Month: August 2014

Holiday shopping smarts: tips, tricks, and very clever tactics

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If you’ve received presents you can’t use (or, let’s be honest, just don’t like), put them back in circulation. Sixty-eight percent of women surveyed by Money Management International, a consumer-counseling organization, in 2007 had regifted or planned to, so ditch any pangs of guilt and throw a regifting party with friends. Each guest contributes, say, two or three new but utterly unwanted items (maybe an unopened DVD, bath gel, or a trendy scarf) and gets to choose the same number of castaways from friends. Best-case scenario: You score gifts just right for people on your list–think teacher, sister-in-law, or teenage babysitter. It’s a win-win: “I once received a candle set that I just never used, so I brought it to the party,” says Tanisha Warner, a mum from Houston. “The person who got it was thrilled.”


Turn those coins piling up in jars around the house into a gift card or eCertificate (starting at $5) that can be used at a favorite store or merchant. Wrap it up for giving, or use it for your holiday shopping. All you need to do is go to to locate one of 16,000 Coinstar machines at a store near you, and load in your loose change. When you exchange it for a gift card or eCertificate, you don’t pay any fees. Choose gift cards from–among others–iTunes, Starbucks, Old Navy, and Borders, and eCertificates for, JCPenney, and more.


At, you can nab secondhand gift cards (brand-new or partially used) at low prices, and then either give them to someone or use them yourself to shop away. “Many people have gift cards that they don’t want or will never use, so having cash is the better alternative, especially in this economy,” says the site’s Marc Gendron. Inventory is updated throughout the day, with 1,400-plus merchants represented. For buyers, deals are sweet–up to 40 percent off face value. We’ve seen a $1,000 Tiffany & Co. card going for $750. The site guarantees all cards listed–value is vetted, and the expiration date of and conditions for each card are clearly posted–so you don’t have to worry about getting fleeced. And if you have a card with a minimum balance of $25 that you want to sell, the site will pay you up to 85 percent of the face value.


You want an array of beautiful packages under the tree, but trimmings can get expensive. Instead of resigning yourself to one jumbo roll of red paper, throw a wrapping party. Each guest spends a little but ends up with a lot of cheerily wrapped packages. Janice Benoit of Lisle, IL, a mom of three, has held one of these parties for years with pals. The how-tos: Ask each guest to bring a couple of rolls of paper, some ribbon, and other supplies–plus several gifts in need of wrapping. Set up stations with wrapping paper, scissors, tape, ribbon, tags, and pens; everyone rotates, taking breaks to savor no-fuss treats like cheese and fruit.


A nice wine goes a long way toward holiday cheer, but you don’t have to break the bank buying it. Every December, GHRI’s Carolyn Forte buys a case (12 bottles) of Italian reds so she can get a case discount of 20 percent at her New Jersey store. “I like Italian reds because they’re often a good value, have pretty labels, and go with everything from pizza to pasta to steak,” says the home-care expert. She chooses wines that cost about $10–with the case discount, that’s a quick and simple gift for about $8 a pop, perfect for everyone from neighbors to the mail carrier. Also try, which sometimes offers one-cent shipping on any 12 bottles sent to one address. (Check the site for your state’s shipping regulations.) Affordable wine picks to consider, from GH Food Director Susan Westmoreland: red Antinori Santa Cristina Sangiovese 2008, from Tuscany, $11; Spanish white Marques de Caceres Rioja Blaneo 2008, $8; and sparkling white Spanish Cristalino Brut Cava, $8.


Of course you want your e-shopping delivered for free, and in this year’s softer economy, you are more likely than ever to get it. One smart strategy: Log onto for a range of shipping deals and discounts if you pay via PayPal service at many big sites. Some e-stores, like, offer free shipping on most items (if new customers spend $25; returning customers, $49). When buying gift cards online, seek out sites that send them at no charge, such as Lands’ End, QVC, and Nordstrom.


Quality matters, and so does a solid reputation, especially when times are tough, so check out these A-list retailers who are wooing your business: L.L.Bean ( will offer a $10 gift eard (good through February 16, 2010) with a purchase of $25 or more. Well-heeled Brooks Brothers ( will take $10 off your first purchase of $50 just for registering at their site. And at, you get two free lines of engraving on the iPod Nano, Touch, or Shuffle–for example, “You Make My Heart Sing,” when you treat your guy.

Eventide Blackhole Native Reverb Plug-In

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The algorithm at the core of the Blackhole ($99 street) evolved from presets found in Eventide’s flagship DSP4000 and H8000 processors, as well as the Space stompbox. While the Blackhole may be used to create viable earthbound reverb sounds, its raison d’être is to empower sonic adventurers to explore hitherto uncharted realms of audio time and space. The Blackhole is compatible with AAX, VST, and AU plugin formats, and it requires an iLok2 USB key for authorization. I tested the AAX version in Avid Pro Tools 10 on a 6-core Apple Mac Pro running Lion. Installation took place with the rapidity of a decaying nutrino.

Interaction with the Blackhole occurs via fully automatible knobs, switches, buttons, and sliders. An ingenious virtual Ribbon Controller lets you program two sets of parameters, and continuously morph between them by mousing over the screen-length “ribbon” (or by clicking the buttons on either side of it). Other controls include Hotswitch (which lets you instantly toggle between two sets of parameters), Kill (which mutes the input so that you hear only the reverb tail), Freeze (which captures and loops audio in the reverb buffer, and allows you to manipulate the sound using the Blackhole’s controls), and Gravity (a reverb-decay knob that sweeps from dense/quickly decaying to long/smoothly decaying throughout half its range, and from reverse reverbs to wild time-inversion effects throughout the other half).

Additionally, you can vary reverb size and wet/dry mix, equalize reverb tails with the very effective Low (a shelving filter with a corner frequency of 350Hz) and High (a shelving filter with a corner frequency of 2kHz) controls, adjust the resonance of the Low and High filters, and modulate reverb tails with Moddepth and Modrate. Up to two seconds of predelay are available. With Tempo mode off, predelay is not synced to tempo, and beat values are displayed in milliseconds. With Tempo Sync engaged, predelay tempo is synced to the host sequencer, or if you choose Tempo Man, you can tap in the tempo, or dial in a set value.

I used the Blackhole on all types of tracks, including drums and percussion, electric guitars, hammered dulcimer, and kalimba, and I always got singular and often mindblowing results. In some cases, I was actually able to generate entirely new compositional frameworks by setting the Mix control to 100 percent wet, and letting the Blackhole do its thing on a separate track. While the Blackhole is mostly about real-time control, it does come with some superb presets—although they require an inefficient four clicks to load.

The Blackhole generates multiverses of new sonic possibilities for a c-note, making it an indespensible tool for anyone looking to expand their aesthetic horizons.

Best Waist Cincher – 4 Tips to Choose the Right One

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Waist cinchers are very sexy and shapely outfits which can be worn above the hip and under the breasts. These types of dresses provide the bust, abdomen and the waist with excellent support. The dresses can have a very slimming effect on your waist and allow you to flatten your tummy. These outfits can help you enhance your posture and reduce your bumps. Cinchers, over the years, have been constructed out of whale bones to more advanced fibers and plastics. Read on to get 4 tips that can help you to easily choose the best waist nipper for yourself.


Choose the right material for your body

You can pick waist cinchers constructed out of varied materials, such as Lycra, nylon, spandex and polyester. Based on the density as well as the blend of the material that is used for its construction, the amount of stress as well as manage of the cincher tends to vary. Make sure that the outfit that you choose does not hinder your comfortable movement or respiration.

Do not add compression too fast

The majority of women prefer to wear these outfits for the purpose of hiding the last ounces of fat which seem to be impossible to shed through workouts or diet. However, other women use these as a heavy-duty outfit which can offer tighter compression. You can find tighter cinchers in the market although you should use these with a lot of care. Manufacturers tend to recommend that wearers have to gradually add compression over a period of time in order to provide the body with enough time to adjust to the pressure without experiencing back pain, dizziness or any other acute health effects.

Go for cinchers with orthopedic features

With passing years and changes in preferences, the shapes of these dresses began to be changed by manufacturers. The more advanced types of cinchers that you can get are shinier, smoother, more flexible and easier to wear beneath various types of dresses. With cinchers, you can easily enjoy the attention of the opposite sex with an attractive waist. Some of the cinchers also boast of orthopedic features which can provide support to your spine and also help improve your posture. These types of cinchers are generally constructed of sturdy fabric such as nylon or Lycra comprising of flexible ribs which have metal or plastic stitched into them to provide shape to the outfits and compress the waist. Women wear these cinchers beneath their dresses and you can tighten these with a band or a belt to achieve the compression that you want.

Choose cinchers of the right size

Waist cinchers are made in varied sizes that you require the most. You will be able to use an extra larger size so that you can hide the flaws of your broader waist line. You will be able to wear superior quality jeans over your outfit and you can wear just about any stunning top which can provide a lot of support to your overall personality. You can also use cinchers as body slimmers for training your waist. These cinchers are also referred to as ‘tight-lacing‘ and can be worn around the waist in a tight manner similar to a corset. These types of outfits can help you to achieve your desired aim of getting an hourglass figure, with the waistline being slimmer in appearance and the breasts pushed upward. The cincher can also modify the shape of your ribcage in a permanent way. The size of your cincher, in order to be most effective, needs to be of a size that you would like your waistline to be.