Monday, March 31, 2014

Brandywine Valley

Where is Brandywine Valley?  I cannot say exactly as this is something I am learning as I explore the mid-Atlantic region.  The Brandywine Valley area is a watershed area and consists of at least Delaware and Chester Counties, Pennsylvania.

Why do I care about trying to define the location of the area?  Because I am learning that there is much to do and see in that area and I am trying to give clear directions and good references for more information.  Initially, I tried to divide the area and attractions into two counties: Chester and Delaware.  But I could not determine which county Longwood Gardens was located in.  On the internet, it almost seems as though both counties lay claim to this amazing botanical garden. 

So, I will from now on refer to this area as the Brandywine Valley.

We have taken many drives through this area.  We have made several stops at the Brandywine Art Museum. I highly recommend that you put it on your list of places to experience.  Andrew Wyeth was an amazing artist and if you aren’t familiar with him, I think that you should be.

I recently discovered Longwood Gardens and I have discussed it in an earlier blog entry. I won’t go into details again since you can read my original article for yourself. But I will say that this is an enchanted place and next time I go, I will plan to spend the entire day.

In addition to these two amazing points of interest, I have now added the following to my list of places to see in the Brandywine Valley area:




*The Chester County Covered Bridges Trail


*Local Wineries 

To compile your own list of attractions and event to see, these are two sites that will be of much help Brandywine Valley and The Brandywine. They have similar names but are two different sources of information.

Stay tuned in order to learn more about the Brandywine Valley area as I have opportunities for further adventures. Or you can follow me on my Mid-Atlantic Travel with Dawn Rae facebook page. 

If you have traveled this area, I would love to hear from you.



Image Credit: Images are mine ©Dawn Rae – All Rights Reserved (Click on photo for larger view)






















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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Who's Ready for Some Party Food?

Inevitably, no matter what type of party you are hosting, you're going to need food. It might just be snacks, appetizers, desserts or maybe even a full meal but food is a must! The wonderful authors (called Lensmasters) at Squidoo have certainly got you covered for party food ideas.

Kids Party Food Ideas

Food for kids parties is important. They will run home and brag everyone about the wonderful treats that were served at the most recent party. It can be something as simple as pizza or as fun as tacos. Or, maybe it's all about the sweet treats. Anyway you slice it, MaggiePowell shares her experience and ideas in her article (called a lens) titled Kid Friendly Party Food.

This mom has three kids with three birthdays each year. She has tons of experience in hosting kids and teens parties and with what types of foods they prefer. There are tons of suggestions for everything from snacks to cakes to meals. Anyone planning a party for children, tweens or teens should definitely give this a read!

Teen Girls Party Food

Teen girls can be picky about eating. Claremckenzie shares her experience in menu planning in her article Party Food for Teenage Girls. From suggestions for the menu to serving dishes to make the food look great, Clare has got you covered!

I love the simple to read instructions for kabobs, pinwheels and the like. Of course, she has a section all about sweets too!

Appetizer Parties

MareeT shares some of her best ideas for throwing a wonderful appetizer party. In Party Appetizer Ideas, MareeT explains that the party can be as large or as small as you like -- but it will be great with some pre-planning. Along with the food, she touches on invitations, music, punch, serving dishes and much more!

Some of her recipes look so darned good -- I am getting hungry just reading them (and drooling over the photos). I also love the little tips she posts on the post-it notes. Sharing these gems can help us all host a better party!

Do you have some tried and true recipes you use for parties, get togethers or potlucks? Consider sharing them on Squidoo! It's simple, free and only takes a couple of minutes to get started. If you have toyed with the idea of writing online, try Squidoo. What could be better?



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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chocolate Fondue Review

Instant happiness, just add chocolate. So adding chocolate fondue to your dessert world means not only happiness but fun, too. I dipped into the melting pot of Web pages to find you lots of suggestions for chocolate fondue recipes, tips and ideas.

Dark Chocolate Fondue Recipe


Plain old chocolate is always delicious, but adding in some sophisticated extras can make your own fondue extra special. MSchindel found the The Best Chocolate Fondue Recipe for Dark Chocolate Lovers. Alright, I will admit it. This is one I am in love with. So I'm letting the secret out. It's honey and Cognac that makes this recipe extra special.

She gives us plenty of suggestions for making this chocolate fondue recipe a different but still special treat. It's a wonderful recipe for a romantic dinner dessert. It's a wonderful recipe for serving to guests. But, this is a chocolate fondue that any sophisticated taste will enjoy.

Chocolate and Hazelnut 


I'm not limiting my chocolate fondue choices to just Cognac though. How about some hazelnut liqueur? That's a special ingredient in BlueObsidian's Chocolate Hazelnut Fondue.

It's a simple recipe with plenty of taste. One worth serving to family and friends. She adds a nice selection of goodies to dip into that Chocolate Hazelnut Fondue. My favorite suggestion is fudge. Talk about a double whammy of chocolate. I think I'm in heaven!

Basic Chocolate Fondue Recipe


A good basic fondue recipe is always needed. If you have young children in the family or gathering, you probably don't want to serve them liqueur-based chocolate. RatRaceRebel shares her favorite basic Chocolate Fondue Recipe. It's simple and easy.

Oh, yes, she also offers a more grown-up tasting recipe. But the basic works great for children's dipping. She even suggests ideas for birthday party fondues. Imagine topping fondue dips with candy sprinkles! Perfect birthday party fun.

Melting Chocolate for Fondue and More


Maybe you would love to make a chocolate fondue, but really aren't sure how best to melt the chocolate. Stangerj tells you how. He has plenty of other special notes in his page Chocolate Fondue Recipe - Enjoy. Plus, a great recipe for basic chocolate fondue.

There's more, though. He even offers a tempting recipe for sugar-free fondue. Now there is something worth trying if going without the sugar is important to you.





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Friday, March 28, 2014

Reviews of Romantic Books

Reading is such a huge part of my life, I simply cannot imagine a day without a book in my hand.  

I love to read.  Books can transport us across the world in an instant, take us back to the past, give us insight into a variety of personalities and help us understand why people say things or behave a certain way.  

Even in the fast and easy to read novellas, I recognize I am learning about people, places, ideologies and history.



Romance Hidden in Other Genres

Romantic books are my personal favorites, but romance is not limited to one genre.  As a matter of fact, the most romantic books I have read recently would not be categorized as romance novels.  I recently read The Hunger Games Trilogy, which is most often cataloged as Science Fiction or Action & Adventure.  While I enjoyed the futuristic setting and the action packed drama, the tender affections, selfless love, and developing romantic relationship was clearly the thread throughout the books that keep me reading.  As a matter of fact, I was so captivated by the romantic story line, that I read all three books in a few days.


http://www.amazon.com/The-Night-Circus-Erin-Morgenstern/dp/0307744434?tag=review-this-20
Bekat recently reviewed another book that would be found on the Fantasy or Psychological Thrillers shelves.  

However, just reading her review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern reveals the underlying love story and beckons me to start reading the book today.





Classic Romance Novels

When I was younger, I focused on the classics.  After all, I knew I would not be disappointed with Classic Romance novels.  Over the last few years, I have actually found it interesting to go back and read them again.  It is amazing to me to realize that what I admired or adored in my youth is no longer my focus as I read them again.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons why they are "classics".  They have an appeal for every generation and age. 

Because the classics are almost always on the "reading lists" in high school, most of us are already familiar with them and have a basic knowledge of their story lines before we ever pick them up to actually read them.  

http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Wind-75th-Anniversary-Edition/dp/1451635621?tag=review-this-20In her review of Gone With the Wind, BeatriceRyanDesigns immediately focuses on the era.  We can learn so much about history in the pages of our great Classic Romance Novels without even realizing we are also getting a lesson in historical lifestyles, fashion and world changing events like war. 

Truthfully, I probably learned more about the Civil War in the pages of Gone with the Wind, than I did in any history class.


Britflorida gives us another look at history with her awesome review of Jane Eyre and how so much of the book is actually a reflection of the authors personal experiences.  

I do agree with her completely.  There are definitely aspects of that book that I view differently today than I did when I first read it in high school.



Contemporary Romance Novels

Sometimes I just want a great love story.  A book to help me relax and unwind.  Frankly, a book that will take my mind off of everyday tensions and simply entertain.  I don't even mind if they have an obvious end.  In fact, I often read this type of book because I want it to end with "happily ever after." 


I found out recently that Mbgphoto and I have that in common.  She reviewed and recommended Winners by Danielle Steel.  

In her review, she tells us that she read this book in it's entirety in one sitting.  

Sometimes that is exactly what we need!     





********************

Romance is not defined by, or limited to any person, place, time or event.  We can all fall in love, often quite unexpectedly. 




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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Photographing Children

Photographing children is a fun and sometimes challenging activity.  My granddaughters are used to me always having my camera around and when they are in the  mood they enjoy posing for me.  I like to catch them during their everyday moments, but sometimes it is fun to have them pose for me too. I have found if I take a few photos of them clowning around first, it will loosen them up and I can then get a few more serious photos.  Last year I got them playing around on their back deck and then encouraged a more posed photo.  Here are the results.







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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Brings Opening Day of Major League Baseball

Chicago's Wrigley Field (Image Credit)
The month of March brings the first day of Spring and Opening Day of Major League Baseball (3/31/2014). To baseball fans this is what we wait for all winter long. Our feelings for this season are reflected in my favorite baseball quote “There are only two seasons, Winter and Baseball” ~Bill Veeck



As Spring Training comes to an end and the 2014 baseball season begins, we look forward to seeing our favorite players and teams, and reflect back on past favorites. We will miss the ones who have retired (like Mariano Rivera, the marvelous 'closer' on the pitching staff for the Yankees). If you're like me, you find the lives of these men as fascinating and interesting as their baseball careers have been and might wonder what their stories were.



Luckily for us, there are a wealth of baseball books available, written by and about pitchers, position players, managers and sports announcers which put all the excitement of their careers in baseball on printed pages between the covers! I'm reading one right now about 'retired' St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. The book (One Last Strike) focuses on just a small section of Tony's career (specifically his final season of 2011 and the magical comeback of a team that refused to give up). Once you get interested in reading about a specific player, you find all sorts of fun 'tidbits' of information. For instance, I bet you didn't know that Tony La Russa became a vegetarian – and why. 



As a baseball fan I'm looking for reviews of baseball books you have read and recommend for all us 'fans' who want to learn more about these 'Boys of Summer'. If you write a review, leave me a link in the comments and I may feature it in an upcoming post.





Books such as "The Science of Hitting" by Ted Williams. Did you know that in 1935, Lovell Haskins Peirce, a physics professor at San Diego State University, had Ted in his physics class where the professor gave a lesson on the physics of hitting a baseball?  Ted Williams went on to become the last hitter to top a .400 batting average in a season.

The Science of Hitting










Now that Spring Training has ended, let's get ready to Play Ball. 




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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Beetle Mania

There's something you should know about me.  I'm a locabore (not to be confused with loco or boring).  Are you wondering why you've never heard this term before?  It's because I just made it up.  I do that a lot.

Perhaps you have heard of a locavore—a person dedicated to eating local foods whenever possible.  So what in the world is a locabore?  It’s a person who makes a commitment to using local beetle kill wood for a wide variety of construction projects.  The “loca” is for local and the “bore” is for the beetle activity that leads to a tree’s untimely death.  It’s a growing problem in my state (Colorado) and beyond.

I have been reading about green remodeling practices.  One of the important things we can do when building or remodeling is to use reclaimed wood.  When lumber is harvested nearby, the ecological impact is reduced significantly.  There is no need to transport the wood cross-country (which eliminates a much larger carbon footprint). 

Because dead trees are already dry and seasoned, there is no need to burn fossil fuels for the kilns that would normally be required to lower the moisture content of freshly cut living trees.  And, by using dead trees, we can lower the dependence on harvesting trees that are better left in the forest doing their best to keep our environment healthy.

This weekend, as I was purchasing supplies for a couple of ongoing home renovation projects, I found beetle kill pine boards on sale.  That made my choice very easy.  When I build with local woods, the advantages go well beyond financial and ecological gain.  Things that grow here look good in my home.  They are a natural fit.  You would expect to see native woods like aspen, pine, and fir inside a house that is surrounded by those kinds of forests.  There is a harmony that is both seen and felt.

Even if you live in an urban area, there are always sources of reclaimed timber and other architectural elements.  A source to consider is your local Habitat for Humanity Restore.  They stock recycled construction materials.  Always think “re” first as you aim for greener living and building (reclaimed, recycled, repurposed).

Let's learn how to be good to the place we call home.  We only get one chance at this.  Unless we want to be dead standing, it's "Do or Di" time.  





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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Easter is Coming... Let's Party!

With less than a month to go before Easter, now is a good time to finalize plans for your Easter party, get-together or egg hunt. Learning what others have done may give you a fantastic idea you can incorporate into your holiday celebration this year.

Kid's Easter Party

When it comes to Easter parties for kids, WriterJanis has got it covered. In her lens titled "How to Plan an Easter Party for Kids and Easter Party Ideas" she covers almost every option. From invitations to centerpieces, games to music, and food to decorations -- there are ideas for anyone planning a hopping Easter celebration with children.

Easter Egg Hunt Ideas

If you are planning an Easter egg hunt for older children, lestroischenes has some great ideas. She uses herself and her family as examples in her lens titled "The Easter Egg Hunt". I found this lens interesting as it gives the version of an egg hunt from another part of the world -- France. It's a fun lens!

Easter Party Food Ideas

You have to have some sweets! Our very own MissMerFaery has a great idea with her "Bird Nest Cupcakes" lens. Such a simple but cute idea that's perfect as a sweet treat addition to any Easter party or get together.

Puzzlemaker shows us a lot of different cupcake and treat ideas themed for Easter featuring M&M's as a main ingredient in the decorations on this lens: "Easter Cupcakes and Treats with M&M's".

A bunny, a carrot, a flower and a chick, these ideas are simple but fun and the perfect addition to your Easter party.

The best part? The kids can help with the decorating.

It's Time...

Now, armed with some helpful information and creative ideas, I hope you will get to planning your Easter party soon. The bunny will be here before we know it and we all want to be ready!



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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Getting Green and Thrifty with your Crafting!

This week is all about recycling! In these harder economic times, parents are looking for thrifty but fun activities for their kids, and there are endless ways that you can use recycling, household junk and natural items in your crafting - all you have to do is share your ideas with the world! Squidoo has the perfect format to do this - the How-To Lens Format.

Since we've started crafting with household junk, our the contents of our recycling bin have reduced dramatically - so we are really doing our bit for the environment by re-using, which is even better than recycling! This lovely pile on the left is just a fraction of what we have put aside for making things.

Kids craft tutorials are huge on social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest, so if you have some ideas for tutorials, make sure you take some beautiful photos (stop by our very own mbgphoto's lenses for some photography tips if you need to brush up on your skills!) that will look enticing on sites like those - as your lens is more likely to be shared, pinned or even go viral!

These past few weeks, I've been out and about with the little ones at forest school, home ed groups and more, and in between, we've been busy making crafts for our weekly book club theme, which sees us choose a book and create activities around it. All of this has led to quite a bit of recycled crafting!

We made a bottle boat at forest school, which is a great way to use up an empty plastic bottle. Toilet rolls are a must in your junk craft box (we have a whole bin full waiting to be transformed!) - we recently turned ours into some beautiful bejeweled toilet roll owls at our home ed group (see below)! We got in the holiday spirit as well and turned another one into a cute little leprechaun for St. Patrick's Day.



You don't have to stick to How-To format lenses, although they are perfect for quick and easy craft tutorials. Squidoo's longer lens format is also perfect for more complex craft ideas, or for where you want to show off several variations on a theme, or a collection of recycled craft ideas. Don't forget you can use the how-to format as a module within the lens as well!

Be warned, however - once you start all this junk crafting, it's quite addictive, you know! I find myself looking at every day objects now and imagining what they look like or could become - believe me, you'll never look at a yoghurt pot or bottle cap the same way again!

We have several projects on our wishlist and a whole stash of recycling ready to use. We have empty cereal boxes waiting to be turned into frames for my 4 year old's artwork, and bottle tops from milk cartons ready to become wheels on a cardboard car. Speaking of card, seedplanter has some wonderful ideas for getting crafty with cardboard boxes (we have one such large monster box, waiting for warmer weather to arrive so we can take it outside, paint it and turn it into a rocket!)


You can also come up with craft projects which make things for children to play with. For example, we used up some old, out-of-date rice by dyeing it with food colouring to make some wonderful sensory tray rainbow rice (right).

Or share your recipes for homemade materials - eco mums like me LOVE recipes for play dough, paint and so on! Our very own Recycler Contributor, BearTale, shares this fabulous recipe for DIY sidewalk chalk that recycles egg shells!

All of these ideas make for perfect crafts to do on Earth Day, which is coming up on April 22nd.

 Finally, for an extra burst of recycling inspiration, why not have a peek at our under-fives craft boards on Pinterest? Tons of wonderful and inventive ideas to be found!

So go on, get out there, get green, and get crafty!

(c) All photos are copyright of the author (2014)


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Friday, March 21, 2014

Creating Chocolate Fun in the Kitchen

Go ahead, admit it. You love getting creative in the kitchen. And when it involves chocolate, whoa, even better! Throw in a healthy helping of laughter and you just can't have more fun. Aren't you drooling to find out what I'm about to tell you? Well, get ready. It was all around a Web page.


So, stop thinking about making a page as boring writing. Thinking of it as telling your story of the day you decided to make Chocolate Lab Cupcakes. Of course, chocolate is involved in this.

The Story of Chocolate Lab Cupcakes


Our very own Cooking for the Holidays reviewer makes amazing cupcake creations. Snowman Cupcakes, I just had to try my hand at making Snowman Cupcakes myself. My first mistake was not following her directions. But, my hilariously miserable attempt turned into a page.


My second mistake was failing to use chocolate. Ergo, the idea of Chocolate Lab Cupcakes was born. Don't you know the entire effort, which took all afternoon and into the evening, was documented in photos. This was meant to be a page, you know.

Creating Fun in the Kitchen


In my kitchen that day, I was quite busy creating chocolate fun. OK, my kitchen turned out to be a mess. But, the clean-up was worth it! A day of hilarious fun was set up to be a Web article.

My bet is that many of you enjoy getting creative in the kitchen. Whether a masterpiece like the amazing Snowman Cupcakes, or one hilariously miserable attempt like my Snowman Cupcakes, a Web article is easily available from it. 

Don't forget to add the chocolate. Because, well, everything tastes better with chocolate.

Take bunches of photos of the whole process. Even jot down some of the jokes that came from your attempt. Or jot down serious notes if you must.

That combination of notes and photos can easily turn into an article. A page that will forever give you the memories of one time of creating chocolate fun in the kitchen.




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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Perspective in Photography


When I take photographs of landscapes, most of the time I am standing up and shooting with a wide angle lens.  I have been reading a lot of articles on perspective and challenging myself to look at things differently.  I have found if I get lower to the ground and get a bit more of the foreground into view I get a different and very pleasing composition.  In this first photo I am crouching down a bit to get more of the rocks in the foreground in the photo.




Look at the different look you get when you get really low and make the foreground pop out.  In this photo I am sitting on one of the rocks and holding  my camera low.

In this photo I get even lower.  I am was walking on the beach with my Canon point and shoot camera and I bent down and held my camera in the middle of the shells.  I love the effect this got me with all the shells up close and the sky in the background.



Flower photos are always fun, but again be sure to change your perspective.  Everyone seems to take flowers while they are standing up and looking down at the flower.  In this photo I sat down in front of the flowers and zoomed in on one flower to create a different look.






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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cultivating Green



Window Farm Photo by Josh Kalish
In a world of constant change, there are some things that remain with us over the course of our lives.  In my case, two of those enduring things, which aren’t really things at all, are a love for words and farming.  Since I was a young girl, I have had an abiding need for planting words and seeds.

Though I live in the country now, that wasn’t always the case.  For much of my life I lived in some of the largest urban centers in our country (Chicago, Houston, and San Antonio).  I never imagined living or thriving while surrounded by vast acres of concrete.  It seems one does adapt when necessary.

As Squidoo’s Green Living Contributor, I often receive comments on my articles from those who yearn to live as I do—off the grid, in the country, surrounded by wide, open spaces.  I often hear it said that it isn’t possible to live green at the moment.  Sometimes it is a matter of needing to be near family or work.  These green yearning souls have set their own longings aside, having deferred their dreams (perhaps indefinitely).

What I have learned, though, is that urban farming is not only entirely possible, it is a hugely popular phenomenon that could ultimately be one of the most important movements of our generation.  Without much more than eight square feet of light, these city dwellers, known as “window farmers,” have found a way to cultivate their green (both an inner and outer greening).

This week, as I read Paradise Lot, a book about two plant geeks who converted a desolate city space into an abundantly thriving garden of Eden, I thought of others who have created their own means of cultivating green wherever they happen to dwell.

My friend Dawn Rae shows you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.  She gardens in a big city apartment. LindaJM presents the possibilities of Window Farming 101.  Kari Spencer, of the Micro Farm Project, demonstrates how she turned her small urban yard into a true showcase.

As I sit here by the window tapping away on my laptop, nurturing little wordlings, still just tiny sprouts, I am cultivating the kind of green that makes my life a garden paradise.  How will you cultivate your green today? 



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Monday, March 17, 2014

A Few of the Best Mid-Atlantic Foods

Mid-Atlantic Regional Cuisine


Every region has their special foods and recipes.  When I think of shrimp, I immediately think of Louisiana. Cheese makes me think of Wisconsin.  Oranges come from Florida, of course.  I have known from early on that certain foods are special to certain areas. However, after moving to the mid-Atlantic region, I’ve realized just how passionate people are about their special foods.

One of my early Squidoo lenses was written as a result of strong craving for a regional food (Mary Sue's Pecan Nougat egg) and from the memory of seeing a thank you letter from a deployed person who had received Old Bay spice in their care package.  After seeing that letter, I had noticed others who bemoaned the difficulty of purchasing Old Boy, good crab meat, and other regional foods.  That prompted me to write an edible gifts lens consisting of Maryland treats.

When I move from Maryland someday, I can imagine myself begging friends and family (and perhaps strangers) to send me Mary Sue’s Pecan Nougat eggs every spring. My mouth waters every time I think of them.

Crabcakes and Crabbing


Image Credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons
While I do not consider myself a foodie, I do love trying new foods and adding new favorites to my list. I’m not a good cook but I love eating good food.  Have you ever heard the saying, “champagne taste on a beer budget”?  That describes me to some extent about food.  I love the taste of good food.

Blue crab is one of those “champagne taste” foods, in my opinion.  A properly cooked jumbo lump crab cake is divine.  Clairissa also has a wonderful lens about crab cakerecipes.

Crabbing in this area is almost considered an event.  Family members young and old enjoy crabbing.  People look at me with wonder when I tell them that I’ve never been crabbing.  Around here, it’s a bit like learning to walk.  Everyone does it.

There's More Than Crabs to Eat in the Mid-Atlantic.


While I could talk about crab cakes forever, there are other foods in the Mid-Atlantic region. Another food staple of this area are cheesesteak sub sandwiches.  They originated in Philadelphia and Joyful Pamela introduces us to the wonderful world of cheesesteak among other wonderful Philadelphia foods.  People here are passionate about their favorite place to get a cheesesteak sub and will debate for long periods of time about what makes theirs the best.  The Mister and I clearly have our favorite and eat cheesesteaks weekly. I guarantee it is something that one you have found your favorite, you will crave it frequently. 
Image Credit:Photograph by Dawn Rae 2014

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go. Since I’m finished photographing the Mary Sue egg, I can finally eat it.  I have waited for months for egg season and I can’t wait any longer.

I will see you next Monday. If you would like to visit with me before then you can find my on my Mid-Atlantic Travel Facebook page.  



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Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Father's Review of "Father of the Bride"

This week, I had the opportunity to read a truly wonderful review. It combines storytelling and a review, producing an article anyone would be proud to read or write. As a matter of fact, it also won the Squidoo "Review of the Day" honor. Definitely worth a minute or two of your time.

Keeping it Funny

The review grabs your attention immediately with a title like this:
"This is why I'm glad I didn't run over Steve Martin". 
I giggled as soon as I read that. 

Not only did author pgallagher grab my attention, he held it because he kept the promise his title made -- told us why he was glad he didn't run over Mr. Martin. He even goes so far as to share his humorous thoughts at the time of the "almost" mishap!

Keeping it Real

He tells us about the kinship he feels with the character from the film (George Banks). Since pgallagher is a father to two daughters, it wasn't such a stretch.

I think this is my favorite line in the whole review: "Father of the Bride will be relevant for as long as parents have children that grow up and get married."

Storytelling + Review = One Heck of an Article! 

I applaud you, pgallagher. This review was perfect (if there such a thing.) The formula works! It is possible, readable and more interesting when we use stories and personal experience in our writing on Squidoo and anywhere on the web.

It makes us better writers but more important, better people when we share. Please, take a moment and read the review. You won't be sorry. Leave pgallagher a comment with your impression of his review. He's relatively new to Squidoo (Sept. 2013) and only has 3 lenses so far.

If he keeps putting out articles like this one, he will have a long and prosperous career at Squidoo!

You Can Join the Fun Too

There is a almost no limit to the topics on Squidoo. The Squidoo Contributors write about most everything. Find a favorite niche topic (mine is party planning) and start reading and writing. I know you will love it as much as we do!




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Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Recycler

There's a little bit of recycling in everything we do!


Hello!

Whirlwinds of activity have been happening around my home office this week. On top of everyday work and living, my family is buying a house. It's keeping us busy and keeping me distracted. But, my writing and my friends at Squidoo have been keeping me on course. Moving has provided an influx of ideas and my friends are filling my inbox with projects that will help us turn that house into a home.

I'd like to share some of the recycling inspiration that has come my way this week.

One of our biggest chores will be moving a yard full of potted plants and vegetables. While cleaning up the plants, I was reminded that even nature recycles. Some of our plants die back only to reappear magically in the spring. We've never had a failure when we Grow New Zealand Spinach in Containers and Recycle the Seeds. New Zealand spinach almost grows itself and the plants provide enough seed to share with our friends.

After packing up my mother's 1958 sewing machine and yards of fabric scraps from her past quilting projects, I told myself it was time to get serious about sewing again. But fabric is so expensive. Valerie Proctor Davis comes to the rescue with tips on How to Save Money By Sewing Your Own Clothes. She has some great ideas for turning old clothes into new clothes and how to reuse clothing patterns.

Nothing is perfect when moving into a new home and there are always unexpected expenses. When a new bill pops up, another planned purchase must be delayed. Furniture is one of those items that can be worked around when money is getting tight. Eva shares a great idea for saving a few dollars on furniture in her story of How to Decoupage an Old Desk.

Paigsr reminded me that moving creates a lot of unwanted trash. Moving is the perfect time to de-clutter and find a new home for the stuff that is no longer needed. As we pack our belongings, we'll be thinking of ways to reuse and recycle every little thing because even small recycling gestures like Returning Bottles "Can" Make a Difference!

I'm getting excited about moving into our new home and all of the recycling opportunities this new venture will bring. And, I'm looking forward to finding even more exciting and creative ways to recycle in our every day lives.

I  hope you enjoyed today's recycling stories and found some inspiration to recycle more in your own every day life. It's cool to recycle, even nature does it!

Until next time, be happy and be well!

Coletta



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Friday, March 14, 2014

Let's Talk Romance!

Have you ever wondered, just what exactly is romance? 

I am intrigued by the varying opinions I have encountered over the years.   Some instantly think of sex, and perhaps that is understandable considering the daily diet of seductive advertising we are all forced to ingest. 

I have oft heard the term "a deep, abiding love" and while that is closer to my definition, it doesn't totally define romance. 


What do you call romantic? When you see a young man open the car door for his date, or a gentleman pull out the chair for his dinner partner, do you refer to those actions as romantic? 

How about the selfless acts in the storybooks of the girl selling her hair and the man selling his watch, just so they can afford to give each other the perfect gift?   Or, is it when you see two people with their heads together listening only to each other as the rest of the world goes on around them. 


The Definition of Romance


I would submit that romance is the expression in action of a deep emotion, a more continual caring evidenced through communicative glances, electrified touches and an intangible connection. 

********************

Debw07 offers her definition of romance and gives suggestions in her article Hopeless Romantic.  I did chuckle as I read her lens when I discovered we shared the same Hollywood heartthrob "crush".  

Even though I have seen almost all of her recommended romantic movies, she did review one romantic movie that I haven't seen yet.  All of my loyal readers know how much I love discovering a new (regardless of release date) romantic movie!


Romantics are always discovering unique ways to say "I love you" to their one and only love.  


I always enjoy reading articles written by authors who share personal experiences while giving awesome recommendations.  



Now tell me, what is your definition of romance?
  




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Editing Your Photos

I strive to compose  my photos so that very little editing is needed.  I like my photo to represent what I saw through the lens of my camera.  There are times, however where a bit of editing is required.  The two photos below are an example.  You will  note that in the photo before the editing the lighthouse is a bit crooked and the horizon is not quite straight.  The other thing that bothered m e about the photo was the lone tourist standing by the lighthouse.  Sometimes it is great to have people in the photos, but when I am taking a photo to be framed or to be used on Zazzle I really like to have the scenery without people.

Before Editing 

 In the photo below you will see the results of the photo editing.  I use Adobe Lightroom for my photo editing.  For this photo, I first went into the crop tool and moved the angle slightly to the right to straighten the lighthouse and the horizon.  Next I used the clone tool to click on the person and then clicked on the cloud to fill the area where the person was standing in with clouds.

Before I finished I slid the clarity and the vibrance slides up just a bit.  The photo below is the finished product.  Although I think the before photo was good, I do think the after editing photo is better.  What do you think?
After Editing






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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Uniquely Brilliant

Photo Credit: Ostrich Egg Carvings
This morning I have several things on the brain that might seem unrelated at first glance:  Seth Godin, orchids, Dremel tools, dentures, "peticures," and egg carvings.  You just never know what you’re going to find here when I start writing at 2:30 a.m.  I enjoy being surprised by the things percolating in my brain at this hour.

So what is the connection?  The interwoven thread is that of being indispensable and uniquely brilliant.  I am, of course, thinking about Seth Godin’s book about linchpins.  One of the things Seth asks us is if we are indispensable.  I had always hoped to be seen in that way but in reality, when I first read his book, I had not yet experienced an organization that didn’t constantly remind my colleagues and I that we could be easily dispensed of and replaced. 

What makes you or I indispensable, or, in the definition of a human linchpin, essential?  We learn by reading Seth’s book that it is our unique brilliance.  And, our unique brilliance has to do with the artistry of our hearts and souls.  We become indispensable when we turn each day into a work of art. 

That explains where the title of this post and Seth Godin come into play.  You may still be wondering how I’m going to work in the orchid, false teeth, peticure, carving, and Dremel angles.  This has to do with the artistry, unique brilliance, and essence of those who make Squidoo such an incredibly creative unworkplace.

Unworkplace?  That’s right.  Squidoo is not typical in any way.  In this creative community, each writer is constantly encouraged to pour his or her indispensability into each interaction (with others and with stories).  So what is the work in an unworkplace?  It’s emotion, and passion, and delight.  It is being the work of art that we already are in essence.

That brings us to the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say.  A while back, I issued a challenge for creative souls to share reviews of their favorite Dremel tools.  In my “Do or Di” DIY world, the Dremel is indispensable.  It is uniquely brilliant.  It’s the one tool I would never want to be without.  I haven’t found anything that my Dremel cannot do.  It is a linchpin.

While visiting Dremel reviews on Squidoo, I have been continually amazed and delighted by the ingenious ways in which my fellow writers use their Dremel tools and accessories.  Please take a few moments to celebrate with me the unique brilliance of those who have demonstrated there are no limits to what two linchpins (human and Dremel) can accomplish in concert with one another.  

Denise McGill saves the day with her Dremel dentistry brilliance.  While Nathanville upcycles a plastic tumbler into an orchid pot using his Dremel.  Then there are the amazing egg carvings presented by Craft-E-Mom.

After checking out their artistry, might you join us as the newest member of our Squidoo Linchpin Collective?  We’d love to have the opportunity to appreciate the indispensable artistry and unique brilliance of you.





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Monday, March 10, 2014

The Squidoo Community Sharing Mid-Atlantic Tales

When I was an “aspiring writer” I imagined writing as a solitary endeavor.  That image in my mind has changed from pecking away at a clacking typewriter to the quiet whispering clicky-click of a laptop. But the image of the tousled-haired hermit bent over a desk has continued in my mind.

Since discovering the Squidoo community, I am learning that writing does not have to be a solitary thing.  Sure, I can’t chat away while doing the actual writing of a piece, but I know that my fellow Squidoo writers are only an instant message or email away.  It’s an amazing feeling to have all of this support while writing. I highly recommend that writers join the Squidoo community.

While I currently hold the title of Mid-Atlantic States Travel contributor on Squidoo, there are plenty of other writers who write amazing lenses about the area. While it’s hard to know exactly where to start, I’d like to share a few of these remarkable lenses with you today.

I’d like to introduce you to Ramkitten on Squidoo.  She is also known as Deb Kingsbury and is a hiking expert.  I have been interested about the Appalachian Trail and have read a variety of articles and books about the subject over the years. Some weren’t helpful and some were helpful but weren’t very entertaining.  Ramkitten gives information with a sense of humor that makes me laugh out loud for real.  I especially like her descriptions and humor in her lens Hiking the Appalachian Trail: What You Really Need to Know.

While lighthouses are not limited to the mid-Atlantic region, you can find Chesapeake Lighthouses by mbgphoto on Squidoo.  I had a hard time choosing just one of her lenses to share because she is an accomplished writer and photographer. All of her lenses are beautiful..

Angelatvs on Squidoo made me feel like a very happy writer when she jumped on my Review Your Favorite Assateague and Chincoteague Island Items and did a wonderful book review of  Aassateague Island of the Wild Ponies. If you like wild ponies, you should definitely check out this book review.

Speaking of Chincoteague, I am hosting a Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry book giveaway at my blog to help celebrate the magic of the islands. You can enter by filing out the raffle form on my blog until March 14th.

Until next Monday, happy and safe travels to you all. 


Image Credit: ©Dawn Rae – All Rights Reserved (Click on photo for larger view)






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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Reviews of Movies about Parties and Occasions


Wedding Movies



The Party Planning niche on Squidoo has had a very busy couple of weeks. I published my newest curation list filled with party movies and have had people write some terrific reviews.

The movie list has a little bit of something for everyone including all sorts of parties and occasions like:

  • Weddings
  • Graduations
  • Anniversaries
  • Baby Showers
  • Bachelor Parties
  • Beach Parties
  • and even children's parties
With such wonderful participation, I wanted to make sure I highlighted some of the reviews this week. I will include the remainder in next weeks post. I don't want to leave anyone out!


My Big Fat Greek Wedding


I love this movie and so does Lensmaster wir55. She wrote an awesome review of the quirky, romantic comedy.

I agree with her (and the story line) that families are so very loving but can be overwhelming all at the same time. Sorting through the emotions can lead to some humorous incidents in our lives.

I think this film brings home the fact that you marry the whole family when you marry your spouse!

I think one of my favorite parts of the film is watching Toula grow and change into the self-confident person her mother always knew she was. Yes, mothers know more than any of us give them credit for, more often than not.

Like the movie, this review is definitely worth reading. Thanks wir55!



Runaway Bride


This review was by our very own BuckHawk -- aka Susan. I love Julia Roberts and have seen every single film she has made. There is just something about her that comes across the screen as genuine.

As Susan said in her review of the movie, it's a film you can watch over and over. I still laugh at all the same parts but usually find a new bit of humor each time I watch.

The pairing of Julia and Richard is classic. Their chemistry and penchant for straight-faced humor is unmatched. It's definitely one of my all time favorite romantic comedies.

Thanks for the review, Susan. I really enjoyed it.


Monster-in-Law


This movie about an interfering mother-in-law was reviewed by VeganEater. Again, a cute movie with a wedding and romance as a central theme. This time, it also involves a mom professing to be protecting her son from his future wife.

VeganEater shares her impressions of all the characters as well as which are her favorite. Surprisingly, it's not any of the leads. You'll have to read her review to find out!

This movie stars Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda. They are perfect and play very well off each other. It's funny how the son/fiance is oblivious to what is actually going on. (I think I know a few men that fit that can have the same problem at times...)



Your Turn


There's still plenty more party type movies on the list if you want to try your hand at reviewing one. It's easy! What are you waiting for?


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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Recycle Words to Create a Compelling Story

Reduce Vague Introductions and Reuse Powerful Statements


Words are the foundation of communication. How words are used and arranged in sentences and paragraphs determines the effectiveness of our communication. All it takes is just a few simple tricks to reduce a string of words into a powerful message. It's all about how you tell your story.


Hello Writing Friends!

Words are more than just a combination of letters. Words make the world go round. Words entertain. Words spread information. Words build relationships. You don't need a college education to use words effectively. It's all in the way you tell your story. 

Here are six simple strategies to craft compelling, clear and concise reviews, recipes and how-to articles.

Get Right to the Point


Capture your reader's attention in the first sentence. Starting a story with a quick and striking statement of fact can be very effective. Make this first sentence simple, direct and brief. Readers will stick around to read your story when you tell them the central and vital fact of your story at the very beginning.

Put Your Best Foot Forward


Phrases and word choices can lure a reader in or turn a reader away from a story. Statements that distract a reader, phrases that are trite and word meanings that are unclear are sure-fire ways to keep an audience from reading a story to the ending.

Here are a few tricks for writing a strong story introduction:
  • Avoid beginning a story by asking your readers an "If" statement. When a reader is asked, "If you were...?" or "How would you like it if...?" the reader's mind will want to answer the question and will forget to finish the story.
  • Find creative ways to begin stories and paragraphs. Using "a," "an" or "the" as the first word in a story or paragraph isn't very creative. Choose a word that is virile, a word that shows action.
  • Don't start with a time or date. Whether something occurred today or yesterday doesn't really matter. There are other things to be said which are more important.

Keep It Simple


Fancy words and phrases that require a dictionary can be a turn-off for some readers. Use common words and short sentences. Remember, you are writing for your readers and for your reader's enjoyment.

Be Honest


Always tell the truth in the stories you write. Don't exaggerate. Don't distort the facts. Just tell the truth, the plain truth.

Interview Interesting People


Adding another person's point of view, telling another person's tale or validating your story with an expert quote creates interest. Using quotes from others brightens up a story and gives it life.

Reveal Your  Sources


Anonymous interviews, general statements, inferences and implied accusations weaken a story and cause a writer to lose credibility. Every fact and every expert statement must be cited. Tell readers where you found your expert quotes, statistics and factual information.

I hope these tips have helped you recycle your inner editor so that you can create compelling stories that readers will want to share with their friends.

Until next week,

Coletta




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