Guest blog by Alethea Jacob on March 13, 2003

You stand in the center of your own universe.

You are the love in the heart of your creation.

Give voice to the song in your soul longing for expression.

You are the messenger unfolding the message.

A truth ever known yet joyfully forgotten to delight you with discovery as you travel on.

You are blessed and holy despite any appearance of the profane. 
Refining your purity and power, your innocence and peace is a gift of revelation.

The Earth is your home and you are her home. 
For she would have no being without the song of creation you collectively sing.

Heaven On Earth

Guest blog by Dr. Adrian Calabrese
Author of How to Get Everything You Ever Wanted: Complete Guide to Using Your Psychic Common Sense 
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

When someone dies we realize how short life is. You know I'll never forget something I saw on television many years ago. The actor, John Travolta, had been in love with a women who was many years his senior, an actress, named Diana Hyland. She had a terminal disease and passed away. He was quite young at the time and was devastated by her death. Later that year she won an Emmy award. John accepted that award and I will never forget what he said that night. He said, "I realized something when Diana died. Death is right here," and pointed to his left shoulder. He said, "Death is right here, learning right over our shoulder." It impressed me that there was a man who would live the rest of his life cherishing each day, because he had a personal tragedy to remind him of how wonderful life is. What about the rest of us? 
Are you living each day as if it were your last? Think about that. We have to. We have to put all sadness aside and we have to live, and live and live. We have to not let hardships in this life, the ups and down's, take away the joy. We don't know how long we're going to be here. I'm not saying that to be morbid. I think we have to realize that there are things on the planet that make us happy now. We can enjoy them everyday, and not put them off. Don't be one of those people who says, "When I have enough money ..." or Next week, after I finish such and such I'll do something for myself." Do what makes you happy now, not only for yourself but for others.

Treat people as kindly as you can. I want to leave a legacy of love behind me, and I think you do, too. If you treat people with love and kindness each day it doesn't matter what the fates have in store for you because you're leaving your legacy of love to them, but, if you live each day in sadness dreading the morning, you're not leaving a legacy of love behind. You are leaving a legacy of sadness and depression.

I think we have to learn to value each moment on this earth. We have to live as though today were the last day of our lives, with joy, love and happiness. If your attitude is pleasant, or at least you try to be happy and joyful each day you'll begin to see life in a different way. You will truly be living the spiritual life. We all know people who carry negativity around with them. They have an energy about them that is heavy and dark. These folks don't have one nice thing to say. They have a critical comment about everything and everybody, and we don't want to be around them. These are people who are not leaving a legacy of love and they are not living a spiritual life. If they were to leave the planet tomorrow how many tears would be shed? The point is what are you leaving? What is your gift?

Death is really nothing to fear. It's bliss over there, that's why they call it Heaven. It's better there. When people cross over, they're in a better place. It's a happy state, not a sad one. The people that we love who are on the other side live in happiness eternally. We're the ones who live with the possibility of darkness and sadness. I'm suggesting something to you today. I'm suggesting that you create bliss. I'm suggesting that you create Heaven on Earth because you can have it. Many people see death as a solution to their problems and their agony. It's not. Death is a reward for your sticking it out here and paying your dues. That's what death really is. Its a compensation for having stuck it out, having struggled and having made it. When you die you go to bliss because you deserve it. It's not an escape, it's a gift. You stayed, you learned your lessons and you did all you could. If you create a happy life you'll carry that joy with you to the other side. If you created a life full of distrust, greed, negativity and sadness that's what you will carry to the other side.

Live each day as though it was your last. See each new day as your first. Make it a good one. Get up in the morning and don't say, "Oh I've got to go through one of these again." Instead, get up in the morning and say, "Thank you God, for giving me another one of these beautiful mornings. What can I do today tot make it worth living?" Do one thing each day to make your life joyful whether it's paying someone a compliment, doing a favor for someone else, or bringing artistic beauty into your life. All you need to do is gaze at the sunset, or the moon, or the river, or a flower. Bring one into your home. That's all you have to do to make your day worthwhile. Live each day grateful to God for the valuable gift of life. Don't yearn for things. You have everything you need right now. Don't long for the future. Instead, make today count. Create heaven on earth.

The Price Isn't Right!

Guest blog by Arianna Huffington
Author of On Becoming Fearless.... in Love, Work, and Life

With so much internal and external pressure to be beautiful, it's no wonder women go to such absurd lengths to achieve the goal of perfection. Fear that we will not measure up leads to stifling conformity as we try to squeeze ourselves into the mold.

Conformity is not the only cost of our obsession with our bodies, however. There are psychological and financial price tags as well, not to mention the toll on our physical health.

More than half of American women have gone on a diet at some point in their lives. That's probably because the three-quarters of women who are of normal weight consider themselves heavy. And then there's the financial cost: We spend some $33 billion a year (yes, billion) on diet books, diet foods, diet programs, and diet accessories.

Worse, disturbing numbers of women -- vastly more than ever -- are basically starving themselves. National Institute of Mental Health statistics show that over 3 percent of women suffer from bulimia and over 4 percent from anorexia. This trend takes the fear of fat to a fatal extreme.

If we can't starve our way to beauty, many of us turn to costly medical interventions. In 2005 alone, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 10 million cosmetic surgery procedures -- including liposuction, "nose jobs," breast implants, eyelid surgery, and "tummy tucks" -- were performed in this country. That's more than a 10 percent increase from the previous year. And those numbers don't even include the close to 9 million relatively minor procedures, such as face-freezing Botox injections.

An especially ugly truth is that women are going under the knife at a younger and younger age. Thousands of teenagers are getting breast implants, even taking out loans if they can't afford them. According to a Texas A&M study reported by Richard Conniff in The Natural History of the Rich: "It is customary for upper-class parents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to give their daughters breast implant surgery as a high school graduation gift. It is explicitly recognized by both parents and daughters that the young women will get more dates and be more popular in college if they have larger breasts. As one student put it: 'Among the wealthier families, the boys get hot cars for graduation, and the girls get big breasts.'"

And if changing our bodies isn't enough, we're resorting in larger and larger numbers to changing our brains, with mood-altering drugs. A 2004 Centers for Disease Control study found that one in ten women take antidepressants such as Prozac. The National Sleep Foundation (yes, there is one) found that 63 percent of women experience symptoms of insomnia several nights a week. And one health care company reported that in 2004, 58 percent more women than men took prescription drugs to sleep. Sure, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to take these medications, but can anyone doubt that part of the reason for their popularity is that women need a way to shut down and get some respite from our constant fears and anxieties?

On Becoming Fearless About How We Look

The first step to becoming fearless about our physical appearance is knowing that our fears of inadequacy are manufactured and mass-marketed. The fear-generating messages of perfection we measure ourselves against come not from Moses on the mountaintop but from the multibillion-dollar cosmetics and fashion industries whose profits are directly tied to our levels of insecurity.

As Jean Kilbourne writes in Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel, the reason so much is spent on market research and advertising is because it works. Marketers know that if they team up with the multibillion-dollar entertainment industry, they can not only sell us fantasies but also then sell us the products we think will help us realize them.

That's only half the story, however. We are, after all, the ones perpetuating the game of comparisons. The urge to compare, to see how we're doing relative to others, is a part of the human condition. But we can enlarge our perspective to dilute the power of our narrow, self-destructive comparisons. I know this is hard, but if we can't completely stop playing the comparison game, we can at least start changing whom we compare ourselves to. Instead of comparing ourselves to Angelina Jolie, how about comparing ourselves to a victim of Hurricane Katrina, a woman who lost her legs fighting in Iraq, or a woman diagnosed with breast cancer? They're out there, too. When we do this, we are sure to tap into our reserves of empathy and gratitude instead of our endless self-judgments, fears, and jealousies.

It was only when I began observing the critical voices inside me rather than giving in to them that I could start to take control over them. Instead of being drained by the negative self-talk, I found myself amused by it the way you are by a naughty child. We have a choice about what to do with the messages we hear. We may not be able to tune them out entirely, but we don't have to let them run the show.

For example, if the voice is saying something specific, such as "I want to slim down," "I need more exercise," or "It might be fun to get highlights," then fine, go ahead and do it. But if the voice is just mindlessly nit-picking and running us down, we have a responsibility to lower the volume. If we let these voices deplete our energies, they will. Since the comparison game is a game that no one can win, why play in the first place?

Putting our energies into a creative project can help put an end to our obsessions with ourselves. Actress Rosanna Arquette confessed to "stressing" about having a "chicken neck" as she approached forty. But the obsession to look perfect -- all the more intense in her profession -- no longer consumed her after she reached out to others and produced a film called Searching for Debra Winger, about balancing motherhood and art. "It set me on my path to stay positive," she told me, "to connect with other women, my tribe. We have to cut out competition, because we are all on the same path of fearlessness, to be truly who we are, and this is our birthright! It's time we support and love each other in what we want to do in life so we can look at each other and know we are safe. Let's celebrate each other's individuality, blessings -- and cellulite."  Copyright © 2007  

The Pendulum: A Practical Tool for Everyday Living

Imagine being able to hold a pendulum between your thumb and index finger, watch it swing clockwise, counter clockwise, or straight back and forth to give you a yes or no answer. Imagine being able to get information from a readily available but generally untapped source. The pendulum, a tool for investigating energy, is not widely included in scientific studies, yet it can definitely be used for self-diagnosis and research.

Radiesthesia, also known as dowsing, is an ancient practice, which today attracts both holistic practitioners and lay people alike. It is most renowned for detecting underground water, for which about 80% accuracy has been demonstrated. Use of dowsing instruments, including pendulums, has also proven effective in locating oil mineral deposits, missing persons and objects and, as suggested above, in obtaining health related information.

The Egyptians, Hebrews, Incas, Chinese, Greeks, Roman, Druids, and Polynesians used "divining" devices of various kinds. Chinese use of such devices dates back to 2200 B.C. as far back as 9000 B.C. in Peru, a rock carving depicting a man with a forked rod was found. Today, we are taking a new look at ancient occult wisdom. Organizations dedicated to dowsing are found today throughout Europe, Africa, Israel, the Middle East, and New Zealand. The American Society of Dowsers, founded in 1958, is headquartered in Danville, Vermont and holds yearly conventions attended by national as well as international participants.

Why Use a Pendulum?

A pendulum is a practical tool for investigating and dealing with health-related concerns, matters of the heart, and other personal issues. A special feature is that it is small enough to be carried in one's pocket or purse.

The pendulum can help you discover what food allergies or intolerances you have as well as which foods your body needs, which vitamins or mineral supplements are necessary, and how much and how often you should take them. The pendulum will let you know which colors stimulate or relax you, which profession is most suited to you, which exercises are best, and how strong your self-esteem and emotional balance are. There is no end to the type of questions you may ask and the more creative you become, the more information you will gain. Wouldn't you like to ask about a car you are thinking of buying? An investment you are considering? The value of a book you want to read? The interest level of a lecture or enjoyment of a musical event beforehand? The possibilities are limitless.

How Does the Pendulum work?

There are many theories about this. Perhaps the most popular is that all substances radiate electrical waves which, through practice, become especially concentrated in the body. Since these electrical field contains both positive and negative charges, our bodies function as supersensitive receiving sets, and the concentrated energy causes the pendulum to move.

Using Your Pendulum

The pendulum may be made of any number of materials, usually pointed at the end and suspended by a thread, string, or chain approximately 4 to 12 inches long. The pendulum itself may be of any comfortable size or may weight as little as one eighth of an ounce. It may be used with various charts as an indicator of information or it can be held directly over the body to locate weakness or disease.

You will need to train your pendulum to work for you. First hold it over your right leg just above the knee. Now ask the pendulum to move clockwise for an affirmative/yes sign; then hold it in the same manner over your left leg and ask it to move counterclockwise for a negative/no sign. For the left-handers these signs are sometimes reversed. When you have completed this step successfully, you are ready to hold the over foods and charts and ask it questions about yourself and others (this is where the table or guide is useful). When holding it over foods, remember that it will usually gyrate clockwise if the food is beneficial and counterclockwise if it is not.

It's best not to let anyone else use your pendulum. In time it will become accustomed to your own particular energy and should not be confused by anyone else's vibrations or electrical field. Competent use comes with practice, so be patient. Do not use the pendulum when you are tired, ill, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs as the reading may not be accurate.

While the pendulum is used for a variety of purposes, it is not infallible and should never replace common sense. It is merely a tool for evaluation. Understand that the pendulum is one way of tapping areas of the brain with which we are often out of touch. Make your questions as clear and explicit as possible. Word them carefully. If you wish to ask if it is raining now, for instance, indicate the local: the pendulum isn't a mind reader and may not know that you mean in your neighborhood. Similarly, state what period of time you want to know about (now, at 7 pm, tomorrow?). State who the dowsing is for. Always be specific, clear, and as objective as possible. 

We all need to lovingly be our own special support system and to be in a mental and/or spiritual place uncluttered by negativity of any sort. A pendulum can be an important resource to incorporate into your daily life. All you need is a pendulum and the patience to practice a few minutes each day. The results can be very rewarding.

Teaching Customer Service Reps: The Art of Listening

Guest blog by Adrian Miller

Effective listening is perhaps the most valuable skill you can teach your Customer Service team. It is the linchpin in a needs-based, consultative service strategy that determines and delivers what the customer needs and wants.

Simply put, listening enables reps to draw customers into an interactive conversation in which they can ask perceptive questions, probe for reactions, and respond to those reactions appropriately.

But most people aren't natural listeners, let alone trained in the art of listening. That's probable because real listening involves letting go of ego---temporarily subjugating one's own agenda in the interest of understanding another's message. The fact is, however, that most of us either don't hear the message at all, or hear it but misinterpret its meaning.

Listening can be especially, and understandably, difficult for Customer Service Reps because they are under pressure to handle a volume of calls, and therefore are concentrating on what they have to say next instead of paying close attention to what the customer is actually communicating. Nevertheless, there are techniques you can teach reps to use that will demonstrate real interest in the customer--an excellent way to establish rapport and a powerful form of communication.

Tips and Tactics

Listening involves several steps: hearing what is said; interpreting what it really means; and responding in a positive way that shows that the message has been understood and is considered important. There is virtually no better way to create a favorable impression than by showing others that you are interested in and value their opinions. Moreover, it is sometimes the only way you can elicit attitudes and discover needs--information that is crucial to satisfying the customer.

Here are some simple tactics for effective listening:

? Tune out distractions and focus on each call as if it were the most important of the day

? Concentrate on what the customer is saying rather than thinking about what YOU want to say

? Don't interrupt; a customer's willingness to talk, within a reasonable time period, represents a golden opportunity to find out the problem / situation

? Don't jump to conclusions

? Become attuned to tone of voice and inflection; these can be as telling as the words themselves

? Occasionally repeat what the customer has said--it shows attention and comprehension

? Ask for clarification if a statement or objection is vague

? Create rapport by smiling (even in telephone sales a smile can be HEARD through the phone!)

? Take notes to be sure you remember the customer's key points

? Be familiar with common questions and problems and practice responding in a natural, conversational manner

? Control your emotions and be courteous, no matter how rude the customer might be

? Continually evaluate whether you are asking the right questions to uncover and solve the problem

Other Management Tools

Managers who provide reps with good training and thorough preparation on how to provide excellent customer care will give reps the confidence to be extemporaneous--to listen and respond--without losing sight of the ultimate goal; to satisfy the customer you. Teaching by example is, of course, a great way to make a point. Managers who listen to employee needs and encourage listening in staff meetings and informal group situations will help reinforce the value of this important skill. 

Finally, keep in mind as you train your reps in the art of listening that the process requires not only strict attention to what is being said, but its nuances and innuendoes. The exceptional listener is one who has learned how to use intuition to sift through the verbiage, find the salient nuggets, and turn them to advantage.

What goes around comes around. Respect rights of others, especially your parents. Your children will learn from your good example and if you are lucky, they will not throw out your precious "junk" behind your back when you are old. 

Demystifying Prospecting

Guest blog by Adrian Miller
Author of The Blatant Truth: 50 Ways to Sales Success
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Prospecting for new business does not have to be a daunting experience. By following these simple "rules", success should be yours. But, no shortcuts. If you want to succeed, be honest with yourself, and follow these techniques closely.

And remember: "Victory belongs to the most persevering"   Napoleon Bonaparte

· The voice mail message that you leave on a cold call MUST include a BENEFITS STATEMENT. That means you must answer the age-old question that every prospect asks themselves when they hear a pitch..."what's in it for me!" If you do that, you'll increase your percentage of returned calls.

· You must speak SLOW enough for the prospect to ACCURATELY record your name and telephone number. The best way to do this....write down the number yourself when reciting it. If you can record it, so can the prospect.

· Yup...we all know the adage....features tell, benefits sell. Then how come so many of us still speak in terms of features and not benefits. The prospect doesn't care what your product or service does, they only care about what it does FOR THEM.

· Not everyone responds to the same benefit. Make certain that you open your sales presentation with a "general" benefit that appeals to all, or most, prospects. Then, probe for your prospect's "hot button."

· Don't expect prospects to listen to a monologue. After the opening benefits statement, "engage" the prospect with a question.

· The best questions to ask are open-ended. Closed-ended probes get a "yes," "no" response, or maybe a number. Open-ended probes encourage description, feelings and dialogue.

· Do not ask more than 2 questions in a row. If you do, you'll sound as if you are conducting an interrogation. Prioritize your probes carefully. You never know when the prospect is going to interrupt and stop you in your tracks.

· Try to overcome objections BEFORE they are raised. Proactively address prospects' points of concern and resistance. Don't back off from objections. While they are not the most pleasant part of the dialogue, they provide you with the opportunity to re-sell.

· The worst objection is the one that is unspoken.

· A request for literature is not a dead end. Do not automatically assume the prospect is a deadbeat. Agree with the prospect that you will send them literature. Tell them that in order to make certain you send the information that is most relevant to their needs, you need to ask some questions. Make certain that the questions will allow you to re-sell and close again. Ask the prospect exactly what they are looking to see in the brochure / literature. Perhaps you can tell / explain it right then.

· All prospects that request literature should get a return phone call. Probe and find the best time / day to callback. Send out literature within 24 hours. Better yet, ask if you can fax the literature.

· You won't make a sale, or get an appointment, unless you ask for it. Closing rids the prospect of uncertainty. Closing is a call to action. You have to close more than once on each call. Be prepared. 

Make prospecting a commitment that can't be broken. Commit to a specific number of hours per week. Schedule the time (no cheating!)

Remember, in life you miss 100% of the shots you never take (thank you, Wayne Gretzky). The best time to start…NOW! 

Is Your Marriage Ripe for an Affair?" Five Surprising Warning Signs What drives peoples to infidelity may surprise you. Selfless devotion is at the top of the list.

Guest blog by Arleahand Morrie Shechtman

Quick, answer this question with the first thing that comes to mind: If you were worried that your spouse might stray, what would you do to prevent it? Maybe your knee-jerk response is: "I'd lose 20 pounds and upgrade my wardrobe." Or, "I would shower my spouse with expensive gifts." Or, "I would be extra attentive to my spouse so she would realize how good she has it." If your answer resembled any of those above, bad news: You're on the wrong track. You've bought into a common misconception about what causes affairs in the first place. 

Most people assume that people have affairs with someone more attractive, sexier, or richer than their spouse. Despite the clichés-the mid-life crisis situation where the husband runs off with his much younger secretary, for instance-that's not what infidelity is about. People who cheat generally choose someone busier and more goal-oriented than their current partner. Someone more interesting, in other words.

That's right. The harsh truth is that when one spouse strays, it's probably because the other spouse has become, well . . . boring. So your focus on your appearance or your desperate attempts to please your partner completely miss the point. 

Here are a few warning signs that your marriage may be ripe for an affair:

1. You don't challenge each other. Unconditional acceptance is a myth. Healthy marriages require a mutual willingness to challenge and be challenged. An "Oh, I'll let the little woman do whatever makes her happy" attitude is condescending and harmful. If your partner lounges around in her bathrobe watching TV every day and you say nothing, then you're not invested in her well-being. Maybe she's depressed. Maybe she's sick. Maybe she's succumbing to laziness. Regardless, the message that she gets loud and clear from your silence is that you don't care. Not only do you have the right to make reasonable demands on your partner, you have the obligation to do so.

2. You and your partner have become an amoeba. Getting married does not mean morphing into a single person with the same interests, hobbies, and friends. If you and your spouse do everything together, something's wrong. If your partner is not allowed to have a life of her own, she will eventually become resentful. Similarly, if you're over-interested in her life, wanting to know or be involved in every detail, she will feel intruded upon and smothered. True intimacy requires two people having independent lives, not two people living through each other. The best marriages are low-maintenance marriages.

3. One person selflessly lives for the other. Shechtman likes to tell the story of Bernard, a heart surgeon, and Stacy, the wife who selflessly devoted herself to him. She supported him through medical school. She stayed home and raised his kids. She prepared gourmet meals for him, often complete with heart-shaped ice cubes. And one day Bernard left Stacy for a disheveled photojournalist, two years his senior, who chastised him for stealing a cab she'd just hailed. Why? Because the photojournalist was interesting. Selfless devotion is boring. Bernard could have hired a housekeeper and a caterer. Gratitude for services rendered is no replacement for a stimulating partner. And by failing to cultivate a life of her own, Stacy deprived Bernard of that.

4. Everything centers on your children. It's easy to succumb to the temptation to make your kids the center of the universe. Don't. For too many parents, running kids to and from soccer practice, dance lessons, and weekend parties becomes an insidious dance of intimacy avoidance. When you are reduced to being little more than an appointment secretary or a taxicab for your children, there's precious little time to develop an identity, a life, of your own. Remember, children are temporary. One day they will grow up and leave and your marriage will still be there. More to the point, you'll still be there. So devote at least as much energy to your personal growth as you do to the social life of your kids. 

5. You don't have meaningful conversations with your spouse. Does the question, "How was your day?" unleash a monologue, a laundry list of activities, or a cacophony of complaints from you or your partner? If so, you're missing the point of communication. Quality communication is the heart of intimacy. (And you thought it was sex!) If you're confused about what constitutes a high-intimacy dialogue, here's a clue: It centers on feelings, not information. Instead of merely reporting to your partner what happened to you that day, tell her how it made you feel. Even if you have only ten minutes a day to talk to her, make those ten minutes count.

Interestingly, most of these warning signs are variations on a common theme: abandonment. If you don't care enough to become an interesting partner, if you don't challenge your spouse to "be all he can be," if you fail to connect with your partner emotionally, you might as well be a disinterested roommate. Abandoning your spouse is the first step to checking out of the relationship.

So what can you do to affair-proof your marriage? The answer can be summed up in three little words: Get a life. 

Set goals and work toward them. Immerse yourself in a career or activity that interests you. Don't just hop from one random activity to another. Have a vision of what you want your life to be and do something every day in pursuit of that vision. Take some risks. And challenge your spouse to do the same. Even if it causes some temporary discomfort, remember that a healthy marriage isn't about comfort zones and status quos. If you settle for comfort, your marriage will die.

There's one other point I would make. Create a rich, rewarding life for yourself and if your spouse did have an affair and ultimately leave you, you would be well-equipped to cope. Interesting people just have more resources, be they money, social connections, or potential new romantic partners. There are no guarantees in marriage. The only person you can count on to always be there is you. Being abandoned by a spouse is far preferable to abandoning yourself. 

FENG SHUI FOR LOVE: 9 Decorating Mistakes That Could Be Preventing Cupid From Coming To Your Home

Guest blog by Laura Forbes Carlin and Alison Forbes Sow

Wondering when Cupid is going to find his way to you?  Assess your situation and figure out what is detouring Cupid from visiting your home. Maybe your home is too cluttered with mementos of past loves and he can’t get in. Or perhaps you're sending him the wrong message by decorating for one! But by simply pulling out your iPhone and making some quick adjustments, you can have an enormous impact on whether or not Cupid strikes on that special date.

Feng Shui, an ancient Chinese approach to arranging our surroundings, shows us how our homes influence and shape all aspects of our life. In Feng Shui, there are nine areas of your life, including your love life, that are represented energetically in your home. Depending on what furniture and accessories you have in each spot, you could be helping or hurting the corresponding part of your life. So if your love area is where the bathroom is, it’s no wonder your relationships keep going down the drain! 

Ex-Files: Avoid filling your home with pictures, letters, and belongings from an ex. Letting go of photographs, letters, and mementos from past relationships can present a challenge. Sometimes spending time with intimate memories from your past can be a healing and empowering experience. However, if looking at these photographs and letters is not helping, or if they are keeping you tied to someone who is no longer in your life, then it’s time to let them go. Instead, surround yourself with things that reinforce who you are now and where you're headed.

Home For One: Many singles often have a bedroom set up for one person (i.e., one bedside table, one reading lamp, one pillow) or the long side of the bed is pushed up against a wall so only one person can enter the bed comfortably. While it is important to accept and embrace where you are now, it is also necessary to make some space for a partner. Create a room for two people — both symbolically and physically make space for your future partner. Set up your bedroom for two by adding the extra bedside table and lamp. Check the other rooms in your home as well. Is there a comfortable place for two to hang out? 

Immature Decorating: Rooms that look they are designed for girls and boys rather than men and women are a real turn-off. If you are a man, avoid the “college frat room look” or the “bachelor pad” (i.e. mattress on the floor, futons, shot glass collections, high school trophies, dirty dishes in the sink, clutter everywhere, etc.) If you are a woman, avoid a room or apartment that resembles your childhood room (i.e. doll collections, stuffed animals on the bed, too much lace or pink, sorority signs, baskets of dried flowers, furniture that looks like it is meant for teenagers not adults).

Solitary Items or Groupings of Three: Create a home that re-enforces the idea of togetherness and a couple by pairing objects in your home together. Lots of lone objects can represent loneliness and groups of three may represent one too many people involved in your relationship.

Excessive Pictures: An abundance of photos showing friends, family, and other people’s children, as well as too many pictures from one particular time in the past (such as college), can divert focus away from your own life and the present moment. Create space for new people in your life and a new “best time of your life” by creating room for new photos.

Unfinished or Temporary-looking Homes: Many people hold off on decorating or buying a home until they're married or living with someone. They don’t buy expensive or nice things because they want to wait until they have a “real” home (which, of course, is frequently associated with getting married, registering for gifts, and buying a house). By surrounding yourself with things you don’t love, are not in good condition, or that you feel are second-rate, you’re subconsciously telling yourself that you don’t deserve better. It’s important to invest in yourself now and embrace the present moment. By doing so you are sending a message to the universe, as well as yourself, that you are worthy. You are also accepting where you are now, which often leads to change.

A Television in the Bedroom: Ideally, the bedroom should serve only two purposes: rest and romance. Yet, because of laptops, televisions, and phones, bedrooms are often more like media rooms than sensual and peaceful retreats. Don’t let a television replace a partner in your life.

By implementing Feng Shui and enhancing these areas in your home, the corresponding area in your life will be enhanced as well. “A lot of people don’t believe it until they try it for themselves,” said Alison Forbes, one of the co-authors of the app. “Once you see your home through the eyes of Feng Shui, it changes everything, and it works! A few of our clients have even toasted Feng Shui at their weddings!” 

While Feng Shui in the past has meant hiring a consultant or doing a lot of in-depth reading, using Feng Shui For Love is as simple as moving your iPhone around a space — it shows you, live, which areas of the room are which – and the rest of the app gives you the perfect enhancements to make Cupid want to take up permanent residence in your home.

More information on the app is available at:!

Making Healthy Restaurant Choices

Guest blog by Editors of Prevention Magazine with Ann Fittante, MS, RD

At a popular pizza chain, the personal pan pizza with sausage packs 740 calories and 39 grams of fat. And at one major fast-food joint, a triple cheeseburger with everything has 810 calories and 47 grams of fat -- two meals' worth of calories and more fat than most of us should scarf down in an entire day. 

The bright spots in this grease-spattered scenario? First, you. Your power as a restaurant patron lies in your order. The waiter, cook, and manager want you to leave happy -- just tell them what you want. Second, more and more fast-food spots, casual dining eateries, and even upscale restaurants offer healthier alternatives on their regular menus. 

We believe that a meal away from home should be delicious and enjoyable -- there's no need to order dry chicken breast, have only a glass of water . . . and sulk. The trick? A little preparation so that you can outwit the menu, sidestep temptation, withstand the siren song of enormous portions, and leave the table happy. 

Have it Your Way

Eating out is, in a sense, eating blind. You don't usually have access to nutrition labels, so you don't realize how the cheese, butter, oil, sugar, and oversize portions are adding up. (That focaccia club sandwich? It packs 1,222 calories and 65 grams of fat!) The veggies may arrive dripping with butter and cream. The bread's heavenly, but it's white. That salad that seemed so healthy may have more calories and fat than a cheeseburger, thanks to fried chicken strips and an ocean of dressing. 

And then there are the portions. When a pair of New York University nutrition experts weighed and measured the everyday foods served up in Manhattan's delis, bakeries, and sit-down restaurants, their results were amazing: Compared with government-recommended portion sizes, pasta servings were five times heftier, cookies were seven times larger, and muffins weighed three times more. Why you might not notice: Portions have slowly, slowly increased in size over the past 30 to 50 years. "What I found was appalling," says study author Lisa Young in her book Portion Teller: Smartsize Your Way to Permanent Weight Loss. "The foods we buy today are often two or three times, even five times, larger than when they were first introduced into the marketplace." 

If you suspect that restaurant eating is a minefield, you're not alone. Even chefs have food issues when faced with a yummy menu -- or the temptations cooking in their own kitchens. (If you were constantly surrounded by chocolate lava cake, fettuccine Alfredo, raisin nut bread, and bacon-wrapped filet mignon, what would you do?) "Having lunch at a restaurant is where I can get into trouble," confesses chef Sara Moulton, host of Cooking Live with Sara Moulton and Sara's Secrets on the Food Network, cookbook author, and executive chef at Gourmet magazine. Who wouldn't find it hard to resist the extras (like foie gras or a six-dessert sampler) that chefs often send to her table? 

Yet Moulton stays slim -- and even dropped a few pounds when she was about to start hosting a live television show several years ago. ("The camera really does add 10 pounds," she says.) Her strategy? Don't let yourself get too hungry, especially before a dinner out. "When you're hungry, your resistance to snack on tempting foods plummets," she says. She does splurge a little on weekly dinner dates with her husband. "Knowing I can have some cheese on Friday night helps keep me disciplined the rest of the week," she says. At lunch, Moulton sometimes can't resist eating an entire 714-calorie mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwich. And yet, she believes in not letting a diet detour derail her successful efforts to maintain a svelte figure. She gets right back on the horse: "On those days, my dinner is a 300-calorie Lean Cuisine." 

How can you achieve -- and maintain -- a lean silhouette while still enjoying a night out at a bistro? These strategies will help. 

Step 1: Prepare Your Plan of Attack

It's amazing how much trouble you can get in even before your meal arrives. Take a proactive stance against the unhealthful food assault catapulting in from all sides. 

Spoil your appetite. Before you leave for dinner, eat something substantial like a bowl of soup, a piece of leftover chicken, a piece of toast with low-fat cheese and leftover vegetables, yogurt with fruit and nuts, a hard-cooked egg, or apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon. Any healthy minimeal will be lower in calories and fat than an over-the-top restaurant appetizer. 

Know where you're going. Become familiar with the dining guidelines for different kinds of restaurants, and try to picture what you're going to eat before you even walk in the door. Don't let the menu sway you! If you've been to the restaurant before and can resist the temptation, keep the menu closed. Order what you'd like, and let the waiter sort it out. It's your meal -- have it your way. 

Avoid the bread basket. It's one of the leading causes of overeating at restaurants. Send the basket back -- out of sight is out of mind. If that's unthinkable, take one slice of bread to enjoy with your meal. Bread can tack on an additional 500 calories to your meal's total -- not even including the butter or olive oil that usually accompanies it. 

Limit yourself to one alcoholic drink. Alcohol, whether in the form of a cocktail, wine, or beer, can weaken your resolve for exercising thoughtful moderation with your food. Plus, it dehydrates you and offers no nutritional benefit. When you go out, limit yourself to just one drink -- or order a bottle of fancy water instead. 

Because the body will use the alcohol for energy first (followed by carbohydrates, protein, and fat), when you drink and eat, the excess calories are often stored as fat. To keep the pounds from piling on, skip higher-fat entrées (such as duck and filet mignon) in favor of lower-fat fare (including white fish, pork, poultry, and venison) when having wine with dinner. 

Drink water. You've heard this before, but we'll say it again: Drink water before, during, and after every meal, whether you're at a restaurant, at home, or anywhere else. 

Step 2: Place Your Order With Confidence

If you feel intimidated by servers, stop right now. Don't worry that you're holding them up with your questions and requests. Don't feel shy. Running interference between the kitchen and your table is a server's job, and he or she wants to please you. (There's a tip at stake here . . .) 

Be constantly aware of portion sizes. Trust us: You likely won't need an appetizer and an entrée. Some restaurants have been known to serve up to seven times the normal portion for a meal. 

Plan to leave food on your plate -- or request that half of your meal be wrapped before it even comes to the table. Why you want to keep the extra food out of sight: In a Pennsylvania State University study, researchers found that all the volunteers who were given extra food on their plates ate it -- without reporting feeling any fuller afterward. 

Appetizers are generally more realistic portion sizes. Order your favorite as a meal with a side salad, or order two appetizers -- one that is more vegetable-based. 

Ask, ask, ask. Is it fried? What kind of sauce comes with it? What sides are served with each dish? Can I get brown rice instead of white? 

Always request sauces and dressings on the side. You'll realize how little sauce and dressing you really need. 

Don't order something new when you're very hungry. If you do, you'll likely order too much food, overeat, and regret it later. If you're starving, order a standby that you know is good for you. 

Order plenty of vegetables. Get a large mixed salad, or order vegetables sautéed in a bit of olive oil or steamed with sauce on the side (so you can lightly dip them in the sauce). 

Sip some broth. Soup is a good high-volume food that will fill you up. Look for vegetable, broth-based, and bean soups. Avoid cream-based soups and chowders. 

Step 3: Finish With a Flourish 

Don't let down your guard after the server scurries off to the kitchen with your order. You'll still need to exercise some caution when your perfectly ordered meal arrives. 

Stay alert. It's easy to get caught up in an engaging conversation and eat everything on your plate without even thinking about it. After you've finished your allotted amount, have the server wrap up your leftovers. The bonus is that you have tomorrow's lunch (or dinner) already prepared. 

End your meal with refreshing green or herbal tea. Ginger tea can help with digestion, and green tea is good for your overall health. Many restaurants now offer a variety of exotic teas, so treat yourself to some! Some teas are so fruity that they're a perfect replacement for dessert. 

Order a dessert for the table. Three bites of the chef's signature chocolate bread pudding with butterscotch sauce won't hurt -- just make sure someone else will finish the rest. 

Savings is Leverage: Cash is King (Queen)

Guest blog by Dr. Audrey Reed
Author of MoneyToolBox For Women: Simple Solutions For Mastering Your Money
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

At a recent Debt Free Diva Seminar, a participant asked why should I save? With interest rates so low, why should I put my money in the bank?

It is a really good question. What is the advantage of having a savings account, with interest at less than 2% on a good day? 

Savings accounts hold the money that we might normally keep around the house or in a checking account until we decided to buy something with the "you could have saved this" money. Savings accounts will give you the small advantage of interest without the stock market worry. And when you do decide there is another place you want to invest, it is there for plodding along like the tortise, you know the one that won the race.

Going to the bank and setting up a savings account is nurturing. It gives us a lift (almost as good as chocolate or shopping). Saving or investing is like shopping without the bags to carry home. I love to go to the bank and hand over the cash….yes cash, not a check…to nurture me, even if I have a check that could be put right into the savings account I will stand in line twice for the Yummy feeling I get from the cash rich ritual.

$1. I cash the check
$2. I take it over to one of the desks or a cozy chair.
$3. I count the money, put it in order (1's - 100's) and bless each and every dollar bill,
grateful for the abundance.
$4. I then go back to the teller and put my money into my savings account.
$5. I get the receipt in my book, say thank you with a bright smile and I am good to go……
feeling rich and rewarded.

When you are ready to take your money out of the savings account to invest in other ways, you may be surprised how the money has grown. Then invest in your dreams, but keep some liquid funds available for that rainy day, and may it never come…

A pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure, as my mother said. Yes, I have a mother, too!

This is a habit that lots of affluent people I have interviewed tell me they do. The bank knows who they are, they could be anonymous, they could bank by Internet, but the choose to be recognized as a participant in their money matters. So they show up, act friendly, joke around with the tellers, learn whom the assistant manager and bank manager is, and know them by name and face. 

My friend Rosalee from Austin, Texas says, when I first started to go to the bank and deposit money into my savings account, it was $20 a week. Every week. The bank tellers must have thought it was cute.

Now 30 years later, I have a substantial portfolio, and have developed a great relationship with my bank.  I developed the relationships when there was nothing. Now that there is a substantial portfolio, I am honored to still stand in line, chat with the other customers and tell the teller what a great job they are doing for me. That works! 

How does the savings become leverage?
It is the fuel that allows you to make investments without touching your saved money.
When you have money, you don't necessarily need to give that money to a lender, they will allow you to keep the money in the account or in a Certificate of Deposit (CD) as collateral for the loan or business/personal transaction.

It is like owning a house… is always queen.

Last month, Stella got a line of credit from her bank for $25,0000, for her new business.
She does have $15,000 in her savings account, that the bank had her put into a CD to guarantee the loan. You will notice that she has kept the money and the interest coming into her account. The bank will only take the money and interest if she defaults (does not pay when due) on her line of credit.

Magic! Yes, because we don't normally think like this….. a great way to use OPM (other peoples' money) and keep your own in the bank creating some ROI (return on investment).

Be blessed.

Preventing Online Identity Theft

Guest blog by Angela Hart
Author of Through Angela's Eye 

In what could only be described as a life altering experience, when I discovered that my identity had been stolen and bank account closed, I set out on my own investigation to find out who had done this. When the police told me that homicides took precedence over the fact that hackers had threatened my life, then I decided to become my own advocate and wage war against those terrorizing me through my computer.

The two and a half year investigation, which started in July 2003 and ran through December 2005, codenamed “Operation Firewall” resulted in the arrest of 48 people; 28 of which were from the United States and 20 from overseas. In a book entitled Through Angela’s Eye the Inside Story of Operation Firewall, I chronicle, my ordeal. I reveal the methods I used to expose the identity of the first hacker listing all of the steps I took to get his picture, name, address and phone number. The book also outlines how and why they were doing this. Exposing this information led to all of their arrests. Over 4,000 cases and 64,000 arrests resulted. New laws were also put on the books to prosecute those perpetuating the crimes. My efforts have made it safer for people to make purchases over the internet.

Let’s face it, many shoppers prefer the convenience and ease of ordering goods online from the comforts of their own home and having them delivered right to their doorstep without having to set foot outside. However, such conveniences open new doors for identity thieves. 
In today’s day and age, you can never take too many precautions to prevent and protect yourself from identity theft. By following a few simple rules of thought, you can enjoy this convenience without it costing you your identity.

Credit card companies have many new laws and regulations that were implemented to protect the consumer with online purchases.

1. Always use a credit card and never a debit card. A hacker can drain your bank account and close it which you are not able to reopen. A credit card charge can always be disputed. Most credit card companies will only make you responsible for the first $50.00 in fraudulent purchases. Check with your credit card companies. 

2. Check your credit cards to see if you have identity theft protection on them. 

3. Check with them also to see if they offer online protection. Some companies will assign you a bogus credit card number that you can use for purchases that is only good for one day. 

4. Shop at reputable online merchants. This includes Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, or any other trusted household names. If you are shopping online at small companies that may not be as popular, do some research. Sometimes typing in the name of the store and the word complaints or rip off will get you additional information. You can check the Sellers online reputation through such sites as the BBB (Better Business Bureau) or the Attorney General. 

5. Only shop at secure web sites. If it says http:, it is not secure. If it says https:, the S means that it is a secure site. 

6. Make sure the page where you enter your credit card details and other personal information is also secure. When the data is transmitted, it is encrypted when it is sent to the credit card company. The credit card company is the only one who will see your full credit card number, expiration date, name, address, phone, transaction number, and items you purchased. When the receipt is sent to your email, you will only be able to see the date, last four of the credit card number, transaction number, total, and what you purchased. This is the same information that the merchant will also see. Therefore, if you
need to add to your order, you will need to input the data again. If you need a refund, they only need the date, transaction number, amount, and last four digits of the credit card number to process it. 

7. Make sure the website requests a CVV or CID number. The Card Verification Value code is an extra layer of security provided by credit card companies for those who shop online to prevent identity theft. It is usually three or four digits that is located on the back of the card. It acts as a pin number. 

8. Another option, is to have your credit card issuer place an additional password that users have to enter before an online transaction is processed MasterCard calls it Secure Code, while Visa calls it Verified. This service is provided free of charge by the respective issuers. 

9. Never e-mail a credit card number to a company. The e-mail does not encrypt the number. Phishing emails are rampant. They are designed to trick you into providing personal

information including credit card details. Sometimes they will tell you what the last four digits of you card is before asking to verify the full number. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Follow your gut. 

10. If you feel unsure about making a purchase online, call the company. Most merchants can safely place the order over the telephone. 
For more information on this subject, please check:  or 

White Mushrooms and Grilled Ramps on Toast

Guest recipe by Alexandra Guarnaschelli,
Exec. Chef: Butter Restaurant
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog
6-8 servings

4 tbsp. Extra-Virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
2 small cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
¾ pound white mushrooms, stemmed, washed, dried and thinly sliced
12-18 fresh Ramps, washed and trimmed
1 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. dry Marsala
½ cup sour cream
The zest from ½ lemon
1 tbsp. chopped (fresh) parsley
1 tbsp. chopped (fresh) tarragon

Kosher salt and freshly-ground white pepper to taste

Note: this recipe can be served with roasted meats or a piece of fish. In this case, it will be served on little pieces of Rosemary toast.

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp of the olive oil and the diced onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook until tender, 3-5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and lower the heat. Add the thyme and the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are tender and a lot of the liquid has evaporated at the bottom of the pan, 8-10 minutes. Remove and discard the sprigs of thyme.
2. Heat a large sauté pan until it smokes slightly. Coat the ramps with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the ramps to the hot pan and "char" them slightly. Turn the heat off and allow them to cook an additional minute or two until they become tender. Remove from the heat and drizzle with Balsamic vinegar. Turn them onto a flat surface and cut into bite-size pieces.
3. Add the Marsala to the mushrooms and cook until the flavor of the alcohol has mellowed considerably, 5-8 minutes. Add the sour cream and allow it to melt over the mushrooms. Check the seasoning. Add the lemon zest, parsley and tarragon. Taste for seasoning. Bring to a simmer and serve on toast immediately. Top each with the ramps.

Suggestions: This would be delicious with a Gruner Veltliner - Veltlinsky for example. . I love the acidic bite and the slightly carbonated character of this wine. It would nicely compliment the earthy mushrooms and cut through the creamy flavors as well. If in the mood for red, I would love to see this seasonal nibble with something as noble and exciting as Vega Sicilia Valbuena 2000. Wow!

White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream

Guest recipe by Anne Walker, Dabney Gough and Kris Hoogerhyde
Authors of Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones: 90 Recipes for Making Your Own Ice Cream and Frozen Treats from Bi-Rite Creamery

Makes about 1 quart

5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
5 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (11/4 cups)
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup Raspberry Swirl Sauce (page 142)
Make the base
1. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in half of the sugar (2 tablespoons). Set aside. Put the chopped chocolate in another medium heatproof bowl and set that aside as well.
2. In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, stir together the cream, milk, salt, and the remaining sugar (2 tablespoons) and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.
3. Carefully scoop out about 1⁄2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the egg yolks. Repeat, adding another 1⁄2 cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan as you slowly pour the egg-and-cream mixture from the bowl into the pan.
4. Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and holds a clear path when you run your finger across the spatula, 1 to 2 minutes longer. 
5. Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl with the white chocolate and whisk to combine. Set the container into an ice-water bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir the base occasionally until it is cool. Remove the container from the ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the base for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Freeze the ice cream
6. Whisk the vanilla into the chilled base.
7. Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is churning, put the container you’ll use to store the ice cream into the freezer. 
8. As you transfer the ice cream to the storage container, drizzle in some raspberry purée after every few spoonfuls. When all the ice cream is in the container, use a chopstick or butter knife to gently swirl the mixture. Enjoy right away or, for a firmer ice cream, freeze for at least 4 hours.

Raspberry Swirl Sauce
Makes about 1/2 cup | Pictured on page 140

2 half-pint baskets raspberries (2 cups), preferably organic
1/3 cup sugar
1. Combine the raspberries and sugar in a small nonreactive saucepan and put the pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has a jammy consistency, about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium as the mixture thickens to prevent scorching.
2. Remove from the heat and let cool for a minute. Transfer to a blender and purée until smooth, being careful to avoid hot splatters. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much purée as possible. 
If using as a topping, serve warm or at room temperature; chill well before swirling into ice cream. 
“Reprinted with permission from Sweet Cream & Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough, copyright © 2012.  

Tangerine-Marinated Olives/Aceitunas Aliñadas con Mandarina

Guest recipe by Anya von Bremzen
Author of The New Spanish Table

2 cups mixed cracked green olives
6 small garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
2 tablespoons grated tangerine zest
1/2 cup fresh tangerine juice
4 thin lemon slices, cut in half and seeded
3 to 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar, preferably aged
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small bay leaves
1/2 small dried chile, such as arbol, crumbled, or more to taste
1 medium-size pinch of ground cumin

Place the olives, garlic, tangerine zest and juice, lemon, vinegar, olive oil, bay leaves, chile, and cumin in a large glass jar or bowl and stir to mix well. Cover the jar and let the olives marinate overnight at room temperature, tossing occasionally. For a richer flavor, let the olives marinate for up to a week in the refrigerator. Makes about 2 cups

Roasted Squash Soup

Guest recipe by Alexandra Guarnaschelli,
Exec. Chef: Butter Restaurant
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Serves 4-6

4 pounds mixed Winter squash (from Hubbard to Butternut varieties), washed
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
3 tbsp. Molasses
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
ź tsp. ground cloves
2 cups water
2 cups heavy cream
3 cups skim milk
The zest from 1 orange
2 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp, garlic oil
Equipment: Blender or food processor

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Place the squash on a flat surface and split them in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and arrange in a single layer on 1 or 2 baking sheets.
3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter completely over medium heat. Wait until it starts to turn a light brown color. Remove from the heat and immediately distribute the butter into the cavities of the squash halves. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and Molasses as well.
4. Season the insides with salt and pepper. Finish by covering with the ground (dry) ginger, fresh ginger and the ground cloves. Fill the bottom of the tray(s) with the water (should be about 1 inch high) to create steam while the squash bakes in the oven. Cover the tray(s) with aluminum foil and seal the edges tightly.
5. Place the tray(s) in the center of the oven and bake, undisturbed, for 2 hours. To check for doneness, pierce one of the halves with the tip of a small knife. The knife should slide in and out easily. If at all firm, bake the halves and addition 30-45 minutes. Remove from the oven. Carefully peel back the foil. Set aside to cool.
6. In a medium pot, combine the cream and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh from the squash taking care not to take any skin with it. The skin can give a bitter taste to the soup. Add the flesh directly to the cream mixture and stir to blend. Turn the heat on low. Add some of the orange zest, the Worcestershire Sauce and the garlic oil. Stir to blend. Taste for seasoning. If the soup lacks sweetness, add a little Molasses. If it lacks salt, add a little salt or Worcestershire Sauce.
7. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Halibut with Squash Emulsion and Green Asparagus

Guest recipe by Alexandra Guarnaschelli
Exec. Chef: Butter Restaurant
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Serves Four
Four 8-ounce pieces of skinless fresh Halibut (East or West Coast depending on availability)
4 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
1 large Yellow Onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 Shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup Orange Juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
The juice from 3 Lemons
2 small Green Zucchini, washed and thinly sliced
2 small Yellow "Summer" Squash, washed and thinly sliced
2 Granny Smith Apples, washed, cored and thinly sliced (do not peel)
2 tsp. Spanish Saffron threads
2 tsp. ground Cumin
2 tsp. ground Coriander (dried)
1 tsp. ground Ginger (dried)
Kosher salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
2 tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
20 pieces Green "Pencil" Asparagus, lightly blanched for 2 minutes and cooled in an ice bath

1. Make the Squash Emulsion: In a medium pot, add the butter and melt over low heat. Add the onion and the shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 5-8 minutes, or until the onion is tender. 
2. Add the orange juice, lemon juice, zucchini slices and yellow squash slices. With a large metal spoon, stir until all of the vegetables are blended. Cook over low heat for an additional 10 minutes.
3. Add the apple slices, saffron, cumin, coriander and ginger. Stir to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.
4. While the sauce is hot, blend in batches in the blender or food processor until smooth. Taste for seasoning.
5. Cook the fish: Add a tbsp. of the olive oil to a sauté pan over medium heat. 
6. When the oil begins to smoke lightly, season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper.
7. Place the halibut in the pan and cook until light brown on the first side, 2-3 minutes.
8. Using the metal spatula, turn the fish on its second side. Cook to desired temperature, 5-8 minutes.

9. Heat a medium sauté pan and add the remaining olive oil. Lightly sauté the asparagus until warm. Season with salt and pepper.
10. Serve the dish: Pour a round circle of the sauce in the center of each of four dinner plates.
11. Arrange 5 asparagus in the sauce on each plate and the halibut on top.

Wine Pairings:
Pinot Blanc
White Rioja

Coca with Candied Red Peppers/Coca con Pimientos Rojos Caramelizados

Guest recipe by Anya von Bremzen
Author of The New Spanish Table

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the coca
1 medium-size white onion, quartered and thinly sliced
4 cups thinly sliced drained roasted peppers in oil (from four 14- to 16-ounce jars)
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, preferably aged, or best-quality red wine vinegar
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
All-purpose flour, for dusting the rolling pin
1 pound store-bought pizza dough, thawed if frozen
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting the coca

1. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until limp but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the roasted peppers and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring. Add the granulated sugar, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons water and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the liquid is reduced, about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Season with salt to taste and let the pepper mixture cool completely.

2. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly brush a 17- by 11-inch baking sheet with olive oil.

3. Lightly flour a work surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough so it is roughly as large as the baking sheet. Transfer it to the oiled baking sheet and brush it with olive oil. Spread the filling evenly on top.

4. Bake the coca on the center rack until it is light golden and baked through, 18 to 20 minutes. Let the coca cool to warm (or make the coca ahead, which actually adds to its flavor; reheat it gently before serving). Cut the coca into rectangles (I use sturdy kitchen scissors for this), dust it very lightly with confectioners' sugar, and serve at once. Makes 1 large coca; serves 12 as a tapa.

Chocolate-Dipped Almond-Stuffed Figs/Higos Rellenos de Almendras en Chocolate

Guest recipe by Anya von Bremzen
Author of The New Spanish Table

3/4 cup brandy
16 soft plump dried Calimyrna figs
16 lightly toasted blanched almonds, preferably marcona
10 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao), finely chopped or coarsely ground in a food processor
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped

1. Place the brandy in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high power until very hot, 1 minute. Place the figs in a bowl that will hold them snugly. Pour the hot brandy over the figs and let soak for about 30 minutes, stirring several times. Drain the figs thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. (If you'd like, the brandy can be reused in baking or to plump dried fruit.)

2. Using the tip of a small, sharp knife, make a deep incision in the bottom of a fig and push an almond inside. Repeat with the remaining figs and almonds. (Calimyrna dried figs often come tightly pressed together in round packages. If this is the case, once the figs are stuffed, pat and squeeze them lightly between your fingers to restore their round shape.)

3. Place the chocolate in a small stainless-steel mixing bowl set over a pot of simmering water or in the top of a small double boiler (over simmering water) over low heat and stir until it melts completely, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter and stir until the chocolate mixture is glossy, then remove from the heat. The melted chocolate mixture needs to be at least 1 1/2 inches deep to cover the figs. If the level in the mixing bowl or double boiler is too shallow, scrape about half of it into a 1-cup measure, replenishing it as needed.

4. Line a small baking sheet or a large plate with aluminum foil or use a Silpat pan liner, if you have one. Holding a fig by the stem, dip it in the chocolate mixture, turning to coat it completely and letting the excess drip off. If the stem is not long enough to hold, you can skewer the fig on a toothpick. Place the chocolate-dipped fig on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining figs.

5. Refrigerate the figs until the chocolate is completely set, about 2 hours. After an hour, use a thin spatula or knife to gently separate the figs from the aluminum foil or pan liner so they don't stick. Makes 16 figs.

Vocabulary and Its Importance

Guest post by Anne Sawyer


Language is our most-used and best communication tool. We begin using rudimentary words as infants and toddlers to get our needs met, often changing bottle to baba or water to wawa, as we gain linguistic control. As we grow older, it becomes more and more important to be able to articulate clearly what we want to express – whether it be to teach, give directions or instructions, to express emotions, or for gain – to flatter or bargain. Human beings are social animals and we yearn to connect with other humans, to understand them and to be understood.

Why is it important to have a good/strong vocabulary?

We are judged not just on the external cues, such as appearance, age, gender and race, but also by other categories, including education, social position and what we do for a living. The ability to move fluidly between social strata and turn situations to our advantage has a great deal to do with context, and how we speak, because this is one of the crucial ways in which we present ourselves. Just as you wouldn’t choose to wear a wedding gown to a job interview, or a bathing suit to the beach, you would be wise not to speak to your boss in the same ways and language that you use with your four-year-old child. Each situation demands different language choices, and the greater your vocabulary the more choices you have. Just as we want our doctor or our automobile mechanic to answer our questions in “layman’s terms”, there are times when it is necessary to skew ones word choices to the situation at hand.

How can one tell if one’s vocabulary is inadequate?

The New York Times can serve as a good litmus test. If you find that you are reading an article or novel and come across so many unfamiliar words that you lose track of the story, that’s one sign. When I was younger and came across a word that I did not know, rather than looking it up in the dictionary, I would just skip it, thinking that it wasn’t important. Of course that led to my missing important plot points on many occasions.

If, in social situations or at work, you find that you are hesitant to join the conversation because you don’t follow all the words that the people around you are using, or you hesitate because you are afraid of appearing stupid, that’s a sign.

If you find that you use the same words over and over to express yourself, words like “wow”, “yeah”, “awesome” and “like” – and you’re not a 13 year-old, then you may need to bolster your vocabulary.

What if you know words, but are hesitant to use them in conversation?

In a case like that, it would be helpful to look the word up in the dictionary, consult the definition, examples and pronunciation given, and begin to insert the word into conversation. Start with a new word each week or every few days, and don’t use it to impress people, but when the word truly serves to express exactly what you mean. For example, a word that you hear all the time, but probably don’t use often is “ubiquitous” which means omnipresent or “present everywhere” – not like God or oxygen, but as in cellular phones or handheld palm devices. 

What are some tricks to improving vocabulary?

If you really want to improve your vocabulary then you need to become very aware of language. Listen for new words when you are out in the world or when watching television. Write them down when you can and later, look them up in a good dictionary. You can try to infer the meaning of the word from the context in which it is used, or the conversation around it.

Reading is the number one way to improve vocabulary. I recommend fiction – novels and short stories, as well as journalism – major newspapers, magazines that include fiction selections, such as The New Yorker, …. And make note of unfamiliar words so you can look them up.

If the situation is appropriate, such as with a friend or colleague in private conversation, then don’t hesitate to ask the person for the meaning of an unfamiliar word they have used. Even I have developed the ability to just ask – there are so many words in our language, that there’s always a new one just around the corner.

Other ways to improve are to engage in word related activities – such as playing Scrabble, doing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, buying a Word of the Day calendar, subscribing to an online vocabulary booster, reading books of puns and jokes and then telling them to others.