Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Favorite Find for the Office

I was just sitting here at my desk thinking about how much I like this little tool I found. And then it hit me...share it with the world! Blog about it! I am slowly but surely regaining my writing strength. More musing on that in a second.

A friend at work pointed out the website They give tips for making your space ergonomically sound as well as (and this is my favorite) provide a free app that will remind you periodically to stretch. It looks like this screenshot below.

After breaking my leg and getting physical therapy, I was reminded once again how important stretching is. I have to remind myself periodically...and this app does it for me while I'm at my computer! Despite knowing better, I never cease to be amazed at what a difference some stretching makes in how I feel. Whether it's my darn tight hip flexors, my in-knots quads, or my crunchy calves, a little stretching makes me feel worlds better. And I am ALSO amazed at how stretching all of the above positively impacts my back pain. I know this is Anatomy 101, but, it's easy to forget.

I promised I'd muse on about blogging. Well, I don't know about you, but I have information overload sometimes. This is not a new concept. My friend Erin got me a book on the subject for my birthday (which, sadly, I have yet to even read). But, I feel like between Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and every other thing bombarding you with minute details, keeping up with my blog and the blogs of others has fallen by the wayside, which is a shame, because I get a lot from it. Kind of like flossing or taking vitamins. You know it's good for you, but doing it takes a little prodding.

Anyway, you now have a useful tidbit and my two I suppose I should get back to my paid work?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Best $18 Evah!

I'm on a roll, so no stopping me now! One of the better purchases I've made in the last year was this sprayer. A "Snap N Spray" handheld sprayer. This was one of those purchases that occurs when you are wandering aimlessly around the Home Depot. I saw it and thought "Well, now, maybe that would make cleaning easier." It retailed for $17.98, and it was worth every penny! It's available for slightly less on Amazon. Now, you may have a fancy schmancy shower with a handheld shower built in, but my all-around horrible bathroom doesn't.

It's easy to install. You basically unscrew your shower head, screw on the attachment, and then re-screw your showerhead. The handheld shower snaps in when you want to use it, and snaps out when you don't.

I bought it to make cleaning easier, and that it does. I can easily spray the cleaner off my tile shower walls, and I can also more easily rinse the tub when I'm scrubbing, without turning off the water. Oh, I didn't mention that feature? The water turns on and off with a switch on the handle.

While it's great with cleaning, it has uses I never thought of before buying it. I use it to fill up a basin for hand washing and, sitting on the edge of the tub, to wash my feet if they're dusty from sandal wearing in the summer. I can also imagine that this would be a lifechanging implement for those with dogs and/or children--easier to wash soap off as they squirm.

All in all, another one of those purchases I thought I'd regret and ended up loving!

Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Yeah, it's been a long time! But like a call to an old friend, I'm going to bypass all the "wow, yeah, so what's going on?" stuff and just launch in like there was never a break.

I think a lot of times, we can lament our lack of funds to do big projects, and in the process, ignore all the small, inexpensive things we can do around the house that can change the overall look and feel. One of these things I did recently was getting a new shower curtain rod and hooks. My original rod, as provided by my landlord, was a ridged white tension rod. Ridged. Great idea...a ridged rod. You know, so every bit of grime can sink in and gunk up. Perfect. I had the same roller ball wire hooks forever. Together, they annoyed the crap out of me.

So, I did something about it. I think I dropped all of about $10-15 for the SMOOTH metal tone rod at Big Lots and some brilliant hooks that have two hooks--one on each side--that make it easy to take off and replace both the curtain and liner. Genius. I got those for a fairly cheap price as well--about $10 at Lowe's.

And voila! Less than $20 for a clean start!

[Edit: While cleaning out my receipts, I found that I paid exactly $10 for the rod and $7 for the hooks at Target!]

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Family Archives

As regular readers and my friends know, I am a somewhat obsessive organizer. Note that I didn't say I liked organization but that I like organizing. Oh, don't get me wrong, I love looking at a newly organized space, and clutter drives me nuts, but the real fun for me is finding ways to fit it all in. Like a puzzle. For example, should the batteries be stored with the lightbulbs or with the flashlights...or should they all be stored together? And what container is best? Where should it be? Love it.

I do try to keep in mind that organizing is supposed to make life easier, not even more involved. But that's another blog post. Or is it?

The topic I wanted to cover was my recent decision to tackle the family photos. Early in my convalescence at my parents' house, I told my mom my plan to give my dad a slide scanner and to surprise him by pre-scanning some old photos.  She was tentative, and rightly so. My dad isn't good at surprises. Ask her about his 30th birthday. And he's territorial, which is ridiculous, but there you have it. The photos are in his closet, which he would freak out about anyone going through. I'll save the neurosis for another day. There were a few that were more accessible, so I got to work. I bought this scanner, a Wolverine Data SNaP100  and started scanning.

The results were...not good. Oh, and did I mention, that wasn't the first scanner I got. I mistakenly ordered a flatbed first, which ironically was cheaper and would have worked better. That model didn't do slides, which I'm finding out is pointless anyway. Here is what the second one yielded:

That is my brother and me in front of the shell of my dad's car (with Jello Pudding Pops!!!). You can't tell how awful the quality is, and this isn't the best one to show it. Everything was blueish or reddish or really grainy. It's just not worth it to spend all that time doing something wrong.

I decided to go in a new direction for Christmas gifts, but didn't give up on the idea of organizing photos. I'm sort of obsessive when it comes to following archival procedures. Well, more obsessed than some people. I'm not comfortable leaving paper prints in photo lab envelopes or putting snapshots in magnetic album pages. Part of this anxiety is to do with not having pictures of my ancestors. Or not many. I have a few from my dad's family, but none from my mom's. The pictures my dad had were not treated well; my grandfather's second wife took it upon herself to dispose and/or destroy many of them. Yeah, we didn't like her much, and the feeling was mutual. The difference was that we had reason! Anyway...the photos that did survive from him ended up in a pile in a box in our basement, to be unearthed by my dad after I started the ball rolling.

I started with the late 70s and early 80s, our childhood years, then branched out to the 90s and 2000s, and then addressed the few pre-1976 (i.e. pre me) photos. My solution for these photos consisted of organizing them by year in one of these two types of boxes (photos both from, where I purchased sure to search around because you can get them cheaper...or use coupons! I got them on sale and used a coupon right before Christmas. Office max currently has the Iris ones on sale.)
Iris Photo Keeper

Cropper Hopper

My plan for the cute kid photos as seen above is to select a few of the most memorable for each year and scan them and create photo books online for my brother and me.  Scanner selection still pending!

For the more delicate older photos, I decided a different approach was needed. Many of them are either bent or curled or torn. They are also all different sizes. I wanted true archival materials. The above plastic cases are acid and lignin free, but aren't really archival. They'll do, I think, for our childhood snapshots, but not for the older ones. Don't get me wrong, they'd be better than how they are now! I also wanted a storage solution for the negatives separate from the prints.

I turned to trusty Google and looked up some solutions. I had previously ordered archival file boxes from University Products, and do highly recommend their products. However, they didn't quite have what I wanted. for the negatives. I ended up getting this negative box (see below) from Archival Methods and a binder with storage pages from B&H Photo. I also purchased an archival photo box for any photos I don't include in the photo pages in the binder.

The 4-Up Negative Filing System from Archival Methods
I'll be sure to review my solutions with you after I get them. They arrive tomorrow, so you shouldn't have to wait too long. Think you can handle it? :)

Archival products are generally not cheap, so it really comes down to deciding how important particular items are. If you have a ton of photos, as most of us increasingly do, I think a good strategy is to pick the most poignant to protect. The others can be somewhat haphazardly stored, or even disposed of.

On disposal...I have a hard time getting rid of photos, but there are certain photos that even I can get rid of. That includes dark, overexposed, bad photos (I'm thinking of the accidental ones of laps, shoes, and the sky), and doubles. For the doubles, you may want to give to friends or family or just dispose of. I promise nothing bad will happen to you for throwing it away. Confession: I even threw away my own personal negatives. And I'm still here to tell the tale! I knew that for myself, I'd NEVER plow through my old negatives to find the picture, and my apartment's size does not afford the luxury of storing massive amounts of stuff. I admit, there was once or twice that I found a photo I'd cut up that I wanted the original of. Whether I'd actually go and find that negative if I had it and make it to the photo lab is debatable even if I had it, so no loss. Some people even suggest only picking one or two of a theme--i.e. if you have 10 Eiffel Tower photos, pick one or two. This, I can sometimes do, if they're really close, but not if they're different. I don't care if I have 100 photos of the Seine, I'm not pitching them!

If anyone's out there reading, how do you deal with photos and other memorabilia?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Around Town: The Other Half

When my mom comes to town, I like to take her to things we haven't seen before. Though I've lived in the DC metro for more than a decade combined, I can still find plenty that I've never seen. This summer, one of those places was the Hillwood Museum and Gardens. It is the 25-acre former estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, heiress to the Post cereal fortune, and a feisty businesswoman, charitable benefactor, and general personality in her own right. 

It's one of those "make a day of it" kind of places, because it takes awhile to see everything. The gardens are gorgeous, and with good reason: it takes a lot of work. The estate had 263 volunteers in 2010 who spent over 20,000 hours in maintaining it and helping visitors. That of course is in addition to the staff; there were 13 horitculture and 9 facilities staff members in 2010.

Anyway, as I was saying, the gardens are gorgeous:

Though there's no denying the gardens are gorgeous (which I've said twice already), for me the real highlight was the mansion. I suppose I am more of an interiors gal. Marjorie was a major collector, and though I'm neither a fan of huge collections or of the ornate styles she favored, I love feeling like I'm peeking into someone's private world, and that is what is provided here. Because she bequeathed her home as a museum, it didn't have to be reconstructed after it had been used as an embassy or office building or something. It was intact, and appears as if she just up and left. Of course, that isn't the case, and I'm sure it's heavily curated, but you do get that feeling in the private areas especially, such as her bathroom and the kitchens (the first one is a catering kitchen/butlers pantry of sorts)

I play this game often when I visit houses or museums where I try to pick the one item I'd walk away with if I was allowed to pick one thing. For me, at Hillwood, this was the sofas in the home theatre. Marjorie was ahead of her time--she had a home theatre in her house! And these little sofas were so cool. They had built in drink trays and were the perfect size for, say, a small apartment.

I also appreciated several details, such as this do not disturb sign outside the door (for those pesky servants, no doubt) or the gorgeous geometric metallic wallpaper in a passageway.

I'm sure my somewhat dark (no flash) unprofessionally retouched photos don't do the place justice, but you'll have to go see it for yourself, or check out the website. They have  a virtual tour that will walk you through various rooms and gardens. It makes you think: what would my "estate" look like if someone were to come tour it? I can tell you one thing; it wouldn't be a day trip.