Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dating: How to have more fun

By Laura Gilbert

Sure, relationships take work... but are you toiling too hard? Below, five grueling habits to ditch.

Take a break from... “improving” your honey
You’re a gym bunny, he needs to lose ten pounds (okay, 20). You alphabetize everything from your CDs to your spice rack, she’s a super-slob who couldn’t see the floor even after an hour of picking up all those shoes and magazines tossed about. When opposites attract, you can’t assume that your flawed little angel even wants to change. And by trying to convert your sweetie to your viewpoint or lifestyle—well, that’s setting both of you up for a whole lot of mood-killing arguments. Unless your sugar asks for help learning to balance a checkbook or pick out fresh produce, accept that your mate’s way of doing things is — shudder — good enough for your mate.

How to handle it: Remember, you started seeing this person for who he or she was. If his or her habits are driving you up a tree, your decision isn’t how to fix the things you dislike, but whether you want to keep dating. It’s a tough call, but it’s the one you’ve got to make.

Take a break from... immersing yourself in their interests
It is super-sweet that you learned to scuba dive so you could go on boating expeditions with your pumpkin. It’s admirable that you scour a website on dogs so you could make chitchat about your date’s boxer. But everyone’s got a breaking point, and the honest truth is, it’s OK to hate Radiohead even though your date loves ’em. It’s OK to pass on joining your partner’s book club.

How to handle it: Adopt this perspective: You two are a romantic match, not study buddies, so give each other room to enjoy your respective hobbies, alone, and you’ll avoid clocking tons of hours doing things you just don’t like doing—and getting pretty resentful to boot.

Take a break from... mapping out the “Where are we going?” love chart
Finding out that you’ve been promoted to “my boyfriend” or “my girlfriend” or that your sweetie could envision having kids with you are important milestones in a relationship. But checking every five seconds to see if “you still like me” or always asking about long-term plans doesn’t guarantee a wedding’s on its way. In fact, that kind of constant status report actually shows an insecurity that may wind up destroying what’s otherwise a great bond.

How to handle it: So stop asking your cutie how they “feel about things” and focus on how you do — and if you’re having fun, sit back and enjoy it. This is what you’ve been waiting for!

Take a break from... trying to get along with all of their family or friends
By now we’ve all realized that, for bad or good, every person comes with a posse. Yes, you want to get in good with your sweetie’s inner circle, but that doesn’t mean you have to charm and win over every single acquaintance of his or hers. So feel free to “have other plans” when your his college roommate comes into town for a wild ‘n crazy night or to politely excuse yourself for the bathroom when her great-great aunt goes on and on about her hemorrhoids.

How to handle it: Your time is much better spent schmoozing the people who matter most to your date — like parents, siblings, or best friends — and hanging with the people in his or her inner circle that you genuinely like.

Take a break from... overanalyzing every little thing
There are Big Issues that need to be worked through: Fear of commitment, lack of trust, concerns about how much time you’re spending together. Then, there are little issues that we turn into Big Issues by reading into them, often with bad results. Did her last email to you seem curt, and not even address the two paragraphs you wrote about how you’re falling for her? Or have you ever enlisted a pal to help you dissect the tone and word choice of a voicemail message your sweetie left you saying he can’t make it to happy hour?

How to handle it: Don’t kill yourself trying to analyze whether your relationship’s on the rocks; maybe your partner’s just busy at work and would love nothing better than to spend time lavishing attention on you. Look at the big-picture pattern. If this is a person who is dependable most of the time, but now and then is late or has to blow things off for work, so be it. If this is a person who blows you off on the night of your best friend’s surprise party that you planned for months, or can’t come see your team compete in the finals of your after-work soccer league, um, you probably don’t need us to tell you that there are bigger issues at work here. Don’t sweat the little stuff; do tackle the big relationship flubs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Researchers Find Barbie Is Often Mutilated

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer

LONDON - Barbie, beware. The iconic plastic doll is often mutilated at the hands of young girls, according to research published Monday by British academics.

"The girls we spoke to see Barbie torture as a legitimate play activity, and see the torture as a 'cool' activity," said Agnes Nairn, one of the University of Bath researchers. "The types of mutilation are varied and creative, and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving."

Researchers from the university's marketing and psychology departments questioned 100 children about their attitudes to a range of products as part of a study on branding. They found Barbie provoked the strongest reaction, with youngsters reporting "rejection, hatred and violence," Nairn said.

"The meaning of 'Barbie' went beyond an expressed antipathy; actual physical violence and torture towards the doll was repeatedly reported, quite gleefully, across age, school and gender," she said.

While boys often expressed nostalgia and affection toward Action Man — the British equivalent of GI Joe — renouncing Barbie appeared to be a rite of passage for many girls, Nairn said.

"The most readily expressed reason for rejecting Barbie was that she was babyish, and girls saw her as representing their younger childhood out of which they felt they had now grown," she said.

Nairn said many girls saw Barbie as an inanimate object rather than a treasured toy.

"Whilst for an adult the delight the child felt in breaking, mutilating and torturing their dolls is deeply disturbing, from the child's point of view they were simply being imaginative in disposing of an excessive commodity in the same way as one might crush cans for recycling," she said.

Manufacturer Mattel, which sells 94 million Barbies a year worldwide, said the doll remained the "No. 1 fashion doll brand."

Mattel U.K. said that despite the findings of "this very small group of children, we know that there are millions of girls in the U.K. and across the world that love and enjoy playing with Barbie and will continue to do so in the future."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Girls' Night Out … With Your Guy?

By Kathleen Jacobs for

Is there anything better than spending downtime with your best girlfriends, chatting, shopping, cooking and more chatting? Yup. Doing the same with your man. Sharing activities that you enjoy helps you get closer, says Karen Sherman, Ph.D., and author of "Marriage Magic." But sometimes that's easier said than done. You can't just immediately dive into "full-on-girly" things together, advises Tina Tessina, Ph.D., and author of "How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free." Slowly introduce him to the things that may initially freak him out. In order for him to appreciate getting his nails buffed at the salon, you might want to ease him into the spa experience with a massage at home. Read on for more ideas on showing him how girls just want to have fun.

Watch a chick flick
If you've had enough of his favorite action films packed with high-speed car chases and rapid gunfire, set aside some screening time for a romantic comedy in which a man fights to keep the woman he loves. "These movies are actually heroic films, and men appreciate that," says Maria Grace, Ph.D., and author of "Reel Fulfillment: A 12-Step Plan for Transforming Your Life Through Movies." Although your guy may put up a stink at first, he'll ultimately relate to the male characters -- especially since they get the girl in the end. Good rentals to start with: "The Wedding Singer," "40-Year-Old Virgin," "Singles" and "Say Anything." "These movies bring up a lot of relationship issues and really validate what is meant by true love," she says. "We all know women would rather have a man listen to them than buy them diamond earrings." And these so-called chick flicks repeat this message loud and clear.

Share a nosh
Getting him into the kitchen can be difficult, but it's worth it. "The whole idea of cooking together is to work on a common goal," says Maria Liberati, author of "The Basic Art of Italian Cooking." Make it easier on him (and you) by changing into some comfy clothes; that way, you won't fret about spills. Set a fun mood by blasting some upbeat music. Liberati suggests trying a simple but tasty pasta dish, such as linguine with clams, or one of his other faves. "Use the freshest ingredients you can find," she says. "Food should be a treat for the senses. Opening up a box of mac and cheese will not provide the same experience." Give your co-chef tasks that he can get into, like chopping up veggies or grating cheese. Intimidated by the stove? Skip ahead to dessert and serve vanilla ice cream. Have him drizzle on some Limoncello, an Italian liqueur, on top. Congratulate each other on your teamwork as you trade bites.

Grab a drink and gab... at home
Having cocktails with the gals isn't actually about the drink-ini itself. It's about the talking -- and listening. Want to lure him into conversation? Kick-start the dialogue with a topic that excites both of you while you prepare a glass of something out of the ordinary. Try a Tinteretto, suggests Liberati. Mix 1/3 cup chilled pomegranate juice with 2/3 cup Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine), and stir gently so you don't make too much foam. Serve in champagne flutes. This is sure to put you in a relaxing mood, and maybe he'll open up or let his sillier side show -- just like your girlfriends do.

Catch a craft fair
Is you-know-who mall-phobic? Then you know he's never going to get pumped up for marathon shopping or bargain hunting. You'll have to try a different tack, like a craft fair. From handmade furniture to the ubiquitous chess sets, there are lots of examples of craftsmanship your guy can appreciate here. This type of "shopping" is great because he doesn't have to sit on his duff watching you try on outfit after outfit, adds Dr. Sherman. And walking around outdoors should appeal to his action-oriented side.

Mosey through a museum
If his typical weekend afternoon involves sitting in front of the TV or catching the game, you'll want to be careful about choosing which art exhibit to visit. "Don't start with the abstract stuff -- start with nudes," says Dr. Tessina. "Or find a museum that has more artifacts or tools." The key, she says, is to find objects that peak his interest. "You'll get more out of it if you ask him what he thinks, even though you may be dying to talk about how you feel," adds Tessina. And when he looks like he's had enough, call it a day. "When you're taking someone out of their usual arena, you have to introduce him to these activities in small doses," she says.

Paw over old pics
Talking about special moments with your friends -- like the crazy night you all danced on the bar in Cancun on spring break -- can be a blast. Guys aren't always so nostalgic, unless they're talking about touchdowns, home runs and three-pointers. The solution? Get out the visual cues, aka photo albums (or even videos), to relive the romance and the fun. "The reminiscing, the sharing of stories, is going to bring back memories of your connection and bring on that warm, fuzzy feeling," says Sherman. It could be just the thing to remind you of what brought you together -- which should come in handy the next time you hit a rough patch in your relationship.

Remember, the key to having a good "girly" time with your guy is to keep in mind that he isn't going to flip over all the things you relish. "Not everything is meant to be shared," says Robin Gorman Newman, author of "How to Marry a Mensch." Besides, it would be boring if you both liked the same things, so it's important to be able to appreciate the other person's interests and passions. And who knows? Maybe in exchange for watching an action flick, he'll agree to a spa vacation!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Teacher Tells 1st Graders There's No Such Thing As Santa

A music teacher in Richardson, Texas told his first grade students that there's no such thing as Santa Claus. I can't believe he'd do that! In my opinion, Santa is something that only parents should deal with. It's just not a teacher's business to decide whether a child should believe in something like that or not!

The elementary school as been getting angry phone calls from parents since Monday, the day this occurred, so now the school district is issuing a "Pro-Santa" statement.

The district announced that the offending teacher had heard from Santa Claus himself -- who assured the teacher that "the spirit of the holidays is alive and well." And Santa asked the teacher to pass that message along to students.

A district spokesman said the teacher won't face any disciplinary action. I can't believe it!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Narnia Comes Out Today!

The Chronicles of Narnia comes out today! I'm so excited! I haven't read this book in so many years! I'm going to go see the movie tonight, and then re-read the book this weekend.

Follows the exploits of the four Pevensie siblings--Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter--in World War II England who enter the world of Narnia through a magical wardrobe while playing a game of 'hide and seek' in the rural country home of an elderly professor. Once there, the children discover a charming, peaceful land inhabited by talking beasts, dwarfs, fauns, centaurs, and giants that has become a world cursed to eternal winter by the evil White Witch, Jadis. Under the guidance of a noble and mystical ruler, the lion Aslan, the children fight to overcome the White Witch's powerful hold over Narnia in a spectacular, climactic battle that will free Narnia from Jadis' icy spell forever.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Student Bloggers Disciplined For Threatening Teacher

CHICAGO - Three Chicago high school students were disciplined after posting obscene and threatening statements about teachers on an online Web log unrelated to the school.

School officials said the three boys are seventh- and eighth-graders in an advanced placement program at Taft High School.

NBC5's Lisa Tutman reported Thursday that Chicago Public School officials say that this is more a matter of threats of violence than it is an issue of freedom of speech.

While computer usage is very much a part of daily life in high school, Tutman said, the entries in question have landed the bloggers in hot water.

One of the online entries from last month referenced cutting a teacher's throat. An entry posted this week by one of the students apologized for what was written.

The postings were found on a blog, short for Web log. Blogs are popular Internet sites where virtually anyone can log on and write their opinions on any subject. Taft students told Tutman that blogs are very common among them.

"I keep in touch with kids at Taft," student Orlando Colon said of his blog usage. "I've met a lot of new people here, you know, just through the Web site ... you know, you meet up with people you might not of even thought came to your school."

School officials say that the blog postings in this case crossed the line by including vulgar, profane, obcene and threatening messages directed at a specific teacher who was indentified by name in the postings.

"I think that shouldn't do that," a fellow student said. "It's not right to the teachers and it's hurting the teacher's feelings."

"They're stupid for doing that. It's not right to hurt someone's feelings," another student, Salina Quiles, said.

Although the incident did not happen on school grounds, Chicago Public Schools spokesman Mike Vaughn said the district's law department determined the school may discipline the students, despite objections raised by some who say their First Amendment rights are being violated.
Officials claim the messages could have impacted safety at the school.

"I'm really in favor of freedom of speech, in general, you know. I believe we need to be able to say whatever we need, but threatening someone's life? I think that crosses the line," said Joan Lipschutz, the Taft school nurse.

Students told Tutman that they heard that the some of the offenders had been suspended, but Vaughn would not detail the students' punishment, citing confidentiality issues.

In any case, Tutman said, student bloggers say the event won't stop the blogging among them, although it may make them think twice about what they post.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Make the Holidays More Romantic

Get in the Spirit

With all the craziness of the holiday season -- from shopping to decorating to baking -- it's easy to put romance on the back burner. Instead, try one -- or more! -- of these ideas to add some festive fun to your relationship.

  1. Serve your man a steaming cup of hot chocolate -- with extra marshmallows -- when he comes in from shoveling the snow. Or better yet, join him outside to play in the snow.
  2. Arrange for a romantic sleigh ride through the streets of your city or a nearby field. Cuddle up under the blanket to keep warm.
  3. Celebrate crossing items off your holiday shopping list by stopping for a steaming cup of flavored coffee and some conversation.
  4. Fill each other's stockings with sexy gifts like massage lotion and lingerie. Carve out some time to actually use them!
  5. Share a hot bubble bath on a cold winter night. For extra bubbles, sip champagne while you soak.
  6. Start planning a trip somewhere warm. Whether you actually go or not, it's fun to fantasize about escaping the cold and lying on the beach.
  7. Hang mistletoe in a spot you have to pass frequently -- and don't go by without a smooch!
  8. Rent classic holiday movies like It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol (or National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, if you want a laugh), build a fire in the fireplace, and share a cozy evening at home.
  9. After decorating the house and Christmas tree, turn off all the lights, and admire your handiwork in the glow of the tree lights.
  10. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. You'll get to spend quality time together, plus you'll realize how fortunate you really are.
  11. Bake your husband's favorite Christmas cookies -- and ask him to be the "chief cookie-tester."
  12. Put on a CD of holiday music in the car and drive around your neighborhood to check out the lights and decorations. Pick your favorite and vote on the "most over-the-top" display -- every neighborhood has someone who really goes to town!
  13. Mark the end of the old year and the beginning of the new by opening a bottle of wine and reminiscing about the events of the past year and sharing what you hope for in the coming year.
  14. Get creative (and silly!) and compose your own Christmas letter to friends and relatives. Challenge your mate to see which of you can come up with the funniest, most outrageous letter -- and then don't send it out!
  15. Play secret Santa and leave each other little gifts (movie tickets, candy, a CD) in unexpected places like a briefcase, the car, or on his pillow.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Boys Suspended For Writing About Teacher

SANTA ANA, Calif. - In classroom journals, two star football players wrote in graphic detail about brutally killing their high school English teacher, covering her in gasoline and lighting her ablaze.

The two boys, Scott McKnight, 17, and Sam Smith, 18, were not criminally charged, but were suspended and face expulsion. An Orange County Superior Court judge was scheduled to rule Friday on whether the full journals should be sealed or open to the public.

Those boys better be expelled!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Harry Potter Trivia

Try your hand at this Harry Potter trivia game.

Not to brag, but I did very well!