Ways to get more stuff done

Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 @ 4:25 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 @ 4:25 PM

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Whether we’re overwhelmed by that never-ending to-do list or simply distracted (thanks, Facebook), sometimes it feels like we just can't get enough out of the day. Until 30-hour days are invented, follow these easy, effective tips for getting more done in the 24 we have.



1. Get enough sleep. Whoever coined the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” didn’t have all the facts straight. Not getting enough Zzz's could hinder productivity at work, so try to get those recommended seven to nine hours of snooze time [1]!

2. Create routines. Make a habit of, well, sticking to habits.Schedule actions like writing emails at a certain time or hitting the gym after work, and try to do them daily. Soon that routine will happen on autopilot.

3. Wake up earlier. As long as you're still able to squeeze in enough sleep, try extending the day by getting up an hour earlier—when it’s still quiet and there are fewer distractions.

4. Step away from the inbox. Incoming emails can be a nuisance. Make a habit to only check the inbox at certain times of the day to avoid getting sidetracked with requests and responses.

5. Make a daily to-do list. Stay away from huge to-do lists. Instead, create a daily list of realistic jobs to tackle, like folding laundry, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, or paying the cable bill. Break up big goals into micro-tasks, like going to a yoga class over getting six-pack abs, or writing a page over completing a thesis. Soon, the small things will add up to big accomplishments. 

6. Take a midday workout break. Got writers' block? Can’t fathom cleaning the bathroom? Try hitting the pavement. Working out during the day could actually boost productivity, so the time spent exercising could actually help us get more done later [2].

7. Don’t multitask. Our brains aren’t wired to juggle too much at once, and we can work nearly twice as fast if we do only one thing at a time [3]. (And nope, we’re not talking LOST time-travel.) [4]. So remember those childhood manners and finish tasks one at a time.

8. Silence the phone. When it comes to getting stuff done, sometimes silence is key. Turn off email alerts and the cell phone ringer—that’s what voicemail is for!

9. Make a to-don’t list. Bad habits are just as significant as good ones. So make a list of things not to do because they make you unproductive (we’re staring at you, Netflix), and stick to it.

10. Brainstorm. Take some time to sit and get those creative juices flowing. Without distractions, brainstorming may be the way to come up with killer ideas in record time. Bonus: Creativity can make you happier.

11. Do those MITs. Nope, this isn’t college talk. MIT stands for most important tasks, and it’s a way to highlight the items that matter most on that to-do list. At the start of each day, write down a few things that must get done. Commit to tackling those tasks, and let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

12. Hit inbox zero. Sort every email once that inbox is open. Respond, file, draft, or delete. Keeping the inbox clean is key to staying organized and on point. (Just remember not to keep the inbox open when you aren't organizing it.).

Gourmande in the Kitchen

13. Stay healthy. Just like… don’t get sick. (It may be easier said than done.) But health and productivity go hand in hand, so be sure to maintain good health habits, like eating well and washing up after hitting the gym [5]!

14. Keep a pen and pad on hand. Make like Richard Bransonand carry pen and paper (or your smartphone) to catch any useful thought that may come to mind. Up the creativity ante and make your own moleskin DIY style.

For all 27 ways to get more done, go to Greatist.com.

The story behind 6 of the creepiest  nursery rhyme lines 

Published: Tuesday, January 02, 2018 @ 1:10 PM

Here's the story behind some creepy nursery rhyme lines "Hey Diddle, Diddle" may be a reference to the scandal between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester “Humpty Dumpty” was a piece of propaganda that passed from town to town as the news of Charles I's defeat The old woman from "Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" may have been Queen Caroline or Elizabeth Vergoose of Boston

It's a lucky babe who is sung to sleep with a nursery rhyme, soothing and rhythmic, just like a mother's heartbeat. And the rhymes date back centuries.

Still, "for all their popularity, most of us don't know what the heck we're singing about," noted Emily Frost in Babble. "There was an old lady who lived in a shoe? What!? To make matters worse, we're singing them with children who are at the height of their inquisitive and persistent phase, as in, 'Why? Why? But why?'"

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Every now and then, it's refreshing to join the little ones in a good bit of curiosity. 

Before chanting another rhyme about animals who may or may not have any wool or pockets that are full of posies, let's review some lyrics and their origins. Just what do those weird old nursery rhymes mean?

First off, there are the purely bizarre. Kids don't have to grow up and read Alice In Wonderland for outright strange sequences. Not when there's Hey Diddle, Diddle, a nursery rhyme that can be traced back to 1500s England and may be a reference to the scandal between Queen Elizabeth I and her "lap dog," Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester, according to ABC Kids, Inc.

Sure, the diversity of the dish running away with the spoon is admirable, but "The cat and the fiddle / The cow jumped over the moon / The little dog laughed to see such fun," is pretty odd.

Runner-up in this category, definitely is the Three Men in a Tub. There is the obvious question of whether anyone could ever make a solid living as a candlestick maker. And the whole scene of "Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub. And who do you think were there? The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and all jumped out of a rotten potater" conjures up the kind of dream you'd have after too many late-night chili dogs.

It's kind of surprising that Stephen King hasn't based a suspense story on a similar scenario: “Them”, instead of “It”.

Even weirder: the actual story behind the lyrics, according to Albert Jack in Babble.  It dates back to the 15th century and first referred to "maids" in a tub, not men, and most likely alluded to a traveling peep show.

When the nursery rhymes aren't outright acid-trippy, they can still be oddly violent, especially against the background of slumbering babies and their parents sing-song voices. Um, really, "All the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again" after his great fall? And while illustrators have long considered Humpty an egg, that's not apparent in the verbal version. Shattering is so uncool!

The historical background does put a positive spin on the death and destruction that modern-day parents can appreciate: "Written in the same vein as “Hitler Has Only Got One Ball” (a song mocking the Nazis that raised the British spirits during the darker days of World War II), “Humpty Dumpty” was a piece of propaganda that passed from town to town as the news of [Charles I's] defeat spread across England and the Parliamentarian troops slowly returned home, teaching even their youngest children to recite the tale of their victory," Jack said.

And that stinking Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe? Had so many children, she didn't know what to do? Surely we're not advocating her approach of giving them all broth without any bread, whipping them all soundly and putting them to bed?

But the reassuring note about the Old Woman nursery rhyme is that it probably related to a good thing: According to ABC Kids, Inc., two famous figures may have been the old woman in the rhyme. One is Queen Caroline, wife to King George II, who had eight children. The other is Elizabeth Vergoose of Boston, who had a total of 16 children, six of her own and 10 adopted. A queen who could produce lots of kids for her monarch (the old "heir and a spare") was a good thing, even if whipping was not.

Rock-a-bye-baby is another that's melodious, and has soothed tykes to sleep by the billions. Probably better not to dwell too long on the lyrics involving, "When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, And down will come baby, cradle and all."

It's just no good to have a baby falling out of a tree, whether or not the chant was written by an American immigrant or back in England, as speculated.

Another disheartening, gray tale that is widely accepted and rarely analyzed: "Old Mother Hubbard." The first few lines from this 1800s rhyme, possibly based on a comic book, are probably all most of us know well:

Old Mother Hubbard/Went to the cupboard/To give the poor dog a bone/When she came there/The cupboard was bare/And so the poor dog had none.

While that's not a sweet message for our tots, the second verse is a real hair raiser:

She went to the baker's/To buy him some bread/When she came back/The dog was dead!

To which we reply, "Yikes."

If you think about it, this might be good training. Today, toddlers can subconsciously absorb lyrics to nursery rhymes like Frere Jaques, and only many years later ponder such questions as, "Would morning bells that are ringing really go 'ding, dang, dong?'" This reasoning process will prepare them not to be alarmed when they start listening to rock and pondering lyrics to, say, American Pie. Or maybe they'll do like they do now: enjoy the bonding and not worry about the words.


10 reasons to buy a brand-new home

Published: Thursday, December 21, 2017 @ 3:34 PM

If you're in the market for a house, building a new home might be a better option than buying an existing house. Here’s why.

Yes, older homes tend to have more character than new construction, from unique architectural features to lovable little nooks. But what looks charming is often not practical. So before you invest in vintage, consider the perks of buying new.

Here are 10 reasons to buy a brand-new house:

1. Personalized picks

Purchasing a house that hasn’t been completed allows you to customize your home. Buyers can often choose everything from the floor plan to the finishes in a new, master-planned community.

2. Modern design

New homes reflect the lifestyles of today’s families, with open floor plans, flex rooms and livable outdoor spaces, as well as plenty of closet space and roomy master suites. They also have all the outlets and charging ports needed to keep everyone and everything plugged in.

3. Energy efficiency

State law requires that California builders be extremely energy-efficient, which means new homes come with thicker wall insulation, highly efficient heating and cooling systems and appliances, along with double-paned windows, and LED lighting. An increasing number of new homes also are equipped with solar panels, making these residences good for the environment as well as your pocketbook.

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4. Low maintenance

Besides having everything new and in perfect working order, new construction is also focused on low maintenance, often with composite building materials that won’t weather or crack and won’t need to be painted every few years.

5. Worry-free warranty

If something does go wrong, state regulations require builders to offer a 10-year warranty on major structural defects — items such as a faulty foundation or sagging roof. Limited coverage on materials and workmanship usually lasts from one to two years. Be sure to check with the builder, as warranties differ from one company to the next.

6. Safe haven

New homes are constructed to the latest building codes, which are constantly updated to address consumer safety issues. Codes include elements that range from insulation to plumbing and paint. High-tech ventilation and air-filtration systems ensure that even what you can’t see won’t hurt you.

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7. Fire safety

New homes are required to have fire sprinklers, even in single-family residences. They also must have hard-wired smoke alarms with a battery backup. Smoke alarms need to be interconnected, which means that if smoke is detected, all alarms will sound.

8. Friendly financing

Builders often have a mortgage company that can offer incentives to buyers.

9. Neighborly neighborhoods

Because everyone is moving into the community at the same time, chances are you will get to know your neighbors, whether it’s at a social organized by the builder or at one of the many amenities that come with the planned community. Often, new communities attract like-minded people, so your new neighbors are likely to become your new friends.

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10. It’s new!

There’s an emotional factor to owning something that’s brand-new. Like a new car with that new car smell, owning something that’s never been used is gratifying. The same is true for a house that’s shiny and unscratched and has never been occupied by anyone but you.

Your guide to properly lighting a room

Published: Monday, December 18, 2017 @ 12:00 AM

Proper lighting is essential for any home. Without it, there would be no color, and when there isn’t enough, it dampens the energy of a room and depresses your spirit. That’s why it’s important to maintain a balance between personality and functionality when it comes to the lighting of room.  

good lighting plan for any room involves a layered approach that combines three types of light: ambient, task and accent lighting. Certain types of fixtures lend themselves to each category, and with just the right blend, they can make any room in your home come to life.  

Ambient lighting

Also known as general lighting, ambient lighting offers excellent overall illumination to a room by providing a comfortable level of brightness without glare. It allows you to move about the space without banging your shin into the furniture. Having a central source of ambient lighting in all room is key to a good lighting plan.  

Examples of good sources of ambient lighting include: track and recessed lights, wall mounted lights and ceiling mounted lights, such as chandeliers.  

Task lighting

Task lighting helps you perform specific tasks, such as reading, cooking, doing hobbies, or playing games. This type of lighting should be free of distracting glare and shadows, while directing the light to exactly where you need it. It can be provided by recessed and track lighting, pendant lighting and under-cabinet lighting, as well as by portable floor and desk lamps. 

Accent lighting

Accent lighting is a great way to add a little drama to any room by creating visual interest for both the interior and exterior of your home. For interior design, it is used to draw the eye to key features such as houseplants, paintings, sculptures and other focal points of a room. Exterior applications highlight the texture of a brick wall, window treatments or outdoor landscaping. 

To achieve the desired effect, accent lighting must provide at least three times as much light on the focal point as the general lighting surrounding it. Accent lighting usually is provided by recessed and track lighting, wall-mounted picture lights and sconces. 

Common ways to layer lighting and achieve optimal balance: 

Dining room

This dining room combines ambient light via a ceiling-mounted light over the dining table and accent lighting by the four, evenly positioned wall-mounted sconces.  

Living room

This living room provides all three types of lighting: ambient (the ceiling light), task lighting (floor and table lamps) and accent lighting (the wall-mounted light above the picture).


The layout of this bedroom provides ambient light (ceiling light) and task lighting through the two bedside table lamps.  

Morris Home has a wide variety of options to help you create the perfect balance of light for any room in your home. Just see any sales person at any one of the several Morris Home locations in Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus or visit www.MorrisAtHome.com

Mulch, leaf mold, compost: How to put autumn leaves to good use

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 3:19 PM

Why Do Leaves Change Color?

Leaves of red, yellow, orange and green color the autumn landscape with their vibrant, dramatic hues, compelling us to pull on soft, warm sweaters, pour a mug of hot cider and curl up with a good book. But when they leave their branchy homes and gently sway to the ground, the compulsion to grab a rake and head outdoors for hours of back-breaking labor erases the tranquility almost immediately. Why not just let them be?

For starters, if left in place until spring, those leaves will smother your lawn, depriving it of sunlight and air. And when the soggy, matted debris is cleared away, you’ll be left with dead patches that will require reseeding. And that’s the best-case scenario: Diseases like snow mold and brown patch, and all sorts of fungi thrive between leaf and lawn, and you’ll find dealing with the aftermath is even more burdensome than raking would have been.

But there is one way you can leave your leaves and have your lawn, too: Mulch them. This is easier than it sounds, as it simply requires running your lawn mower over the leaves to shred them into little bits. Those bits will work their way between grass blades to the soil line, where they’ll gradually decompose and even add nutrients to improve the health of your turf. If there are too many to leave on the lawn, you can run the mower over them and move the resulting mulch to your garden beds, where they’ll serve the same function.

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Mulching leaves isn’t only easier than raking — it’s more environmentally sound. Bagged-up yard debris adds nearly 33 million tons of solid waste to U.S. landfills each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And its decomposition under those conditions (without adequate oxygen) can result in a release of methane gas, which tends to heat up when exposed to sunlight and can result in a too-warm atmosphere — and that’s not good for plants, wildlife or us.

Another problem caused by ignoring your leaves is that many of them would be carried by wind to our waterways, where they’d release excess nutrients and can throw the whole ecosystem out of balance.

If you aren’t inclined to chop up leaves with your lawn mower, you might consider making leaf mold, an organic soil amendment and mulch that’s especially useful in sandy soils due to its high moisture content. Simply create a pile of leaves, water it lightly and cover loosely with a tarp. Visit it once or twice over winter, stirring it up a bit. Come spring, you’ll have partially decomposed nutrient-rich matter to add to garden beds and borders, or to sieve through steel mesh and add to potting mix. True leaf mold takes at least a year to develop, but this quick version will continue to break down after it’s applied. It’s almost like a shortcut to compost.

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Cooking up compost

Speaking of compost, that’s another lovely use for autumn leaves. Compost is the single best additive available for improving any type of soil. It improves the water-retention of sandy soil, improves the drainage of clay and imparts a bounty of nutrients. It’s no wonder gardeners call it black gold.

There are two components that make up compost: nitrogen-rich “greens,” such as fresh grass clippings, coffee grounds and fruit and vegetable scraps, and carbon-rich “browns,” such as newspapers, twigs, dryer lint and all those autumn leaves. The best compost is composed of a ratio of three parts “browns” to one part “greens.” (Never include fats, like meat or fish table scraps, dairy products, oils, etc., diseased plants or weeds that have gone to seed in your pile. And never add materials that don’t decompose, such as plastic or glass. Bird and rabbit droppings, and horse manure are OK, but kitty litter and dog poop are not. As a rule of thumb, excrement from carnivores is off-limits.)

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To “cook” up a batch of compost, you’ll need a place to do it. Options range from just piling up compost ingredients in a far corner of the backyard, to homemade contraptions that can be as utilitarian as a circular chicken-wire pen staked into the ground, to purchased bins or tumblers that can cost anywhere from $50 to $500, depending on how fancy you want to get.

Add your brown and green ingredients, and keep the pile slightly moist, sprinkling lightly with a hose whenever you add to it or notice it drying out. You can add to it all year long.

As ingredients break down, bacteria will heat the center of the pile first, so it’s important to mix or turn the heap regularly to ensure even decomposition. This can be done with a pitchfork or garden spade on an open pile. Tumblers have a crank or weighted design that requires less exertion, but depending on the size and design of the unit, it still might require some muscle.

Finished compost can be added to new garden beds or vegetable plots about a month before planting, sprinkled over the lawn and gently raked in, added by the handful to planting holes or used as a top dressing around established plants, trees and shrubs.