Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Sandwich: The Perfect Food

By J. L. Soto

Seriously, I think the sandwich is the perfect food. Many disagree with me and scoff when I state this opinion but I stand by this opinion one hundred percent. Of course there are more nutritious and better tasting meals but you just can't beat a good sandwich.

For those that don't know, the sandwich goes back to the 18th century with this English aristocrat known as the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Though its origin goes back even further with the ancient Hebrews (whose put lambs and herbs on top of matzos), the sandwich was named after Lord Sandwich, who was known to have meat placed in between two pieces of bread by his servants so he could continue playing cards without getting his hands dirty.

This has to be one of the most ingenious innovations in culinary history and it can be argued that this could have been a forerunner to fast food for better or worse. Getting back to my belief that it's the perfect food, I'll say that the traditional sandwich contains all of the ingredients from the so-called four food groups that used to be hawked.

Think about it. The bread comes from the grain and wheat of the four food groups, the meats obviously comes from the meat group, while the cheeses are from the dairy group. Finally representing the fruit and vegetable group are the vegetables you put on the sandwich such as lettuce, cabbage, tomato and so on. Condiments like mayo and mustard are just variations of the four food groups as far as I'm concerned.

Okay what are the contenders? Hamburgers, hot dogs, gyros, beef patties or pizzas? They're all just fancied up versions of sandwiches, only they are in different shapes. I consider anything that is in between, on top of or inside a bread to be as sandwich. In pizza's case that's just an open-face sandwich. But what advantage does a sandwich have? Well for starters, you don't have to cook a traditional sandwich (putting aside warmed chicken and meatball sandwiches for the moment) since the meats are already cooked when you buy them. Cheeses are already processed for you and unless you want to sauted the veggies, you can just go ahead and place them on the sandwich.
In a hurry? Just take out two pieces of bread and throw in the ingredients. In minutes you're good to go. Everyone will agree it's that simple.

Well then what about it's nutritional value and overall healthiness? Fine, I won't argue that it's the healthiest thing in the world but then again that depends on what goes into the sandwich. Sure a traditional sandwich with its fixings of fatty cheeses, salty meats and various dressings (and bread for those wanting a low-carb meal) won't be found in a weight-reduction diet. But there are so many low-fat and healthy alternatives such as turkey, fish, low-fat cheeses, and whole wheat bread that any dieter is only limited by the imagination. In terms of healthy foods at least you know what's going into this meal and you have the option to substitute foods unlike with whatever you buy from the fast food places. Even with the sandwich eateries, but the sandwiches there have another advantage, you get to pick what goes into them. For argument's sake, I'll leave out the ready-made sandwiches you may pick up in convenience stores.

On the other side of the coin, anyone can go crazy with the ingredients that go into a sandwich to create sensations that your pallet won't forget. From gooey philly cheesesteaks to spicy falafels and gyros the list is endless.

I can't help this bias I have toward this meal that can be had at any time at any size and portion. Maybe I got it from my mother who told me recently that while pregnant with me the only thing she could keep down were sandwiches. Incidentally, some studies suggest that the fetus is able to taste what the mother is eating so I could've been indoctrinated from way back then. Not that I'm blaming her, just trying to be thankful.

So next time while you are considering what to eat, just think of the deviously simple sandwich and how you can create your own perfect meal.

Juices vs Sugar in Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia

It has been found recently that a glass of fruit or vegetable juice every other day can stave off the dreaded Alzheimer's disease, a prospective study of older Japanese-Americans suggests. Compared with a control group of individuals who averaged less than one glass of juice per week, people who drank three or more glasses of juice per week experienced a 76% less likely chance to develop Alzheimer's disease, according to Qi Dai, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Dai is from the Vanderbilt School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. He reported his findings from this study in the September issue of The American Journal of Medicine. The study was supported by a grant from the US National Institute on Aging.

The findings do not name specific kinds of juices that participants drank, but previous studies have shown that apple, grape, and citrus juices are very high in polyphenols, which seem to have a protective effect against Alzheimer's disease. Recent studies of antioxidant vitamins used for preventing Alzheimer's have been less than effective, despite the initial promise of these vitamins, the investigators said. The current study looked at fruit and vegetable juices, an abundant source of polyphenols. Polyphenols are usually found in the skin and peel of various fruits and vegetables and research has shown that when fruits and vegetables are mechanically squeezed to make juice, high concentrations of polyphenols from the peel and pulp are squeezed into the juice.

The current study belongs to the Kame Project, included 2,000 dementia-free Japanese-Americans who live in the Greater Seattle area. Their average age was 72 at the beginning of the study, and half were men and half were women. Alzheimer's is uncommon in Japan, but its prevalence has been raising in Japanese-Americans, suggesting environmental and lifestyle factors at work, as well as non-Japanese DNA. Participants completed a food frequency questionnaire and clinical evaluation for baseline readings in 1992-1994, followed by clinical evaluation for Alzheimer's every two years through 2001.

After adjusting for potential confounding (confusing) variables of age, gender, Body Mass Index, education, vitamin intake, and smoking, participants who drank three or more servings of juice per week were at a significantly reduced risk for Alzheimer's disease (hazard ratio=0.24; 95% confidence interval=0.09 to 0.61; P<.01). Even people who drank only 1-2 servings per week experienced some protection from Alzheimer's, compared with those who consumed less juice (HR=0.84; 95% CI=0.31 to 2.29; marginal significance). Interestingly, it turned out that the consumption of vitamins E, C, and beta-carotene were not related to Alzheimer's risk. Heretofore, these vitamins were felt to be vital in guarding against this condition.

The relation between risk and level of consumption of juices tended to be stronger among those who were former or current smokers, those who drank tea less often, were less physically active, and tested positive for the e-4 allele of apolipoprotein E. Previous research suggests that all of these factors may be linked to Alzheimer's risk. The oxidation damage to brain tissue in Alzheimer's may be staved off by hydrogen peroxide, polyphenols offering possible stronger neuroprotection against hydrogen peroxide than do antioxidant vitamins. Despite promising results, the public should not believe blindly that fruit and vegetable juice will prevent Alzheimer's, Dr. Dai cautioned. "A few years ago, hormone replacement therapy, NSAIDs (aspirin, Tylenol, etc), and antioxidant vitamins showed promise, but recent clinical trials indicate that they do not," he said.

Fruit and vegetable juice consumption raises blood sugar levels in the consumer, and in related research, it has been found that chronically elevated blood glucose (sugar) inhibits the cognitive function of older women. Thus, sugar intact through additional consumption of fruit and vegetable juice may present a health problem.

Postmenopausal women with glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels of 7% or higher had four times the risk of mild cognitive impairment, or dementia, over a four year time span, compared with women having HbA1c lower than 7%, reported Kristine Yaffe, M.D., of the University of California San Francisco and colleagues, in the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging.

The American Diabetes Association recommends maintaining HbA1c levels below 7%. And The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommends HbA1c levels at 6.5% or below. The investigators in this blood glucose research conducted a four-year prospective study of 1,983 postmenopausal women experiencing osteoporosis, with HbA1c levels measured at baseline before the study began. The 102 women, 53 of whom were known to be diabetic, had an average age of 67.2 years. Researchers followed the participants for signs of mild cognitive impairment, or dementia, as an additional dementia study. The subsequent statistical analysis included the risk for dementia and mild cognitive impairment related to each 1% increase in HbA1c level, and the risks associated with HbA1C of 7% or greater. The average level of HbA1c was 5.8% at the beginning of the study. Over the time of the study, 86 women (4.3%) actually developed mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

For every 1% increase experienced in HbA1c level, the women participating in this study experienced a greater likelihood of developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia. For the 49 women with HbA1c levels of 7% or higher at baseline before the study began, the age-adjusted risk of developing such mild cognitive impairment was increased nearly four times, and nearly three times for developing either mild cognitive impairment or dementia. When the 53 diabetic women were excluded from the analysis, the relation between HbA1c level and mild cognitive impairment was less evident, but still elevated. A physician and dietitian likely should be consulted regarding the use of fruit and vegetable juices in the preventing the onslaught of Alzheimer's disease, given the possible ill effects of sugar upon cognitive function.

Digging Those Retro Clothes

There is quite a bit of emphasis put on the world of fashion these days. Actually, the emphasis placed on fashion wear has been around in one varying degree or another since the Roman Empire (remember the death penalty being imposed upon people who were not royalty donning purple clothes? No? Before your time?) Then again, even with all the emphasis tossed around as to proper fashion, there will always be those who will have either zero fashion sense or simply refuse to accept the reality that they need to invest money in order to have a decent fashion wardrobe. Either means of ignorance is the path to the heresy of wearing clothes that are horribly out of style.

Personally, I always found the concept of dressing up to be somewhat confounding under certain circumstances. Outside of certain formal and social settings, the need for anything beyond casual wear (or, more specifically, business casual) is really unnecessary. But, there will always be those events that will require a jacket and tie.

In my freshman year of High School, there was some dopey event, lord knows what it ways. NONE of the events at my high school were important in any way shape of form. I remember they once had speakers from the Epsilon Society of Greater Living Through Intellect come in to speak. Joy. But, I digress…

Some silly event required us to wear a jacket and tie and, being 14, didn't have one. Oh, not to worry, my parents had one found something for me in their closet: a green blazer from 1965. Yes, 1965. Despite my pleas, they INSISTED it was a great jacket and off I was to total humiliation of mocking laughter and it was totally deserved. Not my fault, but deserved. The blazer was, after all, over 22 years out of style.

So why do people have such a love for vintage clothing?

Well, because vintage clothing is fun to collect and wear around the house. Not every sale of clothes is designed for public consumption and view. A gorilla suit, for example, looks great under certain circumstances. A gorilla suit simply would not look all that great in church. Oh sure, to someone like me or anyone who shares my sensibilities probably would find the concept of a guy in a gorilla suit sitting in church to be funny, funny stuff. To the rest of the world, such a person would be a nut.

Also deemed a nut would be anyone waltzing into a nightclub wearing a 1977 vintage era leisure suit, but people still buy them and the reason they buy them is not unlike purchasing a model airplane. It is cool stuff to have in one's closet as part of a collection of neat-o things. Does it have practical value? Of course not, but it is still fun.

Then again, there will always be those people who has such little concept of fashion sense that one could give them a 1970 vintage outfit and the person receiving the gift will have absolutely no clue that what they are receiving has been out of style for 36 years. If there ever was a need to the answer to the age old question, what do you give to the person who has everything, the answer is: fleece them somehow.

This is not to say, however, that certain vintage clothing does not look super cool. Those tan Starskey and Hutch jackets, some of the odder 1970's era hats and sunglasses all have a charm unto themselves. Then again, these items have a tendency to fall more into the realm of casual or active wear, so the fact that they have a kitschy charm is not a negative, but a positive.

The key to getting the most out of vintage clothing is realizing that it is a gimmick for casual wear. There is a right medium that this type of clothing will shine in. Trying to pawn off vintage clothing from three or four decades ago as dress wear in the office will probably kill off all chances of a promotion. Use common sense and a bit of fashion sense when picking vintage clothing or, more specifically, picking the platform in which to walk around in vintage clothing.


I love Tie-Ons. I'm not really sure that is even a word, or a genre of jewelry, in fact, I think I made it up. But they exsit, I promise. And as far as jewelry goes, they are my ultimate favorite.

What are tie-ons? Well, I will begin by telling you why I decided tie-ons were for me. I was going abroad for the semester, and I decided that I need to have some jewelry to take along, because I hate the bare feeling of wearing nothing on my wrists and around my neck, even on my ankles. I had already switched my earrings to the hoop kinds that are long wear type earrings and I wanted to create something for the rest of my jewelry wearing needs. I wanted something that was cheap, something that wouldn't be heartbreaking if it got lost, and something I didn't have to worry about while I was traveling in Europe for 6 months.

I came up with my own idea - Tie-Ons. I decided to take a page from the Hippie book - I really liked their hemp jewelry, and I liked the way that they would tie on a necklace or a bracelet and keep them on simply until they fell off. They didn't take them off while they were sleeping or swimming or in the shower, because the materials that made up their jewelry were not easily ruined by wear or water.

I decided that I could easily do the same thing. I went to my local Claire's, and I bought up all of their cheap tie-on jewerly. Some of it was hemp, and some of it was yard or string that had been braided together. I took it home and I tied it on myself. I made myself a few bracelets for each wrist, and some anklets for both of my ankles. I couldn't decide on what I wanted for my neck, so I went back to Claire's and bought a bunch of cheap necklaces thatI didn't have to worry about losing while I was gone.

As far as the tie ons were concerned, I made sure that they weren't going to come off. I tied several knots into each one, and I even put superglue over the knots so they wouldn't come untied. I decided that I would leave each one on until it fell of on its own.

Let me tell you, I didn't lose a single peice of jewelry during my trip. I left on my bracelets and anklets when I slept and when I showered or went swimming. They'd dry off just the same as I would, and they wouldn't get too faded or shrink too much. The knots held too, which was amazing, because I'm no girl scout! I ended up having a great way to be stress free while I was overseas and not have to worry about my jewelry, and look great at the same time!

Tips to creating your own Tye-Ons

1. Make sure that you pick pieces you really like. If they have colored beads or the thread or hemp is colored, make sure that it won't be obnoxious or get on your nerves. You will need to remember you'll be seeing this particular peice until it falls off, so don't pick something you don't like!

2. Make sure it is cheap. You will be tying this on to yourself and keeping them on until they are completely destroyed and break and fall off. You dont' want to spend very much money on a peice because you aren't going to be taking care of it very well. You will be sleeping in it, eating in it, and wearing it while you shower and go swimming. Don't spend very much money!

3. Make sure the things you buy to tye on have long enough ends so that you can tye them correctly. You need several inches in order to make good knots, so make sure that you buy peices that are long enough.

4. Make sure all of your peices match. Don't buy several colors that don't look good together. The point of this style is to layer up your wrists and ankles with tye-ons, so make sure they all flow together. If you are going to pick shells, use shells in all of your tye ons. The same goes for beads or other decorations. Make sure that all of your jewelry will look good on you at the same time!

5. Tie them on well! This is very important - you need to make good knots on all of your tie-ons. You can make the regular knots if you want to, but make several, and thread the ends through the knots in such a way so that you are not always knoting the exact same way. Go underneath your knot and make another one, for example. Be sure that each knot that you make is tightly pulled, and then make more!

6. You can also use superglue or safety pins to insure that your knots stay put. Remember to only use a little bit of glue and let it dry.

7. You can trim the ends of each of the peices of jewerely when you are finished if you want. However, I like to leave mine long because it adds to the style of the tie-ons!

8. Enjoy your tie-ons! Remember, you don't need to take off these peices while you sleep or while you are in the water! These can be worn continuously until they break or fall off, or until you decide you don't want them anymore and cut them off. You can always look like you've got some jewelry on and are a little bit put together, even if you are just getting out of bed.

Tie-Ons make for a funky and unique style. You can customize them to fit your needs and your style, and also to fit the seasons. You can trade bracelets with a friend, you can make your own tie-ons, and because they are inexpensive, you can replaces them as often as you'd like to have a fresh new look to your jewerly.

The only downfall is that you will have to cut them off if you are going to some sort of event in which you need to be wearing formal attire or need to be dressed up. Unless you can find a way to make them part of your formal look, you will probably need to take them off for things like prom, and formal events. In this case, if you can't get the knots undone, you will probably need to cut them off and start from scratch after your formal event is over. However, since they aren't very expensive, that is alright, and can be an excuse to change things up the next time and try something new when it comes to your tie-ons.

I'm not sure if I invented the word Tie-On or not, but I'm sure glad I figured them out. I know that people have been doing this sort of thing for years, and I love it! There are so many great ways to express yourself using your tie-ons, and it is so easy and inexpensive. I never have to worry about anyone stealing anything from my jewelry drawer - for one because nothing cost me very much money to start with, and for two because most of my jewelry is always on me!

This is a great revolution in jewelry! It has been used for years by the hippie culture, and it should be soon moving into the mainstream ideas. Its a great way to enjoy cheap jewelry and to be able to express yourself. Its also very easy and low-maintance, not to mention stress free! Try some tie-ons soon, you won't regret it!

Enjoying a Meal Like the French

I recently spent a semester in France. I'd been there a couple of times before, just for quick trips, and once for backpacking. This time, I was there for the whole semester. We learned a great deal, a lot of language, a lot of life-lessons, and a lot about eating.

The French eat in a way that needs to be explained in order to be understood. They enjoy their food, enjoy their meals, and a lot of time, are misunderstood beacause of it. I personally believe life would be a lot sweeter in the US if we all took the time to enjoy our meals like the French do.

First of all, its a common miscommunicaiton that the French are lazy because they only work about 30 hours a week. While the French don't really like to work, none of us do!, one of the main reasons for the short work week is that they need to have time to enjoy each of their meals. The French take about 3 hours for lunch instead of 1 hour, or even a half hour, like the people here in the US do. In France, a meal is more than just stuffing your face to give you energy to go back to work. In France, eating a meal is more like what it really SHOULD be - living life. You don't see French business people rushing to grab fast food and get back to their desks so they can earn a little bit more money. They start planning their lunches when they get to work in the morning, if they don't already have plans from the day before. Lunch is business, lunch is life. You might go out to lunch with your associates, or your wife, or your boyfriend. Lunch is a very important part of your work day, and you would never, EVER say you couldn't do lunch with someone - unless you were already doing lunch with someone else!

Secondly, its said that French waiters are rude. Well, this is false on several fronts, or at least exaplainable. You don't tip in France, so the waiters in France are like any other employee. They are getting the same amount of money whether they are super nice to you or not. Therefore, they aren't working for any tips, and are not going to be any more friendly than they would normally be. They won't be trying to get any extra money out of you, so they aren't going to be fake. If they are having a bad day, they will show it in the same way any other person would when providing a service. How many times have you gone to a fast food place and had rotten service? The kids working fast food aren't going to get tips, so they don't have any other reason to be nice to you. The same goes for the waiters in France.

Also, its purported that French waiters will ignore you. This is also a fact, but there is a reason behind it. When the French sit down to a meal, they very much dislike anyone hovering around them. A waiter will give you a menu and will give you water or take your drink order, and then will leave, for a good long while. This is what the French want. They want to sit around and talk, hardly looking at the menu, for quite some time. The biggest part of a French meal is discussion. The French might leave their menus open, signaling that they are still deciding, for an hour, even if they have already decided what they want to eat. And the waiters will stay away until the French close their menus. During this time, there is discussion, laughter, and business.

After the waiters have taken your order, don't be surprised if it takes awhile to get your food. This is the way it should be. French food is prepared quite slowly, because it is prepared well. Each meal, even if its just a quick lunch, is supposed to be a great event, and it would not be a great event if it was not for the wonderful food. Don't go to a sit down restaurant if you want to eat quickly. The food must be correctly and beautifully prepared, and then it must be delievered to the table.

The French also eat slowly. They savor each mouthful, intead of shoveling it in their faces like we tend to do here in the US. They pause between bites for wine, bread, and conversation. It is not polite to eat quickly in France, nor is it done very often. There is no point in hurrying your meal, because a meal is a time for conversation, laughter, and enjoying the company of the people you are eating with. They eat slowly, and they don't bother to rush. Life here could be a little better if we'd take them up on this idea.

Thirdly, its a misconception that it takes FORVER to get the ticket in a French restauarant because the waiters are ignoring you. It is simply that when the waiters put down the ticket, you are going to pay and then leave, and its considered rude to put down a ticket for someone, because that means you are asking them to be ready to leave. In France, when you sit down for a meal, the restaurant is expecting you to be there, literally, all night. Once they give you a table, they have the belief that it is your table, and you should stay as long as you'd like, ordering coffee and desert, and chatting. They would never dream of asking you to leave, or in any way hinting that you should leave, by giving you a bill before you ask for it. Most French will sit through a meal, and then desert, and then coffee. This whole time they will be talking, laughing and enjoying each other's company.

Once the party has asked for the ticket, it will again be assumed that they will simply pay at the table when they are ready. Often, they will ask for the bill, pay it, and then continue to sit and talk. This is perfectly acceptable, and the French expect that it will happen.

All of these things lead up to a meal that can take several hours. Most of the time, the French don't have dinner or supper until 7 or 8 at night, and if you go into a restaurant around 5 or 6, you shouldn't expect to be treated very well. Its not meal time, after all. Even 7 or 8 is pushing it, because most people haven't finished up lunch by 3 or 4.

We could really benefit from eating like the French here in America. If people ate slower, and savored their food, I believe that obesity would go down. There are ways to eat quickly in France, such as street sandwich shops and even the occasional fast food joint - but the food there is served in considerably smallar portions. You have to eat less because you are given less. Eating slower at a restaurant means that your body has more time to tell you its full before you stuff it with things it doesn't need. When Americans eat so fast, no matter where we eat, we often overeat because our body doesn't have time to tell our brains it is full.

This is the route of lots of our problems, I believe. Here in the US, you can go eat anything you want at any time, and you can SUPERSIZE it just about anywhere. We eat so quickly and we eat so much that we are taking in way more than our bodies really need to survive, and therefore we are eating way more than we should be eating. In france, they eat slower. By eating slower, they eat less. By eating less, they are much, much more healthy.

Besides for the simple health factors that make eating like the French a good idea, there are hundreds of othe reasons. For one, eating for hours gives you wonderful quality time with the people you are eating with. You have an excuse to be with these people and to talk, for hours every single day. The French don't usually eat in front of a television, so families sit down for 2 hour long dinners every single night. They have discussions, they talk to each other, and they enjoy each other's company. Wouldn't we benefit from this sort of thing here in the US? I certainly believe that we would.

There is also the idea of simply enjoying a meal. How often do we throw toegether something at the last minute and then scarf it down before we even know what we are eating? Its terrible, here, in the US, because we tend to eat so much and so often, and we never take the time to appreciate what we are eating. The French know everything about each meal that they eat - they take the time to learn what they are eating and to try new foods. We'd be a lot happier with our meals if we did that here. If Americans took the time to learn about what they were eating, and to enjoy it for reasons other than simply that it fills them up and makes them full, we would develop such wonderful tastes in food. The French children eat what their parents eat, and they enjoy it. They learn, from an early age, that food is an art form, and should be treated as such.

So, the next time you think poorly about the french and their eating habits, try thinking again. Try to understand why they waiters appear rude and the meals last so long. It isn't because there is terrible service and bad food, it is because in France people know how to appreciate good food and good times. We could learn a thing or two from them. The world would be a better place if everyone in it took the time to eat like the French. Sure, they may work less and therefore have less money, but thats ok with them. They have good food and they have good friends, and therefore, they have a good life.

Mens Jeans For Fall 2006

Some say that finding a good pair of jeans is just as worthwhile as finding good sex partner. I have to agree that the similarities are numerous. Jeans have brought jot and excitement along with pain and depression for years. This simple, double legged piece of rough fabric had definitely stood the test of times. Traditionally made from denim, today they come in a marinade of different fabrics to include cotton and corduroy, encompassing everything from work clothes to eveningwear.

The well-versed dungaree, dyed in indigo was earliest known pre-jean like outerwear for the use of sailors. The jean that we know today was originally created in Genoa, Italy. Here is where the over presence of maritime force gave way to the popularity. Man, was
I was born in the wrong era. A-hoi mate!

The allure of the jean held by the sea fairing folk was due to the fact that you could sport the material wet or dry and still have it to be functional. An example is that you could roll the legs of jeans up while 'swabbing' the deck.

The French word for these trousers was anchored around their word for Genoa. The French bleu de Gênes, from the Italian blu di Genova, literally the "blue of Genoa" dye of their fabric, is the root of the names for these trousers, "jeans" and "blue jeans", today.

Jeans quickly became popular in the United States, starting on the west coast. In the 1850's Levi Strauss, a Bavarian dry goods merchant living in San Francisco, was selling blue jeans under the "Levi's" name to the mining communities of California who needed durable clothes for the work and for play. One of Levi's customers frequently purchased bolts of cloth from the Levi Strauss and after one of Jacob's customers kept purchasing cloth to reinforce torn trousers, he had an idea to use copper rivets to reinforce the points of strain and the blue jeans, as we know it today, was born.

Since those wondrous heydays of vessel swabbing sailors and reinforced pant wearing miners sporting these 'toughly wet' jeans, we have seen a wide ranges of styles go in and out of style. High watered jeans of the 60's, bell bottomed jeans of the 70's and ripped jeans of the 80's all describes some of the different styles that have graced the high fashion runways.

In recent days, the only types of jeans that are visible are hanging half way off the person who is wearing them. Despite the Hip Hop flava, I see a trend towards fitted jeans. Men are becoming more aware of the beauty of their legs and woman are finding it attractive when a man knows of his own attributes and flaunts them in a seductively subtle way. Also with the growing popularity of metro and ubersexuals, the tight fit is coming back into style. Fall of 2006 will compliment this trend with the low-rise jean that has been growing in popularity over the past year. The combination of well-fitted, low-rise denim bottoms, with a little flair at the bottom of the pant leg will all give way to a great jean recipe for the upcoming fall and winter seasons. Here is my top four pair of jeans that men should be sporting this fall season.

#4 Do Not Count Levis Out
We have to give homage to one of the first manufacturers of the common day jean pant. This conglomerate of jean fashion has stuck with it's originality while staying abreast of with the times. My number four pick of hot jeans for the fall season come from Levis Look for Levi's Capital E skinny low-rise boot cut jean to add to your fall fashion collection. This jean is the ultimate slim boot cut jean that handles a snug fit in the seat with a slightly flare from the knee down to the boot cut leg. The access to the 'essentials' may be a bit hampered by the button fly; but it is a small price to pay to have anti-fit back rise pitches.

#3 The GAP: Not As Unattractive As You Think
My number three choice may be an attribute of a company that shares its name with an unsightly feature that appears between someone's front two teeth but has definitely stood the test of time. Not just for prepsters any longer, The Gap has branched out to providing jeans for the upward mobile male who are not afraid to be called a square, hipster style! This fall, wearing The Gaps boot fit jeans with a light fade can bring a certain airiness of class to a cool fall night. These jeans ride just below the waistline and are full through the leg for those larger thighed bohemians, like myself, who like to look as if they have a touch of class.

#2 The Number 7: Not Just Another Lucky Number
7 Jeans are second on my list of must have jeans for the fall and is the first pair of designer jeans to make the list. Not available in most mid-western cities, you may have to make a trip to Chicago or New York (or even as far as your computer desk) to purchase one of these classically made, but gender bending designer jeans. Of 7's men's jeans, I again choose the boot for some of the same reasons I chose The Gaps boot fit. This jeans low waist coupled with thigh narrowing at the knees and a slight flare can give any portly man a figure-full shape. What is different about 7's jeans is that a new, smaller embroidery and 6 belt loops adds to its appeal.

#1 And The Winner Is...What?
Number one on my list may be a bit liberal for the everyday man. To wear these Meltin' Pot jeans, made in Egypt, you must exude the qualities of an ubersexual and not be afraid to broadcast it. This fall, my number one jean pick for men's fashion is actually made for a woman. This woman's jean fit well on males and exudes everything that a male wants in a good pair of jeans. Those being, flexibility, durability and style. Meltin' Pot's jeans are made with the finest European fabric and couture tailoring to make jean that crosses gender lines. Meltin' Pot's Natasha in Denim Blue will tickle more than just your fancy for the fall.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Trying New Foods

By Christina VanGinkel

My brother and sister-in-law just came back from a vacation. They visited an Aunt in Alaska. While they were there, my brother was able to spend some time fishing and landed a one hundred pound halibut. They also enjoyed numerous meals that included both halibut and salmon while there. While they enjoy fish, it is not a regular part of their diet, especially halibut and salmon. To them a fish dinner would be deep fried perch with a side order of fries, or possibly breaded and deep fried catfish. This reminded me of how often a person's diet is often guided by their location and lifestyle.

If one lives rurally, they may have many vegetables fresh from a garden as part of their meals. If they live where hunting is a common practice, meats outside of the traditional ones found on a store shelf might be common fare, including venison, wild poultry, and even rabbit. If someone lives in a city and spends the better part of their day at work and commuting, they might rely more heavily on take out foods than a person who works part time hours, close to home. All of this adds up to a mish mash of what is typical, i.e., nothing is typical except for the person who is shopping for and making the meals under question, then everything is typical.

What this means is that it is very likely that no matter your eating habits, it is quite possible to be in a rut. We get in the habit of buying the same foods each visit to the store, to plant the same items in our gardens year after year, even cook the same dishes week after week, month after month. The only time some people stray from their regular menu might be on an occasional holiday, or if they are invited out to dinner, and visit a restaurant outside of their normal routine. Yes, people even have the habit of going to the same restaurants repeatedly so that they even eat the same meals there. Mixing things up, introducing new foods, and trying new recipes, can be a great way to make sure that food does not become just another boring part of the day.

When foods become boring, several things can happen. People can eat without even thinking about the foods they are consuming, thus overeating, and gaining weight. The opposite can also occur. Foods become so boring, that they hold no appeal and the person loses weight to the extreme. Other people just develop unhealthy eating habits in general, because they do not give much thought to their food at all.

One ideal way to mix things up, to bring back some of the fun of the foods we eat, is to throw an occasional dinner party, planned or a somewhat impromptu gathering of a couple of friends. Get together for the purpose of trying new dishes. You could even ask everyone to bring a dish to share, but tell them that it ahs to be something they would not normally cook, but something they have always wanted to try.

To make sure that you can come up with a new recipe yourself for these types of occasions, buy a new cookbook, choosing a theme that is different from your normal fare, but that still sounds appealing. Do not just aim for different as that can backfire. Take for example the day I was giving this some thought, and sat down to watch a cooking show about grilling. I was enjoying the show and had even decided to pick up a cookbook about different aspects of grilling, because to me, grilling meant flattening out a burger or opening a pack of store bought bratwurst and firing up the grill. The show though had several delicious looking techniques for wrapping chicken with bacon and stuffing them with cheese, before grilling. I was jotting down some notes on the chicken when they switched to grilling octopus. When the pieces moved for whatever reason they did when they landed on the grilling surface, I made a note to myself to avoid any cookbook on grilling that had a section on grilling such fare, as I knew I would never want to open the book, let alone try a dish from that section. Even when it comes to trying new things, we all have our limits, and I guess I found mine. Still, trying new dishes for guests is one of the best ways I know of to break out of the boring dishes that can become routine. Try a new recipe, sample a new dish, and invite some friends over to share in the taste testing!

Great Children's Toys

By Brandi M. Seals

Face it; there are tons of children's games out there. You can choose from puzzles, Lincoln logs, dolls, Barbie's and much more. It seems like the toy section is ever expanding in most stores. There are new things to choose from every day, but there are also those that have stood the test of time. Next time you are picking out a toy for you son, daughter, niece or nephew consider getting one of these great classic children's toys:

Lincoln Logs
Probably everyone has grown up with their own set of Lincoln logs are have at least known someone that had them. Children use log-shaped pieces of wood or plastic (depends on the year the toy was manufactured) and build log cabins, stores, or other buildings. The ends have small cut-outs so that they can link together into whatever sort of construction your child wants to create.

Lincoln logs are a classic that never gets old. Children love to build with them and Lincoln logs give them a chance to create imaginary towns and homes. Lincoln logs retail for around $20.

Similar to Lincoln Logs, Lego's are used for building. Children of most ages can put together Lego cars, homes, banks or anything else they can dream up. Some Lego sets also come with Lego people. Kids can play with their creation. Lego people can drive up and down Lego streets and stop by the Lego mall. There is no limit to what can be done with Lego's.

Lego's come in multiple sizes. There are larger pieces that are safe for younger children and there are normal sized Lego's. While the two sets will not work together, it is a good idea to start smaller children on the larger blocks. The smaller ones can pose a chocking hazard.

The Game of Memory
Help your child develop his or her memory with the game of Memory. It is easy to play. Players lay out cards face down and then try to match pairs. A player turns up one card to see the picture on it and then selects another card to do the same. If they match the cards are removed and that player gets another turn. If the cards do not match both cards are turned upside down and it is the next person's turn. The one with the most matches at the end wins.

Memory may not be a great choice for the 10 and up crowd but it is certainly a crowd pleasure for the younger kids set. The rhythmic nature of the game teaches children memory skills and patients.

Hungry Hungry Hippo
This four player game drops marbles in the center of a board and players push down a lever on the back of a hippo's back. The lever launches the hippo forward as it tries to gobble up the marbles on the board. The one with the most marbles in the end wins.

This oldie but goodie teaches children motor skills and dexterity. The constant, fast motion of the game will quickly be mastered by children. Just make sure that the game is being played by children within the recommended 3-6 age range and keep the kids from putting the marbles in their mouths.

Play dough
Whether you buy play dough or make your own does not matter. Children will be delighted to sculpt and mold their own creations out of this dough. The kids' creations can be left out to dry into little figures or can be squashed down and molded over and over again.

To make your own play dough simply combine 1 cup flour, 1 cup warm water, 2 teaspoons cream of tarter, 1 teaspoon oil, and 1/4 cup of salt in a medium saucepan. Once well combined add a few drops of your favorite food coloring. Knead the dough until smooth and store an air tight container. The play dough can be used over and over again.

Barbie has taken a lot of guff over the years because she hasn't changed that much, has unrealistic proportions, and tries to keep an ultra-wholesome image. However, since her beginning Barbie has offered children a chance to role play. Kids can act out their fantasies with Barbie, Ken and all their friends.

Shopping for Accessories for your GPS

By Christina VanGinkel

If you own a GPS unit of any kind, be it a handheld unit or one that is mounted in your vehicle for navigation, chances are that at some point you have browsed the accessories that are available for your model.

Handheld units often have the option of becoming a vehicle-mounted unit by adding a mounting bracket and car adapter plug in. Others might carry their GPS with them into conditions that require a bit more protection than just tossing them in a backpack or belt bag could provide. Bicyclists might even be in need of a mounting system that will work with their bike's handlebars. Are accessories such as these even available some might wonder? They are, and many other accessories too. As global positioning systems, find their way into more people's lifestyles, the need for accessories to help them fit those very lifestyles more conveniently has grown right along with them.

To determine which accessories you can most benefit from, ask yourself how you use your GPS unit. Do you constantly need to replace batteries? Do you use the unit in more than one way, for more than one function? Do you carry it with you on your person, or is it always in your car? Do you wish you could take it with you and use it under different circumstances than you currently do, but portability is an issue that you do not know how to get around? Is a unit being waterproof an issue, and if it is, what is the status of the one you currently own? Asking yourself these and other questions can help you become aware of the accessories that might best help you gain the most use from your particular GPS.

If you are shopping for a new GPS unit at the same time, you might want to reflect on what accessories are available for each unit you are considering. If you already own one, then you will be somewhat more limited, especially if your GPS is an older or more obscure brand. Keep in mind though that some units are designed strictly for use in a vehicle, and if you happen to own one of those, there is not much you can do about the portability issue. Each model varies though, so only researching what you own will unlock exactly what is available to you and the GPS unit you own.

Mounting Kits

If you own a portable GPS though, and want to use it as a stationary model sometimes, there are a great many mounting kits available, you will just need to find one that will accommodate your unit. There are even mounting kits for some models that will help you affix your GPS to the handlebars of your bike, pedal or motorized, if this is something, you would find useful.

Car Adapters

A car adapter can be a lifesaver if you often use your GPS in the car and carry it with you on your person for hiking and other activities that get you outdoors. A car adapter will power the unit during driving, saving your battery power for when you really need it. If your unit uses rechargeable batteries, a vehicle adapter may also act as a charging unit.

Floating Carry Cases

If you plan to use your GPS on the water, even if it is a waterproof model, a carry case that floats might be just the thing you need. If by chance you drop your unit in the water, you will not have to call in the divers to find it, as a floating carry case will keep your GPS afloat long enough for you to retrieve.


Many GPS units are capable of upgrading their included mapping base through software enhancements. Top maps, maps for water based travel, detailed city mapping software and more. If yours is such a unit, be sure to shop for software that is recommended for use with your particular model. Most mapping software cannot be used on just any GPS, but only for those that they are recommended for. Some models also use data chips with maps already loaded. On some models, these can be swapped for the type of mapping you currently need, expanding the possibilities of your GPS tremendously.

Saying "Goodbye" with Good Food

By Jessica Takach

Sometimes the best way to show you care is to invest yourself in the food you prepare. I have invited nine friends over for a traditional french feast to celebrate our dear friend who is leaving for France to teach English for the next seven months. What better way to spend time than by breaking bread around a table, eating good food and drinking good wine for a few hours and reminiscing, all while enjoying the food that she will shortly be surrounded by. A lot of times this is a much more affordable way to spend quality time with good friends, while connecting with the culture they will soon be living in. Rather than going out to dinner or out for drinks, this gives you uninterrupted time to sit and talk.

Identify the theme and you'll find your cuisine! Since my friend is off to France, it was pretty easy--although the recipes don't look all that simple! It is a learning experience, and it is also nice to show your friend that you are interested in their destination.

Design the Menu
Since my theme is french food, I investigated the course of a traditional meal and then looked at individual recipes for each course. I discovered that a traditional lunch usually takes several hours and is divided into seven parts. I was surprised, and somewhat delighted. I'd like to lunch like this every day! The menu I ended up with this:

Apertif -- Kir Apertif Drink
L'Entree-- Brochette
Le Plat Principal--Emine de Volaille sauce Roquefort
Le Fromage--Chevre Chaud Sur Toast et sa Salade
Le Dessert--Creme Brulee
Le Cafe--coffee time
Le Vin--lots of wine throughout and to end with

Create Invitations
To make the evening even more special, send out a classy invitation to all those who are coming. I included in my "bon appetite" envelopes the invitation with list of events and then the sample menu I provided above. I also listed the types of wine which would be necessary for such a feast and asked if each person could bring a bottle that would be greatly appreciated. This will certainly help cut down on the costs of the meal for yourself, although picking up a couple bottles of wine is a good idea just in case.

Start Practicing!
Practice makes perfect, as they say, and with food this is even more of a general rule. I know I absolutely cannot wait until the day of the party to try and figure out how to prepare brochette or canapes, since I only have a vague idea of what they even are. Prepare a "test run" about a week before the party, just cut down on the portion size so it (hopefully) creates a nice little meal for yourself and one other person.

Start brainstorming decorations and other ways to add unexpected fun to the dinner party. I am going to try and locate some berets for the occassion. Another good idea is to blow up some of your favorite photos of the special guest and friends to create a much better going away banner than you can find in a party store. They can also take this home with them as a reminder of the good friends they have here and the good times you've had together.

Prepare a Gift
Put together a memorable gift to present sometime during the dinner party.

The Day Before
Gather all necessary supplies and try to prepare any of the foods which could last until the next day. For instance, I will most likely make the creme brulee ahead of time and simply carmelize the sugar on top the night of the party, right before serving. This is easy and something which I am confident I can handle! (sprinkle sugar on top, then torch for several seconds--voilla!)

The Day of the Dinner Party
At the outset of the day, make a list of everything that needs to be done to keep you focused and on track with party preparations. Clean in the morning, then start decorating and then work on the food. This way, you can focus your attention solely on the food and not have to worry about cleaning up or decorating. Your food will most likely turn out much better this way.

The Night of the Dinner Party
Enjoy! This party is as much for you as it is for the special guest. Make sure you have time to get to talk with them and enjoy the evening. Embrace the moment-- if something goes wrong with a dish, move to the next! The most important thing about this evening is that everyone is together, and although the food may have brought them here, it doesn't have to be perfect. The true goal of the evening has already been achieved even before the food has reached the table.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bratz the new Barbie?

Go into any major department store and look in the doll section between Barbies and baby dolls, you will find some dolls with big lips and big eyes. Called Bratz, Dolls, These dolls are the focus of a love/hate relationship. Some mothers love them, some hate them. But whether you love them or hate them, they are the newest must have for the pre-teen and early teenage set for the 21st century, or are they? These dolls with a Passion for Fashion have been around since the summer of 2001.

The dolls are characterized by big heads, oversized lips and eyes and with shoes that pop on and off (without shoes, they have no feet). These dolls also have an unusually thin and small body (compared to their head), and a plethora of cool, happening and up to the minute clothing. They are somewhat comparable to Barbie (the clothes are not interchangeable, however). These dolls both (male and female) were brought out by MGA Entertainment.

The dolls began as four main characters, named Chloe, Yasmin, Jade and Sasha, followed by many more as the years went by. They have also introduced a line of Baby Bratz, which are much larger and are cute for the younger girl. Since their inception, the Bratz world has exploded. Now you can find a host of other names and dolls, such as Dana and Felicia and has introduced other products such as Twins dolls. The Bratz haven stayed in the US either, they have visited Tokyo (Tokyo-A-Go-Go); London (Punkz which featured the boys only); Las Vegas and Paris. The dolls also have various settings that they are sold in. These include: Wild, Wild West, Girls Night Out, Campfire and Hollywood Style just to name a few. During the fall of 2005, the company released Bratz Rock Angels and with this introduction came a movie and a mini CD that reached significant numbers on the world pop charts. The subsequent movie and product releases have added to both the Bratz name and their fame.

The dolls however are viewed as somewhat controversial as some parents view them as having loose morals and promoting consumerism and materialism. I know my sister in law views them as being too old looking and acting for her six year old to play with. (But she lets her play with Barbies, really what is the difference?) Other parents have said that none of the Bratz seems to have personalities of their own and the only difference between them is the clothes that they wear and that their fashionista wardrobe is too skimpy and too casual. Their lifestyles have come into criticism too. All they seem to do is go shopping and party and have fun. Are these dolls sending the right message to today kids? Did Barbie send the right message to kids when she was popular as well?

Barbies were dreamed up by Ruth Handler, named after her daughter, Barbara, the dolls have enjoyed a huge success over the years. But even with these dolls, controversy has followed them. It has been said that Barbie allows young girls to focus on trivial things; they criticize her body image, the fact that she is so skinny (even groups that deal with Anorexia Nervosa which, granted is a very serious disease) believe that Barbie does not even have enough body fat to menstruate. And her lifestyle seemed one of not being involved or even interested in the working world. Mattel quickly fixed that by showing Barbie in a firefighting outfit; a doctor, a judge and an astronaut amongst other types of work. These have been said to change people attitudes in showing that women can do anything they put their mind to.

But with all the controversy, I just don't get it. Why the heck did we pin so much responsibility on Barbie and why now are we pinning it on the Bratz? Why do we not consider these dolls for what they are a simple play toy? I played with Barbies when I was a young girl. I got very little in the way of store bought clothes (as my mom made most of mine which my daughters still have). What I used when playing with my dolls was my IMAGINATION. That seems to be lacking in today world.

My daughters (ages 9 and 13) have about 12 Bratz between them and the Rock Angels Movie and they even, upon occasion will sit down and watch the Bratz cartoon that is on one of the kids channels. I have sat down and watches (several times) the Bratz movie with them and really don't find anything wrong with it. It's just a fluffy, girls rule kind of movie that, well sometimes we women need to be reminded of that fact, but its virtually harmless in its presentation. But this is where the responsibility of parenting comes to play. Parents need to remind their daughters that a) these are just dolls b) you can be anything you want to be when you grow up c) imagination is a good thing d) life is not always one big party.

Will Bratz replace Barbie? Who is to say? But Bratz and Barbies are like any toy even baby dolls, parents need to teach their kids the difference between fantasy and reality and try not to take these dolls so seriously. Fads change and whether we like it or not, the girls will grow up and toys just will not seem so important anymore. As long as we parents remind our daughters that girls do rule, are important and can do anything they put their mind to do, the female race will be just fine now and as they age

Maternity Clothes Blues

They say that now in this day and age is one of the best times to be pregnant because there are so many wardrobe options. It used to be that a pregnant woman had her choice of different color moo moos. Needless to say that it had to be very hard to wake up in the morning, get yourself all gussied up in your moo moo and feel attractive. So why is it that with all the choices that there are now that it still feels almost impossible to be attractive. You start looking around you and you want to wear anything but what you're wearing regardless of weather or not it is something you would have worn in the first place.

I myself happen to be 37 weeks pregnant, every day dragging by just a little bit slower than the day before and it really does not help that none of my clothes fit. Even when they do I feel like a cow. I still haven't been able to figure out how to make myself feel more attractive as I get larger and larger but I am starting to discover a few things that can be your savior when you are near the end of a pregnancy and everything in your closet is just a little too tight. Or all your shirts just do not quite seem to cover up your belly.

My best friend right now is a large pair of overalls that I decided to invest in but never thought that I would actually wear. We all do it, buy something that is very unlike us but you think well maybe I will wear them around the house. That was my original thought when I bought these but it did not take long to change my mind. There are three advantages to overalls when you are pregnant. 1) Pregnant women actually look kind of cute in overalls. 2) All those shirts in your closet that won't cover that belly because it's gotten so big, you can still wear with your overalls. 3) Overalls do not put any kind of pressure on your stomach so they are so much more comfortable than wearing regular jeans.

My second and really my only other best friend right now are my husband's clothes. These I mostly just wear around the house but they have been a great help to me. Even though I may only have a few things on my side of the closet to choose from at this point I still have his whole wardrobe to choose from. The things that I love about wearing my husband's clothes are 1) Men's shirts are made so much longer than women's, even maternity shirts. 2) It makes me feel secure to wear his clothes especially if they smell just a little like him. 3) The comfort factor, because it is so hard to get comfortable when you are this large.

I have picked up other ideas here and there that have been a little helpful. I have had the wonderful privilege of being pregnant through the summer months, the hottest months of the whole year. Even though I am not normally a dress person I did decide that one good way to beat the heat would be with a sun dress. Now that same sun dress seems just a little too short with my belly being so large. I figured out a way to get around that problem. It hasn't always been one of my favorite fashion trends but when you are running out of things to wear and like me you refuse to spend one more dollar on clothes that you very well may never be able to wear again you tend to start making sacrifices. You can where that dress over a pair of jeans. You may get hot but that's one more outfit to choose from in your closet.

One advantage to being pregnant during the summer time is that you can wear flip flops. I think that I would rather suffer through the heat than have to wear regular shoes everyday on my already swollen feet. Plus flip flops are relatively cheap and you can buy them in all different styles and colors. You can make it one way of livening up an already boring outfit.

My last thought here is that every pregnant woman feels the same. Or at least I'm hoping that it is not just me. Women everywhere have felt the same insecurities and have had the same problems with clothing that come along with having a child. As long as you keep that thought in mind, it makes your day just a little bit easier. A supportive husband does not hurt either.

By Crystal Bowden

Monday, August 28, 2006

Action Figures For Adults

By The Recovering Collector

There's been a growing trend in recent years with some action figures. These in mind aren't very articulate, they can't do much but their big selling point is the detail and craftsmanship they sport. The latest example is the new set of upcoming figures from the Lost TV series. Produced by McFarlane Toys the line is set to debut this November.

Actually, McFarlane Toys (founded by Todd McFarlane, former Spider-Man comic book artist and creator of the Spawn comic book) is one such company that specializes in these types of figures. Other series they produce are numerous and include Alien vs. Predator, Napoleon Dynamite, Austin Powers and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. The company even produces music, sports and military figures, also equally detailed and painted. While they do have your basic joint structures, translating to posable arms, torsos and heads that's about all they do, and some are even less articulate than that seeming more like mini statues than toys.

So the question is why a kid would want this kind of toy? A young child can't get much play value over something that seems to be stiff. Well the short answer is that they're geared more for older collectors, i.e. teenagers, young adults and anyone older who don't really play with toys but like having cool figurines decorating their home or office. Think of them as modern-day model kits for people who don't have the time to build a model or inexpensive versions of statues. These figures have advantages over statues and models. They don't have to be assembled, are very well detailed and painted already, come with many attachments and are more durable. Plus the limited articulation lets you change the figures' poses every once in a while, something else you cannot get from a model or statue. Sometimes, the figures are sold as part of a set with another figure and/or a base to illustrate a scene. But the biggest selling point is how much they look like the characters or people they're modeled after, something that you don't often get from standard action figures.

One of my favorites was from the Alien vs. Predator line that came out in 2004, which showcased certain scenes. For instance one is called Predator With Base that has the Predator alien standing against a macabre wall of skulls and an alien's victim. This base connects with a separate one called Alien Queen that forms a diorama. Any fan of the film will love them and the price tag; a basic figure sells for about $10.

I've had my desk at work decorated with such figures and not just from McFarlane Toys but from Toy Biz among others. They were actually good conversation pieces, especially an Austin Powers figure I once displayed but have in storage. The Austin Powers series raised some controversy when they were first released in 1999. Some groups objected to the apparent vulgarity of the line, specifically with the figure called Austin "Danger" Powers, this one was of the character only wearing his shorts in a slightly suggestive pose. The killer was that like all the other figures, it talked but this one quoted Austin's sexual innuendo from the movies. Many argued that these toys weren't appropriate for children. Defending themselves, the toymakers countered that this line wasn't geared for children but were for adults and fans, and that they could only be found in comic book specialty stores and not toy stores. However, other series and sets like the one featuring movie horror characters Freddy vs. Jason were sold exclusively in Kay Bee Toys stores.

Getting back to the Lost series, the toymakers stated in a recent press release that the figures, their poses, bases and this time photographic backdrop are supposed to represent a key moment for the characters. For example for the figure of Locke, which I'll probably pick up since he's one of my favorite characters from the show, the character is standing over the infamous hatch. From the gritty clothing he wears to the fine detailing on the hatch, this set looks like they literally brought a scene to miniature life. The sets also come with reproduced props from the show related to each character. The other characters include Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Hurley, Charlie and Shannon. McFarlane Toys is also presenting a deluxe boxed set of the hatch from the show with four of the characters around it.

One thing is for sure, I don't feel any kind of embarrassment over having these figures and displays out in the open. The reaction from others has been positive as they see the fine craftsmanship that went into creating these figures. Whether or not they see them as toys I don't know but all I know is that they're toys made for adults who can appreciate the attention made into creating them.

Collecting and Using Frequent Flyer Miles

by Janie Blank

We have been to Mexico five times and never have paid for a trip down or back. We used to fly America West because they had a hub- since gone- in our city and because they only charged 30,000 miles for Mexico when everyone else charged 35,000 miles. Even so, you might say, you must spend a lot of money each year to collect 60,000 miles to 70,000 miles per year.

Well, it is not that we spend so much but it is how we have learned to maximize our mile collection. First of all we charge virtually everything we can. Now that is only a good strategy if you can afford to pay your charge card off at the end of every month. If you can charge a utility bill, a tax bill, gas or groceries or anything that you would normally just write a check for then it is a good idea. Obviously if these things stay on your charge and you end up paying interest on them then you are not going to be ahead.

If you have not tried Rewards Network, formerly called iDine, then you are missing out on a lot of free miles. Restaurants all over the country sign up and you get anywhere from 5 to 10 mules for every dollar you spend dining in these establishments. Right now they are running a promotion where you get double those miles for every time you dine. The way it works is you register all of your credit cards for free that you might use to dine and give your frequent flyer number for the airline where you want the miles to accrue. If the credit card is already an airline card then you can really maximize the experience. You will receive an email after you have dined there, usually within a day or two telling you how many miles you earned. They normally post to your frequent flyer account every month although they may be a little behind. It is a good idea to keep these emails and make sure they actually post correctly. We normally receive at least a couple thousand extra miles every month or two this way. A $40 tab would give you 200 miles and with the double bonus you would then get 400 miles or ten times what you spent. Might make you think twice bout where to dine, and obviously this is the point.

Another way I maximize my miles is by going through my airline portal when buying online. I keep a little icon on my toolbar to make it easy to remember. You can go into your frequent flyer program and look on ways to earn miles. They should have a site that gives you all of the merchants that participate in their program. Continental has a huge list. I always order flowers through the portal and normally you will get at least 700 miles for a minimum order. Some use Flower Club, some FTD and some Teleflora but they all are easy websites to use where you can pick out the exact bouquet online. FTD is giving 10 miles to the dollar spent right now.

Another good one is Almost every bride registers at Macys if you have one in your city, and all Federated Department stores including Marshall Fields are now Macys. You will get 3 miles to the dollar spent. A one hundred dollar wedding gift gives you 300 miles plus the 100 miles if you use an airline specific credit card. How can you beat that?

My all time favorite is If you spend $50 shipping is free. They have an incredible selection and they keep your list online for you making it a cinch to reorder commonly purchased products. Drugstore items are dollars you will spend anyway so why not receive 3 frequent flyer miles for every dollar you spend? You also avoid paying sales tax this way and their prices are competitive and selection is usually better. Items arrive in just a few days. If you get in the habit of ordering drugstore and toiletries this way you will really maximize your miles. They also give you a credit back each quarter. Some of the other merchants on the Continental portal giving 5 miles per dollar spent are the Gap, Barnes & Noble, 1-800 Contacts and Target. Other well known merchants give various mileage bonuses.

This is a great way to do your Holiday shopping. You might see my emphasis is on earning miles without spending any more money than you normally would. I try to take the items I have to buy anyway and see if there is a way I can multiply my miles with my purchases. Go to your airlines website and see what you can come up with.

We are collecting Continental miles right now because they have the best routes to Mexico from our home city. When America West eliminated our hub it became first a red-eye, then an overnight to get home so we gave up on that and switched over. If you know, like we do, that you are going to take a trip to a certain place each year it makes it easy to decide what airline makes the most sense for you. We winter in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico so we can plan accordingly. If you like to go to Europe the same would apply. One thing for sure, you definitely get the most for your frequent flyer mile when you go to Mexico because of the low mileage requirement, coupled with the high price tag you get a lot of bang for your buck. Remember my husband and I are going to Mexico round trip for about $150 for the two of us. Unfortunately you still have to pay tax on your ticket!

Shopping for Custom Cabinet Knobs

By Janie Blank

Cabinet knobs are something I used to take for granted. They were there. Usually non-descript; sometimes even downright ugly, but always functional. But that was before we decided to build a new condominium.

Actually, about a year earlier we were trying to spruce up our old house before selling and came across a kitchen design store having a sale. For just one dollar each I was able to replace the old boring knobs in my old kitchen with beautiful white china knobs. Since we had forty knobs this was an incredible buy. A few years earlier we had painted all the cabinets white and looked into new hardware but the cost seemed exorbitant and we left them as is.

I think this little experience made me think about hardware and how it can make a statement about your home and your taste. It also made me see that if I was going to do it the best time was in the beginning when you might be able to get a credit for old hardware to put toward new. The other thing that made me think about selecting custom knobs is the fact that we were buying a condominium. There are just three styles in our complex. One of each style per building and I was used to a custom built home. How could I distinguish myself within such confines?

One way I discovered was by customizing small features within the home. That brought me to knobs. Actually I did a combination of knobs and pulls. The key is to make sure you make a design statement without creating a busy or cluttered look. I started with the kitchen. Since we upgraded our cabinets to natural maple it made sense to upgrade the knobs as well. The kitchen is open to the dining area and great room so there is great visibility. The knobs needed to be incorporated in to the overall design of the space. We also opted for a custom stair rail that would have some metal rather than the standard white spindle look. This made me look toward knobs of metal rather than glass or pottery or china.

We live in a fairly large city with a greater metropolitan area of about 1.5 million people. We also have a county in our metroplex that is usually one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. This means a lot of new homes are built each year and therefore we have a nice selection of design stores. I made a list. I did some online searching of their websites to see what they offered. But when web searching I also noticed I got countless hits for knobs. So before I even went out to shop I started to browse online to get an idea of the options out there. This is also a great way to get an idea of price. Basically like the old yellow pages slogan: Let your fingers do the walking.

I will tell you I was amazed at the choices! Our condo is on a lake and when I saw a knob that looked like a tree branch I immediately felt this was the perfect choice from a design standpoint. There was more than one type tree branch of course so I had to narrow this down by style, quality and price. There was also the decision to be made of whether to go for the tree branch knob or the tree branch handle. Yes, when I say knob I am specking generically. In actuality, you must further decide whether it is to be a knob or a handle. This is where I thought the sales person in the design center was a big help. He suggested that it is usually better to stick to either knobs OR handles but not to mix. Only in one instance in our master bathroom did I vary this. Naturally knobs are smaller therefore they usually cost a dollar or so less than handles. In my kitchen I opted for handles and the results are striking. Upgrading hardware in such a high traffic area is definitely worth the cost.

However, with such a positive result in my kitchen, I decided to take a look at what was being offered for bathrooms. The possibilities were endless and I was hooked! One way I was able to easily cost justify the expense was that by doing custom hardware, I decided I did not need to upgrade the bathroom cabinets from the standard white issue provided by the builder. This saved a considerable amount of money and the knobs enabled me to again make a design statement that would set my condo apart.

In the master bath I pulled the pale blue-green color of the countertop out and found some handles and knobs of plexi-glass with a silver metal trim that were what is known as Euro style. The handle is much larger than a standard size. Since one of the cabinets is tall with two very long doors I thought a standard handle would be dwarfed and it also would be harder to use. This Euro style handle was a good solution. However on the small drawers it looked silly so this is the room where I decided to use a combination of knobs and handles. Adjoining the bath is the master closet and I had a custom closet built-in with dresser drawers so I ordered the same knobs for that to tie it together.

In the upstairs guest bath I decided on a beautiful pewter hummingbird knob. It has a matching flower so if you put them adjacent it looks like the hummingbird is ready to stick its beak into the flower. These were pretty expensive but I only need four so I decided to go for it. Again, the fact that I opted to stay with the standard white cabinet was completely obscured by the hardware I chose.

Probably the cleverest knobs I found were for my laundry room. It is right off the hall and although I do not think a lot of strangers will wander in there I decided to buy these because they were so cute. They are also pewter and they are of different laundered items like socks on one and a tee shirt on another, a camisole and even boxer shorts!

My lower level walks out to the boat dock and to the lake so I got some really cute copper knobs for the down stairs bath. They have the imprint of a fish in the center. The knob is an irregular shape and has a kind of antiqued finish. This was probably the hardest choice of all because they had so many nautically themed knobs from lighthouses to boats to every type fish. If you wee near the ocean they had shells and starfish and more. But my lower level also has somewhat of a casual Mexican feel with large terra cotta pavers so I ended up trying to tie both ideas together and I thought the copper did the best job of that. It is very hard not to get carried away!

I ended up buying some of my knobs from the local design center because I was able to get a builder discount. Others I ordered online and was quite satisfied with the speed at which they were delivered. They actually came much faster than those I ordered locally. It is hard to be sure of whether it is just based on what I ordered or whether the online distributors just have better access.

By doing some web searching under knobs and cabinet hardware you will find some great places to browse like ( and ( that also offer other great accessories like switch plates as well. Depending on the size of your order many offer free shipping. There are a large number of categories, literally from fruits to nuts to categories like abstract and artisan and antique to wild west, water themes and childrens styles. One site says it has over 120,000 items! The big advantage of the web over a traditional shopping experience is the variety. Not only do you have the ability of looking at every knob made from the comfort of your own home, you can visit numerous online stores without driving all over town.

If you are a person who needs to touch and feel something before buying then at least the online search gives you an idea what you are looking for and you can make some calls and find out if the stores in your area carry what you have pre-selected. You also can try and negotiate price knowing in advance what the price and shipping charges on an online order will be. Don't be afraid to ask for a builder discount even if you are just remodeling. Many will give you ten to fifteen percent off for the asking.

In the end it all boils down to whether or not you want to take the time and can spend a few dollars more to really customize your home and set it apart from the neighbors. The tools are out there and readily accessible and make it easy for even the most inexperienced decorator.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Remembering Farrah's Poster

There have been many different kinds of posters that have been released over the years, some of which have been quite collectible. Others make you shake you head and ask how could this poster even been released?

Some of the more popular posters released over the years include reproductions of the films Taxi Driver and Casablanca; the famous Bruce Lee poster of the early 1970’s; to comedy style posters with funny catch phrases or images that are too innumerable to mention. But, of all the posters that have been released over the years, there is one poster that rises above all of them. No one really knows which poster is number two, but whatever poster that holds the second position, it probably didn’t sell 1/20 of the posters that the prima poster sold. What poster could this be? Anyone who has to ask that question probably wasn’t around in the 1970's. If they were, then they would, of course, realize that the king – or rather queen – of all posters was, of course, the legendary Farrah Fawcett-Majors bathing suit poster that was released in 1976.

If anyone wants to know the actual sales figures of those Farrah Fawcett-Majors posters, the running tally was around 12 Million. Yes, you read that correctly, 12 Million.

Her name is Farrah Fawcett these days and it is also her birth name. But to those who first discovered her in the 1970's, she was Farrah Fawcett-Majors, wife of The Six Million Dollar Man himself, Lee Majors. When they were married, they stated that their marriage would not be like other Hollywood marriages and last forever. It didn't happen and they were divorced in 1979.

The two married before either were superstars. Majors had appeared in quite a bit of television including a regular role on The Big Valley, but did not become a bona fide superstar until he became the Bionic Man in 1973 (although the show didn’t really take off until 1975) Farrah had appeared in numerous TV shows and made quite a number of film appearances. In 1976, she landed the role that would make her a superstar when she became one of Charlie's Angels. It was the fame that she derived from her appearance on this classic program that propelled the sale of those posters all the way up into the eight figure range. Yet, surprisingly, Farrah had only been on the show for one season. She did very little before Charlie’s Angels and very little of nore for at least seven years after leaving the show. So why was her poster so incredibly popular?

The sales of that poster were nothing short of a phenomenom and when it comes to explaining why a phenomenom happens, most of it is conjecture. There were far bigger actresses who had appeared in far more successful television programs to say nothing of the major movie actresses who had been around at the time. So why Farrah?

When one looks back on the Me Generation and sees the repeated image of the poster, one would assume that Farrah was the biggest female star of the era. The truth of the matter is that Farrah was more along the lines of a huge flash in the pan.

Many times, it is the right person at the right time in the right medium. Charlie's Angels, while a hit was never a collossal hit (it only lasted four years) and producer Aaron Spelling had far bigger success with The Love Boat, a program he created about the same time. But, Charlie's Angels was popular with teenage boys and girls, the former wanted to be with the Angels and the latter wanted to actually be the Angels, and it was this demographic that took to the classic poster image and made it such a outrageous seller. Actually, the poster was more than a huge seller, it became an image that defined the pop culture sensibilities of the decade even selling long after Farrah had left the series to star in a string of totally forgettable box office flops. In 1979, she divorced husband Lee Majors. 1979 was an appropos year for this to happen because in many ways the divorce was a symbolic end to the 1970's.

Poster sales had long since been dead by 1980, but reproductions of the poster started to sell again in the 1990's when there was a large amount of Me Generation nostalgia experiencing a resurgance. These days, who needs a reproduction? The originals can be purchased on Ebay and they sell quite nicely.

How to Buy a Winter Coat

With cold weather on the way, it may be time to take a look at your winter coat and decide whether it will make it through another season. Winter coats can wear out; they can go out of style; or you may just be tired of the look and interested in finding something else.

Most clothing stores begin to carry winter coats around the same time as they get their fall school clothes in for the season. The earlier you start looking, the better the selection will be and the lower the prices as well. Keep your eyes open at the mall and various clothing stores, and know what you're looking for to make the process easier. Listed below are a few important factors to consider when choosing your coat.

The first thing to check out when you're thinking about purchasing a coat is the proper fit. Many people believe that they should buy a winter coat that is a few sizes too big so that they can wear heavy sweaters and shirts underneath for extra warmth. This is a misguided approach, and in fact buying coats that are too large can actually result in less warmth for your body, since the wind and cold will be getting right through all that extra space. The perfect winter coat should keep you warm without the use of heavy layers underneath; if the coat isn't warm enough on its own, then you need a warmer coat, not more layers. Buy a coat that fits you properly. Check the shoulder seams and make sure they sit at the points of your shoulders without drooping down your arms or pinching up towards your neck. The cuffs of the coat should come slightly past your wrists. If it is a long coat, make sure it doesn't hang to your knees or lower. That will just cause you to look sloppy and as though you're wearing someone else's winter coat.

Secondly, look at what material the coat is made from. This can be extremely important. Many somewhat lower-end coats are made of a wool blend, but the rayon or cotton that is blended with the wool results in a ligher weight and a coat that isn't very warm. Look for a 100% wool coat if possible. Other materials, such as waterproof nylon or even cotton, should be filled with wool or poly blends that are heavy duty and durable as well as warm. The lining of the coat isn't terribly important, but consider the fact that a silk shell lining or other shiny material can get cold when the wind blows.

Finally, the coat you purchase should be a style that you can use in more than one situation. Unless you're planning on purchasing multiple winter coats, you should find one that has a neutral look that goes with jeans on the weekend as well as into the office on snowy Monday mornings. Many people choose a safe, plain shade such as black, gray or dark blue; choosing less basic colors is also perfectly fine, but don't choose something that clashes with your everyday wardrobe, since it will make you look like you didn't plan ahead. Steer clear of colors that are too light- pale blues and creams are lovely, but when you're shoveling the car out of a snowdrift the salt stains and dirty snow can ruin your coat in an instant, and most winter coats are expensive to dry clean.

This brings us to the final factor when choosing a winter coat- the required maintenance. If you're buying a wool coat, chances are it will need to be dry cleaned. Unless you get the coat extremely dirty, it should only need to be cleaned once every year, perhaps in the fall before the season begins. Treat stains with a damp cloth, and brush the coat occasionally to remove lint and hair. If you smoke, hang the coat in the fresh air once a week or so to remove the smell from the fabric.

With the proper attention paid to certain details, you can buy a winter coat that will serve you well throughout the season. It's important to choose wisely when you're investing money in a coat; after all, it'll be a staple of your wardrobe all winter long.
-by bjp

Ode to the White Tee Shirt

In my dresser drawer, I have four white tee shirts. They were originally from the little boys' department, and were bought together in a cellophane package. These tee shirts have been stained and bleached and stained again, and they're pretty much at the point where they can't be worn in public anymore. But on days like today, when I have nowhere to be and nothing to do except sit at home, get some work done and maybe clean the house a little- on days like today, these white tee shirts are the single most comfortable things I can imagine.

I'm not sure if there's any item of clothing that I love quite as much as a white tee shirt. Paired with a flowing peasant skirt, casual sandals and a few beaded necklaces, a slim-fitted white tee shirt can make an effortless outfit. If you have something in your wardrobe that is difficult to match- such as, for example, beige and red plaid pants or a brilliant turquoise skirt- then a white tee shirt is by far the best way to turn those single pieces into functional outfits.

White tee shirts are also great for those situations where you need something to wear underneath something else. I own a few nylon tops that are slightly see-through, and putting a white tee shirt underneath not only keeps them modest, it also creates a casual, contemporary layered look. White tee shirts also work great beneath cardigans or pull-over sweaters; that extra layer helps keep you warm while keeping the texture of the sweater away from your skin.

Finally, and this can't be discounted, the white tee shirt has the coolness factor. Like most people, when I see a guy in a white tee shirt and jeans I'm immediately reminded of James Dean, with his black leather jacket slung over one shoulder and a pack of cigarettes rolled into one sleeve. When my boyfriend wears a white tee shirt, he immediately looks tan and healthy and absolutely amazing.

It's funny that I can't wear white in any other situations. I have a few white blouses and tops, and somehow they always manage to make me look washed out and a few pounds heavier than I actually am. White tee shirts, on the other hand, have a fresh cool look that makes natural skin tones glow.

If you love white tee shirts as much as I do, you're probably already aware of how easily they can be worked into any wardrobe combination, and how comfortable and easy to wear they are. If you're new to the idea of white tee shirts, it's time to find some good ones. So where do you look?

First of all, all white tee shirts are not created equal. Don't buy a tee shirt that feels like tissue paper; all it will do is show your bra and develop holes the first time you wash it. At the same time, don't choose a shirt that is made of extra-heavy cotton, as those tend not to breathe very well, and even after multiple washes they don't conform to your shape as well as they should. The single best texture for white tee shirts I've found are the kind that come in multi-packs and that are made from 100% cotton. You can probably find them in the women's department; they're also sold in men's and children's. You may have to experiment a little to find the tee shirts you like best, since there are a few different brands (such as Fruit of the Loom and Hanes). For best testing results, try a pack from each department, since you'll find that women's shirts are cut slightly differently than men's (I prefer the straight cut of the boy's shirts), and a child's large is a different size than a women's small.

Finding the perfect white tee shirts is a great way to expand your wardrobe exponentially. The fashion possibilities of a white tee are perfect for anyone and can fit into any lifestyle, be it casual or professional. Most importantly, having plenty of the right white tee shirts on hand will give you something to wear on those lazy days at home without feeling like you look like a slob. You'll feel great. Trust me.
-by bjp

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My thoughts on Italian Charms

I was recently writing a freelance article on Italian charms. I felt kind of stupid after writing it, because all this time, I had an Italian charm bracelet in my jewelry box, but didn’t know what it was. Someone had given it to me as a gift and frankly, I appreciated the thought but it wasn’t really my type of jewelry, but until I was doing research for this article, I had no idea that it HAD A NAME! I just thought it was a charm bracelet. You will know what I am talking about once I describe it. They are tiny square charms and they come with various things on them. The one in my jewelry box actually has my name spelled out on it with a heart charm on the end. You can find these charms online, in the mall and even at flea markets and they are pretty inexpensive to make; each charm runs about a dollar. They sell thousands of different types of premade charms. Basically, anything you are looking for, you can find on a tiny charm. Some places sell the bracelets to make an actual charm bracelet and others offer necklaces.

The more I thought about my charm bracelet in my jewelry box, the more I realized that this is a great piece of jewelry for children. Not young children, but I would say ages 5 to 14. Five is a good age to start with because children are much more interactive at that age and can use their motor skills better to help craft the bracelet. After the age of 14, it might become “uncool” to wear an Italian charm bracelet. But for the ages in-between, it’s a brilliant gift idea. The charms are very durable. Most sites I found online offered sterling silver charms, so they are going to be strong enough for a child to wear, even during playtime. They are affordable, which is great for parents who don’t want to or can’t spend a lot of gifts. Most websites online offer individual charms for around a dollar. On website in particular, has a special going where you can purchase ten charms for six dollars. More importantly, Italian charm bracelets are just fun! There are thousands of designs to choose from. Everything you could ever want put onto a charm, you can find already made on an Italian charm. There are alphabet letters, numbers, astrological signs, company logos; cartoon characters…are you getting my drift here yet?? While browsing online doing my research, I found cute charms for kids with smiley faces and flowers, but then I found some for a few adults I know, including a CPA charm. For an adult, these would be a great form of advertisement. You could literally wear your profession on your wrist for everyone to see.

A good website for parents to take their kids shopping on is Parents can finds deals on the Italian charms, up to 60% off in fact, along with lots of other bells and whistles like free shipping and a 30-day money back guarantee. Individual charms start at $.99 and there are hundreds of categories to choose from. The best part of this site is the interactive charm bracelet feature. The bottom of the website has a charm bracelet. Buyers can drag and place charms on the bracelet. It lets you see how your item will look before it arrives. I played with this feature for about ten minutes, changing the charms and moving them around and I was actually quite amused with it. This would be a lot of fun for a child to design their own.

Another interesting site I discovered in my research was This site allows people to personal their charms by uploading their photos online. For example, if I wanted a pendant or charm with my cat’s picture on it, I could go to this website, upload his picture and the company would produce something of my choosing with his image on it. Buyers can pick either charms for bracelets or pendants, and the pendants come with a silver necklace and are ready to wear. offers pieces individually or in bulk and they too offer premade items. But for the more personal charm, this is the place to visit. They make their pieces look elegant by finishing each pendant with a diamond cut to give a decorative frame appearance.

The interesting thing about Italian charm bracelets, like mine, is that no matter who they are bought for, there is quite a bit of thought that is put into each purchase. Someone went to the store or online and actually had to think about what they were going to use to create their bracelet or necklace. Am I going to put my name on it, or my sweetheart’s name? Do I want a bracelet that features the Adidas logo, my favorite sports shoe? Or would I rather have smiley faces to brighten me up every time I look down on it? It’s a very personal creation and while I laughed at mine at first, I appreciate now all the time that went into it’s purchase.

So. if you’re gift buying, especially for younger children and looking for something that is different yet durable, why not think about buying an Italian charm bracelet?

Looking Put-Together

Of all the fashion challenges I've come across in my life- from being short, to being a professional in an office setting, to dressing to hide my own figure flaws- the single most major issue I've had to face has been looking put-together. I realize that's a very general statement; but it encompasses lots of facets of fashion that I think more people could afford to pay attention to when choosing their daily wardrobes.

Looking put-together can be tricky. Sometimes we get lost in finding clothes that don't make us 'look fat' or that suit our age or positions. What we don't notice is that our outfits tend to look last-minute, or like we've given up and just thrown on whatever was on the floor. Sometimes, no matter how much time you spend on your outfit, you can walk out of the house looking like you haven't changed clothes in three days.

Fashion is exhausting, and looking put-together is sometimes such a challenge that many people (me included) just don't bother. But over the years, I have developed a few strategies that have helped me to create a more put-together look without much effort on my part. These tips help keep me from wishing I'd never left the house the first time I pass a full-length mirror.

Tip One: Get constant trims for your hair.
This doesn't necessarily constitute fashion, but honestly, a good hair day is the single easiest way to make yourself look professional and polished. If your hair is in an awkward growing-out stage, it is going to have a tendency to look unfinished no matter what you do. Find a stylist that you trust to listen to you when you say that you are trying to grow your hair, and visit them every three to six weeks for trimming and shaping of your hair without losing length. Similarly, get any coloring jobs updated more often than you think you need to. Your hair may look fine to you, but under florescent office lighting or in the sunshine it might look multi-colored and outdated.

Tip Two: Keep the things that need work away from your closet. Far away.
If you notice a loose seam, a missing button, or a stain on a certain shirt or a pair of pants, remove the item from your wardrobe rotation immediately. If you're like me and you get desperate enough on some mornings to put the item back on even though it has a flaw, you'll end up wearing it out of the house and regretting it. Take the item and box it up or move it to a different closet on a different level of the house if you really don't trust yourself. Once a month, or more often if you have the time or need the clothes, go through the box and do the necessary repairs before allowing the item back into your everyday wardrobe.

Tip Three: Add the right accessories.
I know that everyone says this, but accessories really can make an outfit, and a plain pant and shirt combination that looks bland and boring can look much more put-together with the addition of a great necklace, a striking belt, or a pair of fantastic shoes. Form a collection of small accessories that go with anything, and keep them on hand for those mornings when there's nothing to wear. As you're running out of the house in an outfit that you don't love, you can grab a scarf or hat that you know will work and instantly pull together your entire look.

Tip Four: Pay attention to the details.
The details of your appearance are extremely important. If you're anything like me, you probably dress to draw attention away from things. Maybe you've got a pair of pants that sit strangely at the waist, so you can only wear them with a shirt that is long enough to cover the problem. Or you have a shirt that gapes oddly at the bottom button and can only be worn with a cardigan sweater buttoned over it. If your daily wardrobe is plagued by these sorts of situations, you need to start phasing out the problem clothing. Trust me- it will make your day that much easier and make you look much more polished in the long run. I understand that almost every piece of clothing can sometimes have a problem, so this isn't a quick fix. It will take several months to weed out the problem stuff (or fix the problems) and gradually replace the items with new and acceptable ones.

Tip Five: Take a chance.
Once in awhile, you just need to punch it up. Buy something in a color that you would never wear, such as a bright burnt orange or a soft buttery yellow. Pair it with a color that you feel safe in- your favorite jeans or a neutral pair of khakis- and see how it makes you feel. If you feel overwhelmed by the color, it may just be a natural reaction to something you're not used to, so ask your friends for opinions. If they love it, then force yourself to wear it and chances are good you'll start to love it, too. If you're not bold enough to purchase a shirt or sweater in a new color, try a scarf or a piece of costume jewelry. Try parting your hair on the opposite side. Pair heels with your favorite jeans for the first time, or buy a pair of patterned black tights instead of solid ones. The important thing is to mix it up, because by doing so you will feel more polished and presentable immediately, and that will show through in your attitude. Someone who gives off the air of loving what they are wearing can make even a not-so-perfect outfit seem to radiate with confidence and style.

Looking put together is a lifelong fashion process. Sometimes, we can't pull it off; and running out on weekends or cleaning the house aren't times when it's terribly important. But learning a few basic rules and abiding by them will instantly make you feel better about yourself- and the more often you do it, the more confident you'll become in your fashion choices.
-by bjp