A fireside-even if only in the heart

I love the picture of a warm fireside.

warm and cozy fireplace

I am a cold climate person… was born and lived with cold winters all my life. One of the things that freezing temperatures highlight is the comfort of a fireplace. Whether it includes the view of the fire or not, radiant heat of a real fire is supremely cozy and enjoyable.
We borrow that feeling when thinking of building relationships with others: the fireside chat.  Or we picture the security we feel when sitting by a warm fire while the cruel weather wails and blows outside our window.

The Fireside Chat

It is a page of features and descriptions highlighting my work online for the past decade and more. Sometimes it is hard to believe that I have been writing and contributing to the worldwide web for that long.

I have shared myself, warts and all, online and during the process managed to make friendships with people who I have a genuine affection for. I suppose we doubt that this is possible, or as real as “in person” relationships, but I am reminded of those of Victorian times correspondence. Or more recently, of those we were “penpals” with in the not so distant era of my childhood.

It is different when relating long distance, but no less warm.

I don’t think it is better, nor can it replace our physical relationships of family and friends, but I recognize its reality and importance. 

Mantles, The Vestiges of a Hearth

I have always enjoyed the look of a fireplace, and in my youth ( during the fifties and sixties) we usually had the fireplace without the fire. Usually a defunct gas fireplace that was no longer in use with a very decorative architectural element of a mantled opening in the wall. We might have had a picture or mirror overhead; and always had decorative objects on the mantle itself.

It was a strange thing to have the shell of what was once the center of a room, but no longer the use or the warmth of it.

Then, the Fire, but not the Mantle

After the energy crisis of the seventies, I had woodburning stoves. These are energy efficient fireplaces that are closed, so you don’t see the fire and they have no mantles.

The decoration is gone, but the substance of the fire is magnified for a delightful radiant heat experience that is more and more desirable as the cold of winter rages outdoors. 

Fitting a Woodburner into an Old Gas Fireplace

The details on how we did this was as follows:

  • First we hired an expert in Rumford fireplaces. He rebuilt the inner part of the chimney to accomodate a wood fire.
  • We lined the chimney with a chimney pipe for the next step.
  • We then purchased an airtight woodburning stove. This was connected to the inner chimney pipe.

This stove had glass inserts to view the fire, but was rather small. It provided wonderful supplemental heat and made a precedent for the large stove that is the primary heat for our present home.

Nothing feels better on chilly days than to stand close to the comfort that emanates from its iron body to your fleshly one.

I do miss the mantle. It graces a room in a way that is hard to replicate otherwise. But given the choice of necessity, I am content to do without, so as to have the real heating properties of a stove. A fireplace, even with a crackling fire is often too drafty to provide needed warmth. It is more a psychological enjoyment of the sight of the fire, which is a delight to the eye without any benefit to the bones.

Rambling On To An Eventual Point

Loosely, I am celebrating creature comforts and taking pleasure in simple things. Just as loosely, I am following a metaphor to our relationships in life. 

We build our relationships around what we believe we need. They can be culturally constructed in ways that might derive from necessity or perhaps are gutted by social traditions. Experience sometimes teaches us their value or the way in which they must change.

At times we may even believe we no longer need them as a central focus for our life. I wonder, though, whether the fireside pictures for us the wisdom or folly of our perceptions?

Famous People of Hungarian Descent

There are many well known celebrities and people of accomplishment who have Hungarian roots. Wonder who they are?

famous Hungarians

Hungarians – They Might Surprise You

There are many more famous Hungarians than you might think, and some of your favorite celebrities might be Hungarian in descent. Look through the lists and learn about a few of them.

You might notice the large contingent of Jewish Hungarians, since Hungary had a long history of Jewish, Turk, and Christians living together with tolerance, there being both periods of toleration and oppression. With notable exceptions of persecution in history, including during the World War 2, when many Jews fled or were forcibly transported from the country.

All histories are biased to some extent… here are a few to read to give some context to the understanding of Hungarian people:

All part of the tragic history and land that has produced some very illustrious people.

Who’s Who?

Who are the famous Hungarians?

American Revolutionary War Hero
Michael Kovats de Fabriczy, “founder of the American light cavalry”.

Actors and Actresses

Jessica Szohr
Jessica Szohr


I didn’t know they were Hungarian!

Jessica Szohr

Goldie Hawn

Nick Bakay

Mariska Hargitay

Mickey Hargitay

Rachel Weisz

Don Adams

River and Joaquin Phoenix
Drew Barrymore

Jamie Lee Curtis

Tony Curtis

Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hungarian Born American Actress

Eva, Ava, and Magda Gabor

Mitzi Gaynor

Robert Hegyes

Leslie Howard

Ernie Kovacs

Peter Lorre

Bela Lugosi

Paul Newman

In Pursuit of the Common Good: Twenty-Five Years of Improving the World, One Bottle of Salad Dressing at a Time
In Pursuit of the Common Good: Twenty-Five Years of Improving the World, One Bottle of Salad Dressing at a Time

In retrospect, it is an odd thing that Paul Newman’s  film charisma seems almost eclipsed by the food business his name represents now. From salad dressing to spaghetti sauce and a number of fairly wholesome products in between, His politics and good taste combined in a business. Interesting story to read.

Directors and Film Media

George Cukor


William Fox – Hungarian founder of Fox Studios

Who’s Who

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
Albert Szent-Györgyi


In Science

People of Hungarian descent

Donat Banki – co-inventor of the carburetor

James Csonka – Co-invented the carburetor

Les Besser – “Father of microwave computer aided design.”

Charles Simonyi – Computer scientist

Jozsef Szabo von Szentmiklos

Albert Szent-Györgyi

Leó Szilàrd

Edward Teller “the father of the hydrogen bomb”
Dr. Bela Schick, a Hungarian-born American pediatrician discovered a cure for diphtheria. His “Schick test”, given to newborns tested for susceptibility to diphtheria.

Dr. Roy A.E. Bakay -the leading authority on surgery for movement disorders

Sports Figures

The Greatest Soccer Player

Ferenc Puskàs “The Galloping Major” (1927-2006), regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time, the “Mighty Magyars”

Famous Athletes of Hungarian Descent

  • Joe Namath, American Football Great
  • Monica Seles, Tennis Superstar Athlete
  • Joe Theismann, famous football player.
  • Ferenc Puskás, one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

In Music

Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt

People of Hungarian descent


Franz Liszt

Béla Bartók

Zoltán Kodály

Transylvanian Roots: The True Life Adventures of a Hungarian-American
Transylvanian Roots: The True Life Adventures of a Hungarian-American

How do you say “Famous Hungarians” in Hungarian? “Híres Magyarok”

In Art – Artists of Hungarian Descent

Women of Eger by Bertalan Szekely

Hungarian-descent Artists:

Albrecht Durer


Willy Pogány – Artist and Illustrator


A Blend of People and Culture

Hungary stood at the border of many conquests, and in such situations there are groups of people who settle and contribute their culture and influence; additionally some of the conflicts so decimated the population of Hungary that other groups were invited in to resettle the land. And so the fascinating blends and historical distinctions of the story of Hungarians takes place.

This resulted in groups of Magyars, of Germans known as Swabians in Hungary, Turks, numerous other culture and ethnic groups, and Jews.

The Magyars, considered the native people, were themselves invading conquerors. Later the Turks (Ottomans), displaced in rule by the Austrians, with the invited Swabians (Germans) to repopulate the land after the horrendous effects of the Ottoman wars. [1]



The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat
The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat

Budapest, Hungary by Julia Thorne


Other Disciplines and Accomplishments – More Famous Hungarians

The Famous Houdini

Harry Houdini, Magician was born in Budapest.
The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero
The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero

Barbara Palvin – Fashion Model

Barbara Palvin - Fashion Model
Barbara Palvin – Fashion Model

The Truth Is Out There

When Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi was asked if he believed in extraterrestrials, he replied:

“They are among us, but they call themselves Hungarians”

Looking At Long Ago


Have Fun Watching


Gene Simmons of Kiss fame was born in Israel – both his parents, however were born in Hungary.

Hungarian History

Find Out More About Famous Hungarians – elsewhere on the web

…in a Nutshell

Jews in Hungary

Find Your Rubik’s Cube – And go play with it awhile 🙂

Yes, this was a Hungarian invention.

Translate from Hungarian to English

Japanese Dolls

Making a Kokeshi doll

I discovered this while researching information on Japanese dolls for this article.

My Dad had brought back a number of dolls from his time in occupied Japan after World War II. We three girls inherited them and I have a fascination with them from their association with my childhood.

My favorites are the ones with gofun paste faces, here are modern ones in this  video:

I like the more traditional ones, a little better.

You can still buy Japanese dolls, on Amazon and eBay. There are even Barbie doll editions.

Japanese Dolls Hubpage
Examples of different types, how they are made, and history.

More Amazon Recommendations:

Evernote Helps Organize

I’ve been organizing my life. It is a twofold process, one with decluttering and getting rid of distractions; and two, organizing resources to best access what I need to keep and use.

In my online/computer work, Evernote is proving invaluable.

I started using it ever so slowly, but now that I realize how important it is to seamlessly go from the iPhone to desktop to iPad and back, this is proving such a mind and time saver!

I am using it for blogging ideas, random notes, saved links, and clips of information. I also created a file to keep track of my blog business expenses, which are piling up as I buy hosting, domain names, graphic files, premium themes, premium access to Picmonkey and apps like that.

Evernote organizes me. I am always losing paper scraps and making notes in whatever notebook was at hand was a losing proposition! This way I put everything in one place and can find it by just logging in, or through the program on my computer. It is super easy.

Some useful ways to people use this program/app:

  1. Cooks use it for recipes, making their shopping lists, and clipping directly from a cooking webpage.
  2. Homeschoolers could gather unit study materials, teaching tips, fieldtrip ideas, lists of curriculum or materials, science experiment info, just about anything! List of addresses and phone numbers, useful videos, urls of best resources, special graphics… I wish I had this in the years I was schooling my kids. I would have made a separate notebook for each subject, and one for each child. Keeping track of goals I had set would be smooth sailing with the many ways to search and access notes.
  3. Bloggers and writers can have a field day collecting and recalling all the places they find their research. The spurts of inspiration jotted down, the bits of finely tuned prose that swirls in our heads ; all now have a safe place where we can find them .


What are the features?

  • I use it on my PC, my iPad, iPhone, and Mac Laptop. I understand it can be used also on the Blackberry and other devices.
  • Most used? Type a note, clip from webpages (or the whole thing), screenshots, photos… lots of ways to gather info and data.
  • Everything can be searched. That is a huge help when you have collated lots of things that you want to use for a topic, especially over time.
  • Making a swipe file for things you need often: blog descriptions, social urls, etc. and it become so easy to find, on any of your devices that has the app.

Need more ideas?



Almost forgot! a new feature lately is the Workchat. You can share with team members or whoever you wish, the notes and the what you are working on. Cool. You just click the button and a window pops up for collaboration.

And that graphic? I made it with Skitch which can be synced to share directly into your Evernote file.

How To Write A (Good) Blog Post

Deconstruct a good blogpost:

  • Catchy Headline
  • Clear Photo (at least one, preferably Pinterest-worthy)
  • Strong introduction
  • Easy to scan information: headings and bullet lists help
  • Good word flow in well written content

These 5 points are the basics of a good blogpost.

No matter how much you write , one of these areas of the blogpost can always improve. I believe we should always strive to better our product, no matter what form it takes. I’m an information junkie and love to read great posts, and I’m always trying to improve by learning how to put together great advice from experts and make it my own.

  1. That first one, the catchy headline, always challenges me. I’ve read Copyblogger’s advice and even participated in his mentoring program to try to learn more.

  2. Photos were always a challenge, but with my iPhone and Camera+, as well as Instagram, I am starting to improve the process. I made nice  enough photos with my Sony digital camera and photo editing, but it was a very time and effort consuming process. Now it is easier.

  3. Remember basic rules of writing a good essay? Those apply to the first paragraph, the introduction. Make it controversial, or make it something generally agreed upon, then introduce your topic and what the reader can hope to find in your post.

  4. This has to do with the format of the page.  Break it up into easy to digest pieces, divide with heading, hand out bulleted lists. I am still working on this.

My run-on sentence mindset likes to forget the formatting.

Don’t make that mistake.

  1. Read through your content before posting. Make sure you have enough of the written word to give the necessary information and that your thought process is easy to follow.

Rearrange paragraphs and sentences if necessary. Keep learning to write better. Lots of advice is available.

The Next Most Important Points For Good Blogposts

  • Check Your Spelling
  • Check the Grammar and Punctuation
  • Edit Your Writing
  • Use White Space, Reduce Clutter

After you have written a post, it is time to edit, revise, spellcheck, and improve sentence structure making sure the punctuation is properly used to best advantage.

I do play fast and loose with this at times, but I used to go over my work repeatedly correcting mistakes, and still do when I have the time. It is far better to look twice before pushing the publish button.

People have given me helpful info on times that I have overlooked proper spelling or written in an obscure manner. I wish I had more input! If you have a friend or colleague who will help you edit, treasure that person.

Perhaps you would improve with the use of an editor app or program. I have used Scrivener and Evernote, although I’m slow to learn how to coordinate everything.  A successful blogger I know uses Scrivener and other helps, and I am trying to follow his lead in becoming more effective.

These are the important points to remember when creating a blogpost that is memorable, social media worthy, and useful to your readers.

In sum, although there may be an infinite number of tweaks and improvements we may make, these are the core components of good blogposts.

Make your blogpost interesting, entertaining, and/or useful

One Last Thing

I have been seeking to improve my blogs and one thing that keeps coming up:

Include a Call to Action

This is a “marketing term”, but it has become a widespread inclusion in the summary of a post. The idea is that the reader gets involved with either being asked to comment, “like”, or sign up for the newsletter (don’t have one? More on that in the future.)

I have started to do this. So, please sign up for my garden newsletter… it is more than gardening.

Subscribe to my mailing list

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Email Format

Google Adsense Plugin Is A Success

I started using the plugin from google for adding Adsense to my site. The idea was to give it a couple weeks. And although coincidentally the spring is my most visited season on my garden site, the amount of income that came from using the plugin has proved that it really is a success.

I am not a big earner, by any means, but the amounts from 2013 had become downright pathetic. I would be happy for 2 cents a day.  Now it is much better, and I have hope that with hard work on the site, Adsense might be a supplement to online income.

I says it is still in Beta, but I am hoping they continue to develop it; this plugin has been a real boon to my site. I am hoping to use it on more of my sites, soon.

If you are interested in trying it out yourself, here is the link in the WordPress repository:

Google Publisher Plugin

The Newer Model: WP Twenty Twelve

Although I liked the Twenty Eleven theme for WordPress, I changed the Advent Blog to the newer version theme. One of the reasons was that I found the header was too large for my blog post style, and the Twenty Twelve had more features that I liked.

Of course the drawback was that I lost a few features, like the asides posts. For some reason WordPress developers didn’t feel it was important, although I could still add them in with an extra plugin. Another drawback to going with the latest and greatest default theme is the lack of child themes. Twenty Ten had lots, …T.Eleven, not so many, and T.Twelve had almost nil free child themes made for it. Its font sizes were way too small, too.

What did I most like about it? The newest themes, including Twenty twelve are “responsive” themes to show up well on mobile phones,etc. And that is where the internet is going…. mobile. It doesn’t make sense to have themes that look wonky on a phone, anymore.

I suppose those are things that will be ironed out in the future. For now, I am happy using the Twenty Twelve theme for my Advent Devotionals, which now have monthly devotionals throughout the year. I wish I could settle on just a few ideal themes for my wordpress blogs, but I seem to have a problem being truly satisfied, even with premium themes that I pay for each year.

Good Related Posts Code For Blogger

related posts
handy script

I recently changed my theme template for blogger again. They have a vanilla one that is much like the one ported from Elegantthemes that I was using. I had changed the theme on my garden website, so I no longer needed something that related as closely. Still, I should brand it to relate to the whole “Ilona’s Garden” group of sites. Something else for the to-do list.

But -as usual- when I pressed the save button to change the template, I also had forgotten my customized add-ons. Using the related post’s scripts and the collapsible scripts means they should be added manually –before saving! Duh.

What You Really Want To Read About

Anyway, the original post with both the code and directions for installing it are on the post, “Related Posts Widget”.

Now everything works again (still have to get the analytics and the collapsible code in place). One day I will remember to do all the fine points… I change themes and templates enough that it should be second nature by now.

Anyway, I love this code, it is so much better than the LinkIn one that I used before. I don’t like the way it takes over your keyword and has the link to distract people from what you hope they will do …read more of your posts!

See it in action

New Directions and Online Time

I’ve started in some new directions with my writing and webpage work, it is requiring lots of time to acquire the knowledge and do the work. That is the number one lesson for those who want to build a career in an online business: it takes work, time to learn, and time to show results. Patience and grit are two very good qualities to cultivate.

OK, what new directions exactly?
One of the main ones is Squidoo, and I will be writing more about that in this blog, the other -which seems to ride sidecar in about every online endeavor I know – is marketing. So posts here will have sections on Squidoo and on marketing.

I’ve had one online guru tell me essentially that Squidoo is not a good use of my time and effort. I respect that person immensely, but I am willing to follow what I think is a good direction for me at this time in spite of that advice.
The cons cited:
Squidoo is “home to more spam than you can believe”.

“don’t do stuff that lends itself to that kind of associated company. There’s very little upside when Google bans or downgrades your stuff because of the rest of the content in there.”

As I have been digging further into Squidoo’s forums and related blogs I know that is a concern in their community and one that they are attempting to address. It is unclear how effective those steps are or will be…. they are fairly new and vastly stepped up due to Google’s “Panda” algorithm, which has rearranged how search traffic is directed towards some of the big “site farms”, places which have loads of people making their webpages, like Hubpages and Squidoo, etc.

Why is all this important? On two counts. If you write online in a blog or have a website, you want that sight to have eyeballs to read and interact with it. If you want to make money online you have to be seen, be known (branding), and be trusted along with knowledge of marketing. It takes a specialized type of knowledge and effort, lots of effort, for both. this site can help provide the first part…. the second part is totally up to you (but you can be encouraged and supported in the endeavor!)

That is it for now, friends. Next up I will start writing about the Squidoo experience.

Expect to see ( then linked here)

  • What Is Squidoo
  • How to Build Lenses
  • Marketing and Moneymaking on Squidoo
  • What I’m Doing on Squidoo

I Want To Be Rich, I Want To Be Famous, I Want A Blog!

rich n famous

rich n famousYou are smarter than that… but the headline grabbed you. What fool says things like this? Well, from a TV ad I saw recently, and from lots of stuff I read online, there are many such fools. But not you, and if you read on I will tell you things that I know about this. Things that will help you if you are just starting out. You’re looking at what you think are my proofs, aren’t you? The proof is in the pudding and all that…  “If this blogger is so knowledgeable, why doesn’t she (first lower indicator and expectation arrives with gender- I’ll share on that later) have lots of hits, lots of comments… at least a blip on the horizon?

OK, here’s is part of what you learn from this post:  some things NOT to do, which can be just as important as the things you should be doing. Number one….

Things NOT to Do

(1)  If you change your website url…. people will no longer find you, and worse case scenario (like here) is that you will have to start all over again. In a much tougher competitive environment.

(2)  Second mistake I’ve made… but on purpose… is that I haven’t updated this blog. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it for a long time, and I was busy working on my other blogs. So this one just sat and became the sandbox for theme problems or tryouts I worked on, again, for the other blogs. The inverse rule: what you must do when you blog, is update regularly. You must write content. a blog cannot thrive if it is set up like an old static website. In fact, online activity has changed so much that websites cannot simply sit there without updating and lots of new content being created. The people who surf and use the web can no longer waste their time on sites that don’t care. Lack of updating on some sort of regular basis (it can be monthly or weekly or daily) is showing indifference.

Alright… that is enough for now about things I learned the hard way. Let’s talk about things I know now, and that you will hear from some very successful bloggers if you dig around finding their secrets of success.

A blog has to be marketed. This is what those promises of making an easy website and getting found in the search engines don’t tell you honestly. It is a lot of work and you have to sell your blog and your writing. You will be in the process of branding, creating your own brand. Like Coca Cola hopefully, but that is part of what sets your blog apart from gazillions of others that are populating the web. If you work very, very hard to write and create a beautiful website, it will not be read unless you market it. There are many things to do in this, but for this post let’s just promote the idea, in case you weren’t aware how much this matters.

A blog should have an adequate, nice looking theme (design or style). right now this one is very plain, but that is all right. It has many features in the backend where the work of functioning resides, it is pleasant looking in the way it uses the page space, and the navigation works well. Believe me on this. I have sites where I didn’t begin with good navigation and although I had been aware of this, the themes sometimes didn’t work well with what I was trying to do, either. It is hard to fix this. Not impossible, but try finding a theme that makes it easy for you to show off your pages and your posts to the readers… don’t make them dig for the information they need.

Be SEO friendly. This goes along with the importance of marketing. The search engines are what people use to find your posts and thus, your blog, which will make you famous, if not rich. Well, it will help put on on the map anyway. I bet you use Google, or if you are an iconoclast, Bing, to get here. Because I sure am not linked from anywhere. Not even from my own blogs yet. (SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”).

  • Before you do anything change the url structure you use. If you are using a wordpress blog… or even a joomla cms or anything that has goofy numbers and no search terms or key words in the link, Change It Now… you will be so grateful someone told you about this early. Make it pretty- something that includes the post headline, etc. maybe under the category. Do it now before you have lots of posts and changing it cause weirdness in the way wordpress finds your posts and the solutions tell you to do scary things like change your htaccess file.  Don’t know what that is? Just change the url structure now. Please. This is found ( in WordPress) under “Settings” and “Permalinks”.  More info on that.
  • Learn about SEO,  copywriting ( which is what you do when you make your headline interesting, your post readable, and other good things like that). You can find helpful information on site like Problogger and Copyblogger.  Google, itself, will helpfully tell things that will help them serve up your site more easily.
  • Learn how Facebook and Twitter can be used to market your blog and grow community. These are two aspects that not only make blogging more fun for you and interesting for your readers, but are two easy ways to market without as much time, money, or expertise as some of the other methods. If you don’t know about this side of the social media coin, it is not a steep learning curve, just one of the steps that many people use now for online communication.

Of course, if you would like it to be just you and and your blog, forget everything I’ve said here.

And, oh yes, I almost forgot. If you are a woman you must work much harder to have a high profile blog. But maybe “Mommybloggers” break the rule.

About Beginning With WordPress


wordpressI see many new people coming into the blogging and website scene who want to use WordPress as their platform. That is a good thing, but in the learning process they want to skip the basics and jump into advanced level customization, even before learning how to navigate the basic posting and administrator processes. That is not such a good thing.

I see frustration ahead for those people.
Continue reading “About Beginning With WordPress”

Theme Fun

I’m trying to figure out these themes and now the whole shebang is not working right. Second try with the feature post. That was what I wrote when trying to use a magazine theme with the feature post section. It really was a struggle to learn, but since then I have mastered it with that theme and others. It was one of Brian Gardner’s designs, and learning how to master the “feature posts” also taught me how to use custom fields.

all along the avenue
all along the avenue


Black lie the hills; swiftly doth daylight flee;
   And, catching gleams of sunset's dying smile,
   Through the dusk land for many a changing mile
The river runneth softly to the sea.
O happy river, could I follow thee!
   O yearning heart, that never can be still!
   O wistful eyes, that watch the steadfast hill,
Longing for level line of solemn sea!
Have patience; here are flowers and songs of birds,
   Beauty and fragrance, wealth of sound and sight,
   All summer's glory thine from morn till night,
And life too full of joy for uttered words.
Neither am I ungrateful; but I dream
   Deliciously how twilight falls to-night
   Over the glimmering water, how the light
Dies blissfully away, until I seem
To feel the wind, sea-scented, on my cheek,
   To catch the sound of dusky, flapping sail,
   And dip of oars, and voices on the gale
Afar off, calling low, -- my name they speak!
O Earth! thy summer song of joy may soar
   Ringing to heaven in triumph. I but crave
   The sad, caressing murmur of the wave
That breaks in tender music on the shore.

~poem by Celia Thaxter