For some out there, the stereotypical spa meal involves raw celery, carrots and obscure berries. One visit to Alton Ontario’s Millcroft Inn & Spa, and in particular to Chef Roberto Fracchioni’s tasting menu, is enough to dispel this myth.

A Room With A View

Seated in a beautifully appointed sun room, overlooking a gently flowing Credit River through the vast windows, the dining room is an ideal venue for sunset salutations prior to an evening of feasting under the country moonlight. The service is attentive yet personable, the atmosphere warm and inviting, giving the fine dining experience a friendly sheen. As one who feels that the bread basket is a fine indicator of the evening to come, it is pleasing that in this instance, the smoked potato bread and nut butter forecast quite the night.

The amuse bouche of venison tenderloin and berry pistachio compote is fruity, earthy and its freshness carries promises of spring, especially with the accompanying effervescence of Henry of Pelham’s Catherine Cuvée. Chef Roberto’s first offering is pork done three ways, which include a smoky tenderloin delicately balanced with apple jelly, a pork belly with shallots and a rillette on candy-striped beets.

Having Fun with Food and the Night’s Best Dish

Fracchioni has fun with his ingredients and draws inspiration from various cuisines, including his Asian-inspired Arctic Char with soba noodles in a salty nam jim sauce, fantastically balanced by the smoky sweet finish of a roasted red pepper. Genuinely interested in where his food comes from, he is truly excited to learn that he can source locally made soba noodles in Mississauga and immediately starts firing off questions – where, how and when. Although his inspirations may vary, the menu maintains its cohesion by maintaining straightforward flavours and simplicity. This is nowhere more evident than in the (arguably) best dish of the evening, his traditional handmade Pisarei pasta. A straightforward recipe by his own admission (if you’re a professional chef maybe), Chef Roberto learned how to make the Milanese bread dumplings (reminiscent of gnocchi) from his Zia Zelinda. He is almost apologetic at receiving the accolades, dismissing the dish as “so simple and easy to make” (again, if you’re a professional cook maybe). Served with nutty flageolet beans and earthy porcini and king mushrooms, then rounded off with a glass of Tiefenbrunner Pinot Gris, this simple “peasant” dish is an absolute delight.

We’re Game!

The balance of the tasting menu includes locally sourced venison, including a foie gras topped mini-burger as well as fantastic elk tenderloin served with black trumpet mushrooms and a duck confit stuffed sweet pepper. As the meal tapers down, a generous wedge of Spanish idiazabal cheese from the Basque region is proffered, its nutty saltiness balanced with a truffled compote of berries. In a nod to the restaurant’s willingness to support local endeavours, our wine pairing for the cheese course is a Cabernet Franc from the Niagara College Teaching Winery.

And just as you think that you can absolutely do no more, dessert arrives in the shape of a deconstructed apple pie served with whisky ice cream, granola and honey “pearls”. Throughout the meal, a very attentive Patrick Field ensures that diners are happy and proves to have a wealth of “vinformation”. The evening is topped off with a glass of rare 1974 Rivesaltes Ambre’ hor’d Age, its port-like smoothness providing the perfect and decadent finale to a pampered evening.

Ask the Joe Workingman (Or Joe Unemployment) to name an overpaid profession and two careers might come to mind: musicians and athletes. Never mind that ninety-nine percent of professional musicians aren’t able to make a decent living from playing music or ninety-nine percent of athletes don’t make it to the rarified air of major professional athletics. When Shaquille O’Neal averages $57534.25 a day to play a game (1) most kids played at the local gym the word “overpaid” is justifiable. These days, overpaid is a really bad word, so bad that those who fortunate few who are still making gaggles of money are almost embarrassed to show it off.

A lot of college basketball coaches fall into that same category, even when the athletic departments at their schools are feeling the crunch and tightening their belts. True, Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari still have blank checks to work with, much like Mick Jagger or Mariah Carey. Those four people have earned the right to spend money like water because they make their programs and record companies money like water.

However, some coaches are playing along with their athletic departments’ requests to cut the fat. According to Pat Forde (2), Rutgers head basketball coach Fred Hill made a 75-minute one-way commute to Philly for a basketball camp, drove back home that night then repeated the process the next day. This saved his school hotel charges. Arizona State head basketball coach Herb Sendek completed a mandatory twelve-day furlough but worked during the entire period for free. By comparison imagine the All-American Rejects driving themselves to the next gig and shacking up with friends before the subsequent show.

What could be scary is the fate of the smaller fish of the college basketball pond. Dana O’Neil wrote a terrific article for ESPN in February 2008 that detailed the trials of Alcorn State, a member of the Southwestern Athletic conference. (3) At the time the recession was getting started. We’re still deep into it and it doesn’t look good for the foreseeable future.

Is it possible that some of the SWAC schools might have to throw in the towel? That’s a bit of a reach but it’s tough to see how schools on that level can tighten their belts anymore. It’s the same with musicians that are hoping to reach the rarified air of gold and platinum albums. How much longer do they go before saying ‘It’s been fun, it’s been real, but it hasn’t been real fun.”

People are exposed to a myriad of toxic chemicals everyday often from unsuspecting sources, including personal care products. While it is hard to believe that anything that can be applied to or absorbed into the body through skin, hair or nails could contain harmful ingredients, no premarket safety testing is required for the cosmetics industry.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “nearly 90 percent of the 10,500 ingredients FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has determined are used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredients Review (CIR), the FDA, or any other publicly accountable institution.” While chemicals continue to be used, recent studies have found links between additives in beauty products and health problems such as the feminization of male babies and breast tumor tissue.

Synthetic Ingredients to Avoid

An average of 126 ingredients are applied to the skin daily and are subsequently absorbed into the body. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), “preservatives in cosmetics and skin care products are the second-most-common cause of skin reactions.” Aubrey Hampton, founder of Aubrey Organics and author of What’s in Your Cosmetics?, identifies ten chemicals consumers should avoid in the Natural Ingredients Dictionary:

 

  • parabens – Used to inhibit microbial growth and extend shelf life in body care products, cosmetics and food, this chemical can cause allergic reactions and rashes. Studies indicate parabens are estrogenic and may also increase the risk for breast tumors, disrupt hormones and be connected to reproductive problems. Look for methyl-, propyl-, butyl- and ethylparaben on labels.
  • diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) – These ammonia compounds are used as emulsifiers and foaming agents, and can create allergic reactions, irritate eyes, and dry out hair and skin. When used in products containing nitrates, DEA and TEA can form a by-product that causes cancer.
  • diazolidinyl UREA and imidazolidinyl UREA – Widely used despite the fact that the AAD has found them to cause allergic skin reactions, both of these chemicals are known to release formaldehyde, which can be toxic.
  • sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate (SLS) – A detergent used as a cleaning and foaming agent in shampoo and toothpaste, SLS is often made from petroleum and can be disguised on labels with the phrase “comes from coconuts.” CIR acknowledges that this substance can cause eye and skin irritation.
  • petroleum jelly – An inexpensive substance used to soothe skin. It can disrupt the body’s self-moisturizing ability leading to dryness and chapping, the same problems it is designed to alleviate. Many people have experienced this reaction when using petroleum-based lip balms.
  • propylene glycol – PEG or PPG as this substances is often labeled, is used for moisture retention. It can cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema.
  • PVP/VA copolymer – A chemical found in hairsprays, styling products and other cosmetics, PVP/VA copolymer is made from petroleum. If particles are inhaled, it can cause damage to the lungs in sensitive individuals.
  • stearalkonium chloride – An alternative to proteins and herbals used in hair conditioners and creams, it was originally developed as a fabric softener. It is a toxic ammonium compound that can cause allergic reactions.
  • synthetic colors – Synthetic colors used to create cosmetic shades and hair dyes can be carcinogenic. Avoid products that list FD&C or D&C followed by a number in the ingredients list.
  • synthetic fragrances – Also known as phthalates, these chemicals have been shown to cause birth defects and low sperm count in adult men. Synthetic fragrances can also cause such things as headaches, dizziness, rashes and skin irritation. Look for the following labels on ingredient lists: “fragrance,” DEHP, DINP, BzBP, DBP, DEP or DMP.

Cosmetic Chemicals Environmental Impact

Beyond the health risks that cosmetic chemicals pose, these ingredients also have an adverse affect on the environment. According to the EWG, ingredients from personal care products are absorbed into the body through the skin and end up in human waste or are washed down the drain when people shower, or wash the face. A number of studies have found these chemicals in rivers and streams, and have linked them to disruptions in the hormones in fish.

In addition to the impact to aquatic wildlife, these additives are also related to oil consumption. The same refineries that produce gas also manufacture petroleum-based preservatives used in body care products, some of which can be made from a petrochemical waste called coal tar. Avoid ingredients made from petroleum to protect the body and environment.

While synthetic additives in body care products are cause for concern, there are a number of things people can do to avoid these ingredients including use fewer products, research cosmetics using the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, read labels and choose non-toxic formulations. By making more educated purchases, consumers can minimize the number of chemicals absorbed by the body, and reduce potential health and environmental risks.

Which Hogwarts House Do You Truly Belong To! - ProProfs Quiz

Which Hogwarts House Do You Truly Belong To! - ProProfs Quiz

Calling all Harry Potter fans! Have you ever wondered which house the sorting hat would put you in if you attended Hogwarts School? Take this fun Hogwarts quiz to find out if you will end up in Ravenclaw with Luna Lovegood, Slytherin with Draco Malfoy, Hufflepuff with Cedric Diggory or Gryffindor with Harry Potter himself.

What is my Hogwarts House Quiz

Question One: Which aspect do you value most in a fellow student?

  1. Purity
  2. Intelligence
  3. Bravery
  4. Tolerance

Question Two: Which animal would you rather be?

 

  1. Snake
  2. Eagle
  3. Lion
  4. Badger

Question Three: Would you rather learn about…

  1. Potions
  2. Charms
  3. Transfiguration
  4. Herbology

Question Four: Which colour do you prefer?

  1. Green
  2. Blue
  3. Red
  4. Yellow

Question Five: Which element?

  1. Water
  2. Air
  3. Fire
  4. Earth

Question Six: Which relic would you rather keep?

  1. Locket
  2. Diadem
  3. Sword
  4. Goblet

Question Seven: Which way would you rather die?

  1. Suicide
  2. Stabbed
  3. Beheaded
  4. Natural death

Question Eight: Whose tales would interest you the most?

  1. The Bloody Baron
  2. The Grey Lady
  3. Nearly Headless Nick
  4. The Fat Friar

Question Nine: Which would you rather be?

  1. One of the first to speak Parsletongue (to snakes)
  2. A person with ‘wit beyond measure’
  3. An accomplished dueller
  4. An excellent chef

Question Ten: Which magical creature would you rather look out for/aid?

  1. Basilisk
  2. Thestrals
  3. Werewolves/Animagi
  4. House-Elves

Question Eleven: Which task would you find easiest during the Tri-Wizard Tournament?

  1. The Mer Challenge.
  2. The Riddles between Challenges.
  3. The Dragon Challenge
  4. The Maze Challenge.

Answers to the What is my Hogwarts House Quiz

Mostly 1: If you had gone to Hogwarts, you would have been placed in Slytherin. When choosing students to belong to Slytherin, they value ambition, cunning, leadership and resourcefulness, and especially purity of blood. Some members of Slytherin include Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle and Pansy Parkinson. Slytherin was also house to the infamous Tom Riddle (later known as Lord Voldemort, or You-Know-Who), who in fact was not a full blood wizard. In the second book, a Gryffindor (none other than Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter’s wife) was controlled by Tom Riddle’s spirit to once again open up the Chamber of Secrets designed by Salazar Slytherin, releasing the basilisk. The relic of Slytherin was made into a horcrux by Tom Riddle.

Mostly 2: If you had gone to Hogwarts, you would have been placed in Ravenclaw. When choosing students to belong to Ravenclaw, they value intelligence, creativity, learning and wit. Some students in Ravenclaw are Cho Chang and Luna Lovegood, both members of Dumbledore’s Army. In the seventh book, the Ravenclaw mystery was discovered. Rowena Ravenclaw’s relic itself was a horcrux made by Tom Riddle, which had been left in a forest in Albania by the ghost of Ravenclaw, The Grey Lady, formerly known as Helena Ravenclaw.

Mostly 3: If you had gone to Hogwarts, you would have been placed in Gryffindor. When choosing students to belong to Gryffindor, they value bravery, courage, loyalty, nerve and chivalry. The whole Weasley family had been placed in Gryffindor, as had Hermione and Harry. Some less known characters placed into Gryffindor were Neville Longbottom and Rubeus Hagrid (before he was expelled) and Colin and Dennis Creevey. The Gryffindor relic, the Sword of Gryffindor (made of special silver by goblins) was indestructible, and though there was confusion as to which of the two swords found were real (one fake found in Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault at Gringotts) the sword could destroy Voldemorts horcruxs.

Mostly 4: If you had gone to Hogwarts, you would have been placed in Hufflepuff. When choosing students to belong to Hufflepuff, they value hard work, tolerance, loyalty and fair play. Some of the students in Hufflepuff were Cedric Diggory (the real Hogwarts representative for the Tri-Wizard Tournament) and Hannah Abott (a member of Dumbledore’s Army).

More quizzes on Hogwarts Houses, Harry Potter Trivia and Your Personality

For a very different kind of quiz on which house are you in Hogwarts, try the sorting hat quiz. If Harry Potter trivia is what interests you, try fun quizzes on the Harry Potter books and films. There is also what Harry Potter character are you? Or if you want to find out more about the real you, try the visual online personality test.

Accounting for dummies. A fictional scenario that helps to simplify financial statements.

There are businesses and then there are profitable businesses. It’s important to know the difference. In an attempt to keep things simple, take the example of Sally’s Children’s Party Catering Service and her attempt to understand what’s really going on. You need to keep track.

Scenario

Three friends are standing talking at a backyard party, while a fourth friend is close enough to overhear the conservation. Sally Jester runs The Children’s’ Party Catering Service. One of her friends, Jerry Cynic, doesn’t think what she is doing can be considered a business while Jim Jovial, a second friend, supports her. A third friend, Harry Nosey, is close enough to hear them but not close enough to engage in the conservation. It’s informative to listen in on the conservation. Imagine the questions that can be asked in evaluating Sally’s party catering business and apply them to any ideas that you may be contemplating as a business opportunity.

Status of Sally’s Business

It starts with Jerry thinking that Sally is getting fleeced in her business. To him it’s more of a charity than a business. Sally, protecting her baby, says she’s not being fleeced; that people pay her very well for what she does. She charge $5.00 per child and, in her mind she makes a fair profit for every party that she organizes.

 

“You know, there was no one else in this community doing this type of work when I started. Now, there’s barely a children’s birthday party, an Easter or Halloween party put on without my help. I don’t mind if I say so. I’m a success!”

While Jim appeases her by saying that the main thing in life is to be happy and enjoy doing what you’re doing, and if you’re making a profit, that’s a bonus, Jerry persists.

“But you’re not making money at all, or at least, are you sure you’re making money? Have you ever sat down and calculated what you earn against what it costs you in money, material and time, and seen what that means?”

After bickering back and forth, each defending their own argument, Jim attempts to clarify things. “If you’re charging people money for goods and services, you’re running a business. If you’re making a profit doing it, you’re running a profitable business.” But the bickering continues.

“She’s running a charity organization,” insists Jerry.

Sally protests. “But I like what I’m doing.”

“Well,” says Jerry, “you should charge more for your parties.”

“And lose my clients and my involvement?”

“Think about it.”

“She’s thought about it,” says Jim in support.

“I like what I’m doing,” Sally continues to insist and walks away.

Sally is intercepted by Harry Nosey. Harry wonders if she feels as strongly about what she’s saying as she’s making out and she admits she doesn’t have enough information to really have a strong opinion about the whole situation and needs help. Thence the suggestion of an accountant.

“Well,” says Harry, “I’ve arranged to bring in an accountant to have a look at the business that you started. What do you call that business?”

“The Children’s Party Catering Service…”

“Right…! Well, you’re exactly in the same position as many small business people who don’t have all the data they need to form an opinion of their actual status. Why don’t you go and see the accountant, Norm Numbers, and he’ll explain a few things.”

“Okay, I’ll go.”

Profitability

Sally is about to be introduced to two types of statements:

  • a balance sheet
  • a profit and loss statement

The scene changes to a family room. Bob and Sally Jester are sitting at the bar talking with Jim Jovial prior to the arrival of Norm Numbers, an accountant, when the doorbell rings. It’s the accountant.

Norm and Sally go to a table and Norm invites her to sit down, then explains that Sally’s husband, Bob asked him to assess the business she’s running, and to see how profitable it is.

“Oh! Well what’s my profit?” she spits.

“Well, let’s start off by noting that, based on some grocery slips of some stuff you asked Bob to get you recently, you spend about $2O on the average on food for each party.

“I guess so, I don’t know.”

“And then you consume about $5 to $6 on party materials like hats, whistles, little presents, and so on. Yeh…?”

“I guess so.”

“That’s about $25. Let’s call it $26. You charge $35 per party on the average, right?”

“Right…”

“That leaves $9.”

“So that’s my profit?” asks Sally.

“No…! You see, you use your car to get there, so you drive a certain number of miles, and gas is expensive. The standard car mileage for business use is usually calculated at $0.50 a mile nowadays.

“Ya…”

“So that’s a bit more off that $9. Also, you have a pile of stuff in your pantry; hats, knives, forks, spoons, stirs, and bits of furniture that you use at your parties?”

“Yes… but that’s just stuff from home”

“$500 worth…! If you had that $900 invested, you’d be making interest. Now… that’s a bit more off your $9 in profit. But it isn’t profit, you see, because you work about 12 to 19 hours on each party, don’t you?”

“Ya… but…”

“So when you’re calculating your profitability, you should pay yourself some money for the time you work before you calculate your profit, say $0.50 an hour?”

“$0.50 an hour…?”

“That gets it down to zero. You haven’t made a profit at all.”

At this point Sally gets up and leaves to talk to her husband, Bob at the bar. She’s upset that she’s only making $0.50 an hour and doesn’t want to work for that. She wants be a real businesswoman.

Norm, the accountant hears this as he too walks over to the bar. “Bob,” he says, “we’ve got this highly non-dramatic thing, the financial statement, to go through. Frankly, it’s boring.”

“I know,” replies Bob, “but I’m not trying to have you show how financial statements are made. I’m just trying to get you to show Sally why they’re useful; what benefits come from them.”

Sally relents and she and Norm join Bob and Jim at the bar.

“Jim, you’re looking worried,” says Bob. “What’s the matter?”

Well…” responds Jim, “to tell you the truth, I think the whole thing on financial statements is a waste of time.

“Now, you’re saying that partly because they’re a bit more complicated and you can’t understand them. How do you run your own personal business then?”

“My grandmother does it for me.”

“Could I interrupt a moment?” interjects Norm.

“Sure…” says Bob. “Everybody, this is Norm Numbers, an accountant friend of mine.”

“Well… listen up Jim,” says Norm. “They are not really all that complicated.”

“Maybe Norm is right,” suggests Jim. “Let’s me have one more attempt to understand it as well.”

Financial Statements: Balance Sheet

Statements can be confusing to some people, so Norm starts off slow, almost treating Sally and Jim like dummies. “There are two sorts of financial statements,” he begins.

“There are two types of financial statements,” Jim repeats. “I got it.”

“The first one is the balance sheet,” smiling at the thought of Jim repeating things.

“The balance sheet…”

“The balance sheet… That’s a statement made of what you own, and what you owe at a given point in time, so that you know exactly where you are at least at one moment: what you own, which is your inventory, the cash you have in the bank, the money people owe you—“

“The cash register…”

“Yeah, all that stuff: your equipment in the store.”

“All right…”

“That is what you own. That goes on the left hand side of the sheet.”

“Okay…”

“On the other side, you’ve got what you owe: the bills you haven’t paid yet, and to that you have to add the owner’s equity.”

“And what’s the owner’s equity?”

“That’s what you’ve put into the business.”

“The cash register…”

“No… The money that you’ve put in that is still left in the business. So what you own…”

“Yes…”

“Has to equal what you owe…”

“It has to equal what you owe.”

“It has to equal what you owe, plus your own equity.”

“All right…”

“Now, that tells you where you are at a certain spot. That’s a balance sheet.”

Financial Statements: Profit and Loss

“What’s the other thing?” asks Jim.

“The other thing is your profit and loss statement – Are you listening? Now, that covers a period of time, over, say, usually a period of 12 months. Now… that lists first of all, your earnings, your income- whether or not you’ve actually received it- during this period.”

“My salary…”

“No, no, that’s…”

“Not my salary…”

“No…. What the business did and will receive. What was paid and owed into the business by customers buying the goods…”

“Okay…”

“Plus bank interest….Below that, you’ve got expenses that were necessary to achieve these earnings: buying the goods, paying the people who work for you, and so on, including paying your own salary. And what’s left over after is the profit.”

“The profit…”

“The profit,” interjects Sally.

“The profit for the period,” stresses Norm.

“Okay. That’s the profit for the period,” says Jim.

“So, you’ve got the balance which is at a point in time and the profit and loss statement which covers a period of time,” says Norm in summary (see images below).

“I think I got it,” says Jim.

“Me too,” says Sally.

When the first Paranormal Activity was released, it split the audience firmly into those who thought it was amazing and chilling, and those who thought it was absolute tosh. I stand as one of the people who thought it was an absolute masterpiece. And now, second time around, Oren Peli’s tale has been brought back with a vengeance.

Much as 2004’s Saw brought something new and fear-provoking to the world of horror; reinventing the genre for today’s audience with not just gore and scares, but an edge-of-your-seat narrative, so did 2007’s Paranormal Activity. Much like Saw, it was incredibly low budget, featured minimal cast and brought something epic to the abused and dried up horror genre of the 21st century. Of course, people saw that this was an excellent money-making opportunity; Saw was contracted into sequel after sequel, year after year: each year bringing an even worse film to the franchise.

So people of course, expected the same abuse to happen to Paranormal Activity when it became an instant hit. And so, the abuse happened as it was signed for a sequel. People groaned. People flocked to see it. They were thrilled. And now there is a third addition contracted for the later months of this year. Bad thing, right? Maybe not.

 

Second time around

This second installment is incredibly adept with its story-telling, taking the franchise to a whole new narrative level. (Awesome!) The first film spelled out a relatively rich mythology for main character Katie’s (Katie Featherston) family history, surrounding their haunting by a demon, which came back in her adulthood, possessed her and forced her to kill her fiancé before she disappeared. In 2, we don’t simply have a repackaged version of this story, but an elaborative prequel and simultaneous plot that stretches the audience’s knowledge on the history of the demon and why it came to possess Katie’s family, which succeeds in slapping the tiresomely annual horror sequel of today.

Not only does the film succeed in scaring the audience with its plot, but it comes back again with its strikingly terrifying pace and style. The minimalistic nature in which the demon haunts again (or for the first time, for pedants out there) is just as scary as the first. A slamming door here, a falling pan there, and a hovering shadow everywhere. The way the Paranormal Activity franchise continues to absolutely chill its audience with minimalistic action is phenomenal in ratio to the response that it is given.

This being a prequel, it does create some slight inaccuracies or audience-finger-wagging material; its failure to inform the audience in the first film that the main character’s sister and her family were haunted only weeks prior is slightly annoying (especially considering the fact that the ending to the first was changed twice from Katie ending up dead – in order to make way for a sequel) but that can be overlooked.

Watching alone versus the theatre experience

I purposefully made the choice to not go and see this in the cinema (which is why it is being reviewed as a DVD) because I knew that if it was anything like the first film, I didn’t want to go and see it with a bunch of people; where they would see me beating the record for Furthest Thrown Popcorn or Highest Pitched Scream. Nope, I wanted to watch it in the middle of the night in a dark room again and be scared to the bone because that’s what I personally feel that this is what this film is for.

The film-making style; a voyeuristic journey feels so much more intense when watching this personally filmed story in the privacy of your own home – on top of the fact that it’ll creep the hell out of you even more when watching, regardless of whether or not you have company.

I am, of course, a little sketchy about there being a third film since this one seemed to tie up any loose ends and elaborate the story as far as it could go from the first. And I may not be so hesitant about the film if it weren’t contracted to feature Katie and Micah (Micah Sloat) again – Micah having been dead since the end of the first film. But given the immense quality that this sequel has achieved, I am willing to give the film the benefit of the doubt and get excited for the third – even if it is slowly becoming an annual horror film; the very thing I despise. Hell, I may even go see it in the cinema to see if I can beat that popcorn throwing record.

The Nintendo Wii will be available for the holidays, hitting store shelves November 19 with a price tag of $249.99 U.S.

At a press conference in New York yesterday, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said Nintendo's goal is to sell four million units before the end of 2006, keeping a constant flow to minimize stores running out of stock, something Xbox didn't manage to do.

Although Nintendo's biggest goal with the Wii seems to be to attract more non-gamers to gaming, the system is going to have something for everyone.

At a press conference in Japan, also held yesterday, 104 different titles were showcased.

"The widest range of launch titles ever," said Fils-Aime.

For the older crowd, the Internet connected Wii will be able to download classic NES, SNES and N64 console games.

"It's a great way to get 30 and 40-year-olds back in gaming," said Fils-Aime.

The games can be downloaded by spending Wii points, which can be obtained online or by purchasing a 2000 Wii point card for 20 dollars at a retail outlet.

NES games are 500 points while SNES and N64 games cost 800 and 1000 points respectively.

The Wii will also has features meant to act as a "pied piper" to get non-gamers playing the games.

One of those is the Mii channel. On the Mii channel, players can create an avatar of themselves, their friends or anyone else which can then be inserted into Wii games that support the Mii channel.

There's also the ability to view photos off an SD card, along with getting headline news, weather and a web browser on your TV screen through the Wii.

Then there's the already heavily discussed Wii controller that senses motion, allowing players to

act out the game, whether it be throwing a bowling ball or firing a bow and arrow.

The Wii will be going head-to-head with Sony's PlayStation 3 for the holiday season, but being less than half of PS3's price tag, it's clear which system will be bringing more new gamers on board.

The New Testament Bible story about Jesus feeding 5,000 men with two tiny fish and five small loaves of bread makes excellent Sunday school lesson plans and activities. The story teaches Jesus’ control over nature, compassion, and provision. These Sunday school materials can be used as presented here, or customized to suit a specialized children’s ministry curriculum.

Sunday School Lesson Plans – Fishes Loaves

Teaching these Sunday school materials takes 30 to 60 minutes. By the end of the Bible lesson, children’s ministry classes understand miracles and connect them with Jesus. They learn the story, make a craft, and sing a Bible scripture.

This lesson extends previous Sunday school materials and lessons in the children’s ministry curriculum about miracles and God’s sovereignty over nature. Here is a list of Sunday school materials needed to teach this children’s ministry lesson.

Miracle of the Fish and Loaves – Materials

 

The following materials will be required for this activity:

 

  • Bible or copy of Bible text from John 6:5-13
  • Blanket
  • Picnic basket
  • Napkin
  • 2 cooked fish sticks
  • 5 bread sticks
  • One package of goldfish snack crackers
  • One package of miniature bread sticks

Before children’s ministry class, prepare the Sunday school materials by filling the bottom of the basket with several handfuls of goldfish snack crackers and bread sticks. Cover these with a napkin and place five small bread sticks and two fish sticks on top.

Materials for the Bible Craft include:

  • Modeling clay – white, brown, and green colors
  • Construction paper cut-outs of loaves of bread
  • Strips of paper inscribed with John 6:48 – “I am the bread of life”.

Sunday School Lesson Plans – Teaching the Story

Spread the blanket on the floor and invite the children’s ministry class to a picnic. Tell them how Jesus taught the people and provided food. Tell the story of the miracle of the fish and loaves in your own words.

Here are suggestions for using the Sunday school materials as visual aids for engaging a children’s ministry class. Incorporate discussion questions into the Bible lesson to encourage class participation.

Show the two fish sticks and small bread sticks. Ask: “Would this be enough to feed all of us?”

At the end of the lesson, ask the children’s ministry class: “What did Jesus do with the fish and loaves before He gave it to the disciples?” (He blessed the food.)

Raise the basket and ask the children bow their heads. Pray this prayer: “Dear Jesus, You made everything – even fish and bread. Just as you blessed the food at your picnic, bless our snack today. Amen.”

Remove the fish sticks, bread sticks, and napkin to reveal the snack underneath. Pass the basket and let the children help themselves. While the children’s ministry class eats, ask discussion questions like:

  • How many baskets of bread and fish were leftover?
  • Was anyone still hungry?
  • How many men did Jesus feed?
  • How many people were at the picnic beside the men?

Following the discussion, the instructor can give the children the cut-out bread loaf shapes and let them decorate them. Help them use the glue sticks to glue the memory verse to the bread. Send the Sunday school materials home as a reminder of the scripture and story.

Sunday School Lesson’s Music Activity

Teach the scripture verse found in John 6:48 by singing these words to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”: “I am the bread of life, follow me, and follow me.”

Rehearse it a few times and then let the children play “Follow the Leader” while singing.

A Tactile Activity for the Bible Lesson

Let the children make baskets, fish, and loaves with the modeling clay. Encourage them to break their fish and loaves into small pieces and share with each other. Interject some discussion questions like:

  • Where did the disciples get food?
  • What was in the boy’s lunch?
  • Why did the boy give his lunch to the disciples?

Using Sunday school lesson plans is a good way to teach children’s ministry classes. Sunday school materials and lesson plans helps the teachers stay on track and cover all the key points of Bible lessons.

Investing in the real estate market may seem like an unreachable goal for the average person, and this is likely because of the emphasis that the media places on purchasing “high profit” urban homes and land. In order to invest in metropolitan areas, it is usually necessary to be willing to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, there is another market out there, and it is an investor’s dream. This article will discuss the possibilities that lie within the world of the rural real estate market.

Just outside of the busy cities of America lie tiny rural towns that make up much of the nation’s population count. Because of the lack of competition between buyers in these areas, the real estate prices are extremely low. For example, a home in Dawson, GA, a quaint small town in southern portion of that state, with two bedrooms and one bath in a decent neighborhood can sell for around $25,000. These homes aren’t run down. Many have been recently renovated. The fact is, there is simply no competition whatsoever in cities like these, and therefore a buyer can take advantage of outrageously low prices!

Now, while the buyer competition may be low, there is an outpouring of rural citizens who are looking for rental property at decent prices. That same $25,000 house in tiny Dawson, GA, can rent for about $350.00 to $400.00 a month. With that kind of return, you can quickly earn back your renovation costs and start turning a profit. However, keep in mind that local renters will quickly recognize when a landlord is marking up his rental price too high to create a greater profit, and this will not be taken lightly. Small towns are all about reputations, so build one for yourself as a fair, honest rental property owner to ensure that your properties remain actively rented. The reason that these small towns can produce easy and constant rental income is that there is usually a shortage of respectable homes in these areas, especially in the Southeastern portion of the United States. The key to being successful in this real estate venture is to look for beautiful small towns, preferably with a population of 20,000 or less (make sure to take county population into consideration as well) that have a lot to offer your renters as far as conveniences and entertainment go. These busy little hubs usually attract renters from all over. Then, look for a home that needs a little bit of minor restoration. The point is to find a home that basically only needs cosmetic restoration, as these little changes can greatly increase the rental value of the home (while at the same time allowing you to pay a lower mortgage price due to these needed repairs at the time of purchase). If possible, use the profits from your first rental property to save for another home. Pretty soon, you will find that you have a full-time income through your rental properties with just a handful of investments that will quickly be paid off. If planned out carefully, this is a win-win situation. Citizens of rural areas will be able to enjoy your beautiful homes, and you will be able to sit back and watch the income flow in.

Here are ten bridal shower games that will impress guests and will be fun for the bride.

  1. Toilet Paper Bride: In this game, the guests are split into teams of three or four. One person in each team is the model and the other team members construct a wedding gown out of toilet paper and safety pins in less than five minutes. The bride picks the wedding dress that she likes the best.
  2. Celebrity Date: Each guest is given an index card. On the index cards, guests write down the celebrity that they would choose to go on a date with if they had the opportunity. The index cards are shuffled together and everyone tries to match the celebrity with the guest.
  3. Famous Couples: The hostess makes a list of famous couples but only writes down one person in the pair. Each guest tries to write down the missing half in each couple. Whoever gets the most right is the winner.
  4. Wedding-Movie Charades: Make a list of wedding movies such as Father of the Bride and 27 Dresses. Put each movie title on a separate piece of paper. Guests take turns picking a movie title and trying to act it out without using words.
  5. The Price is Right: Purchase ten household items and record the cost of each item. Have the bridal shower guests guess how much each item costs. Whoever guesses closest to the actual price gets to keep the product.
  6. Who Knows the Bride the Best: The hostess puts together a list of questions for the bride and asks the bride to answer them before the shower. The hostess then asks the questions to the bridal shower guests to see who knows her the best. Whoever gets the most questions correct is the winner.
  7. Two Truths and a Lie: Each guest comes up with two truths and a lie about themselves. Each person tells the group the three statements in random order and the group has to decide which one is the lie.
  8. How Old Was the Bride: Get pictures of the bride while she was growing up from her mother. Post them on poster board. Have each guest guess how old the bride was at the time of each picture.
  9. Draw the Groom in His Underwear: Give each guest a pad of paper and pen. Each guest should place the pad on the top of her head and try to draw the groom in his underwear without looking. The bride picks the best drawing.
  10. Bridal Poem: As the bride is opening her gifts, the hostess begins a poem about the bride by writing down one line. Then the poem is passed around and each guest writes down another line that follows the previous line. Each time someone writes down another line they fold the paper, so that the next person can only see the line preceding the line that she will write. At the end, the hostess reads the poem to the group.