About Denise McGrail

I am thrilled and blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of The General Gazette. Like so many women, I put off my dreams of being a professional, published writer for longer than intended in order to meet the more practical needs of my family. However, after much soul-searching, I realized I was doing a disservice to them and me by not following my dreams and my passions.

Why am I excited to be part of The General Gazette? Well, I am a woman who seems to flit and flutter from one thought to the next and I have a million ideas I am always eager to share. The General Gazette is a website intended for women of all ages, all incomes and all lifestyles. We don't limit our audience and, therefore, I will not limit the information I share with you.

Each day I will keep you guessing with fresh, thought-provoking articles! Happy reading!

“I Do” Turns Into “I Give”

Charitable Wedding Trends Focus On Giving Back to the Community

wedding charitiesWeddings are timeless affairs that are, for the majority of people, the largest social party they will ever plan or be a part of. The wedding industry earns billions of dollars every year from bridal gown purchases, catering services, DJ services, limos, photographers, videographers, florist. Do I need to continue? You get the point. A wedding is not only timeless, but costly.

Over the past few years, a new trend has emerged among engaged couples. Wedding industry planners are recognizing a shift in the focus being diverted away from the couple and redirected towards charitable causes . The bride and groom, once the center of attention, are now contributing to a more social conscious wedding by highlighting and giving back to their local communities with charitable weddings.

How Does a Charitable Wedding Work?

Charitable weddings are as unique as the individual couples saying, “I Do.”

wedding themesSarah Kingston of Grand Rapids, MI chose to give back to her local chapter of Autism Speaks by making a cash donation in each of her guests’ names.

I spent nearly a year planning my dream wedding. Wrapped up in all the minute and, at times, senseless details that it started to feel overwhelming. The final breaking point was when I spent nearly 3 days agonizing over the perfect favors to give to my guests. Then, a childhood friend of mine and I went out to lunch to discuss her life and what was going on with her five year old son who suffers from Autism. It was then that I realized I could do so much more. The answer was clear.

Sarah convinced a local chocolate shop to donate chocolate-dipped strawberries for each of her 100 guests. The money that she would have spent on the favors, she donated to Autism Speaks.

It felt amazing to know I had given back when I had spent so much time thinking about me, me, me and my wedding day. I would do it all over again and encourage every bride to consider doing the same.

If your budget doesn’t allow you to contribute to a special cause like Sarah did, you could also consider asking your guests to donate in lieu of gifts like Kay Middleton of Sacramento, CA.

This was my second marriage to a man who had been married before, too. We both had established homes with all the trimmings. Registering for gifts that we didn’t really need seemed ridiculous and pointless. So, we asked our guests to donate money to the animal shelter where we had adopted our Sheltie, Murray. We were able to raise just shy of $5000 for the shelter. Knowing we had given back to our community made our wedding memorable and special.

Do you think charitable weddings make sense? How did, or would, you give back to your community on your wedding day? 

10 Ridiculous Items on Oprah’s 2012 Favorite Things List

Are Oprah’s favorite things out of touch with the everyday wants and needs of the average American family? After a two year hiatus, Oprah is back with her “Favorites Things” list and some fans (or maybe just foes) are calling fowl, accusing the daytime diva of being . . . well, a bit diva-ish in regards to her choices.

The December issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, will be on newsstands November 6 featuring Oprah’s choices of her favorite things of 2012. Following up with the print premier of her favorite things list, on November 18 OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) will continue to promote the list with a two-hour special devoted to highlighting this year’s products. However, the Vanity Fair blog is calling Oprah out on her ridiculously over-priced items that no reasonable person would spend money on. Free advertising doesn’t mean anything if consumers can’t afford to shell out $150 for ear buds.

Here is a sneak peak of a few of Oprah’s favorite things. What do you think? Would you purchase any of these items for yourself or as a Christmas present for a co-worker, friend or family member?

Urbani Truffle Butter
Price: $21 – $39

Hmmm. . . does it include the baked potato?

Sallie’s Greatest Trio Jam Pack
Price: $36

What’s wrong with Smuckers?

Dyson Pedestal Fan
Price: $$450

Is circulating the air really worth $450? Wouldn’t a paper fan do just as well?

Harry Barker Pet Canister and Bowl
Price: $56

Goodness! This makes me feel incredibly guilty for feeding my cat straight out of the Fancy Feast container. What a heathen I am!

Carousel Cakes Blue Velvet Cake
Price: $42

Blue velvet cake may be enticing, but couldn’t you make this at home for 80% of the cost using some sort of blue food dye?

Bellocq Tea Atelier Chai Gift Set
Price: $85

For the price of this Chai Tea gift set, you would be better off traveling to India for the real thing.

R. Nichols Candles
Price: $45

Sure they are charming, but they are candles. They burn out. They don’t last forever and they take your $45 with them when they disappear.

Wagging Tail Custom Portrait Cards
Price: $229 for a set of 50

Okay, we get it! We know you love your dogs. We love our pets, too. However, the average pet lover can have cute customized greeting cards made for a fraction of this price at their local Walgreens. I’m just saying.

Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats
Price: $150

Of all the items on Oprah’s Favorite Things list, these may be the one item more people buy. They are priced outrageous, but many music lovers are investing in these Dr. Dre earbuds. Still, $150 is a bit much, don’t you think?

Schmidt Brothers Bonded Teak Series Knife Set
Price: $450 for the 15-piece set

Wow! When I registered for my Cuisinart Knife Set years ago, I thought $100 for a ridiculous amount for cutlery  Thank you, dear Oprah, for proving me wrong!

Buying A Used Car? How to Make Sure Hurricane Sandy Doesn’t Screw You.

buying a used carThe tragedy that the Northeast experienced this past week courtesy of Hurricane Sandy was devastating with the effects of the storm expected to last for months. Even if you don’t live on the East Coast and were directly affected by Sandy that doesn’t mean you may not fall victim to Hurricane Sandy scams, especially if you are buying a used car in the near future.

Over the next few weeks, thousands of cars will be totaled out by insurance companies. Some will be reduced to sheet metal and scrap. Others will be sold to junkyards. And many of them will find their way back into the used car market, especially in states far removed from the East Coast where unsuspecting consumers will not think twice about whether or not their car may have been a victim of Hurricane Sandy.

Why You Should Never Buy A Flood Damaged Car?

A flood damaged car can be repaired and cleaned to resemble a good buy, but the dangers of buying a flood damaged car are imminent  When a car sustains major water damage the electrical systems of the car are usually irreparable. Yes, they may work for your initial test drive, but eventually these systems will fail to the point they cannot be fixed.

Also, flood damage voids any warranty. If you purchase a used vehicle with a warranty and problems arise that can be contributed to prior flood damage your warranty is useless and you are, pardon the crudeness, screwed.

How to Check For Flood Damage?

Used car dealerships look for the best deal in order to get make the most money they can from a transaction. So, if a car looks decent and salable  then they won’t think twice about purchasing it, but that doesn’t mean they thoroughly investigated the car’s history. When you start shopping for a used car look for the following tell-tale signs of flood damage.

  • Do you smell mildew? Mildew and mold are hard to completely erase. Walk away from any car that smells damp.
  • Check for dirt. The interior of the car may be cleaned, vacuumed and appear unscathed, but investigate further. Check the crevices of the trunk and around the lights for trapped dirt that is harder to wipe away.
  • Rust is another indicator of water damage. If you are considering buying a car that is only a couple years old, rust on the body should be absent. If you see rust, you are probably dealing with a water damaged vehicle.
  • Check the title. Ask to see the title. Where did the car originate from? Trace the transactions. How did your car end up in Houston when the original owner lived in New Jersey?
Shop Smart and Don’t Fall In Love at First Sight

There will be a lot of deals over the next couple months on the used car lots. Some because of Hurricane Sandy and some because of the year end model sales. Either way, don’t fall in love at first sight with your dream car. Keep an open-mind and ask the right questions to make sure Hurricane Sandy doesn’t make your car buying experience a nightmare.

Are you in the market for a new car? How will you protect yourself from flood damaged car scams?

Cat Calling – Intrusive or Flattering?

Let’s talk about cat calling. Almost every woman on this planet knows exactly what this is, but in case you are living under a rock and have been shielded from this Neanderthal inspired behavior, let me explain. According to Urban Dictionary cat calling is,

When a guy gives the wert whirl whistle or yells at a babydoll for the purpose of getting attention and in hopes of a future hookup. This is usually done out of the window of a car.

Or as you are walking down the street to an appointment  Maybe while you are waiting in line at the ATM or any other situation where you are suddenly caught off guard by some guy’s random, sexually charged praise about the way your ass looks or what he thinks you should plan to do with/to him.

Recently, a friend of mine posted on Facebook this eye-opening, funny video by Totally Biased w/Kamau Bell entitled Totally Biased: NYC Women Talk Cat Calling. Kamau interviews NYC women about the out-of-control cat calling and their reactions to this, dare we say, epidemic. To present both sides of the argument, Kamau also addressed the dudes known to offer their fair share of boisterous compliments.

Smothered Saturday Pork Chops with Buttermilk Substitute

Saturday evening meals are my favored meals of the week. Traditionally, Saturday is the time when we chill out and recover from an activity-fueled week that too often results in rushed meals. By the time Saturday night rolls around we have restocked the fridge, filled the pantry and are ready to create something scrumptious that will not make us reek like Burger King.

Here is a recipe that is mouth-watering, flavorful and easy to put together even if it isn’t your go-to Saturday meal. I originally found a similar recipe on The Food Network, but it called for buttermilk and I didn’t want to venture out of the house. So, I created this version with a buttermilk substitute. Here is a quick how-to for a buttermilk substitute:

Buttermilk Substitue

  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 cup milk

In a measuring cup add the 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Then gradually add the milk until the liquid measure one cup. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, then use the amount called for in your recipe to substitute for the buttermilk.

Okay, got it? On to the recipe for Smothered Saturday Pork Chops. We paired ours with green beans and sweet potatoes roasted in molasses and brown sugar, but mashed potatoes would be just as delicious.

What is your chosen Saturday meal?

Smothered Saturday Night Pork Chops

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 pork chops, bone-in
  • Non-stick oil vegetable spray to generously coat the pan
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk substitute
  • Parsley, for garnish

Find a shallow platter and add the 1 cup of flour. Next, add the onion and garlic powders, red pepper, salt, and pepper; mix to distribute evenly. Dredge the pork chops in the seasoned flour. Save flour mixture.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat coated generously with the cooking spray. When the oil is  hot, lay the pork chops in the pan in a single layer frying for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove the pork chops from the pan and mix a small amount of the seasoned flour to the pan drippings until dissolved  then add the chicken broth. Allow the liquid to cook down for 5 minutes to reduce and thicken. Stir in the buttermilk to make a  gravy and return the pork chops to the pan. Simmer for 5 – 10  minutes until the pork is cooked through. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper before serving. Add parsley for garnish, too.

4 Cardio Options When You Can’t Run

It finally happened. I knew I had been pushing myself way too hard with little rest and irresponsible training. I knew that attempting to complete the St. Louis Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon without running more than 3 miles at a time for the months leading up to the race that I was tempting fate. Two weeks ago I ran my race, held back tears as mile 13 battered my legs and rejoiced that the days following the half marathon I was not as sore as I imagined I would be. I thought I had gotten away with it.

Fast forward or rewind, however you want to look at it, to last week. A gnawing, ever-increasing pain in my Achilles Tendon, began to interfere with my running. In fact, an easy 3 mile treadmill run turned into a fire in my ankle that is almost indescribable, but the awful truth was evident. I had been sidelined by my Achilles Tendon. Goodbye running for at least the next two months.

What to do now? I worked so hard to build up my cardio base, to build strength in my legs. I can’t imagine two months of letting all that hard work be for nothing. So, I went in search of other cardio that will help me keep and build my cardio base. If you are a runner and have been sidelined by an Achilles Tendon injury, consider these cardio options to keep you in prime condition until you are ready to run again. As always make sure you consult your doctor.

Precor EFX® CrossRamp® Technology

I heart this machine! In fact, I think I love it as much as running. Among its many benefits it:

  • Reduces impact on joints
  • Emulates changing workout conditions
  • Provides a full body workout targeting the arms, chest, glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves

I find that my pace doesn’t quite match my running pace … yet. But the potential is there!

Exerpeutic Folding Pulse Monitor Magnetic Upright Bike

Exerpeutic Folding Pulse Monitor Magnetic Upright Bike

Available at Overstock.com this is a cardio machine that provides the least amount of pressure on the Achilles Tendon. Plus, if you do not have gym membership you can purchase this bike relatively inexpensively for $159.00. And . . . one more plus? This bike folds so you can tuck it away in an obscure place when you are done working out.


Swimming is a full-body cardiovascular exercises that is pleasurable and seems less like working out and more like a day at the beach. Okay, yes! I am exaggerating a little. But swimming is easy on your joints which makes this a preferred option for many sidelined runners, especially those experiencing joint pain.

Spin Classes

Do you belong to a gym? If so, consider a spin class. Stationary bikes like the one I mentioned above are fantastic, but if you are planted in front of the television pedaling away you tend to get caught up in the show and not the workout. A spin class is challenging, builds muscles tone, increases your cardio base and is a social outlet.

If you are a runner that is used to running with the pack, you could have social withdrawals  This is the perfect option to continue to exercise with a group of people who share the same values as you.

Have you been sidelined with a running injury? What did you do to keep you legs and cardio strong?

Ways That Early Voting Can Help and Harm The Presidential Election

Photo Obtained from Bloomberg.com

Tuesday, November 6th is Election Day for the majority, but absentee and early voting began weeks ago. While I rarely give the political arena much thought (please, hold your abuse. I understand I am a political slacker), I have noticed a lot of news stories recently centered around the concept of early voting. After a while, I started to take a small (very small – after this article I probably won’t think of it again) in how this voting trend/privilege can change the landscape of the Presidential election. Here is what I learned.

How Soon Can Constituents Vote?

Short answer? It varies. Each state has their own regulations in regards to when a person can cast an early vote. For instance, in South Dakota voters could make up their mind and cast their vote beginning September 21. In Maryland, early voters couldn’t begin voting until October 27.

Can Anyone Vote Early?

As with most political topics, the answer is unclear. 15 states have no-excuse early voting, but the best way to determine if you can vote early to avoid the lines and frustration on the actual election day is to call your local voting officials and ask what the requirements are. Of course, if you are reading this now, you are kind of out-of-luck until the next election.

How Does Early Voting Help Political Campaigns?

Early voting allows political campaigns to begin reducing the number of voters they need to target on Election Day. For instance, if South Dakota residents can begin voting in late September campaigns schedule more stops, air an increased number of ads in that state prior to when early voting begins. For those constituents in other states that cannot begin voting until later, closer to the actual election date, campaigns can spend more time later in the campaign promoting their agendas in these states. The early voting process aids campaigns in making strategic campaigning decisions when it comes to spending their money, a fiscal lesson they will forget when they actually take office.

Early voting also gives the candidates a clearer idea of how they will fare on Election Day; which states they need to target more aggressively to gain the majority of electoral votes.

What are The Cons of Early Voting for Politicians and Constituents?

Some voters give early voting the finger, afraid that late developments in the political campaigns could occur that may have had the potential to sway their vote. Truthfully, unlike daytime television, there are rarely 11th hour confessions that would have the potential to sway thousands of early voters.

The candidates may have to work a little harder to gain back votes lost during early election, but knowing they lost the votes and have to work to gain them back somewhere else is actually a bit of a pro. Not all politicians may agree, but knowing 30 days out that they are trailing is better than 30 minutes before the polls close and campaigning to gain extra votes is not an option.

How many of YOU are early voters. Share with us your reasons for voting early here or on our social media pages. We want your voice to be heard!

Who Says Politics is Boring?

Election Day can be frustrating, overwhelming, tiring and lengthy. So, I am going to make this post short and sweet. Let’s have a little fun. Shall we?

I found this wonderfully mesmerizing picture of the President and The First Lady over at Caption This. Now, it is your turn. Take your shot at captioning this photo. I will post to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, too so we can spread the joy!

Okay . . . Ready, Set, GO!

And in this picture you can see the nina,pinta and santa marie, these are the ships my great, great, great grandparents came on to discover america ...

Stupid Quotes From Politicians Regarding Women’s Rights

bad quotes

Image courtesy of kivitv.com

Dumb, dumb and dumber. No, I am not talking about the Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels comedy that made us laugh and struggle to hold in our pee. I am talking about the political nonsense that dribbles from the mouths of ignorant politicians when they try to defend their right to control another person’s body. Some would call that rape, but in politics it is called “protecting America’s morals.” So, in light of the upcoming political election, let me share with you some of the dumbest quotes politicians have ever uttered.

Birth Control Causes Prostrate Cancer?

“As a man, would it interest you to know that Dr. Brownstein just published an article that links the pill to prostate cancer?” state Rep. Jeanine Notter (R)

Did You Know the Pill Causes Breast Cancer?

“It is scientifically undisputed that full-term pregnancy reduces a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer. It is also undisputed that the earlier a woman has a first full-term pregnancy, the lower her risk of breast cancer becomes, because following a full-term pregnancy the breast tissue exposed to estrogen through the menstrual cycle is more mature and cancer resistant.” – New Hampshire Bill that requires doctors to tell women seeking abortions that the procedure can cause breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society, as well as other major health organizations like WHO (World Health Organization) dispute this so-called “scientific” fact.

Rape Is a Woman’s Issue, Unless She is Married.

“I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.” Idaho state Sen. Chuck Winder (R).

Arizone Lawmakers Prefer to Keep Women in the Dark

A bill, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Barto, protects doctors from wrongful death lawsuits by allowing them to withhold information that may be a factor in a woman choosing to terminate her pregnancy  When asked why she sponsored this bill her answer was that she sponsored the law because “she did not want claimants to blame a doctor for a baby born with disabilities. Under the provisions of her bill, a doctor could not be sued for medical malpractice if the doctor withholds information from a mother about a child’s potential health issues that could influence her decision to have an abortion. In addition, a lawsuit could not be filed on the child’s behalf regarding a disability.”

Way to look out for the patient’s best interest.

Planned Parenthood Aims to Create Subservient Men?

“These Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness…We are not going to have our men become subservient.” —Rep. Allen West

Equal rights does not equal subservient men. Someone must have penis issues.

Conception, No Matter If Consensual or Not, Should Be Protected At All Cost.

“The method of conception doesn’t change the idea of life.” – Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan

Todd Akin Isn’t The Only MisInformed Politician

“The facts show that people who are raped —who are truly raped—the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.” – Former North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge

Where did these men learn sex education? Clearly from poorly written romance novels.

Did we miss some outrageous quotes? Leave a comment and let us know!

4 Books Sexier Than 50 Shades of Grey

Are you over 50 Shades of Grey? While this “mommy porn” book may have capitalized on the intrigue and excitement to garner record sells, the writing and story line have left some readers a little, shall we say, unfulfilled.  If you are looking for an erotic reading experience that offers more than poorly written sex-ploits, check out these books to add to your bedside reading.

The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough

Nothing is sexier or more forbidden than the illicit affair between a priest and a woman forbidden to express her desire for him. Although this book is was written decades ago, the story is timeless and raw with forbidden, erotic love, tragedy and betrayal.

Trouble by Kate Christensen

This is a coming-of-age novel about 3 middle-age women discovering their sexual identities. Latin lovers, exotic locales and a never-ending supply of alcohol equals exciting trouble for these three women.

How Should a Person Be by Sheila Heti

To describe this book, one needs to only read this line. “I don’t know why all of you are reading books when you could be getting reamed by Israel, spat on, beaten up against the headboard—with every jab, your head battered into the headboard. Why are you all reading? I don’t understand this reading business when there is so much f***ing to be done.”

Enough said?

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

Sometimes sexiness and eroticism do not have to be cloaked in fiction. To be human is to be sexy and to sexy means we open up about the act of sex. What began as a one-woman show that traveled the country, beckoning to female audiences to open up about their sexual lives, it eventually became a ground-breaking book that “gives voice to a chorus of lusty, outrageous, poignant, and thoroughly human stories . . .”

Voice your opinion. Have you read books sexier than 50 Shades of Grey? Do you think good erotic fiction is graphic or  simply suggestive?