Friday, November 15, 2013

The Business of Blogging




Famous poet, William Wordsworth, once offered this advice for successful writing: “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”  Today, there is no easier way to reveal the breathings of your heart than with the cultural tidal wave of blogging. Easy and instantaneous, blogs provide a worldwide audience for people who have something to say.

For those of you “with it” people, who know what a blog is, you can tune out for a second. For those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about, let me fill you in: you’re reading one. A blog is simply a collection of ramblings by a single author, posted on a site that hosts it. Some bloggers limit themselves to one category, like politics. Others, like myself, blog on whatever they happen to be thinking about at the moment.

Similar to the way people buy magazines, people find blogs that match their interests. Like gardening? Click on whatever browser you use (Chrome, Safari, Firefox…whatever), type in garden blog. Quick as a click, you’re connected with gardeners from all over the world! Cool, huh?

Readers have limited time, so once they find a blogger they like, they bookmark them. Big Business knows this! Blog tabs are found on countless websites. Take my garden example. If I love Joe Green’s blog on perennials, I will return to it again and again, not minding that it’s featured on a commercial site like NurseryNuts.com (fictional site). 

Every day, more and more websites hire out bloggers to write stories for their sites. Why? Because the number one rule in business is TRAFFIC=SALES! It’s a win/win situation… post a blog that people like, and both business and blogger will benefit.

Our small town of Holdrege is home to two of the world’s finest bloggers (ok three, if you count me!): Scott Rager and Sierra Klein.



Scott Rager: Renaissance Man….writer, photographer, designer, chef, artist...he does it all! Working from his home in Holdrege, Nebraska, Scott is regularly hired by clients on the coasts for his design expertise. Maybe it’s the serene setting of rural Nebraska that allows so much inspired creativity to filter down to Scott.  Whatever the reason, he is in demand! Check out his blog, County Seat Living, and you’ll understand why!

Sierra Klein: This young woman is proof that great things come in small packages! Also living in Holdrege, this full time administrative assistant turned her love of reading into an internationally respected book blog. Need a book recommendation? Look no further. The quality of Sierra’s writing has attracted world famous authors such as Anne Rice to personally contact her for reviews of their books! I don’t know about you, but that leaves me in awe. What’s really unique about Sierra is she doesn’t limit her reviews to the famous. New and upcoming authors can also receive honest and well-written feedback. Check out her blog: A Simple Taste For Reading.

Blogging is here to stay. If Mother Goose lived in the 21st century, she’d probably write:

            Better business bought a bit of better bloggers.
            Better bloggers benefited bigger business.
            Bigger business boasted beautiful bottomlines, so
            Better bloggers bragged booming bounty!

HONK IF YOU AGREE!


           


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sorting Candy...Laments of a Kid


What's the first thing you did as a kid when you got home from a night of trick-or-treating? You dumped out the bag and sorted everything into love/hate piles. If you were lucky, your "love" pile was a lot bigger than your "hate." I wasn't a picky eater, so I viewed the majority of my loot as a successful score. That said, there were a few items I slid over to the other side, particularly these: 

YUCK YUCK YUCK
So strong is my opinion on bad Halloween treats, I've written up a guideline of sorts. Read and learn!

Halloween Sort
by
Michelle McCormick

This bag is full.
It weighs a ton!
I’m heading home.
My night is done.

Pour it out.
Evaluate:
Stuff I love.
Stuff I hate.

Black Licorice?
YUCK!! I’ll  pass.
I don’t eat stuff
that smells like gas!

My candy nightmare:
peanut chews.
They smell and taste
like Grandma’s shoes!

A box of raisins?
I’m gonna cry!
Don’t people know
the treats to buy?

I’m getting worried
What’s all this junk?
Where’s the
Chocko Chocky Chunks?

Seven pennies?
Who gives MONEY?
I WANT SUGAR!
This isn’t funny!

Toothbrush, apples,
sanitizer…
Everyone’s a
candy miser!


But WAIT! What’s that?
Could it be?
It’s bright and round
and sugary…

A green jaw breaker.
Now this is GREAT!
It’s the only candy
my mom will hate!

I pop it in,
then spit it out.
BLEECCKHH!

Who gave a brussel sprout?!

michellemccormick-author.com


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Autumn in a Nebraska Garden


Hello fellow gardeners! Please join me in a video walk through a Nebraska garden. 
I wrote the poem myself! Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How To Make The Pinterest Ghost Dress


Have you seen the Ghost Dresses on Pinterest? Genius!

Hauntingly wistful with a touch of glamour....it's Carolina Herrera meets Casper. The second I saw this on Pinterest, I knew I had to make one. Tiny problem, though: no instructions. 

I'm not easily thwarted, so I studied the photo and bought what I thought I needed. I'm happy to report (trumpets please) my ghost dress turned out FABULOUS! Here it is, pre-glow. I even added sleeves!



Not bad, huh? It only took me an hour and a half. I constructed it in my family room while watching Disney's Haunted Mansion (it's important to set the mood!)  Here's how I did it:

Materials:
  • chicken wire: one roll, 36 inches wide, 25 feet long (you'll have some left over for other projects)
  • wire cutter
  • a small roll of thin wire you can bend and twist with your fingers
  • green fluorescent paint (optional)
  • landscaping staples to anchor it to the ground
Steps: 

The Skirt
1. Roll out 43"of chicken wire, and cut. Repeat two more times. Lay the three panels side by side, and use the thin wire to "sew" them together. Stand up the panels, and sew the ends together to make an enormous cylinder. This is the skirt, though it doesn't look like one yet!

2. Stand the skirt up. Gather the waist into pleats, sewing as you go, until you have the size waist you want. Bend the rest of the skirt into gentle folds. 

The Bodice

1.  Roll out the chicken wire again. This time measure down 14" and cut. Match the ends and sew it into another cylinder.

2. Fit this to the skirt, wire together.

3. Push in the bodice to give it a womanly shape. I gave my bodice a sweetheart neckline, but you can just leave it straight if you want.

The Sleeves (optional)
1. Cut two lengths from the roll for the desired sleeve length. (I cut 9 inches).  Wrap the sleeves around into a cylinder and wire the ends together. Crimp into a sleeve shape and wire to the bodice.

Now for the fun extras!
I wanted my dress to glow in the dark. I first tried Krylon's Glowz glow-in-the-dark spray paint. Save your money. This stuff doesn't work at all!  (Too bad I didn't read the Amazon reviews before I bought two cans at the hardware store!) Then I did some research. I could buy some NASA-grade glow-in-the-dark paint that recharges in sunlight, but the reviews were mixed on how well it actually worked, plus it's super expensive ($22 for a 2 oz bottle). It was time to revert to the tried and true of my childhood dance recitals: fluorescent paint and a black light.

*Note--I opted to paint my ghost dress by hand vs spray painting it. It's a lot cheaper to paint by hand and the coverage is better. Then again, it's a lot faster to spray paint. Your choice.



Now for the black light. In order for your ghost dress to really glow at night, you need to shine a LED UV Black Spotlight on it that's outdoor friendly. Don't think you can just pop in any old cheapo black light bulb. It won't work, trust me, I tried.  I ordered my LED spotlight off Amazon, but there are multiple sites that sell them.  I recommend this website to learn more: glowinc.com



Last night I went outdoors to check out my ghost dress. It sent a chill up my spine! It's just the coolest Halloween decoration EVER! Give it a try. I'm not an artist or a seamstress, so if I can do it, anyone can. Maybe next year, I'll add another to keep her company!














Monday, September 23, 2013

Ghosts Are Good For Business, Part 3

When last I left you, I was returning my dowsing rods at the Prairie Home Cemetery in Holdrege, Nebraska. Skip Meyer, the class instructor, had much more on his agenda than just locating bodies underground!

Holdrege is an old cemetery by Nebraska standards. It’s not old by east coast standards and certainly not by European standards. However, we do have some century-old tombstones here, and that’s what sparked my interest in this class. 

I normally don’t frequent cemeteries, but two years ago I needed some garden dirt. Our cemetery has great soil, and it’s free for the taking (just don't let yourself dwell on why there are piles of dirt!) I made about six trips to the cemetery on behalf of my flower garden. Each time I went, I took the driveway that went by the oldest tombstones, dating to the 1800’s.


What moved me most on these trips, was how many young people were buried in this section. Statistically, half the children born in the 1800’s died before the age of ten. The typical child headstone was inexpensive and bore the impression of a dove, angel, or lamb. Many of the headstones from this time period, both child and adult, were ordered from the Sears and Roebuck catalog:



One unusual and particularly touching grave site offered us a lesson in how to read old headstones covered in moss. The traditional school of thought is to put a piece of paper over the headstone and do a crayon/pencil rubbing of the inscription. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried this, but it’s not as easy as you think! Skip maintains that crayon rubbings damage old stones. Instead, he advocates using shaving cream! 

"Baby Gene, Let's Go Peep Mamma"
3 year-old child


First get permission from the cemetery office (if there is one). Take a can of NON-MENTHOL shaving cream. This is very important for the safety of the stone! Spray it onto a putty knife or paint spatula. Gently rub it across the stone. The inscription will pop out with perfect clarity! When you’re finished, take a spray bottle of plain water and squirt the stone clean.

Exploring cemeteries may see macabre to some people, but to me, it's a powerful reminder that we were put on this earth to love one another. I left the cemetery class a humbler woman than when I arrived.









            

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Halloween, Back in the Day




Halloween is my favorite holiday. Always has been, always will be. I was raised in a time when kids dressed like hobos or bums for Halloween. Not very p.c. these days, but the costumes were original and created at no cost. These days, little effort goes into costumes. With cheap overseas factories, parents won't blink twice at shelling out $20-$40 bucks (or more) for nice store bought costumes. 


Don't mind me. I'm just jealous. I grew up in the '70's. We had store bought too, but here's what we got:






I can still smell the plastic and feel the sweat running down my face! And the elastic...that was good for about ten seconds, then it gave out and your mask kept falling down all night. But year after year, the stores stocked their shelves with these boxes, and we kids couldn't be happier!

Other Halloween traditions have changed as well, and not for the better:

1. Treats: Forget the homemade stuff. Even in my day, kids were cautioned against eating anything unmanufactured. I still remember my third grade teacher terrifying us with tales of psychos putting razor blades in apples. I asked my 14 year-old daughter if she'd ever heard of this. She asked, "What's a razor blade?"




4. Trick or Treat Pansies: On October 31st, we donned our cheapo plastic costumes and headed out the door just like little mailmen: Neither rain, nor sleet, nor other crappy weather.... Modern parents will gasp, but we actually had to trick or treat in inclement weather. We didn't wimp out at malls or retirement homes. No! We braved the elements and went door to door with hundreds of other kids in our neighborhood. The air was cold and smelled liked leaves and fireplaces. We were frozen to our marrow, but no one cared, least of all our parents. It was the best night of the year! These days, it's impossible to even guess how much candy to buy. I overheard one young mother say, "We don't trick or treat outside if it's below 70." Cover your ears, Great Pumpkin!





5. Foam Jack-o-Lanterns: Carve it once, store it, reuse it for a lifetime. Seriously??? WHAT IS THE FUN IN THAT! Give your kids a carving knife, say a little prayer they don't cut off a finger, and let them dive into the goo! Pumpkin carving is an all sensory experience, not to mention better for the planet. Think how much petroleum goes into making those foam fakes!



Sometimes I feel like Grandpa Phil on Duck Dynasty, disgusted with the way our kids are being brought up. All I know is that Halloween done right makes kids "Happy Happy Happy!" Try not to ruin it.