Improvised Life » useful apps + services If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Wed, 12 Nov 2014 23:44:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Motown Break via rdio Mon, 16 Jun 2014 23:00:14 +0000

Working hard? Why not take a break and listen to what the guys hanging out under the trees on 124th street in Harlem listen to on summer nights: Motown. You’ll find the Complete No. 1’s HERE at rdio.

It’s the music that drifts up to our Laboratory and is curiously never intrusive, but stays pretty consistently mellow with Marvin Gaye, The Miracles, and The Temptations.

In the mood for John Coltrane? The great Kottke found The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings.  There are a lot of full albums to be found, listened to, shared.

We just may shake ourselves up with (more...)]]> 0 Wine Wise Guy Anthony Giglio Answers Your Questions About Wine Thu, 12 Jun 2014 22:30:24 +0000

EVERYONE we know has questions about wine and the best person we know for answers is Anthony Giglio, aka The Wine Wise Guy, an Improvised Life contributor and of late, wine blogger for Details. Anthony is the guy who pioneered using wine-friendly frozen grapes to chill a glass of wine without diluting the flavor. We excerpted a key fast-chill method for a whole bottle, below. His weekly Details column answers such perplexing questions as Do Those Wine-Aerator Gadgets Really Work?(more…)

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Sharing Excerpts of Books via Text Message Mon, 05 May 2014 08:41:41 +0000

Sally Schneider

The other day, a friend texted smartphone snapshots from a book she was reading: whole pages, with passages she found illuminating marked in pencil. She regularly exchanges excerpts of readings like this with a group of friends.

We read the passages while waiting for a bus, the perfect little mind shift and reflection. It’s one of the best uses for SMS messaging we’ve seen, as though our friend was putting the book into our hands or reading the paragraph directly to us.  (more…)

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Standards, a NON Digital Self Management System Thu, 01 May 2014 21:00:04 +0000

Jake Lodwick created an online-customizable, free-print-out management system called Standards. According to Lodwick: In a matter of months, you'll be a high-performing, self-directed Überperson – guaranteed!" We're gonna try it! ]]> 2
Inspired Experiment: An Art Lending Library Thu, 23 Jan 2014 21:00:36 +0000

Greenhouse Media

In response to our post about a library that lends people, Maureen Rolla, recently alerted us to another great iteration of the lending library:

…The 2013 Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, a huge, fabulous survey of contemporary art, features an art-lending library that has been organized by Transformazium, a local artist collective; it is based at the Braddock Carnegie Library, and it will live on after the exhibition. (more…)

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Virtual Gift Cards That Do Good AND Deliver Your Best Wishes Wed, 18 Dec 2013 18:00:55 +0000

Sally Schneider

Long ago we started to unhook from obligatory — and often stressful — holiday gift buying. We became big fans of giving money to a charity in friends’ names, instead of the usual gift that nobody needs. Every year, we send charity gift cards. In the past we’d address and stamp the envelopes, wondering if there was an alternative way to send our greeting/gift that would save paper, stamps, and energy but still deliver the message in a festive way.

We steered clear of email cards because we couldn’t find any that delivered the visual message we wanted AND because they lacked an envelope, which we think an essential part of the pleasure of receiving a card.

Then we discovered Paperless Post, (more…)

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skype is a tool for learning, helping, teaching, connecting Mon, 02 Dec 2013 09:40:18 +0000 As we compile many innovative uses for Skype and FaceTime, we realize how "virtual" really CAN allow us to "be there".]]> 2 A Tiny Nook Room Expands with a Wall Mural Mon, 21 Oct 2013 22:20:34 +0000

For a while now, we've been researching companies that make custom and ready-made wall murals, because a wall-size image seems like a great way to expand an odd room. Case in point: Swedish stylist/designer Jimmy Schönning's transformation of a tiny nook of a bedroom with a calm distant see. Perfect.]]> 3
custom or ready-made wall murals to transform your space Tue, 23 Apr 2013 21:26:46 +0000

When we saw this image featured under Bedrooms on a design blog, we instantly thought: what a great solution for jazzing up a place, like the drab walls of a rental studio a friend is struggling to make into a home, however temporary. We started looking into services that make wall murals, imagining cool images from ourarchive wrought BIG.

First we came across Murals Your Way, a service will make any high-resolution image you have into a 6-x-4-foot mural on canvas, fabric-backed vinyl or a repositionable material. If you planned it right, you could forge a really huge mural by seaming together smaller panels. Murals Your Way’s faq gives a sense of what’s possible, and there are A LOT of possibilities.

Then when we were hunting around for the photo credit for the bedroom image, above, we discovered that the mural came from Pixers, a company that sells bespoke wall murals (more…)

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budget reno + life strategy: hire a project consultant Wed, 23 Jan 2013 18:28:43 +0000

Sally Schneider

After I had figured out the essential plan of the multi-functional space that was to become my home and ‘the improvised life’s Laboratory, I started bringing friends by to get their opinions and input. I also hired an interior designer to consult for a short time, to consider my ideas, challenge them, add to them, as well as help source the many items I would need, from sinks and plumbing fixtures to door knobs. Hiring a consultant for a fixed amount of time is a good strategy if you you’re don’t have the resources to hire a someone to see the project though, or don’t need start-to-finish service.

I met Scott McFarlane through friends and liked ideas he’d come up with for their recent renovation, as well as his attention to detail. Although I have a strong design sense, it was clear that there was A LOT of things I could use advice on. I hired Scott to consult on critical elements of my plan so architect Emily Johnson could draw up plans that contractors would understand. Scott and I spent many hours in the empty apartment busting holes in walls, tacking up images I’d clipped from design blogs, measuring, brain-storming.

Scott came up with A LOT of clever solutions to some extreme design problems (all pictures below are from the in-process days of the reno).  For starters, (more…)

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how to stop junk mail Tue, 10 Apr 2012 23:16:00 +0000

bob zahn for the new yorker

Even though it’s not our fault, the vast amounts of junk mail we get makes us feel frustrated and guilty. So much paper going to waste. Try and warp your head around this: the Wall Street Journal reports that 82.5 billion pieces of “advertising mail” were delivered by the U.S. Postal system in 2010.

Years ago there was an internet service that would alert catalog companies that you wanted to opt-out, although it seems to have disappeared. But Unconsumption has just alerted us to a next-generation service that might do something similar. PaperKarma is a new app (for iPhones, androids, and Windows phones) will contact the source of your junk mail and “remove you from their mailing list.” All you have to do is a take a photo of the piece of junk mail in question. The key is to take a picture that highlights the name of the company sending the mail, like in the photo below.  (more…)

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how-to find affordable and/or rare books online Mon, 27 Feb 2012 18:00:09 +0000

After reading two recent post referring to out-of-print books like Calder at Home and  How to Construct Reitveld Furniture, a long-time reader emailed us a great strategy for finding affordable books online using “favorite searches” on ABE books. Check out her message below to hear how it works. We are going to try setting up searches for some hard-to-find books:

…when you are looking for a used book that seems too expensive, you should try ABE books. You can save searches (including advanced searches, e.g., by price, year, ISBN numbers if you want a particular edition, (more...)]]> 3 design your own textiles Wed, 08 Feb 2012 19:00:11 +0000


We love the way the internet can increase people’s ability to design and fabricate things that have traditionally been the realm of professional designers and manufacturersOur newest favorite online resource/service is digital fabric printing. Over the past three or four years, a number of online textile printers have popped up, including Spoonflower, Karma Kraft, and Fabric on Demand. While each site differs slightly in what they offer and how they work with you, the general principal remains the same: you pick a pattern or design your own, upload it to the site and select your fabric type and reference colors; then wait for your fabric (or practice swatch) to arrive at your front door.

As always, part of the trick is deciding which service to try. Luckily, Kim at TrueUp did the leg-work for us in 2009, printing the same design with four different companies. (One of them, Eye Candey, doesn’t seem to exist anymore). Her experience is extremely helpful, and includes tips about what file type and image resolution to use, as well as the differences in pigment type and the importance of color-correcting. She also created this handy comparison pdf (updated in March 2010) so you can see the differences between each printer.

If you’ve ever wanted to design your own textiles, it doesn’t get much easier than this. Need some ideas for patterns? We find them everywhere, (more…)

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the wirecutter’s trustworthy technology reviews Wed, 01 Feb 2012 19:34:28 +0000

We find ourselves spending a lot of time sifting through product review websites as we try to make smart purchases. This can be a tedious process, and often we end up more unsure of what we’re looking for than when we started. That’s why we were really excited to discover The Wirecutter ,”a list of only great technology”.  Run by Brian Lam, a former Gizmodo and Wired writer, the site lists “the best” in gadgets, from phones and TVs to cables and wireless music, to vacuum cleaners and electric toothbrushes.

We came across the site while researching portable hard drives, and really loved the layout of Lam’s reviews.Lam names the Lenovo Thinkpad USB 3.0 Secure Hard Drive as the best, but gives a thorough explanation of his choice and offers a couple of cheaper options that he still recommends. At the end of his write-ups, he includes a list of the “best sources” on his product choices, so you have easy access to a few other reputable reviews and his evaluation process.

Best of all, we like the way he thinks. (more…)

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