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Make Sure You Know What The Underground Railroad is Before Ringing in the New Year

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Everyone wants to make fun of and call Porsha Stewart from The Real Housewives of Atlanta stupid because she thought The Underground Railroad was an actual train, but I chose to call her misinformed or uneducated. She also didn’t know there are 365 days in a year, so book smart Porsha is not. After all her father was Rev. Hosea Williams, a civil rights leader, so one would assume that she knows the basics of Black History, but I’m sure most people think all Black people know Black History fluently. We don’t and that is a shame. Some of it is our own fault and some of it isn’t. However, there’s no need to stay dumb to historical facts when so many of us are on the internet and all it takes is hopping on over to Google or Yahoo! and typing in “The Underground Railroad” and finding factual information, as I have below.

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The Underground Railroad, a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North and to Canada, was not run by any single organization or person. Rather, it consisted of many individuals — many whites but predominantly black — who knew only of the local efforts to aid fugitives and not of the overall operation. Still, it effectively moved hundreds of slaves northward each year — according to one estimate, the South lost 100,000 slaves between 1810 and 1850.

An organized system to assist runaway slaves seems to have begun towards the end of the 18th century. In 1786 George Washington complained about how one of his runaway slaves was helped by a “society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.” The system grew, and around 1831 it was dubbed “The Underground Railroad,” after the then emerging steam railroads. The system even used terms used in railroading: the homes and businesses where fugitives would rest and eat were called “stations” and “depots” and were run by “stationmasters,” those who contributed money or goods were “stockholders,” and the “conductor” was responsible for moving fugitives from one station to the next.

For the slave, running away to the North was anything but easy. The first step was to escape from the slaveholder. For many slaves, this meant relying on his or her own resources. Sometimes a “conductor,” posing as a slave, would enter a plantation and then guide the runaways northward. The fugitives would move at night. They would generally travel between 10 and 20 miles to the next station, where they would rest and eat, hiding in barns and other out-of-the-way places. While they waited, a message would be sent to the next station to alert its stationmaster.

The fugitives would also travel by train and boat — conveyances that sometimes had to be paid for. Money was also needed to improve the appearance of the runaways — a black man, woman, or child in tattered clothes would invariably attract suspicious eyes. This money was donated by individuals and also raised by various groups, including vigilance committees.

Vigilance committees sprang up in the larger towns and cities of the North, most prominently in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. In addition to soliciting money, the organizations provided food, lodging and money, and helped the fugitives settle into a community by helping them find jobs and providing letters of recommendation.

The Underground Railroad had many notable participants, including John Fairfield in Ohio, the son of a slaveholding family, who made many daring rescues, Levi Coffin, a Quaker who assisted more than 3,000 slaves, and Harriet Tubman, who made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom.

via The Underground Railroad.

Dogs Playing Poker: The Story Behind The Famous Painting

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You’ve probably seen it hung in bars, in basements, perhaps even in art galleries. Each year, pictures made by dog lovers on Twitter or Instagram try to replicate it. But what is the story with the famous paintings of a handful of dogs playing poker? It may surprise you to know that it wasn’t intended to be a work of art, or even produced for its own aesthetic. In fact, the origins of this piece come from a humble marketing firm trying to sell cigars.

The Life And Times Of CM Coolidge

Born in a small town in upstate New York, Cassius Marcellus Coolidge never had much in the way of art instruction. His parents, both devout Quakers, never enrolled him in art schools or provided him with any supplies. Upon moving to Philadelphia, however, after leaving his family farm, he began to pursue a multitude of different careers. Like some famous artists who spend decades of their life doing all manner of odd jobs, Coolidge went from enterprise to enterprise in an attempt to find success. He failed at running a drug store and a bank, and even tried to write an opera, before he decided to turn his attention towards his artistic talents. Coolidge started small, slinging paintings on the side of the street and teaching art to children. His breakthrough gig came when he began to draw cartoons.

Brown And Bigelo

In 1896, Minneapolis marketing partners Hirm Brown and Herbert Bigelow opened up a firm to advertise everything from corporate calendars to ball-point pens. Their initial success was limited, and not until 1929 when they secured a contract with the Boy Scouts of America did they land on the front page of the marketing industry. Prior to their breakthrough, however, they looked to create art prints that cigar companies could use as giveaways for their goods. These small art prints were frequent in turn-of-the-century marketing, featured at everything from ball games to political rallies. They turned to Coolidge to make the prints of dogs doing everything that cigar aficionados would — including playing a good hand of poker.

Sixteen Paintings And A Legacy

The production of the Dogs Playing Poker prints took place in a short period of time in 1903. Coolidge enjoyed depicting animals in human situations and churned out sixteen different prints, where dogs did everything from bluff in five-card draw (as the most famous picture depicts) to read the mail to testify in court to go camping. Nine of the sixteen prints feature poker and other gambling activities, which have become the most popular of all the prints. Coolidge only earned a meager sum for the paintings, but like many other artists before him, his work became popular over the long duration. Burned into popular culture after television shots, product placements, and a countless number of imitations, Dogs Playing Poker immediately conjures up an image of the famous five-canine table. In 2006, the original art print of these gambling dogs sold at auction for half a million dollars.

+Neil Kilgore is the Jack (Russell) of all trades at Greenfield Puppies in Lancaster Pa. He regularly blogs about dogs, breeders and puppies on the Greenfield Puppies website.

10 Fall Fashion Trends You’ll Definitely Want To Try

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As the greens of summer leaves change to fiery shades of red, orange, and yellow, fashionistas everywhere are feeling the itch to put the bold prints, gladiator sandals, and flowing florals of summer away in favor of pieces more compatible with the cooler weather. Seasonal trends are constantly changing, evolving, and manifesting in often unpredictable but always delightful ways. This constant state of flux is what makes fashion so exciting, but it also means it can be difficult to keep up with the latest and greatest styles.

Luckily, you don’t have to have a seat next to Bono at the famed Paris or New York fashion shows to get an idea of the upcoming season’s hottest trends. Curious what our wardrobes have to look forward to during the autumn months? Here are the top ten fall fashion trends of 2013.

1.     Green Machine

It’s official – green is the must-have color for this fall. Obviously, you’ll want to opt for fall friendly shades of green like forest, olive, and army greens. While all variations of green are in, according to Glamour magazine, emerald green was the hue most frequently spotted on fall fashion runways this season.

2.     Winter White

Yes, you really can wear white after Labor Day – and you should! Across many different cultures, white is considered a symbol of innocence, purity, and elegance. It also tends to look stunning on practically anyone and can be a welcome reprieve from the usual dark tones of fall and winter. To adapt white to cool weather, be sure to choose autumn appropriate materials like wool, denim, and suede.

3.     Traditional Prints

The reign of the overly complicated prints that were often just one shade short of an optical illusion is finally over. World renowned fashion designers from Haider Ackermann to Tommy Hilfiger are embracing traditional prints like hounds tooth, herringbone, pinstripes, plaid, and leopard. These classic prints look great on almost all apparel and accessories.

4.     Relaxed Pants

Don’t worry; the roaring trend of skinny jeans will likely continue into the winter months, especially when paired with dramatic, over the knee boots. But there is also a new player in the realm of pants styles – the slouchy pant leg. These pants are loose in the thigh and calf and slightly fitted at the ankle. When paired with a bold pair of heels, this look is both comfortable and chic.

5.     Bold Outerwear

Outerwear serves an obvious purpose by protecting you from the biting cold, but it can also make a daring fashion statement. All across the fall runways we saw eye-catching and sometimes jaw-dropping outerwear. You might not want to go for the vibrantly colored fur outerwear spotted on Fendi and Lanvin models, but you can definitely opt for bright colors and interesting textures.

6.     Punk Chic

Just when you thought we’d seen the end of punk fashion, top designers like Vivienne Westwood, Versace, and Chanel found a way to re-invent and revitalize the style. You can add a little unexpected spice to your fall fashion by incorporating chains, spikes, studs, and vinyl.

7.     Contrasting Textures

Layering has always been an autumn fashion staple, but you can inject a little pizzazz by experimenting with a variety of textures in your layered look. Sheer fabrics paired with leather are particularly stylish and appealing.

8.     Luxurious Leather

Speaking of leather, this fall you finally have free reign to add leather to your wardrobe. And don’t make the mistake of assuming that leather always has to give you an edgy look. Leather can also be very feminine – especially when used with delicate lace or silk.

9.     Masculine Touch

In line with green being the season’s hot color, military inspired and stereotypically masculine looks had a very strong showing on the runways. Similar to leather, don’t be afraid to take a masculine style and mix in some feminine flair such as a fitted waist or super skinny pants.

These tips should certainly give your autumn wardrobe a kick-start. If you want to get these fall fashions for an unbeatable price, you should check out discount clothing online – it’s fashion for a steal!

Written by Edmond A. Edmond loves the latest trends in fashion.

 

Top 5 Alternative LGBT Holiday Destinations

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As attitudes throughout the world continue to evolve, thousands of cities across the globe are awakening to the vibrancy of LGBT culture.  From tiny beach side hamlets to major metropolises, exciting holiday destinations with diverse gay communities are proliferating and gaining popularity.  Whether you are looking for a quiet escape from a hectic professional life, a relaxing seaside vacation, or a party packed holiday; there are numerous LGBT-friendly destinations to choose from.  So for those eager for an unforgettable holiday that––even in LGBT circles­­––is a bit more alternative than most, these are the top five locations you should visit on your next getaway.

Seattle, Washington

Nestled amongst lush forests and the stunning island-filled Puget Sound, Seattle is remarkable both for its natural surroundings and its rich cultural offerings.  Home to the nation’s second largest gay community, which is predominantly centered in Capitol Hill, the city has a lot to offer.  Dense with intimate coffee shops, art galleries, bookstores, microbreweries, and concert venues, Seattle is a renowned center for the arts.  It also has some of the most colorful nightlife in America.

The Swiss Alps

Though most of us wouldn’t associate the historically neutral Switzerland with LGBT culture, the country’s legendary slopes are fast becoming a can’t-miss destination for gay travelers.  The Arosa Gay Ski Week, which runs for seven days in early January, is largely to thank for the region’s LGBT renaissance.  Having steadily grown in attendance, it is gradually drawing more and more gay travelers to holiday in these gorgeous mountains.  Wintertime LGBT vacationers won’t want to miss it!

Fire Island, New York

 Just off the southern shore of Long Island, Fire Island is an intimate and little known hotspot for LGBT holiday goers.  With no cars allowed on the island between Memorial Day and Labor Day, bungalow-style cottages dotting the landscape of rolling hills, and sea grass speckled coastal dunes spilling into the Atlantic, Fire Island has an irresistible charm.  Its gay communities are centered in the quaint hamlets of Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines; and the entire island offers a comfortable mixture of solitude and social activity, complete with quiet white sand beaches and vibrant nightclubs.

Mykonos, Greece

By now, Mykonos is no secret.  Home to the legendary XLSIOR Gay Festival in August and the intensely notorious Super Paradise Beach, this unparalleled Grecian isle is an unforgettable LGBT holiday hub.  With quaint whitewashed adobe houses and churches spread throughout craggy hills, picturesque windmills, ancient villages, and narrow winding cobblestone alleys, it is impossible to deny Mykonos’ beauty.  And with one of the most exciting club scenes in the world, it is also impossible to deny Mykonos’ capacity for fun.

Goa, India

Few places in the world can boast a more diverse community than Goa.  Located on India’s western coast, the gorgeous beaches here are home to an unparalleled gathering of eccentricity, originality, and expression.  Arambol and Hippie Beach certainly won’t appeal to the tastes of every traveler; but for open-minded individuals looking for a unique and intense cultural experience on their next holiday, Goa is the place to go.

It seems that the LGBT culture has truly begun to blossom on a global scale in recent years.  Many businesses, travel groups, and entire communities have begun catering specifically to the gay community.  So no matter where you go on your next holiday, you are likely to discover a newly emerging LGBT destination.  Happy travels!

This article was contributed by Caroline – the travel insurance expert from Gocompare.com.

Reasons Why I Would Hire A Male Escort

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Professional Male Escort, Ash Armand, from the Showtimes series, Gigolos.

Have you ever watched Gigolos, the Showtime series about male escorts in Las Vegas? It’s very entertaining and comical. Why? Because in my opinion, none of the men are as smooth or desirable as they think they are. They also have weak stroke game in the bed although the female clients on the show swear it’s one of the best sexual experiences they’ve ever had.

Most of the women who hire male escorts do it for the same reasons as men who hire female escorts; they are busy professionals that don’t have time for relationships or haven’t had luck with relationships and need a lil’ sexual healing. However, with rates like $800 for two hours and $3,000 for an overnight rendezvous, I won’t be hiring a male escort anytime soon.

I’m a busy woman, but I do have time for a relationship and I very much would like to be in a relationship, but having been single for more than ten years and not having had sex in over a year, I am a great candidate to hire a male escort. I have sexual needs that aren’t currently being met!

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My Celebrity Crush – Wentworth Miller. Yes, I know he’s gay!

The great thing about escorts is that you get exactly what you pay for. You don’t have to deal with diseases, drama or heartbreak. You can just have fun and use him any way you see fit because he has to do whatever you pay him to do; within reason of course. Gigolos is looking for women to submit sexy ideas for the new season and I was seriously considering applying to be on the show, but who am I kidding? I can only enjoy sex with someone that I have strong feelings for or someone that looks like Wentworth Miller!

Would you hire an escort? What would you do with him?

Check out ‘Australian Babe’ http://www.australian-babe.com/

Independent Film Spotlight: Look At Me, Damn It!

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For filmmaker Carolyn Battle-Cochrane, “Biracial, Not Black, Damn it” is not just a film series title, but a way of life. Battle-Cochrane spent most of her life trying to hide her biracial identity, which was the source of more than a few school yard brawls in her youth, and the past decade learning to understand and embrace the unique contributions she and other biracial and mixed race people contribute to the world.

“Look at Me, Damn it,” delves deeper into the complexities of race and racial codes in America, examining everything from the experiences of biracial people who are adopted into mono-racial homes, and the lack of drug testing for mixed-race folks in the medical community, passing, entitlements, to the mixed story-line that does not have a first generation African American, European, Asian or Latino parent and mixes that are not just black and white. Battle-Cochrane’s aspirations for the project, which recently launched a fundraising effort on the website indiegogo include debuting at the Sundance Film Festival and sharing her message of self-love and racial healing.

What was your experience growing up as a biracial child in New York in the 60’s and 70’s?

It wasn’t an easy existence being biracial in a black neighborhood in New York in the 60’s and early 70’s. Racially our country was going through changes, it was smack dab in the mist of the civil rights movement.  I lived in a black neighborhood in Queens, and the Black Panthers marched down our block often–one time a black girlfriend of my moms came unglued when they came marching and chanting that she screamed, “Carolyn get in the closet“. Mom didn’t budge…she peeked out the window and watched as they passed our home.  What that meant for my brothers and I is that we had to run fast or be ready for a fight.  

My older brother Jacques and I were always together so we were either dodging rocks, snowballs or hearing “ain’t your momma pretty, she got meatballs in her titties and scrambled eggs between her legs, ain’t your momma pretty…(I still remember that to this day)”, and your Momma is a “white ho” would quickly be tagged on.  My dad, a rather hard man, made it clear he was not raising any sissies, we better put rocks in our snowballs and throw twice as many until we drew blood!  If we lost the fight Mr. Battle was gonna whup us, so take your pick…fight kids or get beat by a man lathered in several shots of Old Crow yielding a belt.  Jacques and I never lost a fight.  The only time we got beat up is if we were alone or got jumped by several kids.  After you make it clear you’re not going to run, you’re not going to cry, you’re going to fight to win, you gain a reputation and then for whatever reason you become friends.  Unfortunately we moved often, which meant the process was repeated never giving us time to create lasting friendships in our neighborhood.  Mom did have us in church every Saturday, our lasting friendships were made there.  Saturday church and the Sabbath (and not a Synagogue) was an oddity much like our racial identity.  

Behind closed doors, life showcased elements that were essential to making me who I am today. The waltz and Lawrence Welk were Mom’s favorite–so she danced with my brothers often and taught me how to be a proper young lady.  How to set a table correctly. One of the first books I remember reading was a book on etiquette.  The contrast being the blues and R&B, scatted by my father in his bombastic tone, weaved and intertwined into the core of all I love.  Classical music  makes my heart swell, and I love the blues…I sing them regularly.  

I want to say I never felt tragic during this period of my life.  I concluded as a child that my personal family was dysfunctional, and that daddy didn’t really like white people, and that Mom wasn’t light skin. My life was my life, so that was my normal…we were always moving fast so there was nothing to compare it to.   


Why did you once hide your biracial identity?

I hid my biracial identity most of my childhood.  Most of my life actually.  I was ashamed of having a white mother (as a child). I cry every time I have to speak on this or am reminded of this.  I denied she was my mother in school. I was in a classroom filled with black kids, it wasn’t cool having a white mother and more than likely it meant I was going to have to fight someone, or several someone’s.  As an adult it was just easier to represent myself as a light skin black than deal with the possibility that someone might see me as the enemy in some way. I owned a hair salon that catered to black clientele, and the things I’ve heard about white people, umph…to this day are “interesting” to say the least. I just have to say on the record, my Mom never smelled like a wet dog…she smelled like baked cookies and roses.


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Why is it so important that biracial people identify as such and not choose a side?

What I don’t want to do is speak for all biracial people, so I am going to speak to why I think biracial identity is important (to me) and why I won’t choose one side any longer.

First and foremost my awakening came with memories of denying my mother, an amazing woman that gave love and positivity regardless of where we found ourselves. I asked my Mom once why she didn’t just walk back into the white world and leave us, and be okay.  The life she endured because she was our mother at that time in American history was so harsh, and the toll racism had on my father, her husband came into the home and landed on her.  As a woman, as a mother, I fell apart and realized how much she had endured, it was unbearable to digest.  In that moment I was proud for the first time in my life of who I was, who I was because of her.  I was sick to my stomach of my actions as a child and realized I wasn’t much different as an adult if I didn’t take pride in her as my mother.  Respect and love for my mother is the real reason for me to identify as biracial.

How can I choose a side other than to give the illusion of choosing when I am equal parts of an experience.  In theory I can, but the voices that play out in your head when you do, would suggest you never really choose a side if you’re biracial even if your appear to be doing so.  Let me explain, to choose a side means that you are also denying a side. When doing that you are denying a part of yourself, which means at some point that choice is going to be painful.  Being biracial gives you this incredible ability to see people as people, with all of their wrappings.  It gives you clarity on right and wrong, good and bad, equality and inequality and doesn’t usually come with the stereotypes attached for most mono-racial folks.  We live in that space of both, but not really…we live in observation of both, which gives us the ultimate reality check.  Ya’ll ain’t that different at all.  It might come down to you want mayo and he wants hot sauce.  But at the end of the day, we are more alike than different. Cultural differences are learned/taught…so when you remove those, what are the real differences besides the shade of your skin.  Personally I am still trying to figure that out.  

As I get close to the end of my series on being biracial, mixed-race, multi-ethnic, I am finding I am still singing the jingle in my head, “Just different shades of the same human race.”  That’s my signature tune, BUT, we don’t live in that world just yet.  In the past several years race, and the topic of race have become more profound and disconnected than I can recall since being a child.  It’s Obama’s fault. (SMH)

There is another reason I think that identifying as biracial holds importance.  Over the course of my life I have had several close friends that have had two black parents, they are striking women, the most gorgeous chocolate skin, and the sweetest spirits.  Cassandra almost sounds like Marilyn Monroe when she speaks.  Over the course of many decades I have witnessed something that has been heart breaking. I was always described as the pretty one when I have been with them…and it was a damn lie! Cassandra has always been the beauty, still is.  Somehow the standard of beauty in this country often comes with the shade of your skin, and not necessarily anything to do with what you really look like.  That was the back-bone of discomfort for me when it comes to who is pretty.  

Fast forward, CNN did the baby doll test, where black girls found the white (light doll) as the pretty doll.  Pull my heart out, my daughter married a toasty brown man, which means my grand-daughters are not “light-skinned” and the day came when my grand-daughter told me she wished her skin was lighter like her Umi’s or mine because that would mean she would be pretty.  Nooooooooooooo, that is not true baby-girl  It is not true!!! 

Then, I saw the interview where CNN sent Soledad O’Brien to interview the family of this beautiful little brown baby girl about her feelings.  That night I realized we have so much work to do…at a time where this child’s self esteem could have, should have been elevated it wasn’t.  The celebrity host, which showed up looked more white to a child’s eye, than black like her.  When major black magazines tout Halle Berry as the most beautiful Black woman in THE WORLD…there is a problem with this, to me.  Halle and Soledad have a white parent, which creates some one that is different from someone that doesn’t have a white parent.  We cannot define that as black, and then say that is the standard for beauty in the back community. It makes it an unobtainable standard to children, little girls that do not have a white parent.  I will not play by those rules.  

And, one final point…in the black community the standard of beauty has been the lighter the better (paper bag test, Jack & Jill club), even tho…the darker the berry the sweeter the juice is the other slogan.  Knowing this as biracial people, why not just remove ourselves from a box we don’t belong in, of course we are people of color, of course we share in the black experience.  However, we also have had experiences that blacks without a white parent will probably never understand, the entitlements are real, the ability to feel pretty damn comfortable within the white community is real…we can’t walk in each others shoes.  They don’t fit.


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I am raising a biracial daughter, what advice do you have for us?

First, thank goodness it ain’t 1963…

Basic advice, make sure she is proud of all that she is, knows who she is, her background and her heritage.  Make sure she is grounded in that.  Don’t let her buy into the pretty light girl crap, pretty girl, okay!  People are people, it’s that basic.  Is her father in her life…if yes, great.  If not, still knowing that side of who she is, is extremely important (in many interviews with biracial girls raised by their black mothers, they needed to have a connection to their white family to feel whole.)

Also, have your daughter be the voice for those that can’t speak for themselves.  Because we are both, more often than not both races feel a certain level of ease with us, which they don’t usually feel with the mono-racial other team (sad, but true)  we can teach blacks about whites and whites about blacks…show them how we are not really different. Speak up when something racist is being said (both teams have their fair share of hurt and fear).  Educate folks.  We have evolved (somewhat-minus the Cheerios bullshit) the children of today are not going to be my story.  Thank goodness.  I learned in making this series, that we have documented history…my story is one of the past. Your daughter’s story isn’t going to be streaked with the undertones of those of us born in the 50’s and 60’s when it was illegal to be in an interracial relationship.  So parenting a biracial child is less intense, they will have friends, they are everywhere…they will change the world, bridge the gap between the races.

I wrote a series called, The Half Series: When Black People Look White, in 2010 and it remains a top story on the network. Have you read it? If so, what do you think?

I really enjoyed it…the one place we might slightly differ in thought process is,  the definition of race.  When we bring in institutionalized definitions of what race is, the reality or the myth that doesn’t really make a difference in the day to day, walking in the skin we’re in.  It’s how we’re perceived and how that impacts our lives personally and what we need to do to survive those perceptions.  Of course race is not real, it’s created, and defined (by perception)…but when you live in a world where you are denied housing because of your skin shade it is real, when you are denied advancement because of your skin shade it is real, when you can get you shot for walking down the street with a hoodie and Skittles…it has to be dealt with.  We cannot pretend race is fictional when it has life and death consequences attached.  The perception of who we are is as real as the other person’s choice to pick up or put down that weapon based on what we look like and how that translates to their issues of fear, hatred and bigotry based on the illusion of race.

I love what you are doing, getting folks talking offers another perspective, another story…and there is never one story on any topic…so keep at it!!

Visit Carolyn at battlecatt.com

Top Story: The Most Romantic Gift Ideas

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There are a thousand different ways to say ‘I love you’ to that certain someone, so when a special occasion comes around there should be no shortage of ideas. The good news for those who are on a budget is that you don’t have to spend a small fortune to make a large impact, especially if you’re prepared to make an effort with creativity. Here are some ideas that will move the earth but won’t cost the earth.

Heart-shaped balloon

Receiving a parcel via a courier is always a special treat, and it can be extra-special if there is a romantic gift inside. A foil balloon in the shape of a heart represents a new twist on an established classic, so why not send one today to your loved one? If he or she is currently located somewhere far away, a balloon will send a message of love that will remain in the memory for a long time. For an added bonus, it can be personalized with a message and the name of the recipient.

Photo collage

Personalized gifts are always that bit more special, especially if it took a little effort to create. A collage made up of meaningful photographs from recent times can create a truly spectacular effect, and in some cases the larger the collage the more impressive it looks. It’s a good idea to ensure there are no gaps, and if possible it’s best to include images from a number of different places and occasions.

Love boxes

This particular idea shows the recipient just how much you are thinking of them, especially if you make an effort to include items that are particularly well-liked. Fill the box with romantic items such as chocolates, sweets, biscuits and other foodstuffs, as well as a single red rose and a music compilation of her most favorite romantic songs. Remember, the box needs to be securely packaged, and you need to make sure you use a next day courier so the rose does not whiter.

Picnic basket

On a similar theme, a picnic basket containing a wide selection of tasty treats will also hit the spot. As well as foodstuffs, you could also include personalized plates and cups to make the gift even more individual. You might also want to include an invitation to a picnic on a specified date in a highly romantic location, so you and the recipient can take the basket out on its very first excursion.

Personalized Canvas Print

A perfectly matched couple will invariably share many happy memories, and nothing accentuates this more than a personalized canvas print. Get your favorite picture of you and your other half and have it printed on a canvas, and inscribed with personal messages of unbridled love. Some may choose to record a favorite poem, the exact time and date when the pair first met, or perhaps they day they got married. As always, the choice is entirely up to you.

Personalized jewelry

Jewelry has always been a popular choice when giving a gift, especially when there is a special occasion in the air. Sending a loved one such an item via a courier is a great way to add a little anticipation, so if you’re dispatching a ring to Rome, a bracelet to Birmingham or a necklace to New York, you should have the item inscribed first. Such a gift would be considered so special it will surely never be forgotten.

 

Iain Aitchison is a keen blogger lifestyle blogger. He often blogs about craft ideas and creative endeavors.

 

Top Story – Would You Hire A Male Escort? I Would!

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Professional Male Escort, Ash Armand, from the Showtimes series, Gigolos.

Have you ever watched Gigolos, the Showtime series about male escorts in Las Vegas? It’s very entertaining and comical. Why? Because in my opinion, none of the men are as smooth or desirable as they think they are. They also have weak stroke game in the bed although the female clients on the show swear it’s one of the best sexual experiences they’ve ever had. It’s a shame that the best sex is paid for sex, but escorts are trained to please.

Most of the women who hire male escorts do it for the same reasons as men who hire female escorts; they are busy professionals that don’t have time for relationships and need a lil’ sexual healing. However, with rates like $800 for two hours and $3,000 for an overnight rendezvous, I won’t be hiring a male escort anytime soon.

I’m a busy woman, but I do have time for a relationship and I very much would like to be in a relationship, but having been single for more than ten years and not having had sex in over a year, I am a great candidate to hire a male escort. I have sexual needs that aren’t currently being met!

Most of the escorts on Gigolos are also corny and cocky as hell. I think it’s better for escorts to be seen and not heard. I can’t speak for all women, but if your corny/cocky meter is off the charts and you say something stupid I am immediately turned off no matter how sexy or good looking you are.

The great thing about escorts is that you get exactly what you pay for. You don’t have to deal with diseases, drama or heartbreak. You can just have fun and use him any way you see fit because he has to do whatever you pay him to do; within reason of course. If sex isn’t your main objective, you can use him as arm candy on a romantic date or show him off at an event.

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My Celebrity Crush – Wentworth Miller

If you visit the Cowboys For Angels website (the official website for Gigolos) you’ll see images and rates for men in places like Las Vegas, L.A., and New York. New York has some of the best looking escorts, by the way, with rates starting at $300. That’s still too rich for my blood, but I’d save my tax money to spend a couple of hours with an escort that looks like Wentworth Miller!

Ladies: Would you hire an escort? What would you do with him?

This post was brought to you by Models Escort Agency & Select Sydney Escorts http://www.modelsescortagency.com.au/ & http://www.selectsydneyescorts.com.au/

How To Have A Real Summer Vacation – Without Spending A Lot Of Money

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Summertime is supposed to be a fun time, but it’s not really a whole lot of fun to be sweltering in the heat doing nothing interesting while your friends are out gallivanting around the world.  So what can you do to enjoy summer, without having to run up your credit card bills or spend a fortune? Here are some tips that life coaching experts recommend:

Look for free or cheap summer-specific things to do in your city

Do you have things you always mean to get around to doing in your town in the summer, like checking out Shakespeare in the Park or the symphony’s outdoor performances or a local food festival, but you just have not gotten around to doing these things? Well, there is no time like the present. Look in your community for some of the many fun summer-specific event that there are, and make it a point to do one of those things every week.

Act like a tourist in your town

Along those lines, there are plenty of year-round things to do in your city or town.  For example, I recently walked Manhattan’s High Line, an old elevated railway line that has been converted to a beautiful park.  It is something I have been meaning to do more often – the flowered plants in the park bloom at different times, so it means a different experience every single time you visit it. Anyhow, I saw two tourists taking photos of each other, so I offered to take a photo of the two of them together. As I was doing so, the wife mused about how much there is to do in New York City, and wondered if people visited the great attractions all the time. I thought to myself that I had all these great things to see and do in the city, yet I did not do many of them. Anyhow, it is something to think about – consider what tourist attractions are in your town, and get to them now.

Consider taking three-day weekends

If you cannot afford to take a week-long vacation, think about how you can take a three-day weekend at a location within driving or public transportation distance. And make it a real break away from your life; spend your time enjoying the time away, not checking your email every five minutes.

Do that staycation

If you have leave time coming to you, but not a huge amount of money to spend, you can do that staycation. Incorporate the things suggested above, like finding free or cheap things to do, acting like a tourist in your town, and taking a mini-vacation. But also consider doing even more simple pleasures like just going to the movies or binge-watching a TV series like Arrested Development. You can get some exercise classes in that you have not have time for, or spend time in the local pool.

To learn more about tips on how to enjoy your summer, you might want to talk to a life coach.

Lisa Swan writes on a variety of life and career coaching topics. She lives in New York City.

 

Black Music Month Feature: Klymaxx – Meeting in the Ladies Room

Vivica Fox cameo at 2:33!

Top Story – How To Say ‘No’ Like A Gentleman

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Very often in life, we encounter dilemmas wherein the most convenient way of handling things isn’t necessarily the best, and rarely the classiest. This holds true whether it’s shaving, dating or deciding on what to do in your 20s. It’s also the case when it comes to having to say ‘no’ to someone.

Refusing, or saying ‘no’, like a gentleman is not about the tone in which you deliver the sound ‘no’, not the firmness in the way you say the word ‘no’, not the physical stance in which you portray the word ‘no’, not the hand gestures in which you wave off a ‘no’, but the actual courtesy extended in the way you reject or dismiss something

Saying ‘no’ can be quite difficult. The more emotions are involved the harder it becomes. Break-ups are a very profound ‘no’ and the same goes for having to fire someone. But there are also more common, everyday cases like saying no to your boss, refusing to help out a friend financially, or standing your ground for ethical reasons. Making the right decision is difficult and, in these situations, never easy.

However, there are a few general guidelines that can help you do things right, upstanding and with consideration. In order to illustrate those, we’ve picked out a few ‘no’ situations and how to best handle them.

Saying ‘No’ to Your Partner

What could be more bigger and more excruciating refusal than having to break up with someone. You have to reject someone who might still love you and who you might even have strong feelings for. Delivering this final ‘no’ is one of the worst parts you can face in a relationship.

Many men are thus tempted to avoid this confrontation in person. Some resort to sending text messages or email. Some opt for phone calls even though you see each other regularly. It seems like an easy way to avoid an uncomfortable situation if we can elude it and make ourselves as distant as we can.

Nearly just as bad, is the ‘picking a public place so she won’t make a scene’ idea. It means you won’t be able to talk openly. You put both yourselves in a situation where you are pressured not to show emotions. And there’s a good chance it’ll bite you back if she’s going to make a scene anyway.

If you want to be a gentleman even in a break up, you do it in person. You take your time. You do it in private. Her place is usually a good choice – it’s a safe place for her and you can leave once all is said and done. Don’t rush it. Make sure you have time for at least two hours. Maybe it won’t take that long, but might as well allot some time for it. You can give her a heads-up by phone or text ‘We need to talk’, but the actual talk should happen in person.

You shared a common history, feelings and time. You owe it to her to do it properly. Yes, you might get insulted. You might need to answer uncomfortable questions. She might even make a scene. And she has a right to. She’s the one who got broken up with.

However, also make sure you do it right. Avoid raising false hopes. Imply on the finality of the break up. This means there is no ‘let’s just be friends again’, there is no ‘friends with benefits’. You draw a line, it’s over and that’s not up for debate. Maybe one day in the future, you can get along with each other again and be friends, but when you say no, there’s no promise of that and certainly no negotiation.

Saying ‘No’ to Your Friend

We’ve all been to that part in our lives. A friend knocks on our door, he wants to borrow some money, and we lend it to him. And then comes a second time. Or a third Maybe all went well for the first time, but then you become wary. The risks become evident to you and you can’t afford to lose the money they are promising to return.

A good rule of thumb for is that if you can’t afford to gift the money, you shouldn’t lend it.

It’s hard. Maybe they are in a tough spot, maybe they helped you out before, maybe you just don’t think their planned business will ever take off, or maybe whatever they plan using it for will do them more harm than good. At one point you decide to draw the line.

Friends might take ill to this, but it will blow over. Be clear to them that you are just saying ‘no’ financially and you are still there to support and help them in other non-financial ways. Whether it’s assisting them in job search, spending an afternoon helping them fix things in their house or at work, or just good, honest-hearted advice. There’s plenty you can do that doesn’t involve pulling out your wallet.

Saying ‘No’ to Your Boss

Some people find saying ‘yes’ a lot easier than ‘no’, especially when talking to your boss. Direct supervisors at work are a good example of that. It’s not unusual for subordinates to just say ‘yes’ and follow their bosses lead, because they fear it otherwise reflects badly on them or causes more trouble. This is all okay if you are truly in the wrong or it’s not worth fighting over. However, in some situations, speaking up may be the best option.

A recent post on the AirAsia website (airasia.com/travel3sixty/saying-no-to-your-boss.html) details an incident that happened way back in 1977 where a co-pilot did not speak up due to the chain of command, resulting in the loss of many, many lives. A prime example of how someone in a lower ranking position chose to keep quiet due to fear, respect, or maybe both. A human error nonetheless, but if the situation were handled properly, numerous lives could have been saved. In times like this, a firm ‘no’ followed with a decent and logical explanation would have done the trick (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_Airlines_Flight_604).

Saying ‘No’ to Your Employee

In similar fashion, bosses have their own ‘no’ problems. Letting someone go is never an easy task, even more so when you don’t actually want to let them go. In cases of company downsizing, or poor performance, sometimes you, as a manager or owner of the company, have to make tough decisions. It is even tougher for the person sitting on the opposite side of the table from you.

In a way, firing someone is like a break up. You tell them in clear terms that they are being terminated. You can not backtrack or raise false hopes. Be clear in your communication, have everything prepared and be sure to finish things that very day.

Saying ‘No’ to a Stranger

Sometimes a ‘no’ to a stranger can be just as bad as a ‘no’ to someone close to you. It could come in many ways, but the worst ones are those that have long-term effects like getting you fired from work. There’s a recent case of a restaurant waiter standing up for a special needs child by not serving the table who refused to sit next to the child’s family and who also told the waiter that ‘special needs kids should be kept in special places’ (mashable.com/2013/01/24/laurenzos-down-syndrome/).

The waiter could have yielded, seated and served the complaining party at a another table, no one being the wiser. In customer service ‘the customer is always right’ and putting up with their antics is often expected of staff. That refusal could have meant him losing his job if he had a less principled boss. If one values his/her job security, it is often advised to just put up with it. But is it worth the price? He stuck with his principles and refused service. It turned out well for the water in the end, but that’s not something he knew in advance.

Unfortunately, some people might not be able to risk their job and have no choice. If you can afford to say ‘no’, that’s a privilege. Don’t waste it.

What it comes down to

Having to say ‘No’ can be very unpleasant. But it’s also an opportunity to earn the respect of others. Challenging situations offer a chance to do the right thing, by being honest, upfront and clear, even though it can feel like it’s outside your comfort zone. However, in the end you’ll not only do others but also yourself a favor when saying ‘No’ like a gentleman.

Karsten usually helps people say ‘No’ when it comes to registering internet domains (and mostly when it comes to GoDaddy): He’s a blogger and reviewer of domain registrars at domainraccoon.com.

Fashion Spotlight: RARE Clothing New York

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Black Lady in Gas Mask Tee!

Isaac Boakye who also goes by the name Ike Styles, born in Kumasi, Ghana and raised in the Bronx is the founder of the new clothing line RARE New York. Ike’s whose many inspirations come from artist and fashion designers such Kenzo Minami, Rick Owens and many others has a vision that is beyond other’s understanding. His vision for RARE is to be an urban line with a high-end twist and to keep everything simple yet sophisticated. RARE’s target audience is for people who understand fashion and know that you can be fashionable with the most simplest styles. We all know RARE means to stand for something different and the line compliments this definition because Ike was tired of everyone doing the same thing. He has much determination, eagerness, and excitement when it comes to showcasing his fashion talent. Ike debuted his RARE NY Clothing Line for the first time at Syracuse University in the 12th Annual Fashion’s Conscience Night at the Museum themed Fashion Show. He later was given the opportunity to once again share his line with Morrisville College at the Spring Jam Fashion Show. While RARE is composed of hoodies, shirts, and hats there is a story to this line.

Although his line focus mainly on menswear, women can also be seen styled in some RARE N.Y clothing, the ladies who has worn the line both on the streets and his fashion shows come off as beautiful, fly, and desirable in simple hoodies and sneakers or t-shirts and heels while the men walk with confidence and swag in everything RARE. Most of his pieces can be found on the online store www.RARE-NEWYORK.com carrying the latest Spring/Summer collection.

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Top Story – Power Off The Grid: MacGyver Tips On How to Survive With No Electricity

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Many grew up watching MacGyver problem solve his way through seemingly impossible situations. His use of brain over brawn inspired many to follow in his footsteps with a degree in physics and chemistry. Maybe the lure was not the specific degree so much, but the ability to think through problems in a way that used pure logic.

Using logic to come up with the best solution possible became the standard for

Macgyver. With the help of the Phoenix Foundation, he was able to problem solve his way through anything. If there was anything kids from the 80’s should have taken from Macgyver, it’s that no matter the situation, you can always find a solution.

What would Macgyver do?

Often times when things happen like the water heater forgetting that it is supposed to produce hot, or the car won’t start I often think what would MacGyver do? It is difficult to put yourself in his shoes. Sure it seems like a simple easy solution that he was able to figure out even under the most intense pressure, but that’s always after the fact.

Sometimes when we think we’ve found the perfect Macgyver solution, it’s not always the case. Sometimes things can get worse before they get better, but there is always a way. It takes a little bit more to think like Mac. Once we do, we can solve more problems than ever before.

MacGyvering out of a power outage

Having electricity in our homes was a concept that was foreign to those living in the mid 1800’s, yet has now become an essential part of every day life, maybe even the most essential. If they survived without it then, what’s to stop us from surviving without it now?

Disasters happen, it is essential to be prepared should anything happen. Hurricane Sandy left the residents of New York stuck without power for days. Those who were not prepared suffered the consequences. Think: what would Macgyver do? Then do it.

There are two fail proof ways to keep your own electricity going when your neighborhood’s power goes out: have a generator, or have solar panels.

Both solar panels and generators will give you all the benefits of electricity, without actually being on the grid. More people than ever are living off the grid, relying on their own sources to keep the power going. Although you don’t have to go permanently off the grid, it’s safe to have the option if needed.

The True MacGyver

If you didn’t plan ahead and are now left with no solar panels, no generator, and no electricity, you may have to kick it into super MacGyver mode. Utilize all the candles in your house, use the fireplace, if it’s been too long, move the food from the fridge to the basement’s cold storage.

It’s not all about keeping the food cold either. It’s a good idea to have a battery-powered radio so you can stay in touch with what’s going on. With proper planning, you can survive even without the power.

Be Prepared

We never know when the power is going to go out. Being prepared and doing the smart thing when it does happen are two of the most essential things. Here are some guidelines to follow when dealing with lost power:

  • Leave your generator outside, it works just as well and cannot give you carbon monoxide poisoning out there
  • Check to make sure your water is safe
  • Find ways to stay cool if it is summer, and stay warm if it is winter
  • If you leave the house, avoid power lines, if they are in your way, go around them

It’s all about being prepared and having a plan. MacGyver would have a plan and work through it during an electrical mishap, do the same. Follow these steps and you are well on your way to becoming a resourceful problem solving secret agent.

By Cassie Costner

Cassie has written for JP Electrical. Based on her experience with power outages, she has researched how to survive even without electricity.

You Don’t Have To Be Gay To Play Gay Bingo!

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We have all grown up with the idea of bingo being what middle-aged people play in church halls or Veterans of Foreign Wars halls or even Indian bingo parlors. But did you know that bingo has a vibrant and exciting existence in the Gay community as well? In Buffalo, New York, for example, a local Presbyterian Church every Saturday holds a bingo tournament that helps raise funds to fight AIDS. The bingo games are one of several unique fund-raising opportunities that non-profits employ to fight AIDS and to let people know that the fight against AIDS and HIV is ongoing.

In Austin, Texas gays and straights are finding a lot to be entertained by at Drag Queen Bingo. This hilarious variation on bingo takes the traditional game to an entirely different plain of existence. Besides the bingo itself, Drag Queen Bingo also has a comedy show, arm wrestling and Texas-style chili in many forms. Unlike many bingo games, Drag Queen Bingo doesn’t cost anything to play. Upon arrival players help themselves to bingo sheets from a table in the middle of the room. Daubers are provided free of charge.

Once the players are seated with bowls and chili and primed and ready to play the drag queen “mistress of ceremonies” arrives. Equipped with an endless supply of foul language and snappy repartee the drag queen draws on his many years in show business to keep things moving along. The excitement of winning bingo is definitely part of the fun in this iteration of the popular pastime. In case the excitement isn’t who wins the cash prize, but who wins the bag of surprise goodies.

Bingo for a Great Cause

It turns out that Drag Queen Bingo originated in Seattle in the 1990s as a way of raising funds to fight AIDS. The non-profit that put it on was known as the Chicken Soup Brigade. The organizers were looking for something were people wouldn’t mind spending a little bit of money and visited the staid, rather boring bingo parlors. They decided that bingo was the right game, however it needed to be livened up. That’s when they came up with the idea for incorporating drag queens into the game as callers. The first drag queens to host the event were known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  In New York City you’ll find a place called “Lips” where a drag queen named Ginger has the ability to reduce you to near tears with the zingers that she flings at audience members who give her too much lip.  As is common with drag queen bingo games all over the country, you will often find games where the gays versus the lesbians, or the gays versus other gays, or even gay and lesbians versus the straights.

Gay Bingo is Loved Around the World

In West Hollywood, California there is another form of Drag Queen Bingo that happens every Wednesday night at a famous local burger place known as Hamburger Mary. Equally famous are some of the stars that come to hang out for the bingo action, and occasionally to call the numbers, including Paris Hilton and Courtney Cox. In this version the drag queen is named Belle Aire, and like her opposite number in Austin she has a foul mouth and she employs it with abandon. Her specialty is inventing naughty rhymes every time a new numbered bingo ball is pulled. Her act brings them in by the droves every Wednesday for bingo and the chance to win a Xena action figure! Other prizes include DVDs and gift certificates for dining out.

As with other Drag Queen Bingos in other locations, the one in West Hollywood is a venue for raising money for charity. It’s also a venue for raucous fun, singing, yelling and outrageous behavior of every stripe. Not the mention the over-the-top linebacker physiqued drag queen in a bouffant hair do and pumps.  Drag Queen Bingo may not be for you every time—but it’s a safe bet that you’ll have some fun and probably be back for more soon. This fun-filled bingo arena has inspired online bingo rooms to be more interactive for their player base.

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