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Want to Write Better? 21 Reminders about the Elements of Good Style.

Writing tipsWhether you write all the time, or only occasionally, you’ve probably thought about how to write better.

One of the best books about writing is The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White. It has been in print for forty years.

I don’t know anything about Strunk, but I’m a huge fan of the writing of E. B. White.  I love his children’s books of course — masterpieces like Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan — and I also love his brilliant essays, like Here Is New York, and the Letters of E. B. White.

So I pay close attention to whatever he says about style.

The reminders from The Elements of Style include:

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5 Things Oprah Taught Me about How to Give a Good Interview.

GretchenRubinOprahStandingHarpoIncGeorgeBurns-150x150One of the biggest thrills in my professional life as being interviewed by Oprah herself, for her amazing Super Soul Sunday series. Yowza!

The interview aired on November 8, at 7 p.m EST/PT on OWN.

Doing the interview was exciting on many levels, but among other things, I learned a lot about the interview process. Oprah is the master, and it’s always a rare privilege to learn from a true master. Continue reading

Ten Kitchen Gadgets You SHOULDN’T Live Without

Everyone knows that home cooked meals are the best. Not only do they tend to be healthier for your body, they also often provide quality time with your family. Making your kitchen more user-friendly, therefore, can improve both your physical and emotional well-being, not to mention the money you will save by resisting the temptation to go out. 

For this article, I asked my intelligent, fun, and “foodie” friends what gadgets they absolutely could not live without. Within two hours, I received sixty-two responses! Here are the items most frequently mentioned in those postings.

KitchenAid MixerEasily a dozen people called the KitchenAid mixer their Number One cannot-live-without item. Most reflected the opinion of my friend Liz who wrote: “The KitchenAid mixer the unrivaled god of all kitchen appliances.”

Cheese Knife by Pampered ChefIt may not be glamorous, but my friend Tim swears by it. It slices cleanly and easily and at only $9.75, it is a real bargain.

Pineapple Corer and Slicer. Although I love pineapple, I had given up on buying fresh ones because they are so difficult to prepare. So I was very glad when Tamara mentioned this product, and several other people chimed in to agree that it is a great innovation!

Microplane Zester from Raw EpicurianTarra enthusiastically recommends this grater, and several other people cheered for it as well. She wrote that is an “utter win!”

Egg Slicer.   A number of friends mentioned this inexpensive little gadget and I agree with Charlie that it “makes life so much more simple and easy to deal with!” I personally also use it for slicing mushrooms. 

Salad SpinnerI was surprised by the ground-swell of enthusiasm for this product but now I’m going to buy one! Many people agreed with Pam who says the Salad Spinner has been a useful, time-saving gadget in her kitchen for many years.

Spice Mill by IKEAElizabeth calls this spice mill an important part of her kitchen. Invest in some good spices at IKEA as this grinder fits atop all of them.

Batter Bowls by Pampered ChefTim chimes in again with a heartfelt argument for his beloved batter-bowls, which he swears he cannot live without!

George Foreman GrillsThese have been around for a while, and they have staying-power for good reason. They are easy to use, they reduce fat in your food, and they are easy to clean. Vanessa says she has had one “forever” and still uses it all the time.

WhisksToo many people to name here said that whisks were an indispensible part of a complete kitchen.


Seven Ways To Boost Your Mood in Just Five Minutes

It’s easy to fall into a funk. Life is so busy: kids, work, commuting, housework, social commitments. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, don’t ignore your internal alarms. Try one of these easy ways to improve your mood and your outlook on life. You’ll be glad you did (and so will everyone around you!)

Five Minutes of Complete Silence. Lock yourself in the bathroom if you have to or sit in your car with the radio off. Count backwards from 300, which takes about five minutes. Without the din of machines or the cacophony of voices, real and electronic, you will find yourself ready to face the day again.
Get Organized. Sometimes our feelings of discomfort are a result of clutter. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of a task, try tackling it in five minute increments. A good, calming place to begin may be with your CD or DVD collection. Get them in their proper cases and alphabetized, a few at a time.

Eat a Protein-rich Snack. Sometimes reduced energy and poor moods are the result of low blood sugar. Stop what you are doing for five minutes, eat a handful of trail mix, and just relax. You may be surprised to find how much more peppy you feel!

Kiss! When was the last time you spent five full minutes just kissing? Kiss your partner (and don’t do anything else) for five minutes. You’ll reconnect and feel much better, guaranteed!

Shred Stuff! A little harmless aggression can do wonders for your mood. Old bank statements, student loan letters, junk mail…spend five minutes chewing up documents and smile!

Write a Thank You Note. Chances are, there is someone you know who is long overdue for a thank you note from you. Or perhaps there is someone in your life you just want to let know how much you appreciate their love or friendship. Take five minutes to let them know you care.

Stretch! Okay, you may have to imagine a beautiful blue sky and a green field, but get up and get your blood moving. Many of us spend hours at our desks. Stretch your arms, legs, back and feet. You’ll soon feel like tackling the rest of your day.

Forget The Long Lines And Crazy Parking: Give Your Loved Ones A Gift Online

In the age of the internet, gone are your excuses for not remembering someone special with a gift during the holidays. You need not fight crowds at malls or elbow your way into a post office. You can find the perfect item from the comfort of your own home. However, with the myriad choices to comb through, you might get discouraged. Fear not! Here are six great gift ideas, all available while you shop your pajamas and enjoy your morning coffee.

Netflix Gift SubscriptionWho doesn’t love movies? You can give a Netflix subscription for a month, a year, or anywhere in between. One month costs only $9.99 and a full year is $118.88

iTunes Gift CardGot a teenager or college student on your list? You can’t go wrong with an iTunes gift card. Buy them online in increments of $15 – $100 dollars. They come in a variety of styles, the newest features The Beatles!

Amazon.com Gift CardsLet the lucky recipient choose from a wide variety of options: books, audiobooks, music, toys, housewares, clothing, electronics and more! Gift cards start at $10 but go all the way up to $5,000! Plus, Amazon offers instant email notifications, so even if you wait until the very last minute, you can get it all done.

Pandora Internet Radio SubscriptionFor just $36 a year, give the gift of high quality audio, commercial-free, internet radio. Pandora is easily customizable for the most enjoyable radio experience they will ever have!

Harry and David Fruit of the Month Club.  Every moth, Harry and David promises to deliver “top quality fruit, brimming with flavor” to your friends or family members. Monthly selections depend on what is in season, but include delicacies such as tropical pineapple, sweet grapefruit, juicy pears, and more. Prices range from $99 to $299 dollars. Standard shipping delivery charges are included in your gift subscription costs.

Audible.com Gift SubscriptionAudio books are wonderful for the busy person who loves to read but spends time stuck commuting or doing other things where reading, either in print or on an e-reader, is impractical. Consider giving them an audible.com certificate. Audible.com’s audio books can be downloaded to a variety of audio players and costs only $7.49 a month.


Five Perfect Persimmon Recipes for Holiday Gatherings

The persimmon is a sweet, tangy fruit whose name is derived from the Greek word Diospyros which means “fruit of the gods.” Persimmons are a wonderful, out-of-the-ordinary treat.  Just be sure to eat them when soft and ripe, as an under-ripe persimmon will be the most sour thing you have ever tasted! However, your patience will be rewarded and you can delight your friends and family with these exotic recipes.

Persimmon Cheesecake.  Mmmmm…cheesecake! Give this classic favorite a new twist with the addition of tangy persimmon.  “This light and delicious cheesecake is made with fresh persimmons and a walnut crust,” says a contributor to Allrecipes.com.

Curried Persimmon Soup.  Persimmons, ginger, onion, and chicken broth simmer to olfactory perfection in this lovely soup, perfect on a chilly day with good, adventuresome friends!

Pomegranate Persimmon Salad with Warm Goat Cheese.  A beautiful array of bright greens and a rainbow of fruit colors give this lovely salad its visual appeal, but you will be in heaven when you taste the pairings of the creamy, warm goat cheese with the sweet and tangy pomegranate and persimmon fruits. 

Persimmon Cookies.  A delicious frosting of persimmon puree and orange peel give these zesty, slightly spicy cookies their remarkable flavor. Pair them with hot chai tea for a moment of instant delight and relaxation.

Persimmon Bread.  A favorite gift and potluck item is banana bread, but surprise your friends with this tasty switch.  Nutmeg, cinnamon, dates, nuts, and persimmon puree combine to make a beautiful bread that is sure to be savored.


Five Ideas for Inexpensive Romantic Gifts This Christmas

Romantic Relaxation Evening. First, after you shower in the morning, and unbeknownst to your beloved, write a message in the steam that forms on the mirrors. Before she (or he) comes home, prepare a bubble bath. Scatter rose petals on top. Light candles around the bathroom. Leave warmed towels within easy reach and a clean robe hanging on the door. Soft music, a glass of wine, and perhaps a book she (or he) has been longing to read are all you need for an evening of pampering. Close the door and allow your “steam” message to appear. A long massage following the soak is a wonderful way to show your love and affection.


Make a Mix Tape. Okay, it doesn’t have to be an old school tape. You can burn a CD or buy an inexpensive iPod and load up all the songs have special significance for the two of you or ones that make you think of your romantic partner. This may become a tradition that you both can look forward to every year. For a list of romantic songs, click here


Customized Page-A-Day Calendar. This idea can be a bit time consuming, but well worth the effort. Get a blank page-a-day calendar, and write little or long notes for every day of the year. As an alternative to notes, you can also include favorite jokes, tape or glue in pictures, movie or concert stubs, or other items.

Make a Masterpiece Together. Well, maybe not a masterpiece, but certainly something you can have fun with and create a lasting memory from, no matter how it turns out. Buy an inexpensive canvass, some acrylic paint, and some brushes (or hey, even finger paints). For fun after the canvass is completed, you can continue your artistic evening with some edible body paints!

Create Your Very Own Truth-or-Dare Game. You and your partner can conspire and create this game together, each writing your own set of “truth” questions and your own set of “dare” questions. Then play the game. You may find out answers to some burning questions you’ve been dying to ask, and you may get to indulge in some fantasies that you have been too shy to voice otherwise.


7 Christmas Gift Ideas For Pets And The People Who Love Them

 We love our pets. The American Pet Products Association reports that Americans spent 45.5 billion dollars on our 171 million dogs and cats in 2009, as well as millions of small animals, reptiles, and fish. During the holiday season, then, it’s no surprise that we want to pamper our furry little companions with a special treat. Here are some ideas to show that faithful friend that it’s Christmastime for them too, and a few gift ideas for a pet lover in your life as well.

Santa Dog Hoodies are an adorable way to help your pal stay warm and share in the fun of the season. Available in many sizes, from extra small (20”) all the way to extra large (40”). $49.95 at Fetchdog.com

PetHoliday Cat Santa Hat. You might lose a finger trying this and the hat is unlikely to stay on for more than the length of time it takes you to snap the picture, but hey, at $4.99 from PetsMart, it’s a bargain for a great chuckle and lasting memory!


Nom, nom, nom! Your feathered friend will feel festive as he munches on this cute Stick Angel Bird Toy. All birds love to shred and chew. The bright colors will keep your bird entertained and the hard wooden block will help keep his beak neatly trimmed. From Doctors Foster and Smith, $6.99


This hilarious doormat is, of course, a parody of the famous line, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls.” Funny and functional. Available at Amazon.com, $19.99.


If you are looking for great hostess gift for a cat-lover, you can’t go wrong with this whimsical serving platter from CentralChef, $22.95.

These super-tough giant Christmas bulb dog toys are double the fun, as your pooch can chew and bounce them and work at getting a treat out of the center. Available from the Best Friends General Store, $10.99.

What’s warm and cozy and will provide hours of fun for your kitty? Why, the Heated Crinkle Tunnel, of course! The crinkly part is in the arch. The padded bottom heats to 102 degrees. Heater is removable and the tunnel is machine-washable. Available from SpecialPetsStore.com, $51.97.


Top Ten Do-It-Yourself Holiday Gifts

In our busy world, where a present can sometimes mean grabbing a gift card off the rack at a drugstore, it may mean more than ever to someone to receive a gift that took your time and consideration to prepare. These ideas find a balance between the thoughtful but not overly taxing or time-consuming. They let that special someone know that you truly care.

1.      Candle in a Teacup.  A beautiful and aromatic gift that can be fun to shop for, make, and give. While many people do not make candles themselves any longer, it is not difficult or expensive to do. Try this DIY idea from Country Living.

2.      Chocolate Truffles Truffles are a delicious holiday indulgence, but they can be quite pricey to buy from specialty stores. However, they are not terribly difficult to make and you can be as creative as you’d like with toppings: try cocoa, coconut, or finely chopped nuts. Find the recipe here from the Food Network.

3.     Secret Hollow Book. Everyone likes to have a special place to keep meaningful items…old love letters, childhood trinkets, or even valuables. Find an old, thick book at a used book or thrift store. If you know your gift recipient’s favorite author, all the better. Then all you need is glue, a box cutter, a ruler, and a pencil. Full instructions for how to make your Secret Hollow Book can be found here.

4.     Personalized Calendars. Everyone, from grandparents to children, loves personalized calendars. Comb through your old and new photographs and give the gift of twelve cherished memories. Consider including quotes or notes on days of importance, or even a coupon or a few dollars tucked into hand-made envelopes to celebrate special occasions. You can use software for this project or you may want to take your photographs to locations such as FedEx Office to have it professionally assembled with no fuss.

5.      Marble Magnets. So much fun and so easy to make! At a local crafts’ store, simply purchase clear flat glass marbles, round magnets, and silicon glue. You can use an image you like, from magazine pictures to photographs. Fit six or so magnets into a wrapping paper-covered Altoid’s tin, and you have a unique and personalized gift for anyone on your list! Full instructions can be found here.

6.      Felt-Backed Ceramic Tile Trivets or Coasters. For an inexpensive, fun, and easy do-it-yourself gift idea, why not consider going to your local flooring store? Select a fun pattern and make a cooking trivet (6” x 6”) or some drink coasters (3” x 3”) from tile. The only supplies necessary are the squares, some felt, and some glue. If you prefer, you may choose to back the tiles in cork rather than felt. Either way, you’ll have a unique and memorable gift.

7.      Family Trivial Pursuit. A fun idea from a reader of the blog GetRichSlowly.orgwrites that he created a game where the children had to guess at family-related questions in order to win cash prizes. What a good way to learn your family lore and keep the whole family entertained!

8.      Easy Handmade Soaps. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to impress someone with your crafting skills. These beautiful soaps are not at all difficult to make and are inexpensive to create as well. All you need is glycerin soap, soap dye, molds and Popsicle sticks. The soaps are so easy to make, your children can even help you do it. Full instructions can be found here.

9.      First Aid Strips: Apply Directly to the Mind. This easy and thoughtful idea comes from Family Fun MagazineWe all could use an uplifting quote or sentiment during the hectic holiday season and especially after the festivities end and life goes back to normal. Collect your own favorite quotes and other thoughts, write them on bright colored construction paper, cut into the shapes of bandages and dress up a box for a gift that will be meaningful all year.

10.  Record Bowls. What an interesting and artful way to recycle old vinyl! Simply find an album with a colorful label, heat your oven to 225 degrees and mold it into an acrylic bowl. Remove after five minutes, when the vinyl is molded but still pliable and shape into whatever design you’d like. Full instructions, from Mookychick.co.uk can be found here.


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