Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shop Smart: Are you getting the most bang for your buck?

If you learn one thing from this blog it's this - you should never, ever again look down on buying a generic, store brand product. Whether it’s generic peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies, soap, or ibuprofen, name brand products can be as much as double the price of their generic equivalents. The truth of the matter is - store brand products are often identical to name brand products. Eugene Fram, Professor of marketing at Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Business, said the difference between store brand and name brand goods is that brand names spend more on marketing, not that they’re better quality. She goes on to say that she "once visited a cranberry factory in New England, and saw two lines of the same cranberry juice – one was for a national brand, and the other line was for a store brand.”

During my weekly (ok a lot of time twice weekly) run to Target, I picked up the name brand bottle of Listerine Total Care and read the ingredients. The price: $5.80. I then picked up the Target equivilant. THE EXACT SAME INGREDIENTS. Same percentages of alcohols. Ingredients listed in the same order. Target's price. $2.99 for that same 1-liter bottle. Is that wrapper really worth almost $3.00 more? I think not.

I found an experiment done by LearnVest, that I found particularly interesting that outlines which generic brands are actually the cheapest. They compared five national chains, head-to-head. They obtained their prices at stores in San Diego, California, and also rounded out some of the pennies - so the exact details may vary by locations. These findings should show you that 1) you should consider buying store brand products if you truly want to save and 2) certain stores (drugstores in particular) are a complete rip off.


Check out their findings:

Walgreens: Vaseline $7 /Store Brand lotion $4
Target: $5 / $3.50
Safeway(Vons): $6 / $4.50
CVS: $7 / $5
Walmart: $5 / $2.50
Winner: Vasaline - Walmart/Target & Store brand - Walmart


Walgreens: Softsoap $3/Store Brand soap $2
Target: $1 / $1
Safeway(Vons): $1 / $1
CVS: $2.50 / $7
Walmart: $1.50 /$1
Winner: Softsoap - Target & Safeway & Store brand soap - Target, Safeway, & Walmart


Walgreens: Tums $11 /Store Brand Antacid $9
Target: $7/ $4
Safeway(Vons): $9 / $6.50
CVS: $10 / $7.50
Walmart: $7 /$4
Winner: Tums Brand - Target/Walmart & Store brand Antacid - Walmart



Walgreens: Pepto $7.50 /Store Brand Stomach Relief $6
Target: $4 / $3
Safeway(Vons): $7 / $4
CVS: $7 / $5
Walmart: $4 /$3
Winner: Pepto-Bismol - Target/Walmart & Store brand Stomach Relief - Target/Walmart

Walgreens: Skippy $3.50 /Store Brand Peanut Butter N/A
Target: $5 / $3.50
Safeway(Vons): $4.50 / $3.50
CVS: $3.50 / N/A
Walmart: $4 /$2.50
Winner: Skippy - Walmart & Store brand PB - Target




Walgreens: Green Giant $2 /Store Brand Corn N/A
Target: $1 / $.67
Safeway(Vons): $1 / $.89
CVS: $1.50 / $1.25
Walmart: $1 /$.67
Winner: Green Giant - Target/Walmart & Store brand corn - Target/Walmart

Walgreens: Kraft $1.59 /Store Brand Mac N/A
Target: $.99 / $.50
Safeway(Vons): $1.29 / $1
CVS: $1.59 / N/A
Walmart: $.78 /$.50
Winner: Kraft - Walmart & Store brand Mac - Target/Walmart


Walgreens: Chips Ahoy $4.50 /Store Brand Choc. chip cookies $2
Target: $3 / $2.50
Safeway(Vons): $3 / $3
CVS: $4 / N/A
Walmart: $3 /$2
Winner: Chips Ahoy- Target, Safeway & Walmart & Store brand choc. chip - Walmart/Walgreens

The end result? Walmart And Target take the cake. Although I'd prefer to shop at Target any day, the simple truth is that Walmart brand has some of the best prices. Target comes in at a respectable second, and nearly ties with Walmart on name brand products.

I'm not saying that you should never shop at CVS again. After all, if that’s the store you’re closest to, the $2.50 difference on hand lotion might not be worth the price of gas. All the same, keep these lessons in mind for you next big shopping spree. And at least get a Rewards card to ease the sting.

Monday, November 29, 2010

False Economy: Who is playing who?

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. Mine was delightful. My family was in town from WA and we had a blast! Ok so now that we've officially entered into the "shopping season," I am going to devote the next week or so to becoming a savvy shopper. Stay tuned for tips on how to save money, what you should and shouldn't buy at particular stores and what you should buy where & when. I am excited about the upcoming posts.

So let's get started - There are a million and one deals out there right now. Ads are trying to entice you to spend in hopes that it will 1) bring them profit and 2) stimulate the economy. But do you really think you're saving money? Think again.

You assume you're being a savvy consumer by doing things like using coupons, getting free shipping with online purchases, and shopping in stores with no-hassle return policies. But are you really being taken for a sucker? There are plenty of programs and promotions out there that claim to save you money. However, retailers don't come up with these promotions to save you money. They come up with them to make profits. The game comes down to who is playing who.
You can save money through many of the programs and retailers below, but the trick is to make sure you're working them, and not the other way around.
Coupons: I personally am not a coupon-cutter but I know a lot of people that religiously cut coupons to save money. If you plan to buy that particular item, coupons are great to get a discount. But coupons are often used to entice folks into purchasing stuff that's not normally on their shopping lists, and that they don't really need—so if you buy, it's a net loss, even if you're buying at a discount. Most faithful bargain hunters use coupons but use them carefully & strategically. To use coupons wisely, you must be willing to jump from brand to brand and from store to store, and you must keep your eye on what you're actually paying out of your pocket, rather than what you're supposedly saving with some coupon. As one commenter said: There is no point in saving $0.50 on a $4.00 bottle of salad dressing, when the one you normally purchase is $2.39. Which brings up another point: Even if you have a coupon for a national brand product, a generic store brand equivalent might be cheaper, and tests have shown that store brands generally taste just as good or better.
0% Financing: Yes, you can get a deal with 0% financing—but only if you pay back the loan in its entirety before the 0% period runs out. As a Consumer Reports post said, retailers like Best Buy and Wal-Mart offer 0% financing for big purchases like flat-screen TVs, but once that no-interest period expires, you're looking at interest rates of around 30%. Again, no harm done if you're certain you can pay off the balance in the agreed-upon time frame. The problem is that many people are attracted to 0% financing because they don't have the money to pay in full. They may think they'll be able to cover the debt in the 6, 9, or 12 months detailed in the contract, but, especially because the economy's been so dodgy, do they know for certain?
Stores That Are Always on Sale: At some stores, the discount hype never ends (AKA Macy's & Kohl's) and there's always a readily available coupon to knock 20% off your purchase (AKA Bed Bath and Beyond). The result of the non-stop sale-o-rama is that the retail price is pretty much meaningless. No one ever pays the list price (or at least no one ever should). The price after you've factored in the coupons and the never-ending discounts - that's the true price. And often, it's still not that great. The bottom line is, well, your bottom line. Don't be bowled over by a flashy discount; look at what you're paying, and see if you can get it cheaper at another store.
Stores With Good Return Policies: Of course, a good return policy is good for consumers. But the fact is that, per a WSJ story written to inform the business side of the equation: "Customers who know they can return anything they buy, no questions asked, for a full refund are likely to buy more than shoppers who are afraid they might get stuck with something they don't want or lose money on the return. They're also more likely to refer the retailer to other shoppers, broadening the company's customer base." Retail researchers study this stuff inside and out. They know, for instance, that there's a lower likelihood of an item being returned if it was purchased at a discount, or that a customer who usually shops in the store will be less likely to return items purchased online. I'm not saying to avoid shopping in stores with easy return policies. I'm saying that you should be mindful of the puppeteers who come up with these strategic return policies, and that you should only purchase the items you really want. And if you decide after the fact that you don't want the item, by all means return it. A no-hassle return was one of the reasons you were shopping in the store in the first place.
Free Shipping: The issue here is similar to stores with no-hassle return policies - It's commonplace to get duped into buying more than you normally would have. Many retailers have carefully considered dollar minimums that a shopper must meet to get free shipping. So, even if you only wanted to buy one $12 item, you wind up spending $50 - but with free shipping! Studies have shown that consumers are far more likely to buy a $5 item that comes with free shipping than to buy the same item for $2.50 and pay $2.50 for shipping. Makes perfect sense, right? Don't trick yourself into thinking you're getting a deal, when what is really happening is that you're spending more than you planned.
Extended Warranties: You pay more upfront with the idea that it'll save you money down the line when the car or laptop or whatever breaks and needs to be fixed. The two big problems with extended warranties are that they are expensive (sometimes 30% or 40% of the cost of the item itself) and that consumers rarely ever use them (and stores make as much as 80% profit on extended service plans because of it). Net result: Very few consumers get their money's worth out of extended warranty, even though they may think that buying them is the prudent thing to do.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Happy Thanksgiving from my house to yours!!!

I am grateful for your friendship, following, support, and advice. Remember to show thanks to those you love and care about today! And above all - relax, watch far too much football, unbutton those pants and dig in!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Friday Survival Tips

138 million shoppers are expected to hit stores Black Friday weekend according to a top retail trade group. I personally am NOT one of them. I'm all about saving money but standing on a street corner for days in order to save a couple hundred bucks is beyond me. What could they possibly be saving that could ever justify putting themselves through this madness? Despite the mayhem, I do have friend's that swear by the deals and sheer adrenaline rush of Black Friday. And those friend's have earned the title in my book of world-class bargain hunter!

If you are one of those people who likes to get up in the dark on the Friday after Thanksgiving and go stand in line, here's some survival tips for getting the most out of your shopping experience:

1) Get online before you get in line: Stop and think of the myriad benefits - no crowds, no lines, no need to change out of your pajamas. It might be a weird way to spend the wee hours of the morning, but you’re guaranteed not to get scratched, kicked or trampled. More retailers are going to offer online “doorbuster” deals this year, and you can take advantage of the time difference if you pay attention. Keep in mind that online deals take effect actually 3 hours earlier if you live on the West Coast. If there's something you really want to snag, snag it with the East Coasters at 2 a.m. instead of waiting until 5 a.m.

2) Check out the stores open on Thanksgiving: Honestly, Thanksgiving is a day for families to be together, not shop. But if you lack such reservations, check out the deals as more stores try to get your money early. This year, Sears, K-Mart and Toys'R'Us plan to open on Turkey Day and Walmart will open at midnight.

3) Don't kill yourself to be the first in line: Sure, stores want to see you scramble madly at the crack of dawn for their doorbuster deals but don’t give up if you don’t get up in time. By 8 a.m., many of those earlybirds have gone home and crawled back into bed. Meanwhile, the later shoppers are just getting dressed and preparing to hit the malls at 10 a.m. If you wait until 8 a.m. or so, you can find empty parking lots and walk into empty stores, where there are still plenty of deals to be found. Take advantage of this short window of opportunity.

4) Shop with a detailed list: There is no error for messing around here. You need to have your strategy in place. I know this tip sounds so obvious it’s stupid, but really we’re all so busy with Thanksgiving, you might forget to detail out the list. You’ll feel more in control and focused if you head out with a list of the people you’re shopping for, the gift ideas you have in mind for them and the target price range for each item. Otherwise, a shopping day like this one could be so overwhelming that you might fail to accomplish as much as you had hoped. Plus, the last thing you want to do is be grabbing things that you don’t even need or want. So have that list in front of your face and stay focused despite the frenzy of people pushing and swarming around you.

5) Get the Thanksgiving day newspaper: Again, this is a time for strategizing! You might be surprised to notice how many of the ads are time-sensitive — as in, deeper discounts may apply if you shop before 10 or 11 a.m. or noon. Other ads will let you know what time certain stores plan to open and close. It’s also crammed with discounts, deals and coupons that can help you create the aforementioned list. Remember to bring the ads with you. This way you will avoid any disputes over how much an item is supposed to cost on Friday. Having the ad also could come in handy at stores promising “lowest-price” guarantees – especially if you find lower prices elsewhere. Not sure if this works but it's worth a try - If a store is sold out of an item, take the ad to a competing retailer and see if they’ll match the price.

6) Be a savvy shopper: You can rise above the Friday fray by doing some homework in advance about products that really interest you this year – especially if they’re big-ticket items. Visit sites such as ConsumerReports.org — (if you don’t have a subscription, get one … it’s worth it!) —and About.com to gather intelligence and read product reviews before the big day.

7) If you must brave the crowds, be prepared: Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. This is not a fashion show, this is a dog fight for deals. Also, bring snacks. You don’t want to waste any precious shopping time looking for something to eat or drink so have some power bars and a drink in your purse. They’ll prevent you from having to endure low blood-sugar levels, dehydration or congested food courts.

8) Scope out the floor plans in advance: If you are really serious about wanting a particular deal, then it might be worth your while to find out exactly where it’s located ahead of time. That way, you don’t waste time bumbling around in a confusing big-box retailer like Walmart. Especially keep this in mind with Target and Walmart who have been remodeling a lot of stores lately to add more food.

9) Keep your receipt: A lot of retailers are now refusing to accept returns without a receipt, so don’t chuck it in the trash!

10) Have fun! You chose to do this so make the best out of it. Don't bring your kids. And choose your shopping buddy wisely. Think hard who is actually crazy enough to get into the spirit of shopping like this. To pass the time more quickly it never hurts to make friends with the people next to you in line. 'Tis the season to be merry!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Best in Glass: What pairs well with Turkey

Hosting Thanksgiving but have no clue what's the best wine to pair with your delicious feast? Or maybe you're just a guest that was told to "just show up." Of course you're not going to come empty handed. Naturally you're going to gravitate to the ever-so-easy lifesaver - a bottle of wine.

If you're like me, I wouldn't have the SLIGHTEST clue what goes well with turkey. With a little help from realsimple.com, I came up with a reference guide of a dozen EASY TO FIND bottles - all $15 or less - that are worthy of your feast.

WHITES
Crisp & Refreshing
$13
2008 ERATH Pinot Gris
Pear, ripe banana, and peach blossom make this a fruity pick.

$13
2009 CHARLES SMITH Kung Fu Girl Riesling
Light & fresh with a punch of apricot and lychee.

$15
GRUET BRUT Champenoise
This dry New Mexican sparkler with a slight pucker of green apple is nice and bubbly and sure to get the party started.

Lush and Round
$14
2009 PINE RIDGE Chenin Blanc Viognier
Pure bliss radiates from the delicious flavors of honeydew, peach, and jasmine.

$14
2008 HAYMAN & HILL Russian River Valley Reserve Selection Chardonnay
This pick is extra turkey friendly with it's big, rich notes of tropical fruit, butterscotch, and oak.

REDS
Soft & Fruity
$15
2008 PERTINACE Barbera d'Alba
Add elegance to the table with hints of blackberry, black cherry, and violets.

$15
2008 GEORGES DEUBOEUF Morgon Jean Descombes
Not too overpowering but definitely loaded with aromas of black currant and roses.

$14
2009 MATUA VALLEY Marlborough Pinot Noir
Your mouth with water over this medium bodied Pinot. Overflowing with bing cherry notes and a floral, smokey aroma.

Bold & Rich
$11
2006 MONTEVINA Zinfandel
Easiest enough to drink on it's own but complex enough to stand up to the heartiest dishes on the table.

$12
2008 HEARTLAND Stickleback Red
Super satisfying blend of spicy plums.

$14
2008 PLANETA LA SEGRETA Sicily IGT
The mixture of Mero d'Avola, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc makes this a vibrant taste of dark berries, cloves, and plums.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Beginners Guide to PANTRY PRIDE

Trying to cram food for 8 people in a pantry meant for two is a tough job. That coupled with complete lack of organization results in a cluttered mess. A mess that almost makes you not want to cook because you don't want to face the demon that lies inside.

It's time you tackle this problem. And there's no better time than before Thanksgiving. Now, now, now...don't roll your eyes like I'm being unrealistic. You can take your pantry from filthy to flawless in just 15 minutes with these easy to follow tips.

First let's lay out some basic, must follow rules:

1) KNOW WHAT YOU USE - Avoid the common mistake of filling your pantry with food you don't use often. Your pantry should be organized with things that you grab for on a consistent basis.

2) SHOP SMALL - Even if you're a Costco lover, you don't need a pantry that that can feed your family though next fall, bomb-shelter style. The idea is to keep your pantry stocked with items you constantly use.

3) UNWRAP - Most people don't unwrap excess packaging before putting away food. Take snack packs for example. Cut off the overwrap and you can fit the individual pack much easier. Ditto with soda, multipacks and paper towels.

Alright, let's get started. Here’s what you’ll need: garbage can, a dustbuster or vacuum with a hose, sponge, dishwashing liquid, Disinfectant Wipes, baking soda, paper towels, and a spatula.

Minutes 1 to 3: PURGE. Move the trash can near the pantry. Empty shelves onto the counter, tossing out anything expired or suspicious (old cracker boxes, stale cereal, ancient bags of flour, outdated canned goods). Split your items into two piles: stuff you use and want to keep, and foods you haven't touched in at least 3 months. If you haven't used it by now, you probably wont. Most dried herbs and ground spices should be replaced every six months (jot down those you throw away so you’ll remember to replace them); goods like honey and brown sugar can last forever.

Minute 4: If you’re overloaded with canned goods, make a bag for a local food bank (see feedingamerica.org for locations). Separate the “keeper” contents into two categories: everyday items and occasionally used items.

Minute 5: Wet your sponge with water and dishsoap and wipe down sticky jars and dusty cans. Let dry.

Minute 6: With a handheld vac, clear the shelves of crumbs, being extra diligent in the corners.

Minute 7: Sprinkle baking soda on any honey drippings, jelly spots, or other residue. Top each with a paper towel soaked in hot water. Let sit for a few seconds.

Minute 8: Lift the paper towels and use a spatula (or an old credit card) to dislodge the now softened sticky stuff. Then you can either wet the sponge again and wipe/dry down all shelves or use the Disinfectant Wipes to do the final wipe-down all the shelves.

Minute 9: Place items that tend to get lost—loose packets (oatmeal, Sloppy Joe mix), tiny items (bouillon cubes) - in a plastic bin. Or things that don't stack well like plastic bags of soup mixes, nuts, chocolate chips, coffee, or marshmellows into containers. If you are feeling ambitious, label the containers.

Some quick tips on picking the right containers:

- Square bottom containers take up less space, as do containers that nest up to one another.
- Clear is best. This way you know what you have. Although you can see inside, labeling is never a bad idea. I particularily like The OXO Good Grips Food Storage Pop Containers - they are both square and clear. (bedbathandbeyond.com).
- If you can't open it with one hand, find something else.

Minutes 10 to 11: Consider relocating. Your pantry probably has more than a few non-food items. Perhaps the mop & bucket. Serving platters? Rice cooker? Ask yourself - is there a better place for these? I personally don't think your cleaning supplies should be in with your food. If your cleaning supplies must stay, at least get the brooms and mops hung on hooks.

Minutes 12 to 15: Reload the pantry by creating zones. Group your pantry items by type - grains, baking, canned goods, soups, snack food, etc. And then group similar items within each zone. Meaning canned pineapple together. Canned corn together. That way you will always have a good idea of inventory at all times. Make sure to put everyday stuff at the most accessible levels. Light occasional items (spare paper towels) belong on top. Heavy occasionals (jugs of oil, big bags of rice) can go on the bottom.

And there you have it! Your perpetually messy pantry is so clean you'll have room for all that extra Thanksgiving food and you won't be embarrassed to ask someone to grab something from inside. You can thank me later. :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

WEEKEND WARRIOR CHALLENGE: Be thankful

With guests to be arriving soon and Thanksgiving just around the corner, this weekend is sure to be hectic. Speaking for myself here. But amidst the madness, we all need to be reminded of what this upcoming holiday truly means.

History aside, Thanksgiving is a holiday for individuals - to be celebrated any way we see fit. There are no rules, no religion and no presents. It's simply a time for us to reflect on all that we have and be grateful for the many blessings.

This weekend I challenge you to stop and think about all the things you are thankful for. It can be as sentimental as your freedom to believe in your own beliefs and think your own thoughts or as simple as the Internet, for giving the possibility to meet, learn from & share with so many incredible people, so easily.


Have a wonderful weekend and THANK YOU for following my blog! xoxo

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." ~ Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Have lots of time & don't want to spend tons of money?

Have you been wracking your brain on what to give the neighbors this holiday season? Have lots of time but not lots of money? Fancy store-bought presents are great but if you want to make people feel really cared-for, nothing's better than a tasty homemade treat - carefully prepared and packaged in pretty wrapping.

Some of my favorite edible holiday gifts are:

Cookies in a jar are simply the best unexpected spin on gifting cookies without baking!! Layer a resealable jar with the pre-measured dry ingredients for sugar or chocolate chip cookies. You can find the jars at containerstore.com or you can usually find a set of mason jars at your local grocery store or Target. Trim it with the handwritten recipe, a bright ribbon and a fun cookie cutter or measuring spoon.

If you don't have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, Neiman Marcus' Chocolate Chip Cookies are to die for!

Cupcakes in a jar are another fun spin on edible holiday gifts. You will have people drooling over these delicious treats and their adorable presentation! Bake the cupcakes (boxed mix is completley acceptable!) as usual then let cool. Depending on what size mason jar you are using, you can include one or two cupcakes per jar. Place frosting in between each cupcake and on the top to make a nice contrast of color. For Thanksgiving, a Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with Cream Cheese frosting would be delicious and for Christmas, red velvet with buttercream frosting would be decedent. Again trim with a holiday ribbon and a spoon for digging in!


Quick Breads don't have to be handmade from scratch to be delicious. There are a million pre-made boxed mixes that are just as mouth watering. Pumpkin or Zucchini breads will be a smashing hit during the holidays. Bake them in mini paper loaf pans, and wrap up with parchment paper or clear cellophane paper with festive holiday ribbon. If you want to splurge a little, wrap in a holiday kitchen hand towel and tie with ribbon.
Peppermint Bark is a mouth watering delicacy perfect for the holidays! If you don't have time to bake, head over to Costco and pick up their mammoth tub of Peppermint goodness. You'll be able to get a few gifts out of the one tub. Package in a striking candy-striped gift box with coordinating ribbon. I saw boxes like this in the Christmas section at Target just yesterday.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NEWS FLASH: Buy one, get one FREE at Starbucks

Great deal for all you Starbuck's lovers! Starting Thursday, you can load up on those yummy holiday drinks at any Starbucks. The chain is offering a buy one get one free deal on its holiday drinks from 2 to 5 p.m. The drink offer is from Thursday, Nov. 18 to Sunday, Nov. 21.

The deal is good for eight different drinks including Caramel Brulee Latte, Peppermint Mocha, Gingerbread Latte, Eggnog Latte, Peppermint White Hot Chocolate, Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Caramel Brulée Frappuccino, Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino.

ENJOY!!!

FIT FOR LIFE - Getting Back to Basics

Forget the expensive gym memberships. Or all the expensive equipment that eventually gets pushed out into the garage to collect dust. You can lose weight without spending a lot of money. Like I said in the "Beat the Bulge" post, the key to losing weight is CALORIES IN, CALORIES OUT. Meaning if you want to lose, or even maintain, you're gonna have to get moving.

People ask me all the time how I stay in such good shape. For those of you that know me, I'm not super skinny, I'm muscular. Another love/hate in my life. I can thank genetics partly for my lean, muscular build. But it's not all genetics - I do have to work for it. Eating healthy is one thing but breaking a sweat is another. The secrets to my success - sticking to the basics. We have far too many 'tools' on the market that claim to bring you amazing results. Susan Summer's Thigh Master. The Bender Ball. The Ab Rocket. Tony Little's Gazelle. The Push Up Pro. The Butt Blaster. NEWS FLASH - THEY ARE ALL CRAP!! You can be just as effective staying fit without all the extras.

Below is a list of Hailey's Must Do's to stay physically fit:

1) Do join a gym. Not an expensive one. All it needs is basic equipment. Nothing fancy. We are members of Ballys. Talk about ghetto. It has all the necessities without going overboard with all the fluff that you pay extra for and never use. I think we pay $24/month for a family membership and we don't pay anything extra for childcare. A clean and safe Kid's Club is a must. Most all gyms offer classes like Spinning, Boot Camp, etc. that make going to the gym more enjoyable if you need structure. Pick up a schedule, tape it to the inside of your cupboard and make them a priority. I even write them in my calendar so I have to plan around them. Maybe you already have a gym membership but like most, you find it intimidating. You see a big open room with confusing machinery, aggressive salespeople, hardcore exercisers, and beautiful people. Keep in mind - like anything, you do it once and it will be as easy as tying your shoes. And all those beautiful, fit people had to start somewhere. They too were once in your shoes. But this isn't about them, it's about you. Soon enough, you will be right there with them. I suggest blocking out an hour in your day 3 days per week to do 30 minutes of cardio (elliptical, treadmill, bicycle, stair climber) followed by 30 minutes of weight training. Cardio will zap the calories quickly but lifting weights will keep you burning calories throughout the day.

2) Start walking. There's no need to go gungho on a crazy, unsustainable cardio kick. I LOVE speed walking. Occasionally I'll add in a run/walk interval (walk for 2 min, run for 1 min) but for the most part I'm a walker. Everyone always assumes that I am a runner which goes to show that speed walking can be just as beneficial. I hate the treadmill though. I will walk 500 laps around a track or preferably miles outside before I will willingly jump on a treadmill. Even if you only have 20 minutes, lace up your shoes, turn on the tunes and get walking. Forget the track, just go a few times around the neighborhood or even walk to do an errand. Little bursts of exercise are just as beneficial as grinding it out for an hour. It helps if you can find a walking partner and set a time to meet. This will hold you more accountable to actually do it. A good rule of thumb is if you are walking 10,000 steps/day, you will maintain your weight. Now add eating healty to that, and you're bound to see pounds shed off. Again, little changes can go a long way. I encourage you to always take the stairs, park further away and aim to walk at least 3 times per week. 3) Stick to basic exercises. These can be done at the gym but the beauty is that they can all be done in the privacy of your home. I believe less is more. If you do these simple exercise really well, you'll see amazing physical change in your body. A few of my favorite "basics" are - lunges, squats, dumbbell curls, lateral shoulder raises, butt lifts, push-ups, dips, crunches, planks, leg raises, calf raises, and jumping rope. Do 3 sets of 15 each during tv commercials, right after waking up or before bed. The only equipment you need for any of these are a set of small dumbbells. But a can of soup could work too! :)

4) Try Plyometics. MY FAVORITE. These are still basic exercises with a challenging twist - JUMPING. I got hooked on Plyometics when I was a volleyball player some 14 years ago. Call me crazy but I still jump around our house. Dave will come into our bedroom wondering what the banging noise is only to find me jumping to touch the ceiling. It immediately gets my heart pumping and works my body is ways that the gym can't. Some of my favorite plyometic exercises are: alternating jumping lunges, jumping squats, skiier's hop, box jumping, zigzap hops, tuck jumps, lateral side jumps. If you are curious as to what the heck I am talking about - check out this link. There are animated exercises to get you started.

You may be thinking - what about Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, P90X, Kickboxing, etc? I have tried them all for fun but have never done them long enough to see results. I do know several women that swear by their results but my concern is that these classes are usually expensive and when the budget gets tight, these are usually the first things to get cut. Plus class times won't always work with your schedule therefore you aren't as apt to go on a regular basis. In the end, it all boils down to what's going to work for you??? Carve out some YOU time in your day and find something that's enjoyable and sustainable for your lifestyle.

If you have any questions or would like help developing a workout plan for your specific needs, please don't hesitate to email me @ haileyshelpfulhints@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rave Reviews: Love it or hate it?

If you haven't tried the CLOROX BLEACH PEN you must put it the list to buy. I love love love this handy little cleaning pen. I first learned about this product by another mom at the park. We didn't know each other but got to chatting as our sons dug in the sand together. Naturally we started talking about "kid" stuff. She told me of this great new product, similar to the Tide 'On the Go' stick, that has saved several of her son's stained shirts. She raved about the Clorox Bleach Pen as if it was the best thing that every happened to laundry. Being the clean freak that I am, I was shocked I hadn't tried this yet so during my next Target run, I bee-lined to the cleaning aisle with excitement.

Kids or no kids - we all have stains. BBQ sauce from your favorite pulled pork sandwich. Chili from last year's 4th of July Chili Cook-off. Pasta Sauce that splattered as you set down the plate. Red wine that accidentally spilled after a 'few too many.' Grass stains from a rowdy game of tag with the kids. If you're like me, you don't have time to mix up the special concoction of Baking Soda to remove any of them. To the rescue - the Clorox Bleach Pen. You name it, this pen is intended to work magic on those clothes you thought were trash. The concept is simple and it's super easy to spot clean stubborn stains. There are dual tips - one end contains a flat, larger scrubby that applies the gel more liberally which allows you to get deep into the garment. The other end holds a fine, slanted point tip to apply the bleach just where you want it. The narrow tip is fantastic when you’ve got to target a stain amongst colored fabric. It doesn't seem to permeate the rest of the clothing article, making it easy to get the stains out of colored clothing without bleaching the piece and ruining it. The gel is very controlled, meaning it doesn’t pour out or splash – you control it with the tip. It sort of bubbles like peroxide does, so you know it’s applied. It's best to be extra careful however around the colored areas.

Ever had a mildew or mold stain on white caulking around bathroom fixtures, window seals, tubs, etc? This pen also allows you to pinpoint the mildew stain that has crept up on you without risking bleaching the entire area (which can actually weaken the caulk seal) and allows for a safer environment with no bleach odor. You can use the pen to scrub hard to reach places, the drain in the kitchen sink, etc. It will work right before your eyes but keep in mind, you do still have to scrub a little.
This bleach product allows you to pre-treat and re-treat with equal effectiveness. Every piece of our white, stained clothing has been salvaged because of the Clorox Bleach Pen. If you find that this product wasn't successful on super stubborn stains the first time, try this tip before throwing the garment away: If the stain did not come out during the first washing, apply more bleach-pen gel on the garments WHILE THEY WERE STILL DAMP, then LET IT SIT OVERNIGHT without putting in the wash. When you come back in the morning, the stain will be almost diminished. Re-wash the garment and watch the stain disappear.


All in all - the Clorox Bleach Pen is well worth all $3.00. Whether you have kids or not, it's great to have handy around the house. It provides excellent on-the-spot stain removal in your laundry, kitchen and bathrooms. It's super easy, inexpensive, and works wonders. You will pay up to $4.00 in the grocery stores for this product but if you shop around, you can find it for less than $3.00.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Super simple meal in minutes

Putting food on the table is part of my "motherly" duty. Do I love spending time in the kitchen? Not necessarily. Am I a good cook? My husband would say yes so that's all that matters. There's absolutely nothing elaborate about the meals I put on the table. In all honesty, my husband would eat chicken and vegetables every night of the week and be completely satisfied. So long as it errors on the "healthy" side and we're all sitting at the table together, he's content. This has definitely hindered any motivation to branch out and try new meals. I probably have about 10-15 meals we love and I just rotate between those. Boring huh? I've tried the whole concept of trying a new recipe/week. Flipping through cookbook after cookbook to find a meal that all three of us would actually eat was draining. Plus it doesn't seem worth it to me to spend a lot of money on 20 different ingredients and new spices for one meal I'm not sure we are going to even like.

We usually don't get home from the gym until 7:00'ish so I need meals that are quick and easy. My husband is anti- take out/fast food during the week so it's always a scramble as to what I'm going to throw on the table. Some of my best work in the kitchen happens when I'm forced to get creative. Specifically when I'm in a time crunch and/or in dire need of a grocery run. Last night was one of those nights....

I stood in front of my refrigerator trying to concoct something from the little ingredients I had to work with. What I came up with: Extra Lean Ground Turkey, Can of 98% fat free Cream of Mushroom Soup, sliced mushrooms and white rice. Although I winged it at the time, I'm sure there is a recipe out there that is similar. Surprisingly, the meal was on table in 15 minutes and was deliciously m-mm-good!

If you're looking for some quick and easy new meals, give this a try. You can take this same meal and improvise many different ways - swap out the rice for pasta. Serve it over Ciabatta rolls (a new twist on Sloppy Joes). Put it in a wrap. Mix in the vegetable of your choice. Use Cream of Chicken soup instead of Cream of Mushroom. Use chicken instead of ground turkey.

Turkey & Rice Slop:
1 - 10 oz. can of 98% fat free Cream of Mushroom soup
Package of Jenny-O EXTRA LEAN Ground Turkey
Sliced mushrooms
1/4 C. Skim milk
Salt/Pepper to taste

Cook rice in rice cooker. On stove top, brown the ground turkey. When cooked thoroughly - turn heat to medium and add soup, milk, mushrooms and desired amount of salt & pepper. Let mixture heat up, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes then serve over cooked rice. Enjoy!!

Side notes:

The Jenny-O Regular Ground Turkey has 220 calories, 17 grams of fat per serving. The "Lean - 93/7" Ground Turkey has 170 calories, 8 grams of fat per serving. The "Extra Lean" Ground Turkey has 120 calories, 1.5 grams of fat per serving. MAKE SURE YOU BUY THE EXTRA LEAN!

Best place to buy the Extra Lean Ground Turkey is at Target. If you're local Target has added the grocery store, you're in luck! The turkey at Target is $5.49 vs. $7.99 at Von's/Safeway.

Friday, November 12, 2010

WEEKEND WARRIOR CHALLENGE: Walk a mile in their shoes

This post title may be a little misleading. No need to get all wound up - I'm not asking you to fish out your dusty ol' tennis shoes to do any physical walking. What I am asking you to do is wrap your mind around this...Imagine yourself with no where to go. No home to keep you comfy and warm. No socks or shoes to keep your feet warm. No hot meal on the table. No consistency. Imagine living in fear. Scared. Cold. Helpless. Unloved. Kinda hard to put yourself in those shoes when you're biggest worry is what private school your kid should attend or where you're going to wine and dine for dinner tonight right?

Sadly, these are the things children - 2.8 million actually - across America, the richest country in the world, face EVERYDAY. These are innocent children thrown into a scary world expected to survive. They didn't paint this picture. They are victims. And have to somehow figure out how to make the best out of the situation with little to no resources. Could you imagine your 6 year old child, cold and hungry, living on the streets being exposed to all the sex trafficking, gangs, and extreme weather conditions? It's beyond anything I can comprehend. More so now than ever, I have a soft spot for these young children that are born into lives of poverty.

Here are some alarming statistics that may too make your heart ache for these young children:

1 out of every 5 children is poor. A "status" they did not choose.

According to Feedthehungry.com, 12 million children are at risk of going hungry.

According to a study done by Feeding America, more than 33% of households have to choose between feeding their families or other basic necessities, such as rent, utilities and medical care.

The average age of a homeless person in America is nine.

1/2 of the 2.8 million homeless children are under the age of 6.

In the last 2 years the number of homeless children has DOUBLED. The main factor - the home foreclosure crisis & recession.

Children make up 27% — the fastest growing segment — of the U.S. homeless population.

A study by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth shows that nearly 1,000,000 homeless children are enrolled in U.S. schools. This represents an alarming 41% rise from just a few years ago.

Nearly 1.16 million of homeless children today will not graduate from high school due to this major recession.

Pretty depressing huh? Imagine how those kids feel around the holidays? What should be the happiest time of the year is just another fight for survival. This is a time of giving. A time to turn a frown up-side-down. What can you do this weekend to get involved? I encourage you to do some soul searching. Try to put yourself in the shoes of those less fortunate. If you don't have a heart for children, that's ok. There are several ways to give back - whether you do it one time or donate monthly. You'd be surprised what little it takes to change someone's life. In my hometown of Tacoma, WA, it takes only $2.22 to feed a homeless child for Thanksgiving. All you'd have to do is cut back on your Starbuck's for 5 days and you'd fill 10 children's bellies. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money. It can be as simple as going through your closet and giving your clothes to the Salvation Army. Or you could donate an hour of your time at a local food bank and serve them a meal. Or maybe you could ask everyone attending your holiday party to bring a can/bag of nonperishable food items to give to the Rescue Mission.

I personally decided to get creative this year - Every year growing up at my grade school, St. Charles in Tacoma, WA, we would give a pair of shoes to needy children. Instead of just giving the shoes, we would fill the boxes with age appropriate gifts (toothpaste, socks, toys, crayons, jewelry, match box cars, etc). This project will cost me about $16.00/box. This year on Thanksgiving day my family and I will be assembling 20-30 boxes and shipping them to the underprivileged children in Tacoma, WA. This will be an inspiring reminder for my family to give thanks for the little things in our life - like the dry pair of shoes on our feet everyday. I encourage you to find ways to make this time of giving memorable for both you AND your family.
If you decide that you want to start making a consistent impact in someone's life and have no idea where to begin, here are some charities I particularly like:

Save the Children has been working hand-in-hand with families and communities in rural America and in more than 120 countries around the world for over 75 years to help the lives of children in need. One of my favorite ways to give is by going on their catalog and choosing a gift that touches your heart within your budget. When you choose a gift from this catalog you'll give joy and lasting change to a child in need and put a smile on someone you care about when you purchase the gift in their honor. You can search gifts by price or category. Two of my favorites are: For $65.00 you can educate a girl for an entire year or for $100.00 you can stock a library and keep kids reading for years! http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.cvKSIeO0IjJ4H/b.6079419/k.BF11/Home.htm

Feed the Children , a Christian organization founded in 1979, has become one of the nation's largest charities - dedicated to feeding the bodies and minds of hungry girls and boys to prepare them for healthy, successful lives. They are committed to delivering food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to individuals, children and families who lack these essentials due to famine, war, poverty, or natural disaster. Just a $5.00 donation can feed a child for an entire week!!!

Samaritan's Purse is a Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan's Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine. They have several community development programs that are helping people all over the world. One of my favorite programs is the Operations Christmas Child. Over 8 million children last year received a shoe box filled with gifts. Something so simple to us, yet so memorable to them!

African Renewal Ministries is located in Ggaba, Uganda, East Africa. Their desire is to reach the lost and to renew the people of Africa through salvation and education. Their hope is to get them off the streets of hopelessness as soon as possible. Once in our care, they’re fed, given medical attention, clothed, and put in school. One of my personal favorite ways is to adopt a child. For $35.00/month you can drastically change a child's life. You'll provide them with school tuition, lunch, a school uniform and a pair of shoes for the year. You can also choose to sponsor a teacher, adopt a village, or give to the orphanage.

Feeding America is the nation's leading domestic hunger relief charity, its network provides food assistance to more than 38 million low income people facing hunger in the United States, including more than 14 million children and nearly 4 million seniors. One in eight Americans rely on Feeding America for food and groceries.

Enjoy your weekend and take some time to think about how you can make a difference in someone's life this holiday season!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Banging Bargains UNDER $25

I received an email shortly after the Paulette Macaron post asking if I could help brainstorm some inexpensive holiday gift ideas other than the usual bottle of wine. Let me first say KUDDOS to you Jenny for wanting to start your holiday shopping this early! I put my thinking cap on and came up with some fun and contemporary ideas below. Hope you're inspired!

You will notice that I personally love to pair 2-3 inexpensive items that coordinate well together to create a cute package. I am also personally obsessed (and you should be too) with Cost Plus World Market. Their tag-line, "Unique, Authentic and Always Affordable" is spot on. You can seriously find something for everyone on your list in this one store. How heavenly is that?!?! Ok maybe not the kiddos but close. Be prepared to spend hours looking through their hundreds of bottles of unique wines from all over the world and get lost amongst all the funky, one of a kind accessories.

~Hailey's Banging Bargains Under $25~

For the Morning Person: Personalized mug from Snapfish.com ($9.99-$19.99), Starbucks 2.5 lb bag of Natural Fusions Vanilla Coffee ($8.95), & Nonni's Biscotti (Prices may vary in stores)*Search under Nonni's Store Locator to find a local store selling the Nonni's Biscotti (Yum!)

For the Beer Lover: 10 Pack of beers from around the world (Prices may vary) & Pilsner glasses (set of 4 for $7.96)

For the Entertainer: Napkin set (set of 4 for $11.96) & napkin rings (individual rings sold in stores for $2.99 each or sets of 4 for $11.94)

For the Neat Freak: Dish towel set ($14.99) & Soap/Lotion Set ($9.99)

For the Wine Lover: Stemless glassware ($7.96), Corkscrew & Wine Stopper Set ($6.99) & a unique $10.00 bottle of wine. Or for a little bit more you could pair either the bottle of wine or glassware with a Wine Book ($19.95) or Decanter ($19.99) or Wine Rack ($14.99). I personally love the 3 tier wine rack because it could also double as a silverware holder at a dinner party.

For the Writer: Journal ($4.99) & Stationary Gift Sets ($16.99) & inexpensive, unique pen.

For the Beauty Queen: Gift Certificate for a mani/pedi at her favorite nail salon & the hot nailpolish color of the season.
 
For the Coffee Lover or College Student: Starbuck's Via Ready Brew Tumbler ($16.95) and 12 Via Ready Brew Coffee packets ($8.95)

For the New Mother: Photo Album ($12.95) & "What to Expect the 1st Year" Book ($9.99)

For the Party Animal: Cocktail Shaker ($9.99), Martini Glasses (set of 4 for $11.96) & Umbrella Sticks (box of 24 for $2.99)

For the Fashionista: Scarf ($14.99) & earrings ($9.99)

For the Bath Lover: Bath salts/bubbles ($7.99) & magazine subscription for a year from Amazon (Prices will vary depending on the magazine but some are as low as $5.00 for 12 issues!)
 
The Practical: Gift card to somewhere they visit frequently - favorite lunch spot (Subway) or Coffeehouse (Peets), etc - paired with something that they could use.
 
For the Home Body: Popcorn ($6.99), Trader Joe's Chocolate Set & their favorite DVD. Target or Walmart have the least expensive selection of DVD's.
 
The Movie Buff: $20 gift card to the Movies & 2 boxes of candy.
 
For the Music Lover: Favorite CD & I-tunes gift card. You can't go wrong with Michael Jackson's "Number Ones" ($9.19)
 
For the Cook: Apron ($19.99) & matching potholders ($4.99)
 
For the Workaholic: Personalized Mouse Pad from Snapfish.com ($12.99) & Technology Charging Station ($9.99)
 
For the Mood Setter: Votive Set (set of 4 for $14.99) or candle & fun box of matches.
 
For the Italian Lover: Flavored Oils (set of 4 for $8.95 or larger individual oils for $8.95) & dipping dishes ($1.95 each) or you could do the 3 part server ($9.95)
 
For the Sentimental: Unique Frame ($12.99) with personal picture.
 
For the BBQ Lover: BBQ Cookbook ($8.99) & BBQ tools ($7.48)
 
For the Health Nut: Salad Bowl (12.99) & Salad Cookbook ($8.99). If you want to spend a little more, top it off with an inexpensive pair of salad tongs ($9.99)
 
For the Exerciser: Jillian Michael's 30-Day Shred DVD ($10.99) & pair of 8-12 lb. dumbbells (Prices will vary)
 
For the Cupcake Lover: Cupcake kit ($19.95) & store bought sprinkles.
 
For the Baker: "1 Mix - 100 Cookies" Cookbook ($8.99 ) & cookie cutter set ($14.99)
 
For the Golfer: Sleeve of Pro-V 1 Golf Balls ($10.76), Golf Glove ($9.99) & pack of Cigars.
 
For the Teeny-Bopper: Cosmetic bag ($9.99) filled with lip gloss, nail polish, lotion, etc.

For the Racey Nephew: Hot Wheels Lunch box ($6.99) filled with Hot Wheels cars ($.77 each at Walmart)

If you have an ornament exchange coming up, check out Pier One Import's fun selection or World Market's ornament selection.

Shop around - you may be able to find things even cheaper. Hope these ideas get the juices flowing! HAPPY SHOPPING!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Do you really know what's cooking in your kitchen?

While bathrooms get a bad rap when it comes to germs, it's the kitchen that actually harbors more bacteria than any other room in the home. The worst offender in the kitchen? The kitchen sponge or dishcloth, where bacteria festers in the damp, nurturing environment. The next worst offender is your kitchen sink. The bacteria that lurks all throughout your kitchen are the same ones that can cause a cold or flu to spread through a household like wildfire. A striking statistic from MSN Health and Fitness states that "50 to 80% of all food-borne illnesses originate in the home. Food-borne pathogens cause 6.5 million cases of gastroenteritis and 9,000 deaths per year. 20% of food-poisoning cases are blamed on home contamination, more than any other source."

Still not concerned? Consider this: One single bacteria cell can become more than 8 million cells in less than 24 hours! The number of bacteria it takes to make people sick can range from as few as 10 up to millions. And infections spread when germs are transferred from a contaminated item (say, your cutting board) to your hands to your body.

So let’s talk about the SPONGE - Bacteria colonies with a total population exceeding 50 million can live on a single dirty sponge making kitchen sponges the No. 1 source of germs in the whole house. The moist, micro-crevices that make a sponge such an effective cleaning device also make it a cozy home for germs and more difficult to disinfect. Now think about all the places you use that sponge in your kitchen – scrubbing your sink, counters, inside the microwave, cutting boards, stovetop, knobs, handles. All the while, transferring the bacteria from one place to the next. A study performed by Professor Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona revealed that “one out of five sponges had salmonella bacteria, which can cause food poisoning, gastrointestinal inflammations, typhoid fever, and other maladies.” And if that doesn’t gross you out enough – 20% of the coffee cups that Gerba tested were oozing with fecal bacteria from raw meat, thanks to the sponges that supposedly cleaned them. Holy YUCK!
But what about a dishcloth or a scrub brush? Sadly they too are magnets for bacteria. Any sort of moist environment is a breeding ground for germs. From what I could find there isn’t any scientific research done on which one is the BEST but I could only conclude that a scrub brush would be the least infested. The dishcloth and the sponge are much more porous and take longer to dry out whereas the bristles have room to breathe and will dry out faster.

So how often should you replace your sponge? I recommend replacing your sponge every month. Signs that your sponge should be replaced immediately, regardless of the time elapsed since the last replacement, include musty or unpleasant odors and a sponge that is beginning to disintegrate. I also personally have 2 sponges on hand – one for cleaning the sink and one for cleaning the dishes. I always buy the mega 18-pack of Scotch-Brite Non-Scratch from Costco so I never run out of sponges. (Tip: Always buy the NON-scratch sponges. They are just as effective and won't scratch stainless, stovetops, etc). As an easy reminder, I personally change my sponges every 15th and every 30th of every month. In the meantime, I make sure I clean my sponges every week. I’ll either 1) Wet the sponge and then pop it in the microwave for one to two minutes to eliminate the germs that lurk inside the crevices. *Make sure it’s wet or else you’ll burn your sponge or 2) Throw it in the dishwasher. *Make sure your water temperature is super hot or else the bacteria will not be killed. They say that the dishwasher needs to reach 155 degrees Fahrenheit, in order to kill the germs.

Moving onto the KITCHEN SINK – Do this…go take off the black rubber cover that fits tightly in the drain hole. Be prepared however to be grossed out. Most likely the underside is goopy, slimy and infested with bacteria. Now look at the underside of the metal drain stopper. Again, probably in need of a serious sanitizing session. Grossly, there are typically more than 500,000 bacteria per square inch in the drain alone. Let’s think back to last night - After cutting the meat what did you do with the cutting board? Most likely you probably laid the cutting board (that has about 200% more fecal bacteria than the average toilet seat) in the sink. But how did you wash out the sink basin after that? Probably with a quick rinse of water. Out of sight, out of mind right? Sadly, no. That bacteria, unless scrubbed away by an antibacterial solution or bleach, will linger in your kitchen sink and multiply. Have you ever reached into your sink to re-use a glass that was barely used earlier? News flash – DON’T. I encourage you to grab for a new glass every time! If it’s been sitting in your sink for even a short period of time, it could be swarmed with hundreds of thousands of bacteria.
Naturally the place where you clean the dishes that you eat off, should be spic and span. This is proving to us that it's anything but. So where do you start? Always, always, always, clean your kitchen counters, sink, and faucets with an antibacterial product after preparing or cleansing food, especially raw fruits, vegetables and meats, which carry lots of potential pathogens like salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli. After dinner regardless of what I cook, I always do a wipe down inside the sink basin with Lysol’s Antibacterial Kitchen Cleaner in Citrus Scent. It can kill 99.9 % of germs and is great on non-porous surfaces. During the day, I’ll use the Kirkland Signature Disinfectant Wipes on the refrigerator door handles, stove knobs or cupboard pulls. Getting down in the drain once a week with bleach and an old toothbrush is another habit you should really get into to keep that moist hideaway germ-free.

So what is the most sanitary way to keep your kitchen clean of that deadly, invisible bacteria?

1) Always wash your hands.
2) Keep the Disinfectant Wipes and Anti-bacterial cleaner handy under the kitchen sink for routine wipe downs of faucets, countertops and inside the sink. Get in the habit nightly of taking two minutes after you do the dishes to scrub down the sink.
3) For a quick cleanup of spills, the most sanitary method is a strong paper towel. Use and toss.
4) Opt to use paper towels instead of a communal hand towel on your hands and counter tops. Hand towels are also save havens for germs.
5) If you’re going to use a sponge, let it dry out before putting it away, wash weekly and replace every month if not sooner.
6) If you’re going to opt for a dishcloth, lay it flat so it can dry out and wash daily.
7) If you prefer a scrub brush, lay on its side after use to let bristles dry, wash in dishwasher weekly and replace every 1-3 months.
8) Do not allow dishes to sit in the sink for long periods of time unless you want E.Coli to pay a visit.

I’ll leave you with this extremely disgusting but very true quote from Professor Charles P. Gerba of the University of Arizona Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science – “If an alien came from space and studied the bacterial counts, he probably would conclude he should wash his hands in your toilet and crap in your sink.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Makeup Madness: Fall/Winter Favorites

Don't have time to flip thru the latest issue of Vogue to find out the fall/winter color trends? Don't beat yourself up - not many of us do. If you're stuck in a beauty rut and you want to *attempt* to stay current but have no idea where to start, here are four (4) top makeup trends for Fall/Winter 2010 to get you started in the right direction.

1) NATURAL: Fall/Winter 2010 is a time to let your natural beauty shine through, with flawless skin, nude lip colors and soft, neutral eyes. The natural look is one that suits every age group and every pocketbook. The key to the minimal makeup look is to make certain that your skin looks gorgeous. By exfoliating and keeping it moisturized, you'll be able to pull off this look with ease. I personally love to dust my skin with a darker shade of luminous pressed powder - not a "bronzer" - to highlight the skin with a subtle glaze of color. MAC's "Mineralize Skinfinish Natural" is a perfect choice. The minerals provide dimension to give the skin that beautiful sheen and a subtle glow to keep that sunkist look throughout the winter. Try to avoid caking on foundations. If you do use a foundation, find the color that best matches your skin and dust it on with a brush only in the places that need blending. It is recommended to keep your eyes natural and pretty with a wash of a sheer, neutral eye shadow and a coat of brown or black mascara. (Don't forget your Primer for feathery lashes!) Warm spicy brown, pale yellow, and rich caramel eye shadows are being paired with beige and nude lips to create a radiant winter glow. For the perfect caramel eye shadow, be sure to check out MAC's "Amber Lights" eye shadow. Urban Decay's eyeshadow in "Twice Baked" is the perfect dark chocolate brown. If you're like me, you like eyeshadow palettes. I personally like Cover Girls "Golden Sunset" 3 shadow kit or Urban Decay's "Naked Eyeshadow" palette. Lips can go totally nude, or you can wear a lip-toned, nude gloss or lipstick. MAC lipstick in "Siss" is the perfect golden beige to finish off the bronzed look. If you're fair skinned, a nude lip is very hard to pull off. But have no fear. You can pair a soft brown warm shadow with a mid-tone pink lip. Check out the NARS "Best of Lips Palette" for an array of amazing winter pinks or for a less expensive alternative, I recommend Revlon's Super Lustrous Lip gloss in "Peach Petal" It adds just enough color for that natural look. As for nails, Nude and Dark chocolate nails are all the rage this winter.
2) PURPLE POWER: The "it" color for fall 2010 was purple: orchid, mauve, plum, eggplant, lavender. If you missed the purple memo in the fall, don't fret - it's going to stick around for winter too. The purple craze isn't just for eyes, but for lips and nails, too. Makeup designers are offering pretty palettes plum full of precious purples to delight every woman. Covergirl's "Berries and Cream" 4 kit shadow and Maybelline's Eye Studio Color Pearls Marbleized Eyeshadow in "Lawless Lavender"are two that stand out. While a deep plum lipstick might not flatter everyone, a sheer, plum-toned gloss is just as seductive. If you’re risqué go for the bright and bold. MAC's "Odyssey" creme lipstick is a heavily pigmented plum color that will achieve that look. If you’re a bit more conservative, add a light purple sheen to your lips with Revlon's Super Lustrous Lip gloss in "Lilac Pastelle." Nail lacquers in all possible shades of purple are everywhere, from a dark, dramatic, royal purple, to more pale, polite, lilac shades. A favorite is Revlon's "Plum Night" Nail Polish. The purple craze is definitely a bold, get-you-noticed look, but it's also a super-fresh take on the requisite browns and berries we see eeeeevery fall. Although most will steer clear of the purple hues, the blue undertones actually make your skin look tanner and the whites of our eyes look brighter.

3) RUBY RED LIPS: Dramatic, red lips are very hot again for fall/winter 2010, and that is good news for lipstick lovers. Red lipsticks, lip stains and glosses abound, and a shade can be found for every age group and skin tone. While red lips may scare some, it is a makeup trend that is fun and one to try, even if only for special occasions. There are several hues of red; wine, crimson, true red, pinky red, and the key is to choose a shade that complements your skin tone. Lining the lips before applying red lipstick is a must, and done well, red lips rock on almost every woman. It's risky but worth a try. Pair with a smokey eye and you're sure to turn head's.

4) SMOKEY EYES: Infallible smokey eyes in metallic, black and purple can help create a sexy look for fall/winter season. Accentuate your eyes with eyeliner and a bit of black or dark brown eyeshadow to create that mysterious effect. I personally love MAC's "Printed" eyeshadow for a lighter smokey eye. It's a muted grey with shimmer that you can wear day or night. Beauty editor's rave about Covergirl's "Smoky Shadow Blast." To achieve this look check out either "Onyx Smoke" or "Silver Sky." Leave your lips light-colored with nude lipstick by day and for a more dramatic look at night, add a pop of red.The emphasis lay more on the eye shadowing then on the long eyelashes this season. Steer clear of fake eyelashes this season as they are compensated by the shaded dark pencil at the out corner of the eye line.
For a lot of us, cold weather doesn't only effect our fashion, but also our skin. Winter skin tends to be dry and flaky. Make sure to moisturize daily! For a "steal" I recommend Aveeno's "Ultra Calming" Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30. If you're looking to splurge, you can't go wrong with Philosophy's "Hope in a Jar" moisturizer if you have dry problem skin in the winter. To keep lips smooth and protected I recommend Chapstick Naturals. They are simple, cheap and very effective.

Cheers to looking your best this winter!

MAC can be found at Nordstrom -- Nars and Philosophy can be found at Nordstrom or Sephora -- Urban Decay can be found at Macy's or Sephora -- Maybelline, Covergirl, Revlon & Aveeno can be found at any local drugstore, Target or Walmart