Archive | January, 2010

Just Say Ahh…

by Taryn McColpin

Ahhh…February, the month of love.  After the force-feeding of goodwill and kindness and family get-togethers we have sustained through the holiday months, the obligatory last minute frenzy of burning up our credit cards on gifts to express all those warm and fuzzy feelings, the traditional champagne-induced cheer, camaraderie, and caresses of New Years…are we ready for more love?

Because, of course, February brings Valentine’s Day. Women envision little white boxes that sparkle when you open them, handed to them over a romantic, kid-free dinner that is not a hunk of barbecued meat or something they have prepared themselves. Men don’t envision anything, because for the most part, Valentine’s Day is off their radar.

What February really brings is the comical sight of thousands of oblivious, calendar-challenged men walking around the day after Valentine’s Day going “What?!?” with a befuddled expression on their faces, while their women stalk the house with an icy glare.

Sorry, guys, no excuse, given the massive commercial inundation via newspaper, TV, radio, and even Internet junk mail that starts reminding us before Christmas is over that Something Else Requiring A Gift is coming up soon…well, “soon” in the retail world, which means two months from now.  The first week of December, our local Hobby Lobby had the Christmas decorations moved to Clearance, and red hearts and summer patio furnishings in their place.

For the attached, or hoping to be attached, some symbolic gift is recommended if you hope to maintain or advance that status.  Because, that’s right, it’s the female of the species who requires that the male bring her something as an offering.  And we’re not birds, so a few leaves to furnish the nest won’t do, and we’re not tigers, so neither will a hunk of meat. (Oh, don’t even go there!)

So men, given the nature of the beast, so to speak, pull out that still-smoking credit card, and pick up that $4 card and some tangible proof of love that is not found in the home improvement store. Some suggestions of What Not To Bear in your proffered hands:

A big box of chocolates…You’re ruining our diets (or you think that all we do is sit around eating bonbons, or you will eat them all yourself anyway, take your pick).  Flowers…You bought those at the grocery store on your way home and put absolutely no thought or planning into it.  Lingerie…Guaranteed to be either too big, too small (uh-oh), or too Beyoncé …what exactly are you saying here?

This February, keeping all that in mind, beat the crowds and get that guilt monkey off your back early.  Yes, it’s too late for retail “early,” and the jewelry counters are already picked over, but not nearly as bad as they will be at 6PM on February 13th.  Surely you can find something that sparkles in a little white box…and not drill bits!

Posted in Editorials0 Comments

‘Phishing’ Scam

“We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity.”

Have you received email with a similar message? It’s a scam called “phishing” – and it involves Internet fraudsters who send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information) from unsuspecting victims.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, phishers send an email or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization that you may deal with — for example, an Internet service provider (ISP), bank, online payment service, or even a government agency. The message may ask you to “update,” “validate,” or “confirm” your account information. Some phishing emails threaten a dire consequence if you don’t respond. The messages direct you to a website that looks just like a legitimate organization’s site. But it isn’t. It’s a bogus site whose sole purpose is to trick you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.

Tips to help you avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam:

• If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply. And don’t click on the link in the message, either.

• Area codes can mislead. If you need to reach an organization you do business with, call the number on your financial statements or on the back of your credit card, not one provided by an email.

• Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly.

• Don’t email personal or financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information.

• Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges.

• Be cautious about opening attachments or downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain viruses or other software that can weaken your computer’s security.

• If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at ftc.gov.  You can learn other ways to avoid email scams and deal with deceptive spam at ftc.gov/spam.

Posted in Technology0 Comments

Worst Trends of the Decade

by Cheyenne Zieman

From bimbo style icons to middle-aged women dressing like teenagers, the ‘00s were filled with fashion trends gone wrong.  Admitting that we all bought into some of these trends seems to be a first step in the healing.

First the “It bags” (still lingering), were such a rage. The designer bag craze started out harmless enough; it was a way to spice up an otherwise boring outfit and show your status all at the same time. Then it spun out of control with an influx of crazy-expensive must-have bags that were so pricey regular girls had to rent them instead of buy them.

Then there was the headband worn over the forehead! Originally this look started with the traditional headband fad last year, which was adorable, but now has become overdone. Although, if done right this look can be boho chic but at the same time it still leaves a line across your forehead, impedes facial expressions, and messes up your hair. Overall it’s a look best left alone.

Another trend for 2009 that just has to stop is the stockings darker than the shoes.  Stockings, leggings, and hosiery have been a great fashion accessories but when you’re shoes are lighter than the leg it can look just plain silly.

While Uggs are still holding on to the fashion trend list due to the fact that they are fun and comfortable, all of the wild knock off-variations have taken it just a little too far.

Even though Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker sported backless and halter top dresses with visible bra straps on purpose for a few seasons, many fashion experts now say you shouldn’t do the same. Bras are undergarments, so keep your straps properly adjusted and don’t let them peek out on purpose or on accident.

And finally a trend that shouldn’t be worn on men or women, harem pants.  Call them what you want, they’re MC Hammer pants. A horrible fashion statement at the time and now just a sad look that even makes the stick proportions of a runway model seem a bit too curvy in all the wrong places. And speaking of curves, the bubble dress has got them all backwards.  This fad gave girls an egg shaped Humpty-Dumpty figure rather than enhancing a woman’s natural hourglass shape.

Whether it was overpriced handbags or off the wall leggings, we all had a few fashion mishaps along the way.  Hopefully 2010 will bring only a few crazy trends for us to inadvertently fall for.

Posted in Fashion Report1 Comment

Baby it’s Cold Outside: Keeping Animals Safe in Winter

by Laurie Griffin

2010 is here, and Old Man Winter has shown up in full force.  Don’t forget animal friends who depend on us to meet their needs for survival.  The Denton Humane Society and other animal rescue groups advocate indoor homes are better for pets and their people.  When included as part of a household, pets almost always prove to be happier and healthier, are better behaved, and both owners and pets enjoy relationships that are more rewarding.   Winter winds in North Texas are brutal for animals left outside, add to those dropping temperatures and a wet climate, and outdoor animals face a severe and bitter reality.

For pets who are kept outdoors, extra precautions must be taken to make their environment is as safe as possible.  Provide adequate shelter, which includes an insulated structure that has a firm ceiling, four walls, and is several inches off the ground.   Make sure the opening is one that will allow the animal access while keeping the space fully covered.  Fill with hay or cedar chips, and place in a sheltered area with the entrance facing away from the wind.  Keep water fresh and change several times daily to prevent freezing, or provide a heated bowl with a warming device, sold at pet stores.  According to the Humane Society of the United States, animals who are kept outside often need more food and water to sustain energy levels needed to stay warm.  Check with your veterinarian about the appropriate diet for outdoor animals in winter.  Keep food and water in plastic bowls.  Metal bowls can freeze and cause serious damage your animal’s mouth and tongue.  Don’t forget to provide shelter for horses and livestock in winter, too.  Make sure their water does not freeze, and supply a shelter that will allow animals to escape heavy snow, ice or rain, as well as severe winds.

Keep your environment free of dangerous toxins that are commonly used in winter.  Anti-freeze is a green liquid that is sweet-tasting and attractive to pets.  It is also a major cause of death in animals every year.  Keep driveways and garage floors clean from spills, or consider using propylene glycol in vehicles, which is a coolant/anti-freeze that is less toxic when swallowed by pets or wildlife.  Be careful about salt and sand used on the roads when conditions are icy.  These can burn and damage paws, so be sure to wipe your pet’s feet after walking in snow or ice.

If animals have access to your vehicles, be careful to check under your hood before turning the ignition each day.  Cats are especially drawn to engines as warm hiding places, and may crawl inside and stay for hours or even overnight.   Every year many cats are injured or killed when motors start and they are caught inside.  Tap on the hood before starting the car, and open if you hear something unexpected.

Help control the problem of animal over-population by having your pet spayed/neutered this winter.  Mating season will be in full swing in the spring, so get a head-start on decreasing the massive numbers of unwanted dogs and cats born each year.  For information on low cost spay/neuter, contact Texas Coalition for Animal Protection at www.texasforthem.org or The Denton Humane Society at www.dentonhumanesociety.org

During this economic downturn, charity groups are feeling the pinch.  2010 promises to be a challenge in terms of meeting the needs faced by animals in Denton County.  According to the Denton Humane Society, current donations are drastically down, while the need for assistance is greatly increased.  This is true for animal rescue groups nationwide.  If you have a little extra to give, donations by way of money, food, and supplies are greatly appreciated.

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  Let’s help care for the animals of Denton County this winter, and make a difference in the lives of our fellow furry citizens!

Posted in Pet Care0 Comments

Fera’s

Opened in 1992, Fera’s Italian Restaurant remains family owned and operated which creates a relaxed atmosphere for all to enjoy. Uncle and nephews started a new pizza and pasta spot, formally known as Bari’s in Denton. From their original endeavor, one brother managed the store while the other expanded businesses to Sherman, Tyler and most recently Gainesville in 2009. Although the Denton location caught fire in 1999, after rebuilding, this restaurant continues to be a favorite with locals and the college group. Don’t be confused by the name change.  Bari’s to Fera’s, but everything else remains the same. Currently all locations are open 6 days a week, offering daily lunch specials as low as $5.95. If you need a break from work or class whether a slice of pizza or to treat your family to a spaghetti supper, stop in and try their “Best of Denton” award winning Italian cuisine.

Posted in Business Focus, Entertainment, Restaurant Guide0 Comments

Who’s YOUR Farmer

by Sue Newhouse
This is the fourth in a series on local farms in and nearby Denton County

In my search of farmers, I’ve discovered that not all farmers grow food. Some, like Regina and Troy Dale of Bartonville, raise animals and plants for the fiber that can be made from their wool or material.

The Dales’ purchased the raw land some 15 years ago. When they saw the huge pecan tree near the front of the property, they fell instantly in love with the land. They have a round pen and adjacent pasture that is home to 9 gelded Huacaya and Suri alpacas, 7 angora goats and 2 Corriedale sheep.

Alpacas are a cousin to the llama. Huacaya alpacas are fluffy outside and crimpy near the base.  On the other hand, the Suri have a curly overcoat and smooth undercoat. The Suris’ outer hair is reminiscent of dreadlocks and is professionally sheared once a year.  Regina uses only that taken from the saddle area of the animal due to its superior quality. Once collected, she either processes it herself or sends it off to a mill for professional processing. She uses the resulting fiber for weaving and knitting.

The fiber sheared from the angora goats is called mohair.  The Dale’s shear them twice a year, resulting in approximately 3-4 pounds of useable mohair with a 2”-3” staple length from each shearing. It’s important, for alpacas, goats and sheep to be sheared in a timely manner to insure they’re kept cool in our hot Texas climates.

The two Corriedale sheep, appropriately named Bo (brown) and Peep (white) weigh about 200 lbs. each.

These animals are sheared only once each year, each providing about 6 lbs of wool.

Since good feed is essential to a good quality fiber, Troy cuts and bales his own acreage of coastal. This ensures they know how the fields are managed and what’s being fed to their animals.

The last fiber grown here is actually a plant – cotton. Did you know cotton comes in three natural colors – white, Mississippi Brown and Nandine Green? These plants are part of the hibiscus family and are grown here in containers from seed as an annual.  The plant flowers for 1 day and then closes and creates the seed, or the bol.

Left alone in nature, the cotton would carry the seed by air for dispersal, but we’ve intercepted that product as a fiber source.

Regina plans to sell her fibers next summer at the Bartonville Farmer’s Market.  To learn more about Regina and Troy and the products they offer, check out their website at www.howlingwolfherbs.com, or email them directly at hwh@pwhome.com

For more local farm info:
www.SlowFoodUSA.org
www.LocalHarvest.org
www.NaturallyGrown.org
www.EatGreenDFW.com

More importantly, if you know of great farm in your community, email me at suenewhouse@yahoo.com

Posted in Food Corner0 Comments

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