Not Enough Hours in the Day

Ever have one of those days when you just have nothing to do? Or in my case, I have so many different things that I SHOULD be doing, that I can’t decide what to do, and end up doing nothing of value. I have so many projects in various states of completeness; too many, really. The current list stands as such (in order of priority);

  • Cross stitch birth sampler for my niece (who just turned 3)
  • Tag and organize the backlog of digital photos (currently I’m up to December of 2007)
  • Prepare for sister-in-law’s June wedding (I’m the photographer)
  • Update the online photo gallery, investigate other software options
  • Create digital address book (plans for software to generate reports and Christmas card labels)
  • Convert recipes to digital, add recently tested recipes
  • Work on (blog up, but no content)
  • Knit baby blanket (also for my niece)

Of course, there are other projects to be added to the list. Once I finish Laurel’s birth sampler, I need to see about making a Peter Rabbit birth sampler for Marin. After I get all my photos tagged and organized, I was thinking about starting a photoblog, to give myself a reason to practice. I’d like to have my consolidated address book ready to go by this fall, so the mail merge labels are ready for Christmas cards.

Another project that has been floating around in the back of my mind has been a recipe blog. Once I get my recipes typed up into MasterCook, a cooking blog wouldn’t be too difficult. Each recipe would become a post; categories would be for recipe classification – beverages, cookies, breads, desserts, main dishes, etc. The tags could be used for ingredients, or perhaps other criteria (Bread Machine, Crock Pot, ethnicity of the dish, etc.). Of course, if the full text of the recipe is in the body of the post, you wouldn’t NEED ingredients as tags – you could simply search the blog to find a recipe that used buttermilk, for example. Pictures to accompany the recipe would be nice, too. Matt had a suggestion to rate the recipes on various criteria, as well; difficulty, tastiness, and how well it reheats. I do like the idea of giving some honest opinions on how a recipe keeps or reheats – some recipes are great, but don’t reheat terribly well in the microwave. And with any luck, I may have some friends willing to contribute to a recipe blog, so I wouldn’t bear the full weight of upkeep and posting.

One Task Down…

With the wedding Thank You notes finished and in the mail, it’s time for me to focus on the next project; the combined address book for both sides of the family. I have a rough version done – basically enough to complete a mail merge, so we didn’t have to hand address the envelopes on the Thank You notes. Of course, this isn’t going to be a quick and easy project, because I’m picky.

I’m not going to be happy with just a paper address book, as I want to be able to do a mail merge for envelopes on Christmas cards. With over 50 people on the Christmas card list this year, there is simply no way I have the time to hand address them all. However, I don’t want a lot of redundant information – I’d like to be able to list the mailing address and telephone number for each family once, rather than duplicating it for each member of the household. This has prompted me to try a sort of 2 part address book – one part being the “Household” information (household name, mailing address, telephone number & Christmas card records) and the other part being the “Individual” information (full name, birth date, anniversary, cell phone number, work phone number, email address(es), website/blog, etc.), with a way of linking the Individuals to the Household, so I know where everyone belongs.

With all the information in a database, I’d like to be able to generate a few different reports. Ideally I could create a Birthday List, with all the individuals listed chronologically by calendar year. I tried doing a birth date report before, but unfortunately it factored the year in, as well. Rather than having all the January birthdays, it had January of 1967, and then maybe July of 1976, and then January of 2005. I would like it to list January, then the date with the person’s name and maybe the year in parenthesis after that, so I know how old they’ll be.

Another report I’d like to generate would be an address book page. I know I can’t be at my computer all the time, and having a physical copy of an address book is convenient sometimes. Having all the information in a database means I should be able to generate a view I’d like; what I want is to be able to have one page per household, with all the household information at the top, and the individuals belonging to that household and their information below. That way when information changes, I can just print out a new page to replace the old one.

Of course, all this is easier said than done. I have a basic idea of what I need to do; I have a database set up with 3 tables – one with Household information, one with Individual information, and one linking Individual id’s with Household id’s. In some cases, it feels silly giving an individual an entry; some people I have little contact with outside of the annual Christmas cards, and so the only information I have is a mailing address and the names of individuals living there.  Figuring out how to generate and format the reports exactly how I want will also take a little doing. But I think that in the end, it will be worth it to have an address book that manages all the information I need, in a format I want.

Time For Some Maintenance

I’ve been lax in updating my blog of late – what with the holiday season upon us, and the various projects that entails, I just haven’t been able to really squeeze in the time to write for my blog. We finally got the tree up, but it still needs decorations. Of course, I have to sort through the boxes of tree decorations from my childhood, and divvy them up into 2 boxes; ones that can go on the tree, and ones that I want to keep, but don’t want on the tree. And of course I need to finish the address book (with BOTH sides of our family), finish the Thank You notes from the wedding, and get the Christmas cards ready to go in the mail. Then I need to finish Christmas shopping (for both sides), and wrap all the presents. Let’s not even talk about the craft and photo archiving projects that have been languishing on the back burner for far too long now.

And on top of all that, I think I need to re-purpose my blog. I’m just trying to accomplish too many things with it, and I don’t really have any kind of theme to pull it all together. I have a few ideas floating around in the back of my mind, on how to consolidate a few things and tie it all together. Of course, one addition I was thinking of adding may require some site/theme redesign, unless I can find a way to accommodate it somehow. We’ll see how it pans out – in the mean time, I am still alive, even if I’m not posting.

Going Old School

It’s probably been a month or more since I gave up Outlook (more here), and I’ve noticed something. As a result of giving up on Outlook, I seem to have given up on my PDA as well. Not that I ever used my PDA to it’s full potential; I used it mainly to manage my schedule, maintain my address book, hold shopping lists and display driving directions.

But times have changed. I stopped using Outlook, so it’s pointless for me to input my work schedule into my PDA, since I’ll just re-enter it into Google Calendar when I get home. MapQuest no longer supports the offline, downloadable maps for portable devices that it used to, which was the only reason I ever used MapQuest, really. If I can’t download my directions onto my PDA, I’ll just go back to printing them out like I did before I had my PDA.

So this basically leaves me with two remaining functions; address book and list holder. But again, since I’ve given up Outlook, I won’t keep the contacts in there up to date. I’m in the middle of creating a digital address book in Access to hold all my contact information, so that when Christmas comes around, I can just do a mail merge and print the addresses onto the envelopes. Hand addressing envelopes sucked when it was just my friends and family – I’m not crazy enough to try that for two families worth of Christmas cards. As part of that, I’m trying to find a way to print out address cards, as a sort of do-it-yourself kind of address book. I’m playing with forms in Access – ideally I want one card per person, so that when their information changes, I can just print a new card and replace it. Finding a way to keep it bound together, and not in an index card box, is proving problematic.

After ruling out calendar management, driving directions and address book, I’m left with list holder. That’s right, my PDA is a glorified notepad. And honestly, if I’m just using it to hold shopping lists, do I really NEED a PDA? I think not. And so, after checking out the Hipster PDA, I think I’m ready to give up the PDA and go analog again. We’ll see how it turns out.

Thunderbird with PDA’s?

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I use MS Outlook as my e-mail software. If I used it for just e-mail, I would have switched to Thunderbird ages ago. After all, I switched from IE to Firefox a few years ago, and haven’t looked back. No, I use Outlook for everything; the contacts section is my address book. It maintains birthdays, anniversaries, email addresses, home addresses, website addresses, almost anything I could want. I have a task list to remind me when certain bills are due, with a checkbox so I know if I’ve paid them this month. I keep my work schedule in there, since my schedule changes from week to week. And it syncs to my Dell Axim, so I can take my contacts and lists with me anywhere.

I’ve installed Thunderbird in the past, to try it out, and see if I could switch. It’s nice for email, but the contacts section was sorely lacking, and it had no calendar function. I decided that I would switch to Thunderbird only when it could replace Outlook for me; decent contacts, decent calendar, and syncing with my Axim. Well, come to find out you can now synchronize Thunderbird with a Pocket PC. About a month ago, Lifehacker had an article detailing just how you can sync your Pocket PC to Thunderbird. I think maybe it’s time for me to re-evaluate Thunderbird, and see how the advances in the calendar plug-ins have come.


Ok, until Thunderbird improves the address book, I’m sticking with Outlook. I’ve been spoiled by the birthday and anniversary fields, and the auto-creation of birthday and anniversary events.