Be a content boss with these 6 secrets to writing faster

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Do you have a list of 50 blog posts ideas, but find yourself stumped when it comes to actually getting words on the page? Have you started several different posts, but haven’t gotten them into a publishable version yet?

If you find yourself in one of these categories, here are 6 tips that will help you write faster and publish rich, quality content along the way.

Start by asking a question. Most of what we write is an answer to a question that has been posed at some point. How do you style a certain outfit? Decorate a room? Prepare a meal? Entertain the kiddos? Or any of the other myriad of questions we grapple with throughout the day. Starting your writing with a question prepares your reader for what you’re going to say AND it gets them engaged in the conversation. After all, they’ve likely posed the same question or tells they probably wouldn’t be reading.

Put a timer on it. I’ve recently started to time my writing and am totally amazed at how much I get done in each session. Now, I wouldn’t dare to to sit down to write without starting my timer (or at least making note of my start time). Timed writing is a must for moving an article from the idea phase to published content. It gives you a finite start and end time, and encourages you to get more written than if you have an infinite amount of time available.

I typically allot 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to write. I try to complete my initial draft in the first 20 minutes, and leave 10 minutes for editing, proofing and publishing.

Map out your story. Story mapping gives you the framework around which to build your story. Similar to a traditional outline, this process allows you to put down all of the topics you want to cover in one place. Story-mapping helps you write faster because you have all of the information in front of you before you start, and you can make notes as you move through your story.

How do you map out a story? Start with the main idea of your story in the center of your map. From there, create a branch to each major topic you want to cover in the article. Within each major topic, list 2-3 ideas that support your major topic. By the time you’re done, you’ll have a complete diagram showing all of the ideas that will be included in your post. All you need to do now is add 2 or 3 sentences about each topic, and before you know it, you have a complete story.

Use the free hand writing method. I confess: I’m probably the world’s slowest typist. One of the tools that I use to help me write faster is literally writing out what I want to say using a pen and paper.

While it may sound counterintuitive, it actually makes the process go faster. Think about journaling. When you write in a journal, thoughts seem to flow faster and are captured more easily than when you’re typing, and intuitively inclined to make corrections along the way.

Hand writing allows me to get all of my thoughts down without the interruption of making sure things are spelled correctly, punctuation is right, capitalization is on point and all of the other things I look for during the editing stage. Another benefit of this method is that it builds in an additional layer of editing as you type up your handwritten notes. I call this “second-layer editing.” This layer of editing allows you to constructively edit actual content rather than just simple things like punctuation.

Create a cut from file. After you’ve written your post, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to go back and cut some of what you’ve written. But this content doesn’t necessarily need to be deleted altogether. Creating a “Cut From File” will allow you to save sentences (possibly even paragraphs) that you may be able to repurpose for a follow-up article or for social media.

My “Cut From” file for my blog is in the form of a single google sheet that is divided by post title, publish date and category.

Have a writing day. I use this technique in my full-time gig all the time. About once a month, I leave my office and head over to the library for a writing day. Removing the distractions of phone calls, drop ins, meetings, etc. allows me to knock out 4-5 articles in a single day, rather than barely one per week.

While I haven’t used this technique as often as I’d like to build my blog, I’m using it more and more. And the more I use it, the more content-rich my site will become. At least that’s the plan!

So there you have it–my tips for writing faster. What are some of the techniques that you use to develop content quickly? Share them in the comments.

Wizard World Comic Con with the Kids

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Now that back-to-school planning has wrapped up, many folks are turning their attention to the next big celebration that every kid loves – Halloween! Just in time for the big costume day, we had a wonderful opportunity to see a ton of detailed, authentic super hero costumes at the Wizard World Comic Con that recently came to town.

The boys LOVED having the opportunity to meet some of their favorite superheroes. And I must admit that I was a little star struck with some of my old favorites, as well. It was a great day for all of us.

Over the next few months, the conference will be making stops in Austin, TX, Tulsa, OK, and Pittsburgh, PA — and many other cities throughout 2017. If you’re thinking about attending, here are some pros and cons (hehe, pun intended) to keep in mind.

Pros

  • Family-friendly: While this event was not specifically geared toward kids, it was definitely kid- and family-friendly. My boys are 6 and 8 years old, and I can’t say that I was uncomfortable with any of the characters we saw. There were one or two that were a bit more heavily clad in armor than I would have liked, but we just steered clear of those.
  • Full day admission: Upon entry, we received a wristband that was good for the entire day. Had we wanted to leave and come back, that would have been just fine.
  • Photo-ops galore: Many of the characters with whom we took pictures were fellow conference attendees just like us. Nevertheless, every time we asked for a picture, everyone happily obliged. It was almost as if they had rehearsed their poses and come to the conference expecting to be photographed throughout the day.
  • Dress up: Well, you get to dress up like superhero and go out in public. Enough said!

 

Cons

  • Entry fee: At 35 bucks a pop in advance ($45 onsite), the cost of entry was a little steep for my liking. We purchased our tickets online in advance and also had to pay a $7.45 processing fee. So for my husband, daughter and me, it was $127.35 to get in. Children under age 10 get in free with a paying adult.
  • Masculine theme: Having a masculine theme is necessaily a bad thing, but this is definitely an event geared more toward those with masculine, rather than feminine energy (i.e. boys versus girls, although I am aware that girls like action heroes too!). I’m not sure I would have even thought to take my daughters when they were little. Even though they liked action heroes, they weren’t as “into them” as my boys are. The only female feature star that I saw throughout the day was Wonder Woman.

Now for the fun part — some photos from the day!

Avengers Assemble!

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Batman was one of the most authentic costumes we saw for the day.

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One thing that surprised me was the variety of characters that showed up. There was not particular affiliation to a specific medium or brand. The Star Wars franchise was there in full force (hehe, another pun).

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Storm’s eyes for the win!

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A childhood favorite for both my husband and myself! Bo Duke aka Jim Cryer aka John Schneider.

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And of course, the General Lee!

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The boys got up close and personal with some of their favorites.

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And, of course, mom got in on the action as well 🙂

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6 Easy Ways to Add Color in Your Kitchen

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(This post contains affliliate links)

As much as I love the classic look of a crisp, white kitchen, adding pops of color in strategic ways can really liven up the space. But wall colors, backsplashes, and major appliances can be both expensive and possibly more of a commitment than you’re willing to make. There’s an easier way! You can create a vibrant palette in your kitchen by adding color through smaller appliances, accent pieces and everyday items.

Consider these options if you’re looking to add some color in your kitchen.


Coffee Maker

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If you drink homemade coffee regularly, it’s likely that you have a coffee maker that’s easily accessible. Ours has a home right on the countertop! We have a Mr. Coffee 12 Cup Programmable Coffeemaker Modern Design with Chrome Front, which does the trick to make enough for both my husband and me everyday. The programmable feature is easy to use and saves me a few extra minutes in the morning. And yes, we have the colorful, red version.


Toaster Oven

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Toaster and convection ovens are the perfect solution for warming breads, preparing fench fries, baking cookies or small pizzas.This is especially true during the summer when it’s WAY too hot to turn on an actual oven. Since our toaster oven is on its last legs, I’ve been considering this Hamilton Beach Convection Toaster/Broiler Oven as a replacement.


Knife Setknifeblock

I seem to go through just about every knife in my block on a daily basis. So even though they probably spend more time in the sink or dishwasher than in the actual block, a fully stocked knife block adds a wonderful pop of color on your countertop. I like the KitchenAid Delrin Knife Block Set. My latest set is not this particular brand, but I’ve owned them in the past and they hold up pretty well over time.


Mixer

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Let’s face it – a KitchenAid mixer is THE gold standard in mixers. They are so versitle and they last forever. I mean, what can’t it do? I get so much use out of mine that it also has a home right on my countertop. Since it’s a little clunky, it’s tucked beside the microwave when it’s not in use. But it adds a pop of color in what would otherwise be a dark hole.


Utensil Holder

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I actually use an old (red) vase (that has a ton of sentimental value) to hold the utensils next to my stove. And to avoid overcrowding and clutter, the utensils on the countertop are limited to the ones I use everyday, like a spatula, whisk, and two mixing spoons. If you’re looking for a little color, there are plenty of options like the CHEFS Stoneware Utensil Holder that you can find online.


Dish towels

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Another standard in any kitchen USA.  I have about a million dish towels and use them for everything. Since they’re so useful, they’re a great way to add a pretty color that complements the other fixtures in your kitcken.

There are plenty of other options for adding color to your kitchen in small ways – wall decor, floor mats, table cloths, sponges, and even the dish soap that you use. Your turn: how have you added color to your kitchen in small (or big) ways?

7 helpful tips to ace your college road trip

 

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With a daughter headed into her senior year of high school, our search for the right college is in full swing. I can’t believe it! I feel like I blinked and this little girl has grown into a young woman now thinking about the next stage of her life.

Since we have commitments to show choir, school plays, swimming, football, gymnastics – oh yeah – and classes, we knew that once the school year kicks in, our time to look at colleges will be limited. So we used a few days this summer to tour universities. And we didn’t just visit colleges, we embarked on what felt like an epic college tour, which covered four schools in four states over four days.

Knowing that we would need to cram alot into a short amount of time, we developed a plan to get the most out of our visits. I imagine that some parents out there may be in my shoes in the coming months, so I though I’d share how we handled our college tour.

  • Pack lightly
    We devoted one day to visiting each school. This meant that we would be in and out of each location pretty quickly. If you structure your visits like this, it’s wise to not pack too much. And what you do pack should be comfortable and reusable in multiple locations.
  • Create an itinerary
    We knew we would be covering four colleges in four states in four days so we needed to create a realistic schedule that we could stick to. Prepare an itinerary that includes the location of the college, its distance from where you’ll be staying, and how far it is from your next destination. Having all of these details in one place will help you stay organized while on the road and keep you on track for departing and arriving at your next destination on time. And, when you make your itinerary, be sure to build in time to decompress.
  • Register your visits in the afternoon
    I don’t know about you, but I’m not much of a morning person. I like to ease into my day. And when I’m travelling, I seem to need even more time for the easing. If you have the option, schedule your information sessions and tours in the late morning or early afternoon. This will allow you plenty of time to get there, get
    settled and get ready to absorb the information.
  • Know what you want to know 🙂
    After looking at two schools, I joked to my daughter that we could be at Any College, USA. (Note: while these were the first ones out of state, we’ve already looked at several local schools). Once you’ve been in a few information sessions and seen a host of academic buildings, all of the schools start to look the same. We found it helpful to prepare a list of things that we wanted to know about each school as we compared them to the others. Since my daughter has already done a ton of research to narrow down her choices, this list was really helpful in comparing the fine details of each school.
  • Build in time to sight see
    Remember: your child will be living in this new environment for the next two to four years of their life. So they, and you, will want to take a look at the surrounding area. Make sure you build time into your schedule to see the town, not just the campus. If you schedule your formal sessions in the late morning or early afternoon, perhaps you can tie in lunch at a local restaurant or take the scenic route the location where your sessions will be held.
  • Minimize cost by staying with family
    I’m a Virginia transplant, originally from New Jersey – or as I like to say “I’m a come here, not a from here.” Much of my family is still “up north.” So when my daughter wanted to visit a college in NJ, of course, I called in a favor from family. My sister lives less than an hour from one of the schools we visited, so I took this opportunity to tie in a visit with her. Though saving on the cost of a hotel wasn’t my primary objective, it was an added bonus for two nights of the trip.
  • Share driving responsibility
    Considering that your child will ultimately be the one travelling between home and school, have them do some of the driving. This will help them see what it will be like driving back and forth. Since our trip covered over 400 miles one-way, having a co-pilot (and co-driver) provided much-needed relief for both of us.

So that’s how we handled the summer college road trip. We still have two more schools on the list, but thankfully, they’re alot closer to home!

Your turn: Have you gone through the college tour process recently? What tips do you have for a manageable, enjoyable, infomative trip?

Homemade Fresh Blueberry Sauce

At this point in the summer season, fresh fruit abounds! Where I live, blueberries are plentiful in local stores, farm stands and pick-your-own options. With so many available right now, I find myself picking up more than my family is able to eat up in a reasonable amount to time.

 

We were out of town last week, so when we returned, I knew there were some foods in the fridge that we would need to get through fast. So when my boys asked for pancakes, I decided to top them with something a but more special than a drizzle of syrup. Enter…Homemade Fresh Blueberry Sauce!

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I had never made blueberry sauce – properly known as blueberry compote – before. But I’ve often wondered how this sweet, fruity, smoothly decadent treat is made. And if you’ve looked around this site at all, you know I’m a big fan of keeping things simple. So I was thrilled when I found a recipe that required few ingredients and little work. I tweaked the recipe a bit to suit my liking.

 

I created this topping specifically on my pancakes, but after tasting it, I can certainly imagine using it on a variety of other yummy treats like ice cream, waffles, scones, yogurt parfaits, toast and others.

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Needless to say, the blueberry sauce – and the pancakes – went FAST. I think I even caught my little guy licking his plate.

Here’s the recipe I used:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons flour (optional)

Combine 1 cup of the blueberries, water, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining blueberries and cook for 10 more minutes , stirring frequently. For thicker compote, whisk in one teaspoon of flour completely. Add second teaspoon; whisk in completely. Serve warm.

Dream-building Sunday | I am worthy and deserving

I am worthy and deserving of all the good in life. (2)One of the things that I enjoy doing is “dream-building.” For me, dream-building includes things like going to look at houses where I would like to live; test driving the car that I would like to own; looking in magazines or online to see locations where I would like to vacation.

Dream-building helps me hold specific images in my mind with the expectation that these dreams will (soon) become reality.

I recently had an epiphany while on one of my dream-building outings. As I rode around a gorgeous neighborhood looking at million dollar homes with expansive yards and luxury cars parked in each driveway, I found myself thinking “I wonder who lives here?”

I immediately assumed that these homeowners must be doctors, lawyers, judges, business CEOs and the like. Well guess what that did to my dream?! It quickly deflated it, because I do not fall into any of these categories!

In that moment, I realized that I needed to take a step back in my thought process and change the image I was holding in my mind. As much as I am open and receptive to the good that life offers, my belief was that the “good” things are reserved only for those in certain professions.

So, I have started saying to myself “I am worthy and deserving of all the good in life.”

One of the things that this process has taught me is that the affirmations we use must meet us where we are. If there are underlying beliefs that negate these affirmations, they must first be addressed in order to move forward.

The lesson in this is to start where you are. If your affirmations are “not working,” take a step back and look at your underlying beliefs. If you’re not seeing your reality progressively change for the better, perhaps you need to address a fundamental belief that is blocking you from having what you really want in life.

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