15 Tiny Things That Could Seriously Improve Your Life In Just A Month

1. If a task if going to take you less than a minute to complete, do it as soon as you think of it.

The One-Minute Rule is simple, but it works! Getting out of the habit of putting things off is the easiest way to get shit done.

2. Read for a set amount of time every single day.

Even if it’s 10 or 20 minutes, you’ll either finish or make good progress on a book by the end of the month.

@empowerpuffgurl / Via instagram.com

3. Actually start flossing your teeth at least once a day.

It will be worth it when you don’t have to lie at your next dentist appointment.

4. Try and go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up at a similar time each morning.

Your body loves habits, especially good sleep habits. Set a go-to-bed alarm, as well as a wake-up alarm, and try and stick to both most days.

5. Make your bed each and every morning.

Coming home to a bedroom with a made bed is a pure delight. Once you’re in the habit of making your bed, you won’t be able to believe you ever left the house without doing it.

@inbedstore / Via instagram.com

6. Add one new healthy food or ingredient into your diet.

Adding something healthy feels way better than taking something out of your diet, so choose a new vegetable, grain, or spice and work it into your meal rotation.

7. Find a workout you can do comfortably in your own home, and do it regularly.

Even if it’s just a short routine of push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, and squats, you’ll always have something to do on days you can’t be bothered getting to the gym or a class.

8. Instead of putting things down, put them away.

Leaving things where they don’t belong is how homes get messy. Avoid an hour of tidying up by taking a few seconds to put things away as you finish with them.

@mojkkaa / Via instagram.com

9. Each night, plan what you’re going to wear the next day.

If you find mornings a struggle, try preparing your outfit for the next day, the night before.

10. Practice a new skill or hobby for 10 minutes every day.

Whether it’s watercolor painting, embroidery, violin, or learning a new language, dedicating10 minutes a day to it guarantees you’ll have improved by the end of the month.

@threadhoney / Via instagram.com

11. Save every $5 bill that makes its way into your wallet.

A lot of people swear by this simple money-saving trick. Stash away every $5 note you come across, and enjoy your savings at a later date.

12. Write down three things you’re grateful for each night before bed.

Keeping a gratitude list or journal is a lovely practice that helps highlight all the good things you have going on in your life.

@bujocute / Via instagram.com

13. Try meditating, starting with just three minutes a day.

The first session on the Calm app is just three minutes long. Start there, and see how you feel after a month of daily meditation.

14. Keep track of how much water you’re drinking, and set daily hydration goals.

Most of us aren’t drinking enough water, so keeping a tally of how many glasses you’re having a day is a good way to see if you need to improve your habit.

@rockonrubyxx / Via instagram.com

15. Call someone when you’re having a bad day, whether that person is a friend, family member, or health professional.

Find your person, then get into the habit of calling them to chat more regularly.

@sarachengrocks / Via instagram.com
Gyan Yankovich

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The Pirate Cemetery of Madagascar was the off-season home for an estimated 1,000 pirates

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In the 17th and 18th centuries, Ile Sainte-Marie (or St. Mary’s Island as it is known in English), a long, thin island off the eastern African coast, became a popular base for pirates.

Up to 1,000 pirates reportedly called the rocky island home, including widely-feared brigands Adam Baldridge, William Kidd, Olivier Levasseur, Henry Every, Robert Culliford, Abraham Samuel and Thomas Tew. They lived in the île aux Forbans, an island located in the bay of Sainte Marie’s main town, Ambodifotatra.

This place was not far from the maritime routes along which ships returning from the East Indies sailed in transit, their holds overflowing with wealth, it was provided with bays and inlets protected from storms and finally, it had abundant fruit and was situated in quiet waters.

For around 100 years, Ile Sainte-Marie was the off-season home of an estimated 1,000 pirates. Source

The beautiful tropical island’s numerous inlets and bays made it the perfect place to hide ships. The pirates sailed mostly from England, Portugal, France and America to make this island off the coast of Madagascar a home, a hideout and a strategic place.

Cyclones and centuries have worn away many of the well-aged engravings on the stone markers. Source

With so many pirates abiding on the island, some even raising families at the time, it’s no wonder Sainte-Marie claims to have what may be the world’s only legitimate pirate cemetery.

In the center of the cemetery, there is a large black tomb that locals say is the final resting place of Captain Kidd, buried there in an upright position to punish him for his sins.

There are mostly graves from 1800s but only one with the classic skull and crossed bones. Source

The pirates were off Ile Sainte-Marie by the late 1700s, when the French seized the island. It wasn’t returned to Madagascar until 1960. The utopian pirate republic of Libertalia was also rumored to exist in this area, although the republic’s existence, let alone its location, has never been proven.

Today, 30 headstones remain, though locals say there were once hundreds. Source

A recently discovered map from 1733 by John de Bry, an archaeologist working on shipwrecks in the area, called the land mass the “Island of Pirates” and identified the location of three pirate ship wrecks.

The crumbling cemetery, its graves half covered by tall, swaying grass, is open to the public. Source

So many pirate legends are floating around Sainte-Marie, but, is this cemetery authentic? Everyone on the island, including government tourism officials, of course, claim it is. However, dead pirates or not, this cemetery is one of Madagascar’s most popular tourist destinations.

By David Goran

Three giant Viking swords stand buried in a stone in Hafrsfjord, Norway, recalling a mythic struggle for unity

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By now many of us are at least to some extent acquainted with Sir Thomas Malory’s classic tale of the Lady of the Lake and how she gave Excalibur to King Arthur, or the tale told in Robert de Boron’s poem of Merlin about the magical sword in the stone that could be drawn out only by the rightful ruler of the land.

They differ in some aspects, but both speak of the same Arthurian legend and a mighty sword that could only be swung by a man worthy to hold it in possession. This story about a powerful weapon identified with a single hero is as old as time. Whereas in this specific legend it was Excalibur for King Arthur, ancient Greek mythology speaks of many magical swords. Other legendary blades include Crocea Mors, the sword belonging to Julius Caesar, which was considered to hold supernatural powers, and for Attila the Hun it was the Sword of Mars. Most recently, in George R. R.  Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, it is the Lightbringer, the sword of Azor Ahai.

“In this dread hour, a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.”

While all these stories tell of individuals who drew their swords out of fire or a stone to aid mankind in times when it was needed the most, a statue in Norway speaks of a time when groups and individuals put their petty differences aside and even buried them, so they could put an end to bloodshed and stand united under the same flag.

Little is known of the particular event, but what information that exists points to a great battle that took place in 872 on one of the fjords in Norway. The Battle of Hafrsfjord, as it is known today, was the result of a long-lasting conflict between three different factions and their leaders in Western Norway, among whom was Harald Fair Hair (Harald Hårfagre), son of Halfdan the Black Gudrödarson.

“The Saga of Harald Fairhair” (Heimskringla) is a Scandinavian saga that was written two centuries after the event. According to the story, the Hordaland-Rogaland and Agder-Thelemark factions were advancing with their troops towards Hafrsfjord, they were met there by the strong force of Harald Fair Hair, who was on a mission to unite the Norwegians who up until then lived in small tribes and villages.

The Norwegian tribes led a warring life, constantly fighting with one another. According to the legend, Harold, who was in love with Gyda, the daughter of King Erik of Hordaland, had to convince her of his love and devotion by uniting the tribes and thus putting an end to all the fighting between them once and for all. He was the son of a king who wanted to marry the daughter of rival one, and she was the daughter of a king who despised the man who wanted her hand. So marriage was not an option if peace between the two was not reached.

Harold, prior to the battle, had taken rulership over several small kingdoms in Vestfold, and continued with his conquest believing that negotiating peace from a position of strength would bring more fruition to his noble cause, and a better chance to negotiate the terms with the father of his loved one. But as he was growing in strength and force, the other kings allied against him and planned a secretive attack. News spread from the south that Erik of Hordaland, King Sulke of Rogaland, Earl Sote, the King of Agder and brothers Hroald and Had the Hard from Thelemark had joined forces and were headed towards the mainland with a large fleet.

This was a clear indication that an imminent attack was on the way and there was no space for a peaceful resolution. As a result, Harald assembled his troops and intercepted them at Hafrsfjord, where a great battle was set in motion, in which many, including King Eirik, lost their lives. In the midst of all the dead bodies spread around the battlefield, Harald was the last man standing and his troops fortunate to see the light of day. Many fled to the nearby Icelandic islands, and everyone left on the land came to live united under the rulership of King Harald Fair Hair, the first King of Norway.

His mission was completed. Harald got to marry Erik’s daughter, but at a devastating cost. This story is more of a romanticized legend than of actual historical evidence, and complete peace and unity took probably hundreds of years to be achieved. However, this battle is considered the greatest contributor to the unification of Norway into one country.

Three giant Viking swords are now forever embedded in solid stone on a Nordic hill in Hafrsfjord, and stand tall against the sun as a reminder of an ancient battle that eventually unified the kingdoms of Norway and its people into one nation. The swords were forced through solid rock so that they can never be removed and such a battle never to occur again. They stand for peace, unity, and freedom, and the place where they are impaled is near the city of Stavanger in the Rogaland region.

The memorial itself is named “Sverd i fjell” (swords in rock) and was constructed in 1983 by sculptor Fritz Røed upon the request of King Olav V. It consists of three bronze swords, each higher than 30 feet. The highest represents the sword of King Harald Fair Hair, while the other two symbolize the opposing factions

It stands proudly as a tourist attraction, and a historical reminder for Norwegians never to draw a weapon again against fellow countrymen.

 Martin Chalakoski

The Dark Hedges: The long tree tunnel of Northern Ireland that some say is haunted

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A lady-like specter glides through the shadowy arboreal tunnel of intertwined branches bent over the Bregagh Road in County Antrim in Northern Ireland.

Many say it’s the ghost of a maid from a nearby house who died mysteriously long ago. Others think it’s Margareth “Cross Peggy” Stuart, the daughter of a previous owner of the land, James Stuart. Some even suggest it’s a lost spirit from a deserted and long-lost graveyard, believed to lay hidden somewhere in the nearby fields.

On some nights, the forgotten graves are said to open up and she is joined on her walk among the bent trunks by the tortured souls of those once so dear, and now dead, buried beside her. Whatever her tormented past was, the locals call her the Gray Lady of The Dark Hedges, and she is believed to haunt the long ominous road beneath the huge domed crown of gnarled branches.

This spooky yet magnificent avenue of beech trees was planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century, with the intention to serve as an impressive entrance for visitors who approached their Georgian mansion, Gracehill House. Although the family had owned the estate for over a century, it was not until 1775 that one of Irwin Stuart’s children, James, decided to build a home for his family there, and name it after his wife, Grace Lynd.

As soon as they settled in, he acquired and planted 150 beech trees in two opposing rows to create an imposing road leading toward their estate. James believed that by doing so he was creating a stylish and grand look for their residence.

However, as years passed, and the trees matured, they began to bend over the road and their branches intermingled, thus creating an atmospheric tunnel and a very scenic road indeed. What James planned as the centerpiece of his home two centuries later became an unusually serene and spellbinding tunnel of ancient beech trees along the Bregagh Road, north of Belfast.

Intertwining and entangling, the branches of the trees form a dramatic union of light and shadow, making the roadway truly magnificent, a real gem of nature, and one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland.

The life span of a typical Fagus sylvatica L., commonly known as the beech tree, is 150 to 200 years, but they can achieve an age of up to 350 years .

A survey was commenced in 2014 of more than 94 beech trees as part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project. Authorized by the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust and the Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust, the survey confirmed that the tree thrives here and often reaches the greater age of maturity, which is rare. According to the survey, when mature, the beech tree can grow to a height of more than 40 meters and form an enormous domed crown at the top. This transformed the treeline into a scenic backdrop, one that can be utilized in the creation of some unique and memorable television series, or movie sequences for instance.

And so it did, for the iconic trees of County Antrim were used as a filming location in HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones, representing the King’s Road in Season 2, Episode 1: “On the King’s Road.” In it, after Arya Stark, disguised as a boy, escaped successfully from King’s Landing, this was the path she took along with her companions Gendry and Hot Pie and began her journey north toward the Night’s Watch in the back of a cart.

Prior to that, to ensure the preservation of the trees, the Department of the Environment (NI) Planning Service in 2004 placed a Tree Preservation Order on the Dark Hedges, and five years later the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust was formed. Backed by Heritage Lottery Funding, the Trust aims to conserve and enhance this phenomenon, as well as to protect the remaining 90 trees that survive out of the 150 originally planted centuries ago.

Aside from the huge increase in traffic generated by people who now were eager to see this fantastical and dreamy place, the Dark Hedges had to endure even more hardship in 2016, when Northern Ireland was hit by Storm Gertrude. Two of the trees were completely destroyed, and many others heavily damaged during the storm.

As the place’s popularity increased, the number of people visiting it grew, and this raised concerns as to how the trees, being surface rooting, would handle the increase in traffic, or the graffiti left behind by vandals.

As a result, at the very start of this year, the Department of Infrastructure, to preserve the site from degradation and possible damage, announced plans to eventually close the road to traffic.

 Martin Chalakoski

Restoration work in Rome’s ancient catacombs reveals 1,600-year-old hidden frescoes

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Since their rediscovery in the 16th century, Rome’s catacombs have dazzled the archaeological community. The ancient underground burial networks are a famed burial site both for Christians and for people who worshiped any of the earlier Roman religions.

Underneath the city, people were either placed in distinct catacombs or buried together. It began as early as the 2nd century AD, when inhumation had become a more common funerary practice. Christians at the time typically opted for burials instead cremations, as they believed in bodily resurrection at the Second Coming.

As an extremely important site, Rome’s ancient catacombs represent an epic monument of the ancient empire and the inception of Christianity. Moreover, the catacombs also provide an invaluable contribution to the history of early Christian art. They have been a treasured site with a plethora of frescoes, sculptures, or gold-glass medallions among other items, which widely exemplify the artwork done before 400 AD.

The exploration and excavation of Rome’s hidden tunnels seem to be a continual work in progress. The discoveries have never ceased to surprise us. Not only have new chambers been identified in recent decades, but so have new precious artifacts.

In May 2017, restorers put the finishing touches on a seven-year restoration work of two underground burial rooms in the Catacombs of Domitilla. Thanks to their effort, two long-hidden frescoes, which were likely commissioned approximately 1,600 years ago by bakers in the city, have been revealed.

The Catacombs of Domitilla, named after Saint Domitilla, expand over 11 miles of underground caves. As large and impressive as they are, they are exceptional for several other reasons. They are the oldest of Rome’s catacombs, and the only ones still containing bones. Reportedly, they alone have been the burial site of almost 150,000 bodies.

The Domitilla Catacombs are also the best-preserved and the most extensive of all ancient burial networks beneath the city. Among their treasures and invaluable artifacts is a 2nd-century fresco of the Last Supper.

Lurking under a chalky deposit and algae domesticated after centuries of being abandoned, new frescoes have been found. Experts have used lasers and scanning technology to restore the paintings, stripping away the deposits, layer by layer. The technique used has never before been applied in catacombs.

As the layers have been removed, numerous images have slowly started to emerge on the surface, depicting figures from the Old and New Testament, and also vignettes related to the baker’s trade.

According to Barbara Mazzei, who had been supervising the restoration work on behalf the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, the restorers have accomplished the work “millimeter by millimeter.”

One of the scenes revealed in the frescoes depicts the deceased accompanied by two saints. The saints may be Nereus and Achilleus, who were two martyrs, most likely killed under Emperor Diocletian and buried here. According to the experts, all evidence shows the frescoes’ origin dates back to the second half of the fourth century when a similar type of iconography was common.

Restoration projects at the catacombs are set to continue further, as there are still more chambers that are in poor condition. It might mean that new finds just may be on their way.

A new museum, to be inaugurated in June, is to showcase artifacts dating from the 2nd to the 5th century from several catacombs in Rome. The collection is certain to shed light on how paganism and Christian faith were mysteriously intertwined together in the early Church.

 Stefan Andrews

Crinolinemania: This deadly Victorian fashion garment killed around 3,000 women

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Observed from today’s perspective, crinolines look utterly uncomfortable and unattractive to the point of absurdity. Why would anyone want to wear something that resembles a gigantic whipped-cream cake around their waist? Yet fashion trends have shown that comfort and attractiveness often have little in common, so it can be said that crinolines were just what any fad is–a way to get all eyes on you even if the cost is being a real (fashion) victim.

One of the fashion trends of the 19th century Victorian Era that stirred lady fashionistas was the so-called “Crinolinemania,” a craze that referred to the fashion obsession with the crinoline, a stiffened underskirt made using horsehair and linen or cotton, invented in the early 1840s.

These skirts were the followers of the “panniers” women’s underwear worn in the 17th and 18th centuries that enabled extending of the skirt at the side, thus creating a large side-squared dress that properly displayed the garment’s decorations.

Comic photograph, c.1860.

However, according to some fashion historians, the real predecessor of the crinoline was the 16th-century Spanish “farthingale.” These wide, full skirts were much adored by the Spanish ladies even back in the 15th century. The queen consort of Castile, Joana of Portugal, copied their style and introduced it to court, attracting admiring attention, although court rumor had it that the main reason she wore the style was to hide her illegitimate pregnancy. England became acquainted with the crinoline when Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, wore a Spanish farthingale made of linen and cane sticks.

In the first half of the 1800s, skirts became bigger and adopted a round shape. The ladies created an illusion of a large circle at the bottom part of their attire by wearing numerous layers of petticoats. This layered clothing often disabled the ladies’ movement and comfort, so when the crinoline was finally invented, they felt a relief. Crinolines weighed less and fit more easily to the body.

The name of the fashion fad first appeared in the 1800s in the magazine Punch, which mocked the crinoline craze and published humorous cartoon illustrations about Crinolinemania. The root of the garment’s nickname originates in the French words crin (horsehair) and lin (linen), which describe the materials of which the initial versions of the crinoline were made. The horsehair crinolines supported the weight of the layers of petticoats under the full skirts and provided more convenience.

Inflatable crinolines. Caricature, Punch, January 1857.

One of the most widely known models is the cage crinoline which was first patented in 1856 by R.C. Milliet in Paris. His agent brought it to Britain and it became popular overnight. These crinolines were made of spring steel with lightness providing flexibility and enabled women to walk and sit while wearing them.

Cage crinoline underskirt, the 1860s, MoMu.

 The ladies felt liberated in comparison to their previous layered petticoats and praised their experience in the Lady’s Newspaper in 1863: “So perfect are the wave-like bands that a lady may ascend a steep stair, lean against a table, throw herself into an armchair, pass to her stall at the opera, and occupy a further seat in a carriage, without inconveniencing herself or others, and provoking the rude remarks of observers thus modifying in an important degree, all those peculiarities tending to destroy the modesty of Englishwomen; and lastly, it allows the dress to fall in graceful folds.”

These positive reviews stimulated a massive production of crinolines led by the most successful producer, Douglas & Sherwood’s Hoop Skirt Factory in New York. The mass-production made crinolines affordable to women who stood at different levels on the social ladder. On daily occasions, most of the women wore small crinoline versions while the large bell-shaped models, some up to six feet in diameter, were worn on special occasions such as balls.

Three women showing dresses in blue with black lace and white with red stripes and brown color with queue de Paris

Nevertheless, due to their heaviness and robustness, crinolines had disadvantages that completely outweigh the advantages. Wearing them in the summer meant spending the day in hot, unhygienic conditions. The biggest issue, however, was a fatal one.

The enormous size of the crinolines was often too challenging for the women in specific surroundings, and thus there were thousands of reported cases of ladies being severely injured or burned alive when a candle or a spark from the fireplace would accidentally flame by touching the crinoline. Sometimes the hoops would also get caught in machinery or be run over by carriage wheels, causing serious consequences to the wearer.

 Brad Smithfield