Wednesday, July 09 , 2014

Neat Packing Trick

You know those cardboard separators that the liquor-store cashier uses for wine when packing the bottles in a brown paper bag? Save those, and when you're packing for summer vacation, use them to separate clothing in your suitcase. What, you don't drink wine? Go to the nearest liquor store, and ask if they have any extras. If you’'re a woman, roll up tops, shorts, a light jacket or two, a dress (or two) skirt and place each type of clothing in a sectioned area. If you're a man, section out the T-shirts, wrinkle-free dress shirts, shorts and a light blazer or two. Then (no matter what your sex!) lay folded pants on top. And then do this...

Be sure to pack what you'll need first last. For example, if you have an overnight stop at a hotel, you may want to have your nightclothes handy. For the next morning's swim or jog, you may want your bathing suit or running shorts within easy reach. Place those items on top of the pants layer. Now you don't have to search for those garments, messing up the other clothes you packed so neatly.

More help with travel...

Friday, July 04 , 2014

Say No to Sparklers

Did you know that an average of 200 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July Fourth holiday? That's according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. And you'll be surprised by what seemingly harmless handheld item causes a big chunk of those injuries.

Sparklers burn at temperatures over 1,000ºF—hot enough to melt some metals. And over 50% of injuries from sparklers happen to children under five years of age! Please do not ever hand a small child a sparkler. Never try to relight or pick up fireworks that have only partially ignited (and be sure children of all ages know that). And, of course, make sure that fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them, or you may have fireworks of a different sort (are those police lights?) coming to your party.

Better still, leave the fireworks to the professionals! We can guarantee that a public fireworks display is going to be better than anything you can set off in your backyard. When something goes wrong with fireworks, it can result in severe burns, fractures, disfigurement or even death. Be sure to remind your loved ones about that. (Then go hand them each a red-velvet cupcake with white icing and blue sprinkles.)

Have a safe, happy Fourth of July holiday!

More outdoor fun...


Thursday, July 03 , 2014

Patriotic Party Touches

It's summer, so who wants to fuss to celebrate a holiday? Here are two simple ways to commemorate our great country...

Get a blue vase and fill it with red flowers (roses, zinnias, scarlet salvia or dahlias) and white flowers (phlox, Queen Anne’s lace, cosmos or chrysanthemums). Presto!—nature's Old Glory for your table.

Serve up patriotic colors with red velvet cupcakes with white icing and blue sprinkles. (We were going to say blueberries, but that's way too healthy to put on a red-velvet cupcake.)

More help with celebrations...

Wednesday, June 25 , 2014

Where to Sit to Avoid Turbulence

Do you get a little nervous or queasy when there is turbulence? Here's the best place to sit on an airplane to lighten the bumps...

Choose a seat over a wing, and you will enjoy the least bumpy ride on the plane. (It's the same as on a cruise ship—the smoothest ride is amidships near the boat's center of gravity.) Just note that seats near the wings may be noisier than seats elsewhere, depending on where the engines are. But we'll take extra-smooth over extra-quiet any day (earplugs to the rescue!).

If you're a big guy (or not) and would like some extra legroom when you fly, choose an exit row located over a wing. To sit in these rows, you must meet certain FAA criteria—including being willing and able to wrangle a heavy exit-seat door in case there's an emergency evacuation.

Note: If you like to snooze while you fly, avoid the seats that are in front of exit rows—for safety reasons, they do not recline.

More help with travel...


Wednesday, June 11 , 2014

Diarrhea-Free Travel

Are you gearing up for some exotic travel this summer? Passport, shots, bathing suit, tummy-trouble medicine...what a drag if an unwelcome stowaway gets in your system! Here's what to do...

If you're traveling in countries where papaya is readily available, you should eat this fruit every day. It will help digestion and help deter intestinal parasites, especially if you're eating foods that you're not used to eating. More important than the papaya meat are the seeds inside the papaya. Eat one teaspoon of the raw seeds daily. (Chew as much as you can—they have a surprising peppery taste.) They also contain papain, a protein-digesting enzyme that breaks down the cell walls of whatever's in your stomach—including things you don't want there.

A reminder Don't drink the water! The best way to prevent parasitic infection is to avoid consuming local water (including ice cubes!) when you travel. Be sure to wash all raw fruits and vegetables with clean bottled water—and then avoid eating skins even after washing. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling fruits and veggies, too.

More ways to better travel...


Tuesday, February 18 , 2014

Swimsuit Shopping Made Kinder

It's the time of the year to shop for a new bathing suit! Well, maybe a little early, but one cannot over-anticipate a great day at the beach. And you don't want to wait till the last minute when all the great bathing suits are picked over. And what if you're invited on a surprise beach weekend to the Bahamas? But shopping for a swimsuit is such an ordeal. You're pale as a ghost...and clothing stores make you try the suits over your undergarments—that's flattering! Before you head to the mall...

If you are a woman, put on a pair of panty hose that are a few shades darker than your current skin tone. You'll boost your self-esteem with your legs looking their sleek, sun-kissed best when you're in the changing room. And by the way, when we say “put on panty hose,” we mean “ put on panty hose only.” Meanwhile, on top, wear as minimalist a bra as your physique will allow. This lets you see the real fit of the swimsuit.

If you are a man, we can think of no constructive reason for you to wear panty hose while swimsuit shopping, but we wouldn't stand in your way, either.

More help with what you wear...


Friday, February 14 , 2014

Cast a Love Spell on Valentine’s Day

Did you forget to make Friday-night dinner reservations for Valentine's Day? Nice job! Here are some tips to make it seem like you planned a romantic “ evening in” all along...

Takeout to the rescue! All you have to do is go a step above fast food and pick up some slightly exotic finger-food fare, such as sushi, gourmet tacos, shish kebab or satay (available at Indonesian and southeast Asian restaurants). Be sure to call the eatery ahead—hours before you think you’ll be ready to eat—because you’re not the only love-day procrastinator.

Do you have a fireplace? After it's lit, chuck in a handful of a salt substitute product called Nu-Salt, which contains potassium chloride. Your fire's flames will turn a beautiful, romantic mood-setting combination of pink and lavender.

Fill your home with romantic scents. Dot a drop or two of jasmine essential oil on a light bulb here and there. (Do it when the bulb is cold, please.) According to Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, jasmine oil emits a sweet, musky aroma that prompts the release of pleasure-supporting brain chemicals such as endorphins. It rouses passion...and helps establish an ambience of intimacy. Who needs a restaurant?

More relationship help...


Friday, January 03 , 2014

Winter Weekends and a Good Book

Ahhhh, there's nothing like curling up inside with a good book on a chilly winter weekend. Now, where's your favorite bookmark? It's probably under the couch...but don't bother looking. Try these two items for better place-keeping...

Sticky bookmark. It's just too easy for a bookmark to slip out of a book, especially if it's the laminated kind. If you don’t want to lose your place in a book, use a Post-it note instead. You can stick it directly on the page where you’ve stopped reading...or you can adhere it to the inside cover of the book—then, each time you stop reading, write the page number on the Post-it where you need to start again. You also can use a big Post-it (they're available quite large) as a sticky bookmark and a place to take notes as you read—for example, jotting down all the clues in a mystery, sifting out possible red herrings. A Post-it is an inexpensive, reusable, multitasking bookmark.

Perfect place-saver. The baby cries, a phone rings…nature calls! You can’t help it…you have to stop in the middle of a page. Use a bobby pin to mark the line where you stopped. It’ll grab the page exactly where you want it.

More unique ways to use everyday items...

Wednesday, December 25 , 2013

Off-Beat Christmas Movie Picks

We love rewatching It's a Wonderful Life every holiday season just as much as the next person...and White Christmas...and Miracle on 34th Street...and A Christmas Story, etc. But variety is the spice of life, especially when young folks are home on vacation and aren't thrilled with the same old classics. Here are some lesser-known flicks with a holiday theme or background that you and your family can stream or rent (or check out from your local library) and enjoy together this week between Christmas and New Year's. We had help from a few of our movie-savvy “elves” to select the best (albeit obscure) Christmas-themed movies. Each list below is chronological.

For the kids in your family (age seven and older)...

March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934, not rated). You may have tucked away in your memory a band of marching wooden soldiers and a lovable, bumbling comedy duo trying to make things right. That would be this movie, starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, toy makers who save the day in Toyland. This movie hasn’t lost its charm over the generations.

Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates (1962, not rated). An inspiring coming-of-age story set in the 1860s, filled with beautiful winter scenery and skating…and a suspenseful ending that will entertain the whole family.

Ziggy’s Gift (1982, not rated, also available on YouTube.com). Young and old will enjoy this short animated piece based on the Ziggy cartoon that shares the message that giving is the best part of the holiday.

Home Alone (1990, rated PG). When his family takes off on a holiday vacation to France, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally left behind and has to fend off two klutzy burglars. This is a beloved family comedy with some slapstick action.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, rated PG) This stop-motion animated “thriller” written by Tim Burton features Jack Skellington who brings some Yuletide adventures to Halloweentown. Slightly scary, but filled with delightful imagery.

Little Women (1994, rated PG). This version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, complete with snowy scenes from New England, will delight the girls (and young women) in your family.

Elf (2003, rated PG). The story of Buddy (Will Ferrell), a human raised among elves, who travels to New York City to find his true identity. Silly and sweet, all in one package.

The Polar Express (2004, rated G). This is an animated drama based on the holiday children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. Tom Hanks narrates this beautiful tale about a mysterious train that helps a little boy believe.

Shrek the Halls (2007, not rated). Fans of Shrek will love this short animated tale.

For mature audiences (teens and beyond)…

3 Godfathers (1948, not rated). Legendary director-actor duo John Ford and John Wayne deliver an entertaining mix of old-time religion and gun-slinging outlaws in this little-known Western based on the biblical story of the Three Wise Men. No one says a line like John Wayne can.

Trading Places (1983, rated R). This film is a little on the raunchy side to be called “Christmas themed,” but it has plenty of holiday scenes to fit the spirit of the season, and it has plenty of laughs. It features SNL alumni Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd at their best.

The Sure Thing (1985, rated PG-13). This charming teen romantic comedy stars John Cusack as Walter traveling with his “mismatch” Alison (Daphne Zuniga) to California for the holidays. Breakout performances are sure to entertain.

Scrooged (1988, rated PG-13). This film is a laugh-filled (although slightly dark) adaptation of A Christmas Carol, starring Bill Murray.

Die Hard (1988, rated R). According to Rotten Tomatoes, “its many imitators (and sequels) have never come close to matching the taut thrills of this definitive holiday action classic.”

When Harry Met Sally (1989, rated R). The comedy hit starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan has a few Christmases…and all is resolved on New Year’s Eve (you remember!).

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989, rated PG-13). Chevy Chase lights up the neighborhood and engages in numerous other hilarious sight gags, but there’s also some sentimentality to make this a worthwhile holiday treat.

A Midnight Clear (1992, rated R). A beautifully filmed war movie featuring excellent performances by the young Ethan Hawke and Gary Sinise. A small, tight-knit group of soldiers experience hardship and grace during World War II.

The Santa Clause (1994, rated PG). Sitcom star Tim Allen inherits the job of St. Nick and hilarity ensues.

While You Were Sleeping (1995, rated PG). A wacky romantic comedy with Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman in snowy Chicago…irresistible.

Everyone Says I Love You (1996, rated R). This lighthearted musical by Woody Allen spans a few holidays and ends with Christmas in Paris. And guess what? It’s got romance!

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001, rated R). Renée Zellweger is adorable as Bridget Jones, who must choose between the sparring Daniel (Hugh Grant) and Mark (Colin Firth) (rotten luck!). Her quandary is surrounded by much holiday cheer and merriment.

About a Boy (2002, rated PG-13). Another charming comedy with Hugh Grant as a layabout who has written the seasonal radio hit “Santa’s Super Sleigh” and who befriends a small boy in need of a role model.

Love, Actually (2003, rated R). We couldn’t help listing one more romance! Features holiday love vignettes (and broken hearts) with more than a dozen characters. An amazing cast…Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman shine in this.

…And for a good goof: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964, rated PG). Alien invaders kidnap St. Nick. Need we say more?

What are your favorite holiday movies? We’d love to know!

According to the late American columnist Burton Hillis, “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”

Merry Christmas to you and yours, from Joan, Lydia and everyone at Bottom Line Publications!

More ways to enjoy family time...


Tuesday, December 03 , 2013

Better Than a Book Club

When it’s time to get out and socialize, the usual advice is to “start or join a book club.” Well, what if you don’t have the time to read, or you dread finishing a book that you don’t like, or you just aren’t an avid reader? How about starting a movie club instead? Movie buffs love to critique what they see, and you can schedule it so that club members watch the movies together or watch them separately and then get together to yack about them. And it doesn’t have to be movies...plenty of TV series, old and new, are talk-worthy as well.

There’s lots of advice on the Web about how to create a book club—and those tips work very well for movie clubs, too. (One place to start: ehow.com/how_2077518_start-movie-club.html). Money-saving movie night: Check your local library for films and television series. Many libraries now carry extensive collections of DVDs in both regular and Blu-ray format.

More ways to better socializing...