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Two Cents On Solar LED Strands

April 30, 2015   //  Posted in: Backyard, Decor   //  By: Emily   //  one response
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Solar-powered LED lights?

A review of solar LED light strands.

Conceptually, awesome.

We upgraded our holiday strands to regular electric LEDs a few years ago and have been really happy with the results, so testing solar strands seemed like a logical progression in the grand scheme of things. Pete snagged a LivingSocial deal last fall that gave us four packages of outdoor solar string lights (2 packages of 200 lights, and two packages of 100 lights) from the company Touch Of ECO. When opportunity calls, you do what seems most economical in the hopes that you can that you can make your backyard as sweet as the family homestead in Parenthood.

When you check out the products on the company website linked above and your jaw smashes against the floor, without even looking for a LivingSocial receipt I can say with confidence that we didn’t pay anything close to the listed prices. LED strands are still kind of expensive as it is, but solar LEDs have a really long ways to go in order to become affordable to the masses, especially compared cost-wise to the holiday lights I ran last winter that probably cost me all of $10 in electricity from December – February.

I’m pretty sure that based on the above photo above (which is a strand draped around the treehouse) that you can you can also predict that the light quality in person is nothing like what’s presented on the website either, I mean, unless maybe you’re running $2,000 worth of strands in 10 square feet. To which I say, ‘five stars, as if.’

I’ve been meaning to write about my experience with these lights for awhile; I didn’t right away because I’ve been trying to give them a fair chance. Two of the four strands continue to respond like duds, flickering at sunset for a very short period of time but never seeming like they receive a full charge. A third strand would stay lit for an hour or two, but that’s still less time than the best of the four strands (the lone strand that made it up onto the treehouse before the winter hit). The best of the four strands will stay lit for 3-4 hours, and sometimes I catch it flickering sporadically if I’m awake during the night. That’s still not to say that the one strand still in the backyard is bright in the same way as a strand of electric lights – it doesn’t compare at all, nowhere near sufficient to serve as patio light strands – but we can see it from the windows of the house, which livens up the property a little bit in a non-holidayesque way.

LED solar light strand.

I will say that there’s something incredibly convenient and wonderful about the idea of solar LED light strands, especially when it comes to having an automatic light source for places that are out-of-reach of an electrical outlet. I’m not sure that technology for solar light strands is where I’d expect it to be, but I do hope that it evolves in time.

Have you found ones that work? Do share.

Sunglasses Hack: Achieve A Better Fit

April 27, 2015   //  Posted in: DIY   //  By: Emily   //  10 responses
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I bought my first-ever pair of prescription sunglasses last Fall – totally awesome decision, should have done it years earlier. I have a few pairs of regular sunglasses but I never wear them because 1) while my eyes aren’t a terribly high prescription, imperfect vision is annoying enough that deferring to my ordinary glasses is the favorable alternative and 2) I need to drive with glasses, so the regular glasses are the optimal eyewear option in the car.

My prescription sunglasses were from Warby Parker – at $100, highly recommended for any of you fellow glasses-wearers – but even though I spent a month processing back-to-back-to-back-to-back at-home trial orders to find frames that looked and felt good on my face, the final pair I received (Griffin, measuring 53-19-140) still felt like the wrong fit. While they looked fine width-wise in how they align with my temples, the arms hyper-extended a little bit, allowing them a tendency to fall off my face when I looked downward (awkward), or slide down my nose constantly because they were floppy around my ears (nerd). Thank goodness for a little hack.

Fixing too-wide Warby Parker sunglasses.

Sugru is a moldable glue product that that’s a little bit like Play-doh, but dries like rubber and adheres to basically anything. I’ve been a (personal, unsponsored) fan of Sugru for a long time and have written about it a lot, but that’s because it works wonders. Now, in addition to Lowe’s, the product is rolling out into Target stores across the country for which I’m super excited (go, Jane!). We’ve been ordering it from the UK since its inception, and this was the first time that I actually went into a store and picked up a pack (3 colors for ~$12, FYI).

Sunglasses arm hack using Sugru.

The goal here was to create tiny, tiny micro-wedges that would prevent the arms from splaying open as wide as they naturally wanted to.

I’ve never had a hack that required so little product – literally, the teeniest pinch did the trick. I rolled it around in my fingers to smooth it out, and then mashed it on the end of the arm.

Use Sugru to make your sunglasses fit better.

I had a pretty good idea of how the arms of the glasses would need to fit around my head, so I opened them to the correct angle, and allowed the excess Sugru to squish out.

I cleared away the small amount that bubbled out, and allowed the product to air-dry overnight.

Use Sugru to make your sunglasses fit better.

Bam. A perfect fit to my head – comfortable, secure, and resistant to opening wider than the Sugru permits. A must try!

Use Sugru to make your sunglasses fit better.

Merry Garden, 2015

April 23, 2015   //  Posted in: Backyard, Gardening   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment
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We spent our weekends skiing this winter (right up through the beginning of the month – best season ever); the hobby consumed a lot of our free time and forced us to pause on some projects, but it was a completely worthwhile way to make the most of the winter season (without resenting it). And then, in a single day, the seasons and our priorities changed. Our final snow piles melted just as the buds popped on the tree in our backyard, and when that first sporadic 80-degree afternoon hit, all hell broke loose. Lawn chairs, out! Bikes, out! Dog poop, discarded! Sunroom, cleaned! Branches cleared, brush destroyed, campfire had.

Spring, Rochester, NY. 2015

I put the garden high up on my own list of priorities this year so that it wouldn’t be as delayed as other seasons… somehow, it’s just one of those things that I can put off until mid-May before I realize it, and by then I’ve lost a full month of the season, and end up nurturing a garden that never seems to fully catch up before the first frost in September or October. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I’m ahead on my garden for the season, but I think I’m pacing more appropriately. The Public Market was filled with vendors hocking healthy seedlings (the basil plants I bought have already tripled in size), so around here, we’re busy voting for the veggies we want to nurture (tomatoes, giant beans, asst. squash, peppers, strawberries for sure), and actively preparing the garden bed for this year’s crop.

The garden I built two years ago was a series of fenced-in squares in the back of our property; good for a first year/late-in-season effort, and it made way for the larger round fenced-in bed that I upgraded to last year (the bigger circle devoured all of the squares, and gave us a bit more square footage). Last year’s tomato crop consumed half of that circle, while cucumbers and butternut squash occupied the other half. Those vines plants spread outward like crazy, and I found that they smothered each other, themselves, and other plants we had in the ground. To give everyone more space this year, I doubled the size of the garden bed by extending it to the left, into a part of the backyard that had once been heavily overgrown with brush, and these days only sported mowed weeds and mossy ground cover.

How to make a bigger gardening space.

It was easy to put the rototiller into action – our soil is extremely soft and sandy. I marked off the new area using a few scrap boards, and had the whole ground overturned in 20 minutes. This is the same rototiller I’ve used other years, a Black & Decker battery operated 36V product that has earned its keep 10x over.

I kept the garden expansion as easy on myself as possible; the fencing had remained up all winter because it was surrounding a few raspberry and blueberry bushes that I didn’t want wildlife to snack on, so I left most of it in place and reconfigured a few posts to help the existing fence form the shape of the new garden. Let’s skip to a little not-to-scale hand-sketch to demonstrate how the old (blue) fence was opened and shifted. Red lines on the right demonstrate where I added some new fencing to close off the new garden.

How I made a bigger garden, sketched.

Eventually, when I’m confident that the garden is large enough to contain our annual crop and I’m feeling like investing more, I’ll throw some real posts and more decorative fencing in to make it more “permanent” but there will always have to be some element of super-tall metal fence to keep the deer out. As it exists now, it’s great.