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Archive for January, 2011

What I Do Offline to Recharge Myself

Suat Eman

Relax with a cup of steaming hot tea and your favorite pastime. Credit: Suat Eman

Let’s face it –– in today’s rush, rush workaday world, I use every resource I have, including time, mental, emotional, cognitive and physical. At the end of the day, I’m worn out and I need to recharge the batteries, so to speak.

As a freelance writer, yes, I work at home. I don’t have to worry about leaving my house on time every morning and fighting traffic to get to work. I’m able to structure my day as I need so I can take care of everything that needs to be done. Still. It’s all on me –– the earning, the decision-making, managing the business and my home. That’s a lot to be responsible for and it does use up all the resources I have available. That’s why I have several offline activities I indulge in so I can recharge myself.

My go-to activity is creating beauty. Because I create writing for my pay, which I love, this is a natural extension for me. My current non-writing creative outlets include crochet, cross stitch and, as I become more skilled at it, beading. I have a large box stored in my sunroom that is full of my crafting supplies. In addition, I have a storage box with a latching lid stuffed with balls of yarn and crochet hooks that don’t fit in my crochet hook wallet. Let’s not forget the plastic zipping bags that hold the “overflow” yarn. I have three projects in progress right now, with a fourth planned –– as soon as I finish the one I’m working on now.

The aforementioned box holds supplies for plastic canvas, two latch hook kits, cross stitch supplies and several cross stitch kits that I have owned for more years than I care to remember. I also have craft storage boxes filled with beads and beading thread. I haven’t bought any pliers yet because I’m not at the point where I can “graduate” to using beading wire, but I’ll get there –– some day.

I love beauty, regardless of whether it’s contained in words that weave a tale or in an item that I’ve made from my own two hands. For this reason, turning from word-crafting to crochet or cross stitch at the end of my work day is a natural progression. I’m currently crocheting a set of fingerless gloves for a friend on the East coast –– with the winter they’re experiencing, she’ll get really good use out of them. I started glove two just a couple of days ago and I’m already halfway through making it. I should be able to mail these gloves to her fairly soon; then I’ll start working on a late Christmas gift for another friend. We discussed her favorite colors and I have a couple of ideas to make something for her.

I have a crochet pattern for a short-sleeve sweater I want to make for myself. I’ve only been actively crocheting for five years, so this project will test my skills. I do have to wonder how relaxing that project will be. The other project is a “School Colors” afghan I’m making for my oldest son. He lives on the West coast, where the winters are wet and cold, so I’m thinking this afghan will help keep him warm after work and at night when he goes to bed. I originally conceived this afghan idea, using four yarn colors –– the two colors closest to our school colors of red and blue, plus two different shades (burgundy and windsor blue). I made the first blanket, using all four colors and gave that one to my youngest son. On really cold nights here, he uses that afghan. My older son asked for a blanket crocheted with the burgundy and windsor blue yarns. I threw an additional variation into his blanket –– I am crocheting it in color blocks, where the original blanket is stitched in wide stripes. Since this is my own pattern, I’m modifying it so each blanket is an original creation for both of my sons.

I really want to get back to the cross stitching and latch hook, not to mention my beading. Because I’m always able to find new patterns or develop new ideas for projects, I foresee many pleasurable evenings, recharging my batteries. When I sit on the couch with a cup of hot tea and a couple of cookies in front of me and I pick up on my crocheting, I can feel the tension leaving my body. Crochet, for me, is an activity where I’m able to focus my attention. As I crochet each stitch, I am fully focused on the yarn moving through my fingers, with the hook creating each stitch. The program on TV provides a sound accompaniment as I stitch, sip my tea and munch my cookies. By the end of the evening, I’m ready for a shower and bed.

Writing for Fun and Profit

Writing is Not Your Old Fifth-Grade Theme Paper

What do you think of when you hear, “I need to get my writing done?” If you dutifully wrote the history or reading theme paper assignments Ms. Chitterley gave when you were in fifth grade, you may think, “Dull! Why not do something exciting?”

Looking at the flip side of this coin, maybe you felt a little thrill of excitement as you found out your teacher was assigning a written paper. Regardless of the part of the writing process you like the best, each endeavor, be it a research report for a class, a progress report for your boss, a web content article for one of your clients –– or, best of all –– more progress on the novel you’re writing, you need to carry out basic research first.

Primary and Secondary Research

“Primary” research is material you find that comes right from the source. If, for instance, you’re writing an article for LiveSTRONG about the causes of infertility and related treatments, the best kind of research for this type of article comes right from the source –– the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers and scientists who study infertility, its causes, how it impacts couples and ways of helping these couples have children.

If you are an engineering student and one of your professors has assigned your Fluid Mechanics class a group paper, you and your group partners will conduct detailed research at the university’s library; you may also use Lexis Nexis as you look for the most recent and best research that comes straight from other engineers.

While elementary and middle school students don’t have to research to the same levels that high school and college students, scientists, doctors, researchers and engineers do, because they are just learning to research correctly, this process is just as difficult.

If you are a freelance writer with web content clients (Demand Media Studios, Bright Hub, Constant Content, Associated Content, WiseGEEK) or offline clients, each one has detailed writing guidelines that spell out how they want you to research your article’s titles and cite that research. Using primary research, and using it well, makes it easier for your readers to trust what you are saying.

Secondary research comes from sources that are not as close to the people who have made the discoveries. For instance, you may find a news story in the New York Times that talks about the history of smartphones. The reporters writing these articles conducted the primary research and the paper printed the stories. When you find and save these stories, you are conducting secondary research.

The Writing Process

Regardless of whether you are writing a research paper, web article, report for work or your novel, the writing process has more than one layer.

After you have found and saved your research, you highlight and extract the most important pieces, using what answers the questions.

Write an outline that hits the most important questions or “tells the story.”

For a research paper, you need to write your introduction first so the paper starts to take a shape and you know in which direction you need to go. For other venues of writing, you may decide to write the intro after writing the body of your article; you may not even need an intro.

Following your outline, write your paper, article or book. Whether you follow your outline point by point or whether you use it as a guide, just write. The time for editing and corrections comes when you’ve finished writing.

After you have finished the first draft of your paper/report/book, give yourself a little pat on the back and relax. Get away from the words you’ve written so you can read (and edit) them with a fresh eye.


Take your creation out of the drawer and use a red pencil to make your notations. Look for typos and grammar errors, noting in the margins what these are. Read your creation out loud, checking to see if words and paragraphs flow logically. If they do not, then note where they fit better and indicate this with red arrows on your manuscript.

If your creation is your novel, look for weak characterization or plot. Make the needed changes, either deleting a weak, useless character or making him stronger. Look for areas in your writing where the plot line gets confusing –– maybe you should introduce more of a transition between scenes. As you read, keep in mind what has already happened, what is happening now and what will happen in future chapters. You’re looking for errors in timeline; maybe you had an event happen in the spring, but you’re referring to it taking place in the winter in another part of the book.

Make all the changes you find need to be taken care of; once you are happy with your work, ask a trusted friend or associate to read it for you and let you know if there are any additional changes to make.

Writing doesn’t have to be a painful or boring process. Think of the research process as a time of learning something you didn’t know before and do this for every writing assignment you receive.

Not everyone is cut out to be a writer, but those who are have that urge in their psyches –– “I have a book inside me that just has to be written.”

Follow that urge. Write your story. If you are working on an assignment, make it the best it can be.



Beads. These aren’t the same long, single-strand necklaces you bought at the Palace of the Governors from the American Indians in Santa Fe. Sure, you can still find those simple necklaces, but today’s bead work necklaces (and earrings, bracelets, anklets, rings, chokers and headbands) are more complex and probably just a little more ornate.

Let’s begin with the beads. From the seed beads that come in all colors of the rainbow to faceted beads, glass beads, gemstones, cinnabar, bugle beads, chevron beads and lampwork beads, you can find just the right kind of bead for the project you are getting ready to make.

Seed beads are some of the smallest you’ll work with, coming in opaque colors (you can’t see through them). Just a little bigger, the E beads are a bit easier to work with because you can handle them a little bit more easily.

The glass beads come in a variety of finishes, shapes and sizes. Transparent glass beads are easy to see through, whether they are clear or colored. You’ll also find the lampwork bead in this category and they are considered to be works of art, says Debbie Wittenski on Bella Online. Glass beads tend to have a finish that wears easily. Bugle beads, also falling in the glass bead category, are thin, tubular beads. These give your beaded projects a smooth line.

Faceted beads are beads that have at least one flat surface and these fall into the seed bead category. Some smaller categories of faceted beads include 3-cuts, Charlottes and Austrian Swarovski crystal beads.

Chevron beads are made with several layers differently colored glass in corrugated layers. This construction helps make a “star burst” as you look at it from one end, says Wittenski.

Cinnabar beads are made from lacquered wood that has been hand carved. The beads are usually, but not always, red and originate in China.

You need supplies to make your beaded creations. Let’s start with the cord and wire. Beginning beaders should begin with thin elasticized cord that allows them to make simple items. Elastic cord can be tied once you have finished adding the beads to your project, but the ends show unless you find a way of clipping them very close to the knot.

Clear beading cord is also very easy to use and is less visible. To ensure that you have secured the ends sufficiently, you need to burn the ends with a match or cigarette lighter.

Memory wire is a specially manufactured wire that springs back into its original shape –– it “remembers” its shape. You can cut this wire and twist it around bead findings like clasps, jump rings and lobster clasps.

Beading wire is strong, allowing you to make creations that won’t break with wear. Bracelets, chokers and necklaces come to mind –– putting them on, taking them off and storing them all cause different kinds of strain, which the wire is able to withstand.

Don’t forget about the wire cutters and different types of pliers you’ll need to use. Pliers allow you to work with small jewelry findings as you finish your bead creations. Because wire is so strong, you need wire cutters to cut it when you have finished wrapping it around your jewelry findings, completing your pieces of jewelry.

To make your jewelry creations appear more professional, you need to use jewelry findings that allow you to put on, attach and take your creations off easily. These include jump rings, crimping beads, lobster clasps, toggle clasps and head pins. If you plan to make earrings, you need earring findings as well.

Finally, you need project ideas. What will you make? How simple or ornate will the item be? If you are making a multi-strand necklace, make sure you have the right materials. If you plan to make a single-strand necklace that uses a variety of beads and bead sizes, don’t be afraid to be creative or to mix and match bead colors.

Now that you know what supplies you need to begin beading, visit your hobby store and start laying in those supplies. Begin with simple beadwork projects and make gifts for friends, family and loved ones. Happy creating!



Crochet and Health

Today’s blog is the first I’m writing as a part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Each day’s blog posting will cover a different topic, from crochet to daily events to health. A very good friend’s participation in this challenge has inspired me to link my blog to this challenge and post every day.

I decided I would talk today about one of my favorite activities –– crocheting. While I enjoy working from home, writing and setting my own working schedule, I still need to relax. When finances are tight, I become noticeably more tense and this expresses itself in neck, back and head pain, so I am making a conscious effort to crochet even a few rows on a project before I shut the lights out and go to bed.

That’s what crochet is for me –– a creative outlet that allows me to relax, both mentally and physically. We’ve all heard the advice from doctors and talk show pundits: learn to relax more and get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Sometimes, this is easier said than done, especially when money is slow to come in, but the bills are demanding to be paid, if not yesterday, then NOW!

I have two projects going right now. I’m making a “School Colors” afghan for my older son, who’s in the U.S. Army. Simple, but it’s a color block afghan and I have to change colors every few rows. I just started making fingerless gloves for another friend in another state — I like this project because it grows quickly.

I’m going to make a surprise for the friend that inspired me to participate in the Ultimate Blog Challenge. She has been so supportive, even while she and her husband were going through a rough time for most of last year.

Once I’ve finished my friends’ items, I’m going to start a summer sweater for myself. This will be the most difficult item I’ve ever attempted to make, so I’ve been repeatedly studying the instructions. I don’t know if this project will actually allow me to relax, but the finished product is beautiful. I just hope it’ll be cool enough to wear in the southwestern part of the U.S.! If not, I’ll wear it in the fall and spring months.

I’ve been crocheting for five years now. I had started as a teen, then put this craft aside for more years than I care to think about. Now that my sons are grown, I’m ready for some “me” creative time. It’s fun to relax on the couch, crocheting as my two cats  greedily follow the yarn’s movements. I get a good giggle out of that, but I do have to be careful to make sure their sharp claws don’t grab the yarn and snag it.

After I finish working this evening, I’ll be relaxing in a quiet house, making the first of a pair of warm fingerless gloves, thinking of my friends and the year stretching out in front of me.


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