Tag Archives: Gadgets

Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Make A Move Easier

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I mentioned yesterday that we will soon be moving.

Did I mention how much I absolutely *hate* moving? If I had my fictitious wife, I think I’d put “orchestrate all moves” at the top of her list of duties.

Not everyone feels this way about moving. I think it’s a great example of something where there are just two kinds of people. One friend of mine, for instance, loves to move because it enables her to throw away all the things in her house that annoy her. My husband doesn’t actually mind it either. It gives him an excuse to re-allocate our many gadgets within an entirely new space. (Aha! So the Dustbuster really *can* fit on top of the television! Whaddya know?)

But for me, moving is the very embodiment of hell. So if, like me, you dread moving house, here are five tips to make the process easier:

1. Get boxes beforehand. Lots of them. This sounds obvious but it’s amazing how many boxes you need to carry out even a small move. Fortunately, after all of my work on the PTA soliciting donations from various local businesses, most of the merchants in my neighborhood on a speed-dial relationship with me already. So I don’t foresee a problem obtaining boxes when I need them. But if that weren’t the case, I’d begin collecting now. Buying them from Mailboxes Etc. really adds up. Trust me!

2. Make a Change of Address List. Right now – while you’re thinking about it – sit down and make a list of every possible place that needs to know that you’re moving. Not just obvious places like your kids’ schools and your doctor’s office, but all of your frequent flyer programs, any utility companies who send you a paper bill, your grocery store if you have food delivered, and especially your local voting authority. There are way more than you think.

3. Declutter Now. I’m not a natural de-clutterer. I tend to favor putting things into neatly stacked piles, only to ignore them until said pile topples over under the weight of freshly sorted material. And particularly with this move we’re about to embark on, it looks like we’ll be moving into a considerably larger space. So it’s really tempting to just hang on to that PlayMobil Castle and all its attendant turrets, even though my son hasn’t played with it for years. But that would be a huge mistake. Because there are so many things – clothes, toys, kitchen aids – that we simply don’t use and must go buh-bye. (Unsure of what to toss? Here are 8 specific tips from the decluttering guru, Gretchen Rubin.)

4. Have someone else pack for you. Sadly, we can’t afford to pay someone to pack up for us this time round. But I have done that twice in my life and my husband often comments that those may well have been the two happiest days of my life. (Too bad all I owned at the time was a suitcase, a guitar and a futon, which did take a bit of zing out of the pleasure, it must be said.) But there is *nothing* like having a couple of people whisk into your house and pack up your belongings while you sit there sipping a cup of tea with your feet up.

5. Buy some Xanax. Really, just do it now. You’ll thank me later.

*****

Speaking of moving, Aiden Donnelly Rowley had an interesting post over the weekend on Ivy League Insecurities about what it’s like to sell a house and that bitter-sweet feeling that accompanies the open house. Have a look…

Image: Packed Boxes Upstairs by Arthaye via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Adulthood Quiz: What Can You Live Without?

Awhile back, I posted on five household items you can do without, as well as five household items you *can’t* do without. Both posts were inspired by the myriad tchotchkes that pepper our house, courtesy of my gadget-loving husband.

I got to thinking about this very issue once again this weekend on a somewhat grander scale when two things that had gone missing from my life unexpectedly reappeared.

The first was a dishwasher. As I noted when talking about why we all need a wife, my dishwasher died about six weeks ago. Ever since, I’ve been washing dishes for our four-person household by hand. On Friday, the new dishwasher finally arrived and I’ll say it here first:  God, do I love my new dishwasher. Yes, I could have managed just fine without one. But I literally feel *blessed* everytime I place a dish in its new home, rather than piling them up in the sink.

The second thing from a former life which reappeared over the weekend was – oddly enough – a health club. When I first moved to London, I wrote an essay for the Guardian Weekly about how the cost of living was so high in this city that my husband and were forced to become Green by default. It wasn’t so much that we embraced Green living as that we had no choice; overnight, certain things had just become prohibitively expensive. So we gave up those staples of middle-class American life: two cars…a tumble dryer… and our health club memberships. And both of us started exercising outdoors; he cycling and I running.

But this past weekend my son was invited to a birthday party at a health club. While the kids played, the adults got a free workout. I went nuts. I climbed a StairMaster, I used an elliptical trainer, I lifted some weights…heck, I even took a sauna. And I topped it all off with a lovely cappuccino in the adjoining cafe where – posh mama that I am…(not) – I purchased some long overdue yoga gear. In a word: spectacular.

But unlike my new dishwasher, I came away from the whole health club experience thinking that – much as I enjoyed being in a fancy gym for two hours – I’m not sure that it’s something I actually need in my life. I’m actually quite happy just going running. I like the feeling of freedom it affords. I like the odd assortment of people and animals that I encounter along the way (which in my hood’ runs the gamut from Helena Bonham Carter to wild foxes). I like the cold air waking me up as it hits my face. And most of all, I like that it doesn’t cost a penny (pence).

In short, I learned that I could live without a health club.

As we grow older, it’s worth reflecting now and again on what we need in our lives to make us happy and what we can do without.

How about you? What creature comforts could you let go of?

*****

I was absolutely thrilled to get this shout out from the blog This Bird’s Day about my essay “Married to a Metrosexual” in the forthcoming Chicken Soup For The Soul: True Love. It made my day!


Image: day1DSC_0055.jpg by journojen via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Untangling My Ipod: Why I'm Not a Lifehacker

I posted last Thursday about my new-found fondness for self-help manuals.

But I realized over the weekend that there are limits to my self-help tendencies. Specifically – and you heard it here first – I am not a life hacker.

What is a life hacker, you ask?

Wikipedia tells us that “lifehack” was originally a computer term that referred to productivity tricks programmers devised to cut through information overload. Over time, however, it’s come to refer to anything that solves an everyday problem in a clever or non-obvious way.

The reason I know that I’m not a lifehacker is because I’m married to one. I’ve blogged before about my husband’s fondness for household gadgetry here and here. He’s also been known to email me instructions for how to achieve the best “tamp” on one’s espresso, as well as videos for how best to employ our new George Forman Grill (which – it bears saying – is the kitchen-appliance equivalent of a life hack all by itself. Once you’ve grilled a chicken breast on one of those babies, you’ll never go back to a frying pan. Trust me.)

It’s not that I don’t appreciate all of these lifehacks. They are – indisputedly – useful.  Take this one, for example. It’s a video – courtesy of my husband, natch – that shows you how to roll up Ipod headphones without getting them all tangled…because, hey, we’ve all been stuck there, right?

No really, we have. It’s just that my personality is such that rather than track down the information needed to figure out how to do this properly, I’m inclined to just shove the headphones back in the drawer the way I found them – and then untangle them the next time. And he’s not. And I think there are a lot of me’s – and him’s – out there. It’s just one more way that the world maps itself onto the whole boxers vs. briefs thing.

The reason that I got to thinking about all of this recently was that I finally killed off another lifehack in our home:  the dreaded home seltzer dispenser. We first spotted these on a trip to Israel a few years back and they seemed like such handy little doo-dads. After all, I hate tap water and will drink it only under duress. But buying sparkling water is so expensive…and environmentally unfriendly…and possibly cancer-inducing…that I just thought: right! No more bottled water! We will do this ourselves! (OK, it was actually my husband’s idea. But I was totally on board).

And because he’s a classic over-buyer, we purchased like 512 of the little CO2 cartridges

Much as I tried, however, I grew to I hate our little home carbonation scheme. I hated having to fill the syphon with filtered water. And I hated that, as you neared the bottom, it lost all carbonation. And I hated that it didn’t taste like the nice sparkling water you could buy in stores.

And so this weekend – 512 cartridges worse for the wear – I finally broke down. “I think I’m going to go back to store bought water,” I told my husband, my eyes cast downward.

And much to my astonishment, he didn’t object.

“That’s OK,” he said. “I understand.”

I breathed a huge sigh of relief. And then, just as I found a spot for the syphon in the back of our closet, I stumbled upon…but what was this? A small device for removing the seeds of an apple. (Unlike…um…say, a knife?)

Oh no!

*****

Speaking of lifehacks, the Guardian has a hilarious article in today’s paper about “household objects we’d like to see.”

Image: Headphones by JBelluch via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Tips for Adulthood: 5 Household Items You Can Do Without

Courtesy of Flickr

Ok, so today’s post launches a new series I’m going to start on Wednesdays entitled: Tips for Adulthood.

Today’s list lies close to my heart as it draws from my very own home. In fact, everything I’m going to list is sitting within about 10 feet of me as I write this (except the foot warmer – see #5 below – which mercifully needs a U.S. electrical outlet to operate).

I’ve posted before about how my husband is a gadget freak. He loves coming home with all manner of things that ostensibly serve to make life easier. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. But the other day he had a real doozy. Having visited the local hardware store, he came home with a device – wait for it – extracting pickles from a pickle jar. (Cue: “Who Stole the Pickle from the Pickle Jar?”)

No, really, he did. It looks like a narrow plastic syringe for giving kids medicine, except that when you push it, four tiny metal pincer claws emerge to grab that elusive pickle. Nuff’ said.

Inspired by this dubious purchase (to be fair, it set us back only about one pound thirty), I herewith give you 5 Household Items You (really) Can Do Without:

1. A Pickle Picker (my term of art): See above. FYI: I just tried to find an image of said item and could only come up with “pickle wax remover” which sounds way more frightening…

2. An Avocado Slicer: In much the same vein, last summer he came back from a trip to the States with this bizarre item that slices avocados into slivers.  It’s basically a handle with a round hole on one end to remove the avocado pit and a set of blades on the other end for slicing. Here’s a picture of something similar. Sounds great, no? Try it. By the time you’ve cut your avocado in half, removed the pit and begun to slice away, you will have mushy green avocado everywhere. Promise.

3. A Tiny Blade for Cutting Newspaper Clippings. Because scissors are just so…large?

4. A Small Newspaper Holder: This one is harder to explain but more intuitively plausible as a helpful household device. It’s a lightweight metal stand designed to prop up your newspaper while you read so that you don’t have to hold the whole thing open. Instead, you just fold the part of the paper you’re reading and rest it comfortably on the stand. Which is great until…your story continues on page A14 and then you just need to pick the newspaper up again.

And, finally, the piece de resistance on today’s list:

5. A Footwarmer: My husband thinks he has poor circulation and so complains endlessly about his cold extremities. Years ago, he decided to remedy this problem by purchasing this small, noisy, incredibly un-green device that you fill with warm water and then soak your feet in (it kind of looked like this, but had water in it). I think it may have also had a massage function but my mind is fuzzy because I think we used it all of once before deciding (a). it was bulky (b). it used up too much energy and (c). why not just put your feet in a bath?

That’s all folks!

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The Gift That Says (and does!) It All

Via the fabulous website, Very Short List, I came across this incredibly clever faux-advertisement for a new invention in phone-ware: The Pomegranate (be patient: this website takes a while to load, but trust me, it’s worth it).

Please drop whatever you are doing right now and spend 3 minutes surfing this website. The Pomegranate is not just a phone…it’s an entire lifestyle. And that’s not because you can do email/watch a movie/listen to music/take a photo or any of the other features that are now standard on most mobile phones. No. In addition to all those pedestrian i-functions, this phone also pours you a cup of coffee, shaves you, and has a built-in harmonica. I half expected a woman to jump out and do a lap-dance by the time I was done examining this creature.

It reminded me of those ads for “The Ginsu” when I was young (anyone??): “But wait! There’s more! It slices…It dices…”

I’ll admit to being initially conned by this ad (it’s actually an ad for Nova Scotia, but never mind.) I finally copped on when, looking at the built-in voice translator feature, someone orders garlic fingers in Farsi  (yes, despite the PhD, I’m a bit slow at times…). But I think what’s really great about the ad – Nova Scotia or no – is that it plays into our fantasy that life would be so fantastic if we could just have everything at our fingertips. Even if you didn’t believe that the lovely blonde lady was actually brewing a fresh cup of Colombian coffee in 30 seconds out of the bottom of her mobile phone, for a second, didn’t you just wish she could?

It reminded me of a friend of mine whose boyfriend once gave her a room full of all of her favorite things for her birthday. At first, it seemed like the most thoughtful gift on earth:  all of her favorite foods, soaps, gadgets, chocolates etc were all laid out in some cottage, just waiting for her.  What’s not to like? But then we sort of scratched our heads and thought: there’s something wrong with this picture.

After all, what’s the point of growing up if everything is easy? Part of the challenge of adulthood is what I call multi-sourcing:  figuring out how to meet your different needs, learning how to get things from different places,  balancing the different strands of your life even when they collide. When we cease learning, we cease growing up. And what fun is that?

I’m sure the Pomegranate folks were just out to showcase the innovative talents of their small, relatively under-noticed province and not to offer some deeper existential commentary, as I’m tenuously trying to do here. But seriously, folks, nestled inside this ad (right behind the movie projector) is a message. (And I think I can safely say many of us are guilty as charged.)

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