Shared posts

15 Jul 21:35

Video: For Habits, the Strategy of First Steps.

by gretchen@gretchenrubin.com (Gretchen Rubin)
Jessica Kendrick

I normally dont watch her videos but for whatever reason I did and this one makes a really interesting point. Stopping is a habit. I've never thought about stopping as a habit!

I’m doing a video series in which I discuss the various strategies that we can use for habit-formation.

Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life, and a significant element of happiness. If we have habits that work for us, we’re much more likely to be happy, healthy, productive, and creative. My forthcoming book, Better Than Before, describes the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits. To hear when it goes on sale, sign up here.

I identify four strategies that are so essential that I call them the “Pillars of Habits”: Monitoring, Accountability, Scheduling, and Foundation.

Today I’m going to talk about the Strategy of First Steps, which is one of the three Strategies that relate to “The Best Time to Begin.” (Here’s a complete list of the Strategies.)

 

Want to read more about some of the ideas I mention in the video?

I mention “tomorrow logic,” which is related to the ever-popular Tomorrow Loophole. The fact is, once we’re ready to begin, the best time to start is now.

I also mention that some people do better when they start small; others, when they start big. This is a key distinction to understand about yourself, one which I cover in the Strategy of Distinctions.

I suggest that we should be wary of stopping. There are many reasons for this, and one is the danger of the finish line.

Finally, I refer to the “don’t break the chain” approach to habit-formation. Many people find this very useful.

How about you? Have you found First Steps to be a particularly important phase in your habit-formation?

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. You can ignore that RSS business.

16 Jul 11:00

Wardrobe Wednesday - Stitch Fix Review

by Megan // Honey We're Home
Jessica Kendrick

Honestly this seems like the best idea in the world.

I'm so excited to share a fun and new (to me) clothing find- Stitch Fix!  One of my favorite mom's at my son's school told me about it a few months ago.  I signed up, but wanted to see how it went before sharing it here with y'all in case I didn't like it.  I've been a member for awhile now and I'm pretty hooked on it!  

With Stitch Fix, you fill out a personal style profile, including info about your size (height, weight, bra size, how you like things to fit, etc.), and then they send you five pieces of clothing to try on in the privacy of your own home as often as you want (I get mine once a month, but you can get them every 2-3 weeks or every other month).  You can keep everything or return it all if you don't like it.  I've found the prices are pretty reasonable too (in the $30 - $80 dollar range).  

Have y'all heard of Stitch Fix or tried it?  I swear, I must be living under a rock sometimes . . .   If you try it out now and use my referral link, I'll get $25 in Stitch Fix credit.  You'll get a referral link to share if you sign up too.  I'm so curious to see what other people get in their fixes.  Please feel free to share with me!

Here are some of my Stitch Fix items I've received in the last few months.  This dress is something I might have passed up in the store- I wasn't sure how the colors would look on me, but I liked the pattern.  As soon as I tried it on, I knew I was keeping it.  The fit was so good and it's made of a lightweight cotton material that is perfect for this time of year.  It's hard to tell in this picture, but it zips in the back.


I'm wearing the dress with my Sam Edelman Alva sandals (they sold out at Nordstrom, but are currently on sale at Zappos).  One of the things I like about Stitch Fix is that, when they send you your box of items, they include a wardrobe card that gives you several outfit options using the things they sent you.  This gives you lots of ideas for how to get the most mileage out of your clothes.  I don't think they suggested pairing this dress with a denim vest from Marshall's, but I threw it on and I like how it looks!  


This lace top from Stitch Fix is awesome!  Again, I was a little iffy about how it would look on, but it ended up fitting perfectly.  The cut is great and it has two small slits in the back that give it more charm.  I wore it in Dallas at the Haven conference and would also wear it out to dinner or to church and brunch.  It came with a white stretchy tank top to wear underneath too.   The necklace is the Stella & Dot Avalon- one of my go-to's.


The jeans are Stitch Fix too.  They are slightly distressed (not too much) and really comfortable.  I love it when I don't have to alter jeans!  This same outfit would look good with boots and a scarf when the weather gets a little cooler.  And add a blazer.  Nice, new outfit!


Here's another Stitch Fix top (navy and white stripes) that I wore in Dallas recently.  It's so easy to wear and would also look great with denim or white jeans.  I like the way it's cut in the back too.  The strawberry necklace was a gift from one of my close friends years ago.  The shorts are Express and I've worn those Nine West wedges forever! 


This Stitch Fix drapey light-coral top is so good!  It's really soft and the blousy nature of it is pretty forgiving in the waist.  I probably would have passed this up in the store because it doesn't look so good on the hanger.  And that's the Stella & Dot Rebel Pendant necklace- super popular.  The white jeans are old from Express.  


It's pretty fun to get a surprise package in the mail and see what's inside. My first "fix" I kept two of the five things, and returned the other three.  (They give you a return envelope with pre-paid shipping for you to drop off at any USPS location within three days of receiving the package).

One of the things I returned was a heavy sweater and on the feedback you can provide, I made sure to tell them that I live in Houston and it's hot here, so no sweater necessary right now (was a couple months ago).  Had it been Fall, I would've kept it because it was really cute (rust colored asymmetrical with a zipper).  I also returned a black and gold cuff bracelet in a chevron pattern because I figured I have enough accessories.  And it was $35.  I figured I could probably find something similar cheaper.   

The two items I kept were a black and white striped lightweight long-sleeve top and the pair of jeans above.  The top has become one of my favorite things in my closet.  It has a bit of a frayed edge seam at the neck and cuff.  Those small details are part of what I like with the Stitch Fix clothes.


When my friend was initially telling me about Stitch Fix, we were excited about it because we both find it difficult to get to a store to try things on and sometimes we just want someone to suggest things for us!  I shop mostly online and often order two sizes, in case one doesn't fit.  Most everything I've gotten from Stitch Fix fits, I just have to determine if I like the item enough to keep it and if the price is right.  

When you fill out your style profile, they try to get a read on what kinds of things you like by asking if you you like/don't like/love a specific type of look and how often you're dressing for work, casual, cocktails, etc.  But, you can provide feedback and I pointed them to my Fashion Pinterest board too. 





Have y'all heard of Stitch Fix or tried it?  I swear, I must be living under a rock sometimes . . . My next fix is scheduled to arrive on Friday, July 18!  I'll Instagram what's inside so you can see how the shipments come and what I keep/return!  

____________

On Honey We're Healthy: Healthy Meal Prep










27 Jun 18:33

ISIS Execution Site Located

The photos and satellite images from Tikrit provide strong evidence of a horrible war crime that needs further investigation. ISIS apparently executed at the very least 160 people in Tikrit.

Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director

(Baghdad) – Analysis of photographs and satellite imagery strongly indicates that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) conducted mass executions in Tikrit after seizing control of the city on June 11, 2014.

The analysis suggests that ISIS killed between 160 and 190 men in at least two locations between June 11 and 14. The number of victims may well be much higher, but the difficulty of locating bodies and accessing the area has prevented a full investigation, Human Rights Watch said.


On June 12, ISIS claimed to have executed 1,700 “Shi’a members of the army” in Tikrit. Two days later, it posted to a website photographs with groups of apparently executed men. On June 22, Iraq’s human rights minister announced that ISIS had executed 175 Iraqi Air Force recruits in Tikrit.

“The photos and satellite images from Tikrit provide strong evidence of a horrible war crime that needs further investigation,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director. “ISIS apparently executed at the very least 160 people in Tikrit.”

On June 12, ISIS first announced on its now-closed Twitter feed that it had “exterminated” 1,700 Iraqi troops. The same day, the group posted videos of hundreds of captured men in civilian clothes, who it claimed had surrendered at the nearby Iraqi Speiker military base. On June 14, ISIS posted roughly 60 photographs, some of which show masked ISIS fighters loading captives in civilian clothes onto trucks and forcing them to lie in three shallow trenches with their hands bound behind their backs. Some of the images show masked gunmen pointing and firing their weapons at these men.

By comparing ground features and landmarks in the photographs released by ISIS, Human Rights Watch established that two of the trenches were at the same location. By comparing these photographs with satellite imagery from 2013 and publicly available photographs from Tikrit taken earlier, Human Rights Watch located the site in a field about 100 meters north of the Water Palace in Tikrit – a former palace of Saddam Hussein next to the Tigris River. The location of the third trench has not been identified.

Human Rights Watch also reviewed satellite imagery of the area recorded on the morning of June 16. The imagery does not reveal evidence of bodies at the site with the two trenches, but does show indications of recent vehicle activity and surface movement of earth that is consistent with the two shallow trenches visible in the ISIS photos. Without visiting the site it is impossible to know if bodies are buried there or were moved.

On June 22, the Iraqi human rights minister, Mohamed Shia Sudani, said at a news conference that the bodies of some of the 175 air force recruits who had been killed were thrown into the Tigris River and that others were buried in a mass grave. A spokesman for the minister confirmed that statement to Human Rights Watch on June 23.

An Iraqi security official said that as many as 11 bodies of the executed recruits had been recovered from the Tigris River downstream from the execution site.

The execution photographs that ISIS distributed suggest that gunmen killed the men at the site in at least three groups. The photographs show one group of men lying in one trench and a second group of men lying on top of the first. A third group of men is seen lying in a second trench.

Based on a count of the bodies visible in the available photographs, Human Rights Watch estimates that ISIS killed between 90 and 110 men in the first trench and between 35 and 40 men in the second.

A preliminary review of the shadow length and angle in the photographs suggests the two groups of men in the first trench were possibly executed around 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. The men in the second trench were possibly executed around 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Photographs from ISIS show a fourth group of approximately 30 to 40 prisoners on, and later next to, one of the two transport trucks on the main road between the execution site and the Water Palace. The photos were probably taken later that day, between 4 and 5 p.m.

One of the photographs that ISIS distributed suggests that the group killed prisoners at a second site around the same time, but Human Rights Watch has been unable to locate that site. That photograph shows a large trench with between 35 and 40 prisoners being shot by at least 8 ISIS fighters. Based on the shadow length and angle, the photograph was probably taken between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. One of the ISIS gunmen visible at that site was also visible in photographs from the killing site with the two trenches near the Water Palace.

The photographs and satellite imagery strongly suggest that ISIS transported its captives by trucks to the two killing sites. Human Rights Watch identified the same ISIS fighters and captured men in multiple photographs, including captives who were photographed in trucks and then again being unloaded from the same trucks next to the execution site at the Water Palace.

Human Rights Watch spoke with one man who said he fled Tikrit after the killings. The man said he watched from the rooftop of his home in the Hay al-Qadsia neighborhood in the late afternoon just after ISIS arrived as armed members of ISIS loaded hundreds of captured men onto trucks and drove them away:

I saw them with my own eyes. It was late afternoon. It was a long line. I saw about 10 armed gunmen with their guns pointed at the line of men, walking them to military trucks. Some of the gunmen had masks and others showed their faces. The [captured] men were not handcuffed. They wore civilian clothes.

The man said he did not know where the men took their captives and could not remember the exact date. Tikrit residents told him later they saw bodies floating in the Tigris, he said.

During an armed conflict, the murder of anyone not taking an active part in hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those in detention, is a war crime. Murder, when systematic or widespread and committed as part of a deliberate policy of an organized group, can be a crime against humanity. Both war crimes and crimes against humanity are considered international crimes, with criminal liability attaching to those who commit or order the crime, but also those who assist, and commanders who should have known of the crime but fail to prevent it.

Human Rights Watch has previously documented serious crimes by ISIS in other areas of Iraq and Syria, including car and suicide bomb attacks in civilian areas, summary executions, torture in detention, discrimination against women, and destruction of religious property. The evidence documented by Human Rights Watch strongly suggests that some of these acts may amount to crimes against humanity.

“ISIS is committing mass murder, and advertising it as well,” Bouckaert said. “They and other abusive forces should know that the eyes of Iraqis and the world are watching.”
 

17 Jun 17:44

what we eat

by Chelsea
Jessica Kendrick

I would love to be this efficient and healthy in the way that I eat.

I grew up eating pretty healthy, and I liked cooking healthy and had been for a while.  Audrey's eczema has been awful for a long time, so in November(ish) I decided to cut way back on dairy.  Then I read a bunch of nutrition books in January, and continued to make changes to our diet. I eliminated the majority of the processed food that we eat.  I never cooked with a lot of meat, but now I see it as a 2-3 times a week, as a side or cut up in a dish instead of a main meal.  I also tried to really ramp up the amount of vegetables that we were eating, and limit the amount of gluten in case it made a difference for Audrey's eczema.  We went out of town for a month, and we don't have a "family rule" about our nutrition so it's not like we are "perfect" at any set "diet", but we have decided that we are a family with a healthy lifestyle, which includes nutritious eating and active living.  We enjoy the abundance of the earth.

Recently I finished a book about Autism and various factors that can influence it, and I have found out that since the 80s parents of children with Autism have found a gluten and casein free diet makes enormous differences in behavior, theoretically because of a leaky-gut syndrom which causes peptides in them to have an opium like effect on the brain.  I don't know if Audrey even has Autism really, or has the "leaky-gut syndrome", and she tested negative for celiacs, but she continues to have bad eczema which I am sure is contributing to her short attention span and making her feel crazy, so I have tried to be better at limiting gluten (I don't use gluten-free oats, and we will periodically have a sandwich or something else, but trying to really cut back) and she's been dairy free for months now.  But I do feel like avoiding dairy and gluten has made a bit of difference.

I also for myself have really enjoyed cutting completely back on sugar and salt.  I hardly salt anything (but we do sometimes have processed salsa, or canned beans which contain salt).  And it has been really interesting getting rid of the sugar in our house.  I don't even have sugar in my pantry, and so I resort to using things like fruit, especially bananas, or carrots to sweeten things.  It has taken some getting used to but now I like it.

This is all really just for our family record, but I wanted to write down just a few of the foods that we are enjoying these days.

"Larabar cookies".  I found a recipe for homemade larabars, and have modified them and rolled them into balls and call them cookies.  Marketing, I tell you!  Audrey loves them and the babies usually do, Elijah is a bit more hit-or-miss.  Now I just do any nuts in the food processor with any dried fruit, sometimes with cinnamon.

These kids LOVE broccoli.  I steam a frozen bag and they eat it in no time.  Even Elijah!

Another frequent snack is cucumbers, bell peppers, and/or carrots dipped into HUMMUS.  They LOVE hummus.  I have tried to make it my own, but still haven't found a recipe I love, so usually just buy it.  I should keep working on it.

Our default breakfast for years now has been oatmeal.  I make some good oatmeal!  In the microwave I do oats with any combination of fun things like flaxseed, Chia seeds, sliced bananas, frozen berries, apples or applesauce, raisins, any other dried fruit, any type of nuts, cinnamon, ginger, almond milk, orange juice, or water, sometimes I'll stir in an egg or two to add a bit more protein.  Once it's been in the microwave a few minutes I scoop it into many little plastic bowls and everyone digs in.  All the kids have multiple bowlfuls every morning.  Audrey loves sensory input so she usually ends up dumping hers out and running her fingers through it, but the babies usually feed themselves really well with their little spoons.  Sometimes they get impatient and then they start eating by the fistful, and by the end of breakfast there usually are oats everywhere, but it's a nice filling meal that everyone enjoys.  (Except Ryan.)  

Smoothies.  I still make them quite often.  I try and do more fruit than veggies, but I almost always have carrots, spinach, avocado, in as well as any number of fruits.  The littles can say "Smoothie" which is too cute!

Another default snack are rice cakes.  On the go we have them plain.  At home we do PBJ on rice cake instead of regular bread.

I weaned the littles to water, but in the last month or two I've been worried about getting enough calcium (although there is a lot in broccoli and other veggies) so I will sometimes do almond milk or coconut milk, or fortified orange juice.   Periodically I buy whole milk and just keep Audrey away, but for the most part we do almond milk.

A favorite breakfast for special occasions is a 3-ingredient pancake I found on pinterest.  Eggs, peanut butter, and bananas.  Of course since I can never leave good-enough alone, I usually add flaxseeds and/or chia seeds, cinnamon, sometimes ginger or cloves, applesauce, ground up oats, etc.

These kids love "quesadillas"  (again, marketing.  They don't have any cheese!)  I bought a tortilla press (about $15 on amazon) and we have been making our own corn tortillas!  I didn't like the preservatives in most corn tortilla, and it is another nice gluten-free alternative.  It is not hard.  I make the dough, press it out, put it on the stove, and when I flip it over to cook the other side I usually put refried beans and avocados, salsa and spinach on it, then fold it in half and it's done.  Its time consuming to do many, but for our crew it's not bad.

I have a lot of dinners that I love, but few that are family (hm, kid) favorites.  Let's just say that these kids definitely eat breakfast like kings and dinner like paupers.  By their choice, of course.

One other thing for the record, it has been about 10 weeks now that I have been making a weekly meal plan.  For a few years I have been doing a weekly planning session going through what to do that week, but it always took so long to do meals that I usually let that part slide.  These 10 weeks I have been planning not just dinners but also breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.  The first few times took me forever, but I have been diligent and now it has gotten a ton easier and actually enjoyable when I can look and see what I'm supposed to be making, and I can go grocery shopping and know every last thing that I need.  So, if I ever get out of the habit, this is a reminder, Mrs Chelsea Ann, that I just have to stick with it a few weeks and it will continue to get easier.

That's just a little glimpse into our kitchen!



11 Jun 00:00

WWII Films

by xkcd
Jessica Kendrick

Wait what about the war of the roses? Or the 100 years war? Or the Roman Empire which can be argued as a series of wars?

WWII Films

Did WWII last longer than the total length of movies about WWII? For that matter, which war has the highest movie time:war time ratio?

—Becky

World War II was longer than the movies about it.

To tally up World War II movies, you could start with Wikipedia. The site lists about 400 unique titles across their various lists of World War II films.

Wikipedia is often the best place to find obsessive list-makers and categorizers. However, in the area of movie categorization, they have nothing on the people who tag plots on IMDb.

Before we finish answering Becky's question, let's take a brief side trip into the strange IMDb tagging world.

IMDb categorizes films with plot keywords. These words (or phrases) can be extremely specific, and cover a bizarre range of topics. For example, say you want to find all movies whose plot contains the following elements: "Nun", "laser", "binoculars", "electric shock", and "shot in the chest".

IMDb will tell you that there is one movie whose plot contains all those elements: The 2009 Steve Martin film The Pink Panther 2. To find other strange combinations, try clicking on a tag, then scrolling down to the "Refine by Keyword" section at the column on the right. Have fun.

Often, the people tagging articles aren't exactly, um, disinterested scholars. Skimming the other keywords for any innocuous search makes it pretty clear that many people are using the database to catalog every movie containing a scene that satisfies their particular prurient fascination.[1]There's nothing new about this, although the internet makes it easier; quicksand enthusiasts, for example, have been cataloging movies containing quicksand scenes since the VHS days.

But IMDb is more than just a fetish database.[citation needed] Other obsessed people—like history buffs—have contributed their own sets of IMDb tags. The end result is a staggeringly comprehensive database of plot elements—which brings us back to Becky's question.

IMDb lists 4,893 films tagged with "world-war-two". The list contains full-length movies, TV episodes, short films, and the occasional miniseries. I downloaded a random sample of these entries and found that the average run time was 95 minutes, which means the entire collection probably has a combined length of a little over 300 days. World War II lasted six years, for a war:film ratio of about 7:1.

This ratio is hard to beat; no other multi-year war has been the subject of nearly as many films. This is understandable; we're talking about bloodiest conflict in human history right in the middle of the golden age of Hollywood.

However, some very short wars come close to beating it. The Six Day War—fought in 1967 between Israel and a coalition comprising Egypt, Syria, Jordan—is a good candidate. IMDb lists 13 films tagged with "six day war", and the Israeli film database EDB lists an additional four. However, the Six Day War movies are heavy on short TV episodes, so their war:film ratio doesn't quite edge out World War II based on these lists.

It's probably impossible to prove conclusively which war has the higher ratio. There no doubt exist other films about the Six Day War in various regional collections which I couldn't find—and the same is certainly true of World War II.

There are other wars which might score even higher on Becky's scale. The Indo-Pakistani War in 1971 is a good candidate; it was a short war (13 days) in the middle of a conflict heavily covered by India's film industry. IMDb lists five films about the related 1971 Bangladesh war, and it's likely that many of the Bollywood films about the broader India-Pakistan conflict touch on it. My guess is that the 1971 war probably has a higher film:war ratio than World War II, but I wasn't able to find specific data to support this.

Maybe the most interesting potential answer to Becky's question is the Anglo-Zanzibar War. This one-sided colonial war, fought between the British Empire and the Sultinate of Zanzibar, lasted only 38 minutes.[2]The short version is that Zanzibar's sultan died and his nephew, Khalid bin Bargash, moved into the palace. The British, who had a more pro-British candidate in mind for the position, sent warships and demanded Khalid step down. He refused, so the British warships bombarded the island, killed hundreds of Zanzibaris, and set the palace on fire. Khalid fled and the British installed a puppet government. Only 38 minutes passed between the start of the shooting and the British capture of the palace. Given how short it was, it would only take a single film about it to make it the undisputed champion.

However, I couldn't find any films about this war. I'm sure one exists somewhere; if you can find it, feel free to tag it on IMDb. There's nothing there at the time of this writing, but maybe there will be soon.

Alternately, if Becky can find a historic site with some link to Zanzibar, has a cell phone camera which can record for more than 10 minutes, and feels like making an independent film ...

... she can answer her own question once and for all.

11 Jun 00:38

Neighbourhood Watch – Un street artist détourne les panneaux de surveillance du voisinage…

by ufunk
Jessica Kendrick

Even though this post is in French, you get the gist: awesome.

Neighbourhood Watch“, ou quand le street artist canadien Andrew Lamb s’amuse à détourner les panneaux de surveillance du voisinage de la ville de Toronto avec des collages des icônes des années 80 issues des films, des séries ou des dessins animés et des jeux vidéo… De Robocop à X-Files en passant par la famille Ingalls ou encore Mario et Ghosbusters, qui appellerez vous ?

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-13

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-1

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-14

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-2

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-11

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-24

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-17

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-5

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-10

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-3

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-23

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-12

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-4

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-26

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-27

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-9

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-6

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-20

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-7

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-19

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-8

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-15

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-16

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-18

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-21

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-22

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-25

Neighbourhood-Watch-Andrew-Lamb-28

Images © Andrew Lamb

12 Jun 16:05

found-liquorstore-and-drank-itt: ohmykarma: miscreantive: only...



found-liquorstore-and-drank-itt:

ohmykarma:

miscreantive:

onlylolgifs:

Giant Gummi Bear dropped into boiling Potassium Chlorate

YES

I love his reaction

like, “Yeah bitches we gonna do some sciOH SHIT TOO MUCH SCIENCE ABORT ABORT FUCK”

TOO MUCH SCIENCE 

12 Jun 01:32

Hah!

10 Jun 21:56

Morning scenes by early risers

by Arnold Chao

At the break of dawn, many of you are already up and busy shooting landscapes bathed in dramatic sunlight. There’s a staggering abundance of exceptional pictures from a “morning landscape” image search, and we can only highlight a portion of the ones we appreciate, including a few captions from the photographers:

Dockey Wood Morning Light
Damian_WardDockey Wood Morning Light

“I’m lucky enough to live about 30 minutes away from Dockey Wood, which is well regarded as on of the finest bluebell woods in England. As part of the Ashridge Estate, it is owned and managed by the National Trust and offers clean and uncomplicated woodland views full of bluebells.” – Damian Ward

Steckborn
PhiiiiiiiLSteckborn

“A classic spot at Lake Constance. The Turmhof castle in Steckborn, Thurgau, Switzerland” – Philipp Häfeli

Folly

“This morning I finally managed to get back out there and experience the odd euphoria of having made it to the top of a hill at 5am as the sun rises, knowing that a world of more sensible people are still asleep. Bit of a mixed bag of conditions today so I didn’t quite get what I wanted, although this little burst of early light through the mist was kind of spectacular for a few minutes.”

“Squint and you can just make out Firle Tower amidst the furthest clump of trees, a squat little castle turret folly that was built as a gamekeepers watchtower in the 1800s. I think its now a house.” – Finn Hopson

豆腐岩
郁軒的爸爸豆腐岩

Sunrise in Taiwan.

Crummock Water bathed in Light
VemsterooCrummock Water bathed in Light

“After I took the long way from Buttermere to Crummock which involved scrabbling up the hillside to escape a herd of cows and calves who were unimpressed with my presence (cows can be scary), I finally emerged by Crummock Water as the morning light began to catch, revealing the ridges and rolls of the landscape, almost flowing down the hillside.” – Vemsteroo

Carillion - Canberra, ACT
Rowland CainCarillion – Canberra, ACT

National Carillon tower, Canberra, Australia.

The Morning After
jactollThe Morning After

“A day after my last post … couldn’t resist shooting again because of the denser layer of river mist.” – David Dean

“Last shot from the series I took a few weekends ago from the South Downs on a beautiful misty Spring morning.” – Richard Paterson

Morning mist in Gloucestershire, England.

Morning Sun
Dave-B2012Morning Sun

“Cranes along the River Thames during sunrise.” – Dave Banbury

See, and share, more photography in the Morning light gallery and Morning Glory group.


12 Jun 15:46

Good Badlands: Dry Terrain of the American West Captured in a Brief Moment of Color by Guy Tal

by Christopher Jobson

Good Badlands: Dry Terrain of the American West Captured in a Brief Moment of Color by Guy Tal nature landscapes flowers deserts

Good Badlands: Dry Terrain of the American West Captured in a Brief Moment of Color by Guy Tal nature landscapes flowers deserts

Good Badlands: Dry Terrain of the American West Captured in a Brief Moment of Color by Guy Tal nature landscapes flowers deserts

Good Badlands: Dry Terrain of the American West Captured in a Brief Moment of Color by Guy Tal nature landscapes flowers deserts

Good Badlands: Dry Terrain of the American West Captured in a Brief Moment of Color by Guy Tal nature landscapes flowers deserts

Good Badlands: Dry Terrain of the American West Captured in a Brief Moment of Color by Guy Tal nature landscapes flowers deserts

Good Badlands: Dry Terrain of the American West Captured in a Brief Moment of Color by Guy Tal nature landscapes flowers deserts

The Badlands are a type of parched, sunbaked terrain characterized by jagged rock, cracked earth and, of course, minimal vegetation. It’s a harsh environment of lifeless wasteland but there is also good news to be found in the badlands. For the patient observer, like photographer Guy Tal, there is a delicate beauty that reveals itself only so often. “On rare years,” says Tal, describing his series of photos taken in the American West, “wildflowers burst into stunning display of color, transforming the desert into a veritable garden for just few precious days.” The reason, apparently, is that vegetation in the region has adapted to the climate. With just a tiny bit of moisture the desert can transform into a colorful garden of bright purple and yellow. You can see more photos on Tal’s website, or purchase his book More Than a Rock. (via Bored Panda)

Update: According to @happyhillers these are Scorpionweed and Beeplant flowers.

11 Jun 15:23

The New ‘Inspiration Pad’ Turns the Conventional Blue-Lined Notebook Upside Down

by Christopher Jobson

The New Inspiration Pad Turns the Conventional Blue Lined Notebook Upside Down creativity

The New Inspiration Pad Turns the Conventional Blue Lined Notebook Upside Down creativity

The New Inspiration Pad Turns the Conventional Blue Lined Notebook Upside Down creativity

The New Inspiration Pad Turns the Conventional Blue Lined Notebook Upside Down creativity

The New Inspiration Pad Turns the Conventional Blue Lined Notebook Upside Down creativity

The New Inspiration Pad Turns the Conventional Blue Lined Notebook Upside Down creativity

The New Inspiration Pad Turns the Conventional Blue Lined Notebook Upside Down creativity

The New Inspiration Pad Turns the Conventional Blue Lined Notebook Upside Down creativity

The New Inspiration Pad Turns the Conventional Blue Lined Notebook Upside Down creativity

Brussels-based design and advertising firm TM led by Marc Thomasset, just released the second edition of their wildly popular Inspiration Pad. The ruled notebook plays with the traditional red and blue-lined design of notebooks, turning each spread into a different layout to “inspire people to unleash their own creativity.” The 48-page notebook is printed on sustainable paper and is available here. (via This Isn’t Happiness)

13 Jun 11:07

A Secret to Good Habits and Happiness? Know Your Zone.

by gretchen@gretchenrubin.com (Gretchen Rubin)

thezoneI needed to set a meeting time with someone, and she said, “I know my zone. Let’s meet at 11:00.”

I was instantly intrigued by this phrase, “know my zone,” and I asked, “Why 11:00? Why is that ‘your zone?’”

She said, “I know from experience that if something’s important, I should schedule for 11:00. Any earlier, and I might be late or feel rushed. I have to drop off my sons at school, commute into the city, all that. I need a big margin. Plus, by 11:00 I’m wide awake and in the swing of my day. If I schedule something after lunch, I’m more tired and distracted. I get a lot of work done, but I use the 11:00 slot for what’s most important.”

By chance, I was talking to a writer friend about his habits, and he told me, “I never write before noon.” Now, this is interesting, because one of the most popular pieces of advice about good habits — and specifically about the habit of writing — is to write first thing in the day, because your mind is clearer, you have more energy, etc. This is certainly true for me. So I asked him why he doesn’t write before noon.

“I’m foggy,” he said. “It takes me a while to get going. By noon I’m ready.”

These exchanges reminded me of one of the most important things I’ve learned about habits, as I’ve been writing my new book: there’s no magic, one-size-fits-all solution. (Want to hear when this masterpiece goes on sale? Sign up here.)

Some people — maybe most people — do better when they schedule important habits for the morning, but that’s not true for everyone. Along the same lines, some people do better when they start small; others when they start big. Some people like a lot of activity and stimulation; others prefer quiet and simplicity.

We don’t make ourselves more creative and productive by copying other people’s habits; we must know our own nature, and what habits serve us best.

Each of us needs to figure out our zone. Self-knowledge! Everything in habits and happiness comes down to self-knowledge.

Do you know your zone? I’m a morning person, and I know that very well about myself.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. You can ignore that RSS business.

08 Jun 12:47

“Anxiety and Ennui Are the Scylla and Charybdis on Which the Bark of Human Happiness Is Most Often Wrecked.”

by gretchen@gretchenrubin.com (Gretchen Rubin)
Jessica Kendrick

sometimes I wish I talked like this.

ScyllaCharybdis“Anxiety and Ennui are the Scylla and Charybdis on which the bark of human happiness is most often wrecked.”

– William Edward Hartpole Lecky, The Map of Life

According to myth, “Scylla and Charybdis” are two sea hazards that blocked the Strait of Messina — a rock shoal with a monster on one side , and a sea monster/whirlpool on the other.

Using this phrase is the same as saying “between a rock and a hard place” or “out of frying pan into the fire.” So Lecky’s point is that to be happy, we must steer between anxiety and ennui, and not allow ourselves to be wrecked by either.

Agree, disagree?

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. You can ignore that RSS business.

04 Jun 18:22

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 10-Point Manifesto for His Apprentices.

by gretchen@gretchenrubin.com (Gretchen Rubin)

taliesinEvery Wednesday is Tip Day — or List Day.
This Wednesday: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Manifesto for His Apprentices.

I’ve posted this before, but I’m posting it again, because I love personal manifestos — for instance, on the home pages of their blogs, Bob Sutton includes his 17 Things I Believe about work and Madame X lists My Rules about money (look in the right-hand column).

I read Frank Lloyd Wright’s Autobiography and found it very thought-provoking. In it, he includes a list of the “Fellowship Assets” that he outlined for the architecture apprentices he worked with at Taliesin, his summer home, studio, and school.

1. An honest ego in a healthy body.
2. An eye to see nature
3. A heart to feel nature
4. Courage to follow nature
5. The sense of proportion (humor)
6. Appreciation of work as idea and idea as work
7. Fertility of imagination
8. Capacity for faith and rebellion
9. Disregard for commonplace (inorganic) elegance
10. Instinctive cooperation

This list was interesting to me, because although it’s quite short, it packs in a lot of big ideas and strongly held views. It really started me thinking — to ask, “What does Wright mean by ‘inorganic’ or even ‘nature’?” “What’s an ‘honest ego’?” I particularly loved #5 — the inclusion of humor on this list, and the tying of humor to a sense of proportion. I’d never thought of humor as an expression of a sense of proportion, but I think that’s one reason that humor can be so helpful at difficult moments.

Writing a personal manifesto is a very interesting exercise; it really forces you to articulate your values. Have you ever written a manifesto for yourself? Was it a useful exercise?

I wrote my manifesto, though I should probably update it. Scroll down; my manifesto is below some other manifestos. I love manifestos! If you have one, post it please. They’re so fascinating.

I need to write my habits manifesto. That will be fun. But first I need to finish the book. If you want to hear when my book about habit-formation goes on sale, sign up here.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. You can ignore that RSS business.

06 Jun 12:55

Why the Anniversary of D-Day Gave Me a Moment of Happiness.

by gretchen@gretchenrubin.com (Gretchen Rubin)
Jessica Kendrick

equally cool is cumberbatch reading the BBC's radio transcripts from D-day today. I'll try to find it and share it here.

d-dayMy husband and I sleep with all-news radio playing (which I’m sure is a very bad idea, but we do), and I woke this morning to the reminder that today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when the Allied trips landed on the beaches of  Normandy.

I read a lot about D-Day when I was writing Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, my biography of Churchill. What a subject! How I loved writing that book.

And one of my favorite moments in my research was when I read about what General Eisenhower did to prepare for the invasion.

In case the invasion failed, Eisenhower had prepared a statement, known as “In Case of Failure”:

incaseoffailure

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.

 

 

This is a momentous example of one of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever received, from my father. He said, “If you take the blame, when you deserve it, people will give you responsibility.” I’ve found that to be very true.

And this memory reminded me of another story that I love about Eisenhower. It illustrates one of my Secrets of Adulthood: Sometimes, words only diminish what we want to convey.

I love this story so much that I get choked up whenever I think about it. (If you want to see me tell the story, you can watch the video here.)

At the end of the war, in May 1945, the German military commanders had unconditionally surrendered, and the time came when they signed the surrender documents. Obviously this was a momentous, awe-inspiring event.

Afterwards, General Eisenhower needed to send a message to the combined Chiefs of Staff, to tell them that this had been done, and Eisenhower’s colleagues proposed various drafts of grand language for the victory message.

Eisenhower rejected all suggestions, and wrote:

“The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7th, 1945.”

missionofthisalliedforce

So simple, so beautiful. Sometimes words can only diminish what we want to convey.

One of the most pure, satisfying sources of happiness is the feeling of transcendence. It can be difficult, in the crush of everyday life, to find moments of transcendence. Memories prompted by this D-Day anniversary brought me that feeling of awe.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. You can ignore that RSS business.

02 Jun 17:58

Are You Overlooking This Giant Influence on Your Habits?

by gretchen@gretchenrubin.com (Gretchen Rubin)
Jessica Kendrick

Arthur dear, please tell me we've only acquired each other's good habits.

contagiousIn Maxims and Reflections, Goethe wrote, “Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are; if I know how you spend your time, then I know what might become of you.”

As I was doing the initial research for my forthcoming masterpiece of a book, about habit-formation, I tended to focus on strategies that I use as an individual.

I realized, however, that while it’s easy to imagine myself operating in isolation,  in fact, other people’s actions and habits exert tremendous influence on me, as mine do on them.

All the strategies of habit-formation deserve to be—and have been—the subject of entire books, but the Strategy of Other People is the strategy that’s hardest to distill into a single chapter. Our influence on each other’s habits is a vast subject. And it’s one of the most powerful, sometimes almost irresistible, strategies.

For instance, my husband, in particular, makes a big difference to my habits. In a phenomenon known as “health concordance,” couples’ health habits and statuses tend to merge over time. One partner’s health behaviors—habits related to sleep, eating, exercise, doctor visits, use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana—influence those behaviors in a partner. If one partner has Type 2 diabetes, the other partner faces a significant increase in the risk of developing it, as well. If one partner gives up cigarettes or alcohol, the other is more likely to quit.

My husband’s unwavering commitment to exercise has helped me stay dedicated. I also caught his habit of reading multiple books at one time, and buying books even when I have a huge pile I haven’t read yet. (Before we were married, I read one book at a time, and never allowed myself to acquire more than five unread books).

Also, some of my habits bothered him so much that I gave them up. For some reason, he objected to my snacking in bed. The things we do for love.

To quote another great thinker, in Letters from a Stoic, Seneca advised, “Associate with people who are likely to improve you.” This turns out to be very effective, because we do so readily pick up habits — good and bad — from each other.

How about you? Can you think of times when you’ve caught a good or bad habit from someone around you? Or when someone has caught your habit? A few years ago, I dramatically changed my eating habits (that’s a story for another day, and an example of the Strategy of the Lightning Bolt,  but if you’re curious, check out Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat), and I’ve noticed that my change has led to changes in other people, as my habits rubbed off on them.

To hear when my book about habit-formation goes on sale, sign up here.

01 Jun 11:09

ancient and modern

by Jane Brocket

IMG_0615

Blue Boar Quad at Christ Church

I've always liked the title Hymns Ancient and Modern and the way it brings together a whole world and history of hymn-singing which was something we did a lot of at primary school (it was probably one of the few ways to keep a class of forty children under control, and we had a fearsome piano-playing teacher who could turn you into stone with a stare if you giggled at words or someone else's out of tune singing). It came back to me yesterday as Simon and I went to look at a number of C20 buildings in various Oxford colleges on a C20 Society walking tour which could have had the title 'Buildings Ancient and Modern'. (There are a few photos on Instagram.)

  IMG_0598

Copper-covered Geography building

Led by a knowledgeable Oxford architect, we walked for hours and had privileged glimpses inside parts of colleges not normally open to the public (this kind of thing makes membership of the Society great value). We saw lots of concrete, masses of glass, plenty of Portland stone, and a mix of innovative, creative solutions, clever feats of engineering, and the occasional mistake and vanity project. It must be incredibly tricky to build in or close to some of the most beautiful ancient quads in the world, but some Sixties architects managed it, the best of whom I thought were Powell & Moya at Christ Church (here and here) and Arne Jacobsen at St Catherine's. 

IMG_0595

Dining Hall, St Catherine's, Arne Jacobsen

But the whole ancient/modern theme ran deeper than the wonderful architecture, as I think this day was the day that we ourselves were classed officially as ancient by Alice and Phoebe who failed to see the appeal of the walk. It's been coming for a while with Tom and Alice going to university and now Phoebe not far off joining them, but it's only now really beginning to sink in that as from September (if all goes well), for much of the time we are going to be back in the situation we were in before we had children, only now we are 21 years older. The things we want to do and enjoy doing sound incredibly ancient to young ears and yet what's funny is that actually they are the same things we were doing pre-children - maybe we  have always been culturally ancient.

IMG_0597

 Barbara Hepworth at St Catherine's

So the Now We Are Old list is growing all the time, and the best aspect of yesterday was the fact that we  still love doing stuff together.

  IMG_0605

One last thing on the theme: I was particularly enthralled by the wonderful, rigorous horizontal and vertical lines I saw in the C20 architecture, and the contrast between ancient and modern and how well they can work together was brought home by seeing Sean Scully extremely vertical/horizontal modern paintings  next to the Old Masters and medieval paintings in the beautiful, simple, classically influenced Christ Church Picture Gallery.

02 Jun 17:50

How We Save On Purchases For The Home

by Jennifer Jones
Jessica Kendrick

Good shopping resources for home stuff.

We all know that purchases for the home can quickly add up and it is always nice to save some extra cash on those purchases whenever we can.  There are times when we inherent home items for free from family or from a nearby curb, and times we splurge on the perfect piece of full price furniture.  There are definitely different levels of being "thrifty", and although I am sure we still have a lot to learn, I thought I would take a moment to share a few of the ways we have saved on some of our bigger home purchases over the years.

 

Wait for Holidays

I am not the most patient person in the world; I always ruin surprises and shake presents days before Christmas in my attempt to figure out the contents.  But if I know that we have a larger home purchase coming up, I always wait for a holiday to roll around.  It seems that many of the big retailers offer their best deals and sales around major holidays, such as President's Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Black Friday is an obvious time to save and we always keep a small Black Friday fund which we have used to snag deals on our treadmill, our lower level TV, our desktop computer and our floor vac {we let ourselves make up to one home purchase on Black Friday per year based on our needs}.  By saving throughout the year and shopping the ads a day or two in advance to find the best deals, we have found that it is worth the wait.  We waited to purchase our sofa until a President's Day {50% off sale} and saved hundreds on our fridge by waiting until a big Labor Day sale at Lowes and purchasing a discontinued model.  Do I think that many of these "sales" are a little gimicky at times?  Absolutely.  It is important to keep an eye on prices throughout the year and be sure you really are saving when those holidays roll around.



Purchase Refurbished

I have never been against purchasing used when it comes to our vehicles, and major home purchases are no different.  In fact, some of our biggest savings have been on refurbished electronics, which we have been using and loving for years now.

For us, the key is purchasing from a trusted source.  I haven't had experience purchasing refurbished on auction sites out of hesitation, however, I have purchased a refurbished Dyson from Woot and my laptop from Apple.  My son also saved up and purchased his iPod refurbished from Mac and my husband purchased a tablet refurbished from Woot as well.  Each of those items have come to us in pristine condition, and I never would have even known that they were ever used or weren't brand new.


How do you know who to trust?  That is always the tricky part and when I am most grateful for online reviews.  Many online retailers have begun offering refurbished items, so I tend to search sites that I would trust for anything new and that has a good reputation and still stick with brands I trust.  Also, I look for "factory certified refurbished" descriptions and items that offer warranties.


Craigslist

I am not going to get too much into thrifting because we all know the steels and deals that can be found at thrift stores and yard sales, but I did want to make sure to mention Craigslist for a moment.  It is definitely hit or miss but you can never go wrong checking in from time to time on home wish list items.  There is nothing you can't find on Craigslist; everything from dining tables to lamps to rugs and art.  Some things can be found in pristine condition and other items need some lovin'.  I just know we wouldn't have found our favorite piece of furniture if it wasn't for Craigslist, and we definitely wouldn't have found it at such a great price if we wouldn't have purchased it from a couple looking to downsize in a huge hurry.  And now that Craigslist shows images right within the search, it has gotten even easier to find that perfect item.



Poach it!

This is one of my new favorite ways to save.  Poach It helps you monitor the prices and coupon codes for your wish list items.  Shopping is always a gamble, isn't it?  Do you wait for the item to go on clearance and risk losing it forever or not being able to snag it in the right color or size?  Do you risk purchasing now, only to have the item go on sale in a few days or even weeks?  I always have a hard time paying full price for something that I know will eventually be on sale or clearance, and Poach it now watches my favorite items for me and notifies me when something on my list has a change in price!  How great is that?  All you have to do is add the "Poach it" button to your bookmark bar {just like the "Pin it" button for Pinterest}, and when you are doing your online shopping and find something you love, you click that button and it saves it to your profile.  Then, when the price changes because the item has gone on sale, you will receive an email notification.  No more daily check-ins, I just let Poach It do the work for me.




Ebates

I signed up for Ebates last year, and now try to use it for all of our online purchases.  So far, I have saved over $200 just by using their free service, and I know that number would be higher if I would actually remember to use it every single time.  The process is simple, you just log into your Ebates account, search the retailer you are making an online purchase from, and it will pull up any sales/coupons for that retailer, as well as a cash back percentage.  Some of my favorite online retailers offer anywhere from 2-6% cash back on online purchases, and that definitely adds up over time!  And because there is no cost for using the service, it has been a sweet little bonus in our pockets.


Retail Me Not

I have shared this one in the past, but it is a long time favorite.  RetailMeNot is another online coupon code finder that I always rely on for both online and in store purchases.  Finding coupons for your favorite retailers is super simple, and what I love most is that they also have a smartphone app that allows you to use those coupons right within stores vs. online only.  I use this most frequently at JoAnn & Michaels on craft supplies, but I also often find coupons for clothing purchases and even some restaurants.


Daily Deal Sites

I don't always rely on daily deal sites because there is a risk of purchasing something impulsively because it is a "good deal" and not necessarily because I need it.  Caution is key with these sites, I tend to utilize them for very specific items and try to scroll past the rest.  For example, we have been looking for a small side table for the end of our sofa for almost two years now.  Knowing the specific dimensions and factors, I have been keeping my eyes peeled any time we are out and about, but also when new sales are released on my favorite daily deal sites.  I finally found one on Joss & Main by checking in frequently, and I love that I have never seen anything like it at any of the local mass retailers.  I tend to utilize Joss & Main the most, because not only do they offer a small savings on home decor pieces during their flash sales, but you can also earn credit to apply to those savings through referrals.  You do not have to be a blogger in order to earn credit, there are many ways for anyone to earn credits by sharing your favorite items or purchases on Facebook and Pinterest.  I tend to pin quite a few things I spot on Joss & Main because their sales rotate and many items come back on sale multiple times.  Therefore, if I see something I love, I can decide to save up for it and watch for it to return or I can use it as inspiration to DIY my own version, both which I have done in the past.  And if the sale does not come back on Joss, I can typically find the item at their sister site, Wayfair.com.  A few daily deal sites I utilize are Joss & Main, One Kings Lane {home decor and furnishings}, Zulily {kid's items, kitchen gadgets and home storage}, Woot {electronics and appliances}, Hautelook {furnishings and clothing/accessories} and GroopDealz {art prints, small gadgets and pillow covers}.



Google it!

Whenever I find an item that I am ready to pull the trigger on, I always paste it into my Google search and then click the "shopping" results link.  This will pull up multiple web results and retailers offering that item, as well as the selling price for that item.  This allows me to quickly determine if I am in fact, receiving the best price and provides me with alternative options I may not have considered.


Amazon

This is not necessarily the biggest money saver, however, I do make quite a few purchases on Amazon.com.  I love that I can receive free shipping on most everything {especially since upgrading to their Prime service}, that they stay fairly competitive pricing wise and that I can do a lot of my shopping all at once with their huge selection of items.  Amazon has helped me save a lot on my camera and photography equipment and even on some of my cleaning supplies!




My other "go to" sources for savings on home products:

Rugs:  Rugs can be incredibly expensive, especially once you start searching for larger options.  I have purchased rugs from quite a few retailers, however, RugsUSA seems to offer the best sale prices as well as frequent discount codes and free shipping.  They are definitely my first stop for over-sized options.

Fabric:  Fabric.com has a huge selection and offers free shipping on orders over $35 as well as free shipping on all returns {which I LOVE}.  They also frequently have discounts and coupon codes. 

{rug from RugsUSA / fabric from Fabric.com}

Furniture:  Overstock.com is a great place to check for discounted interior and exterior home items and furnishings.  I have only purchased from Overstock a few times, but I have been a happy customer every time.  And their return process is really quick and easy, and their selection ranges from rugs to lighting to bathroom fixtures.  We were recently shopping around for a new mattress and after finding a huge sale at a local mattress outlet, I found the same mattress for another $200 off at Overstock!  With free shipping, it was a huge win and an unexpected surprise.

Hardware:  I love Anthropologie hardware as much as the next person, but when looking for beautiful hardware on a budget, I turn to D. Lawless Hardware.  They have a huge selection of unique options, and even offer beautiful glass embellished hooks and beautiful label holders at great prices.

{Cabinet Hardware from D. Lawless}

I am sure there are more that I may be forgetting, so I will be sure to update the post as I find new ways to save a penny or two on items for the home.  And I would love to hear your savvy shopping secrets as well!  What are your favorite resources for interior products?  Where have you scored your biggest savings?


29 May 04:40

A reintroduction… wait is that a word?

by jlindzkendrick
Jessica Kendrick

I've started blogging again. Not sure what I'm doing here, but I think it's important enough that I share it.

Hello again internet.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. I did the whole my thoughts are really important blog when I was single, and I did the-this is our life and we’re cool and blah blah blah blahg-spot blog for a bit too. And then things changed. Facebook went mobile. Instagram became the new thing. The kids started using tumblr. (I can’t tumblr. I just can’t. It’s too ADHD for me. I realize this makes me old.)

And between that and the real life changes in my life– job changes, baby changes, moving changes, friend changes– I lost that drive to write, to create. Maybe because my focus is all on creating life, concrete, hard, life-in-the-moment kind of life that to find that creative mental space is such a challenge now.

And yet, here I am again, blogging, at 11:30 in the evening. Perhaps this will keep me accountable.

The goal is to as the phrase goes, “hit my stride.” I’m not a runner, never have been, probably never will be. But a few times in my life, I’ve hit my stride, when all the pieces fell into place and I was able to manage life and create at the same time. It’s such a sure place, a comfortable place, it’s the place where I know I belong.

Join me as I find it?

XOXO–

J


27 May 16:30

Three Things to Simplify Now to Save Time Everyday

by Jennifer Jones
Jessica Kendrick

I'm loving on this post HARD. I feel like everything in my life needs a giant purge going on.

One of the glorious aspects of blogging, is connecting with people that you may never have been able to connect with otherwise.  I was recently virtually introduced to Emily of So Damn Domestic, and I realized that we fit together like peanut butter and jelly.  We both love finding ways to make our homes happier; and for us that usually involves simplifying, streamlining, organizing and finding cleaning shortcuts.  Emily shares her straight forward decluttering, organizing and cleaning advice on her blog, and I find her approach refreshing and exciting.  I invited her here today to share her top tips for simplifying now, which will save precious time everyday moving forward.



If you’ve been meaning to declutter and simplify, or if you’re on that path now, it’s probably because you’ve realized that excess is not just taking up space in your home.  Far from it.  It also sucks up any extra time you might have.  (And who really has “extra” time?  Not me.)

When you spend time washing extra things, moving things around to get to other items you need more, and organizing and reorganizing stuff you never have time to actually use, there’s not much time for anything else.

And I know you want that time back.

You don’t just want it back.  You need it back.  Because that’s the time you’re supposed to be using to make wonderful memories with your family, to pursue your dreams, to take care of yourself, and to engage in your favorite down-time activities.

So it’s time to pare down a bit.  Here are some things you can simplify NOW (whether it’s a block of time this weekend, or a little bit each day) so that you’ll be able to stop wasting time and have a few more hours for what’s really important in life.


Simplify NOW: Anything You Have to Launder

The Problem:  When we have more clothes, towels, sheets, cloth napkins, and anything else that needs laundering, it’s far easier to get behind on laundry.  And when that happens, it feels like we have piles of dirty clothes scolding us for not washing them, baskets of clean clothes guilting us for not folding them, and the machines beeping at us constantly.

The Solution: When we “edit” our collection to include only our favorite things and the essentials, we are forced to keep up with the laundry schedule.  And because our loads of laundry will be more frequent and smaller, they’ll be much easier and faster to fold and put away, too.

What to do NOW:  Go through your dresser and closet (and your kids’ clothes too) and toss the just-in-case stuff into a box for donation.  You know the stuff I mean.  This is the clothing you never really want to wear, given other choices, but you end up wearing now and then when you’re behind on laundry.  Don’t give yourself the opportunity to get behind.  Toss the insurance clothes.


Simplify NOW: Any Kitchen Excess

The Problem:  When we go into the kitchen to make a meal or even just to get a drink of water, any time we have to move extra junk to get to what we need, we are wasting our time.  And when we have too many of something (like drinking glasses), we tend to use more than we really need to.  Which means we have more dishes to wash.

The Solution:  If there’s another tool we have that can do the job, we can get rid of the unnecessary duplicates (I recently got rid of my trivets when I realized I always use kitchen towels for that purpose anyway).  We can keep track of our glasses and mugs instead of getting a new one for every sip, and if we need to wash them right away to use them for a different beverage, it only takes a minute.  If something is rarely or never used, we won’t miss it when we declutter it.  But we will love how simple it is to operate in the kitchen each day.

What to do NOW:  Start with your cooking utensils.  How many whisks do you really need?  How many spatulas?  Wooden spoons?  Et cetera.  Keep only a couple of each, and get rid of your least favorites.


Simplify NOW: Downtime Stuff

The Problem:  We think of ourselves as readers, as crafters, as woodworkers, or as photographers.  And before we know it, we find we’re surrounded by the stuff of those hobbies.  Cases full of books, drawers and bins of craft supplies and works-in-progress, wood scraps that have no plan or intended future, photography props and rolls of seasonal backdrops.  But when we let ourselves acquire so many things, we are forced to spend time maintaining those things.  Cleaning them, organizing them, storing them and cleaning the storage containers, and so on.  And before we know it, we have very few hours to actually use for those hobbies we supposedly value.

The Solution:  We just need to focus on one thing at a time.  We can borrow a book from the library and read it until we’re finished with it, then borrow a new one.  If we’re working on a painting, it should be our main project until it’s complete and hanging on the wall.  If we’re knitting a sweater, we don’t need to buy yarn for future projects yet.  If we build a piece of furniture, we can let go of the scraps afterward, knowing that we’ll buy the exact materials we need for the next project, when it’s time to focus on another one.  And we can simplify our photography props by keeping the 20% of them we use 80% of the time anyway, and letting the rest go.

When we spend less time maintaining extra hobby items, and focus on one project at a time versus juggling (and finding places to store) multiple unfinished ones, we’ll have more time to actually do those projects we always say we prioritize in our lives.

What to do NOW:  Gather all of your scraps for donation to your local school’s art class or a similar group that will actually use them.  Bits of wood, partial skeins of yarn, small pieces of fabric, leftover scrapbooking paper, and so on.  Also collect neglected DVDs, CDs, video games, and books to give to your library, a local children’s home, or another nonprofit where they’ll be used and enjoyed.

 
What now?

Reading about simplifying is well and good, but it won’t change your life unless you actually get up, throw open your closets, cabinets, and storage bins (not all at one time though), and make it happen.

I know you’re busy.  But the thing is, if you want some of your time back so that you can be less busy soon, you have to find time to simplify NOW.

Are you ready to take that first step?



Emily Chapelle is an expert homemaker, having set up six different houses in seven years of military moves.  She’s also the mother of two adorable curly-haired kids, wife to a Navy fighter pilot, and a former teacher, childcare provider, and nanny.  Now she works from home to spread encouragement and inspiration to other homemakers with a no-nonsense attitude and lots of tough love.  She blogs at So Damn Domestic.  Get her free eBook, Finding the Awesome: 3 Steps to Doing More & Stressing Less for more inspiration and guided, broken-down exercises to find your Awesome.


28 May 11:00

Wardrobe Wednesday | Chambray & Lace Shorts

by Megan // Honey We're Home
Jessica Kendrick

I normally like the look of lace shorts and rue that they would look really dumb as a Bermuda or cropped short but the ones she's wearing are just fugly. And they aren't lined!

Hump day already! Feels good to be so close to the weekend again! I've been trying to wear more of my clothes in different ways to make the most of items already in my closet. My friend Trisa is great at this- she'll have one thing she wears a hundred different ways and I admire how many outfits she can create.  I always wear this chambray shirt with white skinny jeans, so I tried pairing it with shorts to give me another look.  I'm liking this chambray + lace shorts combo.  It's great here right now on days it's not too hot.

GAP 1969 Chambray One Pocket Shirt |  | Leopard Skinny Belt |  TJ Maxx Lace Shorts 



I've worn these shorts with a simple black tank too- better for when the temperatures rise. 

Since my shorts aren't available online, I found these cute options. 







:: shop the look :: 




Turn on your JavaScript to view content

*affiliate links used
24 May 09:03

thanks

by Jane Brocket
Jessica Kendrick

all of these pictures make me want to sleep in a bed of desserts forever.

DSCF0224_edited-1

jammy buns

Just to say

DSCF0229_edited-1

madeira cake

thank you very much 

DSCF0649_edited-1

hazelnut meringue cake

for your comments and emails, for having a look at my Facebook page and Instagram photos. 

Thank you. Have a good weekend, perhaps with cake and books and fresh air and flowers.

(all recipes in Vintage Cakes)

09 May 16:00

"Creative Ideas Aren't Enough—You Need the Courage to Act On Them."

by ollintern

 image

IDEO founder David Kelley, and his brother Tom Kelley have written Creative Confidence: an inspiring book that details the power of unleashing the creative potential that lies within each of us. Former intern Hannah Rubin interviewed Tom about how creative confidence can change your life: 

Hannah: Firstly, what is Creative Confidence? And how does it relate to the average person?

Tom Kelley: Creative confidence is the natural human ability to come up with breakthrough ideas and the courage to act on them. We all have more creative potential waiting to be released. Since everyone was creative at some point in their lives (consider kindergarten), the challenge is more about unlocking creative potential than generating it from scratch.

When people become confident in their own creative ability, it changes everything. Think about how much more positive your life is when you see yourself as a creative person. When you have creative confidence, you can change things. You can do what you set out to do.

You’ve mentioned your ideas about the difference between creativity and talent. Tell us more:

Tom: When people say ‘I’m not creative,’ in many cases it comes from the misperception that “real creativity” just comes naturally—without any effort. Yet no one, including Mozart, sat down at the piano the first day and wrote sonatas. Right? Even to be in the medium range of expressing your piano abilities takes work. There’s technique to it. There’s process. There’s a methodology that you have to practice.

Creative ideas aren’t enough—you also need the courage to act on them. Be brave. Be persistent. The world needs your creative confidence.

How do you think National Novel Writing Month ties into your project to get people to feel more confident creatively?

Tom: Creative confidence is like a muscle—it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and practice. In my experience, the best way to do that is through action, one step at a time.

NaNoWriMo strengthens creative confidence, because it enables people to surprise themselves with how creative they really are.

What are some other sorts of things that people can do to recharge the creative parts of themselves that don’t often get to see the sunlight?

Tom: A good portion of the book’s message is to do more exploring. Just constantly try new things in a low-risk way. Or look for ways to reframe a problem that you’re working on, ways it might be solved in a different or a better way. Some of your experiments aren’t going to work—like trial and error. But be in the mode of ‘I’m the kind of person that tries stuff, because in the process I discover ideas that work and succeed and blossom and grow.’

— Hannah

12 May 15:50

Publish Your Book in 6 Weeks: a BookBaby Guide

by capitanoll

image

As a NaNoWriMo sponsor, BookBaby is providing a comprehensive, 6-week guide to turning your first draft into a published book that “will catch readers’ attention, get reviewers talking, and take you to the next level in your writing career.” Download the full guide now, or get a preview of it below:

You worked hard writing your novel; it would make sense that you’d want your words to find an audience. What you do from here on out will determine whether or not someone reads the words in your manuscript. That’s why it’s important to find the right balance between strategically planning your launch (so you’ll be able to build interest in your book), and getting things done according to a timeline—because the last thing you want to do is sit on a finished manuscript indefinitely.

So: what goes into planning your book’s launch into the great big world out there?

(Note: You’ll most likely be working on several of the steps mentioned below concurrently. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume you’re allotting 2-4 weeks for each step with overlap. At that rate, you’ll be able to successfully launch your book in 6-12 weeks. )

Step 1: Know when you’re really done with your book

First, try re-reading your manuscript with fresh eyes. Pretend it’s a brand new book written by someone else. If you find any flaws, fix ‘em; but chances are you’re too close to your own writing to be able to make objective decisions at this point. That’s why you need to find some careful and qualified readers to help you polish up your manuscript before publication.

Bring your manuscript to your writing group and circulate it among trusted writers, teachers, mentors, or other professionals in your community. If you don’t have an extensive local writing community, get help from online writing and critique groups on the NaNoWriMo forums, or sites such as Skypen, World Literary Cafe, You Write On, or Authonomy

Step 2: Edit your book (It’s essential.)

Even the most successful authors in the world work with professional editors, and you should too. Unfortunately, editing is the publication steps indie authors most often skip, and it shows in their work. No matter how good your manuscript, an editor can help you make it great. 

Whether you need to work with a developmental editor on a major revision, a copy editor to make your prose sparkle, or a professional proofreader, editing is essential to publishing a successful book.

To see how a professional editor can help you improve your book, get a sample of your writing edited for free by FirstEditing.com.

Step 3: Prepare your book for publication

Before you print your books and/or publish an e-book, you’ll want to come up with some jacket copy and a captivating book blurb that will help you sell your book. You should also consider printing galleys and sending them out to services such as Kirkus Indie for early review. That way you’ll have some quotes from professional book reviewers to include on the back of your book, in your press materials, on your website, and more.

When it’s time to move ahead with publishing, make sure your book has a great cover, is formatted properly for e-book conversion, and that your printed book has an attractive and reader-friendly design.

Step 4: Get a jump start on book marketing basics

The last thing you want to do is publish a book and then start thinking about how to market it. You need to begin your book marketing preparations well in advance of your launch.

If you don’t have a website, get one! Then put together your basic book promotion materials, including:

  • an author bio
  • an author photo
  • web content that boosts your online presence
  • hi-res image of your book cover
  • a press release
  • book trailer
  • and more

You should also look into running a Goodreads giveaway in advance of your book release to build anticipation and increase your chances for additional reader-generated reviews.

Step 5: Publish your book

The time has arrived. You’ve prepared, and now you’re ready to: 

Step 6: Promote your book

Once your physical books are printed and your digital books are available on all the popular eBook retail stores, it’s time to get the promotion machine going full-steam-ahead:

If you’ve completed everything up to this point, nice going! It’s time to pat yourself on the back; you’ve taken your book all the way from the first word on the first page through publication and promotion. The only thing left to do is host an unforgettable book launch party to celebrate your achievements with your supporters. 

Have a blast. You earned it. 

Christopher Robley is the 2013 winner of Boulevard’s Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers. His writing has been published in Prairie Schooner, Poetry Magazine, RHINO, Magma, and more. Robley’s music has been praised by the likes of NPR, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. Skyscraper Magazine called him, “one of the best short story musicians to come along in quite some time.” He is also the editor for the BookBaby Blog and CD Baby’s DIY Musician Blog.

19 May 15:41

"At this point in a story, voices in our heads whisper that we’re wasting time. Why are we..."

by capitanoll
“At this point in a story, voices in our heads whisper that we’re wasting time. Why are we spending hours alone in front of our computers? How does that help a hurting planet?

Don’t listen. Storytelling is a powerful act. Stories have the mysterious power to widen hearts and change minds. The human psyche is never quite the same after receiving a story.”

- Mitali Perkins, on the secret power of novelists.
15 May 19:38

72 Lines to Jump-Start Your Brain.

by gretchen@gretchenrubin.com (Gretchen Rubin)
Jessica Kendrick

So many thoughts. These are gems. Why don't we say more of these?

marriageofheavenandhellI love paradoxes, koans, parables, proverbs, Secrets of Adulthood, and aphorisms. Last night, I started to think about poet William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell, from his book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, so I went to re-read it.

I’d forgotten how much I loved it, so I’m re-posting it today.

Blake’s “Hell,” by the way, is not the traditional Hell, but a place of “unrepressed, somewhat Dionysian energy” (at least that’s what Wikipedia says).

These proverbs are thought-provoking. When I read them, I feel like I’ve had a jump-start to my brain — new, unexpected thoughts come to me.

I don’t agree with all of these proverbs, and I certainly don’t understand all of them, but I love reading them. I’ve put some of my favorites in bold:

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.

Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. [Agree, disagree?]

Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.

He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.

The cut worm forgives the plow. 

Dip him in the river who loves water. [I love this but not sure exactly what it means]

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.

He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.

Eternity is in love with the productions of time.

The busy bee has no time for sorrow.

The hours of folly are measur’d by the clock, but of wisdom: no clock can measure.

All wholsom food is caught without a net or a trap.

Bring out number, weight & measure in a year of dearth.

No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.

A dead body, revenges not injuries.

The most sublime act is to set another before you.

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.

Folly is the cloke of knavery.

Shame is Pride’s cloke.

~

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.

The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.

The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.

The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.

The nakedness of woman is the work of God.

Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.

The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.

The fox condemns the trap, not himself. [This one has a lot of significance for habits.]

Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.

Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep.

The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.

The selfish smiling fool, & the sullen frowning fool, shall be both thought wise, that they may be a rod.

What is now proved was once, only imagin’d.

The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit: watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse, the elephant, watch the fruits.

The cistern contains; the fountain overflows. [I looked it up: "cistern" is a tank for storing water]

One thought, fills immensity.

Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.

Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth.

The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.

~

The fox provides for himself, but God provides for the lion.

Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.

He who has suffer’d you to impose on him knows you.

As the plow follows words, so God rewards prayers.

The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Expect poison from the standing water.

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.

Listen to the fools reproach! it is a kingly title!

The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water, the beard of earth.

The weak in courage is strong in cunning.

The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion, the horse,  how he shall take his prey.

The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.

If others had not been foolish, we should be so.

The soul of sweet delight, can never be defil’d.

When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius, lift up thy head!

As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.

To create a little flower is the labour of ages.

Damn, braces: Bless relaxes.

The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest.

Prayers plow not! Praises reap not!

Joys laugh not! Sorrows weep not!

~

The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands &  feet Proportion.

As the air to a bird of the sea to a fish, so is contempt to the contemptible.

The crow wish’d every thing was black, the owl, that every thing was white.

Exuberance is Beauty. [this is my very favorite; I've loved this aphorism for a long time]

If the lion was advised by the fox, he would be cunning.

Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement,  are roads of Genius.

Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.

Where man is not nature is barren.

Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ’d.

Enough! or Too much!

Which are your favorites? Or do you passionately disagree with some?

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. You can ignore that RSS business.

Also...

Do you want to make some concrete, manageable changes in your life? I hope these Projects will be helpful.  They cover several topics that come up often as happiness challenges: Know myself better is in the most popular; then De-clutter my life; then Quit yelling at your kids; and Cope better with difficult people.

 

 

Intrigued? Of course you are! Learn more and sign up here.

09 May 18:24

“I Have a Picket Fence of Habits to Keep Me on Track.”

by gretchen@gretchenrubin.com (Gretchen Rubin)
Jessica Kendrick

interesting.

annaquindlenHabits interview: Anna Quindlen.

Last week, I had the chance to hear the well-known author and journalist Anna Quindlen speak — and as always, I found it so interesting to hear a writer speaking in person, after having read his or her books.

I’ve read a lot of Anna Quindlen’s work, and lately, she’d been on my mind because I’ve been thinking a lot about book titles,  and I love the title of her memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake  (you can’t judge a book by its title, but it’s a great book). Also, she wrote A Short Guide to a Happy Life — of course I loved that title and book. Her latest novel, Still Life with Bread Crumbs — yet another great title — just came out a few months ago, and it’s on my reading list.

I asked her about her habits, and the role they play in her life, and she explained:

I’m trying to make a distinction–if any–between habit and routines, because routine is essential to most fiction writers.  Because of that, my life is filled with what might be called essential habits.  I try to walk four miles as fast as I can every morning.  I eat the same things for breakfast and lunch for days on end.  (My husband insists on variety, so dinner is always different.)  I work out three days a week at the same time, although the trainer insists on varying the workouts, which always makes me a little testy.  The idea that a person can write on the fly, in planes or at a coffee shop, is preposterous to me.  I have an office and a desk and a laptop and they must all stay more or less that same. I can only really imagine, go into a complete different world and invent it as I go, if my actual world is completely unvarying and set to music.

There’s a quote from Eudora Welty that I think makes this so clear.  She says, “To go outside and beat the drum is only to interrupt, interrupt, and so finally to forget and to lose.  Fiction has, and must keep, a private address.”  It’s in the going outside that I lose my way; if I interfere with my routine, my succession of habits, by traveling or even going out to lunch, I don’t get anything done.  I have a picket fence of habits to keep me on track.  I neither like nor dislike them; I just need them to do my work.

This makes me somewhat inflexible.  For instance, I’m part of a women’s travel group and my friends can tell you that no matter where we land, or how great the time difference, I’m downstairs lacing up my walking shoes around 7 AM.  When people ask about lunch, I offer breakfast instead–if my interruptions come at the beginning of the day, I can handle them far better than if they bisect it.  I don’t do staying up late very well or very often.

As for the rest, I try to talk to my best friend on the phone every morning at 9.  That’s a habit that enriches my life.  I always needlepoint while I watch television, which means I have too many pillows.  I’m on a school schedule, 9 to 3 and then I’m done.  When school’s out, I go to our house in the country and stay until Labor Day.  Those last habits were occasioned by having young children; they’ve grown up and moved on but I, apparently, haven’t.

I think when I was 18 I would have found all this sad and pathetic.  I thought then that I had to be interesting.  Now I just feel that I have to be productive, and happy.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. You can ignore that RSS business.

Also...

If you're thinking, "Oh, Gretchen, I wish there were some videos of you talking about how you choose what to read, or about writing, or about the Four Tendencies," well, you're in luck! A while back, I spoke to the kind folks at Scribd, and they've posted these five short videos.

 

Mother's Day looms nigh. Need a gift idea for a mother in your life--or want to buy something for yourself? May I self-promotingly suggest The Happiness Project or Happier at Home (both New York Times bestsellers)?

30 Mar 14:36

“No Matter How Mundane Some Action Might Appear, Keep at It Long Enough and It Becomes a Contemplative…Act.”

by gretchen@gretchenrubin.com (Gretchen Rubin)

Murakami1_2677991b“No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.”

–Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Agree, disagree?

Yes, I’ve quoted from Murakami twice in a row, but I just couldn’t resist.

If you’re interested in habits,  you’ll find this book very interesting.

Also, this quotation reminded me of my own rule about adding “meditation” to the end of any activity that’s boring. If I’m impatient while waiting for the bus, tell myself I’m doing “Bus waiting meditation.” If I’m standing in a slow line at the drugstore, I’m doing “Waiting in line meditation.” Just saying these words makes me feel very spiritual and high-minded and wise.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. (You can ignore that RSS business.)

Also...

Join the happiness discussion on Facebook, where every day I pose questions meant to help you think about your own happiness--also, just fun. Or join me on Twitter, @gretchenrubin, or Pinterest, or YouTube.

05 Mar 21:49

Want to Read about Writing? Here Are My Five Favorite Books about Writing.

by gretchen@gretchenrubin.com (Gretchen Rubin)

onceuponatimeEvery Wednesday is List Day, or Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: My five favorite books about writing.

It’s not easy to write a book about writing that’s also a pleasure to read. Here are my favorites:

1. William Zinsser, On Writing Well. I’ve read this book several times, and I’m due for another re-reading soon. It’s full of invaluable advice, and so beautifully written that it’s a joy to read. My favorite chapter may be “Humor,” which includes Zinsser’s example of his own magazine piece about women and their hair curlers–brilliant. I’d quote it here but you really have to read the whole thing to get the proper effect.

2. Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary. I’ve read this many, many times. Virginia Woolf kept a diary for twenty-seven years, and after her death, her husband drew from those diaries to create A Writer’s Diary, which includes the entries that refer to her own writing, that comment on the books she was reading, and that touch on the scenes and ideas relevant to her work. Extraordinarily rich and powerful.

When I was writing Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, which is a very unconventional biography, I thought many times of this passage:

Waste, deadness, come from the inclusion of things that don’t belong to the moment; this appalling narrative business of the realist: getting on from lunch to dinner: it is false, unreal, merely conventional. Why admit anything to literature that is not poetry–by which I mean saturated? Is that not my grudge against novelists? that they select nothing?….I want to put practically everything in: yet to saturate.

And in Happier at Home, I wrote a passage that’s a direct allusion to this haunting passage from Woolf:

What I must do is to keep control; and not be too sarcastic; and keep the right degree of freedom and reserve. But oh how easy this writing is compared with The Waves! I wonder what the degree of carat-gold is in the two books. Of course this is external: but there’s a good deal of gold–more than I’d thought–in externality. Anyhow, “what care I for my goose feather bed? I’m off to join the raggle taggle gipsies oh!”

(You can read a bit about my strange response to this passage and to the song, and you can hear the song, Raggle Taggle Gypsy, here.)

Okay I must stop, or I’ll end up quoting dozens of passages.

3. Robert Boice, How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency. This book is bizarrely, insanely expensive, and written very simply, but in terms of practical advice about how to get writing done, it’s very useful. I’ve been thinking a lot about it as I write my book about habit-formation, Before and After, because it’s all about creating habits that allow writers to be productive and creative over the long term.

4. Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters. Speaking of habits, how could I resist that title? Plus I’m a crazy Flannery O’Connor fan. These letters are fascinating, especially about her writing. I include one passage, from a 1957 letter, as an epigraph to a chapter in Before and After, about the Strategy of Scheduling:

I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away.…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.

5. Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird. This is an encouraging, accessible account of how to keep going as a writer. I love the story from which the book gets its title:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

How about you? What are your favorite books about writing?

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here. (You can ignore that RSS business.)

Also...

I'm really looking forward to speaking -- and listening -- at the Habit Conference at Stanford on March 25. I'm speaking at the Habit Summit at Stanford on March 25th. For $50 off, use this link. So many interesting people will be there.

 

Want to volunteer as a Super-Fan? From time to time, I'll send you a little extra something, or ask for your help--nothing too onerous, I promise. Sign up here.

28 Mar 02:13

Monthly Clean Home Challenge: Clean Out Pantry

by Jennifer Jones
Jessica Kendrick

I want my pantry to look like this!

Welcome back to the Monthly Clean Home Challenge daily task!  I am on a quest to maintain a clean and organized home in less time and the goal is simple; four daily tasks, four weekly tasks and one additional quick task each week day. 

In no particular order, here are the individual tasks I am tackling each day this month:

  1. Make cleaning supplies
  2. Cycle clean appliances
  3. Clean out cars
  4. Clean out microwave
  5. Wipe down cabinets/appliances
  6. Wipe down trim/doors
  7. Clean out one drawer
  8. Clean out fridge
  9. Clean out freezer
  10. Vacuum under furniture
  11. Vacuum mattresses
  12. Clean oven
  13. Clean out one closet
  14. Wash out garbage can/recycle bin
  15. Wash windows
  16. Scrub grout
  17. Clean out one cabinet
  18. File paper piles
  19. Purge bathroom toiletries
  20. Clean out pantry

Today I am chatting about the extra task:  Clean Out Pantry

Well, this month you have seen a lot of our messy areas.  In fact, you may be wondering what actually is organized around this place we call home.  And although our fridge and freezer were a bit of a disaster going into this month, I am happy to report that our pantry organization is still going strong.


Just over a year ago we took everything out, lined the shelves and organized things the way we thought they would make the most sense for our family {you can catch up on all of that here}.  Although there are times when the pantry is sparse or a bit overstocked and cluttered, it has been really easy to maintain and we have been really happy with the way it functions.

Each week while we are meal planning, we take a look at our existing foods and try and plan around those before purchasing anything new for the week.  Because we keep the process quick, there comes a time when the pantry just needs a good cleaning out.  This closet is used every day, multiple times per day, so it tends to get dirty.  The shelves receive a lot of traffic, crumbs and an occasional spill, while the back corners of the floor seem to be a magnet for dust.

As you can guess, I started by emptying everything out of the closet.


And taking a couple of minutes to wipe down all of the individual shelves {we are still LOVING The contact paper covered foam core by the way}.


Once all of the shelves were clean and splatter free, I moved onto giving the floor a quick vacuum.


With everything feeling shiny and new and smelling of fresh lemon, I was selective about what was returned and had the opportunity to evaluate where everything was being placed.  I found some items that were beyond expired to an embarrassing extent {sugar cookie mix from 2011 anyone?}, proving the importance of doing occasional pantry sweeps.



One more day of this monthly cleaning challenge!  Don't be surprised if you spot me running up and down a random set of stairs with a boombox on my shoulder playing the theme song from Rocky on repeat when all is said and done!


Looking for something?  Check out my favorite cleaning products below: