4 Things I Learned From Twitter.

Been a bit exhausted following leaving work, especially so considering I basically removed a year worth of mess from a friend’s house. People seem quite pleased about this whole “nesting instinct” thing!

But that means I’ve been able to go through my Twitter patterns of the last month or so. And here are 4 lessons to learn from Twitter.

1: Finding data matters. Research matters more.

Twitter is great for grabbing links, facts and stats. But every single one needs to be investigated. With all the fake news hysteria and mass media being as fake as fake news, it’s important to check our information not just against various sources, but against sanity itself. And if it doesn’t matter: then don’t file it as fact or fiction, file it as a random anecdote which does not matter.

2: Writing succinctly is a skill.

I’m finding my writing is clearer and more succinct from using Twitter. Forcing myself to fit long essays into 140 character shouts is expanding the vocabulary I use without making me sound like a massive nerd who uses words nobody understands.

3: Exchanging ideas is great, but you need space.

Twitter is amazing for swapping ideas, provided you can get on the same page and sum up your points. But you will always need to take some time out to process your thoughts. Most of the people I know who blog well and use Twitter have their own form of meditation where they set time aside to think through new ideas and formulate them better. Talking is wonderful, but we have to think too.

4: The wittiest, most liked stuff is also the most useless to you

Seriously, the stuff that gets the most favourites will be stuff that people agree with and are comfortable with. Being snappy and witty makes you more popular and puts you in contact with more interesting people, but don’t confuse that for personal growth, achievement, or important material. Instead, look to the things you talked about more and were recognized for less. That is where your ideas are developing, being challenged, growing solid. That is what you need to work on.

That said, I probably need to quieten my Twitter habit back down a little. Not entirely sure yet where this new activity fits into my old #NoNothingNovember challenges. What do you think?

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

How To… declutter paper.

We’ve already looked at speedy and efficient decluttering and how to declutter your wardrobe. Next we’re looking at one of our worst clutter areas: paper. Maybe you’re a student and going through last year’s work. Or you’ve accumulated a pile of bills and don’t know what to do with them. Or you’ve been away for a while and the mail pile has just piled up and up.

Well, as a private tutor I accumulateĀ a lot of random paperwork and need to regularly go through it. Here is the fastest and most efficient way I have found of sorting paper.

1: Pile it all together.

If it’s a complete mess, just go round the house and empty all your piles of paper together. Most people have at least three, so here are the common piles of unsorted paper.

-Homework.

-Work sheets.

-Mail.

-Coupons and vouchers.

-Magazines and newspapers.

-Past bills, receipts, etc.

-Essential documents.

-Fun things, like motivational posters.

If your paper stores are generally organized, work through them one by one. But if you’re finding your post with your past bills and magazines and receipts in your briefcase, you may as well empty them into one pile to work through.

2: First sort. Bin or check.

The first time we go through our paper, we need to just ask if we want to bin or keep it. Plenty of things can be thrown away immediately. Anything that won’t be put in the bin or the recycling goes into another pile.

3: Second sort. Store, use.

The second time we go through our paper, we decide whether the paper needs something done, like a bill that needs paying or a magazine you want to clip things from, or just needs to be stored like payslips or important documents.

4: Third sort. Folders.

Take your store pile and assign a folder for every category of paper. Use the categories above, or even break them down, such as bills into water, gas, electric and tax, or homework by class. As you sort them, arrange them by date, with the oldest at the back. Make sure to add the newest at the very front of the folder each time.

5: Go through.

Once a year, go through your folders and get rid of anything you no longer need. Bills older than five years can easily be thrown away, though you may not keep bills older than one or two. Either way, it should be a simple matter of taking the papers nearest the back and recycling, shredding or burning them. If not, it’s time to sort again.

6: Keep out.

Make sure your folders are easily visible and usable, otherwise you start creating more paper piles. When you are sorting something, make sure you get whatever it is done and then put the paper away.

And that is how I declutter my papers. It does take a while, but it’s absolutely worth it and at least it gives you an excuse to procrastinate, watch TV, take a call and drink coffee for a couple of hours.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What does your paper drawer look like? Is it driving you crazy, like it used to drive me crazy? How do you keep on top of paper clutter?

Welcome Spring!

This Friday is going to be the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the Autumnal Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. Which basically means the time the sun is up will be equal to the time the sun is not up. Which means that here in England, Spring has finally sprung!

Like the other three seasons, I love Spring. There are many reasons to love it and many things to do. The days are going to get longer and warmer and melt into Summer.

The first thing I’m looking forward to is the beach! I’m an outdoor person in all weather, but something that’s very hard to do in Winter is go to the beach. Chilly wind, huge waves, flooding, sea spray, storms, beached animals and sand flying everywhere doesn’t really make the multi-hour trip to the coast worthwhile. But I’m not really much of a Summer beachgoer either. Direct sunlight for more than a few hours at a time, the intense heat and the holiday crowds don’t appeal. So Spring is when I like to get to the beach. We don’t go very often even when it is Spring, but I’m looking forward to when the air is warm enough to go out in a top and a light, airy skirt, the water is just cool, the wind is calm enough to sit for a picnic and the beach is empty enough to go for long walks, seek out mussels and crabs and just have a great time.

Until the weather is spot on and we have a series of days off in a row, though, our walks will remain landlocked, in the green countryside. I adore spring flowers. From the last nodding snowdrops to the first daffodils to the explosion of Summer wildflowers, Spring brings great colours and scents to the countryside and my garden. I look forward to collecting a variety of wild daffodils on our walks, watching the wildflowers and beds bloom in our garden and seeing my seedlings start to burst up and flower, ready to give us tasty fruit through Summer and Autumn. That is, if we get to them before the rabbits do!

A part of Spring I hate to love at the moment is all the little fuzzie baby animals. They’re so cute and bouncy, from lambs to rabbit kittens to ducklings. They break into my garden and eat everything they can get their grubby paws, hooves, mits, teeth and beaks into, but they look so cute and friendly, as all diminutive animals do. Don’t get me wrong, they’re going in the pot when they grow up. But whilst they’re tiny I like to look at them and think about when my babies will be running about the garden stepping on my peonies and eating the tomatoes off the vine.

And then, once the rain is dying back, onto Summer with delicious home-grown fruit and veggies, barbeques in the garden, picnics in the woods, mid-afternoon siestas and weightlifting outdoors.

But for now, let’s enjoy Spring.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

What are your favourite parts of Spring? What are you planning on doing this Spring? Is it Autumn where you live? What are you looking forward to down there?

How to… Craft Yourself Tidy!

We’ve all hit that problem. We have a book of sewing patterns, 40 shoeboxes and a Pinterest board lined up, full of crafts we want to make. And we also have a house to tidy and keep, work to do or things to mend. So we put everything away, sort the laundry, finish writing that essay or report, darn those socks and finally have no time to craft. Or we put actual work to one side, start making stuff and end up with more scarves than we need and a few hours lost.

Curse you, scarves!

Curse you, scarves!

What if we could seize that creative urge, take some time to relax, improve our house’s organization and feel like no time was wasted at the end?

Well, here to the rescue, I’ve compiled a list of various ways you can make your home neater and prettier, by crafting the organization into your home.

1: Hanging organizers.

The craft.

Take a length of fabric. Sew the edges flat underneath it. Add pockets by stitching the bottom and side of a square to the fabric. Perhaps attach a ribbon or two to hang it with.

The result.

A convenient hanging set of pockets you can put on the back of doors, inside wardrobes or even attach to the wall to keep your small, frequently used items.

Made with an old sheet, a swimming costume and a strip of stripy fabric.

Made with an old sheet, a swimming costume and a strip of stripy fabric.

Made with an old hoodie and some yellow fabric.

Made with an old hoodie and some yellow fabric.

The quick option: buy some shoe organizers and decorate them.

2: Repurpose boxes.

The craft.

Take a small, sturdy box. Cut it to the desired size. Use the offcuts to make some slot-together separators for it. Paint or wrap in pretty paper or fabric.

The result.

A fitted box to keep a set of things in one place and organized. I made Jon one for his contact lenses as I kept moving them when I was tidying and mixing the sets up.

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The quick option: make some separators and use the box as-is.

3: Under-table hammock.

The craft.

Take a piece of fabric and cut it to 3-4″ smaller than the table is from corner to corner. In each corner, attach elastics that are just too small to wrap around the table legs without stretching. Put on table. For tables where you can’t slide something up the legs, swap the elastics for velcro or buttoned straps.

The result.

A convenient place to hide your magazines, recently watched or to-watch DVDs, games controls and remote controls.

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The quick option: attach some elastic to an appropriately sized sheet.

4: Baskets and pots.

The craft.

Not much of a craft, but fun to decorate and organize with. Find a suitable basket or large flower pot. Clean and decorate a little. Use it to store rolled-up towels, or your gloves and hats, for easy access whenever needed. Also use one for assorted car repair materials, for example, or anything else you may need to grab in a rush.

The result.

A prettier way of storing my towels where they are all visible and accessible without being in the way.

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The quick option: take a basket or pot and roll your towels or bedding to fit it. It can’t get much easier. šŸ™‚

5: Grease and sauce pots.

The craft.

Take some glass jars and use permanent marker or sharpie to decorate them and assign their purpose.

The result.

Cute little jars to keep my reusable cooking fats in, sorted by type so the tastes don’t get mixed.

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Lard, olive oil, lamb fat, chicken drippings, tallow.

 

The quick option: rather than draw, use a jar or cup that is already pretty and make sure your handwriting looks nice.

6: Curtain ties.

The craft.

Cut some appropriately toned fabric 2″ longer than you need and twice as wide. Fold and stitch all sides but one end. Turn inside out and invisible stitch the end. Tie curtains back.

The result.

I actually just did the quick option here! The room is more open and brighter with these heavy curtains tied back.

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The quick option: cut a strip of fabric or a length of ribbon for each curtain. Tie back in a bow.

7: Bags.

The craft.

Make a deep base bag and line it. Make many smaller pockets and purses and go attaching them as you see fit. Add a draw string, zips, or buttons. Back straps are harder to make than purse handles are.

The result.

A cute and handy bag to carry around.

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The quick option: make a bucket handbag or a tote.

And some I haven’t made, but want to make when I have the time or a purpose for them.

Make fishy laundry and bathing bags like these.

Make some amazing shelves.

Make some handy baskets and holders for better bathroom organization.

Make a pallet shed organizer.

How Our Solstice Celebrations Went.

Seeing as I am happy to read all religious texts and can see a lot of spiritual and social truths in all of them, many people may be unaware I am not actually as religious as I am spiritual. I believe in a God. Especially the earliest version of the Abrahamic God concept, or that of Eastern Nirvana, where God is not one person or one identity, but the very life and energy that composes the entire universe, a living consciousness that is both the creator of the universe and the universe itself. However my own spiritual experiences have led me to doubt anything men say about God, about higher, lower or simply different beings, about alternate dimensions, split dimensions, parallel dimensions and the space-time continuum. Humans may be a small, cell-like unit of the universe. But that doesn’t mean we know anything about it. That doesn’t mean we can understand what anything else in it may be wanting to tell us, let alone what the entire universe may or may not be saying. And I’d rather experience existence than fret about what one man tells me to do and another tells me not to do. Philosophical debate aside, I’m pretty certain we won’t know about death until we die, about existence until we transcend it (if ever) about God until (if ever) we meet It.

That said, I celebrate the Solstice, Christmas, New Year, Epiphany and Imbolc. Festivals of birth, rebirthĀ  and renewal are always welcome. However the Solstice is of particular importance because it follows the pulse of life in our little corner of the universe. Every year it’s held on the longest night of the year, almost as though everything stops for a little bit longer in the middle of the night before the gears start turning and everything begins to rewind.

But, without getting too poetic and frilly about it: the longest night of the year is often seen as a bridge between spiritual worlds and our world, or between dimensions, a time when the dark reigns for a short while and gives us a chance to wonder about everything. Whether, the wonder is at a specific God, at the universe itself, at science, at the spirits and life and energy in everything, there’s something quite eerie and beautiful about the Winter Solstice, the time when the light is reborn.

We were planning to spend the Solstice with a few friends, but sadly they couldn’t make it. Instead, we focused on enjoying the day and the night.

The food we prepared.

Just for eating, well, feasting.

Unshockingly, whilst all meat, eggs and greens makes me look awesome, adding overt carbs back in causes water retention and general lethargy. I look so much fatter for potatoes and fruit than I did on steak and salad. But for a day it won’t kill.

Elderberry and Brandy Pudding.

Ingredients:

-250g flour

-300g elderberry jam

-100g sugar

-300g dried fruit

-100ml brandy

-cold water as needed

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and fork

-greased loaf tin

Recipe:

1: Mix the dry ingredients.

2: Incorporate the jam.

3: Mix the brandy in.

4: Add water as needed.

5: Bake at 160C until spongy, but crisp on top.

6: Serve with custard or cream.

Quick Raw Custard.

Ingredients:

-5 egg yolks

-1/4-1/2 cup sugar

-200-300ml double cream

Utensils:

-jug

-fork/whisk/blender

Recipe:

1: Whisk the yolks and sugar together.

2: Stir in the cream.

3: Stir before pouring.

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BBQ Pulled Chicken.

Ingredients:

-1 roast chicken

-chicken fat

-browned onions and potatoes

-softened brussels sprouts and courgette

-4tbsp ketchup

-bbq mix

-chili powder

-salt

Utensils:

-fork

-scissors

-frying pan

Recipe:

1: Shred the chicken. Cut the skin up with the scissors.

2: Place in a pan with the vegetables and cook until the fat and water has been reduced.

3: Add the seasonings.

4: Fry until crisp.

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Curry.

Ingredients:

-brussels sprouts leaves

-cabbage leaves

-1 small courgette

-small handful chopped pumpkin

-200g chicken

-3tbsp curry mix

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife.

-pot

Recipe:

1: Chop all veg and chicken.

2: Roll in curry.

3: Seal in bottom of pot.

4: Add water and remaining curry. Boil until cooked.

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And we also had a roast chicken and veg from our garden.

Spiritual elements.

Things that help me reflect on the meanings and meaninglessness of existence.

I prepared basic cinnamon sugar cookies to leave out for the ancestors/spirits. Just sugar, flour, eggs and cinnamon. I hung them as garlands about the house.

The fire was lit around 7pm. It was a large fire in the hearth, involving two large split halves of a log as our Yuletide log. It was still hot in the morning when the sun came up.

We offered some red wine to the gear spirits of Jon’s Renault 5. We concluded it had to have spirits as that hunk-o-rust go-kart can’t possibly be running mechanically and, therefore, must be kept alive by either Jon’s or its own willpower.

Dreams were intense as usual, even though we only slept from 1am to 6.30am.

Gifts.

Jon got me new pajamas which I needed and really liked. He was under no obligation to get me anything (although he didn’t want anything for his birthday, for mine he got me a brilliant genuine Bandai post-timeskip Zoro figurine, or, for you non-animetards, a nice dolly of my favourite cartoon character in his latest getup), but he felt he had to get meĀ something else once he heard I was getting him a surprise on top of the backpack I’m making him for his security work.

And the surprise? I prepared Jon a traditional Christmas stocking, which he’d never had before.

 

Hand-made the stocking, too!

Hand-made the stocking, too!

This is how I decided to fill it.

Things he likes to eat. Treats and snacks he really enjoys. Winter is a time of cold and scarcity. That’s why feasts were so important to our forefathers. Therefore, giving him a small supply of treats to last him through the cold nights was important.

-10 Rocky bars. A favourite of his from his childhood.

-4 Nakd bars from my stash. His stash is oat-bars, which I can’t eat. This usually means he only eats the oat bars and leaves me with my Paleo-approved raw fruit and nut bars. It’s only fair to give him some of his own.

-Chocolate orange segments. When we lived apart, he used to love snacking on orange-flavoured chocolate in the car on his way from my place. Sometimes he would be collecting me and we’d have them together, sometimes he would be returning from a weekend together.

-White chocolate bar. Used to be his favourite sort of chocolate.

-Leibniz biscuits. Another childhood favourite.

-Relentless cherry drink. We used to get through so many of these together. Now, due to cleaner eating and cutting back on costs, he usually has one or two a week. But I know he still loves them, especially the cherry flavoured ones, which are lower in sugar and make a difference from the plain ones.

Things he could use for his security work. Rebirth, new move, new identity. It felt relevant to celebrate the changes in Jon as the Seasons changed.

-Hand-held crystal heat water bottle. You break it, get 30 minutes of intense heat and then need to boil it to dissolve the crystals. But he has damaged nerve endings in his fingers and sometimes needs something to kick-start blood flow when they get so cold they go white, as they may do when he’s out in the cold.

-Thermal gripper socks. Again, poor blood flow. Not as bad as in his hands, but having thermal socks that stick to the soles of his work boots may be welcome.

-Quality tie. For non-uniformed work and interviews. Solid, heavy silk.

-High-viz leg and arm bands. For situations where being invisible may be dangerous.

-Under-clothes belt. To keep his emergency money, his phone and other personals in.

– 2015 agenda. For notes on jobs, incidents, tax returns, interviews, etc.

Assorted things he would appreciate. Things that make life that little bit nicer, that you don’t just eat or use up, that may continue to bring him happiness until they are completely destroyed from use.

-Sticker for his laptop. It has a snake-print pattern and he loves snakes.

-Scented aftershave for delicate skin. For a nice finish after his hot-lather shaves.

-South Park videos. We have a video playing TV now, so I’m starting to buy us any fun videos we may want to watch.

-A little book of quotes. Hand-written poems, song lyrics, excerpts and quotes he would enjoy in a nicely designed notebook.

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The day in general went well. We rose late having exchanged gifts at midnight the night before, had a nice big lunch at Jon’s mother’s house, got home, had some hot drinks and relaxed. At sundown we feasted some more and at 7pm I lit the fire. Jon was away with his security work, so we’re making up for the loss of drinking and cake a little tonight.