Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cleaning Up Kid Pee out of the Carpet

Yup, this is going to be the coolest subject matter I have covered yet.

I've got twins girls who are currently four years old.  I've been attempting to potty train them for just about two years now.  Let's just say that the potty training in three days thing didn't work for them.  Neither did rewards.  Neither did having them help clean up their mess.  Neither did getting upset.  Neither did putting them back in diapers.  You get where I'm going here? Nothing has worked for them.  Oh, just in case anyone wonders, doctor says they are fine.  So, while my darling little girls have been making incredibly slow progress, they have been making progress.  I used to clean up pee three times a day--on the good days.  Now I'm down to one mess every other day.  If I've learned anything other than extreme patience from this ordeal, it's how to clean pee out a carpet.  I'm sort of crazy about having things clean.  So, I've got this down to an art.  Allow me to share.  (Might I add that this sort of procedure works well to clean may different kids of liquid spills.)  There is no need to run out and buy a carpet cleaner... though you may want to after the potty-training ordeal is over.

Cleaning Your Kid's Pee out of the Carpet

What you'll need:
  •  3 old hand towels
  • About 1/2 cup water
  • Vinegar in a spray bottle
  • A peeing kid, wearing underwear

What you do:

 1. At an inopportune time, child will pee on the carpet.  Refrain from gasping.  The sooner you get it cleaned, the better.  Grab an old hand towel you don't care about.  Fold it up until it's in 3 to 4 layers.  place the towel on the pee.  Have your child step on it.  Or you can.  It just needs some weight to draw up the pee.
2. Next, rinse.  Remove the pee-soaked towel and pour some water over the affected area.  Use a clean towel to soak up the water in the same manner as stated above.  That's how you rinse.
3. Last, spray a healthy amount of vinegar on the area, place a towel over it and allow it to dry.  The vinegar will fight any lingering pee (ammonia) smell.

4. Cover the area with a clean towel until dry.  (Depending on the pungency of your kid's urine, you may need to repeat the rinsing and spraying of vinegar a couple of times.)

Last thoughts... If you have a kid or kids like mine who pee enough to drive you nuts, but not enough to do a load of laundry every day, I have found it helpful to set aside a hamper with a lid just for those clothes.  Since I cloth-diapered my twins, I had a wet bag which I used to line the hamper.  Sprinkling some baking soda in the hamper will keep the smell contained.  I even have my girls empty the hamper into the washer on wash days.  You'd think the terrible smell would encourage them to stop peeing, but it doesn't. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Leaf and Leaf Plus Indoor HDTV Antenna Review

So, It's becoming the cool thing to cut cable these days.  I've never been cool.  We've never had cable.  Our TV has always been a blank screen that occasionally gets used to watch movies.  My kids, for the longest time, didn't know what a commercial was and now that we've had the pleasure to view regular TV in our home together, they can't seem to wrap their heads around the fact they they can't watch whatever they want, on demand. So for us, getting the Leaf antenna wasn't so much about cutting costs as it was an upgrade! 

I first stumbled across the idea of an HDTV indoor antenna when I read an article about cutting cable and replacing it with an HDTV antenna as well as a streaming box like Roku or Apple TV.  Well, since we're renting, and since I know my husband isn't jazzed about getting on the roof to put up an antenna, I searched for a decent indoor antenna.  Lo and behold, they exist!

I checked the reviews on Amazon and settled on the Mohu Leaf indoor antenna.  They have two kinds, regular and amplified. I'll review my experience with both.

First, Here's my disclaimer:  I do not, in any way get paid or compensated for my reviews.  I buy the stuff with my own money. I like to share the great products I find with others.

What is it?
The Leaf antenna is just about the size of a piece of paper and looks like it is laminated with some really thick plastic.  It's white on one side and black on the other.  You can hang it with either side.  It doesn't matter.  The Leaf is attached to a cable that hooks into your TV.  With the amplified Leaf, there is the option of hooking it up the amplification via usb or power connection. You hang the Leaf to your wall or window in the place where it receives optimal reception.  This takes trial and error (AKA: TIME), so I just used some tape and taped my antenna up in different places, had my TV do a channel scan, and found the best place for the best picture.  The Leaf comes with some Velcro mounting tape, but I prefer 3M Command Picture Hanging Strips because they are easy to remove and don't damage the surface.  The regular Leaf is $39.99 and the Amplified Leaf is $73.49.  It's free shipping form Mohu or Amazon.  But, just an FYI, if you buy through Mohu, you can search Google for a coupon code and get a better deal. 

Which one do I need?
Mohu has a great guide to help you decided if the Leaf will work for you.  I only stumbled accross it AFTER I had ordered mine.  It's pretty accurate in helping you know what stations you can expect to get in.  If I had studied this guide I probably would have deducted that the amplified Leaf would be best for us.

My Review
I got the regular Leaf first.  I live about 30-40 miles away from most of the station transmitters, far enough away that according to Mohu, I should buy the amplified Leaf.  But, since I'm a natural skeptic and because I live in the flatlands of Kanas, with no mountains in the way, I thought maybe I could go with the regular Leaf.  And, it worked pretty well.  I received stations that were over 45 miles away pretty well, but the picture would go in and out and wasn't consistent, so I figured I would be better off with the amplified Leaf.  Mohu has a 30-day money back guarantee and it was only under $4 to ship it back, so it wasn't much of a loss for me.  When my amplified Leaf came, I tried that out and found it interesting that the sweet spot on my wall that worked for the regular Leaf didn't work as well with the amplified Leaf.  However, I did find a place that worked well and got in the major networks: FOX, CBS, ABC, NBC, and a few local stations.  The signal is nice and clear.  The only time there is a problem with the picture now is if we use the microwave with we are watching TV.  The picture clears up again as soon as the microwave is off.  This isn't a big deal for us, but something to be aware of.

Final Thoughts 
The Leaf is a great option for those like me who were looking to upgrade their TV or for those who want to cut cable but not be left completely in the dark.  The Leaf works as advertised.  It's important to read Mohu's documentation first to know if you live in a place that will benefit from an indoor HDTV antenna. We're still not avid TV watchers.  There is so much junk on TV, but I do like it occasionally so this was a very cost effective solution for our family.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Pencil Sharpening Solution!

I have spent a lot of money on pencil sharpeners.  I have four children who are avid artists.  We go through a lot of pencil sharpeners.  I thought electric ones were best because they were fast, but my kids ate up a lot of pencils with it, plus they never seem to sharpen straight.  While I have long thought manual sharpeners are the best, it's hard to find one that you don't have to screw into a wall.  A couple of weeks ago I dropped $20 at Staples on little manual sharpeners.  And I lamented how the kids opened them up to empty them and dropped pencil shaving all over the floor.  At my wits end, I Googled, "worlds best pencil sharpener" and found this: the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener.  The fact that there is no need to mount this sharpener had me interested.  Plus, you can buy replacement blades.  And for about $25, I figured it couldn't be as much of a waste as what I just bought at Staples.  So, I ordered one, and I'm quite pleased with it.

You can check out the following link for info on how to remove the blade from the casing.  I think I'd wear protective gloves just in case, unlike the person in the video.

Happy sharpening!

CrashPlan Review: Recovering Data

This is sort of a backwards review.  Today I'm going to review CrashPlan, the online data backup software I use for backing up my home computer and personal data.  So, since this is a backwards review, I'm not going to spend a lot of time reviewing why I chose to use CrashPlan (it's inexpensive), or how to get it set up ( I'm going to talk about recovering data that has been backed up with CrashPlan onto a reformatted/new computer.  I'm not a CrashPlan expert, just a computer enthusiast trying to figure things out.

Here's the background info:  I've been using CrashPlan+ to backup my data for the last year and a half.  I backup my computer to CrashPlan Central (the cloud) and to an external hard drive at my house--2 total copies of my data. CrashPlan offers a couple of ways to access my data:  I can get it online through my account or I can look at it via the CrashPlan software on my computer.  I had, in the past tried to recover data and found it to be quite simple.  Restoring your data from the web via the CrashPlan website is intended as a quick fix (say I'm away from my home computer and need a file), I can easily download (500 MB limit per day) it to the computer I am using without having to use any CrashPlan software.  To recover/restore all my data to a new computer, I'd need to install the CrashPlan software.  Even though I have all my data backed up on my external hard drive, I can not access it because it has been encrypted (this is a good thing), so I have to have the CrashPlan software on my new/reformatted computer in order to access it.  Makes sense.

Restoring CrashPlan Data to a New or Reformatted Computer

1. Adopt new/reformatted comptuer:  The first thing you should do before recovering your data, which I didn't do and many don't do, is go to the CrashPlan website and get directions for how to do it.   For me, because I had just reformatted my computer, which is like having a new computer with none of your personal files on it, I needed to go here for directions:

Let's say you are like me and think, This has got to be pretty easy.  I'll just download the software and then get my data.  And some point during my attempt to get my data, I didn't know that I needed to tell Crashplan to "Adopt" my computer.  So, instead of adopting, CrashPlan thinks I have two computers to backup and since I named them both the same thing, it's impossible for me to know which one is which.  So,  I have to call customer service.  And, silly me, I thought I'd actually get some technical support, but I didn't.  The service rep. took me email address, asked me what my problem was, and told me that she'd send me an email with links to answer my problem.  Grrr.  I don't call for help unless I've already Googled myself silly.  So, I decided to try emailing customer service.  This was a much better option.  I got a reply within a couple of hours that was helpful.  So, say you are like me and didn't "adopt" your new computer so you have a mess.  Here's the directions from the email I received from custsomer support to fix it.:
If the Adopt dialogue box goes away during the restore, we just need to log out of CrashPlan and log back in. To get it back, double-click the green house in the upper right-hand corner of your CrashPlan client. In the command line that comes up, type:
guid new
This will cause the "Adopt" dialogue to reappear. 
This guidanced helped me solve my problem and restore my data.  But, it was still a very stressful process for me because I couldn't see with my eyes where data was going.  I was freaked out that my new computer's data would somehow be written over my backed up data.  As a result, I experienced a minor panic attack when I watched the "adoption process" happen on my computer.  IMHO, I think CrashPlan can make a more user-friendly restore process and interface on their software. 
2.  Restore Files:  Alas, all was well and I was able to restore my data after the "adoption process" was finalized. :)  Since CrashPlan has provided decent documentation on restoring data ( I won't talk about it, because it worked just fine. I really like how I can select what files I want restored from what date. 

Conclusion: I am very glad I have been backing up my computer.  The money is worth the peace of mind, and after going through this process, I think that CrashPlan is still a good backup option. Though I wasn't impressed with customer service over the phone, the email support is pretty good.  However, if it were an emergency and I wanted prompt service with an actual person who could help me, I don't think it would be possible. And realistically speaking, costumer over-the-phone is really becoming a lost art.

The fine print that I made big and bold:  Because CrashPlan encrypts your backups, you must have the software in order to restore files.  The only exception to this when one uses the web restore option.  In that case, you HAVE to know your login information. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cute Girl's Shorts From old Jeans

So I was checking out my blog and noticing that ever since my twins turned 2, posts have become fewer and far between.  Hmmm.  No matter, I am still alive and that is what counts... and hopefully when the the twins turn 4 of 5 I might get some relief.

So, my 6 year-old daughter loves her new shorts!  Nothing special, I just cut off her old jeans and took some pink ribbon to them via the sewing machine. Next, I washed the jeans to get the frayed look.  I think the frayed edges with the ribbon are very cute and so does she.  This took just 15 minutes to do, so for my fashion conscious girl, it was worth it.

...And depending on what cute embellishments I have on had next time we need to turn some jeans into shorts, this has endless possibilities...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Borax for Dingy Carpet Stains

 I happened to be reading the box of borax (which I usually use as a laundry booster) the other day.  On the box, there are directions for using it as a carpet cleaner for stains.  Here's my review of using borax for cleaning carpets.

The Directions:
Dissolve 1/2 cup of Borax in 2 cups of warm water.  Sponge the mixture on the carpet, let it sit for a half hour, and then rinse well.  Let dry and then vacuum.

The Test
To put the borax to the test, I found a dirty spot in our van that I had previously tried to remove with carpet cleaner with no luck.  I have no idea what this stain is from since we bought the van used, with the stain.  For your visual enjoyment, here it is:

 I mixed the borax in warm water as directed.  The borax is gritty and doesn't totally dissolve in the water.  Rather than sponging it on, I used a scrub brush to work the borax into the stain.  I waited more than 30 minutes, more like 3 hours before I rinsed it because that's when I got around to it. :)  I have a Bissel Powersteamer which I used to rinse the area.  Because borax is gritty, I don't know if I would recommend rinsing with a carpet cleaner because I'm not sure how good all that grit is for it, but I cleaned mine out pretty well.  I was thinking that instead of a carpet cleaner, a wet/dry vac would probably be a good option for the rinsing.  Lots and lots of dirty water kept coming up during the rinsing.  After a half hour of rinsing, I stopped, even though more dirt was still coming up--I just had to move on with life.  After it dried, I vacuumed as directed.  Here is the final result:

As you can see, it's still a little dingy, but there is definitely an improvement, and if I'd have had oodles of time, I'd have kept rinsing until the water came up clean.  But, it's just an old car.  Some things are more important.

The Verdict:
Borax does a great job at releasing stubborn stains. I have since used it in dingy areas in the hallway in my house and it has made the carpet like new.  The rinsing again takes the longest because you just have to keep rinsing it until the water comes up clean, but it works!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Egg Subsitute Revisited

Sometime time ago I wrote a little blurb on egg substitutes.  Since then I have found one substitute I really like:  Milled Flax Seed.  While I was experimenting with different substitutes I learned quite quickly that what worked in one recipe didn't always work in the next, so that is why I have gravitated toward mill flax seed because it works in a variety of recipes. 

I use Hodgson Mill Milled Flax Seed.  It's in the the $3 range for a box. On the packaging it says that flax seed can be used as an egg substitute by using 1 tablespoon of flax seed plus three tablespoons of water.  This is where the experimenting begins.  Now, obviously this would not make good scrambled eggs, but I have found that it works great in cake, pancakes, muffins, and even my veggie burgers.  Some things to keep in mind is that since the milled flax seed is a dark brown, it will add some speckle to your food which if find quite pretty, and luckily my children haven't been bothered by.

Over the past year, milled flax seed has become a staple in my kitchen because:
  • It's got a great shelf life (one year)
  • It's a natural plant source of Omega-3 oils
  • It helps stretch my egg usage, so I can be one of those neighbors who always has an egg on hand for my neighbors.
  • Plus, if you've got any egg allergies in the family, now you can have your cake and eat it too!
BTW, according to my flax seed packaging, it can also be used to substitute oil and butter, though I haven't tried that since I am not concerned about the fat in my diet.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Organize Your Passwords: KeePass Review

I recently received an email from Zappos informing me that a hacker had gained the account information of 24 million of its customers.  EEK!  From their end, Zappos had things under control.  Their software was good, kept costumer passwords scrambled and didn't show all of the credit card number.  In the email, Zappos customers are instructed to login to their Zappos accounts and change their passwords... as well as change passwords at other websites where they use the same email address and password.

So, this brings up a very important issue.  We all know that we should never ever, ever use one password for everything.  What happened to Zappos is just one reason why.  But, many argue that it is just too hard to remember all those passwords for all those accounts.  (I've got over 162 accounts out there orbiting in cyber space.)  Enter KeePass Password Safe.  If you don't have a program to keep your passwords safe, you might want to give KeyPass a try.  It is free and uses open source code.  It can be as powerful or as simple as you want it to be.

My Review:

I've been using KeePass for over a year now.  Previously I had used SplashID to keep my passwords organized and safe.  However, SplashID isn't free after various version upgrades, I had to shell out more $$ if I wanted to continue using it.  I chose KeePass as my free alternative because it could import my files from SplashID.  The importing wasn't seemless, but all the data did make it from SplashID to KeePass.  I had to move information from one field to another which was a big project (still working on it) but it was better than having to start from scratch.

Now, for using KeePass.  This is where it can be as simple or as powerful as you want it to be.  In order to access KeePass, you can set up a master password or key file that will unlock your passwords for access.  I chose to use a master password simply for ease of use.  A key file is likely more foolproof, but I'm not the Pentagon and I think I would likely mess up the key file and loose all access to my information.  The key file can be any file you choose, but you have to make sure you never change it, otherwise it will not open KeePass.  Now, KeePass is a very lite program; you can easily put on a USB drive (with a key file if applicable) to use anytime, anywhere.

For the first few months that I used KeePass, I just used it to look up my usernames and passwords as well as to input new account information along the way.  I didn't use any of the bells and whistles.  For organizational purposes only, KeePass is great.  Recently, however decided to try out those bells and whistles, and the nerd in me came out.  It's so FUN!  KeePass allows you to drag and drop your username and password from KeePass to your web browser.  No typing needed.  If that doesn't make you feel like royalty already, there is more!  From KeePass, you can select the account you want to access, and automatically open up a browser with the account's URL.  Then, use KeePass's "Perform auto-type" and what your username and password magically appear, all with just a few mouse clicks.  Brilliant.  You can even customize the keystrokes KeePass needs to make in order to auto-type everything.  It's fun, for me, but perhaps not for everyone.

But there is more!  If you hate coming up with strong passwords, you can use the password generator.  I love how I can set up the parameters for how long I wan the password as well as if I want it to have symbols or caps in it.  I use the generator for accounts that I don't use often, but need a good, strong password.

One more thing, KeePass users can easily print a master copy of  all the passwords to keep in a safe place (like a safe...heheheh).  All the instructions are found at KeePass's website.  I haven't covered anywhere near all the neat things KeePass is capable of, but, if you check it out and like it like I do, don't forget to donate to the cause.