Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Writing and Blogging: “The Good Way” April 29, 2010

Today’s guest-post will inspire bloggers and writers seeking to sharpen skills, improve clarity and have more fun! It was written by Of Parchments and Inks, a blog authored by “Brown Eyed Mystic.” 

The Brown Eyed Mystic makes these observations, “You may have a reason to blog; and even if you have none, writing in a corner of your own will come to invent a reason on its own once you do it.” Personally, I think this is a true statement for all types of writers. When a first-grader writes her first story, it is this sense of achievement which plants the seed for a lifetime love of writing and story-telling.  Brown Eyed Mystic goes on to say, “You’d sure want your blog-place to be of value, even emotional value.” Maybe especially emotional value? In an effort to help us “blog the right way,” here are the suggested tips:

Ways to Blog the Good Way

  1. Become focused: This is the most said one by the better bloggers out there. Becoming focused will not only help you to write something of value and usage, but also will rejuvenate your mind when you look at your creation once you’ve finished. Seriously, nothing is more pleasurable than looking at something you wrote and getting the stings of joy. Pay respect to your blog when you are engaged with it and be involved in it like you’d do with a human.
  2. Write for the reader: When you write for the reader, you have a hit. People would come to you only if they sense that your writings have some inherent value. Say if you’re into crafts, you can put up your creations on your blog, and share how you did it with your readers. How-to’s are always great to read. Keep the reader in mind and then blog.
  3. Serve others with fresh comments: When you read someone’s blog and like something about it, make a point to leave a comment. Leaving your trail marks this way is like making the web realize you were there. As you know, links are beneficial for your own blog too; others reading your comments have an inclination to see who has actually put up the little nugget of comment. That said, don’t spam the blogger’s comment area; you may be blocked or you won’t throw a great impression on the readers and will be, at best, ignored. Ignorance is not what you want your blog to suffer from, so be courteous and intelligent while commenting. Along with this, try to keep a track of the blogs that have gone huge, and try to place a comment in the top 5-10 placeholders in their comment’s area. You get to have more visibility that way.
  4. Make commenting possible on your blog: Turn on the comments so that others can post in the area. Along with this, make sure you have a way for the readers to subscribe to new comments on your blog. This creates stickiness which allows traffic coming back to you.
  5. Link the right way: Look out for any links that are no more functional, or no more relevant to your blog. Remove links that throw the notorious 404 error. Your readers and the bots on search engines will be more than happy for this act.
  6. Read, and then read some more: Reading is a good habit, and it applies to blogging also. When you are planning to write a new post but lack an idea, just read others’ pieces. That doesn’t mean plagiarise, no. It means to get inspired and build up something else altogether on reading someone’s post. This happens to me a lot. Try it before your mind starts to hear the clunks of uncertainty and panic!
  7. Socialize virtually: Man is a social animal. Socializing online with other bloggers not only gives you exposure, but also makes you learn more about different niches out there and about other writers’ lives. Just as in the physical world you meet someone and exchange information about you, in the virtual world you give out your website or blog address which lets people know more about you.
  8. Give something away for free: Yep, an e-book is one great example. I know creating a product such as this needs time and commitment, but hey, didn’t we discuss before to keep the reader in mind? Write an e-book or make a video, give it away for free and make someone’s day
  9. Include details: Do not assume that your readers know all the basics about your niche. Now it may be tempting to assume so, with so many resources out there on so many niches, but what separates you from them in that case? Are you joining the rat race and hopping on the bandwagon too? Taking small introductory things for granted is a grave mistake and will send the innocent reader to another place thatbetter  understands their needs.
  10. Never say never!: Don’t get disheartened with your blog’s success. Know that you have a lot to do and to put in before expecting rainbow-colored results from your web’s corner. An upward moving traffic graph is what every writer wants, no doubt, but getting there takes time and effort investment. Don’t give up yet! Be committed to it. Make a relationship with it. Bond with it.
  11. If you write in English, please write in English: I get turned off on reading blogs that have “compressed” words to save on typing/time/effort or whatever. “Words” like u, plz, or wud make me cringe. No offense to anyone, but if you are targeting mature and educated public, please show them that you care by writing real words and decently correct grammar in your blog. I’d probably stop reading much further if there’s a lot of compression and bad grammar in even an otherwise content-rich post.
  12. Write in your own voice: One of Brown-eyed Mystic’s readers, Dr. Tom Bibey, commented succinctly: “About all I can add is to write in one’s own voice and not try to be anyone else. I love Mark Twain, but there was only one of him. All I can do is be the best Dr. B. I can be.” Well said.

Which one do you think is a way to blog the good way that’s missing here? Do you have a special tried and tested method to share?

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Katie Couric talks about the best way to praise kids April 28, 2010

“You’re so smart!” I tell my boys when they solve a problem or resolve frustration. But am I encouraging them with those words, or merely labeling a successful action? The right words can motivate your child to try harder, to work through a complicated problem, and in doing so, build confidence and self esteem.

This week, Katie Couric interviewed Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families in Work Institute and author of “Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.”  During the interview they discussed the right way to encourage children especially in dealing with education, and the problems in over-praising kids to build self-esteem without demanding accomplishments.

Click here to see the interview with Katie and Ellen.

Want more easy and inspirational life skills ideas? See my post 10 Loving tips for real TLC – Do these now, and be happy.

 

10 Loving tips for real TLC – Do these now, and be happy

Every day, we owe it to ourselves to take steps toward leading a healthier, happier existence. There are endless possibilities–and rewards!–for good self care, such as meditation, exercise and appreciation of nature. Connecting to your higher power is an excellent path to peace and love, of both yourself and others. 

Today’s amazing and inspiring guest post is from board certified internist, certified holistic physician and national radio personality, Michael Finkelstein, M.D., breaks it down into a series of simple tasks.
 
To live more skillfully, he encourages individuals to view life as a set of opportunities, and to regard every aspect of our journey as an important piece of a collective puzzle. 

Follow your own advice- While advice from others is nice, recognize that no one is in a better position to take care of you than yourself.  You have likely given friends and loved ones guidance many times in the past.  Return the favor to yourself.
Exert self control-  Resist just one urge to eat something unhealthy, crack your knuckles, or say something bad about someone.  You’ll feel better for it and will be more likely to resist the urge again at some point in the future. (See my post on how “good” behavior actually improves self control!)
Forgive yourself for a mistake- Mistakes are inevitable.  Identify one thing you’ve done that was unplanned.  Release any guilt you’ve been harboring because of it and recognize something positive that resulted from it.
Reconsider your needs- Identify something you own that isn’t expensive, and quantify it’s inherent value – a picture your child drew for you; a love note your husband scribbled on a napkin on your first date; family heirloom…finding the value in inexpensive things will help you reevaluate your need for excessive amounts of money that we have a tendency to crave.
Celebrate your age- Consider how fast the joyful times in your life seem to have passed and rejoice in the time you have ahead of you.  Commend yourself on how your experiences have enriched your character and think about how you’d be different had you never had them.
Learn something from your children- Marvel at the ease with which a child interacts with the natural world, and make an effort to release some of the fear that’s attached to our boundaries as adults.
Defy your schedule- When planning your week, make a commitment on one day to wake up when the sun comes up and go to sleep when the sun goes down.  Honoring the sun’s cycle will keep you more in tune with nature, and ultimately healthier.
Thank someone for something- Considering what a person has done for you lately will  help you realize and appreciate what you have
Commend yourself for a job well done- We are our greatest teachers, so it’s important to bestow praise upon ourselves when we deserve it.  

Prior to developing his celebrated Skillful Living concept, Dr. Finkelstein was the Medical Director of Northern Westchester Hospital in Bedford NY and the Assistant Director to the Department of Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC.

 

A warm cup of tea, and savory honey scones–perfection April 27, 2010

A good cup of tea can be transcendant, warming chilled bones, soothing frayed nerves, or settling a tired body after a busy day. It is shared with a good book, over good conversation, or when in presence of royalty. The many methods of enjoying tea can take us far beyond the comfort of our own kettle. China, Morocco, France, England, Kenya, and Russia are all tea-drinking countries with their own unique serving traditions and tea preparations. Lisa Boalt Richardson’s latest book, The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions, Near and Far illuminates the rich culture of tea around the world. For each of eight different countries, you’ll learn about the culture and history of tea, how tea is served there, how to prepare tea in the style of the country, and which foods (recipes included!) can accompany the tea.
Stunning photographs by Lauren Rubinstein, one of Atlanta’s premier food photographers, illustrate the wide variety of teas and accompanying menus eaten all over the world.

Savory Honey Scones
2-1/4 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped and divided
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/3 cups semolina
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
6 ounces soft goat cheese
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
1 egg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix 2 teaspoons rosemary with all the other dry ingredients. Add goat cheese to the dry ingredients and set aside.
Whisk together honey, half the cream, and egg. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients until a soft dough forms.
Form the dough into a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and separate the dough into 2 equal portions and pat each portion into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 16 wedges. Separate and arrange wedges on a baking sheet.
Brush tops with remaining cream and sprinkle with remaining rosemary. Place in oven and bake 1o to 12 minutes or until golden brown. It is yummy to serve these with butter, honey, and/or softened goat cheese! Makes 16 scones.

For more interesting and elegant recipes, visit my other blog, unassumingfoodie.blogspot.com. Thanks!

 

Easy, low-cost tips for improving your tween or teen’s health April 26, 2010

It wasn’t too long ago when health concerns such high blood pressure leading to heart problems were issues only middle-aged or elderly Americans faced. Increasingly, tweens and teens are struggling with health problems that, left unchecked, will only worsen as they age. Here are three tips garnered from the study. It is important to note that in every case, success was highest when the adoloscent was open to the techniques, and the family/parents offered a positive or supportive environment. However, the techniques would benefit all family members, especially busy parents, so total family participation would be ideal.

  • Meditation
  • Walking with a pedometer
  • Life skills coaching/ learning better problem-solving skills

Dr. Vernon Barnes, who has studied the impact of meditation on cardiovascular health for more than a decade at the Medical College of Georgia’s Georgia Prevention Institute has documented the improved stress reactivity in adolescents with high and normal blood pressures as well as lower blood pressures in inner-city adolescents who meditate twice daily. He adds that a positive attitude and family environment increases the effectiveness.

Meditation also sharpens the mind for education. “When you come to school with a stressed mind, you can’t do as well,” Dr. Barnes said. “The benefit of calming your mind is preparing it to learn.” A review of school records showed meditating adolescents miss fewer days and generally behave better, he added.

Another study showed that the blood pressure of students in a high school-based walking program decreased after just 16 weeks compared with non-participating peers. Dr. Barnes said an inexpensive pedometer is an incentive to move.

“It all works together, which makes sense,” he said, looking at the impact of the techniques over just a few months. “If you could maintain that decrease into your adult years, it may decrease cardiovascular disease risk,” Dr. Barnes said.

Researchers also reported reductions in anger and anxiety after a dozen, 50-minute Williams LifeSkills workshops helped adolescents learn to analyze a situation before responding, to listen and empathize or even stand firm when necessary. Psychosocial factors such as anger are known to contribute to a wide range of health problems including elevated blood pressures and heart disease in adulthood.

What does your family do to alleviate stress?

 

“Good” behavior means a better diet, improved physical abilities? Yes!

I’ve always found it curious that we consider eating nutritiously or going to the gym as “being good.” When we give in to counter-productive temptations, we are “bad.” And that negative thought about ourselves then cycles into another negative choice: “Since I’ve already broken my diet with these cookies, I might as well eat the whole bag.”  Or, how about, “I missed the gym twice this week. I might as well throw in the towel.” Since when did our food and exercise habits make us virtuous–or naughty?

I’m as guilty as anyone. I actually prefer a nutritious diet, and find fatty or fried food distasteful. Now that I’ve decided to return to vegetarianism to protect my health, I am yet more nauseatingly pious.

But, new statistics show that a lifestyle of compassion towards others can actually help us make better choices in the kitchen–and more capable at the gym.

The research, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, shows a similar or even greater boost in physical strength following dastardly deeds. Researcher Kurt Gray, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard, explains that counter to the notion that only those blessed with heightened willpower or self-control are capable of making positive food choices, or consistently maintaining an exercise program.

“Gandhi or Mother Teresa may not have been born with extraordinary self-control, but perhaps came to possess it through trying to help others,” says Gray, who calls this effect “moral transformation” because it suggests that moral deeds have the power to transform people from average to exceptional.

“Perhaps the best way to resist the donuts at work is to donate your change in the morning to a worthy cause,” Gray says.

It may also suggest new treatments for anxiety or depression, he says: Helping others may be the best way of regaining control of your own life. (Amen to that! The best way out of a dark place is to help others who are in greater need than you. Seems counter-intuitive, but works every time.)

Gray’s findings are based on two studies. In the first, participants were given a dollar and told either to keep it or to donate it to charity; they were then asked to hold up a 5 lb. weight for as long as they could. Those who donated to charity could hold the weight up for almost 10 seconds longer, on average.

In a second study, participants held a weight while writing fictional stories of themselves either helping another, harming another, or doing something that had no impact on others. As before, those who thought about doing good were significantly stronger than those whose actions didn’t benefit other people.

But surprisingly, the would-be malefactors were even stronger than those who envisioned doing good deeds.

“Whether you’re saintly or nefarious, there seems to be power in moral events,” Gray says. “People often look at others who do great or evil deeds and think, ‘I could never do that’ or ‘I wouldn’t have the strength to do that.’ But in fact, this research suggests that physical strength may be an effect, not a cause, of moral acts.”

 

Mother’s Day foodie gifts you’ll actually want! April 23, 2010

Mother’s Day is a wonderful excuse to receive gifts reflecting your favorite food passions. Rather than the same-old, these treats from RegionalBest.com look unique and special. I don’t tout products I haven’t tried, but these look tempting enough that I simply must post–if only as a hint!

For the Gluten Free Mom

Caren Wize, chef and owner of Truly Wize Bakery, makes delicious all natural, gluten free products that are beautifully packaged in eco-friendly gift boxes.  We recommend  Assorted Macaroons,  the extra rich and moist Gluten Free Brownies, and the fruit flavor filled Whoopie Pies.

For the Chocolate Lover Mom

Roni-Sues Chocolates of New York City offers several truffle collections, including the Cocktail Truffle Collection, unique handmade truffles featuring a variety of classic cocktails like the Manhattan,  Mojito, Dark & Stormy, Mimosa and Margarita.  They’re made with the finest local ingredients and some include tequila, coconut rum, bourbon and sweet vermouth.  In addition, Roni-Sue’s exclusive Regional Chocolate Collection features a variety of flavors each very different and unique to represent regional flavors throughout the United States, such as blueberry, cherries jubiliee and pecan pie.

For the Garden Lover Mom   
  
Artisanal Shortbread from Simply Nic’s in New Jersey is available in luscious varieties like Rosemary, Lavender and Cardamon Candied Ginger.  Artisan Baker Nicole Bergman gets  fresh rosemary from local farms, and gardens in and around Princeton, NJ.  She harvests rosemary from the herb garden that Littlebrook Elementary School’s Garden Club (in Princeton, NJ) plants, as part of the Princeton School Garden Cooperative.

For the Breakfast Lover Mom

If mom is a coffee or tea lover, you can’t go wrong with Kohana’s Best Coffee Sampler, a selection of Kohana’s best roasted coffees, or the Flowering Teas Sampler from Great Lakes Tea and Spice.  The teas are absolutely gorgeous served in a clear class pot or cups.

For more great ideas, check out RegionalBest’s gift guide.

What foodie gift would YOU like to receive for Mother’s Day?