The Lighter Side
18 July

Rubber Band Woman

My daughter has completely fallen for the rubber band loom craze, which is more than a little surprising to us, her dear parents, because the loom has no batteries, no camera and isn't internet connectible. But she loves it, spending hours on end in her room sorting rubber bands by color and planning her next design. She's a prolific rubber band weaver, making dozens of bracelets and necklaces, anklets and watchbands and giving them freely to just about everyone she knows.

But a UK mom has taken the rubber band loom to a whole new level -- and made a BIG profit doing it. She and a friend made a dress from 20,000 loom bands and put it on eBay with a starting bid of $85. At that price, the two would have made a handy profit, but after a heated bidding war, the dress sold for a whopping $291,000! Not bad for forty hours of work.

As you can see from the picture at left, the stylish design is very colorful and looks attractive on the model. But, as someone who's watched many of my creations fall apart completely when a single band breaks, I have to wonder: what happens if one of the bands breaks while you're wearing it?

Your "Woven Wonders" Gift Guru
Linda

11 July

And The Nominees Are...

Nominations for the 2014 Emmy awards were announced Thursday and the internet is abuzz with cheers and jeers for the Television Academy's selections. But the big story this year is how cable and and online shows whacked network television -- again.

HBO snagged 99 nominations this year for shows like "Game of Thrones" (19) and "True Detective," which scored three nominations including Outstanding Drama Series and pits Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey against each other for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Netflix wasn't far behind with 31 nominations for "Orange is the New Black" and "House of Cards" among others. Still, network television managed to hold its own with old familiars like "Breaking Bad" and "The Big Bang Theory" and PBS was once again recognized for their original and addictive series "Downton Abbey."

See the complete list of nominations here. So how did your favorite shows do? Did they get a nod or did they get snubbed? And the very big question: who will take home the statues? We'll have to wait until August 25th to find out. Until then, all we can do is binge-watch our favorites, make our own scorecards and hope our picks will take home top honors.

Your "And The Winner Is?" Gift Guru
Linda

04 July

Laugh Long and Prosper

Professional improv man, Chris Crotty knows how to make people laugh. He's made a lifestyle of cracking people up and now he's traveling around California speaking to those who might actually need laughter in order to heal -- people with traumatic brain injuries. He believes laughter is a way of sharing and making connections -- and that's something the human brain craves.

He should know. He studied neuroscience and cognitive thinking at Stanford and now he's the General Manager at ComedySportz in Sacramento. People go to comedy clubs to cheer up, to make connections with others, to laugh and forget the stress of the day. Crotty says laughter is good for our bodies because the behavior evolved in humans as a way to signal that we're out of danger. So it automatically reduces our stress.

Laughter, Crotty says, comes from something that "can never happen in a lifetime, like a talking animal or chickens crossing the road." The element of surprise works our brains because the unexpected catches us off guard. The bigger the laugh, the better for us. When we fall to tears laughing, stress decreases and we're left with an overall sense of well-being and happiness. So, laugh hard, laugh freely and laugh a lot. It really is good medicine!

Your "Take Two Laughs and Call Me in the Morning" Gift Guru
Linda

27 June

Fabulous Flip-flops

Flip-flops are my favorite things about summer. First, flip-flops are the very best reason to treat yourself to a spa pedicure. But the very best part of flip-flop season is freeing my toes from the confinement of socks and shoes.

Love of flip-flops isn't a new thing, either. According to the Wiki, "Thong sandals have been worn for thousands of years, dating back to pictures of them in ancient Egyptian murals from 4,000 B.C." Cultures all over the world have been wearing flip-flops for centuries, making them out of everything from papyrus and palm leaves to rawhide and even wood.

Named for the sound they make when you walk, you can get flip-flops in every style, color and material imaginable. You can even get them with built-in bottle openers. But my new favorite pair is the grass flip-flop. It's like being barefoot in the grass -- without having to worry about stepping on something yucky or dangerous!

Your "Flip-flop, flip-flop" Gift Guru
Linda

Flip-flops bottle openerLife is better with flip-flops t-shirtGrass Flip-flops

20 June

Happy Independence Day

Fourth of July is just a couple of weeks away, but if you don't think you're ready, don't panic. The best thing about this holiday is its informality. You don't have to put on a big sit-down dinner, buy a new outfit or search high and low for the perfect gifts in order to put on a grand celebration.

Our ideal July 4th holiday includes a backyard barbeque with the neighbors, a few tasty drinks and a whole lot of fireworks. Since my dear husband does the grilling and takes the kids along for the fireworks shopping, I'm off the hook for most of the work.

If you need a few tips on what to cook, check out Bobby Flay's Barbecue Addiction, where you'll also find some tasty summer cocktail recipes. Are fireworks a no-no in your neighborhood? No problem. LED fireworks are big this year and there's no risk of fire or getting in trouble with your neighbors or local authorities. Whatever you do to celebrate America's independence, don't forget to fly the flag, stay safe and, most importantly, enjoy your freedom!

Your "Fixed for the Fourth" Gift Guru
Linda

LED Fireworks Grand FinaleLighted Wand American FlagFireworks Light Show Gun

13 June

Frozen

Disney's animated adventure film, "Frozen", is one cool movie. My daughter begged me to watch it with her last night, though she's seen it at least a half a dozen times. I agreed, but I didn't really expect to like it. I sure didn't expect to love it. But I couldn't help it.

The story has everything: sisterly love, magic, disaster, betrayal, romance, friendship and redemption. The music, much of which hit the pop charts, is beautifully written and performed. It's no wonder the movie won dozens of awards for writing, music, voice acting and production. It also won the Oscar for best animated film.

I don't want to be a spoiler, so I won't tell you much about the plot except to say that it's a story of true love -- with a twist. I watched it twice and I'd watch it again. And again. And again.

Your "Twice Frozen" Gift Guru
Linda

Frozen Disney MagnetsDisney Frozen PurseDisney Frozen T-shirt

06 June

Write It Out

Call me old-fashioned, but I still force my kids to send thank-you notes to people after they receive a gift or a special kindness. And they're not allowed to send e-cards or type the note; they have to write out their "thank you" in their own words and mail the card. Just like the old days.

Handwriting might be a lost art in schools and offices, but I think it's important to keep kids writing as well as teaching them to type. Now there's some science to back me up. A new school of thought is emerging on handwriting in the schools, one that says kids learn easier and retain more when they write instead of typing. The research shows that when children compose text by hand, they produce more words more quickly and they express more ideas.

The idea has its skeptics, like Yale professor, Paul Bloom, who remains unconvinced but admits the new research is "thought-provoking." Says Bloom, “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important. Maybe it helps you think better." That may be. I know the act of forcing my kids to hand write thank-you notes makes them focus on what's important: taking the time to think about and express gratitude.

Your "Write On!" Gift Guru
Linda

Coffee Scented PenGuitar PensPuzzle Pens

30 May

We Love Bacon! (But It's Not Our Fault)

Everyone knows that bacon is supposed to be bad for you, but many doctors report that even they can't give it up. And there are several compelling arguments for the health benefits of consuming the savory stuff including decreased blood pressure, lower blood sugar and increased brain function. Plus, it's packed with protein, Omega 3s and essential vitamins and minerals.

There's a science behind why we love bacon and it's not our fault. The smell of bacon is just irresistible and the folks at Compound Interest know why. It's all in the chemistry, specifically what's called the Maillard reaction, which is simply sugars reacting with amino acids. But combine that with the melting fats from bacon and you create over 150 organic compounds to tantalize the senses.

So we can't really resist bacon. Our brain chemistry won't let us. But it's okay. Bacon isn't as bad for our health as we once thought. And the number one benefit of eating bacon has nothing to do with fat, calories or cholesterol: bacon is a natural mood elevator. According to one dietitian who admits to having a "bacon problem, "eating bacon provides a sense of satisfaction and even happiness..." So don't worry, be happy, eat bacon!

Your "Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!" Gift Guru
Linda

Perfect Bacon BowlBacon Sublimated T-shirtCeramic Bacon Cooker

23 May

Beach Bound!

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, which means it's time to head for the beach. After a long, hard winter, I think most of us are more than ready for a little sun, sand and relaxation. And an extra day off work.

The weather promises to be fabulous over most of the country and even climbing gas prices won't stop the annual start-of-summer trek that has become an American tradition. Millions of people will travel to beaches and campgrounds all over the country for the long weekend. They'll bring the grills, the coolers, the food and drink and, of course, the kids.

There's nothing like the promise of a beach camping trip to put my kids on their best behavior. They're even doing their chores without being asked. It's like Christmas in May. They also promised to help with the camp site set-up this year and they've been practicing with the tent in the back yard. My dear husband has promised to do all the cooking, leaving me with very little to do except read. But I'll have to bring actual paper books because my family asked me to do only one thing this weekend: leave the smartphone and tablet at home.

Your "Feeling Beachy" Gift Guru
Linda

Corona find your beach three amigos t-shirtBeach House SignMiller Time Beach T-shirt

16 May

Gifts for Guys

Do you find it hard to choose gifts for the men in your life? You're not alone. Most women have a tough time buying for men. While the gender prides itself on being less complicated than our own, I know many women who might disagree -- especially when it comes to choosing just the right gift for their special guy(s).

But why are men so hard to buy for? There are several reasons. First, there's no go-to gift for men. While most women love something from the jeweler, we don't have a similar foolproof fall-back. Second, when men find something they want, they buy if for themselves. They don't drop hints or ask, they just point, click and buy it. Third, men don't know what they want -- unless they do. When men want something, they want a very specific thing. A "better model" won't do if he has his heart set on the exact thing he wants.

Ironically, it could be their so-called uncomplicated nature that complicates gift giving for us. But we can un-complicate the whole ordeal by paying a little attention to the things they love then choosing a gift to suit their nature. If he's a sports fan, skip the high-dollar collectible that he may or may not cherish and go for team clothing you know he'll wear. Don't try to buy a fisherman a high-tech fishing pole. Instead, pick up a novelty gift that celebrates all things angling. I wouldn't dare try to buy a high-tech grill for my Grill Meister husband, but a lighter that looks like a power tool? That's something I know he'll love and use!

Your "Simple Gifts for Your Not-So Simple Guys" Gift Guru
Linda