How I Manage Pictures and Videos

As the family historian, I spend a lot of time taking family pictures and video clips of the kids. I have looked at several different solutions for pictures and videos to help manage our family archive.

Equipment

iPhone – Like most people, I take pictures via the iPhone. I have a 16GB phone, so not a whole lot of storage, especially since I do play around with lots of apps.

Digital Camera – I have a DSLR for special occasions but for the most part, I have a small digital camera (Canon Powershot).

Eye-Fi Card – I use the Eye-Fi card with the cameras so I can wirelessly upload my pictures.The Eye-Fi card also has social features that allows you to automatically upload to various online services.

 

My Online Service of Choice: SmugMug

smugmug The reason I choose SmugMug is because it allows me to deal with both photos and videos in one place. I don’t have to spend a lot of time to upload photos to one place, then videos to another. Quite often, I took both pictures and videos from one event and then upload to a single gallery. I spend $60 a year for SmugMug’s Pro version, which allows me to use my own domain, have more control over site designs, and to right-click protect my images. If I didn’t care for those things, I can save $20/ year and go with the SmugMugBasic. I cannot emphasize how wonderful it is to know that all our family’s photos and videos are stored on the cloud. There is nothing to worry about losing or degrading of quality as with physical photos and it is much more easily organized and shared. I originally found SmugMug to be a great alternative for my wedding photos since it allows people to print and purchase prints easily and inexpensively, but since then SmugMug has grown a lot more. Pros:

  • More customizable than competing services.
  • Lets you buy prints and photos.
  • Full screen slideshows.
  • Attractive new gallery themes.
  • Easy to organize by drag and drop
  • Has both Mac and PC solutions or plugins

Cons:

  • No free accounts.
  • Almost no community features.
  • No Face tagging.
  • Social media sharing is not so robust.
  • No creative common designations.
  • RAW files require SmugVault using Amazon Web Service for additional fee.

Purging Your Stuff Using Craigslist, Donation, and Freecycle

I recently went through a pretty major move that involved two toddlers, buying a new house, and selling a new house. This was a situation that called for a lot of de-cluttering and purging before and after the move, and I have learned a lot about the pros and cons about these  3 ways of purging.

3bins

[four_first]
Choice:
[/four_first][four_second]
Craigslist
[/four_second][four_third]
Donation
[/four_third][four_fourth]
Freecycle
[/four_fourth]

[four_first]
Pros:
[/four_first][four_second]
More cash
[/four_second][four_third]
Purge faster and feel good
[/four_third][four_fourth]
Local, feel good
[/four_fourth]

[four_first]
Cons:
[/four_first][four_second]
Takes the most amount of time, flakes
[/four_second][four_third]
Tax deduction only
[/four_third][four_fourth]
No money, flakes and odd people
[/four_fourth]

[four_first]
Considerations
[/four_first][four_second]
Best for items that are easy to sell and has good demand (e.g. kids beds, strollers)
[/four_second][four_third]
Good for most things inside the house, as well as non-working electronics
[/four_third][four_fourth]
Good for one-off items that you can’t sell on Craigslist too well and would be useful for particular situations (e.g.: large stacks of paper, moving boxes, unopened pantry food)
[/four_fourth]

Craigslist is great for a virtual yard sale because I simply cannot be setting up a real life one and sit in front of a yard for a whole weekend with two kids running around. For many  high-demand items like expensive toys, strollers, bookshelves, kids bed, the best thing to do is to take a picture and post it on Craigslist. I was able to get money for my goodies and use it to help finance the move. You have to take pictures, add good descriptions, and be ready to deal with questions about it and do some emailing back and forth. The problem with Craigslist is that you have to deal with a lot of back and forth, making appointments, and sometimes people might flake out on you. This is why it is best reserved for items that have high demand and are likely to yield many offers. Of course, with Craigslist, you are also dealing with the public, so there is more risk as well. Craigslist has been used in the commission of many crimes, so one does have to take precautions. For me, it is really only worth the trouble if you think you can sell the item for more than $50. Otherwise, it is just easier to donate to charity or Freecycle

When it comes to getting rid of things fast, there is nothing like just donating it to your local charity. A lot of times you would get a postcard asking for you to put your stuff in the front driveway for pick up and the charity would accept most household items like clothes, shoes, blankets, even old electronics for recycling. I prefer to chose my own charity and just drive it over (I happen to live close to a really good one) because I don’t like to have things sitting in the driveway and not get picked up (which has happened) and I also like to research my charities. Having a tax-deduction is nice too, so it is important to get a receipt. You get to feel good that your items do benefit a charity you support. You save a lot of time by not having to take pictures to post online, not having to have email back and forth with people, or deal with any flakes. However, it does not guarantee that your items are going to avoid the landfill. What the charity cannot use they will toss.

Freecycle can be either the most convenient way to get rid of something or the least. Since money is not going to exchange hands, you can simply leave your item out in front of your house (if you are not skittish about it) and have the designated person pick it up. However since you are dealing with the public, you will have to prepare yourself for the possibility of flakes, and maybe even weirdos. A lot of people will email you with “Is this still available?” or “I want it” without any other explanation and I tend to pick the person who would at least add why they would need the item because I don’t want to be supporting any hoarders out there. By my experience, since these things are “free” there tends to be a lot more no shows than Craigslist, so one might have to go down the line of offers or repost. I have also had a situation where someone who took an item from me told me she decided that she didn’t want it anymore and could she bring it back. I was advised by our local moderator to tell her that if she did bring it back it would be illegal dumping and I would let the Freecycle community know about it. Luckily for me, she didn’t bring the item back to my home. Like most people, I give away stuff on Freecycle to feel good that my stuff is being useful to someone and that experience was not conducive to that!

In the end, I think if you are under a time crunch, the winning way to go would be donation, followed by Craigslist for easy to sell items. I found donating to be less fussy and easier given I have two kids to juggle on top of the move.

 

A Small Tweak Can Make All the Difference

After a little more than a year of being a stay at home mom, I was feeling worn down and terrible about myself. Like any mother of a toddler and breastfeeding infant, I was tired. More than anything, I felt like I was maybe not cut out to be a stay at home wife. Sure I was getting better at cooking, I love being there for my children, I did not miss the conflict between work and home that I felt as a working mother, but I was feeling like Cinderella all the time and tired of being a maid in my own house. I was frustrated that I was always cleaning and things keep piling up again sometimes even sooner than I can clean up. I was getting increasingly frustrated at my husband for not picking up his clothes off the floor and into the laundry basket and having to do everything. At least Cinderella had a fairy godmother; my fairy godmother was never going to come. I had to rescue my damn self.

I don’t usually make New Year resolutions but I decided that this year I need to change something permanently. I still have only 24 hours in a day, a son, a daughter, a husband to take care of, but I needed to give more to ME this year. So starting in January, I told my husband that I was going to spend less time on cleaning and start a fitness habit. I gained quite a bit of weight with the two pregnancies and while I didn’t know how I was going to find the time to take care of myself when something as basic as going to the bathroom and taking a shower seems to be a challenge sometimes. Around the end of January I started on my new routine.

Now a little less than two months into this I can tell you that the difference I feel is tremendous. I feel like one of the luckiest women in the world just about everyday. I have a lot more calm and energy at the same time. I don’t have a perfect regime but I remind myself that it is a new lifestyle that I am trying to establish and no lifestyle is perfect. Exercise is the ultimate ME time!

What is it that you would change about your day-to-day routine to make it better for you?

 

Prioritizing and Doing What’s Important

“If everything is important, nothing is important.”

Important vs. Urgent

Eisenhower once said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” 

  • Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals.
  • Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are not necessarily leading to the achievement of your goals.

Urgent activities are often the ones we concentrate on at the cost of focusing on the important. These are the “squeaky wheels that get the grease.” They demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate. Urgent is not exactly evil but it can cost you what is important.

When I was working in the corporate world, my job had a lot to do with managing resources and productivity. Even a large company with greater resources cannot manage to accomplish every idea that comes up — to do so would create a lot of pissed off, frustrated, and burned out, and crazy people. Setting priorities help you manage your time, your resources, and more importantly, your focus. Time and resources are always finite and limited, and there is no way you can do everything. In setting priorities for managing the home, you have much more control over it because you are the executive (or co-executive) of the home whereas in a corporate setting you might not have as much determination over company values, culture, and priorities.

What your priorities are will depend on your goals and your values. What you want to get accomplish depends on you and your family. Every family has a different context, and each family value different things and have different cultures. For example, once I became a homemaker, I wanted to learn how to be the best homemaker possible for my family. However, being a homemaker can encompass many things: parenting, cooking, cleaning, decorating, laundry, sewing, gardening, home repair, homeschooling, raising and farming your own food, storing, pest control, plumbing, furniture making, etc… There is no way I can or even really want to learn everything that would make me the super perfect homemaker who can do it all. That person doesn’t exist – I don’t think even Martha Stewart does it all. There are a whole lot of things that I don’t do, probably more than what I actually do. You have to pick the parts that matter to you and either forget about or outsource the rest.


Thanksgiving Cooking

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, mostly because it has pretty much meant spending time with friends and family, and participating in one of my favorite social activities — feasting! Previous to this year, I have always been either lazy (going to a restaurant or show up at a dinner where I didn’t have to cook) or participated in a pot luck (brought a dish to a Thanksgiving dinner I was invited to or had friends come over to cook with me). This 2011 Thanksgiving marks a very special milestone for me in that it was the first time I cooked a whole Thanksgiving spread all by myself, and no babysitter. This was going to be a test of whether I was up to snuff as the mistress of the house! Luckily, it also was low pressure since we planned for a quiet Thanksgiving and had only one guest, my good friend since college, over for dinner. The 5-month old baby won’t be eating, just sitting at the table.

The Thanksgiving Menu this year included:

I made none of these dishes ahead, using all fresh (no boxed or mixes) ingredients. This whole menu was made from 8am to 2:30pm on Thanksgiving Day (that time would be less if I didn’t have the children to care for, plus I have one small apartment-styled oven to work with). I thawed and brined the turkey simultaneously the night before based on a Cook’s Illustrated article I had read years ago. I simply did not have time nor the space in my fridge to thaw out the turkey over the course of 3-4 days (it supposedly takes a day to thaw 4 pounds!) in the fridge. I managed to chop some celery and onions, took out the bread for the stuffing to let it air overnight before passing out to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I took a few deep breaths after feeding my toddler and infant and went to work.

I had planned my plan of attack by reading a few different references, including Cook’s Illustrated, Real Simple magazine and Allrecipes.com. I knew that I was going to have to put my 5 month old down for naps and take care of my toddler in between the dish preparations. Yes, my husband is home to help but really he is mostly watching and playing with the toddler so I am still needed here and there. The order of operations had to allow for interruptions, so this is how it went:

  1. Fed the husband and children breakfast to make sure that they were happy. Ate some oatmeal for myself.
  2. Made sweet potato casserole and celery bread stuffing at the same time and cooked both in the oven at the same time. Took them out to cool once done.
  3. Prepped the turkey, then roasted the turkey after sweet potato casserole and celery bread stuffing were done. Played some Thomas & Friends videos for toddler boy via Netflix Streaming. Put baby girl down for morning nap.
  4. While turkey was roasting in the oven, made cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes. Baby girl wakes up, breastfeed.
  5. Prepared roasted Brussels sprouts and green bean casserole while still in the oven, once Turkey comes out to cool, put them in the oven. Feed kids and husband lunch (sandwiches)
  6. Take out the Brussels sprouts and green bean casserole. Put two kids down for naps.
  7. Make hard cider gravy using turkey drippings with husband’s help.
  8. Make pumpkin brownies. Take a shower while brownies are in the oven, then take care of the kids after they wake up from their naps.
The whole thing was a lot less overwhelming than I had thought that it might be. In addition to the advanced planning, I had made the dishes at least once separately before preparing for this Thanksgiving meal. In addition to choosing simple recipes, I also had practice. I knew what I needed, how long each dish would take to prepare, and which I could combine in the oven and bake together, which I can cook on the stove top while the oven was occupied. Thanks to my wonderful guest, I didn’t have to clean up all by myself either!
All in all a successful Thanksgiving — yummy, quiet, and peaceful. We stayed away from the Black Friday craziness and ate our leftovers in relaxation and peace.