Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Food Gift Baskets

Looking for a unique and exciting gift? Give a food related gift basket. Gift baskets filled with yummy goodies can be the perfect gift for almost any occasion. Not only does the lucky recipient receive a basket full of tasty treats, but he or she also gets a cute, reusable container to keep forever.

You could purchase a food gift basket from your local florist or gift basket store, but you may have more fun, and save money by making your own gift basket. You don't know how to make a gift basket you say? Well read on to learn how to make a basic gift basket.

First think about the occasion, your gift recipient, and what food items you plan to include. With these three things in mind look for an appropriate container. If you are making a birthday basket think of using a brightly colored basket or container. If you plan to make a football basket, search the Internet for a football shaped basket or tray. If you just want to give a small gift of coffee with maybe a couple of gourmet cookies included, consider using an oversized coffee mug for a container.

Try to remember you can use almost any type of container to make your gift basket. You can use flower pots, watering cans, wash basins, small pails, tins, mugs and bowls as the base for your gift basket. Do not worry if you cannot find an actual basket for your gift, just be creative and you are sure to find something suitable.

After you choose a container for your gift, begin to think about what you want to include. Here are some examples: for a birthday basket you can find either online or in specialty stores or catalogs, birthday themed products, such as cookies, individual cakes, gourmet candy, snacks with Happy Birthday on the packaging, balloons, streamers, and singing teddy bears. You can even find a selection of Over The Hill theme products to include for those getting up there in age.

A snack basket could include gourmet snacks, such as sourdough pretzels, white chocolate covered almonds, summer sausage, mini mustard, crackers, an assortment of cheese, jam, nuts, salsa, and tortilla chips. Or your snack basket can be filled with popular junk food snacks, such as Doritos, Oreo cookies, Twizzlers, popcorn, M&Ms, Goldfish crackers, and various other junky treats.

You can make a movie basket by purchasing an old fashioned popcorn tub and filling it with microwavable popcorn, jumbo boxes of candy, soda, and free movie rental coupons.

A coffee basket may be just the thing. Include two coffee mugs, chocolates, biscotti, a couple of packages of specialty coffee, homemade cookies, creamer, and sugar packets. Add in some decorative accents and you have a quick to put together gift that is sure to please.

To put your basket together you will need to gather the following materials: clear tape, glue gun, tissue paper, shreds in an appropriate color for the bottom of the basket, curling ribbon, ribbon for the bow or a pull bow, and cellophane for wrapping.

To put your gift basket together make sure the basket you've chosen is large enough for the items you plan to include. Place bunched up tissue paper in the bottom of your container to form a makeshift base. On top of the tissue paper base place a small amount of decorative shreds. Next, place the items you have chosen in the basket, arranged in an attractive manner. Play around with the order of the items until you are pleased with the way the basket looks. Use the tape to secure the gift basket items to the container and to each other. You can also use a few carefully placed drops of glue from your glue gun to help secure products to each other. Use shreds to fill in gaps between your gift basket items and to further secure items in your basket. Cut a piece of cellophane wrap large enough to wrap your basket and pull the cellophane tight up over the top of your basket or container. Tie curling ribbon around the neck of your now wrapped package and use scissors to curl the ribbon. Place a bow on the basket and you're done!

Crockpot Safety

Crockpot cooking is a great way to prepare tasty, nutritious meals without hovering over the stove all day. Families are busier than ever these days and even stay at home parents often find it difficult to fit meal preparation into their hectic schedules. Crockpots, also commonly referred to as slow cookers, are great because you can put a whole meal in them and set them to cook all day without needing to watch over them. At the end of your busy day, you can turn it off and feed your family without a lot of work.

It can be a wonderful feeling to return home at the end of a busy day, open your front door, and be greeted by the delicious smell of your dinner, hot and ready to be served, in your crockpot. In the summer, crockpots keep you from sweating and running up your cooling bill by producing drastically less heat than your oven.

If you are new to cooking with a crockpot, you may wonder about crockpot safety. Crockpots cook food very slowly at temperatures ranging from 170 degrees to 280 degrees F. Since the crockpots cook at such low heat, the length of time required to cook is extremely lengthy. This lengthy cooking time allows the user to go about his or her day, without the need to watch or actively participate in cooking the food. A combination of direct heat from the crockpot, hot steam inside the crockpot, and long cooking time work to kill bacteria and keep the food inside safe and fit for human consumption.

To keep food in your crockpot safe and healthy for you and your family you must start out with safety in mind. This means wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before you start to prepare food. Make sure your crockput is clean as well as all cooking utensils and surfaces you plan to use.

Keep perishable foods, for use in the crockpot, refrigerated until you are ready to use them. Crockpots can take several hours to heat up enough to destroy harmful bacteria, so proper refrigeration serves to keep bacterial growth low in the initial hours of cooking.

Make sure you defrost all meats and poultry completely before placing them in the crockpot. Cut all meats and poultry in small chunks or pieces, when possible, to ensure thorough cooking. Avoid cooking a roast or whole chicken in your crockpot. Cooking such large pieces of meat at the low heat used in crockpots could potentially allow harmful bacteria to multiply.

If there is a power outtage while you are using your crockpot and you are not at home, be sure to discard the food upon returning home. Even if the food apperars to be done cooking, you still need to throw it out. The food is not safe to eat because it is very possible for bacteria to grow to unsafe levels in the crockpot during a power outtage. If you are at home during the power outtage, remove the food from the crockpot and continue cooking it on top of the stove, in the oven, or on an outdoor grill. If the food in the crockpot was completely cooked when the power went out, you can either consume the food, or keep it in the crockpot safely, with the lid on, for up to two hours.

Many crockpots have at least two temperature settings and some have more than two. The amount of time you need to cook a meal will be directly related to the temparature setting you plan to use. Foods will cook faster on a higher setting, but for all day cooking it makes sense to use the lower setting to avoid overcooking your food. The lower temperature settings also work well for cooking less tender meats.

It is safe to use a lower heat setting to cook your food, however, some crockpot users suggest cooking food on high for the first hour of cooking and changing to a lower setting, or the setting suggested in your recipe, for the rest of the cooking time.

Be sure to fill your crockpot at least one half full of food and not more than two thirds full. If you are using vegetables, put vegetables in first,then add meat or poultry, and finally cover with liquid, such as broth, sauce, or water. Keep the lid in place at all times and lift the lid only to stir the food or check for doneness. Keep in mind the fact that you release some of the heat in the crockpot each time you remove the lid. Removing the lid too often can make it hard to maintain stable heat inside the crockpot.

To store leftover food, place the leftovers in containers and cover tightly. Refrigerate. It is not a good idea to reheat food in the crock pot. Istead, reheat leftovers on top of the stove or in a microwave until they are steaming hot. You can, however, place heated leftovers back in your clean, preheated crockpot to keep them warm for serving.

Not sure what to cook in your crockpot? Check online and in recipe books to find an abundance of tasty and practical crockpot recipes. Experiment and make up your own recipes. Keep in mind the best crockpot receipes are those that have a high moisture content, such as soups, stews, sauces, and gumbos.

Japanese Rice Crackers

If you are addicted to crunchy snacks as much as I am, then you have probably found yourself in a situation where a diet was necessary in order to counter the effects of this addiction. Dieting of course mean giving up your beloved crunchy snacks, which probably leads to even more cravings, and finally, a total meltdown as you ultimately just give in and indulge in an entire bag of Cheddar 'n' Sour Cream potato chips, or whatever your personal favorite happens to be.

I went through this cycle so many times that I actually consulted a certified nutritionist about my problem. I wanted her to give me a list of snacks that would satisfy my cravings, yet wouldn't derail my diet completely. One of the items on her list was sembei, or Japanese rice crackers. These are very thin, grilled crackers made from rice flour and assorted flavorings. Some of the flavors include vegetable, soy sauce, or even cheese (my personal favorite). These crackers are actually quite healthy (meaning lower in calories and fat) when compared to other snacks. I also find them to be more filling than American-style rice cakes. Best of all, Japanese rice crackers pack one heck of a crunch!

I have been eating these rice crackers for a couple of years now. I can't say that they make me completely forget about potato chips or Doritos, but they are great for daily snacking. I eat my rice crackers during the week, and then reward myself with a small bag of any other snack that I want during the weekend. This system has been working pretty well. I have noticed some weight loss, and I don't feel as much guilt when I eat too many rice crackers as I would if I ate too many potato chips.

Japanese rice crackers are usually available at Oriental markets, or at some larger supermarket chains. Try some today and change your snacking habits for the better!

Televisions Inside Cars

Having a television installed inside a car is not a new idea. I remember seeing that kind of setup at least 15 or 20 years ago when I was a kid. Back then, the only vehicles that had televisions were minivans or high-end luxury cars such as Mercedes. I always thought it would be cool to have a TV in the car, but my parents, of course, did not share this youthful enthusiasm. They were pretty sure that the trend would be short-lived due to the increased number of accidents that were bound to occur because of distracted drivers.

Well, here it is all these years later and, far from disappearing, the trend has really taken off. Almost all minivans now come with an option for a television and DVD player in the rear passenger area. This can really be a lifesaver for parents who take their children on long road trips, as I can personally attest. Mom or Dad can just bring along a few DVDs and the kids will be occupied for hours. The peace that comes as a result of having a TV/DVD combo in the car is well worth the few hundred dollars that the option costs!

More and more luxury cars have televisions inside them now. Some owners even go one step further and have gaming systems such as PlayStation 2 or X-Box installed along with the regular TV/DVD combo. This is a very popular thing for professional athletes to do. I've read several newspaper articles that mentioned high-profile athletes who roll up to the stadium playing video games in their cars while someone else drives them. I guess if you make millions anyway, you just consider the cost of options like this to be chump change.

It's not really a surprise that high-rollers have gaming systems set up in their cars. Instead, the biggest surprise to me is how many regular cars owned by regular people now have televisions inside them. A lot of this has to do with navigation systems. Almost all navigation systems run from maps that are contained on DVDs, which in turn are displayed to the driver on a television monitor. It is just an easy step to go from watching your vehicle's progress on a map to watching a television program or a movie on that same screen when you are in a familiar area and don't need to follow the map (which I would say is most of the time).

I've noticed many cars with TVs right up in front by the driver. It makes me think of my parents' dire prediction of more accidents because of distracted drivers. I don't have a TV in the front section of my car, so I can't speak from experience here, but would people really keep their eyes on the monitor rather than on the road? I guess I could see it happening if the person were stuck in rush hour traffic that was barely moving. I just can't imagine watching TV while trying to drive at high speeds, though. I hope anyone who has a TV up front because of their navigation system has enough sense to keep their eyes on the road when they are driving!

Personally, I like having a TV in the car. Besides helping my child pass the time on long road trips, it is nice for me too when I climb in the back when my husband is driving. Then, if we are out longer than expected, I can catch the beginning of my favorite TV show or a big sporting event without having to worry about setting up the DVD recorder before we leave the house. There are plenty of conveniences associated with having a TV in the car, but there are legitimate safety concerns also. If you have a TV in your vehicle, or if you are thinking about getting one installed, please remember that safety always comes first!

Monday, May 30, 2005

What Ever Happend To WebTV?

Written by James Fohl

I remember quite a few years ago, lots and lots of people who weren't computer savvy and refused to put down a large amount of money for a computer system instead found out about the internet through this wonderful thing known as WebTV.

WebTV was, or rather somewhat is this little black box that connected to your television and used your phoneline to connect to the internet. You could either use the sophisticated remote to navigate through the world wide web, or you could spend an additional sum of money for a wireless keyboard.

The keyboard was well worth the extra money, because if you had just used the remote, then you were forced to use the onscreen keyboard to type in web addresses and emails, which was of course painfully slow. The keyboard, on the other hand, could be used anywhere in your living room because it was wireless, and full size.

The fun thing about WebTV was that it was not an actual computer, so you couldn't screw anything up. It was just a basic web browser with an email program that used special @webtv.com email addresses. There was no need to worry about viruses because, well first off their was no real operating system, and second you really could not download anything.

Of course, WebTV was not exactly great either, and in reality was actually pretty far from being a great product. Because it was just a internet browser, WebTV couldn't be used like a normal computer. No software titles could be installed, and the WebTV web browser could not display many plug-ins that are commonly found throughout the internet (such as Flash animastions). Because of its simplicity, many WebTV users were 'flamed' if they participated in online message boards because of the assumption that all WebTV users were stupid. Still WebTV was very simple to use for non-tech savvy users, and a cheap alternative way of accessing the internet without a regular computer.

I am still sad however that it seems WebTV no longer exists in the form that it was originally released in. The last I had heard of the famous WebTV on television was a few years ago, right after Microsoft purchased the WebTV company, and was selling the units for around fifty dollars.

Today, a visit to www.webtv.com will take you to a Microsoft page that tries to sell you the MSN TV, a $199 gadget, that is pretty much a cheap Windows computer that uses the Intel Celeron processor, and Microsoft's own CE operating system. Not only is the gadget expensive, but the service plan rates are pretty high too.

To me, it is very unfortunate that Microsoft bought out WebTV and turned such a great successful device into one that nobody wants, or has heard of anymore. Although the days of WebTV have come to a past, I believe that I will never forget going over to my relatives and browsing the internet on their television set using WebTV.

The French Do Not Get Fat!

Every time you picture a French woman, you picture a long slender and beautiful person. Why is that? Maybe because only 10% of the French people are overweight! American's are rapidly continuing to hit the obesity scale by dozens. I recently read a book called "French Women Don't Get Fat," and the book was quite amazing to read, and true at that. The French eat buttery croissants, chocolate, wine, luscious meals and yet they still don't pack on the pounds like us Americans.

A lot of people refer this to be called "The French Paradox." It may shock you to hear that they can eat chocolate, desserts and all of those fine foods, yet when you get done reading this article, you will understand why they stay so slender. Another note about the French is that they hardly ever have any gym memberships or at-home exercise equipment. Again, you may find this to be baffling, yet it is completely true. Americans obsess over stuffing themselves with potato chips while sitting on the couch and flipping through the television stations. Also, for a lot of busy and hard working Americans, they don't have time to sit down and eat, so they grab a quick to-go order through the Mc Donald's or Burger King driveway.

Obesity in America is almost becoming an epidemic plague. While the French sit and eat their croissants and Bistro cooked meals and slurp on wine, us Americans sit here baffled and wonder why. The French love food, just as us American's love food. The difference is the tone in the way that we look at food. There is a very large difference between the way that American's and French view food. American's love to dig into chips, ice cream, and about any sort of sweet delicious candy or food that we are offered (most of the time). If we have an opportunity to eat food or a snack, we do (not all of us, but quite a lot of people).

The French usually NEVER snack. They view food to be a ritualistic wonderful time to indulge on all of their senses. A French woman would never even consider trying the Atkins diet out, let alone any other diet for that matter. Dinner time in America would not be unusual to sit in front of the television watching a favorite show. During meal time, the French do not watch television, and they put all of their reading material's away to enjoy the coming ritual for their taste buds. The French really love to endure and enjoy what they eat, not scarf down as much as they can. What makes French so first class with their cooking, is that they reach for quality, not quantity. Several American's who have gone to France have reported some sort of weight loss, even if they were not trying to. Back to the French eating habits, the French eat 3 course meals 3 times a day.

First they enjoy a light appetizer such as a sea food tossed salad with shrimp and marinara sauce. Second they will have their main course, followed by what us American's would love most... a delicious dessert! You must be thinking "holy dang the French have huge appetites!" Well actually... their portion sizes are smaller than us American's.

Did you know that American's eat 10-30% larger portion sizes than what are needed? With quality comes high standards, and that is what the French like about their food... this is what makes meal time such a ritualistic thing. They believe in eating fresh produce, which gives off a lot better taste. You name it, whatever they eat is fresh. The French make sure to eat their vegetables, because they love them! Also, please make sure to acknowledge the fact that American food is usually over-processed and artificially flavored. In France, that is frowned upon. To put it simply, they do not like poorly made food, they love their high quality fresh market foods! When they eat their food, they also chew their bites of food very slowly to indulge and enjoy the experience of the quality and taste of the food, which allows them to not feel the need to eat as much. They get 100% satisfaction out of the food that they eat.

The difficult thing about living in America, is that most of our foods are over-processed which makes us unable to attain the fresh quality that the French get. We cannot say that we are completely helpless though, as there are many organic food markets in the U.S. where we can get that pure and fresh food. As for chocolate, their chocolate is also different than American's, our chocolate has a lot more sugar and unnecessary ingredients in it, and in France, you will still find high quality chocolate, that tastes much better than American chocolate. Usually French chocolate is always dark chocolate and they normally don't eat milk chocolate. I personally am not a fan of dark chocolate, but being that their chocolate is way different than the American version I would still probably enjoy it very much! So you know all about the food on the side of France now, and how those women tend to stay so beautiful and slim, but how in the heck can they stay so slender without a gym membership or any at-home exercise videos? Well! the simple answer to that, is that they walk EVERYWHERE.

According to Mireille Guiliano, the author of "French Women Don't Get Fat" the French do not try to find short-cuts, they believe in taking journeys and stopping to smell the roses, instead of smelling the scent of an elevator. They walk a majority of the time, and they don't even do it for fitness either! They do it for a leisurely activity! If you want to attain a French lifestyle, there are always stores online that can provide you with some absolutely delicious 100% French made and produced food (also referred to as food import stores). You may have to pay some extra money, but if you think your body and lifestyle could use a change, then you should consider that extra money worth your time and investments. Start taking nice morning and evening walks, and just endure the scenery, instead of taking the bus or car to work, take a walk and make it an opportunity to see new things (and also lessen your chance of getting in an automobile wreck).

Also, another heads up to keep you going fresh on your new French lifestyle, fashion is all of the rage in France. Find a dress or cute outfit that is in a size smaller than what you are right now, and follow the French lifestyle techniques, and when you get a dress size smaller, reward yourself with that cute outfit! That is a fun way to make weight loss a goal, and a great reward for it too. As you can see, the French are most definitely far from deprived. I would kill to be in France because of the wonderful lifestyle that they lead, I don't know anyone who wouldn't! In their culture they are all about leisure time, enduring moments, and not feeling rushed.

Their diet isn't even a diet! It is a wonderful luxury! Their aspects of food are far different than Americans aspects of food. They are completely different cultures, and if you are serious enough to want to change your lifestyle (not just what you eat), you may want to consider trying to live in France for at least a month, just to see what their culture and lifestyle is all about! You may need to sign up for some French lessons, but it would be more fun than anything else! If you already know French, there is no reason for you not to go! You could say that you really had French chocolate and ate a wonderful croissant in a French café, and say that you were able to experience the real deal! So stop dieting, and try to see what the French lifestyle is all about.

You may need to get a food scale to measure the amount of food that you will need, such as a 4 - 8 oz. piece of meat. The French have very different portion sizes than us American's, remember that they eat 10-30% smaller food portions than us, so if you want to try this lifestyle, do yourself a favor and go get yourself a food scale! The French usually have a glass of red wine with every meal, and studies have shown that the heart attacks happen a lot less in France than America, and they believe that it is due to the red wine that they consume! So as you can see, the French usually have nothing but benefits when it comes to the food that they eat, and the life that they get to live! You may find yourself the happiest that you have ever been in your life if you decide to try out their awesome eating habits!

Ending shows....

Why is it every show I get into ends up getting canceled? Or just as I finally find a show it seems to end for the season and of course only do the reruns in between?

I recently found out one of my favorite shows, "Summerland" won't be coming back in the following season like I thought. They left it open and all, I really wanted to see certain things happen with the characters. I fell in love with those people in that show, I cried with them and even laughed. I got mad at decisions they made and happy when I thought things were going the way I believed they should. In the end I was so hooked I couldn't believe it was the last one but I thought that's okay because I'll watch it when it comes back on.

I watched as Ava first became a mother of her sister's children after a horrible accident. Pulling the three kids out of their lives and into her life. They were country people and suddenly thrust into the beach life. I can't imagine the changes they would've really went through if it were true. I watched as she struggled to raise the three, one teen, preteen and a young one, I think he was 8 or 9. Most parents start from scratch but they are normally infants, not many start off with those ages and being a mom myself I knew she would have obstacles.

Ava was already living with three close friends, two men and a woman, they'd been together throughout many years and now they were adding three children into it all. Ava currently had what looked and seemed like the love of her life but they could never stay together and when they seemed to be connecting something else would happen. Finally he left the show and she started dating eventually, the youngest was torn when he had left as he finally had a dad (again) and now he too was leaving his life. Ava started dating someone else, which Derrick the youngest became really attached to. Just as she is finally going to marry the boyfriend the old ex pops back up, long story short the fiance ends up telling her he can't marry her. Such a happy and sad moment at the same time. Ava is just left standing there. I would really like to see the next few episodes and see what happens with the kids and if Ava will end up with her first boyfriend. Granted that's just the romantic in me but hey, can ya blame me?

Isn't it funny how shows do that? They get you so hooked and then they just end. Or you get so into them that when they finally do end you don't know what to do, it's like saying goodbye to an old friend.

Ease The Diet Craze & Make A LifeStyle

Sometimes it is difficult to pick a diet when you have thousands of testimonials and claims that one particular diet will work a miracle. Low calorie, low carbohydrate, high protein, fasting... what are you going to do? First off, dieting to lose weight can be extremely tricky. First off, there are many different scenarios and factors that you have to take into consideration such as your bone structure, fat percentage, BMI range, blood type, how much exercise you perform daily, what most of your meals consist of, and that sort of thing. When it comes to losing weight, with ANY diet, no matter which you choose (let us hope that you pick a healthy one, not a fast track drop 10 pounds in 3 days diet), they will always consist of what goes into your mouth, how much goes into your mouth, and how much exercise you perform. A diet consists of what you eat. Here is a good example of something that you can eat throughout the day that is healthy and reasonable:

Breakfast: 3 eggs, a glass of water or orange juice, a slice of ham and 2 pieces of whole wheat bread.
Lunch: A turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and mustard on whole wheat bread, with a glass of milk.
Dinner: A 4 - 8 oz. piece of meat with a side dish of sautéed vegetables and perhaps a reasonably proportioned dessert such as 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Usually we tend to get hungry throughout the day, so it is important that you fuel your body up with a snack. Perhaps a handful of nuts with an apple or a banana with a glass of milk will do your body some good. There are about a million healthy snacks out there, but that also does not mean that you have to deprive your taste buds of good tasting "junk food." The only way you can allow "junk food" to earn that title, is by consuming large amounts of it. Maybe have a couple of handfuls of those chips instead of eating a whole bag. Proportions measure out considerably when it comes to weight loss or weight maintenance. There are some awesome healthy foods out there that can taste just as good as those piles of bad foods that you constantly eat. Perhaps substitute a full sugar smoothie with a homemade smoothie. Is all you would have to do is get whatever fruit you want to use such as strawberries and banana's, get them fresh from the market, get some ice, add some sugar substitute such as Splenda, pour it all in the mixer and there you have a lot healthier, fresher and better tasting option! We have availability to any kind of food that we want to purchase when we walk into the super market, and you should not deprive yourself of a variety, because satisfying your psychological levels is also important in order to attain a healthy lifestyle. Also, exercising does not have to be a stress... there are so many options for sports now days, that there is bound to be something that you absolutely enjoy. You don't have to go and join a gym in order to get a shapely looking body. Perhaps you may want to rent a few Kathy Smith video's, and find that you love it. Aerobic dance videos, belly dancing, basketball, yoga, tennis, volleyball, roller blades, skateboarding, riding a bike, power walking, you name it, they've got it! For the adventurous heart, how about try hiking or rock climbing. Food and exercise go hand in hand with each other. Our bodies use food as our fuel to energy. We need energy to lose pounds, so there is no way you can go one without the other. There are many controversies about food, but when it comes to lifestyles, you just have to choose the way that you are going to live your life. People can argue which diet is better, how you should eat, what you need to eat to lose weight, and so on and so fourth. Finding your right lifestyle is definitely more complicated than just picking a diet and doing it for 2 weeks. You have to experiment with foods that will compliment your mental and physical health. Do you feel happy with the way that you are eating? Do you enjoy the foods that you eat? Are you gaining results, even through an extended period of time? Have you found a sport or physical activity that you truly enjoy? If a lot of the answers were no to this question, then you need to rearrange your lifestyle. Exercise doesn't have to be getting into cloths that you can pour sweat on, you can dress up nice and walk around the mall for a couple of hours, and that is great exercise! You will even enjoy it more because you will be looking at things or purchasing items that you want to look at or buy. If you know that you enjoy and love what you are eating (healthy wise) and physically exerting yourself to, then you know that you can maintain a lifestyle that way. A fad diet will come and go, a true diet is something that you know that you can live with and be completely happy with for the rest of your life. This may take a while to adjust to in order to find out what you do like and do not like, because it takes some time to experiment. There are some great diets out there that do give wonderful results, but will those diets benefit your health in the long run? Will you be happy with performing that diet for quite a long and extended period of time (possibly the rest of your life)? Food is not going to be your enemy unless you allow it to be. You can eat anything that you want, so long that it is in moderation, and you keep track. You can argue that point if you want... but you cannot deny that eating a carton of ice cream a day versus one scoop will not make a difference. You can enjoy the foods that you love, you just need to train your mind set to know when to stop, and learn how to take satisfaction in your food instead of making it the quantity that counts. Here is a list of fun foods that are healthy and beneficial to your health:

Cantaloupe, bananas, oranges, green beans, radishes, carrots, peas, strawberry's, kiwis, fish, poultry, meats (your proteins), chocolate (yes, chocolate is healthy for you), nuts and berry's, tomatoes, cheese, yogurt.

That was a list, but as you can see, that does not even scratch the surface of how many wonderful foods are out there. Is all that you have to do is take some time walking around the super market for all of the wonderful options of food. Also, it may help if you have a friend to go grocery shopping and exercising with, because their support can help immensely in your journey to weight loss. Also realize that diet pills along with your food are usually in most cases a scam, so do not waste your money on them. If you do want to spend your money on any sort of pills, spend them on vitamins or multi-vitamins to help accomplish better health and support with your diet. Make sure that your foods are nutrient rich, speaking of vitamins, because that will help boost your overall health. There are several things that you can incorporate in your lifestyle from the foods that you select to the exercise that you perform, and you can bet to see an impact, whether it is negative or positive. With support, eating by proportions and in moderation and exercise, you can attain a happy and healthy lifestyle. Perhaps you do not know where to turn to when it comes to eating the right foods, so you should go to a nutritionist and ask for some guidance and help in which route to take that will ensure you happiness and results at the same time. Also, a food counselor can help support you immensely in your journey for weight loss, so you should look around and find a counselor that is affordable, yet give you the boost that you need in order to start seeing results. Food can be our downfall in life, yet it can also be our hero. If you allow the food to be your downfall, then start seeking adjustments to enhance your mental and physical state to a higher level. Food can also be used to your advantage if you want the opportunity to gain better health and a better looking body. Make sure to take into consideration all of the things that you are doing when it comes to consuming your food that make things difficult for you such as your body weight, and try to adjust to alternatives that you know will make you just as equally happy, or even more so, happier than you were before!

The Search for Cheap Shabby Chic

Saturday, hubby and I went out 'junk' shopping. Looking for a few new to us pieces of 'shabby chic', we hit flea markets, garage sales and thrift stores. Always before, this strategy has worked well for us. We are firm believers in never buy new when used will do.

This trip out tho, that philosophy failed us. Big time failure. I suppose everyone in our little town must be avid watchers of The Antique Roadshow. They must be. Why else would they put such astronomically high prices on broken, dirty items?

Or, even worse, some of the items were priced higher than what I would pay for the exact same thing at the local super center. Case in point, videotape movies. Super Center price $5.44, garage sale price $8.00. Super Center movies - brand new in cellophane. Garage Sales and Thrift stores - old, torn, worn boxes and viewed who knows how many times. Come on folks, get real. Not I, or anyone I know, is going to buy a movie used for more than they can buy it new.

We also like 'cool' looking books decorating our main bookshelves. Not really worried about the content, but looking for covers that look neat and different. No luck there also - anything that looked half way decent started at $20.00 and up.

Next, we looked at knickknacks. You know the things, little curios and other small works of art like vases, animal figurines and such. One place we went had twenty two (yes, that's 22) little, poorly made in China, identical figurines of elephants. One quick look showed that each was poorly painted and equally poorly cast. Asking price - $16.00 each. Who are they kidding?

One of our favorite collectables, used to decorate our backwoods kitchen, is old-timey appliances, like butter churns, old fashioned egg beaters, etc. My other half likes to find the old-timey word working tools for his shop. Do these people selling this stuff never look at eBay to determine market prices? I really have to wonder about this. The two butter churns that I found had price tags of $225.00 and an unbelievable $725.00. The exact identical items are currently on eBay for $60.00 and $125.00. That's what they closed for. In my mind, that's pretty much the market price. These too, could be purchased new for half of what these folks were asking.

So, I guess I'm making a plea to all those who sell junk or shabby chic for those of us who like decorating that way. Be reasonable in your asking price. After all, you are wanting to sell the item, right. If not, take it home, put it on your shelf. To the lady that had the glass butter dish reasonably priced, thank you.

Taking a Meal to a Friend in Need

There are a variety of different ways to help our friends when they are down or in need. Some people need a shoulder to cry on, a friendly ear, or a place to stay. Others might need someone to watch their children for a few hours, a ride to the hospital or doctor's office, or some extra cash. But more often than not, our friends won't come asking for our help. Whether it is pride or sheepishness that gets in the way, it is our job, as friends, to look out for one another. If we keep track of our friends and know when something is wrong, it is our job to figure out a way to help, especially when they won't ask. One of the best ways to help friends or acquaintances in need is to cook them a special meal and take it to their home.

Cooking a meal for someone is helpful if there is a new baby in the house, if one or more family members (especially Mom) is down with the flu, if there has been a death in the family, if there are marriage problems, if a job has been lost, if they have recently moved, or if they're just having a rough time and could use a helping hand. Few things are nicer than having a smiling friend show up at your door unexpectedly with a home-cooked meal at the end of a long, lousy day.

When you decide to cook a meal for one of your friends or neighbors, first find out if there are any specific likes, dislikes, or allergy concerns. You don't want to show up with a seafood casserole at the home of someone with terrible seafood allergies and you don't want to bring lentil soup to a family who hates lentils. Usually it is safe to cook different types of pastas, soups and chicken dishes, with all the appropriate side dishes, salads, and of course, dessert. Following are a few tried and true meal combinations you can make for friends, family, neighbors, or acquaintances who need a helping hand.

First, try pastas. Spaghetti and meat sauce, Fettuccini Alfredo, Baked Ziti, Baked Lasagna, Macaroni and Cheese, and Ravioli. Many of these are very simple to make and can be made in bulk to feed more than one family, as well as your own. Along with pasta dishes, be sure to make a large, fresh green salad with fresh vegetables including tomatoes, broccoli, green peppers, yellow peppers, cucumbers, and Alfalfa Sprouts. A loaf of home made bread, either un-cut, or sliced and spread with butter, garlic, and basil or olive oil and oregano. For dessert, a double layer chocolate cake or creamy chocolate ice cream will finish off the meal nicely.

If you prefer to cook a specific meat dish for your friend, there are few people who would turn down home made fried chicken, barbecue chicken, sticky chicken or any spiced, baked chicken. One favorite that is very easy to make is Chicken Marabella. With this meal you can send a side dish of brown rice and red kidney beans, fresh fruit salad, and a spicy coffee cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Meatloaf is another all-time favorite that is very easy to make and if you make enough, the family in need will be thankful to put leftovers in their refrigerator. Meatloaf can be made a variety of different ways, but many children like it with shredded cheese sprinkled on the top. The perfect side dish for meatloaf is a heaping bowl of mashed potatoes and butter. Also add either a fresh green salad or coleslaw, a loaf of bread, and for dessert, a batch of warm brownies.

Some people like to make soup or chili for friends in need, especially those who are ill. When you have the flu or a nasty cold, nothing tastes better than a bowl of hot chicken noodle soup. Take the family a large pot of soup with home made bread, a bowl of fresh fruit, cool, fruity slushies for dessert, and perhaps a bottle of Coke and some cold medicine. Chili is an easy meal to make for people who like it, but find out first. A hot, steamy bowl of meaty chili served with tortilla chips or fresh bread, a green salad and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

Often two families will join together to make a meal for someone else, especially if the family in need is a large one with many children or live-in relatives. It can be fun and helpful for two parties to take half the meal: one making the main dish and the salad while the other makes the bread and the dessert. Especially if the need is ongoing and you plan to cook for the family often, you may find that you're grateful to share the burden.

Lastly, if you want to take a meal to a friend but do not have the time or energy to make a home-cooked meal, your friend will be equally thankful if you show up with a take-out pizza or carry-out from a local restaurant. Just make sure you bring the whole meal so they will have the full benefit of being taken care of, and won't have to run to the store for anything extra. The idea is to give and to help, and your friend will be eternally grateful.

Home Interior Design - Hot Trends of 2005

Are you looking for a way to escape the nostalgic melancholy that has become your home’s design? Are you tired of looking at bare-naked walls all while wishing there were something you could do to lighten your home’s mood? In Emeril Lagasse style you can spice up your living space with a few carefully selected pieces, some paint and a dash of elbow grease. Not sure what style is right for your home? Don’t worry there are plenty of themes that are hot
this summer

Life’s a beach!
This summer home décor is all about warmth and comfort and nothing says comfort like a day at the beach. There is a difference between giving your home beach like appeal and going full on nautical with your décor. Wall coloring such as ocean water teal, sandy tan and canary yellow sunshine can all give your home a beach like feel without making the room seem like a
shipping yard.

Light chiffon drapes in a lighter shade of the wall color you have chosen can open up the space and give your room a light, airy feeling. Redecorating doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg either.

Another way to bring coastline appeal inside is to incorporate some well thought out pieces that blend in well with the theme. A wicker chair might be just the ticket to tie in with your newly transformed room. There are many choices when it comes to wicker furniture and accessories nowadays. From summery colors, unusual shapes and diverse sizes there is bound to be something that fits your particular goal. Relax and have fun. It is possible to get the island paradise feel within your budget. Adding seashells, sand dollars or starfish to random areas throughout the room can also give the space a lot of character. Keep in mind that less really is more even when it comes to home design.

East Meets West
Bright bursts of red, wine and gold can only mean one thing. Asian is back! There are many ways to spruce up your living space with Asian like appeal. Not totally into Asian culture? Just a few Asian inspired touches can transform your room into something out of this word (or around the world rather).

Choose a burgundy or wine like red for the wall color. The color doesn’t have to be too bright but just enough to give the space some spunk. Adding some Oriental artwork to the walls can help complete the look. There are plenty of wall decorations to choose from. A fan can add flare to any wall. Hang the fan over a sofa or use as a headboard for an instant Asian makeover. Oriental lanterns can add functional lighting as well as a festive eastern feel to the space. Wall plaques are another way of tying in the theme. Utilize bamboo in certain areas of the room to give the space a lively feel. If the Orient isn’t readily available to you locally there are many websites that offer Asian décor at unbelievable prices.

It is unbelievable how an oriental rug can change the whole look of a room. A screen can add privacy and sophistication. The important thing to remember is to have fun and fit the theme around what you want to accomplish in your room.

Seeing Spots
If you are seeing spots don’t worry. You are okay. Spots are popping back into home design this summer. Adding curvature to your living space can add softness to otherwise rough jagged edges. Circles on sofas or bedding can give your room modern appeal while opening the door for many other ornamental opportunities. Tying in the drapery or carpet colors with the circles on the sofa or bedding can add extra flare to the space.

A round vase on an end table can add an interesting touch to almost any corner of the room. Instead the usual square picture frame, opt for a softer oval shaped frame instead. Lanterns can add to the roundness factor and soften up the space without becoming too obtrusive. Lamps with a round base can also add to the effect.

It’s important to stay true to yourself when giving your home design a makeover. It doesn’t matter what room you are trying to redo or what theme you are trying to recreate just be true to what you envision your living space as. Don’t be afraid to try something new and take a risk. With these trendy new ideas you are on your way to turning your home into a summer
get-a-way that you will never want to leave.

What Do You Know About RCA Jacks / Plugs?

Written by James Fohl

Have you ever wondered what those red, yellow, and white plugs were on the back of your television, DVD, VCR, or video game system? Most people either call them RCA plugs, or composite plugs, but that is about the extent of the knowledge of what those plugs are.

Generally, the three plugs can either be used as input or output, and they are each supposed to have a specific function. The yellow cable carries a video signal, while the red and white cables carry the left and right channels of sound. But did you know that the plugs are also used in many other many ways and have a nice history to go along with them?

RCA Jacks / Plugs Have A Long History Starting In The Early 1970's

First off, RCA plugs (what they will be called from this point fourth in this article) first came about in the early 1970's when they were introduced by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) as a replacement cable for older input output plugs. The RCA plug than became popular as it was used to connect phonograph and cassette players to stereo speakers.

Later on, RCA plugs were eventually adopted in every electronic product that required either audio or video input / output plugs. For a vast amount of time, RCA plugs reigned supreme because of its (at the time) high quality output / input, as well as its low cost.

The major problem with RCA plugs, is the fact that a plug can only utilize one wire, therefore every channel of audio requires its own RCA plug. This is why there are two RCA plugs for audio, and one for video. If you have a system with both input and output capabilities, then you are going to have a big mess of cables lying around.

The RCA Jacks Were Not Made To Handle High Quality Video

Another major problem with RCA plugs is the fact, that while audio is split into different channels, video is enclosed in one sole cable. While the single video plug is great for VCRs and video game systems, users looking for high quality output from their DVD player are going to find themselves a little bit disapointed.This is the major reason why most DVD players today come equipped with S-Video output. S-Video is much more sophisticated, and advanced than composite RCA video.


While video RCA plugs have pretty much taken a backseat to S-video and other technologies, RCA plugs are still the number one choice for audio input and output. Besides for audio and video, RCA plugs have been adopted for a wide variety of different uses including used as a power cable for some electronics, and as a way to transfer voice communications.


So the next time you are looking at those red, yellow and white plugs, think about how widespread their usage is, and try to just imagine what this world would be if RCA (Radio Corporation of America) had not invented the plugs back in the early 1970's.

A Personal Gripe On Reality TV Shows

Written by James Fohl

Last week when I unplugged my television cable in order to install my new VCR, I did not take the time to plug the television cable back in. This week, the television cable is still not plugged in, yet it seems that I am still using the television everyday to play video games and watch either DVD or VHS movies. I guess the only reason I still have cable is the fact that I need a subscription to cable television in order to get cable internet which I also use everyday.

Cable television is expensive; let's just face it. It is much more expensive than satellite television, and the price of it just keeps going up, while its main competition (satellite) is going down. To me, I really don't understand why on Earth the price of cable keeps going up, when all the quality programming seems to be fading away.

It seems like years, and years ago, you could turn the TV any day, any time of the week and find something actually worth watching. Today however, it seems that when I turn the television on at night the only thing I am able to find are reality TV shows based on some really stupid concepts.

What exactly is the deal with all these reality shows? I can understand one or two, but there are tons and tons of them. It is simply getting so ridiculous, that just about everybody on the street now has his or her own reality television show. Do some people have to watch a television show, just to know how they are supposed to go about with their daily life? While I am in the barber shop, or just on a street corner, I always find some people who share my perspective on the reality TV show situation, however these same people will still continue to watch the reality shows just to keep up with them.

All the major television networks are devoting airtime to assorted reality shows because simply put, that is exactly what people seem to want to watch. My simple question is why? Really, look at some of these reality TV shows, there is one about plumbers, one about repomen; it's getting some what ridiculous.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the television networks keep making new reality shows is the fact that people continue to watch them. I understand some people love these shows to death, but why are so many people watching them? Personally, I think that everyone is watching all of these reality television shows because there is nothing else to watch on TV.

We all thought that reality television was just a phase five years ago, but it its appearing to be much more than a phase, as it does not seem to be going away anytime soon. Sure other television shows exist, however great number of them are getting cancelled after airing only a few short episodes and getting replaced with new reality shows.

When will so-called normal television come back? I wish I could answer that, but until they stop plugging ads for the various reality TV shows on the air, I think I will keep my television cable unplugged, and watch movies instead.

The Far Away Two Words

Home and Design - two words which should sit very well together but, in most cases have very little to do with each other.

The ordinary American home somehow rarely seems to get designed, it just seems to happen. When a couple first get together, be it in a marriage, a planned common law arrangement or one of those cohabitation situations which seem to arise from nowhere, there's often a serious intent, especially on the lady's part, to set up an attractive, well designed, home.

This woman will drag her guy around the malls, furniture stores, rug outlets, hardware supply etc. until he starts to wish he'd been firmer in the first place and refused to go with her. Then he accepts he would never have got away with that and realizes, too late of course, that the only escape would have been to tell her that he trusted her judgment completely and she'd be happier without his meddling and interference.Things get off to a good start.

The cost is, it goes without saying, astronomical - at least three times the original budget but, once the furniture's been installed and the painting and papering done, the place looks really good - somewhere they can be proud to invite friends. They've even got it to a point where they're happy to invite the other partner's parents over - there's nobody quite as critical as an in-law.It doesn't take more than a few days before things start to go down hill. His chair has been placed very artistically in a position where he can't see the TV properly without either craning his neck or stretching his back. So for the sake of comfort, the first steps away from the beautifully and aesthetically designed layout are taken.

The next problem arises in the nook. Every time he gets up from the table, his chair scrapes against the wall and she berates him over the marks he might make. So to heck with the design, we'll take the extension leaf out of the table and rearrange the area to avoid the problem. Couldn't I have meals on a tray in front of the TV? he suggests when there's nobody else here and he gets one of those looks which tell him he needn't have wasted his breath.Within a few months, the careful design has all but vanished in favor of what's comfortable and practical. One of the night stands been removed because she couldn't get out of bed without stubbing a toe and the appliances in the kitchen have all been moved around to make getting off to work in the mornings easier and quicker.

Then one evening she slides over to him, cuddles up and whispers Darling, I've got wonderful new-.A winning lotto ticket? He suggests.Her response is a giggle -No Honey, I'm going to have a baby.His reaction and the balance of the gestation period are outside the scope of this piece but what happens after the birth isn't. Proud and loving parents though they are, they vow that the new arrival isn't going to rule their lives - he even uses the phrase when things get back to normal.

Those are famous last words in the same category as Custer saying What Indians?Once the child is crawling, the house has to be arranged to make sure the little treasure can't hurt himself. What design had been residual from the original really does go by the wayside now. Soon, there are toys all over the house - it looks like a Fisher-Price sample room.They decide that an only child is a bad idea, it'll be lonesome and there'll be the temptation to spoil it so they have a second. That was going to be it - a properly planned, 2 child household but nature decides differently and they have a third - and a fourth.As the family grows - and grows up, the interior is adjusted to suit the changing circumstances. Whatever the original design concept was, it's certainly been abandoned now.

Everything in the place is there for its usefulness and it's where it is for practical need. The toys may have been banished but now there are books and magazines, CDs and cassettes, jackets and sneakers littering everywhere and they were certainly never part of any home design. Time passes. The kids grow up, leave home, find themselves partners and set up homes. Once they've settled in, the Old Folks are invited round to see how artistic the design of the new home is.The circle's almost complete now.

Soon there are Grandchildren and Grandpa and Grandma couldn't be happier. Now the kids are gone, maybe we could have some new stuff?, she suggests. He readily agrees - money's not so much of an object now and he's mellowed enough to not mind wandering around the malls, furniture stores, rug outlets etc. Design? To heck with design - they just want to be comfortable.

The Perfect Easy Pizza

Is there really any such thing as the perfect easy pizza? I suppose it would depend on who is writing the recipe, creating it, baking it, and eating it. But there are certain qualifications a pizza must live up to in order to be worthy of perfection. Some may balk and claim that nothing is perfect, so why bother? To that I say that nothing could be farther from the truth. Although we humans are never perfect (some not even close) there are many things on this planet that qualify: a crisp winter morning, a newly bloomed rose, a tiny kitten, sunsets, and yes, sometimes pizza. The beauty of the perfect easy pizza is that not only can we enjoy eating it; we can bask in the fact that we, mere humans, created it.

To create the perfect easy pizza, there are a few things one has to do. Follow these steps and see if you don't agree that eating the pizza is pure perfection!

1. Start with the crust. The crust is important because people prefer different types of crusts. If you prefer a thick, doughy crust, try making it in your bread maker; most bread maker books have wonderful recipes for pizza dough. It's easy, you just follow the directions, put the ingredients into the bread maker and within an hour or so, voila, the dough is ready to be formed. Follow any directions about rising or sitting, and then spread it across your pizza pan as thick or thin as you like. If you are in a hurry, but still want the perfect pizza, there are many surprisingly great pizza dough mixes on the market; the kind where you either just add water, stir and form, or the kind where you just unroll the already-made dough. The unrolled type usually comes out thinner, so if you like thin crust, that's often the easiest way to go. You could spend hours kneading and creating your own pizza dough, but remember, one of the key words here is easy. Easy and perfect. It usually helps to bake your crust for five to ten minutes or so on a low oven setting before adding the toppings, especially if the dough is unusually thick.

2. Choose your sauce. On the same easy path we have been taking, the type of pizza sauce is not so important as the proper application. Any sauce will do: home made tomato sauce, pizza sauce out of a jar, sauce with lots of garlic and spices, or that which is rather plain. Many people enjoy putting a white sauce on their pizza rather than one which is tomato-based. A white sauce is usually made with cream, parmesan cheese and butter. Whichever you prefer, cover the entire crust with sauce, leaving only about a half-inch space around the edge for grasping. Think about how much sauce you like. This is important because some people only want a hint of sauce taste while others want to see it dripping from their fingers as they eat. Either way is fine because this is YOUR perfect easy pizza.

3. A Time for Cheese. Cheese is probably the most crucial pizza ingredient. Cheese, in the opinion of many, is what makes a perfect pizza. This pizza will be not only perfect, but easy, so feel free to buy pre-shredded cheese in a bag. Mozzarella is the stand-by favorite, but if you are a cheese lover, there is no need to stop there. After spreading the mozzarella on thick, add a hint of cheddar, Monterey jack, Colby, parmesan or a combination of all these. If you'd like to go in a different direction, many people enjoy goat cheese or ricotta cheese on their pizza. These give a completely different taste and texture, but are equally appetizing. Of course there are also those who either do not like cheese or cannot eat it for dietary reasons. Fear not; your pizza can still be perfect, for you can add extra toppings instead!

4. Toppings. This is probably the most fun part of making a pizza because the sky is the limit as to what you choose to put on your perfect easy pizza. You can use any of the following traditional ingredients or a combination there of: pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, and anchovies. But don't stop there! How about ground chicken, sliced chicken, barbecue chicken, or fried chicken? You might want to try a vegetable pizza if you went with goat or ricotta cheese; for instance, broccoli, olives, red onions, and carrots. For a no-cheese pizza you can pile on just about anything you like as long as there is lots of it. Be creative. Think about what your other favorite food is (besides pizza) and put that on as your topping. Do you love tacos? Spread your pizza with spicy ground beef, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, olives, and broken tortilla chips; you can even add a bit of sour cream after the pizza has baked. Do you love Chinese food? Stir fry some vegetables and shrimp or chicken and put them on your pizza; cheese is optional. Whatever you choose, be bold and daring. Have fun and live on the edge.

5. Baking. The key to baking a perfect easy pizza is to bake it according to how you piled on your toppings. If you went the traditional thin-crust route with a regular layer of cheese and a few traditional toppings, bake your pizza according to the directions that come with the crust. If, however, you went a bit crazy and put nearly an inch of shredded cheese and toppings that are overflowing, set your oven quite a bit lower and bake your pizza slowly. If the required setting is 350, try lowering it to 275 or 300 and bake it an extra 10 or 15 minutes. Check it often to see if the cheese is melting and the toppings are cooking. Once the cheese is melted in the center all the way through, your perfect easy pizza is ready. Take it out of the oven, give it a couple of minutes to cool, and then enjoy. The best part about a perfect easy pizza is that you can make a different one every time!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Fashion Tips for Over 40

Although 40 used to be considered middle-aged or over the hill, today's 40-something women are confident, sexy, stylish and sophisticated. The biggest rule today is that there are no rules. You are only limited by your own imagination and lifestyle. By following a few simple fashion guidelines, there is no reason you cannot be as fashionable at 40 as you ever were.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY.

The number one key to dressing fashionably after the age of 40 is to stay in shape. When your body is in good physical condition, clothes of any kind fit better and look better. Also, when you look good, you feel good, and your positive, healthy attitude is going to reflect itself in the way you carry yourself. Women who take care of their bodies and stay in great physical shape can get away with wearing just about anything. Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated, dewy and glowing. Get plenty of aerobic exercise by walking, running or bicycling regularly to maintain your youthful energy. Do regular strength training with weights to keep your muscles toned and to maintain proper posture. If you want to wear today's fashionably jeans, which are lower cut, do plenty of crunches each and every day to keep your abdominal muscles toned and your stomach flat. Take care that your diet is nutritious. Watch that your diet is not too high in fat, to avoid bumps and bulges that will ruin an otherwise perfect outfit. Eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables and take a vitamin supplement, if necessary, to keep your skin healthy in appearance.

KNOW WHAT FASHIONS WORK BEST FOR YOU AND YOUR BODY.

Too often, when we are deciding what clothes to buy or to wear, we neglect that instinctive voice that tells us what is right. Get in touch with your intuition and listen to it. You know better than anyone what looks good on you, what feels good on you, what works, what does not work. Do not let anyone else tell you differently. If you feel great in something, then it works. If you feel uncertain, then your hesitancy is probably a sign that this particular look is not the right one for you. When the bottom line decision is made, the most important thing is whether you are happy with how you look and how you feel in your clothes. The opinions of magazine editors, fashion designers and salespeople mean nothing if you are not happy with how you look.

IF YOU FIND SOMETHING THAT WORKS, BUY IT IN A RUN OF COLORS.

Many times when we are shopping for just the right look, we come away disappointed. Now and then, we are pleasantly surprised by one or two items that work well, although not splendidly. On a rare occasion, we suddenly encounter that absolutely perfect dress, skirt, blouse, pair of slacks or shoes. You know what I am talking about, that fashion item that makes us feel beautiful, sophisticated, sexy and on top of the world. When you find something like that, do not hesitate. Not only should you buy it, you should buy it in a run of colors and incorporate it into your wardrobe. When a style makes you feel this good, go with it.

AVOID BEING TRENDY FOR THE SAKE OF TRENDINESS.

After the age of 40, it is especially important to avoid being trendy just for the sake of being trendy. Most fads and trends in clothing are fleeting and are better suited to the youth of today. That does not mean you should not participate in the fun. Just be careful that you are not wearing something that is trendy simply because it is trendy. Pick and choose your wardrobe based on what looks good on you. This may mean discarding some trendy fashions as unsuitable for you, not because of your age necessarily, but because they are not best suited to your more mature body type.

AVOID CLOTHING THAT IS TOO YOUTHFUL IN APPEARANCE.

One of the biggest fashion taboos for the over 40 crowd is wearing youthful clothing in an attempt to look younger. More often than not, this attempt to regain a youthful appearance through youthful clothing backfires miserably. Fashions which are designed for teens and young adults are designed specifically with that particular demographic's youth in mind. Those styles are meant to flatter and to show off young bodies. When more mature women try to recapture their youth by wearing these styles, they usually come away looking older, rather than younger. There are many ways to maintain or to recapture your youthful glow and appearance. Wearing clothes that are very specifically designed for today's youth is not one of them. That having been said, do not avoid youthful clothing simply because it is youthful. Judge each and every item of clothing on its own merit, and decide, based only on the appearance of that particular item, and the way it flatters (or does not flatter) your figure, whether it is right for you. When it comes to clothing that is generally not intended for more mature women, be brutally honest with yourself before you decide to incorporate it into your wardrobe.

MAKE THE MOST OF ACCESSORIES.

Accessories are the very best place for a more mature woman to show off her every-youthful spark and playfulness. Maybe you can't quite pull off a micro mini skirt or low slung, hip hugging jeans anymore, but that does not mean you can't pull together a look that is every bit as youthful and fun. If you want to try out some of the newer fashion trends, here is the place to do it. To liven up a more sophisticated style, try trendy belts, scarves, hats, gloves and sunglasses. Fashionable and trendy jewelry will also add fun and flair to your look. Experiment with stylish earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Even trendy boots and shoes can put the finishing touches on a great look, provided you avoid those that are too trendy and are not suited to your particular style.

REDEFINE WHAT IS SEXY.

What is sexy at the age of 20, or even at the age of 30, is not necessarily what is sexy at the age of 40, or what will be sexy at the age of 50 or 60. As we age, we become more mature, wiser, more experienced, more learned, more patient, more aware of our life's priorities, more focused, more determined, and more at peace with who we are. These changes should be reflected not only internally, but in your appearance as well. Sexiness at the age of 40 is something far more subtle and more rich than sexiness at the age of 20. Being sexy at age 40 means more than wearing a short skirt, a low-cut top, a pair of tight blue jeans or a pair of stiletto heels. As you become more comfortable in your own skin, let this show in your wardrobe as well. Wear clothes that fit well, that are attractive, that make you feel good, that make you feel sexy, and that are an outward reflection of what you feel inside. Whatever wear, you should feel proud, confident and comfortable. Now that is what is sexy.

KEEP ABREAST OF FASHION CHANGES.

One of the best ways to keep your wardrobe looking fresh and stylish is to keep yourself informed about changes in fashion and styles. Pick two or three of your favorite over-40 celebrities, those whose style and appearance you admire and who always seem to look great in their clothes. Follow them in fashion magazines and on television to see what styles they are wearing. Many of today's over-40 fashion divas successfully pull off more youthful styles with grace, style and aplomb. Take a look at how they do it, and see what they do differently than a 20-year old wearing a similar style. Watch red carpet events on television, as well as the Style Channel, to learn about fashion trends and tips. Nothing will make your wardrobe look more old, outdated or tired than wearing clothes that have not been in style for years.

BE WILLING TO BREAK THE RULES.

Now that you have learned some of the general rules about fashion over 40, the most important thing to remember is that you have to be willing to break them. Fashion rules are made up of generalities and guidelines. They are based on what works for most women, but not for each and every woman. Although it is generally not a great idea for a woman over the age of 40 to walk out the door in a short, short skirt, that rule depends on both the skirt and the woman. Women like Kim Cattrall and Sharon Stone can pull off a short skirt look, and do. Don't avoid color, and by all means don't stick with a wardrobe of solid black. Be adventurous and be willing to show off your personality in your wardrobe. Learn the basics, keep abreast of fashion developments, know what works best for you, and then be ready and willing to break the over-40 fashion rules when it suits you...and when it works.

Copyright (c) 2005 by Leanne Phillips

Signs of Summer: Cropped Pants

Memorial Day has traditionally marked the transition from spring fashions to full-blown summer wear. To me, this means that almost all of my long-sleeved tops, heavy jackets, and wool pants will get moved to the closet in the spare bedroom. They will be replaced in my regular closet by short-sleeved and sleeveless tops, t-shirts, shorts, and of course several pairs of cropped pants. Cropped pants are still very much in style, and are an absolute must for any woman's summer wardrobe.

One thing that I love about cropped pants is their sheer versatility and variety. They are a bit more formal than shorts, yet less formal than full-length pants. You can buy cropped pants that look very dressy, or you can go the opposite route and buy a pair that look very casual, or even whimsical. Because of this, you can wear cropped pants to almost any function that you are likely to be invited to over the summer. Top your most casual pair of cropped pants with a tank, a big floppy hat, and sunglasses for a trip to the zoo, a few hours at the ballpark, or a day-long picnic. Put on a more dressy pair and finish the look with 3/4 sleeve collared shirt or a lightweight cotton sweater for cocktails at the swanky new bar in town, a graduation party, or even for casual day at the office.

Don't forget that your shoes become an even more important accessory when you are wearing cropped pants because they are more visible. If you are going for a casual look, then flip-flops or mules would be perfect. For a dressier look, make sure you wear shoes that fit the bill, such as strappy sandals or pumps. No matter which look you go for, make sure your shoes are in very good condition. Nothing can kill an otherwise terrific outfit faster than a pair of scuffed or ratty-looking shoes.

No matter what kind of events you have planned for this summer, you can definitely find some cropped pants that will be appropriate for the occasion. From casual to dressy, you can build a great outfit around the right pair of cropped pants. Do yourself and your wardrobe a favor by stocking up on cropped pants the next time you go shopping. You'll be sure to get plenty of mileage out of them all summer long!

Plan a Film Marathon Party with Super Movie Mix

Looking for a fun get-together for a weekend evening? Fire up the DVD player and the popcorn popper for a good old-fashioned film night.
by
Deb Powers

If it's time for a party, but you're fresh out of different ideas for getting your friends together, why not host an all-night film marathon? All it takes is a little planning ahead, a VCR or DVD player, a decent television - and lots and lots of popcorn.

The setup part is easy - make sure that your VCR or DVD player is in good working order, and your television is all warmed up. Stock up on microwave popcorn at the grocery store, and lay in a good supply of cold drinks. Mix up a few bowls of the Movie Supermix (recipe below) to put out on the coffee table and let the good times roll.

The real trick is in picking movies that will keep everyone involved all night. If you're having trouble coming up with a play list of at least 8 hours worth of film, here's 10 play lists for fun movie nights.

1. Fright Night
Got a Friday the 13th coming up? It's the perfect night to indulge in a classic gore festival. Fire up the DVD with all Friday the 13th and all eight sequels for a full afternoon and all the night of bloody, creepy Jason-watching.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

2. Star Wars
Long ago in a galaxy far far away... George Lucas started this saga that has captured the imagination of the entire world. Gather all your friends for a Star Wars movie afternoon before heading out to see Revenge of the Sith at the theater. Or.. watch the first two, head out for the theater and come home for the rest of the story.
Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Episode IV - A New Hope
Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

3. Hitchcock!
Long before slasher movies inured us all to blood and gore, Alfred Hitchcock was the master of terror. Turn out the lights and share a night of pure fright with your friends and show them how it used to be done. The Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection features 8 of Hitchcock's best movies.
Strangers on a Train Two-Disc Edition
North by Northwest
Dial M for Murder
Foreign Correspondent
Suspicion
The Wrong Man
Stage Fright
I Confess
Mr. and Mrs. Smith

4. Laugh Your Way Through History
Share a night of laughs with your friends. Take them on a trip through time from Charlie Chaplin to Mel Brooks, with stops in between for a little Monty Python, an Airplane trip and a jaunt into space with Spaceballs.

5. Filmography Night
Can't get enough Stephen Seagal? Love Eddie Murphy in everything from Beverly Hills Cop to Shrek? Hit the local Starz and pick up everything by your favorite actor, then lay out the movie mix and hunker down with your best friends for a night of great flicks.

6. Time Travel
Got a fifth or twenty-fifth college or high school reunion coming up? Why not travel back in time with a bunch of high school buddies? Pick up the hottest movies from the year you graduated and have a Summer of '78 (or any other year) party.

7. Girls' Night In Slumber Party
Invite your girls over for an old fashioned slumber party, and rent some of the best chick flicks of all time. On my list: When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, Fried Green Tomatos, Norma Rae and A Walk To Remember.

You can come up with lots of other themes yourself - and you don't have to confine yourself to movies. Got the first full season of The Sopranos on DVD? How about every episode of MASH, or Friends? Just pop the corn, pull out the jujubes and fire up the DVD player for a Film Marathon party.

Super Movie Mix
2 gallons popped popcorn
1 lb chocolate chips
1 16 oz can salted peanuts
salt
melted butter

Pour melted butter over popcorn and toss to coat. Add peanuts and chocolate chips and mix well. Salty and sweet together make this a perfect and perfectly easy movie snack mix.

10 Ways to Create a Romantic Bedroom Retreat

When a couple wants to celebrate a marriage milestone or simply wants to bring a bit of romance back into their lives, creating a romantic master bedroom retreat can be a fun way to enhance the romance. It is important for married couples to have a place they can call their own, but even more a place where they can escape the hustle and bustle of the busy world outside and find a haven of peace, quiet, and romance; a place where they can be alone and enjoy one another; a place that is pretty and inviting.

A couple would do well to begin married life by creating a romantic bedroom and they do not have to spend a lot of money. The sky is the limit on how far a couple goes with their romantic remodeling, but even a few changes can make all the difference. Whether the bedroom is a large master suite complete with a private bathroom and sitting area, of if it is a tiny room in a one-bedroom apartment, romance can abound!

Following are a few ideas, tips and suggestions on how to make your master bedroom a romantic bedroom retreat.

1. Colors. The first thing a couple should choose are the colors they will use in their romantic bedroom. This is not a time to be bashful: choose as many colors as you like and bring sample cards home so you can put them together, move them around, and decide which ones look best together. Only one color is fine, but usually it is fun to have two or three colors which complement one another. Any colors will do, but you may want to stick to soft, muted colors. Bright, bold primary colors are pretty, but to set the mood, perhaps choose one primary color and offset it with muted like-colors or complements. For instance, if you like bright yellow, use it sparingly, perhaps for one or two pieces of furniture, the trim around the walls, or on throw pillows. Complement it with soft blues, greens, or purples.

2. The Bed Cover. Once you choose your color theme, you will want to go shopping for the perfect bedding. Many couples enjoy a fluffy comforter while others prefer a smooth quilt or bedspread. Whatever you choose, shop around. You don't have to spend a lot of money to have a pretty bed covering, and if you already have a comforter you like, you can even buy a duvet cover just for the change. Some couples like to have two or three different comforters, quilts or duvet covers to suit their changing moods or the changing seasons.

3. Lots of Pillows. This is self-explanatory. Choose pillow shams that match your quilt, comforter or duvet, and then add several extra pillows and throw pillows to enhance the cozy look. Beds always look more inviting with lots of fluffy pillows on them. Remember to use a variety of your chosen color theme and feel free to choose pillows with lace and patterns on them.

4. Area Rugs. You may already have carpet in your bedroom, and if it is newer, lush carpet that matches your new theme, you won't need to purchase anything new. However, if you have wood floors, tile, older carpet, or if you simply want a new look, area rugs can make all the difference. Soft, fluffy rounded rugs, Oriental rugs, braided rugs, wool rugs, or any type of rug that suits your fancy. Buy several and position them around the room in key areas, or just buy one to put at the end of the bed. Think cozy and think romantic.

5. Window Treatments. Window treatment is either shades, blinds, curtains, drapes, window toppers or a combination of some of these. Solid colored or white mini-blinds look good under just about any type of window treatment, as do shades. Gone are the plain shades of days gone by; today shades come in a variety of colors and styles, and will brighten up your windows. Lace curtains or valances are wonderful for romantic bedrooms. Curtains can be held back with ribbons or bows, or pewter or copper handles. Make sure some light can filter in, but allow for plenty of privacy.

6. Wall Décor. After you have chosen your color theme, bedding, window treatment and accessories, it is time to paint the walls. Some decorators prefer to paint first and use the paint color as a spring board for choosing the other pieces in the room, but often it is easier to do it the other way around. Since everything is already purchased, it is easy to choose from your original color samples, a color for the walls, doors and trim. White on white is fine if you plan to choose your colors drastically every so often, but even subtle colors can really change and enhance the romantic look of a room. If you have chosen more than one bed cover in order to have occasional changes, be sure your wall color works with all coverings. After the paint dries, decorate your walls with framed paintings, posters and pictures of romantic settings: people in old-fashioned dress, floral designs, sunsets, seascapes, or nature settings. Potpourri and floral wreaths and mirrors are also a nice touch.

7. Flowers. Nearly everyone associates flowers with romance. Traditionally men give women flowers on special occasions or to commemorate something. Ideally, romantic bedrooms will regularly be filled with fragrant, freshly cut flowers, but often this isn't realistic. Thankfully for the couple looking for romance, silk flowers today often look (and even smell) exactly like real flowers; and the best part is, they never die. Decorate the bedroom liberally with flowers that complement your decor. Three or four vases full of bouquets of roses, hydrangeas, lilacs, sunflowers, daisies, tulips, or any flower of your choice will brighten your room and encourage romance even in the dead of winter.

8. Candles. For this very necessary addition to a romantic bedroom, choose your candles carefully. Color and design isn't quite so important as scent and safety. Try out the scent before you buy your candles. Nothing is quite so off-putting as lighting a candle for a romantic evening and discovering that the scent is something that makes you gag. Choose scents that both spouses find appealing. Also, be aware of safety. If a couple enjoys a romantic evening with candles lit around the room, they want to make sure the candles will burn themselves out safely if the couple falls asleep, forgetting to extinguish them. Choose candle holders that will contain the wax and flame.

9. Music Source. This one is easy. You can go to the extremes of having a whole built-in stereo system put into your romantic bedroom, or you can simply bring in a boom box or small cassette player. Whatever you use, collect an assortment of tapes and CDs that make you feel romantic. Whether classical music, love songs or oldies, the couple should choose the music together and look forward to spending time alone with the special music playing softly in the background.

10. Lock on the Door. If a couple has children in the house or shares a house with family or another couple, a lock on the bedroom door is imperative. Even if the couples lives alone but often hosts over-night guests, buy a door knob with a lock. Nothing puts a damper on a romantic evening more than a small child innocently walking in on unsuspecting parents.
As you decorate your romantic master bedroom retreat, remember to have fun and anticipate the romantic times that will follow!

It Ain't What You Wear...

...it's how you wear it. Developing your own personal sense of style can make you a true trendsetter and put you out ahead of the pack.
by
Deb Powers

This spring the hottest colors are pink and green. The styles have done another 180, and feminine is in again. Layered skirts, chiffon scarves and loose, floaty poets' blouses trade spots with fitted princess style shirts in flowered rayon fabrics that could have been milled in the 70s. Not to your taste?

The fashion magazines and store flyers dictate the hot styles each season, and most girls dive right in, picking up several pieces in the latest fashion so that they fit right in. Next time you go out, though, take a look around you and see who catches your eye. Chances are that it's the girl who stands out from the crowd - not so much because of what she's wearing but by the sheer confidence and attitude with which she wears it.

Stepping outside the fashion mold can take a bit of nerve at first. If you're used to wearing what your friends wear, or fitting into the corporate mold, if you've spent your life letting other people dictate what you wear, it can be a little dauting to start looking for your own style. It takes a little effort, but the effort is well worth it.

But wait, you're probably thinking. I know what my style is! I've got a whole closet full of clothes in my style. Take a look, though. How many of the outfits in that closet do you truly love? Which ones make you feel GOOD about the way you look? Are there any that feel like a second skin when you slip into them?

The right clothes are the clothes that you feel good wearing. If you like the way you look, the way the clothes drape on you, and how they feel, you'll naturally carry yourself with confidence and attitude. Does that silky little camisole make you feel devastatingly attractive? Wear it! Slip a boxy jacket over it, tuck it into a pair of tailored slacks and add a spill of silver chains, and you'll have a drop-dead outfit that will turn heads - and they won't be thinking 'Is that *underwear* she's wearing?'

The secret to carrying off an outrageous outfit is attitude and fit. No one looks attractive when they're fidgeting with their straps and hems, or trying to cover up something that's just a little too bare for their comfort. Choose well made clothing that fits right, in colors that you love. You can't look good in clothes that don't feel good.

Want to step out of your bandbox, but not quite sure how to do it? Here's a handful of tips that will help you start dressing the way you love to dress, and looking smashing in whatever you wear.

1. Figure out what makes you feel good.
Is it a color? A fabric? A particular cut of skirt or long flowing sleeves? Whatever it is, capitalize on it. For me, it's rich, deep jewel colors and touchable fabrics - yours might be crisp cotton, or full skirts, or sleek , tailored crop tops. Build your outfits around the clothes that you feel best wearing.

2. Shop in unusual places.
If the clothes that you like to wear are 'out of style' this season, you may have trouble finding something you like. Poke through the thrift shops, consignment shops and secondhand shops for things that you like. Learn where you can find classic styles no matter what season it is.

3. Shop by mail.
Mail order catalogs are a great source of clothes that you can't find anywhere else. They also tend to have a lot of staples that they carry from season to season, no matter what the styles are. Some of the best catalogs to shop are Spiegels, Sears and Lands' End.

4. Accessorize!
What you wear with is as important as what you wear. Take a basic tee shirt and black jeans. Add a bandana around your throat and another through a belt loop, and you're a country kicker. Swap the bandana for a strand of pearls, sleek your hair back and add high heels - from country bumpkin to city chic in seconds.

5. Dress up.
Not 'dress-up' for a wedding dress-up. Costume dress up. If you want to feel confident, dress the part. Want to be a slinky diva? Wear it, girl. Clothes are a costume - make them say what you want them to say instead of letting them define you.

Tickle Your Fancy With A Diamond

Diamonds are forever, but a fancy diamond is something truly special. If you're looking for an investment quality diamond or a unique and special gift, take a look at some of the fancies that are on the market today.
by
Deb Powers

You know what a diamond looks like, right? Clear and brilliant with fire that flashes in a veritable prism of colors with every touch of light.

Usually, the most valuable diamonds are those that are pure light, transparent clear through. There's an exception to that, though. The gems that jewelers refer to as 'fancies' are diamonds with impurities that give them a clearly definable color that may range from pale yellow to black, from clear azurine to brilliant blue. Some of the most famous gems in the world are fancies, including the Hope Diamond and the Dresden Diamond.

Gemologists estimate that somewhere between 1 in 1000 and 1 in 10,000 diamonds mined are true fancies. While the source of a fancy's color may be the same impurities that drop the value of a clear diamond, in a fancy the color is more than just a tinge - and therein lies their value. The color is clear and unmistakable under an light. Most fancies are well under a carat, which makes larger fancy diamonds even more valuable. The Hope Diamond, for instance, weighs 45.52 carats. It's deep, opaque blue makes it one of the most recognizable diamonds in the world.

Interested in owning a fancy of your own, but not sure of the color you'd like? The most common color for a fancy diamond is brown - in shades from a pale sparkling deep brownish yellow that's commonly referred to as champagne through a deep, clear golden brown that most jewelers call cognac. 'Brown' may sound like a dull color for a diamond, but dull is the last thing that will come to mind when you see one. They're aptly named - the paler browns have all the sparkle and effervescence of a glass of fine champagne, and the deeper tones of a cognac diamond glisten and gleam with the thick sheen of a glass of the finest brandy.

In some cases, the mineral that causes the tint in the diamond has been identified, and such is the case with the black diamond. Among the rarer colors in an already rare stone, black diamonds are colored by inclusions of graphite. A round, brilliant cut black diamond was donated by a gem dealer, Ron Schwager, to the GIA Institute. Valued at $51,360, it weighs in at 25.68 carats.

Gray diamonds take their color from a number of different impurities in the gem, each of them lending a characteristic tint to the gray. Gray with pink, gray with blue and gray with green are all relatively common among fancies. In any light, they resemble the color of sunshot clouds, the smoky gray with overtones of other colors to lend sparkle and fire.

Clear diamonds are often referred to as 'white' by jewelers, but among the rare fancy diamonds gemologists very rarely encounter a true white diamond. The color is caused by diffuse impurities that are as yet undetermined. Their appearance is milky white and translucent, often with the play of color seen in high grade white diamonds.

Pink and red diamonds are so rare that until 1997 gemologists estimated that there were less than a dozen red diamonds in the world. They're a bit more common now with the opening of a mine in Australia, but their pretty in pink coloration is still one of the most sought after colors in the fancy diamond world.

Yellow diamonds are nearly as common as brown, and many green or brown diamonds contain overtones of yellow. The intensity of the yellow varies from pale to rich, deep gold. In fact, the largest cut diamond in the world, the Golden Jubilee, is a canary yellow diamond.

None of these, though, have the special, magical qualities of a unique diamond that is only found in a small mine in China. Chameleon diamonds are yellowish green to olive green, but they have a rare quality. Discovered in 1999, chameleon diamonds actually change color visibly under particular conditions. There are two different types - one reacts to changes in light, and the other to changes in heat. When heated to 150 degrees, the color deepens only to brighten gradually as the stone cools. The other darkens when deprived of light, and brightens gradually when exposed again.

Like fancy diamonds, but not the price? It's now possiblefor gemologists to create synthetic fancies by irradiating diamonds and subjecting them to certain conditions. A jeweler can tell the difference between a natural fancy and an artificial one, but few others can. It's one way to give your girl something even better than a diamond - a fancy diamond.

10 Best Chick Flicks on DVD

Although I am calling this a list of the 10 best chick flicks out on DVD, I am torn about the use of the term "chick flick." I have my own criteria for what constitutes a "chick flick." I use it here to mean a movie that women will love, a movie that has a lot of heart, a movie that is uplifting to women, and a movie that sends a valuable message about what it means to be a woman.
Here are 10 of my very favorite "Chick Flicks" of all time, all available on DVD:
1. BRIDGET JONES' DIARY (2001)
Bridget Jones' Diary, a light-hearted comedy starring Renee Zellweger, is often credited with starting the "Chick Flick" movie phenomenon. I'm not sure if this is necessarily true, but I can tell you that this film has all of the classic elements of a true chick flick. The heroine, Bridget Jones, is a single woman who is struggling with career problems, dating problems, family problems and weight problems, not necessarily in that order. She is crazy about the bad boy, a cad whom Hugh Grant plays as if he knows where he's coming from. She has a love-hate relationship with Mark Darcy, played by the dreamy Collin Firth. Mark Darcy is the handsome but nerdy guy who anyone but Bridget can see is absolutely perfect for her. In the end, Bridget gets the guy, gets the job, and her family problems are resolved. The message of this movie that I absolutely love is that, in the end, Bridget seems to come to terms with her weight, and to love herself, as Mark Darcy and the rest of us do, just as she is.
2. CRIMES OF THE HEART (1986)
Crimes of the Heart is my very favorite kind of movie and is one I can watch again and again and again. Based on Beth Henley's award-winning play, Crimes of the Heart stars Jessica Lange, Diane Keaton and Sissy Spacek. Crimes of the Heart tells the story of three sisters, Lenny (Keaton), Meg (Lange) and Becky, nicknamed "Babe" (Spacek) who come together to support each other when Babe is accused of attempted murder after shooting her husband. Although the movie has an underlying dramatic theme, it is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek all give amazing performances as the McGrath sisters, still scarred in their adulthood by the death of their mother, who hung herself and the family cat when they were just young girls. Tess Harper, as the women's cousin and Lenny's next-door neighbor, Chick, is absolutely hilarious. I'm also here to tell you that the fact that my all-time favorite actor/playwright, the amazingly handsome Sam Shepard, has a major role in the film as "Doc," Meg's old flame, does absolutely nothing to hurt this film. The movie's heartful and hopeful message: In the end, one of the most valuable and under-appreciated aspects of life is the sisterhood of women.
3. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (1989)
When Harry Met Sally tells the story of two, long-time best friends, Harry, played by Billy Crystal, and Sally, played by Meg Ryan. The screenplay, written by Nora Ephron, is both funny and touching. The subplot involving the relationship between their two best friends, played by Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby, is sweet and funny, too. The movie was directed by Rob Reiner and follows Harry's and Sally's friendship as it develops from their first meeting at the end of college, through broken relationships for both of them, until their eventual realization that they are perfect for each other. The messages I love from this film: The perfect love you keep searching for may be right there in your own backyard, the best love grows from friendship, and there is nothing better than someone who makes you laugh.
4. MY BEST FRIENDS' WEDDING (1997)
Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney star in this film about best friends that did NOT fall in love. However, when Dermot's character Michael falls in love with Kimberly (Cameron Diaz) and wants Julia Roberts' character, Julianne, to come to the wedding, Julianne begins to wonder if, perhaps, Michael was the one who got away. She finds it difficult to let go of the man who has adored her since the two met in college and enlists the aid of her dear friend Rupert Everett to try to get Michael back. Rupert Everett's performance is stand out. The movie is one laugh after another, especially any scene including Rupert Everett. In the end, we are left not quite sure whether Julianne realizes that she didn't really love Michael in the first place, but had a moment of panic, or whether she comes to accept that, sometimes in life, a missed opportunity is missed forever. The message I took from this film: Sometimes in life there are mistakes that just cannot be fixed, so don't let the moment pass, thinking you can always come back to it when you are ready.
5. 13 GOING ON 30 (2004)
Jennifer Garner stars in this charmingly fantastic film about a young girl who wishes she could skip the awkward teenage years and go right into a sophisticated adulthood. Hailed by some as a female version of Tom Hanks' "Big," this film is so much more. Garner channels her inner child with exquisite and joyful precision, and Mark Ruffalo is the perfect childhood sweetheart and grown-up true love. I saw this movie twice in its opening weekend alone. The messages that kept me coming back are the same messages that are in many other chick flicks, but I found it conveyed perfectly in this film: Your best friend just may be your one true love, and that geeky guy next door just might grow up to look like Mark Ruffalo. *Sigh*
6. BEACHES (1988)
Gary Marshall directed, and Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey star, in this classic film about the enduring friendship of women, from childhood through adulthood. Although it definitely has its funny moments, this film is a heartwarming drama that follows the friendship of funny and outrageous CC (Bette Midler) and classy and sophisticated Hillary (Barbara Hershey) from their first meeting as young girls on an East Coast beach, under the boardwalk in Atlantic City, to a West Coast beach house on the California coast 30 years later. The women's friendship weathers ups and downs and endures despite their polar opposite personalities. The film closely follows the book, written by Iris Rainer Dart. This film's message: The reasons two women become best friends are often indecipherable. But, once they do become true friends, their friendship will be loyal, enduring and forever.
7. WAITING TO EXHALE (1995)
A terrific ensemble cast makes this film shine. Angela Bassett, Whitney Houston, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon star as four long-time best friends struggling to find perfect happiness and true love. Angela Bassett's opening scenes are classic. As in most really great chick flicks, the four friends find that true love lies in the most unexpected of places. The women's enduring friendship gives them the love, support and security for which they've been searching. My favorite messages in this film: (1) Men are sometimes just not worth the trouble; (2) Even in the best case, they are dessert, not the main course; and (3) In the end, you have to learn to depend on yourself first, before you can relax and depend on anyone else.
8. MURIEL'S WEDDING (1995)
Before there was Bridget Jones, there was Australia's Muriel. Muriel (Toni Colette) is another single heroine trying to come to terms with dating, relationships, friendships, body image, family and career. Muriel is the classic misfit, a socially inept and overweight ABBA fan who just can't seem to fit in, no matter how hard she tries. Muriel moves to the big city with her new best friend and fellow ABBA lover, Rachel Griffiths, and copes with her inadequacies by hiding in a fantasy life in which she is smart, beautiful, charming, successful and completely irresistible to men. The favorite message that I took from this amazing film: Not only do you have to learn to love yourself as you are, you have to trust and expect that others deserving of your love and friendship will as well.
9. NEVER BEEN KISSED (1999)
Drew Barrymore shines as Josie, the still-nerdy but successful grown-up journalist who gets the chance to relive her high school days and become the popularity queen she never was. If you were ever the unpopular girl (or boy) in school, who always thought the grass was greener on the other side, this movie will touch your heart. Michael Vartan is dreamy as the handsome, sensitive, high school English teacher who captures Josie Grossie's heart. David Arquette is fabulously funny as Josie's ever-popular older brother. I could watch the final scene at the baseball stadium over and over again and I have. My favorite message from this movie: When you learn to appreciate and love yourself just as you are, that's when you truly begin to grow and become the very best person you can be.
10. PRACTICAL MAGIC (1998)
Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman play two orphaned sisters raised by their eccentric, spell-casting aunts. Both sisters struggle to escape tragic pasts, each in her own way, and eventually come to terms with who (and what) they are. The film does an excellent job of capturing the magic and whimsicality of Alice Hoffman's novel. Despite the pervasiveness of magic in their lives, the heroines struggle with the same issues most women do, including overcoming insecurities, drawing boundaries and learning to trust again. The message of this film that I most love, taken straight from the final lines of the book: "Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Plant lavender for luck. Fall in love whenever you can."

Copyright (c) 2005 by Leanne Phillips