Six Things to Do Instead of Being on Your Phone

Our phones. They do so much for us. They’re our alarm clocks in the morning, they allow us to check on a late family member or friend when they don’t come home on time, and they make it possible to capture special moments with just one press of the screen. It’s never been so easy to watch a video tutorial on how to replace a driver’s-side car shock that was destroyed by an unavoidable pothole exactly five-hundred feet deep; a pothole so stealthy and evil, it maliciously calls your name every time you have to drive by it again, a pothole that will now and forever haunt you in your dreams. . .

But this post is not about potholes. . . back to the original topic: our phones are capable of so much that they can easily become a main focus in our lives. We can depend on them way too much and eventually think of them as a necessity of life. The reason they were created in the first place was to allow easier communication between people, but in the cellphone’s journey to 2022, its purpose seems to have changed.

I don’t know if this happens to you, but I’ve noticed that any time there’s a lull in the day or when I’m just sitting and waiting for something (like in the car or a waiting room), I open my phone to waste time. Apps like Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube (among many others) are specially designed to keep its audience’s attention from the first moment we open it, and we often end up giving them too much of our precious time. It’s hard not to automatically use our phones to distract ourselves, whether we want to be distracted or not. It just becomes a habit, a way of going about our day. We open our phone and who knows what time it will be when we finally look up again. Today, smartphones are created to be addictive and there’s never been a time in history when so much of the population is just sitting, distracted by such a large amount of fruitless digital content.

So now that I’ve ranted and raged over the problem, I offer an easy solution (insert Professor Harold Hill singing “Ya’ Got Trouble”). The first step to spending less time on your phone is simple: move your icons.

For the app your finger most often gravitates toward when idle, just move that icon to a different place on your phone, even onto another page if you want. This way, you can’t, through muscle memory, open it. You’ll have to make a conscious effort to find the icon, and this is your new signal. Each time you go looking for that one app, you can stop yourself and decide to spend some time OFF your phone.

Personally, I switched out my icons and put my Bible app where I usually keep Instagram. I was amazed at how many times I mindlessly opened it because it was in that specific location. Every time I would go for Instagram, I’d click on the Bible app in its place, so I’d read a few verses instead. It really worked, to just move or replace those most popular icons.

Step 2: turn off your notifications.

Go into settings and block the notifications that are most likely going to get your attention. Of course, you can choose which ones you want to leave on, ones that are actually helpful and not merely a distraction. The idea is just to limit the number of possibilities of you seeing something enticing and clicking on it. It’s the “out of sight out of mind” deal. A lot of apps have detailed settings that allow specific/custom notifications to go through, but not all of them, which will definitely lower your chances of mysteriously finding yourself on your phone again.

Step 3: find something else to do with your time.

Once you’ve already eliminated some notifications (step 2), moved your app icons (step 1), then gone to press the icons and realized they weren’t there anymore, that’s your cue to start breaking an old habit (step 3). Below is a list of six things you can do instead of spending time on your phone. All of them can be done while just sitting, waiting, at home, in the car, indoors, outdoors, anytime and anywhere. Instead of falling into that tendency of receiving input, these things are “output,” things that will get your brain to work differently than when it’s just staring into a little screen.

This one is a bit obvious and the most common alternative. Books are easy to transport and there are about one hundred million to choose from. Now technically, reading is still “input,” however much easier on the eyes than a phone. Also, books can’t run out of battery. My family has this thing about not leaving the house without a book to read, just in case. You never want to be stranded someplace without a good book nearby.

I know some people just don’t like to read, and that’s totally fine. If that someone happens to be you, then what you need are puzzle books! Sudokus, crosswords, and trivia puzzles are great options. A whole book of them can cost only 99 cents and you can find them at almost any store, not just bookstores. They’re even sometimes stocked in the magazine section in the grocery store. Puzzle books are “output” and thought-provoking things to do and they’re actually pretty fun. Sudokus are my favorite since it’s all about deducing. Just easy enough for me to do and tricky enough to make me feel smart 🙂

This is a favorite of mine. All you need it a pen and paper (a napkin works if necessary). Spend your time making to-do lists for today, tomorrow, next month, or next year. Big goals or little tasks you know you need to get done. Write it all down. Meal lists, errand lists, a list of your favorite films, it really doesn’t matter. You don’t have to have something extremely important to write down to make a list, it can be something as insignificant as a list of all the times you visited “blank” or the days you were the happiest you’ve ever been. It not only gets your mind motivated to think, but it can also bring back some special memories. A grocery-list or the best-moments-of-your-life-list, either one is sufficient. Choose your fancy.

My portable hobbies are knitting and creative writing. Perfect for waiting or traveling. Both only require two different items each: knitting needles and yarn, and a pen and a notebook. Both hobbies are creative and productive and to me, very enjoyable. They’re not too difficult to carry around and when stuck in a waiting situation, they both keep my mind occupied and content. If two knitting needles and a ball of yarn are too bulky to carry, try crocheting, which only uses one small hook. And the yarn you can always wrap around a piece of cardboard so that it’s flat and transportable (and can’t roll away, which can be very embarrassing when in public, speaking from experience).

I’m terrible at drawing, the most I can do are pine trees on a hilly horizon, maybe some snowy mountain peaks in the background, and a full moon hanging above. Or stick figures. I’m pretty good at those. No matter your skill level, drawing is a highly creative activity with which to amuse yourself, and no, it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. If drawing scenes or people is not your forte, then draw floorplans. You can design a new floorplan or try to put on paper the blueprints of your own house. It will definitely entertain you, trying to imagine the layout from above. You can draw it how it is now, or how you might want to try it in the future by moving the furnishings around. Again, all you need is a pen and paper.

This one might be tough, but super fun. No pen or knitting needles required, only perfectly square pieces of paper and a fantastic memory. Putting it that way makes it sound difficult, but really all you need is a small pocket-size origami book with the paper already included. Inside, half the book is filled with rip out sheets and the other half with directions to make the origami. Even without square paper, you can still make origami with any other kind (including dollar bills). It’s also fun to see what you can make without directions. (I could probably make a swan by memory if I really thought about it, but then again it might just come out as a paper airplane).

And lastly. . .

This is for when you’re bored, alone, have none of the above resources, and only have with you your trusty smartphone. If you need to occupy yourself, but can’t think of anything else to do, not a single thing, then you can stay on your phone. BUT, you have to be productive. Clean up the device storage space and memory, organize those rogue photos that could easily be put into categorized files, delete old stuff you don’t want anymore, change your lock/home screen, get rid of unused apps and old voicemails, anything that is productive and beneficial to your life. If you finish that within a few minutes and you’re still bored, call or text someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Check on them, see what they’re up to. Use your phone for its first intended use, communication. Talk to another person. That way you can still be spending your time wisely and with someone you enjoy being with, even though they’re not physically with you at the time.

I think we can each try to be more meaningful with how we spend our time, especially when it comes to those pesky handheld distraction devices. Now, let’s see if I practice what I preach and spend my time more wisely when it comes to getting distracted by my phone. . .

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What are some ways you like to spend waiting time, without being on your phone?

Do you like drawing floorplans for fun?

Have you, likewise, a hatred for relentless potholes?

How Much Do You Know About Jane Austen? // Quiz

Jane Austen: author of some of the most famous literary works in history and thought of by many as the greatest female writer of all time. She was only twenty-one years old when she finished her most well-known novel, Pride and Prejudice.

I’m sure we ALL know the storyline to at least one of her books, but how much do you know about Jane herself? Though she lived a short life, her accomplishments go far beyond her number of years. Her beloved characters and way of writing make her novels highly celebrated in the world of literature, and I admire her and her writing, being a writer in the 21st century myself. I’m sure she never knew how famous she would become within the next two hundred years, but I think she would be very pleased!

Click here to take the quiz!

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Which of Austen’s works are your favorite?

Which film inspired by her novels do you like the most?

Let me know how you did on the quiz!

If I Attended Marshall College // Late 1930s

There is a certain girl in the beginning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” walking in the background for about three seconds. Her appearance is so quick, I couldn’t get a clear screenshot. She happens to be wearing an outfit a lot like this one!

The scene is set in Connecticut, where Dr. Jones is a professor at Marshall College in 1936. I’ve always loved those few short scenes of the campus. Watching it seems to bring back memories I’ve never really had or experienced. It’s funny how that works, sometimes.

When I’d heard that “Raiders” was showing at a local theater, I knew I wanted to wear this specific outfit. It was going to be in 4DX, you know, where the seats move to the action and water sprays in your face (the submarine scene got a little out of hand). There was a button to control the water for your individual seat, which I quickly turned off. But with every other seat around you going off, getting sprinkled with cold water is mostly unavoidable. The wind of the desert, the wood smoke smell from the burning fires, and the effect of air whizzing past your head for narrowly missing bullets makes you really feel like you’re part of the story. And there’s NOTHING like the feeling of a sudden piece of rotating plastic hitting your feet while watching snakes slither around Indy’s shoes. Definitely hated that. So must have the lady in front of me since she screamed so loud. I think I saw everyone in the theater scramble to lift up their feet in horror the first time it happened.

I think 4DX movies can be truly captivating and fun, if done right. Sometimes the seat just jostles you around so much, you focus more on that than what’s happening on the screen. For me, it’s like riding a really hectic wooden rollercoaster. When it’s just tossing me everywhere, I get really mad, furious actually, that I’m being pushed around and can’t fight back. How are you supposed to punch a rollercoaster in the face? It’s not fair if there’s no way to retaliate! Does not all of the world’s population feel as I do; aggravated by these monstrous bullies, disguised as amusement in the form of massive constructions of lumber in which humans are fastened onto and tossed around at seventy miles per hour, compelling grown men to scream for their lives? No, just me, ok.

Saddle shoes and poodle socks: the most comfortable fashion duo ever to grace history. Very suitable for walking, dancing, and all-around adventuring.

Here’s a late 1930s photo of some stylish students from Lawrence College of Kansas. A short-sleeved sweater, plaid skirt, saddle shoes, and poodle socks all make an appearance. (Photo curtesy)

Both the sweater and cameo necklace once belonged to my grandmother. The sweater, I’ve heard, she had since high school, and I’m so happy I get to wear it. It makes it easy to remember her. Everyone who knew both of us knew how much we looked alike. I’m just so thankful that I can remember her by wearing the clothes she left for my sisters and me. I never truly got to say goodbye, but I know I’ll see her again soon. And until then, I’ll don her fashionable attire with an abundance of joy, and then hand it all down to the next generation. You definitely had great taste in fashion, Grandmom!

Heaven is a wonderful place and I’m glad that I can live there for eternity one day. And while yes, death is heartbreaking and depressing to us here still on Earth, I quickly remember that there is no death in Heaven, only life, beautiful and blissful life, where we know no trials, no pain. . . And no tormenting rollercoasters that make me infuriated, which I am quite pleased about.

So yes, we can mourn in our own ways. It’s healthy to feel those feelings, not wrong. We cry them out and then think of the happy truths around us that encourage us to cheer up. I think so often today, people associate crying with weakness. But being sad is a way of showing our love for people. When Lazarus died, Jesus went to his grave and cried, right in front of everybody (John 11:35), even though He knew He would bring him back to life in a few minutes. Showing that sadness, having those feelings was an example of how much He loved His friend, and that is a beautiful thing. He lets us know that we can be sad for a while, and that it’s okay. Our love for someone else is just an example of how God loves us, which I think is pretty amazing.

And lastly, to finish up this fashion post:

A photo of me being locked inside the mall bookstore because I wouldn’t leave. . .

(No, I was actually helping my sister close up shop for the night. P.S. reminder note to my sister, do not, I repeat, do not use that shady back elevator to take out the trash, alone. It was creepy enough when both of us went together.)

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Skirt // thrifted

Sweater and necklace // my grandmom’s

Belt // thrifted

Shoes // payless

Poodle socks // irish dance store

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Which Indiana Jones film is your favorite, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, or The Last Crusade? (The fourth film doesn’t count in my book.)

Is there some item handed down to you that reminds you of a loved one?

Have you ever gotten mad at a rollercoaster?

Quiz // What Story Should You Write Next?

As writers (and I suppose as well as regular human beings), we often have trouble deciding what we should focus on next. . . when there’s that urge to start something new, regardless of our other projects. Maybe you just finished writing a novel you’re very proud of, or perhaps you’ve become bored with your current work-in-progress and desire a change. No matter the instance, sometimes we need suggestions on what do to next (we can’t think of everything ourselves, although we all wish we could).

Hopefully this quiz that I’ve had so much fun creating will give you some inspiration and ideas on where to focus your writing in the immediate or distant future. There are five different endings, so if you’re not happy with the first one you get, just try again. Have fun!

Click here to take the quiz!

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Don’t forget, you can share your ending in the comment section, I’d love to hear which one you got!

Which March Sister Are you? // Quiz

Which March Sister Are you? // Quiz

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are four of the most beloved literary sisters in history, let’s see which one you are!

Click here to take the quiz!

I’ve suddenly discovered a way to create quizzes, and I think I cannot stop. It’s just too much fun!

After you take the quiz, be sure to let me know which sister you got, and if you agree with the answer or not! Which sister is your favorite? (mine’s Jo, of course.) Are there any other quiz topics that you’d like to see? Just let me know and I can make one!

YouTube Channels Thou Mayest Enjoy

There art many a thing in which I am interested; therefore, I have acquired a large range of different YouTube channels that I enjoy. I thought I might share some of them, this first day of twenty-twenty-two. (Happy New Year, might I add.)

Here are three categories, Fashion and Sewing, Writing, and Other. Let me know if you already follow any of these channels and tell me some of your favorite channels right now. I’d love to check them out!

Loepsie

I’ve been watching Lucy’s channel for a LONG time, and she always puts out something new and fun for us to watch. She lives in the Netherlands and creates videos on historical and vintage hairstyling, sewing, and beauty. They’re my absolute favorite videos to watch while I’m working on sewing projects. If you love calm and relaxing content, this is for you! Two of my favorite videos of hers are:

Rachel Maksy

Also known as the Hobbit Queen, Rachel has a personality the size of Texas (although she lives in Massachusetts). Her channel blooms with old fashion aesthetics, exciting sewing projects, and vintage beauty tutorials. She creates projects inspired by The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Pride and Prejudice, Spiderman. . . it would take me all day to list them all. She recently bought an old farmhouse with her husband and Frodo (their dog). Here are two videos from her channel:

(Quick forewarning: this channel contains some occasional language, unfortunately.)

Karolina Zebroski

Karolina aka “Meme Mom” (from Poland) is a unique mix of vintage fashion and comedy. Between her regular videos about historical oddities, myth busting, and fashion, she films skits set in history that will definitely deliver some laughs. Although I’d have to say I disagree with a few things she says (about femininity/masculinity), her channel is still inspiring and lighthearted. Here are two videos she did that I really enjoy:

(Another occasional language warning for this channel.)

Shirinatra

Shirin lives in Germany and has the most glorious vintage wardrobe. She recently began her own clothing line and designed four beautiful dresses inspired by the 1950s. Her favorite actress is Audrey Hepburn, and you can definitely tell from her style. Her channel is about everything Old-Hollywood and is very laid back. Here’s a wonderful video from her:

Abbie Emmons

Abbie is a published author who is passionate about helping others live out their dreams of becoming an author. She talks a lot about the psychology behind storytelling and making the stories that we write matter to the reader. I really enjoy watching her videos, they get me excited about writing. Even though I don’t usually follow the 3-act story structure, I have gotten so much advice from Abbie’s channel. She also has a writing podcast with her sister, Kate, that I listen to on Spotify while working around the barn. (P.S. Of course, every writer is different and won’t agree about everything, or what a good story is made up of, so just feel free to take the advice that you find most helpful. I personally don’t agree with what they say in their podcast about spirituality, but their passion for writing inspires me in my writing and hopefully it will for you too!) Here are two of Abbie’s videos:

Micarah Tewers

Ok, this girl is actually crazy, she said so herself. Micarah is a former homeschooler (which kind of makes sense now) from Ohio who makes historical costumes in very unusual ways, on purpose. Her sewing tutorials involve measuring fabric out in lengths of candy bars and matchbox cars, proving her point that if you want to sew but don’t know how, IT DOESN’T MATTER, YOU CAN DO IT ANYWAY! She talks lightning fast, so if utter chaos and costuming mixed together sounds interesting to you, then you might like Micarah’s channel. This video below is my absolute favorite!

Beth’s Days

This channel is relatively new, as of yet, there are five videos up. Beth lives in England and has an apartment in a gorgeous historic mansion in the countryside. Her filming skills are absolutely amazing, and every shot looks as though it came right out of a movie. They’re the most calming videos to just sit and watch with a cup of something warm, or while working on a project. They’re quite literally the opposite of Micarah’s videos, action wise.

Crow’s Eye Production

This channel has a diverse range of content. Some videos are historical hair and makeup tutorials, some are photoshoot vlogs, and some are their most popular videos “Getting Dressed In. . .” where they explain the different styles and pieces to historical attire. They also released a WW1 drama series entitled, “Tell Them of Us” which I highly enjoyed! They do a fabulous job for being such a small production company. If history and amazing historical outfits are things you love, then you’ll probably love this channel, too.

Blimey Cow

Blimey Cow is a channel my family and I have watched for over a decade. The channel was created by two homeschooled brothers (Jordan and Josh Taylor) and their friends. Now fourteen years later, they’re both married, starting families, and able to support themselves very well with their YouTube channel. Every one of their videos are extremely relatable and just plain hilarious. Satire at its finest. They have a few different series like, Messy Mondays, Jordan’s Messages, Christian Meme Review, and Brother Brother Time. Good Christian content is hard to find, yet here it is:

Let me know if you enjoyed any of these videos. It would take a long time to watch them all, so it’s completely fine just to watch the ones most interesting to you.

What have been your favorite channels lately?

If you have a YouTube channel, put the link in the comment section so we can all check it out!

A Day at the Museum // And Other Adventures

A Day at the Museum // And Other Adventures

Well, well, well. I’ve again returned from the tight clutches of reality to my special little place on the internet, and with good reason. (Yes, I am celebrating my blog’s fifth anniversary this week, but that is not the reason for my posting.) I’ve happened to experience a day of glorious adventures, and not far from home. I do believe that I went overboard with editing these photos. Some I edited to make them look vintage, others are overedited because of poor indoor lighting. I only ask you to overlook the ones less than desirable, as they show their quality. *insert Faramir meme here*

There was a special exhibit at one of my favorite museums, one that my sister and I immediately planned to see as soon as the museum announced its arrival. I knew I had to dress vintage for the trip.

There was no particular decade to this outfit, it was a more of a mish-mash. . . pardon me, a “collection” of different decades. The dress was given to me by a friend (thanks Miss Sue) and I altered it a bit to make it appear more vintage. I’d like to think that it could fit into either the 30s, or 40s. However, some of these photos remind me of ones from the 1970s. Let’s just say, I was a time traveler that day.

You may be wondering about this special exhibit, the one I was so excited to visit. Well, first take a guess. . . hint: It rhythms with Hatharine Kepburn. I’ll give you a moment to think real hard on this one.

Did you get it? Of course, you did. Katharine Hepburn is one of my favorite actresses (pictured here with Cary Grant from the 1938 film Bringing Up Baby, which also happens to be one of my favorite movies).

I was lucky enough to be in the presence of many of Katharine Hepburn’s film costumes spanning over her entire career. Two large rooms were filled with gowns, suits, shoes, accessories, and personal items that once belonged to her. I could have spent hours in front of each display, it was captivating to be so close to history, and old Hollywood. Pictured below are just some of the many costumes in the exhibit.

Here’s her famous black gown from Adam’s Rib (1949).

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967).

The Philadelphia Story (1940), Stage Door (1937), The Little Minister (1934), and then Me (2021).

The Lion in Winter (1968), and Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962).

Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry (1986).

Her personal everyday shoes.

The Lake (1933) Broadway Play.

These three above are from a TV show, The Corn is Green, from 1979. A lot of the costumes were from productions I’d never seen before, like this one. My list of movies and shows to watch had doubled after leaving the museum.

Oh, yeah, there was also a Lego exhibit. . .

After the museum, my sister and I had some adventures around town.

This was right around the time when a motorcycle gang showed up. They also decided to blow out two sports car engines (sounded like literal canon fire) for five minutes straight. It was strange, hence my expression and awkward stance above. The gang also asked if I had any hand sanitizer they could use, and yes, I gave them some out of my car. They now ride around town with jackets embroidered, “The Germ-Free Angels.” No they don’t, I made up that last part.

All in all, it was a wonderful day of adventures. I hope you can set aside a day to have one just as good this week. Always have a friend with you, never forget to buy some chocolate milk on the way, and always give a motorcycle gang some hand sanitizer upon request.

Dress // gifted

Shoes // thrifted

Clutch purse // thrifted

Hairclip // gifted

How to Create Unique Character Names

One of my favorite things to do as a writer is to create character names. It’s one of the first things I do to start a new story. Names can say a lot about a person and finding just the right title for your characters can really help the story flourish.

Firstly, there are a few types of names in the story world, and I’ve come up with five different categories, just for fun. We have: bland names, overused names, hard-to-pronounce names, principal-character names, and side-character names. Now, let’s talk about them in a little more detail.

These are the names that don’t really stand out, the names that we have to go back through the book searching for because we forgot who “that guy” was. Go through your memory and try to think of some dull character names from stories you’ve read. The characters you’ve forgotten about entirely, just because you forgot their name.

Yet another thing to consider, for characters that don’t really matter to the story, people who don’t need to be remembered at the end of a book, bland names are perfect! If you’re looking for a name to fit someone who is insignificant to the storyline, bland is just fine.

Okay, we’re talking the kind of names you can find in basically every young adult paperback sitting in used bookstores from here to Timbuktu (perhaps an mild exaggeration, as I often exaggerate things with ease). Think “generic.” Of, course, different genres are going to have different overused names. For instance, open a historically set book and you’ll probably find a John, a James, a Henry, a William, a Mary, etc., because those names were very popular in history. Something from the 1990s might have a Jessica, a Brittney, an Ashley, a Chad, and a Michael. So, yes it will be historically correct to use these names, but not necessarily unique, since they can be found in many other books. If you’re looking for highly accurate names for the time, go with those even if they’re overused. If you feel you could be a little more lenient, gather uncommon and unique names, ones that are still accurate yet rare.

I think overused names can be found more frequently in surnames, like Smith, Jones, Brown, Johnson, etc. Yet, there’s nothing wrong with using any of these names, first or last. Indiana Jones is a world-wide known name, because the ordinary surname is overridden by a very unique first name. Another example, Luke Skywalker: very common first name, very uncommon last name. So you have the freedom to choose whatever arrangement sounds best for your character. There are no “rules” here, play around with the names, generic or unique! You can also take a popular last name and use it as a first name, and visa versa.

(Side-note: Jane Austen often used the same name for many of her characters, like Jane, Fitzwilliam, Anne, Fanny, Mary, Robert, and John, and it obviously didn’t hurt her writing career because of it, so do whatever you may!)

Most certainly more than once, I’ve read a name over and over again throughout a book without knowing how to correctly pronounce it, mumbling it in my head, and hoping I never have to read it aloud. It could be a name from a different language, or completely made up, like “Poigly” or “Maigdor” (how did you pronounce those; I’d like to know?) We can go through an entire book and simply skim over actually understanding that one name, because we’re unsure of how it’s supposed to sound. Perhaps using one or two hard to pronounce names is perfectly harmless, but an entire book of it could easily hurt the flow of the story if the reader is fumbling through every other sentence. Imagine reading Genesis chapter 10 in a consistent flow. Yeah, impossible.

Secondly, a name can just be too long. It can get tiring for the reader to sound out 2 four-syllable names every time the character is mentioned. So maybe give them a nickname!

This is your main character’s name, the one that you want everyone to be able to remember, with a unique ring to it, and some sort of tie to their personality. A nice blend of easy to remember/catchy, yet unique. You can pick a name that reflects the traits of the character. Wise people would have intelligent sounding names, untrustworthy people, a suspiciousness about their names. If you have several main characters, make sure they don’t sound strange when put together (since they’re probably going to be mentioned together often), like Will, Bill, and Jill (unless it’s important to the storyline).

These are the names that lay somewhere in between the bland names and the principle character names. The ones that don’t really have to stand out, but have to sound realistic for their character, time period, and location. Any name that doesn’t make the principal-character cut, move it to the side-character list. A great sidekick needs a great name!

Where to find unique names?

  • A physical phone book – if you can find one. It’s always fun to do the random flip and point trick to create names. It never fails to give me unique and creative titles.
  • Cemeteries – This is my secret place for gathering names, shh don’t tell anybody. I’ve filled page after page with rare and interesting names that sounded fascinating to me, from several different cemeteries. If you’re looking for historic names, look at the older headstones. (And no, I don’t consider this morbid in any way, these people would have most likely been thrilled to find out that a writer from the future had included their name in a story.)
  • Your family tree – Look back into your own history and write down some of your favorite names, and of people who have been an inspiration to you from your family. It’s a good excuse to research your ancestry in detail, and you can even use some of the information and tales you find to include in the story.
  • Old censuses – this might be your last resort. If you can find an old census in the library or online, you can pinpoint the date and general location when and where a certain name was in fashion. But reading through document after document, you may find it easier to try the other methods first.

So whenever you’re in need of names, grab your trusty notebook and make two categories, first names and last names. Gather anything and everything that catches your attention. Mix and match to created hundreds of different names. You’ll know a good name when you see one. Sometimes a name alone can spark the idea for a whole new story!

You can also use your list of newly gathered names for streets, towns, and establishments. There’s no limit to what you can use your research for, and the good thing about doing all your own research is that no other writer is going to have the same list of names. It will be completely distinct.

All this to say: you don’t have to use the internet name-generators that everyone else uses. You can be unique and special by finding them yourself, in the world, in your hometown, and in your ancestry. So have a ball gathering wonderful names and watch your characters come to life!

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What’s your go-to way of naming characters?

Do names just come to your head, or do you go out and search for them?

Have you ever created a great name, only to then discover it’s already a famous literary character’s name and you can’t use it anymore, or is it just me?

I Made Jo’s White Dress // Little Women 1994

I Made Jo’s White Dress // Little Women 1994

It was love at first sight. The glorious white dress worn by Winona Ryder (who, as we all know, played Jo March in the best film version of Little Women ever made) was clearly a moment of pure inspiration to my eyes. I strongly declared to myself, that one day, I would recreate it so that I might run through airy fields and wander in an ever deepening forest. And as of late, I am happily able to say that I’ve done all three of those things!

First, here are photos of the original dress, designed by Colleen Atwood:

Little Women, 1994. Costumes designed by Colleen Atwood.

If someone were to ask me how I made it, I would justifiably tell them, “I don’t really know.” I hand draped it piece by piece until it looked right, then sewed it together and voila! I didn’t use a pattern for any of the pieces (half because I couldn’t find any to use, the other half because I despise patterns). The sheer white fabric, I found on a four-foot roll at a thrift shop for $8. The under petticoat cotton was from Joann’s on sale for around $12. The blue ribbon was $4, and lastly the four buttons I used for the front closure and the cuffs, I already had. So in total, the entire dress cost was only $24 and about 10 hours of work. Some of the smaller areas, like the cuffs and front ruffles, I sewed by hand, but the rest was done by machine (except for the hem, because the sheer fabric is VERY thin and I didn’t want an ugly puckered line going around the bottom). I also purposely double hemmed it, making it too short so I wouldn’t get it dirty when I inevitably explored the countryside. If I ever want it longer, all I have to do is snip one thread and I easily gain two more inches at the bottom.

Once it was finally complete, I trekked to my favorite Civil War battlefield and lived out an entire day as Jo March. It was wonderful, until I realized the swarm of tics and crickets attached to my skirts! Nevertheless, such bothers can be quickly remedied. It was a magical day of seemingly endless joy and adventure. Sometimes it feels as though ordinary life is just the time we spend in between our last fairytale day and our next.

Carrying around my leather-bound copy of Charles Dickon’s Pickwick Papers made me feel like Jo all the more!

The dress was designed to mimic what we call a “chemise a la reine” or a “gaulle,” made popular by Marie Antoinette. So, give or take a few minor changes, this dress works for both the 18th and 19th centuries. Just change the ribbon, throw on an oversized straw hat with flowers and feathers, and you’re ready to step into another century! I’d say this style is a true classic in the category that is historical attire, with as much versatility as any other piece of clothing I can think of!

Of course, it’s not a perfect match and I don’t look much like Winona, but side by side, I’d like to say it’s a semi-good imitation of the dress! There will always be room for improvement, and my next project should be slightly better in both quality and resemblance (at least I hope).

The post would never be complete without a mandatory dress spinning shot.

Out of all the literary characters to exist in the world, I think that I connect with Jo March more than any other, even more than Anne Shirley or Lizzy Bennet, I’d say. Jo and I are both writers, we like to wear the same things, we have three other siblings, we’re both the second eldest, and we think very much alike. So, I’m glad that this dress was my first film recreation project, the first among many to come!

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Which film costume would you want to recreate most?

What film has your favorite costumes in it of all time?

Can you guess what costume project I’m working on next?!

Leave a comment!

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Megan Joy

My Secret Yet Not So Secret Garden

My Secret Yet Not So Secret Garden

Yes, my “secret garden” is just my weedy backyard. Yes, I can usually hear approximately seventy-five lawnmowers and three chainsaws going at once. And yes, I was swatting at bugs sixty percent of the time. But it is all tolerable . It’s still my secret yet not so secret garden, and I’m grateful for any “bit of earth” I can call my own. With all the national parks closed, I’ve felt disconnected from nature this spring. I’m so eager to run through an empty field, climb a rocky mountain, walk into some dark woods, or picnic beneath a big oak. But for now, my yard will do. And finally, on the last day of April, the April weather has arrived!

When I was switching my winter clothes to summer clothes, I came across this denim jumpsuit. I’m positive that I’ve never seen it before and have no idea how it found its way into my storage containers over the winter. It fits and I like it, so maybe I should just be happy to find it. Still, I consider it slightly strange.

And lastly, I’d like to raise a teacup of roses to Frances Hodgson Burnett for introducing me to my longtime friend, Mary Lennox. We get along pretty well now, even though she was a little unusual at first. But then, so was I… We both have a need for outdoor spaces of beauty and an obsession with old keys. Friends we are and friends we’ll stay, quietly in our own secret gardens.

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

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jumpsuit // no idea

flower crown // icing

sneakers // stolen from my sister

bag // target

hat // thrifted

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Have you been able to enjoy the beautiful outdoors lately? We need all the sun we can get at present.

Which Frances Hodgson Burnett book is your favorite?

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Megan Joy