Tag Archives: Writing

April 2015 – Useful Websites

I am not affiliated with any of these websites.  I have simply found them in my internet wanderings and found them interesting or helpful.

Parenting/Household

Writing

Miscellaneous

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Commonplace Books – What They Are and Reasons to Keep One

Commonplace 1

What is a commonplace book?  Well, it seems that it is something that I’ve kept most of my life.  It isn’t a journal or diary or travel log; it is far different than those.  A journal or diary typically contain a daily record of events or business.  A travel log may contain details of various trips, purposes behind them and so on.  A commonplace book is very different in originally it would contain quotes, thoughts, proverbs and other “wisdom” that the keeper wanted to remember.  Some were copy books.  Others, like Carl Linnaeus’, organized something systematically; he  used commonplacing techniques to invent and arrange the nomenclature of his Systema Naturae.  Per Wikipedia, “Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.”

I tended to make my early versions into notebooks full (or mostly full) of little tidbits. My earlier notebooks were mostly quotes that I liked, books I wanted to read or that others recommended to me, the occasional movie title and description, and so on.   I have found that I keep different types or combinations of things in my commonplace books, depending on how my life is going at the moment or what is going on in my life.  When I have tough times, I tend to include humorous stories, funny cartoons, jokes, upbeat and inspirational quotes and websites that I find helpful.  I also have noticed my mood changes or shifts by the books that I note in my commonplace book.  I think commonplace books offer a different way to note and track changes in our lives.  I have also kept these at work as well, with the topics mirroring work I was doing, concerns I had, or things I needed to remember or to do.  Of course, with work documents, caution is advised; proprietary information must be protected. Always, always, always follow corporate policy with regard to company information.  (I am definitely not advocating information theft!) Someone following behind me may have found my tips and ideas helpful – or they may have just shredded them.

What can a commonplace book be used for?  Well, practically anything.  It can be a useful note-taking tool  while writing a book; you can keep research notes, books to use, character name ideas, location descriptions and more.  It can be useful in defining an idea – keeping all of the details flowing but allowing you to notate everything in one location.  It can be used to create a reference of inspirational quotes that you found useful – quotes specifically helpful to YOU, not necessarily everyone else.  It can be used to help organize your thoughts, your day, your studies. A combination of quotes and commentary on books read can be helpful as well.  The ideas for usage are limitless – well, perhaps limited only by imagination!  I am thinking of keeping one for my blogs;  I think it would be helpful to keep research notes, topic ideas, scheduling, and more all in one place.  Of course, I might also make that one section of a commonplace book.

 

Benefits of Keeping a Commonplace Book

A commonplace book may be an old idea, but definitely not outdated.  Today’s commonplace book may even look different; now, rather than writing things down, you can keep them electronically.  This allows for storage of words, images, videos, and all sorts of medias, all in one place.  Other benefits include:

  • Reinforcing learning – many people remember things better if they write things down.
  • Accumulation of information in one readily accessible location
  • Increased creativity – it can help us see patterns in various pieces of information, and help us create or discover connections.
  • Filter information – a commonplace book can help you filter the overwhelming amount of information that bombards us daily.  This is a place to record only what is significant or seems significant.
  • Organizing thoughts – basically making order out of chaos.  If you organize your thoughts in the book, you can see development and change over time; you can also see flaws in logic and so forth when you go back to previous notations

Whether you keep an electronic or a paperback version depends on what your goals are, what your preferences are, and perhaps which one is more frequently available to you.  An electronic version may allow you to include kinds of media such as videos, music, and images.  It can also be accessed from anywhere with internet access if you keep it online.  On the other hand, in a power outage, you lose access.  In addition, a paper version requires personal writing, which can aid memory.

Steps for Keeping a Commonplace Book

  1. Electronic or paper?  Choose your medium.  Weigh the benefits of both and chose the best one for your circumstances and preferences.  Blogs can be used for this, as can Pinterest and other similar sites, at least to some extent. I have also seen suggestions for Evernote, Tumnblr, and OnSwipe, among others.  Frankly, I prefer pen and paper.  For me, actually physically writing something out helps me remember things better than typing them out.  In addition, I can doodle, draw, and sketch to my heart’s delight. Others find electronic versions more appropriate or desirable.  Some of the benefits of keeping it electronically are portability, ability to combine pictures, calendars, notes, and more; in addition, electronic versions are more readily divided into sections, arranged and re-arranged.
  2. Contents?  Well, some people record quotes that they find interesting or thought-provoking.  Others use them as almost a reading journal, listing books that they want to or do read, thoughts on what they’ve read, and reactions to the reading.  Other people record recipes, notes, ideas, life lessons, heroes, song lyrics, clippings from newspapers, and important pictures. There are people who create music commonplace books,
  3. Another thing to consider is organization.  If you don’t organize your book in some way, you will struggle to find any information when you want it.  One idea is a section for list of books to read, another for quotes from the book, and interpretations and other material.    Ways to create sections depend on the medium you are using; there are tabs (permanent and sticky-note type) that you can add to blank books, you can use tabs in 3-ring notebooks, and you can break up blogs into pages or use labels/tags as well.  Organize before you start writing; trust me, it is easier this way!  I didn’t do this with my early versions and I found them difficult to work with in the end.  Some people organize their books by project.  Others use their commonplace books as devotional work, research records, or work toward a book.

Well-known People Who Kept Commonplace Books

H. P. Lovecraft

John Locke

Francis Bacon

E. M. Forster –

  • Clarissa Harlowe. Have read 1/3 of. Long books, when read, are usually overpraised, because the reader wants to convince others and himself that he has not wasted his time.”
    (E.M. Forster in 1926, excerpt from Commonplace Book, ed. by Philip Gardner. Stanford Univ. Press, 1988)

Victor Hugo

Washington Irving

John Hancock

Commonplace 2

 

My current commonplace book is a Miquelrius notebook with a soft leather cover.  At the moment it is rather similar to a day planner, with calendars added in by me and notes on weekly activities.  However, it is much more than that.  I have made note of sites that I’ve found helpful over approximately the last eight months (like PopClogs), as well as inspirational quotes and things that I need to remember.  I’ve noted my daughter’s height and weight changes between visits to her doctor, which has shown that she is steadily growing, not too fast and not too slow.  I’ve included lists of books that I’ve checked out and enjoyed, books that I want to buy eventually, and books that others have recommended to me.  All in all, it is a convenient bundle of information, readily accessible anytime it is needed.

 

Suggested reading and sources of information for this article:

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Breaking Out of a Rut

In a Rut

Recognizing a rut

What does a rut look like and feel like?

“Stuck in a rut” is an idiom that means being mired in routine. The figurative phrase calls to mind the image of a wagon wheel hopelessly trapped in a deep rut on an unpaved road.    It feels like nothing is changing, that your life is the same all the time.  Basically, it is a fixed, usually boring routine.  You can be in a rut in relationships, at work,  in exercise or diet.  Ever had that feeling that you were going nowhere?  Just spinning your wheels?  That every day was the same?  When you are out of inspiration and ideas, you are stuck in a rut.  How can you get out of it ?  How can you get back to being creative, energetic, enthusiastic?

  1. Remember what you want.  Do you want to participate in a marathon?  Do you want THAT more than you want the doughnut at work?  How about free time on the weekend? Do you want that enough to do laundry during the evening during the week?
  2. Listen to your gut, your instinct.  I have found that when I feel a situation isn’t right for me, I should trust that feeling.  If something comes up that is a little out of your comfort zone, but you are interested in it, take a chance and do it.  You may find out something about yourself or your hidden abilities!
  3. Look at your to-do list and start on small tasks.  Clearing off your list can help make room for new ideas, new projects, and new ideas.  It can also give you energy, believe it or not.  Sometimes simply getting moving in ANY direction can help you refocus.
  4. Work on a self-improvement project.  No, I don’t mean a DIY house project or anything similar.  I mean, improve YOURSELF.  Read a book outside of your normal interests or even one on a subject you are interested in but don’t know much about.  Write a letter to the editor.  Take an online course; there are a lot of them available from mainstream universities online and FREE.  Take a class at the community college.  Go to a seminar.
  5. Talk to a friend or go out to dinner or a movie.  Sometimes getting out and about and spending time with others can get your mind off of the rut and help you break out of it.
  6. Get some exercise.   Not only may that spur new ideas and energy, it will improve your overall health and sleep.
  7. Break your pattern by doing something that you wouldn’t normally do.  If someone asks you to go to an ethic restaraunt that you haven’t been to or t see a movie of a genre that you don’t usually choose, say YES instead of no.
  8. Amazingly enough, helping someone else can help you.  If you simply cannot think of a way to get out of the rut, help out in a soup kitchen, clean out the closet and donate to a veterans’ group or local charity.Now what
  9. Don’t worry so much about mistakes.  If you try too hard to avoid failure, you will avoid success as well.  Learn from your mistakes; that is how you grow and develop good ideas and stimulate creativity, rather than stifling it.
  10. Remember that “this too shall pass.”  Everything passes, given enough time. If you are in a rut, remember that you will move through this; there will be brighter days ahead.
  11. Check your diet; sometimes eating too much junk, drinking too many things that are bad for you can make you feel stuck or uncomfortable.  Check it out and try eating a little healthier, changing a little at a time.
  12. Try a change of scenery – something simple like a walk in a natural area or as involved as a vacation.  Change your location and your surroundings.  Sometimes that is all it takes to jolt you back to creativity.  In addition, time away from the tasks at hand can give your mind the break it needs.
  13. Believe it or not, doodling helps.  Draw simple drawings or repetitive designs on a notepad for a little while.  Do it every day.  Do it when you are listening to someone or while watching TV. You will be surprised at how well this works to jump-start creativity.  Check out “zen doodling” or “zen doodles” or “doodle art” online – you will find a lot of ideas.
  14. Go for a long drive and listen to loud music.
  15. Listen to some TED talks.
  16. If your rut is diet, buy a new cook book.  Try a new type of food.  Try a new spice or ingredient.  Go to a new restaurant or try a new dish at your favorite restaurant.
  17. When you are at the grocery store, pick up a vegetable or fruit that you’ve never tried before.
  18. To keep weight loss continuing or to get off a weight loss “plateau,” change up your exercise routine.  Make sure you do different types of exercise: walking, basketball, racquet ball, aerobics, et cetera.
  19. Learn something new.  Pick up a new hobby, take an online course, go to a seminar.
  20. Set some goals.  Find something that you’ve always wanted to accomplish, set a goal and a time to accomplish it, and then break the goal down into smaller steps.  The goals don’t have to be large to start with; accomplishing anything, even a small goal, will help.
  21. If you are in a relationship rut, do something with your partner that is out of the ordinary.  If you don’t go to the theater, find something local and go.  Try out the local symphony.  Go to see a local sports team play.  Buy a conversation starter pack (cards with conversation starters) and try that.  Surprise your partner with a night out on the town – or even out of town!
  22. Attend a lecture with your partner – then go discuss it over coffee or dessert.
  23. Go out to dinner, try a new cuisine – and TURN OFF THE CELL PHONES!  Talk to each other, hold hands, go for a walk.

Nothing goes away until

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52 Ideas for Mother’s Day Gifts

  1.  Gift basket: cup and saucer, tea, cookies, and sweetener in a nice basket
  2. Foot care basket for the mother on her feet a lot: lotion, scrub, moisturizing socks, and fluffy socks in a nice basket or tin
  3. A gift basket with several of her favorite treats
  4. Gift certificate for dinner to her favorite restaurant and an offer to babysit for the evening
  5. Stationery and tea gift basket for the letter writer
  6. Wine and cheese gift basket for a romantic and/or relaxing evening
  7. Book or books that you know she’d like, with a book mark and a book light
  8. A weekend at a bed and breakfast for a peaceful, relaxing weekend on her own.
  9. Gardening set – there are a lot available on Amazon and in other online shops (as well as gardening centers in most cities, I’m sure)
  10. Take a class together (cooking, wine, computer class, whatever shared interest you might have).
  11. Handmade card from her children or grandchildren
  12. A letter describing all the things about her that you love
  13. For your wife: take the kids out for the afternoon and let her enjoy her home in peace and quiet
  14. A meal cooked and cleaned up by the children and the other parent
  15. List 12, 52, 365 of your favorite memories together.
  16. Clean the house.
  17. Give her a day at the spa.
  18. Cook Mother’s Day Brunch.
  19. Candy bars wrapped in a special, cute printable wrapper (there are some to be found online and of course, you can get creative with markers and crayons and plain paper)
  20. Really high thread count  sheets
  21. Egyptian cotton towels
  22. A notebook with letters between her and the children
  23. A hug
  24. A memory jar
  25. Box of surprises (little things that she likes, wants, or needs – wrapped individually).  Let her open one every so often throughout the day!
  26. Print out her favorite family recipe in a nice font, on nice paper and frame it.
  27. Ask what she really, REALLY wants for Mother’s Day.
  28. Take a picture each Mother’s Day and create a keepsake at some point with all of the pictures.
  29. Start a fun tradition to celebrate with the family.
  30. Order her favorite, hard-to-find treat online.
  31. New gardening tools
  32. New cooking tools
  33. Make tea cup candles (Here is a lovely blog with instructions (and all sorts of other interesting ideas, I might add): http://thefrugalgirls.com/2012/03/how-to-make-teacup-candles.html ).
  34. Fingerprint charm (here is an example: http://diaryofamadcrafter.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/fingerprint-charms/ , another blog that looks like fun!)
  35. Homemade flavored oils
  36. Box of sunshine (here is a good explanation, for those who hadn’t heard of this before: http://happymoneysaver.com/send-a-box-of-sunshine-to-brighten-someones-day/ )
  37. Gift box for the letter writer: stationery, stamps, envelopes, perhaps a seal with wax and a nice pen.
  38. Crocheted, knitted, or sewn cover for their cell phone.
  39. Take her out for tea or coffee and conversation.
  40. Let her do nothing for an entire day, if that is what she really wants.
  41. Take the time to really listen to her and make her feel special
  42. Make coupons: “One week of taking the trash out without complaint”, “One Free Housework Day on the Weekend,” that sort of thing.
  43. Craft supplies for the crafty mother in your life
  44. A movie, popcorn/candy, and soda in a large bowl for movie night
  45. Coffee sampler and a large mug.
  46. Decorate a frame and put your child’s picture in it.
  47. Take her on a picnic.
  48. Make a personalized gift: a calendar with family pictures, a hardcover book with pictures, a blanket with family pictures (I’ve used Wal-Mart for these and gotten GREAT results).
  49. Frame a child’s drawing.
  50. Take her antiquing in a quaint little town.
  51. Plant flowers for her in the flower beds.
  52. Make her lunch for a week and include a love note.

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Really Useful Websites – November 2011

Rainy day ideas – since fall and winter can have plenty of days that are “inside days”…

Fall Holidays

  • http://www.kaboose.com/ is a family oriented website that has so much to offer.  They have Thanksgiving things up now (like http://holidays.kaboose.com/thanksgiving/) but there are also sections entitled Fall Family Fun 2011, Kaboose Games, and Kaboose Features.  There are also sections on Food, Health, and so forth.
  • www.holidays.net – this is a fantastic site.  There is a section for fun and wacky holidays, a holiday blog which contains blurbs on holidays as they come up, holiday travel, as well as one for holiday recipes.  There are also crafts for various holidays as well.  Very well done and enjoyable.
  • http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0909585.html.  This is a nice list of holidays around the world, with a blurb about the holiday and other links to related subjects.  The base site, however, is the real draw.  There is such a wide variety of things on the site.  There are sections on the fifty states, holidays in the US, people, science, math and money, and country profiles, among other things.  It is a wonderful resource.
  • http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving.  History.com is wonderful overall, but I really do like this section.  There are links to related people, events, and themes.  There is a nice history of Thanksgiving in the US, including links to article son the Pilgrims, Plymouth Colony, and so much more.  If you enjoy history and really want to know more about the background, this is the place to start.
  • http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Thanksgiving.shtml.  This site is brief but has good links to travel tips, food tips and safety, and so forth.
  • http://www.foodnetwork.com/topics/thanksgiving/index.html.  Where else to go for recipes?  Of course, there are many places to go, but this is very nice.  There is a section on Holidays and Parties that has a nice selection of articles on turkey recipes, various sides, wine-friendly meals, and more.  There is even a section on gifts.

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October 2010 – Interesting or Useful Websites

Ok this month, I can’t say the sites are exactly USEFUL or exciting, but hey, they are thematic!  That counts for something, doesn’t it.  Actually, they do provide some interesting alternatives to common issues: sweets for children, for example.  And if you like history, I found some interesting history-related sites.  So…here are this month’s websites:

  • October Celebrations
    • National Arts & Humanities Month – the largest annual celebration of the arts and humanities in the United States.  It was established in 1993, to encourage Americans to explore arts and humanities.  Here is President Obama’s Presidential Proclamation.
    • Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  The Domestic Violence Awareness Project (DVAP) is now a diverse partnership of “local, tribal, state and national domestic violence organizations and networks.”  They work toward collecting, developing, and distributing resources necessary to continue educating the public and working toward prevention of domestic violence. This website is such a wonderful source of information; they have a section for campaigns, about the network/partnership, materials that are available, video resources, and links.  Of course the provide a number for people in trouble to call – as well as a way to contact them.  Please take a look at this site – it may help you or someone you know.
    • Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  There are a lot of sites with helpful information on breast cancer.  One important thing to remember – that frequently gets overlooked – is that men can have breast cancer too.  Everyone needs to pay attention to this disease; the best way to fight it is to detect it early.  The National Breast Cancer site above is a wonderful source of information and there is a lot to learn.  For example, I had no idea there were so many different types of breast cancer.  There are FAQs, a list of myths, and a description of stages and types.  In addition, they have pages on ways to help, communities, and a blog.  There is also a newsletter.  Please go take a look – I bet you’ll learn something like I did.
  • Historic Events
    • Smithsonian Magazine has a wonderful section on This Month In History but the whole site is interesting.  You can spend quite a bit of time perusing it.   It has sections like:
      • History and Archaeology
      • People and Places
      • Science and Nature
      • Videos
      • Games and Puzzles
    • Another good site is BrainyHistory.  It lists events that took place on this day in history, birthdays, events by year and by month!  Apparently you can also add “Today in History” or “Today’s Birthdays” to your own site, but I couldn’t actually do that since I don’t have a site at this point!
    • On This Day is an interesting site as well.   It has Famous Birthdays, Today in History, Today in Music History, as well as many other sections that are pretty specific:
      • TV History
      • Middle East
      • World War II
      • U.S. Civil War
      • Sports sections
      • There is also a section for recommended books.
  • Halloween
    • Costume ideas
      • Costume Idea Zone.  This looks like an interesting site.  There are some cute ideas right on the home page and then there are different sections: unique costume ideas, couples, groups, traditional, and quick and easy. There is a section for advice and inspiration and tips.  I will say I got a pop-up as soon as checked out the site.
      • What better place to start than Halloween.com?  They have it all – forums, chat, screensavers, crafts, masks, stories, and so on.  This also includes cute last-minute ideas.  I really enjoyed checking this site out.  There is even a section on Halloween News.  Lots to see!
    • Traditions
      • A good site is Religious Tolerance.  Their page on Halloween traditions include Celtic traditions, traditions developed since then, origins of Christian holy days, traditions in numerous countries.
      • History.com has a good Halloween section as well.  There are videos, a photo gallery, and some interactive things.  There are links to related articles like pumpkin facts, and Halloween Around the World, as well as Haunted Historic Places.  The rest of the site is excellent as well, for history buffs.
    • Alternatives – Here are some links that I found for alternatives to Halloween for those who choose not to participate in Halloween:
      • Christian Alternatives.
      • Thrifty Fun has some interesting ideas, particularly if you want to do something a little more educational.  Their Halloween Alternatives article is here.  The rest of the site is interesting as well.  There seem to be tips, pets, requests for help, contests and more!
      • Here is an interesting article on alternatives to all the sweets for Halloween.
      • Modern Mom has an article on party favors that are less sugary or not candy.
      • Family Education has a short article on 10 alternatives to candy that I know my 5-year-old would love.  I will say that I got an advertisement every two pages or so, just as a heads-up to anyone who goes to check out the site.

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Resolutions? Throw those things out!

How many years have you set resolutions in January only to give them up within the first week or two? How frustrated do you get at setting them and failing so early to complete any of them?

Something I’ve found that works better is to set goals. I know it sounds like semantics – “resolutions,” “goals,” whatever – but there IS a difference. Goals are defined as “the purpose toward which an endeavor is directed; an objective.” Resolutions are defined as:

1. A resolving to do something.
2. A course of action determined or decided on”

The problem with resolutions is that they generally simply represent a desire to do something, to achieve something, but with no plan of action. As a result, a few weeks after setting your “resolutions”, you’re off the path completely. When you set up goals, you generally also come up with smaller steps that will help you achieve the goal – a plan of action. With a plan of action, you can see when you drift off the path sooner and decide more clearly if you need to adjust your goal or what you need to do to actually achieve your goal.

When you are setting your goals for the year (or whatever time frame you chose), consider areas of your life that you would like to work on, improve, or change.  Some areas frequently on that list include Work, Personal/ Relationships, Family, Social, Spiritual, Exercise/Weight Loss.

One method I’ve found helpful in setting up goals is to make “SMART” goals. SMART goals are generally considered to be:

S – specific, significant, stretching

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

S: are your goals specific, rather than vague? If they are too vague, there will be no way to know when you’ve achieved them. To make a specific goal, make sure that you include what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it by, and how you will achieve it.

M: are your goals measurable? If they are, anyone should be able to look at your progress and determine if you’ve achieved your goal. For example, “I want to learn to dance” is vague and immeasurable; most of us are born being able to “dance” (i.e., rock back and forth to music). A smarter goal would be “I want to learn to foxtrot by January 1, 2010.”

A: are your goals attainable? That is, can you achieve them realistically? It is a good thing to have goals that stretch you, that take you out of your comfort zone, but it is possible to set your goal in such a way that it isn’t realistic. For example, a person with a goal of “I want to be a professional dancer in six months” isn’t likely to achieve that goal if he’s the average person on the street. A more attainable goal for the average person would be “I want to dance a waltz at my daughter’s wedding in six months.” On the other hand, don’t set your goals too low either – a goal should challenge you to some extent, otherwise you’ll get bored with it.

R: are your goals realistic? Are they results-oriented? Are they reasonable? If they aren’t relevant to you, to your purpose in life or your belief system, then you aren’t likely to achieve them. For example, you may love commenting on football games to your friends, but do you really have the knowledge of all the positions, the training, and so forth to fill the air during a real game? Or, you may really enjoy cooking and do it well, but do you really have what it takes to run a successful big city restaurant?

T: are your goals time-based? Do you have a time frame for each one? If not, there is no motivation to get moving, no sense of urgency, no reason to take action today. An example of a time-based goal would be something along the lines of “I want to read one classic book a month for 12 months” or “I want to read one classic book each month from January to December 2009.”

Regardless of what you call them, they can really be motivating and stimulating, if done properly! Go out … and DO IT!

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