Thursday, December 31, 2020
Thursday, December 24, 2020
|Our new flat (downstairs, right side)|
|Purplish Bedroom (before)|
|Space between tub and vanity|
Friday, November 27, 2020
After 14 days we are out of our quarantine. So what was it really like? Now it is over it doesn't seem like it was too long but there were some days that felt like an eternity. Early on, we had decided that if we made it to day 7 with no symptoms, we would treat ourselves for a walk. There was a cemetery across the street from our lodging. We noticed that it was fenced and quiet. We figured this would be the perfect place since there were so few people and we would be close to home. We spent as long as we could endure looking at the old tombstones and noticing the disrepair of the gravesites. It was a beautiful day but we could only walk the rows of tombstones for so long before we were looking beyond the gates for something else to see. So we set off for a real walk to the sea.
The next morning we again heard a knock at the door. We were still lying around in our pajamas but I did look out the window to see someone in uniform at the door. Not to miss my big opportunity to report on our quarantine status, I quickly threw on a robe and ran to the door. It was only the postman who seemed surprised that I would even answer the door. All in all, there was never anyone who checked if we were keeping our quarantine, not a call, not a note, not an e-mail. Nothing! Is this always the case? I don't know but we did take three walks during our stay. Always away from people and always with our masks close by. It was still a lonely time but the few walks did help with keeping my morale.
So now we are at our son Kenny's house, enjoying family time that is long over due. We still don't have a definite date for closing on our purchase of the apartment. We did get to see it today but that is a story for another day and another blog.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Streaming is the 21st century way to watch TV. Most of us have one or more streaming video subscriptions to services like: Spotify, Prime, Roku, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ HBO-Max, CBS All-Access, etc. Some even have replaced their broadcast/cable TV with Sling, Youtube-TV or HULU Plus. But what happens when you want to take it with you on an extended trip overseas?
It's easy to just pack up the Roku stick, the Amazon Firestick, or the AppleTV and take it with you when you travel around the USA. All your subscriptions continue to work as long as you have WiFi access where ever you are. Staying at a hotel, B&B, VRBO or Airbnb? Just plug the stick into any HDMI port on the back of the TV and you're in business. But is it so easy overseas?
When you go overseas, things are different. Because video content licensing terms are so complex, the streaming services don't always purchase rights for their content for overseas markets. Some do and some don't. But what is certain, is that they are set up to detect what country you're streaming from. And if it's not part of their licensing scheme, it's not going to work. (At least not so easily, but we'll get into that a bit later...)
Here's what I found was working and not working so far:
Netflix: YES, it works in UK! However, it recognizes UK and offers up some of the same content, and some different content. Some content is going to be missing from your menu, but other content will be added. We found a number of our favorite (British) shows were missing like Great British Baking Show. This is frustrating if you are in the middle of a season. But on the plus side, we found that the new Star Trek Discovery was showing on Netflix UK, but in the US, you'll need a separate subscription to CBS All Access to see it. Other shows are in both places simultaneously, including most (all?) of the Netflix original series like The Crown. Which was released on the same day in UK as it was in the USA.
Hulu, Hulu-Plus: No, Hulu is not going to work at all in the UK. They don't even try to change the catalog or provide an alternate catalog, it just refuses to work.
Disney+: YES! You we could watch the new season of The Mandalorian and other Disney shows.
Prime Video: Mixed. Like Netflix, the service is still working but the catalog has changed. The problem, is you can still select all the programs you can't get, and they come up with a pay-wall screen, asking you to pay separately for something you already had in the subscription. It seems like most or all of the Amazon Prime Original content is still available, but little else. It's a mess. Sometimes they suggest you need to subscribe to other add-on services but we found that add-ons like BritBox (which we had working in the USA) also don't work at all in UK.
Others: It's going to be hit-or miss on most of them. Most of the ones associated with standard broadcast or cable channels were not working. None of the HGTV/Discovery services worked. I couldn't get anything to play on NBC or PBS streaming services. Yet, my local TV station streaming services worked fine.
But what about a VPN work-around? Yes, you can do some internet trickery and fool these services into thinking you are still in the USA by using a VPN. Many of these premium VPN services advertise how fast they are and that they are suitable for video streaming. For the most part, this VPN-hack will allow you to watch all your subscription TV services, but only from your PC, tablet or phone. And not necessarily with the same success with every VPN or service. Here's an article about that. But watching them on the big-screen means getting them to work from your Smart-TV, or streaming-stick, which is going to be more difficult. Not necessarily impossible, but you better comfortable with setting up proxies and getting into the set-up menus to make some changes that may not be available on all brands or boxes. Here's an article on setting it up a VPN on your router.
Happy streaming - David
Saturday, November 21, 2020
Mobile Phones for Overseas Travel: A simple battery powered device, so essential to everyday life. You just expect them to work. When you take it overseas the main issues are your service plan, unexpected roaming charges for calls or data and you'll probably need a new charger or at least a power-adapter, but unexpected problems can come up.
We arrived with two smart phones. We left one attached to our T-mobile account from the states, so we could continue to call state-side numbers without any tolls. T-mobile also has a very generous (unlimited data & texting) while roaming internationally so that means all the apps, maps, navigation, web browsing, etc are still working as normally in England, even if it still costs $0.25/minute to dial a UK number for voice. While we keep universal data connectivity with this phone, the roaming speed does drop to 3G speeds, which can be annoying at times.
For the second phone, we purchased a monthly plan on Three Mobile with unlimited voice, text and generous chunk of monthly of high-speed data. This phone allows us to call and receive from all the numbers in England toll-free as much as we want, which will be important to carry on local business here. While the data connection is full speed, this phone will have expensive tolls to call USA numbers. We set this up in the USA before departure and verified it was working before we set out.
Independent of those mobile accounts, we also set-up a Google Voice account on each phone. The Google Voice accounts allow us to talk, text directly to any US phone numbers from wifi signals or from the mobile data service for free. This effectively bypasses all the phone system infrastructure and sends the voice calls directly over the internet, but unlike Skype, it allows you call any US number directly even land-lines without any charges and assigns you a fixed phone number that can also receive calls from every phone and take messages. All very handy in theory. Once again we set all this up before departure and tested everything out back at home.
In practice, we had some serious issues that took quite a while to sort out. First, Becky's phone had the new Three-UK account and sim-card that had been activated before we left USA. Upon landing it should have just worked. Yet there was no joy. The phone kept reporting a strong signal, but no connection to the network. In addition to no UK voice calling, we didn't have data on that phone either (without wifi). That meant we also couldn't use the Google Voice on that phone while away from wifi signals.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Well here we are, still in quarantine but almost at the half way mark. How are we doing? All things considered we are doing really well. Our rental has been a great place for this strange time. Right now our lives have very small boundaries. It starts at the front gates and it ends at the small bench in the back yard.
Thank goodness David and I really like being together or this could be torture but as it is there are some very special moments. For the first time in a long time, there are no outside forces demanding our time. We don't have a business to worry about, no projects waiting to be finished, just us and our small boundary. I have had time to read some books on my list, review some French and I got a new phone so I spent some time trying to learn how to take pictures. Judging from the news, it sounds like most of us are going to have smaller boundaries this year. Thanks to technology, I am still able to talk to family and see my grandkids.
So this blog I will just share some pictures from our small boundary.
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Saturday, November 14, 2020
So the travel is over and now the real fun begins, 14 day quarantine! This is a time of self reflection, wondering if we did the correct thing traveling during a pandemic, a time to make sure we didn't catch anything, and a time of boredom. David and I are people who like projects and a full day so this will be an interesting time for us.
We are in a rental that we carefully thought through before coming. We knew that we needed a place that had room to move around, a kitchen to cook, laundry facilities and most important, an outside space! So far we seem to like our choice. Here is what we hope our day will look like. First, we wake up and look at what news came on our phones and tablets over night, we then proceed to the part where we complain about the world situation and talk out loud, maybe we hope someone is listening, on how we think all these problems could be fixed or resolved. So far no one has heard us. After this important step, we move on to talk about what food we can eat during the day and at what time. We have decided to try and only have two meals a day since our stomachs are still in another time zone and we have limited food supplies. Then, we do some stretches and resistance training and a few laps around the house and up the stairs. With the exercise out of the way we can move on to brunch.
Today we decided to try our hand at an English breakfast, since we ordered the supplies for this breakfast from the owner of the rental ahead of time. We know that it should include sausage, bacon (that doesn't look like bacon), eggs (soft fried), some kind of cooked tomato, beans (luckily we didn't have the beans), toast, and we were also given mushrooms. Here is what we ended up cooking. We decided to save the so called bacon for another morning and only cooked the sausage. We had left over chips, or fries, from our first night of fish and chips, which we cut up an made hashbrowns. I heated up the tomato halves in melted butter, soft fried some eggs and made toast. The mushrooms will be saved for something else. All in all it came out pretty good.
Now for the rest of the day? Yes, I meant to put a question mark at the end of that sentence because it is only noon and what do we do with the rest of the day. We can sit by our window with our computers and write blogs, learn French, try and get our phones working, read books, talk to the grandkids, call our family, once they wake up, and just stare at the outside window and wish we could go for a walk Once I have completed all those important activities, I will probably read a good book, take a nap, fix more food, watch a bit of t.v. and dream about the time when we get to actually hold our grandkids and hug Kenny and Kim.
Friday, November 13, 2020
Time again for British baking with Becky. Today I will show you my attempt to make Goosnargh Cakes. This recipe originates from the village...
We have been in England now for over 4 months and being self proclaimed "Foodies", we are feeling a bit sad that we are on the dow...
When you can't dine out, takeaway or take-out is what we get during the lockdowns. Let's start with a song about this important rit...