Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Shopper's Guide to the Flea Market

by Deborah Rosalind Nieto

You are about to visit a flea market. Although this may be your first or nth time to visit one, you may be overlooking a few essentials in making your shopping tour a remarkable one. While you may create checklists or a schedule for yourself, you may find that following each suggestion below will guarantee a successful shopping spree for yourself.

What to wear

Comfort is cool. Leave those skimpy clothes at home and don instead the most comfortable outfit you can wear for one of your most adventurous shopping voyages. Remember that a flea market often seems like a race, a race for the great finds, so you have to be in your most comfortable clothes. Also, with the several stalls that flea markets usually have, you might end up shopping for a great fraction of the day.

Shopping shoes. With a comfy outfit should come a good pair of shoes. While you may be used to wearing high-heeled shoes everyday, it won't be a great idea to wear a pair on the day you wish to rave the flea market stalls. If you wish to prove your stubbornness by wearing such forbidden footwear, I bet you would end up buying flats in the flea market and giving up your high-heeled stilettos for the day.

What to bring

Rain-ready. The last thing you want to happen is for the sky to literally rain on your supposedly fabulous shopping day. You wouldn't know when the weather would suddenly shift so it is best to be armed with an umbrella and even a rain jacket for that day devoted to shopping.

Sweet nothings. Bring a pack or two of candies, mints or even chocolates. Some flea markets could get terribly hot and crowded which means you may need a sweet thingamajig to the rescue in case you get dizzy.

Drink up while you shop. Since it can get too hot and tiring in a flea market, bringing a bottle of water may be a great idea. You wouldn't want to faint before spotting a nice pair of jeans or a perfect top, right?

Chewing and shopping. I'm not sure if some flea markets rule against eating while shoppers buy, but most flea markets I've gone to don't mind shoppers grabbing a bite while searching a great find. A simple window shopping may turn to an addiction so you better prepare or buy a tasteful sandwich, a filling one if possible, to save you from another fainting incident. With other promising shopping stalls ahead of you, you wouldn't want your shopping momentum to be interrupted by your grumbling stomach.

A shopping comrade. If your judgment tends to become clouded when you go shopping, it's better to rave the flea markets with a friend a.k.a. your shopping lighthouse, or in a not-so-weird term, a shopping guide. She may either serve as your devil's advocate when you see almost anything as a great find, or your cheerleader when you have doubts about purchasing something which is indeed a shopper's treasure.

What to remember

Armed with a comfortable outfit, the needed stuff and a shopping buddy, you may feel all set to storm the flea market stalls. But read on first for you need to keep a few things in mind to help make your flea market shopping an affair worth repeating.

Patience of a thousandfold. Besides some cash, do not forget to bring great amounts of patience when going to a flea market. If you think a flea market is starkly a shopper's heaven where great finds are all lined in front of the stalls, waiting for shoppers to be grabbed, then you are disillusioned. Oftentimes, you have to scan through so-so stuff to excavate that much coveted great find.

While flea market stall employees may have the patience themselves to hang each clothing individually, they may also have a portion in the stall where each clothing is unfolded and placed like fruits in a fruit stall, except that they are placed in a disarrayed fashion.

If you are in search of a nice t-shirt, blouse or polo shirt, then be prepared to literally dig under countless other shirts which may not suit your taste. Only after several minutes and a hundred products, could you possibly lay your hands on a product which suits your taste and, at the same time, fits nicely in your budget. Sometimes, you may not even find one which passes these standards yet you won't know for sure unless you keep searching.

Clothing competition. You may see shopping as a personal therapy, a costly hobby or simply a perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon; but no matter what your reason for shopping is, your shopping pace in flea markets is a vital factor.

While you may opt to take your sweet time looking for worthy buys, you have to remember that competition is wafting in the air. What's worse than paying for a product at a non-discounted price is actually seeing a great find purchased in the counter by another buyer. What makes this even worse is the fact that not all flea markets have a stock of the same kind of product. That is why it is not advisable to tarry when shopping in flea markets.

Introspection. Although this may sound like setting up a yoga mat in the middle of the flea market and doing some meditation, this is not what I mean. When finally you have laid your hands on some seeming good buys, always think twice or even thrice before permanently making each product yours by purchasing it.

In the first place, you are going to the flea market to scout for nice products which are tagged with low prices. One of the most awful things you may experience is bringing home a bunch of things which you don't want at all. This is very likely to happen when you shop in a flea market since you get too excited with the rock-bottom prices which almost all products are tagged with. Don't let these cheap price tags cloud your judgment; discipline yourself by double checking if each product you have taken hold of is indeed a worthy buy.

Same thing, different price tags. While a flea market stall may have just one stock of each product, there are some flea markets having stalls which offer the same products. One of the last things you want to happen is finding that same wooden basket you just bought from one stall at a lower price in another one. While the difference in prices may not be that big, you may actually buy another product if you sum up all the differences in prices that you lost from impulsively buying.

Damaged goods. Another reason why you should take your sweet time deciding to buy a flea market product is the fact that some may be damaged. Although you may return damaged products if coupled with their receipts, you are better off inspecting each product you intend to purchase before bringing them to the counter.

The art of haggling. One of the beauties of buying from flea markets is that you may negotiate with the salespeople for the products' prices. While you may do this in a bidding fashion, you may also ask the stall's owner or salesperson for the product's last price.

The craft of hoarding. I don't mean actually getting each product you get to lay your eyes on, but actually piling great finds and purchasing them at the same time, instead of buying products individually in a stall. This is because some flea market stall owners give bigger discounts when you buy several products all at once.

Now who says flea markets are not to be taken seriously? With these flea market shopping commandments indelibly set and sure to guide you in each stall and every find, you are most likely to have an exceptional shopping experience worth remembering. Just keep in mind that as with any experience, shopping in a flea market should be maximized, yet kept in moderation. You wouldn't want to walk home penniless as your shopping spree sucked the life out of your wallet.

Indian Delicacy

Indian food, yes food from India, is something everyone should experience one time or another, if not often. Since I grew up in a small town kind of in the country, I had very little multicultural exposure in any sense, much less in the realm of food. Chinese takeout (which we never had, because my mother doesn't like it) was the extent of the international cuisine that was available in my area. Even when I went away to college I chose another ridiculously small town, but lucky enough for me, I started on an educational journey that led me to live in several states and also to visit several different countries. With this, I began to see and enjoy food which were not french fries, beef and mashed potatoes. In fact, I spent one year living in Great Britain, and if you know anything about England you will know that the Indian population there is very large, and that Indian food is a staple there, available both in plentiful restaurants and in the grocery stores. In my college cafeteria, where the "third option" in the US would have been pizza or something as canonically American, we had curry available every day.

For those of you who don't know what a curry is, it is just one example of the very flavorful food that is available from this culture. There are several types, and it is basically meat cooked in a deliciously flavorful sauce, that is eaten poured over rice. There are many colors and flavors of curry, and the meat can be chicken, beef, or often, lamb. If you want to attack cooking of Indian food yourself, this is where you should begin. I learned to make curry from a british friend of Indian descent, and the recipe is fantastic.

The thing about Indian food is that it is packed full of flavors. This is something that Americans don't know very much about, since our traditional foods (besides (and including) McDonald's) are all pretty bland. I have heard lots of people from other countries saying that American food is very boring and flavorless, and that we don't even use salt! Sometimes I think the only flavor that we have going for us is barbeque sauce, which is actually something that can be pretty flavorful, and is definitely pretty american. But the point is, be prespared fro flavor overload the first time you taste Indian food, and you will have to try to slow down, back up, and take in the flavors, to enjoy them. My sister told me once that she didn't like Indian food that much and only after a few tries did she realize that there are so many flavors, and that this is what makes the taste so excellent.

But, those flavors don't get there all by themselves. If you want to start cooking Indian food, it's possible that you are going to have to make a complete overhaul of your spice rack! My firned's recipe calles for something like 8 or 9 different spices, which you put in a cup with a little water and you make a *serious* paste of seasonings. When I think about how we usually sprinkle spices into a recipe, or put a teaspoon of one or two flavors into a dish, and then I look at this little cup of spices for putting in curry, I have a great appreciation for the cultural genius of flavor that originated this great food.

Anyway, Indian food has definitely become one of my favorite foods to this day. If you go to a good Indian restaurants (and if it's a good restaurant, it should have built the traditional Indian ovens used to bake bread and cook some meats), be sure to try a naan (a flatbread similar to greek pita, only lighter and tastier), maybe even a flavored naan with garlic or cinnamon. If they have it, try fish tikka, which is fish marinated in spices and cooked on skewers in a special Indian oven. If they don't have fish tikka, they probably have chicken tikka or something else similar. For a pretty "normal" curry, go for chicken marsala or chicken tikka masala. And since lamb is a staple, you should also think about trying a lamb curry or some seasoned lamb meat.

Even if you don't usually like foreign foods, you should give Indian food a try. There is nothing else like it when it comes to true, deep flavor.

Exceptional Gift Ideas for Valentine's Day

by Deborah Rosalind Nieto

Christmas is around the corner so why are we thinking of Cupid when we should be getting ready for Santa Claus' arrival? Well, I figured that it's never too early to start preparing for a Valentine's gift for your partner. The following suggestions aim to displace the so-so gifts that, for years, lovers think of giving each other.

The great thing about these presents is you don't need to spend a month's worth of your income to afford them. Most of them require a little creativity and sweetness as you do an early preparation for the day of hearts.

So-so gift: Flowers

Yes, that bloody red bouquet of roses or bunch of colorful tulips may surely put a spark on your girlfriend's eye but for crying out loud, why don't you try going the extra mile by being original for once?

I know a few women who, while admitting that they find it heartwarming to receive flowers from guys, point out that it's not at all practical with the time bomb these lovely things come with. Pretty soon, even before February ends, you can expect those dazzling daisies sinking in witheredness.

Wow! Gift: Flower plant

Offering your partner a potted flower does not demand that you have a single thread of green thumb. You may buy a potted flower plant at such a lower price than a bunch of soon-to-wither flowers. Just like the plethora of flowers found in a shop, you can find a wide variety of potted flower plants in malls and even online. From violets to orchids, the choices are almost endless, giving you trouble deciding which flower to choose as a Valentine's present.

Giving this kind of present does not only make you stand out among other Valentine's gifts on that lovely day, it even extends up to the next Februarys to come. With the flower rooted on life-giving soil, your gift lives a lengthy period of time, making for a great memory to your loved one day in and day out.

Where is the personalized touch in this present, you may ask. Well, all you have to do is center your creative talent on the flower's pot itself. Think of children's clay, paint, dried leaves, and even crumpled recycled paper and you can create a masterpiece out of the humble clay pot. You may get minimalist with simple acrylic paint sketches, or get complicated by creating a mosaic out of broken glass. You might even astonish yourself once you realize that your loved one noticed the artwork more than the flower itself.

So-so gift: Music CD

A CD of salsa music or amorous songs may serve as a perfect present to set that lovely mood between you and your partner. Yet it seems to be too easy to buy a single CD in the music store, wrap it up and hand it to your loved one. That's it. The recording company and the artist practically did most of the work for you.

Don't get me wrong. If my significant other bought a music CD for me, I would be purely blissful and grateful. It's just that, putting myself in the giver's perspective, it seems all too effortless.

Wow! Gift: Burned MP3 compact disc which you compiled yourself

Need I say more? A CD which you yourself compiled will definitely personalize a CD present. All you need is a single piece of CD-R, or if you want a much bigger disc space, a DVD-R.

While you get to choose the kind of songs and music to burn into the compact disk, you need to tailor them to your partner's taste and/or the amorous mood of this day. If you want to follow the first one, you may simply download online some of her favorite music and songs and arrange their order in the CD. If you want to personalize the collection even more, why not sing some or all of the songs yourself? There are such computer programs which let you record your voice as you sing to a song's tune.

However, if you want to stick to love songs and just leave them be, you may consider downloading various romantic songs and music which your partner may not have heard before. You can do this by downloading music from different countries, making your Valentine's Day celebration a feast of various cultures. From Spanish serenades to Korean love songs, you can never go wrong with expanding your partner's horizon through this exceptional music collection.

To make this present even more personalized, you may design a CD cover for your music compilation. You may create a chromatic artwork with color pencils and poster paint or simply create sketches with an indelible black pen on a piece of plain cardboard.

So-so gift: DVD of a romantic movie

The film's plot is magnificent, the actors' acting flawless and the director's work incredible, so what then makes this gift so-so? Well, anyone could simply give a copy of the same romantic movie to your loved one and make her heart melt all the same. Yes, the gift may become more special if it came from you, but still, anyone could have thought of it and bought it for your partner. That thought alone makes this present your average Valentine's gift.

Wow! Gift: Movie of your pictures and videos together

This is one of the delightful and heartwarming presents you can create for your loved one. Again, all you need is a blank CD into which you can burn your masterpiece.

Then, you just have to compile your memorable pictures and/or videos together. You can create a movie out of these pictures by simply using computer programs such as Windows Movie Maker to have your pictures shown in a creative manner while a song or music is playing. While you may turn to online tutorials featuring these computer programs, I bet there are embedded tutorials in the programs themselves. You can even learn this art on your own by experimenting with options as you go along.

This gift may take about the whole day to make, especially if you're a beginner, nonetheless, it is not a tedious task at all. Although it may get very challenging, you may actually find the work itself as fun and relaxing. Again, you may opt to create an artwork for the compact disc cover to make it even more personalized and special.

So-so gift: Book

Books are one of the noblest things to give on any occasion. For this day filled with love, you may opt to give romance novels or whatever book suits your loved one's taste. However, as with the music CD present, buying a book seems like a present bought by making a last-minute trip to the bookstore. Yes, you may make the extra effort by writing a note of dedication to your loved one on the first page of the book, but it still seems like a pale gift to give on such a splendid occasion.

Wow! gift: Scrapbook with your pictures on it

Scrapbooking is indeed a craze which a lot of people have become addicted to these days. This is not to say that you should create a scrapbook with all your mementos just so you could join the bandwagon. This makes for a very thoughtful present to your loved one, expressing to her that you treasure your moments together.

It does not only serve as a Valentine's gift, but a jumpstarter for the two of you to embark on a scrapbooking hobby together. You do not have to limit yourself with pictures so feel free to include receipts of stuff you bought together, napkins from restaurants you dined in, and other whatnot which are from moments you spent together or simply those which remind you of each other.

So-so gift: A shirt

It's always nice to add another top to your partner's wardrobe. I, for one, would be happy to receive this gift from my hubby. Then again, besides being an effortless gift to buy, if it were a dish, I'm sure it would be completely bland.

This may serve as a good gift if you were to give one to your partner on an ordinary day. Yet to give a shirt bought from the mall as a Valentine's gift must be a crime every guy must never commit.

Wow! gift: A shirt you designed

Again, this calls for some creativity and personalization. Whatever the design you come up with, I'm sure your partner will be overwhelmed with bliss once she finds out you put hard work on this present.

A lot of plain shirts may be bought in boutiques, shops and online stores. While white is an ideal choice, you can certainly expect other colors to be available almost anywhere. Just go for the one which has a good quality and a nice fit.

To create nice designs on the shirt, you may avail of spray paint, fabric paints and pens which never fade when washed. You may also consider using stencils to serve as patterns for your designs. You can get these materials, and other more, from your local crafts store where you can inquire better to get an idea of what would work best with your style.

While most people around you spend their December in a holiday rush, cramming to buy Christmas gifts around town, you are probably the only human being preparing for another occasion yet to be remembered by anyone. You can never go wrong with starting your shopping for a Valentine's present as early as now. That way, when February arrives, you may have to shop for gifts for Mother's Day.

Top Five Gift Ideas for the Preschooler on your Holiday List

By Christina VanGinkel

Toys for preschoolers are abundant, so shopping for them should not be all that difficult, yet it often is. The preschoolers on your list might have every toy known to man, already in their possession, or their likes and dislikes might change on a whim. They find themselves past that toddler stage, where as long as a toy is colorful or makes a bit of noise, it will occupy them, yet not old enough to enjoy fully many toys which are geared for kids that have already reached school age.

With these factors in mind, I have put together a list of five gift ideas, including a few toys, furniture, and imaginative items that are sure to please even the most finicky preschooler you know.

A Hoberman Sphere Ball

As simple as a ball is, preschoolers love them. What they love even more is any ball that has something special about it, something unique that sets it apart from the crowd. A regular ball is something a toddler would play with, so they want a ball that is going to go that extra step to help it stand out from the crowd. A Hoberman Sphere Ball is every preschooler's idea of the perfect ball. A Hoberman Sphere Ball expands and then returns to its smaller size all with little force. They come in miniature sizes up to girths large enough that when opened, a preschooler could potentially climb right in. A Hoberman Sphere Ball comes in a variety of colors, including those that glow in the dark, so if you need to pick up something for more than one preschooler, be sure to pick different colors to keep their unique factor one hundred percent in place.

Bouncers

While kids love trampolines, they have a risk factor that many parents are just not willing to engage in. Bouncers, enclosed as they are and filled with air, offer preschoolers the availability of action, in a much safer environment. Many also offer other activities such as basketball and built in slides. The only downfall I found them to have, was that most are not big enough to accommodate the adults who would love to climb in and play too! They come in a wide variety of sizes, so if you have limited space, do be sure to check any set up measurement requirements before buying.

Dress Up Trunk

Once upon a time, kids would gather hand me downs to play dress up with. If you want to recreate some of the fun, you had when you were at that age, a dress up trunk filled with castoffs of old clothes and jewelry, or a purchased one outfitted in a specific theme is sure to thrill. I have come across some filled with enough gear for several children to enjoy dressing up at once, along with their imaginations in place, into princesses, pirates, fairies, and more.

Furniture

Preschoolers love furniture that is their size. From recliners to couches, even flip beds and chairs. They especially like it if the furniture resembles the adult counterpart, such as the wildly popular recliners that look almost identical to their larger versions. Preschoolers also like furniture that is a bit funky, such as video rockers or the current popular folding chairs that are upholstered in zany colors and fabrics. Beanbag chairs are also well liked.

Tents and Tunnels

Tents and tunnels made for indoor play are often a preschooler's favorite things. They can use them to play pretend in, imagining them to be their castles or forts. They can curl up in them with a book or their menagerie of favorite stuffed animals and dolls. They can host a tea party, or put together a mountain climbing expedition (my grandson's current use, with a jump rope as his climbing rope and my couch as Mt. Everest!), with a tent or tunnel as their home base. Tents and tunnels provide preschoolers with a space inside that they can call their own. And if you happen to not have enough room to leave a tent or tunnel open all of the time, almost everyone I have seen recently, folds up quickly and stores in a carry pouch in just seconds, and pops back to play with the next time just as swiftly.

Alternatives To A Formal Dinner

This year my husband and I decided not to go anywhere for Thanksgiving. For people born and raised in the United States, this decision may seem a violation of all we have ever learned. Thanksgiving, more than Christmas even, is about being with family and friends, gorging oneself, and probably watching a little football.

We made the decision after a lot of deliberation. I am seven months pregnant with our second child, and neither driving the 700 miles to see my family nor flying that pregnant and with a toddler seemed like a fun idea. My in-laws are closer, but by the time we wrapped our heads around the idea of staying home and relaxing, we were prepared to go the whole way with it.

After a week or two of listening to griping and trying to explain our decision, we have reached the point of planning our own, small family Thanksgiving. The first problem we encountered is that a turkey is far too large for two adults and one toddler. Even if we gave the cats a bite or two, we would be eating turkey until 2007. That left us, and perhaps some of you, looking for alternatives to the large Thanksgiving meal.

One option is to get a smaller size turkey, such as a 5-pound breast. While it will not have the traditional turkey look, it is much juicier and easier to make into sandwiches later. The second option is to get a different type bird. Cornish hens or duck work well as alternatives to turkey and still make an elegant meal.

A second option is to go out to eat. While many restaurants will be closed for the holiday, some will have Thanksgiving meals for people who do not want to spend the holiday alone but have no family with whom to enjoy the day. These restaurants will be on low service, meaning there will not be many servers and cooks. Still, though, you should be able to go out to a decent meal and avoid the clean up associated with Thanksgiving.

Third, you could consider ordering a meal. We are leaning toward this option right now. Many delis (and delis within grocery stores) take orders for Thanksgiving meals. Some offer only meals for four, eight, or other nice, round numbers of people. Others, however, allow you to order individual meals, and everyone will get a hefty portion of turkey along with cranberry sauce, green beans, mashed potatoes, and other traditional dishes. By ordering from a deli, you can have the meal at home on your own dishes (even the fine china if you would like), but you are avoiding the cooking and massive leftovers.

Some people may choose to forgo the traditional meal altogether. We have created our own Christmas tradition that does this, and it works well for us. Though I love ham, I certainly need neither the fat nor sodium in it. Plus, after a month of heavy eating every year, my husband and I got tired of it. Last year we chose to go non-traditional and have a seafood Christmas at our home before heading to the in-laws and their Christmas ham. We made shrimp and crab legs and had them with some lighter side items. You could opt to do something similar for Thanksgiving. Forget the turkey and make whatever sounds appealing to you and your family. Make it a tradition for you.

Finally, though I realize how sacrilegious this is in a largely overweight and overeating society, you could focus on something other than the meal. Make dips or a standard family meal and then have something else to occupy your time during the day. If you have been trying to get healthy, this option may be the best for your. Instead of spending the day fretting over Thanksgiving dinner, go for a long bike ride. Get up as a family and watch the sun rise. Get a jumpstart on your Christmas decorations. Spend the day reading a book or talking to each other. Although we make the food the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving meal, it does not have to be that way. You can opt to do something different for your family.

By Brandi Rhoades

Staying Warm and Cozy in a Freezing Climate

Whether you're from Florida and you just moved up north, or you are going to Russia for a winter vacation (let me just point out that that is crazy), you may find useful a few ideas for staying warm when it gets frosty outside. Especially if you are a student and you have to walk to school in the cold, but try to stay reasonably cool in the usual tropical climate indoors in the winter, or are in some other similar paradoxical temperature situation on a daily basis, climate control can become a real issue. I have a few suggestions.

Your first options are the obvious one; coat, scarf, gloves. With coats, you have thousands of options; synthetic coats that cut the wind, wool coats that really cut the cold, down coats that heat you up like nobody's business, and any manner of sweaters, denim jackets and sweatshirt-jackets to keep you warm in the moderate cold or in a room with heat on too low. Start by wearing a sweater or something warm that will be under your coat. If you usually wear t-shirts, throw a sweater or sweatshirt over it before putting on your coat and hat. If you get hot, you can always take it off. If you like feeling warm and cozy, and especially if you live in a windy climate and have to walk or be outside regularly, invest in a nice, soft, good quality scarf. A scarf is invaluable in the wind and really helps to keep you warm. Also, if you wrap the scarf around your neck and then let the ends hang in front of your body, it will do a good job of blocking any wind trying to make its way into your coat by way of zippers, snaps, and buttons. Also, a scarf has recently become and intensely popular fashion accessory and is a way to express yourself, so if you are into fashion, this could be a plus as well. Personally, I think that scarves are fantastically versatile, since I like to wear mine indoors, during class for example, when i am a little bit chilly but not cold enough to put my coat on. Just covering your neck and parts of your shoulders can do wonders to get you cozy in a hurry without overdoing it. Last, gloves are invaluable. i keep two types; one is a pair of nice, leather gloves for when it is really really cold outside. While fashionable and universally wearable (casual or fancy), they cut wind, and protect quite well from the cold. They also have a nice grip, so if they fit well, you can do pretty much everything you can do without gloves while you are wearing them (something that is untrue for a lot of skiing gloves, for example; but these may be essential if you are in a very very cold climate, or if you are skiing, for example). The other pair of gloves I keep are those "magic" one-size fits all gloves, the kind made out of thin knitting that stretch to fit pretty much any hand, that cost about a dollar or two anywhere that sells clothes or at your favorite department store. These are nice because they don't take up a lot of room, and can keep your hands from feeling frozen when it is chilly, but not windy or extremely cold. They are also good fro wearing inside if you need a little extra protection from that air conditioner! But when it's snowy or windy out, leave these at home and wear something stronger.

The most important tip, I have already mentioned; dress in layers. I like to dress warmly but if I get too hot when I am inside, I become absolutely uncomfortable. So I always dress in a way which can be modified to make my current temperature optimal. This usual means that I wear a tank top as a bottom layer, a t-shirt, dress shirt, or other mid-range layer on top of that, and sometimes a sweater or sweatshirt on top of that. This may be a little bit overkill, especially if you could also see my scarf usage and my coat too, but I like having lots of options about how warm I will be, and also about how cozy I will be. because I work independently all the time and usually in front of a computer, being comfortable is also really important to me.

Last, I will mention a few extras; long underwear, knee high socks, and panty hose. Long underwear can be invaluable if you are in a very cold location. While we can pile on ten shirts to stay warm, it is hard to do the same with pants. One option is to get a pair of over-sized wind-cutting nylon (or similar fabric) pair of pants that you can wear over your normal pants when you have to be outside, but another option is just to put something else under. "Long underwear", also called "thermal underwear" or "long johns" can so wonders. There are options; the most common is that thermal fabric with all the little squares - this is very effective. Also effective, but thinner and more comfortable (equally more expensive though) are all-silk versions. I advise investing in these if you are going to be wearing them on a day-to-day basis, to make your life more comfortable. If you are only going ot wear them on that yearly hunting or skiing trip, go with the cheap incarnation. Another option (really more for women than for men) is knee-high socks. Clearly these are not as comprehensive a solution as long underwear (which can also be worn up top, by the way), but they can certainly be helpful. Wearing a pair of knee-high socks just adds a little bit of warmth under the pants and really helps with pesky wind that bites at your ankles and climbs its way upward to the rest of your legs. Last, if it's extremely cold, panty hose (for you women) have the same effect as thermal underwear in a pinch (for that ski trip), but I don't recommend this on a regular basis as wear and tear on hose underneath pants is pretty high.

Staying cozy and warm in a freezing climate really isn't that hard. If you bundle up well, (and don't forget to wear a hat too - we lose lots of heat from our heads!) you can almost forget about the cold, except for it rushing into your lungs. When you get back inside, as long as you are dressed in layers, you can peel them off to reach the appropriate comfort level. Best of luck and stay warm this winter!

Creating A Weight-Loss Wardrobe

After my daughter is born in January, I am planning to go on a weight-loss journey. During the year before I got pregnant with my son, I gained a whopping 40 pounds. Life was crazy then; I was not healthy. After my son was born, I lost the baby weight but still kept much of my regular weight. Then the weight started creeping up again. I gained another 25 pounds in the 18 months after my son was born. Then I found out I was pregnant again.

During this pregnancy, as in the last one, I have gained only about six pounds at the 32-week mark. Still my total weight is at 204, and I can say honestly that I never thought I would see that weight on the scale. There were times when I would have been shocked to know I would ever weigh more than 150 pounds.

At any rate, I have promised myself that I would lose 70 pounds after this delivery. One of the questions that brought up for me is how I will manage to create a wardrobe that fits and works with the weight loss. I do not want to spend a small fortune on clothes just to find out that I have lost enough weight in a few weeks to move down a size or two. At the same time, spending all of that effort on losing weight hardly seems worth it if you are hiding behind too big sweat clothes.

Had you asked me before this weight gain experience if I felt physical appearance was important, I would have told you no. That is because I never knew what it was like not to be able to fit into the latest trendy clothes. I had the option of wearing those clothes, and now I do not.

So, I have spent a good deal of time thinking about building a wardrobe for rapid weight loss. I think it is important to have a plan in place before I begin the regimen. For starters, I have nixed the idea of just wearing my regular clothes for a while. I went through my wardrobe and tossed anything I did not think would flatter me in my first few weeks postpartum. Those pieces are the base of my wardrobe.

I also decided, as I believe you should if you are undertaking such as journey, that I will stick to having seven outfits that I can wear comfortably at any one time. Now, if you are a bargain shopper, you can scour secondhand stores and discount retailers to find those seven outfits for little money. I have been doing a little investigating on that end. The secondhand shop near us sells most items at basic costs. Shirts are $2.50; pants are $3.00.

The problem with secondhand stores is that they, of course, require a lot more planning. You have to sift through the racks to find clothes that are flattering. Many of them are not based on size. They use a more arbitrary system, such as color coding, which makes it even more difficult to find what you need. With that said, you should plan to spend an entire morning or afternoon in these stores if you want to build even a short-term wardrobe from them.

My plan of attack is that when I need a new size, I will go to these secondhand shops by myself and spend time looking. One of the best ways to make sure you are making good choices in these stores, especially if you have not been into fashions recently, is to take pictures from magazines with you. Cut out a few photos of fashion trends you like and then use them as a guide while you are shopping.

Use accessories to build wardrobes that will work with you. Right now, large bangle-type bracelets and larger pieces of jewelry are popular. Buy a few of these pieces so that you can dress up basics at each size level. You will be able to keep the same accessory pieces so that you may be able to buy just a couple of new shirts to fit a new size instead of needing to buy clothing that will stand out.

Avoiding Jean Faux Pas

Finding the right pair of jeans can be a real hassle, especially if you do not fit a standard mold of woman. Many women, in fact, give up on the right pair of jeans before they search enough to find one. Stacy London, the fashionista and co-host of What Not To Wear, which plays on TLC, recently went on Oprah to solve what London loving called an epidemic of bad jean-wearing by American women.

London tried to give audience members tips to help them pick out the right jean. The biggest tip was that you have to keep trying. At one point, London said that many women need to try five, 10, or 15 styles of jean before they find the perfect pair. That means that many women will want to set aside a Saturday of shopping to get the right pair of jeans.

One of the most common mistakes during the current craze with low-rise jeans has been women whose tummy fat hangs over the edge of their jeans. These women usually are pretty young and are trying to fit in with the stereotype. Instead, these women should look for jeans that fit better. Typically the waist size on the jeans are too small, so try out a bigger size. If the jean fits everywhere except the waist, then it may not be the right jean. If you are heavier in the tummy than you would like, seek out mid-rise jeans so that you can still be in style but avoid the problem of having others looking at your fat rolls instead of your pants.

Speaking of low-rise jeans, women should make sure they can move around in jeans before purchasing them. Many women are guilty of showing their world their undies or even their backsides because they do not take the time to pull their shirts down and jeans up before they bend down, which gives everyone a view of their backsides. If you are going to wear low-rise jeans, then you should be sure that you will be conscientious enough to make them look good at all times.

Another big issue with jeans is wearing taper leg jeans. Although taper legs have not been stylish since the 1980s, some women still insist on wearing them, but they are one of the least flattering styles of jeans. Because the leg gets narrower as you go down the leg, tapered leg jeans make most women look as if their legs are larger. Plus, they tend to focus attention on the ankle area. Many women wear tapered jeans because they believe the only alternative is the wide-leg flare variety. That is absolutely untrue! The legs of jeans come in all styles from boot cut to slight flares. Anything that is not tapered will look better than your current pair of jeans if you are sticking to tapered legs.

Another problem with jeans is getting a pair with an unflattering leg design. The legs of jeans should fit but should not bunch. If your jeans seem to bunch, then they are not the right size for your leg type. If, on the other hand, the thighs of your jeans are stretched taut, then you probably are drawing attention to your thighs and making them look bigger than they actually are. Neither option is appealing to others who are looking at you, so you should make sure that you find a leg fit that is snug but not too tight. Though you should avoid pleats at all costs, do try out new styles of jeans. Something that is a little out of the ordinary may be just what you need to look your best in a great pair of jeans.

Finally make sure as best you can that the behind of the jeans look right. If you have a trusted friend or a partner with you, then you should ask that person. You want pockets that fit right and are flattering instead of ones that hang to the sides or low on the buttocks.

Finding the right pair of jeans just takes time. Be sure that you give yourself plenty of looking and trying on time when you head out to get your next pair of jeans.

The Fitted Shirt - Woman's Best Friend

I would like to propose a toast, perhaps a tribute, to what is think is the fashion-wary (or not so wary) women's best friend - the fitted shirt. Fitted shirts are absolutely useful. They are easy to find, look great in any situation (except maybe a black tie event or the Emmys), are inexpensive, accentuate the body, and are easy to take care of. What else can you ask for?

I am more of a practical kind of girl when it comes to fashion. i like to look good, and I put a little bit of effort into this, though it has nothing to do with what people think of me. Obviously, I want to be wearing something "acceptable" most of the time, but I'm not the kind of person who likes anything that is not very acceptable anyway. I like to look good, but i am too lazy to spend one minute of my day putting on makeup, for instance. But the main thing for me is that I FEEL like I look good, because if I feel like I look good then I really do feel good. This is the most valuable thing about fashion to me, and it is what motivates me to dress nicely - not to please someone else. I think that this is a very reasonable, and pretty fulfilling too, attitude to have about dressing.

That said, my favorite fashion "accessory" (although it's obviously more of a main course), is the fitted shirt. I like the way they look. They look smart when you are trying to be a little dressy, and casual at the same time. For example, if you are just going to school but you want to be slightly dressy, you can wear a fitted shirt with jeans, and they don't look mismatched at all, but rather make you look a bit sharper than the usual t-shirt or even a sweater. There is something about that row of buttons in the front that makes you look (and feel) sophisticated. But that's not all. They are comfortable too. It's so easy to put on and take off these shirts (without messing up your hair!) and you can layer them over a tank top, camisole, or even t-shirt, so that if you have a climate change, you have options. Also, you have options with the way that the sleeves look. Although with some styles it looks sloppy, I like to leave the cuffs unbuttoned, so that the cuffs hang and look big; I like big cuffs. I also like to double them back, so that they are out of the way and less floppy, but still kind of stylish. You can even roll up the sleeves if you want to seem extra snazzy-casual. Also, wear the same fitted shirt with dress pants or a skirt and you look quite sophisticated

Also, the thing about a fitted shirt is that it has a bit of the shape of your body. Regular shirts and blouses have no shape and don't look as good because of this. Also, with contoured seams that match the shape of your body, you generally can leave the shirt untucked from your dress pants or shirt, making it ultra easy to look good and to stay that way throughout the day (also allowing the options for taking off the outside layer, if you want).

Fitted shirts are also easy to find. No matter what the fashion of the year is, you always have the basics, and this is one of them. You will find varying colors and patterns from year to year, but this is just an advantage. And you have incarnations in all kinds of fabrics, some more or less dressy, some with a bit of sparkle, some warmer or cooler, some softer, thicker, or smoother to the touch. There are thousands of options in this simple world. I think it is possible to have a collection of fitted shirts and wear them every day and alwys look good, and never look boring. This is the closest thing we (women) can get to the extremely simple and yet classy fashion advantage that men have in suits. The best thing is that with "modern technology", the shirts are absolutely easy to care for. Even though you can buy "easy care" fabrics and no-iron shirts, this is generally hardly necessary. Unless you have a particularly delicate fabric, you can wash the shirts with any other (similarly colored, of course) clothes that you have, and even dry them in a dryer - the only trick is to pull the shirts out right after the dryer is finished and they are still warm, and hang them up immediately - this keeps almost all modern fabrics from wrinkling and saves you time ironing.

So as you can see, as a practical issue, fitted shirts are really the way to go. Classy, simple, elegant, and casual all at the same time, you can't go wrong if you are going to a party, a friends house, or to class at university. When you buy one, check how it fits the shape of your body - it should be fashionably loose (I'm thinking cute business attire here - not "look at my chest"! but not "I think I'm unattractive, therefore I'm avoiding showing any body shape!" either...) also, check how you like the length. I generally like shorter shirts (they make you look taller) but not so short that I'm showing any belly. Longer shirts can be okay too if the fabric doesn't make weird bunches when you sit down. The best idea is to wear your favorite pair of jeans or dress slacks when you go shopping and try on the shirts. Also, it's not a bad idea to pick up some tank tops or camisoles to wear with them, and a sweater or jacket to wear over. These items can only increase the fantastic utility of the fitted shirt. And lake sure that your dress pants and jeans collection match well with your choices at the store.

So fill up your closets, ladies! What can be easier? Like I said, I am practical, and I like taking a look in my closet in the morning when I want to look good that day and finding an easy, simple solution, without a lot of thought about what matches what, what is too much or too little, too flashy or too skimpy. It only takes a couple of relaxed trips to your favorite stores to stock up, and then you'll be set for a while. I hope you find this advice useful - for me, these shirts have always been a life saver.

Manolo Blahnik- A Glimpse at a World Renowned Designer



The name Manolo Blahnik has become synonymous with footwear that is sexy, stylish and sought after by anyone who is anyone. Women all over the globe flock to stores to buy the adored shoe designs of Manolo Blahnik. They are the shoes of choice for such big names as Madonna and actress Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and the City fame, as well as many supermodels and movie starlets. It was during the 1970s and 1980s that the incredible shoe designs of Manolo Blahnik started to become known in the world of high fashion. In the early 1990s millions of television viewers cam to know the name of Manolo Blahnik due to a British comedy called Absolutely Fabulous. By the late 1990s the popular HBO series Sex and the City made more inroads for this up and coming shoe designer as the main character of the show, a sex columnist named Carrie Bradshaw (played by none other than the incredibly talented Sarah Jessica Parker) was also shoe obsessed with her many pairs of Manolo Blahniks. Carrie loved her Manolos like some women love chocolate.

The innovative creations of Manolo Blahnik have amazing panache and scream sex appeal like no other design of shoes does. The shoes he designs are inspired by a number of sources that range from interesting points of architecture to films that are memorable. Other strong influences to his work include Jean-Luc Goddard, Francois Tuffaut, Pedro Almodovar and the Frank Gehry Building.

Manolo Blahnik has reached international acclaim and currently lives in a stately Georgian home in Bath, England. In fitting style, Blahnik lives with a collection of 10,000 pairs of shoes that he laughingly describes as his stupid shoes. Blahnik is very much a part of every pair of shoes he designs. He still conscientiously crafts each individual shoe himself and every pair must live up to his incredibly high standards. Each shoe is designed to a European size 37 (or a British size 5) and scaled to sizes 35 to 40. Each new season 250 prototypes are created in one of four small factories on the outskirts of the city of Milan, but only an exclusive 85 styles are chosen to appear in each finished collection.

Background of Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik came into the world on November 28 in the year 1942 in Santa Cruz de la Palma in the Canary Islands. He was born to a mother who is Spanish and a Czech father. Manolo and his sister Evangelina grew up on the banana plantation where the Blahnik family lived. Their mother home schooled both of the youngsters. The Blahnik family frequently traveled to both Paris and Madrid, where his mother bought clothes from her favorite clothing designers while his father visited the tailors in those cities. Young Manolo Blahnik grew used to the sight of beautiful clothing. As well he received an early education in the art of shoemaking by observing his mother making her own footwear, using lace and ribbon. It was his mother who was his very first inspiration.

Both his mother and father hoped that their son Manolo would become a diplomat, but after only one semester at the University of Geneva studying both politics and law, Manolo transferred into literature and architecture. In 1965, Manolo relocated to Paris to study art and stage design at Lecole des Beaux-Arts and the Louvre Art School, during which time he was also employed at a vintage clothing store near Saint German des Pres.

Manolo Blahnik moved to London in the year 1970, wanting to improve upon his command of the English language. Once there he found employment in a clothing boutique and he also became a photographer for The Sunday Times, and fast became a part of the stylish and fashionable art scene.

The start of a career in shoes

Interestingly enough, despite his incredible talent for shoemaking, Manolo Blahnik was never formally trained in the craft. For the past three decades he has been designing the most sought-after line of designer footwear the world over. It was during a meeting with then editor of U.S. Vogue, Diana Vreeland in 1971 that Manolo Blahnik was persuaded to go into shoe design based solely on his creative and imaginative as well as very impressive, shoe sketches. He decided to take the advice he was given and thus began his education in the art of designing shoes.

Initially Manolo Blahnik began designing shoes for men at a Chelsea Boutique called Zapata but he did not find the world of mens shoes challenging or stimulating enough so he decided to make the switch to designing shoes for women instead, hoping it would be more his niche in fashion. It was as he took to designing shoes for women with a flare. After only one year had gone by, Blahnik was invited to collaborate with the flamboyant and talented fashion designer Ossie Clark to design shoes for his runway show.

It took only a short period of time before the creations of Manolo Blahnik became all the rage in the fashion world. Suddenly everyone wanted to own a pair of Manolo Blahnik originals, including Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall. In 1973, Manolo Blahnik got a small loan from a bank and bought out the owner of Zapata. Him and his sister then set about developing a design business of their own. Manolo Blahnik was the very first man to appear on the cover of the magazine British Vogue. He did so alongside actress Angelica Huston in 1974.

Breaking into the American market

The big break for Manolo Blahnik in the United States took place in the year 1978 when he launched his shoe collection for the well-known store Bloomingdales. In 1979 he opened his very first American shop in New York City on Madison Avenue. In 1980 Blahnik designed shoes for the designer Perry Ellis. In the United States his shoe sales began to soar after he made the decision to hire a man by the name of George Malkemus who was a copywriter working in the marketing department of Bergdorf Goodman, to be his partner. The year was 1982. While Manolo and his sister Evangelina continued to be in charge of the European side of the business, it was Malkemus who renegotiated the existing distribution agreements that Blahnik had with the United States.

Getting bigger all the time

Manolo Blahnik was invited to design shoes for Calvin Klein and his ready-to-wear collections in 1984. The experience working alongside Klein taught him a tremendous amount about designing shoes for a much wider and emerging market. He collaborated with fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi in the year 1988 and then in 1991 the very first Manolo Blahnik shoe store opened its doors in Hong Kong.

In 1992 Manolo Blahnik was invited to designed shoes for the signature label for John Galliano. Throughout the 1990s he continued to collaborate with the top fashion designers of the day including Caroline Herrara, Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta. In the year 1994 Manolo was honored to work with all three of the aforementioned designers in the same year. In 1997 Blahnik teamed up again with John Galliano for the first couture collection for Christian Dior.

The many awards of Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik and his heavenly shoe creations have won him praise and glory all over the globe as well as many illustrious awards. In the year 2000 he received the Nieman Marcus Award and then in 2001 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Arts in London. At the same time Manolo Blahnik was also made an Honorary Royal Designer for Industry. As well in 2001 Blahnik received the Golden Needle award in Spain (also referred to as La Aguja de Oro) and in 2002, he received the prestigious Medalla de Oro en Merito en Bellas Artes. In the year 2003, Manolo Blahnik became the very first shoe designer to be honored with an exhibit of his own at the London Design Museum. This exhibit was a smashing success and ran from February until May of 2003. The wonders of his work are likely to keep Manolo Blahnik designing shoes for many years to come.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tips for Buying and Applying Your Scent of Choice

The power of smell is stronger than many people realize. That is why the choice of a fragrance is every bit as important as the choice of shoes you wear to complete an outfit or the choice of accessories you wear to set off an ensemble. Your perfume speaks volume to other people about your personality, your lifestyle and the way that your mind works. It also has the ability to make an impression on other people. Bear in mind that a fragrance is so many things and you want it to linger ever so slightly in a room after you have made your exit. A fragrance is art after all and it is also a statement about emotion. Fragrance is also romance, energy, empowerment, vitality and intimacy. A perfume tells a tale simply by its memorable scent and also by how it makes the wearer feel.

Tips for shopping for a signature scent

When it comes time to buy a signature scent, decide whether you want to indulge in a classic scent, a delicate scent or a sensual scent. Let us take a brief look at all three.

Classic Scent

If you are not sure what scent appeals to you then go for a classic scent. Classic scents are the staples of perfume, they are the tried-and-true perfumes without a trace of dullness connected to them. A classic perfume is comparable to the classic little black dress or a classic pair of pearl earrings that no wardrobe should be without. A classic fragrance coordinates with absolutely everything. It is perfect with every outfit and every pair of shoes. A classic fragrance is also suitable for every occasion whether it is business, social or casual and it suits all four seasons of the year. Two of the most timeless examples of classic fragrances are the legendary Chanel No. 5 and Oscar.

Delicate Scent

Delicate fragrances are just that- delicate, light, soft and incredibly feminine. Delicate fragrances are the perfume of choice for incurable romantics who enjoy watching sunrises and sunsets, sipping wine over a candlelit dinner and walks on the beach hand in hand at midnight. One of the most modern delicate fragrances on the market is made by Nina Ricci and is called Premier Jour. This perfume is based on a note of sugared almond and is very delectable to the senses.

Sensual Scent

The sensual group of fragrances is not for the meek and mild and certainly not for the faint at heart. Sensual scents are bold, self-confident, intense and very passionate. The two most well known sensual fragrances on the market today are Opium and Chance by Chanel. Opium has been around since 1977 and is a very sultry scent whereas Chance is spirited while at the same time, energetic, optimistic and edgy. Chance combines jasmine, pink pepper, white musk and citrus notes and would appeal to any sensuous woman.

Try it on yourself- you and only you

Keep in mind that perfume does not smell the exact same on everyone. Just as we all do not like to eat the same foods, we all do not like the same perfumes. How a perfume smells on a person has a lot to do with their body chemistry and body chemistry is a very individual thing. That is why it is essential to try a fragrance out on your own skin as opposed to that of your friend, your sister or your mother. Keep in mind as you sample different fragrances at the perfume counter that after they are applied to the skin, their smell changes slightly so make sure you are patient and give ample time to decide if the scent in question is suitable for you.

It cannot be emphasized enough, try a scent out on your own skin and do not just spray it into the air or spray it on a piece of cardboard. You have to make a determination of how the scent mixes with your body chemistry. Spray the scent on the inside of your wrist and then allow it to warm and absorb into your skin. Your own personal body oils will determine how the scent will smell on you on an individual basis.

Be patient with your perfume

Are you the queen of the snap decision? If yes then cool your heels when it comes to making a decision about a fragrance of your choice. After applying a given fragrance, give the scent 20 minutes to an hour to make a proper determination of whether or not it appeals to your sense of smell. An even better suggestion is to give your nose a whiff of the scent every couple of hours to determine for yourself if the fragrance has retained its original scent or not. Whether or not a scent has the power of longevity is very important to know. Some do, whereas many do not, and it depends on the person as well. Keep in mind that not all scents have the same effect on every person due to body chemistry. One scent may smell better on you than it does on your best friend and vice versa. Some people like to apply a scent to their inner wrist and then rub it on the other wrist hoping to transfer the scent. Do not do this because it will not have the desired result. If you rub your wrists together this can serve to alter the scent of the fragrance tremendously and that is definitely not something you want to do.

Where are the best places to apply fragrance? Think pulse points.

The best places on the human body to apply fragrances are the areas designated as pulse points, which include the sides of the neck, between the breasts, the inside of the wrists, the elbow creases, behind the knees and around the ankles. If you have already put on your watch and/or a bracelet be careful when spraying a fragrance near them. The fragrance you apply could easily react to the leather or plastic strap of the watch and/or the gold or silver that the bracelet is made up of and this could dull the material. Many women like to apply fragrance behind their ears but this is not advisable because that area of the human body contains a number of sebaceous glands, which will have an effect on how the fragrance smells both when you first apply it as well as hours later. Be aware that the area behind the ears is not a pulse point. Women who have skin that tends towards being dry will need to reapply their fragrance often but ladies with oily or combination skin will need to do it less often. The reason for this is that dry skin does not hold in scent quite as well as does skin that is higher in oil content.

When sampling new scents at a store, it is best to test them one at a time and not to overdo it. You can always plan another trip back to the perfume counter of your favorite department store or drug store in a day or two. If you sample too many fragrances at once you will likely confuse your nose and your brain and it will make it difficult for you to decide on any one fragrance.

Less is more

When it comes to applying fragrance always keep in mind the general rule that less is more. A spritz of a fragrance applied with a light hand to a pulse point (or two) is all that is really required. If you are attending a social event remember that other women and men will be wearing fragrances as well and you do not want all of that co-mingling to add up to one big smelly and intoxicating mess!

When you are preparing for a special evening on the town or are attending a social event for work, here is something you can try- spray the outside of your hand with fragrance instead of your wrist. This spraying alternative works well because it allows the scent to diffuse in an outward direction. This leaves you with a very airy and subtle scent, which is what a social occasion calls for. Another option is to spray the air (in a similar fashion as you would spray air freshener in a room) and then walk through the scent as it falls around you. This envelopes your entire body in the beautiful scent. Consider this a soft and subtle but yet effective method of perfuming yourself for a night out. If you spray the fragrance gently into the air it should not affect your clothing or your jewellery in any negative manner.

Less is more is also important to keep in mind in relation to your age when it comes to applying fragrance. Our sense of smell is not as sharp as we get older and the dulling effect means that it is not as simple to figure out if we have on enough fragrance or if we have applied too much. Often if we are unable to smell our fragrance on our own skin we assume that it has completely disappeared and others cannot smell it either. However this is not usually the case and the people around you might be able to smell it so whatever you do, do not be heavy-handed in your application!

How to make a scent last as long as possible

One of the biggest complaints that fragrance consumers have is how to make a scent last as long as possible. Be aware that the length of time that a fragrance will last on the skin is different for everyone. Perfumes are made to have more staying power than are eau de toilettes due to their higher concentration of alcohol to water. Dry skin retains fragrance for a shorter span of time than does oily or combination skin as oily skin contains more natural moisture and is capable therefore of retaining scent for a considerably longer period of time. Another factor is the PH level of any given person as it is not the same for everyone. PH stands for the amount of acidity in the skin and a personal PH level will help to determine how a scent will react once it is applied to your skin. There are other factors that play a role as well such as hormonal changes in the body including pregnancy and menopause, stress, and taking a variety of kinds of medications. There are even certain foods that can play a role in how a fragrance smells on the skin as well as how long it will linger. Two examples of these are foods that contain a great deal of garlic or spices.

Layer your scent

One of the very best ways to encourage your scent to last all day is to layer it. Layering a scent is key to coaxing it to have longevity. What this means is that you use more than one type of product of the same scent. For example you might want to first shower with a body wash or scented soap and then when your skin is still damp from the shower, slather on a generous portion of body lotion or cream. Then to conclude the fragrance layering process, dab some of your favorite scent on a pulse point or a few select pulse points or else spray some on your pulse points. Your skin will warm to the scent you have applied and then will absorb it making you smell great and helping to ensure that the scent will last as long as you need it to.

Other suggestions

But there are yet other ways to help make sure your fragrance keeps going as long as you do. Apply a fragrance immediately after taking a bath or shower due to the fact that the pores of your skin are as open as they will ever be and they will quickly and easily soak up the scent. An excellent way to make this happen is before you get dressed after your shower, while you are still naked, spray your perfume into the air and then walk through it as it falls down. Another suggestion is that since perfume has more lasting power on skin types that tend to be oily, apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the areas on your body where you will be applying perfume. The petroleum jelly will give the fragrance something to adhere to and by so doing will give it more staying power.

Start low and upward you go

When applying perfume it is always the best idea to spray from the ankles upward, because just like hot air, fragrance also rises and if you apply it lower on your body it will cling to your skin for a much longer span of time. Another tip about applying fragrance that you want to last is not to use your fingers to apply it directly to the skin but instead place the perfume on a cotton ball before you apply it or for an even better fragrance effect, consider using an atomizer.

It is generally regarded in the world of fragrance that a scent should be sprayed approximately 20 centimeters away from your body. If you decide to spray an even amount of scent over a larger area of your skin it will last a great deal longer than if you decide to instead concentrate the scent over a smaller area of the skin.

Top Five Gift Ideas for Teens this Holiday Season

By Christina VanGinkel

Teenagers can be one of the most difficult subjects on any holiday shopping list to buy for. If the teen is your own, you might have a handle on what they want, or not, but if the teen is not your own, and you do not spend a lot of time with them, knowing their likes and dislikes can make it even more difficult to come up with a suitable gift. Sure, you can always take the easy way out and give a gift card, but even that can be hard if you do not know what stores they frequent. Therefore, with this in mind, I have come up with five gift ideas (including two specific gift cards) that are sure to satisfy even the hardest to buy for teenager that happens to be on your holiday shopping list this year. In addition, in prices ranging from twenty dollars and up to fit just about any budget you might have in place this holiday season.

Hand Held Video Game System

Not every teen is into gaming, but with jobs, homework, sports, and the many other activities that the average teen partakes, a bit of downtime playing a game on a handheld such as a PSP (Playstation Portable) or a Nintendo DS is always welcome. Toss in a couple of games from different genres, and it is sure to be a hit. If a PSP or Nintendo DS is a bit over budget for what you had in mind to spend, there are tons of electronic handheld games that run about twenty dollars a piece. Check out Radica Twenty Questions, an electronic Sudoku game, or even one of the many arcade styled plug n play handhelds that plug directly into the TV. All are sure to please.

iTunes Card

From music to movies, there is always something on iTunes worth downloading. Even the fussiest teen is likely to be thrilled with an iTunes card. DO make sure that they have access to a computer to use the card, and if they happen to have an iPod Video, let them know that iTunes now has games for purchase that will play on their iPod Videos.

Slinky

You read that right. Buy that teenager a real Slinky, no plastic knock-offs allowed. There is just something about this toy from the past, which appeals to all ages, including teenagers. The original Slinky, in solid brass, is available from Amazon.com for less than fifteen dollars and I can guarantee you that any teenager would love to find one under the tree this holiday season. A bit of warning: Buy one for yourself at the same time, because once you get it, you will not want to part with it!

LCD Television or Portable DVD Player

Teenagers like electronics as much if not more than the average adult does. With prices plummeting on various electronics, LCD screens are leading the way. You can purchase a 15-inch Flat Panel LCD TV with PC Input for less than two hundred dollars. If that is still over your budget or what you are willing to spend, pick them up a portable DVD player. Depending on the screen size, you can find these for less than one hundred dollars and often much less. Toss in a DVD or two and you will soon be favorites on the teen's list of top adults in their lives.

Calling Card

Teens today are different form those just a few years ago in one major way, and that is they not only talk on the phone, a lot, but they more often than not have friends who are long distance for them to call. They may live in a different town, even across the country, or their cell phone number they use is a long distance exchange when called from their home phone. A gift of a pre-paid calling card is a gift that they will appreciate, and actually use.

Figuring out what to buy for any teen can be tough. Toss in the frenzy of the holidays, and it can be even more difficult to come up with a winner. Choosing something from this list is sure to make it easier than you ever imagined.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Shopping for Ultimate Luxury Gift Ideas (On a Budget!)

By Christina VanGinkel

The title might be an oxymoron, but with the holidays sneaking up fast in just a couple of weeks, it is something that is tops on many people's lists. They hope to find the most luxurious gift at a rock bottom price to give to someone special on their holiday shopping list. What many people do not realize is that it is possible, as contradictory as it sounds.

What is a Luxury?

With prices on all sorts of creature comforts dropping, it is oftentimes more of a struggle to figure out what would be viewed as a luxury by the person you want to give a gift too, than it is finding something within your budget.

With this facet of information in mind, sit down and give the whole idea of giving someone a gift that could be considered luxurious, some thought. It will be this aspect of the gift giving, more than nay other part of it, that will make the real difference between what ends up as an ok gift, and one that is the ultimate gift, you could ever come up with, and be within your budget.

What do Others Consider a Luxury?

Consider whom you want to give a gift to that will make them at least say wow, and maybe even make them shed a tear or two of happiness. Ask yourself what sort of person they are and what they do in both their uptime and their downtime. From jobs to hobbies, this sort of information can provide you with clues as to what they might consider the ultimate gift that they would love to receive.

Dig Deep to Figure it Out

If the person is a spouse or long time boyfriend or girlfriend, think back to those intimate times when you have talked with them about the what ifs in life. What if he or she won the lottery, what would they do. While buying them a luxury estate with a butler and staff of house cleaners might not be practical, arranging for a cleaning person to come into their home on a weekly basis might be. If

Be prepared to dig deep, especially if the person is close to you, but you do not spend as much time with them as you would like to. Parents or grandparents often fall into this category. If you have siblings, or other relatives that might be able to help you fill in the answers to what would be the perfect gift, ask them. Tell them that you would love to give a gift that is more than just another set of flannel pajamas or a new footbath, and if they could help point you down the right path, you would greatly appreciate it.

Luxurious does not have to Equal Dollars Spent

Get past the mindset that luxury equals dollars. You might be surprised to find out that as you delve into what would be the most luxurious gift to give, that they often end up being some of the simplest gifts ever. Your wife has hinted that a vacation, without kids, on some exotic island would be the only gift that would spell luxury, yet that would require no eating or paying the mortgage for several months. Instead, send her to a day of pampering at a local spa and pre-arrange for a babysitter. That you took the time to hear what she said and actually took action, albeit on a small scale, will mean as much to her as if you were off the charts wealthy and could afford to buy her an exotic island all her own. If your mother loves crystal, give her a quality piece that is small in size, rather than something larger that is just a cheap knock-off version. She will appreciate the fact that you took the time to give her something she loves, than just taking the easy way out and picking up the first cheap piece you stumbled on.

By now, I hope you are starting to understand that shopping for the ultimate luxury gift, even on a budget, is possible, it just takes some ingenuity and exploration at the start. Once you know what your intended gift recipient would consider the ultimate in luxury, you can then take that information and form it into the perfect gift you could ever give and do it at a cost that will not put you in the poorhouse.

Lazy clothes

I guess that fashion is usually about what you wear in public and how you present yourself to other people. But I am here to take a look at something that is very important to me; fashion at home. I am the queen of lazy clothes--when I am at home I want to feel good, and I don't mind looking good too. I know that a lot of people don't care what they wear at home, and I think that is in the right spirit--if no one is looking at you who cares what you look like, right? I think that is true, but I also know that I feel best about myself when I think I look good. Even when I am at home, I want to feel cute and sexy in my pajamas, for example. Is this necessary? Obviously not. Do I let this compromise my comfort level? No way. The trick is, to find clothes which are absolutely cozy, and look good.

I am a student so when I am at home working a long day I want to be cozy. I think this is why I have so many comfortable clothes. I think my collection of "lazy clothes" is as big as, if not bigger, than my "outside" clothes collection. I spend long days at home at my desk, studying, drinking coffee, and curled up trying to be comfortable. It's just not the same if you, for example, go to the library and have to sit in the cold air conditioned study hall (in the winter!) on a hard wooden chair and work at an enormous table (the only really fantastic thing about working in a library or classroom--but anyway, that's another story). I like to be at home, generally wrapped in something (in the winter) or wearing almost nothing (in the summer).

There are lots of options for lazy clothes that make you feel good and still look good on you. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a pair of flannel pajama pants that is covered in some crazy design. I have those too! But I like "cozy" cloth pants that fit me a little better, just to make me feel a little spruced up. They are also very comfy because they fit my body well. This is something I think is worth finding for the serious "lazy clotheser". I think I bought them at a drugstore, anyway, so we're not talking about something fancy here. Just something that makes me feel a little more pleasant than "I don't care who sees me" wear. I have several pairs of these pants that I trade around day to day depending on my mood. I know not everyone is into this, but when I'm at home all day I tend to change my clothes a couple of times throughout the day. Plus, I have very thin pants if I'm feeling hot (or if I feel like turning the heat up), thicker ones if I am cold, and homemade pants crafted by Native Americans that I wear if I want to feel arts-y, for example. Equally important are some cute shorts (who cares how short they are? You''re alone!) to keep you cool in the hot summer or when doing housework (ugh!).

Another fantastic lazy staple, for you girls out there, are skirts. Now I know that a skirt doesn't necessarily sound cozy - in fact, to me it sounds like something which means dressing up and going somewhere uncomfortable - but there is another side to them, really! All you have to do is find the right one. A long, full skirt, for example a broomstick skirt or layered skirt - like the ones that are so popular today - are absolutely versatile in the home. Cozy, not restricting, cool in the summer and (with long and/or fluffy ones) warm in the winter, skirts are one of my best friends in my home laziness and cozy fashion world.

But pants and skirts are not the only things we wear, are they? Shirts are another important matter. Personally, I prefer tank tops, in any weather, for any task, under any circumstances. There is nothing cooler in the summer (except nudity and bra-only, both possibilities if you are home alone but both probably a little bit on the uncomfortable side), and if you are cold, it's absolutely simple to put something over a tank top, and still look great. Tank tops are a staple for me in all cases. Barring that, I would go for an extremely soft (and extremely thin, because those are the softest) T-shirt, or maybe a long-sleeved T-shirt if I am cold. Long-sleeved T-shirts are absolutely cozy if you are chilly. They are better than sweaters, for example, which can be itchy, bothersome, or even too hot. A T-shirt material that covers your whole arms provides the perfect level of comfort.

Next on the list of extremely important requirements for comfort at home are socks and/or slippers. Naturally, we are talking about Winter in this paragraph. In the summer, I want nothing more in the world than to have my feet completely free and contacting all manner of surfaces. But in the winter, you get those pesky cold toes if you're not careful, and unless you've got your own fire to warm them in front of you'd better wrap those babies up. Socks have thousands of varieties and incarnations. One of my favorites is the knee-high sock. If you live in a cold climate, this is something you should already know about. I love them, because they just give you that little extra level of warmth, not only keeping your toes out of the cold air but cozying up half of your leg at the same time. Know how warm you feel when you layer a couple of comfy shirts (this is another master lazy clothes technique)? Imagine that feeling on your calves. Put on some knee-highs and bam, you've got it. Even pantyhose can foster the same effect, but since most of the time they are too tight, uncomfortable and falling down, I don't recommend it, unless you have to be outside for a long time in the cold and want to be sure you are warm enough. Slippers and slipper socks also provide excellent comfort. Slipper socks are usually made out of some ridiculously soft or fluffy material, and in general provide excellent warmth and make the skin of your feet feel really happy against the material. And slippers come in the same varieties. I abandon my "looking cute" regimen when it comes to slippers, but that's basically because I think that anyone looks extra cute in any kind of slippers. Go for bunnies, or bears, or snoopies. Or, go for normal, straightforward slippers that they make for "normal" people. In my opinion, slippers can be nice because they usually have a solid bottom and can be good for working in the kitchen, for example, where the floor could be wet, or for stepping out on the balcony for a few minutes, or for getting the morning paper. Some slippers even do an excellent job of supporting your feet and arches. Definitely something to consider for your at-home collection.

And of course, the most important accessory for at-home fashion - the robe. You need a robe! Your neighbor needs a robe! Everybody needs a robe! From answering the surprise doorbell ringing in the morning to getting to and from the shower, the robe is the most useful piece of lazy clothes you can have. It's acceptable to walk outside wearing a robe, for example, even if you aren't wearing anything else, and it's absolutely simple to put it on in a jiffy. I recommend one for the winter (a big fluffy one) and one for the summer (a lighter, shorter one). They can be a little pricey but be honest - how many robes will you need to buy in your lifetime?? You won't regret it.

My last suggestion for home "lazy clothes" fashion is ... blankets. Yes, I know it's not clothes, but it's a critical point! Blankets make you cozy! Blankets make you warm! Blankets bring us together with other people! (When we have to share them while watching TV) And, there ARE even blankets that you WEAR on the market. They are usually called Cuddle-Wraps, and they have zippers and buttons that allow you to surround yourself in blanket as if it were a robe, and you can even walk around comfortably without losing your blanket.

Before I go I'll mention one more important point. Could I be this crazy about being comfortable at home and just wear "normal" clothes, aching with discomfort, when I go outside of the house? Of course not! But do I look good when I leave the house? Of course! A few points I made stick outside the house...wear comfortable cloth pants (if you look around a bit, it's not hard to find dress pants that look fantastic and will be way more comfortable than jeans...especially keep an eye out for stretchy fabrics), and my advice about tank tops in all places at all times still goes...it is absolutely simple to dress up a tank top (always useful just like a camisole, unless you're into really fancy stuff) by putting a jacket, sweater, or even a nice t-shirt over it. And the best thing is, if you're hot, you can always strip down...it's wearing layers every day and always feeling the temperature you want to feel. (Personally, I am always fluctuatiing between hot and cold, so I have to have a solution - and I'm young! It's just how I am.)

So, I hope for those of you out there who spend long hours just like I do at home, and need a little comfort, I hope these ideas help. I love my lazy clothes and I love feeling and looking good. It really helps productivity, believe it or not. I don't know how I am going to survive when i have to work outside the house all the time! But I think it will just make me appreciate my comfy time at home more. Sorry to all of you who can't be at home in your pajamas all day.