Category Archives: Misc

I’ve got little kids so unless you can give me time, give me the Cliff Notes version if you want me to listen, let alone retain. So thank you Mr. Bruce Feiler and thank you Huffington Post.

Take it in people… it takes a village!

By: Bruce Feiler, Huffington Post

Here’s a confession: I hate parenting books. I hate the ones that are earnest and repetitive. (If one more self-help guru tells me to listen actively, repeat what my child says… ) I hate the ones that promote a country. (Be strict like the Chinese! No, be lax like the French!) I hate the ones that have handy checklists. (What if I disagree with no. 2 or can’t remember no. 4?)

And yet as a parent, I found myself incredibly frustrated. My wife and I were screaming ourselves hoarse in the mornings; beating ourselves up for not being home every night for family dinner; finding time to fight all the time but rarely seeing each other naked; and generally making every mistake those books try to prevent.

So I set out to write an anti-parenting parenting book. I wouldn’t talk to any shrinks or other “family experts.” (I violated this only once, when I met a Belgian sex therapist.) I wouldn’t shill for a country or adopt a mascot. I would go looking for solutions wherever I could find them. This ultimately led me to elite peace negotiators at Harvard, top game designers at Zynga, a “Sex Mom” in Connecticut, and Warren Buffett’s bankers.

And I certainly wouldn’t make any lists.

Yet now that my book, “The Secrets of Happy Families,” is being published, people keep asking me, “What’s the most surprising thing you learned?” or “What’s your favorite tip?” So I have no choice: Time to eat crow.

Here is my non-list of five secrets to make your family happier. All are backed by research. All have been tested by families. Feel free to ignore them. They’re not all or nothing. They’re just five of the 200 new ideas I’ve tried to gather in one place in the hopes that a few might be helpful.

1. Let your kids pick their punishments.
Our instinct as parents is to order our kids around. It’s easier, and we’re usually right! But it rarely works. Cutting-edge brain research shows that children who set their own goals, make their own schedules, and evaluate their own work, build up their prefrontal cortex and take greater control over their lives. The number one lesson we’ve taken from this is to let our kids pick their own rewards and punishments. Following the lead of other families, we hold weekly family meetings where we all vote on two things to work on (this week it’s overreacting) and ask our kids what will motivate them. (Their choice: Under five minutes of overreacting, they get a sleepover; over 15 minutes, it’s one pushup for every minute.) The point is: If we want our children to have the skills to make good decisions, we have to give them practice when they’re young.

2. Don’t worry about family dinner.
Sure, we’ve all heard that family dinner is great for kids, but for many of us, it doesn’t work with our schedule. Dig deeper, though, and the news is brighter for parents. Turns out there’s only ten minutes of meaningful conversation in any meal; the rest is taken up with “Take your elbows off the table” and “pass the ketchup.” You can take those ten minutes, place them at any time of the day, and have the same benefit. Can’t have family dinner? Try family breakfast, meet for a bedtime snack, even one meal on weekends can help. Time-shifting isn’t just for work or your favorite TV show; it also works with family time.

3. Tell your family history.
The most important thing you can do may be the easiest of all: Tell your children the story of their own family history. Researchers in Georgia have found that children who know more about their parents, grandparents, and other relatives – both their ups and their downs – have higher self-esteem and greater confidence to confront their own challenges. Knowing more about family history is the single biggest predictor of a child’s emotional well-being. Grandparents can play a special role in this process, too.

4. Ditch the sex talk.
This may have been the hardest lesson for me to learn. As the father of girls, I was tongue-tied when it came to talking about sex, even body parts. Then I read that a majority of boys and girls know that boys have penises and girls have “down there.” Guilty! Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says we should talk to kids as early as 18 months about proper names for their body parts and other age-appropriate issues. And as kids get older, it’s much easier to talk about sexuality when kids are under ten, because as they get older, they tune us out. As one group of girls told me, “It’s not ‘The Talk.’ It’s a series of talks. It’s a conversation.”

5. Change where you sit.
There’s tremendous know-how out there about how we rearrange our spaces to make our families function better, but most of it has remained hidden from parents. An environmental psychologist gave me some helpful advice. If you sit at hard surfaces, you’ll be more rigid. If you sit on cushioned surfaces, you’ll be more accommodating. “When you’re disciplining your children, sit in upright chairs on cushioned surfaces,” she said. “The conversation will go better.” My wife and I even changed where we have difficult conversations, moving from my office, where I was sitting in the “power position” with her six inches lower, to a window seat in our bedroom, where we can be side by side at the same level.

The bottom line: Tolstoy was right. Happy families do have certain things in common. Today we finally have the knowledge to know what those things are.

This piece is adapted from The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, & Much Moreby Bruce Feiler, which has just been published. For more information, please visit


B. Akerlund, Smashbox Studios West Hollywood

She walked in with the presence of Madonna, the style of Lady Gaga (can’t you tell by the outfit?) and the sweetness of Britney Spears.

Yes, B. Akerlund has styled all three mega stars!  She  most recently captured the eyes of 112 million Superbowl viewers for Madonna’s half time show with  MIA and Nicki Minaj. Seriously… that job almost killed her ( she lost 15 pounds working non-stop for 3 months to prepare).  Maybe the Paparazzi should be stalking her-no wait that was the Lady Gaga video she styled.

You can tell by her outfit,  she’s a one of a kind.  Well here’s your exclusive insight, in her own words, on how she’s made it, what changed her whole life and her best advice.  She freely gave her time to help out aspiring stylists at The School of Style in Los Angeles.  It’s part of her number #1 rule… BE NICE! To everyone, all the time.

B.Akerlund: “ I wake up every morning, who am I today?” she asks herself. The answer is revealed in how she dresses.  Today’s look was put together by her toddler girls. She’s never worn the boots and the whole outfit is vintage. She wears a lot of black… but not today.

She is a self-proclaimed lover of accessories and admits that prêt-a-porter is not her forte, “ I’m a custom girl”.  As if THAT isn’t obvious. As a testament to her obsession with clothes she says,  “ I wore 365 different outfits in a year…as a hobby!”

Personal life: What’s perhaps most inspiring is her marriage to rocker Jonas Akerlund and her proudest accomplishment, their 3 1/2 year-old twin girls.

“ I became a mom and I have to restructure my life”. She admits to tempering her hours so that she can spend more time with her kids. It’s not what she has to do, it’s what she wants to do.  “ I  became a better stylist after being a wife and a mom”.  It’s a role she wears well.

Best Advice:

#1. “You can never stop wanting or dreaming”.  She’s now set her sights on winning an Academy Award. No wonder her Idol is costume designer Colleen Atwood ( who frequently works with director Tim Burton).

#2. “Hone in on what you’re good at”, she says. She means it… she doesn’t dress stars for the red carpet.  It’s not her thing and she doesn’t waste time taking on such projects unless a star really wants to “have fun” with their look.

#3. “Compose your stress”. That can be a toughy. She admits that while  working on +500 outfits for Madonna’s Superbowl show, she developed strange rashes and and had to “juice” her way through the project to keep nutrients in her body.

#4. And in case you’ve forgotten her number one rule: BE NICE.“You have to be nice to everyone. I base my career on being nice to people”, says Akerlund. She further elaborates encouraging young stylists and assistants to “grab someone a sweater if you see they’re cold”.

Now THAT  leaves a warm place in my heart for this work of art.



Sleep, Eat, and Be Merry with a Monk. I got to see monastery life up close and personal during a temple stay in the mountains outside of Seoul. The Buddhist way of life was an eye-opener set in such serenity that I thought I was living out some novel. Here are few insights that may enlighten you.

  • Here fishy, fishy!  They symbol for Buddhism is the fish (Interesting, because it’s such a big symbol in Christianity too). The monk told me “ the fish sleeps with its eyes open”. So the Buddhist way is approach life with an “eyes wide open” approach. (Of course they’d never eat the fish, because the Korean Buddhists don’t believe in killing any animal. Although other Buddhists are meat eaters).

  • So many NUMBERS! I haven’t had this much to remember since my multiplication tables in the 5th grade.  This bell needs to be rung 33 times at night and 28 times in the morning,  There are 108 bows during the daily morning and nighttime ceremony in the temple. They have a set routine everyday, including a 4:30 am wake-up call.

  • Where’s a chastity belt when you need it? Just like the catholic priests, monks are celibate. During tea with our “assigned monk” he actually admitted that the “sexual part” was the hardest part of being a monk.  You, think? LOL! I loved his candid honesty.

  • It’s NOT easy. To become a monk it’s at least 2 years of study, physical labor and medidation. They have to pass a test. 90% drop out.And then when you pass you’re rewarded with a lifetime of having to wear one of these outfits ( I’m wearing one myself here).


  • There is a hierarchy to being a monk. There are 10 levels. Our monk had been there four years and he was only on level 1. (I’d conquered a lifetime with 4 years at college).

On an ending note, the next time you meet up with a friend and say ” hey, how are you?” Remember this story. During medidation monks often ponder this quandry: If you put a little bird into a vase… you feed it and nurture it… the bird slowly becomes bigger inside the vase. But then it gets so big it will break the vase to get out. So how do you get the bird out without breaking the vase? This dilemma is the thought behind how monk’s greet each other and say ” Have you gotten the bird out of the vase, yet? ”

Here’s to your enlightenment.

( Famous Dumpling House near the Royal Palace)

My stay in Seoul feels like my great Aunt Mary is back and I’m staying at her house. Everything revolves around a meal. What are we having for dinner? What did I eat last night? Where shall we eat this weekend? Who shall join us for a bite? She showed me love through food.

Apparently, they got the same message here. Eating is a big deal to Koreans. Meals are taken seriously. While I was out with a friend and her Aunt, we shopped all night from 9pm-1:30 am (it was a dream). They stopped for dinner… I kept shopping. My friend’s Aunt was horrified. But I had just eaten the sandwich and salad she’d brought us a couple of hours prior.  Another dinner? Really? Yes, apparently what she’d brought us was just a “snack”.

Here are a few “party favor” takeaways to remember when eating foreign food:


Veggie Sides: Lettuce salad, a Waldorf-like salad with apples, mayonnaise and raisins, all the sample-size accompaniments ( kimchi, broccoli, a sweet potato-like veggie, cabbage)






#1. When in doubt…eat vegetarian. A mystery meat is scary and even if you’re a die-hard carnivore you can’talways be sure what part of the animal you’re actually eating.

Cold Spicy Noodles



Pizza- always served with pickles in Korea.  This one has a double crust with sweet potatoes and gourmet cheese, topped with cheese and pineapple. The tomato sauce was a“Westernized” request. Surprise- they have a lot of Italian restaurants around too.


#2. Be wary of food stands. They look delicious but don’t have any real health standards or guarantee of freshness. A friend once ate a snowcone at a little stand in Ecuador and literally thought he was going to die.

( Korean BBQ is a specialty. There are a couple varieties- all with quality beef)

#3. Look around at what other people are eating. There’s nothing wrong with pointing and saying ” I’ll take that”. The regulars  know what’s best. It’s a simple, easy approach that elimnates surprises when the food arrives.

( Pork Cutlets… seen everywhere. Some thick, some thin. This one served with a sauce)

#4. Keep it moving ! Don’t bombard you’re system with lots of new and heavy foods all at once.  ( At night I actually have a cup of Organic Smooth Move  tea that I bring from home.  It’s a natural Roto-rooter.) TMI… I know. But it works.

So savor the moment!



On my way to Seoul I stopped in the duty free shop to buy my friend’s father-in-law a gift. I was on a mission to get a tie. A designer tie of course, because I didn’t want to look cheap and honestly he would’ve just tossed it in the bottom of the closet if it wasn’t a brand name.

As I’m perusing Ferragamo, Hermes, Gucci and Burberry… I end up at Burberry. It was the cheapest option at the time ( although $140 on a tie is no bargain).  I knew instantly which one I’d buy my husband, but what’s a sixty-year-old Korean guy going to like?  So I did what I’m most comfortable doing, I stalked down someone who looked like my key demographic for his opinion.

So there he was, a bit dowdy and old with his wife two feet away. I asked, “Excuse me, are you from Seoul I want your opinion?”  He shakes his head, mumbling something. I repeated my question, even slower and of course louder as if that would help the comprehension.  “Are you from Seoul, Korea can I ask you a question about these ties?”

He lunges for his wife, clearly not understanding me. She looks and says, “What?”.  I repeat my questioning even louder at this point.  She huffs and puffs and yells at me.  “NO…WE FROM CHINA!”.

Oops… this is a much needed  eye-opening trip for this Midwest girl at heart. I’m over here for a little work… in more ways than one. Korea here I come!


Spring break…I miss you. I used to survive my drinking, now I drink to survive.  That’s the real world.

Seriously… who gets a break anyway? College kids? Like they need a break. Wake up kids… the days of studying, drinking and hooking-up ARE a break.  Try having 2 weeks of vacation ALL year.

So I’m here to grant a few well deserved spring breaks.

#1. To all the haters out there on both sides of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman war. Seriously, how pathetic that when a 17-year-old is killed… Americans pay him homage by beating up and even killing other people all in the name of “justice”.


#2. Republican presidential nominees. Dear Rick- we’ve already seen you shirtless on a beach vacation thanks to that beautiful photo plastered on the Drudgereport a while back. You need a little sun. Mitt- you’re in the lead buddy, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Newt… I think you’ve already taken a break. Ron… embrace the break, not the “revolution”.


#3. Keith Olberman… the only way you’re “Current” right now is because you’re out the door. Find a new TV gig and get back with me.










#4. All you celeb mothers-to-be. Yes, I’m talking to you Reese, Drew, Jessica, Kourtney. And especially you Ms. Tori Spelling ( I mean really who has sex 4 weeks after having a baby and gets pregnant).Take a break now before the baby comes because you’ll be praying for it during those 3 am feedings. Not to mention the tabloids are brutal post-baby. And let’s be honest, you’re all pretty great but you’re no Beyonce.

So here’s to a nice fruity-drink with a little umbrella on top. It’s spring break. Live it up.

Here’s my latest “Smarty At The Party” post. All my “party” posts are a fun way to smarten you up from the serious stuff to the fabulous fluff.

This was a tough assignment…infiltrate a variety of Beverly Hills based beauty centers and pick the brains of the estheticians on what they ACTUALLY use. (Surprise… it’s not always the lines they carry ).

I’m can clearly see what they SELL in the office, but what do they secretly RAVE about?

It sounds like an oxymoron “Beverly Hills” and “budget”, but I found a few suggestions that actually fit both. Of course many of these places use the popular “prescription-only” lines seen in these shi-shi salons, and several include a product line developed by the doctor’s themselves.

Budget Buys:

Avon Advanced Retexturizing peel $25 (Seriously). This esthetician who did my microdermabrasion, raved about these. She preferred these to many of the salicylic and/or glycolic pads that a lot of offices carry. Then upon a little research I found.. it’s a winner of the Allure Magazine Best of Beauty Award for Best Peel!

CSI Multipeptide anti-wrinkle serum $22 ( she compared it to using Skinceuticals CE Feurilic serum). Not the same ingredients but she liked it as a replacement.  This former emergency room RN and now esthetician was 57 years old and looked amazing.

Source Naturals Skin Eternal Cream- $25-$40 It’s for sensitive skin and paraben free. This was my 57-year-old beauty expert’s  go-to moisturizer.

Major Players:

HydroQ (doctor’s office only). $60  It’s a 4% Hydroquinone gel that’s so easy to wear you forget it’s actually lightening up those sunspots. I must confess, this even worked on my slight melasma ( the nasty brown splotches I got from hormone outrage and sun). Amazing stuff! ( I even tried the prescription Tri-Luma and this is so much better).

Retin-A ( Big range in price) This is no surprise, but the key is using the .05% strength and not the 1%, for  best results. These come in a variety of combinations, but almost EVERY SINGLE expert used this at least a couple of times a week, if not daily.

My Favorite piece of advice:

“You don’t need to spend a lot on moisturizers”.  She told me to spend on powerful products like Retin-A and a Vitamin C/E serum, and use a drug store moisturizer to lock in my products.

Here’s my Party Favor Takeaway:

Do what the experts do… not what they say or sell in the store. Always ask… what do you like to use? Spend on the good stuff and go cheaper on some of the other recommended “add” on beauty products.

Politics may be in for a full body slam-Hollywood style- if Dwayne “ The Rock” Johnson gets his way.  The former WWE wrester and actor has big dreams of entering the political ring at some point in the future.

During a recent interview with Moviefone, Johnson said he plans to aim high… think 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “Right now the best way that I can impact the world is through entertainment. One day, and that day will come, I can impact the world through politics,” Johnson — whose latest film, “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” opens Friday — tells the site. “The great news is that I am American, therefore I can become President.”

He’s not the only former wrestler to get such an idea. Jesse Ventura served as the governor of Minnesota. And of course, he’s already played President Barack Obama on “Saturday Night Live” and apparently had president-like connections when he found out about Osama Bin Laden’s death before it went public.

So whose team is he on? “The Rock” appears to be a Republican showing his support at the 2004 Republican convention. Although he did attend both party’s national conventions back in 2000.

Good news for Johnson, even if he doesn’t become President, he’s already  G.I. Joe!

Newt Gingrich wants you Brad Pitt!

Not for a political endorsement (wishful thinking), but rather he wants Pitt to portray HIM should  Hollywood ever made a movie about his life.

The Republican candidate called in to the Rich Stevens Radio Show after losing the Florida primary and when he was asked, “If Hollywood was going to do a movie about your life, who would you like to see play the lead role?”

Newt replied, “Oh, in my fantasy life? Brad Pitt … why not?”

Stevens kept prodding, “Is it because you guys look alike?”

But Newt didn’t bite.  “No, I don’t look like him at all. He’s thinner, he’s better looking, he’s younger. But you asked me if I had anyone who could play me in a movie … why not go for Brad Pitt?”

Maybe he should’ve said Chuck Norris… at least Norris is endorsing him in the race. But here’s a hint Newt… win the nomination and the presidency and maybe you’ll get that movie made.

It’s show time for the Republican presidential candidates right now.  And boy is it entertaining.  Now that the Academy Award nominations are out and the Florida primary is quickly approaching, here’s a quick little overview of the players… in Hollywood terms.

Simply put- there are 4 guys who want to be George Clooney and they’re all in the race to win the nomination Oscar.


Mitt Romney

Brad Pitt

Mitt Romney is kind of like Brad Pitt. He’s been leading the pack with his   movie star good looks and swagger. He’s proven star quality as a former Massachusetts Governor.   But does the air of “seemingly having it all” just too much for voters?  Does Romney come across as entitled to this nomination?


Newt Gingrich

Christopher Plummer






Newt Gingrich is a bit like Christopher Plummer. The guy has been around forever and now years after highest visibility job in the Sound of Music as Speaker of the House from 1995-1999, he’s shaking things up with a big win in South Carolina and posing a  challenge to Romney.


Ron Paul

Woody Allen






Ron Paul as Woody Allen-   I’m sure both Paul and Allen would hate this comparison given they’re on opposite political spectrums, but they seriously look like brothers.  You either love  Paul’s Allen’s work and think he’s the only one who gets it right… or you think the guy is totally off his rocker living in a land that’s just not realistic.


Rick Santorum

Jonah Hill






Rick Santorum is like Jonah Hill. He’s the young guy on the block who’s looking to move up in the world. He’s undergone quite a weight loss metamorphosis from former Senator of Pennslyvania into one of 4 remaining presidential contenders.  Let’s play ball!




The problem ( or the joy of it all depending on your politics), is that none of them are George Clooney. So here’s what Clooney can teach even Obama, about what Americans would like to see a little bit more of in this election.


#1. Take a stand – ( no wishy-washy- I’m talking to you here Mitt, or should I say Brad? ) Clooney is well-versed in the issues and takes a stand. He actually walks the walk with his charity work, not just talks the talk.


#2. He’s well-connected ( you gotta get the money and that’s how it works). Most of you get this by now.


#3. Even people who don’t agree with Clooney’s political take, still love the guy himself. Matt Damon still likes Clooney, which is more than you can say about Obama. Clooney never seems to alienate people even when he doesn’t seem to agree. ( Big lesson here guys as you continue with your debates)

#4. Clooney is human in his mistakes and that’s what’s so great. Despite Clooney’s ups and downs in his relationships, even a past divorce, he’s self-depricating. ( Newt maybe you can talk with Clooney about this one. Wife number 2 may finally shut-up about the “open marriage” claim if you bring Clooney into the mix. )


Politics and celebs are bedfellows and they all seem to be getting busy under the sheets these days.  Maybe the politicians will finally take a clue from the A-listers.