Sunday, July 14, 2019

How to Decorate Your Walls on a Budget

I'm not a particularly gifted decorator, but I know what I like, and one thing I like is to make the wall art in my house fluid. I want to be able to change it up now and then. But there's a problem. Art can be expensive. After all, artists have to eat, too.

So I try to utilize a combination of art I've bought directly from the store or from an online shop. Deviant Art is my favorite online shop, but there are others, such as All Posters, Art.com and many others.

But because I want to change things up frequently, I need to save money, and I've found that estate sales, garage sales, rummage sales (especially church and school rummage sales) and thrift stores enable me to buy art at bargain prices. Other people want to change their walls, too, and their castoffs might be my (or your) next wall art find. Here are some of the things I've picked up at such sales (apologies for some of the images. I took them with my camera, and I'm not skilled enough to get rid of the reflections. Where possible, I found a duplicate image online, but that wasn't always possible).

This image doesn't do the art justice. It's actually a poster from the America's Cup 25 in 1983, and there is faint writing on the image. The frame was broken, so we re-framed it.


I believe that this sunflower painting by Anne Worthington was formerly an IKEA item, but we bought it for five dollars at a garage sale.


This one came matted in a gaudy gold frame (there's also writing beneath the image on the matting), and we didn't have the right sized frame, so we cut the matting a bit and re-framed it. I've shown both the original and our framed version (complete with my awful photo with reflection and washed out color).


 This is on Irish Linen, and someone framed it.

A National Park poster (we framed ours, but this is the poster sans frame).




It's always an adventure at sales, especially estate sales where you can sometimes see the art hanging on the wall. I doubt that we've ever paid more than fifteen dollars for a print (well, maybe twenty for a really large one). That has enabled us to move things around when the mood strikes.

Best wishes,

Myrna

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

More Homemade Greeting Cards

When I first started writing, I wrote greeting card verse, predominantly for a company called Oatmeal Studios. It was fun thinking up clever and mildly amusing text for greeting cards, but it wasn't really much more than a hobby (I had other writing goals), so I moved on to fiction. That said, I still love the idea of making up my own cards rather than buying them. So here are some more ideas for greeting cards, courtesy of YouTube and all the fine craftspeople who post there. So get out your scissors, glue, pretty paper and any other supplies you might have, and let's see what kind of unique cards we can make.

Here's a very simple one that you can embellish any way you'd like.


Another pop up card


I like this shaker card, because you make your own shaker materials instead of buying glitter or confetti.


If you missed the earlier posts on greeting cards, here are the links:




Enjoy making your own cards (and, hopefully, saving money)!

Best,

Myrna

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Protecting the Garden from Deer

I remember the days when even to get a single sight of a deer was a glorious experience. Traveling to the mountains or anyplace wilder than my own urban environment offered a chance of seeing wildlife, and deer can be truly majestic (also cute, if we're talking about the little ones). I still thrill whenever I see a group of them even though I've seen hundreds of deer over the years.

On the other hand, for the past few years I've been in a tug of war with deer that want to nibble away at my garden. They have been particularly fond of my tall garden phlox (even though those frequently appear on lists of plants that deer don't like) and my turtle heads (also on those lists). They haven't actually eaten the plant, just the flowers or buds, so there's that to consider. 

For awhile I put a makeshift fence around the plants, using tall green garden stakes, fishing line (I read that they don't like the feel of it when they brush against it to get to the plants) along with a couple of rows of jute where I didn't put fishing line (I wanted them to be able to see the barrier, not hurt themselves by getting tangled in it). That worked fine for awhile until they ended up doing this:
Once I ended up with a photo of one inside the fence, munching away. So, I decided to go another route and plant only things that deer aren't fond of. I don't mind sharing a little bit, but I'd like some flowers to survive, and deer like to eat all the blossoms. More research was necessary, including looking at what had been surviving in my garden all along.

Here's what I've come up with so far (your experiences may vary).

Plants the Deer Have Never Touched in My Garden

lilacs

four o'clocks (which I don't plant anymore, because they tend to reseed and take over)

correopsis

peonies

columbine

larkspur


pieris forest flame (a type of japonica I've only had for a year, but in a hard winter it stayed safe)


shasta daisy


daffodils
tomatoes
pumpkins
common milkweed

Plants I'm Trying But Don't Have Enough Data on Yet

Rose of Sharon


Plants that Regularly Appear on "Will Not Be Eaten" Lists That I Want to Try

Bee balm
Butterfly Bush 
Milkweed other than Common Milkweed

Plants the Deer Have Feasted On

berries (of course)
hostas
turtle heads

garden phlox
Japanese anemone

Wish me luck!

Myrna





Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Where to Find eBook Bargains

Years ago I had a professor who told me that he and his wife were book poor. No need to explain that to anyone who has been in love with books all their lives. We tend to be obsessed with acquiring books. There are many reasons for that and they're probably different for each person, but my personal reasons for being a mad book buyer have to do with the fact that every book contains stories, secrets, possibilities, the answers to questions, hours of entertainment and more. I take one look at a book, and I just can't help looking inside...and often, buying.

In fact, I can't remember a time when I wasn't a bit obsessed with books and reading. When I was a girl in school I loved the days when we could order Scholastic Books and I eagerly awaited each shipment. When I became a teacher, I was just as entranced, and I always ordered extra books for my classroom. Bookstores call out to me (at least it seems that way). At garage and estate sales, I always gravitate to the book shelves. Library book sales suck me in every time, so I understood when, visibly six months pregnant and waiting in line at a huge library book sale, I was nearly knocked flying by eager book buyers trying to get in the door to access all those books!

But here's the thing. Even though I buy a lot of books and even though I'm a writer who totally understands that writers need to eat (i.e., make money), I'm also still a fan of bargains. Don't get me wrong. I buy a lot of books at full price, but now and then a discount comes my way, and I'm happy to be able to save a dollar or two.

So without further ado, here are some of my favorite ways to save on books (note: these are all for ebooks, so feel free to mention places to save on print books in the comments section).

eReaderIQ - You sign in with an email address, indicate the books and/or authors you want to keep watch on, indicate what price you want to pay or how much of a discount you're looking for, and when the books go on sale, the site sends you a notice. I have a tendency to forget and just buy the book without waiting, but now and then I've gotten some great bargains.

BookBub Daily Deals - You can access the site to look for deals and/or sign up for alerts, indicating your preferences, and every day you'll receive an email with a bunch of bargains in it. I love it!

Bargain eBook Hunter - I haven't used this one much at all (although there are lots of free books here. I used to get their emails--like BookBub, you can get a daily email with bargains), but some time has passed, so I'm no expert on this one.

Kindle Daily Deals - you may need to go to a different Amazon address if you're in a different country (just google Amazon daily Kindle deals and add your country name at the end), but every day Kindle has daily deals which can be accessed via the site or--again, as above--via a daily email. I get the daily emails, but I also visit the site, because there are also monthly deals and other short-term deals.

Nook Daily Find - If you're a Nook reader, there's a daily deal, try this. Also, once you're there, look in the sidebar for other deals.

Kobo Deals - If you have a Kobo, you might try here.

Bargain Booksy - You have to look at the details of individual books. Some are only offered as Kindles. Others are offered on other sites, include Apple.

If you have other favorite places to find books (ebook or print), share it in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Reading!

Myrna



Sunday, June 30, 2019

Why I Love Crossword Puzzles (and Where You Can Find Free Online Puzzles)

We're crossword puzzle fans at our house, and we do them together. On most days, we settle in with a cup of coffee and collaborate on the daily Wall Street Journal crossword puzzle. We work together until we get close to the end. Then we have a fun competition to see who can fill in the last word. There have been some crazy rushes to finish. Holding several answers in one's head and then quickly dashing off three or four words in one shot is not unheard of (because writing down those answers helps the enemy...er, spouse competitor, giving them clues they might not have had otherwise). Anyway, it's great fun, it helps improve vocabulary, keeps me up to speed on modern cultural references (and older ones), and even gives me a chance to use the French I studied years ago. I do sometimes wish I knew more about sports and maybe Italian and German as well. Those would help a lot.
newspaper crossword with eyeglasses resting on the newspaper


Our daily crossword competitions are done on paper, but there are many options online for people who also like crosswords, and some of them are free. Here's a smattering of the choices available. Note: if you're unfamiliar, some of these look like videos, and there may be an ad at the beginning, but the crossword will follow.

Click through to the puzzles at the links below:
Merriam-Webster Daily Crossword

The Guardian

The Washington Post

The L.A. Times

USA Today

AARP (and no, you don't have to be a senior or a member to play)

Dictionary.com

The New York Times crossword is, of course, the gold standard for crosswords, but it's not free (at the moment the monthly rate is $6.95 or $39.95 for a year). Also, it's really challenging and I'm not always up to the challenge (in the past, I've owned books of the New York Times Sunday crosswords).However, the paper also offers a daily mini (usually just 5 x 5) and that one is free. As it's timed, I enjoy trying to solve it in less than a minute. Sometimes I succeed. Other times...well, I still enjoy trying.
The New York Times mini crossword

Also, this page has some archives of the mini (the other one might, but I wasn't sure).

This, of course, is just a smattering of the puzzles out there (although I think these are some of the best). So if you're a crossword enthusiast, enjoy!

Best Wishes!

Myrna






Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Silly but Fun Gimmicks from the Internet

Years ago I used to post oddities from the internet (weird little websites or things you could get your computer to do). A lot of those have either dropped off or they haven't added securities (the https) to their sites, which might make people nervous. So I set out to see what I could find that was still available out there and I turned up more than I expected. Have a look:

Pointer Pointer
This image doesn't do this justice, because you can't see the pointer, but basically the idea is that you put your cursor in the box, and the site flashes an image where people are pointing to your cursor. Move the cursor and a new image appears where, yes, someone is pointing toward the cursor.

Cat Bounce
A lot of images of falling cats (not really falling, of course). Hit the reset button on the left to change the background color. Click on the Make It Rain rainbow sign in the upper right hand, and a whole lot more cats come down.


Happy Happy Hardcore
Nothing much, but a lot of falling happy, sad, grinning emojis.


Continuing on with the emoji theme, but in this case, you begin with a more or less blank screen. Move your cursor and a trail of emojis of all kinds follow. But wait, they're disappearing. I considered it a challenge to see how much of the screen I could fill up before I started losing emojis.
Your Image
A white screen appears along with these (all too quickly disappearing) instructions.
Instructions: 

Mouse Move = painting (speed effects the weight of the stroke) 

Mouse Click = new image from the Internet 

Spacebar = opens a window where you see and save your image 

Begin moving your cursor, and it looks as if you're painting, but you're really uncovering an image (I think). As mentioned above, you can change the image, change the size of the stroke and save the image if you like.

Lastly, this one creates a colorful "sand" image that looks a bit like a galaxy. Just click on different colors, move the cursor and create an image. On the right, you can tweak the way the brush strokes operate (smooth, intense, worms?...). Just change the preset, grab a color and continue on. Change the preset again, and you'll get a completely different look. When you're finished, you can download the image if you like. 

There are more, but you get the picture. So, I guess the answer is yes, those fun little time wasters still do exist. Now if only we all had more time!

Have a wonderful day. Find some time to play...or read...or whatever you like to do to relax. In other words, I hope you're able to find some you time today.

Best Wishes,

Myrna






Saturday, June 22, 2019

Gardening for Those of Us with Brown Thumbs

I have mentioned before that I'm not the world's greatest gardener/plant person. I have managed to kill house plants that are considered unkillable (a snake plant. Seriously, who kills a snake plant? They need almost zero care)!

Somehow I've managed to keep this one alive for several years (but it's a succulent, so sort of easy).

At any rate, outdoors, like most people, I have to deal with the challenges of not enough sun in some places paired with creatures (rabbits, squirrels, the occasional deer) who are super happy to find an easy snack in the way of whatever I happen to have growing.

I no longer plant marigolds, because despite their less than appealing scent, something keeps eating them (in an area where I had no trouble for years). In the spring, I've mostly replaced tulips (I love tulips!) with daffodils, because often the rabbits eat the tulips before they've even had a chance to bloom.

My phlox has been eaten to the ground by deer almost every year, so I'm eliminating it. (Also, did I fail to mention that I'm kind of a lazy gardener? Once I plant something, I don't want to have to do much other than watering and some minor weeding).

So here are some plants that have worked for me.

Creeping myrtle - a reliable ground cover that has pretty blue flowers in the spring
Vinca minor

Lily of the Valley - I cut these back when my kids were small, because they're poisonous, but in the spring they smell nice. Not the prettiest ground cover, but reliable
lily of the valley

Lilacs - I have lilacs. Nothing touches them, and they smell heavenly. We just planted a Bloomarang variety, which is supposed to bloom twice in one season if you deadhead it. We'll see. It's still too young to tell.
Bloomerang lilac

I just planted this Pieris Japonica last year, but it's already becoming a favorite. The leaves are red and green, almost poinsettia-like. And it survived a brutal winter. So far so good.
Pieris Japonica

I have Shasta daisies in several locations. They all came from a twenty-cent package of seeds I bought years ago. They're not the prettiest flowers or the most attractive plant once the flowers are gone (like peonies, the foliage becomes a bit unwieldy over time), but they're reliable and the critters don't go near them.
Shasta daisy
I've also had good luck with four o'clocks, but they started taking over the garden. It's easy to gather the seeds (which are big) and many of them fall and self seed, so if you have the space and don't mind them being everywhere, they're another safe choice. 

These days I've turned my attention to helping save monarch butterflies, so I'm planting milkweed. It takes a number of years for the plants to reach maturity, but they're easy to grow (if you plant them from scratch, the seeds need cold, so winter seed or store the seeds in the fridge and plant inside in the spring), but once you have a few, they also spread via rhisomes beneath the ground. So far, I only have common milkweed that has grown large enough to flower, but I planted some swamp milkweed this year, so I'm hopeful that will add to my milkweed collection. (Being a lazy gardener, I planted my first ones in milk jugs in the winter. Super easy. Here's my story on winter sowing. At the time, I wasn't sure, but after years of this easy-as-pie method, I'm sold).
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

I would love to be able to grow Cardinal Flowers, because they're beautiful and they attract hummingbirds, but I'm not sure I have an area wet enough for them to grow. Plus, the flowers are difficult for insects to get in, so they need hummingbirds to pollinate them, and I'm not sure there are that many of those around here. 
Cardinal flower

I'd love to hear of your own gardening experiences (good and bad). 

Happy gardening!

Myrna

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Where Are You in Your Reading Cycle? Mysteries? Romance? Science Fiction?

It has occurred to me (not for the first time) that I tend to read in cycles. When I was very young, I was just so excited to be reading that I would read anything and everything. To some extent that's still true. When stuck in a situation where there are few reading choices (doctor's offices and such), I'll read whatever's available if I've forgotten to bring a book.

But my reading habits over the years have changed and, in some cases, have circled back around again. In my early school years and into middle school, I had a taste for fantasy  Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, The Borrowers, Miss Hickory, and fairy tales of all stripes, including the scary ones were some of my favorites. I read those when everyone else was on to Nancy Drew and horse books (it was a thing for girls in the sixties), and a friend once told me that I read "weird stuff." I also read all the Little House books during these years (and reread them several times more in later years).

I graduated to romance (sometimes) when a teacher introduced me to Jane Eyre. I went on to read Wuthering Heights and romances geared toward teens (does anyone else remember that Beverly Cleary of Beezus and Ramona fame, also wrote teen romance novels)? These were also my Louisa May Alcott years. I was such a fan that a teacher refused to give me any more extra credit for reading her books. I didn't care. What was extra credit compared to reading a favorite author?

Then I segued to books I considered to be "important books" as well as popular contemporary novels. This was back in the late sixties, and I've forgotten a bunch of them, but I distinctly remember reading Uncle Tom's Cabin and some Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night's Dream comes to mind). Of course, high school brought on a lot of required reading, but when given a choice of an author to key in on in depth, I chose Thomas Hardy. Later, a college professor told me that I must be a very depressing person if I could read one Hardy novel after another. I suspect (don't quite remember) that I started with Far from the Madding Crowd, which isn't quite as down as some others and then went on from there. At any rate, this was probably my most pretentious era (although I will confess that between 7th and 8th grade, I discovered a bag of my mother's Harlequin Romances and I devoured them. I also latched on to Lucy Walker, who wrote Australian Outback romances).

College, where I was studying to be a teacher, brought me back to children's literature (I loved the kiddie lit course where we were supposed to read something like 105 books) and this was where I discovered Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, which I still love and have on my shelves. Still, romance was never far away. This was the era of the Gothic romance (Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart...). My mother read them and then I borrowed hers.

And then the romance world broke open. In the years that followed, sex was suddenly allowed in romance novels. Historical romance novels became popular. I discovered authors then that I still reread today (LaVyrle Spencer, Jude Deveraux, Pamela Morsi, Mary Balogh were favorites ,just to name a few).

But I still (and always) came back to children's novels, most especially fantasy (Cornelia Funke's Inkheart series, Michael Scott's The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, any of the Rick Riordan mythology-based series, Harry Potter, books by Neil Gaiman). It's all good.
I seesaw back and forth from one genre to another. Right now I'm leaning children's fantasy, but I always have a romance nearby. (And, I confess, I like a good science fiction novel now and then, too. Mars by Andy Weir was both a good movie and a good book).

What's your reading history?

Share if you like, and if you don't like...just enjoy whatever genre you're reading right now!

Best wishes,

Myrna





Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Wife in History

I have a thing for quirky reference books, so I was excited to come across this little gem today titled A History of the Wife.. I wasn't actually looking for a new book, and finding it was one of those weird woo-woo moments. Less than a week ago,I was reading a novel that took place in England in 1814, and a character in the book (a solicitor) mentioned that the laws of the time stipulated that if a woman gave birth within a year after her husband's death, the child would be considered the legitimate offspring of the deceased husband!Whoa! You do the math.


Anyway, that little tidbit already had me digging around on the internet for more information on how this part of the law could have come about, so this book came along just at the right time. I'm looking forward to delving into it.

Myrna

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Do You Treehouse?

I'll admit that while I've never actually been in a treehouse, I'm fascinated by them. In spite of the fear factor involved with a small space well off the ground, there's something rather magical about them. They feel a bit like playgrounds where adults are just as welcome as children.

And during recent years, people have gotten so inventive when it comes to style. Plans that would never work for ordinary houses are pluses for treehouses.

There are treehouses one can rent:

Here are 31 others that can be rented. Some of them are amazing!

If you do a search for "Treehouses for sale," you'll find builders and a number of ready-to-move-in treehouses on the market.

Also, I've obviously been living under a rock (i.e., I don't have cable tv) or I would have already known (as many of you no doubt already do) that there was a long running show on the Animal Planet channel called Treehouse Masters that featured...duh...treehouses. Episodes are still up on the website or if you just want photo tours, that's available, too.

There are also lots of videos available on YouTube, such as this one:

This one:


You can watch treehouses being built, and (via Treehouse Masters again), you can find some treehouses that are more luxurious than many places I've lived, such as this beauty (I have a silver maple, but I definitely don't have this view):

Maybe I should try a unique vacation and stay only in treehouses. Wouldn't that be something?

Have a fantastic day and enjoy fantasizing about your own personal daydream, whether it be a treehouse tour or some other fascinating goal!

Myrna