The Art of Coffee at the Keyboard

Who says you can’t glue yourself to your computer and still have a fancy, hot coffee? We want it all and we want it good. So, I’m coming up with ways to have better coffee, without having to put on your coat and be kind to any others in line at the coffee shop.

Make a Stand

Even the oldest, most worn-looking coffee mug, will look fancier if you put it on a pedestal, a short one. I use an old mouse pad I didn’t want to throw away. It elevates my ordinary coffee to a slightly new level. It also makes coffee circles a quick clean up. Just rinse the mouse pad instead of having to clean things off my desk first.

DIY Coffee Art

Of course you can learn how to do your own coffee art. But, that would take time and more equipment than I have on hand. Instead… use a clear glass coffee mug and add cream (or milk, etc.) slowly. Let it swirl around and create patterns. Don’t stir it until you’ve enjoyed the art.

If that doesn’t work for you go with a coffee doodle. Create your own stencil with your last rejection letter. Once you cut out a shape place the stencil over your coffee mug and let some cocoa powder, or cinnamon drift down. It works better if you don’t drink it black but I’m not telling you how to drink your coffee.

Seasonal Coffee at Home

Add a dash of flare to your coffee with cinnamon, a teaspoon of hot chocolate powder,  a touch of pepper, a lick of salt or little vanilla. Make your own pumpkin spice with actual pumpkin pie spices which you can buy in most grocery stores I’ve ever been in. A bit of extra festivity needed… try liquor. I’ve got whiskey at my desk to add when the coffee gets too cold.

Another idea (if you don’t mind crunchy bits between your teeth) is to add doughnut sprinkles and other small but edible things to the outside lip of your coffee mug.  I don’t highly recommend this. But, I don’t add sugar to my coffee, it may be a great idea for those who do like sweet coffee.

Milk It Up

Heat and then froth your milk. You will need some creativity if you don’t have a frother. A French press pot is nice because it can double as a milk frother (just don’t become a wild and crazy plunger and end up getting it stuck, or breaking the pot). Microwaving the milk does an okay job. Don’t walk away while it’s in there and then remove the milk from the surface (unless that milk clog thing doesn’t bother you).

Frothy milk does change the taste of the coffee. It’s creamier. You can use skim milk and get more froth, likely due to having less fat content in the milk.

Put a Lid on It

I will drink cold coffee, by necessity. I don’t love it. Somehow, coffee gets much colder, faster, at my computer desk than it does any where else in the house. I’ve tested this theory countless times.

I tried buying fancier coffee mugs, those thermal types with take-out coffee lids. They didn’t make much difference and they were a nuisance to wash since they are not dishwasher happy. Instead, I now put a lid over my coffee. Any bit of paper works well. An entire letter still in the envelope does a better job and it gives me something to do with the bills I don’t want to open yet.

Another plus side to having a lid – it keeps the bugs out. I admit I have ignored the odd tiny floating fly when I really did want to finish my coffee, but those occasions were rare. Likely there were more occasions when I just didn’t notice the little floaty thing or it sank… well do you really want to go into the details?

coffeeart

Now you have some ideas to help you with your coffee while you write away at the computer. Hope this helps!

Note: I don’t know the source for this image. I found it on another site which had reposted a lot of images. It just suits this post so well. 

Writing Prompts for Preschool Children

Easy ideas for preschoolers to get writing:

Would you rather…?

  • have potato chips or French fries?
  • play with a cat or a dog?
  • dance or sing?
  • climb a tree or roll in the leaves?
  • swim or skate?
  • make a cake or eat a cake?
  • jump in puddles or stay dry?
  • go to bed late or get up early?
  • have a pet mouse or a pet elephant?

What would you do if…

  • a pet lion came to visit your house?
  • you caught a giant fish?
  • you had an invisible bicycle?
  • you found a real treasure map?
  • you found a secret door?

Start storytelling by asking the children to tell you about their drawings. There’s always a story behind them, for whoever listens. How many words can they write to go along with the words they have drawn?

 

Simple Keyboard Shortcuts Everyone Using a Computer Should Know

I thought I should write about keyboard shortcuts. I’m surprised people don’t know them. Even simple things like using your keyboard for cut and paste functions.

Your computer mouse will work for most things you can do with the keyboard. Maybe the keyboard shortcuts will never be anything but extra knowledge or a backup plan for you… but, maybe knowing a simple keyboard shortcut will turn out to be a great thing.

Browser shortcuts save you time while you are looking at websites. Using the shortcuts on your keyboard can be simpler than right clicking the mouse, you don’t need to be as precise. Also, on sites which disable right clicks you can still use the keyboard shortcut to open new links or copy text.

These are the shortcuts I use most often. (Don’t type in the first ‘+’ it just means ‘and’ in this case).

shortcuts

Browser Shortcuts: Resources

Facebook Games Stopped Being Fun

Facebook Games are Addictive, Not Fun

I’m not playing any Facebook games now. I stopped. I got tired of the limited game play (being allowed only a few turns before I had to request more from friends). I got tired of having people I don’t know on my Facebook account (people I had added just for the Facebook games). I got tired of my Facebook feed being cluttered with game posts. I got tired of being pushed in subtle and not so subtle ways to pay (more) for the games when they gave me so little in return. Mostly, I had enough of feeling like a mouse in a wheel – putting so much effort into winning nothing. (Those little image files are even copyrighted, no matter how many you win you can not ‘own’ them or take them home or anything).

One day I realized I wasn’t having fun any more. I had a deadline to cook hundreds of dishes for Cafe World and not enough friends to help me get there. I could nag my real friends, who had stopped playing the game, to send me gifts. Or, I could buy my way there, with real money I needed for real things. I had already spent some money on the game, why not spend bit more? If I spent $20 I could have those cakes baked and get ahead another level up so I could cook new things.

Get back to the part where it wasn’t fun any more.

The graphics were cute, I liked my cafe (my farm, my island and my train station too) but I felt pressured to perform for the game, to collect items that were worthless in reality. My friends and family were not pleased with the amount of game requests in my Facebook feed. Even if you only send out one request to one friend on one day, the games now have unlimited access to your feed on Facebook and they can post whatever they like, as often as they choose – to everyone on your friend list (whether they play the game or not).

Also, when you allow a Facebook game/ application to access your account in any way, you are giving them all your information. Even beyond your Facebook account itself, they can find your account on other sites like Twitter, Blogspot, WordPress, etc. Each time you allow a Facebook game to access your information you are giving away a lot of information to someone you know nothing about. Facebook does NOT guarantee your privacy, security or safety.

You can join groups for fans of each game, They will become your instant friends and add to you database of gift givers. You can quickly end up with a list of a few hundred Facebook friends, all just for playing these games. These addicting games that want your money and will pull every cheap move they can think of to make you feel like staying and paying to play. You feel the goals they set you are worth working for, but they offer nothing in reality. When you walk away from the game your hands are always empty but your time has gone, with nothing really accomplished.

It took me a couple of false starts to finally break away from the Facebook games. There were a couple I hung onto. There were people I had met through the games who I felt I was letting down. Then there was the feeling of wanting to keep that city, farm, cafe open and growing. Also, the special plus of having the latest seasonal tree on my farm, the one I had to nag all my friends about just to be able to have it! One day it just didn’t seem any of that was really worthwhile any more.

Just Say No

So I fully and finally quit them all, just to the last train, farm, city and cafe. This weekend my niece asked me if I was still playing any of the games. It wasn’t easy, she’s just a kid, but I told her no. Instead we played another game, online.

I still like online games. I like having something simple and fun to play when I don’t have anything else I really have to do. So, I began looking at the sites where my nephew, Zack, plays online games. He has quite a few which he goes to regularly. The games range from simple to complicated. You can play board games, role playing games or strategy games, most of the sites have the games sorted into categories. I like the simple games where I just move the mouse around the screen. I may yet get into some of the free role playing games which have you create a character and then travel around the game world. I’m not quite there yet. I’m enjoying not being addicted to anything on Facebook. I find myself not using the site nearly as much, for any reason, now.

Kongregate is my favourite online game site now. You can open an account and move up levels as you play the games there. It gives you goals but doesn’t leave you feeling you’re working towards winning nothing. There are no fake prizes offered, just the goal of achieving another level for the sake of levelling up itself.

Know the Risks of Using Facebook

Making Headway with Headway WP Theme

After seeing  April Tara’s blog I was pretty sure I wanted to try Headway. Her blog has some of my favourite things which I was using with the Thesis theme. I spent a couple of hours looking at themes. Before choosing Thesis I spent years looking at free themes and patching together what I wanted for my own blog. So, I expect a lot from a premium (paid) theme.

I picked Headway’s WordPress theme as the one I would switch from Thesis for. I am not knocking Thesis, I still find it a great theme, the GPL debate was mostly a good time for me to try a new theme that also looked good. Matt Mullenweg bought Headway for me after his post about paying for a new theme for anyone using Thesis interested in trying a new theme.

I did have a rough start using Headway. I was frustrated. I’m not that frustrated now that I have made some progress. There are still some issues which I would like to change or fix. But, overall, Headway is working for me.

Headway:Visual Editor:

Visual Editor: Leafs:

The first thing you need to know is how to find the drag and drop to manhandle your layout. It is part of the Visual Editor. If you look at Leafs you will see you can enable Arrange and Resize. Be aware it is kind of backwards: if it says “enable” it means it is not going to work until you click the button. If it says “enable” it is actually disabled. When it says “disable” it is enabled. In a future Headway update they might add the “D” to make this clearer.

Leafs is mainly a way to move around your template with your mouse. You can set the dimensions of your columns but be careful, they still have to fit in the wrapper in order to appear side by side. Also, check your site in different sized monitors as it will need to shrink and contract to fit various screens. Keep things fluid so they can suit each screen size without you needing to having to stress out about it too much.

Other than the drag and drop feature Leafs are mainly widgets you can add to the site. They can replace some of the WordPress plugins you may already be using. I haven’t done much with Leafs so far. I did add the About one but may yet change my mind about it as I already have a whole About page which is linked in my header navigation bar.

Visual Editor: Templates:

You can ignore the Templates tab unless you buy another template or skin for Headway. You don’t have to. I think this tab on the Visual Editor should be moved to the bottom of the list. It is an optional thing versus the tabs for Design Editor, Site Configuration, Leafs and Navigation which you will each need.

Visual Editor: Design Editor:

Design Editor is where I spent most of my time. I think it has too many options. It would help to have something that lets you set the font and colours for the whole site/ blog instead of going through each and every littlest option for comments, footers, headers, widgets, etc. A main switch would be nice. Some people may like to have a rainbow of colours and use every font at least once, I prefer to stick to a couple of colours and a couple of fonts.

In the Design Editor go down the list on the Element Selector. This is the best way to make sure you don’t miss something. Once you choose an element you will see a button appear: Call this element out. This is very nice, it highlights which element you will be working on. It’s a guide through your functions so you know which part of your blog theme you are changing before you begin making selections. Almost everything you need is in the Design Editor, just keep working your way through. It is handy to open a Notepad file and paste in your code for the HTML colours you are using. Much easier to paste them in as you go if you remember which one is the main colour for headers and subheaders and which one is background or subtitles.

Visual Editor: Site Configuration:

Site Configuration is where you can make big changes to your header, footer, wrapper and body, basically push around your site width at the top, middle and bottom. After you do you may need to go back to Leafs and fiddle around to get your columns in place again. This is where having fluid elements comes in handy.

WordPress Admin: Headway:

Now, you could do this at the end or you could have started here but last on my list is configuring Headway back in your WordPress Admin. You will leave the Visual Editor and step back into the WordPress screen again.

Headway: General Options:

In General Options you can add Header and Footer stuff. I put in some extra meta tags. (You add your main meta tags for keywords and description to Search Engine Optimization below). I also added stuff to the footer but I have more work to do on that, it looks a mess right now as I want to make a horizontal bar for widgets to be in 3 columns there. So far I have not gotten it to work. General Option is pretty simple, just add your Favicon and feed as directed.

Headway: Posts/ Comments:

If you want short posts in a double row as I have in this blog you tick Enable Small Excerpts in Posts/ Comments. At the bottom of Posts/ Comments you can also change the “Read More” words you use in the excerted posts.

Headway: Search Engine Optimization:

We now come to Search Engine Optimization. Skip down past the navigation title section. (I only changed Posts Page Title so it doesn’t show “Blog | Word Grrls” at the top of my blog). The important section is for your basic meta tags: description and keywords. Write a good description but don’t make it a book and don’t let it be spammy. Describe your site as you would to someone who asked you what your site is about. Make it clear and keep it simple. Don’t go into overkill on keywords. Try to find search terms someone might use to actually find your site. You can use phrases, not just single words.

Thats about it. Once you have gotten this far you have covered the basics of working with the Headway theme. I still have a list of things I am working on. One nice thing I discovered in Headway is that you can use the new WordPress 3 Menu feature which is not yet configured with the Thesis theme. The Menu (which is on WordPress, not part of the Headway theme itself) will let you set up the header menu bar with links to your pages, categories or outside (custom) links you want to add.

I am coming to like Headway. But, it does need to build more community support in order to get the extra tutorials, plugins, features, widgets and such which you can find when you use the Thesis theme. Headway needs to grow and I see every chance that it will. I wouldn’t say Headway is a full package yet. If you read my list of things I am working on (below) you may notice a couple of things Headway could add in another upgrade. I’m glad to see a strong community around Headway because this is how things like new features and extras come about.

Other resources:

Headway Beginner

Headway Tips

Headway Demo

Headway Hub

Headway Support – For premium members who have bought the theme.

Headway WP – Headway, as mentioned on Twitter.

Just for fun and human interest, these are the things I have worked on, have fixed or am still working on with this blog and the Headway theme. Some of them are not Headway related but still relevant to the outer workings, the things you can see when you land here. Right now the footer thing is the biggest project. I have tried the Headway Hub plan but it did not work for me. Looking at WordPress options, but no luck on getting this working yet.

  • Footer- need 3 columns for widgets, gadgets, etc. – Would like one long horizontal sidebar or 3 widget columns, whichever is workable.
  • Fluid main content div to fit the page rather than be fixed or float and throw off the alignment. (This seems to be ok, so far).
  • Add header graphic, under the header text and link. (Not able to do this with Headway it seems).
  • About page is missing and navbar seems to be uncoordinated. (Turned out to be user error which I fixed).
  • Background, something new. (Still high on my to-do list).
  • Sidebars, look untidy still. (Done, changed my font, personal taste).
  • Set up e-cards – WordPress thing. (This has been on my to-do list awhile. I keep putting off getting into figuring it all out).
  • Headway saves and then returns to previous settings. Why? (Still a mystery but… it only did it the first day I was working with it).
  • Set standard for all pages. (I am still missing sidebars when you click into a post etc).
  • Lifestream feed and RSS. (Done).
  • Big, gaping space appears at bottom of content, above footer. (This was an odd thing. My div columns were re-setting themselves, one kept becoming very long. Seems to be ok now.)
  • If possible… have a ticker type thing announcing posts which I would like to highlight or feature, running right under the header and navbar. (Have not started this project but expect I can find some kind of WP plugin that will work for my idea).

Of Mice and Dust Bunnies

I keep a bottle/ container of hand sanitizer on my computer desk. I use it on my hands and every now and then I use it all over my computer mouse. If you look at the crud on the mouse, think of your hand there, creating that crud. Now, doesn’t it seem a good idea to keep both well cleaned?

How does crud build up like that? Has anyone got a really great theory? I expect it is the dust bunnies, as always. They are persistent little things.

Keep your Computer Happy and Healthy

1. Start with the very things right at your fingertips, the mouse and keyboard. These are the dirtiest parts of your computer. If you share the computer with anyone consider keeping some hand sanitizer by your desk to wipe down the mouse now and then.

If you have a mouse which has the wheel inside of it and is open at the bottom take the mosue apart. Easy to do by just pushing it as the arrows show. Get the crud off the parts of the mouse that turn and spin. Take out the ball itself and give it a wipe off. I’ve read that you should not vacuum your keyboard but I do and it works. I also turn it upside down and give it a gentle shake or two. You will be surprised how much falls out of it, even if you never eat over it and don’t have pets.

2. While you have a cloth out wipe off the rest of the computer, all the outside case. The back too. Use a cloth which won’t leave lint behind, that should just be common sense. You can find some nice ones in the dollar store so don’t think you need anything special or expensive. If you aren’t intimidated, take the outer case off your computer and give it a cleaning inside too. There is a huge build up of dust inside. If your computer is running poorly this could be the culprit. Take it to a repair service if you don’t want to open it yourself. But you can do it, just be sensible and don’t let it get at all wet. Take off your watch and rings, anything which could cause static or catch on something.

3. Back up all your files. You can burn them onto a CD or DVD if possible and then delete all the extra files you don’t use often. Keep your copy of them on the disc but clean them off your had drive. Get a box or a folder for CD’s, something to keep your discs safe and organized. You might even reinstall Windows if you have the back up disc. This will wipe your hard drive clean and give you a real fresh start. But, back up whatever you want to keep first, of course.

3. If you don’t already have a surge protector get one. If you have a surge protector which is second hand or several years old consider a new one. The purpose of a surge protector is to keep out power surges which can come from bad weather or a power surge from the outlet itself. Each of those surge protector bars are only good for one shot. If that shot is gone you just have a regular standard power bar and that won’t help you when you might need it again.

4. I have a debate with my sister and brother about leaving the computer on all the time. I don’t and they do. My brother turns off his monitor, my sister doesn’t do even that. However, she does have her computer set to hibernate after a set amount of time of not being used. Myself, I shut my whole system down each night when I go to bed. Also, if I plan on being away several hours I do not leave it on.

It isn’t good for a computer to be shut down and booted back and shut down in a small space of time. But, it also isn’t good for the use of electricity for it to always be left on. You should decide what you think best but consider shutting down if you know you will not be using it for a long period such as a weekend away or a week off, etc. If you wouldn’t leave the television on why would you leave the computer on?

5. Defrag your hard drive. This is an old word for letting the computer check it’s hard drive for errors and save space by packing everything in tighter and better organized. I’m sure you can find extra software to do this but Windows does come with it’s own defrag program and that should work just fine. Look it up in your Windows Help to find out just where to get started with it. The defrag will take quite awhile so don’t start it when you have something urgent to do online.

6. Get software for anti virus and spyware. Use them. Let them run their updates each time before you use them and run the checks at the very least monthly. Weekly is better. Daily is probably just going to be too annoying for most people. I don’t like to wait here twiddling my thumbs everyday either.

7.  Clean up the registery files. There are free software programs to do this or use the one available with Windows. A clean registery will help your computer run faster.

8. Look for updates on the software you use often. Some, like Firefox, update without being asked. If you find that annoying (a slow down when you are online) then you may have turned it off. You should be able to find an update link in the software. Check for something like an About or Help button in the toolbar of the software. These should have an update link or a link to the program’s home site where updates are available.

9. Give yourself a new background, something seasonal, flowers, animals or somethng to take your breath away. Use a site like Webshots.com, it’s my favourite and it’s free.

10. Write down important information about your computer. You should know the brand (Acer, IBM, etc) and the model and type, also the serial numbers for everything you can find on there, especially your operating system (Windows most likely). If you ever need tech support this information will be important.

Be Kind; Clean Your Mouse

Be kind to your mouse. Give it a cleaning today. If you have a ball inside open the mouse and scrape off the dust and grit. Use something to pick grit out of the grooves and crevices. Make your mouse look like new again.

Use some hand sanitizer to get germs that lurk unseen too. I keep hand sanitizer on my desk and use it now and then, even though I’m usually the only one using my mouse. I do go out however, you never know what you could have picked up from door handles, counters and such. Be kind; clean your mouse.