Tuesday, 11 November 2014

{Ask Mary} What is Council Tax?

After this post and the comments I realized that I should probably clarify exactly what is council tax and why you'll need to pay it when you move to Scotland.

What is council tax?

Council Tax is the system of local taxation used to part fund services provided by local authorities. The rate of tax payable is based on the value of residential property. Meaning, a 3 bedroom house would pay more council tax than a studio flat. The reason being the amount of services used. The amount that each household pays depends on their band (A-H).

Council tax goes partly to fund your water, sewage and rubbish pick up. It is essentially just your utility bill. But it just so happens that everyone in and around your area usually pay about the same amount. It's is paid each month. 

When searching for a property you can ask your letting/estate agent what council tax band the property is in.  You can often find the council tax band listed with the property description online (A-H). Then you can find the amount per band HERE. Council tax is paid by whomever lives in the property--either owner or renter. 

Council tax should be added to your expenses each month. Once you move to Scotland you need to go directly to the council building and get set up for council tax to avoid a fine.

ps. My Sausage Mini Fritatta recipe was on MSN! I was totally surprised to see it. I had completely forgotten it was going to be featured. It is perfect for a Thanksgiving/Christmas brunch. I hope you'll try it.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Soaking Wet

It's been raining a lot here lately (shocker). I was determined that Sebastian and I were going to get out and run a few errands before school yesterday to cut some of the droll mornings we've been having lately (I never knew I was so boring). We went to library, bank and all those usual places one does errands. It felt good to be out and all the electronics off. Sebastian even fell asleep when we got home. He woke just in time for a quick lunch before Nursery School. I was feeling pretty good.

When it was time to leave for school it was raining and for a brief moment I thought about keeping Sebastian home for the day. But then I quickly vetoed the plan because if I did it once I knew I'd do it all the time. I don't want to be a lazy person afraid of a little rain. So, we bundled up in our rain gear and stepped outside.

Apparently there was torrential downpour going on and gale force winds. It got cold real fast you guys. Half way to school I looked over at Sebastian and he was soaked. From head to toe. I had been trying to hold him umbrella up for him because he was more interested in jumping in puddles than holding it. But he was drenched. Every inch of his clothing was soaked to the bone. No wait, his feet were dry. Bless his new winter boots. His whole body was shivering from the cold and I immediately thought what a rubbish mother I am for taking my baby out in weather like this! His teacher pulled us into the bathroom and handed us a big box emergency clothes to choose from. How convenient. Sebastian got dressed in what looked like a weird pair of pyjamas and I set off to brave the perfect storm yet again.

The same thing happened today...

In other news::

+ I've been working on a little secret project that is turning into a BIG secret project. I was hoping to be done by now but well...I'm not. I'm hoping it will be done by the end of the year. It's for all you future or current expats out there! I'm hoping to help you even a little bit.

+  I'm having people over for Thanksgiving!! I'm already in planning mode and I just can't wait! It's been so long since I've had a proper Thanksgiving I hope I do it right.

+ All these people around me are getting sick lately, but we've been using dōTERRA’s essential oil blend OnGuard and haven't gotten sick (knock on wood). I feel like the oil fairy bringing some to our friends on the regular. It's really incredible! I'm obsessed. Every home needs it. Get it {here}

+  I'm making this soup tomorrow (and about 25 more times this winter). 

+ The sun will be out tomorrow and we are going to do something. I don't know what yet, but we're going somewhere! I'll make sure to report on Monday!

So, tell me what are you up to lately?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

British Citizenship

It's been a long time coming but Sebastian is finally a British Citizen! We could not be more thrilled! A lot of time and money went into this decision and making sure we give the best options for Sebastian's future. That piece of paper also means we can finally travel!

We've already booked our Christmas/New Year holiday tickets to London and Portugal to spend time with Luis' family. This will be a special trip as Sebastian is the only grand child. Then we are on to Spain for my birthday in January! It's been so long since we've been anywhere and I'm already planning what all we'll see and do. I just can't wait.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Visit Scotland: The Falls of Feugh

Saturday was such a gorgeous day that we decided to hit the road and play tourist. It was cold but the sun was shining so it was really perfect. We headed to Banchory and stopped at The Falls of Feugh. Autumn is spawning time and you can watch the salmon swim upstream and actually jump out of the water!

When we were almost to the footbridge I coud see the salmon jumping already and I got really excited! I thought we might have to sit outside and wait for awhile before we saw one but they were jumping like crazy! There was one every couple of minutes. Luis caught them in action for your viewing pleasure.

The best time to see the salmon leaping is from February-March and September-November. The footbridge is easily seen from the road and there is a free car park by the Falls of Feugh Restaurant and Tea Room. The town centre of Banchory is just a small walk and it looked like there were several other walking routes close by.

Once we were frozen to the bone and ready to head back to the car we decided to check out two castles (Crathes Castle and Drum Castle) that we saw on the drive up. One thing I love about living in Aberdeenshire is that we can just get in the car and go in one direction and there will be several interesting things to see. We don't even need to really plan anything and we'll see something awesome.

Check out the pictures from our day!

Crathes Castle         

Drum Castle

Drum Castle (backside)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Lets Talk About Jobs in Scotland

The number one email I receive on a consistent basis has always been about where and how to find jobs in Scotland. I also get a lot of people asking if I could assist them with their search. I've been thinking for a long time about how I could possibly help you. I hope this gets your wheels turning.

Let me tell you a little bit about S1 Jobs. They are a site that specializes in jobs in Scotland. Not the whole United Kingdom. They are just focused on Scotland. They have a great blog and their site is full of helpful information. They also have thousand's of job listings!

S1 Jobs and I have teamed up to hopefully answer some of your questions about working in Scotland. We each asked and answered 3 questions. I really hope this helps some of you know where to start your job search in Scotland!

S1 Jobs: What was the reason for choosing Aberdeen for your profession?

Me: While my husband had a good job in Glasgow, he wasn't growing and getting where he wanted. It was one of those jobs that you could stay in for the next 20 years but also never grow and learn more. We wanted an opportunity to better our family and my husband wanted an opportunity to learn and grow in his chosen field. So the hunt for a new job began.

Aberdeen is a thriving oil and gas city that has so much to offer this country in terms of financial gain and a standard of living that isn't just about money either. There is so much happening in Aberdeen! Aberdeenshire has so much beauty and fun to offer a family. We wanted to be a part of that.

S1 Jobs: What were the factors you had to consider when choosing a location for work?

Me: We lived outside Glasgow for over 5 years. While we did enjoy  it, my husband's communte to and from work was very long. We didn't have much in the way of entertainment and shopping where we lived so we wanted a place we could get everything we wanted in a smaller, cleaner city than Glasgow--without the commute. We also wanted to be quite close to the country without feeling so far away from the world. Aberdeen could give us all those things. The sea view didn't hurt either!

S1 Jobs: What were the challenges you encountered whilst finding work in Aberdeen?

Me: Aberdeen is a competitive place. The people are very educated and experienced in the oil and gas industry. It can be a difficult market to break in to when you don't have any prior experience. But, we felt like the companies we interviewed with were very open to the idea of what my husband had to offer and we secured a job with a great company! We've been living here just over a year now and couldn't be happier!

Now, I got a chance to ask S1 Jobs some questions too. I had YOU in mind.

Me: I get a lot of emails asking about how to find jobs in Scotland from people all over the world. Does S1 Jobs have any options to filter sponsored job listings for foreign applicants?

S1 Jobs: Not exactly, but we don't necessarily need to have that option. The application process is open to anyone who wants to work in Scotland. There is no preferential treatment to anyone currently living there. The decision lies with the employer on who they would like to hire. If you are looking to work in Scotland, regardless of where you are searching, the results will be the same. 

Me: What differentiates S1 Jobs from other job seeking competitors like LinkedIn, Monster UK, Total Jobs and others?

S1 Jobs: S1 Jobs is a site that specializes in job located in Scotland. For those who are looking for work in Scotland, we are able to funnel their search to the location they desire and focus only on Scottish jobs. We don't see sites like LinkedIn as competitors but more as another tool for users to utilize to further their job hunt.

Me: What is your number one piece of advice for job seekers that makes the most difference to their CV or cover letter?

S1 Jobs: It depends on the employer and what they require from you. One number one tip would be make sure you show the  best examples of your skills in the cover letter or CV that match what the employer requires from their desired employee. Don't exaggerate but make sure your examples are:
  • True
  • Accurate
  • Displays the skills that they are asking for
And ....there you have it. S1 Jobs is THE place to find jobs in Scotland. You are welcome to apply no matter your country. Take a look, get yourself registered and start applying! I really do hope you find what you're looking for.

There will be a few more posts in this series on Finding Jobs in Scotland so stay tuned. Good luck on the job hunt!

S1 Jobs also asked me what my dream job would be. I said a novelist. I would love to write fiction someday. They had an illustrator come up with this little picture to inspire me. Which I find...hilarious.

ps. This post is NOT sponsored. Unless you count that little illustration up there. It is purely a collaboration to help all of you looking for jobs in Scotland. Good luck!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Things You Probably Don't Know About Me

I'm sorry I'm not better looking...

+ I like to sing. I like to sing in church actually. Although I don't think I have a particularly wonderful voice, I know I can carry a tune.

+ I play the flute. Well, I should say played. I got a music scholarship and had my first year of college paid for. I wasn't too bad. But, I wanted to go off and travel and serve a mission for my church so I sold my professional flute about 12 yrs ago so I could go do those things. I have never ever regretted it. But, I miss it and sometimes wonder if I can still play. And what would I play if I had one?

+ I'm a morning person. In college I would rather go to bed at a reasonable hour 9-10pm and wake up at 4:00am to finish studying or writing that paper than stay up late. I just can't function late at night. I'm no good at girls night. It takes me days to get back to feeling like myself.

+ I've never had a single drop of alcohol. Or coffee.

+ I'm an extrovert by nature but since I moved to Scotland I have turned more introverted. I think it's more of a survival mechanism. But, I miss having friends.

+ I hate butter.

+ I have an obsessive personality. I get obsessed over movies, books, music, food...everything.

+ I haven't been back to the USA in over 5 yrs.

+ I can't keep a secret to save my life.

+ My first job was a summer intern at a chemical plant. Think 12 hr shift work and hard labor. I learned a lot.

+ I helped renovate an 1860's Italinate house.

+ I only got one chicken pox and I picked it off. I have a scar on my forehead. You can see it clearly in the picture above.

+ I suffered with migraines from kindergarten through high school. My last migraine was a few days after I graduated HS.

+ I have the exact shade of blue eyes as my grandpa.

+ My mom says I was a horrible baby. Until I was potty trained. Then I was always happy and smiling. (It's the independent in me!)

+ My best friend Sarah and I have been friends for 34 yrs. Our parents are friends and she has always been a part of my life.

+ When I was little I used to hug our live Christmas tree every time I passed it. We re-planted several of those tree's in our yard and they grew to be taller than our home.

+ I have all these ideas for novels but whenever I go to write them, I just stare at the page. I'm much better at telling a story than writing it. I need a Dictaphone. I still have dreams to write and publish a novel someday.

+ I've been overweight for as long as I can remember.

+ The one vacation I want to go on is to an all exclusive resort like Sandals. I just want to sit on the beach and do nothing but swim, sleep, read and eat in the sun....in peace.A butler and a pool in my room wouldn't hurt either.

+My husband and I only saw each other 4 times (one week at a time) before we were married.

So, tell me something that most people don't know about you!