Monday, 4 August 2014

iphone cake

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castle cake

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rainbow cake

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motorcycle cake

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Explorer cake

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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Visa Application Process Review part 2

It has been 2 full weeks since we submitted our UK visa application. The first part of the Visa application process review is here.

Once we'd submitted our the "biometrical data" at the Munich Visa Application Centre, we were given an "Application Validation Receipt"

This has the CSC tracking number on it which you are supposed to be able to use to track the status of the application.

We sent the documents to the Dusseldorf centre on a "signed for" service using Deutsche Post (called "Einschreiben") and we got a card in the post saying the documents had been delivered to Worldbridge in Duesseldorf on 24th September. (the exact address is Immermannstr. 51, 40210 Duesseldorf)

I have spent literally all morning trying to find a place to type in the CSC tracking number so I can find out the status of the application. There is a "Guide to processing times" which indicates that the visa decision will usually be made within 15 full working days.

I searched on the visa4uk site, I searched the Uk Border agency site
I even searched Google and found an amusing response to my question on Yahoo Answers

After typing in hundreds of different combinations of search keywords into Google, including the words "Track your application" "how to track my visa application" "uk visa application tracking online" "csc tracking number" "where to enter the visa csc tracking number". It helped when I included the word "WorldBridge". I eventually found a site called Visa Info Services .

Here I found my prize! The holy grail of the day! A place to enter my CSC tracking number!

Overjoyed, I entered the number and found a status update: here it is

Drum roll....

"Status: Arrived at the Visa Section"

Deutsche Post, the German Postal Service informed me of that priceless information 2 weeks ago!

Glad I didn't pay to call them on the Premium Rate number of 2 Euros per minute to find out that shocking little gem.

This is from the Contact us page on Visa Info Services "If you are calling from within Germany, you can get information about how to obtain a visa by calling WorldBridge’s user pay phone service at 0900 1231010. Trained agents will provide you with visa application information. There is a fee of €2 per minute to make this call. The information that Worldbridge provide is taken from official UK Border Agency websites. WorldBridge staff cannot provide immigration advice."

That's funny. I seem to remember that a member of the public set up a premium rate phone line providing a recorded message about child benefit money. Here it is £50k fine for child benefits phoneline scam

"Official-sounding websites conned victims into paying for information that Government departments provide for free.

Shaun Freeman, a 25-year-old from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, was behind, and

They listed 0906 enquiry numbers costing £1.50 a minute which kept callers on hold for up to 28 minutes. "

So how is the premium rate number on the Visa Info Services Contact Us page any different?

There is a "disclaimer" of sorts on there stating that you will be paying 2 Euros per minute to hear information that is available for free on official websites, dressed up in fancy words to make it look like you will be speaking to "specially trained agents". What are they specially trained for? Reading official websites out over the phone?

From Visa Info Services Website
"UK Border Agency

British Consulate
Yorckstrasse 19
40476 Düsseldorf


Call Centre

If you are calling from within Germany, you can get information about how to obtain a visa by calling WorldBridge’s user pay phone service at 0900 1231010. Trained agents will provide you with visa application information. There is a fee of €2 per minute to make this call.

You can also get information about how to obtain a visa by calling WorldBridge’s user pay phone service at +49 345 688 7195. Trained agents will provide you with visa application information. There is a fee equivalent to US$14 to make this call. You can only pay for the service (using a secure, automated system) with a credit or debit card with the Visa, MasterCard or Maestro logo. The call centre languages offered are: English, French, Spanish, Serbian, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic and Hungarian.

Note - We regret to inform you that telephony service in the german language is currently unavailable, however, you may submit an email enquiry in german language or utilise the service in English.

Please note: The decision to issue or refuse a visa is made by UK Border Agency visa officers. The information that Worldbridge provide is taken from official UK Border Agency websites. WorldBridge staff cannot provide immigration advice."

In my opinion, it is just another way to target vunerable people, especially those whose English is not their first language, into parting with their cash. If that's not the definition of a scam, I don't know what is. Edit: Especially when the number you are calling is in Germany and they can't speak German...

But if there's a disclaimer on there telling you it's a scam, it's not officially a scam is it?

Below: My phone bill from July 2009, when I called the 0900 number. Which, by the way, you can't call from a land line - it has to be from a mobile phone.  It cost  46.89 Euros. For nothing. Because the person who answered the call could not help in the slightest apart from saying he would fill out the online email enquiry form for me. I was on the call 19 minutes and 59 seconds.

 That was when I called about the previous Visa Application from March 2009. This should have been processed within 15 working days but it was not until the 12th JUNE 2009 that we found out it had been REFUSED due to WorldBridge omitting our Supporting Documents. So then it had to go to Appeal and the visa was finally granted a couple of days before the flights in July which were already booked, and involved having to have an overnight stay in Duesseldorf to personally collect the Passport and Visa.

Friday, 1 October 2010

How to get married in Denmark

If the person you want to marry is not allowed into the UK due to not having a valid UK visa, one option is to get married in Denmark. You do not have to be living in Denmark to be able to get married there.

Contact Svendborg Town Hall to let them know you want to get married.
E-mail: Phone: 0045 6223 3000

Transfer the payment of 500 Dkr to Svendborg Town Hall's bank account

Opening Times:

>Email the documents*
>Fill out the marriage form
>Wait 2 weeks
>Phone to make an appointment
>Arrange to be there 3 days before the wedding to present the original documents.
>Arrange a guest house, bed and breakfast or hotel for the duration of your stay**.
>On the day of the wedding, sign up at Entrance B at the Town Hall.

Svendborg Town Hall is known as Svendborg Kommune. Their website is here:
The marriage page is here:

*The documents you will need are listed on the marriage page

These include each person's birth certificate, passport, visa, residence permit, and a certificate of marital status***.

** I personally recommend this Guest House:

Poul Erik Andersen
Bregnedalsvej 22
5700 Svendborg
+45 62216677

Directions from Guest house to the Town Hall on Google Maps

The guest house is up quite a steep hill, but the view from up there is quite picturesque and well worth it!

Getting there: If you are travelling to Svendborg from Germany, I recommend the scenic route which includes a ferry ride!

See the route on Google maps

*** In my experience, trying to get proof of my marital status in the UK (single at the time) was not so straight forward. The Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages could only tell me that if I had a marriage certificate they could prove I was married. But not having a marriage certificate does not automatically prove the negative. They don't supply a letter or a certificate to say "No record of marriage found".

To get round this problem, I went to a "Notary Public" at a Solitor's office and made an appointment to present myself and my passport and birth certificate and the Notary Public was able to give me a genuine certificate with a red seal and a stamp which certified my single marital status.

This had to then be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to legalize it, which means getting it stamped and signed by Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. This process of authorisation is referred to as "authorisation", "legalization" or "having it apostilled".

I recommend : David W Coupland Notary Public, Church Steps, All Saints Square, Rotherham, South Yorkshire S60 1QD, who specialises in documentation for Weddings Overseas and Verification Of Certificates and Authentication of identity. Tel: 01709 912130 Mob: 07964 298762

My Notary Public included "having it apostilled" in with the price of the certificate.

Once you have the original back, then you can send it by email to the Svendborg Town Hall and take it with you in person when you go.

More links: Getting Married in Denmark

Lastly, I couldn't write a post about Denmark without mentioning my fellow Blogger, Twitter and Flybaby friend DianeDenmark who writes about daily life in Denmark and even blogs for the country's own official blog. You never know, you might end up living there too!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Mario Mushroom Cherry Popcorn Birthday Cake

Just made a birthday cake for my Super Mario Bros obsessed son whose birthday it is tomorrow!

The cake is an experiment - I used a Madeira Cake recipe from the Be-Ro book and added popcorn and glaze cherries to the mixture.

I baked it in a "house shaped" cake tin and trimmed the corners off to make it into a mushroom / toodstool shape after the cake was baked.

Then I covered it in rolled out marzipan (to save having to do a crumb-coat) and iced it with green butter-cream frosting and white royal icing.

We've tried the off cuts of the cherry popcorn cake - tastes lovely. A little bit chewy and unusual but yummy!

We are off to buy some wrapping paper and birthday candles now!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Visa Application Process Review

If you want to visit the UK and you need a Visa, chances are you're going to come across "WorldBridge", a commercial organisation botching the job working in partnership with the UK Border Agency.

My husband, our 2 kids aged 3 and 18 months and I set off for our appointment at the VAC (Visa Application Centre) in Munich today at 9am and got there for just before 11am. We went on a bus to the town square, an S Bahn to Hauptbahnhof, a Ubahn to Hohenzollernplatz and then a Tram to Barbarastr.

Wait... how come we had to go there? Can't you apply online? "Applying online" means you fill in the form on an online form and you can PAY online, but you have to actually physically go there to record the Biometrical Data

What is Biometrical Data? Fingerprint scans and a Photograph. You have to take a passport photo with you, so they can check to see if it still looks like you when they take a photo with their own camera.

What if you already had your fingerprints scanned there, last time you applied for a visa?
You still have to have your fingerprints scanned in again in case you have grown new fingertips or got weird fingerprint enhancement surgery.

Wait... if you already had the fingerprints scanned in, does that mean you already had a Visa approved last time? Yes

So can't you just renew the last visa? You'd think.

First impressions:
We were greeted by a nice lady on the front desk. This time was better than last time in that the appointment we'd booked online was real and not just a figment of my imagination like last time. So our "name was on the list" as opposed to last time when the "name wasn't on the list".

We didn't have to wait very long before we were asked to go down the corridor to the infamous Room 6, a room with 2 photography white backdrops, 2 desks and a few chairs and just enough room for the PushChair to squeeze in if you scrape against the camera equipment. 2 visa applications can be attempted at the same time in Room 6.

We printed our Visa Application out at home and paid for it online (86 Euros for a 6 month family visit)

Wait, you're going to the UK for 6 months? No, no, no, just 2 weeks. But a 6 month Visa is the minimum length of time you can apply for.

Visa4uk (AKA The Vicious Circle) is the online visa application website. You fill in the form and keep saving it and re-logging in and filling in another section. You go through it painstakingly, question after question about your past, your present, your future, what colour undies you've got on. You get asked questions like "How much of your income do you spend on your family?" You get used to it. The Visa4UK form is systematic in its invasiveness and its tedium is exceeded only by its superfluousness.

You have to get your "Supporting Documents" together which include the usual expected items such as Passport and Residency permit, but then it is the responsibilty of the applicant to provide the documents they feel is evidence to prove the information in the application is true. For example a birth certificate to show you have indeed been born. And an itinerary showing booked excursions and evidence of the tickets to prove you will be doing what you said you would be doing. (Because everyone knows if you buy tickets for "Got Tu Go Disco" featuring Studio 54's actual doorman, you're definitely not going to miss that one...) You can even include print-outs of emails to show you have been corresponding with your friend or loved one, and chatting with earnst and enthusiasm about having tea and cakes with Aunt Mildred.

But they do warn you that you should not book your flights until your Visa has been approved. So you can book your tickets for your day-trip to the disused Oil Refinery on the Isle of Grain, and plan your excursion to the Poseidon Fisheries in Grimsby. But don't waste money on plane tickets to the UK until the Visa has been approved. Sound advice seeing as the likelihood of the Visa being approved without the helping hand of a Legal Eagle (or a Bribe) is slim to none.

The WorldBridge appointment booking form for the VAC (Visa Application Centre) is decidedly less user friendly. It is incredulous and frustrating to have to use it. Especially after you have been filling in dates in the format DD MMM YYYY on The Vicious Circle, WorldBridge go and change the format to YYYY MM DD on their bit, just to throw you off the scent.

Back to Room 6, the WorldBridge employee dealing with our visa application told us within 30 seconds of us handing him the visa application that he could not accept it. He said there was something missing from the page - the header and the Visa Application number.

I betrayed my cool exterior and went into hysterics. I was too gobsmacked to speak and just laughed insanely, thinking "this has got to be a joke". I actually thought Jeremy Beadle was going to pop out and award me with a "You've Been Framed" Trophy or maybe even Ashton Kutcher was Punking me.

But no. No film crew, no sighs of relief, and rolling of eyes and thumping of shoulders and vows of revenge. Oh I tell a lie on that last one.

The man instructed me to log into my account with the visa application number and my user name and password (which I had already done about 5 times while I was in the middle of the application because I kept saving and coming back to it) and then to click print. Well duh, isn't that what I already did at home?!

But he didn't want to do it there at his desk, so he sent us off to an internet cafe and said we could come back before 4pm. Which was very gracious of him seeing as last time they sent us away because we didn't have a REAL appointment and they made us go back home and re-book online for the next day.

So off we trundled to find an internet cafe, which we found after a trip to Mcdonalds for DS3. Then we logged on to the visa account and there was a message saying that the application was "Now Available to print", (So when I printed it at home, it wasn't available to print.) So I printed it and this time it was 10 pages long instead of the 6 that I'd printed at home.

Quite mysterious.

Wait a minute! How can the application be 6 pages when I print it at home and 10 pages when I print it in an internet cafe? Maybe by turning up for the appointment activated something or the man did something to it. Who knows.

So then we had to wait til 12.45pm because they are on lunch from 11.30am to 12.45pm. Yeah. Really.

Then we were sent into a "waiting room" which was really a meeting and presentation room and were finally seen at 2pm. (I got really good at drawing Spongebob and Gary)

This time we were asked to go to the second desk, to the other employee. He looked at the freshly printed Visa Application Form and said "Applications have to be made within 3 months of the travel date"

"Yes" I nodded, waiting for his cogs to turn and for him to realise it is 3 months until the travel date of 21st Dec.

"Oh" he said. And then "Oh, erm, YES BUT.... ! The application was made online on the 19th of September." I think he got the evil eye from me then.

He checked with his colleague (the first man) who nodded to say it would be ok.

Suspiciously similar to the "routine" from last time isn't it. Remarkably and unnaturally so.......

DS18 months woke up and SCREAMED the whole building down while we were trying to explain what the supporting documents were. In a mixture of Shouty German and Broken English.

Finally everything we wanted to send was put into an envelope and then we saved 10 Euros by posting it at the post office ourselves instead of paying 15 Euros for them to send it (what a crock), but we still had to pay 15 Euros (in CASH!!!) so they can send the "decision" back to us. It could take up to 15 working days apparently. Well that would be nice seeing as last time it took nearly 4 months.

Then we did the 4 modes of transport to come back home. Good job we had our travel cards already because there was a ticket controller on the bus back home! "Schwarzfahren" (travelling without a valid ticket) is a penalty of 40 Euros.

If I never have to go through this again in my life it will be too soon. I would rather stick pins in my eyes.

We finally got home at 4.30pm.

I think today is a perfect example of why having a car would make life a bit easier! And having an EU Passport would make visiting Great Uncle Bert less of a nightmare.

We survived to tell the tale.... so it can't be all that bad can it!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Switchback bento

I'm trying to organise "useful clutter" on my original blog post on Bento Box Blog

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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Mushrooms or Toadstools

Full original blog post on Bento Box Blog

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As featured on What's for Lunch Wednesday from Bento Lunch

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Clock Patience Housework

I have made an adaptation of the game of "Clock Patience", so you can spice up making progress (not perfection!) in your house the FLYLADY way!! Just play this game and make it as long or short as you have time for.Use a timer so you don't get sidetracked.

All you need is a pack of playing cards! If you don't have a pack of cards, use this online version!

Do you know how to play Clock Patience? Here's how, in case you forgot:

Shuffle the pack, lay out the cards in a circle. Imagine an analogue (not digital) clock face - Start by placing one card at 12 o clock, one at 3 o clock, one at 6 o clock and one at 9 o clock, then fill in the other numbers so you will have 12 piles, 1 for each number on the clock. The last 4 cards go in the middle.

Start by turning over 1 card in the middle. If it's an ACE place it at 1 o clock, then get a card from that pile. If it's a 2, place it at 2 o clock etc. Jack is 11 o clock and Queen is 12 o clock. King goes in the middle.

My variation: If you get a HEART card, it means you will get a little task to do in the KITCHEN. The key is below!

HEARTS = Kitchen    DIAMONDS = Bedroom    CLUBS = Bathroom   SPADES = Living Room

Ace: Put something away / unload (Laundry / dishwasher)
2: Wash something / Load
3: Wipe something
4: Vacuum
5: Mop
6: Polish something
7: 27 Fling Boogie
8: De-Clutter 1 drawer / shelf
9: Change something! (Bedding/binbags/picture/throw/towels)
10: Dust something
Jack: Collect (dirty pots / dirty laundry / toys)
Queen: Pick up
King: Have a break and drink your water! Why not be creative and make a bento?

Example: I picked the 7 of Spades so I have to do a 27 Fling Boogie in my Living Room!

Short version! Just go to the virtual pack of cards and pick a few cards and see what you can get done. You never know, you might get 4 KINGS and end up with 4 lovely long breaks! hehe :o)

Struggling to find things to wipe? Here are some suggestions: anything that is a horizontal surface - shelves, tables, stands, inside your cutlery drawer!
anything that is a vertical surface - windows, screens, doors, cupboards

Remember you are not doing everything, just one little task per card. It's meant to be fun, just see what you can get done and how fast, until you get a KING - then you get to have a rest!! Your kids might even be able to help with some of these - EG let them turn over the cards / shuffle / pick the cards for you!

Check out my One Minute Wednesday Wonder Jobs!

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Thursday, 2 September 2010

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Rubiks Cube Bento

Today's bento is a Rubiks Cube! Read the full blog post on Bento Box Blog

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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Rainbow Tapsi Bento

To see the full original blog post and many more colourful pics, please come to Asfora's Bento Box Blog

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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Thursday, 10 June 2010

British Theme Bento Event

I'm going on a trip to England, so I will not be bento-ing for at least 1 week. In the meantime, join in with the British Theme Bento Event
Have fun! :D

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Sunday, 6 June 2010

Chipmunks Bento

To see the full blog entry and more bento pics, please visit Bento Box Blog. The Bento Shop has new bento tools added!

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Friday, 4 June 2010

Kiwi Fish Bento

To see the full original blog post, and lots more bento pics, visit Bento Box Blog

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Monday, 31 May 2010

Fruity Bento

To see the zoomed out version on the original blog post, please visit Bento Box Blog

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Friday, 28 May 2010

Peacock Bento

Today's bento is a peacock! To see the full original blog post, please visit Bento Box Blog

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Monday, 24 May 2010

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Cupcake Bento

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Monday, 17 May 2010

Friday, 14 May 2010

Bee and Butterfly Bento

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Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Make a difference to your home in 10 mins

Wednesday One Minute Wonder Jobs

Spend 1 minute on each of these little tasks - do not spend longer than 1 minute and do not be a perfectionist!

What you will need:
A clean damp cloth,
Paper towels,
Limescale remover spray,
An old toothbrush,
A scourer and washing up liquid or kitchen spray,
Fresh hand towels

1. Wipe kitchen tiles at the back of the cooker
2. Scrub the cooker hob top
3. Clean the crumbs out of the cutlery drawer
4. Use limescale remover on the kitchen and bathroom taps and scrub with toothbrush
5. Wipe inside the microwave and wash the glass plate
6. Wipe 1 shelf of your fridge
7. Start a shopping list of the bathroom supplies that need to be replenished
8. Wash your hairbrush!
9. Put the bathmat in the washer
10. Change your bathroom handtowels