A Tech Guide for Rip Van Winkle

ripvanwinkleMy friend, “Rip”, hasn’t exactly been sleeping for 20 years, but his luddite ways has left him out of the web.  On a road trip last year he got lost, so he thought he’d look up the address in a phonebook in a phone booth.  He drove around for ages looking for a public phone.  Luckily he found a blue police box and a nice doctor helped him find his way.

I think it’s about time that Rip adopt the most modern technologies for his next adventures.  The irony is that Rip isn’t actually technologically obtuse.  He can code in COBOL like nobody’s business.  He’s just a really slow adopter when it comes to his personal life.  So where should be get started?

The Smart Phone

Rip sometimes uses a beeper for work, but I think it’s time he get a cell phone – and it better be smart.  After careful consideration (we are Samsung AND Apple users) I have decided to recommend the iPhone.  For three reasons: #1) It’s the most intuitive.  #2) Its so widely used, almost anyone can help him use it.  #3) His bffs use iPhones too, so they can all use FaceTime.  (Rip – This means that you can video chat with each other ANYWHERE for FREE as long as you are using wifi.)

I should probably explain to Rip that a Smart Phone isn’t a phone, but a tiny computer that can also be used for phonecalls.  At the most basic level, it’s a:

Phone Address Book Clock Calendar
Camera Video Camera E-Mail Text
Weather Reminder Calculator Notebook
Maps & GPS Music Games Computer


And then there are the apps.  There is practically an app for everything you can think of and 10 for things you didn’t even know you needed (although I’m still waiting for the app that will call 9-1-1 if I have a heart attack or a stroke). Some of my favorites are:

  • Facebook
  • Google Calendar
  • Do it Tomorrow – After a lot of research into various to do lists – the color coded, deadlines, categories… – this is my favorite, and the simplest.  You can either enter it for today or for tomorrow.  Anything you don’t get done will be left on the today page.
  • Face Time
  • Netflix
  • Urbanspoon
  • Wikipedia
  • IMDB
  • Youtube
  • Pinterest
  • CBC radio – Hey Rip, you can live stream or listen to podcasts of DNTO.
  • Banking
  • Shopping – Canadian Tire, PC Points, MEC, Groupon, Kijij…

do it tomorrowurbanspoonpinterest


Have you got any favorite apps or iPhone tricks?

Going Full Google

I’ve recently decided to go full Google, and I would recommend that Rip do the same.  With one login, on one platform, and with apps that can work together – how can you go wrong?  It’s all cloud based, accessible on any computer and on your phone.

google1Google Calendar

I started my Google crush with the Calendar.  It is the most powerful tool I’ve ever used.  The best part is being able to share my calendar with the husband.  We are both so busy, it’s hard to keep track of our schedules, and to make time for each other. With Google Calendar not only can I see which night he has free, but I can add an appointment into his calendar to take me on a date.

  • Color code schedule, reminders, meeting requests
  • See other people’s calendars or share yours
  • Upload other schedules, like Edmonton Eskimo home games
  • Set annually recurring events like birthdays and anniversary
  • Set events years in the future, like “go to optometrist in 2016” or “renew passport in 2018”


You don’t have to have Gmail to use Google Calendar, but why wouldn’t you?  With the same login, you can have this awesome email tool.

google2Google Drive

Google Drive is a cloud storage, file sharing, and collaborative editing tool.  It offers documents, presentations, spreadsheets, forms, and drawing.   I have only used docs and spreadsheets, and truthfully, it is not my favorite.  I prefer Evernote for note taking and writing.  And the spreadsheets function never quite worked properly.  But for Rip, I think it’ll work just fine.

Google Keep

I have just discovered Google Keep and I love it.  It’s basically electronic sticky notes.  It’s simple, but you can set titles, color coding, check-able lists and include pictures.

Google Maps

It’s a map.  It’s online.  It has map view, satellite view, and street view.  Even Rip knows Google Maps, so I don’t need to sell it here.

Google also offers Web, Images, News, Shopping, Videos, Blogs, Books, Visual Search, Travel, Finance.

I think that’s a good start for Rip.  Any tech, apps or tools you can’t live without?

Spring Cleaning for Charity

As soon as the snow melts, I’m ready to trade my parkas and boots for shorts and flip flops. This means time for my bi-annual closest swap, which, as an organizing fanatic, is one of my favorite times. This is also a great time to purge my unused/unwanted items and send them off to charity.

Tips on In-Kind DonationsSpring Cleaning for Charity

  • Only donate items that are clean and in good condition. Many charities raise money by selling their items at thrift stores. If you’re thinking it’s in good condition but just needs a small repair, then repair it. If it’s not worth your time, it’s not worth the charity’s either.
  • Check to see what items the charity is accepting. Most charities have a list of acceptable and not acceptable items. Mattresses and large appliances are commonly not accepted. This is where Freecycle or Kijiji can be useful (see below).
  • notextbooksNo one wants your old textbooks. Unless the edition is still be used in schools, your textbooks are worthless. I have done a lot of research on this. The library doesn’t want them, Goodwill doesn’t want them, and developing nations don’t want them (too expensive to ship).  Better World Books will take them, if you are willing to pay for the shipping costs.  I heard that somewhere they will recycle them into shingles, but I haven’t found a place who will accept them yet.  For now, they go into regular paper recycling.

Picking a Charity

  • Goodwill and Canadian Diabetes’s Clothesline are my favorite places to donate, because it’s easiest on me. They take (almost) EVERYTHING, because they sell it in the store, and they will even pick up from you.
  • For teen or “cool” clothes, I give them to YESS. It’s pretty hard for them to get clothing for their clients. Image you are teenager who has to accept donated clothes. Mom jeans and grandpa’s sweater are not helping.
  • If I do a big purge and have a lot of good condition clothing (like when the husband lost 25 lbs, and he got rid of entire wardrobe), then I’ll give it all to a nearby shelter. Mustard Seed, Bissell Center, and Boyle Street give them directly to their clients.
  • Freecycle is best if you have a big, damaged or unusual item. People will take almost anything if it free. If you have an item that needs a repair, just be clear about it in your description. This is a great litmus test, because if no one wants it for free, then its garbage. Charities won’t normally take mattresses (because of bed bugs and cleanliness), sofas, or large appliances (because of storage and delivery), but if yours is in good condition, then offer it up. You can also search the wanted ads, maybe you can answer a request. Here are some specific Freecycle tips:
    • Post a detailed description. The more details the better so you don’t get bothered with email questions.
    • Post a general location. Also to prevent more questions.
    • Only respond to polite, well written inquiries. In my experience, people who respond in “text language” or with poor spelling or grammar are not reliable.
    • Arrange an indirect pick up. This is more for your convenience, but it’ll work for safety too. Once I find a taker, I tell them I’ll leave it at my front door for them after a specified time. Since it’s free, they sometimes flake out, so I don’t want to be waiting around for them. Plus, they are strangers and I don’t need to meet them in my home.

I have Freecyled broken bicycles, old (but working) washer and dryer, unused/uninstalled carpet, rain barrel, hockey net…

  • The Reuse Center takes all your weird bits. If it can be used for a craft, they will take it.
  • The ReStore (Habitat for Humanity) accepts building materials, books, collectibles, antiques, and artwork. They will pick up large items, and I understand they will even uninstall kitchen cabinets or fixtures.
  • The Eco Station is the last stop. They take your household hazardous waste, anything broken, big, landfill worthy, and recyclables.

donatellamaWhere to donate my Llama?

Not sure who’ll take what? Check the Reuse & Recycle Directory. They can even tell you where to take your llama. No seriously, type llama into the search.


Dead Battery Storage

Dead Battery Storage – craftambitions.wordpress.

I know this sounds like a dull topic, but I’m really happy with this clever solution.

You and I both know how terrible it is to throw batteries in the garbage.  They have corrosive metals that are awful for the environment.  In my town they suggest you take them to the Eco-Centre.  But what to do with the batteries before you get to the recycling depot?

Just put them in your Dead Battery can.  I have to admit I borrowed this idea from something I saw on the Container Store website.  I just took a hot chocolate container (perfect size, and it has a red lid) and then I made a simple paper label.  The can holds quite a few batteries and you’ll never get the dead ones mixed up with the new ones!