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Archive for May, 2012

A Study of Electronic Gizmos but Unplugging Along too

May 30th, 2012 at 07:11 pm

What do fathers want? Electronics, electronics, and more electronics. I'm hanging on by a thread trying to figure this stuff out. Jump in anytime and give advice!

iPhone Car Adapter
You heard of this? It's a doohickey that lets you play your phone music (and I presume your subscribed broadcasts) through your car sound system. It also lets you answer/make phone calls through the car sound system (better than talking with than a blue tooth I guess). Husband is interested. I am contemplating. Here is an example device that has good reviews and obviously from the best source.

What do you think? How long before it becomes obsolete??

Smart Power Strip
These have been around a couple years, and there's even a couple forum threads discussing pros and cons here on SA. I decided to take the plunge and get one. One reason: we are using solar power at home and conserve every watt. My husband has taken to turning off the TV/Wii center lately to save energy to that end.

Funny these are not in hardware or electronics stores much, I had to get this one on Amazon.

Portable Hard Drive
Anyone else have one? *sigh* why do we have to keep adding memory, beefing up our computer resources ad nauseum. This time I am told a portable hard drive is recommended to back up your home computer. Nevermind that I barely got used to flash drives; they are not big enough anymore? My hubby is a community college prof and his lectures are pretty valuable. So he wants to back them up and take the drive to a secure (outside the home) location. I am researching and awaiting a good Staples/Office Depot/Office Max coupon.

In the meantime I plug (or more exactly 'unplug') along making neat things from materials already at hand. For example, I had leftover wool from a kit for making a felted purse. (Felting is when you shrink wool with hot water). I did not want to discard the wool so here's what I made (I have enough wool to make at least 6 pairs):

Felt and Crystal Ball earrings
Pastel felt balls sparkle with a little crystal in these unusual and interesting earrings.

Ask me for more detail!

Fortunately I have a few low tech things up my sleeve for Father's Day. Husband intentionally drops hints about less expensive things that the kids can give him for Father's Day and I listen up secretly!

shoe horn
yes, an old fashioned simple metal one. Any leads where to get one for a few dollars? Have not visited the shoe repair shop yet....

Apron
He is a messy cook, and I am on him to wipe up when he's in the kitchen. Alot! He said he could use an apron and I think a masculine one would be fine. Must be under $20. Send links!

Eco Auto Pilot and Why I Need to Reduce my Recycling

May 18th, 2012 at 03:48 pm

You know the advice to improve an unhappy situation or setback in life by acting as if things were better, and after long enough the acting becomes reality? Well it's happening to me! My environmental subconscious is showing up in my reality more than ever before.

Even though I do many small things on a daily basis, I feel it is not enough. For example, here is a comment I made a couple days about why I'm not proud of my overflowing recycling bin anymore and the publisher plans to put it in print the next issue (see me about 4th comment down).

And for the first time it came to me to buy my next purse from the consignment store instead of going to the dept store (with a coupon) or thrift store on reflex. Though the thrift has been a destination for me to find purses, it takes several sessions of hunting and not easy to find one that lasts and is a good fit anyway. Aha! There is a very good better quality consignment right near work that will save me time, money and the earth!

Someone give me a Smug smiley face!

Read below about 2 more money and mother earth saving notables from this week.

But first here is a free offer for my mailing list subscribers (sign up left sidebar):

THANKS


Pretty 'cut crystal' vase of dried flowers sends a thoughtful thanks that lasts longer than a florist's and costs a lot less. This card is free - see special offer here and get on the Pretty Cheap Jewelry mailing list.

Saved Notable #1 - Bunco at my house! and instead of collecting $$ for 5 prizes, isn't this the perfect regifting time for those lotion/body sets in the closet? I've gotten one for the bath, one for the feet, one for the hands, and more. Nope, don't use them. Let someone else.

Saved Notable #2 - found an unusual boxed copy of 'Gettysburg' with historic maps and photos on the Library Sale Book shelf. Perfect for a very special teacher to my kid (jr high school American History). He is writing a note already to the teacher to say Thank You I Love You More Than I Love My Parents.

Thanks for reading and laughing with me!

Small Backyard Patio for $zero (so far)

May 16th, 2012 at 05:26 pm

Sometimes redecorating can cost nothing. Nevermind those Design on a Dime -or- Outdoor Living Spaces type shows. I've fixed up my backyard for at least a couple years by simply moving things around that I already had.

Last summer I moved the loads of river rocks in our soil (we dug up constantly the first year) from vegetable row aisles to form a boundary line between the expanding oak tree undercanopy and the decreasing grass areas.

This year I am putting my foot down (or up actually). I really want a chair out there calling my name ... in the sun ... with a spot for a cold drink ... to hang out for an hour or so reading, making jewelry, or putting my feet up!!

I do NOT want to spend much -- but because I've tried everything we already have in every variety of manners I could rack my brain with to fit the purpose, and nothing has worked well -- I will buy ONE chair.

Objective:
An inviting reading, lounging, snacking, photographing jewelry spot in my backyard.

Criteria:
Must be small (NO lounge chair, these are too big and we have one that I've tried to make work for 2 years and just does NOT fit).

Prefer sunny spot, some shade ok.

Must have the ability to put up your feet!

Low to No maintenance. NOT under the birds or trees which bomb the spot with yucky stuff and cobwebs.

Prefer to use stepping stones already owned. (Ugly, but they were given to us free and I can't bring myself to either get rid of them or buy new ones).

Something clever, pretty, don't we see this stuff in magazines and TV shows all the time? Funny ideas so far?

a gazing ball (husband says no),
big umbrella (not really),
water feature (we already have a nice waterfall in the front entry),
gnome(s) (YUCK),
fake deer (HAHAHA that would fit in hilariously with our oak and native landscaping, but I am just not an old lady YET!!)

??

And the answer so far is...

Checkerboard Patch Backyard Patio


Upper right, repurposed stepping stones form just enough surface for an as yet unobtained inviting chair. So far my first choice is an adirondack chair (with footrest). Rectangle concrete pavers (in the wood chips right side of patio) also form a little wandering path to the seating area.

What to jazz up the spot? to the sides are native plants (sage, yarrow), behind is wood chips on uneven ground.

See the line of river rocks between grass and natural under canopy? (last year's project). Big rocks in center of yard serve as 'interest' (I hate them).

Comments welcome!

Need Recommended Vampire Electrical Strip? Do you have one?

May 14th, 2012 at 09:30 pm

You know that electricity still flows in your turned off - but plugged in devices, right? Especially guilty are game consoles, computers, phone rechargers, etc. It's been in the news and seems pretty easy to remedy with a 'smart' or vampire killing electric power strip. Simply plug the device into the strip and the strip cuts electric flow when it senses the device is on sleep mode.

Well I'm getting confused. The strips are not available at the basic hardware store, more thought of as a consumer electronic. And I think older models aren't a snap. Here's what I'm finding on Amazon:

from January 2012...
"This unit works as advertised. I have it my work desk and the control port has my 13" inch Macbook charger plugged in to it. When the Mac goes to either sleep or full-off mode, the switched outlets turn off shortly after. (Speakers, Monitor, Phone and other stuff). I did have to follow the instructions and adjust the sensitivity pot, so make sure you do that if you plan to do the same, and keep that in mind if you look at other brands. Make sure they are also adjustable. All in all, very happy with this purchase."

from July 2010 through present
"I have had the replacement LCG3E Smart Strip installed and working for about a month now (ed: after returning the defective unit first purchased), and I am happy to say that the problems have not returned! It now switches everything on/off according to the control outlet device (the desktop PC power) being switched on or off. It didn't require any adjustment right out of the box. I believe BITSLtd realized there were manufacturing or design issues with the previous versions of the strip. Customer service has been prompt and savvy in addressing the problem. The strip has a newer silk screen design, with the controlled outlets colored green, and a redesigned logo by the rocker switch, more evidence that this is a revised design change. So, I'm considering the problem officially solved. Thanks BITSLtd!"


Anyone else use them and if so, what brand/model and tips do you have?

Cute as a Button

May 10th, 2012 at 06:53 pm

Here comes the ... gift scheming season. Fresh off from figuring out a suitable MIL treat in May (not easy already), comes a load of new challenges in June. Two fathers to honor, and both my parents' birthdays. My dad is getting up there, 78 I think. I usually send a nice box of items and wishes for a combined Dad Day/Both Bdays in June which goes over well.

But this year? They are going to be visiting in person from afar on the dates!

Hmmmm. Something different is needed. Memorable, but not too costly. We can afford modest celebrations but I want to be smart and make it great without spending a ton.

Plans so far for the bdays

My dad (grandpa to my kids) : Family dinner and a special cake from the local 'Ace of Cake' type store. Yes we have one and a really gorgeous bday cake would be about $35-$40. I will have it decorated to be suitable for both parents bdays. The cost is reasonable and I am very devoted to patronizing local businesses. Gift? probably a small ceramic piece from a local artist I know. Must be able to be packed in suitcase safely so it will be SMALL. Cost ~$35. After dinner & gifts we whiz off to the ice rink for my daughter's lesson where they will enjoy seeing her skills.

Mom's bday (a week after dad's after they leave, but close enough to do something as well): Dinner out 2 nights later for all of us at a nice but not extravagant restaurant. Gorgeous alfresco dining in a historic building. Fortunately I have a BOGO coupon for the place! Dinner followed by a great load of laughter at the improv comedy just across the street. Such a well kept secret, the entry is $10 per person for one of the best entertainments around.

Plans for the Dad Day
Husband (dad to my kids): Argh, he wants stuff. Wheelbarrow? Portable hard drive? Accessories to his Victorio Food Mill. Bleh. Even the thing I want to give him is $$. A vampire electrical strip.

My Dad(grandpa to my kids): A trip to a very low key but fascinating animal center not far but out of the city. It's called the Exotic Feline Breeding Center (see here for details). Not a rescue, nor a zoo. Absolutely something everyone in the family will be enthralled with. Costs very little ($7 and under) to visit, people just don't know about it much.

That last one will satisfy the celebrating aspects of most everything rolled up into one; both Dad Day recipient and mom's bday a little more. I will try to rack my brain for a little gift to bring along for her as a proper (small) bday gift.

Here's a great little proper gift, maybe it would fit your needs for a graduate? (wish I could just give these to my mom!)

Cute as a Button | Pretty as a Picture Earrings

Colorful or fancy! Take your choice of post earrings packaged in a little frame. $6 ea plus shipping.



Ever Bought Flowers for Delivery? Reality Show!

May 9th, 2012 at 04:49 pm

I've bought flowers maybe once by phone, have you? Take a look at the ad vs. reality article here written in the online Wall Street Journal. WOW!!

In fact, I am thinking to give my MIL flowers for Mother's Day. There is nothing else to give, she does not want STUFF nor enjoys eating out much. The usual routine is to visit and do jobs around the house for her.

That's one of the reasons I harvest flowers from my yard. And it's not a big yard. Even so, presently blooming and available for cutting:

o Calla Lily
o Iris
o Roses
o Geranium

And I think outside the box to use any manner of supplements such as:

o Sage (smells great)
o Fern
o Orange Blossoms (smells even greater)
o Horsetail
o Ceanothus
o jasmine (SMELL!!)

It also being Teacher Appreciation Day, my daughter insisted on making a home grown bouquet for one of her teachers. I just gave away what I thought were the only roses - 6 long stemmed red beauties - to the ice skate coach this past weekend. But NO! DD made a really sweet bouquet with a coral rose, wine red geranium, big purple iris, and ferns.

If I weren't so wrapped up in getting her out of bed, in the shower, packed for school and out the door, I would have said I was PROUD of her for the smart choice. ARGH! Not to mention she made this bouquet the last 5 minutes of the morning.

Pffft. Here's a sneak peak at my upcoming feature at the art gallery shop in June...

Pretty as a Picture
Stone Heart earrings with a garnet, pearl tassel are displayed against layered tissue and printed salmon paper. Framed in a mahogany stained box. Copper leverbacks.



For sale in June at the Ventura Harbor Village Gallery.

Incredible Edible Left Bank - O La La

May 7th, 2012 at 09:32 pm

The conversion is complete! We have a small lot (0.22 ac or something) and the front yard is nothing more than a couple strips of green split by a big wide concrete postcard driveway. Our first year we put in a row of dwarf orange trees at the left property line and a few rose bushes next to them. Fast forward 15 years, and it was time to re-evaluate...

Grass lawns are low on the eco scale, wasteful of water, shed chemical fertilizers, and you've heard the song and dance (if not read this typical article).

Local produce is high on the desirable scale, clean of pesticide, no transport and fuel consumed, not to mention fresh.

My husband is a naturalist (and the Tool Man) so he couldn't see why the front yard should be any different than the backyard. I made only one stipulation: allow for cutting flowers (such as keeping the rose bushes we already had).

His first priority was to increase drainage down the front to the street so he took out the grass and built a winding rock swale. He left the orange trees at the left property boundary but moved the roses up to the front near the sidewalk.

Then had his fun with tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, peppers and whatever else will follow.

Here's how it looks-



The slim trunk of a tree stands in the middle (put in by the original builder). It's a not very big tree, but we left it.

I'm sure after a few seasonal rotations he'll plant some more perennial species, maybe blueberries? strawberries? herbs? it's ok, I'll probably be out there weeding no matter what.

Hope the passers by don't help themselves!

Easy Come, Easy Not As Good As It Appeared

May 4th, 2012 at 09:46 pm

A customer last time I set up a table for a day in front of the art gallery where I am a member popped the question: Have you ever been sold in a store? "Of course," I answered, "several over the years. But it was HARD to get into stores."

Well she purchased a nifty little Silk Mini Bag and said she'd be interested to have some for HER store. WOOOOOOO HOOOOOO. I set up a time and date to bring some in.

What's not to like?

I admire folks who take the risk and start their own business, especially if there is a monthly rent to meet. And, just like many many other crafters and designers, I dream to be sold in real live stores and have others represent me. It's definitely easier to be in front of customers every day instead of once in a while (weekly? seasonally?) at festivals and events.

I had only 5 of the bags in stock and in fact, 2 sold that day!! (See how much more attention they get in person than online??!! Frustrating!) Here is an example of one left online...

Daddy's Little Purse Strings - Yellow Paisley
Made from a fine retired men's silk tie, is the perfect way to carry your barest essentials. Fits a cell phone, gift card and more.


See more pics and details
here

Anyway I dashed off to produce a small batch of the items for a meeting with the owner the following weekend. It took a number of thrift store visits (jeez have the prices gone up in the last couple months??) but I persevered and successfully found a source of pure silk ties for no more than $1 each. Another trip to Michaels yielded a very good buy on a hefty spool of black suede string for the straps (enough for 25 bags). And I had trim enough from past sewing projects for decoration. It just remained to simply send my husband to our weekend house to retrieve the sewing machine!! (Not really, he was already there and I asked him to bring it back for a week).

On the appointed date, I drove to the shop and ...

... was somewhat let down on its condition. It is a mix of vintage, used and new stock. Which is ok with me. But the presentation needed alot of sprucing up. I am not sure this proprietor has the creative flair for retail. There was not enough to fill the place nor eye catching arrangements. Somewhat dowdy and dull. Poo.

In fact it located on the block of a very large city high school and she get hundreds and HUNDREDS of teens passing by. I made discreet comment to CAPITALIZE on that market. She does not have kids, so I'm not sure she is plugged into that demographic either.

SIGH.

Ah Well. The shop is only a few months old. Maybe it will come along. And maybe I will offer ideas (without her knowing!) how to improve.

No matter what happens, it can't be beat. I invest no costs (providing only inventory that might otherwise be stored for example), take no risk (other than shoplifting) and if something sells it's pure income.

SEND LUCK and may the 4th be with you all today!