Five Favorites: The Jen blog takeover edition!

by Jennifer Fulwiler on April 2, 2013

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

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300iWhen 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.

2. SHERLOCK

SherlockI’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

ff-crayola-activity-centerI 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

ff-bluetooth-speakerOne 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

ff-drinks-bookMy 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.

* * * * *

Thanks for letting me guest host! Have a great week!



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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Amelia April 2, 2013 at 8:55 pm

I love Sherlock too! My husband and I are on pins and needles waiting for the next episode!
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Lisa April 2, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I love Sherlock too. I was skeptical at first about the whole modern take, but the acting and writing are great. So addicting!
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GeekLady April 2, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I don’t know about you, Jen, but I am dying for a good margarita. And I still have ten more weeks to go. …and my margaritas might be a bit strong for immediately postpartum. *sob*

Also the fiends at Shocktop have put out a Honeycrisp Apple Wheat that is simply marvelous – I know because I sneaked a small sip the first time Himself had one. So I’ve been making him stockpile for after the baby gets here “to help my milk come in”.
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Dianna Kennedy (@DiannaKennedy) April 3, 2013 at 11:43 am

Is the Honeycrisp Apple a cider? If you like cider, you MUST try Crispin Cider …. the blue version (original) is good, but I had the honeyed version (amber label) and it’s phenomenal.

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Beth Anne April 2, 2013 at 9:44 pm

I love the idea of the scanner. I have started doing this with several things. I have also started creating binders for important documents that seems to help.
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Michelle April 2, 2013 at 9:46 pm

I haven’t done one of these 5 things posts (yet) but…I love the idea of scanning all my paperwork and filing it online. I have got to get busy and get this organized somehow. My bills are all paid online so filing the paper is just a huge hassle. I don’t know why it takes seeing your scanner deal on a 5 things post for me to realize this is the key to happiness in my life…but whatever works, right? haha
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Stefanie April 2, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Love anything that is dry erase! I’ll have to check these out soon for my oldest daughter!
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Bonnie April 2, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Glad you like it. I’m anticipating the next season on Sherlock more than I did Downton Abbey. It’s killing me!

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Jeannine April 2, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Jen, your scanner solution is making a lot of sense to me, especially since paper clutter is my #1 obstacle to an organized life. Well, no, I’m my #1 obstacle to an organized life, but you know what I mean. Def. bringing this up w/the husband at our wine-assisted household budget meeting this Sunday night.

L♥ve to Hallie.
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bobbi @ revolution of love April 3, 2013 at 2:56 am

My husband and I love Sherlock. It’s the one PBS show I love as much as, if not more than, Downton Abbey. (and that’s saying a lot!) ;-)
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Rosie April 3, 2013 at 6:12 am

You may just have changed my life with those wipe-off boards – I keep finding more and more worksheets on Pinterest to print for my son now that he FINALLY wants to write, but I can just stick them in there and use them over and over again??? AND THEN JUST SIT ON THE COUCH USING THE COMPUTER WHILE HE’S ENTERTAINED?

Game. Changer.
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elizabethe April 3, 2013 at 6:42 am

What a treat! Yay Jen! I am praying for you and your surgery.

I have three of those five things already and I am about to order the other two. We use the scanner for medical bills, records and other things. It IS a life saver.

Jen, you left out the best part about the speaker. It comes in a selection of cute colors, including apple green!

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Colleen Martin April 3, 2013 at 7:00 am

Sherlock is sooooo good. Too bad Watson is filming The Hobbit movies and Sherlock is going to be in Star Trek (or something sci-fi like that). They need to stop everything and record another season!!

Jen, I hope you find the perfect cocktail to drink after your hellish pregnancy is over.

And Hallie – I’m praying for you! Good luck!! Can’t wait to see the new baby soon :)
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Hallie @ Moxie Wife April 3, 2013 at 7:17 am

Thanks, love! I really, really appreciate it. You’re always such a sweet pea. :)

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Rae April 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm

They’ve started filming Sherlock Season 3!!!
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dweej {House Unseen} April 3, 2013 at 7:39 am

Hallie, I am praaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaying for you to have your very own birthday buddy. Oh my gosh, how great would that be? C’mon little dude!

Welp, I might have to finally check out Sherlock. I am not a big watcher of things, but if it’s really as good as Downton, how can I pass it up?
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Hallie @ Moxie Wife April 3, 2013 at 8:31 am

Thank you sososososo much! You’re a peach, Dwija!

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Jenna@CallHerHappy April 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

Is Sherlock on Netflix? We are always looking for a good show to snuggle together with :)
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Dianna Kennedy (@DiannaKennedy) April 3, 2013 at 11:42 am

Yes! It’s on Netflix, along with another fantastic show, Merlin. (BBC)

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Bonnie April 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Season 1 is on Netflix watch instantly. I was able to watch Season 2 on tv and online (PBS) but now I think you have to get it at a video store. BUT it’s worth it!!!
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Terri April 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Season 2 is also on Netflix Instant now. Three is filming and a season four has been confirmed:)
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Terri April 3, 2013 at 11:02 am

Sherlock is brilliant and although I’m a faithful viewer of Downton Abbey, Sherlock is above and beyond Downton. After Season 1, I watched Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor who portrays Sherlock Holmes, in HAWKING, a BBC movie about Stephen Hawking’s life at the time of his diagnosis and first year as a grad. student. It sealed the deal on my opinion that he is one of the great actors of our time. I watched Hawking on YouTube;); it is an amazing performance.
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Ellen April 3, 2013 at 11:10 am

Jen, Sherlock is great for contraction distraction. I speak from experience! Good luck with your terrifying robot neck tube thingy (eeeek!) and prayers for both you and Hallie with your impending little ones’ arrivals!

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Bridget April 3, 2013 at 11:21 am

Jen, my husband and I also loved “Sherlock,” which got us hooked on BBC television shows. By FAR, my favorite was “Luther.” The character “Luther” is a fantastic Scotland Yard detective with inner demons. It is EXCELLENT and on Netflix as well. Check it out! My husband also liked “Hyde,” a modern-day adaptation of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” but I thought it was too violent and gory.

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Dianna Kennedy (@DiannaKennedy) April 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

oooh, Jen! I want to kiss you. I ADORE Sherlock …. have you tried Merlin? (ONLY the BBC version.) I’m totally addicted to British TV

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Liz April 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Ok, so I read on a blog that it is Hallie’s birthday?? Not sure, but if it is, HAPPY BIRTHDAY Hallie!! Lots of well wishes for a great day and happy delivery!
Jen: wishing you a happy delivery too! I had a few minor difficulties this last pregnancy (nothing nothing nothing compared to yours!!) and oh this last baby has been a dream! I remember telling my husband while I was on bedrest during the pregnancy that this baby had better be some great saint or something! I dont’ know if this is any indication of that, but he sleeps amazingly, is the most happy and contented baby, and I swear all those troubles I encountered somehow influenced his very amiable personality. Here’s hoping that you have a similar experience!
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Hallie @ Moxie Wife April 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Thank you, Liz! :)

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Gretchen April 3, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Happy Birthday Hallie!

I just heard over at House Unseen that it’s your birthday, and I wanted to wish you a wonderful birthday (the last two hours of it) and a very blessed year ahead.

I’ve enjoyed your blog (and Jen’s too) since I discovered it in the fall of 2009, but don’t think I’ve ever commented. I had to tonight, not just because it’s your birthday but because when it comes to having babies go past their due date: I FEEL YOUR PAIN! I’ve had six, and the first five were between 6 to 10 days late (ALL of them!). The latest edition was one day early: it was a miracle, really.

So I’ll be praying for a safe and healthy delivery, and for special grace for you in the mean time.

Love,
Gretchen in New England

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Jane Hartman April 3, 2013 at 2:16 pm

The speaker is awesome! We’re praying for you, Jennifer.

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Lisa G April 3, 2013 at 2:56 pm

That speaker is amazing!!! And nine months pregnant – phooey. Could have fooled me – you look fantastic!!

And I’m praying for you Hallie!!!
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Carolyn @4life4life April 3, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Hi Jen! Keeping Hallie in my prayers here. The wireless speaker is a great idea and something I’ll have to keep in mind. I love reading cocktail recipes! I have a Pintrest board dedicated to them for special occasions- though I’ve hardly tried any. Better prepared than not, right? That’s what Pinterest is for, right? Right??

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Mary April 3, 2013 at 4:35 pm

LOVE Sherlock and I also love those wireless speakers. they are now on my Amazon list. Fabulous idea!
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Laura Nelson April 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Great post! I’m SO going to try out Sherlock and maybe ask for the speaker or scanner for my birthday. Of course, I don’t know if even a scanner can clear the clutter in my mind! :)

I have to say how much I admire you and Hallie. I’m a mother of three and the youngest of ten and my mother and I haven’t done HALF of what you two have done! Most of all, I love how real you both are in your posts. That honesty is comforting and encouraging to all of us.

Thanks for sharing your lives with us.

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Laura April 3, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Jen and Hallie, You are both in my prayers!
Jen, I love Sherlock too but I really think Foyle’s War is the best.
That scanner is sounding so wonderful right now. I have a foot-high stack of filing to do. Unfortunately, I just bought a printer/scanner a few months ago. I wonder if mine can do what yours does? Perhaps I should read the instruction manual?? ;-)

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Mary Ellen Barrett April 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm

I can’t believe it never occurred to me to use the scanner to do my basic filing! Thanks for the idea. I also just put the book on my Amazon wish list. I love making pretty cocktails.

When I had my fourth baby and friends came to visit the nurses had such a laugh. Not one person brought flowers but I had four bottles of wine and three corkscrews at the end of visiting hours.

Nine months is a long time. :)

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Kelly M. April 3, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Would love to share cocktails with you both Jen and Hallie. Can we do that over Twitter? Until then, i’ll pray for the safe arrival of both your bundles and Jen’s upcoming procedure with Dr. Octopus.

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Nancy April 3, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Happy Birthday, Hallie!!!!!!!!

Jen, Sherlock really is almost as good as Downton, if I may be so bold as to say so. The only problem is…there’s like 3 episodes (okay, very long episodes) per season! What the heck!!! I’m left still strung out on trying to find a substitute for Downton fairly quickly. ;)

Isn’t Martin Freeman the best?
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