Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Window Boxes All Year Long

Just before Christmas, I went on a historical homes tour. Most of the homes were originally constructed in the period of 1901-1924. There were some homes that were not quite completely restored, and some rooms were closed off. Some were a bit musty. However, there were plenty of homes in mint condition, either restored to their former glory or completely gutted and modernized.

I noticed that the smaller homes that weren't as grand were just as interesting. The owner of one particular house outfitted every outside window with window boxes. Instead of seeing the dirt left behind by deceased annuals, they placed winter hardy plants. More accurately, they lined the boxes with bows of pine that crept over a bit. Since the pine was cut, they would eventually fade but seeing them in the window flower boxes for the event made the atmosphere so Christmas-y.

Indoors, they continued the theme. Next to the front door, there was a window. It was amply shielded from the incoming wind, but you couldn't miss it. There were two planters flanking the entry. Each window boxes contained Christmas Cacti and poinsettias. Of course, they potted them and gave the illusion that they were planted by using Spanish moss and Christmas bows, but the effect was still dramatic.

It really gave me some ideas for next year, but also gave me insight on how to convert a summer look into a winter look, to a summer look again. I, of course, am thinking more about summer now but its nice to know that my choices for spring and summer landscaping don't have to be stored and can be used all year long.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hit Some Balls and Have a Ball in Myrtle Beach

Spring break is upon us, or if not, it is soon. It varies from school district to school district. When I was in school, thoughts normally shifted to one of the Oceanfront Myrtle Beach Resorts because they were still within the United States, so did not require a passport, and did not require several plane connections, such as Hawaii. For this very reason, I did not consider staying at a Myrtle Beach Resort because I forever had this image of drunken debauchery.

Thankfully, Myrtle Beach as changed. Sure, you can still find the spring breakers, but there are now plenty of other reasons to choose the locale. Avista Resort, an Oceanfront Myrtle Beach Resort, is located on the north side of Myrtle Beach. There are numerous championship golf courses in the area if you wish to hit a few balls. Since I am not a regular golfer, I like to go on vacation because its different and its a good way to "people watch" and see the different golf get-ups.

Myrtle Beach Resorts, as you have guessed by now an be far more luxurious than in days past, and cater to a variety of vacation styles. You can check in and be a beach bum. Do you like to wind through the streets, peeping in the windows of antique shops? You can do that, too. For a more active trip, book a boat or a few rounds of golf. Save the last day strictly for rest, or you are going to need an extra day to recover!

Step Inside...

When one calls tech support, sometimes a help desk employee can help you on "their end." This usually applies to internet related issues where they can reset the server. This is very convenient when the problem reaches beyond your individual computer, or you cannot seem to interpret what the real problem is. However, they can't see "into" your computer if you are not able to describe what the problem is, or it has to do with settings on your individual computer.

Sometimes, from across the miles, I wish I could look into my parents' computer to help them out. With a system such as PC Remote Access, you can do just that. While it may not be as practical to purchase for your computer at home, it is definitely practical for small businesses. Host and master software is used to help another user troubleshoot, modify settings, or even file transfer from a different terminal. It can be used within the same building or with computers miles apart. There are collaboration settings as well, where users at both ends can chat. With 256-bit encryption, it is far more secure than free and low fee chat programs.

Have you tried a system like PC Remote Access? Tell me what you think!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

As Good as Gold

I have heard of several folks forgoing traditional savings accounts because, quite frankly, the return on them is not too hot. I am lucky to be earning one to three percent for my savings. A few people I know have just been keeping more money around the house as a result and not letting it hit the bank at all. A few other friends have invested in gold bars or have wanted to buy gold online. Well, you can't actually own gold bars from the treasury. That is why you buy into a gold fund. However, some were just buying pieces of gold. It will always be worth something. It will never be worth zero, and they are betting on it being more stable than other investments.

For now, I am sticking to my statement savings account, but before I invest in stocks, I am going to explore this other option.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Books That Look Like Us

I recently discovered Lee and Low. They are an independent publisher of children's books. One of their claims to fame is that many of the educational story books celebrate diversity. Characters typically feature children of color. There are african american children's books in mainstream publishing, and to a lesser extent asian american childern's books, but I think many of them heavily rely on the book conveying a cultural message. While that is be needed, I wish to see more books that are about a typical age appropriate story featuring children where the children happen to be of color but its not the focus of the story, such as a fanciful tale akin to Flat Stanley or James and the Giant Peach. Sort of like "colorblind casting" in the theater. In other words, where the presence of children of color doesn't always signify a heavy message.

The nice thing about the publisher, is even though there are historical "heritage" stories, there are also many tales where the characters happen to be of mixed race or a minority ethnicity. I think that these stories speak to children even more because the kids are "just like them" no matter what the ethnicity of the reader is. One such story is The Can Man, about a middle class boy who happens upon Mr. Peters, a man who regularly collects aluminum soda cans at the school. The story is told from a child's perspective rather than in a way that pushes adult ideas down a kid's throat. The man character, a boy named Tim, is portrayed in illustration as a child of both Asian and Caucasian descent, which is a similar heritage to that of author Laura E. Williams. Children appreciate books where child characters tend to come to their own conclusions independently of their parents, and that is what Tim does.

To find more books for homeschooling or to supplement what is issued at public school, visit

From the the Closet

winerack2.gifI just love organization devices such a racks, boxes and containers. Someone once told me that it is a deep psychological sign that I like to "compartmentalize" things. I don't really think that's true. Maybe I just like a place for everything. Granted, I have bought racks and bookcases for my collection to grow rather than what I have.

I was excited to find jk adams, which features a fine selection of wine racks, cutting boards and knife organizers. There is a jk wine rack that hosts 48 bottles of wine. I'll never have that many, nor do I want that many. However, it would be an excellent receptacle for rolled up prints, shoes or the like. In fact, years ago I had one of those brown accordion wine racks that I used for shoes.

The possibilities for a jk spice rack is not as vast due to the diminutive size of the containers. I have always wanted to grow and dry my own herbs. However, they would also be the ideal thing to put in a closet for pins and buttons. A little unorthodox, perhaps, but my mind is always looking at objects and always believes that there has got to be another use for every item, in case one should change their mind about it.

Freeze Those Frames

Free Pictures | acobox.comA few years ago, glasses were the hot fashion accessory. I am not talking about eyeglasses merely taking on fashionable new designs, but the fact that they were being worn by people who didn't need to wear glasses. Folks with 20/20 vision were purchasing them and using clear lenses with no power to them. Sure, they could have just worn frames with no lenses but that would have looked a bit like "dress up" time. I haven't seen the trend as much as I used to. Perhaps it faded or maybe I just travel in different circles than I used to.

What puzzled me most is that it was quite cost prohibitive. Unless they were purchased at a thrift store, getting frames just to wear them for show was not an inexpensive undertaking. Recently, I found that Zenni Optical offers frames starting at $8.00. I didn't understand how they did it. However, looking a bit more into it, I discovered their factories were in China. Prescription glasses took a few more weeks to get because of it, but the trade off is they were more affordable.

I have mixed feelings about that. Sure, more people can afford to choose what they like, but the money is going elsewhere. On one hand, there are so many pricier lines that are made in China, it is simply just buying direct what you already may get. I still think that if I should need glasses, I will try to find some American made frames, or at least Canadian made frames. I know that some people consider items made in Italy or Germany a step above items made in China, not because of quality but on principle. To me, overseas is overseas unless the country is historically the only source for that item.

What do you think? Is it okay because you are just getting something you would normally get...but cheaper? Or do you think foreign made everyday items should be avoided?


Monday, March 08, 2010

Home Security: Choose Wisely and Turn Them On!

securityofficer.jpgIt is important to be very careful when sharing personal information, and revealing information about your daily habits. It is also important to not leave sensitive information out in the opening to invite theft. Despite this, people still sometimes don't think to do the most important thing and that is to make sure their home is physically secure.

One of many types of security systems, particularly ADT Security, are an important way nowadays to protect your family, and of course, your valuables. There are all sorts of options available. To some, just having a sticker on your home that announces that a ADT Security System is on premises deters people that would try to break in to your home simply because they were bored and had nothing better to do. Even though the sticker is imposing, that is not why I chose ADT. It is not a fly by night company and I trust that it will be around for a very long time.

For others, a sticker is not going to cut it. Having a not only installed, but properly armed home security system is what is going to protect you. I know several people that have systems, but they never turn them on. This does you no good and is a waste of money. It takes just a minute to arm them before you leave the home, or if you are home alone at night.