How to Clean Sterling Silver if yours is Turning Grey, White, Black!

There’s nothing worse then pulling a cherished piece of silver jewelry out and finding it’s turned black, grey, white or yellow.  Trying to figure out how to clean silver it  can be tough.That colour is called tarnish and it’s the bane of any silver-lover.

I love making sterling silver jewelry in my spare time. Occasionally I take on custom-made jewelry requests. But I recently had a customer write me to say a necklace I’d made for him had turned black after just a couple weeks.  He was surprised and thought something was wrong with the piece. Though it can look unsightly if not cared for properly, tarnish is a normal and natural process with sterling silver. But once tarnish or blackening is there, how can you clean silver?

What causes Tarnish?

A well-used silver polishing cloth.

A well-used silver polishing cloth.

When silver tarnishes, it’s a surface discolouration  caused by the interaction of oxygen (air) with the silver. As the British Assay Office explains it, “silver naturally interacts with oxygen and sulphur-bearing pollutants to create silver sulphide, resulting in a visible discoloration of the metal’s surface. Silver tarnishes in environments containing various sulphuric gases, even in very low concentration. The amount of tarnishing is determined by the relative humidity, ambient temperature, gas concentration, and the length of time the silver is exposed to the gases.”

With sterling silver this process is normal, natural, expected, and yes, it can occur relatively quickly.

Many things can speed tarnish; air pollution, the minerals in your water (and as such, wearing your silver jewelry in the shower can speed this process too), living or working near a chemical, electric or manufacturing plant, or even in proximity to a gas starion are all things that can cause discolouration more quickly.

Recent studies have shown tarnish develops microscopically within hours of being cleaned and exposed to air again.  You may not see it on the piece for several days or weeks, but it’s there, and will show up as a black residue on a polishing cloth.

How to clean silver

A great way to keep seldom worn jewelry clean (and silverware if you have it), is to store sterling silver in a ziplock bag with all the air squeezed or rolled out of it.  You can wrap it in a soft cloth first too.  Oxygen and thus tarnish may still seep in and can still cause blackening especially if the pieces are stores for long periods of time, but it should keep things to a minimum. Another great way to keep jewelry tarnish free?  Wear it!  Constant contact with the silver keeps tarnish from building up.

Chemicals can cause tarnish

Chemically tarnished rings. Oops!Coincidentally at the same time as this customer contacted me,  I had a friend show me some rings I’d made for her.  The shiny sterling silver had turned a deep, dark black (photo at left).  This was no tarnish effect, and she admitted she’d immersed her baubles in some household cleaner (Lysol) to spruce them up.  Instead, they’d become instantly and deeply chemically oxidized.

Now, she actually liked this look and referred to it as ‘edgy’, so she’s leaving them as they are for now.  If she did want them restored it should be a relatively simple process of buffing the chemical scarring off the surface layer, and exposing clean shiny silver beneath.

Don’t experiment with cleaning silver using household cleaners!

But this also serves as a leaning moment; only soap and water, silver polish, or a silver polishing cloth should be used to clean your silver jewelry.  Many household cleaners and chemicals can alter your precious silver.  In fact, I once had a ring turn bronze after accidentally spritzing window cleaner on it, and had other silver turn grey by getting baking soda onto it.  That too buffed out, but you’ll want to be careful with your jewelry.  Chemicals can also permanently damage certain stones like topaz, opal and more, so don’t experiment; you run the risk of really doing permanent damage.

How to Clean Silver and Remove Tarnish-> Get this Inexpensive Polishing ClothSUNSHINE MINI.JPG

If you do find some discolouration of your silver, you can remove it with a silver cloth (brand names include Sunshine Cloth, which is available inexpensively from me,  HERE or HERE). If that won’t work, stop while you’re ahead and take it to a pro for professional help.

A Note about Grocery Store Silver Cleanser

I’ve purchased cleansers from grocery stores that just don’t work.  If you’re going to get a cleanser from somewhere other than a jewelry professional, test it first on a small area.  If the cleaner doesn’t remove tarnish instantly, it’s not working.  Proper liquid silver cleaners will remove all tarnish in about 3 seconds.  Fresh new polishing cloths.If you need to soak, or scrub, stop using it, rinse your silver, and return the cleaner to where you bought it and get your money back. (Keep your receipt!)

For the jewelry ‘geeks’, the Government of Canada has written a helpful article about how to best care for your silver.  Read it here.

 

 

Have you got a horror story – or a home remedy for tarnish?  Post your comments below!

 

Travel Guide: Chauchilla Cemetery, Peru

Clearly visible bones at Chauchilla. Photo: E. Lawrence
Clearly visible bones at Chauchilla. Photo: E. Lawrence

Against the parched Andean earth, flecks of brilliant white. Drawing closer, there are hundreds–thousands– of what look from afar like smooth,white pebbles here.

Woven among them, scraps of cotton bleached by decades of blinding sun, and piles of what appear to be broken sticks. But this sun-whitened debris is not at all what it seems; across this vast plain the remains of and unknown number of humans lie scattered in the open.

The wide landscapes continues unbroken as far as the eye can see, save for a couple of small palm huts. Those rickety structures are all that marks one of the largest graveyards in Latin America; Chauchilla Cemetery in Peru’s Nazca region.

An untold number of human remains lie scattered across the sand in Chauchilla Cemetery, Peru.
An untold number of human remains lie scattered across the sand in Chauchilla Cemetery, Peru. Photo E. Lawrence

Though the famous and mysterious Nazca lines get top billing here, the surreal quiet of the graveyard and its neglected condition is perhaps equally unforgettable.

For years the extinct Nazca people came to this pebbled plain to bury their dead, knowing they would be watched over and protected by the Andes mountains squatting in the distance. But even as the Nazca laid their family members here, grave robbers were never far behind them. The carefully wrapped bodies , lovingly appointed, were soon dug up; their bones and wrappings, even the odd tuft of human hair, left to scatter in the dry desert wind.

Underneath the palm huts, several graves have been properly excavated, and the mummies within exposed. They are bleached bundles that sit upright with skulls propped atop and jaws agape, stretched wide by decades of exposure and decay.

Locked in a grimace centuries old, a Chauchilla mummy is still bound in its funerary wraps.
Locked in a grimace centuries old, a Chauchilla mummy is still bound in its funerary wraps. Photo: E. Lawrence

In many cases, dehydrated, leathery flesh is still visible, and lengths of hair coil to the floor. These mummies are remarkably preserved, still bound in their funerary wraps and looped in rope to hold them fast. All still clutch their knees in the traditional fetal burial position. This is the only archaeological site in Peru where mummies are displayed in their original graves.

Laid out alongside the bodies are stacks of human bones, most still unbroken, and the pile is topped with a collection of skulls. These tidy if gruesome piles are the exception, not the rule, for just outside this hut, something gets stuck in my sandal, and as I try to flick it free with one finger, I realize it is in fact a piece of human bone.

There are bone shards everywhere here. Just bending down, dozens are visible; raising my eyes, the trail leads all the way to the horizon.

Our tour guide tells us there are still many complete mummies under our feet. She twists her hair into a ponytail and, like a human divining rod, spreads her arms wide and begins walking towards some place only she seems to see.

Stopping a few meters from one of the huts, she crouches and begins sweeping sand from what would seem to be a random spot. Within seconds she has revealed the smooth surface of a kneecap, then a leg.

Dusting off a jawbone uncovered under shifting sands in Chauchilla.
Dusting off a jawbone uncovered under shifting sands in Chauchilla. Photo: E.Lawrence

Shifting, she grinds away the grit of the sand to expose another skull, its eyes now wide to the bright afternoon sun. There is still clearly so much history here. But our guide, as if recovering memory of some taboo, hastily covers the bones again; these graves, she says, are not meant to be disturbed further.

Grave robbers cared nothing for the people whose eternal rest they were obviously ending. The bodies here have been yanked unceremoniously from the ground, stripped of valuables, clothing, jewels, and left to scatter with the help of birds, small animals, and the dry desert wind.

The land now bears these scars–pockmarks and potholes dot the landscape where sand has filled in the space left vacant by the removal of a mummy. The desecration so common, that hundreds of years ago, people stopped trying to undo the damage, and left the bones to their fate.

Bodies that were somehow missed by looters are amazingly well preserved and became naturally mummified by the dry desert climate. Those are the bundles that now sit propped at the bottom of these tombs.

The vast sandy plan near Chauchilla; unremarkable, except when you start finding bones in the sand.
The vast sandy plan near Chauchilla; unremarkable, except when you start finding bones in the sand.

This site was left to the whim of the winds and sporadic visitors until the late 90’s, when Peru’s government finally took over the site to begin preserving it. And though the thousands of bone shards and shredded scraps of cloth will be allowed to remain where they’ve scattered across this desert plain, those bodies that are left below are now afforded some measure of safety in final rest–if not peace from prying eyes.

Map of Chauchilla Peru, courtesy mysteryperu.com
Map of Chauchilla Peru, courtesy mysteryperu.com

Fitbit Blaze Review

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The new Blaze (right) beside to well-worn Flex.

I’ve been a Fitbit owner ever since I bought my Flex. It’s been a staple for me, not so much because I’m a gym junkie, but because it sit at a desk for the vast majority of my day. I try to keep active and get in my 10,000 steps, and my Fitbit keeps track so that I can get in an extra walk, park at the back of the parking lot, or hit the gym when I get too sedentary.

I was excited to hear about the two new Fitbit models announced this year; the Alta and the Blaze, primarily because my Flex is starting to look a bit worse for wear, and because I feel like I’m ready for some new features. While I was instantly attracted to the Alta because of its slim profile and similarity to the Flex, I was a little less interested in the Blaze. It seemed big, bulky, dated-looking and boxy. Nonetheless I was willing to put it though its paces.

Getting started with Fitbit Blaze
To use the Blaze you’ll need the Fitbit App if you want to keep long-term stats. With the app downloaded, you pair the device to your phone.  While it took me a few tries to get it to connect to the phone, it was soon connected and ready to go.img_1456

The Blaze has an interesting configuration; it’s essentially two parts; the band (which is interchangeable, more on that below), and the tracker unit, a flat, square device just over an inch square and slightly thicker than an average watch.  The tracker pops out of the band to allow for changeover, and must be removed and placed inside a tiny box for  charging.

At first I thought this band would be heavy and bulky, but after less than an hour, I had already forgotten it was on my wrist. Really, it doesn’t feel any heavier or bigger than my original Fitbit Flex, despite the obvious size differences.

I also like that the tracker unit itself can be popped out of the band, and tucked into a sports bra, sock, or pocket. This was one of my favorite features of the Fitbit Flex; it allowed me to hide the tracker if I didn’t want to be wearing something obviously athletic and rubbery on my wrist for a nice night out or a formal event. While the accuracy of the device may not be as exact if it’s worn elsewhere since it’s been made to be worn on the wrist, in my experience it wasn’t off enough to throw my day out of whack. And besides, the better looking these devices get, the less likely we are to want to hide them anyway, right?

img_1454-1What Fitbit measures

Before we go too much further you may be wondering what a Fitbit will keep track of for you.

  • Sleep: both duration and quality
  • Steps, including number of steps and distance, and active minutes in your day
  • Activity: record activities from running to cycling
  • Weight: the app will chart your weight either manually, or automatically when paired with the Aria scale.
  • Calories: when paired with apps like MyFitnessPal, you can share food info and match it up to activity levels.
  • Water Intake: again, a manual input item but can help you keep track of if you’re drinking enough water
  • Floors Climbed
  • Heart Rate: Fitbit devices with heart rate monitoring will keep track of your resting and active heart rates.

Customizing your Blaze

Customizable watch faces are an option for the Blaze, but you can’t switch them up form the watch itself, like other bands. Instead you’ll need to do this though the app in ‘Account’ menu. Not intuitive but at least the feature is there. It takes about 15 seconds from the time you select a new watch face for it to update on the watchband.

By default your Fitbit Blaze adjusts brightness based on the ambient lighting conditions. You can change the default in the settings.

You can set the Blaze to light up when you turn your wrist towards your face. I found this feature didn’t work as well as I had hoped. If I was taking a casual look, sometimes it didn’t recognize the gesture. If I was more deliberate about turning my wrist over and pointing it at my face, then it seem to work. But it took about a second before the display would light up. My experience with this feature was hit or miss.

Who’s the Blaze for?

Fitbit wants you to be clear; the Blaze is not for an elite athlete. The Blaze is for an average consumer who wants to do basic monitoring of fitness statistics, sleep, and activities while not looking like a track star. The Blaze is fashion and fun, with a fitness core. Fitbit suggests the more seriously minded athletes pick up its Surge device instead.

Basic operation
Alerts
A great new added feature of the Blaze is its ability to deliver notifications and messages right to your wrist. While I very much enjoyed getting a subtle buzz on the wrist when a text message or calendar alert popped up, this feature does have limitations. While you can read incoming text messages, you cannot respond to them. (At least not using my iPhone.) similarly, you can accept incoming calls, but you must have your smart phone with you as well, or you won’t be able to talk. While this may seem very limiting, the price point of the Blaze is far less than Apple’s watch, so you’re getting what you pay for if messaging and conducting business from your wrist is something you’re after.

Menus
By pulling down across the watch face, you get a menu which will allow you to turn notifications on or off, as well as play music if it’s connected.
Swiping up gets you a list of recent notifications such as calls, text messages, calendar alerts and more. These alerts will stack up and stay in the watch until you clear them.

Swiping right to left across the band will give you a series of other menus:

“Today”: The today menu will show you your fitness stats; such as steps, heart rate, kilometres traveled, calories, and floors climbed. To return back to the menu list, you hit the back button on the watch band.

“Exercise”: this menu allows you to register different activities like workout, elliptical, treadmill,  weights, bike, and run. You tap the exercise you are about to take part in and the Blaze will connect to your smart phone’s app to register the activity. Push play on the watch face to begin logging the activity, then stop it when you’re done. While technically Fitbit already knows when you’re doing some kind of exercise, having this connection to the app allows you to keep watch in real time on your statistics, such as distance or time.  When enabled, the Blaze will also use GPS tracking to follow your route on a run or a bike ride for example.

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One of the FitStar exercises.

“FitStar”: FitStar is a series of guided exercises that the band will walk you through. You can do a warm-up, or a seven minute workout. The watch band shows you a visual example of each short exercise, and a timer counts you down through it.
While three workouts are included in your Blaze’s software, if you want more options, you’ll need to buy them from Fitbit for a $46 annual fee.

“Timer”:   This gives you access to a countdown or stopwatch function.

“Alarms”: Here you can turn silent alarms on or off. But adding or deleting them requires your phone and the app.

“Settings”: A very simplistic version of the settings menu, here you can turn the QuickView feature on or off, adjust brightness, turn heart rate monitoring on or off, as well as shut down the device.

Accuracy

As I’ve written about previously, I very much like Fitbit  and choose it as my preferred activity band, because I find it extraordinarily accurate.

I’ve tried numerous bands and compared them both with each other, and done testing to see if the band accurately matches my steps, strides, and activities. Part of this accuracy lies in the ability to calibrate the Fitbit to your unique stride length, which is key for accurate tracking. (For more on how to adjust your stride length with Fitbit click here.)
No surprise then that the Blaze was just as accurate as my old standby Fitbit Flex.

Styling Options for Fitbit Blaze

With the Blaze, you have several options for wristbands. You can stick with a more traditional athletic wristband (“Classic”) which is made of rubber attached to the metal watch bezel, or there are also leather options in brown, grey or black. These bands will cost you about $140 and that’s on top of what you’re paying for the tracker. A gorgeous metal link watch band will set you back nearly $180. So while there are stylish options for making your band look less like a fitness accessory, and more fashion forward, they are not cheap.

Overall Review of Fitbit Blaze

One of the things I like most about my Fitbit Flex, is that it’s very subtle and still contains all the major tracking features I want. The Blaze is a whole different type of gadget for me, because it’s much larger, and more like a wristwatch then I’ve been used to wearing. But since this activity band also features heart rate monitoring as well as time display, it’s natural this device would look more like a watch them like a traditional activity tracker. It is bigger than I’m used to, but as I noted earlier despite its size and boxy shape, I quickly forgot I was wearing it, and didn’t feel that it got in my way or was overly noticeable.

I enjoyed the additional features, and definitely found myself checking in on my heart rate through the day. Having a built-in watch was a great feature, as is the notifications option. It was nice to get a subtle buzz on my wrist when I had a text message or alert.

In short, while I didn’t think I would be interested in this band as my go to activity device, I found myself liking it more and more the more I tried it. I could definitely see adopting the Blaze in my future.

Fitbit Blaze is available at Best Buy and London Drugs for $249. You can also get it from Fitbit’s website, or find more info there.

In the next couple weeks I’ll be reviewing the new Fitbit Alta too, so check back for more info soon. Already a Fitbit Fan? Check out my Fitbit Apps you’ll LOVE.

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Charging your Fitbit Blaze

 

Brand new Fitbit Alta is slim, pretty and does more

Fitbit-Alta_Family_GoldFans of original Fitbit Flex’s low profile, slim design and ease of use, rejoice!  The best things about the Flex have been carried over and improved upon in a brand new band, the Alta.

Fitbit Alta is a new stainless steel tracker, with a satin finish and a sleek, modular design that includes a quick-release feature that allows you to swap in new bands.  Fitbit-Alta-Family-2

You can now pick from classic fitness bands or  chic-er versions, like luxe leather bracelets or a  silver bangle. One of my favourite parts about the new bands? Tory Burch has once again partnered with Fitbit to design new styles specific to the Alta. I just love the Tory Burch jewelry-style accessories released last year for the Flex, and this only looks like there’s more options to love.

As for the new features that take the Alta up a notch from the Flex:

  • Reminders to Move to help you stay active and reduce stationary time
  • SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition, weekly exercise goals and all-day activity and automatic sleep tracking
  • Call, text and calendar notifications right on your wrist when your phone is nearby through on-screen messages and a gentle vibrating alert
  • An easy-to-read, vibrant OLED tap display shows your activity stats and the time
  • Works with Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices and computers

Fitbit-Alta_Cooking

Fitbit Alta is available today for $169.95 (CAD) for presale with retail availability starting in March 2016, joining the recently announced award-winning Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch. Alta will be available for preorders at Best Buy, Indigo and London Drugs, and at a number of other retaillers later on.

I’m hoping to get my mitts on one to test and review. Watch this space for more when they’re released! Meantime, read my review on the Fitbit Flex, or the Misfit Shine, or the Basis Peak.

Fitbit-Alta-Lineup

Want a better movie experience? Get a Projector like the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema Projector 2040

img_9051Super-sized flat screen TVs are all the rage.  Mention a home theatre projector, however, and people will tune out.  After all, many folks remember projectors as dusty, weak-beamed devices with a noisy fan and little appeal.  Not any more.

Movie theatres use uber-powerful projectors to kick out Hollywood-sized images with crystal clear definition, amazing contrast ratio, and no motion blur. If it’s good enough for JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg, shouldn’t a projector be good enough for your home?Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 12.06.35 PM

Even so, I was sceptical.  I’ve never tried a home theatre projector before the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema Projector 2040 arrived for testing (full name: Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2040 2D/3D 1080p 3LCD Projector). While the device itself looks a lot like projectors I remember, the image is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Set up is easy, but you better have a plan

Setting up the Epson 2040 projector itself was very easy. The hardest thing about setting up this device, will be that you need a series of extra long cables in order to make it look good.

The projector is pretty much plug and play. Just plug in your audio and video components and you are ready to go immediately. I decided to plug in my Roku streaming stick into one of the projector’s 2 HDMI ports and instantly I was watching Netflix.img_9053

If you plan to plug a home theater projector into your stereo system or cable box, you’re going to have to do some serious planning before hand. Most projectors are designed to reside at the back of a room, and are often best placed at or near the ceiling. This means you will need a wealth of both audio, video, and HDMI cables, with very long runs. You’ll also want to plan for where you will snake or hide these excess cables in your room, and how you’ll plug them in.  For some, this will mean potentially relocating all your components to the back or the room.

If you’re building a media room from scratch, this will be easy, and you can easily factor in where to hide your cables. However if you are operating a projector like the Epson in an existing room, particularly one that has purposes other than media viewing, you will likely end up with some unsightly cable runs.

For my setup, since it was temporary, we just ran the cables across the floor and stepped over them, though it was quite a mess, having power cables snaking in one direction, and audio and video cables in another.

Once everything is plugged in, you’re ready to go, and like I said, in an instant we were streaming movies on Netflix.

I can’t tell you how much both my husband and I were instantly blown away by the amazing quality of the video picture.  Since this is a projector, you can adjust the image size to fit literally any space. In our case we had it fill nearly an entire wall of our media room.

img_9081While we didn’t have a screen for this test, we were easily able to hack one together by using a large bedsheet and tacking it to the ceiling. Even with a wrinkled old bedsheet as the canvas for the image, there was no hiding the spectacular picture on display. The 1080p image was crystal clear, and had excellent contrast. We put on a series of action movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Furious 6 were treated to a hyper realistic video picture with absolutely no noticeable motion blur. Even basic TV shows looked fantastic. The most striking feature of using a projector like this Epson was the super realism of the video. It literally looks like the scenes were unfolding right in the room with us.

img_9059Only about 20 minutes of surfing through action oriented video content, my husband declared he wanted to think about getting a projector for our media room, and got online and looked up the price of this particular device. While the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2040 is not cheap (regular price is about $999CAD), it is certainly well rated by many users.

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema Projector Features

Spec Sheet:

  • Projection Method: Front / rear / ceiling mount
  • Product Colour: White and Gray
  • Driving Method: Epson Poly-silicon TFT Active Matrix
  • Projected Output: 2D, 3D, Full HD 1080p
  • Pixel Number: 2,073,600 dots (1920 x 1080) x 3
  • Colour Brightness (Colour Light Output): 2200 lumens1
  • White Brightness (White Light Output): 2200 lumens1
  • Aspect Ratio: Native 16:9 widescreen
  • Native Resolution: Native 1080p (1920 x 1080)
  • Resize: 16:10, 4:3
  • Lamp Type: 200 W UHE
  • Lamp Life:
  • ECO mode: Up to 7500 hours2
  • Normal mode: Up to 4000 hours2
  • Throw Ratio Range: 1.22 (Zoom: Wide) – 1.47 (Zoom: Tele)
  • Size (projected distance): 34″ – 332″ at (2.98 ft – 35.89 ft)
  • Keystone Correction:
  • Vertical: ±30 degrees (Auto)
  • Horizontal: ±30 degrees (Slide bar)
  • Contrast Ratio: Up to 35,000:1
  • Colour Reproduction: Full-color (up to 1.07 billion colours)
  • Colour Processing: Full 10 bits

You can make several adjustments with the Epson projector. A simple menu allows you to adjust things like colour, brightness, contrast, and sharpness.

This projector can be controlled both with the included remote control, or also with buttons on the projector itself. The home button for example allows you to switch between sources, adjust the colour, or alter 3D setup as well as changing things like iris settings and power consumption. I think it’s handy you can also adjust the settings right on the device, as there is nothing more frustrating then being unable to operate a device, because you have missed placed the remote control.

The projector also has 2 built in HDMI input, allowing you to keep two devices at the ready.

The Epson PowerLite 2040 also has a keystone setting which will allow you to make adjustments for curved or oddly shaped walls, a must when owning a projector, and particularly so if you plan to take it with you anywhere.

This projector, like all others, has a fan to keep the unit cooled during operation, and truthfully, after a while I stopped hearing it, even though it was definitely still running.

While the 2040 also has 3D capability, I don’t have any 3D content so I was unable to test this feature.

You need a screen

If you’re going to commit to going the projector route, you absolutely need a proper screen. While my bed sheet hack was rather clever if I do say so myself, every tiny wrinkle and flaw was visible when watching the video. A proper screen is going to make the video experience absolutely seamless, and that’s what you want in your hyper-realistic projected videos. You don’t want to be worried about every notch, gouge, or scratch in a wall (or a wrinkle in a sheet). You want to feel like you’re part of all the Hollywood action. Take my advice: get the best screen your money can buy, to go with your projector.

Awesome experience

I really, really enjoyed the experience I had with the Epson PowerLite 2040 Home Cinema Projector. I loved the immersive viewing experience, and can’t say enough how absolutely stunned I was at the amazing quality of video that’s available via a projector today. I will note that you should probably make sure your new projector has decent ventilation, as the PowerLite 2040 ran rather hot after only a few minutes. But I don’t think that’s atypical for projectors; they’re kicking out a ton of light through those bulbs, and heat is the byproduct.

While for now we’ll keep our flat screen TV as the main viewing object in our home theater, I have a feeling a projector of some description may be in our future as well, for those times when we want a massive video size, and a movie theater-like experience.

You can get more info from Epson on the 2040 projector, or pick one up at Best Buy.

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While Epson provided a loaner unit for this review, it did not ask for, nor receive pre-approval over this blog post.

 

Philips Hue Go Portable Smart Lamp Review

img_9001Regular readers will know I get way too happy about smart lighting. I particularly love coloured lights as I feel like you can totally change the look, feel and even decor of a room with colour, minus the paint brush!

So I was thrilled to get a test model of the new Philips Hue Go lamp. This lightweight package contains a large soup-bowl sized (and shaped) lamp with a bowl shaped base and flat front.

Portable colour and lightimg_8515

The lamp connects with a nice long AC cord for power but it also works off the cord, as the rechargeable lamp is also fully portable and lasts up to six hours on a charge. For the newbies you don’t even need the app to start playing with it; a small button on the bottom of the bowl allows you to cycle through a variety of light colours and effects while a small wedge keeps the lamp steady on its rounded bottom.

Get connected!

Getting the lamp set up on Wi-Fi was very easy. You just download the free app then “add new device”.  Once you do that the app will search for devices on the network and it automatically finds the Go lamp. Once it pairs you’re in business.

Different Powersimg_8457

The Hue Go lamp is a good size that can be easily hidden behind a price of furniture where you could keep it out of sight for various light effects, or you can leave it out on display. It’s very clean and unassuming looking, and the entire light fixture lights up, meaning it’s a beautiful lightning showpiece as well as a bright light source.

The Go lamp has the ability to transform; it will push out enough light to make it task worthy or you can dim it for a more subtle background effect.

Using the app you can adjust colour, brightness and intensity all at a touch.

Since it’s LED powered it doesn’t heat up at all, making it also great to use as a filler spotlight for, say, the bottom of your Christmas  tree (green!). I had fun using it in different situations, like as a lovely icy winter tablescape, on a side table for a red Christmas glow, and even turned up orange-red hot as a substitute for lighting the fireplace. The Hue Go light really goes anywhere.

Soothing wake-up light

img_8995A feature I just discovered on the lamp is the wake-up mode.  This setting will gradually increase the light intensity to give you the feeling you’re waking to gentle, natural daylight, which is much nicer than waking up to an alarm clock shouting at you.

Get the Bridge

You’ll need the compatible Philips bridge to get the light connected to Wi-Fi. As I noted above it will still work without it but the options are limited.

In short, I LOVE this light. It’s fun, easy to use and works perfectly. Get a Philips Hue Go lamp for $100 from BestBuy.ca

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Jewelry Fix: What to do if Your Sterling Silver is Turning Black, Grey, White!

Why is my silver jewelry turning strange colours? It’s a question I get asked a lot. I recently had a customer complain about a necklace “tarnishing” just a few weeks after purchase. His wife decided to use the polishing cloth to give the sterling silver a wipe, and was aghast when it came away black.

A well-used silver polishing cloth.
A well-used silver polishing cloth.

So he wrote me to express his surprise that his new necklace would discolour so quickly.  It made me realize it’s probably a great education opportunity.

When silver tarnishes, it’s a surface discolouration  caused by the interaction of oxygen (air) with the silver. As the British Assay Office explains it, “silver naturally interacts with oxygen and sulphur-bearing pollutants to create silver sulphide, resulting in a visible discoloration of the metal’s surface. Silver tarnishes in environments containing various sulphuric gases, even in very low concentration. The amount of tarnishing is determined by the relative humidity, ambient temperature, gas concentration, and the length of time the silver is exposed to the gases.”

With sterling silver this process is normal, natural, expected, and yes, it can occur relatively quickly.

Many things can speed tarnish; air pollution, the minerals in your water (and as such wearing your silver jewelry in the shower can speed this process too), living or working near a chemical, electric or manufacturing plant are all things that can cause discolouration more quickly.

Recent studies have shown tarnish develops microscopically within hours of being cleaned and exposed to air again.  You may not see it on the piece for several days or weeks, but it’s there, and will show up as a black residue on a polishing cloth.  A great way to keep seldom worn jewelry clean (and silverware if you have it), is to store sterling silver in a ziplock bag with all the air squeezed or rolled out of it.  You can wrap it in a soft cloth first too.  Oxygen and thus tarnish may still seep in and can still cause blackening especially if the pieces are stores for long periods of time, but it should keep things to a minimum.

Chemically tarnished rings. Oops!
Chemically tarnished rings. Oops!

Coincidentally at the same time as this customer contacted me,  I had a friend show me some rings I’d made for her.  The shiny sterling silver had turned a deep, dark black.  This was no tarnish effect, and she admitted she’d immersed her baubles in some household cleaner (Lysol) to spruce them up.  Instead, they’d become instantly and deeply chemically oxidized.

Now, she actually liked this look and referred to it as ‘edgy’, so she’s leaving them as they are for now.  If she did want them restored it should be a relatively simple process of buffing the chemical scarring off the surface layer, and exposing clean shiny silver beneath.  But this also serves as a leaning moment; only soap and water, silver polish or a silver polishing cloth should be used to clean silver.  Many household cleaners and chemicals can alter your precious silver.  In fact, I once had a ring turn bronze after accidentally spritzing window cleaner on it, and had other silver turn grey by getting baking soda onto it.  That too buffed out, but you’ll want to be careful with your jewelry.

How to Remove Tarnish-> Get this Inexpensive Polishing Cloth

If you do find some discolouration of your silver, you can remove it with a silver cloth (brand names include Sunshine Cloth, which is available inexpensively from me,  HERE or HERE). If that won’t work, stop while you’re ahead and take it to a pro for professional help.

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A Note about Grocery Store Silver Cleanser

I’ve purchased cleansers from grocery stores that just don’t work.  If you’re going to get a cleanser from somewhere other than a jewelry professional, test it first on a small area.  If the cleaner doesn’t remove tarnish instantly, it’s not working.  Proper liquid silver cleaners will remove all tarnish in about 3 seconds.  If you need to soak, or scrub, stop using it, rinse your silver, and return the cleaner to where you bought it and get your money back. (Keep your receipt!)

Fresh new polishing cloths.
Fresh new polishing cloths.

And for the jewelry ‘geeks’, the Government of Canada has written a helpful article about how to best care for your silver.  Read it here.

Have you got a horror story – or a home remedy for tarnish?  Post your comments below!

Check out some of my other blog topics HERE

12 Things I Love About Calgary #YYC

Calgary can be  a tough town to adapt to–mainly because of the climate. But there ARE  many things here I’ve learned to LOVE. Here’s just a few.

1. The Ruins; Lindsay’s Folly— Calgary has 2 sets of cool ruins. The crumbled bricks of a man’s incomplete and ruined mansion-cum-money pit alongside the Elbow (Lindsay’s Folly), and The Rundle Ruins (the old sandstone Glenmore Hospital) near 12th Ave and 6th St. Only doorways and arches are left, but they’re gorgeous. Click HERE to read an article I wrote for Avenue Magazine on the ruins and their future.

Photo: http://members.shaw.ca/bvinge/calgary11.htm
Lindsay’s Folly. Photo: http://members.shaw.ca/bvinge/calgary11.htm

2. Crave Cupcakes. If you’ve never had one DON’T START! Luscious icing with spot-on flavours (crushed strawberry!) and the moistest cake this side of the 100th meridian.

Photo: crave.ca
Photo: crave.ca

3. Rene Thibault: an Alberta artist with an amazing eye for colour and detail. Sometimes his work looks like it’s been photographed, rather than painted. Thibault paints a lot of mountain landscapes, so our canvas often doubles as a window.

Art: Rene Thibault
Art: Rene Thibault

4. Charcut Roast House; for meat-loves only!  Top Chef Canada contestant Connie DeSousa and partner John Jackson run the show here.  Amazing what they can do with food.  Some past faves include the Chicken-skin Caesar Salad, White Beans with Nettle Pistou, and the house made poutine.

Photo: charcut.ca
Photo: charcut.ca

5.  The Cookbook Co. Great food and ingredients, amazing kitchen tools ( I love my Cuisinart cylindrical ice cream scoop!) and a wine shop to round out the meal preparations shopping. ‘Nuff said.

6.  J Webb Wines; great selection of unique wines, spot-on recommendations from interested, smart staff, and a tasting bar that’s always open.

8. The Calgary Stampede Rodeo; a die hard city girl,  I’ve never considered myself to be the least bit “country”.  But when the Stampede rolls around, I get my cowgirl on!  The rodeo is chock full of amazing athletes, action, and a beautiful outdoor setting, taking full advantage of Calgary’s limited summer sunshine.

9. Peonies. We may only have summer for a couple short weeks, but the peony plants take full advantage. They bloom big, long and colourful, and are always an eye catcher.  20130521-154321.jpg

10. Manuel Latruwe Take n Bake Frozen pastries ; this downtown cafe is phenomenal.  Glossy cakes fill the display cases, and the espresso is some of the best in town (take a bag home!), but my fave is grabbing a pack of take home chocolate croissants.  Take them out of the freezer, let them rise overnight, and bake first thing Saturday morning.  Weekends never had it so good!

11.  The Peace Bridge; Let’s be honest.  EVERYONE hated the idea when it was rolled out.  probably because of its lack of public consultation, multi-million dollar price, and construction mistakes that delayed opening.  But now that we have it, it’s a gorgeous, modern landmark.  Beautiful both during the day and night. Future city icon.

Photo: erinLYYC
Photo: erinLYYC

12.   The Bow Building & Wonderland; tallest building in the city now, it took years to put up and included a massive 2-day concrete pour.  Home to one of the city’s myriad oil companies, the building is beautiful and soaring. The Wonderland sculpture out front is constantly surrounded by people.  A giant metal-mesh girl’s head it looks different in every different kind of weather.  And that can happen all in one day in Calgary!

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4 Awesome Things to Do with All Your Digital Photos

ERIN WALLPAPERWe’ve all got hundreds, and possibly tens of thousands of digital photos on our devices. For the most part, they sit on those devices and collect digital dust. So this week on Tech Talk on CTV, we’ve got a few ways you can bring them to life.

1.  Print Them!

Pocket-sized photo printers are available and allow convenient at-home or on-the-go printing of your photos instantly. I love how easy it is to operate this printer, and that it’s so small you can take it to parties, or nights out, so you’ve got a virtual photo0 booth at the ready!

Polaroid Zip photo printer.
Polaroid Zip photo printer.

Polaroid Zip

The Zip is a small palm-sized printer that used photo paper sheets to print pics instantly.

Polaroid Socialmatic

The lap-sized Polaroid Socialmatic.
The lap-sized Polaroid Socialmatic.
polaroid.jpold g
Vintage Polaroid camera.

The Socialmatic is a hybrid when it comes to photo printing.  This device is actually a camera and printer combo. You can take pictures and print them on the spot; it takes about 20 seconds to spit out a small 2×3″ photo with a stick-back option. These photos are printed on a paper-like edge-to-edge film. While the camera is much smaller and slimmer than the old fashioned Polaroid Instant camera you may remember, it is large and rather unwieldy.  There is convienience in having an all in one camera and printer, however.

Fujifilm Instax Share

IMG_2828

Another pocket or palm sized printer, I found this one to be the easiest to use.  I also preferred the film paper used by Fujifilm; it looks much more like the traditional Polaroid film with its white papery edge frame that you can doodle or write on.

2.  Bring them into your home!

From wall hangings to toss cushions, you can turn your photos into beautiful decor art.

Toss Cushions by Photobox

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A toss cushion I made using a photo I took of a local landmark.

This is a great idea I bet more folks would grab on to if they knew about it.  I made some cushion covers featuring 2 major Calgary city landmarks.  If you have a favourite place, a flower you love or just a photo you took that you’re majorly proud of, putting it on a cushion is a great way to show it off and celebrate what you love. Toss cushions also lend themselves nicely to using squared off Instagram photos.

Photo Fabric by Spoonflower

spoonflower44

Take your favourite landmark, person or event and put it on fabric.  Printing your own fabric gives you a lot of flexibility with how you use the image.  You can make an apron, table linens, napkins, even clothing if that’s your bag.  The possibilities are endless, particularly because if you can’t find just the right fabric for a project, you can make you own.

Wrapping Paper & Wallpaper by Spoonflower

A great way to present custom gifts, and particularly corporate gifts, wrapping paper will make your gift stand out.  Again, if you have a favourite place, scene or photo, you can also look at putting it on wallpaper, for a permanent and prominent reminder.

Canvas Art by Photobox

Getting photos printed on canvas is easier and more common now, but it still looks slick.  Getting a wrapped canvas print of a favourite photo is a great way to create art for your home and keep memories close.

3.  Create Accessories!

photobox cell phone

Cell Phone Cases by Photobox

Printing durable photo cases with a photo of your choice has never been easier.  Photobox has cases for a variety of cell phones including Samsung Galaxy, iPhones and iPads. Put your baby or child on your phone case, or use a favourite location or vacation snap.

4.  Eat Them!

IMG_3241

Many bakeries can print your digital photos on edible paper with edible inks, meaning they can change cakes and cookies from boring, to personalized.  Check for bakeries in your area, but we got ours from Cakeworks in Calgary.

What have you done with your photos that’s unique and memorable?  Let me know in comments below!

Thumb-sized TV Streaming Device Just Announced in Canada. And it’s only $59!

Click HERE to read full article.

Getting content from the web to your TV has almost always involved 2 things; 1)  hooking your computer up to your TV, a complicated process best reserved for techno geeks, or 2) purchasing a third party box or web-enabled TV.  Well now you have options, and Roku has just announced what may be the most pocket-friendly option; the Roku Streaming Stick,

 stick

Preorder now at Futureshop.ca.

 This little gadget looks like your standard USB stick, but inside is a wealth of video options, or as I saw one TechCrunch writer put it, “it makes dumb TVs smarter”.  The Roku Streaming Stick allows you to stream content direct to your TV, simply by plugging this little gadget into the back HDMI slot.  Roku says it contains instant access to 700+ channels (in Canada)……

 Click HERE to read full article.