Do you Remember NeoPets?

I was reading online and came across a post about NeoPets. It was an old post so I’m not linking to it. But, I remember NeoPets. I used to play it with my nephew when he was a little boy.  I had to go back and take a look. I wondered if it would still be an active site, it is.

I found my account – remembered what my user name had been and then reset the password. I’d long forgotten what my pets looked like, or how the site worked. But, I poked around, found where I had stashed my inventory (not in the actual inventory). I had a lot of neopoints to spend in my bank. I spent some on books for my pets to read, food for them too so they aren’t listed as dying. But, the books seemed more important and more interesting for me.

Not a lot has changed on the site in the years since Nickelodeon bought it. A shame because there was always masses of new stuff before when the English people ran it. Anyway, still a fun site and still kid friendly.

Here are my NeoPets: Bewildery and Merrizilla.



Guides for NeoPet Players:

The Daily NeoPets

5 Unconventional Ways to Improve Your Writing

5 Unconventional Ways to Improve Your Photography.

Apply these same ideas as a writer:

  • Study something, other than writing. Pick a hobby, how about photography?
  • Delete old stories, ideas and such which you “might use some day”. Don’t get trapped by old ideas, old clutter.
  • Limit your gear, make do with what you have. Stop shopping for new software, new books and other tools, accessories. Get back to the basics and rely more on yourself than props.
  • Take a closer look at your subject. Even if you are writing fiction, find something new, look for a fresh angle. Get a new perspective by stepping back from your past research, experience or opinions.
  • Teach someone else about writing. You can also pull together the information and resources you have and teach someone else what you know about the topics you write about. Explaining it all to someone else helps you rediscover what you thought you knew.

What to do With Your Old Cookbooks

blowtorchI like cookbooks but in the digital age they seem to be taking up space and not really being used any longer. Most of the time, when I think of something I want to make I find a recipe online. It’s fast. It may not be the best way to get a really good, reliable recipe, but they usually work out.

Anyway, I’m not a rule abiding, strict recipe follower. I tend to add and subtract to my own tastes and depending on what I have available. This is another reason I like finding recipes online, I can look through a lot of similar recipes and find one which works for the ingredients I have on hand and my food style (I really don’t like mushrooms and onions make me sick).

A cookbook can’t compete against finding a recipe online in that way. But, I still have several cookbooks around. Some are vintage and I can’t quite part with Aunt Emma’s Ukranian cookbook, which includes her personal notes. I’ve also got the old cookbook which may have been my Great-Grandmother’s. All the family cookbooks come with notes from past women (and the odd man too) in our family.

Still, I have a dozen or so cookbooks which I bought many years ago and have not looked at in several years now. I don’t have a really good reason to keep them.

Why Keep or Collect a Vintage Cookbook?

As I mentioned, family history, is a big reason for keeping an old cookbook.

An old cookbook also gives us a taste (literally, if you follow the recipe) of what people made and what they ate in another time. As long as you can understand the language and measurements, anyone can get the old ingredients and try making a dish from hundreds of years ago. By cooking an old recipe you can have a real taste of history. (Or as near as we can get to it with modern ingredients which are chemically infiltrated/ enhanced).

People may collect cookbooks in a specific genre as well. If you grew up in an area or knew your family originally came from another country you would be curious to know what they ate and how they ate it. Cookbook collectors keep books with cooking from regional and ethnic time periods. Or, you may have heard about southern deep fried cooking for years and never tried anything, except in a restaurant. An old cookbook lets you do-it-yourself.

Collecting Old Cookbooks

Could you eat Like Your Ancestors?

Start a Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Five Easy Steps to a Little Free Library in Your Neighbourhood  


1. Identify a location and steward.

2. Decide if you want to:

Order a complete Little Library or kit from our online catalogue.

Build it Yourself.  Make it official!.Get plans and instructions.

“Endow” for someone else (tax deductible!). Support Books for All in Africa, India or your community, Little Free Libraries for Small Towns or other initiatives.

Honor someone or have a Memorial Library

3. Contact us.  Use the Contact Us form on the website.  Reserve an official number and style, supplies and access to books.

4. Build Support

Lead the way. Be the first to give to the Little Free Library G.I.F.T. (Give It Forward Team) Fund.

Find a business or group sponsor

Tell your neighbours and friends. Invite them over for a little house party or send them a note asking them to join you.

5. When it is installed, celebrate! Send your photos and information to the website and get on the worldwide map!


Keep your Little Library full of books.  Protect it. Enjoy it. Feel great!

P.S. Always support your public and school libraries!

How to Write, Draw, and Create in Peace Without Distractions

People often think art is created in our spare time, something we do as hobby. Writers and artists in books and movies seem to work this way just fine. The facts are different. An artist needs time to work in peace, without distractions. Sometimes the artist has to battle themselves and outside distractions.

Having focus isn’t enough. There are times when you want to work on something creative and everyone and everything seems to keep getting in the way, distracting you. You can ignore some of the distractions, but that’s sometimes not practical or very polite. It’s a better idea to have another way to deal with the distractions and give yourself the time you need to work.

How to Disconnect Yourself

In order to really get out from under the regular distractions you need to disconnect yourself from the world for a short time. Try different ideas and see which works for you. Adapt as necessary.

Turn off the electronics, don’t check email or let the phone ring. If you can’t get away from checking email and surfing online, don’t use the computer. Shut it down and write longhand, draw on paper instead. Just until you get yourself in the habit of starting work when you open the laptop or start up the desktop. Don’t let the Internet distract you.

Put a message on your phone to let people know this is your scheduled time to work and you will phone them back when you are available again. Offer a second contact for any emergencies, make sure you emphasize this is an emergency contact only.

Pull yourself away from it all before you get started. Take a walk outside. Get dressed. Grab a shower. Anything simple which gets your mind off your daily routine so you can sit down with a fresh mind set. You might even write or draw out of doors, weather permitting. Plan a picnic in a park, the backyard, even sitting in your car in a parking lot somewhere.

Alternate between being focused and stepping away from your work. It’s pretty amazing how much more you want to create when you hold yourself back from getting started. Take a ten minute break from it, whether you want to or not. Wait 5 minutes to get back to it. Time it so you don’t just go right back to work.

Exercise your brain’s ability to disconnect. Work in a busy area where there are plenty of distractions, noises, people, lights on and off, etc. Push yourself to find your focus and use your passion for the work to disconnect from everything – push all those outside influences out of your mind and bring yourself and your work into focus.

Dealing with Family and Friends

Instead of fighting and pushing and getting frustrated – talk to family and friends and make sure they know you need time to create. If you set a scheduled time (and stick to it) then they can do the same. It may take time for them to learn your schedule and understand how serious you are about it. But, be patient, don’t get too angry. Get them on your side rather than making it a battle or a tug of war.

Plan to do something with friends and family at a different time – give them a real date and time when you can commit to giving them your full attention.

Of course, not all family are able to give you the time you need. Parents with children will not be able to make themselves completely unavailable. But, you can hire a babysitter and then stay home to work rather than going out anywhere. You can get family to help with the children, trade time with other people who have children and would like to exchange babysitting. Take the children out somewhere they can play with only a little supervision and find yourself a table to work at. (An indoor playground is a good choice).

Battle Disorganization

One big distraction you face when you want to create is yourself and the environment you have created around you. Is your workspace a cluttered mess? Do you have all the tools you need set out so they are easy to find and use? Do you have a plan for what you want to accomplish that day?

Being disorganized is a big set back when it comes to avoiding distractions. If your mind is busy or upset or angry about having too much clutter around you – it will be difficult to set your mind to the work you want to be doing. Even if you think the chaos isn’t bothering you – clean it up and see how much different it is to work in a tidy space instead. For one thing, you will be able to find everything you need and not have to move stuff around in order to get the tools you need where you need them to be.

Having a plan for your day gives you a goal to work towards. Having a goal is a great way to avoid being distracted by smaller stuff.

Look After Yourself

One big distraction you can work on is being too tired. You can’t do much about health beyond getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising. But, you can do those things.

It’s much harder to work when you are tired and barely able to keep your eyes open and your mind on what’s in front of you. If you really need to, take a ten minute nap. Set your alarm to wake yourself up in ten minutes. Sometimes this works really well. But, if you really are exhausted just take the time off from your work and get the sleep you need.


Writing Help and Creative Writing Inspiration

ASCII art computerI seem to have too many ideas. I’m missing the focus and time I need to get them all from my brain and onto the page (or the virtual/ digital page). I make notes for myself with ideas as I get them. I try to use a notebook rather than bits of paper which end up misplaced, but the notebook isn’t always right there when I need it.

I don’t understand writers who have a lack of ideas. To me it seems there is an endless stream and the real problem is keeping tack of the ideas, organizing and finding storage for all the notes, magazine clippings, and so on. I have even begun to use my digital camera as a quick note taking tool. So my hard drive is just as cluttered. I’m considering a hand-held scanner, just dash out the note and then scan it in for later. This would give me a back up plan for the bits of paper notes.

How do I get ideas? Such a short and simple question when the answer is massive.

Here are some of the ways and places I get ideas:

  • Read the newspaper, a magazine.
  • Study a religion other than your own.
  • Watch/ listen to a talk show.
  • Volunteer to edit someone else, be constructive.
  • Watch a documentary.
  • Read the dictionary until you find a word you don’t know.
  • Look at books in the library, outdated ones too.
  • Talk to people at the coffee shop, grocery store, bus stop…
  • Attend some kind of local group, event or workshop.
  • Go to the bookstore and see what’s new in your niche/ genre.
  • Talk to yourself.
  • Draw something – it doesn’t matter whether you think you can draw or not.
  • Go shopping, look at new inventions in hairbrushes, mouse traps…
  • Take a walk outside.
  • Listen to music and then read the lyrics.
  • Take your laptop on a road trip.
  • Photograph your family. Get as many together as you can.
  • Try creating something in text art.
  • Read the newspaper classifieds.
  • Go to the local thrift store and buy yourself a new coffee mug.
  • Talk to a teenager. They really aren’t that scary.
  • Read about fashion or something else you don’t care about much.
  • Read an opinion that does not agree with your own.
  • Brainstorm about life. What is the meaning of life?
  • Send a postcard or a real, full letter to someone.
  • Try something new in papercrafts: paper flowers, paper cutting, paper folding…
  • Take a lawnchair or a blanket outside and watch the sky, the clouds.
  • Get a hot shower with a soap and shampoo you love to smell.
  • Take the bus all across the town or city you live in.
  • Buy a new pen and some blank paper.
  • Read one of the classic books you never read for school.
  • Do an online personality quiz, just for fun.
  • Read a few blogs by people you don’t know, leave a comment or three.
  • What’s the most boring thing you can think of? Do it.

In the end, it isn’t about where or how you find ideas. The real way to get ideas is to keep your mind open looking for them. Don’t become close minded, too literal, too judgmental or sure you’re so right about everything. It’s when you are open to new things that you are able to find them. You see things you might not have noticed or ignored because they weren’t flashing a neon sign telling you “this is your idea!”.

If you have writer’s block, distract yourself. Get away from that heavy focus and all the pressure. Once you release your mind, give it new roads to travel, the block will weaken and you can shake it off.

Take the seed of an idea and grow it. Look for more information, look at it from another perspective, combine it with other ideas to make something new and interesting. Be open to them and ideas will just come to you, trust me, ideas are everywhere!


TinyWeeFictionHow much can you put into a story of 140 characters? Take a look at TinyWeeFiction and try it out. Bonus if you can come up with a web graphic for it too. (I didn’t, the one here comes from the site for TinyWeeFiction).

I laughed at the idea of zombies. Now I’m picking up my ears and counting my fingers just like the rest of them.

I might have  a million books. If I built a fortress with books I could live in their pages forever. Send ice cream.

How does snow look so pure, clean and soft when it falls but have such a huge impact once it lands?

There are three. Can you work on some ideas for tiny fiction?

Count your characters online.

Colouring your Books

From Rookie Magazine: Annie’s Room:

I’m obsessed with rainbows, so my books are organized by color. It really brightens up the room! I just have to think for a second about whether the spine is blue or orange when looking for a particular title.

This is such a pretty idea. I think it would make me crazy cause I’d never remember the colour of the book’s spine. I have enough to remember the title of the book. I sort mine by subject and hope I don’t make that confusing enough.

But, this is such a charming idea. Maybe I could do it with one shelf. Too bad I stopped keeping all my fiction books. Those would have been great for this plan. Maybe it’s a great idea for people running secondhand bookstores. What do you think?

eBooks Have No Feelings

It’s a shame they don’t still make books with hard covers, embossed titles, tissue thin pages between full colour illustrations, fore-edge painting. Those books had texture, they were touchable. New books don’t have that quality and ebooks have none at all.

It seems we always lose something sensual in a real, physical way when we move ahead with new technology. Will everything eventually be hands-off, untouchable in the future? The less people touch things the more it becomes something unusual, scary, even taboo eventually. Think not? What about all those people who won’t wash their hands any more because they’re afraid of germs? They don’t want to touch the taps, the soap, the towel to dry your hands…

I’m just waiting to see someone wearing latex gloves to the bookstore.

Buffy Likes to Read

Sarah Michelle (Gellar) Prinze –

I love books. I’m constantly afraid we’re moving into this digital era where books are going to go away, and to me books are the basis to everything in life. Reading is how we function. It’s not just creative imagination and creative play, it’s how we function as human beings, as human adults, and if you can instill that at a young age then that’s a skill they’ll have for life.