Surprise birthday parties may seem like a good idea, but most people would prefer not to have them. According to a survey from Florists' Transworld Delivery, 55 percent of Americans say they don't want a surprise party. Of those that would want their friends and family to have a surprise party, more men than women like the idea (46 percent versus 39 percent).

Who is most likely to remember your birthday with a gift? Probably your wife, mother or daughter. Among men, 54 percent say that their wives will remember their birthday with a gift; only 40 percent of wives say their husbands will give a gift.In general, Americans are good about remembering birthdays. In fact, only one person in seven reports that their birthday is likely to be forgotten by a friend or relative. But 14 percent say a brother is most likely to forget and 11 percent say a son is most likely to forget.

A happy home life, a first-rate education, competent and affordable health care and job satisfaction are the most important goals for Americans today, a Money magazine survey concludes.

When asked to select which of two dozen elements of the American dream they consider "very important," 97.8 percent chose "having a happy home life." Responses receiving the least votes were "owning a late-model car" and "owing a vacation home."

Asked to rate "17 potential obstacles to their contentment," 41 percent said they were "very worried" about "catastrophic illness in family," 39 percent feared environmental problems, and 34 percent were worried about the cost of education and the prospect of war.

Have computers and telephones put a damper on personal writing? Not according to a survey by the Faber-Castell Corporation. Their survey shows that people are writing more today than they did five years ago. The most avid writers are 25- to 34-year-olds.

Among the kinds of writing that top the list: personal letters, "to do" lists, drafts of business proposals and notes taken in a class or meeting and crossword puzzles.

People between the age of 18 and 24 are the most avid doodlers. Men surveyed report that their writing is most often in the form of note taking, score keeping at sporting events or drawing and sketching; women write more letters and do more crossword puzzles.

Pens are the writing instrument of choice; however, 25 percent of those surveyed choose a pencil when they are in a bad mood and 40 percent choose a pencil when feeling creative.

How much impact does weather have on your daily life?

Thirty-three percent of women surveyed in a recent poll conducted by the American Express telephone weather service, said they eat more than usual during inclement weather. And 46 percent of those women surveyed said it makes it harder to look their best and feel healthy.

Three-quarters of the respondents said they feel more productive when the weather's good and less productive on bad weather days.

What kind of dessert will most likely get children to clean up their plates? You might think that all kids "scream for ice cream." But, according to a Plantation Baking Co. poll of elementary school children, when asked to name their favorite kind of dessert for lunch at school, 38 percent named baked goods, while 36 percent chose ice cream. Pudding and Jell-O garnered 14 percent of the tally, while fruit trailed with 12 percent of the vote.

"Cookie monsters" also may not be as prevalent as you might think. Heading the list of favorite baked desserts was the brownie (24 percent), followed by snack cakes with cream filling, cookies, cupcakes, pie and cake.

When choosing cookies, chocolate chip ranked first, preferred by 25 percent. Chocolate chocolate chip was second, followed by oatmeal, sandwich cookies, peanut butter, sugar and others.

Americans have long been known for their independence and self-sufficiency - characteristics recently reaffirmed in a national study on do-it-yourselfers. The study, conducted by Maritz Marketing Research Inc., shows 91 percent of Americans take on do-it-yourself projects every year. Women are as likely to tackle a project as men.

According to the survey, 21 percent more than $900 a year on do-it-yourself projects. Fourteen percent lay out $301 to $900, with 33 percent spending up to $300.

Based on their expenditures, there seem to be two distinct groups of do-it-yourselfers: Mr./Ms. Tinker, who take on a few smaller jobs requiring little or no knowledge; and Mr./Ms. Fix It, who may handle multiple projects during the year and are undaunted by skill level required. The survey shows the latter category is dominated by men, but 13 percent of the women qualify as well.

Among the reasons why Americans like do-it-yourself projects, saving money tops the list (35 percent). However, pure enjoyment was mentioned by 32 percent of the respondents. Coming in third was wanting the job done right.

Fifty-four percent of the men surveyed say they prefer outdoor projects, such as landscaping or house painting. And 55 percent of the women prefer indoor projects, particularly those involving the kitchen.

For the 9 percent who don't try do-it-yourself projects, the main reason is a lack of time, followed by feeling too old, not owning the property, health reasons and lack of skill.

What's cooking in the kitchen? As often as not, its something other than food. According to a survey done by Knapp Communications, today's kitchen functions not only as the place for cooking and eating, but as the "communications center" for the entire household.

The survey yielded the following "top 10 kitchen activities" - other than preparing and eating food:

1. Talking on the telephone.

2. Leaving notes for other family members.

3. Open mail; catch up on correspondence.

4. Read magazines and newspapers.

5. Entertain guests.

6. Argue.

7. Have family conferences.

8. Play games.

9. Watch television.

10. Help kids with homework.

Contrary to a popular belief that family travel is a discretionary diversion, more than 90 percent of American families report that family travel is an essential yearly event that strengthens parent-child relationships.

The survey, conducted by Holiday Inn, also revealed:

- 72 percent of the youngsters surveyed noted that swimming pools are the most important factor in the selection of a vacation hotel and the enjoyment of their visit.

- Children are more enthused about a family holiday that involves air travel. Parents prefer family car trips because of the childhood memories they elicit.

- Among children's favorite vacation activities are: watching TV, staying up late, playing in the hotel game room, jumping on the beds and having pillow fights.

- Parents cite going out to restaurants, calling room service, sightseeing, sleeping and shopping as the elements of a terrific family trip.

- Hawaii was the destination of choice selected by both parents and children.

What would you do with a million dollars? Buy furs? Jewels? Take exotic vacations?

Sixty-three percent of Americans surveyed in a Chex poll said that if they won $1 million they would pay off all their debts; 44 percent said they would buy a house; 27 percent said they would start their own business.

One out of five of the respondents said they would quit their job and not work at all; 20 percent would go back to school and 7 percent indicated they would try a new profession.

Despite the dream of sudden millionaire status, 81 percent said they would share any such windfall with relatives, friends or a favorite charity; 10 percent would keep the money all for themselves.