Tag Archives: lists

Five Ideas for Inexpensive Romantic Gifts This Christmas

Romantic Relaxation Evening. First, after you shower in the morning, and unbeknownst to your beloved, write a message in the steam that forms on the mirrors. Before she (or he) comes home, prepare a bubble bath. Scatter rose petals on top. Light candles around the bathroom. Leave warmed towels within easy reach and a clean robe hanging on the door. Soft music, a glass of wine, and perhaps a book she (or he) has been longing to read are all you need for an evening of pampering. Close the door and allow your “steam” message to appear. A long massage following the soak is a wonderful way to show your love and affection.


Make a Mix Tape. Okay, it doesn’t have to be an old school tape. You can burn a CD or buy an inexpensive iPod and load up all the songs have special significance for the two of you or ones that make you think of your romantic partner. This may become a tradition that you both can look forward to every year. For a list of romantic songs, click here


Customized Page-A-Day Calendar. This idea can be a bit time consuming, but well worth the effort. Get a blank page-a-day calendar, and write little or long notes for every day of the year. As an alternative to notes, you can also include favorite jokes, tape or glue in pictures, movie or concert stubs, or other items.

Make a Masterpiece Together. Well, maybe not a masterpiece, but certainly something you can have fun with and create a lasting memory from, no matter how it turns out. Buy an inexpensive canvass, some acrylic paint, and some brushes (or hey, even finger paints). For fun after the canvass is completed, you can continue your artistic evening with some edible body paints!

Create Your Very Own Truth-or-Dare Game. You and your partner can conspire and create this game together, each writing your own set of “truth” questions and your own set of “dare” questions. Then play the game. You may find out answers to some burning questions you’ve been dying to ask, and you may get to indulge in some fantasies that you have been too shy to voice otherwise.


7 Christmas Gift Ideas For Pets And The People Who Love Them

 We love our pets. The American Pet Products Association reports that Americans spent 45.5 billion dollars on our 171 million dogs and cats in 2009, as well as millions of small animals, reptiles, and fish. During the holiday season, then, it’s no surprise that we want to pamper our furry little companions with a special treat. Here are some ideas to show that faithful friend that it’s Christmastime for them too, and a few gift ideas for a pet lover in your life as well.

Santa Dog Hoodies are an adorable way to help your pal stay warm and share in the fun of the season. Available in many sizes, from extra small (20”) all the way to extra large (40”). $49.95 at Fetchdog.com

PetHoliday Cat Santa Hat. You might lose a finger trying this and the hat is unlikely to stay on for more than the length of time it takes you to snap the picture, but hey, at $4.99 from PetsMart, it’s a bargain for a great chuckle and lasting memory!


Nom, nom, nom! Your feathered friend will feel festive as he munches on this cute Stick Angel Bird Toy. All birds love to shred and chew. The bright colors will keep your bird entertained and the hard wooden block will help keep his beak neatly trimmed. From Doctors Foster and Smith, $6.99


This hilarious doormat is, of course, a parody of the famous line, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls.” Funny and functional. Available at Amazon.com, $19.99.


If you are looking for great hostess gift for a cat-lover, you can’t go wrong with this whimsical serving platter from CentralChef, $22.95.

These super-tough giant Christmas bulb dog toys are double the fun, as your pooch can chew and bounce them and work at getting a treat out of the center. Available from the Best Friends General Store, $10.99.

What’s warm and cozy and will provide hours of fun for your kitty? Why, the Heated Crinkle Tunnel, of course! The crinkly part is in the arch. The padded bottom heats to 102 degrees. Heater is removable and the tunnel is machine-washable. Available from SpecialPetsStore.com, $51.97.


Top Ten Do-It-Yourself Holiday Gifts

In our busy world, where a present can sometimes mean grabbing a gift card off the rack at a drugstore, it may mean more than ever to someone to receive a gift that took your time and consideration to prepare. These ideas find a balance between the thoughtful but not overly taxing or time-consuming. They let that special someone know that you truly care.

1.      Candle in a Teacup.  A beautiful and aromatic gift that can be fun to shop for, make, and give. While many people do not make candles themselves any longer, it is not difficult or expensive to do. Try this DIY idea from Country Living.

2.      Chocolate Truffles Truffles are a delicious holiday indulgence, but they can be quite pricey to buy from specialty stores. However, they are not terribly difficult to make and you can be as creative as you’d like with toppings: try cocoa, coconut, or finely chopped nuts. Find the recipe here from the Food Network.

3.     Secret Hollow Book. Everyone likes to have a special place to keep meaningful items…old love letters, childhood trinkets, or even valuables. Find an old, thick book at a used book or thrift store. If you know your gift recipient’s favorite author, all the better. Then all you need is glue, a box cutter, a ruler, and a pencil. Full instructions for how to make your Secret Hollow Book can be found here.

4.     Personalized Calendars. Everyone, from grandparents to children, loves personalized calendars. Comb through your old and new photographs and give the gift of twelve cherished memories. Consider including quotes or notes on days of importance, or even a coupon or a few dollars tucked into hand-made envelopes to celebrate special occasions. You can use software for this project or you may want to take your photographs to locations such as FedEx Office to have it professionally assembled with no fuss.

5.      Marble Magnets. So much fun and so easy to make! At a local crafts’ store, simply purchase clear flat glass marbles, round magnets, and silicon glue. You can use an image you like, from magazine pictures to photographs. Fit six or so magnets into a wrapping paper-covered Altoid’s tin, and you have a unique and personalized gift for anyone on your list! Full instructions can be found here.

6.      Felt-Backed Ceramic Tile Trivets or Coasters. For an inexpensive, fun, and easy do-it-yourself gift idea, why not consider going to your local flooring store? Select a fun pattern and make a cooking trivet (6” x 6”) or some drink coasters (3” x 3”) from tile. The only supplies necessary are the squares, some felt, and some glue. If you prefer, you may choose to back the tiles in cork rather than felt. Either way, you’ll have a unique and memorable gift.

7.      Family Trivial Pursuit. A fun idea from a reader of the blog GetRichSlowly.orgwrites that he created a game where the children had to guess at family-related questions in order to win cash prizes. What a good way to learn your family lore and keep the whole family entertained!

8.      Easy Handmade Soaps. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to impress someone with your crafting skills. These beautiful soaps are not at all difficult to make and are inexpensive to create as well. All you need is glycerin soap, soap dye, molds and Popsicle sticks. The soaps are so easy to make, your children can even help you do it. Full instructions can be found here.

9.      First Aid Strips: Apply Directly to the Mind. This easy and thoughtful idea comes from Family Fun MagazineWe all could use an uplifting quote or sentiment during the hectic holiday season and especially after the festivities end and life goes back to normal. Collect your own favorite quotes and other thoughts, write them on bright colored construction paper, cut into the shapes of bandages and dress up a box for a gift that will be meaningful all year.

10.  Record Bowls. What an interesting and artful way to recycle old vinyl! Simply find an album with a colorful label, heat your oven to 225 degrees and mold it into an acrylic bowl. Remove after five minutes, when the vinyl is molded but still pliable and shape into whatever design you’d like. Full instructions, from Mookychick.co.uk can be found here.


Top Ten Christmas Gifts For $10 Or Less

 Santa knows that everyone likes to feel appreciated, but even the Big Guy is aware that the season can get mighty expensive. Here are some affordable gifts guaranteed to put smiles on faces while keeping the reins on your spending. 

1.      Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.  Released in 1997, this hysterical collection of essays by now-famous author David Sedaris will delight even the Grinch-iest Grinch on your list. Darkly humorous yet full of relatable insights into the human condition, Sedaris captures both the love and the maddening spirit of the holiday season. (Paperback, available at Amazon.com for $4.72)

2.      Champagne Caress Bubbling Bath OilOn a chilly evening after a long day of shopping, there isn’t much nicer than a luxurious, scent-infused soak in a hot tub. This special bubble bath blends saponified vegetable oils and pure glycerin with and a delicate yet rich aroma. Give someone special an excuse to relax. (from American Soap Company, $8.95)

3.      Black Market Gourmet Barbeque Sauce. Got a man on your list who loves to grill? Try one of these three delicious and unique flavors from Black Market Gourmet: Cranberry, Apricot or Blackberry. All of the sauces are organic and preservative- free. (from Black Market Gourmet, $7.50)

4.      Famous Faces Journals. If there is a writer and pop culture buff to shop for, you can’t go wrong with one of these whimsical journals. Choose from Audrey Hepburn, Dr. Spock, and Michael Jackson, among others. (from Jenni Bick Bookbinding, $8.95)

5.     Drumstick Pencils. Know someone trapped in an office but whose inner-rock drummer is just dying to express himself? Behold the “Drumstick Pencils,” perfect for pounding out that last minute memo to your co-workers letting them know you’ll be leaving early for the holidays. (from ThinkGeek, $7.99)

6.      Czech Glass Pearl Shaped Wine Markers. Adorn your stemware beautifully and help keep everyone’s drink straight with these lovely wine charms. A perfect hostess gift and one that is sure to be used, and treasured, for many years. (from Etsy, $8.00)

7.      Dr. Freud’s Therapy Ball. Everyone gets a little…stressed…during the holiday season. Give someone the gift of sound advice and the release of a hearty laugh with this unique present. Works like a Magic 8 Ball, and the good doctor will tell you just what you need to hear. (from Neatorama, $7.95)

8.      Pecan Pie Truffles. Pecan pie and Christmas have had a long relationship, but pie can be so difficult to eat when not served at the table. Well, now you can have your pie anytime, anywhere, with these delicious little Pecan Pie Truffles. And at such an affordable price, you may want to treat several sweets-lovers on your list! (from See’s Candies, $6.15)

9.      Donate $10 and Buy an Impoverished Family Two Chickens.  A good number of us have everything we might want or need, but for thousands of families in the world, necessities are never guaranteed. Consider making a donation of two chickens to one of these needy families in the name of a friend , relative, or co-worker and make someone’s life far brighter. (Donate through International Humanity Foundation.)

10.  LED Graffiti. Spread some holiday cheer with these merry little LED lights that adhere to any metal surface. Brighten up your co-workers file cabinets or the fridge in their kitchen. You might even want to spell out a holiday greeting on their car. Comes in sets of 20. (from ThinkGeek, $7.99)


Get Your Vegetarian Summer Party Appetizers On Before Summer Is Over

August is a bittersweet month for me. It signifies the final lap of summer before September ushers in back-to-school sales, fall fashion, and the usual pre-winter freak-out about protecting yourself from the common cold. Oh, yes, and slightly chillier weather that makes flip-flops and short shorts not as fun.

Which means the next few weeks is the perfect excuse to cram in as many outdoor summer parties as humanely possible. Get your grill on, and your picnic basket, and your beach blankets. Grab those patio chairs and sunglasses and lounge like there’s no tomorrow.

And if you’re going to stuff your face with some party food, there’s some tasty vegetarian summer party appetizer recipes all over the ‘net waiting to be tested by you.

Goat Cheese Endive Bites from Yumsugar. Don’t you love it when food comes in its own self-contained thingamabob that you can just pop into your mouth without additional eating utensils? You can’t get any better than endives stuffed with goat cheese and dill. Not vegan-friendly but very pro-cheese-lover.

Vegetarian Seven-Layer Dip from About.com. Every summer party needs an epic chip dip bowl, such as this seven-layer bean-cheese-onion-sour-cream extravaganza. Fool the meat-eaters in your gathering with some substitute fake meat included in the recipe.

Mushroom Bruschetta from Rachel Ray Show. Blah-blah, so sick of hearing about tomato bruschettas. One up this standard fare by using mushrooms instead. Who woulda thunk? 

Mango Salsa from AllRecipes.com. And what better way to celebrate the end of summer than with a salsa made from a tropical summery fruit? Amazingness.

Tandoori Tofu Kebabs from Mango Power Girl. Vegetarians can also stick pointy things into food and grill over fire, too. This tofu is marinated in some plain yogurt, ginger, lime juice, Indian spices, and more. And from the looks of it on the blog, it looks amazing.

Veggie Tacos from SImply Recipe. Throw a taco party–and get rid of all those zuchinnis popping up like crazy in your neighborhood vegetable gardens in the most delicious way possible.

Parmesan Yogurt Dip from Taste of Home. If you’re looking for vegetarian appetizers, here’s a simple one: freshly cut vegetables with dip. Like this creamy parmesan yogurt dip that is so addicting it’s not even funny.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / jpellgen



Sweet Fruits For Savory Recipes

Who says fruits should only be used for desserts in cooking? It turns out that an abundance of interesting and positively delicious recipe ideas exist for turning juicy and sweet fruits into centerpieces for some mouth-watering savory meals, side dishes and appetizers.

If you are sick of turning apples into apple pies or mangos into sweet sorbets, here is a starting list of unusual recipe ideas to use fruit in a non-sweet way for your next homecooked meal.

1. Apples. In addition to making a tart addition to your usual green salad recipe, apples also make for great sandwich filling: simply add thinly cut apple slices to a slice of white cheddar and sandwich between two slices of toasted raisin-walnut bread. You can use this same concept to add apples to a cheesy quesadilla. Or if you are craving some warm food in a bowl, check out this Curried Apple Soup recipe from Martha Stewart Living. Let’s not also forget that grilled apples always make for a great accompaniment to your meat-based dishes, such as pork chops.

2. Peaches. You can slice these fruits up to make a peach salsa that makes the conventional store-brought salsa seem oh-so-boring. You can also make a savory peach couscous to take advantage of these luscious summer fruits.

3. Bananas. What to do with an overabundance of bananas when you are sick of smoothies, baking them in bread or freezing them in the freezer? For a quick savory meal, there is always the classic banana and peanut butter sandwich (as gross as it sounds, I also like to add mayonnaise, too). Or if you are willing to roll up your sleeves with a lot of spices in the kitchen, you can make your own savory banana ketchup.

4. Watermelons. Watermelons are not so cloyingly sweet to begin with–no wonder they make for an excellent gazpacho in the summer. And another recipe that will be memorable at your next BBQ: savory watermelon skewers with goat cheese and mint.

5. Pineapple. Tart up your pork or chicken with some grilled pineapple slices. Let’s not also forget the classic Hawaiian pineapple pizza.

6. Strawberries. Strawberry-spinach salad tossed with goat cheese, carmelized sweet onions with a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar and lemon juice is my new favorite summer salad. Unexpectedly, strawberries also make for a mean salsa ingredient, which can be eaten via tortilla chips or served over some meat.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / mccun934


Miso Happy: 7 Recipe Ideas To Rock Miso Paste Into Your Next Homecooked Meal

Drinking a cup of instant miso to alleviate my sore throat reminded me last night that I want to reintroduce miso paste into my kitchen pantry. Why miso? 

Miso is a thick paste made of fermented soybeans, salt and the fungus kojikin, and is a Japanese culinary staple oftentimes used to make miso soup or as a seasoning sauce for vegetables and meats. Known for its distinctive savory-salty flavor (which makes the perfect complement to sushi at restaurants), miso contains a healthy dosage of antioxidants, protective fatty acids, Vitamin B, protein and minerals that help boost your immune system. The only downside of miso is that it is not low in sodium, so people restricting themselves to a low-sodium diet should take caution.

In addition to its health benefits, miso is also a great way to shake up your usual homecooked meals. Not only can you make yourself a quick miso soup to complement your meals, you can also use miso paste for cooked vegetables, pasta and more.

Here are ten ideas to add miso to your next culinary adventure:

1. Miso Soup Recipe from AllRecipes.com. Never had miso before? You must start with the very basic yet very tasty bowl of miso soup. Miso soup is traditionally composed of seaweed and tofu cubes, but you can get creative and also add chopped green onions, mushrooms, spinach leaves, beansprouts, and more.

2. Miso-Ginger Marinated Grilled Salmon Recipe from FoodNetwork.com. Craving some seafood with unusual flavoring that will wow your dinner guests? Kick up your next salmon dish with a miso-ginger marinade and then drizzle with some yuzu juice before serving.

3. Wholewheat Spaghetti with Miso Sauce Recipe from iFood.tv. Miso on spaghetti, who would have thunk? If marinara, alfredo and pesto are getting you bored, try mixing miso into your noodles to add some Eastern inspiration to your Italian dish.

4. Chopped Miso Salad Recipe from 101 Cookbooks. Cool down during hot weather with a fresh chopped vegetable salad drizzled with a simple miso dressing that will complement the sweet crunch of cabbage, shallot, red onion and chives.

5. Scallop Sautee with Miso Sauce Recipe from Epicurious.com. Hello, classy! Scallops cooked in miso, white wine, heavy cream, mustard and more and served on a bed of watercress with some fresh Parmesan cheese grated on top.

6. Stir-fried Japanese Eggplant with Miso from About.com. An oldie but a goodie in Japanese cuisine. Great over a bowl of steamed white rice.

7. Grilled Corn On the Cob with Miso Butter from VeggieBelly.com. We all know that adding butter to anything just makes everything taste better. Upgrade your butter with some miso paste to make a creamy miso-butter concoction that is not only great on grilled corn, but can also spruce up your baked potatos, grilled tofu, steamed vegetables, and even popcorn. Yum! 

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / lfl



It’s Not Unpossible: 7 Non-Trashy Non-Celeb Websites That Make For Good Brain Food

For every time I get sucked into clicking through another trashy celeb-related photo slideshow on The Huffington Post (I never learn), I try to balance my internet-surfing with some thought-provoking, intelligent content that replinishes at least half of the dead brain cells that shriveled away with every new picture of Lindsay Lohan sitting in the courtroom with her "fuck you" manicure.

Yes, I know. Waaaay easier said than done.

Which is why it’s important to celebrate online blogs, websites and communities that actually find an audience based on original, intelligent, creative content. I love me my crass celebrity gossip and bullshit horoscopes of the day, but I also love learning really wacky things about human psychology. Or innovative ways technology is helping improve the lives of people in impoverished countries. Or how visual language continues to evolve in how we consume information.

Here’s to online brain food, in alphabetical order, that doesn’t always stoop to the lowest common denominator. Also, I would love to hear your favorite online destinations for nourishing your curiosity as a passionate lifelong learner. School may be out for the summer, but fun learning never stops! 

Big Think. Steal the knowledge of the world’s biggest thinkers via essays, videos and articles across every field imaginable.

Boing Boing. The ultimate information porn for nerds and geeks. This blog is a never-ending reward of cool information nuggets pulled from all over the web, mixing in absurdity, profundity and relevant current events told from an interesting angle. Cat stealing women’s undewear? Jesus’s face spotted at a Canadian water park? Random video animation of street graffiti? I dig.

GOOD.is. Interested in doing the world some GOOD? Learn everything you need to know about helping do some good in the world through interesting articles, relevant videos, and their eyecandy infographics about the latest hot-topic issues. In addition to being an online destination for the do-gooder in you, GOOD is also a quarterly magazine with 100% of your subscription fee going to a charity or cause of your choice.

Information Is Beautiful. An ongoing curation of the latest and best infographics visualized into some cool eye candy. With information and data getting more and more complex, today’s visual thinkers are coming up with more and more challenging and innovative ways to convey statistics in graphical form. Even creation myths across different cultures can be summed up into a graphic composed of colorful symbols.

 Ode Magazine (www.odemagazine.com). Its slogan speaks for itself: "The online community for Intelligent Optimists." Tackling many social issues and current events from climate change to alternative medicine, Ode focuses on not just the problem ailing humanity, but the innovative solutions that the world’s pioneering scientists, human rights activisitsts, artists and everyday people are coming up with to make the world a better place for everybody. It isn’t every day you find a news site that makes you feel more intelligent AND more optimistic for humanity.

Vanguard. Streaming for free on Hulu.com, four news correspondents tackle challenging topics in their "no-limits" documentary series ranging from the cocaine mafia in Italy to the high levels of sexual assault taking place in Native American reservations across America. Every episode is an unforgettable rude awakening of what is going on in the world right this second.

WNYC – Radiolab. What happens in the afterlife? Do animals have souls? Do human limits exist? Podcasts about scientific curiosities combined with big philosophical questions, all condensed into hour-long episodes that can make your next long car ride or house-cleaning session a fun and enlightening experience.

Not in the mood for smarty stuff? Check out a list of 8 silly and absurd internet blogs for some major LOL.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / kalidoskopika

Make Lists For Life

Do you feel like your life is slipping out of control? Need help getting things done? 

I have a magical tool for you: The List. 

If you make a to do list, sit down and actually write a to do list, you will get more done. You will feel a sense of accomplishment, and your life will be better. 

Chuck! That is just too simple! A list can’t possibly change my life. 

It can… besides, if you are on Intent.com, you must put some stock in declaring your goals, but a list is more powerful. 

But really! A list. Intent.com is a big, serious website with heavy sponsorship from Pepsi. A piece of paper can’t be more powerful. How can a list written on a piece of paper be more powerful? 

A list is powerful, because it is a physical manifestation of your desires and needs. You have taken the time to create a physical thing. This physical thing is like your child. You have created it and you can’t disappoint it. It won’t magically disappear (unless you are a magician), or slip out of your mind, and if you don’t complete the things you have written on your list, you are not only disappointing yourself, you are disappointing the list. 

Intents on Intent.com are great, but you can’t carry them in your pocket… unless you have a smart phone… but still, you can’t ignore the list written on a piece of paper in your pocket by playing Words With Friends on it. 

Yeah, I guess you could play Tic-Tac-Toe on the back of your list, but will you just trust me. 

Try making a list every night before you go to sleep, a list of what you want to get done the next day.

Actually, start right now. Take out a piece of paper and write down, "Make a to-do list tonight." 


A New Conversation with Google

I have become intrepid in addressing Google. The reason is twofold. First, there’s Afformations-creator Noah St. John. Then, there’s my IT wizard, Ryan.

When my computer melted down last week, I was at a loss as to what to do.

Ryan spent two days with it, and couldn’t fix it. Some strange Microsoft quirk. Finally, I braved India and called Dell on a Saturday. After three trips to India in one day (!), the dear thing was restored to its factory settings and stripped of everything else. None of my customization was in place any more. I was, as you know, decidedly uncomfortable, borderline crabby, and determined to fix things.

This meant, of course, installing program after program. First, it was a HUGE relief to remember that I’d made a list of customizations the last time I’d bought a new computer so at least I knew what I wanted. Do you have a list of what’s in/on your computer? If not, make one, print, and save it somewhere in hard copy (with your software?) so you aren’t caught with it inside your unusable computer!

For that matter, also print a list of your passwords and usernames, and all your programs with serial numbers as well as your computer specs. That way you’re never caught out. Consider printing them quarterly so you’re pretty up-to-date. This is what made my recent process painful but not agonizing—I had everything in one place.

Also, while I’m on the topic of computer warnings, BACK UP! Back up! Back up! Every day. Forever. There are some great online systems for this. I’ve used Symantec’s @backup for more than ten years. Their customer service is stellar. Others I know swear by Mozy. Backing up your computer is much easier, and a lot less fuss than it used to be. There are no more excuses. If you write—anything—back up. It’s gospel with me at this point.

So, now, at last, to my point. During the two days Ryan worked to restore my computer, I spent some of my fretting time watching him interact with Google. I was amazed at how he did it.

In the past, when I’ve searched Google for various bits and bytes of information, I’ve kept a very old protocol in place, namely, that of using keywords, and keywords only. That’s how search engines used to work. Not so any more. Not at all.

When Ryan wanted to know something about how to do anything, he typed a real question into Google.

How do I get the Data Disc of the OED to load?

What was even more amazing was that Google had plenty of entries written just that way! What’s happening is that other people are asking the same questions, and Google is adapting to questions.

So I was, of course, reminded of the brilliant Noah St. John and his Afformations. Afformations are questions designed to keep the mind on what one wants rather than on what one doesn’t want. Examples: Why is it so easy for me to be healthy? Why am I so successful? How is it that I get referrals every day? You get the picture.

Reminded of Noah’s wonderful Afformation construct, I bit the bullet and wore my intrepid hat with Google.

How do I set the computer to Shut Down instead of Sleep when I choose Shut Down?

I had it fixed in under a minute.

Many years ago it dawned on me that the art of true living was the art of asking the right questions, not having the right answers.

Google, it seems, agrees with me.


For more spiritual nourishment, visit Dr. Susan Corso’s blog

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