Holiday Countdown – What to Do This Week

2128165158_55522ccb4cThere’s only 15 days left ’till Christmas — and Hanukkah is already well on its way. We’ve got a countdown list prepared just for this week to get you prepped (or give you the push to get through) the holidays.

1. Tuesday: Go to the post office (now). Next week, on Monday, is the busiest day of the year at the post office — so don’t wait — send out those last minute cards and gifts today.

2. Wednesday: Exercise. If you’re like us, you’ll be spending this weekend getting random gifts for people outside the inner circle (teachers, gardener, nanny, neighbors) so you’ll probably skip this weekend’s work-out (we’re just being honest).

3. Thursday: Prepare your holiday tipping budget. Not sure if you’ve realized it yet, but you’ve got to tip all those people who have made you prettier, smarter, cleaner, more organized this year. This article is a great start. According to Consumer Reports 75 percent of people tip their house cleaners during the holidays and 8 percent tip the garbage collector.

4. Friday: Buy your holiday dress. We know the scenario — December 24, with only minutes to spare before you need to be at the (fill in the blank) house for your annual Christmas party. No dress, nothing to wear. Do us a favor — get a great deal on designer duds at The Real Real – one of our favorite online consignment shops.

5. Saturday: Book a blow-out for the company Christmas party. How good are you at hot rollers? Enough said.

6. Sunday: Order your New Years detox program. Just thinking about the cheese plate we’re going to devour makes us want to start this December 26. Check out one of our favorites Urban Remedy here.

 

Photo via Flickr: by paparutzi

Conquer the Holidays: Advice From a Personal Assistant

Guest Contributor Misa Phutangdee, founder of Miss Go to Girl, a concierge service for everything from party planning to personal assistance, offers these great tips to conquer the holidays—this week!

Week of November 26th

Now that we all had a successful Thanksgiving, its time to look ahead to even more holiday time.  You may be feeling pretty confident if you got most of your shopping done on Black Friday, but there is still plenty to do to prepare for Christmas, Hanukah or whichever holiday you celebrate.

1. Make Appointments. This week is the perfect time to book your appointments now. We do this every year ladies, we wait until the last week to call our hairstylist, manicurist, esthetician, our dermatologist—you fill in the blank. Haven’t we learned yet that we are not their only clients?  Give them a call this week, book your appointments, write them in your calendar and commit to it. Set the appointments for the week of December 17th so your new color and cut, mani and pedi and possibly new face are fresh and primped for the week when your family and friends are in town.

2. Hire Babysitters. While penciling in your appointments in your calendar, this is also the time to take a look at upcoming holiday parties you have that are for adults only.  Is the cost of babysitters driving you bananas?  Be resourceful, schedule sleep over’s if it’s going to be a real late night.

3. Organize Photos. Do you ever wonder what people hire a Personal Assistant for? I can tell you, organizing photo albums is on the to-do list for most of my clients. Which leads me to the next item on your to do list; Create your end of the year album. Set aside 3 hours for every member of your family to come together select their favorite photos and go the old fashioned route of sticking them in an album or go online to Shutterfly or Costco to create a memory book where there’s plenty of room for color and creativity. If your children are school age or older, chances are they are computer savvy and they can even take on this project.

4. Online Shopping. Chances are, you were not able to purchase every single item on your gift list last Friday—so take advantage of today’s cyber Monday deals, where sites like Kate Spade are offering 70% discounts! Do you enjoy being pushed and shoved and spending countless minutes searching for parking only to find out that the exact item your niece wants is also the same item every girl in the world wants? Shop from the comfy confines of your couch (laptop in hand). Many online stores also offer gift-wrapping and the vendor can ship the item directly to the recipient. Wrapping gifts and standing in line at the post office is now one more thing to cross off your list!

5. Buy Stamps. Are you in need of extra stamps for those holiday cards? This year, you can be creative and get your face on your stamp!  You can also do this online and it’s a really simple process. Just go to www.photostamps.com, upload your picture, customize your stamp if you wish, then check out and have them delivered to your door step!

 

Photo via Flickr: by MJ/TR (´・ω・)

Thanksgiving Week Made EZ

photo from world.werner-kunz.com

Hello ladies it’s Monday before Thanksgiving… can you believe it? We can’t. To alleviate any potential stress, Misa P. of Miss Go To Girl has broken down the week for you!

 Monday If you are hosting:  Shop today! Pull out all of your recipes, figure out how many pounds of spinach, bags of potatoes, and bottles of wine you will need –and don’t forget to get the best deal on wine through your grocery story membership clubs. Safeway, for example offers up to 30 percent off select wines and if you buy six bottles (you can mix labels) you will get an additional 10 percent. And delegate – call those guests and ask them to bring something, people really love to feel included -after all the first Thanksgiving was a pot luck!

Don’t have your recipes?  Here are some stand outs for sides. (O.K. full disclosure Mimi collected them for her day job, but she’s tried ‘em –and they work!)

Going as a guest? You still have time to think about an appropriate hostess gift.  Something they can really use (or re-gift). Don’t bring flowers that need a vase, a dessert that wasn’t in the plans (honestly the hostess would have asked if she wanted you to bring it) and for you soap givers ‘C’ mon!  How many bars does a person need? Think: What would I want?  – then get it.  Also – if you are one of those people who bring champagne, but drink only wine – bring wine or both!

Today would be the last day you should invite that person you suspect has no place to go.  You’ll be happy you did, as you can read in awomenshealth.com fun piece on putting the thanks back in Thanksgiving.

Tuesday … Celebrity chef Michael Mina says to leave the skin on The Turkey in the refrigerator uncovered for two days prior to cooking to let the skin dry out.  Do you plan on skipping all cooking tips and ordering your Thanksgiving dinner instead?  Remember, you’ll need at least 48 hours notice for stores like Whole Foods.

Wednesday:  Set the table, create a self serve separate bar space away from the kitchen so guests are comfortable serving them selves. Get that mani/pedi.

Thursday – Enjoy!  If you can start the day off with exercise, Do we need to remind you of the metabolism boosting, endorphine producing benefits?  Here’s a list of 5 ways to get your Thanksgiving Groove on from Lifescript.com

Friday Shop! Some people like middle school teacher, Adena Zender, in Lompoc California, plans for all of her holiday (and other) shopping on this day, according to her, “It’s fun, it feels like I’m at a big party –and the deals can’t be beat!” Or shop online, this a new trend and it’s an easy way to get it done without having to find a parking spot.

Look for a weekly survival count down for Misa P., every Monday until 2013.

Throw a Halloween Party Tonight: Misa Makes it EZ

Regardless of your budget, Misa Phutangdee, founder of Miss Go to Girl, a concierge service for everything from party planning to personal assistance, offers these great tips to throw a fab Halloween party on a moment’s notice.


1. Dress up and your guests will follow. You’ve got to look like you love Halloween but the costume doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming (check out our post Last Minute Halloween Costumes)!
2. Give an award. What about a Best Dressed Costume contest to give your guests some motivation for putting effort into their costume. There’s nothing like playing a completive game to motivate them to go all out for their costume.  Awards can be as simple as bragging rights to as involved as a legacy trophy — to encourage guests to attend next year’s bash!
3. What’s your spook factor? Uninvited zombies? Surprise vampire guests? Whatever you do, make it believable and make sure your “uninvited guest” AKA friend commits to his/her character!

4. Let them Eat! Search sites like Pinterest to get in touch with your creative self and don’t just think about candy and dessert. What about mummified hot dogs, Apple teeth, and my personal fave, Guacamole Vomit!
 

Last Minute Halloween Costumes – No Purchase Necessary!

You officially have less than a week to come up with a Halloween costume that will both work for the office party and the late night wine-fueled shindig at your BF’s. Don’t worry we’ve turned to the DIY Gods AKA Pinterest to reveal our top three picks for last minute Halloween costumes that aren’t only free (or cheap) to make, but you can probably find the pieces in your closet!

1. Morton Salt Girl

What You’ll Need: An umbrella, can of Morton Salt (cut off the top, attach a long string and make it your cell phone holder!), yellow peacoat/dress/or rain coat, white pants.

2. UPS Worker

What You’ll Need: An old UPS box (or go to the UPS store and get one there), an all-brown ensemble, extra points for a brown hat and UPS sticker combo.

3. Mary Poppins

What You’ll Need: A black umbrella, long black skirt, white long sleeve shirt tucked-in, red belt (use a red ribbon), red bow-tie (red ribbon works again!), some sort of mini hand held suitcase or oversize hand held purse, extra points for white gloves.

Weekend Brunch Alert: Low Fat Pumpkin French Toast

Image

Photo Credit: The Minimalist Baker

Sometimes there is nothing better than sleeping in and cooking a late brunch for the family (or your post-bar hopping friends). One of our favorite blogs The Minimalist Baker combined the flavors of October (pumpkins!) with the traditional breakfast French toast to create a totally delectable and according to TMB not too fattening at just 120 calories per slice weekend treat. The batter is super easy: seven free-range eggs, 2 cups of milk, teaspoon of vanilla extract, two scoops of pumpkin butter (Trader Joe’s has a seasonal pumpkin butter) and some shakes of pumpkin pie spice (TJ’s again!). Pour the batter over cubes of raisin bread in a casserole dish. Leave overnight. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Pumpkin is also a super healthy vegetable with high levels of vitamins A, C and E.

Citrus Punch – Party Favorite!

In time for your weekend plans we wanted to share a no-fail party punch recipe. Last fall, we were lucky to meet with the charming celebrity chef Bradley Odgen a James Beard Foundation award-winning chef and restauranteur who had just published his second cookbook, Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden.

One recipe that we have sampled and approved is the Winter Citrus Punch a spinoff of classic sangria and can be made up to three or four days in advance in big batches to share with a crowd at a party. While the official name is Winter Citrus Punch, it can be enjoyed anytime of the year.

Winter Citrus Punch With Spiced Pomegranate Ice

Serves 8

Ingredients

3 star anise, crushed

2 cups pomegranate juice, freshly squeezed
2 cups tangerine juice, freshly squeezed
8–10 peppermint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
2 cups pineapple juice, freshly pressed
2 cups blood orange juice, freshly squeezed
2 cups orange juice, freshly squeezed
½ cup Meyer lemon juice, freshly squeezed
8 shots of rum or Cointreau (one per person) or sparkling wine or champagne to taste, optional

To Make
1 In a small noncorrosive pan, combine the pomegranate juice, star anise and peppermint leaves and heat to a high simmer. 2 Turn down the heat and steep for 15 minutes, then strain. 3 Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. 4 Combine the remaining juices and refrigerate until needed. 5 Place juice and frozen cubes in a large punch bowl with slices of fruit on top or serve in individual glasses over the frozen cubes of pomegranate ice. 6 Garnish with peppermint sprigs. 7 For holiday cheer, add desired spirit.

Halloween Costumes for 2012!

D Sharon Pruitt

Inspired by the recent Halloween research from the National Retail Foundation, we’re back with our annual Halloween nudge. According to the NRF, a record seven in 10 will be celebrating Halloween resulting in a total budge of $8 billion to be spent for this hallowed eve.

$79.82
The average amount Americans will spend on decorations, costumes and candy for Halloween

35.7%
Americans who will look to a retail store for costume ideas

27.1%
Americans who will look for costume ideas via social media sites

Don’t have a costume -don’t fret – we’re here to help!

This year’s trendy picks:

Love it or hate it -Honey Boo Boo is HOT! While we’ve seen a few costumes online – you can basically squeeze yourself into a sequin dress, get dolled up and spill some mustard or jelly down the front (ketchup might look like blood). How about the totally inappropriate teddy bear “Ted” who enjoyed a moment in the spotlight this summer. If you’re heading to a dance party, add a little “Gangnam Style” fun via Korean rapper Psy (short for psycho). Or considering the elections are a few days away – be presidential, these candidate face masks are for sale all over the internet starting at $10.

Since we only have one female costume in this group here are a few pretty simple female inspired options via Pinterest

Still haven’t figured it out? Check out our Halloween costume posts from 2011 and 2010.

Frozen Fruits – Cost Saver Huge Flavor!

D Sharon Pruitt

As we say so long to summer and bask in the glory of fall, we also bid adieu to many of the brightly colored, highly nutritious organic fresh fruits. Hence we did a bit of research on how  to freeze that last batch of summer fruit.

Thanks to AllRecipes.com for their tips of freezing fruit.

Wash fruits and sort for damaged fruit before freezing. Some fruits do best with a sugar or sugar-syrup preparation. Blueberries, currants, and cranberries do fine without sugar.

Here’s a trick for freezing delicate berries like strawberries or raspberries: Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a plastic freezer bag or container. You can also prepare delicate berries with sugar or sugar syrup.

For fruits that tend to brown, like apples, peaches, nectarines and apricots, treat with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). Look for the powdered form in health food stores, drugstores, and some grocery stores in the vitamin aisle. To make an ascorbic acid wash: Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder (or finely crushed vitamin C tablets) in 3 tablespoons water. Sprinkle this mixture over the cut fruit. An acceptable substitute: Slice the fruit and dip the slices  in an acidulated water bath — about one quart water plus a tablespoon of lemon juice — before drying and freezing.

For the elusive frozen bananas (ours seem to collect ice crystals and turn brown ;( ) We’ve gone to LiveStrong.com for their advice. For preparation for smoothies they suggest peeling, cutting into 1/2 slices and putting on wax or parchment paper and place the banana slices onto it in a single layer and then placing the bananas in the freezer in a level spot for 30 minutes to an hour to solidify Otherwise, peel the bananas. (peeled frozen bananas can last up to four months, while those frozen with the peel last only two months) And place your bananas into a zipper freezer bag. Push as much air as you can out of the bag before sealing it shut. Don’t crowd or squish the bananas because it will make them harder to separate when you want to use them.

DIY: Make Your Own Shampoo

Did you know that up until the 1930′s women never shampooed their hair? True story.

In fact, shampoo as we know it today wasn’t even invented back then, meaning that our grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmothers actually used good old natural soap and water to clean their hair.

So then why is it that we ladies nowadays feel as though we have to shampoo, condition, pre-condition, and style our hair with different products each step of the way?

Consumerism, my friends, plain and simple.

No longer I say!

Today I put my foot down and teach my fellow shampoo-lovin’ sistahs how to train their tresses to no longer rely on store-bought shampoo just to feel as though their hair is squeaky clean.

Whether your hair is straight or full of curls, I have a DIY solution for all my girls.

But first, ever wonder what your favorite shampoo is really doing to your hair?

The Damaging Effects of Shampoo

Thanks to years of targeted marketing, we have been taught that if we don’t use this shampoo or that conditioner our hair will become a tangled mess of greasy, damaged, frizzed-out dreadlocks.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Actually, it’s the exact opposite.

In reality, store-bought shampoos actually strip your hair of it’s natural oils, or sebum, that our scalps produce.

And get this: these oils are essential to the health of your hair. Meaning you want this sebum, hell, you NEED it!

Especially you girls with curls. Speaking of that….

A Natural Shampoo For Curly Hair

Being that curly hair is usually quite dry, and shampoo only dries it out more, this quick DIY shampoo and rinse will help to restore moisture, shine, and manageability to your locks.

To start, mix 1 litre of boiling water with 1/4 cup of baking soda. Shake your mixture until your baking soda is fully dissolved, and wait for your mixture to be cool to the touch. Then apply your cleansing rinse liberally to your hair, give it a good scrub, and rinse well.

Follow up your cleanser with a mixture of:

-      3/4 cup of water

-      1/4 cup of pure apple cider vinegar

-      2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel

-      1 tablespoon of honey

-      8 drops of peppermint oil

-      8 drops of tea tree oil

Make sure to shake your rinse before squirting it all throughout your hair and scalp. Let it sit in your hair for a few minutes until you feel the ‘tingle’, and then rinse well.

You may notice a faint vinegar smell, but that can be easily covered by adding more peppermint oil to your mixture.

It may take a while to get used to this method, but if you stick to it you should notice your curls looking far less frizzy as well as having a nice healthy sheen to them, not to mention the money you will save!

Of course, not all of us have curls or need to go that extra step.

A Natural Shampoo For Straight Hair

Unlike our curly-haired sistahs, this DIY shampoo only requires one step, meaning you don’t even need to shower! Bonus.

All you need is a small bowl, a clean, dry spice shaker, and:

-      8 – 10 drops of your favourite essential oil

-      2 tablespoons of corn starch

-      2 tablespoons of rice flour

-      2 tablespoons of arrowroot flour

Begin by pouring your ingredients together in a small bowl, and vigorously mixing it together for a few minutes to make sure it is well combined.

Then pour your mixture into your spice shaker and shake it directly onto your roots. If you prefer a more targeted cleaning, shake some into your hands and apply it directly to your scalp, roots, and hair.

Follow that by brushing the powder through your hair to ensure it’s evenly distributed, style as you normally would, and go!

Easy. Cheap. Natural. Does it get any better than that?

So, whether you have curly hair or straight, if you can stay dedicated to your new shampoo and ride out the first few days of greasy hair, you should be able to condition your tresses to no longer depend on chemical-laden shampoo.

Can someone remind me again why I spent all those years throwing away money on store-bought shampoo?

MISS Guest Blogger Vanessa is the chief blogging babe for BesSkincare.com where she blogs and vlogs about all things skincare, including the best microdermabrasion machine, as well as handy DIY tips and tricks such as how to make your own moisturizer. The best part about her job? She gets to help her readers look and feel their very best!

Photo via Flickr: beverlyislike

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