I've been doing this for years, and I found this great photo from an article in The Sun Chronicle on how to get the most out of your wardrobe in these economic times.
The secret to keeping your knee-high boots in great shape is to stuff them with rolled magazines. A nice thick magazines works best, so pick In Style over Newsweek.
Do you see something that interests you? Head on over to this blog's new home at www.JustPlainJoy.com and subscribe today!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I've been doing this for years, and I found this great photo from an article in The Sun Chronicle on how to get the most out of your wardrobe in these economic times.
Friday, April 24, 2009
FutureMe.org lets you write your (future) self a letter to be delivered via email. The site has very few bells and whistles. Simply draft an email to your (future) self, provide your email address, and enter the date you want to receive it. This is not a reminder service, and they do require that you send your letter 90 days in the future. If you think this is a cool idea, check out their new book of public (but anonymous) letters.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Today's Top Pick is the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle series from Crunchy Chicken. My sister's book club is reading the book, and she turned me on to the Crunchy Chicken blog. This is one of my favorite books, and Crunchy Chicken gives a great synopsis with thought provoking editorial comments.
This environmental blogger has been around awhile, and I am still finding new interesting posts on her blog. She claims to put the mental in environmental.
Click here to purchase a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Back in October 2008, I wrote about paying for cable. At the time, I signed up for a six month promotion which recently ended. I called my cable company to find out what promotion I could sign up for next and decided to upgrade to MOXI.
Typically, upgrading my cable would go against my general philosophy of simple living and minimizing television. But, I'm loving MOXI because it actually helps me watch less t.v.
I have programmed it to record all my favorite shows, which I am able to watch at my convenience and fast-forward through commercials. I also like the fact that if my husband and I want to have a conversation, I can pause what I'm watching and pay full attention to him.
Have you tried MOXI (or another digital recorder)?
Sunday, April 19, 2009
The past three months have been hard on our little family. For many reasons you can imagine, and some you can’t imagine until you’ve experienced it, a parent with a broken foot and a fast-paced 10-month old can be a less than ideal combination.
To make matters worse, every time my husband would say, “Can it get any worse?” It would. One of us would get sick. We would get an unexpected bill in the mail. Or, someone would call with more bad news. Finally, my husband decided to stop asking how much worse it could get. Instead, he said, “I’m going to start saying, ‘How much better can it get?’”
A few days ago, my husband decided to take a little time for himself and go fishing before work. He left the house at 6 a.m. and when he returned two hours later, he had bad news. He lost his wedding ring in the bay. He was devastated. Fortunately, that afternoon he hired a diver to look for the ring, and the diver found it. My husband was ecstatic.
When I told my sister the story, she said, “Isn’t it funny how you are in the same position now that you were twelve hours ago, but you feel so much better now?” When I repeated the question to my husband he said, “I know. How much better can it get?”
Saturday, April 18, 2009
I admit it. I have thrown myself more than one pity party over my broken foot. It's true. I have called up my friends Depression and Frustration, and we have sat down together to enjoy big cups of tears with organic biscuits made of pure self-pity.
1. I have a great excuse not to exercise.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Dillyeo.com is a website that features one product a day at a really cheap price. Recent items include MP3 players, messenger bags, iPods, vaccum cleaners, watches, digital cameras, and camcorders. The site claims to have the lowest price for that item on the web that day, and they list their competitors websites and prices. If you're on a shopping hiatus, visit the site and sign up for their daily raffle. They give away one item each day.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
This was originally posted on Frugal Dad on January 29, 2009
by Joy Harkins
Are you a parent interested in helping your child earn a college degree? Are you a student looking to save money on tuition?
Having completed a B.A., M.A., and a Ph.D, I have perfected the art of stretching my college dollar. I was fortunate to have assistance from my parents, but I also saved them money by graduating from my undergraduate program in 3 years by following many of these tips.
Here are 10 ways to stretch your college fund:
1. Open a 529 savings account. Instead of putting your child’s college fund in a regular savings account, open a 529 account. A 529 plan is a state-run investment program that helps parents and children save for college. The value of your investment grows tax-free until withdrawn.
In the years when withdrawals are made, the growth is taxed to the student not to the investor. This can be financially beneficial because a student’s tax bracket is usually lower. A 529 account can be used to pay for any accredited college and graduate school.
2. Take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Incoming freshmen can literally shave off an entire term with the appropriate AP courses. Many high schools offer AP English, History, and Calculus. If your high school does not offer AP classes, check out your local community college (these courses are often offered at community college in the evening).
3. Start with community college. So you want a degree from the most prestigious university? Great, you can still start at your local community college! Community college is a great deal – lower tuition, smaller class sizes, and fewer impacted courses. And, students can transfer from community college to even the most prominent universities.
4. Attend a public university. Tax-payer dollars supplement public education for many reasons, among them so you can afford higher education. Public universities tend to be bigger than private institutions, but the education is not necessarily any different. In fact, large universities tend to hire big name faculty and have additional amenities.
5. Submit your FAFSA early. Although the FAFSA deadline is April 1, many people do not realize that the earlier you submit your application the greater your chances of being awarded financial aid. The FAFSA allows you access to loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study.
6. Apply for scholarships. Scholarship search engines such as www.fastweb.com, www.finaid.com, and www.petersons.com can direct you to thousands of internet based scholarships. However, the most fruitful scholarships searches are usually done in your local area or directly through your university. You should never have to pay for a scholarship application.
7. Supplement with online or community college courses. You may be attending an expensive liberal arts college, but you can take online and community college courses that count towards your degree. Check with your academic advisor to find out which courses are transferable towards your major. You can take these courses during the academic year or during the summer.
8. Utilize federal work study. If you submit your FAFSA and are not awarded a grant or loan, you may still qualify for federal work study. When you have a work study job your employer only pays a percentage of your full wage and the federal government picks up the rest.
These jobs are typically offered on campus, which makes it easier to work while going to school. If you qualify for work study, you are obviously a more attractive candidate for the job.
9. Consider being a residential advisor. If you plan to attend a campus with on campus housing, you may be interested in becoming a residential advisor. These are students who live in the dorms and oversea the other students.
Being a residential advisor also provides valuable life skills, such as mediation, time management, and communication. Typically, residential advisors receive room and board as compensation for their duties.
10. Know your limits. College is a transitional time and involves exploration of personal and educational interests. While you want to enjoy these exciting years, for every term you spend in school you will be paying for tuition, housing, food, textbooks, clothes, and extracurricular activities. Therefore, it’s important to maximize your chance of being successful – and this means knowing your limits.
Enroll in as many units as you can realistically complete successfully, join as many clubs and organizations as you can reasonably attend, and enjoy as many social gatherings as you can without compromising your real purpose for being in college.
Here are more ways to Invest in Your Child's Future.
photo by ANVRecife
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
This was originally posted on My Super-Charged Life on January 28, 2009.
by Joy Harkins
When I started Just Plain Joy, I wanted to create an outlet for exploring and defining a simple life. I decided I wanted to pursue a simpler life for several reasons – I wanted to save more money to invest in my child’s future, I wanted more time to spend on the things that matter most to me, and I wanted to reduce my impact on the environment.
The benefits of simpler living have been overwhelming – I worry less about finances, I spend less energy keeping track of my possessions, I have a greater appreciation for natural beauty, I am less concerned about status, and I’m enjoying life!
Simple has many interpretations. After careful consideration, I chose four concepts to define my interpretation of simple living:
Here are seven steps for achieving a super simple life based on these four concepts.
1. Simplify your home. The first step to physically simplifying your life is to get rid of the clutter. Start with the room where you spend most of your time (or the one that is most manageable).
Then, move methodically through every drawer, desktop, shelf, and countertop and sort items into three categories – keep, toss, and recycle (these are items that will be given away, donated, or sold). If you are undecided about an item, ask yourself, “Do I love it? Is it useful?” If the answer to both questions is “no,” then don’t keep it.
The second step to physically simplifying is to get organized. Ask yourself, “Where is this item’s permanent home?” Everything you own should have a physical place.
2. Simplify your finances. As a rule, we tend to spend as much as we earn (or more). To simplify your finances, spend less than you make. This is a basic debt-reduction strategy, but it also allows you to work less and spend more time doing the things that really matter to you.
There are simple strategies for staying out of debt – write down every single thing you spend money on, evaluate your spending habits, create a budget, identify a money management system that works for you, pay down your highest interest debts, create an emergency fund, and pay your bills in full and on time.
3. Simplify your virtual world. It is easy to be sucked in by email, instant messaging, social networking sites, and online media. Technology can assist you in delegating everyday tasks, but it should not be allowed to overrule the more important things.
Clean out your inbox, choose one social networking site, and minimize your time online. Mastering technology will simplify your life.
4. Simplify your work. First, stop trying to do it all. You may think you can respond to an email while you are on hold and in the middle of drafting a document, but when you multi-task you are not giving any activity your full attention.
To simplify your work, clean up your physical work space, limit your commitments, find an organizational system that works for you, and learn to delegate.
5. Simplify your day. Managing ourselves from day to day is about prioritizing our values and goals. Before you decide how to manage your time, you have to identify what is truly important to you in your life. Then, using simple time management tools can help you control how you choose to spend your time.
Create a list of goals, establish a morning and evening routine, schedule time to relax, and leave your weekends unscheduled.
6. Simplify your health. It is much simpler to stay healthy than to deal with illness. To simplify your health, avoid drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, fill your frig with fruits and vegetables, stock your medicine cabinet with basic remedies and supplies, exercise regularly, and identify a doctor you can trust.
7. Simplify your philosophy. Adopting a simple lifestyle can require a shift in thinking. It requires you to accept that what you have is “enough,” learn to let go of the need to be a superachiever, live in the moment, find simple pleasures, and define your identity by reflection rather than by consumerism.
Simple living is not difficult!
It is not necessary to tackle every area of your life at once. If you feel you could benefit from simplifying any of these areas, then I hope this article was helpful. If you are a parent, read about how to simplify your family life.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
This was originally posted on Green Baby Guide on January 13, 2009.
by Joy Harkins
During pregnancy, turning “green” may be another way to describe an oncoming bout of morning sickness. But “going green” has become another way of saying you are committed to a way of living that improves or sustains the quality of the environment. It also means meeting your own needs without compromising the quality of life for future generations.
Pregnancy is an ideal time to adopt a green(er) lifestyle. Having a baby creates a natural change or shift. The future suddenly holds more possibility and meaning. By necessity, you’re getting rid of things to make room for baby, and bringing new items into your home. Pregnancy is also the perfect time because the period after the baby arrives can be emotionally and physically overwhelming. Prepare your home and adopt new habits in advance to ease the transition.
1. Eat organic food. Your diet has perhaps the greatest impact on your baby. By cutting out pesticides and junk food, you can give your baby a healthy start. This is also a good time to start a new habit of healthy eating that you will share with you baby over many more meals.
2. Have a green baby shower. Register for eco-friendly products, organic baby clothes, cloth diapers and non-toxic toys from dozens of companies such as Nayla Natural Care or Go Green Baby Shop; or, consider a themed shower, such as a cloth diaper shower, book shower or CD/music shower. Use an online service such as Wishpot to register for gifts from multiple stores. Or, create a blog where you list items for your friends and families to view (when they purchase an item ask them to leave a note in the comments).
3. Paint the nursery with no-VOC paint. Paints and finishes, which are among the leading causes of indoor air pollution, release low level toxic emissions into the air for years after application. One source of these toxins is VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds). Most paint stores, including Sherwin-Williams and Home Depot, carry low or no-VOC paint alternatives. These paints release significantly fewer polluting toxins.
4. Shop for second-hand baby clothes. Search out your local thrift stores and recycled children’s clothing stores. Get to know the owners and find out their buying hours. This will help you when you are looking for a specific item or when it is time to sell back your baby clothes (which will be sooner than you think).
5. Borrow big items, such as a car seat and high chair. If you know other moms, don’t hesitate to ask if you can borrow these items. If a family plans to have more children, they may be happy to get these items out of storage for a period of time. If you do not know any moms, post a wanted ad on craigslist or a community bulletin board.
6. Shop locally for used items such as a crib and baby furniture. Craigslist and Freecycle are great places to find larger items in your local area. Garage sales and thrift stores are also good places to find these items. Also, consider repurposing regular furniture with environmentally friendly paint or stain. If you do buy a second-hand crib, be sure it meets safety standards.
7. Switch to biodegradable and eco-friendly cleaning products. It can take a while to change shopping patterns. Try new products now to see which ones you would like to implement in your home. There are several companies that make eco-friendly cleaning products, such as Seventh Generation and Method. Also, experiment with home-made cleaners such as baking soda, vinegar, and lemon.
8. Invest in a water bottle. It is important to stay hydrated throughout pregnancy and during the postpartum period. Avoid buying bottled water altogether, and purchase a fun stainless steel water bottle that will last for years. My favorite is the Klean Kanteen.
9. Research eco-friendly personal care products. There are tons of eco-friendly facial cleansers, shampoos, deodorants, moisturizers, and perfumes on the market. Personal care products not only touch our skin, but they have chemicals and fragrances that penetrate through our pores and into our bodies. A few companies that offer natural personal care products are Tom’s of Maine, Burt’s Bees, and Aveda.
10. Consider purchasing a green crib mattress. Conventional crib mattresses can contain PVC (one of the most toxic plastics), phthalates (which is considered a carcinogen), toxic fire-retardant chemicals, and polyurethane foam (which can include formaldehyde). Green crib mattresses are made of organic wool (which is naturally mold resistant) and organic cotton (which is not treated with any pesticides). Green crib mattresses vary widely in price. I chose the L.A. Baby Organic Cotton Mattress from Costco.
11. Invest in organic cotton bedding. Your baby will spend hours sleeping in and on their blankets and bedding. Choose natural fibers and organic materials to protect your infant from pesticides and other chemicals. There are many companies that sell these products, such as Nature’s Baby Blankets.
12. Install a water softener. Soft water is good for your skin and the environment. It also increases the longevity of your clothing, makes cleaning easier by reducing water spots and soapy build-up, lowers water heating costs, and extends the life of your water heater and plumbing.
13. Install a water purifier. Tap water generally meets a minimum standard quality; however, you may want to purchase a home water purifier to increase the purity of your tap water. There are many types of purifiers, including reverse osmosis, distillers, filter pitchers, and point-of-use devices. To test your own water, call the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or visit www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/sco.html.
14. Switch to eco-friendly laundry detergent. Preparing for baby means sorting, washing, and organizing tiny and adorable clothing. Wash all baby clothes in a gentle eco-friendly detergent to protect your baby’s skin. Try Seventh Generation’s Baby Laundry Detergent. Also, do not use dryer sheets, as these can be extremely irritating on soft skin.
15. Build your “mommy” wardrobe. Start shopping for organic nursing tanks, soft t-shirts, and slip on shoes made of eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton, bamboo and hemp. You will appreciate having a few simple and reliable pieces of clothing that make you feel fabulous in the early days after labor and delivery.
16. Make a run to the recycling center. Dispose of old chemicals and electronics before baby arrives. It will feel good to get these items out of your house, and you will not have to worry about little fingers getting to them in the future. Many families have at least a few of these items around the house waiting to be taken to the disposal site. Find your local recycling center by visiting Earth911.com.
17. Invest in a sturdy stroller. Walking is an excellent way to burn off the baby weight, alleviate postpartum depression, and sooth a fussy baby. And, depending on where you live, leaving the car at home and walking can be a great way to run errands and avoid hauling baby in and out of the car seat, which is good for baby and the environment. I chose the BOB Revolution, available from retailers nationwide.
18. Find a baby carrier that suits you. Babywearing isn’t just a fad, it’s an amazingly effective way to cut down on crying and bond with your baby. I loved the Moby Wrap and wore my baby in it several hours a day. Other popular brands are the Baby Bjorn, New Native, and
19. Have a garage sale. Babies take up space. This is a good time to switch out plastic storage containers, plastic cutting boards, and plastic dinnerware and replace them with glass, wood, bamboo or ceramic.
20. Take a trip to the library. I read every baby book I could get my hands on during my pregnancy. Even if you don’t plan to do a lot of reading about pregnancy and parenting, there are lots of great books on greening your lifestyle. My favorite book, which satisfied my appetite for green living and preparing for childbirth, is Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care.
21. Start a garden. Squatting down in the garden is an excellent way to build muscles needed for birthing. Plus, you will reap (literally) the benefits of healthy, organic, homegrown produce in the months ahead. Planting a garden can also be a therapeutic process for preparing for a new beginning. If you do not have space for your own garden, contact your local city or county parks agency.
22. Visit your local farmer’s market. Farmer’s markets are a great place to buy local, healthy, organic produce. Start getting to know your local vendors now, and when you come by toting your new bundle of joy they will likely throw in an extra vegetable or two!
23. Shop for indoor plants. Your baby will spend the majority of his/her days indoors. According to the EPA, indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air. Plants recycle oxygen and break down pollutants. One six-inch houseplant per one hundred square feet of living area will filter out pollutants. For more information, check out How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants to Purify Your Home or Office, by B.C. Wolverton.
24. Purchase a scanner. Cut through a pile of paperwork by scanning your documents. This works great for articles, invoices, receipts, and brochures. Babies generate lots of paperwork, and while you have to hold on to your baby’s birth certificate and social security card, you can create space by whittling down your existing mass of papers.
25. Install energy efficient light bulbs, dimmers, timers, and light-sensors. These products will reduce your energy bill, save electricity, and put your mind at ease. Using light sensors and timers will help rid you of the bad habit of leaving lights on when they’re not in use. If you want to take this tip to the extreme – install solar tubes, skylights, or larger windows. Or, even better, install solar panels – you’ll break even before your baby’s out of elementary school!
Greening your pregnancy is a great way to feel good about the choices you are making in preparation for your baby’s arrival. By implementing these tips during your pregnancy, you will have more time and energy to enjoy your baby in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Monday, April 13, 2009
This was originally posted on Honest Baby on November 9, 2008.
by Joy Harkins
The past twelve months have been extremely busy. At the height of it all, I was working full time, preparing for a baby, writing my dissertation, serving as a committee chair for the local United Way, and running a side business. How do you do it all – balance home and work while finding meaning in modern life?
Here are ten tips for getting it all done and feeling fulfilled at the end of the day:
Set small goals. Most of my commitments are part of a larger long-term goal, such as finishing graduate school. It these cases, it can take a long time to reach success. Instead of measuring success by the completion of my degree, I set goals each quarter to work on my assignments each week. By setting small goals, you can benefit from achieving success more quickly.
Build self-efficacy. When I achieve a small goal, I am motivated to work towards another goal because it reinforces my belief that my actions can lead to positive results. This is in effect building self-efficacy – the belief that our actions have certain consequences. Remind yourself of your achievements. Research tells us that people who believe they can accomplish a goal are more likely to achieve that goal.
Write it down. I don’t know about you, but ideas and thoughts swim in my head all day, and every once in a while I have to “unload” my brain. Writing things down allows us to focus our attention on the important things, rather than spending energy remembering a thousand little things. By writing down everything that’s on your mind, you’ll also be able to group similar items (just like when you file papers). You may find that some items can be accomplished simultaneously.
Nurture your relationships. I have all my girlfriends on speed dial. If I’m having a bad day or need someone to give me an “atta girl,” I call up a friend. Relationships are like our emotional armor – they protect us from disappointment, fear, loneliness, and set-backs. Medical researchers have found that those who have friends tend to be happier, healthier, and live longer than those who do not.
Work it out. A few years ago, I was talking to my physician about all the stress in my life - her prescription? Exercise. In our modern world, we sit at desks, talk on the phone, and type on our keyboards all day. There is no outlet for our natural fight or flight responses to deal with stress. Over time, either days or weeks, the stimulus we take in begins to accumulate. Exercise is a natural stress reliever and a mood enhancer.
Schedule the “big stuff”. The best analogy for this comes from Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If your time is analogous to a bottle, and you first fill your bottle with small rocks and sand then there is no room for the “big rocks.” However, if you first fill your bottle with “big rocks,” then the small rocks and sand will fit in between the cracks. Covey’s message is to schedule the important stuff first - a date with your spouse, a phone call to your best friend, a workout, a massage, etc. Otherwise, these things won’t fit into your schedule.
Be grateful. No one can do it all alone. It takes many people to achieve a great accomplishment. Acknowledge the contributions of others to your own successes and show gratitude. Gratitude has many benefits as well, scientific evidence indicates that grateful people feel more inclined to share, and that gratitude is linked to optimism, better health, and positive social interactions. New research tells us what philosophers and religion have told us for thousands of years - being thankful can increase our overall happiness.
Be patient. When I have back to back meetings, a looming deadline, and I’m trying to catch the last bus home, it’s easy to lose my patience. In this modern world, we often find ourselves in long lines, traffic jams, and put on hold. However, without patience, we are left annoyed, frustrated, irritated, and angry. When you lose your patience, remember to be grateful. Count your blessings – you have a job to provide for your family and a house to call home.
Enjoy the moment. With a packed schedule, I have made the mistake of thinking my “to do” list is only temporary – that once I get through it I can enjoy life, my family, my vacation. There will always be items on your list – phone calls to make, cards to write, projects to finish. It’s part of being alive! John Lennon once said, “Life is what’s happening when we’re making other plans.” If you wait until you have checked all the items off your “to do” list, you’ll miss everything!
Learn to live with imperfection. Whether you have many or few commitments, no one gets it right all the time. The need for perfection turns our attention to what’s wrong with something and leaves us feeling dissatisfied. This is not to say don’t do your best, but rather try not to be overly attached and focused on how things could be different. Remember what they call the guy who finished last in his class in medical school - Doctor.
There’s one more item not included in this list, but of great importance – Keep your sense of humor! I would like to thank Honest Baby for reminding us that there is no “right way” to do anything, and these are all just tips that I’ve based on my own experiences.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
I hope you will enjoy this short list of seven reasons I have to be thankful for my broken foot:
1. My daughter and I have had many hours of face time at her level - on the floor. When I broke my foot my daughter was not even crawling, and now she is walking!
We have made some unforgettable memories as a family. I think I will always remember my husband pushing me in my wheelchair while I held my daughter on my lap and we cruised the aisles of the grocery store. I hope I will be back on my feet soon, but until then I know I will continue to learn from this experience.
Friday, April 10, 2009
If you have things you would like to list on eBay but don't have the time or energy to put into online sales, check out eBay's Trading Assistants (TAs). TAs are experienced eBay sellers who sell your items for you for a fee. Some TAs have a physical location, others have a drop off site or will pick up your items. For more information, visit ebay.com/ta. To find a TA in your area, click here.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
I have a few favorite recipes that call for whipping cream, creamer, or half-and-half.
Problem: Inevitably, I would buy a carton of the necessary ingredient(s), use some, and leave the rest in the refrigerator until it expired. Almost always, the carton would remain untouched until the expiration date.
Solution: I started freezing the remaining liquid in ice cube trays. Then, I transfer the cubes into a labeled ziploc freezer bag. Frozen creamer cubes are also good for iced coffees and mixed drinks.
Ice cube trays also work for freezing baby food, pesto, and milk (perfect for an ice cold class of milk).
photo by D. James
Saturday, April 4, 2009
One of my favorite activities is entertaining. I recently came across these seven great ideas contributed by Sunset magazine readers.
1. Stone soup party. Ask everyone to bring something to go into homemade beef soup. Make the stock and some bread rolls. Simmer while having a drink or watching a sitcom. Ideas for ingredients include onions, carrots, garlic, sweet potatoes, squash, and hearty greens (kale, swiss chard, and spinach).
2. Dessert night. Instead of inviting people for a whole meal, just have them over for dessert.Make a fresh pot of coffee or tea and serve cheesecake or pie.
3. Annual dinner. Find a few other couples and each host a dinner once a year, that way you will get to catch up every few months. Decide with your friends if you will either prepare the whole meal, or just the main course, or if it will be a potluck.
4. Cookie decorating party. Bake sugar cookies in advance an put out decorating supplies. Stock up on pastry boxes for your guests to bring home their lovely cookies.
5. Bring your own steak night. Provide all the side dishes (potatoes, corn on the cob, salad, etc.) and ask guests to bring something to grill.
6. Fondue night. Everything tastes better with cheese (or chocolate)! Dig up a fondue pot from a friend or garage sale if you don't have one, and serve meatballs, cubes of sourdough bread, and apple slices.
7. Cookie exchange. These aren't only for the holidays. Consider other themes like Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, and Fourth of July. Each guest brings 2 dozen cookies and the recipe. Every leaves with lots of new recipes and yummy cookies.
Finally, if you don't like to entertain but love to socialize, consider having a No Host Girl's Night - everyone brings their own drink and a snack to share while the host prepares nothing!
What other entertaining ideas do you love?
photo by Snippets from Suburbia
Friday, April 3, 2009
Do you need an umbrella today? Let UmbrellaToday.com answer that question. We may be headed out of the rainy season, but you still don't want to get caught unprepared during the spring showers. Visit UmbrellaToday.com to receive a text or email alert if rain is predicted in your area. You will never be without your umbrella again!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
This is a photo I took of my daughter yesterday. Now that I have perfected my photo archiving system, I know I will be able to find this adorable photo in the years to come.
Since my daughter was born, my photo files have been a mess. I had pictures all over my hard drive in all kinds of haphazardly named folders. I had some photos uploaded to Facebook and Picasa. I had some uploaded to an online developing company, but the albums had random names. Some albums had duplicate photos. Like I said, it was a mess. So, I decided to get organized!
Yesterday, I spent a couple hours going through all my digital images and perfecting my photo archiving system. I decided I don't want digital clutter. I want to save a few great shots from each month rather than a completely comprehensive collection of crappy photos. So, here is the system I came up with...
Set-up: I created a folder for each year in My Pictures. Then, for each year I created twelve folders (one for each month). The complete tracking string looks like this C:\Documents and Settings\Joy\My Documents\My Pictures\2009\03_09. Finally, I created one more folder called 'Pending.'
Step 1: Collect photos. At the end of each month, I collect all my photos in the 'Pending' folder. Photos can come from my digital camera, my cell phone, my friends' online albums, email attachments, or any other digital source.
Step 2: Purge. After I have all the photos in one place, I sort through and delete the ones that are 'poor' or 'fair.' The trick is to be ruthless. If someone has an odd expression or a tree is sprouting out of someone's head, then the photo gets deleted. I narrow down the collection to only the photos that are 'good' or 'great.'
Step 3: Edit and Crop. I love to crop my photos! I'm not sure if this is always a good idea (maybe it's because I've always had less than perfect vision), but I love close-ups. This is the step where the 'keepers' are perfected. I use Picasa to edit my photos on my hard drive.
Step 4: Save and Upload. After all the photos have been edited, then I transfer them to the appropriate folder(s). If it has been more than a month since you archived your photos, use the List Details feature to sort your photos by date and then archive appropriately. Finally, I upload the entire folder or album to Picasa online. I name the album by the month and year (i.e. March 2009).
Step 5: Order. Once a month, I order 12-24 photos. I use Kodakgallery, but I know Snapfish and Shutterfly are also popular. I can order directly from my online Picasa site. I have a brag book that I like to keep updated that holds 24 photos. After I remove the photos from the brag book, I mail them to our friends and family members or keep a few for my daughter's First Five Years scrapbook.
Back-up: At the end of each year, I burn a disc of all the photos in that year's folder. I also have backup because I have uploaded them to Picasa online.
How do you archive your photos?