Engagement Ring History

engagement ringMore than a simple piece of jewelry, an engagement ring is a symbol of a promise, a vow to marry and a pledge of eternal love. The ring has been used for thousands of years to signify the betrothal between a man and woman.

The Egyptian Pharaohs are believed to be the first to use a ring to signify eternity. With no beginning and no end, the circular ring was meant to reminder the wearer of the neverending nature of the circle of life and love.

Ancient Romans used the ring to symbolize betrothal, and the ring stood as a type of marriage contract. While the earliest rings were fashioned from iron, gold engagement rings became the norm amongst Romans by the 2nd century, and the practice was soon taken up by Christians.

engagement ring with emeraldsOver time, gems were added to the rings and by Medieval Times it was common practice for betrothal rings to be set with rubies, sapphires or other gems. One of the first recorded diamond engagement rings was given in 1477 by Archduke Maximilian of Austria to Mary of Burgundy, with the wedding ceremony taking place just 24 hours after the engagement ceremony.

At that time, jewelers did not know how to properly cut a diamond, the hardest known gem, so they were used in their natural crystal shape. By the end of the 1400s the first facet was cut into a diamond.

In the 1700s a rich vein of diamonds was discovered in Brazil, making diamond jewelry easier to obtain. It became the fashion for wealthy women to go to balls and galas literally dripping in diamonds.

During the industrial revolution, people who had never had much disposable income found themselves rolling in dough, resulting in more and more people purchasing costly jewelry. In 1870 a rich supply of diamonds was discovered in Africa, and the stone became more accessible than ever before.

In the 20th century Tiffany Jewelers rocked the jewelry world with an innovation in diamond settings. Until that point, diamonds were usually set into the rings, so that only the top of the stone showed. Tiffany set the diamond so that it was raised above the surface of the ring and held in place with six prongs. This allowed the stone to better catch and reflect light, maximizing the diamond’s sparkle, and giving a better view of the entire diamond. The practice was quickly adopted by other jewelers, and today this is the standard setting for diamond solitaire engagement rings.

Women’s Rain Boots

kate moss rain boots
Whether you’re a little girl who can’t resist jumping in rain puddles, a big girl at muddy outdoor concert or a lady who likes to look stylish while keeping her feet dry, you can’t go wrong with women’s rain boots.

Rain boots were made fashionable in the early 1800s by Lord Wellington, who made his tall Hessian boots tighter and dispensed with some of the trimmings that adorned them. Wellingtons made from rubber came along in the 1850s and were popular because of their ability to keep water from seeping in and soaking the feet – so uncomfortable.

Today’s rain boots are still made from rubber or modern synthetic materials like Goretex, which help to keep water from making its way into the boot. Some rain boot manufacturers add a tabs on the sides or back of the boots in order to make it easier to pull the boot on, and some design a tread onto the sole to provide improved traction on wet walkways. Some provide a cotton lining that soaks up water that might seep into the boot.

ramona rain bootsWomen’s and girls’ rain boots come in basic black, but are also available in a variety of fun styles and colors. Electric pink, neon green, polka dot, floral, with lady bugs, dogs, bearing the logo of your favorite sports team – they’re all out there. Is your daughter a fan of the classic children’s novel Beezus and Ramona? She might want a pair of bright red rain boots just like Ramona’s, perfect for jumping in puddles. Looking for a look for your frog-loving preschooler? Check out the offerings from Kidorable rain boots. Do you want something sleek yet functional? Take a look at Hunter rain boots.

And once you’ve got your boots, you’re going to need a rain coat and umbrella to go with them, right?

Choosing Wedding Party / Bridal Party Flowers

flower girl flowers
You want your wedding to be beautiful and memorable, and beautiful flowers are an important factor in creating that atmosphere. Flowers bedeck everyone from the bride to the flower girl, and it can be hard to figure out exactly what flowers are needed when planning the wedding party’s outfits. Here are some tips.

  • Bridesmaids’ bouquets generally coordinate with their gowns and the bride’s bouquet. The maid of honor’s bouquet is often singled out with more or different flowers.
    While you might be tempted to choose big, elaborate bouquets of flowers, you don’t want the bouquets to pull attention away from the women carrying them. Make sure the colors of the flowers coordinate with the gowns of those carrying them and accentuate the outfits, not clash or draw attention away from them.
    There are several floral options for the flower girl. In many weddings the flower girl carries a small white basket filled with flower petals that she strews along the aisle as she walks down it. In others she holds a little nosegay with a few flowers in it. A wreath of flowers in her hair is adorable.
    A corsage of flowers is usually the choice for the mothers of the bride and groom and their grandmothers. Corsages can be pinned to their dresses or worn on the wrist with a wristband.
    The men in the wedding party, including the ring bearer, usually wear a tasteful boutonniere, one or two flowers that can be attached to the lapel of their tuxedo jackets.
  • How to Keep Your Employees


    In today’s competitive marketplace, most employees will work for several firms throughout their careers. Sadly, employee turnover can negatively influence a department. Others must pick up the slack until a new candidate is found and brought up to speed. A new employee tends to change the team dynamic – not always in a positive way. So what’s a manager to do to keep from losing employees? Here are a few tips.

    If the organization is undergoing a high rate of turnover, it’s a good idea to find out what is luring the employees away. Conduct exit interviews to learn what the people like and dislike about the company, and what attracts them to the company they’re leaving for.

    Managers should clearly convey what is expected of employees and regularly conduct employee performance reviews to let them know how they’re doing.

    Listen to employees’ complaints and suggestions. Ask for their ideas when there’s a problem that needs solving.

    Consider hiring a consultant to identify your firm’s strengths, weaknesses and ways your company can retain its employees.

    Help employees identify steps they can take to achieve their career goals. Employees often choose to leave an organization if they feel they have a better chance of achieving their goals at a different company. In this case, the manager might discuss ways that the employee’s job description and duties could be changed to include the types of tasks she feels she needs in order to reach her long term goals.

    Employees appreciate thoughtful employers. Consider instituting free donuts or bagels on Fridays, sending cards and gift certificates for birthdays, letting employees bring young children to work for breakfast with Santa or starting a yearly company picnic.

    Choosing a Wedding Cake Topper

    One sign of a well-planned wedding is the attention to detail, like a fabulous wedding cake topper. In this day and age there are so many different choices of wedding cake toppers available, that it’s a great opportunity for the bride and groom to show off their unique personalities.

    If you want to go with a traditional wedding cake topper, you can choose a bride and groom in wedding gown and tux, dancing, kissing, standing next to one another or gazing lovingly at eachother. Many couples choose figures that look like themselves, whether they’re brunette, blonde or African American, for example.

    Find a wedding cake topper that expresses your own unique personalities. If you’re a couple that loves to ride motorcycles, get a topper with a wedding couple sitting on a motorcycle. If most weekends you can be found at your favorite country/western bar, opt for a bride and groom in cowboy boots and hats. The internet is where you’ll find the widest selection of wedding cake toppers in the shapes of dolphins, wizards, children and more.

    Choose flowers as wedding cake toppers. Fresh or faux, or even sugar flowers can be used in this way. You can try matching them to bride’s or bridesmaids’ bouquets, select them in the wedding colors or simply choose flowers that you find pretty.

    Use that classic symbol of love, the heart, as your wedding cake toppers. You might be surprised at the variety of heart shaped wedding cake toppers available. There are classically shaped hearts and contemporary, stylized hearts. There are hearts made from glass, plastic and porcelain, even hearts trimmed in beads and lace.

    Get a customized wedding cake topper made. Check online for websites where you can submit a photo of the actual bride and groom and have a wedding cake topper made that looks just like them.

    How to Decorate in the Asian Style

    asian decor

    Asian decor emphasizes nature and spiritual awareness and focuses on filling a room with beauty and peace.

    To achieve the calm and lovely Asian style in your home, follow these tips.

  • Employ materials traditionally used in Asian decor. These include silk, bamboo, stone, clay, wood and metal.

    Use items printed or engraved with Asian lettering in yor decor. These might include calligraphy, wall hangings, plaques, candle holders or trinket boxes.

    Use traditional colors in your decor. Red and yellow are often found in Chinese interiors while Japanese interiors features greens and browns, hues commonly seen in nature.

    Look for large vases that can be filled with fresh, dried or silk flowers or even left empty. Pier One and TJ Maxx sell beautiful vases with an Asian flair for reasonable prices.

    Display bamboo plants, bonsai trees or a vase filled with artistically arranged bare tree branches.

    Decorate with framed Asian prints and traditional country scenes embroidered in silk.

    Use a shoji screen in the corner of a room.

    Read about Feng Shui to learn the Asian art of placement.

    Make throw pillows from traditional Asian fabrics, such as silk with embroidered flowers.

  • How to Choose Wedding Shower Games


    It wouldn’t be a wedding shower without a wedding shower game or two. They’re fabulous ice breakers for guests who don’t know one another very well and can be tons of fun too!

    Make sure you’ve got enough supplies for everyone who will be playing the wedding shower games. These might include pencils, paper and photocopies, depending on the games you select.

    Have a few small prizes to hand out to winners of the wedding shower games. These might include picture frames, stationery or an ornament if the wedding shower is taking place near the holidays.

  • Prepare 3×5 cards with the names of famous people or characters, such as Cinderella or George Washington. Each guest will have a card taped to their back, so that they can’t see it but everyone else can read it. They can then ask yes/no questions until they guess what their card says. They can ask up to three questions of a person before moving on to someone else. This is a fantastic way to get guests circulating, talking to one another and breaking the ice.

    As each guests arrives she will be given a safety pin to attach her clothes. Choose a forbidden word, something commonly said at a shower, such as “wedding” or reception. Each time someone catches another guest saying that word, she gets to take her safety pin. Whoever has the most pins at the end of the party is the winner!

    Write down a list of wedding words with their letters scrambled. For example, “bride” might read “derib.” Photocopy or print out several copies of the list and hand one to each guest at the party. Set a timer and challenge guests to unscramble as many words as they can in the allotted time, maybe 5 or 10 minutes. Have someone try the game out ahead of time to make sure you’re not giving too much or too little time for the amount of words on the list. Whoever gets the most words wins.

    Make a list of one member of a famous couple. An example might be Ozzie and ___________ . Make several copies of the list. Guests will have to fill in the missing name for each of the couples.

    Consult with the bride ahead of time to come up with a list of questions about the wedding couple, such as “Where did Alex and Maria go on their first date?” Make enough copies of the list to hand out to each guest. Whoever can answer the most questions correctly wins.

  • Elvis Weddings

    Vegas Elvis Wedding

    You love Elvis, and why not? Elvis was known as the King, and was certainly one of the major influences on modern music. Jimmy Buffett said, “Elvis was the only man from Northeast Mississippi who could shake his hips and still be loved by rednecks, cops, and hippies.” Now you’re planning your wedding and want to do it Elvis style. Or maybe your traditional wedding is a distant memory, and you want to have fun with an anniversary celebration. An Elvis wedding may be just what you’re looking for.

    Vegas Elvis Weddings

    Many people immediately think of Las Vegas when considering an Elvis wedding. Elvis weddings are popular in Sin City, and many Vegas wedding chapels offer Elvis wedding packages, usually with the ceremony officiated by an Elvis impersonator, who then entertains the newly joined husband and wife with a few well-known Elvis tunes. There is even an Elvis Wedding Chapel, devoted entirely to Elvis weddings, where couple can choose from such packages as the Hound Dog special and the Viva Las Vegas Special.

    Wedding Costs

    Shop around for your Elvis Wedding package. Las Vegas’ wedding chapels offer Elvis wedding packages for a variety of budgets, with options like a rose bouquet, live internet broadcast of the ceremony, flowers, photos or a limo to drive the couple around the city.

    Local Elvis Weddings

    Even if you’re not planning to marry in Vegas, you can still have an Elvis theme wedding. Find a local Elvis impersonator to perform at your reception or even sing a few songs during the ceremony. Choose your decorations, wedding cake topper, invitations and other wedding items with your Elvis theme in mind. Think old guitars, Elvis posters, album jackets, vinyl records… use your imagination!

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    Book Review – Something to Declare by Julia Alvarez

    Julia Alvarez
    I spent some time over the holidays at my parents’ house and began reading Julia Alvarez’ “Something to Declare,” which they’d borrowed from my book room some time ago.

    I read Alvarez’ breakout novel, “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents,” in the nineties, after attending a book signing / reading of hers in Chicago. Since then I’ve read a few more of her books – “YO!” and “In the Name of Salome.” Her family immigrated to New York City from the Dominican Republic, and Garcia Girls and YO! borrow heavily from her own experiences. Since my own parents came to New York from Puerto Rico as children, I can identify the family in those books with my own in many ways.

    Something to Declare is a collection of essays, and seems in many ways an attempt to answer the questions she receives form aspiring writers. Where do your ideas come from? How do you decide what to write about? What does your working day look like? Now she can just direct them to this book.

    The first half of the book examines her family and upbringing and how they have influenced her work. The second half delves into her journey to becoming a respected writer, including such details as her Ten Commandments for Writing, what she reads for inspiration, and a step-by-step description of a typical work day.

    Although I don’t write fiction, I love to read it and I am a writer, so I found this book entertaining.

    There were two bookmarks in the book, so I could see where my parents had abandoned the book when it hit too close to home. For my mother it was the description of Julia and her sisters crowded around the television watching the Miss America pageant, knowing they could never fit that blond, blue-eyed ideal of All-American beauty. For my dad it was the description of Julia’s father, the doctor, who even though he has a thriving medical practice in New York and sends his daughters to an exclusive private school, saves string, turns out the lights to save on electricity, goes the long way to avoid paying tolls. On money: “He had to add his hand to make it his- to try to convince himself that it was his, for he never totally believed it was.” My own father has an MBA, a home we call the “big house,” also a lake house and a vacation home in Florida, but he shops at thrift stores and wears clothes until they’re falling apart. Unexpected insight into my parents.

    Grade: A-

    Book Review – Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

    china women
    I loved Shanghai Girls, and the ending was obviously a set-up for a sequel, and I looked for it and found it. So of course I had to buy it.

    The tale picks up where Shanghai Girls left off, with Pearl’s daughter Joy running off to China. In college, Joy was dazzled by the Communist ideals and wanted to help build the new society. Once in Shanghai Joy finds her birth father, a famous artist, and travels around the country with him. She meets a man. Falls in love.

    Pearl soon follows to convince Joy to return home to the United States, but Joy will have none of it. Pearl decides to settle in and wait her out.

    The story takes place during China’s disastrous Great Leap Forward period, and examines life in the countryside as peasants underwent collectivization and were ordered to use farming methods devised by people who apparently knew zip about farming, leading to a famine that killed millions.

    I liked this book fine … but it just didn’t ring true for me. Shanghai Girls was based on the experiences of the author’s family and friends as they adjusted to life in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, but Dreams of Joy seemed to rely more heavily on the author’s imagination. Which is fine, however there were several points where the plot seemed too contrived to be believable. Nonetheless, from a historical standpoint, it was an interesting read.

    Grade: B