Friday, December 21, 2012

When all else fails – give a bottle of wine as a gift...

A bottle of wine makes an excellent gift...

If it’s not going to be enjoyed by the recipient, at least it will be really easy to re-gift. Jeff Meisel, wine director for Gilt Taste, has some tips to picking the right bottle:

  • Don’t be intimidated. Figure out how much you’d like to spend and that will narrow down your choices. Ask for advice and choose something a little less common.

  • If it’s a gift for a wine novice – there are some excellent choices for under $30. For someone who’s wine savvy – the $40 to $50 range will buy something special.

  • If you’re buying a bottle as a gift for the host and guests to enjoy – look for an inexpensive wine in the 13% alcohol range which is more versatile. 

  • A bottle of champagne or prosecco is always a nice option.  It's bound to be appreciated by the recipient on the 31st.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Where do you buy your vitamins? Why that matters...

If you buy your vitamins in bulk at a warehouse club or chain pharmacy – you’re probably not getting your money’s worth...

According to Earl Mindell, author of “New Vitamin Bible,” we shouldn’t buy more than a two-month supply of vitamins at a time. It’s also important to check the dates on your vitamins before you buy them, because they will start to lose potency over time.

Dr. Mindell says the best place to buy vitamins is in a natural-foods store or vitamin and supplement shop. The best choices come in dark-colored containers, without artificial colors or preservatives. Once you get them home, be sure to store them in a dark, dry spot.

How would you like to be even MORE charming than you already are? What you’ll need...

Would people who know you describe you as charming?

It’s a nice trait to have. To up your charm factor, Ladies Home Journal has the three key ingredients: 

1. A Sense of Humor: More important than poise or social ease, being funny attracts people like magnets. Make someone laugh, and you'll have an admirer. 

2. Smarts and curiosity: Charming people tend to be highly intelligent, curious and creative. They are great at paying attention and offering solutions and support.

3. Effortless Social Grace: Also known as poise, charmers know how to handle social situations, even awkward ones. They have a knack for putting others at ease.

Which country is the happiest? Take a guess and we’ll see how close you are...

If you’d like to be in the happiest country on earth, book a trip to Panama...

A recent Gallup poll surveyed people in 148 countries and Panamanians were the happiest and most positive people out there. It seems a lot of South America is smiling. Rounding out the top five are Paraguay, El Salvador, Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago.

As for the unhappiest people on earth, Singapore is the saddest. Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Yemen, Serbia and Armenia could also use a little cheering up.

If you’re wondering how the Europeans feel about it all, Germany and France tied with Somaliland, in 47th place. Ireland is fairly happy in 15th place – but not as happy as Canada in the top 10. The United States has its ups and downs and fell to number 33 on the positive outlook scale.

If you insist on driving fast – do us all a favor and take some precautions. High-speed safety...

If you’ve got a lead foot or a need for speed – you really need to drive accordingly...

Even driving at the speed limit on certain roads could mean certain death in the event of a crash. William Van Tassel, manager of driver training operations with AAA, has some high-speed driving tips:

• Maintain a safe following distance—even though that distance will feel unnaturally long. In good weather, you should be three to four seconds behind the car ahead. In poor weather conditions, you should be five to six seconds back. 

• Resist any urge to tailgate slow drivers who won’t get out of your way. Tailgating is always dangerous, but at high speeds, it can be deadly.

• Resist the urge to flash your headlights at the car ahead to get them out of the way. Some drivers consider headlight flashing overly aggressive and will intentionally block the passing lane. Turn on your left-turn signal—the blinking light might catch his eye in his rear-view mirror to let him know you’re there.

Some safety rules apply to the slowpokes too. If you’re a slower driver, don’t be stubborn. Stay in the right lane as much as possible. Turn on your right blinker even if you can’t immediately get out of a faster driver’s way. Hopefully, that will discourage him from passing on the right, putting you both at risk. You might not approve of the speed demons – but challenging them in a moving vehicle is a really BAD idea.

If you’re travelling with someone of the opposite sex, pack some patience. Gender travel preferences...

If that romantic getaway takes a turn for the worse before you clear security – blame the opposite sex...

Men and women have very different preferences when it comes to travel:

• Women are more likely to check a bag because they tend to bring more creams and cosmetics than they can fit in a one-quart zip-top bag. Men prefer to take only a carry-on, and don’t want to have to wait for their luggage.

• Women prefer a window seat, with the shade pulled down. Two out of three men prefer the aisle seat, but still want the window shade up. Two arguments and you’re not even there yet. 

• Use the armrest to negotiate the shade position. Men tend to commandeer that and spread out as much as possible. Women tend to curl up in in their seat, in order to avoid touching anyone. 

• Can we at least agree on what to watch? Nope. Women prefer to watch in-flight movies, while men are more likely to watch live news and sports. 

If you’re still speaking by the time you check into the hotel, keep in mind that women like to read in bed - and hotels are on their side. Most now have more bedside power outlets for e-readers and tablets.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

You’re not making that salad with Iceberg are you? Why that’s a lame lettuce...

Iceberg lettuce is by far the most popular lettuce in the United States...

That’s a shame, because it's lame. In the lettuce department, Iceberg is a nutritional dud. It’s high in sugar and low in vitamin and mineral content. So which lettuce is best? You’ve got some good options:

• Romaine has less sugar and more fiber. It's an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of folate and vitamin A. It also provides 10 times more beta carotene than iceberg lettuce and almost as much as spinach. All of this combines to make romaine one of the healthiest of all the lettuces.

• Green-leaf lettuce is a good choice too. It's low in fat and sugar and high in protein with healthy amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamins C, A and K.

• Red-leaf and butterhead have the highest amount of iron of all lettuces.

The bottom line is the dark green, leafy lettuces are generally the best. Toss those up with some more exotic leaves of arugula, curly endive, escarole and radicchio – and you’ve got some supreme salad on your plate.

If you got a really good deal on that designer bag or wallet – make sure it’s not a fake...

Knockoff designer bags and wallets are getting harder to spot these days...

Some of them look almost identical to the real thing. Here are some ways to tell it’s a fake:

• Smell it. High end designer bags and wallets are almost always made from leather. Plastic and vinyl products won’t have that smell.

• Look inside. Premium bags are often lined with very soft calves skin or high quality silky-smoothe fabric.

• Check the stitching. Designer bags and wallets are usually hand stitched and slightly diagonal. Machine stitching will look more uniform and may have flaws. 

• Check the hardware. If it’s lightweight or has a plastic feel – it’s probably a fake.

• You can almost always feel the difference between the real deal and a fake. If it’s stiff, rigid or waxy, enjoy your knockoff.

Which is the better option in a public bathroom – the air dryer or paper? The germaphobes weigh in...

A lot of public restrooms have both paper towels and an air dryer. ..

So which one should you use? Paper towels are the way to go. According to a recent study by the Mayo Clinic, paper towels are better at fighting bacteria than the air dryers. That’s because we use friction with the paper towels. That friction helps to dislodge the microorganisms while drying.

Handwashing experts say friction is the most important element of the process. Antibacterial soap isn’t in contact with the skin long enough to really do the job. They say drying with paper is an important precaution to take in places where hygiene is particularly important, such as restaurants, hospitals and schools.

How long will you be waiting for a parking spot at the mall?

Nine minutes. 

That’s the average time it will take you to find a parking spot at a crowded mall right now – IF you do it right. Mathematician Joe Pagano has it all figured out. The trick is to hover. You’ll need to position yourself in a place where you can see at least 20 parking spots in front of you. Joe says the average person’s mall trip is roughly three hours. Divide that by 20 cars and probability factors indicate that one of those cars will leave in nine minutes or less.

The more cars you can watch, the shorter the wait. If you can see 25 spots, your wait should be 7 minutes or less. It’s a good idea to check Google Maps before heading to the mall. That way you can get a good lay of the land, or lot, and locate the optimal spot for hovering.

If you’re a Debby Downer or a Bummer Bob – snap out of it! How to break the habit of negativity...

Some people are just more prone to negative thinking than others...

If you find yourself contradicting others, looking at the down side or frequently finding flaws – this could be you. Thomas Blakeslee, author of “The Attitude Factor,” says the first step on breaking the cycle of negativity is identifying the bad behavior. If you have trouble doing this, ask a friend – they’ll know. Do you…

• Dwell on bad relationships?
• Complain about family and friends?
• Alienate others?
• Feel slighted or underappreciated?

If you’re ready to break the cycle and get in on the fun, you’ll need to take some steps. Meet new people. We are social creatures by nature and most of us make the effort to be a bit more positive when making a first impression. That will get you moving in the right direction. Get out of your comfort zone. Breaking free of the daily grind will create new sensations, stimulate creative thinking and help to short-circuit those negative thoughts.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

While so many of us are at a loss for words – our favorite neighbor, Mr. Rogers, has something to say...

Many of us have been struggling to find words of strength and hope over the past several days...

Here are some from the beloved Fred McFeely Rogers from “The World According to Mister Rogers:”

• “It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to.”

• “Most of us, I believe, admire strength. It’s something we tend to respect in others, desire for ourselves, and wish for our children.” 

• “The really important ‘great’ things are never center stage of life’s dramas; they’re always in the wings.”

• “When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.”

• “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

If you’ll be hitting the road this holiday – don’t buy gas on the highway. Where to get it for less...

If your holiday plans include a road trip, you may want to go over the river and through the woods for gas...

Gas is almost always more expensive on or near an interstate. Here are a few strategies to save on fuel:

• Consider exiting and finding a gas station a mile from the highway.

• Pay in cash. The price of gas at most stations is less if you don’t use a credit card.

• Buy your gas early. When the price of fuel is on the rise, most stations make the switch late morning or midday.

• If you’re brave – head for the wrong side of town. Gas prices are considerably lower in less desirable neighborhoods due to their lower overhead costs.

• Pack your app. Gas saving apps like GasBuddy will work on any smartphone and could save you up to 20 cents a gallon!

If you’d rather be on Facebook than Christmas shopping – why not do both? How to gift, Facebook style...

For those of you who find Facebooking in your PJs more appealing than braving a crowded mall – don’t get up...

You could get most of your shopping done right from your computer or phone. The new Facebook Gift feature is here and you’ll have plenty to choose from. Just go to your friend’s Timeline. Look for the gift icon in the post bar. Once you click that you can browse hundreds of gift options from Starbucks cards and festive treats to iTunes, fashion, bath and even wine. 

Once you choose your gift, your friend will get a notification and a virtual card from you. They accept the gift and let Facebook know where to send it. You have the option of making your gift public or private. Here's Mark: facebook.com/about/gifts 

Before you send that important letter or document – print it out! How to proof like a pro...

You probably worked hard on that cover letter, resume or proposal – do yourself a favor and print it out before you send it...

Most of us aren’t very good at proofreading our own stuff and spellcheck is no substitute for human eyes. If possible, it’s best to have someone else look over your work, on paper, red pen in hand. If nobody else is around, you’ll have to be your own second set of eyes. You’re much more likely to spot mistakes if you view your work in a different form than the one you wrote it in. It’s also a good idea to distance yourself from the work for a while before proofreading it.

While you’re proofreading, do that out loud. That’s the best way to catch awkward phrasing and run-on sentences that will burden the recipient.

The next time your waiter asks how your meal is – tell the truth. How lying will cost you...

Do you lie when your waiter or waitress asks how everything is? 

A lot of people do and they end up paying for it. People who lie often go to great lengths to convince others of their honesty, whether they realize it or not. If you report that your meal is great when it’s just so-so, you’ll probably tip generously. After all, you said your meal was great and you don’t want to look like a liar or a cheapskate. 

Researchers put the theory to the test and found that the majority of patrons would rather say everything was fine and tip accordingly than to complain, siting it was more trouble to speak up and deal with potential waiting or arguing. On the flip side, those who did voice their displeasure felt justified leaving a smaller tip if the problem was not resolved.

Monday, December 17, 2012

We're all worried about our children. Here are some apps that may help...

If you and your child both have a smartphone – here are some apps that may give you some peace of mind as a parent:

• Life 360 Family Locator - Lets you know the location of family members and what safety points or threats are nearby in real time using your phone's GPS. It also has a messaging platform so that family members can communicate.

• FBI Child ID - This free app from the FBI lets you store photos and vital information about your kids so that you can provide it to law enforcement officials immediately. It also allows you to email that information to the authorities. It’s also got tips on keeping kids safe and other resources for parents.

• Strong Kids - This is an app that teaches kids and teenagers about prevention and self assertion. It also provides them with ways to build their confidence in critical situations and how to behave correctly in face of dangers.

• iHound Phone & Family Tracker – This app has the ability to automatically check into designated locations. You can also opt to receive an email when your child arrives. 

• Family GPS Tracker — This app gives you the exact location of your child or family member. It can alert you when they’re in trouble and has a check-in feature. 

If you’re breaking some diet rules this holiday – keep the cinnamon handy...

December is a tough month for dieters...

If you know you’ll be bending the rules in the next few weeks, you might want to stock up on cinnamon. According to Susan Albers, author of “Eating Mindfully,” adding a half-teaspoon of cinnamon to your daily diet can really help. Cinnamon helps to process the extra carbohydrates you’ll probably be ingesting with those festive treats and meals. It can also help to stimulate some calorie burn. Try sprinkling some cinnamon into your breakfast cereal, yogurt or coffee and don’t forget to use it in savory soups and stews.

After you wrap up all your shopping this month – book a hotel room. Good deals in December...

Most of us tend to be preoccupied with the holidays in December – which makes it a good month to make your move on some other stuff...

December is a great time to: 

• Sign an apartment lease. Landlords aren’t seeing much action in December and are more likely to lower the rent.

• Enter a nursing home. It’s the least favorite month to do that – but those facilities will be bombarded with requests starting in January which could leave you on a waiting list.

• Book a hotel room. Many hotels are offer their lowest rates of the year right after Christmas.

• Find a new job. According to ExecuNet, many recruiters place even more candidates in December. January is the toughest and most competitive month to land a job.

If you’re walking in public – pull over to check your phone. The dangers of distracted walking...

It may be hard to resist checking your phone on the go – but it could land you in the hospital...

A recent study on a busy intersection in Seattle found that 30% of walkers were paying more attention to their phones than to where they were going. Experts say these pedestrian surfers are four times more at risk than the rest of us. They are more likely to jaywalk, ignore traffic lights and less likely to look both ways. They also took about two seconds longer to make it across the street. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of pedestrians injured or killed in traffic accidents has quadrupled in the last seven years – and phone checking is a big factor. Dr. Rober Glatter, an emergency room physician at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, says they treat several patients a week with injuries such as facial fractures, eye injuries, blunt head trauma and nasal fractures due to distracted walking. 

If you’re feeling under the weather – should you load up on orange juice?

The next time you come down with a cold or illness, skip the orange juice...

It’s loaded with sugars and acids which might make you feel worse. Here are some other foods to avoid when you’re sick:

• Cured Meats: They contain nitrates which are even worse for you when your immune system is down.

• Red Meat: Your body has a hard time breaking down the complex fats which will just slow everything down.

• Nuts: Most types of nuts have a tendency to create a lot of mucus.

• Alcohol: It’s a depressant that will put a strain on your system and counteract any healing.

• Caffeine: It’s hard for our bodies to break down. Limit soda, coffee and chocolate.

• Raw Foods: Veggies are good. Just be sure to cook them first. Raw veggies also make your body work harder than it should when you’re sick.

• Dairy foods: They’re hard to digest and some people experience milk allergies when the immune system is weakened.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Can you get up from the floor without using your hands? Why you need to try that...

How you get up off the floor could predict your life expectancy...

Researchers put some 50 to 80 year olds to the simple test – sit on the floor, now get up. It turns out that the adults who managed to stand up without using their hands or other assistance ultimately lived longer than those who couldn’t. 

Scientists say this is a strong predictor of health and a good test of overall fitness in middle age. Standing up from a sitting position on the floor and sitting back down can say a lot about or physical strength, flexibility and coordination, all of which are imperative to our longevity.

We’re running out of time for delivery by Christmas. Shipping date deadlines...

If you’re ordering gifts online or to be shipped – you should really do that today...

It’s the safest bet for standard shipping items to make it in time for Christmas. If you don’t mind shelling out some extra bucks for two-day delivery, you’ve got until December 20th. Even premium overnight or next-day shipping orders should be placed by December 22nd which is on Saturday. Here are the deadlines for our favorite carriers:


• FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery, Dec. 17 
• FedEx 2 Day, Dec. 20
• FedEx Overnight, Dec. 22


• UPS Ground, Dec. 21
• UPS 2nd Day Air, Dec. 21
• UPS Next Day Air, Dec. 22

U.S. Postal Service: 

• Parcel Post, Dec. 14
• First-Class Mail, Dec. 20
• Priority Mail, Dec. 21
• Most Express Mail, Dec. 22

You may run for the rice if your gadget gets wet. I’ve got an even better option...

Have you ever used the rice trick to rescue a wet gadget?

It’s actually pretty effective and is definitely worth a try. But there is another food that can work even better. Brent Rose from Gizmodo says that Rice Krispies rule. They suck up liquid much faster and more aggressively than uncooked rice. He suggests you grab a fresh box, jam your device in there, and leave it for 48 hours. Rotate the device inside the box every now and then. Resist the urge to test it or turn it on!

Brent says, after 48 hours or so, remove your phone from the Rice Krispies. If you see any sign of moisture still in there, such as fog on the screen, put it back in for more time. If, however, it looks bone dry, put the battery back in, and (hopefully) turn it on. 

What’s not to love about the holidays? Plenty! The season’s pet peeves...

Door bells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles may be a few of our favorite things...

So how about our LEAST favorite things? A recent poll by Consumer Reports has identified them. Here are the top seasonal peeves: 

• Crowds, long lines: 58%

• Weight gain: 41%

• Aggressive, thoughtless driving in parking lots: 40% 

• Getting into debt: 30% 

• Gift shopping: 20% 

• Seasonal music: 14%

• Disappointing gifts, including gift cards: 13% 

• Seeing certain relatives: 12%

• Traveling: 10% 

• Having to attend holiday parties, gatherings or events: 9%

• Having to be nice: 4% 

• Holiday tipping: 3% 

Got a stomachache? What might have caused that...

Some of our favorite healthy foods can actually leave you with a stomachache...

Here is a list of some surprising triggers:

• Energy bars: They can be hard to digest and some of the ingredient can cause bloating and gas.

• Green tea: It’s high in tannins which can trigger nausea.

• Vegetable skins: Eggplant, bell pepper and potato skins can be difficult to digest. If you’re sensitive, you should peel those before eating.

• Grapes: Red and black grapes can produce natural gas. Green grapes are high in tannins.

• Nuts: The high fiber and fat content slows their movement through the digestive tract, which increases the risk for gas and bloating. 

Most people with a sensitive stomach won’t have to avoid these foods all together. Consider eating smaller portions of them and drinking plenty of water between meals to avoid upset.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Which blockheads DIDN’T like A Charlie Brown Christmas at first?

For some people – it’s just not Christmas without Charlie Brown...

It turns out, if TV executives had their way back in 1965 – the Peanuts' Christmas Classic would never have aired. They liked the IDEA of animating the Peanuts characters for a special – but when they saw the finished product they were not impressed. They hated some of the things that most of us love about it. The editing was choppy in spots.  There was not enough action and it moved too slowly. The voices had been done by real kids, not adult actors - which sounded a little too real. There was no laugh track to cue the chuckles – and that left the TV executive squirming. Linus' reading from the Gospel of Luke didn't go over too well either - and after previewing the show – they decided Peanuts would be better off left on the comic page of the newspaper.

Luckily for us – CBS had made a commitment to their sponsor – and had to air the special as scheduled on December 9th, 1965. It drew 15.4 million viewers and ended up second place in the ratings that week. A few months later - Charles Schulz and Lee Mendelson were onstage accepting an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What were the most popular baby names of 2012?

Another end-of-the-year list is out...

Here are the most popular baby names of 2012:

The top 10 names for girls are Addison, Aubrey, Ava, Ella, Zoey, Lily, Olivia, Emma, Isabella and, at number one, Sophia. Some unusual names to make the top 100 are Brooklyn, Savannah, Summer and Serenity.

The top 10 names for boys are Jayden, Hunter Jackson, Jacob, Logan, Aiden, Ethan, Noah, Mason and Liam. Michael fell to 13th place but is still in front of the trendier Wyatt, Bentley, Parker, Grayson and Zane.

Feeling hungry? Eat some air. Fluffy foods that fill you up faster...

If you’ve just GOT to have some Cheetos – opt for the puffed variety...

They’ve got more air in there and will fill you up faster. In a recent experiment, snackers were split into two groups. One group got to eat crunchy Cheetos, while the other group had the puffy ones. The puffy group ate a lot more by volume – but actually consumed less calories overall. 

According to Dr. Barbara Rolls, author of “The Volumetrics Eating Plan,” all that air helps to fill us up until we can get to something healthier. Some other good edible air options are popcorn, rice cakes, whipped yogurt and puffed cereal for breakfast.  

Even Christmas is going green. Lets see how many rules we're breaking...

Did you save your Christmas wrapping from last year? That’s the environmentally friendly thing to do...

The eco-elves want us all to have a green Christmas. Here are their demands:

• Opt for recycled wrapping paper. Newspaper can be festive. Or how about we just skip the wrapping all-together?

• Let’s hope your twinkly lights are LED, they use a fraction of the energy - especially if you don’t turn them on.

• Scale back the elaborate outdoor displays and ask your neighbors to do the same. 

• Give your cookies away on a real plate. The same rule should apply for your holiday party. Use real plates and cutlery, not disposable. Finger foods are even friendlier. Or you could just skip the food.

• When the party’s over, be sure to sift through your garbage for any bottles and cans that can be recycled.  Keep your eye out for any food scraps for your compost pile.

• Give and request charitable donations in lieu of gifts. Your kids will LOVE that.

• If you MUST give a gift, show you really care by giving local, organic, nutritious food. Don’t forget to take your reusable bag while shopping.

Replacing a car key can cost a small fortune these days. How to do it for less...

Losing a car key is a BIG deal these days...

Even a basic key fob will cost $50 to $90 to replace at a dealer. Here’s what you can expect to pay to replace some of the other common key types at a dealership:

• Transponder keys: A basic key with a chip in the plastic head: $250

• Laser-cut keys: Also known as a sidewinder key with a thicker shank: $150 - $250

• Switchblade keys: $200 - $300

• Smart keys: Plastic fobs without shank: $200 - $400

If you do need to replace one of these key styles, you can save some significant money by avoiding the dealership who will charge for labor. According to Edmunds.com, it’s worth your effort to seek out an auto-locksmith. They now has the necessary machines to replace many of these key types and will charge up to 30% less for the job. The one exception is the smart key. There’s no avoiding the dealership or automaker for that one.  

When is the last time you measured your waist? What your number should be...

Have you got a tape measure handy? Let’s measure your waist and see if you’re healthy...

To do it correctly, you’ll want to wrap the tape measure around your natural waist, which is just above the navel. Make sure it’s snug and then check the number. Here’s what you’re hoping for: Generally speaking…

• If you’re a woman, it should measure 35 inches or less.

• If you’re a man with a 40-plus waist, you’re at risk.

While you’re at it, measure around your buttocks and hips. If that number is lower than your waist number – you NEED to lose weight. According to the National Institutes of Health, people who are carrying excess weight around their midsection are more prone to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and the most depressing. Tips to battle the holiday blues...

If you’re not feeling especially holly or jolly these days – you’re not alone...

Holiday stress and depression affect countless people each year and the Mayo Clinic has some tips to battle the blues:

1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, it's normal to feel sadness and grief. Don’t try to force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out some social events you think you could handle. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that could help to lift your spirits, enhance your sense of pupose and broaden your social circles.

3. Be realistic. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to – and be prepared to let a few go. 

4. Stick to a budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Keep it simple and remember the true meaning of Christmas, even if others don’t.

5. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no will leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. True friends and decent colleagues will understand if you can't participate.

Above all else, seek professional help if you need it. If you’re feeling persistently sad, anxious or hopeless, tell your doctor. There are options that can help you through the holidays, and beyond.

Is there any truth to feeding a cold and starving a fever? Let’s find out...

Feed a Cold and Starve a Fever...

You’ve probably heard that one before. It’s been around as long as colds and fevers but alas, there’s not much truth to it. The theory is that we should feed the internal fireplace with food when chills set in, that’s the cold. Which means it would only make sense to shut the furnace down when we’re hot with fever. Don’t tell Grandma – but there’s no scientific evidence that supports this approach. Unfortunately, most illnesses will simply run their course regardless of whether your feeding or starving it. 

A more productive illness mantra might be: Water the cold, water the fever. The key to flushing the toxins out and preventing dehydration is keeping up with your fluid intake. Chicken soup counts.

Procrastinators rejoice! The next best day to shop online is right around the corner...

For those of you who missed Cyber Monday - mark your calendars for next Monday...

December 17th is the next best day to shop online because it’s Free Shipping Day. On Monday, December 17th, more than 1,000 online retailers, from Best Buy and Brookstone to Target and Timberland, are offering free shipping, special one-day coupons and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. To browse the participating stores and plan your online shopping trip, go to FreeShippingDay.com.

Are you tempted to indulge in one of those festive, holiday coffee drinks? Why you may want to reconsider...

That eggnog or peppermint mocha latte sure sound festive – but consider yourself warned...

Those holiday coffee drinks served up by our favorite baristas are loaded with regret. For example, the Grande Eggnog Latte at Starbucks is fit for Santa, packing 470 calories and 22 grams of fat. Dunkin’ Donuts medium-sized Peppermint Mocha Latte weighs in at 360 calories with 9 grams of fat. If you prefer your holiday fat in the form of a shake, have the McDonalds Eggnog Shake. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, calorie-wise. 680 in a medium-sized shake, with over 20 grams of fat.

If you’re hoping to find a job in 2013 – check your personality...

If you’re revising your resume for 2013, you might want to polish your personality while you’re at it...

Forbes Magazine has a list of the top five personality traits employers hire most:

• Professionalism is a top trait at 86%. Do your research, dress the part and get your act together.

• High energy gets hired next. Don’t overdo it – just be sure you’re enthusiastic and know your stuff.

• Confidence is a must. Your potential employer will notice the way you enter a room, extend your hand and make eye contact.

• Self-monitoring is a sought-after trait. You’ll need to show what you’ve accomplished and learned on both your resume and during a face-to-face interview.

• Intellectual curiosity is another big personality plus. Show your passion for learning new things and be prepared with some interesting questions.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire – are REALLY good for you!

Don’t just sing about them – eat some!

Chestnuts are packed with nutrients. They are lower in fat than some other favorite nuts and are full of fiber too. They’re high in complex carbs which will perk you up and keep you there for a while. Chestnuts also have B vitamins which are good for your brain. The antioxidants in chestnuts are good for your skin and help to soak up free radicals for a healthy glow. 

You won’t need an open fire to roast your chestnuts – your oven will do just fine. Boil them for about 5 minutes first. Using a sharp knife, score each nut with an X. Put them on a baking sheet and pop them into a 425◦ oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

Are you friends with your kid on Facebook? What parents are posting...

We’re not supposed to be friends with our kids – but a lot of us break that rule when it comes to Facebook...

Kids are most likely to friend their parents between the ages of 13 and 17. After that, those requests dramatically drop until the child hits their late 20s. Not surprisingly, young adult children start to have more in common with their parents and seek their friendship and advice more often, peaking at age 40. So what do the parents have to say? Facebook has the most popular words and phrases posted by parents:

Dear daughter: ha ha ha, my baby girl, wonderful daughter, Daddy loves you, my princess, love Dad.

Dear daughter: Hi, come home, gorgeous, aww, my baby, beautiful, favorite daughter, love Mom.

Dear Son: Dude, last night, buddy, the game, money, huh? Beer, call me, man, love Dad.

Dear Son: Be careful, don’t forget, years ago today, my little boy, call your mother, love Mom.

If you’re investing in poinsettias, don’t kill them with water. How to do it right...

Poinsettias are festive and in abundance right now...

If you’re bringing some into your house you’ll need to know how to take care of them. Most people water their poinsettias too little or too much. You can’t let them dry out but you don’t want them wet to the roots either. For just the right amount of water, put 4 ice cubes in a 4 inch pot and let them melt. Use 6 ice cubes for 6 inches and so on. The trick is to get the soil moist about 1/3 of the way down. Add more ice cubes if necessary.

Poinsettias are indigenous to hot climates like Mexico and South America. They prefer their water in slow doses and will thrive in a warmer spot in your house. Make sure to remove that decorative foil they often come in. That just traps excess moisture and gasses near the roots and will cause them to rot.

Think pink and do the flamingo. What it is and why it helps...

If you’re not in the mood for a rigorous workout – strike a pose instead...

The flamingo pose can be done just about anywhere and does wonders at strengthening your core and improving your balance and stability. The flamingo pose can also help to strengthen the muscles of the pelvis, hips and lower back.

Obviously, you’ll want to stand on one leg to strike the pose – but don’t forget your flamingo wings. For these you’ll need to bring the arms around the back and clasp your hands together. Hold that pose for as long as you’re comfortable, gently spread your wings, switch legs and repeat.

How do people spend their time around the holidays? Who better to ask than Timex?

Time is ticking away to get everything done for the holidays...

Timex is keeping track of how Americans are getting it all done, on time. Here are the results, courtesy of Glenn Mandel at Catalyst:

• 60% of us are willing to wait on line for 10 minutes or more to buy a gift.

• 26% of Americans had their shopping done a month ago.

• 42% of us buy our gifts between a month and a week before Christmas.

• 4% of us do our shopping the day before Christmas.

• 3% of Americans actually put it off until Christmas day.

• 22% return unwanted gifts within 48 hours.

• 60% do their returning within a week.

As far as Christmas day is concerned, there is no rest for the weary. More than 50% of children will wake up by 7 AM. 74% of women say it will take more than 2 hours to cook the meal.

Timex Weekender Silver Tone Watch - T2n648ky (Google Affiliate Ad)

Monday, December 10, 2012

How are your Christmas tree decorating skills? Some tips from THE pro...

If you’ve already decorated your Christmas tree – you probably did it all wrong...

Here is the right way to do it, according to Martha Stewart:

• You’ll need a tree stand AND a decorative planter. Put the stand in the planter, then the tree in the stand. Fill the space around the trunk with pebbles and finish that off with a clump of moss. 

• Trim your tree – literally. You’ll need to prune off any imperfect growths that may interfere with your ornaments.

• Time for the lights. Starting at a bottom bough, string lights along the underside of each branch. When you get near the end, loop lights around the top of the branch. Work back to the tree trunk. Continue around the tree. Reverse the procedure on upper branches.

• Arrange your ornaments by hue before hanging. Hang dominant ornaments first to establish a rhythm, and intersperse them with accents in complimentary hues. 

• Suspend ornaments from tinned copper wire instead of manufacturer-provided hooks. To make your own hangers, thread a 5-inch piece of wire through the ornament loop; twist the wire around itself several times to secure. To hang, wrap the other end of the wire around the branch until the ornament is secure.

• Hang your antique ornaments near the top of the tree, where they will be less likely to get knocked off by pets and passersby.

• Finally, evaluate your tree. Take a step back and identify any areas that might need balance. Don’t forget the back of your tree. Step outside to be sure it looks good through any windows. Now, get in your car and drive by your house several times to see how it looks at different speeds. (Just kidding, Martha didn't really say that.)

Does your dog have bad breath? Natural remedies for that...

If your dog has stinky breath, there are some natural remedies that can really help...

Try adding a little brown rice to their diet. It helps with digestion. After the meal, give your pooch a carrot. It will help to wash away loose food particles in the mouth and around the teeth that can cause bad breath. Finally, have some parsley on hand. You can add some dried or fresh to your dog’s meal. It’s an odor neutralizer and contains anti-oxidants. Just be sure to check with your vet first if your dog has any other underlying health conditions.

St Jon Laboratories Breath Spray For Dog & Cat 4 Ounces - 53101 (Google Affiliate Ad)

Could you be coming down with the flu – or is it just a cold? How to tell the two apart...

Cold and flu have some similar symptoms...

So how can you tell which one you’re stuck with? If it came on super-fast, it could be the flu. A cold typically moves in slowly over the course of a few days. Where does it hurt? If the symptoms are mostly from your neck up, in the throat, head and sinuses – it’s probably a cold. The flu will attack from the neck down first, with body aches, a cough and muscle fatigue.

If you are experiencing extreme exhaustion or a high fever – get to the doctor. That’s most likely the flu and not something you want to ride out. There are antiviral drugs that can help if you start treatment within 24 to 48 hours.

There are some common catch phrases out there that make us sound really stupid. What not to say...

It is what it is. Chances are you’ll hear that catch phrase at some point today...

According to T. R. Slyder, contributor to the “Urban Dictionary,” That’s a popular catch phrase that makes us sound stupid. He suggests you either say WHAT it is, or don’t say anything at all. Here are some other lame phrases from T.R. and his suggested smarter substitutes:

• "I don't give a rats…" Instead, substitute with a good old-fashioned “I don't care,” or just stare in stony silence.

• "I could care less." You probably meant to say “I could NOT care less.”

• “How good was that steak?" Resist the urge of phrasing your statement in a pointless question. Consider “That steak was good!” or “did you like the steak?”

• "That is really unique." Unique means one of a kind. There are no degrees of it. If you’re using unique, leave it alone.

• "The dog wants out." If including the words “to go” is too hard, you’re on your own.

• "I am NOT a happy camper." Avoid this one unless you’re at camp and not happy. Try saying what you are instead of what you’re not.

It Is What It Is Mens Tank Top (Google Affiliate Ad)

Are you hiding your body parts? The most commonly concealed features...

Most of us have something about our bodies we’d rather not show off...

Here is a list of the 10 body parts we'd like to cover up or change:

Go Smile - Teeth Whitening Pen (Google Affiliate Ad)

10. Scars: Acne and surgery scars are the most complained about.

9. Thighs: Cellulite is most often to blame.

8. Upper arms: Most women prefer them covered.

7. Teeth: 15% of the population admits to covering their teeth when smiling.

6. Ears: Women use their hair, while some men resort to knitted caps.

5. Legs: Varicose veins, lack of length and cankles were most often to blame.

4. Breasts: Both men and women cover up and feel self-conscious about shape and size.

3. Stomach: More of us would rather keep that under wraps.

2. The face: Plastic surgery and makeup are most often applied to this area.

1. Hair: It’s the number one body part people will complain about, alter or cover up.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

If you’ve got a man who shaves on your gift list – I’ve got a good one...

If you’re looking for a gift for a man who shaves – consider a shaving brush...

It may seem old school but using a shaving brush has some benefits. It lifts the hairs for a closer shave, provides a better lather and even exfoliates the skin. Men won’t need any fancy shaving cream to use with their brush. It will work just fine with whatever soap, foam or gel they prefer. They’ll enjoy a closer shave with less irritation, razor burn and ingrown hairs.

Badger hair shaving brushes are considered the cream of the crop. They are soft, high quality and range in price from $50 to $150. Boar hair brushes are a bit stiffer but less expensive at $15 to $25. Synthetic hair brushes are getting better in quality and cost just $5 to $25.

Let’s play Rock Paper Scissors. On the count of three: 1… 2… 3…

If you’d like to get to know someone better in three seconds, challenge them to a game of Rock Paper Scissors.

According to the World Rock Paper Scissors, or RPS Society, the first weapon displayed by your opponent says a lot about their personality. Here are the types:

• Rock: If this was your first choice, you are likely confident and maybe even aggressive. You don’t want to be backed into a corner and will come out swinging.

• Paper: You are the subtle, intellectual type. You’re probably also passive-aggressive.

• Scissors: You are devious, calculating and will likely want to play more than one round if defeated.

If you’d like to challenge someone to a game or RPS, here are some tips. If your opponent is a beginner, choose paper. Beginners open with rock most often. If your opponent is a woman, pick rock. Women often choose scissors as their first weapon.