PenFriend ideas

One of the best things that I have bought (to help me out around the house) is a PenFriend.  It is an audio labeller, and it is very easy to use.  It would probably be worth its' weight in gold around the house.

Some items you may need to use with the PenFriend:

I managed to find the clear tape / precut magnets / twist tie / and hole punch at our local $2 n $5 shop and Best 4 Less shop, but depending on where you live, you may have different sources available to you. Some in NZ are: $2 shop, Best 4 Less shop, Coin Save, Trademe.co.nz, local paper shops and stationery shops such as The Warehouse Stationery, Paper Plus and so on.

Creating labels for the PenFriend

Using the above items, here are some simple ideas, that make your labels reusable over and over again.

When you get your PenFriend, it will come with a variety of special stickers that can be stuck onto things. These will vary in size from a small circle, to some squares that are 3.5cm by 3.5cm.
Depending on whether or not you are sticking them onto a magnet - try to get sizes that will take your stickers nicely. Precut magnets come in various shapes and sizes.

Tin lid labels

The following are instructions on how to use the magnet size mentioned above (IE. 5cm long and 1cm wide), with the smaller stickers to create tin lid labels.

I can either leave the magnets the original size, or cut the magnets in half. By cutting them in half, I get 2 pieces - both 2.5cm long and 1cm wide.  If it came in a pack of 30, by doing this I can get 60 labels!  To find out which side your sticker needs to go on, stick the magnet onto the lid of a metal can (Eg. spaghetti) and if it sticks to the tin, then it is the right way up. If the magnet does not stick to the tin lid, turn it over so that it does and put the sticker on the top. Do this to all your labels. This will avoid putting it on the wrong side, and making the labels useless for tins. Stick your smaller sticker onto one end, so a hole can be punched into the other end (if you would like it to be used in the freezer, or to be able to be tied onto a bottle etc). If you are using it for labelling your tins, you can just put the sticker into the middle of the magnet. This way, you know to scan in the centre for tins, and at one end for freezer / other items.

The next step is to get your clear masking tape, and wrap it around it. Make sure it covers the front and back of the magnet, so no moisture can get into it. This also prevents oil from your hands wrecking the sticker.  It is now ready to be recorded onto.

Freezer item and various other labels

In the following instructions, the same process will be used again (as in the making of the tin lid labels above), but this time we will need an extra couple of steps. This time we will also use a hole punch and some twist tie.

If you use the smaller size label (IE 2.5cm long and 1cm wide), put the sticker on one side. Make sure there is enough room for a hole to be punched on the other side, and punch a hole in the magnet. Next, place your clear masking tape over the magnet, so that it covers the whole magnet.  Where the hole has been punched, poke a little hole through the plastic, so your garden tie can go through it. Cut the twist tie to the length you need for different things, and put it through the hole. You now have a label which is not only waterproof, but can also be tied to a variety of objects.

For my freezer bags, after the labels and ties have been done and cut to the length required, I then tie them onto the neck of the freezer bag. Once it has been tied, it is quite easy to figure which side has the sticker on it - you will feel the sticker raised under the tape. Doing it this way, once you have labelled your different meats (or freezer foods), it just a matter of finding the label, and running the PenFriend across the sticker.  I know it works well, as I have had food in the freezer for months, and once scanned - it still reads perfectly.  If it is not sealed well over the sticker, it may not read your label for you - due to condensation getting into it. A little extra time taken to seal it properly in the first place, pays off in the long run.

Exactly the same idea can be used for other items in the house, such as spray bottles etc. Just cut the garden tie to the length required for that item.
I have not tried the same idea for shampoo or conditioner bottles in a shower yet, but there may be other ways of marking them (such as tying the label on with a thick rubber band)?

We tried out a few different ideas on electrical items as well. I am going to use our stove as an example.  It's one of those fancy ovens that has all of the features on it.
On one of the labels, I asked my wife to record what all of the buttons or knobs were on the oven.  I figured I read a book this way (IE. from left to right), so why not have my directions this way as well. That way, I could listen for the parts I was after, (IE. whether it was the oven that I wanted to use, or on the hotplates up the top). Also, to make it easier when doing this, we recorded the placement of the knobs (whether they controlled the oven or the hotplates etc), which knob it was, and at what clock face time the different settings were. (Eg. 1st knob, oven settings, bake is at 10 o'clock, grill is at 4 o'clock etc. 3rd knob, Front Left, high is at 11 o'clock and low is at 1 o'clock and so on). This made my oven usable from a blind person's perspective.

Again, the same idea was used for my washing machine.  We have one of those push button models.  When the machine is turned off at the wall and turned back on, it has default levels that it goes to every time. Again, starting from the left, we went through the settings to see what each button did, and this time recorded each press. We also recorded how many times it took to get back to the default setting for each button, and worked our way through all of them. Now, if I want to do a hot wash, cold wash or whatever it may be, I run the PenFriend across the sticker, and just listen to the parts I want. I can do any wash on that machine.  Because there was nowhere that I could attach the magnet, I used velcro with the sticky back to attach it to the plastic near the top.  One piece of velcro went onto the machine, and the other onto the back of the magnet, so that it could be pulled off at any time for cleaning.

The same velcro can be used for containers with plastic lids and other various items (Eg. labelling your Cadbury drinking chocolate). When the tin is empty, simply put the labelled lid onto the new tin of Cadbury.

For DVD's you could stick a sticker directly onto the spine, or onto a piece of card or magnet which is then slipped inside the plastic on the spine of the DVD.  It's just a matter of running the PenFriend over the label (once you've recorded it) to find out what your DVD is.  Having the name, classification, length of the movie or any other details you want on it, is a good idea.
The same idea can be used for CD's as well. The spine is quicker for trying to find out what it is called - compared to having it on one corner of the CD like on the front of it. All of mine are on the spine at the top which makes it so much faster to find what you are looking for.

Garden trials: I have recently started testing some labels outside in the garden, and so far have had some success with them. I made up the labels as normal, and tied them gently to the plant and the stake out in the garden. Next, I identified it using the name of the plant, and if there were other plants off to the left or the right etc. (Eg. red camellia, white camellia to the left and pink camellia to the right). You may wish to tie the label somewhere which limits sunfading (such as on the branch underneath the leaves). If you are visually impaired and have some useful vision, you could always try painting your garden stakes white.

For a demo of what it looks like and what it does, the link is:
http://www.rnib.org.uk/livingwithsightloss/athome/labelling/Pages/penfriend.aspx

In summary, I hope that using any of the ideas mentioned above, will assist you to not only be able to label a variety of items around your house, but also be able to recycle your labels as well. There may be a variety of ways to label with your PenFriend, and I am more than happy to hear others ideas.

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