6 Classic Movie Tips on How to Be the Best Aunt or Uncle

This article was originally posted on our sister site, Java's Journey.

With a new addition to the extended family, a new crop of aunts and uncles are made. Since yours truly is becoming a veteran in this field (Where has the time gone?), I would like to share a bit of advice with the newbies and explain how the principles of being an aunt or uncle are exemplified in classic films.

1. Be Excited!

With the first wail of the baby in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Gideon murmurs, "I'm an uncle," and faints dead away.

You don't have to pass out or anything, but being an uncle or aunt is exciting. You are almost like mom or dad (But with the advantage of returning the kids to their parents when you're done babysitting ) and you are a different version of grandma or grandpa (which means you're up for any crazy thing). You are that perfect blend of authority figure, modernity and screwy fun to them. Celebrate it!

2. Get Your Bluff in Early Because a Tantrum is Not Cute (Especially after they learn to speak)

An aunt who exemplifies the opposite of this principle is Monica Breedlove in The Bad Seed (1956).
"Aunt" Monica, the next door neighbor, spoils young Rhoda with trinkets, dessert and anything else to the point where the girl feels entitled to have these treats. The little one throws a tantrum if she cannot get her way. This lack of discipline only exacerbates the girl's innate greed and leads to crime.

I'm not saying that if you give the kid an extra ice cream bar, she'll murder the gardener in the basement (as Rhoda does); just don't do anything the parents will have to undo. You are there to help raise a responsible adult; you're not there show how awesome you are (even though you are pretty cool).

3. Learn from Your Nieces and Nephews
Whether your nieces and nephews are young tykes or full-fledged adults with their own families, you might still think of them as babies. That's ok. We can learn from "babies" as well.
In Pollyanna (1960), Aunt Polly runs the town with an iron fist, a lack of compassion and a sour disposition. With the introduction of her orphaned niece, who has plenty to be depressed about but instead sees the positive in everything, the whole town gets a facelift. They begin to appreciate life, aid their fellow man/woman, and most of them even smile. Ultimately, when Pollyanna needs help they are now prepared to assist.

4. Support the Parents; Gently Offer Observations (When Appropriate)

Mrs. Almond, one of the title character's aunts in The Heiress (1949), quietly reminds her brother not to compare his daughter unfavorably with his late wife. "She cannot compete with this image you have of her mother," she warns. I love this scene because the brother and sister are being both frank and gentle. From then on, however, other characters withhold vital information, become unbearably cruel, and spin webs of deception, which makes everyone miserable.

Near the end of the movie, years later, when the heiress' life has not gone as planned, Mrs. Almond still visits her niece and continually extends invitations to her own house. At this point, the aunt could rub her prescience in everyone's face and leave her brother's daughter to rot, but she doesn't. Give this woman a medal for her wisdom and compassion.

5. When Nephews and Nieces Are Older, Be There To Listen and Humbly Share Advice

This is an extension of # 4 above.

Develop a relationship with the ankle biters when they are younger; it's easier for them to trust you when they are older. That ease will lead them to talk to you and trust your opinion when mulling over a problem.

Uncle Beemish in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) is a listening ear for his adult niece, Margaret, who is raising her rambunctious younger sister. He doesn't demand anything, he calmly makes suggestions and leaves them for Margaret to contemplate and make her own decisions.Wonderful.

Another example: Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!(1955).

6. Savor the Moments

In The Searchers (1956), Uncle Ethan spends time with his brother's family - time that will be short-lived due to a massacre. From then on, Ethan becomes a nasty and vengeful man on the hunt for his one surviving niece who is abducted. One minute you're here, the next it's all over.

My own Uncle LSP said to me on occasion, "Enjoy this time now, kid. Pretty soon you'll be an adult with bills." Frankly, as great as childhood was, I wouldn't turn back the clock for anything. Still, I know what he meant - savor your moments. Perhaps he was savoring a moment with his niece when he said it.

Do you have any tips for aunts and uncles? Share one, with or without a movie reference.
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The Bulwer-Lytton Writing Contest - Patterns of Success

Today, Summer Haven will help you win a fiction writing contest by showing you the patterns in the winning entries.

"It was a dark and stormy night," starts Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's novel Paul Clifford (1830). The first sentence of the novel has become infamous as one of the worst lead lines ever.

In 1983, Professor Scott Rice of San Jose University started a contest to commemorate Bulwer-Lytton's most notorious achievement, asking participants for a bad opening sentence to a made-up novel. The very worst would win first prize. This contest continues today and has had winners from around the world. Check their website for contest rules.

The 2013 winner, Chris Wieloch of Brookfield, WI, submitted the following:
She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination.
The 1983 winner (the first year's winner), Gail Cain of San Francisco, CA, submitted this:
The camel died quite suddenly on the second day, and Selena fretted sulkily and, buffing her already impeccable nails – not for the first time since the journey began –pondered snidely if this would dissolve into a vignette of minor inconveniences like all the other holidays spent with Basil.
From 1983 to the most recent contest, there are trends or patterns in the winning submissions that might be of some help if you plan to enter. We've scoured each and every one noting what tends to win.

Percentage Patterns of Winning Submissions of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
  1. Winning entries tend to be timeless. Dates are not usually mentioned. Themes are not usually pegged to any one decade, unless you're writing an historical fiction. (See Paul Revere reference in 1995 Winning entry).
  2. Over 90% of the winning entries use people as the focus. Almost every entry is about a person observing something. e.g "Professor Frobisher couldn't believe he had missed seeing it for so long – it was, after all, right there under his nose..." (1989 Winner) The rest incorporate an affinity for anthropomorphic landscapes. (See Winners 2000, 1991 ) and animals (1987). See #18 below for further analysis of the people used.
  3. 81 % of entries use the 3rd person. Followed by 1st person narrative at less than 13% and 2nd person narratives at just over 6%.
  4. 68% of winning entries incorporate an analogy, a simile, a euphemism, etc. e.g. "Dolores breezed along the surface of her life like a flat stone forever skipping across smooth water..." (1990 Winner).
  5. Almost 50% of the people in the winning entries are having a romance or infer a romance, even if it's not the focus of the sentence. e.g. "...so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese..." (2003 Winner).
  6. 42% of the entries reference the female body. e.g. "Like an expensive sports car, fine-tuned and well-built, Portia was sleek, shapely, and gorgeous..." (1988 Winner).
  7. 39% describe some form of impending harm or violence. e.g. "...Roger stood over his victim with a smoking .45, surprised at the serenity..."(1994 Winner).
  8. 38% use a famous name or brand. In all cases, this name or brand has been well-known for decades or centuries. "...seventh heaven was as close as an eighth note from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony..." (1993 Winner). See #18 below for further discussion.
  9. Just under 36% of winning entries incorporate death.
  10. Just under 36% of winning entries describe a change in relationship.
  11. 32% use nature or describe a landscape.
  12. 32% of winning entries incorporate animals, live plants or insects.
  13. 29% of winning entries incorporate food or the idea of it. e.g. "...wrapped only in her celery-green dressing gown, her creamy bosom rising and falling like a temperamental soufflé..." (1992 Winner).
  14. 21% of the entries are parodies of mystery novels or detective stories. But most of those won in the 1990s.
  15. 13% reference the male body. It's usually above the neck. e.g. "As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites..." (2012 Winner)
  16. There are no political winners nor runners-up, as far as we can tell, unless the politics are centuries old and very famous. (See Paul Revere in 1995 Winning entry)
  17. Entries with popular culture references rarely win (See 1993 and 2009 Winners). This discrepancy may be an attempt to keep the winners timeless. However, you are more likely to find pop culture references among the runners-up. But even they have been famous for many decades. See the Dorothy Entry and the Hitchcock runner-up.
  18. People are usually fictional. If you use an actual person's name, the name has been famous the world over for many decades or sometimes centuries. (See Martha Stewart reference in 2004 Winning entry ). In other words, don't go for the flavor of the month. That person or brand might not be famous next year and the joke will fail over time, which makes it less likely to win.
Here's a chart:


In other words, if the preceding winners are any indication, the entry most likely to win the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest will be

(1) a romance

(2)between people

(3) that uses an analogy/euphemism/simile, etc.

(4) includes a female,

(5) is in the 3rd person and

(6) describes or infers doom or discomfort to someone or thing.

Or perhaps the trend is shifting and we're completely wrong.

The official Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest rules may be found here: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/
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Facebook: How to Edit or Delete Your Comment (Computer or Mobile Device)

  To Edit or Delete Your Comment on Facebook from a Computer

1. Move the cursor to the upper right corner of your comment. A gray pencil will appear.


2. Click the pencil and the words  EDIT and DELETE will appear.

3. Choose your option.

4a. If you choose EDIT, when you are finished,  tap the ENTER button on your keyboard and you will be out of edit mode. You can cancel the edit by tapping the ESC button on your keyboard or clicking CANCEL  just under the comment box.

This is Facebook edit mode on a computer.
4b. If you choose DELETE, a confirmation box pops up asking, "Are you sure you want to delete this comment?" You may choose DELETE or CANCEL.

To Edit or Delete Your Comment on Facebook from a Mobile Device

Facebook automatically directs your phone or other mobile device to a more streamlined version of their website. The buttons are pretty much the same but are in different locations. Here is how to edit or delete a comment on Facebook using a mobile device.

1. Click MORE (It is below your comment next to the LIKE option). The words EDIT and DELETE will appear.

2. Choose your option.

3a. If you choose  EDIT, make the desired changes, then click UPDATE. You will then go out of edit mode. Before clicking update, you also have the option to CANCEL the edit or DELETE the comment.

This is Facebook edit mode on a mobile device.

3b. If you choose DELETE, a confirmation box pops up asking, "Are you sure you want to delete this comment?" You may choose to CANCEL the deletion or click OK to continue deleting the comment.

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Spring is Here

It's officially spring. People start gardens, the grass grows, mud is everywhere.

I miss the glamorous silver coat of winter's snow.

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A Steele at Any Price: Butterscotch Brownies

Laura greets a client wearing deliciously comfortable separates in "A Steele At Any Price" (Season 2, Episode 6 of "Remington Steele").

Hello and welcome to Laura Holt's Closet.

The Outfit
The champagne silk top with epaulets and breast pockets paired with a chocolate brown belt and brown tweed skirt screams cozy, comfy office chic. Let's call this ensemble "butterscotch brownies."

Let's recreate the look.

1.Victoria Ruffle Crew by J. Crew  |2. Crosshatch Tweed Pencil Skirt by Nordstrom |3. Brown Suede Belt by Once Upon a Belt

Buy  Season 2 of "Remington Steele".

What will Laura wear next?

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Steeling the Show: Black Jacket, Red Turtleneck, Grey Slacks

Laura helps a classic movie star determine whether she is hallucinating about assassination attempts.

Hello! Welcome to Laura Holt's Closet where we glean wardrobe inspiration from our favorite sleuth. Today's episode is "Steeling the Show" (Season 1, Episode 11 of  "Remington Steele").

In one scene, Laura is ready for action in an unstructured black jacketslate gray slacks and a vermillion turtleneck - just a pop of vibrant red.

The unstructured jacket was a big fashion statement in the 1980s and is a style usually attributed to Giorgio Armani. However, it's  Laura's color combination that we're going for today.

Let's recreate the look.

1. Anthracite Shawl Collar Cocoon Jacket  2. L.L. Bean Pima Cotton Turtleneck    3. Loft Grey Boot Jeans

This is one of the more casual ensembles that Laura wears outside of the house in Season 1. Perhaps by the eleventh episode the wardrobe designer decided to change up a bit from the usual suits.

What will Laura wear next?

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Opening Credits, Season 1: Plaid Shirt and Jeans

Laura Holt wears business casual most of the time in "Remington Steele" (1982-1987).  Today, she deviates from her norm.

Hi! It's time to delve into Laura Holt's Closet again.

On rare occasions you might find our heroine in blue denim jeans - when investigating a farm, or when casually mulling over a case at home. Usually, she wears pants in corduroy, plain cotton, gaberdine or wool.

However, you also catch a glimpse of denim in the opening credits of Season 1.

The Outfit
The jeans appear a little faded. She has paired them with a black, orange and white plaid shirt. Looks comfy. Accessories include a simple gold watch for our busy detective. You'll see the watch a lot throughout this season of the show.

Let's recreate the outfit.


The opening credits of season 1 give you a sense of who our detective is and what she does. Love the enlarged fingerprint on the wall.

What will Laura wear next?
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1 Simple Step to Reaching Goals

This is the time of year when many people make New Year's Resolutions. They make goals for what they want to do in the coming year. They make lists of how they want to change in 12 months.

These goals are notorious for not being sustained. That home gym they buy gets dusty and becomes a hanging rod for clothes. The 2 pounds of weight they've lost becomes the 5 pounds they've gained after stopping the diet last month.

Maybe you can reach goals more often if  you simply start the day with what's most important to you. We can still have our overarching long-range goals, which can serve as a general map to refer to regularly. But if we start by committing to the things of greatest importance when first waking up, this routine will likely become a habit.

After success with this one thing, conquering other goals later in the day becomes easier.

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A Steele At Any Price: Black Turtleneck, Black Pencil Skirt

Laura and Remington recover paintings from thieves in "A Steele At Any Price" (Season 2, Episode 6 of "Remington Steele").

Hello and welcome to Laura Holt's Closet.

The Outfit
What would a detective wear to recover stolen artwork in the night? All black, of course.

This is the first time that our detective Laura becomes a bit of a cat burglar. (Remington was well-versed in thievery before joining Laura's agency.)

The costume director wisely dresses the character in anything you might imagine Laura has in her wardrobe - a black turtleneck, black pencil skirt with matching belt.

You might recall it's the same belt from "Steele Framed," in which we noted that a buckle which matches the belt is less noticeable, more refined.

Let's recreate the look.

1. L.L. Bean Interlock Turtleneck 2.  Orion Leather - Black Latigo Belt with Black Nickel Buckle    3. Ann Taylor Ponte Pencil Skirt

While this is outfit is purposely severe, it might still be worn with bright accessories to liven it.

What will Laura wear next?

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Wardrobe Supplier for Remington Steele: Carole Little

Carole Little supplied wardrobe for "Remington Steele" from its second season until its fifth and final season. Here are a few facts about the designer.

1. Ms. Little is a west coast designer whose clothes were "for women intent on scaling the corporate ladder," according to a 1982 People Magazine interview .

2. Ms. Little's Saint Tropez-West line of clothes were "sleek, sexy and all mix-and-matchable." They were also affordable.

3. Ms. Little's career began when she...
 "...landed her first big job at Jasper Bros., a junior sportswear house in California. But she wasn't happy designing miniskirts for teenagers. 'Everyone had forgotten about women like me who wanted quality clothes but couldn't afford $150 for a pair of wool gabardine pants.'"

4. Though Ms. Little's line of clothes still exists, it has been sold to another company and has changed its design vision.

5. Saint Tropez-West of the 1980s is exactly the line of clothing  that Remington Steele's chic private detective Laura Holt would wear if she were real. Laura is ambitious, lives on the west coast, runs her own business and must account for every penny.

  Vintage Carole Little

The Carole Little- Laura Holt partnership works well for us today with timeless ensembles for our sartorial inspiration.

Further Reading

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