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Color is often used to describe changes in our physical and emotional well-being. A ruddy complexion means you might be burning up

Lady in Red

with fever but it could also mean you are flushed with excitement or anger. If your face goes white you could be about to pass out or experiencing an emotional shock or intense fear. You can be green with envy or just a bit queasy; yellow can mean jaundice or cowardliness. Feeling “in the pink” is good while Holly Golightly’s “the mean reds” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is bad!

Color can also change our physiological and emotional states and that’s the very reason that changing color in our wardrobe or our personal space can give us a much-needed lift, emotionally and physically.  Blue induces a sense of calm and tranquility while orange encourages us to be more social. Need a dash of courage, try wearing red. Teal is a universal color that looks good on everyone. And when we look good we feel good.

So what does color say about you? First, look in your closet. If you notice a preponderance of one color, what does that – let’s call it your color intuition – tell you about yourself? Which colors feel right when you put them on? Is there one color that has been languishing in your closet for months? That’s your color orphan. Give it away!

Next expand your vision to your personal space. How many of your favorite colors, or versions of, have migrated over to and found their way into the most comfortable rooms of your home? This is another sign of color intuition at work.

Not sure you have a color preference or what you might be attracted to? Try this exercise. Visit the home furnishings department of your favorite retail store. Look at the kitchen and bath linens and accessories. These are usually grouped by color. Which color group are you drawn to? Which do you avoid?

Whether you’re a color maven or a newbie let’s take a quick look at what color says about you.

Red – is passionate, dangerous and sexy. It gives off one of two messages: Watch me! or Watch out!

Pink – is all sugar and spice and everything nice. It’s feminine and romantic.

Yellow – is the color of sunshine. Just as sunny days always lift our spirits, a dash of yellow induces cheerfulness and generates warmth and spontaneity.

Orange – is a color that combines the energy of red with the joy and sunny attitude of yellow. Frank Sinatra once called it the happiest color. When you wear orange you can say, “I did it my way.”

Green – is the most restful color for the human eye and is said to have a healing power. It symbolizes growth and freshness and creativity – it’s no wonder most traditional cures come from nature.

Blue – is associated with calm, tranquility and stability. Ever spent time contemplating the ocean or the sky and felt totally at peace? It also symbolizes trust, loyalty, faith and stability. And while it’s typically the favorite color of most men, women like it too. Light blue indicates softness while dark blue represents knowledge and dependability.

Purple – is a magical color. Leonard di Vinci posited that sitting in a purple light enhanced his meditative abilities ten-fold. I suppose that’s why we find a lot of purple in stained glass windows. It’s also a royal color full of wisdom and dignity. If you want to feel like “Queen for a Day” – array yourself  in purple.

Brown –is a masculine color. It’s also a classic neutral, as dependable as your morning cuppa joe. Various shades of brown, from espresso to latte, will give you a sense of stability.

White –symbolizes purity, cleanliness and simplicity. If you’re into classics and perfection – or “nights in white satin” – white is your color.

Black – says style, grace and elegance (and also lops off a few pounds without any effort). It is the color of the quintessential must-have dress for every woman. Want to make an entrance? Wear black with a dash of red, and watch heads turn.

photo: © istockphoto.com/anneleven

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Take a bubbly bath

Whether you’re happily coupled up, looking to be, or in love with yourself Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, so why limit it to one day? /Why not take the week and fall head over heels in love with someone or something. Better yet, share the love. Here are some suggestions:

• Take advantage of after-Valentine’s Day specials – pick up some red roses on the 15th and drop the petals in a bubble bath while sipping pink champagne.

• Express yourself and paint your nails red. Buy little heart decals at the drugstore for the perfect finishing touch.

• Wear your heart on your sleeve and purchase a heart charm for your favorite bracelet or necklace.

• Buy a box of Valentine’s Day cards – the kind you used to buy in school – and give them to strangers like the school crossing guard, the dry cleaner, the cashier at the grocery store, the person next to you on a plane, the receptionist at your doctor’s office. Go ahead – make someone’s day.

• Make a contribution to your local heart and stroke foundation. Heart disease is the leading killer of women.

• Buy something red or pink – a scarf, a hat, or a pin – and make it your signature color for the week.

• Be sweet on yourself and indulge in chocolate truffles or a cupcake from a specialty shop.

• Send a Valentine’s Day card – unsigned – to your secret crush.

• Do a girls’ night in and screen your favorite Rom/Com or try your hand at an old board game like Mystery Date.

• Join an online dating site. You never know.

• Surprise your significant other in the weeks following Valentine’s by doing something different, treat him/her to a massage, a cooking lesson, a golf lesson, or a wine tasting.

photo: © istockphoto.com/pierredesvarre

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I don’t know how she did it, but the amazing Tilda managed to remove the rhinestone! As the descendant of superstitious Italian and Irish grandparents, I wonder if removing the rhinestone will be a self-fulfilling prophecy, which means I might have just lost my good luck. Sometimes just saying something makes it so. However, like most things in life, it all depends on your perspective. So I consider myself lucky she was able to remove it without damaging the dresser.  Now let’s see if some of that luck rubs off in Vegas!

photo: © istockphoto.com/Twoellis

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Like most women I know, I am self-reliant, independent and opinionated. These are three characteristics that scare the heck out of most men my age.

I’m not a rabid feminist. If you must label me at all, call me a pragmatist. When I’m alone I open my own doors, slay my own dragons and gladly make my way in this world on my own terms. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy having a man hold the door open for me, stand when I enter a room, schlep my luggage, make me dinner or tuck me in at night. I do!  And lest the guys out there think it’s all one sided, I reciprocate!

It’s just that if there aren’t any readily available men in the vicinity – well a girl’s gotta do what girl’s gotta do.

Take this most recent trip for example. The last things to go into my suitcase are my accessories, like the colorful costume jewelry I wear to dress up an outfit. As I was packing this week, I noticed that my red rhinestone bracelet was missing a few stones. Luckily, I found the missing stones in the bottom of my jewelry box and got out the Krazy Glue.

As I was in a hurry, I performed the delicate operation on the top of my highboy dresser, standing on tippy toes and using my fingers – which narrowly escaped the fate of Siamese twins by a fraction of a second. I recalled hearing about people who glue their body parts to objects − or other body parts − then have to go to the hospital to get unstuck.

“What kind of crazy idiot does that?” I asked aloud.

I looked at my reflection in the mirror, said, “This crazy idiot.”

One rhinestone fell out of its setting, but I didn’t see it until it was too late. A little red rhinestone was solidly glued to the top of my dresser and nothing I could do would remove it, short of ruining the veneer. I tried nail polish remover and olive oil. Oh, I don’t know!  It was all I could think of at that moment. And with a taxi on its way, time was running out.

Now, I’m certain that a man would have thought of some way of removing the rhinestone without damaging the furniture. He’d figure it out just like the way he assembles barbeques, changes leaky washers in the faucet, sets up new stereo systems fully integrated with the TV, the computer and microwave so that we can watch movies and eat popcorn all at the same time.

I didn’t brood for long because I had a bigger problem: Tilda. What would my Portuguese cleaning lady do when she came later that week? She’d be dusting the dresser, see the rhinestone and try to pick it up. It wouldn’t budge. She’d pull, and push, and prod it as I did without effect. She’d apply cleaners and other concoctions as I did and still nothing.

With more time than I had and dogged determination, she might try more radical means until she perhaps would go too far and ruin the finish. Then, she’d be so overwrought with guilt and remorse for having ruined a cheap veneer finish that she’d probably have a heart attack right on the spot. And not only would I have a rhinestone stuck to my dresser, I would have killed my cleaning lady.

The clock was still ticking. I was sure the taxi had already pulled up to my apartment building.

What to do?

Oh, the pressure. Why hadn’t I performed the delicate jewelry repair with tweezers and at the table where I could see what I was doing?

So I did what any self-reliant, independent and opinionated woman in my position would do: I put a Post-it note next to the rhinestone:

Tilda,

Please do not remove the rhinestone. I put it there for good luck.   Obrigada (Thank you)

Well what else could I write? A Post-it note wasn’t big enough to explain the ridiculousness of the situation in which I now found myself. Besides I knew Tilda to be superstitious like most southern Europeans and all Irishmen.

Next, I phoned a girlfriend because I really wanted to share a laugh even if it was at my expense. Only she didn’t laugh. She took the situation very seriously and came up with the following suggestion, “Cat what a great opportunity. When you come back you go right out and buy some more rhinestones and turn that red rhinestone into a starting point for something beautiful and unique.”

Her unique approach and imaginative answer made me realize that while there are some days I miss having a man around – this wasn’t one of them.

photo: © istockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs

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Anyone who has ever stared down a blank page and blinked first knows how devastating writer’s block can be. I’ve read several articles

on the causes of it, but the best reason I’ve heard to date is actually the simplest to cure – the cause of writer’s block is a lack of fresh ideas, and the best source of new ideas that I know of is travel.

My favorite place to stay in Trieste

You don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth either to be inspired. A jaunt across town to a new neighborhood is just as inspiring as jetting off to Japan, and a lot more economical for those of us on a budget.

Let’s take a look at all of the potential ways local and long distance travel can inspire us.

First and foremost, it’s all about the place. First impressions can be quite powerful when you’re visiting a place for the very first time. For frequent travelers like me, who have been so many places, the challenge is to see a familiar place with fresh eyes. Armed with a seek-and-you-shall-find attitude, I’m always amazed at how many new things I can discover.

The most fascinating thing to write about is people and the cast of characters that make up the place you’re visiting. You can write about their physical appearances, perhaps so very different from your own. You can capture their mannerisms and customs, or you can dig a little deeper and find the commonalities. One of my favorite things to do is recreate conversations with the colloquialisms of unconstrained everyday conversation. It makes us feel like we’re eavesdropping.

Another thing you can do is take us on a tour of some of your favorite places and tell us why they’re your favorites. For example I’m a WWII history buff, and on almost every visit I make to London, I always go to the British War Museum. I become a time traveler. I can feel the sense of urgency, the life and death struggle of nations as the fate of democracy hangs in the balance.

Why not make up stories about your favorite places. I’m often fascinated as I walk the winding back streets and alleyways of old cities like Venice or Barcelona for example. I try to imagine the everyday life of the inhabitants of these ancient dwellings. What happens behind closed shutters, on bougainvillea-covered balconies or in local shops? I look at the laundry hanging on the balconies and try to guess, from the articles of clothing, who lives in that household. What they do for a living?

If it’s a gondolier, does he sing because he is happy? Is it a bank president having an affair with his secretary behind his wife’s back? Or is he madly in love with his wife and rushes home each night to plant a kiss on the back of her neck? Are the children bored with their over stimulated digital lives? Do they still play outdoors? Is a woman sick and dying behind shuttered window? Does she still have a burden of regret weighing heavily on her soul, pinning her to this earth like an insect in one of those shadow boxes. What was the regret and what could she have done differently?

Local culture, cuisine and customs also yield a rich harvest of stories, observations and ideas. Engage all your senses: taste, touch, hear, see and smell what the place and its people have to offer. Participate. Go out of your comfort zone and learn something new, something indigenous to the place. Mush a dog sled in Alaska, dance Flamenco in Barcelona or dive the Great Barrier Reef. Or be a tourist in your own city.

And, finally, never leave the house or hotel without a notepad and pen because Inspiration can strike at any time, curing your writer’s block in an instant.

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In every writer’s life there are two stumbling blocks to overcome. On second thought, make them stone walls to surmount: writer’s bloc and writer’s resistance. Writer’s bloc, as I learned from a Robert McKee Story seminar, occurs when you run out of ideas. Writer’s resistance is a lack of dedication to your craft. Lately, I’ve been suffering from both.

“How is that possible?” you may ask. “She’s been posting content consistently all through December.”

Well, I have a confession to make. I’ve been coasting. Yes, that’s right. For my December postings, I’ve mined content already created for my WOW blog tour back in October and November. Regular readers of just “The Chronicles” may not have noticed this, but crossover readers between it and the WOW tour found at least one familiar post.

This strategy gave me a much-need rest, but now I’ve run out of content just as I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing every night. Of course this would happen just when my blog took a significant uptick in readership and e-mail subscriptions – for which I am amazed and incredibly grateful. In fact, all of this new interest, new subscriptions, increase in comments and “likes” has given me a new sense of purpose. I am now accountable to a new and growing invisible group of friends who drop by the Café regularly to catch up on the latest happenings.

Realizing that I might find it tough sledding in December I also promised my readers a chapter (one with a surprise ending) of my second book by the end of December. Many of you have also been kind enough to ask me about a sequel, and both things have motivated me to sit down and write.

I’m happy to report that although it doesn’t quite have the surprise ending I had in mind, I do have a chapter ready for you to read. It’s a Destination Chapter. Those of you who are familiar with the structure of my book Any Color but Beige will recognize that this chapter picks up the story where my first book leaves off. Where we go from here remains a mystery.

I’m superstitious so I decided to post it the first day of 2012 rather than the last day of 2011: a new chapter equals a renewed sense of purpose.

I’d also like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year. Whatever your projects are this year, may they bring you the satisfaction and joy of doing something you love.

Back Behind the Computer

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The Color Purple

photos: ©iStockphoto.com/photodjo

Color has a profound psychological impact on our lives. It’s used every day to stimulate our senses, excite us, calm us and, yes, induce us to buy products. Each color family has its own set of characteristics that trigger certain responses in us. With that in mind we should tread carefully when adding color to our space, especially our writing space.

There are trend colors, those colors du jour that we fall “in like” with. Be careful here because this relationship is a bit like infatuation. Color fatigue sets in quickly with trend colors. And before your know it, it’s time to move on to something else.

Then there are colors that last a lifetime – those are your favorite colors, the colors your intuition chooses. These are the colors that you feel close to and comfortable with. These are the colors that already appear in your closet and in the most comfortable rooms of your house.

When it comes to choosing color for any room, keep in mind that you don’t have to have an all red or all green room. Sometimes a dash of color is just enough to stimulate your creativity or get you in writing mode.

What follows is my take as a color marketer on color and how it can affect us as writers. Keep in mind that if you’re seriously engaged in the writing process, you’re focused and so you don’t see any color – it’s actually the absence of color, i.e. black type on a white page.

Red is a very stimulating color; it is the color of heat, passion and warning. It’s used a lot in fast food restaurants to move people in and out quickly.  Use a dash of red to jump start your project.

Purple is a mystical color. It promotes healing and meditation. Leonardo da Vinci said that the color purple can increase meditative powers tenfold.  A purple room is good for contemplating plot and structure.

Blue is a very relaxing and calming color. If you’ve put yourself under the pressure of deadlines, then blue is the color for you.

Green is Mother Nature’s favorite color. And just look how creative she is.

Yellow is a high-energy color that stimulates the mental process of thinking and activates memory. If you’re writing a memoir a little yellow will go a long way.

Orange is a color you either love or hate. It’s also a high-energy color and encourages socialization. It might be a good color to use in a room where writers convene to discuss their work.

Whatever color you choose for your writing room it should be a color that enhances and promotes your personal well-being – as you feel it. Color like everything else in a room should disappear after a while as you engross yourself in your story. At that point your story’s own color will jump off of the page.

©iStockphoto.com/RuslanDashinsky

Pick a Color, Any Color

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