Bike to Work Day 2009

13 05 2009
Kev and Jamie on their bikes

Kev and Jamie on their bikes

This is a shameless plug for  Bike to Work Day in Silicon Valley tomorrow, Thursday May 14th, when commuters  are  encouraged to leave their car at home and bicycle to work instead.  This is of course in the hope that this will not just be a one-day event but a life-changing habit. And it’s fun with many participants not only committed to biking but also to helping make it a really enjoyable  day for everyone.

As the Wave magazine puts it :

The best part is the 70 “Energizer Stations” that the coalition sets up all over the valley, where cyclists can receive prizes, biking information and, of course, refreshments”

I”m fortunate to work from home so I won’t be joining the crowd, but I will recommit to getting on my bike to run local errands instead of grabbing the car keys from now on.  My husband, however, does bike to work every day, a 9 mile trip from Sunnyvale to Oracle on Great America Parkway, and it shows.  He figured out long ago, that with his demanding sedentary job behind a computer screen, cycling to work was the only way he was going to be able to keep fit – and he looks as good now as the day I married him!  And I can’t say that for myself….

There  is, of course, another excellent reason to bike to work besides exercise, namely to reduce your carbon footprint on this world we live in.  As the EPA states:

“the transportation sector accounts for approximately one-third of greenhouse gas emissions and is the fastest-growing major source of greenhouse gases”

this, in a country who is the largest consumer of oil in the world today : 20.4 million barrels a day!

According to Ecobridge, an organization committed to finding solutions to global warming – from its readers  (go on, send in your idea) :

“Vehicles with poor gas mileage contribute the most to global warming.For example, according to the E.P.A’s 2000 Fuel Economy Guide, a new Dodge Durango sports utility vehicle (with a 5.9 liter engine) that gets 12 miles per gallon in the city will emit an estimated 800 pounds of carbon dioxide over a distance of 500 city miles”

And if you’re convinced that your car is not a huge contributor to the carbon footprint, check out Terrapass’s website where you can enter your car’s details and find out just exactly how much you do contribute.

Now that you’re rethinking your commuting strategy, where to go for a good bike?  Well, there’s always, Craigslist, if you know what you’re looking for.  Otherwise we have an abundance of bike shops with expert advice before you buy :  Walt’s, The Off-Ramp, Bicycle Outfitter, Performance Bicycle and Sports Basement are all close to my home. Most of them also offer bicycle classes and rides for anyone wanting to get together with other cyclists.  If you’re still not sure whether cycling to work is for you, borrow a bike from a friend and try it out.  Hey, you never know, you might be able to get rid of that second car!!

My retired brother is currently cycling from Yorkshire (northern England) to Rome in Italy.  It’s his second big bike ride – he cycled to Northern Italy last summer and we follow him on Twitter as it’s his only way of communicating with everyone on his cell phone.  The way he describes his current journey through France makes me want to jump on my bike and cycle to the hills!   Maybe one day Kev and I will join him – it’s a lovely thought!

I have already blogged about my newly-equipped bike which I retired a little in the winter months, but now that summer looks like it’s peeking through, I think I can forget about the car for another few months!

Please let me know if you join the cycling crowd tomorrow – I’d love to hear how it all goes. And if you have any cycling trips planned or undertaken, I want to hear your stories!!

Happy cycling!


Stay cool, stay green!

11 05 2009
Photo Credit - Orson

Photo Credit - Orson

Last month we had a heat wave here in Silicon Valley. The record-breaking temperatures reached up to 100 degrees – and it was only April!  Just a few days of reminding us what summer’s going to be like, how we start to complain about the incessant heat, how we rush to switch on our a/c, and how we long for just a few clouds to blot the horizon.

This reminded me of the steps we should be taking to reduce the heat in the home, WITHOUT rushing to turn on the a/c, steps which I learnt as a Brit relocating to Silicon Valley from England 14 years ago, steps I had to learn as we didn’t have the luxury of a/c in those days.

I enjoyed reading Greenlagirl’s blog on tips to stay cool without the air conditioner and recommend everyone to read it, both newcomers and long-time residents alike.  It doesn’t hurt to be reminded of ways in which we can reduce the carbon footprint as well as our electricity bill by keeping our homes cool without the a/c.

What made a huge difference for me when we relocated to Silicon Valley, was keeping the windows closed and curtains/blinds drawn to keep the rooms cool and dark.  In England, my mum would always open the windows wide on a sunny day “to let in the warm fresh air”, but when you’re talking about 60 to 70 degrees outside, that works!  However, if the temperature outside is higher than the temperature inside, keep the doors and windows closed to stop the hotter air coming in.  Sometimes it can be dinner time before we can open the doors and windows again.

We have air-conditioning now, installed when we remodelled our home 4 years ago.  But it’s hardly ever used.  We still follow the basic rules for keeping our home cool and it’s rare the a/c is turned on.  We can stay cool AND green!

Sunnyvale – 2, Cupertino – 1

1 04 2009

OK, so I’m getting a little concerned about this “Cupertino Schools” thing.  I only blogged a few weeks ago about the fact that the most important criteria these days for buying a home is the school district it’s in.

But now, it’s getting personal.

Yesterday I was walking down a street in my beautiful Sunnyvale neighborhood when I came across a home for sale with the following particulars :

This is indeed a lovely home, I don’t think anyone would dispute that.  But honestly, in Cupertino School Area?   The house is in  Sunnyvale, the Elementary and Middle Schools are in the Sunnyvale School District, the high school is Homestead High School, located in Cupertino but in the Fremont Union High School District.  But what does that have to do with anything?

Well, everything apparently.  Even though this house is located in the Cherry Chase Elementary School‘s boundaries and even though Cherry Chase is the top-performing elementary school in the Sunnyvale School District, and even though 2 out of the three public schools that this family’s kids would attend are in Sunnyvale, it’s the Cupertino name that supposedly makes the sale.

And that’s all because of test scores.  Which is what’s important.  For house buyers anyway.  Apparently.

Is it just me, or do I feel I have to defend my city against test scores?

PS I did call the realtor’s cell phone voicemail to ask about this but so far no word and it’s been 24 hours…….

Why it pays to live in Silicon Valley!

26 03 2009
Karl Gohl

Photo Credit : Karl Gohl

I learnt a new word yesterday – STAYCATION!

It was while I was out for our weekly hike with my friend, Lisa, at Rancho San Antonio.  After a fairly hard climb, we reached a point where there was a breathtaking view of  Silicon Valley.  The sky was a perfect blue, the vista was crispy clear and we just stood and took it all in.   We both had the same thought : “Aren’t we blessed to be living in an area where, just 10 minutes drive from your home in suburbia, you can be enjoying the beautiful wooded countryside?    Where else could you be sitting in commuter traffic one minute and then the next be completely alone in these wonderful natural surroundings, where, after a short climb, you can witness  amazing views from San Francisco down to San Jose?  And with gorgeous weather as well!

After appreciating what we had in that moment,  in spite of the doom and gloom awaiting us back home –  friends without work, friends who are sick, friends with mortgages they can’tpay, cars with dead batteries (that part we didn’t know till we got back to the parking lot!) – we both agreed that one of the huge benefits of living in Silicon Valley is that you didn’t have to go too far to have a wonderful vacation.  No long plane rides to the resort, no 3 day car trips to the mountains, we have it all HERE.   I’ve blogged about the reasons to relocate to Silicon Valley before, but as a way of saving money – that one I hadn’t considered!

So as Lisa explained to me, staycation is a term coined today as the ability to take your vacation trips from your doorstep instead of booking a hotel/resort/condo/cabin and going there by plane/car/train for your vacation!  And that’s what’s so great about living in Silicon Valley.  No need to go on vacation – it’s right here!  We have the coast, beaches, surf, sailing, wind-surfing, fishing, whaling, hiking, mountain biking, all manner of snow sports, theme parks, then there are the obvious – San Francisco, Carmel, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Disneyland (OK – a five hour drive) … the list is endless!  Think of all the money you save by using your home as your base and taking day trips to all these places!

And friends and relatives?  You don’t have to go visit them either, they’ll all come to you for their vacation!  Moving to California from England was a hard decision for us  – leaving everyone behind, but I needn’t have worried.   Are you kidding?  A free place to stay in a perfect place with perfect weather?  We can’t keep them away!  Every summer we’re taking in visitors and have such fun showing them around this glorious area.  Saves us a trip to visit them!!

Have I missed any places you can “staycation”?  Let me know!!

20 03 2009


It wasn’t that long ago that I thought our relocation business was in danger of closing down. During the Dotcom crash of the early 2000’s, some of our clients went belly-up, some just cut back on outsourcing and some even laughed at us and said “Why would we pay to bring someone to California to work for us when there’s a magnificent pool of executives out of work right here?” And yes, more U-Hauls were being hired to move people OUT of the Bay Area than to bring people IN.

Somehow we struggled by and got through those years to come out the other side with more business and new clients as companies got back on an even keel and started hiring again from far and wide. So it was gratifying to see in the San Francisco Chronicle this week that the US Census Bureau confirmed that not only has the population rate risen in California by 1% from 2007 to 2008, but Silicon Valley (Santa Clara County) specifically saw a rise of 2% in the same time frame.

Silicon Valley has an attraction to many, whether it be the lure of the pot of gold – through taking a start-up public, finding venture capital for that business you’ve been cultivating through enterpreneurship and innovation, or because here is where you’ll find both the huge variety of high-tech companies looking for your particular gifts, as well as the plethora of motivated people, talented in those fields which you may need in your venture.

I’ve already blogged about the 10 reasons to move to Silicon Valley, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What do you think the reasons are for this increased population in Silicon Valley?

And thanks to Mary Pope-Handy for sharing how to create the nifty graphic above!

Sign of the Times?

25 02 2009

cimg3601They do say a picture tells a thousand words, and in the relocation world, this one says it all!

You would be forgiven for thinking at first glance that a bunch of Cupertino Schools were being built behind this sign, but actually another community of new homes is sprouting up in Silicon Valley!  So look at this sign again and let’s find out more about these new homes :

Do we know how much they cost ?   No!

Do we know the square footage?   No!

Do we know how many bedrooms they have?    No!

Do we know the size of the yard?     No!

Do we know whether they have granite countertops?   No!

Do we know how many are sold already?   No!

SO – what do we know?  They are in the CUPERTINO SCHOOL DISTRICT! Yeah!!  And why are Cupertino schools so sought after?  Is it :

Low teacher to student ratio?   No!

Small, intimate environment?   No!

Great sports teams?   No!

Exceptional art and music curriculae?   No!

Modern facilities?   No!

Involved parents?   No!

High test scores?   YES!!!

House sellers today know what’s important to house buyers.   SCHOOLS!  and high test scores in those schools!  If you’re a family with school-age kids looking to buy or rent a home, it is assumed the school district is the most important criteria on your list.   And as relocation specialists for Silicon Valley, we know this is nearly always the case.

I have to admit, it was really refreshing (and easier!) for us to relocate a wonderful family last week from Boston who did not have school age children. We found a beautiful home for a family of 4 to rent – Mom, Dad and their 2 year old and a 1 month old baby.  They did not need to know about the schools.  They just wanted a friendly, family-oriented community where they could rent for a year or so and spend some time looking to see where they would like to eventually buy a home.  I’m sure that’s how it used to be years ago, well before I moved here in ’95 – when finding a home meant a family community, local parks, quiet streets, friendly neighbors, you get the picture!

But even this family will be looking at school districts before long.  And when they do, I hope they come back to California Concierges for advice on the right schools for their kids. Yes, test scores are important but so are all the other aforementioned criteria.

And we never forget that.

If you want to know more about how we can help you successfully relocate to Silicon Valley, email me at

Let’s talk about StumbleUpon!

9 02 2009

Hi readers!

A slight deviation from the normal relocation blog…bear with me!  I just need to tell you about StumbleUpon!!

If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, you’ll have noticed that I recently added a small bluey-green button with “Stumble It!” written next to it in the top right hand corner of my blog page, just under my subscription feed button (which I hope you’ve all pressed!)  I just want to use this post to tell you about Stumble Upon (“SU”) because I’ve just discovered it and it’s AWESOME!

SU basically allows you to find any blog or website which falls under your interests – really easily.  So for example if you love cooking, you can go to Stumbleupon and it will show you the most popular cookery websites out there on the Internet!  You can use it as a fun discovery tool to find all those sites out there you never knew existed.

This is how it works.  You go to the SU website –  There you can register and add their toolbar to your browser, check off all the website categories you are interested in – and there are hundreds of them – and then anytime you wish you can click your Stumble! button on your toolbar and it will give you a suggested website according to your tastes.  Keep clicking and look through all these new websites out there – EVERY DAY!

So how do these websites get into Stumble Upon in the first place?  By people like you giving them a thumbs up from your SU toolbar when you find a blog or website you like.  (You can also give a thumbs down too!)    So the more popular a blog or website is, the more likely it will be that you will see it when you click on the Stumble button on your browser.

And why am I being so magnanimous and telling you about Stumble Upon? Because of course it benefits me, that’s why!  If you click on the thumbs up button for my blog or website, it will become more popular and more people will have the opportunity to see it when they click on their Stumble button (if they’re interested in relocation or Silicon Valley).   But I know you wouldn’t just do this to be nice to me, so do it for yourself – you won’t regret it!  Have fun!

And by the way, StumbleUpon isn’t just a toolbar – its also a community-driven social network, so once you’re up and running, please go to my profile page and add me as a friend!

Very cool…..  Would love to hear your comments!