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History of Shoes: Get to the Pointe!

Learn how the modern pointe shoe evolved.

Pointe shoes, or toe shoes, are dancing shoes that were designed specifically for ballet dancers. The design of this shoe protects a ballet dancer from injuries while they are en pointe, or poised up on their tip toes. Generally pointe shoes are for ballerinas, however, when male dancers play female roles, such as the ugly step sister role in the ballet Cinderella, they too will wear pointe shoes.

The Origins of the Pointe Shoe

Since women weren’t allowed on stage until the end of the 17th century, pointe shoes evolved slowly from men’s traditional dance shoes, which were heeled. The first evolution of women’s ballet shoes came when the traditional heel was removed. The flat-soled ballet shoe allowed female dancers to attempt more complex jumps and turns. After the French Revolution the flat-soled ballet shoe became the norm and the ribbon laces that we are familiar with today were added to the shoe’s design. Pleats were also added to the shoe under the toes so that a dancer could have better grip and control over their feet.

En Pointe

En pointe work really didn’t appear until 1795 when Charles Didelot invented the “flying machine” which lifted dancers up onto their toes. The effect of this machine was so well received by audiences that ballet choreographers tried to incorporate pointe work into their dances. By the early part of the 1800s the technical skills of dancers had improved to a point were the flying machine was no longer needed. Marie Taflioni was the first to dance en pointe without mechanical assistance.

The Modern Pointe Shoe

The toe box, which is the defining component of the modern pointe shoe, was designed after modifications used by Anna Pavlova, a famous 20th century ballerina from Russia. The tapered shape of her feet and her high arches made her particularly prone to injuries. In order to protect herself from injuries she would often shape an old leather dance shoe sole into a box and stuff it into her ballet shoes to provide a little extra support. This was the inspiration for the modern pointe shoe.

Many modern shoe designs are based on modifications made to a normal or special shoe design by a non-shoe maker. These modifications are made to make the shoe more user friendly or more fashionable. What modifications have you made to your shoes that others might appreciate?

Places Every Kid Should See: St. Augustine

There are many things to thrill the kids on a visit to the nation’s oldest continual settlement including ancient reptiles, life-life wax replicas of their favorite movie heroes and the unique opportunity to play ghost hunter.

At one time every schoolchild in America knew that the oldest city in this country was St. Augustine, Fla., despite the fact that Pensacola, on the other end of the Florida panhandle, had been established first. (It was briefly wiped out by a hurricane). St. Augustine still enjoys its notoriety and is yet another hot tourist destination for many on the way to Orlando. In fact, kids especially can enjoy St. Augustine on its own terms and may even leave Florida with stronger memories of its attractions than those further south.

The St. Augustine Alligator Farm is clearly a prime destination spot for those traveling with kids. What kid doesn’t enjoy the sight of these enormous and dangerous prehistoric reptiles? The park provides daily shows and tours and includes more wildlife than just the gators; some children may be even more impressed by the exotic birds.

Potter’s Wax Museum is like hopping into a time travel machine with your kids in more ways than one. Compared to contemporary motion simulation rides and virtual reality experiences, a collection of wax figures is decidedly low tech and will doubtlessly bring back memories from your own childhood. With so few wax museums in operation anymore, many kids today have never had the chance to enjoy the strangely disorienting sensation of looking at such creepily life-like wax figures. St. Augustine’s Potter’s Wax Museum is filled with historical personages and celebrities that both you and the kids will instantly recognize.

The one must-see stop on your trip to St. Augustine that is almost guaranteed to leave your kids breathless is the Ripley Ghost Train Adventure. This incredibly popular attraction gives your family the chance to live the adventures you’ve watched unfold on the Sci-Fi Channel series Ghost Hunters.

Before you board the Victorian-style train you are handed the tools of a certified ghost hunter, including those really nifty electromagnetic field detectors used by the real life ghost hunters on the show. The climax of the Ripley Ghost Train Adventure is a half-hour tour through the appropriately named Castle Warden, a massive and exquisitely detailed recreation of a Moorish castle that became home to the very first Ripley’s Believe or Not Museum. Tour operators make no guarantee that you will actually see any supernatural entities, but plenty of those who’ve taken the trip have claimed to see things that could not be explained.

Fashion Shows: Victoria's Secret

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is the world’s most eagerly anticipated fashion show in the world … if you’re a heterosexual male, that is. Held on November 15, 2008 at the newly renovated Fontainbleau in Miami Beach, it will also be televised in December for the viewing pleasure of big dreamers everywhere. If you’re a doer and not a dreamer, read on, because now you have a chance to go there in person.

Charity Buzz ( ) is a site that auctions off high-end stuff, and more importantly, high-end experiences, for the benefit of charity. They are currently auctioning off a pair of tickets to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. The excellent seats come with passes to the exclusive VIP after-show party, and besides the fashion, there will be an A-list musical performance (artist to be announced, but previous appearances include Seal, Justin Timberlake, Ricky Martin, Sting, Mary J. Blige and Destiny’s Child).

This auction benefits the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which is run by Russell Simmons and his brothers. It is dedicated to providing disadvantaged urban youth with exposure and access to the arts and giving under-represented and minority artists exhibition opportunities. Rush Philanthropic has hosted the Art for Life benefit and auction at Russell Simmons’s East Hampton home to raise money for its mentoring, grants and exhibitions for the past eight years, and now Charity Buzz has the online version through July 23.

The current high bid on the Victoria’s Secret fashion show auction is
$8,500, and they’re looking for an increase of $1,000. Don’t bid unless you’re really serious about it, because the bid is legally binding. (They make you register for the site before you bid, so don’t worry about accidentally spending your rent money for the year either.)

And if you prefer your models and your fashion one on one rather than walking down the runway at a fashion show, other lots include a date to a New York Knicks game with Petra Nemcova, a guest appearance on the Tyra Banks show and a Christian Dior fuschiaSamurai bag. Not all the lots are fashion-related, though; I’m about to go bid on a one week apprenticeship with Russell Simmons so I can learn how to afford a roomful of Louis Vuitton like Kimora Lee .


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Death-Defying Climbs: Mount Washington

With freezing temperatures and strong winds, Mount Washington is suitable only for top-notch climbers.

Though the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy calls a towel the most useful item to carry in your pack, when attempting to climb to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, you really should have a snow shovel. As the “Home of the World’s Worst Weather,” the summit is one of the most dangerous places to reach during the winter months (between October and May).

Arguably one of the toughest climbs in the continental United States, Mount Washington rises 6,288 feet above sea level, but the height isn’t the biggest issue here. With an average annual snowfall of 256 inches and an average temperature of 26.5 degrees Fahrenheit, if the hypothermia doesn’t get you during a climb, an avalanche could possibly bury you or one of your companions.

Falling ice can also be a big problem when attempting to reach the summit. Recent climbing advisories have reported frozen chunks the size of automobiles, which have smashed into rocks and turned them into dangerous flying missiles.

Suffice it to say, only the most experienced climbers should even think about climbing to the top of Mount Washington. The extreme cold combined with the high altitude and gale-force winds can sap the strength from even the most seasoned veteran, so make sure never to climb alone. Avalanches are typically a big problem during the winter months, so make sure to pack a good snow shovel and an avalanche beacon.

Despite the dangerous climate, the summit is home to the Mount Washington Observatory, which has monitored weather conditions and conducted scientific research since 1932. If climbing isn’t an option, you can reach the summit by driving up the auto road or riding the cog railway between May and October. Even in the summer months, the weather can take a nasty turn, so it’s always a good idea to check the conditions before heading out.

No matter how you attempt to reach the top, Mount Washington is one heck of a climb.

Mount Washington Information:
Mount Washington Observatory:
The Cog Railway:
Mount Washington Auto Road:

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Best Snowboarding on the Planet: Glacier!

Not every individual or family has an unlimited budget for snowboarding. Glacier Snowboard Camp in Whistler, British Columbia advertises lower rates and smaller session sizes.

Glacier Snowboard Camp in Whistler, British Columbia has second-tier prices but maintains first-rate standards, insists Ben Wainwright, the owner and a member of the Canadian National Team.

“We pride ourselves on being a smaller, much more personalized snowboard camp,” Wainwright writes on the Website, .

Enrollment is limited to 40 snowboarders per session, while some larger facilities accept more than 200. This creates a ratio of one professional instructor for every five campers. The price is in the range of $1,495 for a weeklong session or $1,995 with accommodations. Campers and their families who want more instruction and fun, and who can afford the cost, may opt to stay for multiple weeks.

Glacier provides an array of jumps, hips, rails and boxes, along with a private half pipe cut by a 17-foot snow dragon.

“We offer the best coaching at the best price,” Wainwright asserts. “In fact, you won’t be able to find a less expensive snowboard camp in North America or a better one, no matter what you pay. Our goal is to improve your snowboarding and make sure you have the most possible fun.”

A typical day focuses on instruction in the morning, and then mixes more time to experiment in the afternoon, including tips on the latest tricks. After-snowboarding activities include a bungee trampoline, skateboarding and paint ball. During summer camps, features include mountain biking, rock climbing and swimming.

Campers may choose to focus on freeride, which concentrates on core riding skills through powder, steeps and trees. Another option is freestyle, featuring tricks and the half pipe.

Pro Ride is the company that provides the format and staffing for Glacier.

“We will improve your riding in a fun, skill-based progression based on a foundation of all mountain discovery,” says Anthony Crute, Pro Ride director, owner and lead guide. “Your program will be focused on what you really enjoy doing, and you have the flexibility to change your riding goals as it suits you.

“We live, eat and breathe snowboarding. We know Whistler inside out and enjoy sharing our vast snowboarding experience with people of like mind. This is our 11th year running snowboard camps specifically for snowboarders from all over the world. Come join us for one epic day after another!”


Running Tips: Gradually Increase Your Miles

Increasing the miles you run should be done gradually and here’s why.

If you’ve been running for a while, are finding the miles you run to be an easy workout and think it’s time to increase the distance you run, what’s a safe way to do it? For some people, they’ll just add a few miles a week and think that will work for them. Several injuries later, they’ll be surprised when it doesn’t. Sure, you could add extra miles every day without thinking it through and you might be lucky and not get injured. But, do you really want to take that chance? Follow these few simple tips though and you might not have to.

The big secret to injury-free mileage increase is to take it slow. Don’t add too many miles a week to the distance you run. It might look easy to add three or four miles extra on every run. Chances are it will end up more difficult than you thought, you’ll have a nasty accident and you’ll spend the rest of the running season sitting on the sidelines instead of running that big race.

Adding just one mile per run during the first week will prevent this from happening. If you add one mile extra for every run you do in a week, by the end of the week you’ll have added an extra four to six miles (I recommend one day of rest). Once you’ve run a week like this, make sure you do at least a month at that same level before you increase your distance again. If you try to increase your mileage per day too soon, you could end up right back where you started or worse.

Also remember, if you’re training for a marathon, build up to it slowly using the same plan. Don’t start out at five miles per run, be up to fifteen miles on week two, and then at full marathon distance by the end of the month. As crazy as it sounds, some runners do try to do this. Most of them however don’t actually end up running a marathon. They end up burned out or nursing a pulled muscle or other injury and wishing they’d taken it slower.

Remember, running longer distances requires smart planning and follow through. Only then can you be sure that you’re taking the best possible care of your body and also running smart. A smart runner is a healthy runner. Runners who forget this do so to their detriment.


Ralph Laurenborn Ralph Ruben Lifshitz from the Bronx, New York — before he became famous and had a flagship in a historic mansion on 72nd Street and Madison Avenue, had a powerful fashion vision that he would one day be the guardian of the all-American dream. To him that dream involved, relaxed elegance, lush locales and polo ponies, apparent by the Polo horse and rider logo he is now known for. But before Ralph entered into the fashion industry he pursued a degree in business science (how better to know how to run one’s business?) as well as served his country with stint in the army. Clearly these steps were a wise decision towards cementing his future in fashion as we know it today. Lauren, who did not have any formal fashion design training, is a perfect example of the American dream: with confidence, will power, persistence and business saavy, one can achieve anything.

From the tiny tie shop first opened in 1967 to the multi-tiered empire of today, the chic, preppy look has evolved into complementary sportswear, casual wear, luxury lifestyle and home furnishings business that is still an American favorite. His shoes for men and women continue to be considered classics are always on the favorite must-have list of Couture. The Ralph Lauren Collection Ranna and Abbie for women and the Ralph Lauren Collection Garson and Danilo for men are to die for. Find these shoes, along with the rest of his collection, on .