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Top 15 Cupcake Blogs

Cupcakes have taken over the world of desserts. They’re small, easy and satisfy that sweet tooth when you want a taste of sugar without getting a major high. These cupcake blogs show you how to become a master of the mini cakes in your own kitchen. If you think it’s all about basic cupcakes, think again. Baking bloggers are experimenting with candy and even bacon to add that extra something to their cupcake recipes. (more…)

Get Crafty With These 20 DIY Party Favors

We love a good party favor, but there’s no doubt that they can get pricey, especially if you have a hefty list of party guests. Luckily, bloggers are coming up with new ways to gift party-goers with trinkets and tasty treats for weddings, birthday parties and other get-togethers on your social calendar.

DIY Party Favors for Weddings

DIY weddings party favors have taken over the world of wedding blogs. That vintage touch is easy to achieve when you have the right materials, so read on for DIY ideas for wedding party favors.

    1. Charlotte’s Fancy – Creative Party Favors If your wedding will go into the wee hours of the night, this goodbye package of doughnuts and milk will be the perfect thing to hit the spot of guests who’ve danced the night away. It’s a fairly inexpensive project you can DIY with the help of a few friends and family members and takes minimal skill, so if you aren’t that crafty there’s no need to fret.

    2. Giver’s Log – DIY Hot Chocolate on a Stick Wedding Favors Keep your guests energized with a sugar fix. These DIY hot chocolate on a stick project is simple for those who know their way around the kitchen and can be made in large batches. It’s also a very cheap project that you can knock out within a few hours and then move on to other wedding plans.

    3. My DIY Wedding Favors – Tea Party Favors Give your wedding guests a few tea sachets to help them unwind after the big day. The tea bags can be bunched in a tulle sachet or simply tied together with a ribbon that coincides with the colors for the wedding.

    4. Do It Yourself Weddings – DIY Candles Wedding Favors If you’re looking for a DIY bonding experience for your family and bridesmaids, whipping up DIY candles will do the trick. Making your own candles is a lot easier than it sounds. You can choose the colors and scents and create DIY stick-on labels emblazoned with the bride and groom’s names or a love quote or quote from one of the couple’s favorite songs.

    5. DIY Wedding Planning – Sweets in a Jar If you need a simple, fast DIY party favor, look to these jars with sweets inside. You can fill jars with candy or baked goods and you instantly have a sleek, attractive DIY wedding favor that can be adorned a custom label and ribbons that coordinate with the wedding’s colors.

    6. Ruffled Blog – DIY Ribbon Wands Wedding Sendoff If you’re over the rice or bubbles for the sendoff at the end of a wedding, consider these DIY ribbon wands. This is a simple project that can be done months in advance so you aren’t scrambling to finish up at the last minute. A mix of colors works well for festive pictures.

    7. Whimsy Girl – Oreo Truffles Wedding guests will say yum to these delicious truffles. Making candy is very simple and when you have a lot of hands involved, the work goes by in a flash. The icing looks classic in white, but feel free to incorporate icing in the color of your wedding too. Truffles can be bundled in bags or put into small jars in conjunction with the DIY project mentioned in this article.

    8. My Cakies – DIY Cupcake in a Jar Guests will adore these jars of layered cakes and frosting. You can choose trendy flavors like red velvet or dark forest chocolate or go classic with vanilla. This is an easy project that anyone can do since it takes basic baking skills and no one says you have to make the cupcakes from scratch. If you aren’t good at baking, boxed baked goods are your friend and no one will mind once they’re digging in to these cute party favors.

    9. DIY Wedding Planning Guide – Glitterati of Cupcakes If you’re comfortable in the kitchen and looking for a major wow factor, these cupcakes are the perfect way to add bling to your wedding. These glitzy cupcakes can be handed out to guests as they leave or made available for noshing after the cake has been cut and folks are looking for something to munch on. They’re different from basic cupcakes because it’s all in the decorating details. The majority of the work comes in when decorating the cupcake wrapper.

    10. Green Wedding Shoes – DIY Cupcake Topping Bar What better way to get your guests in the DIY action than with a cupcake topping bar? You and your wedding party do the dirty work and create a slue of cupcakes with very little frosting on top. Then set out an array of fresh berries and syrups for guests to top their cupcakes with.

DIY Party Favors for Kid’s Birthday Parties

Kids birthday parties are now on another level. These DIY party favors are aimed at a kid’s birthday part, but you can create these favors for any party you throw.

    11. Hostess Blog – DIY Bubbles Every kid loves bubbles and these DIY canisters gives them a personal spin. You can print out custom labels to make the canisters coincide with the theme of the birthday party. This project does take a lot of work, but it’s worth it once you see the kids’ eyes light up at the sight of carefree fun.

    12. Party Tales – DIY Yummy Gummy Pots These cute gummy pots will make a great addition to any kid’s birthday party. We love this DIY party favor because even the most un-crafty among us can pull it off. Because this project involves skewers, make sure any kid that helps you is about 8 years old or older to refrain from any accidents.

    13. Etsy – Mustache Drink Topper Kids and adults alike will enjoy these cute party favors. The mustache has taken over for some reason and this DIY party favor is easy to do days before your event. Expect smiles and quirky pictures when you guests start sipping drinks from these funny straws.

    14. Tiny Prints – DIY S’mores Party Favos Everyone loves s’mores and parents will appreciate you taking the time to give their kids a treat to take home. This DIY project is simple because it can be done in an assembly line and only involves packing small bags. You can tie the bag with a ribbon coordinating with the party or go low key with a twist-tie.

    15. Pebbles in My Pocket – Magical Princess Wand Tutorial This DIY party favor takes some time and patience, but little girls will love the results. A magical princess wand can make an appearance at a princess-themed birthday party or done in the colors of a birthday party that doesn’t have a distinct theme.

DIY Party Favors for Baby Showers

Baby showers have become big events and it’s all in the details. Show off your craft savvy with these DIY baby shower party favors.

    16. The June Bride – Baby Shower Cookies If you can make cookies and cut them out with a cutter, you can make these baby shower cookies for a cute party favor. These cookies are shaped like a baby carriage and then decorated with colors that suit the sex of the baby. If you don’t know the sex of the baby, go with yellow. Colors for boys include baby blue and brown trim or pink and lavender for girls.

    17. Moms in Heels – Peas in a Pod This super cute idea is easy to do no matter what your craft skills. You can do this with Lindor truffles as suggested in the how-to or DIY when it comes to the truffles too (which is easy and cheap). Choose colors that work with the baby’s sex or mix lots of bright colors for an interesting presentation.

    18. Home Confetti – Bundle of Joy If you’re sending guests home with gifts, take a moment to wrap the gifts. This blogger created a “bundle of joy” for the small gifts given out at the baby shower. A mix of pastel colors looks beautiful for a baby shower or go bold with an array of primary colors.

    19. Twig and Thistle – DIY Favors Safety pins say baby shower, so it’s no wonder this blogger used them as the finishing touch for wrapping up cookies for guests with this DIY party favor. Minimal sewing skills, printed fabric and scalloped scissors create these darling little pockets to hold any party favors you choose.

    20. Fiskars – Lollipop Holder Even those working with a tiny budget can create this DIY baby shower party favor. Feel free to make these cute lollipop holders for any party, but the whimsical feel make them ideal for a baby shower.

Making a few DIY party favors is a great way to add your own personal touch to a party. It’s also a great way to stick to your budget and still give your guests a momento that will help them remember what a ball they had at your party. Remember to stick with colors that work with the theme of your party and add a little pizzaz with patterns in the same hues.

Bursting at the Seams: The Top 15 Dressmaking Blogs

There’s nothing like whipping up your very own dress. It gives a whole new spin to the age old question,”Who are you wearing?” For those who are just starting to hone their dressmaking skills, these blogs serve as a great starting point to teach you all about the art of measurements and how to choose fabric that will make your designs come to life.

    1. Patchwork Underground This quirky blog is packed with patterns, but we love it because it talks about different threads and fabrics. Things like these are essential for the knowledgeable dressmaker.

    2. Adventures in Dressmaking This blogger is all about retro and vintage-inspired dressmaking. If you’re looking for classic sheath dresses, this is the blog for you. These simple patterns are ideal for those who are just starting their own adventures in dressmaking.

    3. A Dress a Day This blog focuses on vintage dress patterns. If you’re thinking that means an array of shift dresses, think again! Remember all of the fabulous dresses worn by Lucille Ball? You can get the same look from the dress patterns at this site.

    4. Fashion Era – Fashion Dressmaking Learn the history of dressmaking from this fashion site. It goes into dressmaking patterns from the ‘50s and why certain silhouettes and fabrics were so popular.

    5. Vintage Sewing Starting out with vintage dressmaking patterns is the way to go because the styles are usually simple and sleek. This means you don’t end up wasting fabric on guesswork. This site shows you the art of tailoring and offers some info on millinery too.

    6. Free Needle This is the ultimate online directory for finding everything you need when dressmaking. You’ll find patterns galore at this site. There are even dress patterns for little girls. If you want go beyond dressmaking there are patterns for other items too like aprons and curtains.

    7. Dressmakers Dummy This blog is a must-read for those just starting out with the dressmaking ventures. It’s imperative to understand the feminine form before you start making dresses and this site explains the intricacies of measurements and getting a stellar fit for your dresses every time.

    8. The Magic Square Foundation This blog focuses on sewing of every type and has a substantial section over dressmaking that will benefit those in-the-know as well as beginners. It also delves into the details of a dress and how to make them count.

    9. The Sewing Divas This blogger loves fashion and shares historical info with readers. She talks about the best pins for draping and basic information such as how to stitch a hemline with ease. This blogger has been going at it for years, so be sure to check out the archives for loads of dressmaking content.

    10. Sew Mama Sew This blog focuses on sewing items for the little ones. If you’re a parent who wants to make their own items for the kids, consider this blog your new BFF. There are patterns for little girls’ dresses as well as bibs and drawstring bags.

    11. Gigi Sews This sewing blog is for those who are more advanced because Gigi isn’t one to toy around with a simple sheath pattern. There are more complex dress projects at this site, as well as coats and thorough explanations on creating collars and sleeves.

    12. Sewing Fanatic Diary This seamstress sews a little bit of everything, making this a hot spot for those who want to take their dressmaking skills to the next level. There are cardigans, various skirts and plenty of dresses for the seasoned seamstress to choose from.

    13. A Little Sewing This blog is fabulous for the advanced seamstresses out there. It discusses more complex dress patterns such as vintage Guy Laroche pieces. You also get the scoop on big dressmaking conferences for those who want to meet and greet with others interested in the subject.

    14. Sharon News At a tender age, this blogger was introduced to sewing and has been hooked ever since. She walks you through creating everything from kid’s clothes to dresses for Barbies, plus adult goods too. Learn draping, how to measure and what shapes work best for different body shapes.

    15. The Stitchery This seamstress is practically a professional and has plenty of patterns and sewing tips to share with readers. There’s also patterns for vests, blouses and pants for those who master dressmaking and want to round out the rest of their wardrobe.

Get the 101 on dressmaking from these bloggers who know their way around a sewing machine. For those who have more experience, these dressmaking blogs can show you how to ad the extras onto a dress that will take it from beginner’s piece to something folks may want to buy from you.

10 Painting Tips and Tricks for DIY Enthusiasts

There’s something about DIY that gets your enthusiasm flowing and your adrenaline running; there’s a great deal of pride in getting things done around your home with your own hands, and you feel an immense sense of satisfaction when you get the job done right because you’ve reduced your expenses and contributed handsomely by way of effort. However, for DIY projects to get done without any major hitches or hurdles, you need to know what you’re doing, have a plan, and work according to it. Success in DIY depends on taking all the precautions necessary, avoiding giving in to cockiness and know-it-all behavior, and listening to words of wisdom if they’re offered by professionals and others who have been there, done that before you.

So if you’re thinking of taking on the simple task (or so you think) of painting the walls of your home, here are a few tips to help you get the job done successfully and without any hiccups:

  • Set a schedule before you do anything else – if you’re an amateur, allow extra time for unforeseen circumstances and for just starting out slowly and steadily.
  • Tackle one room at a time – push all the furniture to the center, remove all the paintings and photographs and other paraphernalia from the walls, and cover them all with a tarp so that you don’t get paint all over your stuff. Also spread cloth over the floor because that’s where most of your paint is going to spill or spatter.
  • Spend the first few hours buying all that you will need and setting up your workspace – paints, brushes, rollers, paint rags, thinners, spackle, sanders, can openers, hammers, screwdrivers, and any other tool you think you may need. You may not want to walk around the house with paint all over you.
  • Ensure that you’ve covered yourself with overalls to avoid getting paint all over your clothes. And if you’re painting the ceiling, cover your hair and wear protective eye-gear.
  • Clean the walls with a damp cloth before you paint over them; also remove peeling and cracked paint and then sand the walls before applying a new coat of paint.
  • You may have to fill in holes or cracks in the wall with spackle before applying a new coat of paint. Get this done first instead of stopping midway and having to wait for the spackle to dry before you can paint over it.
  • If there are wall or ceiling fixtures that cannot be removed, cover them with large plastic bags so that you don’t get paint drops on them.
  • If possible, remove door knobs and handles other fixtures before you start painting, or at least cover them with plastic sheets.
  • Stir the paint after you open a new can, and pour it into another smaller container instead of dipping the brush directly into the paint can.
  • Talk to a professional painter before you begin, and find out how you can go about the task for the best results. Ask if you will need to use a primer, what kind of brushes will work best, and how you can get the job done faster and more efficiently.

You may encounter a few hurdles along the way, but if you figure out where you’ve gone wrong and how to correct your mistakes, you soon have a freshly painted room.

24 DIY Cleaning Remedies That Will Make Your House Sparkle

Whipping up a DIY cleaning recipe is easy, safe for the environment and great for your bank account. If you’re a clean freak or just into your own apartment and not sure how to make housework manageable, read on for tips that will make your house spic and span without any serious elbow grease. It may even make cleaning fun (no promises)!

DIY Cleaning Recipes

Instead of stocking up on chemical-laden cleaning products, create your own cleaning products in your own kitchen. Here are a few recipes that will come in handy for different parts of your home.

    1. All purpose cleaner. For a simple all purpose cleaner, mix four tablespoons of baking soda with one quart of warm water. Give it a quick mix and use it on everything from kitchen counters to toilets.

    2. Glass cleaner. Good ol’ vinegar does the trick for any windows or glass surfaces. Use a newspaper to clean the area for a sparkling finish that doesn’t leave any residue or lint behind.

    3. Toilet cleaner. Spritz the inside of the toilet with vinegar and then sprinkle on a little baking soda. This will create a paste that disinfects and cleans the toilet as thoroughly as any pricey pre-packaged product.

    4. Oven cleaner. Mix two tablespoons of borax and two tablespoons of vegetable-based liquid soap in a spray bottle, along with water. Spritzz the bottom of the oven and let it sit for about 20 minutes before scrubbing it down with ease.

    5. Pots and pans. Drop a tablespoon of baking soda into water and let it dissolve the hard-to-remove grime on pots and pans that have been used for years. You can also use a combination of coarse salt and lemon juice on copper pans.

    6. Dishwasher solution. For spot-free dishes right out of the dishwasher, drop a tablespoon of vinegar into the rinse compartment.

    7. Citrus rinds and ice. This will dissolve any disgusting odors in your garbage disposal, freshening up the area around the disposal in the process.

    8. Dry table salt. For dried and caked-on messes that make you want to throw a dish out, try dry table salt. Use it with a damp sponge and watch the mess easily come off the surface of your dish.

    9. Tub cleaner. Make the interior of your tub glisten by applying kosher salt to the inner half of a grapefruit and scrubbing away. The result is a sparkling tub with a light citrus scent.

    10. DIY wood polish. Combine the juice from one lemon, olive oil and water in a bottle. Shake to emulsify the concoction and then pour a small amount on the area you wish you clean. From there, you can wipe it down with a microfiber rag or just a standard cloth.

DIY Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Make cleaning your home just a little easier by implementing these simple tricks.

    11. Use vodka to clean mold and mildew. Spray caulking that has accumulated mold and mildew with vodka. Allow it to saturate the area for about 10-20 minutes and then wipe clean.

    12. Clean hardwood floors with tea. Boil a pot of hot water and steep two tea bags. Mop floors as usual and end up with shiny, clean hardwood floors that glow.

    13. Go over floors every other day. If you have the time, go over hardwood or ceramic floors every other day to prevent them from getting filthy. Do this with a micro-fiber mop, which can be purchased at any superstore.

    14. Rent a steam cleaner. This is a fantastic way to get your carpets super clean. Rent a steam cleaner once a year and keep your carpet in stellar condition. Be sure to go over the carpeted area twice for a deep clean.

    15. Add essential oils or lemon juice to DIY cleaners. For a kick of freshness and to outdo the vinegar smell in many DIY cleaners, add a few drops of essential oils or lemon juice to the mix for a pleasant fragrance.

    16. Make use of herbs for added fragrance. You can also use sprigs of herbs to add fragrance to vinegar-infused DIY cleaners. This is especially useful when you have a bunch of herbs left from cooking and won’t be using them anytime soon.

    17. Spray lime scale away. Spray undiluted white vinegar on lime scale and then take a shower. The steam will instantly lift away lime scale. This won’t be the most pleasant smell, but it is an effective way to .

    18. Spray away the ants. If summertime means ant city in your house, spray crevices and window sills with vinegar to keep they out.

    19. Fight a stinky drain. Pour a mixture of part baking soda, part vinegar down the drain and let it sit for 10 minutes before flushing away the paste (and the smell).

    20. Go nuts! Get rid of minor surface scratches on your furniture by rubbing the area with a shelled walnut. The oils will buff the scratch right out and you’ll have a “new” piece.

    21. Get glass sparkling. To make glass dishes shine like never before, use salt and lemon juice. Simply pour it on or in the dish and swirl it around for a streak-free clean.

    22. Banish sticky surfaces. When trying to remove anything sticky such as spilled candle wax or old melted crayons, use any oil or mayonnaise to lift the goo right up.

    23. Remove stubborn stains. Use vegetable shortening to remove stubborn stains from your couch or carpet. Rub the vegetable shortening on the area and then wipe clean with a clean rag.

    24. Get rid of grease on wallpaper. Do this by applying baby powder to a clean powder puff. Pat the greasy area and allow the powder to soak up the oil or grease. The powder will disappear on its own and any leftover can be dusted away.

Having a spotless home is fun, even if you can’t keep up with it all of the time. Implementing these simple tricks will help you keep your housecleaning in check and make it easier to spot clean your home on a regular basis. Remember that consistency is key. It’s better to tend to small things around your house as they get dirty than to do a deep cleaning once every few months.

Are Music and Photography Interrelated?

You would think that they’re two fields that share nothing in common; however, music and photography are interrelated because they’re both ways to express your creativity and passion. They both speak volumes even without the use of a single word, and they both capture the attention of the audience they’re meant for and hold them spellbound.

Many masters of photography have deep roots in music – Ansel Adams who redefined the way landscape photography was perceived with his magical shots of National Parks all over the USA, and most specifically of the Yosemite National Park, was a budding pianist in his early days. His flair for the piano led him to believe that he could make it as a professional musician, but that was before he discovered the art of photography and the lure of the vast, open spaces that he loved to capture on film. Adams found that photography was just as creative an outlet for the mind of a genius as music.

Another photography master who devoted his life to music and used it as a major part of his work was Frederick Sommer – a random sighting of a display of musical scores at an art museum led him to delve deeper into the shapes of musical notes. He found that the more visually appealing the score, the more audibly appealing the music. He was able to establish a correlation between the graphical aspect of a musical score and its appeal to the listener when it was played out. He began to make drawings of musical scores, and all of them were playable. The most surprising part of all this is that Sommer had no formal training in music whatsoever, yet he was able to draw elegant motifs and elements that could actually be played and which made beautiful music. He could not read or write music, yet he could identify most musical pieces and their composers by looking at the graphical aspect of the scores alone. He is an outstanding example of how a master photographer can understand music without ever really knowing it.

And then there are photographers who are tied to music by the photographs they design for the covers of albums or as promotional stills. They may not know much about music, but they do know what appeals to a music lover and how to use aesthetic appeal to get people to buy the album.

So while music and photography may seem to be completely unrelated, there are ties between them that connect if not bind.

Look Alive: 10 Spring Beauty Trends That are Easy to Try

Spring means the arrival of a fresh start and what better way to start than with your beauty routine? Some beauty trends can be downright wacky, but we’ve concocted a list that shows you how to work this spring’s hottest beauty trends without looking like a total clown (and since blue eye shadow is on the list, we know that’s a possibility if you aren’t careful).

    1. Bright eye shadow. From blue to orange, bright eye shadow colors were all over the spring runways. This is territory where you must tread carefully. The key is to find a color that isn’t overpowering. From there, you can always build to more intense color. As opposed to wearing the stark bright colors as seen on the runways, try a wash of color all over the lid. Use a fluffy brush and gently cover the lid with a shot of bright eye shadow. Blend it thoroughly into the crease to avoid any harsh lines.

    2. Bright eyeliner. Too scared to take the plunge with bright eye shadow? Try bright eyeliner instead! For many of us, it’s far easier to pull off and takes less guesswork than eye shadow. You can use an eyeliner or an eye shadow, applied with a pencil brush. If you normally line the rims of your eyes with black eyeliner, do that and then apply the colored eyeliner to the lash line. You can wet your brush to get a distinct line or use a small, slightly fluffy brush to gently smoke the color out.

    3. Baby doll cheeks. A flush of serious pink color on your cheeks is hot for spring. Use a saturated magenta if you have medium or dark skin and those with fair skin can opt for a cotton candy pink. Use a fluffy blush brush to distribute color evenly. If you go overboard, dust a loose translucent powder over your cheeks to tone down the color without having to start over.

    4. Ultra juicy lips. Bold lip color is all the rage and there’s no easier way to wear it than with a gloss. If you aren’t used to bold lip color, go easy on the rest of your makeup and let your lips take center stage. Wear a tinted moisturizer, mascara, a dusting of bronzer and the gloss. Medium and dark skin tones can wear orange to set off the warmth in their skin and fair skin tones can try a range of cool tone pinks. To add intensity to the color and help it stay put, lay down a lip stain first and then top it with the gloss.

    5. Strong brows. Strong brows come and go and for spring 2011. If you’re working with sparse brows, use a cool tone brow pencil to enhance the look of your eye brows. Use small flecks instead of drawing on a line all at once. This creates a more natural appearance. After filling in the brows, use a spool brush to blend the color with your natural hairs. If you already have full brows, look into a brow gel. This keeps stray hairs at bay and grooms brows into place while adding subtle color (which you need very little of if you’re already working with thick brows).

    6. Light nail polish. It’s all about soft colors for the nails this season. Pale pink and nude are wearable for the work place and on the weekends you can have fun with baby blue, lavender and soft shades of yellow. Gray hues continue to dominate, but since it’s spring, lighten up with slate and silver tones versus the graphite colors you may have worn in the fall and winter. Keep nails short when wearing trendy nail colors to keep the look sophisticated.

    7. Red lips. This is a classic look, but many women are uneasy sporting it. Red lips scream drama, so you may be reluctant to wear it to the office. It can be wearable for day though. Instead of going for intense color, try a red lip stain, which flushes the lips with color and stays put for hours. You don’t the color to bleed, so lay down a lip primer and allow it to dry before apply red lip color. Try a matte color if you’re looking for an upscale look. For a more modern take, opt for a glossy finish.

    8. Loose waves. Go for a fun, festive look that fits summer. Loose waves allow you to get out the door in minutes. When you’re out of the shower, spray hair with a leave-in conditioner. Follow this with a glossing serum or cream, focusing on the ends of the hair. Split hair down the middle and create two loose buns, pinning each one up with a few bobby pins. From here, you can do housework, sleep or blow dry each bun until it’s almost dry. When you take the buns down, you’ll end up with loose, relaxed waves that scream to be seen on a warm day. You may want to run a little more glossing serum through your hair to smooth away any frizz and create a more polished look.

    9. Moon manicures. Moon manicures were rampant on the runways for spring. As opposed to the classic moon manicure with red nail color, it’s all about neutrals mixed with stark black. Nude and black, lighter shades of gray and black, silver and black or lavender and black are all great starting points. Visit the local drugstore or a beauty supply store and pick up the stencils for a French manicure. Instead of utilizing the stencil at the tip of the nail, you’re going to place it on the bottom 1/4 of the nail. Allow the base coat to dry thoroughly before applying the “moon” color and finish it with a top coat.

    10. The top knot. If you love a no-muss, no-fuss hairstyle, you’re in luck. The top knot is easy to pull off when you’re in a rush and looks great with bright florals or citrus colors, both strong fashion trends for spring. You want the knot to have some texture, so it’s best to work with day-after hair (as in, the after washing) or add a pomade to add texture to clean hair. Gather hair at the round of the head for a more approachable look than the sumo wrestler looks shown on the runways. Smooth out any bumps with a boar bristle brush and secure the ponytail with a hair elastic. Take the ponytail and split it into two equal sections. Take one section and wrap it around the elastic, securing the ends with a couple of bobby pins. Do the same with the remaining section of hair. Don’t worry if it’s a little mussed or there are a few stray hairs. It adds the bohemian chic feel of this trendy hairdo.

Trying out the latest spring beauty trends doesn’t have to be intimidating. Just have some fun and play around with looks. If you aren’t the type that experiments with makeup, it’s best to starting with an easy trend like loose waves of glossy bright lips before building up to a matte red lip or orange eye shadow. Let your creativity blossom and enjoy mixing up your beauty routine. It’s beauty; just have fun with it!

How to Americanize Indian Recipes

Not many people are fond of Indian cuisine; for one, they perceive it’s too spicy, and for another, they’re totally unfamiliar with the concept. However, for those who’ve tried and become fans of Indian food, the sky is the limit as they experiment and tweak Indian recipes to better suit their palates; and that’s the glorious part of Indian cuisine, you can alter the dish considerably while retaining the main ingredients and end up with a recipe that’s half Indian, half American cooking. If you’re looking for tips to Americanize Indian recipes, read on:

  • Go easy on the spices; tone down on the chilli and the cumin, two spices that are a necessary part of most Indian dishes. Instead, use green chillies that are halved to retain some of the spiciness without worrying about smoke coming out of your mouth during the meal. Don’t forget the turmeric if you’re cooking meat and chicken – it helps remove the raw smell and is also a great anti-oxidant.
  • Not everyone is fond of rice which is a staple Indian cereal; so if boiled rice is part of a meal that includes a chicken gravy or a paneer masala, you can always replace it with parathas (made of whole wheat if you’re particular) which are available in many stores. They’re pre-cooked, which means they’re ready to eat after a few minutes on a hot shallow-bottomed frying pan with a dash of oil (or ghee if you’re indulging). Or you could just eat the gravy with some bread.
  • Most Indian gravies and curries use coconut milk as a thickening agent; if you’re worried about the health aspect, use coconut paste (grind dessicated coconut with some warm water in a blender until you get a smooth paste) mixed in some water instead. Alternatively, you could also use whole or skim milk; the gravy tastes just as good and is healthier than coconut milk.
  • Indian desserts are very sweet and rich; they use lots of sugar and ghee, both of which don’t really sit well with the American palate. Pick recipes that are milk based and which can be sweetened to the minimum if you insist on an Indian dessert for your meal.

A few tips that help make Indian recipes better:

  • When you’re cooking lentils and pulses, soak them for an hour (toor dal) or overnight (chickpeas) before cooking them. It reduces your overall cooking time.
  • Don’t add salt when cooking lentils and pulses until after they’re done – they don’t get fully cooked when salt is added at the beginning.
  • If you’re using coconut milk in a recipe, add the salt just a few minutes before the dish is done. This prevents the milk from curdling and ruining your dish. Also, cook on a low flame to avoid curdling.
  • If you’re a regular with Indian recipes, it’s best you invest in a pressure cooker to save time when cooking your meals.
  • If your recipe calls for tamarind and you’ve forgotten to soak it in some water beforehand, add hot water over a piece of tamarind and watch it soften instantly.

Indian food grows on you and is a great change from your staple fare, so give it a try whether you’re a foodie or not.

3 Quirks Writers Would Do Well to Change

Yes, I write for a living and I’m happy to admit that I’m one of the lucky few who have been able to convert a passion to a profession. I love my job and think it’s the best in the world, even though there are days when the words refuse to flow and I’m left tearing my hair out in frustration. But it was only when I spent an extended period of time with a couple of other writers that I realized that we all shared the same quirks – eccentricities that certainly did not endear us to those who lived in the non-writers’ realm. Perhaps my friends are too sweet to say this to my face, but in all honestly, these are the quirks peculiar to most professional writers that I would love to change in myself:

  • Looking at any writing in the “editor mode”: Since I write for a living, I’m often asked by friends and family members to look over an article, essay or story that they’ve written. While I’m happy to do so, there is this irrepressible urge inside me to automatically correct the style and grammar in my mind. I’m unable to separate my feelings as a writer and my judgment as a reviewer of other people’s work, and because of this, I end up feeling that I have to correct and edit whatever has been written even though the authors are not asking me to do the same. So it is with great self control that I have learned to tone down my judgmental mode and instead just nod and tell people that what they’ve written is good – after all, that is what they really want to hear, not criticisms and suggestions for improvement.
  • Assuming that other people cannot write as well as you: I’ve found that it’s something that is innate to any creative profession – you cannot accept that other people in the same line of work are better than you. It’s totally irrational of course, but that’s part of the eccentricity of being a creative artist; your heart wants to believe that you’re the best even though your brain tells you that the competition out there is fierce. When you let your heart take precedence over your brain, you find that you do not open up your mind to new experiences, and this leaves you stagnant while the rest of the world moves on.
  • Taking offense when people don’t believe that what you do is a “real job”: Yes, I’ve actually had people tell me that what I do is not a “real job”. They think that just about anyone can do what I do – in their opinion, how hard could it be to throw together a few words to come up with an article? Besides, according to their lopsided reasoning, you get to spend all day at home doing whatever you want with no one to supervise you. I’ve only just begun to take these in my stride and ignore people with such opinions instead of taking offense and justifying myself to them.

So there you have it – the three quirks most writers surely possess and would do well to shake off!

5 Must-know Tips for Today’s Writers

The power of the written word is still strong, and with the reading habit being rekindled by the Kindle, it’s important that writers focus on their work like never before. The audience is ready for more, but unless you know what makes them tick, you’re not going to be able to connect to them. Today’s readers are a little different in that they have shorter attention spans and much more choices available. So as a writer who wants to not just hold your head above the water but stand head and shoulders over the rest of the competition, here’s what you need to do to grab your readers’ attention and hold it:

  • Make your title catchy: If your readers are intrigued by the title, they’re going to want to read what you’ve actually written below it. So use your imagination and come up with something that is creative, interesting and topical. Also, it’s important that you stay true to your title when writing the article; you can trick your readers once and make them click your link based on the title alone, but they’re going to be more wary of your by-line if you continue to provide misleading titles.
  • Be concise: Get to the point soon – if your title says that you’re going to talk about the negative side of technology, don’t wait until your second or third paragraph to start your main point. More often than not, you’ve already lost your reader by then. So avoid being long-winded and say what you have to say at the outset after a brief introduction.
  • Don’t repeat what you’ve already said: Some writers repeat what they’ve already said earlier just to meet their required word count or to fill the large blank spaces staring at them on their computer screens. But when you say the same thing again and again, albeit using different phrases and words, you’re insulting your readers’ intelligence.
  • Don’t be ambiguous: When you use long and complicated words and phrases that are not really necessary, you end up confusing your reader and leaving them with a sense of bewilderment. Jargon is fine as long as it is relevant to what you have to say, so focus more on your subject than the words and phrases you want to fit in to the subject.
  • Beware of keywords: If you’re writing for an online blog or website, you’re probably going to be asked to use certain keywords as part of the search engine optimization (SEO) drive. But if your keywords are scattered throughout your article without regard for their relevance in those positions, you’re not going to impress your readers and get them to come back to read your content on a continuous basis. Put some thought into weaving the keywords seamlessly into your text so that your readers don’t even realize that they’ve been inserted to help your site climb to the top of search engine rankings.