Friday, August 21, 2009

The Secret Ingredient For Better Sex

It's summertime, and contrary to the famous song, the living is not entirely easy. The temperatures are oppressive. The humidity is stifling. Our energy bills are soaring. And all of us—whether we want to admit it or not—are sweating, and sweating a lot.

But, despite the desire most of us have to stay cool and dry and at arm's length from other people during the summer, now might be the best time to get it on. All that sweat we're emitting may, in fact, be the hottest ingredient for a sexy encounter. Sweat Together, Stay Together

At least, that's what Yvonne K. Fulbright, the Fox News Sexpert is telling us. As she sees it, sweaty sex:>

—Means more calories and fat are being burned during a vigorous sex session

—Allows for more slithery sex as your bodies slide all over one another

—Makes for a body suctioning effect that enhances feelings of "we're one" during sex

—Offers a new sensation that appeases our desire for variety, like salty kisses How To Kiss Well

—Puts a twist on your routine as it taps into your inner instinct for raw, uninhibited sex

—Can have the two of you resembling the wet sleekness of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, with slicked back hair and shiny skin

—Releases more of our natural scents, particularly those around the groin, which can be an aphrodisiac, even if on a subconscious level

We appreciate Fulbright's enthusiasm for trying to make the most of our late August heat waves. And even though we find some of her points silly (honestly, even with slicked hair and shiny skin, we don't look like Sports Illustrated swimsuit models), some of her points certainly make sense (new sensations, like salty kisses, are always fun).

To her points, we add just a few more. Sweaty sex:

—Allows you to cut down on your cooling bills because the AC will be turned off.

—Gives you a good excuse to change locations, from the bedroom to the beach to the shower.

—Could lead to new toys entering your sex play, like ice cubes and cold bottled water. Toys In Babeland

—Makes you feel like you're doing a good job of pleasing each other; after all you're both steaming and wet.

We know sweaty sex may not be for everyone, but we do think it's worth trying. The worst that could happen is that you might find yourself wanting to wash yourself and the sheets afterwards (which, let's face it, we frequently want to do anyway). And the best is that you could find yourself having a very, very good time.

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Written by Kristen Meinzer for

A Taste of Summer: Quick Strawberry Jam

The first time was on a sunny, Saturday morning, sitting on a green window seat cushioned with tapestry-covered pillows. The restaurant was at the crossroads of two meandering county highways. The floors creaked. I had an omelet filled with pesto and heirloom tomatoes, but it was the strawberry jam that really had me. I spooned it out of the glass jar and spread it thick on my sourdough toast. It was so sweet, a salve to wounds of other disappointments I had that morning, a bright spot in a teary breakfast.



The next time was the following Saturday, and by then I had a taste and was happier. After browsing a used book store, we settled in to little table set next to the wall in a little bistro. The walls were painted a pale yellow the overhead fan were whirring wildly, and I feasted on toasted baguette with strawberry jam. For the cool air on a sticky day and the sweet jam, I was in heaven.

The big surprise here is that I always thought of myself as a bigger fan of the orange preserves: marmalade, apricot, peach. But sometimes just what you need presents itself to you, like discovering a cookbook author with the kind of frank, witty voice that makes you swoon, or a glass pot of strawberry jam, ready to sweeten your morning.

Get more simple recipes at Pink of Perfection>>

Quick Strawberry Jam
makes about 1 1/2 cups
adapted from Everyday Food

1 pound hulled strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a food processor or with a potato masher, process strawberries until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large skillet and stir in sugar and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high, stirring frequently, until jam is thickened and bubbles completely cover surface, 9 to 10 minutes. Transfer jam to a jar and let cool to room temperature. (To store, seal jar and refrigerate, up to 10 days).

Top 13 Drugstore Hairstyling Products

Whether you're a salon snob or a die-hard bargain hunter, you'll love this list of the top drugstore hairstyling products. It shouldn't be too surprising that you can get hair like this from your local CVS or Walgreens -- we already proved that cheapie shampoos and conditioners can work just as well as their high-end counterparts.

Check out the list below (just

click on the names to see why readers loved 'em), practically everything you need to create any hairstyle is there. However, just because you can create any hairstyle, doesn't mean you should. Some -- like, well, these -- are best left alone, OK?

No. 13: Herbal Essences Shimmery Nights Shimmer Spray Gel, $6.29, average reader rating: 9 (out of 10)

No. 12: Finesse Curl Defining Mousse, $3.79, rating: 9.1

No. 11: Frizz-Ease Thermal Protection Serum, $8.99, rating: 9.2

No. 10: Pantene Pro-V Mousse, Extra Fullness Thickening, Maximum Hold, $4.49, rating: 9.2

No. 9: Neutrogena Triple Moisture Smooth Shine Anti Frizz Cream, $4.79, rating: 9.3

No. 8: L'Oreal Paris Elnett Satin Hairspray, $14.99, rating: 9.3

No. 7: Dove Flexible Hold Aerosol Hairspray with Natural Movement, $4.99, rating: 9.4

No. 6: Suave Professionals Healthy Curls Enhancing Spray Gel, $3.89, rating: 9.6

No. 5: TreSemme Tres Spray Super Hold Hairspray, $3.49, rating: 9.7

No. 4: Nexxus Comb Thru Natural Hold Design and Finishing Mist, $10.99, rating: 9.7

No. 3: Pantene Sheer Volume Root Lifter Volumizing Spray Gel Maximum Hold, $5.14, rating: 9.7

No. 2: Alberto VO5 Extreme Style, Max Hold, $3.49, rating: 9.8

No. 1: Giovanni Frizz Be Gone, $8.99, rating: 9.9

All right, you've got the products, now you just need the know-how to get your perfect style. No worries, I've got that too:

Keep up with the latest in beauty -- follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook.

Pilot pleaded to evacuate stranded passengers

WASHINGTON – The pilot of an airliner stranded overnight on an airport tarmac in Minnesota pleaded unsuccessfully for her 47 passengers to be allowed to get off and go inside a terminal. "We just need to work out some way to get them off ... We can't keep them here any longer," she said.

The Transportation Department on Friday released recordings of the repeated appeals by the pilot and her airline's dispatchers earlier this month while passengers were kept waiting for about six hours in the cramped plane amid crying babies and a smelly toilet before they were allowed to deplane.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said a preliminary investigation by his department found that ExpressJet, the regional carrier which operated Continental Express Flight 2816 for Continental Airlines, wasn't at fault in the tarmac stranding.

Instead, blame for the incident, which has revived calls for greater consumer protections for airline passengers, belongs with Mesaba Airlines, whose representative incorrectly told ExpressJet that the passengers couldn't be allowed inside the terminal because Transportation Security Administration personnel had left for the day, LaHood said.

Actually, security regulations allow for deplaning passengers to be kept in a separate "sterile" area until they are ready to board, he said.

"We have determined that the Express Jet crew was not at fault. In fact, the flight crew repeatedly tried to get permission to deplane the passengers at the airport or obtain a bus for them," LaHood said Friday in a statement.

"There was a complete lack of common sense here," the secretary said. "It's no wonder the flying public is so angry and frustrated."

Mesaba was the only airline with staff still at the Rochester, Minn., airport that Friday night.

The plane left Houston at 9:23 p.m. local time on Aug. 7, but was diverted by thunderstorms to Rochester. Passengers were kept waiting on the tarmac only 50 yards from a terminal. In the morning, they were allowed to deplane. They spent about 2 1/2 hours inside the terminal before reboarding the same plane. They arrived in Minneapolis, their destination, at 9:15 a.m. CDT.

Mesaba is a subsidiary of Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta Air Lines of Atlanta.

"Delta is working with Mesaba to conduct an internal investigation, continue our full cooperation with the DOT and share all the facts with Continental," Delta CEO Richard Anderson said in a statement.

Continental Chairman and CEO Larry Kellner said he was gratified the Transportation Department recognized the ExpressJet crew's efforts to resolve the situation and was frustrated at their failure to get assistance. Continental Airlines is headquartered in Houston.

The recordings show the captain explaining the situation to an ExpressJet dispatcher, and dispatchers trying to persuade Mesaba officials to allow passengers inside. Passengers from an earlier flight diverted to Rochester had been allowed to deplane and were taken by bus to Minneapolis, about 85 miles away.

However, Mesaba officials said there were no more buses available.

"I can't get her a bus, I can't do anything," said a Mesaba representative.

"You can't do anything for her? OK," asked the ExpressJet dispatcher.


"Because she was saying nobody was letting her off the airplane, letting the people off the airplane and all that," the dispatcher continued.

"We can't — I mean we were just able to let these guys off. We can't get them a bus. If I can't secure them a bus, I can't have them in a closed airport," the Mesaba representative replied.

In another conversation that began at 4:44 a.m. after the terminal had reopened, a Mesaba manager told an ExpressJet dispatcher that the passengers couldn't deplane because there was no jetbridge available and it was raining.

"I'm trying to find a spot to park them. They're going to have to walk through the rain then once they get off," the manager said.

At 5 a.m., the flight got clearance to takeoff again. But by then, its crew had worked more than the legal limit of hours. Another crew had to be flown in.

It wasn't until 6 a.m. that passengers were allowed to enter the terminal.

Link Christin, who was on the flight, said the incident was a clear example of why more safeguards are necessary for passengers.

"To me, the critical issue is not who's to blame, but to figure out what happened and how it could be prevented in the future," said Christin, a lecturer at William Mitchell College of Law.

More than a week afterward, Christin said he's started to think about "the fact that so many variables were at play with 47, 48 people, two babies, and the variety of potential catastrophes that could have happened."


Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

Broad and Swann give England control

England 332 (Bell 72, Siddle 4-75, Hilfenhaus 3-71) and 58 for 3 (Strauss 32*, Trott 8*) lead Australia 160 (Broad 5-37, Swann 4-38) by 230 runs

Stuart Broad congratulated for claiming the wicket of Shane Watson, England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 2nd day, August 21, 2009
Stuart Broad wrecked Australia's top order with a stunning spell © Getty Images

Stuart Broad produced a bowling performance to rival that of Andrew Flintoff at Lord's, and Graeme Swann chimed in with four vital wickets on a dry and dusty track, as Australia felt their grip on the Ashes being prised away, finger by finger, on a sensational second day at The Oval. Responding to England's first-innings 332, the Aussies collapsed from a confident but never comfortable 61 for 0 at lunch to 160 all out shortly after tea, conceding a first-innings deficit of 172 in the process, as well as every ounce of the momentum they had established during their fourth-Test triumph at Headingley.

Australia did recover from that nadir to claw back some lost initiative, claiming three key wickets in the closing overs of the day as the frailties of England's dodgy batting card were exposed once again. Nevertheless, with Andrew Strauss remaining unperturbed on 32, and England's lead extended to an already imposing 230, the majority of the demons remain with the side facing the prospect of batting last on a dustbowl that has more in common with Kanpur than Kennington. In particular, the manner of Alastair Cook's dismissal - caught at slip as Australia's part-timer, Marcus North, ripped an offspinner across his bows - was ample proof of the traumas that lie ahead.

It was a stunning and memorable day's play dredged from the depths of Australia's worst nightmares, and their desperate afternoon session - in which they lost eight wickets for 72 in 24.4 incredible overs - is shaping up to be the decisive passage of play of the summer. Each of those eight breakthroughs was greeted with riotous acclaim by an absorbed and pumped-up crowd, as England's bowlers surfed a wave of emotion to exploit once again the peculiar frailties of an Aussie batting order that, for all its myriad successes this summer, has now failed calamitously in three of their five first innings in the series.

The star of England's show was Broad, who was thrown the ball for the second full over after a 50-minute rain delay, and responded with a full and straight 12-over spell that perfectly exploited a pitch showing increasing signs of uneven bounce. He claimed the first four wickets to fall for eight runs in the space of 21 deliveries, and then - after Swann had extracted the obdurate pairing of North and Simon Katich - wrapped up his second five-wicket haul in consecutive innings by yorking Brad Haddin for 1.

Fifteen wickets in all fell in the day, including (way back in the mists of time) that of James Anderson, whose first Test duck after six years and 54 innings might have been a portent of the chaos to come. Though Australia somehow reached lunch unscathed after 20.2 overs of hard graft, Shane Watson and Katich had been forced to scrap for every one of the 61 runs in their opening stand. Watson in particular tempted fate with three consecutive lbw appeals in the space of seven deliveries, but after the resumption, he fell to the very first delivery he received from Broad, nailed plumb lbw for 34 to prise open the floodgates.

Jonathan Trott shows his hang-time after catching Michael Clarke, England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 2nd day, August 21, 2009
Jonathan Trott took a sharp, low catch to remove Michael Clarke © Getty Images

Ricky Ponting was the next man in, and though he emerged to loud acclaim - the boos of Edgbaston a distant memory - his personal jitters were transparently plain to see. Sensing that the wicket was already a minefield, he got off the mark with an under-edged cut for four off Broad, and then survived a frenzied lbw appeal in the next over as he shouldered arms to Flintoff. But before he could settle, Broad cramped him on the back foot, and he inside-edged a loose drive onto his middle stump for 8.

Three Broad deliveries later, and Mike Hussey's traumatic series had taken another turn for the worse, as he thrust out his front pad and was sent on his way lbw for a duck - the decision looked tight on the replay, but stone-dead to the naked eye. And when Michael Clarke, Australia's star of the summer, drove fiercely into the covers in a bid to impose some authority, he picked out the debutant Jonathan Trott, who swooped superbly to cling onto a stinging low catch.

From 73 for 0, Australia had drifted listlessly to 93 for 4, with only the obdurate Katich providing any sort of sheet-anchor. He opened the face of his bat to steer Broad through the gully to move to 49, but then at the other end, Swann got into the act - in a somewhat fortuitous fashion - as North thrust his bat and pad forward to a non-spinning delivery on middle stump, and was adjudged lbw for 8 despite evidence that the bat had won the race.

North grinned wryly as he departed the crease, but there was little he or Australia could do to halt England's momentum, and in his next over, Swann claimed the vital wicket of Katich, who once again played for non-existent turn on a pitch creating demons in the mind, and popped a facile chance off his bat and pad-flap to Cook at short leg for exactly 50. Nine balls later, and Broad was back on centre stage. Haddin came down late on a stump-splattering yorker, and Australia's last recognised batsman had joined the procession.

Mitchell Johnson did what he could to jump-start a flatlining innings, smacking Swann for two lusty fours in a single over, but with tea looming he became the eighth casualty of the session, stunningly snaffled by Matt Prior behind the stumps, who read the big turn off the pitch, and moved sharply to his left to cling onto an edged drive.

Australia limped to tea on 133 for 8, and though Stuart Clark was hugely unfortunate to be adjudged caught at short leg for 6 when his bat was nowhere near the ball, Peter Siddle thrashed a skittish 26 not out as he and Ben Hilfenhaus hung around long enough to haul their side past the 150 mark. But Flintoff claimed his share of the limelight by yorking Hilfenhaus for 6, to complete an incredible and series-transforming two-and-a-half hours of cricket.

Still the procession of wickets was not over, however. With a session and three days in which to cement their advantage, England felt no need to rush their reply, but with the score on 27, Cook's unconvincing series came to an end as North nailed him for 9, before Ian Bell was somewhat unluckily extracted for 4, as he got on top of a short ball from his nemesis Johnson, only for Katich at short leg to hold onto a remarkable reflex catch inches from the turf. One over later, and Katich was back in the action when Johnson found Paul Collingwood's splice with an effort ball, but Trott provided convincing and confident support for his captain, Strauss, to enable England to finish on a high.

Microsoft Office 2010 - Whats New?

Microsoft Office 2010 - Whats New in Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook?

New Features : Whats new in Office 2010

Built-In Screen Capture Tool
Background Removal Tool
Protected Mode
New Smart Art Templates
Author Permissions
Completely Revamped Options Under the Office Button
A Kick-Ass Print Control Panel Under the Office Button
Jumplists in Outlook 2010
Powerpoint Gets Word 2007’s Equation Editor & New ‘Action’ Tab

2009's Top Ten Best New Restaurants in America

Today's most exciting restaurants have a lot in common. They represent the new standard: simple, satisfying local food—all served with zero pretense. They support local farmers, sustainable agriculture, and regional cuisine. For a taste of our ten favorite n ew restaurants, cook these delicious recipes. Bar Jules, San Francisco, CA
1. Spring Hill

4437 California Avenue SW, Seattle; 206-935-1075;

Without much fanfare, the Pacific Northwest has become one of the most exciting foodie destinations in America. Between Seattle and Portland, there are an increasing number of top-notch, chef-driven restaurants—and Mark and Marjorie Fuller's Spring Hill in West Seattle is at the top of that list. Mark shows respect for the region's amazing seafood (Kumamoto oysters, Dungeness crab), but also has the culinary skill to play with texture and flavors. His food manages to be beautiful without being ornate. The sleek space, which Marjorie works with confidence, and the dazzling open kitchen only add to the lofty dining experience.

Get their recipe for: Black Cod with Fennel Chowder and Smoked Oyster Panzanella

Cakes & Ale

254 West Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur, Georgia; 404-377-7994;

At the age of 27, Billy Allin gave up his job as a money manager and enrolled in culinary school. After graduation, his cooking skills landed him gigs at renowned restaurants, including Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Watershed in Decatur. With his farm-to-table cooking philosophy fully established, Allin and his wife, Kristin, decided it was time to open "the restaurant where we would want to eat," he says. That restaurant is Cakes & Ale (from a phrase in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night meaning "the good things in life"), located east of downtown Atlanta. The couple's ideal restaurant turns out to be a 50-seat neighborhood spot where the kitchen staff often answers the phone when you call to make a reservation, and a chalkboard announces the daily menu, which features simple, precise dishes like braised rabbit grits with saba vinegar and spring onion; buttermilk-rhubarb fool; and the addictive arancine here.

Get their recipe for: Citrus Arancine with Pecorino Cheese

3. Bar Jules (pictured)

609 Hayes Street, San Francisco; 415-621-5482;

"How many bowls of clam chowder can you make before you lose your mind?" That was the question Jessica Boncutter asked herself just before quitting her job at a popular San Francisco oyster bar. After she resigned, she headed for London to take a break and hang out with friends—and that's when inspiration hit. "All of my friends were opening restaurants over there, and I said to myself: If they can do it, I can do it." When she returned to the Bay Area, she got to work on Bar Jules, a bohemian lunch and dinner spot in San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood. The chalkboard menu, consisting of fewer than ten dishes, is big on California produce and sustainable ingredients, which, to be honest, is nothing new in San Francisco. What is new is that there's no mantra on the menu, no stuffiness in the dining room—and there are no reservations. Chef Boncutter's simple food includes everything from a perfectly cooked wood-grilled burger to the lamb stew below. One thing you won't find on the menu? Clam chowder.

Get their recipe for: Lamb with Preserved Lemons

Related: How to Get the Reservations You Want (and Why Restaurants Lie to You for Your Own Good)

4. No. 7

7 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-522-6370;

The walls are brick and plaster. The ceilings are pressed tin. And the waitstaff is straight out of an American Apparel catalog. In short, it's a quintessential Brooklyn neighborhood joint. But the first sign that No. 7 is doing things a bit differently than your average hipster restaurant is the fried broccoli appetizer: an entire head of broccoli covered in an impossibly crisp tempura batter and paired with a hummus-like black bean sauce and a dill and grapefruit salad. It's a mishmash of disparate ingredients that somehow succeeds. The same goes for the deconstructed romaine salad (romaine heart, mozzarella-wrapped quince, lemon) and the pumpkin-seed-crusted tofu featured below. The risk-taking, slightly theatrical menu comes from chef Tyler Kord (left), who worked at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Perry St before opening No. 7.

Get their recipe for: Pumpkin-Seed-Crusted Tofu with Lemongrass Broth, Rice Noodles, and Poached Eggs

5. Woodberry Kitchen

2010 Clipper Park Road, Number 126, Baltimore; 410-464-8000;

In the early 1990s, long before sustainable, local, and organic became the calling cards of chefs everywhere, Spike Gjerde was showcasing the abundance of the Chesapeake Bay. With the opening of his latest spot in the historic Clipper Mill complex—a brick-and-wood space that has the look and feel of a restored farmhouse—Gjerde takes his farm-to-table commitment to the next level. A wood-burning oven is the centerpiece of a kitchen that turns out dishes like roasted Rappahannock River oysters, Roseda Black Angus Farm hanger steak, and fantastic flatbreads.

Get their recipe for: Spiced Pear Flatbreads with Goat Cheese and Mustard Cream

6. Mado

1647 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago; 773-342-2340;

Husband and wife Rob and Allie Levitt are fanatical about local and sustainable ingredients. A chalkboard in the dining room lists all the farms that the restaurant works with, and every two weeks Rob receives a 180-pound pig from Slagel Family Farm, butchers it himself, and uses every bit in dishes like ciccioli (pork cracklin's), charcuterie, and the restaurant's signature porchetta (spit-roasted pork loin and belly). Rob and Allie are also regulars at the Green City Market, which means that if there's something new and seasonal at the market, you'll find it on Mado's menu. "We're not trying to break new ground," says Rob of his savory and Allie's sweet cooking. "All we want is to have fun cooking great ingredients simply." Judging from the crowds at dinner and Sunday brunch, that's really all the locals want, too.

Get their recipe for: Clam and Calamari Seafood Stew with Salsa Verde

Related: 5 Tips for Handling a Bad Waiter

7. Feast

219 Westheimer Road, Houston; 713-529-7788;

The locals didn't have much faith in Feast, a British-style gastropub with a menu that includes bubble and squeak, black pudding, and tons of offal. "They told us that we must put steak on the menu or we wouldn't make it. This is Texas, after all," says co-owner Meagan Silk. Despite the skeptics, Silk, her husband, James, and their friend Richard Knight decided to press on. And it's a good thing they did. Today, the restaurant—and its Brit-centric menu—is a huge hit. For the offal novices, we chose this recipe, which makes good use of beef neck bones and pig's feet. Try it. We promise that it's delicious.

Get their recipe for: Braised Beef with Pears and Fresh Ginger

8. Olivia

2043 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin; 512-804-2700;

There's only one thing on the walls of Olivia: a Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings concert poster that chef James Holmes's grandfather gave to him. The image—two groundbreaking country music legends from Texas—captures the spirit of this sophisticated yet laid-back spot. The restaurant's clean art-gallery-esque interior really shows off the poster—and Chef Holmes's food. He gathers his culinary inspiration from (and in) his backyard vegetable garden. The resulting menu includes produce-based dishes like risotto made with squash and greens, and spinach-potato gnocchi with olives and tomatoes. Holmes is also fond of riffs on comfort-food classics, like spaghetti cooked in red wine and the milk-braised pork shoulder here. The diverse clientele—a tattooed musician on his way to a show or an operagoer dressed to the nines—only adds to Olivia's considerable charm.

Get their recipe for: Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder with Semolina Gnocchi

9. The Greenhouse Tavern

2038 East 4th Street, Cleveland; 216-443-0511

This unassuming gastropub in downtown Cleveland is on the forefront of the green-restaurant movement. Reclaimed barn wood, light fixtures made from old bike rims, and a rooftop dining area/greenhouse are just a few of the environmentally conscious elements that went into redesigning the space. But for the epicurean, all this is moot if the restaurant fails to deliver on the food front. Thanks to chef Jonathon Sawyer, who worked with Charlie Palmer in New York and Iron Chef Michael Symon, it doesn't. Ohio-sourced ingredients are the stars of the modern, snack-heavy menu. Goat cheese tarts with tomato salad (recipe at right); hand-ground beef tartare with a cold poached egg; and crispy chicken wings with roasted jalapeƱo, scallions, and garlic are just a few of the smart, simple dishes that keep food lovers coming back.

Get their recipe for: Potato-Crusted Goat Cheese Tarts with Heirloom Tomato Salad

Also check out: The Top 10 Brunch Spots in the U.S.

Hungry Mother

233 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts; 617-499-0090;

Chef Barry Maiden grew up in Virginia near Hungry Mother State Park, and when he approached his partners with the curious name, it stuck. The South also inspires the food at this smartly designed, low-key neighborhood spot. But gimmicky mama-style country cooking this is not. Maiden's clever cuisine combines southern and northern ingredients with classic French technique. Maine mussels are paired with house-made tasso and cornbread crumbs; grilled Rhode Island squid comes with a side of hominy. The big question is this: Can Bostonians ever truly appreciate perfectly fried cornmeal-crusted catfish served with collards? If they're eating it at Hungry Mother, there's as good a chance as any.

Get their recipe for: Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish with Collards and Creole

Exclusive! Rachel Zoe Answers YOUR Style Questions

Some of y'all might remember that awhile back I asked you to send in your fall style Qs for Rachel Zoe--a.k.a. our beloved patron saint of Shutting It Down here at STF--to answer. Find out how we got her to give us the exclusive 411 on fall fashion, after the jump.

To help celebrate the launch of Piperlime's brand-spanking-new clothing section, we asked their guest editor (that's right, Ms. Zoe) for smart solutions to a few of fall's toughest fashion puzzlers.

That's a short, sweet and very professional way of saying that Yours Truly somehow won the workplace megabucks and got to go to L.A. and spend the day watching (while sweating profusely with OMG-induced nerves) Rachel Zoe work her styling magic. And I met Taylor. And I got to sit down with Rachel and ask her all your Qs. And it's all on film. And the answer to your question is Yes: In person Rachel is just as fabulous, insanely chic and funny as she is on her show. And the answer to your second question is that after much debate, I wound up wearing a Phillip Lim sequin skirt, white Hanes tank top and a Banana Republic blazer on the day of our interview--but it should go without saying that I changed my outfit approximately 63 times before deciding on that one.

But enough about me.

You can find the full Rachel Zoe Q&A in our September issue, but here are a few of the fashion highlights:

Your Q: What’s a fall date outfit that’s cozy but still fun and sexy?

Rachel's Answer: Start with your cutest summer dress. Put a T-shirt under or a cardigan over it, then drape on a huge, fantastic scarf. The idea is that you can wrap the scarf a million different ways or leave it hanging down like a shawl. I love ones in a print or some sort of color. Finally, add high wedge boots and a cute hat.

Check out our dos and don'ts of sundresses before choosing your favorite one.

Your Q: I am forever aboard the “slouch lover” train. I love slouchy bags, sweaters, sweatpants and jeans. How do I wear that stuff and not look schlumpy?

Rachel's answer: You want to keep some element that shows your body and still looks sexy. If you’re wearing slouchy trousers or jeans, keep whatever is on top more fitted: a tee, button-down top or sweater. Likewise, if your top is slouchy, keep the bottom slim. You can’t wear an oversize sweater, oversize jeans and an oversize bag—that’s too much.

Your Q: I love ruffles. How can I wear them without looking like a little girl?
Rachel's answer: If you follow the right rules, ruffles can be classic French chic—and not at all “little girl” (or pirate!). Avoid an explosion of them and keep them to your collar, cuff or lapel. I’d pair a ruffled shirt with jeans and a fitted jacket. See—cute!

See what else we have to say about wearing ruffles at!

Your Q: I need to make my work wardrobe look new but am not doing a lot of shopping. What are a few things that I should buy to freshen up my look?
Rachel's answer: In this economy, you are not alone. What me and my team like to say is, just like you recycle things for the environment, recycle your wardrobe as well. It’s about adding key pieces that you really need and will covet for a long time in your closet: A black fitted menswear inspired blazer, it must fit really well and be tailored properly. You can throw it over any dress, any jeans and a top. I love a great fitted androgynous blazer. The high waisted pencil skirt from the '40s and in the '80s, mixed with very tailored jackets. In addition, some flouncy skirts with a fitted t-shirts and tank tops. It's the mixture that's key.

To see more looks from our shoot (and get more Zoe-approved fall outfit ideas) go here!

Now, I hate to break it to you, but you've got a few more days before The Rachel Zoe Project is back on Bravo. (It premieres on 10/9c, on Monday August 24th so your TiVo, Sharpie it in your calendar and pre-order pizza delivery, like a good STF.) But here's the good news: We've got a whole lotta Zoe to tide you over 'til then:

* Rachel Zoe's Fall DOs & DON'Ts, in video form.

*6 Fashion Dilemmas, Solved by Rachel Zoe.

*Take a sneak peak of The Rachel Zoe Project, Season Two.

* Prepare to drool over all of Rachel's Piperlime picks.

Which of Rachel Zoe's fall looks is your favorite? Would you wear any of 'em on a date? (FYI, Rachel said that she'd wear that sparkly silver look on a date with her husband Roger!) Are you counting down the hours til the RZP is back on the air waves too?

Best and Worst Dressed Real Housewives

Which housewife has the fiercest shoes and which wife needs to dial down the glitz? Kelly Killoren Bensimon sizes up her Bravo cast-mates and reveals her own worst-dressed moment (Hint: think knee-socks and the same time).

We love these shows because each cast member has a completely different style to flaunt. According to Kelly, the ladies of The OC have a tendency to layer on a little too much, from color to accessories to bags to diamonds. Her advice? “Bring it down a notch. Take off a necklace, take off an earring,” she says. But Jeana gets Kelly’s thumbs up for her “very appropriate” choices.

Lisa is Kelly’s pick for the best dressed of the Atlanta wives— she especially loves her “hot yellow shoes.” (Not a surprise. We’ve seen Kelly’s closet and a pair of neon pink stilettos are one of her most prized possessions!)

The Jersey girls all have “beautiful skin and beautiful hair” but too much going on in the accessories department, for Kelly. That being said, it’s feisty Teresa, who gets Kelly’s ‘best’ nod. “She has fun,” says Kelly, “I like that she wears clothes that are sexy but also conducive to being a mother.”

When it comes to the ladies of New York City, Kelly thinks Jill Zarin dresses the best for her body type. In our opinion, Kelly’s eclectic style is the most fun and flattering. But sometimes, even Kelly admits, a few of her more experimental outfits miss the mark. Her biggest fashion 'don’t' to date she says was the time she wore a body suit with shorts, a grosgrain belt, knee-socks, and patent leather shoes. We'd have to agree with her there.

Thankfully, Kelly confirms that she'll be returning for another season this fall--we can't wait to see what she'll be wearing.

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Thanks for watching the Thread. We'll be back soon from our Planet Hollywood studio in Times Square with a brand new episode.

Taste Test: Salsa

Our editors tasted 20 brands of salsa and found one clear winner, as well as three good party-pleasing options

Salsa—the condiment, not the music or dance style—spices up any party, tortilla chip, omelet, or taco. It's the multipurpose sauce that keeps us dipping for more.

Salsa isn’t the only multipurpose condiment—See which ketchup came out on top on taste

Store-bought salsa should be chunky enough that it dresses up a tortilla chip but does not run down the sides. It should be multidimensional, with the sweet flavor of summer tomatoes, some element of onions, and a subtle kick of hot chile peppers to top it off.

Three essential issues confronted us before we could start dipping our chips: What style, flavor, and brands should we taste? We decided to let our readers weigh in. So we posted a poll on the Epi-Log blog and asked our readers to choose their favorite style of salsa: mild, medium, or hot. Out of the 600 people who voted, 48 percent of salsa fans said they prefer medium—a clear majority.

The next step involved narrowing down what flavor to taste. These days store-bought salsa can have corn kernels, black beans, or fruit. It can be fire-roasted or made with tomatillos. We chose to narrow the field to the most basic tomato-based salsa that each brand had to offer.

Lastly, we obtained a list of the ten top-selling salsas in the United States and made sure to include those.

The 20 medium varieties of salsa we tasted are available nationwide and include the following, listed from highest to lowest score in our tests: Green Mountain Gringo, Tostitos Chunky, Deerfield Farms, Frontera Chunky Tomato, Bravos Thick & Chunky, Emeril's Original Recipe, Pace Thick & Chunky, Chi-Chi's Thick & Chunky*, Newman's Own All Natural Chunky*, Organicville, Muir Glen Organic, Ortega Original, Taco Bell Thick 'n Chunky**, Old El Paso Thick 'n Chunky**, Spike's All Natural Santa Fe Packing Co. Picante Sauce, Herr's Chunky, Valu Time, La Victoria Thick 'n Chunky, Amy's, and Herdez Casera.

(The brands marked with * received the same score. The same is true for those marked with **.)

Methodology: In a blind taste test, judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of basic tomato-based medium salsas. All salsas were served at room temperature and paired with tortilla chips. We ranked them according to the Epicurious four-fork rating system (four being the best).

Best Overall

Epi Top Pick: Green Mountain Gringo Salsa ($5.59 for 16 oz. jar)

Pros: Prominent chunks of bright-red tomatoes and green peppers featured in this salsa, but also visible garlic bits and veggie seeds, which made it look and taste homemade. "Very distinctive cilantro and peppery flavors, with a real kick of heat," mentioned one taster.

Cons: Though it's marketed as "medium" this salsa was a bit too caliente for some. Most expensive product of the four winners.

First Runner-Up: Tostitos Chunk Salsa ($2.99 for 15.5 oz. jar)

Pros: This salsa demonstrated a classic tomato salsa taste with no overpowering herb flavors. "The sweet heat sneaks up on you and lingers on your tongue—it's invigorating," said one tester. The tomato-red dip also had the ideal ratio of green pepper and onion chunks, making it "perfectly scoopable."

Cons: You'd better like salt.

Second Runner-Up: Deerfield Farms Salsa ($2.99 for 16 oz. jar)

Pros: The large onion and green pepper chunks made this variety look "appetizing" and "natural" to several tasters. The veggies also give it a nice crunchy consistency and sweet medium-hot kick. Best bargain of the winners.

Cons: Potentially overwhelming taste of peppers and onions.

Third Runner-Up: Frontera Chunky Tomato Salsa ($5.39 for 16 oz. jar)

Pros: This maroon-red-colored option, from celebritychef Rick Bayless was praised for its "smoky sausage and sweet roasted pepper" accents. "Truly addictive! I would even eat it on ice cream," said one judge.

Cons:: Sweet, with virtually no heat.

The Other Contenders: The Bottom Three

Herdez may be the fifth-best-selling salsa in the U.S., but that did not guarantee it a spot in our Epi winners' circle. Tasters felt it was one-dimensional and lacked "body." One judge compared it to V8 without any flavor. We all agreed that this option would be best utilized as pico de gallo alongside a main course dish instead of on a chip. La Victoria showed no signs of ingredients aside from tomatoes—tasters said it had a pasty and mushy consistency and bland flavor.

Amy's salsa was also not a favorite (though the brand's frozen pizza was). The salsa tasted mild (not medium) and not as full-bodied as its competitors. Loyal Amy's fans might want to purchase the "hot" variety rather than "medium."

Sales information provided by Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. Prices and availability subject to change.

You Know He's Mr. Wrong When...

He may look good in the box, but sometimes "Mr. Right" turns into "Mr. Right-About-Now-Would-Be-a-Good-Time-to-Leave." We asked women on the iVillage message boards for foolproof signs of a Romeo gone renegade. Some of our favorite responses:

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1. He gives you a Chia Pet for Christmas.

2. He “forgets” to bring money on your first date.

3. He thinks you’ll be impressed when he tells you his ex-girlfriends were hot.

4. He’s had more jobs in the last few years than you have pairs of shoes.

5. His idea of celebrating your birthday doesn’t involve you.

6. He paints his body for major sporting events.

7. His mom calls to help patch things up when you’re in a fight with him.

8. His idea of gourmet cooking is thawing a frozen pizza.

9. He picks you up for an 8pm date… at 1am.

10. You’re constantly making excuses for why he “really is” Mr. Right when he’s really acting like a jerk.

What would tell you that a man is Mr. Wrong? For more dating advice see here.

Punters stake $70 million on Oval Test

Money changes hands by bookmakers at a race, November, 2005
'Bookmakers such as Ladbrokes and William Hill used to stop taking bets after the toss. But once they discovered how bookies actually made more money after matches had begun, they too embraced the system' © AFP

The Ashes decider at The Oval may well be the most eagerly anticipated contest in recent memory, for fans, media and the players themselves. But the fifth Test will have a lot more riding on it than just the destination of the famous urn or bragging rights for the next couple of years. Informed estimates suggest that punters around the world may have staked well over US$70 million on the result of the Test - and thus the series - beginning today.

The sheer volume of money at stake would also explain why an Australian player was approached by a bookie after the Lord's Test, as revealed by Cricinfo.

Betfair, the leading P2P (person to person) betting exchange based in the UK, had already matched bets worth US$4.8 million by Wednesday afternoon. Given that Betfair generally accounts for nearly half of the total volume logged in the UK, the total betting on the winner of the Ashes series will far exceed the figure of US$10 million by the time the first ball is bowled at the Oval. And though cricket may not yet have taken off on the continent, betting on it is surprisingly energetic, with approximately US$3 million placed on the result.

However, these figures are dwarfed by those coming out of the illegal betting market in India, as befits the financial centre of the game. It is estimated that each of the preceding four Ashes Tests has seen between US$30 million and US$41 million (Rs 150-200 crore) wagered on the result. For the series win (called 'cup betting' in India), those figures increase to between US$50-61 million (Rs 250-300 crore). Indian bookies, like their English counterparts, have sensed the series shift in momentum towards Australia; on Wednesday afternoon, the odds on Australia winning at The Oval on the Indian market were 2.40, England winning it 4 to 1 and a draw at 1.25. Betfair (on Thursday, hours before the start), offered odds of an Australian win at 2.42, England 5.2 and a draw 2.5.

These amounts are restricted only to match and series winner, however, and once the Test begins much more will be wagered. For most in India, the popular bets are on the result, and about 95% of the estimated 1.5 million regular punters place their money on this. However, some bookies and very big punters bet huge amounts between themselves on what is called "fancy sauda". This can be on anything, from estimating innings scores, top scorers or wicket-takers and staking from Rs 100-10,000 per run against the difference in team totals. It can take in small details, such as who will bowl the next over from which end and how many runs will be scored in an over, or off the next delivery. Putting a realistic figure on these transactions is difficult and though there are very few punters involved in this, the stakes can often be very high.

Bookmakers, such as Ladbrokes and William Hill, used to stop taking bets after the toss in any match. But once they discovered how bookies from the subcontinent actually made more money after matches had begun, on fancy sauda, they too embraced the system. Thus 'In Play' betting - placing bets when the Test begins, where odds are re-worked with every ball bowled, every run scored - now accounts for the largest chunk of betting on any contest.

Though the figures for the last Test seem impressive, the decider is actually thought to be a low-volume contest in India. There are two reasons for this. One, this is a decider, so the winner (if it does not end in a draw) of this Test and the series is going to be the same, and since there are bets already riding on the series winner category, it does not make much sense for them to increase the ante. Two, New Zealand's series with Sri Lanka has diverted the hearts and wallets of punters not only in the subcontinent, but also to an extent in Europe, where bets over US$5 million had already been placed by the second day of the Test. In India, sources estimate that nearly US$80 million (Rs400 crore) are already placed on the first Test, and nearly US$60 million (Rs300 crore) on the series winner.

Prakash Gosavi is a Mumbai-based journalist, specialising in sports betting

Do you get a "boyfriend layer"?

Over the past month I've put on about five pounds. It's not so significant that I'm upset about it, but there's definitely some extra flesh around my middle, and thanks to Lauren Conrad I've finally figured out why. She too claims she's got a little soft at the beginning of her new relationship. “We were having more romantic dinners out, and I was exercising less,” Says Conrad. “I call it the ‘boyfriend layer'." Wow, that's a good call! While I'm a year and a half into my relationship, I did just move out of the apartment I shared with two roommates and into my own one-bedroom. Now my boyfriend stays over a lot more, and we've been cooking big meals, trying out the amazing restaurants in my new neighborhood, and cuddling up on the couch with pints of Ben & Jerry's. I love spending time with him, but I have sacrificed my work out time for additional boyfriend time. The extra love has given me love handles! Yikes!
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Conrad says she likes taking her man to the gym with her so she doesn't have to sacrifice her 1-on-1 time. “I just ask Kyle, ‘You feel like working out?’ It’s more fun than hitting the gym alone,” says Lauren. “We like doing outdoor stuff: tennis, bike riding, kayaking, stand-up surfing, hiking in the canyons around L.A.." Fantastic idea! I think this weekend we'll hit the beach together for some swimming and long walks under a beautiful sunset. Hey, walking is exercise, right?

Have you experienced the "boyfriend layer" phenomenon, and if so, what have you done to get rid of it? [People]

Dilshan helps Sri Lankan lead race past 200

Team-mates crowd around Muttiah Muralitharan after he dismissed Iain O'Brien, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 1st Test, Galle, 4th day, August 21, 2009
Muttiah Muralitharan took 4 for 73, and his 100th wicket in Galle, as New Zealand were bowled out for 299 on the fourth day © Associated Press

Muttiah Muralitharan created another slice of history, taking his 100th wicket at Galle, as Sri Lanka wrested a 153-run first-innings lead on another grey morning in Galle. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara then thrashed the bowling to pick up 76 from just 15 overs, after Tharanga Paranavitana had fallen cheaply to Iain O'Brien.

Murali had Iain O'Brien caught behind before Thilan Thushara came back to take his fourth wicket of the innings, bowling Daniel Vettori off the inside edge as New Zealand were bowled out for 299. Vettori's had been a desperate shot, but with the hapless Chris Martin at the other end, he really had no option but to go for the single off the last ball of the over.

It was desperation of another kind when Dilshan, who had clattered 92 from 72 balls in the first innings, arrived at the crease. Once again, New Zealand had no answer to his aggression, and O'Brien appeared stunned when he was hooked for six and then flayed for four through cover at the start of the innings.

Paranavitana went, edging to slip, but with Sangakkara caressing gorgeous strokes through the covers, Dilshan was once again given license to flirt with the boundaries of Test-match batting. Both O'Brien and Martin suffered as the ball was cut, square-driven and pulled ruthlessly each time it was even fractionally off length. It didn't even look like he was batting on the same pitch, and by lunch, another blistering-quick half-century was on the cards.

New Zealand's already hopeless-looking cause was scarcely helped by a stomach bug that ruled Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder out of action. With Tim McIntosh also feeling under the weather, permission had to be sought from the Sri Lankans so that Reece Young, the reserve wicketkeeper, could take McCullum's place behind the stumps. With others, including Martin, also feeling under the weather, it remained to be seen if New Zealand could complete the game with all men standing.

A Diner's Guide to Eating Fish Safely

For years, doctors have been begging patients to skip the sirloin and order the salmon now and then. Yet Americans still consume seven times as much red meat as fish. Only about one in five eats the recommended two servings of seafood per week.

Why don't we take the plunge more often? We're confused -- and a little uneasy -- about fish. By now, you've heard that seafood offers far-ranging health benefits, but you've also heard that some fish contain high levels of toxins, leaving you to wonder if any of those gleaming fillets at your grocer's seafood counter are truly safe.

Salmon Entree

Salmon Entree

© 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

Bountiful Benefits

Here's the biggest reason medical researchers love fish: It combats the top health threat in the United States. "If you eat a modest amount of fish, you dramatically decrease your risk of dying from a heart attack," says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health. Findings from 30 large studies conducted around the world show that people who consume just one or two servings of fish per week lower their risk of a fatal heart attack by an average of 36 percent, says Dr. Mozaffarian.

You can thank fish oil, nature's richest source of omega-3 fatty acids, for that cardiac protection. It steadies heart rhythm, lowers artery-clogging triglycerides, appears to cool chronic inflammation in the arteries, and produces a modest drop in blood pressure.

But it's not just your heart that benefits when you dine on sea fare. Your brain does too. Fish lovers suffer fewer strokes, cutting their risk by 40 percent in some studies. And mounting evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids help the brain with its normal, day-to-day function. A 2007 study of nearly 12,000 pregnant women found that children born to mothers who ate more than 12 ounces of seafood per week during pregnancy scored six points higher on tests of verbal IQ than kids born to mothers who had other foods on the menu. As for adults, a recent Swedish study found that young men who ate fish more than once a week scored nearly 11 percent higher on IQ tests than males who rarely ate seafood. And in later years, fish eaters appear to be less likely to develop dementia.

As the old commercials used to say: But wait, there's more. Seafood doesn't just keep you in good shape physically; research indicates that people who regularly consume fish oil (either in supplements or at the dining table) are less apt to be depressed. That may be because omega-3 fatty acids raise levels of serotonin and dopamine, two brain chemicals that are thought to play a role in depression, says Joseph Hibbeln, MD, who studies the health benefits of fish at the National Institutes of Health (and who led the 2007 study of pregnant women). Omega-3s also seem to lower levels of brain chemicals that make you feel anxious and stressed-out, Dr. Hibbeln says.

And more advantages may be reported in years to come: Scientists are studying whether fish helps prevent or treat other disorders, from asthma to infertility.

Why You're Concerned

So fish keeps you well physically, mentally, and emotionally. But you may be wondering, What about all the scary things I've heard? Chances are, your biggest concern is mercury: Fish is the leading source of this dangerous element in the human diet.

Fears about fish's mercury levels have gotten a lot of attention in the past decade or so. Indeed, because large doses of the metal can damage developing brains, causing learning difficulties and other problems, the FDA and the EPA issued a joint advisory in 2004 recommending that small children and women of childbearing age eat no more than 12 ounces of seafood per week. The advisory went into some detail because not all fish are equal when it comes to this contaminant: Most species have barely detectable amounts, but large predators can build up high levels over their relatively long lives, since they absorb it from each fish they eat. So the agencies recommended that people in the vulnerable groups limit themselves to six ounces of albacore tuna per week and avoid four very-high-mercury species: swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish.

Understandably, those warnings caught everyone's attention, not just that of women of reproductive age and parents making tuna sandwiches to put in lunch boxes. Other news didn't help. For instance, a 2002 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people with the highest levels of mercury doubled their risk of heart attack (although a second study in the same journal failed to find a link).

Fish Without Worry

So what's a diner to do? Well, eat fish. Drs. Mozaffarian and Hibbeln, and the vast majority of other researchers who've looked at seafood's pros and cons, insist that as long as you take minimal, easy precautions, the health boost you get from fish will far outweigh any risks. In fact, the FDA and the EPA have signaled that they may ease up on their advisory soon, says Dr. Hibbeln, who helped review a new FDA risk-benefit assessment of seafood. In the meantime, here are a number of ways to get a healthy serving of omega-3s while minimizing your intake of mercury.

  • Eat fish once a week, but make it oily. A single six-ounce serving of salmon contains barely any mercury yet provides well over the 1,750 mg of omega-3s needed every week to start bringing down your risk of heart disease. (If you pick a leaner fish like catfish, you'll need to eat more of it.)
  • Eat it often, even if you sidestep a few varieties. The American Heart Association would like you to eat fish at least two times a week; if you want to be cautious, you can go easy on fish higher in mercury, such as grouper and canned white tuna. (It's definitely wise not to go on an eating jag that favors one of the fish high in the metal -- so no matter how much you like tuna steaks, don't dine on them daily.) One reason for reassurance: Two recent studies funded by the EPA suggest that selenium, a trace mineral found naturally in many types of fish, actually protects against the harmful effects of mercury. If further research supports that conclusion, the researchers say, the selenium-mercury balance could provide a reliable guide to low-risk fish.
  • Take a supplement. If you just can't bring yourself to eat fish, consider taking fish oil supplements. Of course, that means you'd be depriving yourself of a lot of pleasurable eating. We say: Take a look at our buyer's guide and our tips on how to pick and cook fish you'll love -- and dive in.

Is stretching before workouts a waste of time?

At my daily blog, The Daily Balance, I’m all about saving time. I LOVE cheating shortcuts and I HATE wasting time. All of our time is precious and I hate wasting it on things I don’t find valuable or necessary. The darling Mister on the other hand? He loves wasting to take his time. I often call him slowpoke, or slug man (I say this in love, people). He’s meticulous! He takes his time to do things right, because the way he sees it, if you do it right the first time (no matter how long it takes), you save yourself time and aggravation in the end. HA, I think to myself, what an idiot! A complete fool! I’m the complete opposite. I get things done. Bottom line. Because really, if the result is the same, why take 5 extra steps to get there? Is either way right or wrong? Well, in some cases, yes, and others…well, not so much

Let’s take a look at our morning workout routine as an example. I wake up, throw my hair back, step into my exercise clothes and tennis shoes and am ready to go. The Mister eases out of bed, get’s ready at the rate of an 80-year-old man and creates a playlist for himself on his iPhone. Meanwhile, I’ve been impatiently huffing and gruffing at the door. We finally get to the gym, he’s in a great mood and I’m extremely annoyed ready to burn off some energy. So far? Mister - 1, Me - 0. You’re smart people, you see where this is going.

Listen up Mister, because I’m only going to admit say this once. Sometimes it pays off to slow down a little bit. This brings me to the next step in our workout routine — stretching. How many of you stretch before AND after your workouts? Personally, I could take it or leave it. I’ve always seen this step as a time-waster and (don’t tell the mister) but if he’s not with me I normally skip over it to save myself some time. The Mister? He always takes an obnoxiously long period of time the appropriate time to stretch. So how important is stretching, anyway? Well, I did a bit of research and the findings are irrefutable. You guessed it: Mister - 2, Me -0

According to an article from the Mayo Clinic, “stretching is a powerful part of any exercise program.” Yeah, Yeah, but I’ve heard this before. Why is it important and why should I care? Well, “stretching your muscles helps you maximize the range of motion of your joints. This allows you to fully contract your muscles. Stretching can also prevent little tears in a muscle or tendon that occur when you force a joint to go through its full range of motion when the tissues are too tight.”

Still need convincing?

Consider this (Mayo Clinic):

  • Stretching increases flexibility. Flexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring.

  • Stretching improves range of motion of your joints. Good range of motion keeps you in better balance, which will help keep you mobile and less prone to falls - and the related injuries - especially as you age.

  • Stretching improves circulation. Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Improved circulation can speed recovery after muscle injuries.

  • Stretching can relieve stress. Stretching relaxes the tense muscles that often accompany stress.

Some studies indicate that stretching helps prevent athletic injuries as well. However, this finding remains controversial. Other studies don’t support stretching as a way to prevent injury.

Alright, so we’ve identified that stretching is important, but which stretches are worth doing? I’m not about to waste my time going through every single stretch, that’s for sure! I need the ‘must-haves’ for stretching.

Well, the Mayo Clinic put together a slide show, showcasing ten stretches that will stretch all major muscle groups. 10 stretches? I can handle that.

Men’s Health also put a list together, highlighting the best post-workout stretches.

Over the past few weeks, I have been taking the appropriate time to stretch with the Mister before and after our workouts. Do I notice a difference? Not really. But I feel good knowing that I’m doing something good for my body. I’ll also admit that the stretching feels good, which is a plus, and I also find I’m in a better mood with the Mister because I don’t get annoyed waiting for him really enjoy our time stretching together (love you, honey).

What about you? Do you stretch before your workouts? Do you notice a difference if you don’t?

Shannon is founder and creator of The Daily Balance, a Web site updated daily with advice, tips and personal stories to help other find balance in their lives. From food and fashion to fitness, inspiration, recipes and motivation, The Daily Balance is the perfect tool for those who "want it all."

[photo credit: Getty Images]

Can Winning the Weight Loss Battle Mean Losing the Love Battle?

Many people work incredibly hard to lose weight. They diet, exercise, struggle and sacrifice all in the name of becoming a more fit and healthier individual. They might use a support team, a popular diet like Weight Watchers, or invent their own method. However, they often find that once they’ve lost weight their spouse or significant other has negative feelings- they might be mad, upset or incredibly enough, jealous. They might make unkind comments, sabotage with former indulgences, and even accuse of infidelity or betrayal.

It's no laughing matter – it happens more often than you might think. So if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, where weight loss equals love lost, how can you handle it at a time when you really want to feel supported and encouraged?

Remember, you lost the weight for you. Or you should have. Losing weight for someone else rarely works and can even backfire. While your successful weight loss can put you over the moon, it can uncover feelings of insecurity that your spouse didn't know existed. Take the time to listen to what he has to say. Maybe there is an infidelity in his past. Maybe your weight loss reminds of his own weight issues. There might be history with a parent or family member that is related to weight.

Ask your spouse to go to counseling with you. Do it for your relationship, but know that you can’t change his or her feelings. Also know that the insecurity is not your fault, and that you don’t own any part of it. Your spouse loved you heavy, and you aren’t any less lovable at a healthy weight. Believe that deep inside, and don’t allow him or anyone else to sabotage all of your incredibly hard work and accomplishments.

Learn more about maintaining a healthy diet at