It is OFFICIAL! “Consumer Reports” and I are breaking up!

For years I have or someone close to me has had a subscription to Consumer Reports magazine.  You are making an important purchase and you look up with they think about it.  AND they dont accept advertisements so you feel a certain comfort level in what they report.  I love the format, I love the ease in figuring out what the selling features are with the grid – what I don’t like is the information on the last 3 products I bought using their recommendations.

The first product was a digital camera and it turned out to be a disaster – I ignored my own experience to buy one they reported as “Best Value.” Well Best Value is sitting on a shelf broken and I am too frustrated with the company to send it back.

The next one is a vacuum from Sears – Kenmore.  I absolutely hate it and it wasnt cheap.  Today I was ready to throw it into the river.  If I spent as much time actually vacuuming as I did trying to fix the one I have (that is a year old and I have a housekeeper that hates it so much she brings her own) I would have the cleanest house in the world. I was so frustrated I posted something on Facebook and sure enough I learned another friend was unhappy with this thing, while 2 others told me DYSON was the one I should get!

The other one is a front loader washer.  It has been fixed twice and there are 2 people in my house, no kids.  It doesnt get much of a work out, but it cannot take whatever 2 people can give it.

So now what will I do? First, I will buy nothing ever again from Sears and I won’t ever bother with “Consumer Reports.” I don’t think they are bad people, I just think they are not like me and I don’t need to pay a subscription to somebody that gives me bad information.

And neither do you have to.  User generated reviews are changing how people get information and make decisions.  “Consumer Reports” has an online website where members (you pay) sign up to get information.  I am not doing that, when Amazon has reviews that website companies like link to for people’s opinions.  YOUR experiences, your opinions, free of charge.

There is a great user generation travel tool called that allows the traveling public to provide their experiences easily and for free.  For those of us that use it, we need to also tell the good news when it happens, because oftentimes it is just people frustrated and angry that bother to participate and that is only half of the story.  So if you decide to use these sites, I suggest you put in your two cents worth. Tell the people and products that are important to you that you like them!  It only takes a minute.  Then the time YOU want information from someone you will get it.  Keep in mind information isn’t always accurate, so poke around and check it further before you make a decision!

A not-so fancy site is and it takes tons of clicks and unlike the content seems to be organic, meaning a person has to go to that site that has purchased something from somewhere else and tell it.  With a site using an Amazon feed – the people are there anyway and Amazon prompts you for your reviews on products that they sell.

I suggest as this buying season is upon us, you participate in the review process, it is painless and helpful to those of us that really want information.

Happy Holidays and use the internet as the convenience and time saving tool that it is!

I Learned Something Yesterday – My Own Christmas Carol

Lately I have been feeling blue about the short days, the economy and I think I am watching too much NEWS! The stock market is down, unemployment and crime is up, the list goes on.

The holidays are to be such a joyful time, yet I always feel somewhat depressed about them. This year my brother and his family join us – the first time in 13 years and tho I am excited, I still am feeling the pressures around me. Recently, something changed my outlook… at least for a while.

I went to a funeral yesterday. 3 days before Christmas. It was for a woman, (58 years old). Her name is Deb and I knew her years ago. Her husband, brother-in-law and I trained dogs together. I went to the service specifically, because her sister is also a dear friend of mine. (Sounds all tangled up, one of those 6 degrees of separation things, I guess.)

For 29 years, this woman fought a battle with MS and even when she was admitted to a hospice facility, her body still wanted to fight the fight, but finally her tank was empty and she slipped away.

Now that part is the sad part, but here is the part where I learned something-perhaps “Ebeneezer” (and Deb) were watching over me!

The service was a Catholic Mass, to which I am unaccustomed and wasn’t actually clear on what was coming next. During the service, a good friend of Deb’s delivered thoughts and shared experiences from their long friendship. Of course it made us all cry, though none of us were there to share in those times, personally, I connected on my own.

I have a circle of friends and I could identify with her friends’ feelings. I could place myself within her warm words of memory with one or many of my close friends & family. I could feel how very special those times experiences in my life that I have shared with my friends and are so grateful to them for being part of my life. If any of them are reading this, know that you have made a difference to me and my life would not have been as full without you in it. Thank you to all my dear friends & family, those far and wide for making my life a special journey with laughs, hugs and moments to grin about even when things can seem like they aren’t going my way!

I know this the title of this blog is “Techno Trapped In my 40’s” and this REALLY isn’t advice about technology challenges, but in a way it is.

Don’t let the “Technology Scrooge” get in the way of what is valuable. TURN OFF THE NOISE IN YOUR LIFE and look around – get real (sorry Dr. Phil), stop and think what is meaningful for the long haul.

Christmas (or whatever you own brand of holiday celebration may be) needs to remind us about family, friends and the real things that are important. Cherish these times, cherish each other.

And make a toast “To Absent Friends.”
(Thanks Deb for the reminder.)

Christmas Cards

A few months ago I wrote a post about storing and sharing photos. Click here to check it out again, it is a good intro to what I am going to expand on this post.

Again I am going to talk about photos. First I want to remind all of you to think back to when you actually printed off a bunch and made an album out of them. Most of us just slide them off to someone in an email and then hope that if they really want the printed version, they print it themselves- PHEW! You are off the hook!

But it is Christmas or Holiday time, excuse my reference is not meant to offend, we celebrate Christmas at my house that is all.

As I mentioned previously, I have been using webshots as a storage service and sharing service primarily. I don’t know when they started offering cards, mugs, mousepads, etc. but they do have it and I must say I missed it.

Last Sunday (Sunday BEFORE Thanksgiving) I designed my own Christmas Card for the second year through I was happy with the service last year and the quality was terrific. This year with the economy the way it is, if you cut back on sending out holiday cards, cut out going to the local Hallmark store and buying just “any old” card, or believe that people don’t get through those family letters you may be eager to send!

Go to Shutterfly and you can very easily do it yourself. With your photo and your design, you pick from some templates-plop your photos in, retry if it isnt what you think it should be and then approve the proof. You can save it in a draft form and finalize whenever you want!

Surprisingly, these cards are a lot cheaper than the plain old (yes pretty- but not customized) Christmas Card. Building a house, or remodeling? Have photos of a vacation, pets or kids to share? These make wonderful memories for your friends & family to see. I also made some calendars with my photos of sunsets from our camp overlooking the water that would give some family (that moved away) some relief from stress at work. They were very reasonable – like $15.99 or something! It is a custom gift and when we all agreed to cut back on Christmas this year, I wanted to make sure that each gift was unique and special – Shutterfly helped me do that – WHO KNEW?

AND I told you it was last Sunday I placed the order? They arrived on Tuesday (2 days later!) and that was standard shipping and they looked just the way I wanted them to. I even have half of them addressed!

I recommend Shutterfly and Webshots because I use them. I know there are many other services out there, so if you have an experience to share, please comment and let us know, we would love to hear it!!