Q&A with Steven Wolfson, Cosmetic Dentist

Q&A with Steven Wolfson, DDS, FAGD

Dr.Wolfson200x255

Q: I am frightened of going to the dentist. How would sedation dentistry benefit me?

A: Sedation dentistry is used to ease patients nerves and ensure they are comfortable. Our patients take a pill about an hour before their appointment and safely snooze while we wipe away years of pain and neglect, restoring their healthy and beautiful smiles. (more…)

When were Persian Rugs Introduced to Americans?

December 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Experts

By Mehdi Abedi and Lisa Slappy,
Rice University educators and owners of the Pride of Persia

Pride of PersiaPersian rugs were among the household items brought by colonists as they settled into this hemisphere in the late 1600s.  Europe has been familiar with Persian rugs from at least the time of Shah Abbas I of the Safavids. Perhaps the first guns-for-rugs deal was negotiated when Britain’s Shirley brothers sold 10,000 guns and 500 cannons to the Persians. Rugs were included in the exchange and there after became more widely available in Britain and Western Europe.

In Walden (1852), Henry David Thoreau does without Persian rugs in his simple cabin, but mentions that his Concord neighbors have them.  Texas, too, has its share of wonderful antique rugs.  Some fine Texas-size pieces from Heriz to Bijar to Saroukh have been right here for generations.

Why is Persia the Mecca for rugs?

Although good rugs and bad rugs are woven in many places, Persian rugs continue to enjoy the finest reputation.  Iran – formerly known as Persia – has long been a crossroads of many cultures and civilizations.  Within Iran’s own borders, many ethnic groups create a complex culture that is in turn reflected in a complex cultural product:  the Persian rug.  Historically, Iranians have engaged in trade, war, and cultural exchange with India, China, Mongolia, Turkey, and the Arab world.

As a trade good disseminated throughout the world, the rug has become an iconic symbol of Persian culture.  Weaving rugs by hand depends upon the availability of raw materials and a cheap labor force combined with a rich cultural tradition.  Some regions in Iran produce very few rugs because people there earn more money by working in such industries as fishing, agriculture, or oil.

In other parts of Iran – and this is especially true for women in rural areas – weaving remains a major economic activity as well as a source of cultural pride.

What materials are used to make rugs?

First, we have to mention the rug’s structure.  In general, a hand-woven pile rug consists of knots woven on a foundation.  The foundation has two parts:  the warp (vertical line, on which the knots are woven) and the weft (horizontal line between rows of knots).  The vast majority of hand-woven pile rugs feature wool knots tied on cotton foundations.  Beyond that, many combinations of materials are possible.

We may see 100% wool rugs or 100% silk rugs.  The pile may be mostly wool with silk accents or metallic threads.  It may be made of cotton or mercerized cotton posing as silk.  The foundation could be made of wool or silk or goat hair or a combination of materials.  Perhaps the warp is cotton and the weft is wool.  Be aware that handmade rugs may even contain synthetic materials in the pile or the foundation.  If you are purchasing a rug, be sure to ask the seller about the materials so that you will know what kind of rug you have and how to take care of it.

What are the benefits of having a rug rather than just a bare floor?

Considering the many wonderful types of flooring available these days, that’s a great question.  Some types of hard flooring feature such intricate designs, like mosaic tile work or elaborate wood inlays, that covering them with rugs just makes no sense.  On most hard surfaces, though, rugs are absolutely appropriate.  They fulfill aesthetic and functional needs in the room.  In the first place, they are beautiful and welcoming.  Placing the proper size rug on a lovely floor makes both look even better, like a painting in a frame.

Rugs add warmth, color, and texture.  They absorb sound and diminish echo.  They even protect your hard floor from scratches and other signs of wear.  In our view, rugs make a house a home.

What is the best way to transport rugs when moving to a new home?

Rugs can be heavy and unwieldy, but with the proper methods they can be moved safely.  The simple response is to visit your rug dealer for a quick demonstration of proper folding techniques and for specific advice based on the types of rugs you own.  Your rug dealer will probably be happy, for a small fee, to send a crew to your home to inspect and pack up the rugs.  Be sure to take care of cleaning and maintenance issues at this time.

If you are moving a long distance or if the rugs will be in storage for a few months, make sure that they are wrapped in plastic and treated against insects.  When you move into your new home, your rugs will be clean and beautiful.

For more than a decade, Mehdi Abedi and Lisa Slappey have taught “The World of Persian Rugs” through Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies. They are the owners of Pride of Persia Rug Co., which specializes in older Persian rugs along with high-quality newer rugs from around the world.

Pride of Persia Rug Co.
7026 Old Katy Road, Ste. 164
Houston, TX 77024
(713) 522-7870
www.prideofpersia.com

What is Consumer Fraud?

Marcela Halmagean M Halmagean PLLC Attorneys at LawFamily Law Expert: Marcela Halmagean
Answer: “Consumer fraud” refers to any act that harms or victimizes a consumer through false, deceptive, or otherwise misleading business practices. With the advent of the internet, “consumer fraud” has become more prevalent and vicious. Texas passed laws to protect consumers and to enable recovery of actual and punitive damages. Consumer fraud can include any deceitful business practice from selling a car that had its odometer altered to charging for services that have not been performed, or requesting a signature on a blank contract and filling in undisclosed terms later.  When I turned 21, I bought my first new car and to drive my “dream car” that night, I had to sign the sale contract in blank. When I asked why, I was told that the manager wasn’t there to sign that evening. When I received the contract, it had a whopping 23.99% interest rate. Not all consumers know that they have options after they sign on the dotted line. If you feel that a business has taken advantages of you, you should first meet with an attorney and discuss the facts and then learn about your options. You may be surprised what you will learn.

Marcela Halmagean has distinguished herself as one of the best litigation attorneys in the Houston area. Her firm’s practice is focused on family, business and commercial litigation, and she commits herself to bringing high-quality legal services to each sector.

Marcela Halmagean
M Halmagean PLLC
Attorneys at Law
1800 Bering Drive, Ste. 480
Houston, TX 77057
(713) 975-1202
www.halmagean.com

Resorting to Luxury, Capella Pedregal – NOW OPEN

By Jo Barrett

Capella Hotels and Resorts— following up on its successful hotel launch in Telluride, Colorado and Ixtapa, Mexico— has recently unveiled its latest luxury escape in Cabo San Lucas.

The Capella San Pedregal is the first luxury hotel within walking distance to the town of Cabo, and the resort itself is a feat of architectural accomplishment of man over nature.

Imagine entering a one thousand foot tunnel dredged through a mountain and lit with torches beckoning you to your own private luxe escape.  The dramatic entryway leads to a breathtaking scene – Cabo’s first luxury hotel located on the Pacific beach next to Land’s End.
Boasting several infinity pools, tasteful swim-up bars, and an al fresco restaurant with a prime cliffside location amid the rocks and crashing waves below, Capella Pedregal is an enchanting newcomer to Cabo’s luxury resort scene.

The new Auriga Spa is the finest in Cabo, with fresh herb foot massages prefacing each treatment.  The massage treatment rooms are set amidst cascading streams of water, which add to the spa’s therapeutic appeal.  The resort offers special spa rooms for guests interested in indulging in a soothing, total relaxation vacation.

The service is friendly, without being in-your-face.  Ask for a tequila lesson in the tasting room from Alejandro and Jose, the resident sommelier and bartender.  Service staff do much to please, often delivering fresh-made guacamole and ice-cold Mexican Cerveza in the afternoons.  Don’t miss the lobster tacos at lunch, and the artful amuse bouche the Chef surprises guests with prior to each meal.  The breakfast buffet includes fresh baked breads, cheeses and croissants, as well as a range of top-notch Mexican specialities.

Each room comes with a private assistant who arranges the excursions Cabo is famous for:  whale watching occurs right outside the windows during prime season, fishing expeditions, and of course, golfing and spa appointments.
A private yacht is available for those wishing to cruise the shore, and for groups.

Capella Pedregal is a blissful setting for weddings, honeymoons, couples in need of a romantic escape, and also families with children.

For those Texans with a more vested interest in Cabo vacations, check out the Capella Residence Club on-site which offers large scale floorplans, separate swimming and beach club facilities, a resident majordomo/ personal assistant, and one of the best locations on the entire peninsula.

At night, the scene is serene, sexy, and contemplative.  The entire hotel is lit by torches, and streaming water runs in smooth lines across the outdoor reception area.

Capella Pedregal deftly integrates a vacation for everyone:  for couples seeking a romantic escape, the resort offers several infinity pools with expansive views of the Pacific beyond.  When you’re staying at Capella San Pedregal, you feel like the property exists in its own private space.  With a mountain rising up behind you, a private, torch-lit tunnel for hotel guests only, and a strip of beach with views rivaling those of any in Cabo, there is no reason to leave the property at all.

Capella offers the best location around:  walking distance to the town, or a five minute taxi ride to Squid Row and Cabo’s other famed nightlife attractions.

With its superb service staff, unrivaled location, and unique design, Capella Pedregal firmly joins the ranks of the top luxury contenders in Cabo.

Essentials

CAPELLA PEDREGAL
Cabo San Lucas
Mexico
877-247-6688
(US Toll Free)

www.capellapedregal.com
www.capellacabo.com

CABO RESTAURANT BUZZ:

Hot New Sushi and Tequila Bar Opens at Las Ventanas

For a modern spin on sushi, check out the sizzling new sushi and tequila bar concept at Las Ventanas.  The sushi is prepared with a deft nod toward contemporary cuisine and the tequila bar is stocked with the finest 100 percent agave tequila in Mexico including Las Ventanas’ own brand.

Or, for those of you yearning for a taste of Provence, check out the alfresco dining scene at one of the sexiest pools in Cabo.  Chef Fabrice Guisset, who hails from France, prepares superb fresh ceviches, not to mention a trio of grilled octopus, lobster and sea bass which deserves all the accolades it has received.

Las Ventanas offers a remarkable list of wine, tequila, champagne, and liquor rivaling those of the best restaurants in the South of France.  Taste the range of Calvados, Grappa, champagne, and for dessert, trust Cabo’s best French chef to take care of you.

Essentials

www.lasventanas.com

Holiday Water Safety Tips

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

Holiday and Winter Water Safety Tips

Infant Swimming Resource (www.infantswim.com), the safest provider of self-rescue swimming lessons for babies and toddlers from six months to six years old, announces the following winter water safety tips to help families protect their young children as they travel this holiday season.

According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, “Eighty-eight percent of children were under some form of supervision when they drowned.” 1

“The holiday season represents the highest probability of distractions and breakdown of normal supervision routines,” said Harvey Barnett Ph.D., pediatric drowning prevention specialist and founder of Infant Swimming Resource. “If a child is missing, check the pool first.”

Holiday and Winter Water Safety Tips

1. CEO Supervision (Constant Eyes On) – Never turn your back on your child around water. It takes just seconds for him/her to be in serious trouble. Segment the supervision responsibilities so there are never questions about which adult is responsible for watching the child and be aware of the distractions unique to the winter months: holiday parties, house guests, etc.

2. Educate Others – When traveling to relatives’ and friends’ homes they may not understand the importance of keeping gates closed, doors locked, closing toilet seats, emptying buckets, etc. Visiting family, holiday parties and celebrations can lead to breakdowns in routine supervision and effective barriers to the water.

3. Decoration Hazards – Decorations and lights can pose problems with young children around the house and water. Watch for lights and electrical cords around water, make sure no outside decorations provide a means for a child to climb over a fence or open a locked gate.

4. Maintain Pools in the Winter – Keep pools well-maintained with clear water even if it is too cold to swim. If someone falls in, they can be seen and be helped faster. Pool covers need to be drained of accumulated rain water and free of debris.

5. Hot Tubs – Supervision must be one adult per child due to the high temperatures and turbulence of the water in a hot tub. When young children are in the hot tub, keep the temperature below 90 degrees Fahrenheit and limit exposure to less than ten minutes.

6. Bath Tubs – Do not allow anyone who is uneducated about bath tub safety to bathe your child. Consider bathing an infant or young child in a tub with a handheld shower attachment, eliminating the risk of drowning in accumulating bath tub water.

7. Self-rescueTM Skills — Teach young children self-rescue skills. In addition to pool fences, alarms and gates, it can be another layer of defense. Survival swimming and a demonstration of the roll-back-to-float skills prior to all water recreation is vital year round.

2009 In Review

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

What a year it was for Houston. What fantastic events, what great people and wonderful victories. I am referring, obviously, to 1836. As for 2009, it ranks right down there with 1348, which gave Europe the black plague. Still, we must look back with joy — joy that 2009 is over. Remember the swine flu, the Astros’ World Series championship and the precedent-breaking mayoral election (Bob Lanier’s choice didn’t win). Hey, we’ll elect a lesbian mayor when it snows in Houston. So let’s look at the winners, starting with:

Quickest Death: Mayor Bill White proposed that the city pay Realtors a $5,000 bonus for each client who bought a home in a subsidized, depressed area. City Council was so impressed that White yanked the idea from the next Council meeting.

Our (Laughing) Stock is Up: City Council faced a proposal to approve $3,000 in taxpayer funds for each first-time homeowners to pay off debts so they could qualify for home loans. The measure died for lack of a first.

A nine-paragraph letter gushingly praising a downtown apartment tower (“One Park Place will be THE residence of choice…”) was sent to hundreds of potential renters. No, it was not from a PR firm. The letter was written by Mayor Bill White on official city stationery. The tower’s builder is a campaign donor.

The Great White Hope: In the same week, Mayor White ran an ad in the Defender, a primarily African-American Houston newspaper, putting his face, Mount Rushmore-like, between that of Martin Luther King, Jr. (“The Dream”) and President Barack Obama (“The Change”). The Mayor was “The Hope.”

The city turned over one block of well-traveled Bolsover Street aside the Rice Village to a private developer who fenced it off for a big complex — which was never built.

There’s a New Sheriff in Town — Unfortunately: After agreeing to be co-grand marshal of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo parade, new Sheriff Adrian Garcia cratered to minority protests over the rodeo’s treatment of Hispanics and African-Americans, and backed out. Sheriff Garcia, facing departmental budget and deputy shortages, still managed to find deputies to act as chauffeurs for County Judge Ed Emmett and himself.

Reading, Riting and Riches: HISD superintendent Abelardo Saavedra accepted a $77,500 performance bonus on top of his $327,000 salary, then announced he was leaving. What with another bonus, vacation and sick days not used and car allowance, his total exit package was about $1 million.

Don’t Let Your Educators be Cowboys: Some HISD principals, teachers and administrators spent $100,000 from school vending machine receipts for tickets to the annual Black Heritage Western Gala at the rodeo, including booze and food.

We Can’t Stand Pat: State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston told Fox News and several radio talk shows — and was quickly spread across the nation via e-mails — that Texas state officials and the National Guard were on alert “for the first time, to my knowledge, in modern history” because of drug-related violence in Mexico. Patrick apparently wasn’t around for Hurricane Ike most recently, and Rita prior to that, to see the National Guard all over the place, plus being called out for various grass fires, floods and other disasters. The governor’s office issued a denial of Patrick’s claim.

Oder in the Court: A new variant of a computer virus shut down Houston’s Municipal Court courtroom operations for a week.

Baker’s Dozen: The verdict in a slam-dunk murder case (there was a confession) was about to be announced in Judge Mark Ellis’s courtroom. All 13 jurors had debated and….wait. There are only supposed to be 12 jurors. No one had noticed that an alternate had participated in the decision. A re-trial was ordered.

Pictures Worth a Thousand Bucks: A Salvation Army Family Thrift Shop was given several works by an anonymous donor that may have been the works of Salvador Dali and worth $76,000.

The Fat Lady Sings: The story of late Houstonian Anna Nicole Smith was made into an opera.

No Sir: Jailed alleged scam artist Allen Stanford was stripped of his knighthood.

The Casons Go Rolling Along: Socialite Becca Cason Thrash got mentioned at least 41 times (not counting photo cutlines) in the Houston Chronicle.

A Defective in the Police Farce: Sloppy work in HPD’s crime lab cost the taxpayers millions of dollars to correct, and sent innocent people to jail. Now an audit of the department’s fingerprinting comparison unit found the unit’s work was so bad that all violent crime cases over the past six years must be reviewed.

Convicted rapist Arcade Joseph Comeauxe was shackled to his wheelchair during a van trip with two Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice guards. He somehow: Pulled a gun on the two guards, got out of his wheelchair, took the guards’ shotgun and two semi-automatic pistols, made them drive to Baytown, handcuffed the guards, put on one of their uniforms, and disappeared. After his capture days later, Comeauxe said he had inside help, and several jailers were canned.

Take a Truncheon to Luncheon: Conroe Police Sergeant Michael Edward Tindall allegedly robbed $28,672 from a Montgomery County bank. His disguise of a motorcycle helmet and dark glasses didn’t work, because — get this — he worked there as an off-duty security guard.

Are you HOV Positive? When Metro Police Officer Miguel Rodriguez spotted a lifeless body in a car wreck on the U.S. 290 HOV lane, he feared the worst, until Rodriguez saw that it was actually a dummy dressed in business attire. Michael Hooper was ticketed for excessive speed and unauthorized use of a high-occupancy (two passenger minimum) vehicle lane.

Fine &Dandy: County Commissioner Jerry Eversole was fined $75,000 for violation of campaign laws and agreed to reimburse his campaign for $41,357. Meanwhile, State Rep. Garnet Coleman was fined $9,500 by the Texas Ethics Commission for failing to report $107,577 in political expenses including $60,176 in credit card charges. Coleman said he had filed a corrected report but that report contained errors so he filed a report to correct the first report but not the second so he needs to file a….you get the picture.

Arson and Old Lace: Mattress Mack’s warehouse was gutted by a huge fire that, investigators say, was deliberately set by a former employee.

Now we look at the Houston sports scene. Quit crying. When superstar Astro Carlos Lee showed up a day late for spring training, we knew it was going to be yet another bad season for the Boys of Slumber. Miguel Tejada, who was signed by the Astros one day before he was listed in the Mitchell Report for possibly using steroids and human growth hormone, admitted lying to Congress. Fortunately the team didn’t have to worry anymore about Houstonians Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and drugs.

The underachieving Astros finished 17 games out of their division’s first place, minus Astros catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who went back to the Rangers, and manager Cecil Cooper, who was canned with 13 games left. Oh, and attendance was down by 258,411.

The Houston Texans were their usual pitiful self. Early on, illegal drills left three players disabled for the season, and it went down hill from there. But at least Texan fans scored. Forbes Traveler named Houston the best tailgating site in the NFL. Forbes said Reliant Stadium’s spacious parking lots and the wide rating of steaks, barbeque and other items that created a “Texas-style culinary nirvana.”

Let Your Fingers Do the Talking: Tennessee Titans’ owner Bud Adams — who as owner of the Houston Oilers managed to alienate almost every one — shot the bird at opposing Buffalo Bills fans and got hit with a $250,000, which he probably paid out of his wallet.

In the 2008-09 season, the Rockets were in first place — for two days: March 22 to 24. Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo were MIA much if not most of that season. Still, the Rockets got all the way to the second round of the playoffs, when they reverted to form and were ousted. Speaking of bad shooting, while driving home at 2 a.m. after an out-of-town game, Carl Landry was shot in the leg by another motorist after a sideswipe.

Channel l1’s long-time sports director/anchor Giff Nielsen quit after two sports staff were cut during massive layoffs.

Marvin Zindler Strikes Again! — Channel 13’s Wayne Dolcefino received a nine month probation-like supervision and $850 in fines and court costs for trespassing on the Austin County ranch of Houston architect Leroy Hermes as part of the reporter’s investigative piece on the connection between Harris County officials and construction projects.

“It was the worst time in my broadcasting career, and I wish people would stop bringing it up. It’s the most embarrassing thing I ever did on radio. If I could make everybody forget about my time in Houston, it would be good.” — Conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck about his years at KRBE.

In the good news department, the American Planning Association named Montrose one of the 10 “great neighborhoods” in America.

Congrats to Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee (aka Stump). The Houston Sussex spaniel won best of show at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Show in New York City.

Embarrassing-Lee: At a town hall meeting on health care, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee began by insisting she was there to listen to people’s concerns, then started talking on her cell phone while a constituent was trying to speak. Jackson Lee explained later that she wasn’t being rude. In Congress, she said, you had to be able to “multi-task” in order to be effective.

At the same (or another) such meeting, a University of Houston graduate student and Texas Obama delegate, Roxana Mayer, falsely identified herself as a pediatric physician. Later, when the fraud was uncovered, Jackson Lee said, “I’ve never met her,” even though Mayer warmly embraced Jackson Lee at the close of the session. Back in Congress, Jackson Lee introduced a resolution, already framed, praising the late Michael Jackson (no kin). It failed, but the grandstanding got her in front of the cameras, again.

Moving on, Julie Parker allegedly went into the offices of the Texas Components Corp. and shot Armando Silva with a bow and arrow, whereupon two other employees with concealed handgun permits opened fire on Parker until police arrived, who then shot her several times. She survived and wins our Several Hits, One Run, One Arrow Award.

The top two executives of the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department were canned after a 16-year-old youth was able to carry a loaded .25-caliber semi-automatic into the county juvenile detention center through a metal detector that hadn’t been functional since the new juvenile detention center opened three years ago.

But our grand prize goes to George Vera, age 25, weight nearly 600 pounds. Vera was arrested Aug. 2 and taken to the Houston City jail. A day later he was transferred to the Harris County Jail where, after 14 hours and going through intake procedures, he was taken to the showers before going to his cell. It was only then that Vera told police he had a 9mm handgun on him, along with 2 clips. The gun was allegedly hidden between his layers of fat. He wins our Smith &Wesson Oil Trophy. Ashby awards at ashby2@comcast.net

How to be the Hostess with the Most(est)

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

When hosting holiday parties—whether Thanksgiving with the family or the hottest holiday bash, every detail counts…in every room of the house. Traci Arntsen, home stylista and founder of VOLUSPA, gives easy and simple tips on how to be the hostess with the mostest this holiday season. From complementary cooking candles for the kitchen to scented blankets and throws in the bedroom, Traci’s Tips are the easiest way to get your home in tip-top, guest-ready condition.

Kitchen Scenting the kitchen can be tricky as you never want to fragrance over the delicious smell of your gourmet meal.

Traci’s Tip: Try out scented candles that either complement the meal you’re cooking or cancel out any fishy, garlicky, or overpowering scents.

Voluspa has developed a collection of scented products, in collaboration with professional Chef James Boyce, that are designed to accent the food in your kitchen and to remove any unwanted odor. The James Boyce Collection by VOLUSPA includes 6 kitchen-worthy fragrances and comes in two candle sizes and a professional hand scrub.

Living Room The perfect place to use candle light. Traci’s Tip: Large three wick candles make excellent centerpieces and will easily scent even a large room. Collections of 6 or more small candles also make a beautiful statement and will scent even a large room.

Try: VOLUSPA’s 12 oz Three Wick Metal Tin Candle. Packaged in a festive metal candle bowl, this SEASONS fragranced candle made from VOLUSPA’s proprietary wax formula gives off a rich glow and easily scents a large room. Suggested retail price: $18.

Holiday scents include: Frost Pinecone, Winter Cherry, Makassar Ebony &Peach, Snow Flakes, Winesap Apple Spice, French Bourbon Vanille Japanese Plum Bloom and the new Truffle White Cocoa.

Bedroom Make the bedroom a sanctuary by bringing in scents and colors that promote relaxation and make you feel pampered.

Traci says, “Warm sensual fragrances like vanilla and amber should be paired with spices like clove or star anise for a combination that is both calming and exotic, not boring.”

Traci’s Tip: Spritzing your linens with your favorite linen or room spray (make sure it is safe for fabric first) will release a fresh draft of your favorite scent when you turn down your bed for the evening.

Try: VOLUSPA’s French Bourbon Vanille Room Fragrance—autumn chocolate, featuring creamy, rich vanilla from Bourbon, France. A 5.25 oz custom designed colored glass bottle filled with an intoxicating amount of SEASONS fragrance. Housed in a gorgeous metallic box.

Bathroom Diffusers are the perfect way to keep a small space well scented throughout the year.

Traci’s Tip: Flip the reeds weekly and replace the diffuser when the fragrance is gone or after 3-4 months. Special occasion? Light a small candle and place near the sink to create ambiance for guests. Mixing scents can lead to fragrance over-load in a small space so have the same scent in multiple formats (diffuser, candle and room spray) allowing for easy usage.

Try: VOLUSPA Fragrant Oil Diffuser in Winter Cherry—holiday red, featuring bright red, tart winter cherries layered with pomegranate and mangosteen. Uniquely shaped glass accompanied by chocolate brown bamboo reeds hold and diffuse concentrated fragrance that gently releases without the use of heat and is alcohol-free. Spectacular metallic box reflects classic holiday imagery that’s sure to please everyone at the party. Suggested retail price: $48.

Traci Arntsen says, “Candles and scents should be an experience.” Whether you’re putting together a cozy get-together with friends or planning hottest holiday bash of the season, stick to these simple tips from Traci and you’ll certainly be the hostess with the mostest.

Over the last decade, VOLUSPA has come to be regarded as one of the most innovative brands in Home fragrance. Traci Arntsen (fragrance designer and co-founder) has truly mastered her craft—perfectly mixing, blending, and designing all things VOLUSPA. She has had her hand in every aspect of her brand—inception to completion. From artistic inspiration and scent creation to design conception and product packaging, Traci Arntsen is known for upping the creative ante in home fragrance. Her famous fragrances and candles have attracted equally well-known fans including Hayden Panettiere, Halle Berry, Jessica Simpson, Steven Spielberg, Annalynne McCord, and Scarlett Johanson (to name a few).

Voluspa candles and home fragrances are available at Anthropologie and other retailers nationwide. For a complete list of retailers and more information on Voluspa go to www.voluspa.com.

2009 in Review

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

What a year it was for Houston. What fantastic events, what great people and wonderful victories. I am referring, obviously, to 1836. As for 2009, it ranks right down there with 1348, which gave Europe the black plague. Still, we must look back with joy — joy that 2009 is over. Remember the swine flu, the Astros’ World Series championship and the precedent-breaking mayoral election (Bob Lanier’s choice didn’t win). Hey, we’ll elect a lesbian mayor when it snows in Houston. So let’s look at the winners, starting with:

Quickest Death: Mayor Bill White proposed that the city pay Realtors a $5,000 bonus for each client who bought a home in a subsidized, depressed area. City Council was so impressed that White yanked the idea from the next Council meeting.

Our (Laughing) Stock is Up: City Council faced a proposal to approve $3,000 in taxpayer funds for each first-time homeowners to pay off debts so they could qualify for home loans. The measure died for lack of a first.

A nine-paragraph letter gushingly praising a downtown apartment tower (“One Park Place will be THE residence of choice…”) was sent to hundreds of potential renters. No, it was not from a PR firm. The letter was written by Mayor Bill White on official city stationery. The tower’s builder is a campaign donor.

The Great White Hope: In the same week, Mayor White ran an ad in the Defender, a primarily African-American Houston newspaper, putting his face, Mount Rushmore-like, between that of Martin Luther King, Jr. (“The Dream”) and President Barack Obama (“The Change”). The Mayor was “The Hope.”

The city turned over one block of well-traveled Bolsover Street aside the Rice Village to a private developer who fenced it off for a big complex — which was never built.

There’s a New Sheriff in Town — Unfortunately: After agreeing to be co-grand marshal of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo parade, new Sheriff Adrian Garcia cratered to minority protests over the rodeo’s treatment of Hispanics and African-Americans, and backed out. Sheriff Garcia, facing departmental budget and deputy shortages, still managed to find deputies to act as chauffeurs for County Judge Ed Emmett and himself.

Reading, Riting and Riches: HISD superintendent Abelardo Saavedra accepted a $77,500 performance bonus on top of his $327,000 salary, then announced he was leaving. What with another bonus, vacation and sick days not used and car allowance, his total exit package was about $1 million.

Don’t Let Your Educators be Cowboys: Some HISD principals, teachers and administrators spent $100,000 from school vending machine receipts for tickets to the annual Black Heritage Western Gala at the rodeo, including booze and food.

We Can’t Stand Pat: State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston told Fox News and several radio talk shows — and was quickly spread across the nation via e-mails — that Texas state officials and the National Guard were on alert “for the first time, to my knowledge, in modern history” because of drug-related violence in Mexico. Patrick apparently wasn’t around for Hurricane Ike most recently, and Rita prior to that, to see the National Guard all over the place, plus being called out for various grass fires, floods and other disasters. The governor’s office issued a denial of Patrick’s claim.

Oder in the Court: A new variant of a computer virus shut down Houston’s Municipal Court courtroom operations for a week.

Baker’s Dozen: The verdict in a slam-dunk murder case (there was a confession) was about to be announced in Judge Mark Ellis’s courtroom. All 13 jurors had debated and….wait. There are only supposed to be 12 jurors. No one had noticed that an alternate had participated in the decision. A re-trial was ordered.

Pictures Worth a Thousand Bucks: A Salvation Army Family Thrift Shop was given several works by an anonymous donor that may have been the works of Salvador Dali and worth $76,000.

The Fat Lady Sings: The story of late Houstonian Anna Nicole Smith was made into an opera.

No Sir: Jailed alleged scam artist Allen Stanford was stripped of his knighthood.

The Casons Go Rolling Along: Socialite Becca Cason Thrash got mentioned at least 41 times (not counting photo cutlines) in the Houston Chronicle.

A Defective in the Police Farce: Sloppy work in HPD’s crime lab cost the taxpayers millions of dollars to correct, and sent innocent people to jail. Now an audit of the department’s fingerprinting comparison unit found the unit’s work was so bad that all violent crime cases over the past six years must be reviewed.

Convicted rapist Arcade Joseph Comeauxe was shackled to his wheelchair during a van trip with two Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice guards. He somehow: Pulled a gun on the two guards, got out of his wheelchair, took the guards’ shotgun and two semi-automatic pistols, made them drive to Baytown, handcuffed the guards, put on one of their uniforms, and disappeared. After his capture days later, Comeauxe said he had inside help, and several jailers were canned.

Take a Truncheon to Luncheon: Conroe Police Sergeant Michael Edward Tindall allegedly robbed $28,672 from a Montgomery County bank. His disguise of a motorcycle helmet and dark glasses didn’t work, because — get this — he worked there as an off-duty security guard.

Are you HOV Positive? When Metro Police Officer Miguel Rodriguez spotted a lifeless body in a car wreck on the U.S. 290 HOV lane, he feared the worst, until Rodriguez saw that it was actually a dummy dressed in business attire. Michael Hooper was ticketed for excessive speed and unauthorized use of a high-occupancy (two passenger minimum) vehicle lane.

Fine &Dandy: County Commissioner Jerry Eversole was fined $75,000 for violation of campaign laws and agreed to reimburse his campaign for $41,357. Meanwhile, State Rep. Garnet Coleman was fined $9,500 by the Texas Ethics Commission for failing to report $107,577 in political expenses including $60,176 in credit card charges. Coleman said he had filed a corrected report but that report contained errors so he filed a report to correct the first report but not the second so he needs to file a….you get the picture.

Arson and Old Lace: Mattress Mack’s warehouse was gutted by a huge fire that, investigators say, was deliberately set by a former employee.

Now we look at the Houston sports scene. Quit crying. When superstar Astro Carlos Lee showed up a day late for spring training, we knew it was going to be yet another bad season for the Boys of Slumber. Miguel Tejada, who was signed by the Astros one day before he was listed in the Mitchell Report for possibly using steroids and human growth hormone, admitted lying to Congress. Fortunately the team didn’t have to worry anymore about Houstonians Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and drugs.

The underachieving Astros finished 17 games out of their division’s first place, minus Astros catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who went back to the Rangers, and manager Cecil Cooper, who was canned with 13 games left. Oh, and attendance was down by 258,411.

The Houston Texans were their usual pitiful self. Early on, illegal drills left three players disabled for the season, and it went down hill from there. But at least Texan fans scored. Forbes Traveler named Houston the best tailgating site in the NFL. Forbes said Reliant Stadium’s spacious parking lots and the wide rating of steaks, barbeque and other items that created a “Texas-style culinary nirvana.”

Let Your Fingers Do the Talking: Tennessee Titans’ owner Bud Adams — who as owner of the Houston Oilers managed to alienate almost every one — shot the bird at opposing Buffalo Bills fans and got hit with a $250,000, which he probably paid out of his wallet.

In the 2008-09 season, the Rockets were in first place — for two days: March 22 to 24. Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo were MIA much if not most of that season. Still, the Rockets got all the way to the second round of the playoffs, when they reverted to form and were ousted. Speaking of bad shooting, while driving home at 2 a.m. after an out-of-town game, Carl Landry was shot in the leg by another motorist after a sideswipe.

Channel l1’s long-time sports director/anchor Giff Nielsen quit after two sports staff were cut during massive layoffs.

Marvin Zindler Strikes Again! — Channel 13’s Wayne Dolcefino received a nine month probation-like supervision and $850 in fines and court costs for trespassing on the Austin County ranch of Houston architect Leroy Hermes as part of the reporter’s investigative piece on the connection between Harris County officials and construction projects.

“It was the worst time in my broadcasting career, and I wish people would stop bringing it up. It’s the most embarrassing thing I ever did on radio. If I could make everybody forget about my time in Houston, it would be good.” — Conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck about his years at KRBE.

In the good news department, the American Planning Association named Montrose one of the 10 “great neighborhoods” in America.

Congrats to Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee (aka Stump). The Houston Sussex spaniel won best of show at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Show in New York City.

Embarrassing-Lee: At a town hall meeting on health care, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee began by insisting she was there to listen to people’s concerns, then started talking on her cell phone while a constituent was trying to speak. Jackson Lee explained later that she wasn’t being rude. In Congress, she said, you had to be able to “multi-task” in order to be effective.

At the same (or another) such meeting, a University of Houston graduate student and Texas Obama delegate, Roxana Mayer, falsely identified herself as a pediatric physician. Later, when the fraud was uncovered, Jackson Lee said, “I’ve never met her,” even though Mayer warmly embraced Jackson Lee at the close of the session. Back in Congress, Jackson Lee introduced a resolution, already framed, praising the late Michael Jackson (no kin). It failed, but the grandstanding got her in front of the cameras, again.

Moving on, Julie Parker allegedly went into the offices of the Texas Components Corp. and shot Armando Silva with a bow and arrow, whereupon two other employees with concealed handgun permits opened fire on Parker until police arrived, who then shot her several times. She survived and wins our Several Hits, One Run, One Arrow Award.

The top two executives of the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department were canned after a 16-year-old youth was able to carry a loaded .25-caliber semi-automatic into the county juvenile detention center through a metal detector that hadn’t been functional since the new juvenile detention center opened three years ago.

But our grand prize goes to George Vera, age 25, weight nearly 600 pounds. Vera was arrested Aug. 2 and taken to the Houston City jail. A day later he was transferred to the Harris County Jail where, after 14 hours and going through intake procedures, he was taken to the showers before going to his cell. It was only then that Vera told police he had a 9mm handgun on him, along with 2 clips. The gun was allegedly hidden between his layers of fat. He wins our Smith &Wesson Oil Trophy. Ashby awards at ashby2@comcast.net

The Mall

December 1, 2009 by  
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THE MALL — Colorful eggs, cute baskets and nice spring bonnets are being set up as stores gear up for Easter. Long gone are hearts and candy for Valentine’s Day. Christmas gifts left unsold have been repossessed by China and the yuletide wreathes are back in storage. Good thing, too. My neighborhood mall began setting up Christmas trees, Nutcracker soldiers and Little Drummer Boys just after Labor Day, and they were getting a bit shopworn. You have no doubt completed your shopping for Christmas — or “holidays” as the season is now called so as not to anger worshipers of every faith including disciples of the saxophone section of the Coast Guard Band. But if you are one of those procrastinators who gets extensions on your income tax filings and birth of your children, then you’ve come to the right place because, as usual, I have some advice. First, make a list of everyone who didn’t give you a present last year. Draw a line through each name. Then make a list of people who deserve a present. Start with spouse, significant other or life partner. Be careful of which title you use. (See: Christmas, above) Add siblings who invite you and your family over for Thanksgiving Day and say, “Don’t bring a thing.” If, however, they want you to bring a cooked turkey, wine or plasma TV for the big game, put them on the first list. Don’t forget your parole officer, accomplice, eyewitnesses and the lab technician handling your DNA. Some people believe they should give a present to those who have simply made their lives easier and better in the past year, such as the mail carrier, garbagemen, paper thrower and, especially, newspaper columnists. A good bottle of malt Scotch is recommended. Holiday office parties are common, except at GM and Madoff Investments. For corporate survivors, they have Secret Santas whereby everyone in the office anonymously gives a small gift and each employee gets one. A good present is anything you can lift from the company supply room. Don’t forget to suck up to the boss with something he or she deserves. I recommend fawning admiration. Otherwise, your own present may be a pink slip. Next, figure out how much you want to spend on presents. Then divide by 2. Now you are ready. Go to the nearest Dollar Store and shop till your drop, or are picked up by the surveillance cameras. But do not fall into the trap of giving what we seasoned shoppers call “stuff.” You know, knickknacks to put around the house. This includes collectibles — whatever they are — ashtrays from the 1962 New York World’s Fair and autographed photos of you shaking hands with guards at Abu Grabe. The late comedian George Carlin had a whole routine about stuff. Most people have too much stuff and don’t want any more. I already have so much stuff that anything which comes in the front door requires that something go out the back door, although I am in desperate need of a back door. Other underappreciated gifts include Polyester leisure suits, a vacation in Juarez, bundled derivatives and pet sloths. Figure that if the recipients can’t eat, drink or inhale it, they don’t want it. So what are good gifts? A free pass at the next death panel hearing is handy. I have an uncle who asked for longer visiting hours. Ties are a common holiday gift, but be considerate: knot them first. Botox treatments might seem original, but you never know how the recipient will react. The same for tattoo removals. Books are big for your literate relatives. Some might like “The Wit and Wisdom of Timothy Geitner.” UT-Austin has a Guttenberg Bible which you could give to a dear friend or sell to a fence. Picture books are also a fine gift. A nice touch is to include the Crayolas. You can’t beat cold cash. Yes, a gift of a dollar bill is impersonal, shows you don’t care enough to give a thoughtful present. But have you ever heard of anyone who said, “I don’t want your dirty money.”? Do not give gift certificates. I’ve been burned a total of $250 in gift certificates to restaurants that went out of business by New Year’s Day. In this economy, a gift card to the U.S. Mint is iffy. Magazine subscriptions are also dangerous. Last year I gave two life-time subscriptions to Gourmet. When it went under, I was offered, as replacements, Liver Lovers Monthly or Flu-Free Pork Recipes. But let’s assume you work for Goldman Sachs as an assistant clerk in the Bailout Division and want to go through your $45 million bonus, so money is no object. Check this year’s Neiman’s Christmas Catalogue. How about his and her states? Maybe a suit made of lobster. For the man of the house, season tickets to Miss January. On Page 34 is Rent-a-Congressman. For the market value price, a hacker will totally destroy your competitor’s financial records, except for the off-the-books files which will be forwarded on to the IRS. It may, indeed, be better to give than to receive, but there in etiquette to properly accepting a gift. If, for example, your snide cousin gives you a trip to Detroit, you just smile and say, “How thoughtful.” Or, perhaps, “Just what I’ve always wanted.” Feel free to react differently if it’s a one-way ticket. If the present is ticking, slowly back away. Children like to give their parents something they painted at school during Zero Tolerance lockdown. Parents should not ask, “What the heck is this?” If it looks like a drooling camel or a Rorschach test, no matter. Proudly stick it on the refrigerator next to the house repossession notice. Just above Miss January. Finally, remember that it is not the gift itself that matters, it’s the thought that counts. If you’ve got a thought that can count, you are a very strange person. Ashby is gift-wrapped at ashby2@comcast.net

Holiday Water Safety Tips

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

Holiday and Winter Water Safety Tips

Infant Swimming Resource (www.infantswim.com), the safest provider of self-rescue swimming lessons for babies and toddlers from six months to six years old, announces the following winter water safety tips to help families protect their young children as they travel this holiday season.

According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, “Eighty-eight percent of children were under some form of supervision when they drowned.” 1

“The holiday season represents the highest probability of distractions and breakdown of normal supervision routines,” said Harvey Barnett Ph.D., pediatric drowning prevention specialist and founder of Infant Swimming Resource. “If a child is missing, check the pool first.”

Holiday and Winter Water Safety Tips

1. CEO Supervision (Constant Eyes On) – Never turn your back on your child around water. It takes just seconds for him/her to be in serious trouble. Segment the supervision responsibilities so there are never questions about which adult is responsible for watching the child and be aware of the distractions unique to the winter months: holiday parties, house guests, etc.

2. Educate Others – When traveling to relatives’ and friends’ homes they may not understand the importance of keeping gates closed, doors locked, closing toilet seats, emptying buckets, etc. Visiting family, holiday parties and celebrations can lead to breakdowns in routine supervision and effective barriers to the water.

3. Decoration Hazards – Decorations and lights can pose problems with young children around the house and water. Watch for lights and electrical cords around water, make sure no outside decorations provide a means for a child to climb over a fence or open a locked gate.

4. Maintain Pools in the Winter – Keep pools well-maintained with clear water even if it is too cold to swim. If someone falls in, they can be seen and be helped faster. Pool covers need to be drained of accumulated rain water and free of debris.

5. Hot Tubs – Supervision must be one adult per child due to the high temperatures and turbulence of the water in a hot tub. When young children are in the hot tub, keep the temperature below 90 degrees Fahrenheit and limit exposure to less than ten minutes.

6. Bath Tubs – Do not allow anyone who is uneducated about bath tub safety to bathe your child. Consider bathing an infant or young child in a tub with a handheld shower attachment, eliminating the risk of drowning in accumulating bath tub water.

7. Self-rescueTM Skills — Teach young children self-rescue skills. In addition to pool fences, alarms and gates, it can be another layer of defense. Survival swimming and a demonstration of the roll-back-to-float skills prior to all water recreation is vital year round.

United Nations Climate Change Conference

December 1, 2009 by  
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EarthTalk® From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What do organizers hope to accomplish at the upcoming (December 7-18, 2009) United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in Copenhagen? — F. Rojas, Oakland, CA

The upcoming COP15 meeting in Denmark—so named because it is the 15th such international gathering of the Conference of the Parties (COP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—is the world’s next big chance to take decisive multi-lateral action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions substantially enough to ward off cataclysmic climate change.

Negotiators from all over the globe hope to come to terms on a binding agreement regarding emissions reductions that both developed and developing nations can agree to. The stakes are high: This conference represents the final step in negotiations years in the making—and the results could chart a course toward success or failure in human efforts to control the carbon beast we set free in the industrial revolution.

Officially, the stated goal of COP15, according to United Nations organizers, is “to stabilize the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous man-made climate changes.” They add that “this stabilization must occur in such a way as to give the ecosystems the opportunity to adapt naturally” without compromising food safety or hindering sustainable social and economic development around the world. Organizers, delegates and a wide range of other participants—some 10,000 people are expected to attend—are still holding out hope for the establishment of an ambitious, legally binding global emissions reduction agreement to take effect beginning in 2012. That is when initial commitments made under the Kyoto Protocol, an earlier international climate treaty that the U.S. refused to join, expire.

One sticking point is whether or not the Obama administration will risk agreeing to major emissions reductions without the prior consent of Congress. The most promising U.S. climate legislation, the so-called Kerry-Boxer Bill, is currently under consideration in the Senate but likely won’t be voted on until February 2010 or later; traditionally the American government likes to iron out its policy legislatively at home before agreeing to international commitments. But bi-partisan backers of the bill in the Senate say they can agree on terms now that will be acceptable to enough to their colleagues for later passage, enabling American negotiators at Copenhagen to have some guidelines at the COP15 bargaining table.

China and much of the developing world would like to see industrialized countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, but analysts say such drastic cuts are unlikely to fly with U.S. politicians. Climate champion Al Gore is urging COP15 delegates to create a binding legal framework where commitments can be ratcheted up with time as governments begin to realize the benefits of switching to larger amounts of renewable energy and participating in the development of green technology.

Beyond the big question of U.S. participation, COP15 negotiators will be trying hard to forge a consensus on a wide range of related issues, including: what year should be set as the baseline against which specific reduction targets will be measured; the duration of the emissions reduction commitment period; whether or not to call for curbs on deforestation, especially in developing countries’ tropical rainforests; and whether or not to tighten rules governing the methods used to reduce emissions.

CONTACT: COP15, www.cop15.dk.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk® is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook. EarthTalk® From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I recently heard the term “living building.” Can you explain? — Rebecca Gordon, Seattle, WA

Over the past couple of decades, architects and builders looking to green their projects turned to the addition of various piecemeal elements to save water here or cut down on electricity there. Those who added more than a few green touches could apply for and get certified by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) under its Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design (LEED) program. While these efforts have been laudable—essentially launching the green building industry as we know it today—they represent merely the infancy of what green building might someday become.

The concept of the “living building” has now emerged as a new ideal for design and construction. The Cascadia Region Green Building Council (CRGBC)—the Pacific Northwest chapter of the USGBC—defines a living building as a structure that “generates all of its own energy with renewable non-toxic resources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.” The group has been pushing for adoption of the concept by construction industries here at home, and also helped to launch the International Living Building Institute to promote the concept internationally.

“We view our role as the organization that is meant to ask the really tough questions, to push the boundaries as far as possible,” says Jason McLennan, CEO of CRGBC. To this end, in 2006 the group launched its Living Building Challenge (LBC), a “call to the design and construction community to pursue true sustainability in the built environment.” So far 60 different projects around North America are vying to meet the high standards of the LBC, which exceed even the highest status of LEED certification.

The first building to be completed for consideration under the LBC program is the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, in Rhinebeck, NY. The 6,200 square-foot, one-level building, which serves as headquarters for the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, features a geothermal heating and cooling system, solar panels, rain gardens that direct water run-off to irrigate plantings, a 4,500-square-foot greenhouse that helps filter wastewater for reuse, “daylighting” design that brings natural light indoor to minimize electric light usage, and eco-friendly building materials all around. It was designed—per LBC criteria—to be “net-zero,” meaning it uses no more energy than it generates itself. Once the building has been in operation for a full year next summer, CRGBC will audit it to see if its performance lives up to the green hype. Dozens of other LBC contenders around North America will be audited as well.

Of course, the costs of creating a living building today are very high. Achieving net-zero can be especially costly, and stands out as one of the biggest obstacles to greater interest in the living building concept. Another challenge is finding materials that meet LBC standards, since many common building materials—such as PVC piping for wastewater transport—off-gas chemicals and have other hazardous attributes. LBC also expects builders to source locally as many materials as possible to boost local economies and make efficient use of nearby natural resources. McLennan remains confident that costs will come down as green materials, technologies and methods become more commonplace within the general building industry.

10 Activities You Can Do With Your Teen Daughter for the Holidays

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

As a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and mother, I understand how difficult it can be to get quality time with your teen daughter. With all of the demands that the holiday season brings, it can often be overwhelming. Between the parties, shopping, cooking and planning, sometimes the really important things, like spending time with your teen, get pushed aside. Participating together in activities that connect you to your daughter not only help keep the spirit of the holidays real, they can be the best gift you give to each other. Spend time together making memories! 10 Activity Ideas

1. Have a baking day. Together, pick out special recipes and spend the day baking. There is nothing like rolling out dough together to give you a chance for some meaningful conversations.

2. Holiday Tea Invite your daughter’s friends and their mothers over for a Holiday Tea. You’ve already made the cookies. It allows you to get to know her friends and their moms while doing something fun.

3. Volunteer. Together, pick a charity and spend time volunteering. Not only do you get the opportunity to be together, but you get into the spirit of the holidays by giving to others. This is a great message.

4. Search for a craft project that would make great gifts for friends or neighbors and make them together. For example, one year we made cookie mix in a jar, decorated the jars, and took them to our neighbors.

5. Have an afternoon of culture. Go to a Christmas play, concert, or ballet. You don’t have to spend a lot of money doing this since there are many local productions.

6. Have a Christmas movie marathon. This is one of my favorites. Each year we get out our favorite Christmas movies, put on our PJs, pop popcorn and lay on the floor and watch movies continuously.

7. mother-daughter spa day Have a spa day at home. Get some festive nail polish and do mani-pedis. Who needs to go to the spa when you can do it in the comfort of your own home? When it is just the two of you and you are relaxed, the conversation just flows.

8. Christmas shop together, but start early with breakfast out. My favorite is to get up really early when all of the stores have the early bird specials. Take the advertisements, head off to your favorite breakfast place and come up with your game plan.

9. Go for a walk one evening, and look at holiday decorations in the neighborhood. Then decide on the most beautiful as well as the house with the “most over the top” decorations.

10. Start a holiday memory book. Get a journal and each of you write about the holiday season from your point of view. Don’t forget to put in photos. This is something you can do every year, and when your daughter has her own family, it can be passed to her.

Remember, the shoes you give her will go out of style or wear out, the designer jeans will do the same, but the memories and time you give her will always be in her heart. Janine Sherman is an OB/GYN nurse practitioner in Houston, TX, who specializes in caring for teens and their moms. She is also the co-author of the book Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You &Your Mom. This easy-to read, lively, down-to-earth book is definitely teen-friendly and is ideal to help both mothers and daughters have engaging conversations about tough topics.

HOW TO BE THE HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST

December 1, 2009 by  
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When hosting holiday parties—whether Thanksgiving with the family or the hottest holiday bash, every detail counts…in every room of the house. Traci Arntsen, home stylista and founder of VOLUSPA, gives easy and simple tips on how to be the hostess with the mostest this holiday season. From complementary cooking candles for the kitchen to scented blankets and throws in the bedroom, Traci’s Tips are the easiest way to get your home in tip-top, guest-ready condition.

Kitchen Scenting the kitchen can be tricky as you never want to fragrance over the delicious smell of your gourmet meal.

Traci’s Tip: Try out scented candles that either complement the meal you’re cooking or cancel out any fishy, garlicky, or overpowering scents.

Voluspa has developed a collection of scented products, in collaboration with professional Chef James Boyce, that are designed to accent the food in your kitchen and to remove any unwanted odor. The James Boyce Collection by VOLUSPA includes 6 kitchen-worthy fragrances and comes in two candle sizes and a professional hand scrub.

Living Room The perfect place to use candle light. Traci’s Tip: Large three wick candles make excellent centerpieces and will easily scent even a large room. Collections of 6 or more small candles also make a beautiful statement and will scent even a large room.

Try: VOLUSPA’s 12 oz Three Wick Metal Tin Candle. Packaged in a festive metal candle bowl, this SEASONS fragranced candle made from VOLUSPA’s proprietary wax formula gives off a rich glow and easily scents a large room. Suggested retail price: $18.

Holiday scents include: Frost Pinecone, Winter Cherry, Makassar Ebony &Peach, Snow Flakes, Winesap Apple Spice, French Bourbon Vanille Japanese Plum Bloom and the new Truffle White Cocoa.

Bedroom Make the bedroom a sanctuary by bringing in scents and colors that promote relaxation and make you feel pampered.

Traci says, “Warm sensual fragrances like vanilla and amber should be paired with spices like clove or star anise for a combination that is both calming and exotic, not boring.”

Traci’s Tip: Spritzing your linens with your favorite linen or room spray (make sure it is safe for fabric first) will release a fresh draft of your favorite scent when you turn down your bed for the evening.

Try: VOLUSPA’s French Bourbon Vanille Room Fragrance—autumn chocolate, featuring creamy, rich vanilla from Bourbon, France. A 5.25 oz custom designed colored glass bottle filled with an intoxicating amount of SEASONS fragrance. Housed in a gorgeous metallic box.

Bathroom Diffusers are the perfect way to keep a small space well scented throughout the year.

Traci’s Tip: Flip the reeds weekly and replace the diffuser when the fragrance is gone or after 3-4 months. Special occasion? Light a small candle and place near the sink to create ambiance for guests. Mixing scents can lead to fragrance over-load in a small space so have the same scent in multiple formats (diffuser, candle and room spray) allowing for easy usage.

Try: VOLUSPA Fragrant Oil Diffuser in Winter Cherry—holiday red, featuring bright red, tart winter cherries layered with pomegranate and mangosteen. Uniquely shaped glass accompanied by chocolate brown bamboo reeds hold and diffuse concentrated fragrance that gently releases without the use of heat and is alcohol-free. Spectacular metallic box reflects classic holiday imagery that’s sure to please everyone at the party. Suggested retail price: $48.

Traci Arntsen says, “Candles and scents should be an experience.” Whether you’re putting together a cozy get-together with friends or planning hottest holiday bash of the season, stick to these simple tips from Traci and you’ll certainly be the hostess with the mostest.

Over the last decade, VOLUSPA has come to be regarded as one of the most innovative brands in Home fragrance. Traci Arntsen (fragrance designer and co-founder) has truly mastered her craft—perfectly mixing, blending, and designing all things VOLUSPA. She has had her hand in every aspect of her brand—inception to completion. From artistic inspiration and scent creation to design conception and product packaging, Traci Arntsen is known for upping the creative ante in home fragrance. Her famous fragrances and candles have attracted equally well-known fans including Hayden Panettiere, Halle Berry, Jessica Simpson, Steven Spielberg, Annalynne McCord, and Scarlett Johanson (to name a few).

Voluspa candles and home fragrances are available at Anthropologie and other retailers nationwide. For a complete list of retailers and more information on Voluspa go to www.voluspa.com.

St. Eve Kids

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

Slip — and sleep! — into the spirit of the season with St. Eve Kids. This year, celebrate the holidays in style with sweet treats for sweet deals from a comfortably cute line of children’s sleepwear, loungewear and underwear. ‘Tis a gift to be simple — so, get back to the basics with St. Eve Kids Holiday Underwear ($4.00) for girls. Available in bikini or boy-leg styles, this sure-fire stocking stuffer features a cuddly character and irresistible details. From penguins and snowmen to monkeys and chicks, the colored undies complement a little gal’s sense of style with just the right amount of yuletide treasure. Sizes range from small to extra large.

With such great styles and prices, St. Eve Kids brings joy to both kids and parents! St. Eve Kids holiday underwear is available at Bloomingdales nationwide.

THE RESTAURANT

November 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

by Lynn Ashby

The food is overcooked, the waiter is overwhelmed and the menu is overpriced. The bad news is, that’s the good news. This restaurant is so loud I can’t hear myself gag, and it took so long to get served that I had my food carbon dated.

A wise man (me) once noted that there are three things everybody thinks they can do: write a book, publish a newspaper and run a restaurant. The first two challenges are duck soup (which is cold and too salty) compared to properly running an eatery. Still, most people feel they are capable, which is why the Small Business Administration regularly cites restaurants as the Number 1 operation to go bankrupt.

A clue to the dangers of running a diner: have you ever read a restaurant critic’s review which reads, “Ciro’s Italian Ristaurante which was once Billy Boy’s Barbeque before it was Pierre’s French Café &Surrender School, and we remember that spot as Carlos’ Tex-Mex Cantina” and on and on, as the death list of former failures at that spot is ticked off.

But when I win the lottery and own a restaurant, here are a few items you will find when you visit. First, of course, we must obey the cardinal rule of business: location, location, location. For example, my Planned Parenthood franchise in the Vatican was a bummer, as was my topless bar in Salt Lake City. Bad locations, both. On the other hand, a good spot for an all-you-can-eat café would be next to a workout gym or perhaps near a liposuction clinic or an anorexic treatment center.

What inviting name should I use? The chi-chi cafes now have stupid and meaningless titles like “345” or “Jbt.” Does anyone have a clue as to what those names indicate, and does it make you want to eat there? As with bad locations, I have made mistakes in naming my previous diners. There was my Gene Autry steak house, Happy Entrails to You, which didn’t go over too well. Neither did my Dublin club for CPAs, when IRS Eyes Are Smiling. I opened a pub for rural hicks returning from Iraq, the Shucks &Aw, but it died. The George W. Bush Presidential Library was underway, so I tried to open a café for bond jumpers called Missin’ Accomplice. Laura turned me down and Cheney turned me in. And I should not have named my low calorie diner in the D/F Airport, “Crash Diet for a Terminal Experience.”

But this time I’ve got everything right. My new place is in Austin in the former Governor’s Mansion. The structure is currently empty and the next occupant is undetermined, so the state was glad to get the rent. As for the name, I’ll be catering to the Capitol press corps, so I’m calling my restaurant the Crow Eatery. (motto: “Newspapers are a rare medium, well done.”)

Here you will find waiters and waitresses who don’t mind being called just that, and not the PC titles, waitpersons or waitstaff. Do you call actors and actresses, “stagepersons” or seek redress for womental anguish? My staff will be efficient and quick, and, after receiving your payment, they will not say, “Do you want your change?” Hey, wait-staff-person, as a customer I will decide the tip. If I don’t want the change, I’ll say, “Keep the change.”

Speaking of tips, customers are expected to be generous. Your servers are on their feet all night hustling orders, oftentimes dealing with jerks, which may be you. They also wait, who only stand and serve. But remember that in most Texas towns there is an 8.25 percent sales tax. Don’t tip on the tax.

Have you noticed at restaurants, cafes and truck stops the bus/girl boy will go from table to table wiping off all the spilled beer, leftover chili and cigarette ashes, then come to your table and do the same thing? How long has that rag been wiping, and what varmints are being spread throughout the place? After the tabletop transfer of unknown diseases, you put your (hopefully) clean knife, fork and spoon down on that same table, then, when the food arrives, you stick the utensil in your mouth. Yuk!

You don’t have to be Howard Hughes wandering around in Kleenex boxes to worry. So you can either bring along your own utensils or eat with your fingers. At my restaurant, bus boys/girls will have disposable socks on their hands. Also, straws will be offered, especially for glasses that still bear lipstick.

Parents of disruptive children will be warned. If no action is taken (I recommend duct tape) the parents will be sent home and the children kept for ransom. Another point: The menu will be only one page, so the food in the kitchen moves faster. Always be wary of restaurants that have pages of offerings. It means those pork chops have been in the freezer since Easter. (TGI Friday’s used to have a book for a menu, but has gotten better.) Some restaurants are too loud. When I go out to dinner, I go to eat, drink, and visit. I won’t pay in order to shout. My place will be so quiet you can hear your mind change or a name drop. Along these lines, customers using cell phones will be pureed and fricasseed.

I have to take a sweater to any dinner, no matter the time of year. Restaurants are freezing because the chef and the waiters control the thermostat. They are sweating like David Letterman on Secretary’s Day, while the sedentary customers are shivering. At the Crow Eatery, customers will control the thermostat. If there is a difference of opinion about the temperature, the table that orders the most expensive items wins.

Finally, in the Marines there was a sign in the mess hall, “Take all you want. Eat all you take.” It is immoral to waste food, so I’ll charge for leftovers. Think of the starving ex-restaurateurs.

Ashby waits at ashby5@comcast.net Reply Forward Reply

Fall in Love with Santa Fe All Over Again

November 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Laurette Veres, Editor in Chief

Santa Fe speaks to you. Whether meandering through the center of town, or hiking the mountainous exterior, the holistic energy surrounding this land has summoned artists and adventurous spirits for many years. Made famous by Georgia O’Keeffe, this land inspires many who cannot stay away.

La Posada De Santa Fe Resort and Spa is a landmark hotel in the downtown city scene. Originally, home to artisans who made the trek from New York City, today the hotel plays host to weddings, corporate meetings, vacationers and spa goers looking to unwind.

A stunning room at La Posada

For Art’s Sake
In keeping with the artistic spirit, La Posada has hired its first in-house curator, Sara Eyestone. Originally from Texas, Eyestone meticulously handpicks each artist to showcase the revolving art on display throughout the grounds. She invites guests to experience the art, connect and get to know the artists before making a purchase. Her advice? “Follow your heart when buying art.”

Serenity Now
With an eye towards sustainability and casual elegance, La Posada’s spa is keeping with up the eco-times. New certified “eco” products are on the menu that blends total body wellness and anti-aging. Laura Parsons, spa director makes sure treatments are broadly focused. The Turquoise Trail Facial also includes a neck and scalp massage as well as light foot acupuncture. “There is a movement to whole body wellness,” Parsons says. “We want [the benefits of] your treatment to last for hours, if not days, after you leave.”

Exterior view of a Suite at La Posada

Wedded Bliss
A perfect way to enjoy this city is to attend a destination wedding. Guests enjoy southwestern cuisine and the intimate, spiritual appeal that makes Santa Fe such an inviting destination. The famous Loretto Chapel is the perfect setting for romantic nuptials.

David Stone, catering and conferences service manager at La Posada suggests a tented lounge with high and low seating as a pre-reception function. You are in Santa Fe – be sure to serve authentic Southwestern cuisine. Chile Relleno or Pulled chicken breast in Mole Negro are crowd pleasers. He also recommends a casual rehearsal dinner. “It’s a casual time for weary travelers to get together. Don’t be too formal – you risk competing with your reception,” says Stone.

For those in need of a museum or art gallery fix, try wandering Canyon Road. Here you’ll find everything from traditional Indian art to contemporary installations in numerous galleries on the narrow, winding road.

Or try the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, where significant Indian art hangs on display. Don’t forget to check out the Case Trading Post shop downstairs in the museum for jewelry, art and authentic Indian crafts. Handcrafted special turquoise jewelry by locally renowned artists such as Mike Bird-Romero can be found here with only a few specialty pieces in each design.

Located ten minutes outside of Santa Fe, another resort plays host to movie stars and other famed New Mexico residents. Think Robert Redford popping over to the pool for a quick snack. Encantado Resort Santa Fe is situated on a bluff overlooking one of the area’s most picturesque mountain ranges. The resort features exquisitely maintained casitas, each with a mountain view, that ooze the sophistication and intimate, almost mystical appeal of the outdoors. The spa seamlessly fits in with the surrounding environment, one of calm serenity. Featuring both indoor and outdoor showers, steam, and sauna, the resort spa and pool area provides that extra elegant spark.

A member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World, Encantado Resort features Terra Restaurant, one of the highlights of any culinary excursion in the entire area. Boasting a majestic view of the surrounding vistas, the restaurant sources local organic ingredients for a dining experience that simply cannot be missed. From the seven herb ravioli to the brick roasted organic New Mexican chicken or sage-rubbed rib-eye, Chef Charles Dale knows how to construct both an artful and memorable tasting meal. Desert is not to be missed. After all, you’re in the dessert.

Essentials

www.RockResorts.com
www.casetradingpost.com
www.encantadoresort.com

The Mall

November 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE MALL — Colorful eggs, cute baskets and nice spring bonnets are being set up as stores gear up for Easter. Long gone are hearts and candy for Valentine’s Day. Christmas gifts left unsold have been repossessed by China and the yuletide wreathes are back in storage. Good thing, too. My neighborhood mall began setting up Christmas trees, Nutcracker soldiers and Little Drummer Boys just after Labor Day, and they were getting a bit shopworn. You have no doubt completed your shopping for Christmas — or “holidays” as the season is now called so as not to anger worshipers of every faith including disciples of the saxophone section of the Coast Guard Band. But if you are one of those procrastinators who gets extensions on your income tax filings and birth of your children, then you’ve come to the right place because, as usual, I have some advice. First, make a list of everyone who didn’t give you a present last year. Draw a line through each name. Then make a list of people who deserve a present. Start with spouse, significant other or life partner. Be careful of which title you use. (See: Christmas, above) Add siblings who invite you and your family over for Thanksgiving Day and say, “Don’t bring a thing.” If, however, they want you to bring a cooked turkey, wine or plasma TV for the big game, put them on the first list. Don’t forget your parole officer, accomplice, eyewitnesses and the lab technician handling your DNA. Some people believe they should give a present to those who have simply made their lives easier and better in the past year, such as the mail carrier, garbagemen, paper thrower and, especially, newspaper columnists. A good bottle of malt Scotch is recommended. Holiday office parties are common, except at GM and Madoff Investments. For corporate survivors, they have Secret Santas whereby everyone in the office anonymously gives a small gift and each employee gets one. A good present is anything you can lift from the company supply room. Don’t forget to suck up to the boss with something he or she deserves. I recommend fawning admiration. Otherwise, your own present may be a pink slip. Next, figure out how much you want to spend on presents. Then divide by 2. Now you are ready. Go to the nearest Dollar Store and shop till your drop, or are picked up by the surveillance cameras. But do not fall into the trap of giving what we seasoned shoppers call “stuff.” You know, knickknacks to put around the house. This includes collectibles — whatever they are — ashtrays from the 1962 New York World’s Fair and autographed photos of you shaking hands with guards at Abu Grabe. The late comedian George Carlin had a whole routine about stuff. Most people have too much stuff and don’t want any more. I already have so much stuff that anything which comes in the front door requires that something go out the back door, although I am in desperate need of a back door. Other underappreciated gifts include Polyester leisure suits, a vacation in Juarez, bundled derivatives and pet sloths. Figure that if the recipients can’t eat, drink or inhale it, they don’t want it. So what are good gifts? A free pass at the next death panel hearing is handy. I have an uncle who asked for longer visiting hours. Ties are a common holiday gift, but be considerate: knot them first. Botox treatments might seem original, but you never know how the recipient will react. The same for tattoo removals. Books are big for your literate relatives. Some might like “The Wit and Wisdom of Timothy Geitner.” UT-Austin has a Guttenberg Bible which you could give to a dear friend or sell to a fence. Picture books are also a fine gift. A nice touch is to include the Crayolas. You can’t beat cold cash. Yes, a gift of a dollar bill is impersonal, shows you don’t care enough to give a thoughtful present. But have you ever heard of anyone who said, “I don’t want your dirty money.”? Do not give gift certificates. I’ve been burned a total of $250 in gift certificates to restaurants that went out of business by New Year’s Day. In this economy, a gift card to the U.S. Mint is iffy. Magazine subscriptions are also dangerous. Last year I gave two life-time subscriptions to Gourmet. When it went under, I was offered, as replacements, Liver Lovers Monthly or Flu-Free Pork Recipes. But let’s assume you work for Goldman Sachs as an assistant clerk in the Bailout Division and want to go through your $45 million bonus, so money is no object. Check this year’s Neiman’s Christmas Catalogue. How about his and her states? Maybe a suit made of lobster. For the man of the house, season tickets to Miss January. On Page 34 is Rent-a-Congressman. For the market value price, a hacker will totally destroy your competitor’s financial records, except for the off-the-books files which will be forwarded on to the IRS. It may, indeed, be better to give than to receive, but there in etiquette to properly accepting a gift. If, for example, your snide cousin gives you a trip to Detroit, you just smile and say, “How thoughtful.” Or, perhaps, “Just what I’ve always wanted.” Feel free to react differently if it’s a one-way ticket. If the present is ticking, slowly back away. Children like to give their parents something they painted at school during Zero Tolerance lockdown. Parents should not ask, “What the heck is this?” If it looks like a drooling camel or a Rorschach test, no matter. Proudly stick it on the refrigerator next to the house repossession notice. Just above Miss January. Finally, remember that it is not the gift itself that matters, it’s the thought that counts. If you’ve got a thought that can count, you are a very strange person. Ashby is gift-wrapped at ashby2@comcast.net

Catch the Washington Wave

November 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

The Washington Wave, Houston’s 1st Official Jitney Service in 15 years, makes mobility between popular cultural, entertainment, residential and business destinations within the Washington Avenue District easy, affordable and safe with a growing fleet of buses and centralized parking on Houston Avenue. The Wave is on a mission to change Houstonian’s perception of public transportation by promoting the ease of movement, encouraging transit use and enhancing existing public transportation systems, while also reducing congestion and improving public safety.

The Washington Wave is a locally owned, private, officially permitted “jitney” service company created to enhance the economic urban development of the Washington Corridor while helping to improve public safety, enhance residential and business development, and improve the quality of life within the City of Houston Super Neighborhood 22. The jitney services patrons who park in their 450-space parking lot on Houston Avenue as well as pedestrians in the area who “wave.”

Responding to Lynn Ashby

November 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

Mr. Lynn Ashby H Texas

Dear Mr. Ashby:

Everybody talks about carbon footprints.

Turns out the water footprint from energy is just as important. If not more so.

Here’s why: It takes an enormous amount of water to generate electricity. And it takes an enormous amount of electricity to move water.

Example: One 60-watt light bulb burning 12 hours a day will consume at the power plant 3000-6000 gallons of water in a year.

A laptop computer uses 200 gallons a year.

If you live in Arizona, multiply those numbers by 7. If you get your electricity from a hydropower, multiply by 18.

That’s a lot of water for not much light.

That is how water and energy are connected. But no one is talking about it.

This is important because we are wasting a lot of water and power because we ignore this connection.

Example: In the California and Nevada desert, several large solar thermal power plants are being built. These plants require a great deal of water — in the desert?

Bottom line: There are only two types of power that do not require massive amounts of water: Wind and photovoltaic solar — the kind found on rooftops at homes, schools, wineries, army bases, and the like.

This is a much better solution that building power plants in the desert that need water we do not have, to generate power we do not need.

I am the CEO of one of the largest solar energy firms in the country.

If how water and energy are connected sounds like a story, I’d be happy to help any way I can. There’s been a lot of stuff in the academic world, but not much in the popular press.

Sincerely,

Tom Rooney

Environmental Impact of Fashion Industry

November 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

Dear EarthTalk: Can you enlighten on the environmental impact of the fashion industry? As I understand it, the industry overall is no friend to the environment. — Tan Cheng Li, Malaysia

According to the non-profit Earth Pledge, today some 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used throughout the world to turn raw materials into textiles. Domestically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that one-quarter of all pesticides used nationwide go toward growing cotton, primarily for the clothing industry. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers many domestic textile manufacturing facilities to be hazardous waste generators; and lax standards and enforcement in developing countries, where the majority of textiles are produced, means that untold amounts of pollution are likely being deposited into local soils and waterways in regions that can hardly stand further environmental insult.

Luz Claudio, writing in Environmental Health Perspectives, considers the way Americans and Europeans shop for clothes as “waste couture”: Fashion is low-quality and sold at “prices that make the purchase tempting and the disposal painless.” Yet this sort of so-called “fast fashion” leaves a pollution footprint, with each step of the clothing life cycle generating potential environmental and occupational hazards.

According to Technical Textile Markets, a quarterly trade publication, demand for man-made fibers such as petroleum-derived polyester has nearly doubled in the last 15 years. “The manufacture of polyester and other synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil,” reports Claudio. In addition, she says, the processes emit volatile organic compounds and solvents, particulate matter, acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, and other production by-products into the air and water.

“Issues of environmental health and safety do not apply only to the production of man-made fabrics,” says Claudio, citing subsidies to the pesticide-laden cotton industry that keep prices low and production high.

In an effort to green up the industry, Earth Pledge launched its FutureFashion initiative in 2005 to promote the use of renewable, reusable and non-polluting materials and production methods. Besides putting on its own FutureFashion showcases, the group organized the January 2008 New York Fashion Week, encouraging designers to create and showcase greener clothing on their runway models. Green-leaning designers can also pick through Earth Pledge’s library of 600 sustainably produced textiles, including organic cotton as well as exotic materials such as sasawashi, pina, bamboo, milk protein, and sea leather.

Another effort underway to speed the fashion industry into a carbon-constrained future is the Ethical Fashion Forum, which provides a variety of tools and resources and runs training sessions and networking events to help facilitate moving the industry towards more sustainable practices.

One stumbling block to the greening of fashion is that only a small number of consumers—some analysts say less than one percent—will pay more for a greener shirt. But if the industry itself can improve its footprint from the inside and drive the costs of more eco-friendly materials and processes down, the benefits will trickle down to consumers, whether they are bargain-conscious or fashion-conscious.

CONTACTS: Environmental Health Perspectives, www.ehponline.org; Earth Pledge, www.earthpledge.org; Ethical Fashion Forum, www.ethicalfashionforum.com.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk® is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook. EarthTalk® From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: It has been said that global warming will bring a new ice age. Is this true or only fiction? — Nitisha Jain, Delhi, India

While no one can be sure what and how severe the effects of global warming will be, it is entirely possible that one outcome of our profligate use of fossil fuels could be an ice age. The theory goes that a warming-induced influx of cold, fresh water into the North Atlantic from melting polar ice caps and glaciers could shut down the Gulf Stream, an underwater channel of warm ocean water that winds its way north from the Caribbean and moderates temperatures in the northeastern U.S. and Western Europe.

The result, some scientists speculate, would be a return to ice age conditions. In the extreme, glaciers and freezing temperatures would render large swaths of the civilized world uninhabitable and would kill off untold numbers of species unable to move or adapt. A less dire version would still cause bitterly cold winters, droughts, worldwide desertification and crop failures, and trigger resource wars across the globe.

Of course, over the history of geological time the planet has endured vast shifts in temperature and many ice ages and subsequent warm-ups. The last major ice age peaked about 20,000 years ago, when extensive ice sheets covered large parts of what we now call North America, Europe and Asia. Many climate scientists believe the planet oscillates between warmer and colder periods without human intervention due to various factors related to its orbital path and also variations in heat output from the Sun on a millennial scale—and that we are naturally heading toward another ice age, regardless of greenhouse gas emissions, over the next several dozen millennia.

But others believe those very emissions might just save us from the freezing throes of another ice age. In a study published in the September 4, 2009 issue of the Science magazine, researchers report that human-induced climate change is quite possibly fending off what had been presumed to be an inevitable descent into a new ice age based on data collected across various Arctic regions in recent years.

The study found that after a slow cooling of less than half a degree Fahrenheit per millennium as a result of a cyclical change in the orientation of the North Pole and the Sun, the Arctic warmed by some 2.2 degrees just since 1900, with the decade from 1998 to 2008 the warmest in 2,000 years. Without human intervention, researchers would expect summer temperatures in the Arctic to cool for another 4,000 years or so as the North Pole gets further from the Sun, but in fact, researchers believe, global warming is reversing this trend.

“The slow cooling trend is trivial compared to the warming that’s been happening and that’s in the pipeline,” reports the study’s lead author Darrell S. Kaufman of the University of Arizona. Of course, only time will tell whether our relatively short-term flood of pollutants will have a pronounced long-term effect on the planet’s geological-scale warming/cooling dynamic. In the meantime, most responsible individuals and governments are working to lower their carbon footprints to try to take man back out of the climate equation once and for all. Hopefully our grandkids’ grandkids will be around to thank us.

CONTACT: Science Magazine, www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/325/5945/1236.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk® is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook.

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