Bring It On

early fall leaves and pond“To everything there is a season… turn, turn, turn. And a time for every purpose under Heaven.” I don’t know if it made the Top 10 on the Boomers’ Favorites Playlist, but I love this song, especially the Byrds’ version. And this fall, I’m taking the song’s advice seriously. I’m exploring new things and planning some fun adventure.

Let’s start with exploring. Come fall and I get the urge to travel. Up and down country roads: along the river road, out to the barn, or up to Chicago. I like to see things as they change. The leaves, of course, are their own source of wonderment. But it’s also the land and the skies. The brown earth is looking well groomed now, like she just got a haircut and cooler breezes push wisps of clouds across the crisp blue skies. I anticipate having lunch on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and a night time trip out to the barn, hot cocoa in hand, to watch the full moon. Both great ways to celebrate Birthday #63.

Trying new things. I’ve just joined three new groups: a writing group and two singing groups. The writing group has me a little concerned. Writing isn’t the problem so much as figuring out how to deal with the scope of the project. You see my general plan is to write the great American novel. Right? What has me bamboozled are these elements that must come together to create this novel: character development and plot lines, for example, and a theme of some sort would probably be a good idea too. I’m already hedging my bets by writing a companion blog about my writing experience. Seems to me that this backup approach would help my wounded ego if the master plan falls flat on its face.

folk singalong groupAnd, yes, the singing groups! When we were in the mountains of North Carolina, we discovered the world of Shape Note singing. The general idea is that you follow these sheets of shaped notes to run through a song and then sing the words. Full blast! Singing LOUDLY so that the combined voices bounce off the ceiling and wooden floor. It’s an incredible sound! I can hardly wait for the folk singing class that I also signed us up for.

I’ve always loved the stories that folk songs tell.

Now for the biggie: new directions. I quit my job last week. This makes me both happy and nervous. Happy because I really didn’t like the job. In fact, I actively disliked it. Suffice it to say that both the nagging boss and the computer-oriented job were both total mismatches with my personality and my strengths. Ever have a job like that? It’s a lousy position to be in. So, freedom acquired, I’m now dealing with the nervous part. How do I fill my day? How can I be productive? How can I contribute? How can I grow? And that nagging question: how do I use all this new-found time without spending money?

To a large extent, I’m going back to my old roots. Back to my old interest in teaching but without the obligations of teaching. Back to the conversational walks with my snail-paced walking group. Back to working in a local non-profit where I can partner with a friend as we help coordinate volunteer activities. Back to my Mother Nature personality as I muck out a stall or two at the barn (let’s not get too carried away…this is hard work).

So off I go on a cool fall morning, turning this way and that. Playing with the yellow leaves as they fall. Enjoying the sheer pleasure of the season. Somehow, I think that this fall will really be something to remember.

smf-jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis.  

iTips and iTricks #2

iphone and iPad Today I thought I would spend some time on doing things faster. So today’s tips are about using the screen and keyboard on the iPhone and iPad

Automatic Typing: Did you know that any time you have the keyboard up you always have the option of pressing the microphone key and translating whatever you say into text? This is very useful if you are on the go. You can even translate short audio clips from another recording. Just tap the microphone button and play the recording into the iPhone microphone.

Quick Write: There’s also a neat way to “quick write” those pesky extensions like .com or .net or .org when you are surfing the Internet. In order to do this, type the web address and hold in the period for a second and several popular extensions come up. Slide your finger to the one you want and it is entered. Now if you are like me, you may not hold the period button in long enough. Then you get a period at the end of the address with no extension. Don’t despair: Just press the period button again and hold it in. Select the extension you want and the period you typed will be replaced by the period and the extension.

Keyboard Tips: Finding the shortcut above inspired me to look for other keys that provided a menu when you held them longer. To no one’s surprise, in the alpha keyboard, holding down the vowels and some consonants gives you letters with accents used in other languages. On the 123 keyboard you can get all manners of dashes by holding down the hyphen key and holding down the quotes key gives you quotes in different directions than the standard ones on the keyboard. On the symbol keyboard holding the exclamation point gives you an upside down explanation point that looks like a candle. And holding the question mark longer gives you an upside down question mark.

Jump to the top: Since we are working on the screen, here’s an interesting thing that happens when you tap the very top of the screen. It normally goes to the top of the page you are on. So if you are doing a search using Google and you want to get to the top of the page, tap the very top of the screen and you will be there. Scrolling through your mail? Tap the top of the screen to get to the top of your e-mail. Most applications respond this way and it saves a lot of scrolling time if you are way down on a page.

That’s it for now. If you come across a tip or trick others might find useful, please send it to me and I will add it to the iTips and iTricks Blog. If you want to refer to the tips I mentioned in my first blog, click here.

IMG_1527-001About the Author:   Harvey Baker is the President of Saving Memories Forever. He learns about technology by making mistakes and researching how to correct them.  He is addicted to his iPhone. Maybe you are too.

Gardening Lessons from Mother Nature

vegetable-flower-garden-cantaloupe-marigold_226e3768261fe09454889d0d38bc8281I don’t care how many gardening articles you read, gardening is mostly about trying …and learning.  As they say, Mother Nature is a good teacher.

Let’s just say that I’m on a steep learning curve.

This year my greatest challenge was figuring out the dirt situation.

 

We moved into our townhouse in the middle of June so I rather hastily threw a garden together. After the first few shovelfuls of dirt turned up mostly chunks of concrete and heavy clay I decided the best solution would be to go with a raised bed. As an experiment (I actually thought it would work), I planted some veges outside the garden area to give them room and to see how they fared in the poor soil. More on that experiment later.

Building a raised bed called for manpower that I simply don’t have. So I enlisted the help of a friend who built me a 16-foot by 4-foot raised bed and then filled it with garden soil. Compared to the lousy dirt that I’d first discovered, this new garden soil was like manna from Heaven. It turns out, though, that the quality of good garden soil was still lacking. That’s a problem that I’m addressing with my new hobby of composting.

Then there was the matter of planning the garden. This is when I learned about companion plants and dealing with the “enemy”….rabbits. Planting with companion plants in mind was like working on a puzzle. It was fun! The solution for dealing with the rabbits was an amusing one. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Stuff old stockings with dog hair and then lay lots of them around your garden. Now these lumpy gigantic wormlike things don’t exactly look lovely, but they work really well (and eventually they pretty much are covered up with the foliage from the plants.)

So…what did I grow? Eggplant, tomatoes, basil, dill, zucchini, sage, thyme, cucumbers, bell peppers and chives mixed in with petunias, marigolds, zinnias, and some milkweed. Totally successful? No.

photo(4)Lessons Learned

There’s a long list of lessons learned from this year’s effort. Here are just a few things I learned.

• I learned that I need to do a better job of placing my crops. The tomato plants pretty much suffocated the red peppers. On the other hand, I’m not a person who places a high priority on neatly lined rows. I like my more random approach–even if it means fewer vegetables.

 

• Start with good soil…and then build it up. Even good soil needs help. Hence, our venture into composting.

• Only plant inside the garden. The cucumbers and dill that I planted outside the official garden area just wilted in the poor soil. In fact, I’d say they were pathetic.

• I also learned that that I don’t have to grow every type of vegetable that I love: in fact, it would be wiser and cheaper for me to buy peppers at the nearby Soulard Farmers Market. Come Saturday afternoon, there are bargains that you just can’t beat—and you’re getting fresh produce.

• I learned that less is probably more. I need to stick to growing the things that we actually eat in abundance. Basil (which we use to make a delicious pesto sauce) and tomatoes will definitely be part of next year’s crop. Dill and thyme won’t be.

• I learned was how much I enjoy flowers. As the flowers spread out, I noticed that my eyes were always drawn to their colors. I’m now including more flowers in my gardening plans.

Do you have some gardening wisdom to share? I’d love to hear your gardening stories and advice. Please comment!

SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village. 

Summer Doldrums Invite Mini Celebrations

hot summer day woman with fanYou know what I’m talking about: the part of summer when the vegetable garden is in full swing and lazy afternoons include refreshing trips to a local swimming pool. Nights are filled with watching the kids chase fireflies and gazing at the stars. You’re enjoying the more leisurely pace and ice-filled glasses of iced tea.

Then there’s the flip side. You’re beginning to get a tad crabby at the endless baseball games and you could really live without the swarms of gnats and the itch of bug bites. You’re even beginning to consider trading in some of the sticky swelter of summer heat for the cooler breezes of Fall. This is when you know you’ve reached Deep Summer. Better known as the Summer Doldrums.

Making Your Own Fun

It’s definitely time to mix things up and create some new fun. Good news is that you don’t have to look far.

It turns out that summer offers you dozens of holidays that are just begging for a mini celebration. Here’s a short list of five July holidays that give you a great excuse to invite some friends or family over. For a more complete list, click here for Next Avenue writer John Stark’s full “Summer’s 20 Most Unusual Holidays” article.

July 12: Pecan Pie Day: Since I love pecan pie, this mini holiday was an especially welcome discovery. Now I no longer have to wait until Thanksgiving to break out my favorite pecan pie recipe. There are actually quite a few food holidays during July: To name a few, there’s Macaroni Day (July 14) and Peach Ice Cream Day (July 17). They all give you a great excuse for getting hold of your favorite recipes and making them with your children or grandchildren. You might even want to consider recording the remarks of the participants as they cook and be sure to save and share that recipe. You can do it all by using Saving Memories Forever. By the way, this linked pecan pie recipe suggested by Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman blogger) is to die for.

July 14: Pandemonium Day: This day gives you permission to go with the flow. Laugh at all the things that go wrong….you know, the things that typically rattle you. Instead, today let the challenges amuse you. You might even want to take the time to record the story of your Terrible, Horrible, No Good,Very Bad Day (edited title borrowed from Judith Viorst). On the other hand, if life has become too calm and predictable, create some excitement to recharge your batteries. To really get your heart racing, John Stark suggests that you dig out Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and throw a last-minute dinner party for 10. Brioche anyone?

picture of hammock man readingJuly 22: Hammock Day: There’s no sight more inviting on a hot summer day than a hammock, especially one that’s shaded by a leafy tree. Climb aboard. Leave your phone behind and bring out a book (Kindles and Nooks are OK too) and start reading. Let Mother Nature rock you with her warm, calming breezes: zzzzzz.

July 26: Aunts and Uncles Day:When you think about it, our parents’ brothers and sisters were often our favorite relatives growing up. They let us stay up late, took us to fun places, and gave us impractical holiday presents. Treasure your aunts and uncles who are still living. Why not repay some favors? Take them to a fun event. At the very least, call them!

July 31: Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day: This day was originally created to bring attention to musical instruments like the Appalachian dulcimer, the auto-harp, and the sousaphone. This is a great day to broaden your musical horizons. Free concerts in the park are all over the place in St. Louis and most likely, they’re in your area too.

August Holidays

The fun excuses for a celebration don’t just come to a screeching halt at the end of July. Among others, August features the following special days:

August 3:   National Watermelon Day

August 5:   National Night Out

August 9:   Book Lovers’ Day

August 12: Vinyl Record Day

August 19: Photography Day

The month of August ends with one of my favorites, Just Because Day (August 27), a holiday that has no rhyme or reason. On this fine day, do whatever you want. It’s a perfect way to cap off the lazy, hazy days of summer. Make the day into what you want it to be. Just because.

SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village. 

Game Time at Family Reunions!

family reunionSummer is THE time for family reunions! That’s no surprise.But what is something of a surprise are the new, emerging activities that are available.

Oh, some activities remain the same: certainly the family baseball game is still alive and well. As are card games and the wonderful smokey smell of BBQs.

 

But there is a also new range of activities that is now available to family reunion planners. Even better, many of these activities build ongoing relationships between the participants. The truth is that while these new activities are introduced at the family reunion, they can easily continue year-round.

Three New Activity Ideas

1.  Ask each family member what’s special about them. Record the telling of their special trait and share it with the family. As family members develop new talents, have each person give quick updates throughout the year. That includes your child’s first words and your 8-year old granddaughter’s new-found talent for putting both her feet behind her head!

2. Plan a fun cooking competition! This activity gives talented cooks a chance to show off and the hungry masses something to smile about. Pick a popular theme such as baked goods or BBQ, and invite an all-age panel of family members to judge the competition. Record some cooking-in-process conversation! Remember to take pictures of the submitted dishes as well as the recipes. Be sure to upload these recordings, pictures and text files to a place where you can share them.

3. Make a game out of collecting family stories! Saving Memories Forever allows you to create a Pass-the-Phone activity. Preparing for this activity uses the “high-tech” skills that the younger set has and the experiences of everyone else. (Actually, both groups share many of these skills so it’s a little unfair to group them as I have.)

The game is played by “going around the circle” and asking relatives a question. (If there’s a large group, you might want to select just a few relatives to ask questions now and return later to ask other relatives questions.) The responses are then recorded under each person’s name and then uploaded to the Saving Memories Forever website where they can be shared.

All the planner has to do is find someone who’s comfortable with easy “high-tech”. With a little preparation, the tech guru in the family can easily become the family story recorder. A  Premium Subscription provides unlimited storytellers. Additional recordings can be added and shared throughout the year.  

 

Helpful Tips For Playing Pass-the-Phone

Since we anticipate that you might have a some follow-up questions, we’ve listed a few questions (along with responding suggestions) below.

How do I get started? First, the Saving Memories Forever app provides story prompts.(Of course, you can also ask your own question.)  Beyond that, storyteller Kim Weitkamp suggests that you start with the eldest relatives first (but watch out that you don’t just focus on older relatives or you’ll likely send the wrong message).

How can I encourage relatives who are reluctant to talk to participate? In some cases, it’s a simple matter of having a favorite relative –maybe a grandchild—ask the question. Or it maybe it’s a matter of style. So, be flexible. For example, perhaps the “interviewee” prefers to write. If that’s the case, simply ask him or her to write down a memory. Then record him/her as they read that story. The written memory may well serve as a good starting point.

How else can I use Saving Memories Forever? Family reunions planners might want to consider two other key ways in which they can use Saving Memories Forever.  First, planners can simply use it as a vehicle to capture everyone’s  comments about this year’s reunion. Just use the Celebrations category on the iPhone or Android  smartphone app.Click here to learn more about our Celebrations feature.

Secondly, family reunion planners can also encourage family members to tell stories about deceased relatives. We call this our Virtual Relative feature as it allows a family to almost re-create a person’s life through the perspectives and stories of family members. Click here for more details about the Virtual Relative feature.

Have fun at your family reunion. Let the games begin!   SMF-Jane2

 

Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village.   

‘Tis the Season…for Moving

moving feet and boxesWhen I was growing up in Connecticut, I just assumed that I would always live in the Northeast. I’ve now moved 16 times with my latest move being just two weeks ago.

Among our friends, we have moved the most often—and by a large margin. In fact, many of our friends still live in the same house where they raised their children. None of them are talking about moving. At least not yet. I think that will change in the next 10-15 years when maybe a 1-level house simply makes more sense.

Of course, there’s an abundance of reasons for moving. Over the years we’ve moved for many reasons, the most common one being a job relocation. But there have also been moves to neighborhoods that better matched our family size and lifestyle. We made this last move for a cluster of reasons: the appeal of downsizing, the power of economics and the desire to live in a more urban environment and still have a small backyard.

Are you considering a move?

Moving Facts

If you’re considering a move (or even if you aren’t), here are some of interesting facts.

• You are not alone. About 40 million Americans move every year. That’s more people than the entire population of California! The average American moves about 12 times in a lifetime. That’s every six years for the average American.

• 50% all US relocations occur during one-third of the year – between the beginning of May and Labor Day (the first Monday of September). That’s no surprise.

• Around 40% of all moves in US are job-related; 42% are personal moves; 18% are military or government relocations.

• Moving is the third most stressful event in life, following death of a loved one and divorce. You won’t have any problem convincing me that this is correct.

• One of the stunning moving facts is that about 62 percent of the people in US currently live in the very state they were born. Growing up in the Northeast, this is something that I assumed for myself. Boy, was I wrong.

 

Major Stress Factor

moving men lifting chair into truckWe’ve now lived in six different states. Indeed, one of our family stories is that each of our three kids was born in a different state. All things considered, I’m glad we’ve made those moves. We’ve had a good opportunity to experience the pace of life and character of several regions around the United States, including the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Midwest.

But even with all these pluses, moving is not an endeavor to be undertaken lightly. Because it is never a ride in the park. Each move has its own quirks, excitement, and frustration. With an emphasis on frustration.

Perhaps the most aggravating experience this last time around has been with the local bureaucracy. Permits are required for the moving truck (even smallish moving trucks). It turns out that getting a permit requires two stops: first at the Street Department, then the Police Department. Sounds easy enough. However, the Street Department is not easy to find (how silly of me to think that the website would have the correct address) and how incredibly naïve I was to think that I could pick up the required paperwork from Police Headquarters.

Hearing about my moving woes, a friend pointed out that my searching for permits reminded him of a Jerry Seinfeld episode where the car rental company claimed that they had his reservation; they just didn’t have a car for him. Seinfeld jokingly focused on the overall concept: that the car rental company should have both the reservation AND the car. It now makes an amusing story. Similarly, it would be clever to have all of the moving permits handled in one easy-to-find location.

Moving Tips

Have I learned anything in all of our moves? Yes, I think so. Here are some tips.

• Go into “moving mode”. View every item as a potential throwaway. Keep in mind that this no-nonsense approach probably doesn’t include photos. There will come a day when you want to tackle the photo project–even if it’s just going through the box and talking about the stories behind the photos. Use the Saving Memories Forever app and website when you’re going through that box and accomplish sorting and sharing the photos and recording the stories at the same time!

• Get quotes from several movers. This last time (even though we only moved all of ½ mile) we got three quotes. We selected potential movers from Angie’s List and found this read-the-multiple reviews approach quite helpful.

• Pick the moving strategy that works best for your age and level of endurance. With some minor help from us, our 25-year daughter packed and unpacked her stuff and enlisted a bunch of friends to help with her move. Our 26-year old son and daughter-in-law pretty much moved themselves with one important proviso: they hired movers through the truck rental company to load and unload the rented truck. Brilliant idea. In contrast, we packed and unpacked our stuff and hired a mover to lug and place the boxes and furniture.

 

SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village. 

 

 

 

 

Unlikely Sisters: Anne Frank and Bridget Jones

anne frank diary picture Bridget Jones diaryAt first blush Anne Frank and the Bridget Jones would appear to have little in common. But indeed they do: they both wrote diaries…albeit with strong contrast in style and content.

Anne Frank wrote her poignant diary, The Diary of a Young Girl, while in hiding during the Nazi German occupation of Amsterdam in the 1940s. In her diary, she records the challenges, fears, and daily life of living in hiding. Her father, Otto Frank, edited his daughter’s diary and arranged for its publication after World War 2.

On the other hand, Bridget Jones,  the fictional thirtysomething, wrote her 2001 diary while living in London. In her diary, Bridget records her everyday struggles with a focus on her dating both the despicable Daniel Cleaver and the worthy (but uptight) barrister, Mark Darcy. Even as a lighthearted film, the diary itself does a good job of reflecting the social pressures that single Western women face.

What’s It All About?

In the first place: what is a diary? According to reliable sources, a diary is a record (originally in handwritten format) with separate entries arranged by date. Diaries report on what has happened over the course of a day. Diaries come in all sizes: one of the longest is 40-volumes long! And, yes, the word “journal” is often used for diary, but generally a diary has daily entries whereas journal writing can be less frequent.

Diaries play a role in documenting many aspects of human civilization, including government and military records , business ledgers, and travel diaries. Today’s diaries come in many different forms, including sleep and diet diaries that are used to track sleep patterns and calorie consumption. By extension, the term diary includes electronic formats such as blogs.

The content of diaries can provide information for other forms of writing, including memoirs and autobiographies or biographies.Once written solely for private consumption, today many diaries are written with publication (and even profit) in mind.

Dear “Kitty”–Then and Now

Anne Frank’s diary entries to “Dear Kitty” were hardly the first diary entries. In fact, the oldest diaries (that are still existing) date back to the 10th century from the Middle Eastern and East Asian cultures in the form of travel diaries. Often these diaries recorded business transactions.

Beginning with the Renaissance, some people began to put down their own opinions, hopes and fears. The diaries of Samuel Pepys stand out as examples of this trend. His diaries consist of eyewitness accounts of several historic events, including the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London.

Jumping over centuries, another trend worth note is the practice of posthumous publication of diaries. This trend began in the 19th century and has become commonplace – notably among politicians seeking justification.

Today: Other Options for Keeping a Diary

In the late 20th century, as the Internet became commonly available, many people adopted it as another medium in which to chronicle their lives. The first online diary is thought to be Claudio Pinhanez’s “Open Diary,” published at the MIT Media Lab website. Web-based services such as Open Diary and Live Journal appeared soon after.

Widespread growth in personal storytelling came with the emergence of blogs. The emergence and growth of blogs in the late 1990s coincides with the advance of web publishing tools that made it easy for non-technical users to post their entries. It’s estimated today that two of the popular blogging services (WordPress and Tumblr) host about 250 million blogs! Lots of opportunity for people who like to write and read!

There are also options for people who prefer to talk and listen. Saving Memories Forever recently developed an audio diary that allows people to talk about their daily thoughts. This is done by simply using the Saving Memories Forever smartphone app and uploading the daily recording. It’s easy to use: just click on the new Audio Diary category on the Saving Memories Forever app and then press Recordings for the Day. After you’ve recorded a few entries, you might be inspired to record a slightly bigger story from another time in your life.

Online Diaries Offer Great Insight

The Internet has also made it possible for many users to access diaries online. These sources can be useful in researching family history.

Kimberly Powell, a professional genealogist, and frequent contributor to About.com, cites a number of online historical diaries and journals by writers from all walks of life.  While the diaries are tremendous finds for direct descendants, they are also helpful to non-relatives because the personal narratives give a good understanding of the time in which a person lived.  Some of the diaries she recommends are described below. Click here to read her entire list.

Ella’s 1874 Pocket Diary
An 1874 pocket diary from an antique store in Fort Ann, New York, didn’t include the name of the author, but is rich with other names and stories from her life as a schoolteacher in Vermont. You can also learn more about the author, Ella Burnham, and her family in this genealogical exploration.

First-Person Narratives of the American South
Focused primarily on the words and voices of women, African Americans, laborers, and Native Americans, this site from the University of North Carolina offers a variety of narrative documents, including personal accounts, letters, travelogues, and diaries, relating to the culture of the American South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Prairie Settlement: Nebraska Photographs and Family Letters
Approximately 3,000 pages of family letters, from collections of the Nebraska State Historical Society, describe the trials of establishing a homestead in Nebraska and everyday life on the Great Plains as they follow the Uriah Oblinger family’s sojourns in Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Kansas, and Missouri. Part of the Library of Congress American Memory Project.