How to Dress Your Age: Achieving Effortless Style

Just as it’s never okay for a gal in her fifties to wear pigtails and a baby-doll dress, women in their twenties shouldn’t dress like card-carrying members of AARP.

Effortless style evolves with the changes in your body and your lifestyle, says June Ambrose, celebrity stylist and the author of Effortless Style. To look your (appropriate) best at every age, follow these tips.

Okay, since I’ve already told you that your style can and should evolve as you grow older, here’s a general age-related guide. Hardly all-encompassing to cover every taste and body type, but enough to illustrate the direction that should be taken as you roll through the years. If you’re…

IN YOUR LATE TEENS
You probably prefer simple things like tank tops and T-shirts. They’re easy. And when you want to be more fashionable and flirty but still classic, you can go for shorter items such as tennis skirts with polo shirts. In the winter, get creative by throwing your faux-fur bomber jacket on top of a suit or something dressier to achieve a kind of Royal Tenenbaums look: sporty mixed with luxury. That’s sure to get you noticed.

IN YOUR TWENTIES
You still have your classic polo shirt, but your skirts are now a little bit longer. Mix that polo shirt with a pencil skirt or something fuller. In your teens you desired to make really bold statements and to separate yourself from the masses. Individuality was the objective, and you weren’t afraid to take risks. People expected you to do crazy things. Many of those risks might still be on your agenda in your twenties, but you need to become a little more modest, especially if you have to consider the workplace.

This is the time to try a tight pair of jeans with a crisp, white button-down shirt, a bold and funky belt, and either a pair of boots or heels. If you don’t feel so sure about your figure, go for solid colors and a very classic silhouette — not necessarily the tight jeans, but maybe a pair of black stretch pants or younger fitted trousers; not too tight, not too baggy.

One thing designers have come to recognize is that a garment doesn’t have to be long in order for it to be evening wear, and it really doesn’t have to feel as debutante as it did before. You can add chunky jewelry to a very flirty young dress, whether it’s floral print or a tube, or you can contrast an adult, sophisticated fabric like lace or heavy brocade with a silhouette that is really, really young, such as evening baby-doll dresses (if you’re tall). This is a great way of mixing the two elements. At the same time, gloves are too costumey on a young girl, so stay away from them unless they are an intrinsic part of the look that you’re trying to create.

EVENING WEAR FOR THE YOUNGER WOMAN
It’s one thing trading on your youthful looks and vitality, but it’s quite another being able to look both fresh and sophisticated when you slip into something special for an exclusive nighttime event. I live for a strapless dress on a young woman, as well as spaghetti straps and off-the-shoulder. Those simple lines always enable you to add cute little accessories. Even if you’re top-heavy, they will minimize enough for you to throw a little sweater shrug on top — that way, you’ll still see neckline without seeing cleavage. (Just stay away from the pashmina wraps and beaded brocade throws that are both aging and unnecessary.)

IN YOUR THIRTIES
The twenty-something rules still apply. If your figure starts to head south, maybe after you’ve had a couple of kids, wear blousier but not baggy silhouettes. With extra curves you don’t want to wear anything that is too tight or fabrics that are too thin. Go for monochromatic separates that will give you clean and classic lines that can never be ruined. You can even wear these underneath flattering pieces that have vertical detailing in terms of color, texture, and patterns.

IN YOUR FORTIES
There’s a fair chance you now have that area of the tummy that you’re very conscious of — the kangaroo pouch that just won’t disappear. However, this can be redeemed by finding a great sports jacket. And, because you’re in your forties, you’ll match that single-breasted, one- to three-button jacket with either a pair of jeans or a pair of chinos and wear a crewneck top underneath. By now you should also be experimenting with hats and introducing more bold accessories into your life.

For those of you who feel like you’re stylistically out of touch — perhaps you’ve been busy raising your family — just remember that you now have more time (and money) to shop and catch up. Buy great things that appeal to you, and stock up on versatile jackets, cardigans, and shirts. And forget “middle age” beginning at forty. These days, that takes place when you let it. Beforehand, don’t shy away from dressing youngish. You may prefer a kitten heel to that four-inch stiletto, but it all depends on who you are.

IN YOUR FIFTIES
By now you know your body and should have settled into it. Still, you want to add a little drama to your life, so even though your bold pieces should still be very classic, your trench coat, for instance, might have a broader lapel or even an animal print if you’re on the frisky, flamboyant side.

Quite rightly, most women of your age are not buying skins — they’re not buying leather catsuits, they’re not buying suede, because they either already own them or they simply think they’re out of their lane. And they’re not buying silk dresses that cling to their body. Instead, as the emphasis switches from sexy to sophisticated, they are much more into cotton and cashmere, as well as dresses that have beautiful lace embroidery and subtle beaded embellishments. Also, plain, satiny silk tops with a more casual trouser can still be very acceptable, giving you a hint of imagination. Mix sporty with dressy. Remember, fit and attitude play a big part. However, steer well clear of baggy pants up to the belly button. They are just wrong in so many ways.

Even if you still have the shape to go form-fitting, the textures of the pieces that you buy should be different — I don’t want to see you in fitted, shiny, spandex leggings. Like a fine wine, your taste should age well, where your well-kept body is draped only in finer silks and durable fabrics with cleaner finishes, and you don’t care for clothes that shift too much on the body, but prefer those that are naturally clingy where they need to be held.

Instead of showing cleavage, wear great body forms under boatneck tops, button-down shirts with the second button undone instead of the third, or lower scoop necks to expose collarbone and look more sexy. I love seeing an open neckline on a woman who is a little bit older. The result is more of a silhouetted body. Even at this age, you want to be noticed and complimented without being compromised, and things that give the illusion of a sixteen-year-old body under a well-draped garment will keep the male admirers wondering and wanting.

IN YOUR SIXTIES…AND BEYOND
Beforehand, this whole process was about evolving, but now you’re done. This is your look. Yes, you might lose some weight and your body can still change, but even if you’re Cher, there’s only so much you can do. Accordingly, you’ll often just build around the clothes that you already have. You won’t need to do as much shopping — unless you have a healthy disposable income — and that’s why the pieces that you acquired in your forties and fifties are so important. They are the things that you fell in love with, so now try tying them back into your current wardrobe.

Some women pull out brooches that they had in their teens, along with vintage glasses and numerous other things that they’ve held on to. Well, it’s okay to have separation anxiety. Just like some people don’t want to leave the house they grew up in, some women feel the same way about clothing. You know, the “I’ve had this dress since I was in my thirties, and it still looks beautiful.” That may well be true.

The practical woman who ages gracefully is usually a smarter shopper. She buys only what she really needs, as opposed to the young college girl who’s burning up her new credit card. The older woman has her five classic belts, her silk scarves, and all of the other things that cost her a whole lot of money but are timeless. Even if she is going out to a black-tie event, she already has that dress.

With this in mind, go for silhouettes that are a little bit longer. They should be monochromatic or not too bright. Dual tones and very dark tones work much better. And they should also have great textures, like satin and silk, cashmere and wool, and the infamous knit jersey. At the same time, welcome more layers, but they should be thin layers — picture a car coat with loose-fitting trousers. You are working your way back toward easy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
June Ambrose, author of Effortless Style (Text copyright © 2006 by June Ambrose), is a celebrity fashion stylist/designer who has appeared on national shows including The Oprah Winfrey Show, The View, Live with Regis and Kelly, and Extreme Makeover, and on VH1 and MTV. She owns the full-service styling firm The Modé Squad, Inc., in New York City.

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Fish Oil, A Real Magic Bullet for Radiant Skin

Supplements can be controversial, but as Kat James, the author of The Truth About Beauty, found, fish oil is one nutrient you can count on for real results for healthy skin and hair.

OMEGA FATS AND BEAUTY: A LOVE STORY
My very first, leap-of-faith, life-saving supplement regimen included fish oil, which — combined with alpha-lipoic acid and milk thistle — not only healed my sick liver (food couldn’t do it, as I had already been eating the healthiest way I could) but also completely transformed my skin and my moods. This was back at the dawn of the nineties, more than a decade before fish oil became known to the general public. Today, there are hundreds of studies on omega-3 oils showing dramatic reductions in everything from anger and anxiety to depression, from risk of sudden heart attack to insulin resistance, and from joint inflammation to bone loss and much more.

On the beauty front, the skin, weight loss, and hair benefits of fish oil and omega-3s has now been confirmed in dozens of published studies, showing significant improvement in nearly all major skin diseases involving inflammation, including eczema, psoriasis, and even sunburn. More recent studies confirm that fish oil protects against UV radiation, reducing the skin’s responses to both UVA (blistering) and UVB (redness) radiation. The anti-aging and even damage reversing effect from fish oil was confirmed in a study published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

The effect on my own skin from fish oil was nothing short of amazing. Within a couple of months of starting this regimen, my skin literally “forgot” that it had been continually irritated, prone to horrible rashes on my eyes and chin, and unquenchably dry all my life. It forgot that it needed heavy-duty lotions in order not to crawl with discomfort after every bath and shower. The space between my brows, the crannies on the sides of my nose, and my legs all failed to attend to their constant scaling. Dryness and inflammation had “left the building” along with my need for body moisturizers. I almost forgot to remember these things as they ended, but I’ll never forget what it was like to take for granted that I would have those problems for the rest of my life and then learn I was wrong.

My hair was transformed dramatically from my fish oil regimen, too. It went from being super-brittle, coarse, and dull to being glossy and silky, enabling me to grow it out long (and have it actually grow downward instead of outward) for the first time since my childhood. Beyond the fact that hair is a biological appendage of the skin (which is why people with oily skin have oily hair, and people with dry skin have dry hair), there are other possible explanations for fish oil’s effects on the hair. Hair health is particularly vulnerable to hormone imbalances and compromised circulation (many hair loss remedies focus on that). Stress is another cause for changes in the hair (alopecia areata, or temporary, nonhereditary hair loss, is caused by stress or trauma). Because omega-3s and fish oil have been proven to increase circulation, reduce the impact of stress, and help balance hormone activity, they offer proven benefit in each of these important contributors to hair health.

FISH VS. FLAX OIL
Several studies have compared the actions of fish oil to plant-based omega-3 oils and have found that fish oil supplementation more effectively raises the body’s levels of EPA and DHA (the components responsible for most of the documented health benefits). Getting EPA and DHA from flax oil requires a conversion by the body, which many people do not efficiently make. Still, flax is better than not supplementing with omega-3s at all (so strict vegans might be able to get all their omega-3s from flax, but might also be biologically challenged in converting it to anti-inflammatory compounds). Molecularly distilled fish oils are the gold standard in supplementation recommended by more and more mainstream, as well as alternative, MDs. Avoid cheap drug store brands. Ironically, getting all your fish oil from fish could give you unwanted outcomes unless you are careful about avoiding mercury, as high mercury levels not only contribute to heart problems but are also known to cause hair loss.

I have taken fish oil for nearly two decades now, with few interruptions. And those interruptions are valuable reminders of what it was like to live in both the physical and emotional discomfort in my own skin. Fish oil is unquestionable proof that real “magic bullets” sometimes do exist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nationally renowned beauty and holistic health expert Kat James, author of The Truth About Beauty: Transform Your Looks And Your Life From The Inside Out (Copyright © 2007 by Kat James), transformed her body and skin beyond recognition after a twelve-year eating disorder and the resulting liver disease nearly took her life. Through her book, national health columns, public television special, lectures, and acclaimed Total Transformation® programs, she has helped millions to mastermind their own healing transformations using science and strategy rather than suffering or extreme measures. James came to know the inside of the beauty industry from her many years as one of the most quoted experts and cosmetics-company spokespersons of the 1990s, and now offers a rare new perspective on enlightened, holistic self-transformation. Her advice has appeared in nearly every major women’s and national health magazine, including Vogue and O, The Oprah Magazine, as well as on the Today show. She is founder of www.informedbeauty.com and creator of Total Transformation® programs. Her clients have included celebrities such as Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker and world-class athletes.

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Home, Sweet-Smelling Home: 14 Easy Tips

Eliminate odors in the home the cheap, green way — without using dangerous synthetic air fresheners. From Green Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck

It is rare that a home always smells sweet. Some foods are just plain smelly, others reek only after they have been burned. And most of us conduct the occasional refrigerator “experiment.” Here are some ways to exorcise those unpleasant odors without poisoning yourself with synthetic “air fresheners.”

Track down the source of the smell. If it is not a member of the family, get rid of it.

ELIMINATE ODORS
Clean Out Your Refrigerator
Throw slimy vegetables and rotting fruit in your compost bucket. Wash the slime out of the fruit and vegetable drawer. Put rotting meat in your freezer until garbage day. Wash sour milk off the refrigerator shelves.

Put an open container of baking soda in the refrigerator. The baking soda will absorb odors. Replace it after about six months. Use the old baking soda for cleaning jobs or to unclog a drain.

Empty the Garbage
If the inside of the can is wet, wash it out and let it dry. Sprinkle some baking soda in the bottom of the garbage pail to absorb odors.

Burned the Dinner?
If something has burned but is no longer producing actual flames, turn on the range hood to suck the smoke out of the house. If the weather is above freezing, open some windows.

You can try to placate your smoke alarm by whirling a vinegar-dampened towel over your head. Some of the smoke will catch in the towel, and the vinegar will neutralize the smell.

Damp and Dank
Molds and mildews are often rather malodorous. If they are growing in your undersink cabinet, you need to fix the leak and dry out the cabinet. Wash out the cabinet with vinegar and borax to kill the mold and mildew. A portable fan can be used to speed up the drying process.

Garlic and Onion Odors
Hot water sets in these odors. Cold water removes them. Wash your odoriferous cutting boards and hands in cold water. Rinse well.

ADD BETTER SMELLS
Warm a little vinegar on the stove
while you are cooking fish, cabbage, or other strong smelling food.

Burn an unscented candle to help dispel odors. Be careful to keep the candle out of the reach of children, pets, and mischievous breezes.

Pour equal amounts of vinegar and water into a spray bottle. Spray a little vinegar into the air to dispel strong cooking odors.

Pour a little vanilla extract on a cotton ball in a saucer and set it out on a countertop.

Heat cinnamon sticks and cloves or cut-up lemons in saucepan of water on the stove. If the smell is too tantalizing, make mulled cider instead: Heat apple cider with a cinnamon stick and a few whole cloves in a saucepan over a burner turned on low. Do not allow the cider to boil. Let the cider small permeate the house until you can’t resist it any longer. Pour the cider into a mug. Drink.

GROWING CLEAN AIR
Green plants are the only true air fresheners. They produce oxygen and also remove toxins and particulate matter from the air.

Houseplants with scented leaves can make indoor air smell wonderful. Stroke the leaves of fragrant houseplants such as scented geraniums, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and mint to release their fragrance into the room. Or pick a couple of scented leaves and simmer them in a saucepan of water.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ellen Sandbeck, the author of Green Housekeeping (Copyright © 2006 by Ellen Sandbeck) and Green Barbarians: Live Bravely on Your Home Planet, is an organic landscaper, worm wrangler, writer, and graphic artist who lives with (and experiments on) her husband and an assortment of younger creatures — which includes two mostly grown children, a couple of dogs, a small flock of laying hens, and many thousands of composting worms — in Duluth, Minnesota.

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Hair Care Products: Which Ones Do You Really Need?

Store shelves are lined with a dizzying array of shampoos, conditioners and styling products. Hair replacement surgeon Susan Craig Scott, author of The Hair Bible, tells you how to pick — and even make — the best ones for your type.

SHAMPOO
Ask yourself what specific benefits your hair type requires. Is your hair dry or damaged? Does it need more or less conditioning? Should you choose a clarifying shampoo to strip away residue that can build up on hair? Do you like the fragrance? Do you want a shampoo that will make your hair shine? Ingredients like macadamia nut, olive, jojoba oil, or shea butter have been used for years to give hair a shiny coat. Two-in-one shampoos are another option and ideal for women who want to save time, money, and space in their gym bags.

Make your own: Skip the soap, which can dry both the hair and scalp and may contain chemicals that penetrate the bloodstream through hair follicles. Instead, add a few drops of lemon juice to your regular shampoo each time you wash or combine triple-strength herbal tea (chamomile for light hair, rosemary or sage for dark) to an equal amount of your shampoo. You can also moisturize dry, brittle hair with vegetable oil to create an oil-enriched shampoo; add unflavored gelatin or an egg to your regular formula for a protein shampoo; or combine alcohol and water (1 to 3 parts) for a suds-less shampoo.

CONDITIONER
The most important ingredients to look for in choosing a conditioner are fatty acids. Look at the first five ingredients listed on the label and you’ll see mentions of acetyl or stearyl alcohol and other ingredients ending in “amine,” which are designed to combat static. A creamy-feeling formula, one that feels like a hand cream, will work best. It’s also relevant to choose a conditioner that’s designed for your hairstyle, like a volume conditioner to give hair a lift or a curl-enhancing conditioner to play up your curls.

Make your own: Avocado adds protein and oil for shine and manageability. Egg yolk mixed with two teaspoons of castor oil and one teaspoon of rum moisturizes dry hair. Mayonnaise mixed with one beaten egg yolk and one teaspoon each of vinegar and powdered kelp adds shine and body. Honey, on its own, conditions any shade. Massage any of these natural conditioners into dry hair, cover with a shower cap, and allow to permeate for 30–60 minutes before shampooing. To speed up the process, wrap hot, moist towels around your head.

GELS, SPRAYS, OR MOUSSES
Different products do the trick, according to your hair’s texture. But here are some guidelines: Hair sprays work well for any hair type; choose one with a lighter chemical grade if you have fine hair that gets easily weighed down. Gels add texture, volume, and shine, increase holding power, control frizz, provide moisture, and smooth hair. Choose a lightweight formula for thin hair, save the extra-hold for thicker, wavier locks. The same rules basically apply for other styling products. Mousse is designed to increase hold and shine and combat static; choose a formula that can be easily brushed out so hair isn’t sticky. Pomades increase the degree of hold, texture, and shine. Wax sticks add shine and help lock in moisture.

Make your own: Instead of gel, mix noncarbonated or flat beer with water as a final rinse to control flyaway hair and keep it in place. Try a stiffly beaten egg white as a protein-enriching styling mousse. Simmer one tablespoon of flaxseeds in 1 cup of water until slightly thickened for a setting lotion. Substitute your regular hairspray with a spritz of lemon juice from a misting bottle to add resiliency, body, and highlights. Put your wax stick on the back burner and try blending 1 teaspoon of instant, dry milk (whole milk for normal to dry hair, skim for oily hair) with 1 cup water to create a wave. For homemade pomade, brew double-strength rosemary tea to preserve curls in damp weather (use only on darker hair colors).

COLOR FORMULATIONS, PERMS, AND RELAXERS
These chemical treatments are designed to help change the color, texture, and structure of your hair. For best results, try both types of treatments in a salon under professional guidance; if performed incorrectly, the results can be disastrous. And don’t attempt to create your own formulas. The risk of seriously damaging your hair isn’t worth playing chemist.

Make your own:
Chamomile and Calendula Hair Lightener: The bright yellow of chamomile and calendula flowers resembles the sun and is bound to brighten your hair the same way. This temporary rinse lightens and brightens blond hair, increasing its softness and adding movement. Gentle highlights add texture and depth of color. Botanical formula: 4 cups water, 2 cups dried chamomile flowers, 2 cups dried calendula flowers, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon lemon extract.

In a saucepan, bring water, chamomile, and calendula to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat, strain liquid into a bowl or pitcher, and stir in lemon juice and extract. When cool enough for application, stand in your shower and slowly pour the solution over your head, massaging it into your hair to cover all strands thoroughly. Cover hair with a plastic shower cap. Leave on for at least 40 minutes, then remove shower cap and rinse hair thoroughly with warm water. Use every other day for lasting effects.

Black Tea–Rosemary Rinse for Dark Brown Hair: Use the strong qualities of black teas and richly roasted coffees to add natural dark brown highlights to hair without damaging it. Tea and coffee, which are known to stain, are perfect for coloring brown hair. Rosemary is also an exceptional coloring agent for brown hair. Use the following recipe every other day on light to dark brown hair to add richness to brown hair of any shade. For a milder effect, use one less teaspoon of coffee and one less tea bag.

Botanical formula: 7 bags black tea or 2 1/2 tablespoons loose tea, 2 tablespoons chopped oregano leaves, 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves, 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon instant coffee, 1 tablespoon lemon extract. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix the tea, oregano, and rosemary with the water; steep for 45–50 minutes. Remove tea bags and filter out oregano, rosemary and loose tea if used. Place liquid in a small pitcher. Add coffee and lemon extract to liquid and stir until combined. Let cool, then while standing in your shower slowly pour the solution over your head, massaging it into your hair and scalp and covering all strands thoroughly. Cover hair with a plastic shower cap for 30 minutes. Remove shower cap and rinse hair thoroughly with warm water.

Oil Treatment: Weekly hot oil treatments can add luster and shine to the hair. Oils that most effectively penetrate the hair include olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil, safflower oil, and corn oil. Here’s how to do it yourself: Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a small saucepan over a very low flame until just warm. Remove from heat and let cool for about one minute. Massage warm oil into your hair. Cover hair with a plastic shower cap and then with a towel wrap. Leave on for 30 minutes, then rinse and shampoo as usual. Or, try this creative concoction from Philip B.:

Honey-Maple Hot Oil Treatment Botanical Formula: 1 teaspoon canola oil, 1 teaspoon margarine (softened), 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon coconut oil or extract, 1 teaspoon orange oil or extract, 1 tablespoon light sesame oil, 1 teaspoon macadamia nut oil, 1 teaspoon avocado oil, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon honey. Put all ingredients into a small saucepan, except for the syrup and honey. Heat over a very low flame until just warmed (about 2–3 minutes). Remove from heat. Cool for about 1 minute and add syrup and honey. Test with your finger to make sure it’s not too hot to apply to scalp. Massage oil mixture into hair and then cover with a plastic shower cap. Leave on for 10 to 20 minutes. Remove shower cap and apply a mixture of equal parts shampoo and water and work into hair. Lather and rinse.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susan Craig Scott, M.D., author of The Hair Bible: The Ultimate Guide to Healthy, Beautiful Hair Forever (Copyright © 2003 by TimeLife Media, Inc.), is a cosmetic and hair replacement surgeon who received her medical degree from Columbia University. Board certified in surgery and plastic surgery, she is an attending physician at Beth Israel Hospital; Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital; Lenox Hill Hospital; and the Hospital for Joint Diseases. She has appeared on such television programs as The Today Show and Eye to Eye and since 1996 she has been team physician to the WNBA’s New York Liberty.

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Barbecue Tools 101: What You Need to Make Barbecuing Easier and Safer

Good barbecue requires good equipment. Here, Dotty Griffith, author of Celebrating Barbecue, offers a list of must-haves for making barbecue you can be proud of.

Low and slow is the mantra of all barbecue pit masters. Long slow cooking with indirect heat — that is, not directly over the heat source — or over a very low fire is what makes barbecue. Good barbecue requires good equipment. The options are many, depending on a variety of factors, including budget, cooking and storage space, the number of mouths you’re feeding, and your level of enthusiasm and commitment. It is possible to spend tens of thousands of dollars on custom barbecue equipment or just a few bucks on inexpensive equipment that will also produce barbecue you can be proud of. Costs may range from $25 to $3,000 or even higher.

Types and styles of cookers range from barrels to brick-lined pits and from small grills available at discount stores to expensive designer equipment. Pros who compete in barbecue contests across the country and who also cater have portable barbecue rigs or systems on trailers. Many customize the equipment for their special needs and preferences, like smoking a whole pig or side of beef.

But most of us amateurs — including some pretty serious ones — buy something we think is big enough to meet our needs, easy enough to use, the right size for the deck or patio, and affordable.

Cookers may be constructed in a horizontal or vertical style, round or rectangular, depending on the cook’s preference. With horizontal cookers longer than they are wide, the fire can be built at one end of the grill so that the meat can be placed on the cooler side. Other cookers (usually vertical) have what are called fireboxes in which the fire burns and wafts smoke and heat over and around the meat in the cooking chamber.

Round (or kettle) cookers, except those with water pans, make it more difficult to position the meat away from the fire; in general, this shape works better for grilling. But if you’ve got a round cooker, don’t despair. Start the fire in the middle. Once the coals have burned down to gray ash, push them to the edges, forming an area of indirect heat in the center of the grill.

Some cooks use smokers with a water pan that separates the fire from the meat, thus reducing the chances of overcooking or drying out the meat. When you use a water pan smoker, basting isn’t necessary. If the flavors from a basting or “mop” liquid are desired, pour the basting liquid in the water pan, adding water as necessary to prevent to prevent the pan from cooking dry. Cooking takes longer with a water pan.

A good barbecue cooker has to have a lid and vents or a vent and chimney. They help control the fire and pull the smoke and heat over the meat to cook it. For more convenience, chose a cooker that has a fire door so you don’t have to lift the cooking grate and meat whenever you need to add hot coals.

Experienced barbecuers often have several different types and sizes of cookers requiring different types of fuel. They use bigger cookers fired by wood or wood and charcoal when they’ve got time to spend on a brisket or pork shoulder or several racks of ribs. They may use a smaller gas-or electric-powered cooker for more casual cooking when there’s less time to tend the fire.

Serious barbecuing requires a second, smaller grill that can be devoted to maintaining a steady supply of hot coals for the main cooker. It also comes in handy for grilling snacks while waiting for the barbecue to cook.

Along with a cooker (or two), you’ll need cutting boards, knives and utensils, heavy gloves, squirt bottles, squirt bottles, and fire starters. Here’s a list of basic tools that will make barbecuing easier and safer.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST
Aluminum foil:
Get heavy duty, the largest size available, for wrapping big pieces of meat to keep them warm or to store refrigerated.

Chimney fire starter:
This gadget looks like a top hat without a brim and uses crumpled newspaper to start a charcoal fire quickly and efficiently, without the taste residue of chemical fire starters or treated charcoal.

Cutting board(s): Several boards (at least 1 inch thick) of varying surface area can be very helpful. If you choose only one, make sure it is large enough for holding and slicing a brisket or pork shoulder, about 10 by 16 inches. Some boards have a trench around the edge to catch runoff juices.

Electric match: These are handy for starting fire.

Fork: A two-pronged fork is great for holding meat securely while you are carving. But it is better to use a spatula, tongs, or heat-resistant gloved hands for handling meat over the fire. Stabbing with a fork causes to run out.

Gloves: Different kinds are suited for different jobs. Black heat-resistant gloves are a safety bonus, especially if you’re handling big pieces of meat. Plain work gloves make handling wood and charcoal a lot less messy. Latex gloves make handling raw meat more pleasant and  serving cooked meat more sanitary.

Instant-read thermometer: This basic food safety tool is a must for producing good barbecue. When inserted into the meat, it immediately gives you the internal temperature, unlike traditional meat thermometers, which must be inserted in the meat during the entire cooking time. It is also handy for checking the temperature inside the cooker. Some cooks drill a small hole in the lid so they can insert their instant-read thermometer at any time. Others place an oven thermometer inside the cooker on the grill near the meat.

Knives: A large carving knife is a must for slicing cooked barbecue. A paring knife, an 8-or 10-inch chef’s knife, and a boning knife also come in handy for various. A Chinese cleaver is ideal for carving barbecued chicken or for chopping pulled pork or barbecued brisket.

Plastic bags: Get heavy-duty self closing bags in a variety of sizes, mostly large. They are great for marinating meat to be cooked or for storing cooked meat.

Platters: You’ll need large, heatproof platters or roasting pans that can rest on the edge of the cooker or be placed in a low oven to keep eat warm. They are also handy for switching to the Fail-Safe Technique of finishing barbecue in the oven.

Sauce mop: Used for washing dishes, the true dish mop, like a floor mop, is made of string is perfect for swabbing meat with sauce. A pastry brush can do the same job. Keep several of both on hand. Clean them in dishwater.

Shovel or fire spade: One of these is a must if you’re keeping a hot bed of coals to add to the cooker. Use it for the easiest and safest way to transfer hot coals to a firebox or smoker.

Spatulas: Sturdy spatulas are great for lifting the meat so you don’t have to poke fork holes in it. For large pieces of meat, you’ll need two.

Squirt bottle: Keep one on hand to douse the flames that get out of control. More of a necessity for grilling than for barbecuing.

Tongs: These gadgets can be a barbecue cook’s best friend because they allow precise handling of the wood in the firebox and the meat on the grill. Use a separate pair of tongs for each task. For extra flexibility, get several tongs in varying lengths. A spatula and a pair of tongs may be the safest combination for moving meat around on a smoker.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dotty Griffith is the dining editor and restaurant critic of The Dallas Morning News, and has judged numerous recipe contests. She is the author of nine cookbooks, including Celebrating Barbecue: The Ultimate Guide to America’s 4 Regional Styles of ‘Cue (Copyright © 2002 by Dotty Griffith), and has written for magazines, including Gourmet and Travel & Leisure. She lives in Dallas, Texas.

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6 Steps to Creating a Sexy “Date Night” Outfit

How to look fabulous in an outfit that sparkles for the evening — even if you’ve been married to your date for years. From Before You Put That On by style guru Lloyd Boston

Remember the excitement you once felt while preparing for an exciting date? How you rushed around to find the perfect, well, everything? You took care to make sure each element looked just right — from your hairstyle to your pedicure. Even the scent you wore was carefully selected. Then, before you stepped out for the evening, you glance back at your reflection in the mirror and loved who you saw smiling back.

Why do women ever stop this magical practice of taking extra time to romance themselves in hopes of romancing that special someone? The answer lies in one word: life — the rigors of which can slowly erode your interest in getting fabulous. Heck, some days it’s a challenge to simply function. That’s why the date-night look is the perfect remedy, even when it’s not actually your first date.

Feature Your Best Feature
Tastefully show off your best physical feature while leaving room for the imagination. Your sensual shoulders, your beautiful back, those gorgeous gams, even just your pretty smile — choose what feature works best for you, and show it off in styles or with products that highlight it. And remember, when it comes to inspiring romance, a little mystery goes a long way. You don’t have to be skimpy to be sexy.

Be Scent-sational
Mark the occasion with a glorious new fragrance that will linger in your date’s mind. Henceforth, every time they catch a whiff of it, there will be a reminder of you.

Goddess in the Details
Regardless of what you wear, get a fresh manicure, pedicure, and professional haircut and styling. Plain and simple, good grooming goes a long way. People notice the details!

Fine and Fancy-Free
Depending on what you have planned, a nice-fitting pair of jeans and a fresh white T-shirt is a stylish, comfortable option. It’s an alluring, fun look that doesn’t shout high maintenance.

Have Fun
Dress for the date’s theme. If you are going dancing, wear a skirt with flare and movement (think gentle ruffles or pleats). If you meet over a candlelight dinner, wear something that has a slight reflective quality above the waist, so you shimmer all night long. Think ahead and play into the night’s mood with clothes and accessories that are comfy and appropriate for the occasion.

Underneath It All
New, alluring underwear will make you feel special and fresh — even if your date never gets a peek!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lloyd Boston, author of Before You Put That On: 365 Daily Style Tips for Her (Copyright © 2005 by Lloyd Boston), is the former vice president of art direction at Tommy Hilfiger and a current on-air fashion editor for Today, America’s #1 morning show. Lloyd has spread his style philosophy on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The View, and CNN’s red carpet Oscar coverage. He is based in New York City.

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7 Easy, Natural Eye Treatments You Can Make at Home

You don’t need to spend a fortune on eye creams. You can make these masks and treatments using ingredients found right in your kitchen. From Return to Beauty by Narine Nikogosian

If we are fortunate enough to have our eyesight, we are able to enjoy all of the world’s magnificence and beauty. My son’s smile, the canyons I drive through after work, even my husband snoring on the sofa — I take in my life with my own beautiful eyes.

Happy, sad, worried, or frightened — these windows to the soul also tell others all they need to know about us. If your eyes are watery, this means there are vitamins missing from your diet. Also, the older we get, the drier our eyes can become. These problems can be fixed with adjustments in our lifestyle and diet.

We need to take good care of our eyes. Good eye vitamins are A, E, C, B, and B2. Foods that are rich in these vitamins include carrots, green beans, green onions, melons, tomatoes, bananas, potatoes, cabbage, wheat, walnuts, garlic, chicken, pinto beans, milk, and fish.

Avoiding the following habits will help your eyes maintain health: overworking, too much computer time, too much television time, smoking, alcohol, and not enough sleep.

EYE REMEDIES
TIRED EYES

To rejuvenate your eyes after a long day, fill a large bowl with water and add 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Soak your face in the water, opening and closing your eyes several times. Soak clean cotton balls in green tea and swipe them over closed eyes.

PUMPKIN EYE MASK
Peel and seed a slice of pumpkin. Cook it in 2 cups of water until soft, then mash it and add 1 teaspoon of honey. Place inside clean gauze, then place over your eyes and relax for 20 minutes.

POTATO EYE MASK
Peel 1 small potato. Shred it, then place it in clean gauze. Cover your eyes with this and relax for 15 minutes. Rinse off with cold chamomile tea.

RED IRRITATED EYES
In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of chopped parsley and 1 cup of milk. Soak clean cotton balls in the mixture and swipe them over closed eyes.

REMEDIES FOR DARK CIRCLES
As well as changing those habits that help to create dark pigmentation under the eyes, try one or all of these recipes. (Sometimes darkness under our eyes or on our eyelids is genetic, but these recipes help lighten its appearance.)

Dark Eyelids
Place 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh parsley on your eyelids and rest for 20 to 25 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.

Dark Under-Eye Circles
Place 2 teaspoons of organic cottage cheese on clean cotton balls. Pat gently under your eyes and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.
OR
In a small saucepan, put 3 teaspoons of diced cucumber into 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Mix in 1 teaspoon of honey. Allow to cool. Dip a cotton ball in the mixture and pat gently under your eye area. Leave on for 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse off with cold water.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Narine Nikogosian, author of the Return to Beauty: Old-World Recipes for Great Radiant Skin book (Copyright © 2009 by Narine Nikogosian) and the Return to Beauty Vook, trained in nursing with a concentration in dermatology in her native Armenia and Russia before she came to the United States. She ran the successful Starface salon in Glendale, California, and later built a well-respected reputation as a talented aesthetician at Ole Henriksen Face/Body on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. Her clients include many of Hollywood’s top stars, including Jessica Alba, Carmen Electra, Charlize Theron, Ellen DeGeneres, and Kiefer Sutherland.

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Last-Minute Party Tips and Hors d’Oeuvres You Can Make on the Fly

When you’re having friends over at the last minute, follow these tips, tricks, and easy, always-pleasing appetizers that take only minutes to prepare from Katie Lee, author of The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions.

IN THE BAR
It’s cocktail hour somewhere! And having a versatile bar makes it that much more fun when guests arrive. In addition to spirits and mixers, it’s a great idea to keep a drink-mixing guide by the bar in case someone requests a cocktail you’re not familiar with.

my essentials

  • bourbon
  • vodka
  • light rum
  • gin
  • tequila
  • vermouth
  • mixers (tonic, seltzer, juices)
  • tools (ice bucket and tongs, shaker, strainer, two-sided jigger, bottle opener)

HORS D’OEUVRES ON THE FLY
If I’m having friends over for drinks last minute, these are my go-to hors d’oeuvres. They take only minutes to prepare and are always a hit and appropriate for any occasion.

  • Wrap store-bought breadsticks in prosciutto.
  • Fill endive leaves with hummus and dust with paprika. (Endive leaves make great vessels for other simple, tasty combinations as well, like goat cheese with crushed walnuts and drizzled with honey, or smoked salmon with crème fraîche and chives.)
  • Make a variety of crostini by toasting thinly sliced baguettes and topping with goat cheese and roasted red pepper, Gorgonzola and fig jam, ricotta with olive oil and sea salt, or olive tapenade.
  • Marinate olives with fresh herbs and red pepper flakes.
  • Season nuts with chili powder and toast lightly.

PARTY TIPS

  • Make lists, lists, and more lists of everything that needs to be done for the party.
  • Clean and set up the party space the day before.
  • To save space, move any nonessential furniture out of the party area and into your bedroom.
  • Stash old mail, magazines, and any other loose papers in decorative tins or baskets out of eyesight.
  • Take some time to tidy up your bathroom. Clear your sink of beauty product clutter, put out fresh soap, clean hand towels, and plenty of toilet paper.
  • Short on space? Clear off the shelf of a bookcase and use for bar setup with martini and wine glasses, a couple of drink garnishes, and plenty of cocktail napkins.
  • Designated drivers and nondrinkers shouldn’t be forced to drink water all night. Offer a nonalcoholic drink such as a fruit spritzer. Just mix fruit juice, club soda, and sliced fruit.
  • To break the ice, give an outgoing friend a tray of hors d’oeuvres to pass around, and put another friend on drink duty.
  • When it’s time to wrap up the party, turn the lights up and put away the booze.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katie Lee, author of The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions (Copyright © by Katie Lee), is the food and lifestyle contributor for The Early Show and has appeared on Oprah, Today, Extra, The Martha Stewart Show, Paula’s Best Dishes, and Iron Chef America. She has been featured in publications such as People, Vanity Fair, Town & Country, and InStyle, and writes a regular column for Cosmopolitan. Outside of her culinary adventures, she enjoys spending time in her organic garden and traveling. She lives in New York City.

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10-Minute Solution to Traveling in Style

Get a ten-minute style for a long flight — one that is comfortable and also looks like you spent hours pulling it together. From Before You Put That On by style guru Lloyd Boston

Your summer travel schedule is like that of a rock star, even if many of your smaller jaunts simply take you to mountains up north, the local amusement park just off the highway, or out for a walk along a nearby waterfront.

Traveling in style is a toss-up. Many women say, “Why bother? No one will seem me thirty thousand feet in the air. And I can always change when I land.” Or so you hope.

I say getting fabulous for the friendly skies is a great way to take the edge off the work involved in traveling. Arrive at your destination knowing that you are ready for just about anything. You may even land an upgrade to first class if you aren’t there already.

Here is a great ten-minute style solution that I call “plane and simple” for air travel in a pinch:

Minutes 1:00–2:00
Go for drawstring lounge pants in cashmere, merino wool, or velour. They’re as comfy as sweats but look a bit more elegant. The longer the length the better.

Minutes 3:004:00:
Choose a fine-gauge sweater or sweater set. Surprisingly, thin turtlenecks are great on over-air-conditioned summer flights and look chic with lounge pants.

Minutes 5:006:00:
Ballet flats, slip-on slides or mules, and driving moccasins sans socks look rich, elegant, and feel as relaxing as first class, even if you’re in coach.

Minutes 7:008:00:
Your carry-on bag is the style tip-off — whether a new, inexpensive canvas tote (note that I said “new”), or a luxe leather weekend bag. Bring the best bag you have.

Minutes 9:0010:00:
Your makeup ought to be “barely there.” It is dry in the sky, so focus on a great moisturizer, a bit of undereye concealer, a natural lip color or moisturizing gloss — ready for takeoff!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lloyd Boston, author of Before You Put That On: 365 Daily Style Tips for Her (Copyright © 2005 by Lloyd Boston) and The Style Checklist: The Ultimate Wardrobe Essentials for You, is the former vice president of art direction at Tommy Hilfiger and a current on-air fashion editor for Today, America’s #1 morning show. Lloyd has spread his style philosophy on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The View, and CNN’s red carpet Oscar coverage. He is based in New York City.

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11 Tips for Dealing With Your Piles of Papers

For help clearing out the avalanche of printed materials in your home, follow these helpful tips from Green Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck

Magazines
Most of us subscribe to magazines because we are vitally interested in their subject matter, which is exactly why getting rid of old periodicals can be so difficult. Force yourself. If you don’t recycle constantly, you may be crushed by a slippery avalanche of magazines.

  • Keep only the magazines you need for reference, then process them as quickly as possible: Take notes, copy information into your computer, or rip out useful articles and file them away. After you have saved the information you need, donate the magazines to schools, artists, or other people who will use them; recycle the leftovers.
  • Do not read materials you are attempting to recycle. Yes, you probably didn’t read every single word in every single magazine, but life is short and recycling piles up. If you missed an article, you can read it at the public library.
  • Don’t store dated material. Your computer magazine is nearly obsolete as soon as it rolls off the presses. It is unlikely to become more timely when you take it out of storage.
  • Many magazines offer online subscriptions. Consumer Reports, for instance, has a searchable online archive of all their articles, reports, and ratings, and you can subscribe to the online service without receiving the actual magazine. With an online subscription, you can easily find any article and need never fear losing information.
  • Everyone has a complete collection of National Geographics! Yes, they are gorgeous, but they have no resale value. Unless you are going to use them in an art project within a year, give them to a school or an artist who will. Our public library not only possesses a complete collection of the magazine — dating back to its first issues in the late nineteenth century — they also have a complete index. This means that I can go to the library, look up any subject I’m interested in, fill out a request form, and have the issue I need in a few minutes. Finding the same issue in a home collection is unlikely to be as quick and easy.

Newspapers

  • Share your newspaper with a close neighbor; you’ll cut your costs and your recycling chores in half
  • Home collections are not usually indexed, catalogued, or systematically shelved, and an organized collection of newspapers in a private home is the least likely scenario of all.
  • If you are working on a research project and need clippings, mark the page with the article while you’re reading the paper (brightly colored Post-it notes, which can be stuck to the edge of the paper, work well and can be reused several times). After everyone in the household has finished reading the paper, you can clip the article, file it, and recycle the rest of the paper.
  • Don’t keep piles of papers so you can read them later. You won’t. Piles of newspapers will choke the life out of your home. I can guarantee that once you have saved a stack of newspapers to read later you will not be able to find the information you are looking for.
  • Many articles are available on the Internet, and many libraries maintain extensive collections of newspapers on microfiche. Your librarians are trained professionals who can help you find any issue you need.
  • Piles of newspapers are like flammable underbrush in a forest; they need to be cleared out or they endanger the rest of the ecosystem.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ellen Sandbeck, the author of Green Housekeeping (Copyright © 2006 by Ellen Sandbeck) and Green Barbarians: Live Bravely on Your Home Planet, is an organic landscaper, worm wrangler, writer, and graphic artist who lives with (and experiments on) her husband and an assortment of younger creatures — which includes two mostly grown children, a couple of dogs, a small flock of laying hens, and many thousands of composting worms — in Duluth, Minnesota.

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