Saturday, November 17, 2012

App Review: Out of Milk

My love affair with lists is close to obsessive. Notepads full, word docs with bulletized lists, scribbles on the backs of envelopes. It's both a twitchy comfort and a safeguard for my shitty short-term memory. Going to the grocery without a list has resulted recently in remembering to buy hot dogs, but not the buns that go with them. Since I really try to only shop once a week or every two weeks- it makes for extra trips or wasted food. 

Google Play (I'm an Android / HTC OneX  girl) is heavy with task list apps, shopping list apps, to-do list apps, pantry management apps, time management apps. I'm not very fussy as a user. I like a clean UI and easy edit capabilities. I found after trying several to-do and shopping list apps that being able to update them online was my key to the best app. 

Out Of Milk has been the app that has stayed on my phone. My choice is not based on a specific set of test guidelines, nothing that scientific. I go and search the Google Play store, find a couple with decent reviews and that are free or have free trials and load them on the phone. After setting them up, playing around with them and then closing them, the winner ends up being decided by what app I come back to later when I really need to use the service. Out of Milk is that app. 

Image thanks to the Google Play store
Getting a 4.5 out of 5, the reviews are pretty accurate. It's quick to get the hang of and easy to create lists. Not as intuitive when it comes to deleting, editing entries or deleting lists, but once you figure out how that happens, it's a snap. 

I've just started using the pricing and coupon functions. I'm honestly too lazy to scan all the bar codes in, adjust and correct pricing, but I am going to try to get a better handle on our food costs, so this should help me plan my grocery budget. More updates when I have tried that feature. 

I'm using it for all things move related and will be able to test out the sync, share and online edit features more thoroughly. 

Worth mentioning that the $1.99 Pro upgrade is well worth it. Fully featured, this app does everything useful for list organization without adding too much you just don't need. 

The First Load

The front porch of our new little house. 

The new house is a reality. Yesterday, I did the house inspection with the real estate agent and then sat on my new front porch and watched our Aussie, Kai, put on a show for the drivers sitting in traffic and sniff every plant and little nook in the fence.

Happy Dog!
I can't wait to put planters on the porch. It's the east facing side of the house, so the current likely spot to plant tomatoes. The drawback in this homestead plan being that we sit on a major road with lots of traffic pollution. Flowers for sure and lots of them. My tacky Christmas light addiction just found a main line. I'm going to need more C7 led lights. My excitement can almost not be contained, as might be evident in my hamster-like subject changes. Big plans all around.

We brought the first bits of stuff to the new house today when we came to measure some of the rooms for carpets. We borrowed plastic totes from a friend and to make best use of them we will bring down several loads in them when we come do things like detail clean. This trip, it was our bar ware, my Bacchus wall hanging, Robert's Lego ships and the framed mandala that my friend, Keith Prossick, made that is my most precious non-essential possession.

The photo with the odd stone animals in it sits just outside the privacy fence at the drive way. The nearly legless bull dog came with the house. The agent said, "you can just get rid of that thing." with a wrinkle in her nose, but I think it is perfect as a mate for my creepy cement cat. That cat was part of a set- it had maybe 3 little cement kittens that reminded me of fetal cats from biology class. When I was a kid, these cats lived in my great-grandmother's house, sat in the living room and I LOVED them. They were my pets, I would carry the concrete fetal kittens around. They had names, but I have long since buried that memory.

My mother gave me the momma cat several years ago and it's sat near the entrance to my home since then. It never fails to make me smile. I'm happy to have been able to give it a friend to keep it company. It;s interesting the things that make a new space feel like your space.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Plan Very Carefully To Freak Out : A Moving Story

We signed the lease on a little 1920's bungalow in the Reynoldstown  area of Atlanta today. When I moved to Atlanta as an adult in 2003 I wanted to live in Little 5 Points, but as a still mostly broke post-college student with a supremely uptight fiance, we had to settle for a cheap apartment north of the city.

What you can see of the house from the street. 
This move was focused mainly on getting closer to our kid and out of the suburbs. We have been looking for about 6 weeks, not happy with anything we had found and I was beginning to fret when I happened on a listing for this small little brick house just a mile from Little 5 Points and just a stone's throw away from Grant Park and East Atlanta. This is the kind of coincidence I don't usually find myself on the favorable end of and I jumped on it.

I'm jittery with excitement. To be not only back in the city, back into an area where I can walk out my front door and be somewhere interesting in 10 minutes, without getting in the car, but into a house that has feel I have been after for a long time.

In order to assure that we got the house, we had to take it about 2 weeks earlier than originally planned. Once I have the keys, I am not going to be able to stand myself, so waiting the extra weeks wasn't going to work. Now, I find myself with about 10 days until we plan to have movers at the old house and I have just started the most cursory of packing.

These days are all very carefully planned, but I can already start to feel the freak out building. The slight panic of HOLY SHIT EVERYTHING TO DO!! ALL THE LISTS!! ALL THE CHECKING!! ALL THE THINGS!! is just under the surface of desperately trying to keep it all together and stick with my careful plan.

Moving To Do List (of DOOM)

  • Pack everything. Dust as you go. Consider what you are putting into the box and make sure that you really want to keep it- If you haven't touched it in 6 mo to 1 year you can probably live without it. Have a box or bag that is dedicated to donations and put it somewhere central to the house. Label each box clearly and on at least the top and one of the sides. Pack all the items that you use daily/weekly in each room in a single box marked "Open First". 
  • Change of Address. The USPS has made this stupidly easy. You have to have a credit/debit card to do the online change of address, but the $1 they charge is worth the trip to the post office. If you have to fill out and send in a card, check to see if your local library is closer, they typically have new resident / moving packets. Don't forget to change your address with all your magazines and catalogs, the USPS doesn't provide this service any longer. Start your forwarding 2 days prior to your actual move in date, it will help prevent you from lagging mail that arrives just at and after your move. 
  • Move utilities. Keep in mind that most providers will want to come out and install, change or otherwise try to justify a trip charge for your move. Cable/satellite providers also typically require that you have the electronics already at the house for testing purposes, but you don't want to be hassling with the movers and the cable guy at the same time. However, scheduling all your installations on the same day is a winner. 
  • Update insurance policies. Car, renters/homeowners, life insurance all have to be updated with the new address information and if not done in a timely manner can effect the policy payouts. If you are a renter like me and don't have renters insurance, you're an idiot and you should go and fix that right now
  • Update the DMV (or, DDS if you are in a state trying to get away from the DMV stigma). Again, most states have made this stupidly easy. In Georgia, you can do it online in a couple of minutes and it will update your voter registration at the same time. 
  • Empty the fridge. Stop going to the grocery, find reasons to use up condiments and dry goods. Eat what you have stored in the freezer. For the last week before any of my moves I end up eating crap, but it's for a short period of time and it's worth it not to have to throw everything away or risk spoiling it. 
  • Hire movers. The freak out about this is WAY closer to the surface. These people are going to be handling all my things and I don't like that at all, but I also don't want to schlep all my crap into this house. Packing for movers is more time consuming than packing when I know I am going to move it. They don't know what's in my boxes. Go with recommendations from friends, co-workers, do your homework with the BBB or Yelp or something.
I am surely forgetting something, but if I don't stop prattling on about moving and get into the list above, I may explode. Moving is a huge, stressful undertaking, but it's always been a great pleasure of mine to find, claim and set up a new space.

Friday, November 9, 2012

I'm a princess.

At the moment, I have bright pink hair. It should be red, like my profile photo, but it's faded so much and my hair is so damaged (read : too terrified of getting a hair cut) that the color fades quick and leaves just the pink base behind. Not really my favorite but between our impending move, work, family, etc. etc. etc. I haven't found a moment to do the whole hair color process.

It has been an interesting social experiment. Suburbia is not much for anything non-standard. For another week, I live in a suburb VERY not interested in anything non-standard.  I am a fat white woman, broad shoulders, wide hips - I'm physically hard to miss. My day-to-day attire matches my corporate casual day job, maybe with a little more flair. Pretty standard stuff, but I have bubble-gum pink hair.

People openly and actively stare. Children are my favorite as well as the folks who unabashedly stare and smile when I walk by. I try to make eye contact with everyone, return a genuine smile, answer their questions with bright enthusiasm. People ask all kinds of questions: "Did you do that on purpose?" " How did you get it that color?" "Do you have a job?" "What does your mom think?" Personal questions that mostly they would never think to ask a normal stranger, but something about acting like it's the most normal thing in the world and engaging them in that manner makes them bold. Some days, I really hate it, but I can put on a hat and become just another anonymous person doing the weekly shopping.

Not a princess. 
It challenges my self-esteem, because not everyone is nice, but thankfully they are usually pretty quiet and look away quickly when I make eye contact, but I do occasionally hear people making fun, see them rolling their eyes and I do take a specific kind of pleasure in making them so uncomfortable.

It's washed out in my memory by experiences like the one I had in the grocery store tonight. I was picking out produce, ear phones in, when I felt a tug on my shirt. It was a little girl, likely 7 or so. She very clearly asked, "Are you a princess?" Her mom was around the other side of the bin, not paying attention. When I answered in the negative, she said, "My mom said only princesses can have pink hair." I thought for a moment, what I would say to D'mitri if he made a similar statement. Leaned down, smiled and said, "Your mom's lying."

She furrowed her little eyebrows, turned around and said, loudly and whining, "MOM!!" and walked off.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No Excuses, Go Vote

I am a very political llama. It's a frustrating, passionate, occasionally abusive relationship, but I continue to vote because I believe in the process, in democracy. It's not an idealistic love affair. To quote a friend, "I am sick of voting for the lesser of two evils, but at least I still have a choice."

Getting into the nitty-gritty of my political beliefs at this late a date would be futile, but if you are still undecided or frustrated or apathetic - suck it up, make a choice and go vote. Not exercising your right to have active participation in our democratic process makes room for those to seek power to take it away from you. Just by exercising your rights, you make them stronger.

If you haven't registered, go do that today instead.

If you haven't decided on who to vote for, check out the Google Voter Information area and click through some links.

If you have decided and have not yet voted today, go do it. Now. Right now.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My New Comfort Food

I can't write a blog post tonight. There is wit and snark aplenty, but nothing that seems better than just playing video games on our new PS3, laughing with Robert, drinking salted caramel hot chocolate for dessert after a comfort food meal: American-cheese grilled cheese and Campbell's Tomato soup, half whole milk and half water, paired with a giant glass of cherry Lambic. The Lambic just became a new part of our family comfort food pairings. Kid comforts, adult beverage. 

Put this in your ear holes instead of reading my words - Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Nerdist podcast
I will happily admit to being both a unabashed nerd and a bit of a Neil deGrasse Tyson fan-girl. This interview with Chris Hardwick did not disappoint! My DoggCatcher is full of Nerdist Industries podcasts because it's fun, relevant and only occasionally annoying.* 

*(Love ya, boys, but if I have to listen to any more sweet, cloying pratter between the king and his new queen, I'm going to fast-forward, and I mean it this time.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Once More Into November

It's November and every November since 2009 I have embarked on some sort of writing kick in the ass like NaNoWriMo and the only time I have succeeded was in 2009. The last couple of years my attempt has been at NaBloPoMo. Failing entirely at each attempt. This year - I have a plan.

Keeping it simple, I made time to write. My schedule is already pretty damn full. I work 40+ hours a week at a stuffy corporate job, I'm a parent, have pets, a house, a knitting habit. Writing hasn't been a priority for me since just after college. Online journals like Livejournal were my introduction into blogging, but also my first social media experience; I was on LJ because my friends were and it wasn't MySpace.  Then Facebook shows up and I migrated there because it was the new thing, then Twitter and Google+. Every new outlet less useful, but it had the feel like I was keeping up with my tribe, following the lives of those I cared about. Referencing "did you see what she posted on FaceBook" and "that comment thread on G+" as part of my normal in-person conversation.

About a week ago, on the heels of some poor communication within my social circle, I started to look at how I was communicating and interacting with my tribe and realized that I was using social media in place of actual investment in the people I cared for or was simply interested in. On the other side, people only knew me through the snipets posted to my wall.

I decided that I would break off my use of social media - FaceBook and Google+ primarily as I gave up Twitter some time ago. Uninstalled the apps from my phone, removed them from the browser history and made a pact with myself that when I wanted to go and scan those sites I would do something more creative. Work on bits of blog posts, write emails to friends, send a text message. Not as great as picking up the phone and calling or meeting for a beer, but it is a more personal, directed and chosen way to interact with technology. Or, I go read reddit or my blog feeds or anything that actually introduces me to new things outside the microcosm of my social circle.

Which loops me back to NaBloPoMo - it's my choice over social media. If people want to get to know me, this is a much better place. I want to use these next thirty days to find my voice again. Create something with words. Put myself out there with more than 100 words about my daily slog.

Welcome aboard. I'm glad you're here.