May 25, 2015

Five Rules for Social Media Etiquette

Social media - an awesome gathering of people via the internet where free speech abounds.  Sometimes to the detriment of relationships, both digital and IRL.  (That's In Real Life, for those of you who aren't up on your internet lingo).

Follow these five rules for social media etiquette, and your friends and family will enjoy your internet presence for years to come, or, at least until some other form of communication becomes popular.  Telepathy, anyone?

#1 - Never correct grammar on posts not made by you.  No matter how much it causes your angina to act up, do not do it!  Nobody appreciates it.  Even if you try to pass off your grammar OCD as a joke, nobody will be fooled.  They might block you from viewing their future posts, though.

#2 - Post food pics.  But only about once a month.  Admit it - you like seeing photos of a succulent, well-plated, 4-star restaurant meal.  For some people, it inspires us to get cooking and try to one-up our friends' photos.  For others, is allows us to live vicariously through our friends.  We can imagine we're eating a $20 steak as we bite into our Mickey D's Filet-o-Fish sandwich.  However, if a friend posts a food pic every day, or even several times a week, we're going to get sick of them.  Unless they have a career as a Foodie (a.k.a., an awesome cook/chef who also blogs their recipes), nobody wants to see their meals every single day.  Stun us once a month with Olive Garden bread sticks or fresh-baked cookies that came out perfectly plump.  Because, honestly, if my cupboards are bare this week, and I'm eating tuna sandwiches for lunch every day, I'm gonna want to punch that person if I see one more photo of a gourmet pizza or pretty pink homemade ice cream.

#3 - Never post anything political, religious, having to do with parenting, or anything that could be construed as falling into one of those three categories.  In this day and age, people are not grownup enough to handle dissenting opinions on anything.  Someone will disagree with what you've posted, and you'll hear about it. Your relationship with that person will never be the same again.  Even if it's someone you considered to be a close friend in real life. Whether they comment on your post with veiled venom, or they private message you and let it rip about how awful a person they think you are, or they simply gossip about you to others and eventually you find out that someone you've barely ever spoken to is telling other people how awful a person they think you are.  That's how it works these days.  It resembles a middle school playground.  When someone disagrees with something you've said, or if they feel hurt by something you've said, instead of coming to you and talking about it in a mature way so that you might maintain a healthy relationship, they do one of two things:  either they'll blow up and say some colorful, bitter things to you (you know, kind of like a school yard brawl), or they'll talk to others in the corner of the playground, and they'll all point at you and whisper, and you'll know they're not saying nice things about you, but you can't ever defend yourself, and now, instead of that one person being upset with you, there are 10 more people upset with you, and they don't even know why.  All they know is someone told them they should be.  So, avoid the juvenile kerfuffle altogether by only posting cute kitten memes.  Or musings on the weather.  Or pics of your dinner (but be sure to see rule #2 first).

#4 - Stop sending game requests!  I know you love that Farm Fanatic game.  I know you want people to send you seeds for your new field or coins so you can buy a new barn.  Some of us may even play the same game.  The problem, though, is that most people don't play the game.  Or any other game.  A good 95% of the people on your friends list don't play games on social media.  When we log on to our social media account, and we see that little red notification telling us that someone has interacted with us, we get a twinge of excitement.  Someone has sent us a message.  Or someone has posted on our wall.  Or someone has commented on a post we made.  Whatever it is, we get excited.  As ridiculous as it is, we feel it's proof that someone likes us!  They really like us!  But finding out that little red notification was only a game request makes our hearts drop just a little.  It's silly.  We know.  But, please stop giving us false hope!  Eventually, we get annoyed with you and may even block you.  Or, if you keep on, we may even unfriend you.  Which, if you think about it, won't really bother you at all, and you may never even notice it was done, but it's still not something we want to do.  We like seeing your posts that have nothing to do with games or apps.  So, please stop.  Put an end to game requests.  Do it!

#5 - Stop sharing memes or posts that attempt to shame people into some sort of action.  For example:  "REPOST THIS IF YOU'RE NOT ASHAMED OF GOD!"  First of all, see rule #3.  Secondly, I never repost obnoxious, shaming memes, because they're obnoxious and shaming, and making my friends and family feel irritated and shamed isn't something I would like to do.  Finally, if I choose not to repost your obnoxious, shaming meme, it in NO WAY means or implies that I am ashamed of God.  I'm not ashamed of God.  And I'm pretty sure God doesn't care one little bit whether or not I share your meme.  I am, however, ashamed for you that you would stoop to such a level of ridiculousness and probably didn't stop to think about what you were even sharing.  Please stop.

How do I know these five rules hold true?  Because I'm guilty of breaking nearly all of them.  I'm not popular.

So, I'm doing my part to keep your friends from turning your name into a verb.  Or a four letter word. You'll thank me one day.

What other social media etiquette rules have you encountered?  Which ones are you guilty of breaking?

May 20, 2015

Book Burst: Creative Writing

If your kids are anything like mine, putting a blank piece of paper and a pencil in front of them and asking them to make up a creative story or to write a report on a book they’ve read is like handing them a worm and asking them to eat it.  It’s torture for them.  And it brings tears and temper tantrums.  For that reason, I decided to come up with a new, fun way for my boys to both learn how to write a book report AND practice writing creative stories of their own.  Thus, Book Burst was born.  This exercise helped my boys enjoy writing, so I wanted to share it with you in hopes that your kids will benefit from it as well. 

Below are images of the Book Burst book report form.  The one on the left will take you to a jpeg image version (8.5x14 size), and the one on the right will take you to a Microsoft Word version, (8.5x14 size, but you can also choose 11x14) where you'll be able to edit the categories, if you'd like. 

Jpeg version
MS Word version
In this exercise, your child will choose and read a simple book.  We started with Golden Books.  As you and your child become more comfortable with this exercise, you can move on to more challenging books as you see fit.  This can easily be adapted for older kids, even into middle school, but choosing chapter books with a higher reading level.  But, for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll use Golden Books as our starting point.

Step 1:  Choose and read a book.

Step 2:  This is where the project got its name.  We’re going to “burst” the book open into its parts.  Go over the Book Burst page with your child.  You’ll notice 10 categories listed on each book spine. - title, characters, main character, setting, plot, six words, three important things, first sentence, last sentence, and moral of the story.

After reading the chosen book, your child will fill out the Book Burst page with information from his/her chosen book.  You’ll want to be sure your child understands what each category means.  I still occasionally need to remind my 12-year-old what setting, plot, and moral mean.  ‘Six words’ simply means for your child to write down six words from his/her chosen book that were new to him/her, or that he/she doesn’t remember the meaning of.  ‘Three important things’ is where your child will write three things that happened in the story that stood out as important.

Step 3:  Time to get creative!  We want our kids to be able to write stories of their own without it being a chore.  Using the Book Burst page as a prompt, your child will have all the building blocks for creating their new story.  

Using the characters, setting, six new words, and moral of the story that your child identified in the book he/she read, have them re-write the story into something completely different and new.  Be sure to emphasize that they're not just copying the story they read, and they're not just re-telling the story in their own words.  Instead, they're using the basic building blocks of that story to create a new story all their own (which is why they're not using the title, plot, three important things, or first/last sentences - these must all come from your child's imagination).

Turn the Pokey Little Puppy into a scary story.  Make the Little Engine that Could become a circus clown.  Introduce Brer Rabbit to Peter Cottontail.  Anything can happen!

If you think your kids need even more help with story writing creativity, check out my other creative writing project, Story in a Bag, where the kids begin with a few objects, build a book report outline with those objects, then write their story using the outline.  My boys loved Story in a Bag even more than Book Burst!  But both could be used together for a great creative writing project. 

Want to start even smaller and more simply?  Get your kids writing more creative sentences with Stretch-a-Sentence.  Start with "The dog", and end with "The chubby, mud-covered St. Bernard sat beside the white picket fence, staring at the lazy, hairless cat that lounged in the sunlight."  Turn it into an art project, too, but having your kids illustrate their finished product.  They'll love it!

Let me know what you think of these creative writing projects.  My kids thought they were fun, and their writing improved with each one.  I hope your kids have similar experiences.  Good luck!


May 3, 2015

Totally Worth the Wait Beef Stroganoff

Tonight for dinner I made the most delicious Beef Stroganoff I've ever had. 

I'm not a food blogger, but this was so good, I felt it just had to be shared. This Beef Stroganoff isn't quick, nor is it particularly simple to make.  But, I promise you, it's totally worth the effort!




1 lb. wide egg noodles
2 Tbsp. butter
2 large high-quality steaks
salt and pepper
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pints button mushrooms, stems removed, quartered
2 cups boiling water
3 tsp. Better than Boullion beef flavoring
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. flour
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. parsley


Spray broiler pan with olive oil or non-stick spray.  Cut fat from steaks, then season with salt and pepper.  Place steaks on broiler pan, and place pan in broiler on lowest rack.  Broil steaks 4 minutes, flip, then broil 4 more minutes.  Check for doneness.  If steaks are too pink for your liking, broil 2 minutes at a time until desired doneness is reached.  Remove steaks from broiler and set aside.  Pour drippings from broiler pan into a small bowl and set aside.

In a large pot, melt butter.  Add mushrooms and sautee 20-30 minutes on medium-low heat until mushrooms are browned and shrunken.  Add reserved steak drippings.  Add onions and garlic.  Sautee an additional 10-15 minutes until onions are soft and begin to brown, stirring often.

In the meantime, combine water and beef flavoring and stir until combined.  Add 1/2 cup of the beef broth to the pot.  Let the mixture cook for an additional 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and flour until smooth.  Pour mixture into the pot and stir to combine.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, slice the steak into approximately 1 inch by 1/2 inch pieces.  Add steak to the pot and stir to combine.  Stir in yogurt and sour cream until combined and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season with additional pepper and parsley to taste.  

Serve over noodles.

There you have it.  Hopefully my instructions were clear.  Enjoy!

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