Clearing the Desktop: Time for a Scanner?

Hey, everybody! We’re back from Hawaii, and what a wonderful time we had! Even got a little business done while we were there, which will make our bosses happy, since that was why they paid for the trip.

Anyway, upon our return, we naturally had a lot to catch up on, including mail. Looking at the relatively large stack of paper we picked up from the post office got us to thinking about how much space all of our documents take up in our home. Most of it, we realized, does not need to be in the form of dead trees.

flatbed scannerYes, you guessed it: we’re thinking about scanning as much of it as we can into digital formats. This will save space, and allow us to pitch a lot of into the recycle bin to be used in place of killing more trees. Seems like a winner to us!

Of course, this also means we need to buy a new scanner. We have one of those cheap all-in-one printers, but it’s pretty slow, and is on its last legs, anyway, so it’s time for an upgrade, regardless.

Also, we strongly suspect a stand-alone scanner would do a better job, and they don’t seem to be outrageously priced from what we’ve seen so far.

One of the things we’ve thought about is that most of our documents are printed on both sides of the paper. With this in mind, we’re considering a double sided scanner so we don’t have to feed each page through twice.

Lastly, we’re also debating between a flatbed or document feed model. The latter might appear to be an obvious time saver, but if we chose a flatbed, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about getting staples or tape removed, and could also use it to scan old photographs sometime down the road.

Obviously, we’re still looking at our various options here, and it may turn out that we’d be wiser to take the documents to a copy store and have them done. We’ll see.

Screening Party Canopies

So, our tropical trip is fast approaching now, and we’ve decided to throw ourselves a going-away party. Yeah, that may sound a little weird, but we have a rather small house on a large lot, so we have more room for people to hang out in the backyard than any of our friends or family.

Backyard party favorNow that fall is just around the corner, we’re hoping the weather will be mild and pleasant … as long as the Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t impinge on us too much! Nevertheless, it can get pretty warm in New Jersey this time of year, and our property doesn’t have many trees, so we’re looking at ways to add some shade.

One of the obvious solutions, at least in our minds, is a party tent with screens. We’re not talking about one of those huge monstrosities you see and big weddings or state fairs: just something that can fit a half dozen people comfortably. Our guest list will probably include about 20 people altogether, and we also have a small covered deck, so we don’t need a tent that will hold everybody.

Originally, we were thinking about a relatively inexpensive pop-up canopy, but decided that one with screened walls would be a good idea. I mean, everybody had to deal with bugs sooner or later, so it would be nice if the tent could be a refuge from pests.

After checking out a few websites, we found this article that gave us some additional things to think about. In particular, the author suggests choosing a canopy with “pockets” that reinforce the corners, increasing durability. They also note that some tents come with rain gutters, which would be very useful if we needed shelter from “liquid sunshine”.

Finally, we’re figuring the canopy will be used a fair amount going forward, making it a worthwhile investment. That’s one of the reasons why we’re not just running out to a discount store and buying the first one we see on sale. We are expecting to get multiple years of shade and comfort out of this tent, so doing more in-depth research makes sense.

We have a little time before the party, so we’ll continue shopping around a bit, but expect to take the plunge and pick one up in the next week or so.

Sure glad our company is paying our way to Hawaii, considering all the money we’re spending on the “extras”. Still, we’re trying to be smart shoppers, especially where this party is concerned. Regardless, it should be fun, and you’ve got to treat yourself once in a while!

Shopping for a Multitasking DSLR

So, as our Hawaii adventure approaches, we keep thinking of new things we’d like to take with us and use on the trip. Not surprisingly, this list is starting to get pretty long, and there’s no way we could bring it all along, even if we were inclined to buy everything in the first place (we’re not!).

As a result, besides pruning down our wish list to eliminate stuff that would just be nice to have, we’re looking at ways to get multiple functionality out of a single item. One of those is a new digital camera.

We’ve owned a basic point-and-shoot camera for some time, but it has largely gathered dust since the rise of the smartphone. What we have our eye on now is a digital SLR for taking even better photos during our vacation in paradise.

DSLR at the beachSpeaking for myself, I also expect to get further use out of the DSLR when we return, as photography sounds like a hobby I’d enjoy.

Besides still photos, though, we’d also like to shoot some video, as well. But who wants to drag along two cameras if they can help it?

To our pleasant surprise, we recently discovered that you can do some wonderful video recording with a DSLR. In fact, many independent filmmakers actually use this technology instead of a standard camcorder. This article helped give us a basic idea of the pros and cons of using a DSLR for this purpose, and helped us decide that it was the best way to go for our needs.

Naturally, we also want to make sure the model we buy will still do a great job of taking regular pictures, so we also checked out the Digital Photography School website for some guidance.

In the end, opting for a digital SLR camera is clearly the best decision for us. It will be able to serve two purposes on our trip, and will have the makings of a great leisure time activity for yours truly. Now it’s just a matter of deciding which one of the dozens on the market we want. Next, it will be determining which accessories we need (lenses, tripod, case, etc.).

Obviously, our research is just beginning, but we’re excited by the possibilities!

Our Next Investment: An Exercise Machine

Almost as soon as we booked our flight to Hawaii, one of the first things we did was look in the mirror, and realize that we won’t exactly make the prettiest sight on the beach. This fact, coupled with our busy lifestyle and lack of discipline when it comes to fitness, have got us thinking about buying some exercise equipment to use at home.

Right now, our “gym” consists three sets of dumbbells, a few resistance bands, and one of those ab roller thingies, all of which are tucked away in the back of the closet in the family room. I’m a little afraid to see how much dust has accumulated on them.

So anyway, we’re looking at making a bigger investment in our fitness now. In keeping with our somewhat frugal nature, though, we’re not just going to go out and buy the first thing that looks good: we’re all about researching this stuff.

Our first step was to determine what type of machine we wanted. In the end, this was a pretty quick decision. Since we find exercise pretty uninspiring, we are thinking something simple is in order: not a whole bunch of options like some of the home gym gadgets, or things that simulate rowing or cross country skiing or whatever. No way.

In the end, what do we know how to do? Walk. Thus, we’ve decided to shop for a treadmill.

Of course, a quick look at Amazon revealed a huge array of choices, so we knew we’d need to educate ourselves in order to make an intelligent selection. One of the first resources we found was this excellent video:

Some web searching led us to several websites, as well. We found the article at particularly useful in filling in some of the info we’ll need to pick the best treadmill for our needs.

Finally, it seemed clear to us that we wanted to actually try out some of these models before buying, so we’re opting to go to a couple of local stores to get our direct impressions. Also, Julia’s brother lives in a large apartment complex with a fitness room, so we may head over there as his “guests” and get a better feel for what using a treadmill is like, just to confirm that it’s the best type of equipment for us.

That’s as far as we’ve gotten to date, but we’re feeling pretty good about this choice. Obviously, the tough part will be getting in the habit of using it, but we’re hoping the desire to look at least presentable in swimwear will be motivating enough!

Flying to Paradise!

Hey, everybody, and welcome to the first “real” entry in our New Jersey Living blog.

Today’s topic is travel, because we’re about to take our first-ever trip to Hawaii! Best of all, our company is footing the bill, as we and several of our coworkers have been selected to represent them at a conference there.

Palm treesNeedless to say, we’re really excited about this, but haven’t flown in quite a few years, so we’re doing some research on how to make it as hassle-free as possible.

One thing we’ve done is opted for some hard-shell luggage. This might not suit most people, but the durability of newer models, four wheels, and features like built-in TSA-approved locks, made us decide to go this route. The featured article at has proven especially helpful in guiding us.

Also, we’re not particularly concerned about making any fashion statements with our suitcases, so we’re leaning toward picking something with bright colors so it’s easier to find in baggage claim. We haven’t settled on a set yet, but should be making a decision soon.

Another thing we’re talking about doing is transferring files and folders between our two laptops so we only have to bring one with us. This might not be possible for others, but one less computer means two fewer items (laptop + bag) to mess with when going through airport security.

Neither of us has to actually make a presentation … just help prepare it and be available to answer questions … so having to share one computer shouldn’t be a problem. We do most of your personal “computing” on our smart phones, so we will still be able to do our own things when we want to.

There are tons of articles on the web about prepping for a flight, so we’re not going to go through all of those details here. For US travel, though, the obvious place to start is at the Transportation Security Administration site. Since they’re the actual folks who will be screening us at the airport, it made sense to go straight to the source.

In particular, we found their travel checklist a very helpful summary of what will be required, so we can plan ahead. For instance, we hadn’t thought about the fact that Don would have to empty everything out of his pockets … not just metal like keys and change. With that in mind, he’ll be putting all of that stuff in a plastic bag and sticking it in his carry-on before we go through security.

This is about as far as we’ve gotten to date, but we’ve got a couple of months left to get everything organized. Hope you found this useful, and thanks for reading!

Welcome to New Jersey Living!

Hello, and thanks for visiting New Jersey Living.

While we are located in the great Garden State, this site is going to cover aspects of everyday living that apply to folks well beyond its borders.  From fitness to food and autos to office furniture, we’ll be sharing our thoughts and tips on a wide range of topics that millions of other average folks have to consider on a regular basis.

So, who are we?  I’m Don Miller, and along with my partner Julia, we decided to start this blog because we think we’ve got some special going, and want to help others toward their personal ideas of happiness and contentment.

Life in the US, and really throughout the world, only continues to get more complicated and stressful, but it doesn’t have to weigh on you.  Julia and I have great lives.  Our jobs aren’t anything special — both of us spend our weekdays in the same cube farm at a large corporation — but we still have time and energy after hours to enjoy our wide range of interests.  We are making ends meet, with a bit to spare, and are managing to put a little away for retirement down the road.

Basically, we’re saying that you can still enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in America without having to earn scads of money.  And we’ll be sharing a lot of ideas with you about how to do that yourself.  Stop back again soon!