Friday, June 15, 2018

How to Make a Homemade Bow - The Easy Way!

A while ago, I saved the link to a video with easy instructions of how to make a tiny ribbon bow ... using a fork! Since I had several gifts that needed to be wrapped recently, I decided to give it a try.

It really works! These bows are perfect, especially if you don't have a pre-made bow on hand, or prefer to save a few pennies and make your own. While making my bows, I did have a little help. Our cat is always up to any task involving ribbons!

Cats love ribbons

Did you know that you can make a tiny ribbon bow using a fork?


When my daughter was little, I liked to sew dresses for her and sometimes I made matching hairbows for her, too. Creating tiny little bows to glue on barrettes was always a challenge for me though - somehow they just never tied quite right. I wish I had known about the method in this video back then!

While this video by Handimania.com is really helpful and well worth watching, I drafted a set of written instructions for those of you who learn better that way. Here it is, and be sure to take note of my tips for success, below.

How to Make a Ribbon Bow on a Fork

Supplies needed:

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Digital Age: Setting Sail on Uncharted Waters

Have you heard about GDPR? Neither had I!

Living in the digital age is a little like setting sail on uncharted waters. The rapid expansion of information technology has and will affect us all in many ways: from data sharing and collection, politics, and even possibly our future employment opportunities.

While researching how GDPR impacts me as a blogger, I learned about how digital technology may be shaping the future for all of us, and how important it is that this technology be regulated. After viewing the videos I've linked later in this post, you may agree.

Sailboat on water

The topic of Internet security and the information we all share is more than a little scary. The GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation is an attempt to improve the handling of data and privacy protection of website users from the European Union (EU) and seems to be a very good idea.

Last week I sent out an email to subscribers of this blog's newsletter. In it, I provided an opportunity to update subscription preferences and I explained that I have updated my privacy policy. (You can read my privacy policy here and I encourage you to do so.) This was all done in an attempt to be compliant with the new EU global privacy data regulations (GDPR).

The GDPR is now in effect and has bloggers and website owners sort of scrambling to be sure we are compliant with the rules. While these rules are a good idea, what compliancy actually looks like is a little confusing.

Since my opt-in forms have always made it clear to subscribers that they will receive newsletter email updates from me and because I've always had a privacy policy posted on my blog, I think that I satisfy the GDPR regulations without having to delete any EU subscribers from my email list (as some website owners are having to do.)  While I have no current plans to delete anyone, I want my email list to be composed of people who want to hear from me!

Therefore, I encourage you to:

  • Update your subscription preferences to my newsletter by clicking here.
  • If you no longer want my emails about making the most of life's moments, you can unsubscribe by clicking here or on the link at the bottom of any of my newsletter emails.

If you are not getting my emails, you can sign up for my newsletter by clicking here. (I really hope you will!)
I send newsletters on days when new content is posted on this blog and also sometimes on occasions when I have other information to share. (You will also receive a free down-loadable and printable copy of my Ten Tips for Making the Most of ALL Your Moments, as a thank you for signing up.)
Many thanks to subscribers who have already updated their profiles with me.

I want all the visitors to my blog and subscribers of my newsletter to understand what data is collected on this blog and how it is used. The GDPR  regulations are currently only applicable to EU readers, but I believe Internet data privacy protection is important worldwide.

Could Our Digital Technology Lead to Our Demise?

My convictions about the need for regulating digital privacy were strengthened when I listened to these fascinating lectures:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Vanished Flight MH370: New Answers or Just More Speculation?

During March, 2014 a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane mysteriously disappeared. It seems so inconceivable that 12 crew members and  227 passengers could just simply vanish. I watched the news closely, expecting to hear any day that the plane had been found. Unlikely as it was, I hoped that somehow the passengers would be found, safe and sound. I even wrote about it one of my first posts on this blog, Flight MA 370: Hidden in Plain Sight?


By December 2014, there were still no answers to the mystery of what had happened to the plane. I was saddened by how emotionally difficult holidays and special occasions would be for all the grieving families of the lost. It would be so hard to move forward without any type of closure.

It's now more than four years after the plane vanished and investigations of the event continue. Some pieces of debris were found, confirming that the plane did crash into the ocean. Strangely though, much of the wreckage is still missing. No bodies have been recovered. The disappearance of MA 370 has being called "one of the greatest aviation mysteries in modern history."

On May 13, 2018 an Australian news program, 60 Minutes Australia, aired a program interviewing experts who believe they now know why and how the plane crashed. Some of them concluded it was an intentional act by one of the pilots; a premeditated, methodically-planned and deliberate murder-suicide.

The hope was voiced that the conclusions presented will bring comfort to the public. I'm not sure they will at all, or if we are really any closer to knowing what happened. I watched the program and read the news reports; for me they just raised more questions.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Spammer Comments: What's a Blogger to Do?

Spam comments are the bane of a blogger's existence. Okay, well maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. Trolls of the Internet with their mean-spirited comments are even worse. Trying to keep up with social media, deciphering Google Analytics reports, understanding GDPR regulations well enough to implement them, and figuring out why a blog is loading slowly are challenges that rank high in blog-related frustrations for me too. But I do find spam comments annoying. Does anyone else?

Spam Comment Captcha screenshot

I'm curious about how other bloggers deal with these unwelcome comments, so I decided to write this post. Also, I'm offering it as part-explanation and part-apology to my readers who may have recently experienced frustration while trying to leave comments on my posts.

First of all, who are these spammers?! I mean, really. Who has time to leave mundane or nonsensical comments on a blog? I wish I could be as prolific as these spammers in my efforts to support the blogs that I enjoy.

If you look closely, most spam comments are robotically generated and link back to a product being sold. Flattering compliments like "I've never found a blog so intriguing" or "You are so knowledgeable and this is just what I've been searching for" are really just an attempt to entice the blogger to publish the comment.

As a new blogger, I remember how elated I was when the first of those comments appeared on one of my posts. I was so excited that someone thought I was an expert! I quickly realized it as not really valid feedback. I soon caught on to their techniques and am now rarely fooled by one of their lines.

Unfortunately though, a problem persisted. How to keep those comments off my blog? I tried using word verification or captcha (those annoying letters you have to decipher to prove you are not a robot before you leave a comment), but I didn't like making my readers jump through those hoops.

For several years, I just allowed all comments to be published, and made it a part of my daily routine to delete spam. I wonder, thought, if that practice allowed those spammers to gain a stronger foothold? In the past year it seems spam comments on my blog, The Most - - of Every Moment, have increased a hundred-fold.

I have a few questions for other bloggers:

  • Does anyone know if publishing some spam comments opens the flood gates for more? 
  • Are there just a lot more spammers now than there used to be?
  • In what way could my blog have become more easily accessible to spam?
  • Are spam comments even worth worrying about? Is there any harm with letting them all just be published as they appear?

Whatever the reason for the exponential increase of spam comments on my posts, I finally decided a while ago to change the settings on my blog, so that all comments must be moderated by me ... meaning that I must approve each comment before it is published. This trick solved my problem of spam comments being published on my blog, but it created extra work for me and reader comments don't appear on my blog until after I approve them.

For a variety of the usual reasons, I have not been blogging full-time lately. As a result, there has sometimes been quite a delay before readers comments have been published. This makes me uncomfortable, as it is a major blogging faux pas.

Today, I started wondering if I should turn the captcha safeguard back on and comment moderation off. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my website platform (Blogger) no longer uses those indecipherable letter codes, but readers simply have to check a box indicating that they are human. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Happy May Day! Did You Say Rabbit, Rabbit?

It's May 1st!

Did you remember to say Rabbit, Rabbit before you got out of bed? A friend of mine told me about this superstition back when we were in high school. Supposedly, if you say rabbit before you get out of bed on the first day of any month, you will have good luck for the next 30 days. Saying it twice makes the luck really stick.

Beanie Baby bunny rabbit

Don't worry if you didn't say rabbit, rabbit this morning though, this NPR article offers some alternative suggestions for a lucky month.

May Day or May 1st is sometimes celebrated with May Pole dances and flower baskets left on neighbor's doorknobs. Ancient pagans considered it "the day halfway between spring and summer." Ha ha, they certainly didn't live in Montana!

However, I think spring weather maybe has finally arrived here. We did some hiking with our dog on Sunday. It was a different trail than the one I wrote about last week, when we had to turn back because of snow and ice. On this route, we didn't run into any snow. Instead, our descent was made in

Monday, April 23, 2018

Montana Spring Tease

I didn't intend to write this blog post, as I have been working on some other projects. But the weather and a visit to one of my favorite blogs enticed me to share a few lines and pictures here today.

Lana, a friend of mine and the author of the blog My New Happy, is also a contributor to the Lifestyle Collective The Blended Blog. On both of these sites today, Lana's post topic was "Spring Where You're From" and she issued a challenge to other bloggers to link up and share what the spring season is like where we live.

Looking out my front door this morning, how could I resist!

Snowy late April morning in Montana

The first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere is officially in March. In Montana, it comes much later than that, in a matter of fits and starts. Whether or not the groundhog sees his shadow is of no concern to us. We know we have at least six more weeks of winter left! 

In mid-March, the roads near our house were still too icy and snow-covered to safely walk our puppy. We made sure she got enough exercise by strapping on our snowshoes and taking her for hikes around our property. I tried hiking our acreage once without snowshoes and sunk down in places to mid-thigh. Fortunately, the dog's four paws kept her mostly above the crust.

Snowshoeing with our puppy in March

Snowshoeing our Montana property with our puppy

Here's a view from our kitchen, taken through the window screen on March 18th. The ground had been covered in snow since October.

A Snowy Montana morning in March

By April 4th we'd had some warm weather so most of the snow, except at higher elevations and in the shadows, had melted.

Spring in Montana

On April 5th though, this happened:

Fresh snow on our deck in April

This isn't the first time I've written about spring snow in Montana. On February 3rd, 2015, I wrote a post called A Ground Hog's Shadow and Cars in the Ditch. Click on the link to read the story of when we got 23 inches of wet snow on April 29th, 2009 and I had to call a tow truck!

Yesterday was warm and sunny. My husband and I and our six-month-old puppy hiked part-way up a mountain trail above the city of Helena. The upper trails were still so treacherous with snow and ice that we turned back before we reached the summit, yet it was warm enough to shed our light jackets.

If you look closely at the top-right corner of this photo, you can see part of the city of Helena:

Montana hike with the dog

I then spent the rest of the afternoon outside, doing a little yard work and enjoying the wonderful outdoors on Earth Day.

Spring yard work where we live in Montana is not limited to cleaning up garden beds. It includes:
  • Raking massive amounts of deer and elk scat off the grass around our house.
  • Sweeping huge amounts of gravel from the cement pad in front of our house. With nearby roads and our driveway all just gravel and chip-sealed, a lot of gravel is deposited there by our tires, the wind, shoveling, and plowing.
  • Taking our holiday lights down from our trees, which had previously been too snow-covered. Yesterday, I broke my trusty light hanging pole, which we've used since December 2014 to put up and take down our outside holiday lights. I was able to temporarily duct-tape it together well enough to snag and remove all the light strings from this past season. I will definitely be ordering another pole soon. 

I saw a few daffodils poking up through the ground yesterday, and my furry pussy willow catkins were practically flowering before my eyes while being enjoyed by some very fuzzy gray bees. These signs of spring were enough to tempt my husband and me to get out all the patio furniture.

We knew better.

This is what spring looks like here this morning:

Fresh snow on April 23, 20018

At least someone is enjoying the snow today! 

Dog in the snow with her toy


Although we had more snow in Montana this winter than in recent years, waiting this long for spring is not unusual at all. Today's snowfall will melt quickly and warmer temperatures are expected this week, but I'm not removing my snow tires just yet!

What's the weather like right now where you live?

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of them, the price you pay will not be affected but I may receive some small compensation. All opinions expressed, however, are entirely honest and my own.
This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out! 

Monday, February 26, 2018

How to Survive a Badly Injured Fingernail

It might be a little dramatic to suggest how to survive a ripped fingernail, but anyone who has ever suffered the throbbing discomfort of a nail cut or torn past the quick may not think so. This fairly minor injury can cause a lot of pain!


Accidents happen.

In January, I was reminded that improper use of a sharp knife can be dangerous. I've learned all sorts of things from the online Master Class classes I have been taking, including the importance of heeding the teacher's warnings. Despite being cautioned against using a well-sharpened chef knife on a hard vegetable until completely proficient with the knife skill technique being taught, I did it anyway. 

Note: This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and then make a purchase, I may receive a form of compensation. I only recommend products I believe in.


a sweet potato and chef knife on a wooden cutting board

Oops. I did not cut off a finger (as it had been suggested could happen) when the big knife slipped. I did, however, slice right through the middle of the nail on my pinkie finger. Ouch.

Fortunately, the damage to the flesh under the nail was not deep. But it hurt - a lot. I was terrified I would completely rip off the top half of my nail before it grew out. My solution for a

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Everyone Has Some Artistic Creativity in Them

Our artistic creativity is shaped not just by our innate abilities and training, but often by the input of others.

I was rebuked by a Sunday School teacher when I was about 4-years-old, because I had not followed her directions. I cut out the little pictures on my page before I colored them, which was apparently not the order in which she wanted us to do things.

Coloring page, crayons and scissors

Note: This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and then make a purchase, I may receive a form of compensation. I only recommend products I believe in.

We were supposed to color first so, when our strokes strayed from within the picture outlines, our crayons would not make marks on the desks. I was shy and eager-to-please, and not

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Learn Something New Every Day project: January 2018

My Learn Something New Every Day of 2018 project went well during its first month. As I explained in my last post, my goal is to recognize and record one thing I've learned at the end of each day. I'm sharing my lessons here, with the hope that you'll find some of them interesting or helpful too. 

Some days the information gleaned was useful and on others quite trivial, but for each day of January, I recorded a tidbit of knowledge I didn't have during the previous 24 hours. 

Note: This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and then make a purchase, I may receive a form of compensation. I only recommend products I believe in.

Perhaps the lesson that amazed me most and was reinforced to me repeatedly this month, is how very quickly puppies grow up! 


8 week and 17 week photos of a german shepherd X puppy

Ours has already tripled in weight and grown exponentially since we adopted her.

My List of January Lessons: 


For more in-depth information about some of these topics, more details can be found in my previous post about Week 1 of this project and in future posts (soon to be published on this blog). 

January


Week 1.

  •  1. Puppy toys can come unstuffed.
  •  2. How to unclog a vacuum. 
  •  3. It’s a small world. Well, sort of. 
  •  4. Use vinegar to poach an egg.
  •  5. The best place to do a puzzle. 
  •  6. The aloe vera plant is useful for more than just first aid for burns.
  •  7. An interesting political idea.


Week 2.

  •  8. It's easy to make excellent artisan bread with a lovely crunchy crust.
I will be posting full details on how to bake bread like this soon, in an upcoming post.
Homemade crusty artesian bread
This is the bread recipe I have always wanted!

  •  9. Puppies grow quickly. 
The photos above already prove this point, but I can't resist sharing two more. We think she's cute.
      Puppies grow so fast!
      I've lost track of how many times we've been told, "Wow, she's going to be a big dog!"

  • 10. There's an easy way to get a dog to take a pill without spitting it out.
  • 11. I found a few new ways to use the "Notes" feature on my iPhone and MacBook efficiently.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Learn Something New Every Day of 2018: Week 1


One of my goals for 2018 is to learn at least one new thing every day. 

Learning something new every day is not difficult. Being aware that we are doing so is sometimes the real challenge.

The things we learn on a daily basis range from significant to trivial, intellectual to emotional, mind-blowing to diminutive. Some days we learn things we already knew but forgot. Sometimes we learn things we never wanted to know or things we have always desired to grasp. 

Learning something intellectual, mastering a new skill, finding out something new about a friend, or understanding the world or myself a little better are just a few of the ways in which I expect I will meet this goal. I hope to recognize and record at least one thing I've learned every day in 2018. 


Learn one new thing each day calendar


Some things I learn may be worthy of being shared. 

Sometimes I may learn things that readers of this blog may also find interesting, entertaining, or informative. When I do, I will try to share them here. This could even become a regular series of blog posts - but the probability of that remains to be seen!


Here are some things I learned last week:

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Eve

The End of Another Year.

I always experience conflicting emotions of nostalgia and anticipation on the last day of the year. For most of us, I think it is a time for reflection and goal-setting. And hopefully, a celebration of what has been and what is yet to come.

Please Be Safe.

During the holiday season many of us are on the roads, either traveling to/from holiday destinations or attending holiday parties. If your weather has been anything like ours, please drive slowly and use extra caution.

a snowy scene
   

My December Was a Bit of a Blur.

I thought all of 2017 went by quickly, but December seems to have zipped by at light speed. I spent the first few weeks in a bit of a sleepless fog, but for a very happy reason.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Don't Hang Christmas Tree Lights Without a "Magic Wand"

If you have tall trees to decorate, don't put up the lights until you read this post!

I sometimes recommend products on this blog, but only ones that I would use myself. A few years ago, I wrote an article about a tool that makes it easy to hang Christmas tree lights. And it does. Even on tall trees!

the light pole extends to multiple lengths

We've had a lot of snow in Montana already this year, but it melted due to unseasonably warm temperatures over the past week or so. Sunday was the perfect day to put up our outside holiday lights. Before we began, I got out our trusty tool. 

We decided to string lights on a tall pine tree and our Canada Red Cherry tree, which is now much taller than when I wrote about it, here. We had no need for a ladder, no tense moments, and no feelings of frustration throughout the process. Lickety-split, my husband and I had both trees decorated.We don't put lights on the roof of our house, but this tool would work well for that too.

Photo showing length of Christmas Tree String Light hanging pole
Taller than our garage when fully extended, this pole has a very long reach!
It is easier to put lights on a tree when two people participate; it helps a lot to have a second person managing the unstrung portion of the lights. There is a little bit of a learning curve to using the light pole, but it is quite easy to get the hang of it. My husband and I would have struggled a lot more if we had decorated the trees without this tool. It is practically a magic wand! We will never decorate another tall tree without it.

A light stringing pole was used to put on these tree lights.

One more good thing. When it's time to take the lights down, this tool makes that an easy task as well.

So, where can you get this magic wand?  I got mine from Amazon.  Click the link to go directly to the Amazon website, where you can order one of your own. 


I do get a tiny bit of compensation if you buy from Amazon after clicking the link, but that doesn't increase your purchase price at all. And I promise that is not the reason I'm telling you about this tool.  

The mission of this website is to pass along helpful ways to make the most of life. This is definitely one of those.

Happy decorating!

Do you decorate your home with outside lights? When do you put them up?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy American Thanksgiving

Let's make the most of all our moments
and be thankful
for every one of them!

Happy Thanksgiving from The Most - - of Every Moment

~~***~~


A few years ago I wrote about how December always sneaks up on me

Still looking for a recipe for your Thanksgiving feast? In this post, I shared a complete menu of recipe ideas.

What are your tips for getting organized for the holidays?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

It's Been a While

"It's been a while" is a bit of an understatement. 

It's been nearly a year since there's been anything new published on this blog. In fact, it has been so long, it will take courage for me to hit publish once I complete this post.

Some bloggers announce they will take a hiatus, or go into hibernation for a bit. I wish I had. However, to make a statement about taking a break, you have to know you will be doing so. I didn't. Instead, I started to fade away and then just disappeared. Nothing has been published here since January 1st, 2017.

Screenshot of my blog archive stats

I got stuck

This blog was once an almost daily habit, and something that I loved and nurtured. Somehow though, I strayed away from its original intent and the reasons it brought me joy. I fell prey to what tempts all bloggers: a need for blog success. My work became influenced by the techniques everyone says are necessary to be a successful blogger. Those differed from the ones I was comfortable with and that made me happy. I finally just got stuck. 

Some real life stuff got in my way as well. Having both our kids away at school, some family members with significant health issues, and the prolonged illness and eventual loss of our beloved dog all impacted my writing muse. I quit writing altogether for a while.

Eulogy for our dog


I got off-track

Bloggers share a lot about themselves, their family, and friends in a very public way. I have always wrestled with concerns about the Internet and privacy, but in past posts I tried to do the "smart" blogging thing. Loyal readers got to know me and my family pretty well. 

This blog however, was never intended to be a diary or a newsletter about my life. While following the popular blogging trend of sharing a lot of personal details and posting frequently, this blog became a little bit of both. While I enjoy the personal connections of blogging, that was never the main purpose of this website. 

I took a big step back and retreated from writing, blogging, and all other forms of social media. As the months went by, however, my need to write returned. I took some online writing classes, have been doing freelance writing as a ghost writer, resumed work on some short stories, and even won a fiction writing contest! Now, I'm ready to return to blogging with a clear plan of how I should proceed.


My new way of blogging

This blog began as a place for me to write and to pass along helpful ways for making the most of life. I've missed having this space to be creative and sharing good tips and tidbits with this audience. That is the main reason I'm resuming work at The Most -- of Every Moment.

I'm back to being a blogger, but in a very different way. I'll no longer be posting on a schedule or with any regularity. Posts will be published only when I have something worthwhile I want to share, and when I have time to write about it. If you want to follow along, the best way would be to sign up for my newsletter, which will deliver posts right to your email. 

I'm looking forward to getting caught up with the blogging community and reading favorite blogs again. I will probably resume some use of social media. Primarily Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and mostly just to read what others are doing and share the helpful things I find.

Something worthwhile: for readers who are also writers. 

Aside from apologizing for disappearing and informing you of the future of this blog, I mentioned courses and a contest offered by websites I enjoy. If you write, be sure to check these out:

  • The Write Life is a website that offers a wealth of information for writers and bloggers. They offered the amazing bundle of writing courses I signed up for last spring.
  • Re:Fiction is a wonderful resource that I recommend for all fiction writers. They host a monthly content for fiction writing from a prompt; the winner gets a prize and there's no entry fee!

Thank you 

Thank you to all of this blog's loyal readers, and to anyone who is visiting here for the first time today. 

When I spent some time this morning reading through my archives, I was pleasantly reminded by the volume of useful information published here. I even learned some things that I'd forgotten! I hope my past and future posts are valuable to you as well. That is the best measurement of this blog's success.

How can I help you find ways to make the most -- of all your moments?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year! Some words of wisdom from 1755 to 2017.

In the year 1755, Benjamin Franklin wrote some advice still worth following in 2017: 


Happy New Year words of wisdom.

I would change this quote to be gender-neutral, by substituting the word person for the word man at the end of the sentence. I can find no other fault with these wise words. 

Happy New Year. Wishing you peace, happiness, and health in 2017.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016. It changed the world -- and even this blog.

As the year 2016 played out, posts from this blog became intermittent and then just dwindled away. I began spending less and less time on social media and even reading other blogs I have always enjoyed. I can place the blame on a number of things. Some have resolved and some are ongoing. I am not sure yet of the future of this blog, but I cannot let the new year begin without a farewell post to 2016.

2016 New Years poster

2016 ... What a year.  

There were so many moments of 2016 (personally, nationally and internationally) that filled my heart with pride, with fear, with sadness, and ultimately, with hope. It seems as though our world has rotated a bit on her axis, and feels different than it ever has. As we settle into 2017, I am hopeful we can find ways to heal. Our earth needs it, our country needs it; the whole world needs to heal. 

Even the health of my family had a rough year.  I've employed more of my nursing skills in the past six months than I have for a long time. I'm grateful now that my human family members are on the mend, that our dog is walking on all four legs again, and that I have only one week's worth of antibiotics left to shoot down our cat's throat!

Cat looking at medication and syringe

Blogging is different than any other kind of writing.

One thing I've learned over the nearly three-year life of this blog, is that blogging is a very personal thing. Successful bloggers share a lot about themselves, their families, and their friends online. I have always been a little guarded in this; as a nurse I am trained to highly value confidentiality and after all, I did spend years warning my children against the dangers of the Internet! 

The wonderful connections I have forged with faithful readers and my special blogging friendships have gradually led me to become more comfortable sharing my own stories. I always, however, have felt it important to receive permission before posting anecdotes or photos of other people.

Something in my attitude changed again over the course of 2016.  

My hesitancy to include anything in my blog about other people's health led me to question what actually is appropriate to publish. The nastiness of this American election year has me a little repulsed by social media, especially as many posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram seem to have become more egotistical and narcissistic.  (You know the ones I mean!) Perhaps the overwhelming, constant onslaught of information that invades my inbox and social media accounts has simply made me weary.  In any event, I began to question the value of the words and photos that I publish.  All this (as well as various demands on my time) were contributing factors, but my diminished posts in recent months were mostly a result of a muse that disappeared. My writing and creative spark just evaporated for a while.

Lately though, I have been missing this blog.  I suspect I will return to it in some fashion in 2017. My hope is that I can find a way to fill each post with valuable information, in a warm format that reaches out to readers yet maintains firm boundaries between real and Internet life. 

Even after writing this, I am hesitant to hit publish. What value does this post really hold? I feel it needed to be written, though - as an explanation and an apology to my long-time readers for my abrupt and unexplained absence. Publishing this today seems necessary to add closure to the past year of sporadic blogging  - and to pave the way for future posts.

We all have work to do in 2017.

I've rarely touched on politics here, but our upcoming American Presidential Inauguration is on practically everyone's mind. I hope we will all resolve to make the world a better, kinder, more tolerant and healthier environment.  Our work is cut out for us - but I believe in the human spirit. We can learn from mistakes made throughout history and we can stand up against what is wrong, and we can find ways to educate and guide leaders to the right decisions. Every voice and every positive action counts.  Protecting our environment, standing up against intolerance and injustice, and spreading kindness and truth is something we should all strive to do, all of the time.  Those repeated actions may be the best way we can all "make the most - - of every moment" of 2017. 

2017 Happy New Year photo


Happy New Year.  Let's make it a good one.





Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Ugly American

The first time I left North America I was 14 years old. During my initial year of living abroad, I became aware that Americans sometimes have a certain “ugly” reputation. It didn't take me long to understand the cause.

Passport

“Ugly American” individuals were easy to spot, and made far too frequent of an appearance in my years overseas.  I quickly learned to recognize them and steer clear. Having left American soil as a tourist or sometimes an expat, these poor representatives of America often could be heard even before they were seen. On a crowded bus or at a tourist attraction, his or her English words would rise above the din of the crowd, loud and complaining. Nothing was ever “as good as it is at home.” Shouting, (perhaps because they assumed it would help them to be better understood) they would make disparaging remarks about how “no one around here speaks English.” Their criticisms included but were not limited to the food, the people, the customs, the climate, and all things un-American or different to which they were accustomed. When they rudely claimed (while a guest in another country) that “America is the best nation in the world,” it left their audience with plenty of room for doubt.

At first, I tried to distance myself by emphasizing the Canadian heritage of my dual American-Canadian citizenship. But gradually, I realized the importance of diluting those impressions by acting as a “good" American. By representing the United States well, I hoped to help reverse any negative impact those “ugly" Americans were making. I wanted to prove that most of us are different from those unsavory individuals. 

I woke up this morning still stunned by the results of the 2016 American Presidential election, and realized that a similar situation now exists within the United States. Those of us not willing to be the “Ugly American” have a significant job to do. 

Somehow, despite having just elected as our next president a man whose well-documented episodes of prejudice, vulgarity, lack of judgment, and hatred characterize him as the “ugliest” of Americans, we must now find a way to show the world (and ourselves) that most citizens of the United States are better than that. It is up to each of us to ensure that what ensues from this election does not perpetuate and make that ugliness any more of a widespread reality. If the majority of American citizens do not uphold the core values of acceptance, respect, inclusivity, decency and basic humanity, then America should not be called the "land of the free."  

I am fearful that many of the votes in this election were cast in support of racism, misogyny, intolerance, and hatred; however, I maintain hope that most Americans do not really want these injustices to take stronger root and flourish. We must all now assume responsibility to be certain that this does not happen, and find ways to encourage our new President-Elect to consistently behave better than he has in the past.

America has long been referred to as a "melting pot" of people, and it has been our differences that has helped to make us strong. Every American who despises bigotry and inequality must now strive even harder to set an example that is consistently tolerant, accepting and just. We cannot afford to let the hatred that was unleashed in this election take hold and reverse the strides we have been making towards human rights and equality for all. 

If we are to shed the image of the ugly American both at home and abroad, we must all  - including our politicians and our newly elected American President - treat every human being with equality and respect each other's differences. We can only hope that even the people who have not behaved so in the past will soon begin to change ... for our future, the future of our country, and the future of the world. 

**~**

Blog Owner's Note: I haven't published here for some time, for a variety of reasons. I apologize to anyone who has visited here and been disappointed to find no new content so far this fall. I'm not yet sure of the future for this blog, but today I just could not let the results of the election take place without comment. 
Feel free to leave your comments, but please try to refrain from any "ugliness."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The First College Test is Knowing What To Pack!

Packing for college can be daunting, but having a cheat-sheet packing checklist can help.

It can get pretty overwhelming trying to anticipate what you might need during a whole semester (or year) while living in a dorm away from home. A packing checklist can really help - and I have come up with a pretty comprehensive one. 



While recently helping my son decide what he might need in his dorm room, I realized that the packing checklist my daughter and I compiled before she set off for college several years ago is actually pretty useful. I am sharing a printable version of this list here today, for anyone faced with this challenging task.

When it was time for my daughter to pack for college, the task at first seemed overwhelming.  
  • What would she really need? 
  • How much space in her room would she really have? 
We created a packing list by consulting numerous resources, and we added other items as we thought of them.

Applying what I learned the first time.

Now, my son is off to college. Fortunately, I saved our list and although they both considered some of the mentioned items to be unnecessary (and my son wanted some things my daughter hadn't needed), my cheat-sheet was just as helpful the second time around. 


"Be Prepared"

With my kids both attending colleges at least a nine-hour drive away from home, I wanted to be sure they would have everything they might need. "Be prepared" has been my motto (and my excuse to overpack) ever since I first learned the phrase as a young Girl Guide in Canada. However, limited available space in a dorm does need to be taken into consideration; an overstuffed room can be more frustrating than occasionally having to run to the store to buy a needed item! 

Anyone can use my checklist.

If you are faced with packing for college, my suggestion would be to adapt this checklist to your student's individual needs and situation, and the size of your car! I'm sure I haven't listed everything that everyone will require, and no one really needs everything on this list - but this cheat-sheet just might have some helpful items on it which never occurred to you to pack. 

It is less expensive to just bring things you already have from home, but it may make sense to purchase some items after arriving at the campus, or to have them shipped to your child at their college address. We find our Amazon Prime membership to be very handy; almost anything can be purchased and arrive in two days with FREE shipping! And remember, seasonal items can sometimes be switched out over school breaks if your child comes home.  

It's okay if you forget something!

Don't sweat the nitty-gritty of packing details too much. Despite this lengthy list, I do believe that we can all often make do with much less than we think we need!  

Just don't forget to put a tissue in your pocket. Most of us will need one when we say good-bye!
GOOD LUCK! 

Off-to-College Checklist
To print this list: Click Here.
Linens/Laundry Supplies
BED - - - Note: Many college beds are XL TWIN (extra-long.)
       Sheets and pillowcases (2 sets). Check about what size is needed. 
Mattress pad (check with college for bed size)
Mattress topper/ egg crate mattress - this will make the bed much more comfy! 
Blankets (2 - one for bed and one to use as a throw when studying)
Comforter/bedspread 
Bed bug protection kit (I'm undecided on this one - for piece of mind, perhaps?)
Pillows (1 or 2 standard sized) 
       Body pillow or “Bedrest Pillow with arms"



OTHER
Towels (3 bath and hand towels, 1 beach or pool towel.)
Face cloths
Clothes hangers (you will probably need more than you think!)
Drawer separator boxes
Laundry bag/basket 

Laundry detergent (The individual pods are handy)
       Fabric softener and stain remover
Delicates/ bra-washing mesh  bags
Lint brush
Iron or steamer (travel size)


Roll of quarters, if laundry facilities use these.

Electronics and Office/Desk Supplies
(NOTE: you may wish wait to purchase some school supplies until after you arrive and learn what you need.)
Computer or Laptop (printer is optional; there are usually printers for student use)
Printer, ink, and paper (if you decide to bring a printer) 
Electronic storage items (i.e.) memory cards and USB flash drives
Ipod
Camera
Cell phone
Portable speakers (if you want to play music from laptop)
Headphones
Chargers and cords
Stapler and staples
Pens and pencils
Highlighter pens (multiple colors) 
       Permanent markers (with both black and silver, you can label almost anything!) 
Pencil holder and sharpener
Notebooks 
Folder with pockets and/or Binders
       Textbooks (If you know which you need and it is less expensive to purchase in advance) 
        Labels of various sizes
3 × 5 index cards
Sticky notes
Assortment of paper clips, binder clips, and rubber bands
Tape (scotch, masking and duct tape are all useful)
Scissors
Ruler / measuring tape
3-hole punch
calculator
Stackable desk trays
Stamps and envelopes
HDMI cord, Ethernet cord for computer (check if your room has wireless internet)
Surge protector / power strip
Extension cords
3-2 prong adapters
Shared Items — Plan for these with roommate(s) 
Audio equipment
TV /DVD player
Coffeemaker/ hot pot/ electric hot water kettle, if allowed



mini crock pot or microwave rice cooker/ pasta cooker
       Microwave (if not provided in room
       Small refrigerator (if not provided in room)
Area rug and seating / storage ottoman
       Posters/ art

Room Needs/Storage (See the size/layout of room before buying some of these items.)
Bedside lamp (clip-on may work best)
Desk lamp
Alarm clock/clock radio
Mini trash can
Storage bins, storage cart with drawers, bookshelf 
Under-the-bed storage trays
       Curtain and tension rod (if closet doesn't have a door you can create one!)
Fan (unless room is air conditioned)
Drying racks for laundry
        Over door towel/ drying rack
Bulletin board and pushpins
Dry-erase wall calendar/board
Mini toolkit (including screwdriver, hammer, wrench, measuring tape)
Picture hangers (double-sided tape for concrete walls)
Mirror
       Air freshener 
Poster Sticky tack / 3M hooks /  command strips 
Filing cabinet/ trunk or something that locks.
Food/ Housekeeping Items 
Tissues
Paper towels
Trash bags (Some large and some to line wastepaper can)
Plastic storage bags
Food-storage containers
Lightbulbs
All-purpose cleaner and dust rag
hand soap dispenser (If there is a sink in your room!)
Dish soap
Sponge and cloth for drying dishes
Disinfectant wipes
1 or 2 bowls, plates and cups
1 or 2 coffee mugs
Water bottle
Silverware (just one or a few sets of fork, knife and spoon) 
Can/bottle opener, sharp knife, small cutting board
coffee filters
       chip clips or clothes pins

Some ideas for dorm room snacks and microwaveable food items:
lemonade mix, tea, coffee, hot chocolate
steel cut oats, pasta, rice, easy mac, potatoes (can be microwaved)
popcorn
baked goods from home :)
Peanut butter
Honey
salt, pepper, oil
crackers, granola bars, beef jerky

Toiletries and Shower Items
Shower caddy / tote
Shower shoes (flip-flops)
Shampoo and conditioner
Body gel or bath and face soap, travel soap container
Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and dental floss
       Toothbrush holder (Especially if room has a sink)
Comb/brush
Hairstyling products
Hair dryer/straightener/curling iron
Razor and shaving cream
Lotion and/or facial moisturizer
Cotton swabs
Deodorant
Makeup 
Tweezers
Nail clippers
       Glasses and Sunglasses 
       Contacts, contact lens solution and case
                 Dental retainer


Medicine/ First Aid
Thermometer
Antacid
Pain/ fever relievers (i.e. tylenol, motrin, aspirin)
Vitamins
Antidiarrheal medicine
Cough drops
Adhesive bandages, elastic "ACE" wrap
hydrocortisone cream
antibiotic ointment such as Bacitracin or Neosporin
Prescription medications
bug spray
sunscreen


Clothing
Under garmets  – 2 week supply (Who wants to do laundry every week?!)
Socks – 2 week supply 
Pajamas or sleepwear
Robe (It can be a long walk down the hall to the shower!)
Slippers and/or flip-flops
Pants / jeans / shorts
Shirts / blouses / t-shirts / long sleeved t-shirts / sweaters
Sweat pants and sweatshirts, yoga pants, active wear
Light/heavy jackets (raincoats, fleece …)
Gloves /scarf /hat (and other foul-weather gear as needed)
1 pair of boots (snow or rain boots, depending on local climate)
2 pairs of sneakers or comfortable/walking shoes
1 or 2 sets of business-casual/ formal clothes 
1 pair of dress shoes
1 swimsuit (& goggles, etc)

Miscellaneous
Umbrella
Luggage: backpack, carry-on, duffle bag or suitcase, trunk
Sports equipment (skis, bike, helmets, …)
       Sleeping bag
Musical instruments 
First aid kit
Mini sewing kit and safety pins
Flash light
Batteries
Prescriptions for medications, glasses, contacts (filled and written down)
Daily planner / calendar
Journal
       Playing cards and / or board games
       Favorite books ( Small amount as time and space will be limited!)
Money 
Check book and bank info and debit card
Driver’s license, auto insurance card
Passport and Social security # card
Health insurance card
Health history information
Family/ friend contact information
Doctor/ dentist/ eye doctor / physical therapist etc. contact information
A favorite stuffed animal
Knickknacks and posters (Remember that space is limited!)
Photo CD, photos on computer and/or prints/ posters of family/friends
Have these things easily available for arrival:
       University Information and Admission information paperwork, 
       Map/directions to campus and a map of campus.


I haven't published much on this blog this summer, as I've been taking a break to spend time with my family. 

If I published this list after you have already sent your freshman off to college, I do apologize to have not supplied it before you packed. You may still find this list helpful, though. 

If you see an item on it that your child might have forgotten, I'm sure they'd love to receive a package in the mail! Or, sign them up for a membership to Amazon Prime. It won't take up any packing room. With it, your kid can order practically anything they forgot, and two-day shipping is free! (For details, click ad:)



What have I forgotten? 
Is there anything which you would add to this list?



This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out! 

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of them, the price you pay will not be affected but I may receive some small compensation. All opinions expressed, however, are entirely honest and my own.