Mac vs PC – The Computer Cold War In Our Home

Cracked MacBook 15 inch screen

Mac vs PC

I would be lying if I told you there was any really real frostiness in our home over the Mac versus PC issue, but my husband John and I certainly have different opinions on Apple computers.

Until a few weeks ago I was the only one in our relationship who had used any Apple products and I was less bothered by his anti- Apple stance than he was my devotion.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

I know they cost more and there are limitations to what one can do to upgrade an Apple computer or repair them yourself. Until recently I’ve had to place my faith in the Apple Genius bar because the internal workings bit seemed too intimidating to attempt to dig around in there myself.

Apple Genius in the Making

John has always scoffed at the name given to the folks who sit behind the Genius bar in the Apple stores, but he has shown himself to be one of those, dare I say it, slightly geeky computer guys who can and does build his own computers. I should add that he’s not limited to desktops, I’ve seen him buy a used laptop,  take it apart, and rebuild to suit his needs too. While I haven’t always understood how he could do what he did, I have always had a healthy appreciation for his ability to do it.

Some of you may remember that the screen on my MacBook cracked about seven months ago which severely limited the ways I could use it. Lacking easy portability, I found myself doing less writing and photography. I blogged less, I read less on-line, and although I had an older model iPad that was helpful, it was still not enough. I had planned to buy a new Macbook this summer to replace the damaged one, but other things got in the way and I had to put that big purchase on hold.  After this morning, I am glad I waited.

Picking at the Fruit.

While I was in the US this summer, John’s brother spilled something on his MacBook making it unusable. Cost estimates to repair it made it too much to consider so he offered it to John knowing he would want to take it apart.  John happily settled in to see what the inner workings of the great and powerful Oz , oh wait, that’s another story … anyway, he went to work and learned so much about MacBooks that mine now has a new screen that looks great and works as well as the old one.

The quote for replacing my screen by an Apple Genius  was about $700 US.

The total cost of having John do the repair was $0 and only required his time, his brother’s broken laptop, and my having a little faith in my new home-grown ” Apple Genius. ”

Replaced Screen On MacBook 15 inch

Just so you have an Apples for Apples reference point ( sorry, I couldn’t help myself ) John said if he’d had to buy the screen instead of using his brother’s it would have cost about $140 US for him to personally replace it.

(My Desktop image was taken by Tim Hollister and is the St Mabyn Inn where John and I had a lovely dinner on his birthday last week.)

So one question for anyone reading this post … Mac or PC?

I’ll be interested to see which one gets the most comments.

What’s In The Bag?

Heathrow Airport Arrival 2013

Coming home is particularly sweet after an extended time away.

There’s the obvious happiness of seeing my husband John waiting for me, and the ahhh feeling I get when the plane lands safely and I make it through customs and immigration, but this time has been different and I have been trying to figure out why.

I recently returned from a ten-week stay in the US and have been a bit overwhelmed since my arrival a little over a week ago.

I hear you thinking, What do you mean overwhelmed … how long can it take to unpack your bags and settle back into your routine?

Sometimes, it’s not about the stuff in the bags.

As you can see I am pushing a very full luggage cart and it’s not the first time I have arrived from an international flight looking like a smiling beast of burden. This collection of suitcases is fairly light compared some of my past Heathrow and Gatwick arrivals. Due to decreasing weight allowances, but increasing checked baggage costs, I tend to travel lighter on my trips between what I think of as my two homes.

Except this time.

This time the extra bag I checked carried some favorite product brands I can’t get in the UK along with some new clothes and other things I have needed for a while.

Needed might be questionable, but …

I tend to be a big charity store shopper with Salvation Army, Goodwill, and second-hand shops being my ‘go to’ places. This does not mean I don’t buy new, but when I do I tend stick to the sale section. Thrifty shopping can be just as bad as spending too much on new, a lesson my normally bulging closet would illustrate had its contents not been recently whittled down.

Thursday, John and I took seven huge garbage bags filled with clothing to a local charity shop along with several bags of barely worn shoes and two big boxes of books. I think I struggled more deciding which books to give away than I did with clothes and now after looking at my bookshelves and wardrobe more critically, I have decided to go back through and do another purge.

Remember when I said it’s not always about the stuff earlier …

I have been working on multiple parts of the house since I got home, clearing away clutter and organizing what is left. I have even been in the attic going through boxes and throwing out or giving away things while doing a total overhaul of what is allowed to stay. I’ve emptied a wardrobe and a too-full dresser in the guest room and I’ve reorganized other parts of the house as well even giving away loads of my books that were cluttering John’s study, but what I haven’t done is finish tidying up my studio space.

Studio sounds a bit grand for what I do there, but it is my creative get-away space and where I do most of my writing and photography work. It also doubles as my dressing room and has an en suite bathroom attached to it both of which have been an absolute tip (trash site) since I arrived ten days ago. I left it very tidy when I flew to the US in early July, but with the big clear out over the last week things have fallen into a bit of state.

Looking at it feels overwhelming and I have been finding ways to avoid slogging through what’s left to finish it off.

I decided to take a look at how my need for perfection keeps me from getting more done creatively after reading this post by Nadia Eghbal titled  Why I Wore The Same Outfit Everyday For A Year.  As good writers and bloggers will often do, she got me thinking.

Sure I can clean like I’m still in the Army getting ready for an inspection, or make a time-consuming special something _________ insert what ever suits you here, but be sure it’s something that could use a bit more of this, or a touch of that because that’s what my rarely satisfied self would do with something I make.

I could say I’m only nesting with all this clearing and decluttering, making room for the birth of some semi-new blog or book idea, or even some business daydream that can travel with us when John and I pack up and go and some of that would be true, but I have to wonder if there’s not something bigger underlying my need to restrict and control disorder in my environment to the extent that it distracts me from other parts of my life needing attention.

I’m not going to spend any more time mulling that one over as I do better when I make a decision and move on. With that in mind, I am committing to tossing a few extra things into my partially full give-away bag.

I am willing to begin by dropping in my perfectionist tendencies along with a too tight sweater and a dress that’s really a little young for me. Then there’s that old comparison rag where I tend to judge my work against that of others. Yep, that’s going too.

That will do for me for now, but what about you?

If you’ve got something you want to get rid of, something that’s keeping you stuck or distracting you from your next best thing, feel free to leave it behind in a comment.

Go ahead, I’ll bag it up and dispose of it for you.

Because you know I do like a tidy work space, and I’m already going that way.

Higgledy-Piggledy & My Shifting State Of Commotion

Smiling Ginger Pig & Me

Smiling Ginger Pig & Me

It’s been a bit busy around here the last 22 months or so and even longer if you include the 3.5 months I was in Atlanta in 2011 dealing with real estate issues. I’m happy to say that I made a few major changes recently, chief of which was quitting my part-time job and I am now ready to move on to other things.

Pet petting was on yesterday’s to-do list. Okay, maybe it wasn’t on the list, but when the opportunity presented I thought, I really want to pet that Ginger pig on the nose and I’m not going to let that electric fence stop me!

I’d never seen Ginger pigs before and it seems Tamworths, as they are actually known, have an interesting history. This delightfully written website will answer loads of questions about the breed and tell you much more than I could about these friendly pigs.

I can say that giving these little ones a couple of pats and ear scratches may well have put me off bacon.

Ginger Pig

Ginger Pig

IMG_9450 Who knew that some pigs had such long eyebrows and eyelashes. That’s going to put me off sausage too.

IMG_9456

Ginger Pig Nose

Kitchen Renovation x Three

When my husband John bought our home seven years ago, two years before meeting me, he chose it thinking he would do a bit of renovation and sell it as he had all the houses before. He enjoys remodeling homes and selling them on and has done quite a few since he finished working in television about fifteen years ago.

Built in 1997, it had spent its whole life as a rental before he saw its potential and made the local owner/builder/landlord an offer they both found acceptable. When you live in a house built by someone who still lives in the village who you see in the pub, you may find you are also surrounded by others who had a hand in the building process or who lived in the house before you. I won’t go into it now, but we’ve heard some interesting stories that could fill more than a few pages.

I’ve seen a lot of John’s before and after shots of his renovation work in earlier properties and I appreciate how he is able to see possibilities where someone else might walk away. The first three photographs will give you an idea of what the kitchen looked like when he first bought it. There was a great deal of reddish dark wood throughout the house like you see in the window of the first photo giving it a completely different look than it has now.  (All of the early photographs were taken by John)

I don’t know if this is the original kitchen from 1997, but having always been a rental before John bought it, I can’t imagine anyone investing money to leave behind. I know it’s done all the time in New York city apartments and I’ve known people who have spent $30,000 on a kitchen renovation in a place they did not actually own, but they’d lived in for twenty years or more.

While I never had to live with the linoleum tile pattern on the floor, until recently the brass switch plates that came with the house were still on the walls. I’m glad John agreed that it was time for them to go. The new lighter ones blend so much better and are easier to clean.

You can see the beginnings of the first of three big kitchen changes dating from when he bought it in 2005. Thank goodness he added more ceiling lights too. I can’t imagine working with only one or two lights in the kitchen as this one had.

Here you see the cabinets going in. John bought the cabinet doors from Ikea and built the rest of it from big sheets of furniture board because it was as he said, “less expensive than ready-made and more flexible.”  The countertops are the old ones from 1997 just before John tiled them black like you see in the photo below. He believes in reusing materials when possible.

The second kitchen redo was much smaller, taking place in 2009 when my things arrived from the US. John added more glass fronted cabinets for my china and other glassware along with another solid cabinet on the left side of the window over the sink.

The other side of the room where the table sits is shown during the first renovation in the third photo above. As you can see by the funny bit of wall sticking out in that picture and the one below it, our table placement choices were severely limited and it never felt as if the space was large enough to move comfortable in especially when family and friends joined us.

Here’s a last look before the wall came down. After John built the extension so I might have a room of my own to write, the configuration of the house changed making it unnecessary for the entry door you can see in the photo below. Before building what he jokingly refers to as the East Wing, that door opened into the master bedroom. After the addition of a hallway, my studio space, and two bathrooms, it became possible to take down the corner wall and open up the room a bit more.

The out-dated Artex ceiling went too, along with the door leading from the main hall into the East Wing hallway. Then he pulled up the small bit of dark wood that had been part of the hallway floor and took out the door you see on the right. He fixed the wall afterwards and then put a new door and partial wall in where the hallway begins. The ceiling is dark in this shot because the plaster was still drying.

Here’s how it looked yesterday when I tried to catch a bit of light on a rainy day. I could have used my blogging friend Kerstin’s property photography skills as my pictures don’t do as good a job of giving you an accurate feel for the space. Notice we still have the leather chairs along with four more in the attic. John is okay with them, but I have a different vision in mind and I’ll update you later when we make a change. That lamp in the corner needs a bit of work or replacing. John enjoys a softer evening light so we’re likely to keep something there.

This cool piece is one of two that came out of an old smithy that was attached to another much older home that John owned years before meeting me. Both were stored in the garage and I’d imagined them inside the house from the first time I saw them. Renovating the kitchen created a place for this larger one and the smaller one found a home in the living room.

The little potty was one I used as a child on overnight visits with my great-grandparents who did not have indoor plumbing. I can see a few cobwebs in the slot where it’s sitting. (Note to self: dust more!) This piece was missing a drawer and I put the potty there as a funny reminder of a time when grand houses would have a screen off to the side during dinner parties so guests might relieve themselves without straying far from the table. Given that we are fortunate to have three bathrooms, this will never be necessary if you come for dinner.

John suggested this one might look better painted the color green you see in the kitchen, but that’s not happening! I love the primitive look of it and like seeing the dings and peeling paint from its use in blacksmith’s work space.

John built the new cabinets in the photo above using old materials to create units that were more shallow than the ones there before. He replaced the laminate floors with hardwood and I found a smaller entry rug for the door in the things I brought over in 2009. We think it’s a good match. Everything had a fresh coat of paint and the cooker hood or range hood as I’d call it is one that John found online. It works so much better than the old one making me especially happy when John cooks fish.

You may notice that we have not settled on a decision for the backsplash. John likes it as it is, but we tend to be messy and I think we’ll need at least a sheet of glass or acrylic to cover the green part up to the molding he installed. He also turned an unused space into a cookie sheet storage area by hinging the small wooden strip below the oven and adding a pull.

The lights in these cabinets are actually pale blue, but they’ve turned deep purple in this photo. You can see the new countertops John installed. He did a lot of work on them to help make them less prone to staining.

See the two raised boards he made from leftover counter-top wood … this works well to keep wet products off the wood so it doesn’t stain. You must be more careful with these, but I love the look of them and have not had to work that hard to get used to working with dry ingredients in one part and wet in another.

I moved some of the art that I brought from the US. These pieces had been in other parts of the house and added one (on the left) that I bought during a trip we made to Wales. I think it all came together fairly well.

You may have noticed that the art work on the sides of the window near the sink is in the spot where cabinets used to be. We had considered open shelving there for dishes and stuff, but I’m glad we found another way. I prefer the art and like how the space feels bigger and less cluttered.

John is already on to his next project, working on plans to change to the interior stairs and the entrance to the house. He never stops.

My friend Jean commented the other day on how lucky I was after seeing pictures of some of the renovations we’ve been making and “by we, I mean John.” That little saying about what we are doing has become a bit of humorous phrasing for me, but one meant to playfully acknowledge all the effort he puts into making our home so comfortable and appealing. He does such a nice job and I do feel lucky, but it’s his gentle spirit and kind heart rather than his construction skills that make me feel fortunate to share a life and space with him.

How about you … any projects on your list this summer? Share a link if you have one or leave me a link to your favorite home remodeling blog. I’m more than a little addicted to bloggers who are known for their DIY skills.

Kitchen Renovation Week 2 – Is that Dust In My Soup?

I have to be really honest with you. Aside from emptying some cabinets of their contents, taking a few pictures and helping with the design decisions, I haven’t done any of the real work involved in our kitchen renovation. John’s the workhorse here. After Bob and Brian packed up and went home late last week, John got out his tools and went to work. Here’s a bit of what he’s been working on over the last few days.

I know the ceiling looks as if we’re making a dubious color choice, but have no fear … we are not going with a milk chocolate-colored ceiling. It  turns light pink as the plaster dries and then we’ll paint it white. Remember the door that was on the other side of the wall? If you look below you can see where it used to lead to before John closed it for good.

The master bedroom and my studio space were until a few days ago only accessed through a door at the top of the stairs that no longer exists. After John sealed it up, my feet kept wanting to walk the same way out of habit so I stuck a note on the wall to remind me. It’s only a few steps beyond the remaining door, but I got tired of having to back up. The “Closed” sign made John laugh when he saw it and later when I went into the kitchen I noticed he’d posted a sign of his own.

I thought his “Open” sign was pretty cute, but I was really impressed with how he reused the old doorway to close in the new opening from the kitchen to the hallway. 

This photo should have been before the last one as he hadn’t completed the door frame yet, but it gives you a good look at the wall to the right where he closed off the old doorway. The dark boards against the wall are from the hallway. It’s the same wood flooring that runs through the master bedroom and my bathroom and studio space.

Here’s what the space looked like today. Didn’t John do a great job? I’ll be painting the door white over the next few days so it blends in better with the wall and we’re getting rid of all the brass wall plates too. We’re leaving the half-glass door as it is with its natural wood finish.

We’re thinking of oak planks for the kitchen floor, but we’ve got to live with it kind of patchy (like the spot above) while the rest of the kitchen is being finished. John said it’s going to be a few months (more like August) before we’re through with the kitchen/dining room renovation so if you’re coming to see us this summer consider yourself warned. It’s pretty dusty here.

Sublime Doughnuts Voted Best Bakery In America – Is World Doughnut Domination Next For Kamal Grant?

Chef Kamal Grant - Owner Of Sublime Doughnuts

Last summer I spent a few extra months in Atlanta trying to sell my house. Due to the huge slump in the housing market, I did not find a buyer. I did however discover a special bakery only two blocks away.

I wrote about my Sublime Doughnuts experience after meeting with my friend Kimberly Krautter to sample a selection of the yummy and unusually named doughnut treats. You can read more about my sweet send off last summer and Kamal Grant’s recent Best Bakery in America award, but you do so at your own risk.

Don’t say I didn’t warn because you’re going to have a craving that might be impossible to satisfy … at least until you get a chance to bite into one of these lovelies.

Elizabeth Harper, Kamal Grant, & Kimberly Krautter at Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta Georgia

After reading about the recent opening of a Sublime Doughnuts in Bangkok, Thailand, I’ve decided that it might be a good time to make my  move if I want to try to bring a Sublime Doughnuts franchise to Cornwall.

Hmm … I wonder how Brits feel about doughnuts?

Ditching A Plan That No Longer Works

How many times have you made a decision and after investing time and serious money to support your plans, later changed your mind? Did you let go and move on with ease or was it a struggle?

I’ve been wrestling with one that I couldn’t seem to make. For more than three years, I’ve let my indecision suck energy from me and felt loads of remorse over my apathetic attitude towards what I once considered a perfect career.

When I lived in the US, this vision of my future fit well into my business plan for a creative life. I invested in equipment and training designed to cover both the technical and business aspects and paid for quality in both areas.

When I felt ready to deliver a good product, I put myself into situations to prove to myself that this was a good fit. I photographed weddings, PR events, family portraits, and even a red carpet event in Times Square while in New York.

And it was good, for a while.

After a weekend workshop with Denis Reggie, who the New York Times called ” A Storyteller with a Camera,” and who Oprah Winfrey said was ” The Best in the Business, ” I set up my Linked In account and identified myself as the owner of Elizabeth Harper Photographers.

Denis Reggie advised that by using the word photographers instead of photographer or photography, I would leave room to include other photographers who might shoot weddings with me.

During a workshop with Liana Lehman Hall that focused on the business of photography, we did a bit of writing as well and Liana told me that she could see me doing something similar to Jasmine Star, a photographer who incorporates words and story into her blog posts and client images. I knew then that I could write and that I was good at encouraging people to share their stories and after a look at Jasmine Star’s website, I thought it was indeed the kind of thing I had thought of doing to use both skills. The combination seemed as if it might satisfy my desire to write while earning a living as a wedding photographer.

This might have worked had I stayed in Georgia and not met John. Moving to the UK changed many things for me one of which was my desire to work as a wedding photographer. I still love weddings and I enjoy getting the shot that defines the day or a documents a special moment, I’ve just decided that I don’t want to do it for a living.

The rhythm of days spent writing has the strongest pull now and after worrying that I was throwing away money spent on training and camera equipment by not building a career in the UK as a photographer, I decided to end my ambiguity and sell my gear.

My decision to close the door on one career path is an opportunity for someone else who may have been dreaming of something as big as a new direction, or just adding more equipment to their camera bag.

Here are few images from some of the weddings I’ve photographed along with two of a mother and child.

    

 

 

Now that I’ve made peace with redefining how I see myself, I’ll be heading over to “Linked In” to change how the Linked In community sees me.

I’ve contacted a business in the UK that is well-regarded for buying and selling used photography equipment and they’ve given me a quote. As is the way with companies like this one, the price is a good bit lower than can be gained by selling it myself.

Before I decide to sell it on Ebay or Amazon or make use of the company I contacted, I wanted to share it here. I am including a list of the items in case any of my readers wish to add to their gear.

Please consider forwarding this post on to anyone you know who might be interested in well cared for camera equipment.

(2) Nikon D200 Bodies
Nikon Lens ED AF-S VR-NIKKOr 70-200 2.8,
Nikon Lens AF 50 1.4,
Nikon DX AF-S NIKKOR 18-200 3.5-5.6 ED,
Nikon DX ED Fisheye,
Nikon DX AF-S 17-55 2.8 G ED
(2) Nikon Speedlights SB-600,
Nikon Speedlight SB-800
Manfrotto 3021BPRO
Manfrotto Head 3265
Quantum Turbo 2×2 Battery Pack,
4 camera batteries
1 Extreme IV Sandisk 8.0GB
1 Extreme IV Sandisk 4.0GB
(3) 4.0 Sandisk
(2) Sandisk Ultra II 1.0GB
(2) Sandisk 1.0 GB
1 Sandisk Ultra II 2.0 GB
Never Used
UV 77mm Crystal Optics Filter
C PL 77mm Crystal Optics Filter
DIgital Circular PLD 77mm
USED
Quantaray 72mm C-PL
Quantaray 77mm QMC-UV
FLD 77mm Crystal Optics

I’m happy to provide photos of the items and answer any questions. Thanks for helping me move on and I hope this ending is a new beginning for you or someone you know.