to historical events throughout the UK, and one of their main events this year was the National History Festival at Kelmarsh Hall near Northam.

The event was huge! Thousands of families out enjoying the limited sunshine and learning something about their heritage. There were tons of demonstrations and sights; my favourites being the aerial show and the joust!

My only criticism was that the festival focused heavily on the military history of England; having nothing to do with English pride in this matter, of course! I kept thinking though, 'there is so much more in history than just fighting.' It would have been neat to see more about how people lived in ancient times, rather than how they died.


Thursday, August 23, 2007


My friend Jody, from Japan, posted a link to something she found on a celebrity gossip website on her blog: it's a picture of how Paris and Nicki Hilton would look if they ate a sandwich (or 9836109271 sandwiches, anyway. Oh Carbs, you are no friend to me). She noticed that their photo was identical to one of Tressa and me when we were in Japan, and posted the comparison. The more I looked at it, the more I realized that it is actually the SAME picture! They STOLE our picture!! OMG! Can you sue for this?
We are WAY cuter! haha
Oh, yeah, I will get to some back-posts of my crazy last couple of weeks; I'm just waiting to get the pictures off Riccardo's camera. Stay tuned! oxox


    • At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I am so thrilled to have been chosen for this picture...thanks to all who aided in me looking like a fat Hilton and thanks girls for putting it up on not 1 but 2 blogs;)hahahahahaha
      miss you
      love tressa

    • At 2:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Oh My Gawwwwwd.

    • At 5:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Holy crap! That is giving me the creepies AND heebie jeebies!


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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Coincidental Car

After weeks of looking, Riccardo and I finally bought the second car we'll need so that I have a way to get to work this fall. I'm totally stoked because coincidentally it's exactly like the car I drove, and loved, in Japan!! What's more, we are relieved to have found something within our ever-dwindling budget. Let's hope that this tiny SUV proves reliable.
This is our 2003 Suzuki Ignis!! We pick it up on Friday!!


    • At 6:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      cryssie....oh seeing that car reminds me of lots of good times:)
      love, tress

    • At 8:15 PM, Blogger Crystal said…

      I know!! Isn't it CRAZY!! Missing those good times with ya, Trexi! Love you! oxox

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In a Hurry to Buy

For a girl that likes to shop, I am more than happy to commence shopping for our biggest purchase EVER.

A house!

I also love real estate, so it's no problem for me to check the online housing market every day (usually more than once) for newly added properties. I'm keen, as they say. Though Riccardo and I are locked into our rental lease until late November, we are both eager to get into the very favourable market.

I've been soaking up everything I can about the UK property market. I've learned that the situation is critical: the average price of houses here is now 11 times the average annual income. When lenders usually give mortgages at 3-4 times one's annual income, first-time buying is an up-hill battle. Nevertheless, on our visit to a local mortgage specialist, Riccardo and I learned that acquiring a mortgage of our own may not be as impossible as we thought.

We want to do it soon. The price of the average home is expected to increase by 40% over the next 5 years alone, which means if we get in now, we could make a heafty profit by the time we sell and move elsewhere. And, if I ever get my dream of carrying on the family tradition of renos and refurbishments, then we could realize even more of a windfall.

The problem is that, especially for first time buyers, lenders don't really like approving mortgages that are more than the immediate value of the home (the risk is that if the borrower goes bankrupt or can't make the mortgage payments, they wouldn't be able to seize and sell the property to fully regain their investment). So if we did try to go that route, our interest rate would skyrocket. Not fun.

I've also learned, however, that the UK is in such a housing shortage, that in order to fulfill its promise to add 70,000 livable homes each year there are certain grants one can acquire to renovate what is referred to as an 'empty house' - basically a delapitated house in need of serious renos. Seems a little over our heads.

Unfortunately, as I'm finding, the market seems to be either one or the other. For starters, they say that 1 in every 10 listed homes for sale is considered 'empty,' and by the look of them, I'm sure many others are on the cusp of this classification. In our price range there are either dumps, which need total overhauls including painting, flooring, bathrooms, kitchens, landcaping, and I can't tell you what other 'bones-' work might pop-up (you never know in homes of this age), or at the very top of the budget, the ones that have already undergone these fix-ups. There's really no inbetween.

Apparently we chose to rent in one of the most expensive areas in the region: we can't afford to buy here. This sucks because here we are dead center to Riccardo's work and mine, and moving anywhere would mean a longer commute for one or both of us.

Amazingly, it's actually cheaper to move into Birmingham city proper; an option that Riccardo's not so fond of. I'm still on the boat, because I haven't seen the neighbourhoods where we can afford to buy, which I'm sure are the Projects of Birmingham.

So I'm looking for advise, and encouragement, but mostly I'm just trying to keep you updated and I don't have a lot else to report. Wish us luck for the next couple months, as we dive into the crazy housing market!


    • At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      you should look up the show location, location. it is an awesome british real estate show and they help people find houses. yoiu could be on tv and i'd watch.

      love ya!
      j to the LA

    • At 8:17 PM, Blogger Crystal said…

      Weird! I was JUST watching that show the night you posted this comment and thinking, 'hey, I should get 'Location, Location' to help me find a house!' hahaha (Not so far-fetched though, they advertised for participants at the end of the show!)

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