Simple, Yet Effective Tips for Low-Stress Wedding Reception Planning

It is supposed to be one of the most important and most special days in the romantic lives of a couple. But all too often things can get out of control and can spoil the occasion. Tips for planning your wedding reception with little stress can help you to relax, focus your mind and help you make the day as special as you want it to be.

High expectations can often increase the level of stress. A desire to make things perfect can mean you become overly concerned with small details. You need to remind yourself that if one small detail goes wrong it does not mean everything will fail. There are certain things you need to prioritize and having everything prioritized before the big day comes will help lower your stress.

When considering your guests you want to make sure that they will behave. If you trust your friends and family not to over indulge then it is fine to have free drinks and let them enjoy themselves. However if you are worried that some will abuse this trust   and  drink too much then it is better to have a cash  bar   and  only have a glass of champagne for the toasts.

A checklist will help you look at everything that needs to be done. Seeing it written down will help you to see what is vital and what is not. If you are on a limited budget, you need to decide if party favours are really necessary. A simple bowl full of candy on each table will often be enough and tends to please all ages.

You should also be unafraid to delegate and make sure that you get help if you ask for it. If the bride needs her dress to be zipped up or the groom needs help putting on his cufflinks then someone should be there to help with that. If you are looking for entertainment ask if they are prepared to do announcements as that way you do not have to do this job yourself or use the services of a professional toast master.

Try to plan ahead as much as possible. If you order items online make sure you check the delivery dates and if possible allow a little extra time to wait just in case. If there really is not that much time look for companies that offer an express delivery service. It may cost extra but if the items are necessary then it could be worth the expense.

These are simple tips that will reduce your stress if you put them into action. However if you do have the budget, a wedding planner or event coordinator can also help to organize the event and reduce the amount of work for you to do. Look online to see what is available in your local area.

Conquering Old Habits – Break Free of the Clean Plate Club by ReWiring Your Brain With NLP

The formula for weight loss is fairly simple, eat better (rather than less), and move more. So, what gets in our way of whether or not we follow through on what we know we “should” do? It’s our habits. Some habits are obvious: stress eating, smoking, needing to clean your dinner plate. But there are other habits that are less obvious. We also have habits in what we think and how we feel. These other habits can easily get in the way of how motivated or disciplined we are with any goal we are trying to achieve. With advances in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), you can apply a few techniques to help you conquer old habits and springboard yourself toward success.

Our brain relies on habits for efficiency. Anything that we repeat often enough, the mind automates it and adds it to the autopilot system. This is useful in learning because once we have learned something, and it’s automated, we don’t have to think about it, such as tying shoes or driving a car. However, the difficulty comes with habits that are not so useful, like overeating, smoking, and even thinking and feeling habits, such as taking things personally, anxiety, and even depression can all be habits.

Our brain is made up of brain cells that create pathways between them. We use these pathways for what we think, feel, and do, and the pathways that we use most often become the default, or part of the autopilot system. What we practice becomes easier.

Remember the old saying, “It takes 30 days to make a new habit?” Well, it’s not so true anymore. The element of creating a new habit is repetition. With understanding how the mind works, and through the advancement of applied psychology, namely, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), we can set up a new habit in just a few sessions, or even less. NLP developed from the study of successful people, and uses mental strategies for creating new habits, patterns, and updating old “programs” or belief systems.

In training the mind to create new habits, we first must identify the cues or triggers that tell the mind to run the old habit. For instance, if you have been conditioned to clean your plate, the cue to stop eating is a clean plate. This learned cue overrides the feeling of being full. Even if you are stuffed, you may feel compelled to squeeze in those last bites.

The Clean Plate Club is very common. And the reasons parents taught us to clean our plate have a variety of positive intentions. Parents taught the Clean Your Plate rule to get kids to eat their meal at mealtime, ensure that a young child is getting the nutrition a growing body needs, or perhaps to appreciate food, minimize waste, and feel gratitude.

So, after years of overriding the “I’m Full” response for the “Clean your Plate” response, I, too, wasn’t done eating until I’d cleaned my plate. However, just because we’ve created a pathway doesn’t mean it can’t change. All these brain pathways are simply what we’ve learned – and the good news is, we can learn something new. In fact, we are always learning. We can now, more easily than ever, create new habits, patterns, and update old “programs.” But first we must identify what we want instead.

I know I no longer want to be compelled to clean my plate. I would rather notice when I am full and satisfied, and I find it easy to stop eating when I’ve reached the point of being comfortably full. Now that we’ve identified what we want instead, it simply needs practice and repetition for the mind to automate it. But rather than taking 30 days to run through it daily, while focusing conscious attention on every meal, we can instead run through it in the mind and create new mental cues that will help the new behavior become automated. So, if you’ve been part of the Clean Plate Club, try out this exercise based on the elements of NLP, to help your mind gain new cues about when to stop eating and what to do instead.

In your mind’s eye, imagine that you are sitting down to dinner. You have a beautiful plate of healthy food in front of you, and you begin to enjoy your meal. When you’ve finished about ¾ of your plate, you begin to notice that you feel full, even a wonderful feeling of satisfaction. Looking at your plate, notice that the food looks less appealing, and you feel like eating less. You might even hear yourself thinking, I think “I’m done,” and you notice that you would rather have that wonderful feeling of comfortably full rather than stuffed. Way off in the distance, you notice a bright spark, it begins to come closer and closer, faster and faster, until it explodes in front of you into a big refrigerator. You realize, it’s so easy to wrap what’s left of dinner, and save it for later (preserving the intention of not wasting food), or if you are in a restaurant, you can box it up and take it with you to enjoy it later. Imagine getting up, picking up your dinner, wrapping up your meal and putting it away in the refrigerator. You find it so easy to stop when you feel satiated, listening to your body’s own signal, which allows you to continue feeling comfortably satisfied.

So, now that this brief visualization has outlined some mental cues, repeat this exercise about 8 times and your mind will begin to create a new thought pattern. Notice the next time you sit down to dinner, you will pay more attention to the feeling of comfortably full as a cue to stop eating rather than cleaning your plate. In your mind, you are telling your brain what you want it to do and running through the new pattern instead. All it needs is repetition to turn your new thought pattern into a habit. And your new habit will run, even without consciously thinking about it, when it is incorporated into your autopilot system. This is only one example of how you can train your brain to quickly and easily create new habits and patterns.

Other patterns that may affect your motivation, health, and self-management may not be very obvious, even with hidden benefits that keep them going. The habits of what we do are more obvious than the habits of what we think and how we feel, but if we take the time, we can identify what else may be getting in our way. A common thought or feeling habit is that quite often for children sweets are given as a reward. When we did something well, often we were treated with candy, cookies, ice cream, or other sweets. So, now as an adult, when we want to treat ourselves or recognize that we’ve done a good job, we may go for the same rewards we were given as a child.

So, we not only have habits in what we do, but our entire history of food and meanings may be influencing our choices every daily. Included in that history are beliefs about ourselves or how the world works. These beliefs are tricky because they seem like the hard fast rules of life. But when we look closer, they don’t hold up to scrutiny. See if any of these beliefs may be part of your history:

o “You have to work hard to lose weight” There are many people who don’t work hard to lose weight or maintain it. If it’s not true for everyone, it’s not a universal truth, and it may be just a belief.

o “Weight loss is just part of getting older.” From a study of the obesity in U.S. it was found that before 1980, only 1 of 50 states had more than 15% of the population who were obese. After a 10 year span, in 1990, the same map showed that all states had more than 15% of the population who were obese. America got fat in the space of 10 years! These trends have more to do with lifestyle choices rather than age.

Here are some more examples of beliefs that can get in your way. “No pain, no gain” may keep you from enjoying a fitness program. Other beliefs or programs may come from the childhood mind. One of my clients discovered the belief: “If only I were bigger, they wouldn’t pick on me.” There is no end to the possibilities of the mental and emotional patterns that may be running in the background. Every person is unique and has their own set of associations or history that may contribute to the “programs” running about health and weight.

With NLP, it’s easy to identify the unique set of internal associations that are contributing to your problem or challenge, and may take as few as 10 minutes. If you are not getting the results you want with your weight loss program, or you find yourself lacking motivation for your goals, falling off the weight loss wagon, or experiencing self-sabotage, you will find it useful to identify the deeper “programs,” that are working against you.

Ask a qualified NLP Practitioner to walk through the Hands Polarity exercise with you to quickly find the internal associations, patterns, and beliefs that contribute to a problem or challenge. It can even take as few as 10 minutes to help you identify what might be getting in your way. Then, with the applied tools of NLP, you can take charge of how you think and feel, update your programs and patterns, and make your success happen! Change your Mind, Change your Habits – Empower your life!

26 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Morocco on Tourism

Morocco is a wondrous, eyes-open taste of the exotic, It’s also an adventure into some of North Africa’s most stunning scenery with the desert on its doorstep and the craggy heights of the Atlas Mountains beyond. Morocco is also a journey into a timeless, tranquil world of cute coastal villages, colorful-painted towns that cling to hillsides and remote outposts defended by fairytale adobe forts. This fascinating country is a merging of the African and Arab worlds, and is steeped in age-old customs. It’s no wonder Morocco has been feted by artists and writers for decades and continues to enchant all who visit.

However, there are 26 things you need to know before traveling to Morocco on tourism:

1. More and more people are visiting Morocco every year.

2. It’s a beautiful country

3. Morocco is one of the peaceful countries in the whole world with a lot of places of interest to visit especially when you are embarking on tourism.

4. You don’t need any vaccinations before you go to Morocco, except you decide on your own, but it is not compulsory. Although it is advisable to vaccinate yourself to avoid being infected with rabies and hepatitis etc, but in the past, no one has had trouble with health issues.

5. Exchange of Moroccan Dirham to 1 dollar is 10.08 Dirham

6. Morocco is a great travel bargain. Relatively speaking, the rate of the Dirham is good, and it’s steady, so there shouldn’t be a lot of surprises.

7. Hotels in Morocco are cheap, good value, and usually pretty easy to find.

8. Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most ATM for cash advances, but remember credit cards are not accepted at a lot of smaller shops. The maximum amount you can withdraw is usually 4000 dirham which is around 370 Euro, 460 USD or 230 British pounds.

9. Once you’re in Morocco, you will need cash immediately to pay for transportation. You’d best go to the first ATM you see at the airport, but don’t take a lot there.

10. Don’t carry a huge amount of money when moving about to avoid losing your money. Hide most of it in your hotel and only take with you what you might expect to spend for that day.

11. Hold a few 1-dirham coins in a pocket for when you encounter beggars. If you can afford a holiday in Morocco, you can afford to give a coin to a beggar. I do all the time.

12. In Morocco, don’t use your left hand to do anything socially important, like eat or shake hands. Moroccans feel that is unclean especially in public, be aware of this important cultural distinction.

13. In Morocco, women often dress modestly in their culture and the Western tendency to want to run around in tank tops and short when it’s hot (it’s usually hot!) is outside their custom.

14. A woman traveling to Morocco should wear long skirts and dresses, jeans or pants that cover the knees, draping tunics, polo shirts, and camisoles that can be worn under sweaters and cardigans. Women generally wear sandals or loafers; rarely do they wear heels.

15. In Morocco, 99% of its population is Muslims. Therefore, the first rule to dressing in Morocco is to respect Islam’s emphasis on modesty. Clothes and accessories are not meant to attract attention or excessively reveal the body. Women should ensure that their clothes do not expose the d├ęcolletage, shoulders, or thighs.

16. In Morocco, unless you want to attract attention, it’s best to limit the display of ostentatious jewelry, luxury handbags, and high-end electronics.

17. In general, men should wear long pants with a shirt, ideally a collared one. Men can wear sandals, loafers, or sneakers – whatever is appropriate for the context of the visit. While some boys and young men wear shorts in public, it is less common, particularly among adult men.

18. Morocco is sweltering in the summer months; however, it’s still necessary to cover the shoulders and legs. For women, a loose maxi dress with a light sweater or scarf over the shoulders is a brilliant way to stay cool and blend in with women who wear jabadors and kaftans.

19. It’s not necessary for non-Muslim women to wear a hijab, or a veil that conceals a woman’s hair. Moroccan women choose for themselves whether or not they wish to cover and this decision is largely based on religious motivations.

20. In Morocco, it’s easy to get alcohol at many bars despite the Muslim stricture against it. In bigger cities, like Casablanca or Marrakech, you can find bars and nightclubs where they like to party until day break

21. A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and, in particular, medical problems is strongly recommended for all visitors to Morocco.

22. Driving Make sure you have adequate travel medical insurance and any relevant car insurance if you’re driving.

23. Extensions: if you need to extend your cover on the road, do so before it expires or a more expensive premium may apply.

24. In Morocco, almost all English-speaking countries (with the exception of South Africa) require no visa to enter the country, and visitors can stay up to 90 days, So check with the Moroccan embassy online in your own country just to be sure.

25. In Morocco, it is most likely you will need a power converter especially if you want to charge your cell phone.

26. In Morocco, guys can dress however they like, but women need to dress more conservatively.

Organize Your Anniversary Party With A Checklist

Whether it is your 1st, or 10th wedding anniversary, it is worth celebrating, and what better way to plan a celebration than with an anniversary party checklist?

The most successful anniversary parties start with an idea – how the event will begin, continue and end. Having a finite and concrete party checklist to plan in helps you to keep your wedding anniversary party right on track.

1. The best thing to do when creating any party is to develop a theme. By creating a theme you can set the mood, location, food ideas and attire as well as invitations. A theme doesn’t need to be fancy; it just needs to be something both you and your spouse / friends are interested in. Some ideas of themes that can be very fun are:

Decade parties – Fabulous 50’s, Swingin’ 60’s, Disco 70’s.

Famous Movie Themes – pick a movie you love and create your theme around it.

High school / Sock Hop

Pool Party

Pig Roast

Western Theme.

2. At this stage you have probably found your theme. Now it is time to create a guest list for your event. ‘Theming’ your invitations allows you to start the party them off right. Start your invites about three weeks before the event. Ask your guests to be creative and come with the appropriate attire if possible, and encourage them to be creative and have fun. Focus on people you correspond with often, and known people who are fun ‘party people’ (we all know who they are!) I find homemade (DIY) invitations are always more fun than store bought ones; however both do the trick

3. Create your menu. Search for serving dishes which correspond to your anniversary party theme. Finger foods are always a hit as they are light, easy to prepare and are a quick clean-up. If you wish for a larger event, organize your food preparation help, or even contact a caterer. Create your grocery list about three weeks before the event.

4. Party decorations are important. They help establish the mood and ambience. Again, we go back to the party theme for ideas here. Lighting is also very important. Search for lighting ideas that correspond to the theme i.e. 70’s themed parties should have at least one disco ball to be sure!

5. Games, games and fun stuff! Always plan for creative anniversary party games. Spin the bottle, famous dances and Twister are always a blast. If games are not your thing, consider live entertainment -A D.J., live band, comedian all have worked very well in the past.

6. Beverages are an important part of the party. Decide (based on your personal preferences and location) whether there will be an open bar, BYOB, or virgin refreshments. Inform guests in their invites as to whether to plan to drive or take a cab. Cab services that drive your vehicle home for you (with you in it of course!) are a great alternative and allow you to make ‘on the spot’ decisions regarding transportation.

6. Most of all, sit back and have fun. Not everything will always go your way, but if you have followed your anniversary party checklist, your event should be very rewarding.

Three to four weeks before event:

Choose your theme

Prepare Grocery List

coordinate cleaning / after-party helpers

Select Caterer (if applicable)

Collect food preparation items, serving plates and utensils

Develop your guest list

Create or purchase your party invitations

Plan and purchase or create your decorations.

A couple of days before the event:

Contact any follow-ups for guests.

Begin preparing any food that needs to be done.

Run over your checklist again to ensure everything is in place

Set out your costume or attire

The morning of the party


Begin preparing food

Run over your checklist one last time

Sit back, have fun and enjoy your creation~!

A Fun Day Exploring Ambergris Caye Belize by Golf Cart

One of the fun things to do when you visit the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize is to explore the island by Golf Cart.

Rather than owning cars, island residents on Ambergris Caye get around the island by Golf Cart, and when you visit it is a great way to spend a day taking in the beauty, sights and sounds of the island of Ambergris Caye Belize.

Ambergris Caye is unique, and unlike most other vacation destinations there are absolutely no Car rental companies on the island, instead you can rent a Golf Cart and use that as your mode of transportation to get around the island.

Contrary to what people assume, you still need to have a full valid driver’s license to operate and drive a Golf cart on Ambergris Caye.

Many times people think they can allow their kids take the controls and drive the cart, this is illegal and will result in you having problems with the island Police so please avoid allowing your child to drive the Golf Cart.

So your all set and have rented your Golf Cart and are ready to explore the island.

There are 2 directions to choose from, head north of town or South of Town


It is real easy navigating as there are only 2 roads leading out of town one is heading north the other south. As you head north of town you will quickly get to the bridge that crosses the river that separate’s North Ambergris Caye from South Ambergris Caye. Crossing the Bridge is easy and will cost you $5 Belize dollars toll each way ($2.50 US)

Once you are over the bridge, follow the road and enjoy the views as you pass island homes and see different birds and lizards. It’s a peaceful beautiful drive. Pretty soon you will see signs for the Palapa Bar and grill and this is a great opportunity to stop for refreshments.

The Bar is located on the dock up the stairs, one of the nice things you can do here to cool off is jump in the water at the end of the dock and grab an inner tube and sit in it and chill out. Call up to the bar and they will send down an ice cold beer or soda in a bucket.

As you head further north there will be spots where it is not developed and you won’t want to go much more further north than Captains Morgan’s resort as the road can get bad.

A stop for Lunch is normally in order and a great place to stop is either Capt Morgan’s using it as your final destination or just turn around and head back to town stopping at Legends Burger House which will be located on your right hand side on the way back to town.

They offer a wide array of delicious burgers and it’s a favorite hangout for locals on the island.


Heading south of town is another option for exploring the island and south is a lot more developed than the North route. The road is paved so be careful of your speed even in a Golf Cart as there will be children and pedestrians as you head south.

Another option for unique and interesting lunch is at the Sunset Grill located on the back side of the island here you can enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner and can also feed the HUGE Tarpon that will come to the little dock. Tarpon are a prized Sports fish and can reach over 200 pounds in weight. It’s a great experience and also a great unusual photo opportunity.

Heading south you will pass lots of resorts and private homes as you head farther from town, eventually you will come to the WASA water plant and a big inland lake. This is another spot where you can check out the wildlife however you need to be a bit careful here as you can view the giant Salt water Crocodile.

The pond has resident Crocodiless that live in it and over the years some kids have been feeding them and they have become accustomed to humans. It is now illegal to feed them but you can still see them if you keep your eyes open. Dusk is the best time but it’s also the best time for Mosquitoes so be sure to take repellant with you.

Please note, it is illegal to feed the Crocodiles and dangerous also. By all means visit the pond but don’t feed them and stay clear of the shoreline.

The southern route allows for a lot longer ride than the north route simply because the road is much better.

So when you visit Ambergris Caye be sure to rent a Golf Cart for a couple of days and explore the island.

by Gaz Cooper

Solutions For Smoking In Public Places

“Smoking kills!” – Do you know all the cigarette and other cigar packets have got this printed in bold either on the front or at the back side of their covers? But do you know how many smokers have noticed this and never regarded this as a serious warning to their health.

We all know smoking is such an addiction which would not go away easily amongst majority of the world population and no such country could stop or prevent the smokers to easily quit smoking by enforcing any laws. Still enforcing a smoking ban in public areas has shed new light amongst those who have been regularly advising others on the discomforts and ill effects of smoking.

As a matter of fact, ban of smoking in public areas can still be safeguarded by introducing smoking shelters which can be used for smoking, keeping rest of the environment smoke free. All the public areas have now being relieved from the smoke and smokers. If you are a smoker, then the only place where you can entertain your smoking pleasure is a smoking shelter which is located either outside the bars, restaurants, shopping malls etc, built in open air or are built inside the building in a form of semi-closed smoking shelter, thoroughly ventilated and properly recycled.

More and more people who are concerned about their and public health would appreciate the introduction of smoking bans and smoking shelters. Those people who were allergic to smoke or were not visiting pubs due to its environment, would now be more interested in going to bars and discos increasing the sales with both smokers and non-smokers looking for entertainment. All the smokers who would want to smoke can move into the smoking shelters leaving the rest of the place smoke free. Therefore, get the smoking shelters to compete and live up to the standards defined by the government.

These shelters are a good way to get rid of the dangerous cigarette fumes which has caused several issues in peoples through out the world. You can pick any form of smoking shelters as there are plenty with different style and design available in market today. They can be constructed with good quality material and absolutely no maintenance.

These smoking shelters are constructed in almost every block, the only place for a smoker to visit and fulfill his/her smoking desires. These shelters are mostly standing shelters where you visit for a minute or two, smoke cigarettes and crush the cigarette butts inside the trash bins or vertical trash columns and leave.

You can also get to look at some medium to big sized smoking shelters with people sitting and chatting for long time. Well there is no ban on the time a smoker spends inside a smoking shelter. Though smoking shelters have given new life to smokers, its has at the same time restricted the usage of cigarettes, motivating smokers to reduce their smoking habit on large scale in public places keeping the atmosphere clean with a new hope of having a healthier nation.

The biggest advantage of smoking shelters is its structure. It has a roof top to protect against any climatic conditions, with one side completely open and a decent seating arrangement along with trash bins to throw smoking litter. Most of these smoking shelters have been designed using curved shaped nice looking state-of-art builds and are placed away from any public entry or exit place. They also have smoking signs to identify its existence to any smoker. Most of these shelters have been built in public parking lots where most of the smokers assemble to puff.

Use smoking shelters – a last resort for public smoking…

Golf Chipping Tips – The Fly Roll Ratio

A chip shot is made when the ball is very close to the green – usually within a few years – but not actively on it. The primary goal is to get the ball on the green and as close to the hole as possible, but an easy put. Chip shots differ from pitch shots in that they are much closer to the green and therefore need much less flight and distance. However, like pitching, chipping tends to be one of the more difficult shots for many amateur players simply because they are usually very unique and quite difficult to practice on a regular basis. As a result there is an endless list of golf chipping tips available, though the shots themselves remain difficult.

Unlike the pitch shot, where you really need to gain distance by flying the ball but do not want it to roll very much; chipping is the exact opposite. The golden rule of chipping is to achieve just enough air to get the ball on the green and past any obstacles, while allowing the ball to roll as much as possible. As a result, people have devised an interesting flight/roll ratio calculation that can help you achieve better chipping. First, it is important to note that effective chipping requires the proper use of different clubs and these different clubs have a direct bearing on how well your chip shot is likely to go.

First, it should be noted that these formulas are based on both a professional, well squared hit and the results are based on a level green and using a normal pace. Therefore it has to be understood that you have to calculate which club is best for your given situation regardless of these core results. Further, in order to take full advantage of this system, you will have to have a full set of golf clubs and good experience at using them properly.

Under the circumstances described above, a pitching wedge (the 10 iron) will fly half the distance and will roll half the distance, for a flight/roll ratio of 1:1. The 8 iron will result in the ball flying one third of the distance and rolling two thirds of the distance, 1:2. The 6 iron will fly one quarter of the distance and will roll three quarters of it, 1:3. In order to address an uphill or slow shot, you should generally down to the next club: therefore if you judge you need 1:1 ratio to make your shot, but it is steeply uphill, you would use the 8 iron instead of the 10 iron. The inverse is also true if you are swinging down hill and fast: so if you feel you need the 1:1 ratio in this scenario you would move up to the lob wedge.

This basic idea is common among golf chipping tips and is frequently known as the “6-8-10” method or technique. As such it is easy to find out more about how this system works and it has a proven track record of significantly helping people with their chip shots. However, as noted above, this system – like most others – only works if you already have a well developed swing and can hit the ball correctly.

Entertaining Without Stress

Let’s face it. If you are stressed, agitated and flitting about, your guests will be uncomfortable and won’t be able to relax. Here is an easy test of how well you are doing. How many times do your guests ask if there is anything they can do to help? It is reasonable that guests may ask when they first arrive but if you hear the question over and over again, you are doing something wrong.

The Dinner Party:

Do you become a shrinking violet at the mere thought of hosting a dinner party? Here are some quick and easy tips on how to host a successful party and not be too wiped out to enjoy the effort.

  1. Plan it out on paper. Use the basic Who? What? Where? When? How?
  2. Don’t over compensate. Your guests will not be impressed by 10 appetizers, 3 entrees and a dessert cart for a sit down dinner party. If you are doing a buffet that is a different situation.
  3. Balance Colors. Bad move: all of the food in a neutral color. This not only indicates that your food choices are boring but are also lacking in nutrition. Good move: Lots of color!
  4. Use the foods of the season. For example: Do not plan a menu using strawberries in the middle of winter as it may be difficult to find any that are top quality. Do use apples, pumpkin, and squash in your fall dinner menus.
  5. Dress to impress…the food that is. Plan a menu that looks elegant, but doesn’t consume three days to prepare. It is all in the presentation. The simplest dish can look exquisite.
  6. Have everything staged and ready to go in advance. Your guests will be uncomfortable if you are flitting in and out of the kitchen.
  7. Practice, practice, practice. Use your family for regular practice runs. Always set the table with matching cutlery and dishes and put food in serving dishes. This way you know what you have and are not floundering to figure out how to present your meals to guests.

Here is a quick plan for a holiday/winter dinner party:

Make a list of 6 of your closest friends and invite them over for an evening dinner. If you are in a panic just thinking about dinner for 8, you need to register for our Entertaining Workshop but for an immediate fix, read our tips below:

Prepare a simple menu that does not require a lot of ingredients and a lot of stove watching (bird watching is easy in comparison).

For red meat:

  • Salad with vinaigrette dressing, cranberries and nut of choice (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
  • A lamb or beef roast with red potatoes, baby carrots, onions and seasonings
  • A red wine with dinner. We are partial to Breaux Vineyards Lafayette if you want a local Virginia wine.
  • Cheese and grapes for dessert
  • Port or Dessert Wine with dessert

For chicken:

  • Salad with vinaigrette dressing, cranberries and nut of choice (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
  • Champagne Chicken (contact us if you want the recipe)
  • Saffron Rice
  • Steamed Asparagus or Broccoli
  • A white wine with dinner. We are partial to Breaux Vineyards Vidal Blanc if you want a local Virginia wine.
  • Cheese and grapes for dessert
  • Sherry or Dessert Wine with dessert

Notice we did not offer a heavy dessert or a lot of food choices. During the holidays we all tend to overeat and a simple but elegant meal is a welcome change.

Larger Parties:

If you feel that you have the small dinner party under control and are ready to branch out to large group entertaining, here are the basic steps to making a gathering a success:

  1. Decide what type of party you are going to have. Cocktail hour, dinner buffet or hors d’oeuvres. This will drive your menu as well as your cost and party supplies.
  2. Determine the area in your house where you want to have the party.
  • How many people can stand or sit comfortably in this area? This isn’t a crowded   bar /night  club . Having to say “excuse me” and bumping into people loses its charm very quickly.
  • Check your room arrangement. Is it an open floor plan if you intend for people to stand? Move the furniture out of the way. Bruised shins from coffee tables are no fun. Is it conducive to conversation if you are using your seating areas? Rearrange furniture into conversation areas.
  • Are there places for people to set drinks? Nervous nelly coaster girl/guy is not attractive. If you want your guests to use coasters, have them strategically placed throughout the area ahead of time.
  • Ventilation: Keep the temperature a little lower than normal in an area that is going to be full of people. It will heat up fast when everyone gets in the room. If you are using candles for ambiance, remember that they add heat to a room.
  • The “ Bar “: If you are having a cocktail hour, then a fully stocked  bar  is more essential than if you are having a dinner buffet. Keep these facts in mind.
    •  Bars  are very expensive to stock because there are essentials you must have to satisfy the drink needs of your guests.
    • A bartender is essential if you have a full  bar . It doesn’t have to be a professionally hired bartender but it needs to be someone who knows his/her way around a  bar   and  the drink menu.
    • If you are having a dinner buffet where the focus is food rather than drink, then make choose signature drinks. Have one or two specialty drinks for your guests that you can make in advance, serve in pitchers or decanters  and  have on a min self-serve  bar . Again there are essentials you must have like an ice bucket but you do not need a fully stocked  bar   and  a bartender in these situations.
    • The placement of the  bar  is key. It needs to be in an open, accessible area.
  • The Menu. We could write a whole article on your menu so here are a few key reminders.
    • Have a theme. That doesn’t mean you have to don a sombrero for Mexican or throw plates for Greek food but you need to have some commonality for your menu or you will end up with a hodge podge of random items and probably too many of them to boot. Your theme does not have to be an international food either. It could be “winter foods” or “seafood” for example.
    • Keep dietary and religious restrictions of your guests in mind.
    • If having a cocktail hour, keep the menu to a few appetizers no more.
    • If having a dinner buffet, keep the menu balanced. Appetizers should not overpower main course or dessert.

    An Alternative to a Dinner Party – A Wine Party

    Check out our ezine article on throwing the perfect wine tasting party

    We hope that all of these pointers will convince you that you too can entertain without a lot of stress. Entertaining is meant to bring a group of friends together for relaxation and fun and it should do just that.

    Marketing Chocolate

    Throughout history, chocolate has been marketed differently to different consumer types. Some companies like to show their customers that their chocolate has the most weight, by using digital scales and then showing what the price computing scales read on the actual package label. Yet, other companies prefer to create an upscale image, by making their products seem rich and indulgent. This article discusses the different ways to market chocolate.

    1. Make a product that is meant for the everyday consumer. This type of chocolate is made for those who want an average chocolate bar. The packaging is usually very simple and the prices are the same or lower than the rest of the competition.

    2. Create a rich and luxurious image for the product. This type of chocolate is set above the rest in price. It usually has gold packaging and has a look that is different from all of the competitors.

    3. Organic products are becoming more and more popular, so making chocolate to appease this type of consumer is a newer marketing technique. In order for a chocolate to be organic, it must be approved by the USDA and some companies then go on to get certified organic by other more strict organizations.

    4. Companies also want to reach out to the adventurous chocolate eater by using exotic ingredients in the chocolate. These types of chocolates usually have bold colors on the package label, to emphasize the exotic ingredients that are in the chocolate. Exotic ingredients may include, spices like cayenne pepper, or different fruits like passion fruit or mango.

    5. Sugar free chocolate appeals to those who have diabetes or anyone who wants to reduce their sugar intake. The diet industry has really taken off in the past ten years and as such, so has the diet chocolate industry. People with diabetes or consumers who are watching their weight are able to eat chocolate that is made without sugar. This chocolate is usually made with artificial sweeteners and the packaging reflects this change. The wrapping and labeling on this kind of chocolate bar is usually lighter, to indicate that it is lighter in calories and sugar, therefore, making it a light chocolate bar.

    6. Finally, there is marketing towards children, in which companies make a product that is fun with packaging that has bright colors. There are many chocolate producing companies whose target market is children. In order to attract children anywhere from two to sixteen, they make their labels appear bright and cheerful. These companies also make their companies seem fun and sometimes quirky to attract children to other products they may offer.

    Chocolate has been a part of the everyday consumers’ lives for hundreds of years. It is only in the recent past that the consumer market for chocolate has been segmented into so many different components. The consumer market is also constantly changing, so it will be interesting to see what new markets come about in the next few decades and how the chocolate industry will deal with these future changes in the chocolate market.

    4 Tips to Coming First in Club Dinghy Sailing Races

    So you want to start coming first instead of last in club racing?

    Well you have come to the right place! In this article you will learn how through just 4 simple tips you can improve your ranking in sailing to get third, second or even first place.

    These tips are used so little by amateur racers that they always end up last and wondering why the same top few keep coming in the top positions for racing. The secrets of racing are revealed. Follow them and become a club sailing dinghy champion!

    These 4 tips outline an entire race strategy that the pros use to come so high up in the rankings. In the next ten minutes prepare to delve into a world in which winning had become standard!

    Tip Number One: The Start

    Welcome to the race course sailor! The start is the most important part of any race and many novice sailors do not understand the significance of the start in relation to the rest of the race and this is where they go wrong.

    The start is the single most important part of the race for most sailors as if they are only moderately skilled, a bad start will break them. Only very skilled and experienced sailors can claw back to the top from a bad start and if you are reading this article I am assuming you are not an extremely skilled or experienced sailors. I am expecting you to be quite good, but always coming between last and middle place. You want to get up there with the pros and start to get some wins under your belt.

    Well look no further, the start is the most important part of the race.

    Here is a list of strategies that you should use on the line if you want to have a good start and a potentially good race:

    • Get a stop watch! – The number of people I have seen without stop watches on a race is appalling. No wonder it is so easy for the experienced sailors to get some lead over the more novice ones. All serious sailing racers need a stop watch in order to start on time and in the right place without being caught unawares
    • Learn the Flag types – The flags are there to tell you what is going on in a race. So not knowing them is hardly going to help you understand what is going on in the race. It is highly advisable to find a good rulebook from your national sailing organization or the ISAF (International Sailing Federation) and learn all the flag types that will be shown at any given race. Preparation make Perfect!
    • Learn where the marks are – If you are thinking of club racing regularly, then you should learn where the common marks that are used for racing actually are so that when the committee boat shows the marks you don’t have to glance at a map constantly during the race. This kind of preparation is essential for any serious racer.
    • Do a Transit – This little known tactic is something that very few novice sailors know about and proves to be a very useful technique in order to have a good start. A transit is where you find put the boat between the committee boat and the pin buoy an look for a recognizable object on the other side of the pin. This tells you exactly where the starting line is and if there is a black flag shown, you will know whether you are over the line or not.
    • Find out if there is a bias – A biased line is one in which a certain tack is favoured. For instance a port bias is a start in which a port tack is favoured. To find out if there is a port bias, a starboard bias or if it is square (no bias), you can do it accurately or roughly. Doing it accurately requires a compass. Go along your transit and note the compass bearing. Then add 90 degrees to that bearing and turn to that heading. If the boat tacks then the current tack is the favoured tack and the bias. If the boat doesn’t tack then the current tack is the favoured tack and the bias. If the boat goes head to wind then there is no bias and it is a square line. You can roughly do this by seeing if you are beating up one end of the line and broad reaching down the other end. If it is a square line then you should be beam reaching from one end to the other
    • Starting Position – This is also highly important for competitive racing. If there is a bias then most of the boats will be there. If you don’t want to be in a scrum and get a rubbish start, then start slightly lower than the bias end or start on the opposite tack and then tack on to the biased tack after horn goes off. By doing this you will have your own unique heading and start. The worse thing you can do is follow somebody throughout the whole race, because whatever happens you will never win.

    If you can master all or most of those tactics, then your starts will become better and better. Make sure that you go over the line on the horn and at full speed as well as using the above tips.

    So now the boat has crossed the line. You are on the beat!

    Tip Number Two: The Beat

    This is the hardest point of sailing to master and this is also where the fleet spreads out with the well trimmed and faster boats at the front whilst the untrimmed and slower boats lag at the back.

    A good beat can propel an okay or bad start to being in the top ten or top five position. Here are some great tactics to try and improve your position on the beat.

    • Keep the boat flat! – Another incredibly common past time that I see on the race course is boats heeling constantly though out the race. This is terrible for boat speed as the sail is pulled away from the wind. Make sure that the boat is flat at all times. To actually achieve this make make sure boat crew members are hiking out of the boat in a comfortable position. If this doesn’t help then let out some main sail and pinch (go further up wind), this should bring down the heel. the moment this happens pull the main sheet back in so that when the boat is flat the mainsail is fully in. This has the effect of a massive pump on the boat, which causes a burst of acceleration. Continue to do this throughout the beat and you will find yourself overtaking everyone who is heeling constantly, greatly improving your position. You can also use the kicker and cunningham in especially high winds to depower the sail and keep the boat flat, but you must remember to remove the kicker and cunningham when the wind dies down or there is a lull.
    • Sit forward in the boat – When the boat is not heeling your crew should be sitting on the centreboard and you should be sitting up against the shroud. Why? Because if you both sit back then the stern will act like a massive drag in the water causing the boat to slow down considerably. If you both sit forward the stern comes out of the water and the boat is no longer hampered by an extra dead weight in the water.
    • Make sure that the slot is trimmed – This is a very unknown technique in sailing. The concept of the slot is very technical and is to do with the physics of sailing and aerodynamics, but here is a simplified version. The slot is the distance between the Genoa and the mainsail. If the slot is too small the airflow becomes constricted and the front bottom of the mainsail begins to luff. If the slot is too large the Genoa begins to luff. The slot must be trimmed correctly so that the Genoa is about one and a half inches off the leeward shroud so as to provide optimal airflow. This slot distance changes with wind speed so it must be constantly watched by the crew. This is something that only experienced sailors know about and so should be utilized against other sailors to improve your position and gain some ground on your opponent.
    • Take lifts and avoid headers – Lifts and headers are where the wind changes direction. If the change is more to windward, it is called a lift and if the the change is more to leeward it is called a header. You should always take lifts and avoid headers by changing the boat’s direction. In a lift turn windward and in a header bear away. In big lifts you should always expect a large header, which could make you tack so be careful about overshooting and taking the lift too far. Lifts are useful by taking you more windward of your opponent, which means closer to the windward mark.

    These techniques are rarely used by inexperienced sailors and if you use them you can climb to the top of the fleet in no time and no-one will understand how you optimized your sails or managed to go so fast.

    Tip Number Three: Rounding Marks

    In a typical course, there are three marks: the windward mark, the gybe mark and the leeward mark. Of course all courses will be more complicated than this, but all marks can be assigned one of these types.

    There are some great rules you can utilize at marks in order to take the advantage when you reach the mark.

    • The starboard rule – The starboard rule is the most important rule in sailing. It says that a port tack boat must giveaway to a starboard tack boat. This means that if you approach a mark on port and there is also a starboard boat coming towards it you must either tack or bear away a little. As you can see when approaching a mark it is always best to be on starboard and you must take this into account during your beat.
    • The windward rule – The windward rule is also an important rule that states that a windward boat must keep clear of a leeward boat. This is very important at the windward mark, because it means that the leeward boat can push the windward boat further up in order for the leeward boat to go round the mark first. This only applies when the leeward boat’s bow or stern overlaps the windward boat’s bow or stern.
    • The water rule – This is exclusively for mark rounding and states that the inside boat that has an overlap with in a certain number of boat lengths of the mark can call for water in which the outside boat must allow the inside boat room to round the mark. The rule has been changed in the ISAF 2009-2012 rulebook. It used to be that if the inside boat (the boat between one boat and a mark) had an overlap within 2 boat lengths they could call for water. Now however the rule has been changed to 3 boat lengths and you must take this into account and work out if there is an overlap or not. If there is an overlap call for water. If not make space for the outside boat to round the mark.
    • Wide in and Tight out – This is a great technique to use to start beating just as you round a leeward mark. If you go slightly lower to leeward than the mark and then tighten up as you round the mark, you should end up with a little burst of speed and be higher than a boat that doesn’t do this tactic.
    • Keep control of your wind! – The boat behind you when you approach a mark on a beam reach will try to go windward of you so that they take your wind and you slow down. Instead of letting them take it go windward yourself and push them higher up on the course until they decide it isn’t worth it. Remember though that reaches are faster than going up wind so you have to calculate whether or not it is worth going up wind.

    These are very important tactics for mark rounding that any pro sailor will use and not tell anyone else about. Use them and see how far up the fleet you get to.

    Tip Number Four: The Run

    Running is the slowest point of sailing. Most dinghy classes have spinnakers or gennakers that are large sail bags that capture the wind and pull the boat forward. All serious sailors should master the techniques of using spinnakers and gennakers before reviewing this tip of the article.

    • Sit backwards – This the opposite to the beat where you have to sit forwards, in the run you have to sit backwards. This is because the boat naturally pushes the bow into the water creating drag or in especially high winds capsizing the boat. Instead sit slightly backwards and allow the bow to right itself.
    • Don’t go on a dead run – Dead runs slow down boats. Remember that! The worst point of sail you can be on is a dead run as there is no aerodynamics creating forces. All that is pushing the boat along is the pressure of the wind against the sail. The fastest point of sail is the broad reach as there is a force created through the aerodynamics as well as the pressure of the wind against the sail. At all times try and get on to a broad reach to go to the next mark, because it is much, much faster than a dead run or even a training run. The sails are far more efficient at broad reaches than runs.
    • Take off the kicker, cunningham and out haul – Very, very important. The whole point of these ropes are to depower the sail. If they are all on at the point of sail, which is the slowest you will inadvertently be slowing and depowering the sail even further. Make sure all these ropes are hanging loose and that the sail is sufficiently powered as to move the boat. To remember whether or not you have kept them on or off, check out the speed of other boats and see if they are traveling faster or slower than you and then tweak to compensate.

    The run is my favorite part of sailing, because I love sailing the spinnaker. It is also the precursor to the finish, which is usually on the beat. So to make your finished better just revise the information on beating, to give yourself and advantage over your opponents.

    So that is the ultimate guide to sailing better. Review this a few more times or send it to your crew or helm so that you are both on the same wavelength. This is practically everything you need to know to improve your sailing and your racing finishing position.

    On the racecourse just watch as you fly by your racing comrades and see their shocked faces and then tell them the secret by emailing them this ultimate guide to sailing and see the looks on their faces when they find out it is so simple.

    Or be evil and keep it all to yourself!

    I hope you have enjoyed this article as much as I have enjoyed writing it and will be continuing to think about it for the rest of the day with an excitement and apprehension that you feel as you get closer and closer to the time when you can put these tips into practice.