Saturday, March 23, 2013

Still Setting Up!

Hello from free wi-fi again!  It's snowing like crazy here.  The movers have all our weather-appropriate gear, so we're picking through three-inch deep slush in sneakers.  It's pretty, though!

We meant to set up a few more things yesterday by calling in, then had all kinds of problems with the pay-as-you-go cards.  I ordered a package on mine that's supposed to save money, but it cost the whole amount of my balance on the card, and then I couldn't make a call to the gas company, which is an 0800 number.  Those are apparently not covered by the minutes in the package.  Then D's balance dropped from 10 pounds to 0 with a single 5-minute phone call to our German bank to transfer money to our new British account.  Ouch!  Normally you can add to your balance via text message, but we could not because we don't have British debit cards yet. much for getting all that done.  By the time we got to a place to top up the cards, it was the end of the day.

First we waited to go out until after lunch, because it had snowed and we had this sneaker situation.  Then we wanted to first get some shopping done.  The lady at the bank had recommended we go to a shop called Home Bargains.  The easiest one to get to was two train stops and a 1-mile walk away.  In the snow and slush, that wasn't as pleasant as it could have been!  It did introduce us to Northfield's high street (generally a neighborhood's main shopping street), though, which was fun because it has like 7 charity shops (along the lines of Salvation Army/Goodwill) within 2 blocks, and those are so fun to pick through.  Thing I've noticed: a neighborhood either has great train access OR a bustling high street, but not both.  If you know a place with both please comment, because we got week train passes and are finding the only useful place with a train stop is downtown, and that gets old.  Our neighborhood, Stirchley, falls on the train side - the high street is limited.  The busier high streets I've seen/heard of - Harborne, King's Heath, and Northfield - are all not convenient to any trains.

Anyway, we found a couple of things we needed at Home Bargains but it was just as spotty as everyplace else we've tried - mattress pads in single/king but not queen, small and giant trash bins but no mediums, medium and large cleaning gloves but no smalls, etc.  They did have 8 Cadbury Creme Eggs for a pound. ;)  Just like moving to Germany, we have to learn all over again which stores you can expect to have what for what kind of prices. 

After the shopping was done we headed to the closest place we know to top-up, a huge grocery store.  Next to it is a store specializing in frozen food, Farmfoods.  The name seems way off.  This was one of the bleakest and most depressing stores I've ever been in.  Still....they did really have frozen everything.  In Germany it is hard to find frozen vegetables that don't have some kind of sauce chunk in there with them.  Plus we had pretty much no freezer anyway.  Now we have a freezer that's the size of our entire German fridge!!  It's a whole new way of thinking to have a freezer again!!  On the down side, our oven is smaller and that seems to be normal there.  We needed to pick up a tray for it and the largest one they had was like half the size of the trays we had in Germany.  I wanted to hold out for something bigger because it would take twice as long to make cookies with a tray that size.  Then we got it anyway and took it home's the biggest tray that will fit in our oven.  Cookie-making may be a thing of the past.

I've taken lots of photos to share, but my memory card doesn't fit in D's laptop so I have to wait for my desktop to come with the movers.  Speaking of the movers, they have asked us to clear 4 car lengths in front of our apartment for the day they arrive.  We asked them how the heck one does this and they said we just need to ask the neighbors to not park there.  Oh lawdy, I did not want to meet my neighbors under the situation of having to ask them for such a big favor.  Our street generally doesn't seem to be tight parking-wise but there's not going to naturally be a 4-car-sized open spot.

Things I've noticed a lot of in our shopping adventures:
* polka dots
* memory foam
* rounded-edge sans-serif fonts
* color-coded cutting boards
* mug trees
* Union Jack designs (not just for tourists?)

 Without internet (and therefore Skype) at home until April 2 at the earliest, and still with some confusion on the international-phone-call front (recommendations on contracts vs. pay-as-you-go are welcome), I'm definitely feeling a bit cut off.  We know a couple of people here but they are all super-busy for different reasons and can't meet up with them until the end of next week at the earliest.  By then D will be back to work and that should help socially.  I'm feeling a bit of withdrawal after our hyper-social final days in Germany. 

Anyway, off to hopefully find a rug for the front room that we actually LIKE.  We are in this situation where we need certain supplies right now and don't really have time to find out where the cute independent shop that sells truly loveable rugs might be...nor the funds considering the move.  So we buy some ugly rug just to do the job.  In a few months we'll find the cute rug and won't buy it because we already have a rug.  Argh.


  1. For international calling I use Google Talk. Part of gmail, just a simple add-on. One US penny a minute to phone Canada, US, Hong Kong 2 cents... not a lot of dough. That's to phone a real telephone, not skyping.

  2. Down my way in Essex, all major high streets have train stations. That being said, big stores like Home Bargains will usually be outside of the high street. Perhaps an idea to rent a car for a weekend and take care of a major shopping run. Otherwise, would recommend internet shopping. :) Or--is there a major shopping centre near you? Most of them will be bus accessible from city centres and will house Ikea and the like.

    For pay as you go, if you're UK focused only, a lot of people I know go with

    Not sure if you have a landline where you can do 0800 (toll-free) calls. If so, pre-skype I used either Tesco phone cards or post office ones, especially on the 'free-country' weekends:

    Note: Easter weekend coming up is not as 'closed' as in Germany. Sunday everything will be closed, but other days will function close to normal as far as shopping goes. Offices and such will be closed Fri and Mon, however.

    hth. If you need other info, just say.

  3. When is your stuff supposed to be there? Maybe you could get some IKEA-esque, utterly baseline rugs (and whatever else you need immediately) that are cheap. Then, when you've been there for a while and you know where the cute, independent stuff is, you haven't spent so much that you feel tied to the emergency stuff. And you can repurpose the cheapos when you find stuff you love.

  4. @Heather - not sure how rural your area is, but all the Home Bargains near us are on high streets since we're in the middle of the city. I bet those ones in car-y shopping centres are much bigger, though! We might rent a car soon to make an Ikea run. Since the apt is furnished all we really need is a bookshelf and I haven't seen one around here. No, we have no landline yet. That will come with the internet on April 2. Unfortunately we chose Virgin and this address has only ever had Sky so it takes extra time to come set up a line. Thanks for the phone card tips! I think my main question is: is contract or pay-as-you-go better overall for mobiles?

    @Sarah: Stuff arrives Wednesday. Of course your solution is the best, if I could get over being such a skinflint. I find it really hard to replace anything I already have if it isn't broken...even if I think it's ugly. (Then I go blow a few pounds on donuts, because my brain is dumb.)

  5. Oh my goodness, an oven even smaller than a German oven? How is that even possible? I had to get rid of several of my cookie trays because they won't fit in my oven here.


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