Archives for July 2008

All About Crossword Puzzles

History of Crossword Puzzles

On December 21, 1913 a man named Arthur Wynne published what is known as the first crossword puzzle. However, Arthur’s puzzle was not like the ones we see today. For one thing, he called it a “word-cross.” It was also diamond shaped and had no internal black squares.

But we can forgive poor Arthur for that, can’t we? His invention caught on and within a decade nearly every U.S. newspaper featured crossword puzzles. Today, crossword puzzles are an enormously popular pastime.

Getting Started with Crossword Puzzles

So how do you decide what crossword puzzle to buy? If you already read the newspaper, you’re probably familiar with crossword puzzles. Be advised that some will be easier than others. The New York Times is famous for their difficult Saturday crossword. If you’re a beginner, check out Monday’s edition as it’s supposedly the easiest.

If you don’t read the paper, there are crossword puzzle books you can buy, such as:

The New York Times Crossword Omnibus: 1,001 Puzzles from the NYT – Around $12 for the biggest book of crossword puzzles ever. Highly recommended.

The New York Times Monday Through Friday Easy to Tough Crossword Puzzles – Great for beginners and experts alike

The Outrageous Crossword Puzzle and Wordbook Game for Kids – Great for kids, or the adult who really wants to start slow

How to Do a Crossword Puzzle

Doing a crossword puzzle isn’t hard. Just look at the clues, see which answers you know and fill those in first. Then look across and down to see if you notice anything new. That’s all there is to it.

…Oh, how I wish that were true. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Doing a crossword puzzle isn’t the problem. It’s finishing the crossword puzzle that’s hard.

A few words of advice:

-Read the dictionary. Read the almanac. Learn as many obscure words and phrases as possible.

-Think outside of the box. Crossword puzzle makers are a tricky, mischievous bunch and they’ll use words in ways you never dreamed of–so try thinking of words in new ways. It’ll help you in your crossword quest.

-Use outside sources? Some people aren’t afraid of using outside sources; others feel it’s cheating. It’s really up to you.

-Stay calm Don’t let the crossword demons haunt your sleep. If you’re stressing, take a break and come back to it later.

The most important thing to remember is: Have fun! If you’re craving a little extra crossword magic, check out the excellent documentary about the world of crossword puzzles; it’s called Wordplay.

So are you adding crossword puzzles to your list of hobbies yet? Let us know in the comment section!

Explore New Hobbies–Take An Educational Course!

School and fun don’t always go together. Ask any student and they’ll be sure to tell stories of the boring lectures, endless cram sessions, and piles and piles of homework. But there’s a reason more and more adults are enrolling in class–yes, even after they get their degree. It’s because taking an educational course is one of the most life-enriching hobbies out there.

So grab your pens and pencils, and listen up! This short guide will give you an introduction to taking an educational course.

Where Do I Find Classes?

Community colleges are one of the best places to look for fun, noncredit classes. Often you don’t even have to be enrolled at the college, so check your local community college and see what’s available. But if there’s nothing close by, don’t panic! There are online classes you can take and even classes you can do on your own.

Education Portal is a great resource for online learning. It allows you to search for universities with free online classes.

Another resource is www.learnthat.com. It lists all kinds of free tutorials and online classes–from web-design to home-repair, so you’re sure to find something that interests you.

What Classes Should I Take?

The short answer is: whatever you want! Before enrolling, consider how much time you want to spend. Do you want to do homework, or would you prefer something a bit easier? How much does the course cost? Is the class something you could do on your own, or do you need a group? And if all else fails…

Start Your Own Class

If you’re an expert in something, start your own “class” with a group of friends. If you have a friend who is fluent in Spanish, ask if he or she wouldn’t mind teaching. You can even look for people online who have similar interests and begin an online group.

Other Things to Consider

If you want to learn a foreign language, consider studying abroad. By living in a different culture, you’ll learn more than just a new language–you’ll learn an entirely new way of living!

Other great, useful educational courses to consider include: web-design, writing, cooking, and drawing. There are even classes on everything from wine-tasting to building a robot and graphic novels.

One of the best things about enrolling in an educational course is that it allows you to pursue your many hobbies with a group of excited and dedicated fellow students. With over 200 hobbies out there, it’s hard not to be excited about going back to school to learn even more about something you love.

Writing Resources

Writing is one of our 50 most popular hobbies, so it’s no wonder a Google search for “writing” yields over 500,000,000 results.  So what makes writing so popular, anyway? At its core, writing is a form of expression as well as an important way to record our history. The earliest forms of writing were found in tokens used to represent a record of land or livestock. As time went on, writing became a way to express emotion. Today, writing is used in everything from poetry to stop-signs, from marketing campaigns to great works of literature. Heck, I’m using writing right now to talk to you about writing. I don’t have to say a word; in fact, we don’t even have to be in the same room. Wonderful, isn’t it?

What Kind of Writing Do You Want to Do?

Before adding writing to your hobbies list, decide what kind of writing you want to do. Your choices are nearly limitless.

If you’re serious about writing or are considering a career in writing, you might want to consider enrolling in a writing class. If not, all you need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper (or a computer, if you prefer typing). Here are some types of writing to consider and some resources to get you started:

Poetry

There are all kinds of poetic forms–sonnets, haiku’s–there’s even free verse. If you don’t care about publishing, all that is needed is to write what you feel. If you do care about publishing, the best thing to do is read some poetry first. Here are some other poetry resources to get you started:

http://www.essortment.com/all/howtowritepoe_rjsm.htm – Basic course on how to write poetry
http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Poem – A wiki on how to write a poem
http://www.baymoon.com/~ariadne/how.to.write.books.htm – A list of books on how to write poetry

Fiction

Novels, films, plays, and short stories–fiction writing is diverse and exciting. Go to your local bookstore and browse the fiction section for some ideas. Or you can check out these links:

http://www.scifidimensions.com/Mar02/howtowrite.htm – How to write fiction by Nick Pollotta
http://www.essortment.com/all/howtowritefic_rrch.htm – More on how to write fiction
http://www.fictionfactor.com/ – The online magazine for fiction writers

Nonfiction

Nonfiction writing requires research and verification of facts. If you want to write nonfiction, check out these resources:

http://writingnonfiction.suite101.com/ – A great resource full of information on nonfiction writing
http://www.viacorp.com/how-to-write-non-fiction.html – How to write a nonfiction book
http://www.essortment.com/all/writingnonfict_reju.htm – 5 fast and easy steps to writing nonfiction

Journal Writing

Journal writing is a great hobby because you can write about anything you want! Many people use journals to record their emotions and work through life problems. Here are some resources to get you started:

http://www.livejournal.com – Keep an online journal
http://www.journalforyou.com/ – Enhance your life through journaling
http://daily-journal-writing-prompts.com/ – Journal writing prompts

Business Writing

If you want to make money writing, business writing is the most sure-fire way. It includes technical writing, resume writing, copywriting, grant writing, plus more. Here are some resources for business writers:

http://www.businesswritingblog.com/ – An excellent blog about business writing
http://www.biz.uiowa.edu/faculty/kbrown/writing.html – A brief guide to business writing http://www.4hb.com/letters/ – A long list of sample business letters

Academic Writing

This includes essays, reports, and research papers. Check out these resources for academic writing:

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/materials/student/ac_paper/what.shtml – Dartmouth’s guide to writing the academic paper
http://www.utoronto.ca/writing/advise.html – Advice on academic writing
http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~wricntr/documents/Overvu.html – An overview of the academic essay from Harvard University’s writing center

General Resources for Writers

http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/ – MFA blog about writing and writing programs
http://www.pw.org – Poets and Writers magazine: writing contests, connect with other writers, etc.
http://www.verlakay.com – Website for children’s writers and illustrators
www.duotrope.com/ – Free, searchable list of markets for fiction and poetry writers

If you have a favorite writing resource, leave a comment and we’ll add it to the list!

Intro to Drawing

If you’re looking for a new hobby, why not consider drawing? It’s diverse, artistic, and relatively inexpensive. Plus, there are a variety of free tutorials available on the web (and who doesn’t like free?)

So if you’re thinking about adding drawing to your growing list of hobbies, look no further! This intro to drawing is a great starting point for the artist within.

History of Drawing

You probably already know this, but drawing is not a newly discovered art form. In fact, it seems humans have always desired to represent the world around them through the art of drawing. The first drawings date back to representations of hunting excursions through cave paintings. Since that time, drawing has evolved into all kinds of things—cartoons, sketches, portraits, and more.

Drawing Supplies

Paper

Beginning artists, repeat this phrase: the cheaper the paper the better. If you’ve never drawn before then practice on cheap paper first—backs of envelopes, old notebooks, etc—then spend money on drawing paper.

When you’re ready for drawing paper, there are a few things you need to know:

-Smooth paper is good for fine detail while course paper is better for contrast
-Acid-free archival
paper is both durable and lasting—a great choice for artists
-There are different kinds of paper for different kinds of drawing—charcoal paper, pastel paper, sketchpads. Most notebooks say what they’re for, so pay attention while shopping either online or in the store.

Pencils

Drawing pencils come in a variety of tones. Each pencil is marked with a number and letter. It’s a bit confusing at first but remember these rules and you’ll be good to go:

-Lighter pencils end in H
-Darker pencils end in B
-The higher the number the darker the pencil (2B, of course, is darker than 4H since B pencils are darker)

If you’re still confused, the best thing to do is buy a starter kit. They come with a variety of pencils and you can experiment to find out which ones you like best.

Other supplies for beginners to consider:

-Pencil sharpener
-Kneaded eraser
-Blending stump
-Ruler

Drawing Tutorials and Resources:

Drawing is popular, so there are a variety of resources available on the web. Here are a few of them:
www.drawspace.com – A great resource—features downloadable and printable lessons
www.learn-to-draw.com –Lessons on drawing people, caricatures, and the basics of drawing
www.howtodrawit.com – How to draw all kinds of animals—great for kids and adults alike!
www.mangatutorials.com – All about drawing manga and anime
www.drawingnow.com – A great reference for drawing cartoons
http://www.jdhillberry.com/how_to_draw_pg2.htm – A mini tutorial for charcoal and graphite artists
www.learningtodrawbuildings.googlepages.com – Learn to draw buildings the fast and easy way
www.youtube.com – That’s right; Just search for drawing and you’ll find dozens of videos on the subject

Oh, and don’t worry: you don’t have to be the next Leonardo da Vinci to enjoy the art of drawing. If your drawing of a cat looks like a sad sad version of the Chrysler building at first it’s okay. The truth is that drawing well takes practice. The good news is that this means your cats will eventually look like cats. All it takes is time, persistence, and a few sharpened pencils.

Intro to Building a Dollhouse

Why Build a Dollhouse?

Dollhouse assembly is a great hobby for collectors, parents, and crafting enthusiasts alike. It takes little more than 2-4 hours on average and at the end of the project you’ll have a beautiful completed dollhouse.

If you’ve never done anything like it before, don’t worry. After reading this guide, you’ll be the next Dollhouse Builder of the Year—or at least know enough to add “Building Dollhouses” to your growing list of hobbies!

What You Need Before Building Your Dollhouse

Kit

If you’re a carpenter or want to build a basic dollhouse, you can skip this part. But if your carpentry skills aren’t up to par or you want something more elaborate, you’ll want a dollhouse kit. You can buy dollhouse kits at most craft stores, or even at specialty dollhouse stores. The most common kit is the Inch scale (1 dollhouse inch = 1 real world foot). There are other sizes available, but buying the “Inch” size is ideal as most furniture is sized to fit it.

Space

This one is simple. Make sure you have sufficient room to complete the project. If you live in a messy, one-bedroom apartment, you’ll want to make some room. If possible, use a large table to work on. It’ll save you from a messy floor and a sore back the next day.

Glue

Wood and tacky glue, as seen here are perfect for building dollhouses. Many people also recommend Omni stick glue for shingles and the like. You can also buy special Wallpaper Gel for the wallpaper.

Paint

Applying a sealer or primer is recommended. You may do this before assembly, but wait until the house and furniture are completed before painting or applying wallpaper. Flat or semi-gloss paint is best for dollhouses. If you have leftover paint from other household projects, save yourself some money and use it for your dollhouse!

Cost & How to Save Money

Dollhouse kits range in price. They can be as cheap as $30 to $40 and as expensive as $6,000 or $7,000. If you’re an experienced dollhouse builder or collector, you’ll want to splurge for the more expensive dollhouse kits. For beginners, a small budget kit is best.

Save money by purchasing cheap furniture. If you’re creative enough, you can even make your own out of materials around the house. For example: use a leftover piece of fabric to cover the couches. You can always upgrade to more expensive quality furniture later on.

Building the Doll House

Before building, make sure everything is in the box—don’t lose any pieces or you’ll be regretting it later on. For some kits, you may have to sand the edges to make them fit.

That said, the process of building the dollhouse isn’t that hard. Just follow the instructions and you’ll have a beautiful completed dollhouse in no time!