Thursday, November 29, 2012

We have a winner: Wrapped and Done by December One

I'm still working on the last few items for the Wrapped and Done by December One challenge, but we have a winner!  Julie (aka mom) is the first to be wrapped and done - and here's the picture to prove it.

I tried to argue that I had more to wrap than she does, but she says that that all of the presents are in the boxes.

Way to go mom!  How is everyone else doing?  Kim, are you finished?

Friday, November 23, 2012

No More Cable Bills!

I received my Mohu Leaf Plus yesterday and taped it to the wall... and voila!  Digital quality picture for about 10 channels.  Most are local channels - CBC and CTV for example, but I also receive ABC from a Buffalo affiliate and a channel we don't normally receive up here in Canada called CW.

The Leaf Plus is pretty cool - it's like a piece of paper and you stick it up on a wall (I used Scotch tape) and plug it into the back of the TV.  That's it!  I experimented a little by moving it around the wall to see if the reception changed.  And it did make a difference, I can receive various channels by re-positioning the antenna.  It's not the best photo below but you can see the TV and if you look carefully, you'll see a cord leading up to that white thing on the wall, that's the antenna.  You can even paint the antenna to match the room colour.  Might just do that.  Gosh I really need to hang some pictures up.

The picture quality is fantastic - as good or better as I was receiving with cable.  I cancelled my Rogers cable and there's about $100 a month now that I won't be paying to Rogers!  With Netflix, iTunes and Hulu Plus, I'm feeling great about TV and movie options, and so much less $.

I cancelled my Rogers internet service today and switched to Bell, getting ready for my next technology experiment, my new Ooma.  It hasn't arrived yet but when I get it and set it up, I'll let you know how that goes.  If it works as well as it should, I'll save another $65 a month by canceling my home phone service and switching to Ooma.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Auntie P Recommends: Apple TV

As you know, product reviews are not normally part of this blog.  But I have to share this one with you because it's been so fantastic.

Apple TV is a little box you connect to your TV.  It's pretty small, about 5 inches square.  And it comes with a tiny remote - if you've used any Apple products, you'll be familiar with the way it works.  The Apple TV remote may be different than other remotes you are using because it's so simple.

Here's what the box looks like, and the remote beside it:
You connect the little black box up to the TV with a cable, and there's a power cord too that needs to be plugged in to power up the Apple TV.  It was so easy to set it up!  I basically plugged it in, and then followed the prompts on the TV.  It could not have been simpler to install and to use.

Here's what you need to make it work:
  • Apple TV (it's about $100, you can buy it online with free shipping from Apple)
  • An HDMI cable - this doesn't come with it, so you need to buy it.  I bought mine with my Apple TV box, directly from Apple
  • Wired or wireless internet service
  • iTunes account (it's free)
I really like this product because:
  1. Apple TV allows me to use my big TV in my living room anywhere I want, I can move the Apple TV around or use it into the sitting room, or bedroom, or the basement.  I don't have a cable outlet behind this TV, just the Apple TV.  I have wireless internet service in my house and so I don't need any cabling throughout the house to see TV shows.
  2. I use Apple TV with Netflix and watch all kinds of cool shows.  Netflix rocks, it's $8.99 a month and I can use it to watch unlimited TV through my Apple TV.  I can watch TV shows, movies and documentaries, there are thousands of things to watch and it is all commercial free.
  3. I use Apple TV with iTunes to watch even more shows.  Sometimes Netflix doesn't have a show and I really want to watch it - like Homeland, Downton Abbey, or Revenge.  I can buy these on iTunes for $20 - $35 for a season, and watch them on my TV.
  4. Once Apple TV is purchased, there are no other costs.  It was about $100, and that's it!  Nothing to buy, no additional costs, ever.
I like Apple TV and Netflix so much that I am looking at canceling my Rogers cable TV service.  I just received my November bill and with taxes, I'm paying $135 per month for Rogers TV.  That's $1,620 a year!   I've ordered a digital antenna and if it gets me local news channels, I'm going to cancel.  Here's the business case:

Year 1 costs:
Apple TV: $109 one-time cost
Netflix: $8.99 per month, so $107.88 per year
iTunes: six TV series (not sure how many I'll actually buy, but this is a good guess) $35 each, so $210
Mohu Leaf Plus (this is the digital antenna I've ordered): $80

Total costs for year 1: $506.88

Year 2 costs:
Netflix: $8.99 per month, so $107.88 per year
iTunes: six TV series (not sure how many I'll actually buy, but this is a good guess) $35 each, so $210

Total costs for year 2: $317.88

The Bottom Line

If the digital antenna works and I can get some basic news channels, I will save $1,113.12 the first year, and $1,302.12 each year after that by ditching Rogers.  

What a deal!  And fantastic TV.  The only thing I haven't figured out how to get is CNN, but I'm sure to get something over the next year or two, the technology is evolving so quickly.

If you are getting cable TV for free today, this might not be much of a deal for you, but I would still recommend Netflix because there is so much great content.  But if you are paying for cable today, you might want to join me and save a whole bunch of your hard-earned money.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NYC Trip!

Last week's trip to NYC was great!  Kim and I had an amazing time, we just shopped, shopped and shopped some more.

Each of us brought back shoes, clothes and makeup, enough that we had to bring back two suitcases each and carry on luggage too.   I'd like to think that we made a healthy contribution to the US economy.  :)

Here's a picture of my shopping stash piled high on my bed - it doesn't really do the purchases justice.  The personal shopper we booked took us all over the place and we got some amazing deals - and then we each spent another bundle at Sephora on makeup.  

The hotel was expensive but I really think it was worth every penny (not sure Kim totally agrees on this point).  It was literally steps away from Times Square, just a tiny hotel tucked in on 43rd Street.  The service was personal, the breakfast and snackies were great, and the hotel general manager hugged us both when we left.  When was the last time that happened anywhere you visited?  I vote for staying there again next year, we'll see what happens on that front.  It's such a small hotel that it was hard to get reservations - I booked in June and secured the very last room with two double beds.  The hotel has literally got only about 50 - 60 rooms, it's tiny, and charming.

We went out for dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday evening.  Tuesday night we went to Kim's favourite place, Tao, and it was a bit of a disappointment in terms of the food.  But the restaurant was amazing, it has an absolutely massive Buddha 16-foot statue that stands up basically two stories.  The building that houses the restaurant was once stables and then a movie theatre, so you can imagine how high it is inside.

On Wednesday night we went to my choice, a vegan restaurant called Candle 79.  It was delicious!  I think Kim was a little iffy on some of the tofu items but her main course was a mushroom risotto, it was the best thing we had on the trip.  I wish I had ordered it - mine was pretty good, but not as tasty as the mushroom risotto.  

The night we went to Candle 79 it snowed, and the subways were stuck.  It was tough getting up to the restaurant but we managed to snag a taxi after the subways stopped.  

Before we knew about the subway problem we walked to Grand Central Station to pick up the subway to 79th Street, here's a picture as we approached the station so you can see the snow that was starting to pile up.

We had such a good time, we decided to make this an annual trip!  A little later in November and we'll be able to catch all of the Christmas decorations - some stores were just starting to bring them out when we were there.

Friday, November 2, 2012

New York City - Post Hurricane Trip

Just a few more days, and then Kim and I are off to New York!  It looks like there will still be lots of post-Hurricane strife in New York, but we'll adjust our trip and contribute to the local economy in our own way.

I'm looking forward to some Christmas shopping, and to a different scene - just a few days away from home.

Here's where we're staying, the Casablanca - you'll be able to read all about it when we get back with a full review.  The hotel stay is my gift to Kim for Christmas, let's hope it's a nice one.

I'm desperate for some clothes for work, and Kim needs some too, so we'll be doing some shopping on that front too.  Happily we will be there for more than 48 hours so we can bring back lots of things without a customs problem.

The beginning of my vacation hasn't started off that well - Daisy has been shaking her head constantly this week so off to the vet we went... and came home with a bushel full of veterinary medications and a $700 vet bill.  Wow, it sure costs a lot to look at sore ears.  But the vet wanted to be extra careful so did a blood test, gave her a full exam, two shampoos, two ear cleaning solutions, prednazone and antibiotics.  Not sure there's anything else left that she could possibly take!

That sure made a dent in my clothing budget for the trip, but still I'll have enough for some new shoes and a sweater or two.