30. June 2010 · Comments Off on T-Shirts – An Individual Fashion Statement · Categories: Shopping And Product Reviews · Tags: , ,

For many children, the t-shirt emblazoned with a current favourite TV icon normally ranks amongst their most prized possessions, and for t-shirt manufacturers, producing such garments can be an extremely lucrative market. In fact, think of any cartoon character – from the Mr. Men to Walt Disney’s Donald Duck – and you’ll likely find a t-shirt to match.

Although the origins of the t-shirt can be traced back to the First World War, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the garment moved away from its plain exterior, as companies in the United States began experimenting with adding letter and character decorations to the material. The 1960s saw the introduction of the ‘Ringer’-style t-shirt, a t-shirt where the jersey is one colour, while the ribbing around the collar and sleeves is a different, contrasting colour quickly became popular with youths and rock-n-roll fans. The style enjoyed another brief renaissance in the early 2000s.

The same period also saw the emergence of tie-dyeing and screen-printing which led to a massive boom in customised t-shirts, especially throughout the heavy metal era of the 1970s, once bands of that era realised the commercial opportunities available to them. Bands and musical groups began to mass produce t-shirts to promote themselves, many of which would feature album covers and logos on the front, while on the back fans would find tour details and concert dates. These proved to be hugely popular with concert-goers and this trend has continued on with unwavering popularity into today’s subcultures.

During the early 1980s, some musical bands chose instead to emblazon promotional t-shirts with slogans instead of graphics. For instance, the Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Frankie Says…’ and Wham!’s ‘Choose Life’ t-shirts became synonymous with 80’s pop culture and could be seen in every town and street in Britain. From the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, t-shirts with prominent designer-name logos were also extremely popular and allowed consumers to exhibit their taste in designer brands in a less expensive manner, while retaining their sense of fashion. Among the many major brands to produce t-shirts for a massed public included Calvin Klein, FUBU and Ralph Lauren.

There have been many fashion trends involving t-shirts. Although they were originally worn as undershirts, often in place of vests, t-shirts are now more frequently worn as the only upper body garment. T-shirts have also become a standard for expressiveness and advertising, with an unimaginable combination of words, graphics and photographs being utilised to decorate garments for wear. Other t-shirt fashions include wearing over-size t-shirts, as seen in modern hip-hop fashion, tight-fitting ‘girly-fit’ t-shirts which are short enough to reveal the midriff, and wearing a short sleeved t-shirt over a long sleeved t-shirt of a different colour.

For adults, perhaps one of the most notable fashion trends in recent years involves wearing t-shirts which feature cartoon and TV characters which hearken back to the wearer’s childhood. With the much-touted 80s revival and the current resurgence of yesteryear’s TV being remade into Hollywood blockbusters or enjoying a TV renaissance, men’s t-shirts have seen increased demand for t-shirts proclaiming the wearer to be a fan of the latest incarnations of Transformers, Spiderman, Dukes Of Hazzard, The A-Team and Knight Rider, among many other 80s favourites.

However, t-shirts featuring cartoon characters from the 80s and even earlier have proven to be equally popular with young adults, both men and women alike, eager to revisit their younger days with ranges including Thundercats, Mr Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man and M.A.S.K also readily available and waiting to be seen on the High Street!

28. June 2010 · Comments Off on Stachybotrys – Some Important Facts About Black Mold · Categories: Home & Family · Tags: , ,

You can hardly find an individual who had not suffered from black mold. Mildews and black molds are the problem of the day. They grow on practically anything and amplify very fast. Different types of molds and mildews are found in nature. They grow naturally on dead organic substances. Molds collect their nutrition from organic matters and decompose complex molecules into simpler forms.

When dead animals, vegetables, foods or any other organic substances are abandoned in nature, they decompose naturally due to mold formation. Even if you leave any food, covered or uncovered, untouched for long, it starts smelling bad. The reason is mold.

Indoor mold growth can really be frightening if not inspected early. Among different types of molds and mildews black mold is frequently found in environment. Toxic black molds when grow inside your house lead to various health problems. What is black mold actually and how it is toxic?

Stachybotrys chartarum and Stachybotrys atra – Toxic Black Mold:

Stachybotrys atra and Stachybotrys chartarum are known as Stachybotrys or toxic black mold. They are greenish black in color and belong to fungi class. Stachybotrys or black mold is found worldwide. They prefer to grow in materials with high-cellulose content like lint, dust, paper, food, straw etc. They can also be found on gypsum, fiber board and other building materials that contain high amount of cellulose and nitrogen.

Humidity is the main life factor for black molds. When the high-cellulose substances get wet and hold the moisture for long, black molds grow on them. They produce spores and grow in number rapidly. 2 to 40 degree Celsius temperate range is ideal for the growth of Stachybotrys.

During mold removal, you need to ensure that the infected place is dry, otherwise it will be difficult to kill mold. Unless you remove the factors for life, you cannot control mold manifestation.

Why Stachybotrys is toxic?

They produce toxin, scientifically known as mycotoxins as the byproduct of metabolism. Production of toxin depends on various environmental factors like temperature, humidity, nutrition etc.

Exposure to mold toxins can be health hazardous for human beings. Irritation of throat and eyes, watery eyes, diarrhea, headache, skin rash and dermatitis, fatigue and flu like symptoms are the common effects of exposure to mycotoxins.

Stachybotrys chartarum is also reported to produce a toxin that may paralyze sperms and result in bleeding in lungs. Hence, everybody should try to avoid exposure to toxic black molds.

How to identify and kill black mold:

It may be difficult for home dwellers to inspect and locate the exact place of mold growth. Any exposure to toxins can lead to serious ailments. It is suggested to take help from professionals. They conduct a thorough investigation to find out the degree and location of mold growth. Mold testing result shows the type of mold that has infected your house.

With mold testing done, you can start mold cleaning process. Organic mold removers can effectively remove molds and mildews from your home. Unlike bleaches, natural cleaning products kill molds permanently. Top of all, natural products are free from side effects and do not affect your health adversely.

27. June 2010 · Comments Off on Mudras & Hand Symbolism: Hand Symbolism & Beliefs Part 2 · Categories: Self Improvement

[Note: This paper contains images which may be seen as originally published at our website]

According to its votaries, the hand of the crucified Jesus is believed to possess occult virtues. When worn as an amulet it is said to be an all-round good-luck charm. Prayers are said in conjunction with its presence on one’s person. One prayer associated with this particular amulet is as follows:

“I carry a likeness of your pierced hand as a fervent symbol of your infinite kindness. Thou who has known such suffering, reach out your hand with a blessing. Thy pierced hand inspires this humble prayer that I may call on Thee to grant me peace and happiness. Amen.”

Generally, charms in the form of hands, and in any pose–whether made of metal, stone, or inscribed–were often carried to ward off the “Evil Eye,” or the ietattura as it is called in Southern Italy, or ain al-hasad, the “Eye of Envy,” by the Arabs. The ancient Sumerians referred to it as IG-HUL, “Eye Evil.” The Evil Eye is an ancient belief and not without any metaphysical substantiation. From the metaphysical point of view, eyes radiates energy and the quality of this force is tainted by the will and character of its emanator. Like all forces, the power flowing from the eyes may bless or curse others. There are many examples of amulets with a single eye on the palm of the hand. It is believed that this attracts the Evil Eye in accord with the Law of Attraction and absorbs its malevolent influences.

In order to counteract the malignant rays emanating from the eyes of negative individuals, the Hamsa Hand, or the Hand of Fatima charm was invented by the Arabs to re-direct these individuals’ willful attention and malefic glances. Fatima was the daughter of the Prophet Muhammed and Khadijah. She was said to be a very virtuous woman, and it is believed that the charms representing her embody all of her solid virtues and would protect and bring good fortune to its bearer. The fingers of the Hand of Fatima symbolically represent the five pillars of Islam: 1) observance of the Ramadhan fast; 2) pilgrimage to Mecca; 3) alms-giving; 4) observance of the daily prayers; 5) profession of faith. The right hand is used to symbolize the Hand of Fatima, for it is the hand of honor, in contradistinction to the left, which is the “unclean hand.” In most Eastern cultures it is considered rude and inappropriate to give things with the left hand.

Like the Arabs, the ancient Egyptians used a symbol called “the Great Hand” for various protective purposes, one of which is to ward off evil magnetism. Most hand amulets appear with a single eye on the palm. There are instances of this in various cultures.

Amulets were not of value only to the living, but to the “dead” as well. In ancient Egypt, an amulet called dejebaui, or “two-fingers” were often placed among a mummy’s swathings to help the deceased one to ascend and ride on the boat of Ra to the afterlife. This amulet depicted the index and middle fingers and was usually made out of black basalt, green stone, or obsidian.

During the enunciation of a pledge the right hand is often raised in the air. This originated in ancient customs where the raising of the hands were used to invoke the presence of the gods. Raising the right hand while making a pledge is therefore, tantamount to saying, “In the name of God . . .” Another version is to place the right hand on a holy book while uttering an oath. The significance is similar to the above.

In the West, many hand-signs have been made popular with its constant use throughout the centuries. For instance we have the V-sign with the index and middle finger raised while the others flexed and clasped by the thumb. This signified victory and triumph. Similar to this is the Mano Cornuto, where only the index and little finger are raised, and the rest folded onto the palms. This represents horns, the devil, and the powers of evil. In the Orient, though, this sign is said to have the power to ward off demons. Kuan Yin is often depicted with this mudra. The Hung Society of China uses it as a sign of membership and also to signify “Man,” who embodies both Heaven and Earth. In Italian witchcraft, the Mano Cornuto represents the crescent moon of the goddess Diana.

Another prominent hand sign is the Mano Fica, or figa, the sign of coitus where the thumb protrudes between the first and second fingers of the closed hand. It is of ancient origin The Romans and Etruscans were well familiar with this sign having made images of it. Lika Mano Cornuto, the latter sign is a popular amulet against negative forces. Crossing the index finger with the middle finger also has a sexual significance. It symbolizes the generation of life and by association a good outcome in one’s hopeful expectations, in one’s enterprise possessing an ambiguous upshot. Another sexual gesture much more explicit is the repeated insertion and withdrawal of the forefinger of the right hand (the phallus) into a circle formed by the thumb and index finger of the left hand (the vulva). The pose of the left hand in the above gesture is also an “O.K.” sign.

One of the old superstitions states that the sexual act brings good luck, good fortune, and prosperity. Perhaps because of its connection to fertility rites where the energy aroused and released during sexual ceremonies in open fields is believed to empower crops to grow abundantly. This belief is also one of the reasons why phallic and coital amulets were carried on one’s person. Such charms were thought to bring about fortunate circumstances to the wearer. Sexual amulets made out of metal, bone, and wood were very popular in the classical worlds of Greece and the Roman Empire.

A hand sign that is mainly used by the sacerdotal priesthood of the Christian Churches, is the Mano Pantea. This is the sign of benediction posed by extending the thumb and first two fingers. The ring and little fingers are folded onto the palms. This mudra can be seen in the various paintings and murals of Jesus, the Saints, and priests. In Latin countries, the Mano Pantea is also often used as an amulet against the “Evil Eye,” when thus employed it is normally covered with other protective symbols as reinforcements.

An upraised thumb represents the erect phallus and is a sign for life, success, prosperity, and acceptability. In contrast, the downward pointing thumb denotes defeat and is the veto sign of condemnation or the death sentence. The middle finger solitarily extended is one of the obscene gestures vulgarly referred to as, “up yours.” It signifies the command to perform an unnatural or perverse sexual act.

The famed Buddhist temple, Borobudur in the island of Java was constructed in the form of a mandala–a symbolic diagram of the cosmos. It is built in tiers, and at every level, there are numerous statues of Buddhas sitting in silent meditation. At each point of the compass the contemplative Buddhas assume a certain mudra. Those facing North bear the Abhaya (fearlessness) mudra, while those in the East show the Bhumisparsha (earth-touching) gesture. The Dana (giving) mudra is the hand pose of the Buddhas facing South, and the Dhyana (meditation) mudra of those facing West. Other mudras in the precincts of the temple are also to be found such as the Vitarka (debate) and Dharmachakraprayartana (teaching) gestures. This careful orientation of mudra bearers to compass points is symbolic. It is related to the quaternary principles to be found in the micro- and macrocosm. Comprehensive teachings concerning these may be found in the esoteric aspects of Buddhism and esotericism in general.

Symbolic marks or imprints are often found on the palms of statues and icons of Buddhas and Avatars. These marks indicate the power, virtue, or attribute of these God-incarnates. In Hinduism, Shiva appears the most with these hand drawings. Many kinds of marks exist. Several are to be found on just the palms of Gautama (Shakyamuni) Buddha alone. These palmar designs probably originated from the special marks that do physically appear on the palms. Cheiromancy identifies several of these as the square, the grille, the island, the cross or star, etc.

Hands were revered by the Hindus for centuries. One of the Shivaic tantrik rituals of India gives the following liturgical adoration to the fingers of the hands:

“Om Sham I bow to the thumbs Namah. Om Shim I bow the index fingers Svaha. Om Shum I bow to the middle fingers Vashat. Om Shaim I bow to the ring fingers Hum. Om Shaum I bow to the little fingers Vaushat. Om Shah I bow to the front and back of hands Phat.”

This chant is accompanied by specific mudras that purifies the subtle channels of the upper limbs. Not only is this ritual practiced in India but variations of it may be found in Bali as well.

In the marriage ceremonies and sexual rites of Oriental cultures such as in Tantrism, Yoginis or Shaktis often paint Yantras and other symbolical diagrams on the palms of their hands with henna or red dye. These diagrams normally have intricate floral patterns and are magical and hypnotic. They are used to attract, to mesmerize, and to empower themselves and their sexual partners.

In Islamic mysticism, specific gestures are often employed to help produce an altered state of awareness. Dervishes, for instance, pose their hands in specific mudras and hand signs while dancing and whirling around on a single spot. Some Sufi sects would trace the 99 names of God on their bodies with their right hand while engaging in zikir, or recollecting and focusing upon God through constant chanting.

In ancient times there were the Mystery Schools that taught to the selected few the laws and secrets of Nature and the Universe. History has recorded numerous of these schools and temples of esoteric knowledge among which were the mysteries of Isis, Sabazius, Cybele, Eleusis, Orpheus, Mithra, Asar-Hapi, and Odin. To state the mission and purpose of these metaphysical institutions we can do no better than to quote the eminent Freemason, Robert Macoy:

“It appears that all the perfection of civilization, and all the advancement made in philosophy, sciences, and art among the ancients are due to those institutions which, under the veil of mystery, sought to illuminate the sublimest truths of religion, morality, and virtue, and impress them on the heart of the disciples. Their chief object was to teach the doctrine of one God, the resurrection of man to the eternal life, the dignity of the human soul, and to lead the people to see the shadow of the deity, in the beauty, magnificence, and splendor of the universe.”

Within some of these Mystery schools, when the candidate is first initiated and accepted as a neophyte, he or she is often given an effigy of a human hand filled with symbolic images to contemplate. This hand is referred to as the Hand of the Philosopher, or the Hand of the Mysteries. When these symbols are understood, they provide the neophyte the keys to facilitate the transformation of their lower nature into divinity–from man to god. Regeneration, transmutation, and empowerment are the consequence of the application of the laws and principles that these ancient symbols represent. Among the many secrets that they portray, they teach how one may commune with one’s Holy Guardian Angel, or one’s Higher Self. The practitioner of the secrets of the Mysteries undergo a rebirth as a result of the growing influence and expression of the Higher Self in everyday consciousness.

The Philosopher’s Hand may be regarded as an alchemical manual taking the conscientious student step by step through the alchemical process. In Freemasonry, the Hand of the Mysteries is known as the hand of the Master Mason. In some Masonic groups, this is the title for the highest of the three degrees to be found in the hoary and august fraternity. In this article we have included three examples of these symbolical hands. The first illustration shown is a bronze hand to be found in the British Museum. This specimen in the Mano Pantea gesture, is covered with several important symbols among which are : a ram’s head, serpent, frog, vase, crocodile, turtle, cornucopia, scales, woman with child, table with loaves of bread, and a cane. It is supposed to be Egyptian in origin.

The second hand is a painting redrawn by J. Augustus Knapp from an 18th century water color, and is taken from Manly Hall’s “Secret Teachings of All Ages”; it was executed with the alchemical process in mind. In this illustration there is a figure of a fish which symbolizes mercury–the principle of the Spirit within the microcosm. This aquatic creature is surrounded by the element of fire that represents the psychological aspect of man, or the human soul. The rest of the fingers individually refer to the various steps of the spiritual path of transmutation of the base nature of man into the resplendent gold of divinity. Kaballistically, the hand shows the mastership of the crowned thumb (the Will) over the four worlds represented by the fingers. These four worlds are referred to as Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiah, or the World of Archetypes, the World of Creation, the World of Formation, and the World of Manifestation. Atop of the fingertips in Knapp’s illustration are symbols representing the various components of the microcosm: the lantern, the Concrete Mind; the Sun, the Abstract Mind; the Star, Buddhi; the Crown, Atma. The little finger holds aloft a philosophical key, which reveals the secrets of the Mysteries. It also symbolizes the etheric body, which is considered by Western Initiates as the key to occult development. The wings surrounding the hand is a sign for transcendentalism–the things of the Spirit as opposed to matter. The eyes, on the other hand, indicate the divine aspect of omniscience unfolded in the Master Mason after having discovered and applied the “Lost Word.”

Hindu versions of the Hand of the Mysteries are diagrams known as Hastakara Yantra. Like their Western counterpart, these hands have various symbolic images depicted on them. Among other things they illustrate the relationship between man and the cosmic forces.

Like Hindu yoga, in Feng Shui, or Chinese geomancy, there are 5 elements: Water, Wood, Earth, Fire, and Metal. In Chinese palmistry the little finger is associated with air, the ring finger with fire, the middle finger with earth, the forefinger with water, and the thumb with chi or metal as mentioned before. This system differs from the Hindu yogic mudra tradition. First of all, in yoga philosophy the fifth element is akasha or space, which although correspond to chi, does not relate to metal at all. According to mudra teachings, Angutha or the thumb corresponds to fire, Tarjani or the forefinger to air, Madhyam or the middle finger to akasha, Anamika or the ring finger to earth and Kanishthika, or the little finger to water. In this work on mudras, we will stress more on the Hindu yogic assignment of the elements to the fingers and thumb. The application of elemental mudras in conjunction with the elemental tattvic tides is a great tool in elemental magick.

Hand Signs in Religious Art

Hand signs are an essential part of life. They are used to convey silently but powerfully the intention and thoughts of their user. Humanity has for ages utilized sign languages. It originated at a period of Man’s evolution when he was incapable of communicating his abstract and concrete thoughts with words and phrases lingually. He was solely dependent upon gesticulations as a media for expressing his feelings and passions. This primitive form of communication is still being used by modern man in certain situations and expediency. Not surprisingly, the intelligent classes of anthropoids also make use of hand-sign movements such as the beating of the chest in expressing anger or authority. The fictitious Tarzan could not resist aping this gesture from his Darwinian guardians.

Certain specific hand signs are to be found all over the world. Many cultures preceding and succeeding the Christian era share common gestures that express particular concepts. It has been suggested that these gestures all have comparable basic ideas or significance because of their appearances in similar contexts. This is known through their repeated portrayal in the many paintings, sculptures, and drawings of the past available for our scrutiny and study. Mediaeval Christian art of saints, prophets, and the Holy Trinity, and the gods and devas of Egypt, India and the South American Indians are often depicted with similar hand positions.

Contemporarily, we find school children perpetuating certain traditional signs that have their origin in religion and pagan practices. For instance, crossing the fingers as a sort of prayer so that they may be free from chastisement when interrogated of their wrong behavior–this may be a corrupted form of the ecclesiastical use of the Sign of Benediction.

There are many professions that make use of signs only known to their members or affiliates. For instance, merchants, masons, tramps, gamblers, prostitutes–all have signs known only to themselves with which they signal one another.

Because of the profuse use of signs and gestures by the Italians in their everyday life, anthropologists believe that these descendents of Romulus and Remus are not able to carry out a satisfactory conversation if they were prevented the use of gesticulation.

Occultists believe that most gestures or hand signs that are found in religion and in society have a common origin in the prevalent Mystery Schools of the past where they were used in a ceremonial setting. Modern Freemasonry as one of the many descendents of these Occult Temples of Wisdom and Knowledge still perpetuates this custom of hand signs in their initiatory rites.

Like the Freemasons, secret societies in the Orient also have ceremonies where esoteric signs are employed. One of the secret associations of China, the Hung Society, have certain signs and gestures with which communication is carried-out among the affiliated members–not only in the ceremonies but in everyday life as well. The aforementioned society, likewise, have plentiful mudras or signs representing the principles of their philosophy. In its doctrines, the five elements of Taoist esotericism are signified by poses that are also to be found elsewhere around the globe.

The mystical Dervishes, established by the Sufi Rumi, apply hand signs for occult purposes. They invoke the Divine Presence by utilizing these signs that corresponds with the 99 names of God in their dance rituals, as already alluded to previously.

Artists of all ages have secret codes and teachings with which they unveil in their artwork. In archaic times it was a dangerous matter to openly publicize occult and spiritual teachings that religions steeped in fundamentalism were dramatically opposed to for these teachings threatened their political structure and lessen their value in the eyes of an evolving humanity. It is for this reason that the Mystery and metaphysical schools established by the ancient sages went underground and operated clandestinely. They promulgated their teachings through signs and symbols that acted on one level as their calling card.

Copyright © 2006 Luxamore
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23. June 2010 · Comments Off on Grand Cayman Island is a Vacation Land of Plenty · Categories: Travel And Leisure · Tags: , ,

Though they’ve seen many governmental changes over the years and more recently suffered a devastating hurricane, The Cayman Islands are still capable of providing a lovely and relaxing vacation experience. Grand Cayman is the largest in this inviting cluster of isles in the western Caribbean, and hosts millions of tourists each year. There’s a reason for its enduring popularity – many reasons in fact.

First, there’s the beach. It’s pretty much a given that a Caribbean island is going to have attractive stretches of shoreline, but Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach is a mighty fine specimen to behold. Beach enthusiasts name this as one of the finest in the world, and the ample resorts and activities here cement its reputation as popular, accommodating and a pleasure to visit. The reef makes it fun for snorkeling, the bars will quench any thirst, and any necessary gear can be easily acquired. Quite simply, it’s the best.

Top-notch conditions make diving and snorkeling popular activities throughout the island. Seasoned underwater explorers are happy to check Grand Cayman off their lists of places to see in their lives, and newcomers should feel welcomed to give it a try. The water is exceptionally clear and the marine life is abundant around the many reefs and walls. Especially worth a look is Stingray City, where a plethora of friendly stingrays float along the sand bars in the shallows and interact with people in the water. Feed them, touch them, and generally be amazed by these wild and beautiful creatures.

While in this region of the island (the northwest) feel free to stop by the other touristy spots. Hell is a place of strange beauty due to the black rock formations, and it gives visitors something to joke about. Sending a postcard from Hell or picking up a T-shirt satisfies most people’s curiosity for novelty well enough. Cayman Turtle Farm showcases thousands of turtles of all shape and size, exemplifying why the Cayman Islands were originally named “Las Tortugas” (the turtles).

The eastern part of the island is less developed, so those of you who enjoy straying from the beaten path might be able to cook up a little adventure or just claim a quiet stretch of sand. Cars drive on the left side of the road here but Americans can rent them (after showing a valid license and paying a fee) or there are buses and taxi cabs readily available in most parts of the island. Tourism drives the economy of Grand Cayman, conveniences tend to be plentiful.

History is another reason to appreciate Grand Cayman. In the capital city there are the Cayman Islands National Museum and Fort George (what remains of it, anyway), and Pedro St. James Castle and the Cayman Maritime Treasure Museum are also worth taking a look at if the island’s past is what floats your boat. Colonial influences and indigenous personality come together in an interesting way (as these things usually do) and add another dimension to a vacation that could be all about mindlessness.

Not that you shouldn’t spend plenty of time lounging on the beach, sipping fruity drinks or floating in the salty sea. In order to properly forget about work, school, stress and responsibility there must be lots of sunning and a few naps. Indulge in all that Grand Cayman has to offer – you did come all this way, after all.

Another indulgence not to be overlooked is a Grand Cayman Vacation Rental. Dozens of delicious properties are sprinkled around the island like so many accommodating jewels just waiting to be taken up by savvy travelers. Small and modest beach cottages, elegant villas, sophisticated condos and more have a way of opening their doors to reveal a host of unexpected amenities. Who know it was possible to whip up some scrambled eggs, sunbathe on a private deck or stroll to the beach minutes upon waking with a cup of coffee in hand?

Staying in a vacation rental opens up a world of possibilities on an island that is already quite promising. Arrive with a detailed itinerary in hand or let the winds of fate lead you along; either way a trip to Grand Cayman will be a journey that is sure to restore and relax your world weary self.
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21. June 2010 · Comments Off on Spring is in the Air! · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

“Spring in the world! And all things are made
new!” Richard Hovey

Finally. Spring is here!

Ahhh! Spring is in the air!

While it certainly hasn’t left much evidence here in New
England-no crocuses popping up, no morning birds waking me up, no T’s and capri’s showing up-there are sure signs that Spring has, indeed, arrived. The snow has melted. New life is on its way!

Spring celebrates, like no other season, all nature “rising
again.” It is the ultimate symbol of resurrection from death.
Many of the traditional symbols that we accept as mere
association to Spring have roots in the natural cycle of the
earth, and as such it is helpful to appreciate their significance when we celebrate Easter.

Baby bunnies, chicks, and birds all symbolize newly born
creatures and remind us of the new birth in Christ. The pastel
colors of lavender, pink, yellow, and blue are traditional
colors of springtime, but they also shout forth that “life
springs eternal.” Eggs are the quintessential symbol of new
life: new life hides under a shell until it literally bursts
onto the earth. In the Jewish tradition, eggs also symbolize a
free-will offering, or of giving more than is demanded. And
even the tradition of a new “Easter outfit” symbolizes the
putting away of winter and the bringing forth of freshness and
vitality. As Christ burst forth from the tomb, we too become
“clothed” in newness.

If you finished spring cleaning your home, you should be ready to bring Spring’s freshness and vitality into your home as you decorate for the season.

Bring Nature Inside

Celebrate Spring’s glory with fresh flowers.

Gather all your beautiful containers and load them with tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, and daffodils. Set them out all around your home. Put some in the living room, others in the kitchen, more in the front hallway, the children’s bedrooms.and don’t forget the powder room or most-used bathroom. They add an exuberant splash of color and an intoxicating aroma to your everyday world.

Treat yourself to a new wreath or a basket of flowers or your
front door.

The minute I put mine out, my whole house takes on a
different look. Visit your local florist, or check out new
arrivals from Williams-Sonoma (www.williams-sonoma.com) or Smith
& Hawken (www.smithandhawken.com. Gorgeous wreaths and posies can be found for less than $50. Their freeze-dried flowers used on wreaths not only look fabulous; they will last for years even
under the harshest of elements. And how about an ivy laced bunny
topiary? Or pink hydrangeas in a watering can by your side door?
Arrange them yourself, or buy online for wonderful splashes of
Spring color and whimsy.

Plant flower boxes at your front windows.

Have fun experimenting with different combinations of flowers and colors that not only bring you a visual kick, but with varieties that can withstand the heat and sunlight that hits your front yard.

Decorate an Easter tree.

This year, I used pussy willows, whose buds make perfect nooks from which to hang miniature “ornaments.” A dozen stems look fabulous in a tall, sleek glass vase. Typically, the kids and I go on a nature walk to find the perfect branch. We put into a pretty blue-and-white china container, cover it up with dirt, and sprinkle in a few rye seeds to grow real grass. Either way, it looks fresh and delightful decorated sparsely with tiny ornaments and with teensy yellow fuzzy chicks and baskets hung on the delicate branches. Surrounded by our family of Easter bunnies, each one named after a family member, the arrangement makes me smile every time I walk past it.

Dye eggs with your kids.

Children of all ages love dyeing eggs. Whether you buy the dyeing kits from your drug store or you use imaginative painting techniques of your own, be sure to add this
to your “must-do’s” during the Easter season. Plant grass seeds
in your loveliest container and let the kids water every couple
of days. You should have grass tall enough to hold your dyed
eggs by Easter. If that puts you into a panic, go to your local
health food store and buy wheatgrass. It will look fabulous in
your container. Or place some wheatgrass inside beautiful china
teacups and, along with a few sprigs of fresh, delicate flowers,
you will have gorgeous place settings for your Easter brunch.
Add a tiny white chocolate bunny as a favor for your guests to
take home.

Start planning a neighborhood Easter egg hunt now.

Make up colorful invitations and let your children hand-deliver them to all of your neighbors and friends. Plan a simple brunch menu with plenty of coffee, tea, and OJ. Let your kids start stuffing plastic eggs now, so that by the time your hunt rolls around, you’re all set.

11. June 2010 · Comments Off on On Spread · Categories: Self Improvement · Tags: , ,

I’ve been giving much thought lately to “spread,” or to the impact I’m having on those around me. Most days find me frustrated that I don’t have very much of it, feeling that once I’m gone, my legacy won’t be large enough, that enough lives won’t have been positively affected by my having been here, and that I won’t have had the effect that I always hoped I would have had.

Our society is celebrity-driven and success-oriented, so oftentimes I feel that unless I’m doing something that’s truly in the limelight, nothing I can say or write will have enough impact to much matter. I suffer from the “little ole’ me” syndrome, which is rather unfortunate, as I feel quite certain that little folks and little words generally matter more for all eternity than most of the great “success” stories alive today.

I realize all too well the impact of small acts of kindness. Of gentle words spoken to a neighbor, funny lines imparted to a weary colleague, or the impact of taking time out of a busy schedule to visit wounded, frightened or sickened loved ones.

I realize, especially as I get older, that serendipity happens, and that we need to rejoice in it. That people come into our lives for but a short time and that each one plays a distinct role. That circumstances are oftentimes orchestrated by our Creator. That His mysteries should be embraced, reveled in with joy and wonder, and celebrated for what they are.

I’ve also made the conscious decision to divest out of activities that take me away from my passions. I realize more than ever how my time is limited and that I need to invest it where I feel called to impart the largest spread. Teaching our church’s cherub choir of three, four and five-years olds is one of the highlights of my week. I have the distinct sense that serving these little ones is where I need to be one day a week. As I reflect back on my own childhood and on those dear souls who had significant spread during those years, I can count them on two hands. One of them was my Sunday School teacher who, forty-five years ago, had such a strong impact on me that all these years later, she always bubbles to the top of my list.

I’m still out-of-town on a business trip. I’m meeting new people daily and wondering where in the world my place is in all of this. Wondering why I’m supposed to be here, away from my own family. What I’m supposed to be learning and imparting. Whose life will cross mine. Who needs a kind word. A laugh. Encouragement. Trying to find out if I’ll spread.

How about you? Where are you? Are you supposed to walk alongside someone this week? Are you supposed to spread? And if you feel too spent by motherhood, by your spouse, or by your daily four loads of laundry, will you recognize those moments when you’re supposed to spread? Or those people put into your path who you are supposed to impact? We’re all on the journey together, that much I know. It’s figuring out the important stuff that keeps me up at night…..
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10. June 2010 · Comments Off on The Yin & Yang Dance · Categories: Mysticism

The Soul needs a dancing partner. Sure, we can dance all by our lonesome self, but what fun is that? As it relates to the spiritual matters, we have two partners that we can be attracted to for this dance called life. One though is for a really, really short dance while the other is an eternal dance wherein you never get tired. 

Indigenous societies call it the dance of Father sky and Mother earth!

Let’s open up a door to another version using some Far East or oriental concepts such as Yin & Yang. According to CHinese philosophy, yin and yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, which constantly interact, never existing in absolute stasis.

Spiritually speaking the SOUL of we created beings is the YIN. We’re here on mother earth, we are the feminine soul (forget your text book testoserone and estrogen teachings for now) that needs a MALE (Father sky) to dance with us. If we forget who brought us to the party (can you say earth), the SOUL realizes it’s nakeness and looks for “another partner”.

In fact the SOUL will create that male partner: and we call him the EGO!

Whereas it becomes easy to FOLLOW the eternal YANG (ever wonder why God is most often put in the MALE paradigm- other than for Christians the Bible was establised when patriarchy was in vogue), it will eventually be impossble to follow the dance steps of the EGO. There is no pleasing the EGO. The EGO not only demands that we the SOUL, who by the way created it, FOLLOW, but that we submit in the song selection as well.

When’s the last time you looked into the eyes of your dancing partner?

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07. June 2010 · Comments Off on Murder, Muggings And Mayhem – And This Is A Romance? · Categories: Arts And Entertainment · Tags: , ,

I’ve been catching up on my reading in the genre I like best to read for fun: romance. Before you get all riled up, I believe romance authors are up there with the best of them. I enjoy romances because I know the guy and the girl will end up together and live happily ever after. Well maybe not forever but at least for awhile.

So I went down to my local bookstore and stocked up on Nora Roberts, Barbara Delinksy, and Fern Michaels. I also bought a couple of authors I’m not familiar with, Barbara Freethy and Tara Taylor Quinn.

I got halfway into Blue Smoke by Nora Roberts and thought, there’s something different. And there was: an arsonist. No spoilers here so I’m not going to go into details, but an arsonist as the villain was a little out of the ordinary for a romance, or so I thought. Then I delved into The Jury by Fern Michaels. I like Michael’s books because she incorporates descriptions of food into her books in such a delicious way. Well the macadamia nut pancakes smothered with a banana – caramel syrup were just as yummy as ever, but the violence in the book put a damper on my appetite. The theme was about a sisterhood who dealt with revenge, graphically dealt with revenge.

I picked up In Plain Sight, Tara Taylor Quinn’s book because the setting is Arizona and that’s where I live. Yes there was romance, but multiple murders as well. I’ve just started Taken by Barbara Freethy and we have a stalker, organized crime, and identity theft.

All of the books have been a good read, I am just surprised at the violence. Has it been that long since I read a romance or have they changed? So I decided to ask some of my author friends:

“Why do you think romance writers are including more violence in their books? Is it a reflection of the times, a way to broaden the reader base, or just a short-lived trend? Or something else altogether?”

Tara Taylor Quinn, author of In Plain Sight has this to say: “I can’t speak for all romance writers, but I know that I am not consciously choosing to include more violence in my books. When I sit down to write, the stories and scenes present themselves and I write them. I’ve noticed my writing change, I’ve noticed the violence, but I’m in the know after it’s happening, not before. I think the reason this is happening is large part due to the society in which I live. Drive by shootings happen in my city on enough of a regular basis that we aren’t shocked. I don’t stay home out of fear. I simply don’t go anywhere without the awareness that I have to be careful, be observant, be smart.

“I look also at the television shows that are so successful right now. Without A Trace; Law & Order; Numbers; CSI – they just keep coming. Books and television are part of the same entertainment industry and we’re all focusing more on the violence with which we live. In my opinion this is hugely due to 9/11. Those of us who lived through that horrible time will never be as innocent or trusting as we once were. We now live with the certain knowledge that there are no lines some people won’t cross – they will even die to hurt others – there are no rules, anymore, governing the fight for a cause. It used to be that battle and war followed protocols that were defined and understood. That’s no longer the case. In today’s world soldiers aren’t all wearing uniforms and fighting on pre-determined battle fields. They’re living next door to us and fighting wars we don’t even know about.

“In short, I think the change is a reflection of a changed society – a
changed life.” Tara Taylor Quinn, http://www.tarataylorquinn.com

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“I think it’s a reflection of the times. We’re surrounded by violence every time we turn
on the news or read the newspaper, so it’s only natural that some of our characters would
be a reflection of this bombardment. In the case of my book, Different Roads, violence was a necessary element in order to stay true to my heroine, who grew up with violence and abuse as major factors that shaped her personality. Although she has tremendous character growth before the book’s end, she continues to struggle with her temper and a tendency she has to punch those foolish enough to anger her–and the one to do that most often is the man she loves. But as physical as their arguments are, their reconciliations are just as volatile, and their love for each other is never in doubt. As long as there’s enough love to overshadow the violence, I think it can be used as a literary device to make for edgy, realistic love stories that can trigger intense emotions in readers, and that’s always a good thing.” Joyce Sterling Scarbrough, True Blue Forever, Different Roads
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“I think it’s because of a shift in the public’s taste, and I think it’s a trend that will change over time as trends tend to do. Perhaps it has something to do with the public perception that the world is more violent now than it used to be. There certainly seem to be more shows on TV that feature violence than there were in the past–look at the popularity of the CSI shows. Right now, it’s what the public wants, and I can understand how the violence might be especially appealing in romances. After all, the violence in romances still leads to a happy ending, whereas violence in real life rarely does.” Jenna Black,
Watchers in the Night, Secrets in the Shadows, 5/07; Shadows on the Soul, 9/’07, The Devil Inside (Bantam/Spectra urban fantasy), Fall ’07,
******************

“I think what you’re seeing is more of what’s been happening over the past several years–a blurring of genre lines. Romance is going farther and farther into thriller territory, capitalizing on an audience that likes a little murder and mayhem with their romance (or, in some cases, a little romance with their murder and mayhem). In my opinion, this is largely to build a reader base that includes the typical romance reader (many of whom have read so much they’re also eager to branch out) while reaching out to new readers in the form of readers who are typically fans of other genres.” Brenda Novak, Dead Silence, There’s a body buried behind a Mississippi farmhouse…
***************************

“The romance novel cross-pollinates with many other genre–science fiction, fantasy, thriller, suspense, and mystery to name a few. Each of these other genres bring their own requirements in world building, violence, and other elements. Violence, in particular, seems to be a defining element for many romance writers who write grittier violence to offset the softer romantic elements in these cross-genre/cross-market novels.

“Will this trend continue? In the short term, yes, but long term as these cross-genre novels become more mainstream, romance writers will no longer need to prove themselves, and the violence will fit the book, not the need to be grittier than the average thriller or sf novel.

“As an interesting aside, romance’s success has also caused another form of cross-pollination–the addition of strong female characters, romance, and lots of sex to the other markets.” Marilynn Byerly, Guardian Angel, Star Crossed
********

“I write about violence/adventure and romance because women are more “doer”s today and many work in professions that have risk and danger involved. Every encounter with another person is a relationship of some sort, whether friendship, parent/child, adversary, or romantic, romantic being the ultimate relationship. Put them together and you have a good story.” Elizabeth Lucas-Taylor, Unfinished Business
*************

Are romance writers and their publishers going after more mainstream readers? With the exception of the Fern Michael’s book, the covers are definitely not the typical romance cover. And neither is the back cover copy or endorsement blurbs.

When I asked Karen Kosztolnyik, Senior Editor at Warner Books that question. She responded: “How a book is packaged affects how it can be received by the reading audience. We have an author named Karen Rose, an up-and-coming star for Warner, who writes romantic suspense in mass market paperback. (Don’t Tell, Have You Seen Her?) We package her books so they look like straight suspense, not like a romance at all. We have been hearing from bookstores that men are buying her books as quickly as women are. Part of the reason is that the packaging was designed to appeal to both men and women.”

Romances like any other genre, reflect the world around us. Our concerns, worries, hopes and dreams are what influences the writers. As readers’ tastes evolve so do their preferences in romance novels. Now what I hope never changes in a romance is the “happily ever after.”