Hello, everyone! Jen here guest posting for Hallie today. For those of you who aren’t familiar with me, I have a blog called Conversion Diary where I whine about scorpions and pulmonary emboli. I’m doing Hallie’s Five Favorites post today because Hallie is expecting to go into labor at any second. She is many days past her due date so, obviously, she can’t write a post right now because she is too filled with ecstasy to operate her keyboard. She reports that what is sustaining her right now is the hope that this pregnancy lasts even longer so that she can enjoy more of it, as well as super-helpful “HAVE U HAD THE BABY YET?” emails.
While she’s busy with all of that, here are five of my favorite things:
1. PAPERLESS OFFICE SCANNER
When I ordered this scanner last year, I expected it to solve all of my problems. And it has. I mean, it hasn’t prevented me from having robot tubes snaked into my neck (though, it its defense, I haven’t read the entire owner’s manual yet) but it’s made the rest of my life basically perfect.
You see, my desk used to be overflowing with paperwork. Getting all the papers from the heap on my desk and into the filing cabinet always managed to hover right around item #14 on my to-do list, perpetually stuck under higher-priority tasks like “Google how to get Cheez Whiz out of doll hair” and “explain to kids why putting the shoe on the ceiling fan will not count as a homeschool physics experiment.” Thus, every day I would walk by the ever-growing piles of papers in my office, each inch of my desk that disappeared like a symbol of my disappearing will to live.
Then I got this scanner. And everything changed.
It couldn’t be easier to use: You set your paper in the tray, press a pretty blue button, and check Pinterest in the three seconds it takes to scan. A menu pops up on your computer screen and gives you about 15 different options for how you want the scan filed (I have my docs converted to PDFs that are sent to a special Evernote account I use for all my filing, though another great option would be PDF to Dropbox). It auto-senses the number of pages to create multi-page PDFs, and even detects the words in your files so that they’re searchable. After the scan I shred the papers and — voila! — clean desk!
It’s also been great for archiving kids’ art: We keep some of the more special items for memento books, but my Picassos over here churn out drawings at a rate that was getting hard to keep up with. (I recently lost a 9×13 casserole dish because I couldn’t see it under that week’s masterpieces from my girls.) I always felt guilty tossing the stuff, but now I can scan it in, file it to Evernote, and email it to the grandparents with the push of a button — and then throw it away, guilt-free.
To summarize my feelings about this product: I’m having a baby next week, and I have not yet ruled out “Fujitsu Scansnap” as a name.
I’m so pop culture illiterate that I’m sure you all already know about this show and have watched each episode 10 times and are politely stifling your chuckles that I’m just now discovering it, but Sherlock is my new favorite program. The writers did a brilliant job of translating the character of Sherlock Holmes to the 21st century. You can tell they put a lot of thought into how someone with this classic character’s temperament and intelligence level would function in the modern world. The dialogue is razor-sharp, the characters are absolutely believable, the plots will keep you on the edge of your seat, and there’s no token “Swedish bikini model who also happens to be a nuclear physicist” love interest. Huge thanks to Bonnie for insisting that I watch it.
3. CRAYOLA WRITE-ON/WIPE-OFF BOARDS
I thought that homeschool handwriting was going to be the death of me. Watching my kids try to draw lower-case B‘s and E‘s brought out hidden OCD tendencies that I didn’t even know I had, and their difficulty mastering letters led to more than one incident of pencils being launched across the table through tears (sometimes the children would get upset too).
Then one day I was doing some research on Amazon during “You Can Do WHATEVER You Want as Long as You Leave Mommy Alone with Her Computer” Time, and I came across these personal write-on/wipe-off tablets. On a whim, I ordered one for each of my two homeschooled kids. I am so, so glad that I did, because it’s changed everything. Handwriting is no longer a torture session for all involved; for whatever reason, the ability to erase mistakes quickly and easily makes everyone more relaxed when 4‘s turn out looking like something from an ancient runic language. It’s also taken a lot of stress out of math, since mistakes there are also perceived to be less earth-shattering when fixing them involves using a cute little mini-eraser. Best of all, you can insert any 8×10 paper under the clear plastic board, so that kids can do worksheets, puzzles, or handwriting practice on the tablets.
Even if you don’t homeschool, I highly recommend these drawing boards. My kids actually prefer playing with them to watching TV!
4. WIRELESS SPEAKER
One thing about living with seven (almost eight) people in a smallish three-bedroom house is juggling nighttime noise issues. The adults, the big kids, and the little kids each have different bedtimes, and if a member of the in-bed group hears a member of the still-up group doing something fun late into the evening, he or she will get up and come downstairs and demand to know why he or she can’t stay up and participate in said fun activity too — and despite the fact that we go over this almost every night, it is a source of fresh outrage and bewilderment every single time.
The TV was the biggest problem in this department. The main living room television is closest to the littlest kids’ room, and it was getting impossible to watch anything after they went to bed since the minimum volume at which we could hear anything was loud enough that it would disturb them. After a particularly dramatic moment of shaking my fist at the heavens and shouting “Can I have NOTHING pleasurable in my life?!” after being interrupted by overtired toddlers approximately 28 times during the opening credits of 30 Rock, I decided to take action. I went on Amazon and bought this cute little battery-powered wireless speaker, and it has saved my life.
It’s small — about the size of a large orange — but it has great sound quality. I can set it next to me when I’m watching TV at night so that I can keep the volume low but still hear my show, and it even has a headphone jack in case I need to be really quiet. I should note that it’s designed to work with Bluetooth enabled devices like computers, tablets, smartphones, etc. (which works for us since we watch shows through a computer hooked up to our TV), so I’m not sure if it would work if you had a regular setup with TV and a cablebox. But if you need to keep the TV noise down and have a device that works with Bluetooth, you’ll find this little speaker invaluable!
5. THE ESSENTIAL COCKTAIL BY DALE DEGROFF
My husband snapped this picture of me because he thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen: he walked into the living room one day last week to encounter his nine-months-pregnant wife reading a book about cocktails during Holy Week. He was laughing too hard to hear my explanation of what was going on there, so I’ll tell you instead:
I have had to endure all the drama of the past few months without a single stiff drink, and so I treated myself to this book about crafting classic cocktails. I thought it would be a fun post-baby project to find one drink that looks great and master the recipe. I was planning on looking through the book after the baby got here, but I happened to see a page that talked about a kind of spirits called Benedictine that was developed by monks in the 19th century. I was interested to know which Benedictine Abbey created the drink and learn more about its history, so I became engrossed in that section (see! it was historical and holy reading!). Anyway, that’s when Joe walked in and began his little field day.
All that aside, the book is great. The author is a master bartender who is considered one of the best in the world at his craft, and offers simple recipes to craft drinks worthy to be served in oak-paneled private club bars. He also includes lots of sidebars with interesting tidbits of information about the history of the drinks or their ingredients (like stuff about Benedictines making spirits! that pious pregnant women might have a perfectly legitimate reason to read during Holy Week!).
I’ll follow up with taste testing notes in a few weeks.
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Thanks for letting me guest host! Have a great week!