Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Wrap Green, be Environmentally Friendly!

Monday, December 15th, 2008

It’s the season for gift giving; homes will be filled with plenty of gifts, which come with wrapping paper and boxes. Unfortunately most of the wrapping paper and boxes will end up in the local landfill causing a 30% bump in landfill waste due to these gift add-ons over the holidays. Here are a couple ideas to minimize the waste and be more environmentally friendly.


Use some left-over fabric to make a gift bag. If you can sew, put together a 2 or 4 sided bag with some handles. If you can not sew, just take a large towel, lay the gifts in the center and then tie the top together with some ribbon and other decoration of choice.   These fabric gift bags can then be used later throughout the year by the one receiving the gift.


Use reusable shopping bags that are now becoming quite popular. Shopping bags come in an assortment of styles and colors.  Yes they may have a company’s logo or an ad on the side, so what, it shows you are a leader in being green.


There are many ways to make the wrapping part of the gift.  Don’t just give a movie DVD, give a movie night. Place the DVD, popcorn, bottle of wine and maybe some cheese into a large mixing bowl or food container.  You can also use scarves, bath towels and handkerchiefs to help decorate and package your items in the container.


This year, think outside the box.

Shipping Food Items

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Good news, you just received a gift box of cookies.  Bad news, the cookies were just a pile of crumbs.  For many people, the holidays mean sending special gift baskets or boxes from the kitchen to friends and family far-away.  If you are going to spend the time and money baking something special, spend some time to make sure it gets to the destination in reasonably good condition and safe to consume.   Here are some tips to help keep the baked items in good condition for its arrival at the destination.

  • Some foods are less perishable than others and are more easily shipped.   Typically items like cookies, candy, raw vegetables, fruits, breads, meat jerky, jams, uncooked pasta and unopened canned goods will be reasonable to ship.

  • It is recommended to NOT ship perishable foods unless absolutely necessary.  Highly perishable items such as meats, fish, cooked vegetables, dairy products and eggs are perishable foods and should not be above 40 degrees for more than a couple hours.  These perishable foods would need to be packed in dry ice, check with you carrier for special shipping instructions.

  • Foods should be wrapped airtight before being gift wrapped.  When sending multiple food items, each one should be wrapped separately to keep it moist but also to keep from mixing the flavors.

  • Any glass or breakable containers should be placed within a sealed Ziploc bag just incase the bottle gets broken.

  • Keep breads, cakes and other fragile items in rigid containers with little room for movement to help protect their shape.   Disposable foil tins can help save those cookies and cakes during shipment.

  • Use a rigid cardboard box as the shipping container.  Use a new box if possible, especially for heavier contents.  The box should be in good condition without holes, tears or damaged areas. There are box manufactures but for people with just a few packages to send, check office supply stores.

  • When packing the separate items in the box, use crumpled newspaper or Kraft (brown) paper to keep the items separated by 2-3 inches from each other and from the box sides.  If sending a basket, use a couple layers of bubble wrap around the basket and taped to keep it secure.

  • Remove any pre-existing labels and other markings from previous shipments.  Once the top of the box is closed, the contents should not “rattle” when shaken. As with all packages being shipped, clearly print the address on the box and cover with clear packaging tape.

DIY Liftstyle

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

What is it about the DIY lifestyle that is very appealing to some people but not others? I have always found completing home projects and doing things for yourself to be empowering. Especially for small projects, you can usually complete them in less time and expense then trying to hire someone.


The DIY movement is alive and well on the internet. Instead of hiring some bloodsucking service to do a job, you can Do It Yourself. There are so many services out there trying to get your money, doing some things for yourself are invigorating.


You have access to the web “how to” information. More and more people are turning to the DIY lifestyle not only to save on expenses but to also help prioritize what’s important. Instead of spending 2-3 hours watching TV, learn “how to” fix your lawn sprinkler system or something that interests you. Today the internet provides the knowledge and access to the tools for just about any DIY task.


There are many large web sites like Squidoo, Yahoo Groups and Google’s new Knol site where all types of information can be found. Some offer more in-depth and detailed information then others. And then there are many other sites, just like this site, that are more focused.


Most DIY lifestyles help improve one’s ability to “think” a problem through and plan the steps to completion. When searching for information on the internet, you need to be able to reason clearly and critically. There is a lot of people providing information, usually partial information, that don’t know squat about what they are discussing. You learn what makes sense and what does not. You need to be able to discriminate between the good and the bad. Another great thing about the internet is that you can verify and compare.


The web is a tremendous resource, a facilitator, a catalyst for a DIY lifestyle. Most tasks are not as difficult as one may first think. It usually takes a little common sense, some research and some motivation. With the current economy in the tank, more people seem to be taking time to embrace the DIY movement.

New Camcorder Basics for Event Videos

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

For most of your celebrations and events, you will want to take some video. Video will preserve the special event for many years to come. If you are considering a new camcorder to do this video yourself, there are several issues to consider. The consumer video market has under gone numerous changes in the last couple years.


The popularity of video has dramatically increased recently, especially since web sites like YouTube have come online. This has created more competition between the major manufactures for better and less expensive camcorders. The technology gap between the consumer video cameras and the professional video cameras has also been reduced.


The first thing to consider is what quality of video is desired. Video quality is a very complex subject when trying to understand resolution, interlaced or progressive scan, widescreen, frames per second and different formats for compression. It is safe to say not all High Definition video is the same. CamCorderInfo and Cnet Reviews provide information on camcorders and differences in technology.


For viewing, HD is always better than Standard Definition, this assumes you have a HD TV. However the file size for HD is larger so archiving can be more difficult. If you like to edit your video, the newer format (AVCHD) that supports HD require new editing software and higher performance computers. This is important to keep in mind, you may need to upgrade both your computer and editing software for HD. If you are OK with good video as opposed to great video, stay with SD and save some dollars.


The second consideration will be the media type used by the camcorder. The three most popular are tape, hard drive and flash. Tape has been around for many years, format easily supported for editing and is easy to archive your videos, just put the tape in a safe storage area for future viewing.


A more recent technology is to use a hard drive within the camcorder instead of tape. A hard drive provides fast random access to different parts of the video where tape takes time to rewind. The drawback with a hard drive is you must download the video with a cable in order to archive the video instead of just removing the tape. Another issue with a hard drive is that there are moving mechanical parts within the hard drive that can fail, just like in a laptop, if the camcorder is dropped or abused. If this happens, you will loose the video still on the camcorder and expect to pay a high price for repair.


The third and newest media is flash memory in camcorders, flash is not new but it is new in camcorders where very large files are generated. Flash is good since it is small, light weight and has no moving parts. The downside is that flash memory limits the recording time, down to a couple hours for HD, using the largest memory cards (SDHC) available. This problem can be solved by having extra cards available, although a 16GB memory can cost around $100 USD. Flash also has fast access times for random viewing.


Another consideration when capturing video for many events, is ability to video in low light. Since many celebrations are indoors where the lighting is less than ideal, look for camcorders that are better with low light or consider getting additional video lighting. Many camcorders come with a video light as part of the camera but the quality is very poor. A secondary issue is the microphone, the built-in microphone will pick up all sound, much of it noise. You may want to consider a camcorder that allows an external directional microphone to improve the sound quality.


So if you are going to need a new camcorder for the wedding, anniversary, birthday or a holiday, spend a little extra time in determining your video requirements. Are you really going to be shooting a lot of video or will this be a every-once-in-a-while thing, if so, stay away from HD. Consider the video quality you want, who will be using the camcorder (stay away from the hard drive media if used by children) and how you plan on editing or archiving the video. If you have the hard drive or flash camcorder, archiving on an external portable hard drive is a good solution.


Video your event and enjoy the time for ever.