Sunday, August 23, 2009

Time Line for Personal Histories

Often when I start a personal history for a client, I create a simple timeline of their lives so I can relate their experiences to external events that have helped shape them. In fact, since I started writing personal histories, I've learned more about history & world events in general than I ever learned in school. I guess that personal connection makes all the history seem more real and significant.

Think about some of the elders in your group of friends and family. If they are old enough to have experienced WWI, the Great Depression, WWII and the atomic bomb, you can get some fabulous stories from them.

One of my dearest relatives has Alzheimer's disease, but I recently had an amazing conversation with her. She was "living" in the past almost 50 years ago. As I gently asked her questions about how she met her husband and the wedding dances they used to attend, I saw a side of her I had never seen before. She even giggled(!) when she said, "...then he came right over and asked ME to dance, instead of Rosie." It was a thrill to see her relive that experience.

So make it a point to go see an old friend or relative and ask them questions about what they remember. Don't wait too long, though. Our precious older generation is quickly fading away.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who Do You Trust?

I just bought Trust Agents, @chrisbrogan's new book about earning trust on the web. Here's the link: I love the concept because there is so much misinformation on the internet and how do you determine which is reliable?

Chris Brogan's daily blogs offer excellent advice on cultivating and maintaining professional relationships, as well as tips on using the latest social media. Having read and followed them for quite some time, I am looking forward to mining his savvy information even further.

In our own relationships, whether they are personal, professional or political(!), being able to trust someone is incredibly important. So the question is, who do you trust? And how do you determine who is trustworthy?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Great Free Resources

A fellow member of APH (Association of Personal Historians), Dan Curtis, had a fabulous blog yesterday that has a wealth of free resources for Personal Historians and writers in general. See

Dan did a great job of pulling together this list and then graciously sharing it with his readers and associates. It's always a treat to discover websites that are new and useful. I plan to use #24 on my next article: "Wordcounter – ranks the most frequently used words in any given body of text. Use this to see what words you overuse." No more excuses now for being redundant.

Isn't that a cool idea?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Join the National Lightning Bug Research Project

Karen left a comment about my lightning bug blog. "Professionally, I was a chemistry teacher for many years, and continued to find the topic of light-releasing biochemical reactions interesting."

You might be interested to know that The National Children's Museum has teamed up with the Museum of Science in Boston on a project to get children involved in observing fireflies in their areas and submitting data to a national research program. Their website is where you can sign up for the project.

In addition to a charming & appropriate name, the website is fun and creative for kids and parents. As an example, they have some cute but corny jokes about fireflies, such as "Q: Why was the firefly mother so unhappy? A: Because her children weren’t very bright." They make learning a great adventure.

Surprisingly, not a lot of research has been done on the subject of lightning bugs. With luck and lots of volunteers, that may change over the next few years. So if you live in an area of the country that has fireflies, consider getting your kids involved on this quirky project. And you can still save them in a glass jar for a little while. The bugs, that is, not the kids! lol - have fun.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quick & Easy Scrapless Scrapping

Patty asked "Is there some sort of shortcut for those of us who don't need another 10 hour a week hobbby?" and that is a valid concern. She is absolutely right that getting into scrapbooking can be quite time- and money-consuming. But there are other ideas that you might try as well.

One quick idea is to get a photo album that has sleeves for pictures. Just slip in a group of photos and intersperse them with a few mementoes (such as ticket stubs, flyers, postcards, etc.) and/or journaling, either hand written or printed on your computer. The journaling doesn't have to be elaborate, but jotting down a few details will provide reminders so everyone can enjoy the event again at a later date.

That gives you a relatively fast & easy way to preserve your memories without spending a great deal of time or effort. Please let me know if that seems feasible for you.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Scared to Start Scrapbooking?

Patty commented on my previous blog asking two great questions: “Any suggestions for those of us who missed the scrapbooking craze? Where's the best place to get ideas for scrapbook page layouts?”

I was fortunate to have a friend who helped me start scrapping, but you can do it on your own as well. One of the best websites I have found with more extensive suggestions on getting started is which has well-organized information and examples.

Minimum requirements for scrapbooking:
1. Cardstock and Paper
a. Cardstock & paper come in various sizes, such as 12”x12”, 8”x8”, etc., and are acid-free. Standard scrapbooking albums usually come with a cardstock page inside page protectors.
b. Cardstock is heavy paper in solid colors that can be used to create greeting cards or to form the base of your scrapbook page.
c. Scrapbooking paper comes in solid colors and/or patterns to use for borders, frames & a splash of color.
d. Select a few sheets of cardstock and paper that appeal to you. You may want to coordinate them with the photos you plan to use.

2. Good Scissors
a. Good sharp scissors are important to cleanly cutting photos, paper and cardstock.
b. Eventually, you may want to get a paper trimmer that simplifies getting square cuts.
c. For consistent fancy edges, you may want scissors

3. Adhesive
a. A wide range of scrapbooking adhesives is available, but make sure your selection is also acid-free. Perhaps the easiest type to start with is the small double-sided glue dots. Later, you may want to buy an adhesive applicator that speeds up the process.
b. Check out the website above for details on the various types, along with the pros and cons of each.

4. Journaling Pen
a. Journaling pens should be acid-free like all scrapbooking supplies.
b. You can start with black pens in a fine tip for writing and a wider tip for page titles.
c. Journaling can describe the photos or event highlighted on the page. This is a great way to capture the essence of what you want the reader to know.

Making your first scrapbooking page:
1. Before using adhesive . . .

a. Roughly lay out all the parts of the page in a way that pleases you.
b. Decide how much journaling you want on the page and write it neatly on cardstock.

2. Select Photos
a. Trim any photos to the size and shape desired.
b. Decide which photos need a mat of color behind them.
c. Remember that “less is more” in scrapbooking. A few photos tell the story on a page.

3. Select Cardstock Background
a. Cardstock determines the overall size of your page.
b. You can cut cardstock to frame photos or journaling by cutting it slightly larger in a contrasting or coordinating color.

4. Select Paper Highlights
a. Colorful paper makes a nice border around the cardstock page or on the edges.
b. Consider coordinating the paper between facing pages in an album.

5. Lay Out Final Page
a. Arrange all the parts onto the page, rearranging as needed.
b. When pleased with the layout, use adhesive to affix each part to the page.

6. Add Embellishments
a. Embellishments can spice up your pages after you affix all other items.
b. Consider using sheets of small self-adhesive stickers, labels and shapes for added pizzazz.

Making a Simple Greeting Card:
1. Greeting cards are made in the same basic way as a scrapbooking page.
2. After you select the cardstock, crease it down the center and fold it in half.
3. Affix a favorite photo to the front (or inside) with a few words of your choice.
4. Write your desired greeting on more cardstock and fasten inside the card.
5. Add embellishments, such as ribbons or self-adhesive stickers.

Making cards and scrapbooking pages can be as simple or as complicated as you choose. These ideas will get you started, but there is an amazing amount of information available in bookstores, craft and scrapbooking shops, as well as on the internet. Many libraries, schools and communities offer events such as “Scrappers Night Out” where you can learn from other people. Check your local newspaper for offerings.

Have fun with scrapbooking and card making to your heart’s content. They make wonderful gifts for friends, family and yourself! And they are a great way to capture some of your family history.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gifts for the Elderly

A friend asked me today for gift ideas for her grandmother's 90th birthday. Most elderly people don't need any more "stuff" but they'd appreciate knowing how they made a difference in someone's life.

Here are some simple ideas to get you started on thinking "outside the box" when it comes to gift giving:
1. Write a little story with a few memories of things you have done together.
2. Create your own greeting card with your own thoughts & words, with a favorite photo.
3. If you have time, you can make a scrapbook page with photos & some journaling, then frame it for them to keep.
4. Make a favorite recipe from your childhood, such as strawberry pie or chocolate chip cookies.
5. When you take them the gift, spend some time reminiscing about family get-togethers and the events you remember.
6. If you can't spend time with them on their birthday, then please call them. Too often our loved ones sit and wait for us to stop by or call. Go ahead - make their day (and yours, too!) by talking with them often.


1 Cup Water
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 Cup Sugar
4 Tablespoon Strawberry Gelatin (or one package Sugar-Free)
2-3 drops Red Food Coloring
1 Pint Strawberries
1 baked Pie Shell
Cool Whip, if desired

Cook first 5 ingredients until thickened, then cool.

Wash & hull berries and fold into cooled Glaze.

Pour into cooled Pie Crust.

Serve with Cool Whip, if desired.

8 Servings

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fantastic Fruit Fly Trap - Try It!

Rachel Balducci had a nice post recently that suggested how to deal with those annoying fruit flies at She said to use a jar with a cone-shaped paper (just like we use in our coffee maker!) to trap them inside a jar with a piece of very ripe fruit in the bottom.

Having nothing to lose and a kitchen counter overflowing with ripening fruit with, yes, you guessed it, lots of fruit flies, I decided to give it a shot. Try this the next time you have the little pests and let me know how it works:

1. Put an overripe piece of peach (or other aromatic fruit) in the bottom of a pint jar
2. Cut a tiny hole in the tip of a paper filter cone (or make one yourself)
3. Set the paper cone pointy-side down into the jar
4. Fasten the cone around the top of the jar with a rubber band

Wait a day or so, then check the jar regularly for tiny critters. When they appear, take the jar outside, remove the paper cone and release the bugs. If you still have any fruit flies buzzing around, set up the trap again.

I was quite pleasantly surprised at how nicely this idea worked. After a short time, there were no more nasty fruit flies, but if they reappear, I won't hesitate to use it again. Good luck hunting!