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Easy Meal Coordination with CareCalendar.org

by Amanda on February 11, 2008
category: Cool websites,Technology

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I am in the season of my life where many of my friends are having babies and experiencing the joy of pure exhaustion like they have never known before once the baby is home. I have had the pleasure to coordinate meals for two of my friends in the past few months. I used to wonder why getting something for dinner was so difficult for new parents, until I had one myself. Then I understood how someone bringing me dinner and visiting me was so valuable.

The first time I coordinated meals I did it through email. I emailed everyone and had each person pick a date and email me back. One friend suggested that when I knew what food someone was bringing that I should email everyone else, so there wouldn’t be duplicates. It was a nice suggestion, but I really did not want to fill up strangers email boxes with the details of someone’s dinner plans. Once most of the nights were filled up I would email the new parents who was bringing what on what night. It took some time to coordinate meals by hand, but it got done. Then I found out about an even easier approach.

A few weeks later I received a notice from my friend, Beth’s sister, to sign up to bring a meal to Beth through carecalendar.org. It was so easy to use, that I used it the next time I coordinated meals for my friends Pete and Rachel. I set it up, sent one email, and it was done. So easy!

The first step in using the Care Calendar is to create a new personal calendar. You will need to fill out your contact information, the dates and kind of help needed, and the meal recipient’s preferences. I sent a copy of the questions below to my friends in advance, so I could have their specific requests.

Usual meal time :
Number of people eating :
Food sensitivities :
Diet restrictions :
Favorite Foods :
Specific Dislikes :
Microwave available? : Yes/No
Freezer space available? : Yes/No

Once everything is set up the site will send you an email containing a message with a Calendar ID number and a Security Code. The ID number and Security Code is the information users will need to view your private calendar. Only the people that you give the information to will be able to view the calendar online. You will also receive a separate login as the Coordinator for more access.

The message they give you to send out reads:

To access Pete and Rachel’s private CareCalendar site, visit http://www.CareCalendar.org and enter the following information in the appropriate spaces:

CALENDAR ID : 1234
SECURITY CODE : 1234

Then when someone wishes to bring a meal they go to the site, enter in the information and view the private calendar. They can see what nights are taken and are still available. There are spaces to enter in what meal they are bringing and they can also see what others are bringing. Then, once they pick a night and fill in the blank, Care Calender sends them a reminder email and a copy to the Coordinator. That is it!

I received feedback from users about how simple and painless the whole process was. All I did was set it up, sent out the email, and I would periodically check to make sure the nights were filling up. Another great aspect is that Pete and Rachel, whom I was coordinating the meals for, could look online themselves to see who was bringing dinner and what type of meal they were getting. They never felt like they were bugging me for the information. I also appreciated that Care Calendar is connected to Google Maps, because I never had to give out directions to their home. Also the site says what time they are available to receive dinners, so I never had to coordinate connecting the new parents with the meal givers.

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CareCalendar.org made managing meals really easy. I would highly recommend using it the next time you need to coordinate meals!

Bonus Link:

Click here to see a Demo of the site.

Techno Mammas Series Part 2: Del.icio.us Is Really That Awesome

by Amanda on December 2, 2007
category: Cool websites,Technology

I seriously love del.icio.us and I use it all the time. Del.icio.us is an easy way to bookmark all your favorite webpages online in one place. Sometimes I come across a site or a webpage that I will want to come back to later, so I will tag the page. You can tag pages when you are shopping online, researching a topic or a vacation, or saving cool recipes.

Del.icio.us works by integrating two buttons into your web browser. Don’t worry, installation is easy! I promise. One button is your “My del.icio.us” button that displays all your tagged webpages. The second button is the “Tag this” button that you click when you want to tag the webpage you are displaying. Using del.icio.us is cool, because it takes two seconds to tag a webpage after you have installed the buttons.

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Bookmarking online is better than using your web browser’s book marking system, because you can bookmark all you want and it won’t fill up that menu window. I currently have 190 webpages bookmarked; that would be a really long menu window! Also, you can easily make notes, change the title of the bookmark, and specify tag categories.

 

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Your homepage with all your tagged sites go with you wherever you go. They are always online. If you are at a friend’s house and you want to show them that really cool purse you were considering buying on Etsy, you could have bookmarked the page, and open the link from your del.icio.us account.

Setting up del.icio.us is incredibly easy. One of the things I really like about del.icio.us is that all their instructions are simple to follow.

The first step is to register with del.icio.us. After you fill out the six blanks on the registration form, you will then be instructed to install your two del.icio.us buttons. You will have to re-start your web browser after they are installed. Then, you can start using the buttons and saving the links to all your favorite sites.

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Take a few minutes and set up del.icio.us. You will be glad that you did!

Del.icio.us homepage
Register
Installing into Internet Explorer
Installing into Firefox
A Guide to Saving Bookmarks

Techno Mammas Series Part 1: What the heck is RSS?

by Amanda on November 26, 2007
category: Technology

This is the first part of a series explaining current technology trends. There is so much great technology out there, but how do you use it? Is it even worth your time to figure it out and use it? Will it enhance your life or make you want to throw your computer out the window? We will explore all of these questions in this series. If there is a specific technology question that you want answered, feel free to ask it in the comments or fill out the contact form.

So let’s get started with the first topic in this series – RSS.

rss_icon.gif You may have noticed the little RSS icon on many websites with a statement that usually says, “Subscribe to My Feed.” The icon is also in the address window at the top of your web browser. The icon is typically orange with two white curved lines.


So what the heck is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or “news feed.” RSS is the format that syndicates content from blogs, news headlines, and podcasts into a subscription. Then a feed reader will read the subscription and show you the content of the website’s articles.

An RSS blog format contains the text and pictures of a blog post. Then the feed reader will show you all the blog posts of all the websites you have subscribed to in one window.

Back in the day, you would have to Bookmark a page in your web browser and then manually click on each individual site. Now with a feed reader you can view all your favorite websites in one window. Saving you time and making it easier for you to keep up with your favorite blogs!

Here is a picture of what my feed reader looks like. (This is the list view.)

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Here is a picture of what a blog post looks like in the feed reader.

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Here is a picture of what that same blog post looks like on its own website.

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How Do I Use RSS?

Step 1. Get a feed reader. There are many feed reader options. If you already have a Gmail account, you can easily use GoogleReader. Other popular feed readers are Bloglines, Rojo, and Newsgator. You can also add RSS to your MyYahoo! Page, but it only gives you the titles of the blog posts. The titles of the blog posts then link you to the actual site.

Step 2. Go to the website you want to subscribe to and click on their RSS icon.

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Step 3. A window will open and ask you which feed reader you are using. Choose the feed reader that you have an account with.

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Step 4. Set up any necessary preferences. GoogleReader asks you if you want to view it on your Google Homepage or Google Reader. Bloglines opens up some display options.

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Step 5. Enjoy viewing the content of multiple blogs all at once!

Is RSS really that great?

I really like my GoogleReader. I could spend hours reading all the content in my reader. GoogleReader posts the time that the blog post was created, so I can know the second that my friends update their sites. It is really great to have all the posts on my favorite websites in one place. Sometimes I will miss a post when I actually view the site, but I will catch it in my reader.

A feed reader is great for friends who don’t blog often. Instead of going to a website multiple times only to be disappointed that they haven’t blogged in three weeks. You can subscribe to their feed and be pleasantly surprised when one of their posts pop up in your list.

The bad part of using RSS and a feed reader is that you can’t view the comments or write a comment on a post. You have to click through to the post on the website and then comment. For this reason, I still personally visit all my personal friends’ sites, because I enjoy commenting.

If a website has the option you can subscribe to the comments through RSS, but you still can’t write a comment. Also, I have found that popular sites will have many comments that pile up in your reader.

One problem that I have had using my feed reader is that I will subscribe to a blog that I think looks cool, but then I don’t keep up reading the posts and I loose interest quickly.

Another down side to using a feed reader, is that you can’t see a site’s design. You can’t view the fun treasures in the sidebars of your favorite websites. How else will I know what books my friends are reading or who else is in their blogroll? The flip side is that there are no pesky advertisements in the feed reader.

I enjoy using my feed reader to keep up with websites that are informative and where I don’t comment much, but I will still personally visit my favorite friends’ blogs.

Extra Credit:

If a site does not have an RSS option, you can plug the address (URL) of the site that you want to view in your RSS reader into feedity.com.

Further Reading on RSS:

Explaining RSS the Oprah way
RSS in Wikipedia
Easy RSS Explanation

Do you use RSS? Do you like it? Which feed reader do you use?

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