Monday, January 31, 2011

50 things to do on a snow day

So there's another winter storm on the horizon. Is anyone surprised? Not if you read the Farmer's Alamanac, which predicted that this year we would experience shivery conditions, where temperatures will average below normal for about three-quarters of the nation and snowfall will be significant, as in 10 to 15 inches.

Metro Newspaper Services

If you must drive, check out the winter safety tips online in The Macomb Daily Lifestyles If you're stuck at home, check out this list of 50 ways to spend a snow day. Some were suggested by Leanne Italie of the Associated Press, others by experts living in Canada's prairie provinces, where residents refer to April and May as the months of spring thaw. 

* Instead of a Frosty the Snowman, make something more interesting like an abominable snowman or a ferocious snow-a-sor-us!
* Pull out the multiplication cards and practice with your kids. That'll really make them happy about being home. For older kids, go online and find a practice test.
* Sneak on the computer and delete all of the "expletive-laden music" from your teenager's Napster playlist.
* Make ice cream and slushies out of snow.
* Build a tent in the living room out of blankets. Tell campfire stories.
* Plan a formal dinner for the family and tell them there's no dessert unless they dress up for the occasion. Or put on your little black dress and make it a dinner for two, instead.
* Find a squirt bottle and fill it with water and food coloring. Then head outside and make art on the snow. "Let your dog help you out, too," Italie said.
* Be brave. Venture into town and see if you can find a store that still has a sled for sale. Then go sledding.
* Fill a bucket with warm sudsy water and wash the floors like they did in the old days -- by hand.
* Pull out that basket of mending and ironing-to-do items and do them.

AP Photo/Jessica Hill
Portuguese Waterdog named Zephyr 
tries to navigate the deep snow 
during a winter storm in Hartford, Conn.
* Groom the dog. Then suck all the fur off your couch and toss it outside for the birds.
* Speaking of birds, this would be a good time to fill the feeder or gather up the kids and makes some suet balls.
* Make a batch of lasagna, enchiladas and other freeze-ahead dinners, which you might be hankering for by Friday.
* Try rooftop luging.
* Get your blood flowing, visit a local tanning salon.
* Pull out the polar bear play set.
* Draw something on the blank canvas you bought on sale at Michael's.
* Pull out the chiminea fire pit and burn your pile of old documents. Sip on hot chocolate while you're watching your previous gas and electric bills fade away.
* Install the smoke detector you purchased during Fall Back.
* Organize your pots and pans.
AP Photo/Hasbro
* Play Monopoly or Twister only change the rules to make it a different game.
* Muster up the courage to go through your junk drawer.
* Polish your silverware and jewelry. Alternatively, search for antiques that you might be able to sell on consignment.
* Sort mementos into keep and toss piles. Spend time poring over the keepers -- after all, that's why you're keeping them.
* Pull out the calendar you got for Christmas and make a master list for gift-giving dates. Shop ahead online -- or for yourself. Call it a white out sale.
* Make a pot of stew and invite over neighbors you rarely see.
* Jot down all the things you love about your valentine for a card or scrapbook. Make stuff up if necessary.
* Talk yourself into using those cross-country skis, or skates or showshoes that are hanging in the garage. C'mon, you can do it!
* Sort through your old photos. While they're out, scan some to create a photo book for you and your hubby. Force the kids to look at pictures of their parents when they were little.
* Do your taxes! April 15 only feels far off.
* Break open your financial portfolio and a bottle of merlot.
* Dig out those seed catalogs and make a shopping list. Yes, spring will come eventually.
* Update your resume. Hey, it's better than doing it at work and leaving it in the copying machine.
* Clean out your closet. If you haven't worn it in a year, toss it in a bag for charity.
* Rent a projector and host a walk-in movie day.
* No projectors available? Toss some more paper in the chiminea, take out all the beach chairs, umbrellas and boogie boards and make it a beach day in the snow, instead.
* Google yourself.
* Collect all the loose change in the corners of the house, coat pockets, sofa cushions and jeans in the laundry. Maybe you'll have enough for a 7-Eleven Slurpee.
* Practice the art of letter writing. You know the kind, with pen and paper?
* Show the kids how to make snowflakes out of paper and hang them indoors, or over the windows to block out the scene of real stuff outside.
* Dig out the yoga DVD, and push play.
* Compose a bucket list and include dream destinations.
* Talk your kids into playing a game you made up known as "Let's Clean Your Room!"
* Not moving? Play family-friendly spin the bottle with a chore list and rig it so it never points at you.
* Bake a batch of cookies and visit the elderly neighbor on your street.
AP Photo/Meg Volk
Baking cookies is a good activity for a snow day at home.
* Google a recipe for making your own mud mask and pretend you're at the spa. Don't forget the manicure and pedicure.
* Treat yourself further with a bubble bath. Turn down the lights, light a candle and soak until you look like a prune. Doesn't do it for you? It's not completely impossible that a real one is open.
* Invent your own chocolate cookie recipe. Tasting mandatory.
* Write the first chapter of your book.
* Learn the game of cribbage. Now you can holler 15-2, 15-4!
* Call your best friend and ask her if she has Prince Albert in a can.
* Take a well-earned nap.
* Get on Facebook and send cold jokes to your friends and relatives in warm-weather places.
* Check out real estate in a sunny state, so you won't need a list like this again.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Homeworks: Planning your dream home office

In the next couple of months many homeowners will be mulling over home improvement projects. A great deal of these renovations will have something to do with work space and home offices.

In a bedroom consider a desk that
 matches other pieces of furniture. 
“Where to begin is just as big a challenge as keeping up with the paperwork that can build up on your desk,” said Sara Shragal, with DirectBuy.com.
To begin, Shragal suggests breaking the office down to three main components:

The desk or work station
“When it comes to choosing a desk, it’s all about personal preference,” Shragal said. “Whether it’s your office or that of another household member, there are several points to consider when selecting a style of desk.”

Computer storage
Are you working with a laptop or a traditional computer? If it’s a notebook-style computer, a flat-top desk or even a table will suffice. In the case of a stand-alone monitor with keyboard, you’ll need to consider whether you prefer the keyboard on top of the desk or on a shelf that slides underneath the desk.

Paperwork storage
If you’re a keeper and have a habit of stacking papers in piles on your desk, you might want to consider a pedestal or double pedestal desk with drawers on the left or right side. If you want to hide it all, consider a roll-top desk or a desk with a storage hutch. 

Dark woods such as those pictured here are beautiful but nick easily.

Laminate is a popular choice as it's affordable, durable, and comes in a variety of colors and patterns, Shragal said. Also durable and reasonably priced is metal or steel. In a den or formal setting wood veneer desks are the most elegant, but easily nick.

What's in a chair?
“While a desk makes an office an office, it’s the chair that truly determines your comfort level, mentally and physically,” said Shragal. “Fortunately, choosing the right chair can be an easy process if you know what to look for.”

The seat height should be easily adjustable, offering a range from 16 to 21 inches. A comfortable position will enable the user to position their feet flat on the floor, with thighs horizontal, and arms even with the height of the desk. Width and depth are usually standard on most chairs, but also important is that the forward/backward tilt of the chair is adjustable.
It is vital that your lower back be supported by the chair. If you have a bad back, look for a chair equipped with lumbar support. If the backrest is separate from the seat, its height and angle should be adjustable. A good office chair also will enable you to swivel, so you’re not overextending for items out of reach.

Leather chairs are stylish but can heat up and cool down very quickly. Best bet is a natural or synthetic fabric that is breathable. Of course, it should also have plenty of cushion or padding beneath it, so you don’t actually feel the chair.

Where to put it all?
“Depending on your filing needs, there are a number of storage options to choose from,” Shragal said. 

Open wall space can be used for storage.
* Filing cabinets are the simplest solution.
 They come in different colors and sizes.

* Roll-top desks and armoires provide the
 hideaway look and can be locked for security reasons.

* Additional storage can be found by using   a bookshelf with storage bins, or wall-mounted files. 

* If the office is in a bedroom, consider 
 under-the-bed storage units or roll-away filing cabinets that can be pushed into a closet when they’re not being used.

* Creative storage can be used instead of typical
  desk accessories. Try  items around the house that 
  might look attractive in the room such as mason jars
  (pencils and pens) for the kitchen or candy dishes 
  (paperclips) for a living room.

“For many homeowners and their families, the home office is not a luxury but a necessity,” said Shragal. “By following some of these guidelines, you can create a home office that’s both attractive and functional.”

Send your comments or blog ideas to gina.joseph@macombdaily.com.

Friday, January 28, 2011


What’s a family to do?
There are a number of great events going on in and around the Motor City this weekend:

Rustle up the kids and your favorite boots

If you're looking for something family-friendly, with animals and jaw-dropping action, there's a rodeo event on Saturday, featuring some of the best bull riders (and meanest bulls) in America.

The Palace of Auburn Hills will present the Professional Bull Riders' Touring Pro Division at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29.

Photo courtesy of PBR

Yes, bull riding. 

Imagine climbing onto the back of a 2,000-pound horned animal, bred and born to buck. Ornery only begins to describe the personality of such a creature. Those that appear in a show such as this are likely world champions such as Code Blue or Bones, either one of which could fetch its owner as much as $1 million in a sale.

A traditional sport in America, as well as Canada, Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia, the goal for the cowboy or bull rider is to hop on the back of the bull and ride it for (at least) 8 seconds. 

It's continuous action, and when there is a lull between riders, the barrel man (also called a rodeo clown), dressed in funny shorts and silly hats, jumps in to amuse the crowd and beckon the attention of the bulls.

Why is the rodeo in the Motor City? More than 100 million viewers tune in each year to the PBR on Versus, NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN.

Tickets, $18, $28 and $38, are available at Palacenet.com, the Palace box office and Ticketmaster locations; all tickets will be $2 more on event day. To charge by phone, call (800) 745-3000.

Cool events outside

Kick up your snow boots at the "2011 Fire & Ice Winter Festival" in downtown Rochester starting tonight at 6 p.m. Some of the activities will include ice skating and tubing, dog sledding, fireworks and a Sunday Soup Cook Off (I'm all over that one).

Festival hours: Jan. 28, 6-9 p.m.; Jan. 29, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Jan. 30, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Check out the complete schedule at Fire & Ice Winter Festival Schedule of Events

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vote for your favorite Oscar nominee and win big

Attention, all Oscar fans! Your instincts and movie know-how could win you great prizes.

This Sunday, a list of the 83rd Annual Academy Awards nominees will appear in the print and online editions of The Macomb Daily, Daily Tribune and The Oakland Press, as part of our annual Academy Awards Contest.

Just check off your best guess in the various categories. Participants may mail the entry back or enter online by logging onto: The Macomb Daily Entertainment Contests;Daily Tribune Entertainment Contests; and The Oakland Press Entertainment Contests

Need a hint?

The word in Las Vegas is that there are clear favorites including "The Social Network" for best picture and Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) for best actor.

AP Photo/Stuart Ramson, file 
Colin Firth, a favorite for best actor

“Johnny Avello, executive director of the race and sports book at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel-casino, made David Fincher's film about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg a 2-3 favorite in odds published Tuesday.

"Oddsmaker Benjamin Eckstein of America's Line made the film an even higher favorite at 1-3,” according to an Associated Press report. “Eckstein said Firth is a 1-15 favorite to win a best actor Oscar for his role in ‘The King's Speech.’”

Avello also picked Firth and said Natalie Portman is a 2-5 favorite to win a best actress Oscar for "Black Swan."

Of course, this is all in jest, as Nevada laws don't allow gambling on events such as the Oscars.

One of two gift cards ($100 and $50) to MJR Digital Cinemas will be awarded to the winners. Deadline for entries is 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar update

83rd Academy Awards nominations announced
The waiting is over.  The nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards were announced today by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak and 2009 Oscar winner Mo'Nique.
Sherak and Mo'Nique, who won an Oscar for her supporting performance in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," announced the nominees in 10 of the 24 Award categories at a live news conference attended by more than 400 international media representatives. 
And the Academy Award Nominees for Best Motion Picture of the Year are..
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
Black Swan 
A talented young ballerina (Natalie Portman) is awarded the prized dual role of the White Swan/Black Swan in a production of "Swan Lake," when her already fragile mental state begins to deteriorate. Fearing that another dancer's affinity for the darker Black Swan character will win her the part, she begins a eerie descent into her own dark side. 
Stars: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin
Jojo Whilden/Courtesy of Paramount
The Fighter 
Two brothers struggle with personal challenges and the complexity of their own relationship as they pursue a shared dream of greatness in the boxing ring. Up-and-coming fighter Micky Ward is torn between his loyalty to his older brother and manager, Dicky, and his desire to move beyond the chaotic family life that threatens to derail his plans.
Stars: Mark Wahlberg (Mickey), Christian Bale (Dicky) and Amy Adams (Charlene)
Director: David O. Russell
Writers: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson and Keith Dorrington
AP Photo/Warner Bros., Melissa Moseley
Dom Cobb is an expert at a particular type of corporate espionage known as extraction, in which he inserts himself into his targets' dreams, gains their trust, and learns their secrets. One final job may allow him to leave his dangerous profession, but it involves the seemingly impossible task of implanting ideas in his subject rather than extracting them.
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio (Dom)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Suzanne Tenner/Courtesy of Focus
The Kids Are All Right
When the teens of a lesbian couple seek out their biological father, his growing presence in their lives threatens the family's emotional fabric. For moms Nic and Jules, it exacerbates existing problems in their relationship, while the kids gradually begin to see past the appealing surface of their newfound parent.
Stars: AnnetteBening (Nic), Julianne Moore (Jules) and Mark Ruffalo (Paul)
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Writers: Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
Courtesy of the Weinstein Company
The King's Speech
Plagued since childhood by a paralyzing stammer, the future King George VI of England gives up hope at finding a cure for his impediment. His wife urges him to seek the help of an iconoclastic speech therapist, Lionel Logue, who insists on a level of familiarity with his new patient that the royal prince is loath to permit.
Stars: Colin Firth (King George VI), Geoffrey Rush (Lionel) and Helena Bonham (Queen Elizabeth)
Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: David Seidler
AP Photo/Fox Searchlight Pictures/Chuck Zlotnick
127 Hours
When climber Aron Ralston fails to leave word of his plans as he sets off on a solitary outing, he finds himself without hope of rescue after a fall leaves his arm pinned by a boulder. With only the limited food and resources he has with him, Aron must find a way to survive and to free himself from his deadly trap.
Stars: James Franco (Aron), Amber Tamblyn (Megan) and Kate Mara (Kristi)
Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy and Aron Ralston
Merrick Morton/Courtesy of Sony
The Social Network
Harvard undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg develops a computer program that will eventually become the phenomenally successful social networking site, Facebook. Yet Zuckerberg's lack of social skills in the world outside of the virtual realm in which he excels, leaves him with a trail of broken relationships and questionable ethical choices.
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg (Mark), Andrew Garfield (Eduardo) and Justin Timberlake(Sean)
Director: David Fincher
Writers: Aaron Sorkin, Ben Mezrich
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.
Toy Story 3
As Andy prepares to leave for college, his toys face an uncertain future now that the little boy who played with them is growing up. Their problems seem to be solved when they are donated to a local day care center, but the reality of their new life proves to be quite different from what they had expected.
Star voices: Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear) and Joan Cusack (Jessie)
Director: Lee Unkrich
Writers: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich and Michael Arndt
Lorey Sebastian/Courtesy of Paramount.
True Grit
When Mattie Ross's father is murdered and his killer, Chaney, remains free, the determined 14-year-old hires the meanest lawman she can find to pursue him: a hard-drinking U.S. Marshal named Rooster Cogburn. Accompanied by a Texas Ranger with his own agenda, the pair sets off into the Indian territories on Chaney's trail.
Stars: Jeff Bridges (Rooster), Matt Damon (LaBoeuf) and Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie)
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen and Charles Portis
Sebastian Mlynarski/Courtesy of Roadside Attractions.
Winter's Bone
With her father absent and her mother suffering from crippling depression, 17-year-old Ree Dolly struggles to provide for her family in the poverty-stricken rural Ozarks. After learning that her father has disappeared while on bail after offering her home as collateral, Ree sets out to find him before the court can seize it.
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence (Ree), John Hawkes (Teardrop) and Garret Dillahunt (Sheriff Baskin)
Director: Debra Granik
Writers: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini and Daniel Woodrell
Franco and Hathaway to serve as co-hosts
Bob D'Amico/ABC           
James Franco and Anne Hathaway
Also announced today by the Academy were this year's co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Both have previously appeared on the telecast but not as co-hosts. "James Franco and Anne Hathaway personify the next generation of Hollywood icons -- fresh, exciting and multi-talented. We hope to create an Oscar broadcast that will both showcase their incredible talents and entertain the world on Feb. 27," said 83rd Academy Awards Oscar telecast producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer. "We are completely thrilled that James and Anne will be joining forces with our brilliant creative team to do just that."
Franco, who currently can be seen in the Oscar nominated "127 Hours" is also known for his portrayal of Harry Osborn in the "Spider-Man" trilogy. Hathaway, who was recently seen in "Alice in Wonderland" and currently can be seen in "Love and Other Drugs" was nominated for an Oscar in 2008 for her role in "Rachel Getting Married." It was recently announced that Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle -- the original Catwoman -- in the next "Batman" film, "The Dark Knight Rises."    
For a full list of the nominations in all categories visit The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences