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Sunday, December 25, 2011

#37: Merry Christmas Part 7: Festive Fat-Busters

The year-end festivities are the perfect excuse to have your cake and eat it too. But that doesn't have to mean packing on the pounds.

Everyone love to party, and the Christmas / New Year / Lunar New Year period is just another great excuse to go wild. It can also be a total body blow-out. Identified here are your three worst enemies in the festive season: cocktails, dinner parties and the office drinks. Here's how to minimise the damage.

Cocktail cop-out

It's cocktails galore starting the week before Christmas and ending only on January 1. Having a sneaky strategy and clever wit is often needed to overcome the battlefield of calories at a cocktail gathering. Laugh off the comments graciously, and stand your ground. Nobody is talking total abstinence. But don't feel compelled to pick and nibble just because everyone else is doing so and want to look busy. If the hors d'oeuvres do take your fancy, a small sampling is within reason.

Display your goods: Always put your nibbles on a plate (wherever possible), instead of standing around and popping them straight from the passing waiter's tray. That way you'll keep track of what you're actually eating. Remember: the calories add up even if you forget you've had them.

Pre-party preparation: Attending a cocktail with a growling tummy signals diet danger. Chances are, you'll be so hungry that you won't be able to resist filling up on whatever food's available at the party. Imagine how many of those tiny hors d'oeuvres it would take to satisfy your appetite – and how many calories that adds up to! Finger foods are for light, conversation snacks, not meals. Have a pre-party snack about an hour before heading to the party. Something low in fat, but with carbohydrates and protein so that it's satisfying, such as a wholegrain sandwich with tuna or chicken breast filling, without mayonnaise.

Satisfaction guaranteed: Munching on carrot and celery sticks all night might cause you to lose that holiday mood and make you frustrated. Choose about three or four hors d'oeuvres that you like most in the selection and indulge. Then go back to the veggy snackers and low-cal stuff once your tastebuds have been satisfied.

Cut the calories, without sacrificing the taste: Trim the fat and calories in ways you won't even feel. Fresh, cold seafood makes for healthy finger food, while the same stuff, breaded and fried then served with tartare sauce, is laden with fat. Instead of potato crisps, try water biscuits. And dip them in hummus, tzaziki (a yoghurt-based Greek dip) and salsa instead of guacamole, goose liver pate or melted cheddar cheese. A serving of salsa counts as only 12 calories, while guacamole contains about 108 and goose liver pate has almost 150 calories. Yo do the math!

Tip #1: Put your hands in the air and step away from the chip bowl. Don't make polite conversation next to the bowl of cocktail nuts or buttery popcorn. You'll find yourself reaching constantly for handfuls of the fattening little things, especially during awkward pauses in the conversation. And keep your distance from the buffet spread after you've had your share of the snacks. It's temptation-city otherwise.

The sit-down shenanigan

It's Christmas Eve. Mom's just roasted the most succulent turkey, stuffed it with the yummiest sausage stuffing and there are loads of fried onions and potato salad on the side. But that's not all. You've forgotten the pies, ice-cream, tiramisu, cheesecake (every woman's favorite) and cream cakes. And come New Year, there's your colleague's bash with mounds of fried food and other party favorites that spell trouble for your (now-expanding) waistline. What's a girl to do?

Fill up on veggies and carbohydrates: The biggest party diet faux pas is to totally pig-out on yummy but dangerously-fattening party food. Just one fried chicken wing costs 121 calories. Start with the salads, so you'll be rather less famished by the time you get to the main courses. And when you do, have more rice, vegetables or potatoes (as long as they're not the fried, mashed and chip variety) as fillers, so you'll have less space left for the roasts and curries.

Take your time: Hey, what's the hurry? You're at a party to have fun, not simply to load up on free food. Eat slowly, chew your food well and savour every bite. It's far better for your digestion. Nutritionists suggest putting down your cutlery after every bite, as this tends to slow down your chewing rate. Furthermore, you tend not to eat as much when you take a longer time during a meal. Think about it: you'll still be halfway through your first round while your friends are going for seconds. They when they're at the dessert stage, you'll feel strange going for another round of mains. That way, you cut down on your food intake.

Pick your pieces: Looking forward to Mom's mouth-watering Christmas turkey or Aunt Helen's world-famous honey-roast chicken? Go for the breast. White meat has only half the fat of dark, and is more substantial as a meal. The wing has the least meat, but contains pockets of fat, and lots of fat-laden skin.

Booby traps: Remove all skin from your poultry and all visible fat from your roast beef or tandoori lamb. A major proportion of the calories lurk in these danger zones. Skim off (discreetly, using your spoon or knife) melted butter in your cream sauce, the top layer of oil in your gravies and that thick crust of icing sugar from your cakes. Last but not least, if you absolutely must have your favorite baked potato with all the trimmings, go easy on the sour cream (just a small dab will suffice) and load up on the chives. Sprinkle some salt for taste.

Tit for tat: Go without the wine accompaniment, or soft drinks during dinner and your calories will be better spent on dessert. Better still, have the best of both worlds – egg nog for dessert. That way, you'll have a sweet treat, with an alcohol buzz.

Tip #2: Steer clear of the oil-slicks. It's plain common sense. If you love greasy chicken wings and the like, then by all means have just a little of each. And garnish, don't drown your rice or noodles with oily curries and gravies.

Tip #3: Leave space for dessert. If you've sussed out the dessert spread, and seen stuff that you like, pick just one slice of cake or pie. Or have a small bite of, say, five different desserts. That way you get to have your tiramisu, Christmas pudding, crème brulee and pumpkin pie and eait it too. Otherwise, just stick with the fresh fruits. If you've already pigged out during the main courses and appetisers, skip dessert.

Drinks disaster

There's nothing like the booze to make merry during the holidays. Be afraid, very afraid! A creamy cocktail like pina colada packs a whopping 300 calories (half a cup of premium vanilla ice-cream has just 270 calories). Spend your calories wisely. And that means, slow down on the vino. Also, if you've had a heavy dinner, chances are you'll need more drinks to be merry.

Sip, don't gulp: Resist the urge to guzzle your drink like you would mineral water on a hot day. Remember these are invisible calories that you're consuming, and a few drinks might be the equivalent of a full meal. Anyway, cocktails should be way too elegant to be sculled.

Mix and match: Often, it's not what you mix, and what you mix in it that accounts for the high calorific content of your drink. Creamy mixers like coconut cream (in Pina Colada and Pink Lady), cream or milk (in Kahlua Milk, Bailey's Irish Cream and Flaming Lamborghini) do their share of fat contribution to the blends. Sweet sodas and colas have 150 calories per 12 fluid ounces, while the diet varieties, club soda and tonic water contain practically none.

Beware of the “innocent” culprits: Don't be fooled into thinking that that glass of orange juice you're nursing in your hand is a safe option. Twelve fluid ounces of the seemingly innocent OJ has 166 calories floating about in there. And non-alcoholic beer does only a fraction less caloric harm than the real McCoy. Evian, anyone?

Tip #4: Choose your potion carefully. Not every drink has to contain alcohol. Have a champagne, then ease up with a glass of mineral water. Or choose a drink that's not saturated with sugars. A glass of beer (146 calories for 12 fluid ounces) beats three small glasses of dessert wine (552 calories for the same amount) hands down.

Last but not least, have a Merry Christmas!

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

#36: Pre-Christmas Part 6: Christmas Cheer

Get the festive fever going...

1. Organise a tree decorating party, complete with eggnog and mistletoe.

2. Have a “carols by candlenight” evening in your home with all your closest friends, and a collection of sheet music of your favorite festive songs.

3. Head for the beach for a Christmas picnic of ham, turkey and salads.

4. Challenge your friends to a competition to see who can come up with the worst Christmas poem to be read at a get-together on Christmas night!

5. Pre-select enjoyable Christmas videos so that you won't be stuck with watching the dreadful endless re-runs of Santa with Muscles and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and such films.

6. Make a photographic collage from photos of friends and family over many Christmases past. It would be the talking point of the night.

Be a Santarina

1. Get some empty matchboxes and wrap them up, making sure the tray can still slide out. Then mount them all on a large piece of mahjong paper, and hang it on the wall. Put a Christmas saying or mini pressie inside each box and get your guests to choose a box each and pull out their surprise!

2. Get generous and give your guests a little something before they leave the party. You can get affordable gifts such as fancy soap, bubble bath or even get down to making or own.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

#35: Pre-Christmas Part 5: Food for thought

Imagine going to a food-free party? No can do! While you don't have to serve up a feast, here are some tips to entertain in style.

Food Themes

Another way to plan a theme party is to make food the focal point. Food themes are easier to plan and relatively hassle-free.

1. Pick a country: Go Italian (pasta party), Japanese (sushi party) or German (sausage party). You can't go wrong with a theme that's straightforward. To enhance the ambience, play the music of that country during the party.

2. Pick a food: Just choose one of these: pizza, pasta, salad. Imagine how simple it would be just preparing one dish! Tell your guests beforehand so they'd know what to expect for this new take on the 70s salad party.

3. Pick a way of cooking: Barbecue is still a hot fave, but why not a steamboat or fondue party? Parties that get everyone involved in the cooking provide more chances for interaction between your guests.

On a budget?

A large part of your budget is usually allocated to food. Here are a few suggestions to get round that shoe-string budget.

1. Have a pot-luck party: Tell everyone guest to bring their culinary specialty. Not only will you be getting them more involved in the party, you'll be spreading out the cost too. As the host, you should at least provide the drinks, though.

2. Divide the cost: If you're inviting a group of close friends, suggest everyone puts in a certain amount of money, say $10 a head. Then whip up or buy the best feast this pool of money can buy!

3. Serve up finger food: Providing a full meal can be costly. Why not invite guests over just for nibbles? A dip served with daintily cut vegetables looks classy and won't cost you the world. Alternatively, pop into the corner cafe, grab a few servings of cheesecakes and display it professionally.

Indulge yourself

If you've got extra cash to spare, spread the good spirit around!

1. Champaign breakfast: Give the local breakfast restaurant a run for their money. Set up your own breakfast table with croissants, fruit, toast, scrambled eggs, sausages and of course, champagne! Serve orange juice too so your guests can mix their own Mimosas! Here's a suggestion: get your friends to stay over and have them help you prepare breakfast in the morning!

2. Cocktail Night: Ask your friends to bring different spirits to mix and make sure you stock up on fruit, cream and ice. Try borrowing a few blenders from friends so that your guests don't mob you when they have to wait in line for a Screwdriver.

Entertaining impromptu guests

Oh no! Old friends from abroad have come home for the season. What happens if they drop in and you don't even have a packet of biscuits in the house? To avoid being caught in this situation, always keep your kitchen cabinets stocket with:

1. Fresh fruit – whip up a quick fruit platter and serve it with yoghurt and low-fat ice-cream.

2. Healthy Nibbles – raw nuts, dried apricots and guave, sunflower seeds, raisins and low-fat microwavable popcorn are easy-to-grab snacks.

3. Salsa Dip – it has a long shelf life and is ultra tasty when eaten with carrot and celery sticks.

4. Rice or Water crackers – they can be served with whatever else you have in stock in the fridge, such as cheese or hummus.

5. Canned salmon – can be quickly mixed with cottage and ricotta cheese to form a healthy dip or stuffed into bread to make great sandwiches.

6. Fruit toast – keep a few loaves frozen as this can be as scrumptious as a fruit teacake when toasted and topped with melting butter.

7. A few bottles of wine – it will probably be more welcome than food!

How much is enough?

1. For a cocktail party, prepare two to three servings of each kind of hors d'oeuvre per person.

2. Provide at least three drinks per guest.

3. Buy about 4kg of ice for every 10 guests. It's always better to have more ice because people just love chilled drinks.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

#34: Pre-Christmas Part 4: Chat-up tips for parties

Parties are the perfect place to meet new men, and here's how to do it right.

When you're feeling and looking fab, going to parties is a cinch. Not so when you're frumpy, frazzled or the competition is hot. But it's worth making the effort becase parties force people to spend at least a few hours in one place out of sheer politeness. So if you've got time to sit back and study your target, watch who they're talking to and for how long. They're being chatted up by a girl with long legs as a giraffe? They could be brain-dead boring for all you know. (You, on the other hand, have personality and lashings of style.) So find whoever organised the party and do a bit of sleuthing. Single or attached? Nice person or pig? Find something you have in common, then get the host to introduce you, “X, you must meet Y. She's a Star Wars fan too.”

If the host/ess is unavailable, find an excuse to do something near your target, change the CD, grab some nibbles or enlist a friend's help, go and chat nearby. Next, catch his eye and smile. If he seems friendly, introduce yourself. Once there, flirt like mad, and don't even think about going to the loo. (If you must, offer to get him a drink so you can come back and claim his attention.)

How to really have fun at a party

1. Dress for success – Wear something you feel comfortable in. There is no point looking like a total sex bomb if you daren't move an inch. You will look either like a wax figurine or part of the furniture.

2. Grab a chirpy friend – It's a drag arriving at the party not knowing anyone and standing in a corner by yourself. So bring along a friend and make sure she or he doesn't act like they've been forced to be there!

3. Ditch the diet – A party is the time to eat and be merry. That doesn't have to mean totally pigging out.

4. Don't be a party pooper – Get involved and play along. If there are games, join in instead of pulling a grumpy face and protesting. If there's a theme, be a sport and dress up for it. It's all for laughs anyway.

Top tactics

Smile. Happy people attract other people to them.

Start a conversation. How do they know the host or hostess? What do they do for a living?

Give them a compliment.

Drop lots of clues on how to find you again in case you get separated. Where you work, the suburb/town/neighborhood you live in, the fact that you know so-and-so.


Don't give up if you smile and they don't smile back. They might not have seen you (were too vain to wear their glasses) or simply drifted off in la-la land.

Don't get drunk to boost your courage before meeting them. Don't muscle in when they're obviously chatting up someone else or attached.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

#33: Pre-Christmas Part 3: Why didn't I think of that?

Funky ideas that might not have crossed your mind.

1. Video Marathon: Have you always wanted to see the Star Wars trilogy again? Comedy, films, noir, B-grade, sci-fi, art films or Julia Roberts – just make sure that your theme will interest the majority of your guests. If possible, borrow another couch and some large pillows from friends, so everyone can sit comfortably and snuggle up. Then settle down with some popcorn and enjoy being couch potatoes!

2. Karaoke Nights: Turn on your karaoke machine too early in the night and it may well kill the party. But wait until guests have had a few drinks and they'll be fighting over the mike! Make sure you have a good range: from the Beatles to the Spice Girls and Celine Dion (oh, the horror!). If friends are too shy, get the ball rolling by suggesting duets, or starting yourself,

3. Quiz Night: A night of intellect? Scary! Get each of your guests to prepare 10 of their toughest questions, like “Who said what in each film?” or “What was Forrest Gump wearing when the feather landed on his head?” Don't forget the most important part – fun prizes. It's one way to ensure your guests will sharpen their brains before the party.

4. Slumber Party: When was the last time you had one of these? Invite all your girlfriends in their best sleepgear and cram them all into your room. You can sit around and watch chick-flicks or tell ghost stories till dawn. It's a great way to catch up!

5. Childhood Party: Ditch decorum and become a child for one night! Play all those games you've almost forgotten about, such as zero point, charades, musical chairs, hide-and-seek and medicine ball! Let your inner child roam free...

6. Spa Party: You're in the mood to splurge and spoil yourselves – just club together and raise a few hundred dollars, to get a few professional masseurs and manicurists over to pamper yourself and your galpals as you lounge around in robes and sip fruit juices!

7. Swap Party: Get your friends to raid their wardrobes and gather the clothes and accessories they don't want any more. Throw the stuff into a big pile and spend the evening buying each other's things, at the cutthroat price of $2 a piece! Remember, one woman's horror may be another woman's fashion miracle.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

#32: Pre-Christmas Part 2: Oh, behave!

Guest Code

1. Be on time or up to half an hour late, but never early. The hostess might be unprepared and you will just be in the way.

2. Don't drink beyond your limit. You'll embarrass both yourself and the hostess.

3. If food is provided, bring a gift. A bottle of wine would do nicely.

4. Thank the hostess personally before leaving the party.

5. At a dinner party, you should stay for at least an hour after the last dish has been served. If it's a cocktail party, stay long enough to mingle with the guests.

6. Unless it's specifically a pet-party, leave the pets at home. No-one wants a soiled carpet.

7. Don't take a bite off your stalk of celery then dip it back into the guacamole again!

8. With guests you're not familiar with, stay away from topics like sex and (potentially explosive ones like) religion and politics.

Hostess with the mostess

1. When serving food on a tray, place dry food (crackers, sandwiches, cakes) on a paper doily. When serving oilier foods (brie or camembert cheese, chicken wings), skip the doily – your presentation won't look pretty if the paper is stained with oil.

2. With guests who overstay their welcome, say something like “Oh no, I have to get up really early tomorrow morning to do X”. Most people will get the hint and start moving!

3. Unless it's against your personal beliefs, it's polite to offer your guests alcohol, even if you don;t actually drink it yourself.

4. Don't be tense – your guests can sense it. So what if the sausages weren't served on your favorite square plate? No-one probably noticed.

5. It's a house party, not a neighborhood street party. So keep the music at a reasonable volume, especially if it's past midnight.

3 no-fuss party pointers

1. Get to the point on your invite. Be direct, like “Come to my place for tea at 4pm”. This way, your guests will know what to expect and not stay till midnight.

2. Serve simple drinks. Forget having a fully stocked bar and bury those Coyote Ugly fantasies. It's best to stick with just a few simple cocktails, like bourbon coke (bourbon + coke) and gin tonic (gin + tonic water + slice of lime). Throw in some orange juice, wine and soda, and you're set.

3. Chuck the chairs. Not enough sitting space? Don't worry about finding more seats. Standing allows guests to mingle much more. Try and place different appetisers in different spots around the room so that people have to move around to nibble.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pre-Christmas Part 1: Let's Party!

What's more fun tha going to a party? Throwing one, of course! Here's an ultimate guide to doing that Martha Stewart thang- only decades younger!

Cool Party themes

The most enjoyable parties are always those with themes, as they get both host and guests involved in the shebang! Almost any idea can be worked into a theme. Here are soem cool suggestions to spice up your party:

1. School Night: Get your guests to dig out their school uniforms for a night back in school. Want more fun? Make sure one of your guests is previously from a boys-only school. It will be hilarious seeing everyone at their nerdiest!

Make it unforgettable: Serve up school canteen fare, and don't forget the dessert du jour! Then gather round for a game of Pictionary, complete with blackboard and chalk.

2. Back in time: Hark back to any era you want and develop your themes to make them more interesting. For example, instead of just throwing an 80s party, have a Shoulder Pad bash. Your guests will have a great tiem picking their outfits.

Make it unforgettable: Pay attention to detail. If it's a 70s do, get bean bags, a lava lamp and transform your house into an incense den. Then kick back and smoke some pot. Kidding. Find out what food was popular in each decade. For example, sausage rolls, party pies, fondues and pavlova desserts were big in the 70s.

3. Hollywood glamour: Everyone loves the chance to ham it up for a night of glamour. Have an Academy Awards party. Alternatively, you can centre the theme around a film. You just know that an X-men or Star Wars party is going to be a scream!

Make it unforgettable: Literally lay out a red carpet in front of your door to get your guests going. Make sure you have a camera or a videocam (borrow them!) and record your guests doing their best impressions of whichever star they're dressed up as.

4. Gender swap: Get all the girls to turn up as men, and the guys to come as drag queens for a night where the roles are completely reversed! Scatter make-up all over the place, especially that ultra-shiny blue or green eyeshadow (to glam up the boys) and black eyeliner (to draw moustaches on the girls).

Make it unforgettable: Go all the way and make it a sexist party, where the guys do the dishes while the girls sit around the TV, belching and watching MTV Style.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Who's the real you?

Ok, here's the public face you present to the world, but are you showing your true colors? Take this quiz and discover your secret side.

When we're younger, it's all about being accepted by the “in” crowd. It's tempting to do or say just about anything to enjoy the approval of our peers. Luckily, the older we get, the less “fitting in” seems to matter. That's because we learn to trust our own feelings and opinions a little better, and feel more comfortable in our own skin. Understanding your own character and the motivation that drive you is also the key to true happiness, because you learn to live within the limits and capabilities of your in-born nature.

You probably think you know yourself pretty well, but are you sure you've got yourself totally sussed out? Here are 20 penetrating questions that will accurately assess your character type. Of course, there are many variations and individual differences in characters, but psychologists agree that nearly everyone belongs to one of the four basic types. Your answers to this quiz show clearly what you're all about. OK, are you ready to discover the real you?

1. You have a couple of hours free to do exactly as you please. You:
a. Go for a walk, or an outing somwhere.
b. Visit a friend.
c. Settle down with a book or magazine.
d. Catch up on some odd jobs.

2. Do you make friends:
a. Quite readily?
b. More on an easy-come-easy-go basis?
c. Only with difficulty?
d. Chiefly when you need them?

3. Sport appeals to you:
a. Mildly?
b. Madly?
c. Hardly at all?
d. Only occasionally?

4. Do you think you handle money:
a. Deftly, capably and usually profitably as well?
b. Not too well?
c. Very carefully?
d. Fairly well, though perhaps extravagantly at times?

5. Do you feel the past is:
a. Something that has little place in your outlook?
b. Over and done with?
c. Something to be studied, perhaps learnt from?
d. Often quite fascinating?

6. You regard the future as:
a. Something you're working for here and now.
b. Exciting – but only a fre days ahead at a time.
c. Something best not thought about too much.
d. Something pleasant to look forward to.

7. Food to you is:
a. One of life's lesser enjoyments.
b. Rather a bore.
c. A real delight.
d. Pleasant, but no more.

8. Do you drink:
a. Because you find it oils the wheels of life?
b. Often just because other people do?
c. With deep enjoyment?
d. Rarely, or not at all?

9. Do you consider astrology:
a. Utter rubish?
b. Probably baseless, but fun?
c. Probably has something in it?
d. Quite outside your view of life?

10. Is religion to you:
a. More superstition than anything else?
b. Probably not as significant as it ought to be?
c. Very meaniningful?
d. A source of strength in times of difficulty?

11. Does weather affect your mood or how you're feeling?
a. Of course not.
b. Not that you've noticed.
c. Nearly always.
d. Sometimes, definitely.

12. Do you worry?
a. Never.
b. Only now and then.
c. Probably a bit more than you really need to.
d. Far too much.

13. Are you a good mixer at parties?
a. As a rule, yes.
b. Invariably.
c. Not as good as some people.
d. About average.

14. Is love to you:
a. Enjoyable, even useful, but only part of life?
b. A bit of a giggle?
c. The tricky mainspring of life?
d. All-important?

15. Do other people ask you for advice?
a. Quite a lot.
b. Only rarely.
c. All the time.
d. Mostly when they are in very real trouble.

16. Does an open show of emotion in other people:
a. Irritate you?
b. Tend to shock you?
c. Seem perfectly natural?
d. Make you feel sympathetic?

17. What are you usually like in a crisis?
a. Generally the best person to have around.
b. Warm-hearted, but often too excitable.
c. Calm, if not very effective.
d. Hopeless.

18. Do you:
a. Live to work?
b. Work to live?
c. Always enjoy work – provided you've chosen the job or task?
d. Try and avoid work whenever you can?

19. Are personal relationships for you:
a. Easy, if you're on top.
b. Generally happy-go-lucky, though they fluctuate?
c. Nearly always difficult?
d. Easy – as long as someone else is on top?

20. Which of these gives you the most enjoyment in life?
a. Your own energy, control of others, working for your family.
b. The fun of being with others and giving them pleasure.
c. Creativity, inner satisfaction, helping or teaching others.
d. Giving and receiving love.

What character type are you? If you answered the questions honestly, you should find you chose one letter a, b, c, or d, more than others. This reveals your character as follows:

Mostly A
Energetic, outgoing and a born organiser, you're the one that others know they can rely upon to get things done. You're good at beating handicaps, or setbacks, too. However, this can-do attitude can be perceived by others as being domineering and bossy, so make sure you take time to listen to the thoughts and feelings of those around you. Worldly wise and a little cynical, your drive and self-confidence can get over-bearing. However, at heart, you're tolerant and kind. You have a strong sense of responsibility, especially towards children and family.

Mostly B
You're the life and soul of the party, good company and a total extrovert. This pleasure-seeking nature can lead you to have no sense of personal responsibility, so be careful to avoid being too selfish. Courageous and confident, you have an immense sense of fun and others can't help being swept up in your spell and they, in turn, will forgive almost all your mistakes. A tendency to drink unwisely leads you to boast and exaggerate a little. You have a pioneering spirit and enjoy change, as long as there are other participants along for the ride – you hate being alone. You're not one for intellectual interests, but if music does appeal it's usually a great passion.

Mostly C
You're a real individual, highly creative, artistic and sensitive.This can lead you to be secretive and hard to understand and you run the very real risk of alienating those close to you because of the “masks” you wear. When you know you can trust someone, you're a faithful friend, but only to a favored few. However, when people come to you with problem, you're sympathetic, charitable and tolerant. The lone wolf type, you're also a born rebel, but only if you're the ones making the rules – you're averse to changes imposed by others. A bit of a homebody, you like to have roots in one place and travel soon makes you homesick.

Mostly D
Cheerful, home-loving and affectionate, you enjoy the simple pleasures in life and are adept at creating a happy atmosphere around you. Perceptive (almost psychic!) when it comes to the feelings of others, you often don't give enough thought to your own desires. While you appear carefree, you're prone to anxiety, indecision and moodiness. This can lead you to be stubborn and a little conservative in your opinions. You're an affectionate and loyal friend who'll do anything to keep the peace. An artistic, creative day-dreamer, you are good with your hands, but not overly fond of work.

Next Up: Once-weekly post for 7 weeks straight leading up to Christmas! Don't miss it!

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lurve Yourself

There's never been a better time to be a young woman, so make the most of it! Here's a little guide to being truly, deliciously happy with who you are – not what others want you to be.

The bills are piling up, your friends are making zillions of demands on you, and your boss wants that report, like, three weeks ago. Oh, and did I mention that your parents are putting pressure on you, too? You feel torn in all directions and long to scream, “Enough already!” And yet, there has never, ever, been a better time to be a young woman than today. Okay, so it might not feel like it right now, or even very often. But the fact is, young women have it made. You have more choices than ever before – even if those choices do occasionally make your head spin (all right, more than occasionally) – there's more of life to go out and grab, and more freedom than our parents could have dreamed about.

It's your life, so live it up!

And yet many of us worry that we aren't making the most of ourselves or all those opportunities that are out there just screaming at us. Yes, it can make you feel a bit dizzy contemplating it all, like choosing a new dress from a staggering array available. And psychologists do agree that sometimes too much choices makes us feel frozen, a rabbit in the headlights. But, come on, isn't lots of choices better than none? Would you really want someone else making all your plans for you? Of course not. So, if you do feel scared sometimes that you aren't embracing life to the full, don't be. Part of being a young woman in this day and age, is having the right to step out of the frentic pace sometimes. Be who you want, not what others want you to be.

Women have far more control over their lives today than 30 or even 20 years ago. But that power to decide brings with it a negative side: all this extra control means more stress, more fear about making the wrong decision, less chance to just let life go along and take its course. So, how do you handle all the choice yet still make the most of your freedom years?

First and foremost is that we work on our self-esteem, in that way we will tend to like whatever choice we make.We find a positive in whatever outcome. It's sad but true that many women do need to work on their self-esteem. For while life offers so many exciting vistas to young women, there is alongside it this a chronic fear of getting it wrong, or not feeling happy as you can about yourself.

Give yourself a break

The first lesson in loving yourself is accepting yourself. You'd want a boyfriend, or your friends, to love you as you are wouldn't you? And I bet they do, warts, faults and all. Just as you love them for their little foibles, the things they get wrong, their sheer human-ness. Yet few of us apply this warm, loving criteria to ourselves. Daft, but true. We're harder on ourselves, we beat ourselves up, we even admit candidly to a spot of self-loathing in an “oh that's so typical of me” way. We wouldn't dream of being so harsh about our friends. Why are we so tough on ourselves?

Most women still reel under the conditioning of being expected to be pleasers, rather than be pleased. Parents are frequently more critical of daughters than sons. That whole indulgent boys-will-be-boys mentality never seems to apply to women. Girls tend to have their fun curtailed at an early age and are often expected to help out at home – much more than their brothers, uncles or fathers, for instance.

Most of us have heard the apocryphal, yet based-on-truth story about a mother who complains endlessly that her daughter is really lazy, never helps around the house and shows no consideration whereas her brother, ah, such a saint her brother is, so caring, so thoughtful. But guess what? Turns out the daughter cleans, cooks and cares 24/7, while the brother visits a couple of times a year.

Practise being positive

So, that's what we're up against. And even if you're blessed with nice parents who wouldn't dream of heaping the future of low self-esteem upon you by constantly criticising and carping, then society and much of the media will do the job instead. Look at how actresses, especially Hollywood actresses, get criticised in the media. Too thin, too fat, too tall, too short, too much make-up or not emough.... they can't ever get it right. They aren't objects for admiration, they objects for all our insecurities to be projected upon. This is best summed up when it's said that a woman's place is in the wrong.

However, having accepted that all this goes on, you can do something about it. In fact, you can turn it to your advantage. How? By facing what's out there you learn to filter out the messages of disliking yourself just because you're a woman. And there are positive messages too, if you look. Let's face it, all this knocking ourselves is really so boring. If you are to spend one more evening with girlfriends going on about who has the biggest thighs, you'd probably scream. Instead, insisit on saying three nice things about yourself before going for a girls night out.

It's easy enough giving a compliment but taking one is much harder. So you say to a friend you like her new dress and she dismisses your comment and says she looks fat in it. What does that say about a friend who's been kind enough to offer a sweet remark that should boost her friend's confidence for the evening?

Learn to accept a compliment

It's actually rude not a accept a compliment graciously yet we fear if we do accept it, we'll be considered rude or boastful. And, be honest, how many of us dish compliments out like fortune cookies becase what we want, really, is to get one back? I know I do. So why not try that forementioned exercise? Why not, whether you're with friends or alone, say something nice about yourself. Go on. Do it. Say it out loud. Pick something about your appearance – since this is the one area where women are most likely to be fiercely self-critical – and also something about your character.

If you find it impossible to find just three nice things to say about yourself, you could have serious problems. Low self-esteem is one thing, and that's very common in young women despite these being such great times for them. But being unable to find a single positive thing about yourself is bordering on depression. If you can't see any light in your life, you should maybe consider seeing your doctor to find out why life seems so unremittingly bleak for you.

But happily most women aren't suffering depression or even low self-esteem. It's my belief they put themselves down because they think it's what expected of them. A kind of false modesty they don't really mean. Look at the success of the television show Absolutely Fabulous. Much of the humor comes from the inflated high opinion the protagonists have of themselves. It makes them funny and it makes their conversation far more interesting than the “oh my thighs are so big I should kill myself” variety. I also reckon there are a few of us who wish we could be as confident as the Ab Fab stars appear. But we can all learn to like ourselves a bit more, to cherish our little faults, to find our failings endearingly human and part of what makes us the unique people that we are.

Stand tall, speak slowly

I have a friend who is three inches shorter than me, but until we compared our heights, when out shopping for stiletto heels, I'd neve realised it. She stands tall. She has confidence, bearing, a kind of graceful assuredness about her. I am not particularly tall, though I am about average for a woman, yet I don't feel as tall as my friend. But I'm trying to learn from her and how she conducts herself.

One thing she does is to speak slower. Now me, I'm a gabber. It'a sure sign of nervousness, insecurity. Learn to speak slowly, though, and others will think you have more confidence. Why? Because you don't assume you only have the floor for a very short amount of time before someone grabs it from you. You take your chances to speak and make the most of them. Men tend to speak more slowly too, and more assuredly. They know it's their world and they act accordingly. If we knew, or truly believed, that it was our world, too, perhaps we'd all sail forth like princely galleons expecting others to show us respect.

But they never will while we don't respect ourselves. It really is true that if you want others to like you and treat you well, you have to set them a good example. Do what psychologists call modelling. Act towards yourself the way you want others to and the way you treat your best friends and colleagues. Then they're more likely to take your example and run with it. The golden rule of human behavior is said to be “act unto others as you wish them to act unto you”. Sadly, many of us are far nicer to others than we ever are to ourselves. It's become kind of inverted.

So why not try out a new golden rule for the 21st century? Act unto yourself as nicely as you act to others. Love yourself. You're worth it, you are.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

#28: 8 Signs He's Had An Affair

Is it someone else's lipstick on his collar? Those strange nights “working with the accountant” ... all night? Or something more subtle that has you on edge? If you want to find out if he's being – or has been – unfaithful, these are the things to look out for.

At some point, you will probably have a partner who cheats on you. Or at least that's what the statistics suggest. Research has unanimously concluded that men stray. The 1990 Kinsey Report states 37 percent of men and 29 percent of women are unfaithful, while a University of Chicago survey claims 70 percent of men and 30 percent of women have had affairs!

Okay, you're probably convinced that while some men are obviously playing away from home, your man is faithful. Maybe. But, even if we go with the more conservative of these figures, you've still got a one-in-four chance that he's getting up close and personal with someone else, but calling you “baby”. Or that he's done it – and just not told you.

Although I have no explanation to proffer for this phenomenon, I have known several men who only realized how much they loved their partners – after being with someone else. Having been struck by this guilt-fuelled epiphany, many guys will do anything to avoid further undermining their relationship with, say, the truth. Instead, their on-the-side action dissolves and they simply go back to the way things were. Or so he thinks.

But a betrayal of this magnitude carries with it an emotional load that simply won't be wished or pretended away. Signs, behaviours and mannerisms will fliter through and you have every right to be aware of what they are. Please note, however, that this information must be used wisely or you could end up branding an innocent man guilty on the strength of one or two of the following indicators should be thought of as proof absolute of adultery. Even three should be treated with as much objectivity as you can muster. Four or more and you've got a case.

Can't I spoil the woman I love?

I've been told by numerous female friends that generosity is one of the most endearing traits a man can possess. Be it a modest posy for no apparent reason or the purchase of a pair of shoes his partner admired one evening while window-shopping, the material generosity is pretty much secondary to the generosiity of spirit involved.

When, however, a disproportionate material generosity – like one that involves carats or the term “first-class” - begins to spring forth from the kind of person who took you to his favorite cafe on your birthday, you have a right to think twice about what's going on. Out-of-character spluring on ludicrously expensive gifts is a prime indicator of a panic reaction to overwhelming guilt. He's trying to buy forgiveness for a crime you don't know he's committed.

Needless to say, if said gift was purchased with joint funds, the man in question is obviously not bright enough to conduct an affair and not have you find out about it.

“Hi honey, I'm home”

After a number of years together, couples inevitable choreograph a sexual routine that is mutually satisfying yet repetitive. And while scope for modest variation exists, the essential nature of the love-making remains unaltered.

When, however, you notice that his libido has skyrocketed over a short period of time, one of two things is happening – but both involve a lie. Either he's developed a Viagra addiction or he's got a whole lot of horniness but one less means by which to release it.

But it's not just his hormones talking here. Believe it or not, many men can discern between sex and lovemaking. And one who is retreating from a betrayal could well be craving some closeness and intimacy from the woman he's realized is the right one for him.

It is crucial to stress, though, that a single instance does not a heightened libido make. Before you start thinking “affair”, there has to be a pattern of an out-of-character need for sexual gratification.

Old dog, new tricks

The same degree of caution should be exercised when he introduces new sexual tricks and techniques into your repertoire. Imagine how you'd feel if if you decided to enhance your lovemaking with a few ideas gleaned from the Kama Sutra or this humble blog, only to be suspected of having learnt it from someone else?

So what should arouse concern more than you? I'd keep an eye out for any requests he makes for you to alter your rechniques on moves that he's always been plenty satisfied with in the past...

The look of lard

Remember when he came home with a new gym card saying, “From now on, I'm going to look after myself”? Doubtless, some men mean just this, but there are also the types who decide to buff the bod a bit before they expose it to someone new. How do you tell which it was? Consistency. If he hung on beyond his initial enthusiasm, he obviously gained some genuine reward from the training. In other words, the only person he was doing it for was himself.

Either way, his attendance will wane; what matters is whether it stabilized or plummeted. (If it goes up and down erratically, there's a chance he's using the health club as an alibi for being late after work). If it stabilizes, you're in the clear. If it plummets, there's the chance he's realized that the only person he wants to be naked with is you. And since you're more than familiar with what he's offering, why continue the charade?

Conversely if his rate of health club visit jumps dramatically – especially after work or on weekends – he could been covering an entirely different type of work-out.

“You're home early...”

Dramatic shifts in his work schedule can spell relationship trouble. While many are aware of the affair cliche that plays out along the lines of “I'm sorry darling, but I have to work late tonight. I'll eat someone... I mean something – listen to me, I'm so tired I can't even form sentences – on the way home.” Quite.

When, however, his schedule suddenly snaps back to eight-hour-days, chances are he's put more than just a specific project to bed. This is doubly true if the phrase “quality time” starts popping up in his conversations with you.

“With this ring...”

Perhaps you never noticed it at the time, but in retrospect, was there ever a period in which a ringing telephone could startle him so that he would launch himself across the room towards the phone at lightning speed? Ditto his mobile.

If the subequent conversations featured hush phrases pathetically coded to sound like business speak - “Oh, thanks for the call. I don't know if I'm ... available then. Can I check my schedule ... and call you back ... in the morning?” - put one and one together. I'm sure they'll add up to “affair”.

The point is if his reactions go from mildly panicked to verging on ambivalent in a short time, it makes sense that something (or someone) is no longer posing the threat it once did. On its own, this change in response shouldn't be thought of as consituting guilt. However, team it with a sudden drop-off in after-hours calls from “the office” and you can come to your own conclusions.

Future shocks

If he's the type of man who became uncomfortable when discussing anything long-term, be wary of sudden changes of heart. As pointed out earlier, the cheating men often only realizes which of the two women in his life he really wants to stay with after doing a compare-and-contrast exercise. And having decided that you're the girl for him after all – meaning his deception – many men finally pop the question or make declarations of eternal devotion.

Before you're even tempted to forgive this betrayal – which by the way will remain an unvoiced secret - remember that it's not actually him talking from the heart. What you're hearing is in part the voice of guilt. Again, implement this knowledge only if you're utterly convinced that infidelity has been the case – and it's supported by at least three other categories in this post. After all, you could blow a good, solid relationship by telling a man who's decided he wants to be with you forever that the only reason he's doing so is because he was sleeping around. This is relationship TNT – so on this occasion, don't rely solely on your intuition.

The crying game

While in no way trying to excuse the actions of a cheating man, many are not without conscience. Long after the tryst has been called off, the self-loathing and guilt remani. Especially when he's been carrying the heavy secrets of his past and wondering when and if they'll ever catch up with him.

This is a serious emotional load to bear and despite his best efforts to mask it, there will be times when the strain will force its way through his facade. Sudden teary outbursts – note the use of the plural – from a man who would ordinarily rather grimace than cry out in pain bear some examination.

Let me once again point out that this is not the basket into which you should be putting all of your eggs. The cause of his pain could be entirely unrelated to his monogamy or otherwise, but you've got to admit that it's no stretch to suggest this this could well be the behavior of a man with a secret that's slowly – and deservedly – driving him crazy.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shine on your first day

Yay! You got the job. They were stunned at your ability to juggle flaming torches, while finalising the accounts; and your promise to bring in $10 million of new business at the same time. Now the girl that dazzled them in the interview has to prove it all, become a star team-player, and take that career ladder leap that this new job was all about. Nervous? It's understandable. But here are a few tips for taking the stress out of your first day on the job.

Do your research

So it's your first day at work – all prepped? Well, check out these tips to make your introduction easier.

By now, you should have a pretty good understanding of your new company, and a clear vision of what your new role is all about. Hopefully you've met your immediate boss, and understand the specifics of the job ahead.

Even after you've signed your contract, doing additional research before you start will help enormously in your first few days. Scan the company web site. Talk to people in the industry who have contact with the firm. Read up on industry news – trade magazines are a good source (do try and ignore the gossip section until you really know what it's about!). The more you can learn, the easier it will be, particularly if you've gone for a major step, or a different field.

Make nice with co-workers

On your first day you're going to meet a lot of people. Be confident and friendly, but don't gush. Try and be sociable, but not too social within working hours; remember you've been hired for your skills and professionalism, not for your promise to making gourmet coffees for everyone.

You're bound to be nervous, but do your best to remember names. Make a point of repeating the name as you're introduced, to help them stick in your mind. It's also vital to project a positive, enthusiastic and confident image to colleagues at all levels. Remember that the power of networking extends beyond having a good connection with those with big offices. Know that the mail guy, who's funny too, might be the one who can find you a decent filing cabinet. And that your director's secretary, who is a good lunchtime buddy, might also be your greatest ally at promotion time.

It takes time and interest to create effective and comfortable working relationships. You're not expected to do it all on day one, but you'll need to put some effort in, to go from being the “new girl”, to a respected employee, a reliable co-worker – and one of the gang.

Know your boundaries

Ensure you meet the HR manager on your first day. She will be able to fill you in on office politics on things like taxis, overtime and using the internet. It's good to understand the “code of conduct” before you submit your expense claim, or arrive an hour after everyone else!

In the first few days, you'll be a sponge. Look, listen and learn. Ask questions. If you don't understand, say so, and ask to be shown another way – you'll be doing it on your own next. Take detailed notes; if you ask the same thing three or four times, the person showing you the ropes will lose patience.

Dress the part

If you were paying attention during the interview, you should have worked out what the dress codes are before you start (and therefore what best to pre-spend your first pay cheque on!). If not, ask your employer for guidelines. If you're working for an Internet hot-shop, a navy suit and court shoes is going to raise eyebrows. Even so, your first day isn't the day for a coffee-stained T-shirt and cut-offs, no matter what the creative director is wearing. Err on the more formal side, but make sure you're comfortable. Believe it or not, your boss is interested in you, not what you're wearing.

Make changes gradually

You're not a revolutionary. You're not required to “leave your mark” on every task and process. Initiative is vital, and is a key hiring trait. But don't change for the sake of changing. The filing system you used at your old company seems so much more organized and efficient than the way they're doing it here, but will it work with the different suppliers they use in this company? Of course you'll change things, but do it gradually, and when you are certain of the impact of the change. “We used to do it so much better at my old company” won't endear yourself to your new colleagues, and may well backfire once you really know the way things work at your new firm.

Ask for feedback

At most companies, the first appraisal is done after three months, or a year. Why not ask for an appraisal to discuss objectives for the first period of your employment? Why wait for three months? Try and agree on goals and discuss ambitions up front. An immediate appraisal allows us to have a clear picture of the team member's needs and goals, and also for her to understand on what criteria everyone will be measuring job performance. Be prepared to discuss your goals and objectives very specifically.

And, relax!

Finally, have some faith in yourself. You got the job. You got it for a reason, over and above the other candidates who all wanted the job. You're bound to fumble with the fax on your first day, or wander by mistake into the fire escape when looking for the ladies' executive toilet. Remind yourself of that when those first-day nerves hit, and you're feeling a bit anxious and confused. It'll pass!

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Latest Update

Mars And Venus… Actually ( http://marsnvenusactually.blogspot.com/ ) isn’t abandoned too. I’ve realised that uploading a post every week leaves me, quite frankly, close to zilch when it comes to sharing. So, I’ve taken the same amount of time “abandoning” my blog to also brainstorm on how much time should I leave in between posts. 2 weeks interval or 1 month interval? Something like a online magazine, since 1 month seems a bit tad too long for readers who do want the next post and are curious about it. Whereas new post per 2 week interval seems almost like I’m uploading weekly, which practically makes no difference. Sounds confusing, huh?

Coming up with posts (for Mars And Venus… Actually ) has been ongoing while I wasn’t online to blog or even do anything. It’s better than to try and rush out a post at breakneck speed when i could have taken some time to slowly but steadily come up with something.

And also, I’ve come up with this decision. I will still blog, but stuffs I found while surfing the Internet, I’d mostly post them up on tumblr here: http://puniao.tumblr.com/

Instead of just lumping everything onto my blog, and thus making the loading time even longer. Blog-wise, I’m going to try keeping it to what it is supposed to be, a blog with loads of text. Yes, long boring text that mostly scares off readers who don’t like to read long lines of text.

Let’s face it, that’s what a blog is for. Text, text and more text. But meaningful nonetheless. But using this tumblr site as a 2nd substitute blog for photos found on the Internet to the ones I snapped in real life, it won’t bog down my blog. As mentioned in the 2nd paragraph, my blog is taking way too long to load due to the insane amount of photos I’ve found here and there.

So, remember to bookmark this tumblr site along with my blog address. It’s going to take some time, but everything will be nicely classified in a sense that one portal is for everday life-sharing moments while the other is a everday-photo sharing moments.

And in case you all forgot the URLS, here they are again:

Chopsticks: Photo - http://puniao.tumblr.com/

Chopsticks: The One And Only Original Chopsticks Blogger - http://sexybluemame.blogspot.com/

Note that these are the only 2 blogs and 1 tumblr blog that I will constantly be updating. The rest are just too much work to focus on, and I don't want my readers to feel neglected if I lose focus on these 3 blogs again.

So, stay tuned while I worked out some more stuffs with regards to my blog(s) and such.


Pu Niao

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