PREGNANCY GUIDE: How to Buckle Up during Pregnancy

Posted by queenmadison

We all know that seat belts save lives. When you are pregnant, a seat belt not only can save your life, but also the life of your unborn child.
If you're pregnant, you've likely heard how critical it is that you have a well-designed car seat to protect your baby in a car crash. These seats are so important, hospitals often won't allow parents to place their newborn in a vehicle without an infant seat. It's true: car seats save lives. But have you considered what is necessary to protect the life of your unborn baby (and yourself) during pregnancy?
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the seat belt provides the very best protection in an automobile for a pregnant woman and her unborn child. There is absolutely no evidence that seat belts increase the chance of injury to the fetus, uterus, or placenta—no matter how severe the collision. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belts reduce the risk of death for front seat occupants in passenger cars by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50 percent.
How to Buckle Up Your Unborn Baby
-Using a seat belt correctly is important for everyone, but proper belt use and positioning are especially crucial for the pregnant woman. Here's the right way to wear the belt:
-Use both the shoulder belt and the lap belt.
-Position the lap belt low, below your tummy. That way, your hipbones absorb any impact, rather than your belly (and your baby!). Never place the belt above or on your belly.
-Make sure the shoulder strap is over your shoulder, not under it.
-The shoulder strap should be snug across your chest, between your breasts, and cross your abdomen diagonally. This gives you full protection from crashing into the steering wheel or being thrown from the car.
-If your seat belt is uncomfortable, adjust it. Many cars allow you to modify the height of the shoulder belt to a more comfortable position. If your car does not have this feature, attach a thick piece of foam to the belt strap to make it more comfortable.
Safe Seating and Air Bags
As your baby—and belly—grow, you'll find you need to adjust your seat for comfort and safety when in your vehicle. The NHTSA recommends that pregnant women move the front seat back as far as possible.
"Your breastbone should be at least ten inches from the steering wheel or dashboard," recommends the NHTSA. "As your abdomen grows during pregnancy, move the seat back to keep as much distance as possible" while still allowing the driver to safely reach the pedals.
Some vehicles are equipped with an air bag switch, and you may have wondered whether you should disable your car's air bag during pregnancy. The easy answer is no. Doctors recommend that pregnant women wear seat belts and leave the air bag switch on, since they work together to protect both the pregnant woman and her fetus in a crash. The NHTSA stresses that air bags are not a substitute for wearing a seat belt: "Air bags are designed to work with seat belts, not replace them. Without a seat belt, a pregnant woman can be thrown into a rapidly opening air bag—a movement of such force could injure or even kill the mother and her unborn child."
If you are involved in an accident, even a minor one, see your healthcare provider immediately. Even if you feel you suffered no injuries, you'll want to be absolutely sure that both you and your baby are OK. Take comfort in knowing that your baby is cushioned by the amniotic fluid-filled sac inside your uterus, which is protected by your own muscles, bones, and organs.

Wondering if you should shelve your favorite beauty products now that you're pregnant or nursing? Find out what's safe to use and what's not from our resident expert.
From the moment most women discover they are pregnant, they are acutely aware of everything they put into and onto their bodies—including products used in the pursuit of beauty. The skin can absorb these products which can then enter the bloodstream. And while some products are not safe to use in pregnancy, the good news is there are plenty of alternatives and plenty of products that are safe to use. Below is a list of the most common products women have questions about.
Sunless Tanning Lotion
With skin cancer on the rise, it is best to skip the tanning bed and sitting in the sun. Using a sunless tanning lotion is becoming more popular and is the safest alternative for achieving a healthy glow. These lotions and sprays stay mostly on the surface of the skin with only minimal absorption, which makes them safe for you to use during pregnancy or while you are breastfeeding.
Sunscreens are definitely safe and in order when spending time outdoors. Always wear a hat, sunglasses, and drink plenty of water. It's best to avoid the 10AM to 4PM time period when ultraviolet rays are the strongest. And here's an important tip: Make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours.
Acne Treatment & Wrinkle Creams
Acne, a common complaint for many expecting women, is an unfortunate and common side effect of the hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy.
Small amounts of toners or creams containing beta hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid, applied to the skin once or twice a day are considered safe. Steer clear of products that cover more surface area or sit on the skin for longer time periods—they are more likely to be absorbed into your skin. Products such as peels or masks containing salicylic acid are best avoided altogether.
Dr. Leslie Baumann, PhD, the author of The Skin Type Solution and a professor of dermatology at the University of Miami, says a facial cleanser for acne that has two percent or less salicylic acid is safe for use. Products containing alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid, are also safe.
Are you fighting both acne and wrinkles? Many wrinkle-reducing creams have something called retinoids on their list of ingredients. Retinoids are a type of vitamin A that protects collagen from breaking down. Most experts agree that pregnant and nursing women should avoid products containing retinoids. When used in large quantities (according to research on the use of vitamin A), retinoids can cause dangerous levels of Vitamin A for the baby.
Oral retinoids, such as Accutane (used for treatment of acne), are known to cause birth defects and should not be taken under any circumstance. There is no research to show that topical use (skin) poses a danger to your baby, but doctors prefer to err on the side of caution and advise women to avoid them.
See a dermatologist for unusual changes in your skin or with questions for safe ways to deal with skin-related issues.
Hair Remover/Depilatories
Good news! When used according to the instructions on the package, hair removes and depilatories (such as Nair or Neet) are safe for women to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding—a relief to many women, since shaving during pregnancy can be especially difficult.
Bug Spray
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid or severely limit exposure to products that contain DEET (Diethyltoluamide). As with anything that is applied to the skin, especially in large doses, DEET can be absorbed through your skin and enter the bloodstream. There is not enough research showing DEET's effects on human pregnancies, but DEET has been shown to cause problems for some animals.
A good alternative to DEET is citronella oil, which is thought to have natural ability to repel insects. There is not enough research on its use in pregnancy, so to be safe and apply it to your clothes. This should help keep the bugs away.
Body Products with Soy
Products containing soy are generally safe to use, but "Soy can make the 'mask of pregnancy' (dark splotches on facial skin) worse, as can oil of bergamot, which is in many organic products," says Dr. Baumann.
Hydrocortisone and Benadryl Cream
These creams used for rashes or itching are safe for use in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Cosmetics & Hair Care
Don't worry, you don't have to go without makeup! However, doctors agree that you should avoid products containing retinoids or salicylic acids.
Using a small of amount of a salicylic cream for acne or using a toner once or twice a day is safe. Many foundations and creams that cover a larger area and are not washed off can be more readily absorbed and are best to avoid.
Glycols and phlates (two chemicals found in shampoos and many cosmetics) are causing concern among researchers, and it is recommended that you check your product labels and steer clear of these two ingredients. When possible, use sparingly or not at all.
Also, avoid hair dyes, dandruff shampoos with coal tar, and retinol. When in doubt use simple, natural products and check with your doctor.
During pregnancy your skin may be sensitive, and products you have used before pregnancy may now cause irritation. Discontinue use of anything that causes irritation or rash and consult with your obstetrician or dermatologist. Always ask your doctor or midwife if you are unsure about a specific product.

If you're newly pregnant, you may be concerned that you haven't given your baby the best start in life, especially if you weren't planning to conceive. Here are some of the more common worries—and how they can affect you and your baby.
It's always good to get your health in order before becoming pregnant—having regular medical and dental checkups, getting or staying in shape, and taking a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. If you're actively attempting to become pregnant, it's best to act as though you already are—especially in regard to drinking, smoking, and taking medications that can be hazardous during pregnancy.
But even the most perfect baby plans can go astray, and sometimes pregnancies aren't planned at all! Realistically, should you be worried about what you did in the first few weeks of your unborn child's life?
I took some medication.
It happens to almost every pregnant woman; shortly after taking that positive pregnancy test, your mind flashes back to the antibiotics you took recently, the allergy medicine you use each morning, or the Midol you've been taking for a week.
There's often no need to panic. Very few medicines are clearly dangerous to your pregnancy, says Marjorie Greenfield, MD, associate professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at University Hospitals of Cleveland and the Case School of Medicine, and author of Dr. Spock's Pregnancy Guide. "Most of the time, when we recommend not taking medicines, it's because we don't know enough clear safety data," says Dr. Greenfield. "[W]hat pregnant woman is going to volunteer for a research study to see if a medication is going to be harmful to her pregnancy?"
Of course, there are some medicines that have been proven dangerous, continues Dr. Greenfield. "I think the best advice is if you've been on a medicine, ask your doctor whether there's anything to be worried about."
I had x-rays.
Shortly before Christmas 2002, Cynthia Hinz had her left foot x-rayed. "I found out I was pregnant on New Year's Eve!" says Hinz, a Northern California mom of five, who was immediately worried that the x-rays would negatively affect her newest little one. He's now a healthy toddler.
X-rays are a frequent concern, says Dr. Greenfield. However, a dental x-ray, chest x-ray, or similar x-ray performed in early pregnancy is not really worrisome. "The amount of radiation that your uterus gets is not very high and won't put the pregnancy at risk." X-ray studies of the pelvis, such as a barium enema, allow more radiation to get to the uterus. In these cases, Dr. Greenfield advises women consult their healthcare providers about what their individual risks might be.
I got a flu shot.
If you're proactive about your health as winter approaches, you may have gotten a flu shot. Should you worry? No, says Dr. Greenfield. Not only are flu shots safe, they're a good idea for all pregnant women.
If you come down with the flu during your pregnancy, you're more likely to have complications that could put you and your baby at risk. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu shot for all women who will be pregnant during flu season (November through March), even women in their first trimester.

I had a few drinks.
Tanya Murphy found out she was expecting shortly after the holidays. "I drank wine at a Christmas party before I knew I was pregnant," says Murphy, of Haughton, Louisiana. "I was so concerned that could have caused [my son] some damage." Murphy's baby, born the next August, was unharmed by the holiday drink.
According to the CDC, no amount of alcohol during pregnancy has been proven safe. However, it is unlikely that the occasional drink (defined as a mixed drink with one ounce of alcohol, a five-ounce glass of wine, or a twelve-ounce beer) taken before you learn you are pregnant will have harmed your developing embryo.
There is real danger to your baby, however, if you're drinking heavily (defined as more than seven drinks per week) or binge drinking (defined as more than five drinks on one occasion). If you're concerned about your drinking and are afraid you may have trouble giving it up during pregnancy, talk to your healthcare provider about counseling or treatment options.
I'm a smoker.
According to the March of Dimes, smoking during pregnancy nearly doubles your risk of having a low-birth-weight baby. In addition, it can increase your risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, premature rupture of membranes, and problems with the placenta. Obviously, it's best if women quit before they even become pregnant—but what if you didn't?
"The sooner you quit, the better," says Dr. Greenfield. "Most of the complications with smoking have to do with smoking throughout the pregnancy." When you quit, your baby starts to reap the benefits of your decision almost immediately. And keep in mind that it's never too late to stop smoking.
I got a tattoo or piercing.
The risks of getting a tattoo or piercing during pregnancy lie in the possibility of getting an infection. "There's no known risk to your pregnancy from the actual tattoo [or piercing]," says Dr. Greenfield. "As long as you didn't get an infection, then you're fine."
And for the next several months, let your growing belly serve as your body art!
I feel like I'm just not ready!
What if you're worried about almost everything? Some of this anxiety is due to the massive changes going on within your body, says Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD. Dr. Peterson is a family therapist practicing in Oakland, California, and the author of An Easier Childbirth.
If you're nauseated, exhausted, and generally not feeling well, it's easy to tend towards negativity. "It's kind of a leap of faith to think that here you are sick, and that's a good thing!" says Dr. Peterson. She often has her pregnant patients practice visualization—giving themselves positive suggestions that their bodies know how to be pregnant and are up to the task.
Finally, notes Dr. Peterson, keep in mind that you are getting ready for motherhood. "If you keep hanging up on different things, ask yourself what you're really anxious about," she says. "Pregnancy is a huge transition for a woman. Maybe, your anxiety is really just about becoming a mother."

PREGNANCY GUIDE: Pregnant women should not wear heels

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Recent news claims that pregnant women should avoid wearing high heels and wear trainers instead.
Podiatric surgeon and spokesman for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, Michael O'Neill, has said that completely flat shoes such as flip flops are not always the best thing to wear while pregnant either.
In the Daily Telegraph he said that the most important thing is that the shoe should grip the foot as a pregnant womans feet tend to swell and therefore need more support.
"Pregnant women look stupid in heels. Because their centre of gravity changes, they lean back to maintain their balance."
"In heels, where the pressure is on the ball of the foot, they have to lean back even farther."
Mr O'Neill said that good running shoes made from a breathable fabric are the most ideal footwear choice for pregnant women.
It was recently reported by the Mirror that there is no medical risk in wearing heels while pregnant, but women should take extra care not to fall over.

PREGNANCY GUIDE: Decoding the Best and Worst of Pregnancy Evils

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What's the lesser of the "pregnancy evils" (caffeine, artificial sweeteners, deli meats, high-mercury fish, alcohol, and so on)? And what do you do if you really want to indulge in a favorite thing just once in your pregnancy? Find out what's really off limits ... and what's OK in moderation.

There are so many things to keep in mind during pregnancy. Doctor appointments, vitamins, foods to eat, foods to avoid … It can make your head spin! Let's try to make this easy! Here's a look at some common pregnancy concerns, with some important information on just how bad (or not so bad) they are for you and your baby.
According to research, caffeine is probably something that's OK in small quantities during your pregnancy. The March of Dimes recommends the following: "Limit the amount of caffeine you consume to no more than two, 8-ounce cups of coffee per day. It's better for your body and your baby if you drink water, milk, and fruit juice during your pregnancy. You can drink decaffeinated colas, coffee, and tea, too."
Artificial sweeteners
There are three common artificial sweeteners found in foods and soft drinks:
Aspartame: Equal and NutraSweet
Saccharin: Sweet 'N Low
Sucralose: Splenda
Of the three sweeteners saccharin is the one that should be used with caution. The March of Dimes considers saccharin to be safe for women who are not pregnant, however research has shown that saccharin crosses the placenta and can linger in fetal tissue. Your best bet is to avoid saccharin.
The FDA deems sucralose to be safe for consumption in pregnancy. This is being widely used, so you have a good chance of encountering this sweetener. If you want to avoid artificial sweeteners altogether, become a careful label reader.
The FDA also reports aspartame is safe during pregnancy when consumed in moderate amounts. Note: If you have a condition known as PKU (pheynlketonuria), a genetic metabolic disorder, if you have liver disease or high levels of phenylalanine in your blood, watch labels carefully. Phenylalanine is an ingredient in aspartame and can accumulate to unsafe levels or may not be properly processed by your body if you fall into any of these categories.
Many women who consume artificial sweeteners do so when drinking sodas or processed foods. My take? Drink more water, juice, or milk and try to consume more whole foods (those that are not processed).
Unpasteurized foods, raw fish, and high-mercury fish
These are some pregnancy evils best avoided altogether. To make this clear, the March of Dimes, whose mission is to prevent prematurity and birth defects and to promote healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, has complied a list of what foods you should stay away from. Here's a look:
-Swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish: These fish can contain potentially risky levels of mercury. Mercury can be transferred to the growing fetus and cause serious health problems. Also avoid game fish until you check its safety with your local health department. (A game fish is any fish caught for sport, such as trout, salmon, or bass.)
-Raw fish, especially shellfish (oysters, clams)
-Soft-scrambled eggs and all foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs
-Soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk: Examples are Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela. (Check the label to see what kind of milk was used to make the cheese.)
-Unpasteurized milk and any foods made from it
-Unpasteurized juices
-Raw vegetable sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean
-Herbal supplements and teas

Undercooked meat, luncheon meats, and smoked seafood
Although these are not recommended as safe during pregnancy, the March of Dimes does offer these tips, if you feel you really must have that deli sandwich:
Undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood: Cook all of these thoroughly to kill bacteria.
Hot dogs or luncheon meats: Examples are deli meats such as ham, turkey, salami, and bologna. If you wish to eat these foods, first reheat them until steaming hot.
Pâtés or meat spreads: Be sure you refrigerate these, and use caution. Canned versions are safer.
Smoked seafood: Refrigerate it, unless it has been cooked (as in a casserole). Canned versions are safer.

Alcohol should be completely avoided during pregnancy. Many women may have consumed alcohol before knowing they are pregnant. As soon as you know you are pregnant, it is wise to cease all consumption of alcohol.
Alcohol, when over consumed can case problems for your developing baby. Each person processes alcohol differently, so it is really unknown if there is a safe quantity. Best bet? Avoid it.
So, in looking at all this information, if you absolutely must indulge in a pregnancy evil, your safest bets are a cup of coffee or a sweet treat. Be sure to talk to your doctor when making decisions and ask for help with nutritional counseling if you feel overwhelmed or unsure of your food choices.

BODY AND SOUL: Take control. Does my bum look small in this

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GONE are the Kath and Kim days when every woman was proud to show off her "muffin top". Business is booming in the granny style underwear that Bridget Jones made famous, but some health experts believe control briefs could be bad for women.
Today, Bonds launches a new control range line, adding to the growing market of plus-size fashion catering to larger women.
In the past, fashionistas were too ashamed to admit they had a pair of the ugly beige knickers hiding in the lingerie draw.
But now thanks to companies adding a touch of style, Australia is seeing a resurgence in control briefs.
Myer stores are stocking up in the under garments now boasting several ranges.
"This (popularity) didn't happen overnight," Mitch Caitlin, Myer spokesman said.
"This has been happening steadily.
"There's always been strong business for it but it's getting more attention."
In the UK, where Bridget Jones proudly sported her bodysculpting undies, a leading retailer is selling about a million items a year.
Bonds predicts its new range, Shapewear, will be popular with the younger market who are fashion conscious.
"The popularity of Shapewear is a function of many influences - Bridget Jones, the notorious Kath and Kim muffin top, and the fact that Hollywood and celebrities in general are sharing their 'red carpet secrets'," a spokeswoman said.
"Shapewear is often reserved for special occasions only with that 'Ahhhh' factor playing a big role when you remove them at the end of the night."
But the slimming-style underwear have been labelled a " Band-Aid" approach to the growing obesity epidemic.
Women who try to cover up their pot bellies and muffin tops are actually suffering from problems such as weak abdominal muscles, which are linked to incontinence, back problems and prolapse of the womb.
Author and lecturer in health at the University of NSW, Martha Lourey-Bird, said women should be doing pilates and core strength exercises to get rid of the tummy.
"The concern with this type of underwear is it's like a Band-Aid," she said.
"The rates of obesity are increasing and rather than fixing the problem ... we are covering it up."

Modern bosses are 'prehistoric'

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THE way modern bosses behave has been linked to 'prehistoric' actions - such as male domination, protecting their 'turf' and ostracising those who do not agree with the group.
The way male managers power dress, posture and exercise power is due to humans’ evolutionary biology, according to research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
is more commonplace in everyday work situations than many of us want to accept, according to the research which was carried out in hospitals.
“This tribal culture is similar to what we would have seen in hunter gather bands on the savannah in southern Africa,” says the author of the paper, Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, from UNSW’s Institute for Health Innovation.
“While this research focuses specifically on health care settings, the results can be extrapolated to other workplaces,” says Professor Braithwaite.
“Groups were territorial in the past because it helped them survive. If you weren’t in a tight band, you didn’t get to pass on your genes,” he says. “Such tribalism is not necessary in the same way now, yet we still have those characteristics because they have evolved over two million years.
“It’s a surprise just how hard-wired this behaviour is,” says Professor Braithwaite. “It’s predictable that a group will ostracise a whistleblower, for instance. It’s not good, but it’s understandable in the tribal framework. It explains all sorts of undesirable behaviours, including bullying.”
Professor Braithwaite’s research is based on hundreds of interviews and observations of health workers over a 15-year period. He used an evolutionary psychology approach – incorporating archaeology and anthropology of the earliest known humans – to compare with modern behaviours.

Take sickies and you will die

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EMPLOYEES off sick for long periods -- even for common conditions like flu -- are far more likely to die before their co-workers who do not take such leave, researchers said on Friday.
The study of government workers included people who were healthy to start with and suggested extended sick leave for minor ailments as well as more major ones could point to serious health problems down the road.
"It is not just down to serious medical conditions but it seems this relationship is seen across a wide range of common health problems," said Jenny Head, a statistician at University College London who led the study.
"This appears to be a good early marker for people going on to develop more long-term serious illnesses."
The results could help doctors and employers identify people at higher risk of serious illness early on and long before they have symptoms, Head added.
The report in the British Medical Journal looked at sickness records of 6,478 British civil servants between 1985 and 1988 and then followed up which men and women died through 2004.
People who were off sick more than seven days were more likely to die, they found. People who took one or more long absence in three years were 66 percent more likely to die, Head said in a telephone interview.
"We also saw that relationship in people who were in good health at the beginning of the study," she added.
While it would make sense that people off for surgery or circulatory problems would face increased odds of dying early, the findings extended to people who had called in sick for minor complaints such as coughs and colds and flu.

BODY AND SOUL: How yoga can spice up your sex life

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YOGA has many benefits for those who perserve and one without doubt is that it improves your sex life.
"Loaded with mind, body and soul benefits, yoga does more than offer enlightenment and improved well-being. It can transform your sex life at its very core," says sex educator, relationship expert and Fox News columnist Dr Yvonne K. Fulbright.
"When you let yourself stray from any exercise routine, it can be difficult to get back into it. Lucky for me, writing this article was enough to get me back to some much needed inversions, twists, meditation, rapid-fire breathing and bends," she said.
"And boy, was I tight!
"And I don't mean in that female good way. My aching muscles needed some serious nurturing. Sometimes, our sex lives need the same. The beauty with yoga is that, in taking care of ourselves, yoga takes care of us."
Dr Fulbright says that yoga can improve your sex life in NINE ways.
1. Increased Sensitivity
Yoga’s breathing exercises help you to breathe more fully, decreasing your anxiety level and blood pressure. Your breath helps you manage your stress. Recent research in PLoS One reports that meditation, prayer and yoga can improve your health. These relaxation activities change patterns of gene activity that affect the body’s response to stress. When a person evokes a relaxation response, the mind actively turns genes that are "switched" on or off by stress the other way.
All of this makes you more primed for intimacy. The fresh oxygen, improved circulation and ability to channel your breath throughout the body further enhance your sexual responsiveness and sensitivity.
2. More Powerful Orgasms
Yoga’s influence on your orgasms is two-fold. First, in strengthening your sexual core, you have greater control over your pelvic floor muscles and sex organs. Harnessing this during sex helps you to climax more magnificently. Second, the practice enables you to release muscle tension, which, in turn, rocks your body for full-body orgasms.
3. Improved Energy
In being physically active, learning how to relax and alleviating stress through breathing, and by simply having fun, you will feel more energized. Yoga is invigorating, simply in the luxurious thought that you’re being good to yourself. You’re taking care of yourself. You’re taking care of your sex life. Best yet, with increased stamina, you will be able to last longer in bed.
4. Body Knowledge and Acceptance
Yoga is about embracing your form. You become more aware of your body’s strengths and limits. At the same time, you develop your flexibility, coordination, balance and physical strength, all of which will help you in the bedroom. You will also become more graceful and confident in your movements while making love. You will be granted permission to make noise. Yoga invites you to evoke a sound when the spirit moves you.
5. Greater Fitness
By tapping unused muscles, you will feel fitter. In working out, your body will become more toned and you may notice an increase in your metabolism. Better muscle tone will also increase your sexual responsiveness. For example, tight hips decrease your sex drive by constricting blood flow to the sexual region, decreasing nerve activity and pleasure. Yoga counters this!
6. New Sexual Positions
Because you are exercising your muscles, you will be able to engage in a greater variety of sex positions for greater pleasure. Between more flexible muscles and joints and toned buttocks, thighs and abdominals, you will be able to partake in more postures with exotic names, like splitting bamboo.
7. A Better Sense of Foreplay
Yoga kindly reminds us that we need to get the body properly primed before it will reward us – as in feeling really, really good. Sex and yoga are the same in that it’s a bit impractical and unwise to attempt a maneuver without warming up first.
8. An Erotic Glow
Yoga gives you a whole new lease on life. You will feel an overall high with the heightened sense of well-being that comes along with your practice. You will come alive sexually because you will have a better understanding of your mind-body connection, and you will feel more confident about yourself and your sexual nature.
9. An Enhanced Relationship
Couples who practice yoga together learn how to move and breathe together. They learn how to sync their energies as they explore their sexual potential and creativity.
So how do you start practicing yoga for better sex? Dr Fulbright says if you’re a beginner, find a yoga studio that offers basic yoga courses.
"It is best to focus on your own practice, building your own comfort level, before inviting your partner along.
"For those of you who are at the intermediate or advanced level, take a couples class, exploring positions for two and the sensual benefits of a shared practice."

BODY AND SOUL: Easting Mediterranean diet makes you live longer: Study

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EATING a Mediterranean style diet helps you live longer by protecting against all the major chronic diseases, a study has shown.
Those who ate lots of fresh fish, fruit, vegetables and whole grains were less likely to die prematurely, according to the research.
The diet was also found to be an effective defence against heart disease, parkinson's, alzheimer's disease and cancer.
Scientists looked at 12 international studies using a nine-point scale to assess how closely 1.5 million volunteers stuck to the diet.
Those with higher scores were shown to be less likely to have a major chronic disease, said the study published in the British Medical Journal Online First.
The diet has been thought to improve heart health and stave off cancer because it is high in fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains and healthy fats such as those in olive oil, while low in red meat and dairy.
Drinking alcohol, particularly red wine, is encouraged in moderation. Populations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Spain and Italy, tend to eat these foods.
Researchers from the University of Florence, Italy, looked at the previous studies, which collectively included more than 1.5 million participants. Their dietary habits and health were tracked for follow-up periods ranging from three to 18 years.
Scientists used an "adherence score" to estimate how well volunteers followed the diet. Those who stuck closely to it scored between seven and nine points, while volunteers who didn't follow the diet could have scored as low as zero.
Researchers found that those who stuck rigidly to a Mediterranean diet had significant improvements in their health, including a drop of 9 per cent in overall deaths and a 9 per cent drop in heart deaths. They found a 13 per cent reduction in cases of parkinson's and alzheimer's disease, and a 6 per cent fall in cancer.
Lead researcher Dr Francesco Sofi said all major scientific institutions recommend a Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases. He said: "These results seem to be clinically relevant in terms of public health, particularly for reducing the risk of premature death in the general population."
Earlier this year, US researchers found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet could help stave off premature death. British, Greek and Spanish scientists found it helped prevent asthma and respiratory allergies in children.

WTF!:Model offers to sell her virginity for $2 million

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A MODEL who insists she has never had sex wants to sell her virginity for $2 million.
Sexy Raffella Fico, a 20-year-old Italian who appears in men's magazines, told an Italian magazine Chi: "I can't wait to see who's going to pull out the money to have me."
Fico, who appeared in the Italian version of Big Brother this year, said she would use the cash to buy a house in Rome and pay for acting classes.
"I don't know what it's like to have sex," she told Chi.
She didn't mind if she lost her virginity to man who wasn't exactly Prince Charming.
"If I don't like him I'll just have a glass of wine and forget about it," said the aspiring actress from Naples, the hometown of screen siren Sophia Loren.
Her family insisted that despite her good looks and sexy image, she remained a virgin.
"She's never had a boyfriend. I swear on my mother's grave. She's a devout Catholic and prays to Padre Pio every night," her brother told Chi.
Fico is not the first woman to try tom sell her virginity for a lot of money. An 18-year-old US student from San Diego, who uses the pseudonym Natalie Dylan, recently told the Howard Stern show she would have sex for the first time for $1 million to pay her college fees.
In 2005 a Peruvian model, also 18, put herself up for sale to help pay her family's medical bills but ended up having second thoughts and turning down $1.5 million.

BODY AND SOUL: Flat out worrying about bikinis

Posted by queenmadison

BIKINIS, long adored by men, may be on the way out, with a high number of women admitting they hate a certain body part the garmet shows off.
The study – which spoke to 400 women across the country – revealed that female waistlines are more cause for concern than any other body part.
Surprisingly only 14 per cent said thighs, which is a turn around from earlier decades.
Arms were next, with seven per cent and hips, five per cent and bum four per cent.
“While having an ‘apple’ body shape is often determined by genetic and hormonal make-up, Australian women have to be aware of the risks involved of carrying too much weight around the middle.
Ruler or Straight - celebrity style Keira KnightleyThe waist circumference is larger than the chest or hips circumferences, which are virtually the same. The body has a relatively high androgen level compared to the estrogen level, and this causes the skeleton to develop in a more masculine pattern and body fat to be distributed predominantly around the waist.
Pear or Spoon or Bell (Triangle upward) Celebrity style: Jennifer Lopez
Women with this type of body shape tend to have fat deposit first in the buttocks, hips and thighs. As body fat percentage increases, an increasing proportion of body fat is distributed around the waist and upper abdomen.
Apple (Triangle downward) Celebrity style: Kate Winslett
In this type of body shape fat gets accumulated in the upper part and waist area. Body fat distribution tends to begin in the arms, shoulders, chest and upper abdomen first. There is an increased risk of heart disease and metabolic disorder as some fat is released in the bloodstream.
Hourglass shape (Triangles opposing, facing in) Celebrity style: Scarlett Johansson
The waist circumference is less than that of the chest or hips circumferences, which are virtually the same. Body fat distribution tends to be around both the upper body and lower body. This body type enlarges the arms, breasts, hips and rear before other parts, including waist and upper abdomen. It is every woman’s dream to have an hourglass shaped figure.

BODY AND SOUL: Sex secrets of the bitch and lamest

Posted by queenmadison

YOU'VE met a potential date online. Their picture passes muster, they seem quite sane and their interests are in line with yours. But what does: Manly, bubbly or adventurous really mean online?
First, the unquestionably hardest to understand. Women:
She'll be forever showing you pictures of fluffy kittens on her mobile phone and, on your first date, will have given pet names to all your fingers before the main course arrives.
Curvy: Fat. Forget any silly notions of Marilyn Monroe. This girl is more pint glass than hourglass.
Voloptuous: Fat and shows too much flesh in clothes two sizes too small for her.
Bubby: Fat AND annoying. Tries to make up for her ample size by being the life and soul of the party and fails in all respects.
Cuddly: Morbidly obese. A date would necessitate the removal of the roof and a whale sling. BBW: Stands for 'big, beautiful woman'. Well, two out of three's not bad. She's certainly big and female.
Size 10: In Uzbekistan.
Fiery: Psychotic.Cancel a date with this girl and you'll come home to find your car has been keyed and all the sleeves have been cut off your shirts.
Vivacious: Aggressive. An opinionated finger-jabber.
Great personality: Ugly as sin. If a woman is selling her personality, then her face looks good in a paper bag.
Artistic: Drama Queen. Welcome to a world of slamming doors, smashed crockery and huffy silences.
Athletic and toned: Flat chested and shapeless. A sexless, lumpless and bumpless Tomboy.
Age 34: Age 43. There's more chance of winning the Lottery on a double rollover week than there is of being a woman over 35 and getting a date on the internet
Playful: Hussy. Working her way through the internet site and it's your turn.
Girly: Thick. Shallower than a mouse's foot bath. High School Musical is her idea of high brow.
Lives life to the full: Alcoholic. Likes to start the day with a couple of Bacardi Breezers. Happy Hour is her favourite time of day.
I'm into whirl-wind romances: My visa runs out in 10 days and if I don't get married I'll be deported.
Challenging: High-maintenance pain in the neck.
Homely: Frump. You want to paint the town red and she'll want you to paint her living room beige.
Loyal: Stalker. She'll have Googled you and looked you up on Friends Reunited before you eve meet. Her brain cannot process the words: 'I don't think you're quite right for me.'
Likes the finer things in life: Gold digger. Looking for a new wardrobe, jewellery and a few weekends away before she dumps you for a 25-year-old Adonis.
Honest: No social skills. The censorship button in her brain doesn't work. Says whatever comes into her head.
Sensitive: Cry baby. Woe betide you if you don't notice she's had her hair cut or that she's wearing new shoelaces.
And the secrets of men:
: Plain. Everyone in online dating is 'attractive.' In the real world it means 'pleasant to look at' - in the internet-speak it means: two eyes, two ears and a mouth.
Fairly attractive: Gutchurningly hideous. When he's not even claiming to be attractive, it's time to worry.
Told attractive: By my mother, the only woman I've every loved or am ever likely to.
Discretion advised: I'm married and don't want my wife to know.
Discretion offered: I don't care if you're married too.
Modern man: We'll be splitting the bill 50/50. I go on three of these internet dates a week. So unless you're a sure thing you pay for your own dinner.
Not just looking for sex: I am just looking for sex but hope you won't see through my cunning reverse psychology.
Willing to travel: Lives in a filthy flea-ridden hovel that he can't possibly let you see.
Adventurous: Pervert. He can turn anything into a double entendre. On a date he'll order graphically named cocktails.
Normal kind of guy: Normal in a Norman Bates kind of way. Normality should be a given, so run a mile from anyone selling it as a good point.
GSOH (Good sense of humour): The golden rule of internet dating is that anyone who feels obliged to mention they have a sense of humour is usually devoid of one.
Earns a six-figure salary: Yes, he does. But he includes pence in that figure.
Fun and zany: Mental age of a 12-year-old. Your date will be a riot of whoopee cushions, itching powder and fake-dogpoo-filled fun.
Looks not important: Barrel-scraping beggar who can't afford to be a chooser.
Sporty: I watched the Olympics and play snooker for the local pub team.
Unique: Sex change. Best not to hang around long enough to find out whether it's pre op or post op.
Old fashioned: Male chauvinist pig. A woman's place is in the home and, more precisely, the kitchen.
Traditional: Patronising. He'll order for you in a restaurant and pat you on the bottom and say 'don't you worry your pretty head about it' when you ask him about his day.
Manly: Hairy. Only to be pursued if you like men who moult all over your furniture.
Distinguished: Old. Speak slowly and clearly and always be within five minutes of a toilet.
Independent: Lying, cheating commitment-phobic scum.
Unconventional: Insane. The sort of person you cross the road to avoid, even if the road is the M1 in the rushhour.
Aspirational: Broke. He has lofty ideas, but not a penny to his name.
Romantic: Oily creep. The flowers come from the garage forecourt and he calls you 'babe' or 'sweetheart' because he can't remember your name.


Posted by queenmadison

January Philippine Fiesta

  • Feast of the Black Nazarene - held every 9th of January in Quiapo, Manila. Devotees of that number in the thousands flock around the life-size statue of the Black Nazarene (Jesus Christ) as it inches across the streets packed with devotees around Quiapo church. Devotees attribute many miracles to this 400 year old image which was brought to the the Philippines from Mexico in the 7th century.
  • Sinulog Festival - celebrated every 3rd week of January in Cebu City. This Philippine fiesta in Visayas region celebrates Cebu's patron saint, the Santo Niño (Child Christ). This week long event is marked by processions, street dancing and parades. This fiesta is a local version of the Mardi gras.
  • Ati-Atihan Festival - fiesta starts from the16th to the 22nd of January in Kalibo, Aklan. Revelers masquerading as Negritos in colorful costumes, dance to the beat of drums while chanting "Hala Bira!" in preparation to the Sunday procession in honor of the Santo Niño.

February Philippine Fiesta

  • Feast of Our Lady Of Candles - every 2nd of February in Jaro, Iloilo City. This is the biggest and most opulent religious fiesta in the Western Visayas region. The blessing of the candles and the yearly procession of the patroness, the Nuestra Señora de Candelaria is followed by the fiesta's queen and her court which highlights the fiesta at the town plaza.
  • Babaylan Festival - held every 19th of February in Bago City, Negros Occidental. The public gets a rare view into the simulated rituals of mystics, ancient healers and priests in various ceremonies such as marriage, healing and harvest.

March Philippine Fiesta

  • Eid El Fitir - commemorated every 9th of March in Region XII in Mindanao. Muslim Filipinos mark the end of their 30-day fasting as the crescent moon emerges after the Holy Month of Ramadan.
  • Moriones Festival - reenacted during the Holy Week in Boac, Marinduque. This Philippine fiesta is based on a play about the story of Longinus, the centurion whose blind eye is cured by a drop of Jesus Christ's blood. Actors wear colorful wooden mask and dressed as Roman soldiers.

April Philippine Fiesta

  • Manaoag Pilgrimage - held every 2nd week of April in Manaoag, Pangasinan. Devotees and pilgrims flock to the shrine of Nuestra Señora de Manaoag for the feast of the patroness of the sick, the needy and the helpless. Her image is believed to be miraculous.
    May Philippine Fiesta
  • Flores de Mayo - held nationwide during the month of May. Literally meaning the "flowers of May", this fiesta commemorates the search for the Holy Cross by Reyna Elena and her son, the emperor Constantine. This Philippine wide fiesta is marked by a parade of maidens escorted by young men under floral arches. The main participant represents Reyna Elena and the emperor.
  • Pulilan Carabao Festival - held every 14th of May in Pulilan, Bulacan. Hundreds of festively adorned carabaos are paraded by the farmers on the street leading to the church. There they are made to kneel down to pay homage to San Isidro de Labrador, the patron saint of farmers.
  • Pahiyas - every 15th of May, farm families give thanks to San Isidro Labrador for a good harvest by decorating their houses with brightly colored rice wafers called kiping.
  • Obando Fertility Rites - held from May 17 to 19 in Obando, Bulacan. Massive numbers of men and women dance towards the town church praying for a wife, husband or a child. The pilgrims dance to San Pascual Baylon, Santa Clara de Assisi or the Virgen de Salambao for their wishes.

June Philippine Fiesta

  • Parada ng Lechon - on the 24th of June in Balayan, Batangas, this festival literally translated as the "parade of roasted pigs". This fiesta is a celebration of the feast of St. John the Baptist. Roasted pigs are dressed up and paraded around town before being eaten.
  • Pintados Festival - every 29th of June in Tacloban, Leyte, town folks parade through town with colorful body paint to recall their ancient warrior tradition where tattoos represented bravery and prestige.
    July Philippine Fiesta
  • Bocaue River Festival - held every 1st Sunday of July in Bucaue, Bulacan. The highlight of this Philippine fiesta is the fluvial procession in honor of the miraculous Krus ng Wawa or Cross of Bocaue. Devotees douse each other with water as they scramble to ride the pagoda boat.
  • Raja Baguinda Festival - the 3 day festivities start on the 2nd week of August in Jolo, Sulu. The festivities commemorate the arrival of Raja Baguinda who is credited of spreading the Islam faith to the Sultanate of Sulu.

August Philippine Fiesta

  • Kadayawan Sa Dabaw - held every 3rd week of August in Davao City.This festival give thanks to to the bounty of fruits and flowerers as the waling-waling orchid blooms. Colorful floats are bedecked with beautiful orchids and other flowers in the grand parade.

September Philippine Fiesta

  • Feast of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia - celebrated every 3rd Saturday of September in Naga, Camarines Sur, Bicol Region. Highlight of this fiesta is the grand fluvial parade where the image of the Lady of Peñafrancia is carried through the river aglow with floating candles.

October Philippine Fiesta

  • Masskara Festival - held every 3rd week of October in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. Mask-making puts a quaint accent on the festivities to mark Bacolod City's charter day. Brass bands, beauty contests and parades are held before the evening's highlight of street dance where folks wear their beautiful masks.

November Philippine Fiesta

  • Higantes Festival - from November 22 to 23 in Angono, Rizal, male devotees carry the image of San Clemente in a procession that features pahadores, clad in colorful garb and wooden shoes and carrying boat paddles and higantes (giants) 10 feet tall papier mache puppets.

December Philippine Fiesta

  • San Fernando Giant Lantern Festival - celebrated the whole month of December in San Fernando, Pampanga. The festival culminates in a judging contest of the best, biggest and most beautiful Christmas lantern made by the local craftsmen in San Fernando.
  • Binirayan Festival - fiesta dates are from the 28th to the 30th of December in San Jose Antique. Ethnic pageantry reaches a new high on the beaches of Maybato in San Jose and Malandong in Hamtik, where the drama of the first Malay settlement at Malandong is played out.


Posted by queenmadison

Baguio City is the summer capital of the Philippines. Located in northern Luzon, Baguio City was established by the Americans in 1909, It is sited about 1,500 meters above sea level, high in the Cordillera mountain range giving the city an almost temperate climate.

Baguio is a favorite vacation destination of Filipinos & foreign tourist specially during summer because of its year-round cool climate. It is also known as an educational center with its 4 universities and several colleges and institutes in Baguio City’s 49 square kilometer area.

The centrepiece of Baguio City is the Burnham Park which features a rectangular lagoon and open fields. The eastern part of the city is dominated by high-class residential areas surrounding the Camp John Hay, a former American military recreation zone now turned into a tourist residential-commercial area.

Places of Interest:

Baguio City Cathedral is a majestic church built on top of a hill, and is seen from many parts of the city. On the right side of the cathedral is Session Road. It is the main avenue of the city and is its commercial center. Along the main street and side streets are numerous shops, restaurants, and billiard and duckpin bowling alleys. Session Road is also the place visited by foreign tourists who wish to enjoy the city's nightlife.

Mines View Park, located at the extreme northeast of Baguio City boasts a spectacular view of Benguet's gold and copper mines.

Camp John Hay, once a military recreational camp of the Americans during World War II is now a popular tourist destination for people who wish to see the pine forests in Baguio City. It also boasts of a sprawling country club with a full 18-hole golf course as well as many trendy restaurants and a rather nice hotel called The Manor.

Itogon Wood Carver's Village - fills three kilometers of independent indigenous wood carvers. The works of these carvers range from very small figurines to huge statues.

The Orchidarium is a showcase for the various breeds of flowers and plants that are grown in the region.

The Mansion House - the official summer residence of the President of the Philippines. One can leisurely stroll around its manicured lawns.

Baguio Botanical Garden - also known as the Igorot Village contains many Igorot houses amidst various flora and fauna that grows in the cool climate of the city. Tourists can usually take pictures with the Igorot tribesmen dressed in their traditional costume.

Mary Knoll Ecological Sanctuary is a haven for free minds and bodies. The Eco-tour refreshes the eyes with nature's feast of flowers. The gallery inspires one's creativity.


Posted by queenmadison

About 4 to 5 hours away from Manila is Puerto Galera. It is a string of beaches located on the northwest side Mindoro Island. Composed of Coco Beach, White Beach, Sabang Beach, Big & Small Lalaguna & Tamaraw Beach. Puerto Galera is a haven for Filipinos & Foreigners alike. The cost of getting there, the accommodation, food and drinks are relatively cheap compared to Boracay or Palawan. On a tight budget, a weekend retreat for two can cost as little as $100. And that includes transportation from Manila, a small cottage and food.

White Beach on is the longest and widest beach in Puerto Galera. It is a bit laid-back compared to Sabang but Sabang is smaller but livelier because it has more bars, shops, restaurants and discos. Sabang also boast of a floating bar in the middle of the bay where local and imported drinks are served. But both Sabang & White Beach have an active nightlife although one need not stay at one beach alone, try beach hopping when your there. You can transfer from Sabang to Small Lalaguna by foot. And in between the two beaches, there is a cozy bar on the cliff called "The Point" it has a nice view of the ocean and is open until 2 a.m. The other beaches at Puerto Galera can be reached by tricycle, jeep or pump boat. It is a common practice to rent a cottage at one resort and hop at different resorts and beaches during the day and at even at night.

You can do just about everything for your total holiday enjoyment at Puerto Galera. Day activities are usually swimming, boating, strolling, hiking, Scuba diving, snorkeling, island hopping, jet skiing, beach volleyball and of course sun bathing! One can also hire a guide to trek the mountain at the backdrop.

There is also the Ponderosa Golf Club is located up in the mountains - 600 meters above sea level, and the view is unforgettable. The beautiful view of Puerto Galera and the beaches is breathtaking.

Another interesting place to go while in Puerto Galera is the Tamaraw Falls. It is very easy to go to, just take a jeepney ride towards San Teodoro town and ask the jeep driver to drop you off at Tamaraw Falls. The falls is just meters from the road. And if you are the adventurous type, go jungle trekking through the mountains and see the Mangyan tribes people living in the jungle and you are lucky, you might get the rare chance to see the Tamaraw, a wild buffalo in the forest of Mindoro.


Posted by queenmadison

Manila is the capital of the Philippines, it is a vibrant metropolis. It is a hodgepodge of old and new buildings, Despite pockets of poverty, Manila is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and its metropolitan area is the country's economic, cultural, educational, and industrial center. Manila host many prestigious universities and centers of learning including the University of Santo Tomas, Southeast Asia's oldest university.

Manila is almost synonymous to Metro Manila, which actually comprises 17 cities and municipalities with over 10 million residents. It is considered one of the mega-metropolis of the world. Centers of Business are the Binondo district, the Makati business district and Ortigas Center.
It can be overwhelming to first timers, especially to tourist who can’t wait to leave Manila’s chaotic traffic, heat and pedestrians. But spend a little time and discover the little secrets of the city and the friendliness of the people.

Shopping in Manila is a way of life. Almost everywhere you go are stores, shops, boutiques from the small corner store to the giant malls that you can find almost everywhere you go in Metro Manila.

The walled city of Intramuros is a must see for tourist. Within its walls are the centuries old Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church & Museum. Also inside it’s walls is Fort Santiago, a Spanish fortress and garrison -now a park. Located at the mouth of Pasig River, Intramuros was built to defend Manila from invaders. Today, inside the walled city are houses from the Spanish times that have survived. Some have been converted into cozy restaurants, museums, dormitories and souvenir shops.

Malacañang Palace - The official residence of the president of Philippines. It also houses some government offices, the Malacañang Museum and the Presidential Museum. The palace is an 18th century villa along the Pasig river located in the center of Manila. It was purchased by the Spanish government in 1825 and has been renovated and expanded through the decades. Malacanang Palace was first used as the Spanish Governor-General's summer residence. In 1937 became the official residence of the Philippine President. Manuel L. Quezon was the first Filipino chief executive to live in Malacañang Palace.

At the center of Manila, every 9th of January is the Feast of the Black Nazarene. Central to the feast is the largest procession in the country. A life-size, image of Jesus Christ, venerated through the centuries (made of Blackwood) is paraded through the streets of Quiapo District beside China Town. The mammoth procession is a daylong event. It is an occasion much anticipated by devotees and some tourist. So if you are uneasy with large crowds, avoid the area on that date, the traffic within the Quiapo area and beyond comes to a halt. But to the religious or the daring, it is a sight to behold.

Manila's nightlife is vibrant. There are countless bars, restaurants, discos, Karaoke lounges, piano bars and cafés. For the bohemian, the Malate district would be an ideal place to hang out, for the more cosmopolitan and trendy, the Greenbelt and the Fort in Makati is the place to be or try Libis and Tomas Morato in Quezon City. There are also 3 casinos in Manila -if one is inclined to take a bet. The possibilities are endless, one just have to discover what Manila has to offer.

Places of Interest in Manila:
-China Town, Binondo
-Rizal Park
-The Walled City of Intramuros
-Fort Santiago
-Metropolitan Museum (Central Bank)
-Malacañang Palace Museum (open Mon-Fri 9am-3pm, Tel. # 733-3721)
-National Museum
-Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex (CCP)
-Manila Cathedral & San Agustin Church
-University of Santo Tomas Museum
-Casino Filipino (for those who enjoy the game of chance)
-San Sebastian Basilica - wholly made of steel, it’s was the second building to be
made out of steel, next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Manila Night Life:
-Malate District
-Bay walk, Roxas Boulevard
-Green Belt, Makati
-Jupiter St., Makati
-Embassy bar, Pier One, Jaipur at The Fort, Taguig
-Libis, Quezon City
-Tomas Morato, Quezon City


Posted by queenmadison

About 400 kilometers from Manila is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Vigan. It is the capital city of Ilocos Sur located on the west coast of northern Luzon. One can see precious remnants of old Spanish architecture throughout the center of the city. Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia with a unique European atmosphere. Several museums exist for the many national heroes that were born here. Vigan is the oldest surviving Spanish colonial city in the Philippines. The name Vigan was derived from "Biga", a giant taro plant that grows abundantly along the banks of the Mestizo River.
Places of Interest:

Old Vigan Colonial Houses – the ancestral houses were built mostly by rich Chinese traders. These great big houses are made of thick brick walls and plastering with red clay. Tile roofs are made to survive earthquakes. The Mestizo district where more than a hundred houses line side by side along Calle Crisologo.

St. Paul’s Cathedral - built in 1790-1800 by the Augustinians, this impressive Baroque cathedral has most of its interior walls well preserved. The 12 altars and 3 naives only enhances the church beauty and grandeur. The bell tower is octagonal and is located 10 meters south of the cathedral. It is a place not to be missed when visiting Vigan.

Palacio de Arzobispado – built in 1783, it is the official residence of the Archbishop of Nueva Segovia. The palace was the headquarters of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. Included in the palace is the Museo Nueva Segovia with a collection of paintings, manuscripts and religious articles accumulated through the centuries.


TRAVEL: Tokyo's pubs are the people's choice

Posted by queenmadison

TOKYO'S izakaya pubs are treasure troves of cheap eats and social conviviality, but take your phrase book with you.
The izakaya, or Japanese pub, where you drink and share inexpensive small dishes as your evening progresses, reminds me of how the image of Japanese dining has been distorted in the West. One widely held belief – no doubt encouraged by some outside Japan who stand to make a tidy profit from it – is that Japanese cuisine is uniformly finicky. It takes enormous effort to produce, can only be made from the absolute freshest ingredients, is steeped in rules and ritual, and should therefore be exorbitantly priced.
But this is not the sort of dining enjoyed on your average Tokyoite's typical night out. I know countless Japanese who have never set foot in a kaiseki haute cuisine restaurant or eaten so-called top-grade sushi at stratospheric prices. Many of my friends even scoff at such extravagance.
But I know almost no Japanese of drinking age who has not enjoyed an izakaya, and its convivial atmosphere and authentic food and drink. Izakaya menus span sashimi to deep-fried comfort foods, and include hotpots, salads and a huge range in between.
Order as the mood takes you, starting with just a few items. Adventurers may choose something from the list of chinmi (literally, "rare taste"): perhaps some of the pungent shiokara (salted squid or fish guts), that's intended to be nibbled in conjunction with sake or distilled grain shochu.
Other more substantial dishes include yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls), kara-age (crispy fried) tori (chicken) or sakana (fish), or kaisou (mixed seaweed) salad. In most cases prices are surprisingly low, enabling you to eat cheaply and diversely.
As the Western love affair with small-dish dining flourishes, more visitors to Japan are discovering that what's most interesting about izakaya is not the dazzling scope of the food and drink on offer but that these establishments are everywhere (to the point they are taken for granted by locals) yet remain little known to outsiders.
The easy self-confidence with which they serve up seasonal produce and what's fresh on the day, all with the stamp of the particular establishment you are visiting, conveys a reassuring ordinariness about one of the world's most enjoyable dining experiences.
Be aware that not all izakaya accept credit cards, and opening hours may differ from what you expect. If you speak or read little Japanese you will obviously be at some disadvantage (go, if you can, with someone who can get by in the language).
But even the average Japanese may hesitate on their first visit to an unknown izakaya, and it is remarkable how far a show of enthusiasm, sensitivity and respect will take you, even if your vocabulary extends only to a few basic phrases.
Should you wish to arm yourself with more knowledge of the dishes available, one of the thousands of chain izakaya such as Tengu, Tsubohachi, or Gonpachi are cheap and serve a useful purpose, offering in most cases a photographic menu. But with their franchise-store atmosphere and food that feels prefabricated even if it's not, adjust your expectations downward. Here are some izakaya in Tokyo worth exploring.
On a nondescript side street in an old, commercial neighbourhood, Mimasuya, established in 1905, is supposedly Tokyo's longest continuously running izakaya. The claim illustrates the relative newness of the city's topography, with most truly old buildings having been destroyed, if not by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, then by the US firebombings of 1945 or rampant redevelopment since.
Still, in Japan the aged get respect, and the way Mimasuya is loved by its fans shows how the izakaya experience is not all about food. Which is not to say the food here is below par; refined it isn't, but it meshes perfectly with the authentic, rowdy, and somewhat ramshackle surrounds. Try the fugu blowfish in beer batter or miso-ni (simmered fish in miso). A fair range of sake is available, including the fruity yet delicate Hakkasan, and Denshu.
Go there: 2-15-2 Tsukasa-cho, Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. Phone +81 3 3294 5433.
This is working-class Tokyo at its most refined. Something about Shinsuke –it could be the beautiful wooden room, the care and simplicity expressed through the food, the reverential yet enthusiastic clientele, or all of these –conveys that elusive trait of contemporary authenticity. Arrive early for a seat at the counter downstairs. You won't go wrong with any fish dish, be it sashimi, ni-tsuke (simmered), shio-yaki (salt-grilled), or kara-age (deep-fried).
Salads such as mizuna with yurine lily bulb, or crab and lettuce with homemade mayonnaise are delicious, as are the deep-fried sardine (iwashi) "rocks" and the maguro nuta tuna, spring onions and other vegetables in a sweet miso-vinegar dressing. A cut above almost every other izakaya (but not especially cheap).
Go there: 3-31-5 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo. Phone +81 3 3832 0469.
The best yakitori (skewered, grilled chicken) is a synergy of top ingredients grilled over hardwood charcoal at the perfect temperature and Morimoto nails it. Rather incongruously set in the dizzying schoolkid playground of Shibuya (hardly known for its culinary depth), this establishment is not strictly an izakaya (yakitori being a genre unto itself) but the eating style and atmosphere are similar.
The tsukune minced chicken meatballs are some of the best you will find and I recommend the heart, liver, and the ume-shiso maki or breast rolled with pickled plum and shiso leaf. For something you'd never do with a supermarket chook, try the chicken sashimi. As with most small izakaya, Morimoto depends for its freshness and for covering its bills on a rapid turnover, so you will be discouraged from lingering. In winter, the store serves wild birds including pheasant, sparrow and duck. English menu available.
Go there: Hamanoue Building, Dogenzaka 2-7-4, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Phone +81 3 3464 5233.
If you were living in Tokyo, you'd no doubt land in a place like Horoyoi and make it your local. This is a basic neighbourhood pub that keeps late hours, boasts an extensive menu, and does everything just right. Some diners may feel it lacks glamour; I find a lot of charm in its honesty and unadorned simplicity. Friends of mine from Sydney still rave about it two years on, and regret they didn't spend more time there.
The lesson? When you find a place you like, go back. You'll be rewarded by an added depth of understanding, familiarity and affection.
Go there: Yama Building B1F, Ebisu-nishi 1-9-2, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Phone +81 3 3770 6405.
At the top end of the izakaya genre, where the standard of food, decor and service start to cross over into that of the high-grade restaurant, Maru to me is still an izakaya for its menu of dishes made to share and its cheerful, relaxed atmosphere.
Located in the designer belt of Aoyama, it is often packed. Owner-chef Keiji Mori was trained in a kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto but the emphasis is less on fancy presentation than top-class ingredients and natural, un-messed-with flavours. The corn tempura is simple and stunning, as are the salads and the tofu with deep-fried jako baby sardines. The fish is always excellent and if you know anything about rice you'll be dazzled by the glistening, aromatic, donabe claypot version served here (order 40 minutes in advance). A good range of wines and sake, and English menu available.
Go there: Aoyama KT Building B1F, Jingumae 5-50-8, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Phone +81 3 6418 5572.
This is a contemporary take on the traditional standing bar, one of the precursors of today's izakaya. Seating is available downstairs but Buchi's main attraction is the bar counter, at which it is surprisingly easy to while away the hours despite the absence of anywhere to sit.
In keeping with its modern theme, the payment system is cash on delivery, and the menu ranges thrillingly from Japanese standards to jamon iberico (the char-grilled version should not be missed) and such unforced fusion delights as uni sea urchin sauteed with water cress. The all-female staff are cheerful, spunky and knowledgeable, and the atmosphere can verge on party-like. There is an English menu and full wine list.
Go there: 9-7 Shinsen-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Phone +81 3 5728 2085

TRAVEL: Japanese for beginners

Posted by queenmadison

WHEN we were just a twosome, my husband and I travelled on a whim, wandering Grecian ruins or forging Sulawesi jungles at a moment's notice.
But once kids arrived, it all seemed too hard, too risky and too expensive.

Eleven years after the last addition to the family, we decided we'd had enough staying at home. We cashed in our frequent flyer points and headed to a country that was safe for kids and relatively inexpensive: Japan.
At first we were concerned the land of the rising yen may sap our savings in a matter of hours. But thanks to a strong Aussie dollar and a lot of time spent Googling accommodation, the whole trip ended up quite reasonably priced.
The key is to pre-book transport and accommodation. We went for the low-cost, culture-rich experience of the traditional Japanese ryokan: all four of us shared the one sleeping space on tatami mats, with futon mattresses folded up and packed away during the day.
In most places we also got yakata pyjamas and special indoor socks to scoot about the polished floors.
We bought four Japan Rail (JR) passes - the only way you can acquire them is to buy them from an agent before you leave. While expensive (currently about $630 each for adults for two weeks; half price for children five to 11), they saved us money in the long run and gave us the freedom to go wherever we pleased.
The further you intend to travel, the better the value. Not only do the passes cover all the JR trains, they also cover most bullet-fast shinkansens, as well as the urban networks.
With boys aged 14 and 11, fun had to be high on the agenda - but we also wanted a cultural experience. So we ditched Tokyo Disney for the more magical Studio Ghibli, creative home of master animator Hayao Miyazaki (creator of Spirited Away, among other anime classics).
You need to book well in advance because numbers are strictly limited, but this means virtually no queuing, no cranky kids and a smiling, keen staff. It's more art museum than theme park, but the spirit of joyful imagination was infectious.
Breakfast was an adventure each morning as we came face-to-face with nato (the mucus-like beans that cling to your face), succulent fish, marinated poultry, mountain roots, wagyu beef cooked on miso-encrusted magnolia leaves, pickled vegetables, miso soup and green tea.
Our best-remembered dinner was at the Umenohana restaurant in Harajuku: a miraculous 12-course banquet of tofu cooked in a dozen different, delicious ways. Before we left Sydney, I doubt the boys would have eaten even one tofu dish.
The onsen culture of public bathing was more shock than adventure for the kids and, even taking into account the incredible land of Spa World, was something they want to remember, rather than repeat.
To experience the famously contrasting Japanese culture, we first took a big dose of the ultra-modern. Sometimes bewildering, always fascinating, Tokyo was the perfect initiation into international travel.
Every minute had the boys wondering, learning and being drawn into the amazing techno world where commuters are too polite to talk on their mobiles, so they watch TV on them, instead; where even the toilets have inbuilt computers and music systems; and where everything is so neat you see cleaners scurrying to pick up a single grain of rice off the street.
We spent plenty of time on the labyrinthine Tokyo rail system, hopping off to watch the pretty punks of Takeshita-dori wander past, the haute couture of Omotosando, and to take a leisurely cruise down the Sumida River.
Next we headed for the different experience of the mountains, staying in a very traditional ryokan in Hirayu Onsen, a thermal spa town deep in the Japanese alps.
The septuagenarian staff looked as if they'd never seen foreigners before - and maybe they hadn't. Certainly, the appearance of two blond boys had our personal attendant all agog; we dubbed her Super Granny for the way she talked incessantly, worked non-stop and kept rubbing the lads' hair.
It was an ideal base to head deeper into the oak- and elm-clad mountains.
The longest cable car in Japan took us from Shinhotaka, thousands of metres up through the clouds to a pristine forest, where we enjoyed an alpine bushwalk and a soak in a riverside onsen.
On to the south, following languid river valleys to the Muromachi period town of Takayama, famous for its twice-yearly festival where teams of men pulled brightly coloured floats through town. Each three-storey float, called a yati, features a large, dancing marionette which represents an ancient Shinto deity.
The show continues long into the night, when the 500-year-old yati are paraded across the bridges, bedecked in bright lanterns and buoyed by the songs of schoolchildren.
The boys loved it. But culture, like health food, should be offered in small doses.
When we reached Kyoto, they discovered it was home to more than 100 significant historic temples. Their joint spontaneous groan of "great" was heavy with sarcasm.
Stuff history, we decided, let's search out some fun. So we took a 20-minute shinkansen train ride to the amazing Spa World in Osaka: 16 themed onsen in opulent luxury, including such thrills as a spa where sharks swim underneath your bare backside (and a sheet of safety glass); and Dr Fish, where hundreds of the tiny creatures eat away the dead skin on your feet while you enjoy a cup of tea.
Best of all, on the roof of the complex is a giant water park complete with frighteningly fast waterslides, swirling funnels and exhilarating half-pipe rides.
Satisfied, the boys followed us as we shopped for ceramics and finely patterned cloth in the ancient Gion area of Kyoto.

TRAVEL:Itsy-bit of heaven on Hawaii's Waikiki

Posted by queenmadison

THIS is a story about unrequited love, adventure and money on a beautiful tropical island.
It begins and ends in Waikiki, the iconic Hawaiian beach sitting under the dominant gaze of Diamond Head.
The key characters are a young woman called Itsy Bitsy (who doesn't wear a teeny, weeny, yellow polka-dot bikini) and an Australian family - strangers who met in an idyllic setting.
About 30 mintues drive from Waikiki is Sea Life park, Itsy's home.
Of course, she is a dolphin and swimming with her is an experience of which dreams are made.
She is beautiful, friendly and playful and doesn't mind giving a new friend a kiss.
That makes her impossible not to fall in love with immediately, though it would never be returned. She does a few shows a day and kisses everybody. The Jezebel.
But there is something very alluring about jumping into warm water and swimming with a dolphin - just like Sandy and Bud Rix in Flipper all those years ago.
Sea Life Park is an ocean-side entertainment venue with wonderful live exhibits of turtles and tropical fish, penguins and lots of amazing dolphins to be photographed beside.
Our trip there in a hire car was part of the adventure of Oahu. In a soft-top Jeep, the amazing volcanic landscape seemed arm's length away, firstly driving along the Kalanianaole Highway up the each coast and down the Kamehameha back to Waikiki.
Apart from spotting the mountains where Jurassic Park was shot, make sure to stop at the shrimp trucks on the side of the road.
For $12 a plate you get 12 big (farmed) prawns and a choice of sauces on a paper plate. Everybody stops and chats at the roadside and tucks in. Driving towards the famous north shore and Sunset Beach, Pipeline and Waimea Bay, it's a rustic stopover.
Longboard heaven
The other big adventure at Waikiki is the surfing.
It is nothing like you expect. Much more surfable than the rolling waves portrayed in movies, it is right up there with many Australian metropolitan beach surf spots - crowds and all.
You can hire a longboard for $10 an hour (get there before 8am) and paddle straight out from Duke Kahanamokou's statue to a little break that is well populated but, if you follow surf etiquette, is just as friendly as anywhere else.
The locals will not get aggro if you don't drop in. And there are plenty of waves, so you don't need to. Some of the larger locals will even say hello and tell you the surf and weather are: "O'no". Which means fantastic, beautiful, cool, sweet - all those superlatives.
The water is clean and warm. No currents or rips and even a turtle or two on the paddle out.
But sitting out the back is spectacular. The hotels lining the shore and Diamond Head standing guard, holding back the sunrise and onshore breeze as if to give surfers the best start to every day.
Get out the wallet
The money component of this story is a good one for Australians.
Our little Aussie dollar is battling with the big boys and humbling the greenback right now.
This makes shopping a delight. But one product is worth investigating before boarding the Jetstar flight to Honolulu.
Banks offer a cash passport. Forget travellers' cheques, credit cards or using your debit card in ATMs that charge extortionate fees for every transaction.
This is a card that can be arranged in Australia. Deposit whatever amount you wish on the card that will cover your expenses at the other end.
You pay 1.1 per cent of the total deposited but it is fixed at the exchange rate that day.
So, you don't have to worry about fluctuations or fees if you use an ATM of one of the affiliated US banks.
It's pretty easy. And with the dollar hovering well above US90c, it makes sense to lock it in without any extra costs.
Then go shopping.
At the Waikele outlet centre, about 45 mins drive from Waikiki, it is brand heaven.
Visitors get extra discount vouchers but the prices are good anyway. Like a Calvin Klein leather jacket reduced to $US225, with a 50 per cent discount voucher for a one-off item and you have a bargain.
Of course, in Waikiki there are T-shirts at 7 for $20 or a bit better product at 4 for $20. Great gifts.
And don't walk past an ABC store without going in. They are everywhere and sell everything from beer to Band-Aids.
Accommodation can be as expensive or as economical as you like.
Hotels on the beachfront can cost up to $600 a night. Back a few blocks, the price goes down dramatically. Or there are apartments for rent on a range of websites.
Prices vary by season and location but there is something to suit most budgets, if you look hard enough.