Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hassle-free travel apps

Instead of wandering around aimlessly, getting frustrating and wanting to blame everyone but yourself that things aren't going according to plan, here are a few useful travel apps that can help keep your holiday vacation relaxing;

Keep it Together: Send your airline, hotel, restaurant, and tour reservations to and TripIt will merge them into one itinerary. Love this organization app and it's FREE!

Find it on the Fly: Stop wandering the terminal in search of an ATM or edible meal -- GateGuru pinpoints restaurants, shops, and services in 125 airports for FREE!

Speak Easy: Type or say a word or phrase and iTranslate will convert it into more than 50languages. Such a resourceful way to get around a foreign country without getting frustrating that they (and you) can't understand. Free for text version; $2 for voice recognition.

Get Around: Discover eateries, theaters, and more in 20 metro areas with UpNext 3D Cities. Just tap any building on the map and get details and ratings. Pretty cool and FREE!

Make Change: Wondering how much to leave a waiter in Shanghai or a manicurist in Hawaii? Tipping Tips calculates gratuities in local currency for more than 100 countries. Figuring how the tip is a hassle so for $.99 this is a worthwhile app.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gifts Galore: Ideas for everyone on your list

Stumped on what to give? On a budget? Tired of giving the same'ol same'ol? Here are some resourceful links if you need alittle inspiration and budget-friendly ideas. Check them out!

From Hailey's Helpful Hints: Last year's post worth the look through.

2010 "Banging Bargains under $25:"

From The Tomkat Studio website: My absolute favorite gift guide that I've seen this year. Fantastic ideas for all the special people in your life; newborns, dads, baking enthusiasts, beauty queens, photographers. The list goes on. Check it out even if you already have all your Christmas shopping done. It's fun to drool.

All I Want For Christmas Gift Guide:

From Glamour:

Gifts Under $100:

Men Approved Gifts for Guys:

30 under $30:

26 Gift Ideas for Fitness Fanatics:

Gifts Every Girl Should Ask For:

15 Naughty-But-Oh-So-Nice Holiday Gifts:

16 Gift Ideas for the Fashionista in your life:

From Real Simple:

6 Stand-out Holiday Gift Sets for her:

34 Stocking Stuffers under $25:

27 Creative Gifts for Men:


30 Gifts to give to Neighbors:

If you do one thing this week...

Wash your fruits and vegetables before you eat them.

An apple a day won't keep the doctor away if that apple has pesticides, chemicals, bacteria, and (brace yourself) animal feces clinging to it's skin. That's the sort of nasty stuff that's been found on unwashed food, making produce a common cause of foodborne illnesses.

According to Lauren Slayton, director of, you need to give your fruits and vegetables more than the typical one-second shake under water. Rinse produce for at least 15 seconds and you'll get rid of 98% of the bacteria.

And if you're second guessing if it needs to be washed in the first place, just do it. It never hurts. Spinach, peaches, bell peppers, nectarines, strawberries, pears, grapes, cherries, lettuce, potatoes, celery and pears are some fruits and vegetables with a high potential for pesticides residues.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sweet Sunday

Ever been to Serendipity, a NYC restaurant known for its over-the-top Frozen Hot Chocolate? If not, you must scope out this restaurant the next time you're in the Manhattan area. Their signature Frozen Hot Chocolate is phenomenal and one you should splurge on. But like anything that tastes phenomenal, it is overflowing with calories. Based on my calculations, each glass packs in over 800 calories, 40 grams of fat, and 22 teaspoons of sugar. Ouch.

I have always wondered how to make a slimmed down version of this recipe at home. With a little google search, I found that Joy Bauer, America's favorite nutritionist and author of the recipe book, "Slim and Scrumptious" that has over 75 delicious and healthy meals your family will love, has done just that. Now you can satisfy your chocolate cravings for only 150 calories and with virtually no fat. And even though it's frozen, hot chocolate passes as a winter drink in my book any day. If you're up for trying the variations, the peppermint one (very festive) tastes like mint chocolate chip ice cream.

~Frozen Hot Chocolate~

1/2 cup(s) chocolate syrup
1 cup(s) fat-free evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups of ice cubes
Garnish: reduced-fat whipped topping and/or dark chocolate shavings

1.Combine chocolate syrup, evaporated milk, vanilla and ice in a blender until smooth.
2.Pour into glasses. Garnish with a dollop of whipped topping and/or a sprinkling of chocolate shavings if desired.

~Mexican Hot Chocolate: Add 1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon
~Peppermint Hot Chocolate: Substitute 1⁄4 tsp mint extract for the vanilla extract

Friday, December 9, 2011

Deal Alert: Buy One, Get One 50% off!!

Ugh, toys are straight expensive. And go figure that Chase asked Santa for a "Choo-choo train." You know what that means; Thomas the Train everywhere. Gahl -- those are stupidly expensive. I refuse to buy any of them at full price. After talking to a seasoned Thomas the Train veteran mom, I was informed that the best deals on Thomas trains are either on Craigslist or discount stores like Marshalls or TJ Maxx. Oh and another place I found that has ridic mega sales is Kohl's. While randomly shopping there the other day, I scored a screaming deal for Chase. Originally $120. Got it for $35. I don't know how that store makes money. Click here for a 20% off coupon.

Tangent. Back to the real deal.

If you've got some shopping to do this weekend, Target has a BUY ONE, GET ONE 50% OFF toy sale going on NOW that might help you save a few bucks.

Promo details:
Purchase 1 or more items from a select toy brand (Barbie, Little People, Disney Princess, Cars 2, NERF, Thomas & Friends, LEGO city) and receive 50% off an additional item from the same toy brand. Discount will be applied at checkout either online or in stores. Discount not applicable to gift wrap, tax, or shipping and handling charges. May not be applied to previous orders. Offer expires 12/10/11 at 11:59 PM EST.

And as my husband always says - the more you buy, the more you save!! Happy Shopping!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Travel Deal or Dud?

Planning a last minute holiday vaca? Usually last minute travel isn't the most cost effective but if you know how to sniff out a "deal" or a "dud" you might be able to save a little along the way. According to AnneLise Sorensen, lead editor of "Make the Most of Your Time on Earth: 1,000 Ultimate Travel Experiences," here are ways to spend your money in the right place;

Travelers Insurance -- This covers the expenses if a flight or trip is cancelled, your baggage is lost or damaged or you get sick. Verdict: DEAL (if you're not covered by a credit card or another policy).

Reward Credit Cards -- Earning points toward free hotel stays and airline tickets can save you a lot of money - as long as you don't overuse the card in an effort to rack up miles. Verdict: DEAL

Oh-So-Cheap Vacation Packages -- Can a cruise really go for $199 a week? Um. No. Dig deeper and you'll find a slew of hidden charges in the fine print -- added taxes, hidden gratuity or other fees that can easily turn a relaxing getaway into an overpriced hassle that may drive the cost beyond the regular price. And watch out for those amazing airfare/hotel/rental car combo packages online. Before booking call the hotel and ask what their daily parking rate and Internet charges are. Those really good rates might just jump well past another hotel that isn't a featured "deal." Verdict: DUD

"Fourth Night Free" Offers -- They can be a good deal, but make sure the promotion isn't based on a higher rate and that you factor in the extra costs (food, car rental, taxi) for extending your stay. Verdict: DO THE MATH.

And always remember; The cheaper the travel package, the more likely it is to be inconvenient. They get you roped in for the price and then make it a complete hassle -- added travel time, extra layover. No thanks.

Also check the hotel’s location. It might be worth paying a little extra for lodging to be within walking distance of attractions and skip the hassle and costs of renting a car or taking taxis.

Check back early next week for helpful cell phone apps that will streamline your travel!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gift idea: Fashionably Organized

I hate giving just one gift. If you read my "Banging Bargains; Gifts under $25" from last Christmas you know that I love to pair 2-3 less expensive items together to make a cute package. This is another one to add to the list. One that I could personally put to good use for my million scarves that are just thrown on the top shelf of my closet.

If you're looking to get creative on your mom, sister, or girlfriend I suggest you find a super cute scarf or two and package it together with this practical and inexpensive scarf hanger. What girl doesn't love being fashionably organized?!?

If you google Scarf Hanger and/or Scarf Organizer you'll find a million online but I particularly like this one from the Container Store for $9.99. Amazon also has one on sale for $7.00 right now.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Out with the old ~ In with the new

Whether you hand wash all your dishes or just a few pots and pans, it's time you toss the tacky plastic rack and head over to Bed Bath and Beyond for the "The Original Dish Drying Mat." This was one of the under $5.00 favorites party gifts given by one of my girlfriends last week (thanks Jodie!) and we've used it everyday. An instant favorite in our household. It's 10 times more absorbent than a dish rag and takes up far less space than the dish rack sitting on your counter. It's clever design has a loop so you can hang dry when not in use and it's machine washable.

For $4.99, I recommend buying two to rotate when washing. And while you're there - pick up a few as Christmas gifts. They're practical, unexpected and inexpensive.

Monday, December 5, 2011

If you do ONE thing this week...

Wash your mattress pad.

Hopefully after my sheet washing post (if you missed it, click here to read), you've gotten in the habit of washing your sheets every week. If you haven't, I'm assuming you didn't read or get fully repulsed by my bed bug post?!?! If you missed that post, read it here).

Anyway -- my hunch is that although you may wash your sheets, you don't always wash your mattress pad. Good news is that you don't have to do this nearly as often as your sheets but you definitely can't neglect it.

Cotton pads are usually machine washable and dryable but make sure to check the label first, since down or foam pads be be dry-clean or spot-clean only. For small covers, you can wash these in your home washer on warm cycle with regular detergent. If it is white, add 1/2 cup of bleach to the wash cycle. If the mattress cover is colored, use a color-safe bleach to the wash cycle. If you do not have bleach, add 1/2 cup of borax to the wash cycle, which will also help to eliminate dust, allergens or bacteria that may be present. Tumble dry on low with fabric softener. Waterproof pads can be machine washed and dried as well, but skp the softener - it can destroy the protective coating.

If the mattress cover is large or heavy, for instance, one used on a king-sized bed, it would be best to take this to a laundromat with washers and dryers that can accommodate large items, thus eliminating wear and tear on your washer and dryer.

You should aim to wash your mattress pad once per month so start this week and make it a monthly priority to keep those bed bugs from cuddling up next to you!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fancy Friday

I hosted a "Favorite's Party" this week for my girlfriends. Such a fun and different way to hang with the girlies. I actually blogged about this idea awhile back in an "I LOVE" post that gave fun girlfriend get-together ideas. (Read it here.)

Essentially a Favorites Party is this: Invite an intimate group of your favorite girls over and have each one of them bring their favorite thing that is under $5.00. It can be a favorite candle. Favorite cleaning product. Favorite candy bar. Simple gifts that you particularly love. At the end of the night, each girl will go home with a handful of new favorite things!

What made this especially fun this time of year is that we each went home with something new and fabulous for ourselves. Since when do mom's get out of the blue gifts all for themselves? Um. Never.

Although each and every one of my gifts was divine, I particularly fell in love with the 'Candy Cane Green Tea' from Trader Joe's. Holy yummers. I had to tell you about this now because it is seasonal so you best hurry on over to TJ's and pick yourself up some tea that will keep you feeling festive and warm this holiday season!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Deal Alert: Holiday Cards

If you haven't ordered your Christmas cards yet --- shame on you.

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the jingle jangle jingle of the holiday bells are ringing, it's time to prioritize your to-do list. Before you do any more shopping, I suggest you divert your attention to getting your holiday cards mailed out.

In an effort to help eliminate the stress of trying to find the best deal, I've compiled this list with the current holiday card deals online (click on website title to be directed to site):

Photo Affections: 25% off + free shipping. Promo code: HOLIDAY. Ends 12/4

Tiny Prints: Save up to 20% off + free shipping. Promo code: holsav20 Ends 12/3

Shutterfly: Save up to 40% off for a limited time. Free shipping when you spend $50 Code: SHIP50

Minted: 15% off all holiday orders $150+. Promo code: CHEERS15 -- 10% off all holiday orders $100+. Promo code: CHEERS10. Ends 12/9

Paper Culture: Free shipping for holiday orders $100+ Promo code: FSHIP

Pear Tree Greetings: $10 off $50 order; $15 off $75 order; $20 off $100 order; $20 off plus free shipping on $125 order. Promo code: JINGLE. Ends 12/11.

Simply to Impress: Save 20% + free shipping. Promo code: GREATDEAL. Ends 12/1

Invitation Box: 10% off any order. Promo code: Peppermint10 -- 15% off any order over $150. Promo code: Peppermint15 -- Free shipping on orders over $100. Ends 12/31.

Once you get them ordered and are waiting their arrival, make sure you have:

1) Enough return address labels. If not, get them ordered. For inexpensive return address labels, try or
2) A good pen to address them with. And yes, hand-write them!
3) The correct number of holiday stamps. Put that on your to-do list for tomorrow!
4) An accurate and up-to-date Contact List. If you know someone moved or you need to add someone to the list, email them now so you aren't chasing them too late.