Friday, August 31, 2012

Scanning Important Documents with Your iPhone

Scanning important documents with your iPhone can help you go paperless and get rid of a lot of paper clutter.  You suddenly don't need a filing cabinet and a lot of other bulky stuff in your apartment.  Apartment Therapy shows you how to scan papers with your iPhone and how to store them.

You can take a picture of anything you need to hold onto such as bills, paystubs, your lease, etc, with your iPhone and then shred and throw away the paper.  The best thing about using your phone is that it's always with you, as opposed to a scanner that you need to take that extra step of going to to save your papers.  Once you've taken the picture of your important stuff, you need a way to store it.

The best way to store your stuff is "in the cloud" so you can access it wherever you need it.  Dropbox is a great program for organizing and saving stuff on the net.  You simply download the program for free, then you can store all your important files.  Inside your Dropbox folder, make a folder only for important documents.  Then you can make sub-folders for anything that you need to be able to find on a regular basis, such as bills, receipts, work, or however else it makes sense for you to organize them.

Another great tool for scanning and keeping images with your phone is TurboScan.  It's only $1.99 and it takes images you've taken with your iPhone and adjusts the lighting and contrast of the image to make sure the text is completely readable.  It also lets you save files in PDF format, e-mail them or save them to Dropbox.  You can then open your files in any application that will open PDFs, even apps like Dropbox and Evernote.

The most important part of this process is to actually scan all those little pieces of paper you have lying around.  Of course, you may not be able to get through the backlog, but go ahead and scan your most important stuff and anything new that comes through.  Enjoy your new paperless existence!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Private School Vouchers Back on the Agenda

Private school vouchers have been a politically divise issue for years, but now that the Texas Legislature is set to be the most conservative it's ever been, senators such as Dan Patrick, Republican from Houston and chair of the Senate Education committee, are vowing to make it an issue, reports.

Patrick is holding a hearing today on "school choice" issues, which include private school vouchers and expanding charter schools.  Opponents are ready for a fight during the next session.  Many of the opponents won their seats against vocal private school voucher advocates.  One of those, State Rep. Diane Patrick (no relation to Dan), Republican from Arlington, wants to see Texas put its money into alternatives within the public education system in the form of magnet schools and charter schools rather than handing money over to private schools with no financial or academic accountability.

In the last ten years, Texas has been the site of half of new public school enrollment in the entire country.  Public school advocates see discussion over private school vouchers as a distraction from where the real focus should be:  improving public education for all students.  Private school vouchers have not been seen to be a priority among Republican voters in the primary contests and advocates say that after seeing $5.4 billion cut from the public education budget last session, restoring the cuts should be the lawmakers goal, not taking away even more money to hand over to private schools.

Dan Patrick's hearing will discuss a "taxpayers' savings grant program".  One idea would reimburse parents for private school tuition up to 60 percent of the per-student spending in the state, or about $5,300.  A conservative think tank did a 2011 analysis that concluded that roughly more than 300,000 students, 6 percent of total public school enrollment, would use the grants to attend private school with the grants, reducing state education costs by around $1 billion a year.

The idea was brought up last year by state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, but did not see any traction.  Miller lost last month's Republican primary runoff to a challenger that was supported by Texas Parent PAC, a political committee formed to support public education.

A Plus Apartment Locators can help you get the apartment choice YOU want.  Call today!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Customizing a Rental

Customizing your rental space, whether it be an apartment or house, can go a long way towards making it feel like home.  Sure, you may have a lot of things you don't like to work with, but turn the negatives into positives with Apartment Therapy's advice.

Use modular furniture that can be moved around to fit into your space.  A flexible sectional that can be changed around from either a full sofa to a sofa and a loveseat or even chairs can be used in later apartments that might not have space for the original configuration.  If you have high ceilings, you can add lofted storage in places such as above your kitchen cabinets.

Wall-to-wall carpet can be a drag, especially if it's dingy or a color you don't like. But by placing area rugs over the carpet, you can distract the eye from the eyesore of carpeting.  If your space has unusual color choices like avocado green cabinets, work with it instead of against it.  By using coordinating colors, your 70's kitchen will look cool and pulled-together.

To make your apartment look sleeker, use one large wardrobe or bookshelf for storage and hide all the clutter behind closed doors.  Another way to personalize your rental is to hang artwork and photographs that are meaningful to you.  If you're worried about holes, you can either spackle and touch-up the paint when you move out or use picture hanging stripes that don't damage the walls.

If your landlord allows it, paint!  It will brighten up your house and make it feel more like yours.  If you aren't allowed to paint, use accessories and wall hangings to bring in color.  Dress your windows up while you're at it, covering or replacing ugly blinds with beautiful curtains.  Another way to make a difference is to replace those ugly standard issue ceiling lights with something you like, even if it's just paper shades from IKEA.  Be sure to keep the old lights in a safe place so they can go back up when you move.

Friday, August 10, 2012

New Fire Station and Wildfire Division Requested by Fire Officials

A new fire station and a Wildfire Division of the Austin Fire Department have been requested by the firefighter union President and other fire officials who say they are necessary to prevent and fight wildfires. reports that they are requesting that those needs be added to a new bond package.

Officials say that the large amount of rain the area received this spring led to the growth of vegetation that the summer is now causing to dry out.  This increases the area's fire risk, perhaps even more than last year which saw wildfires rage across the state and locally in Steiner Ranch, Oak Hill, Bastrop and Spicewood.

The Battalion Chief of AFD proposed adding $10 million to the City of Austin bond package voters will either approve or deny in November to build a new fire station along Loop 360 south of Lake Austin.  This area is at high risk and also has a very dense population with many neighborhoods and businesses.  The station would cost roughly $1.7 million to provide staff for.

He also wants $2 million added to the 2012-2013 budget so that AFD can add a dedicated wildland division.  This division would be in charge of wildfire prevention education and efforts across the city.  They would also set controlled fires to clear vegetation that has the potential to fuel wildfires.  "When people look around and see beautiful trees, what I see is fuel", the Battalion Chief said.

However, council members and the mayor are concerned because there are a lot of needs across the city for all departments, and the mayor specifically doesn't want the bond package to be more than $385 million.  Above that, new items will have to be compensated for by the removal of other items.

AFD has already certified every Austin firefighter to the national standard of wildland fire fighting, making it the only metro department in Texas to do so.

Looking for a great Austin apartment?  Call A Plus Apartment Locating today!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Getting Your Friends to Help You Move

Getting your friends to help you move can save a ton of money.  But if you don't go about it properly, it can cost you some friendships.  Apartment Therapy helps you make sure you can get helpers that will stay friends with you even after you settle in your new apartment!

Make sure to ask for help as soon as you know your moving date.  The best and easiest way to do that is to with a polite and detail-filled email that you send to as many friends as you can.  By giving people a lot of lead time, it's more likely that you'll get a lot of helpers and that makes it easier for everyone.  It also makes it more fun!

Make a list of tasks that need to be accomplished and divy them up between your friends.  Think about people's strengths when you ask them to help.  Your friend whose house is an OCD dream, right down to a junk drawer where you can find everything?  Ask her to help you go through sorting items before you begin packing.  Maybe you could organize teams of people (spouses, best friends, etc.) to be in charge of a single room together so they can be aware of exactly what they're agreeing to.  The more specific you can be, the better able your friend-helpers will be to plan their own day and be enthusiastic about the task at hand.

Having a buddy (or two) help with the purging task as you start packing can make the whole experience easier and more fun.  It also may result in you paring down even better, as your friend can be the "enforcer" and make sure you don't keep that dress they haven't seen you wear since freshman year.

Finally, on the day of your move, make sure there are plenty of moving supplies like blankets, packing tape and boxes so your helpers can really help and not keep asking you where things are.  You also should have music to keep things fun (if you're moving far away, this may be the last time you'll see your friends for a while), and snacks to keep the movers fueled.  I'll never forget the time a friend, unbeknownst to me, had just started Weight Watchers and wound up so hungry he nearly fainted.  I found myself scrounging in my "food" box for something to get his energy back up AND I lost a very able-bodied helper!