How to Choose the Right Mascara

MascaraMascara is a staple for many women. This handy makeup product makes it easy to accentuate our eyes and allows us to take on a more dramatic appearance. Mascara is the perfect makeup to apply for just about any occasion – in fact, some people won’t even leave the house without it!

Consider these tips when selecting a mascara product that is just right for you!

Sometimes simplicity makes all the difference. Getting all dolled up doesn’t have to become a hassle every time you have somewhere to go. A nice dress or outfit can be complemented with a few jewelry items, a fashionable hairstyle (or hair brushed out straight) and a light smattering of makeup.

Whether you are going for all-out glam or girl-next-door gorgeous, a coat or two of mascara will work wonders for bringing out your beautiful eyes and long lashes. If you don’t regularly wear makeup, you may want to consider these questions before selecting mascara from among countless brands and styles.


What type of eyelashes do I have? Are they long, curly, thick, thin, short, just right?
Once you answer this question, you can learn what positives your lashes have going for them and what element could be easily enhanced with the right kind of mascara. Shorter lashes could lash out with a length enhancing type of mascara. Thinner lashes will become fuller with a thickening formula and longer lashes will really benefit from curling mascara.

What will look best with my complexion? What will complement my outfit and wardrobe in general?
Mascaras are available in a wide range of colors and styles, from blackest black and dark brown to lighter shades of both, or even fun colors like blues and greens. Most times black and brown hues are most appropriate and work well with any skin tone, eye color and choice of wardrobe.

Do I plan to go swimming? Is there a chance I might cry, or laugh so hard that I cry? Am I going to take a quick shower at some point and hope to avoid re-doing my makeup entirely?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, waterproof mascara is the way to go! Great for preventing soppy scenes at sad movies or emotional times – weddings, graduations and the like, waterproof mascara can save the day, or at least your face. Available most often in shades of black and brown, this type of mascara can be difficult to remove unless you have a makeup remover that is capable of gently washing away water resistant makeup.


Do you cringe at the thought of that archaic metal eyelash curler getting within a foot of your face?
If so, you will want to keep an eye out for mascara that has a curling element to it. Sometimes these products come with multiple characteristics, like thickening or lengthening aspects as well. First determine your needs and then seek out mascara that will satisfy them.

Do you feel that your eyelashes are very blonde or not so noticeable? Do you often feel like you have to glob a lot makeup onto them just to make them stand out?
If this problem seems to haunt you, try a lash thickening mascara, or possibly one that lengthens and thickens. A thicker formula will be better for your lashes than a product that cakes on layer after layer. Even if your lashes are still a bit subtle, you can always further accent your eyes with eyeliner and darker eye shadows. If you still seem to have trouble making your eyes more defined, consider checking into fake eyelashes for special occasions.


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No matter which mascara suits you best, remember to pair it with a pretty shadow and eyeliner if you so desire. To prevent smudges on your pillows and bits of makeup irritating your eyes overnight, remember to remove mascara and other makeup with a gentle cleanser before bed.

Classy and Sophisticated Hairstyles for Mature Women

While pigtails and bouncy ringlets look adorable on tots and teens and even some college girls, they may not be the hippest everyday hair fashion for those of us who’ve already blossomed into our fabulous adulthood. Mature women want a more sophisticated hairstyle that shows our class and makes us attractive whether we are already married or on the prowl for a new love interest. Mature hairstyles are anything but matronly! Mature hairstyles are hot, sexy, and usually marked by a fun flair of color, texture, or shape.

If you are considering a more mature hairstyle, you are ready to live it up in your prime. You glow with beauty and you’ve got the best years of your life surrounding you. Now is your time to shine! Consider the following mature hairstyles for classy, sophisticated women.

Hairstyles for mature women can be classy and sedate or fun and flirty, and they can be quite complex or very simple to do. To find a sophisticated and mature hairstyle that best suits you, first consider your daily activities. Will you be moving around a lot? Working out? Hosting a presentation? Running errands? Cooking and cleaning? Teaching a class? Meeting with clients? Based on your day’s agenda, you can create a great series of mature hairstyles that are both beautiful and functional.

Traditional and Classy Mature Hairstyles
As you’ve grown up through the years, you’ve probably noticed many other women wearing these characteristic “older” mature hairstyles that have also been popularized by the young’uns. Buns and braids are relatively easy hairstyles to create, and they look great throughout the entire day, usually no matter how active your schedule is. Consider a bun or a braid when you don’t want to spend a lot of time messing with curlers, curling irons, or styling products. These are super simple mature hairstyles you can enjoy almost anytime at all.

Even a messy bun held by a clip is a hot style! (Photo courtesy of Mary R. Vogt, morgueFile)

How to Make a Bun:
1. Brush or comb hair to free it from tangles and knots.
2. Pull your hair back into a ponytail. Consider how high you want the bun to sit when you decide where to secure the pony.
3. Take the entire ponytail and twist it tightly to form a coil.
4. Twist the coiled hair either clockwise or counterclockwise around the base of your ponytail.
5. Secure the bun with another elastic hair band. The ends of the ponytail serve as a good aid in securing the hairstyle.
6. Spray with your favorite styling gel or hairspray if desired.

VARIATION: You can braid your ponytail first, and then twist it into a bun if you like. You can also part your hair a little to the side for a more elegant look.

TIP: If you don’t particularly care for the look of your face with all your hair slicked back, pull out a few pieces in the front. You can also get a haircut that styles your hair with a shorter, tapered frame of hair around your face. This allows for pieces of hair to easily be pulled out for styling.

How to Braid Hair:
1.  Brush or comb hair to free it from tangles and knots.
2. Select how much hair you would like to braid. You can braid your entire head of hair, or you can braid a small section by itself.
3. Separate the hair you’ve selected into three equal parts. (Important: Do not allow these sections of hair to mix together at all during the braiding process.)
4. Pull the right section across the center section of hair so that the right section is now the center section.
5. Pull the left section across the center section of hair so that the left section is now in the middle.
6. Continue alternating between steps 4 and 5 until you reach the ends of your hair.
7. Secure the braid with an elastic hair band.

VARIATION: You can vary your braids by increasing the tightness with which you pull the strands of hair as you create the braid. Go for a loose, sensual braid for a night out on the town. Try a tighter braid when you want to take care of business, like your Saturday morning cooking, cleaning, shopping, and errand running.

TIP: If you want to create a tightly woven braid, try braiding your hair while it is still damp from the shower. It keeps your strands closer together and allows for your hair sections to be woven together more strongly than when hair is dry.

Short and Sassy Mature Haircuts and Hairstyles…

How to Plan a Cruise on a Budget

Don't go overboard on cruise expenses!Downing cocktails as the sun sets…all-you-can-eat seafood buffets… playing a few hands of poker…the most luxurious spa and salon treatments around… Relaxing on a cruise ship provides an escape from reality unlike any other vacation. With some careful planning, you can be on your own cruise in no time!

Casinos, spas and full-service bars are just the beginning. Any cruise you take will more than likely offer music, dancing and other great nightlife, not to mention oodles of shopping and plenty of workshops and seminars. Competitions for real prizes may inspire you to bear your hairy chest or pull off another wild and crazy stunt. A gym or fitness center directly on the boat gives athletes and exercise fanatics no excuse for passing up a cruise.

When planning a cruise, the first thing you’ll want to consider – besides destination and duration – is your budget. You want to ensure that you have enough funding set aside to enjoy your trip to the fullest without foregoing special extras that you might otherwise miss.

Even an all-inclusive cruise may still have some limitations. For example, many extras like your bar drinks, casino capital, beauty salon and spa treatments, tours, photographs and gift shop purchases are considered additional, above and beyond the scope of an all-inclusive package. The balance for these expenditures is generally tacked onto your tab, which goes against your credit card in most cases.

New Jersey residents Dave and Judi D’Imperio avidly plan cruises to different tropical vacations when time and financing permit. The beauty of a cruise is that it often allows you to see several breath-taking destinations, all within the same vacation.

And the amenities really add up! Ample amounts of food, drink and entertainment keep up the pace, while solace and relaxation are never more than a few steps away.

While cruises often may seem like large, extravagant vacations, it is very possible to find a good deal without too much legwork.

“Check search engines for booking a cruise,” Dave says. “There are many discounted Web sites out there. Book at least one year in advance, and you will probably be upgraded to a better cabin.”


“If you have a travel agent that you have been doing business with for years, and they specialize in booking cruises, they will be able to get you the best deal,” he adds.

Financing varies from one person to the next and from one cruise to the next. A typical couple traveling on a seven-day cruise without airfare should expect to pay in the ballpark of $1,000 each for booking, which generally includes cabin, food and entertainment. Rates often reflect the length of the cruise, where it is going, and what type of cabin is requested.

Cruise Tips from avid cruisers Dave and Judi:
1. Plan the cruise one and a half years ahead of time in order to save the money.
2. Seek out the destination first, then time of year to travel.
3. Pick the cruise line you prefer. Many cruise lines primarily serve a certain demographic, whether young adults, middle age or retirees.
4. Purchase the most expensive cabin you can afford. Mini-suite balcony cabin with a bathtub will suffice.

For an even more memorable time, invite relatives or friends to join you!

Athletic Hairstyles for Any Age

Get geared up for your sporting events with a new athletic hairstyle! Whether your favorite sport is soccer, track and field, basketball, softball, rugby, running or something completely different, an athletic hairstyle makes a huge difference. Keeping the hair off the back of your neck and out of your eyes with an athletic hairstyle makes playing conditions more comfortable and gives you a competitive edge so you don’t have to keep pushing the hair out of your face.

Athletic hairstyles make a great tradition for you and your teammates prior to your sporting event. Take the time together to create your own special athletic hairstyles, or do your own hair when you first get your uniform on. Active lifestyles call for equally active hairdos, so take the time to find a hair style that suits you!

Double braids work well with medium to longer hair lengths as they both keep the hair out of the face and off of the neck. Using a comb, trace a straight part down the back of the head and secure one of the two sections with an elastic band.

Begin braiding by separating the remaining segment of hair into three equal sections. Braid hair by alternately pulling each of the outside sections of hair toward the center, over the middle section. Continue braiding hair until only an inch or two remains at the bottom of the braid. Fasten the end with an elastic hair band and repeat for the second braid.

For best results, braid hair while it is still damp from the shower unless sporting events are during cold winter months. (Consider doing this same style with French braids if you know how.)

High ponytail – Using elastic headbands, pull hair back from forehead and tie it up into a high ponytail for the best and easiest off the neck, out-of-the-eyes style. Elastic bands work best for ponytails because plastic and metal clips can sometimes cause injury if sporting accidents occur.Athletic hairstyles can be lots of fun! (Photo courtesy of Mary R. Vogt and morgueFile.)

Mini-braid mania – Using tiny rubber bands made specifically for hair, braid bangs or front section of hair split into tiny sections, one by one. Depending on hair’s length and personal preferences, braid one or two rows and tie the rest back into a ponytail. For those with much time on their hands or a whole bunch of friends to help out, braid the entire head!

If desired, use hairspray or gel to strengthen the hold. Consider using an elastic headband or other alternative to keep braids against the top of your head and off of your face.

Improvised headband – If elastic headbands are not among the selection of barrettes and clips in your personal hair care inventory, don’t worry. Try to get some pre-wrap from your team’s athletic trainer if possible, or barring that, find an old T-shirt and cut off one sleeve.

Cut the sleeve again, but just at the seam that stitches it from bicep to armpit. Open up the sleeve and cut tiny strips about one-half inch thick and the entire length of the sleeve, starting the scissors along the edge where you just cut the seam.

After cutting the strips, pull fabric gently but firmly to tighten and tie around head, holding hair down securely. This improvised fashion statement could actually accommodate your entire team with hair bands for all, if cutting both sleeves of an old T-shirt. Sometimes the most spontaneous hairstyles make the greatest athletic hairdos of all.

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As a fun tradition, get a few friends together before the game and help each other with an athletic hairstyle. Braiding each other’s hair to keep it out of the eyes and off the neck can provide some relaxing downtime just prior to the opening whistle while putting everyone in a positive mood. Help each other get psyched up and ready to play!

Body Art – Pros and Cons of Getting a Tattoo

Tattoos are a form of self expression. (Photo courtesy of David Kitchenham, morgueFile)Self expression comes in many flavors these days. Getting a tattoo is a popular way to show off your own sense of style, your favorite things, or even a spontaneous element that enters your life. But, before you set aside a certain section of your skin and get a tattoo, make sure you know all the important issues surrounding these permanent pieces of art.

Many adolescents begin counting down the days to their 18th birthdays – not so they can vote – but so they can get a long-awaited tattoo emblazoned on their body. A carefully selected tattoo offers insight into the individual bearing it.

But should you personally get a tattoo? Ultimately, you are the judge of that. If you are under 18 years of age, your parents have the final say – but even if you are 18 or older, consulting close friends and family members in the decision-making process can also prove helpful.

The Benefits of Getting a Tattoo

Tattoos are available in countless colors or simple black, and designs span far beyond the realm of the imagination. If you can draw it, or create it, a tattoo artist can most likely reproduce it on your body. Words and phrases, pictures, objects, and abstract designs are just a few of the many possibilities. If you can’t quite make up your mind, they’ve got books with literally thousands of options for the perfect tattoo to suit you.

Tattoos often give their wearers a sense of reckless abandon and a somewhat safe sense of rebellion. They make a statement without taking the physical appearance to the very edge. Getting a tattoo can serve as a bonding experience between friends or a coming of age for a growing individual.

Symbolism runs deep in many tattoos. Chinese letters and other hieroglyphs are among the most popular designs in some circles. Occasionally, an individual may choose to create a symbolic design of which only he or she knows the true meaning. Cartoon characters and military insignias also reign among the favorites. Selecting from these and innumerable other tattoo designs allows for a satisfying sense of self expression.

Risks and Cons of Getting a Tattoo…

Holiday Beauty Tips to Pamper Your Soul

With the crazed hustle and bustle of the holiday season, many little things may get pushed aside. Taking some special time and solace for ourselves is often the last thing on our minds, and our favorite TV shows and moments of relaxation often fall to the wayside. Even if only for half an hour, be sure to plan a special treat for yourself. Do something for YOU at least once a week, to save your sanity if nothing else!

1. Take a hot bubble bath, heavy on the suds. You’ve been on your feet all day long – from holiday shopping to cooking dinner for the family, to wrapping and hiding presents and the never-ending cleaning list of laundry, dishes and more. Needless to say, you need a break in a big way.

Grab your favorite book, a glass of ice water, cup of tea or a soft drink and transform your everyday bathroom into your own personal spa and secluded haven. Turn on some soft music if you wish and don’t forget to light a few scented candles. Relax for as long as you like, letting the sudsy bathwater wash your cares away.

2. Treat your feet to a perfect pedicure! Make an appointment at your favorite salon or purchase some supplies and do it yourself. Select a pretty color of nail polish and give your feet the delightful makeover they deserve! If you opt for the latter, be sure to have a soft fluffy towel and a nice pair of comfy slippers set aside for your beautiful feet!

3. Relax as you enjoy a facial. Here you also have the choice of an at-home facial or a professional salon treatment. Should you choose to do your own facial, don’t forget some relaxing music, cucumber slices for your eyes and a soft towel to dry off your face. Follow the normal routine of cleansing, exfoliating, toning and moisturizing. After you exfoliate, you can choose between an astringent, toner or a facial mud masque. For your at home facial, the mud masque can be especially soothing and beneficial for zapping excess oil, blackheads and other impurities. Once done, your face will feel soft and silky smooth.

4. Get your nails done, or do them yourself. Sometimes something as basic as painting your nails or having them professionally done can be a real pick-me-up. Around the holidays, we get so bogged down with things to do like mailing Christmas cards, making cookies, buying, wrapping and hiding presents, cleaning the house, cooking family meals and more – that we rarely get to do nice things for ourselves. Set aside a little bit of time for yourself and paint your nails or schedule a manicure. You will feel great every time you look at them for the rest of the holiday season!

5. Try out a new haircut or hairstyle! Be bold, be daring or be creative. Get a new hairstyle to give you a boost when you need it most. Getting wrapped up in the holiday hustle is something that happens to most of us. Knowing when to step back and do something to break up the monotony is important, especially if we begin to tire of our daily routines.

Sometimes dressing up, fixing our hair and applying makeup require more time, thought and energy than we are willing to expend. When you start to feel as if you are at the point of not caring, consider getting a new hair-do or experimenting with hair accessories and new styles. It might be just the pick-me-up you need to revitalize your energy and your attitude!

You can do many things to reduce your stress levels, relax and replenish your energy. Instead of hiding in your bedroom with a bottle of wine and box of chocolates, do something that treats your body as well as it treats your soul!

Birthday Party Ideas for Kids

The number of candles on the cake, the color of the gift-wrap, and the number of balloons lining the ceiling are not the elements that make your child’s birthday so special. It’s the guests who attend, the games they play or activities they do that make a young one’s birthday party so memorable….

No matter what your time constraints or monetary situation, there’s always a way to make your child’s birthday party a shining success. From party games to having the right kind of food and snacks, you can easily become overwhelmed – but don’t be! As the parent planning the birthday party festivities, you should be having fun, too!

To come up with a birthday strategy for your child’s special day, consider these tips and ideas:

Lots of Time to Plan…

Depending on the time of year, many options are available for neat locales to host a child’s birthday party. From a local park to a public pool, a restaurant such as Chuck E. Cheese’s with rides and games to a fast food joint like Burger King or Mickey D’s, a bowling alley, a movie theater to the comfort of your very own home, the magic comes from the planning put into the party.

Pool Party

If your child is a summer baby, consider having a pool party if all or most of the guests are able to swim or if the pool has a shallow end. Make hotdogs and hamburgers, lemonade and have cake and ice cream by the pool. Make up some games for the kids to play so that they can win cool prizes—pool floats, beach balls, candy and small toys (make sure there are age-appropriate toys for all guests invited).

Games to play at a pool party are only limited by your imagination. If you can get a floating basketball hoop, set the kids up on two teams and see how they do! If not, use a simple inner tube as a substitute basketball hoop. Play volleyball in the water, send the kids on a hunt for sinking objects like quarters, rubber rings, and action figures or play the classic game “Marco Polo” (like hide-and-seek in the pool, with the person being “it” keeping his or her eyes closed). Another fun game to play is “Shark!” Everyone has surely played this at sometime or another… one person becomes the shark and chases everyone else—the “fishies”—around the pool. When a fishy gets tagged, he or she becomes another shark!

Fun-and-Games Party

A party focusing on fun and games can be held just about anywhere, but consider renting out an Arcade or having a party at a restaurant that has a playground, an arcade within it, or just a general “Fun Zone” atmosphere. Chances are even if you can’t rent out the entire place, the kids will have so much fun they won’t even notice anyone else!

Winter Party Ideas: Ice-skating and Snowball Fights

Winter babies can have fun, too, by having a party at an ice-skating rink with enough hot cocoa and goodies to go around and perhaps by reserving the whole rink for the guests alone. Got a hockey fanatic for a child? Even better yet—turn half of the ice-skating rink into a shootout or mini-scrimmage!

If you don’t want to host a party at a rink, you can always have a party at your own home with food, fun and games inside and a snowball fight and sledding outside (weather-permitting)! Hot cocoa will warm up little ones and cookies hot out of the over serve a perfect treat.

Minor Planning Involved…

Holiday Nail Designs for Beginners

Pretty nails make a great eye catcher, as well as a handy ice breaker, at holiday parties and social events. Well manicured hands show that you pay special attention to the details, and they often set you apart as a desirable mate. While getting your nails professionally manicured isn’t getting any cheaper, your options in at-home manicures are endless.

Why not be artistic and learn a few tricks of the trade for yourself?

Gather some colorful nail polish shades, a base coat, a topcoat, some glitter polish and iridescent coats, decals and appliqués, and miniature paintbrushes (or lacking those, pointed toothpicks), and prepare for some creative fun! Don’t forget some paper towels, nail polish remover for boo-boos, cotton balls and a piece of cardboard to use as a pallet if you wish to blend colors.

Valentine’s Day Designs:

Whether you’ve lined up the perfect date with your sometimes sweetie or you’re winging it with your longtime love, Valentine’s Day is a wonderful excuse to sport beautiful nails. Apply fake tips if you wish, for a more daring look, or paint your natural nails for a comfortable look that can be as dramatic as you desire.

Gather shades of red, white and pink. Do a faux French manicure by painting the base coats pink and allowing them to dry, followed by painting the tips white and allowing those to dry. Add a special touch on your thumb or pinky by painting a tiny red heart. If you have any available, an appliqué or decal may dress the nails up a bit.

Paint a basic coat of pink or red followed by a shimmery topcoat or iridescent gloss.

On a solid backdrop, paint a few hearts for the occasion. Put someone special’s initials on them for a Valentine’s secret…!

St. Patrick’s Day Designs:

Tap into the luck of the Irish with some designs specially tailored for this holiday. Just think about how great your glimmery nails will look clutching your brimming beer stein at the local pub!

Paint your nails in basic shades of green or patterns using different green hues. Try to add texture or layered looks when appropriate.

Create a funky green and white French manicure by painting a green or white base coat and tips of the alternate color. If you wish, paint a shamrock or four-leaf clover on one or two special nails.

Paint nails green or white with clovers or shamrocks, or add themed appliqués or decals… or paint nails solid green and add a layer of gold glitter topcoat.

Easter Designs:

Easter is one of those holidays where family members like to get together for supper and sweet treats. Show off your pretty nails with a delicate manicure just in time for spring!

Paint nails all the same shade of a pretty pastel color. Add appliqués or decals if desired.

If you are feeling extra creative, paint a bunny or a chick on your thumb or pinky.

Paint nails in alternating pastel shades or do a French manicure with two pastel colors.

Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Labor Day Designs…

Moisturize from Head to Toe… Winter Tips for Smooth Skin

Flaky, dry skin…red, chapped lips…scaly alligator legs…. From winter’s frosty bite outside to heated homes and hot blasts from hairdryers, one’s skin puts up with a lot when the colder months roll in. Moisturize for a smooth, beautiful visage…
During the chillier months of the year, you may notice the skin on your face becomes especially dry in some places. To fend off flaky skin, massage a little bit of moisturizer into your face. Use it as needed, but try to work moisturizing into your daily skincare routine. Cleanse, exfoliate, tone and moisturize your way to healthy, glowing skin!

If you haven’t yet picked out a moisturizer to suit your skin, some normal, unscented lotion will do in the meantime, but use this with caution if you have exceptionally sensitive skin. Johnson & Johnson makes a wonderful moisturizer, Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturizer. This product contains salicylic acid, which works to fight acne while skin conditioners keep your skin soft and smooth.

Enjoy sweet and fruity flavors of lip-gloss and Chap Stick to keep your lips kissably soft. Some lip balm contains sunscreen for added protection from the elements. Try to keep a tube of lip balm with you at all times incase the wind and chill start beating up on your sexy smile.

Moisturize for soft and supple skin…
While dryness and peeling on the face becomes apparent immediately, dry skin on other parts of the body may not be so obvious. One thing women should watch out for is dry skin on the undersides of the breasts. Friction caused by bras and the onset of the winter weather makes the skin more susceptible to peeling and dryness.

To combat this undesirable dryness, select a body lotion that you like and warm it up by rubbing a small amount between your hands. Smooth the lotion over the dry parts of your chest to prevent the dry areas from becoming worse. Just before bedtime and just after getting out of the shower are great times to moisturize!

Moisturize for sleek, sexy legs…
Just like your face and chest, your legs become more susceptible to dryness in the winter, too. A great way to keep your legs silky smooth – invest in some shaving cream with extra moisturizer added. If you can bear it, also consider shaving less frequently. If your legs will be safely tucked inside pants all day, you might be better off shaving your legs when you have time to moisturize them after your shower.

After you get out of the shower and whenever you think of it, slather on your favorite lotion from your thighs to your toes, paying special attention to your knees, shins, ankles and heels. Many people experience cracked skin on the bottoms of their feet from excessive dryness. You can ward this off with lotion formulated for extra dry skin. As you are caring for your lower limbs, take special care to treat your elbows, which often become dry this time of year as well.

The backs of your arms may also need some special attention, and don’t forget about your hands! If you do a lot of housework – especially washing dishes – your hands may crack easily. Keep a small bottle of hand lotion with you at all times so you can treat problem areas before they get worse. Treat your skin daily with a moisturizing cream or lotion and you should have smooth, flawless skin no matter what the weather’s like!

32 Wedding Gifts from the Bride to Her Groom

As you select special gifts for your maid of honor, bridesmaids, flower girl, and parents, don’t forget about that most special someone on your list! Show your husband-to-be how much you care with a special gift from you, his cherished bride.


In many circles, it is common for the bride and groom to exchange gifts on their wedding day. Gifts are often swapped prior to the actual ceremony, either at the rehearsal dinner or by way of a messenger on the wedding day. Other times, brides and grooms may exchange gifts sometime throughout their wedding day, or even at the close of the evening when the two find themselves alone at last.

Any gift of jewelry or something like a handkerchief can become a precious part of your wedding day. Your groom can tuck a hanky boasting a personal message from you into his pocket, or he could surely wear a watch, necklace, cufflinks, or other piece of jewelry on the big day.

Think about the message and sentiment you are hoping to achieve, and that, along with the cost, should guide your decision.

On a Budget

· Bottle of your favorite wine and a love letter

· Customized calendar with pictures of the two of you

· Handcrafted blanket or afghan

· Mixed CD of your favorite songs and a love note

· Money clip

· Personalized hanky

· Photo album or scrapbook containing many of your favorite photos and some he hasn’t yet seen

· Photo frame

· Poetry book

· Soft and fuzzy bathrobe you sewed yourself

Safe and Traditional Picks

· A necklace or bracelet if he wears jewelry

· A new watch

· Cufflinks

· Gift basket of all his favorite things

· Men’s jewelry / keepsake box

· New leather wallet, inscribed if you wish

· Something to use on your honeymoon, like brand name sunglasses or fun outdoor equipment

More Gifts…

Ten Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

If you’ve ever paid rent, did you get the feeling you were flushing your hard-earned dollars down the toilet one after the other? It is common to feel that way when you have nothing to show for the hundreds and even thousands of dollars you spend on rent each month.

If you live in a big and booming city like the Big Apple, it is easy to see how renting an apartment may be the only option, but in all actuality, it doesn’t have to be! With a few good pieces of advice and some dedication, you can own your own home sooner than you think.

As you dream of your dream home, consider these helpful hints on how you can get the most house for your bucks.
1. Start saving for your down payment right away. It’s true that every little bit helps. Save every month, even if it is only a small amount. Ten dollars here and twenty dollars there, $100 from every paycheck – it does all really add up. Also, invest in CDs and other accounts with higher interest rates. If you absolutely don’t plan to buy within the next, say, six months or more, consider dumping some of your funds into a CD (certificate of deposit) with a good interest rate. Let your money work for you!

2. Know what you can afford from the get-go. Work out your budget of monthly income and monthly expenses. Factor in the cost of utilities as well as the potential cost of your mortgage. Knowing this information up front could save you much heartache by keeping your sight focused on homes in your price range rather than ones in the next price bracket.

3. Shop around. Don’t always go with the first realtor who contacts you. Consider a buyer’s agent if you can find one in your area. Lastly, even if your realtor is super in every way, do your own searches online for real estate listings. You never know what may turn up in the market on a daily or weekly basis.

4. Get to know what you like. On your first appointment out with your realtor, try to see a number of different house styles. Find out if you like colonial, cape cods, one level ranchers, Victorian style homes, or the more simple townhouses. Learn about your preferences in terms of basements, garages, backyards, front yards, age of home, city or suburb, and so forth. Learning about what you want will give you a strong edge in finding your dream home.

5. Find out why the house is for sale. In most cases, it is due to a new job in a new location or a family move. Other times it could be due to a more serious or unique situation. It is always a good idea to know why the owners are selling the home before you get tied into buying it.

6. Bid below asking price unless you find yourself in a bidding war. Real estate is one thing in life that is always on sale. The price can flex due to many issues, so think about the home’s shortcomings and its necessary repairs. Base your offer accordingly and remember that buying a home is much like playing “Let’s Make a Deal.”

7. Definitely get a home inspection, even on a new home. Unfortunately, the sales industry is often a game of persuasion and polishing a product to hide its flaws. The real estate market is no different. Sellers put forth their homes’ best assets and downplay the flaws.

Many times a home inspector finds these things that may slip past your own eager eyes, such as settlement cracks or cracks in the foundation under the carpet, leaks, dryer vent problems, hot water heater issues, roof problems, and much more.

A home inspector finds these negative elements and brings them to your attention so you can take action. Sometimes an inspector’s report really can make or break a home purchase, and many times they can affect the final purchase price. Don’t skip this very important step!

8. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. When your inspection report comes back, now is the time to adjust your offer to reflect the necessary repairs and modifications for the house. You should have some bargaining chips by the time your home inspector is done, especially if you are purchasing a pre-owned home. Use the findings to your advantage by drafting an addendum to your agreement of sale so your realtor can work her magic.

9. Don’t get roped into any strange mortgage plans. In most cases, the 30-year conventional mortgage is the way to go. If you don’t have 10 to 20 percent of your home’s cost saved as a down payment, you may need to consider other options. Try to avoid the high-risk mortgage options, because they tend to be highly responsible for the many foreclosures out there on the market today.

10. Love your house inside and out, but don’t pick one that forces you to live outside your means. One of the biggest things that couples fight over is money. Protect your relationship and your financial stability by making a wise investment in a home that won’t put you in the poor house.

Birthday Party Themes for Adults of All Ages

DrinkNo matter how old you are chronologically, you are still as young as you feel! Cut loose with some friends and have the times of your lives with these adult birthday party ideas. Add your own creative touches to make the night a shining success.

For a fun grown-up party you’ll never forget, try these party tips and ideas on for size…

Casino Night Party
For a big money theme, rent a hall or designate a large room in your home as the honorary casino. Plastic gold coins and paper money create the big-spenders atmosphere, scratch-off lottery tickets present the perfect party prize and black, red and white decorations, plastic cups and plates carry on the theme. Don’t forget the poker chips!

Decks of cards, dice and felt tablecloths (for blackjack, etc) provide some entertainment, but consider looking around for cheap slot machines, roulette wheels, and so forth (consider renting if buying is out of the question). Try to follow the theme for your musical selections and consider setting up a karaoke machine in case anyone is moved to tell jokes or sing songs. Give each guest an allotment of play money and offer additional tender if they agree to play dealer for a couple of rounds (if you can’t find people to sit in as dealers in the first place).

At the end of the night, give the birthday guest his or her presents and also present the casino tycoon with the most play money a present of his or her own. The fun and competitive nature of a casino should have your guests laughing for hours!

Cocktail Party
For an elegant reception, cook some hors d’oeuvres and appetizers and purchase some wines and liquors for your guests’ enjoyment. Define a dress code in the invitations and either obtain the services of a DJ or pay your teenager to play music man for the night. Clear out a space for dancing and set up some chairs / sofas for lounging and conversation. This fancy soiree will be the topic of conversation for months to come.

Be sure to set aside a special place for gifts to be given to the guest of honor. Or, if you know of a particular “larger” or more expensive item the birthday celebrant desires, collect money from the guests as a down payment!

Blast-from-the-Past Party – bring back the styles and fashions of your younger years! Have a specific “decade party” or leave it up to your guests to decide if they want to groove with the 70s or rock out with the 80s. Ask each guest / couple to make up a CD with hits from the decade they are representing and play those tunes at the party. After the festivities dwindle down, present the guest of honor with the CDs to enjoy for decades to come!

Give a prize for the best outfit, decorate the party location with articles from previous decades and if you are feeling exceptionally ornery, break out photo albums that include photos of the guests back in the day!

Surprise Party
What’s more fun than hiding 15-20 people in a small room for 45 minutes and jumping out in false alarm about 3 times before the guest of honor arrives? Surprise parties are fun for all ages from younger kids to middle age to grandmothers and grandfathers!

Be sure to have the party somewhere that guests can easily find hidden parking or at least a location that allows them to walk only a short distance from their car. Make or order a cake, get balloons, food and goodies and be sure to hide all traces of the party until the special guest has entered the surprise area. An excuse like asking the guest to check on your pet while you are away on vacation (and leaving a key under the doormat, etc) or having a friend or family member escort him or her to lunch is a good distraction to help keep the party a secret!

Simple Parties with Minimal Planning