Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cheap thrills

Like a high-school chemistry experiment gone horribly awry, the economy is imploding before our eyes. Credit is drying up faster than a gob of spit in the Sahara. The home-foreclosure rate continues to skyrocket -- and, unfortunately, that's the ONLY American thing being sent into space these days! People are losing their jobs or nervous about keeping them; and for those who aren't working (including yours truly) jobs are harder to find than a CEO who admits wrongdoing and gives his ill-gotten gains back!  

Gulp! No wonder we're all nervous about spending any more money than absolutely necessary. No more expensive dinners out. No more new outfits "just because." No more daylong visits to pricey spas. No more "luxury" vacations.

BUT, here's the good news: There are still plenty of ways to have fun, connect with others, and forget your worries for a little while -- without impacting your wallet. Here are a few ideas and suggestions; feel free to add your own.

1. Curl up on the sofa in front of the telly -- with your loved one(s) and a bowl of home-cooked popcorn. Now that the new TV season is under way, you don't even need to spend money on a movie rental, although that certainly is an economical option, too!

2. Invite some friends over for a casual, inexpensive potluck. Challenge everyone to bring a dish  that serves 6 for less than $10. Eat, socialize, and pull out some of those dusty party games.

3. Have your own "spa" day -- with a pal or with your honey. Use inexpensive drug-store supplies to give each other massages, facials, and pedicures (see my blog entry "Touch THIS" for a how-to on giving a killer foot massage!).

4. Seduce your lover. Don a sexy outfit, put on some mood music, light some candles, and start with a long, slow, deep kiss. 

5. Enjoy the great outdoors and the lovely, cool, fall weather: Go for a walk on the beach or in the nabe. Get on your bike and hit the local park.  After all, it's a proven fact that exercise raises  those mood-enhancing endorphins!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sexy Housewives

With the season premiere of Desperate Housewives scheduled tonight, I thought it would be fun to find out which of the actresses -- or should I say her character -- appeals to you most:
The klutzy but kind Susan (Teri Hatcher); the ice queen Bree (Marcia Cross); the frazzled mom Lynette (Felicity Huffman); the reined-in Katherine(Dana Delaney) or the neighborhood bitch Edie (Nicolette Sheridan)?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Weekend at the movies

You know fall is finally arriving when the cineplex begins featuring true choices, instead of the usual summer fare of testosterone, witlessness and bombast ...

This weekend, there are several pics worth checking out -- including one I highly recommend: Ghost Town, the romantic comedy with Ricky Gervais, Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear. It's funny and sweet and surprisingly touching.  For you gals, there's the chick flick Nights in Rodanthe, which though based on a novel by treacle-prone Nicholas Sparks, does feature that great duo of Diane Lane and Richard Gere.  If you're in the mood for an adrenaline-filled experience that doesn't require any brain cells, buy a ticket for Eagle Eye, the nonstop thriller starring Shia LeBeouf and Michelle Monaghan. And, finally, black activist/filmmaker Spike Lee checks in with his WW II saga Miracle at St. Anna, about a band of black soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Go ahead, HAVE that big, juicy steak!

Why is it that, in a society that has been led to believe that animal fat is the devil's instrument of obesity and bad health, we're now fatter and unhealthier than ever?

Well, according to author Jennifer McLagan, it's because we don't eat enough of it! She expounds on this argument in her book, Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes.

I say, it's about time we started returning to old-fashioned ways of thinking about our vittels! By now, we're familiar with the mantra: More home-cooked meals with natural, unprocessed ingredients; smaller servings of tasty, well-balanced meals of proteins, carbs and fats; more fruits, veggies and whole grains in the overall diet; moderation in alcohol, processed foods, desserts. Yada, yada, yada.

 But dietitians have steered pretty clear of suggesting that -- horrors!! -- we eat more saturated fats that come from animals as opposed to plants (the exaltation of olive oil as a magic ingredient comes to mind!).  So, it's refreshing to hear someone not only make this claim, but also support it with an entire book! 

You don't necessarily have to read her book in order to grasp her argument, or come around to her way of thinking. Here's a good interview in Salon that helps explain the theory. 

Read it, and then go and eat a steak. Without guilt!!! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The American duty

I didn't intend to get too political on this blog, because that's not really the purpose behind it.

However, I couldn't help but post this fantastic bit from Craig Ferguson on the importance of voting, especially in the upcoming election.  I urge you to watch it (believe me, you'll laugh as well as think!), and then spread it around to all your family, friends and acquaintances -- particularly those Gen Y-ers who are expressing, in alarming numbers, a real disinterest in the democratic process, with such dismissive comments as "It doesn't matter anyway." 

Uh, yes, it DOES matter!  Perhaps now more than ever ...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sex and the sexes

Was having a conversation the other day about sex, and I posited that most women prefer intercourse to all other sexual acts, while men like any sex they can get, however they can get it! 

I'm thinking that the reason boils down to simple biology, or the biological imperative: In order for the human race to carry on, reproduction must take place.  And reproduction requires penis to meet vagina, sperm to meet egg. This primal urge has determined human behaviors and proclivities from the earliest days. 

Women can conceive without experiencing orgasm, but the same is not true for men.  Thus, women are most gratified with intercourse; men, with ejaculation (orgasm).  That's why the typical guy's sexual proclivities tend to be much more varied than women's: The most important thing to men, when it comes right down to it, is getting their rocks off.  In fact, I've heard from more than once source that many men prefer fellatio to everything else, if they have any preference at all!   

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that women don't enjoy many other sexual acts, or that men care only about orgasms and women don't care at all about them.  Or, even that women desire only intercourse every time they make love.  Tastes, interests and preferences can and do change, both in the short term and the long term.  Sex drives can slow and mellow, or become more experimental and pronounced -- especially into middle age and beyond. 

But, regardless of age, the biological imperative cannot be underestimated.  And, here's another argument that bolsters my theory:  If you think about it, almost all other sexual acts mimic the act of intercourse -- the motions, the sensations, etc.  In other words,  while men may not realize it or even think about it, male penises are really seeking female vaginas!

So, all I'm sayin' is:  Guys, in order to keep your lady love satisfied, just make sure to give her a regular dose of good, old-fashioned screwing! 

So, what's your reaction?  Think I may be on to something? Think I've lost it? Let's discuss. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Let's spread the love!

Found an interesting story posted on the Philadelphia Inquirer site about a small but growing movement on the Web to promote acts of kindness and pay-it-forward mentality.  Clearly, it's a backlash against all the negativity and mean-spiritedness that pervades the Internet (and, let's face it, society in general!) these days. 

These sites, with names such as spreadloveproject.com, , actsofkindness.com and operationnice.com, offer examples, tips and ideas for adding civility and respect back into the national dialogue. It can be as simple as offering a compliment or kind word to a stranger, or letting someone in line ahead of you, or as complex as going out of your way to help someone, with no expectation of repayment.  

So, let's all make a vow to become a little more conscious in our daily lives of this movement, and to seize upon every opportunity to "pay it forward." 

I'll start:  Have an amazing weekend!!! 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Real Age: The Poll

You've all had time to take the Real Age test, right? (If not -- here's the link again; you'll have to register on the site in order to take the test: http://www.realage.com).

So, now's the time to fess up.  How'd ya do?  Are you doing everything in your power to keep yourself as "young" as possible?

If so, then: Good for you!  If not, surely you could make a few changes to improve your number. After all, the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What we're REALLY doing online

Not so long ago, apparently, that answer would have been: surfing for porn.

However, according to a recent story in Reuters,  social networking sites are now the most popular online pastime.  Internet search guru Bill Tancer, who makes a living by analyzing hits,  claims that in the past decade, porn searches have dropped 10 full percentage points (to 10 percent of total searches). 

I say, overall, this is a good trend. For, even though social networking -- a la Facebook or MySpace -- at its heart really is an "All About Me" activity (just as porn is!), it's still way healthier to connect with others in this manner on a regular basis.  After all, these are people you actually know, not some impossibly unrealistic fantasy! 

Monday, September 15, 2008

What's your Real Age?

In case you haven't heard of this fantastic site, realage.com offers a way to gauge how you are aging by your lifestyle, life circumstances and habits.  You fill out a questionnaire divided into various categories (be honest!), and then it spits out your "real age" -- which can be older or younger than your chronological age, depending of course on your behaviors and circumstances.  The questionnaire  gets pretty specific -- blood pressure, cholesterol numbers, the ingedients in your daily vitamins -- so it helps if possible to have that info handy when you fill it out. 

The good news is that you can take control of many factors and make changes to nudge that number downward. The site even offers helpful tips on how to do that. 

Facing a birthday in just a couple of weeks, I just retook the test, and seem to be holding my own pretty well -- my Real Age is 6.7 years less than my calendar age.  Yay for that! 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Women: The report

Caught a late showing last night of The Women, and I did enjoy it.  The stars all gave adequate performances. There were some amusing moments and insightful scenes, but there were also some eye-rollers as well.  The New York settings and characters' lifestyles were fab (in that only-on-the-screen, SATC sort of way),  and it was refreshing to see nothing but females -- no testosterone in sight!  If I were still doing film reviews, I'd give it 2 or 2 1/2 stars ... It's a film you can see, or not, on the big screen, but also wait for the DVD very happily. 

Definitely a chick-flick, though ... guys, you've been warned! 

Friday, September 12, 2008

The truth about e-dating

When I first announced this blog to family and friends, my sister suggested I write about the topic of Internet dating, which she has found to be utterly, frustratingly unsatisfactory. 

I myself had decidely mixed experiences with the online dating scene before I met Matthew at a bicycling Meetup -- proving that, yes indeed, meeting someone in person at a event or activity of mutual interest is the preferable way to go. 

My (paid) profile on match yielded a few coffee dates but a whole lot of nothing else.  My (free) profile on plentyoffish was much more fruitful: I met a nice guy that I dated for six months, whose company I enjoyed but who ultimately wasn't right for me.  

Luckily, I never got sucked into eharmony, but I'm familiar with its empty promises through sis's many horror stories. So, it wasn't surprising to read a so-painful-it's-funny account of one woman's  "unharmonious" experience with that pricey service on divinecaroline.  Read it and shake your head; read it and laugh. 

Now, this isn't a bash of Internet dating, no not at all.  If you use it as one part of your dating strategy, then it's a fine option.  But putting all your love-life eggs in the e-basket?  Not so smart.  

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Women for Women

So, who's up for The Women, which opens Friday?  (And no, I'm not expecting any yays from the fellas!) 

I've been interested in this project for a while now.  It's an update/remake of a classic 1939 film that famously featured an all-female cast. It's written and directed by Diane English, best known for helming episodes of a classic TV series about a kick-ass woman -- Murphy Brown.  It stars some pretty heavy-hitting, awesome middle-age actresses, including Annette Bening, Meg Ryan, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith and Carrie Fisher. Oh, not to mention Murphy Brown herself, Candice Bergen! And, best of all, it supposedly forgoes the bitchiness and back-stabbing behavior in the original in favor of more supportive, balanced relationships between the gals. 

Natch, it's been garnering some mighty negative reviews.  Still, I'm planning to hit the theater with a couple of girlfriends soon.  Women, unite! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The trouble with Jake

Jake is a total cutie. He's sweet and obedient and docile and entertaining. See?!?

BUT (isn't there always a but?!?):  As a rescue dog that I adopted at age 2-ish, he has developed a bit af a separation-anxiety problem, whining and barking when he's left alone.  

In my house, that's not such a huge issue, as he usually settles down within, oh, 15 minutes or  so. However, in my boyfriend's condo -- that's another matter. Not only is Matthew's place much closer to his neighbors, but it's also a place that doesn't allow pets as residents, only as "guests."  

When Jake and I go to visit or spend the night, the b/f and I are pretty much captives in the condo -- plus we have to take Jake with us on errands -- because we really don't want Jake's carrying on to bother the neighbors. We can't even go down to the pool  for a swim for much longer than 5 minutes.  Arggh!!!

So, I went online the other day and looked up some training methods to break Jake of this habit. One hint is to "pretend" to leave, and ignore the dog's whines but reward good behavior by returning and praising him when he has been quiet. Also, I've been not making such a big deal out of returning -- less enthusiastic greetings, etc. Still too early to report any progress. But I was wondering: do any of you have any ideas or suggestions?  After all, Jake REALLY likes visiting Matthew's, and so do I! 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Touch this!

Wanna make your guy or gal gasp, swoon and surrender -- then leave him/her wanting more? Give him/her a foot massage!  (Note: this is especially effective as a post-lovemaking activity.) 

Here are my tried-and-true techniques: 

1. Have your lover lie face-up on the bed with her/his feet just hanging off the bed. Stand up and grab a foot.

2. Remove calloused skin using a pumice or Pedi-Egg.

3. Rub some heavy cream (preferably one designed for the feet) onto the entire foot -- from heel to toes, bottom to top.  Use a gentle touch. 

4. Then, rub and massage the different areas of the foot, with varying pressure depending on the area and amount of stress/aches in the foot. With your thumb or knuckles, apply acupressure to critical spots. Here's a great interactive graphic on the AARP site that shows key acupressure points in the foot. 

5. Work the ankle by rotating the foot around, back and forth and up and down. Use your abdomen as a "platform."  

6. Pull on the toes.

7. Employ the "yoga toes" technique to further stretch the tootsies and limber up the foot. To do this,  insert a finger between each toe at the base, and work the toes and foot.  Rub your thumb along the metatarsal (the bump under the big toe that can be prone to bunions) -- this can be painful, but seems to provide a lot of relief. 

8. End with gentle strokes.

9. Move onto the other foot. 

10. Accept the recipient's lavish thanks and praise. 

Friday, September 5, 2008

The greatest workout

Here's a pitch for functional training, which I discovered about 14 months ago when I joined a fitness studio near my home.  It's a full-body workout that engages that all-important core, using movements that mimic things you actually do on a daily basis (bending, squatting, lifting, reaching, etc.)  and utilizing simple equipment such as balance balls, medicine balls, stretchy bands and free weights. 

At my studio, the workout consists of two full rounds of 15 "stations" of 45 seconds each, with exercises that change every day, and give you the full complement of strength training, aerobics, stretching and balance/coordination. I do this three times a week, and do other activities (running/walking, biking, kayaking, etc.) on other days. 

I knew I was sold on functional training last summer, after having been a member only a month, when I went on vacation and blazed up steep hiking trails with little of the aches (knees, back, etc.) and breathlessness that used to plague me in my younger, "healthier" days.

It doesn't take much effort to incorporate functional training into your lifestyle; I even manage to do a challenging workout when I travel.  I recommend it highly!  To get you started, here's a good video with examples of a few core exercises.  Happy training!  

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My favorite sunblock

I'm a big fan of the Neutrogena brand Ultra Sheer Dry Touch sunblock.  I wear the 45-SPF, 55-SPF, or 70-SPF (depending on time of day and time of year) on my face, chest and arms (with a lesser, 30-SPF brand on my other body parts).  It's a great product -- but oh-so-pricey!  I typically pay between $7 and $9 for a 3-oz. tube.  Ouch!!  So, imagine my delight at finding a double-pack, plus a tube of Neutrogena 15-SPF Lip Moisturizer (yay!  -- another beauty staple for me!) for a mere $11.99 at the local Costco.  What a deal! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Being smart about looking younger

So, Prevention (great site, great mag!) has this list of 100 Ways to Look Younger, organized into six categories -- body, eyes, face, hair, hands and smile.  

Now, I don't know about you, but that seems like an awfully daunting number: On a regular  basis, I can stick to about 20 beauty routines and regimens, tops.  So, I've browsed through the list and pulled out 10 tips that make the most sense to me, for me. It's a worthy exercise for anyone. 

Here are my Top 10, in the order they appear on the list:

1. Use a puffy sponge with your body gel or soap; the air-pumped foam lets you use less skin-drying detergent as you wash. 

2. Wear V-neck tops to flatter the chest area and draw the eye upward. 

3. Use olive or canola oil in your salad dressing, which help the body better absorb skin-boosting carotenoids and vitamin E found in leafy greens and veggies. 

4. Just one more reason to eschew sugar: It helps break down the skin, decreasing firmness and elasticity, thus causing wrinkles and dullness. 

5. Count to 60 (seconds) when you wash your face, to massage the skin as well as eliminate makeup, pollutants and bacteria, and come out with a healthy glow. 

6.  Bangs are a middle-aged girl's best friend!  They enhance the eyes and  hide forehead creases. 

7. Have your hair cut into layers, especially around the face -- it adds flattering fullness and bounce. 

8. Products designed for the face (creams, sunblocks, etc.) are just as good for the hands, so squirt a little extra when you're doing your face and use it on your hands, too. 

9. Here's an easy, inexpensive way to whiten teeth: Brush on a combo of 1 teaspoon baking powder and a drop or two of hydrogen peroxide, let sit for a few minutes, rinse, and spit out. 

10. Smile!  It's an instantaneous mood- and face-lifter, making you look years younger. 

Happy beauty-hunting!! 

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