Thursday, December 20, 2012

Road Map to Effectively Pack a Suitcase

Wondering how to maximize suitcase space? Need to cram a lot into a little without wrinkling everything in the process? It's easy with the smart tips on where everything should go:

1) Line the bottom with a plastic trash bag. After you've packed add another one on top. This helps fend off wrinkles and will keep it dry if it's off-loaded from the plane in the rain.

2) Stash footwear and heavy stuff along the wheel base. Fill shoes with socks or bulky bangle bracelets, then put them in individual bags or shower caps, with the soles facing the sides of the suitcase. Splitting up the pairs saves space. Rest other heavy items like a hair dryer or a toiletry kit next to or on top of shoes. Placing these things near the wheels stabilizes the bag's center of gravity so it won't topple over when upright.

3) Lay the foundation next by tightly packing rolled clothing.

4) Build the second layer by layering folded dresses, pants, and skirts on top of the rolled clothes. Alternate the sides that the waistbands are on so the stack is balanced.

5) Finish with the top level by layering crushable items such as a voluminous dress or molded bras. Stack bras flat so they spoon each other and stuff the cups with socks.

6) Wrap belts around the interior frame of the bag.

7) Stock essentials, loose toiletries and chunky costume jewelry in the lid compartments. Store delicate earrings in pill cases and string dainty bracelets and necklaces through drinking straws, taping the clasps to one end. Then secure the straws, in a plastic bag.

8) Tuck leftovers like swimsuits, hosiery, underwear, scarves - into corners and any remaining nooks.

9) Pack along a few large zippered plastic bags so you can store dirty laundry in. Press out the air and you tightly roll each bag like a vacuum pack. Lay the compressed bags flat in a side pocket.

10) Cradle fragile souvenirs in the bulkiest sweaters and arrange them in the center of the bag, where there is the least movement. For extra protection, store messy liquids - like that bottle of EVOO from Tuscany - in a reusable inflatable plastic bag designed for this job. (Try the VinniBag; $28,

If you aren't using a hard suitcase but rather a soft sided bag like a duffel or a weekender, place flat shoes along the bottom, with the soles pressed against either side. Add rolled clothes, packing them tightly to prevent shifting in transit which causes the most wrinkling. From there follow the accessories tip listed above with these exceptions: lay heels and boots flat on the top of the bag, then add the toiletry kit.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shop Smarter: Avoid this Retail Trick

While some of us have our shopping completely done, others haven't even started so here's a quick tip to avoid spending more...

Retail stores have a clever way to get you to spend more: "the decoy effect." Behavioral research conducted by Dan Ariely, Ph.D of Duke University, has shown that when customers were given a choice between two products, one of which is priced lower and is lower quality (say an MP3 Player that holds fewer songs), they'll often choose the cheaper one.

BUT when a third (decoy) item is introduced at an even higher price, shoppers are more likely to opt for the mid-priced-one. Meaning - adding another product nudges shoppers up the price scale instead of making them stick with the bargain buy.

Bottom line: Think carefully when you see a display of products at varied prices, and hold steady at the price you can afford.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sweet Sunday: Spiced Cranberry Coffee Cake

Great for breakfast, brunch, tea or dessert. A holiday staple.
~Spiced Cranberry Coffee Cake~
3/4 cup(s) (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
3 cup(s) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan     
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) baking soda
1 teaspoon(s) kosher salt
1 1/2 cup(s) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup(s) lowfat buttermilk
2 teaspoon(s) grated orange zest
2 cup(s) Spiced Cranberries or store-bought cranberry sauce
1 cup(s) roughly chopped walnuts
1 1/4 cup(s) confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoon(s) milk


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with butter and lightly dust with flour. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, then the buttermilk and orange zest. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.

3. Spread half the batter into the prepared baking dish. Dollop 1 cup cranberry sauce over the top, then gently spread, swirling it into the batter. Top with the remaining batter, then dollop with the remaining cranberry sauce.

4. Sprinkle the walnuts over the top and bake until the cake is golden brown and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes.

5. While the cake cools, make the icing: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle the icing over the warm cake, then let cool completely before serving.

I hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note!

Deal Alert for the Savvy Shoppers

Super Saver Sales this weekend!

Lululemon: Express FREE shipping. Ends 12/17. No promo code.

Anthropologie: $25 off every $100 you spend. Online & In-stores. Ends 12/16. Promo code: MERRYMERRY

Urban Outfitters: FREE shipping. No minium. Ends 12/18. No promo code.

Lacoste: Up to 40% off (Semi-Annual Sale) & FREE shipping. Online & In-stores. No promo code.

Splendid: Up to 40% off (Winter Sale) & FREE shipping. Online & In-stores. No promo code.

GAP: 30% off Online only. End 12/15. Promo code: GAPGIFT

Banana Republic: 30% off. Online only. Ends 12/16. Promo code: BR30LIST

J-Crew: 30% off. Online & In-store. Ends 12/17. Promo code: WISHLIST

Old Navy: 30% off. Online & In-store. Ends 12/15. Promo code: ONGIFT

American Eagle: 40% off. Online only. Ends 12/23. Promo code: 23815931

Justice: 40% off. Online & In-store. Ends 12/16. Promo code: 740

Children's Place: 30% off & FREE shipping. Online & In-store. Ends 12/16. Promo code: Y3K3012

Friday, December 14, 2012

Retail Therapy: Coupon Round-Up

Want to stretch your dollar a little further this weekend? If you're headed to the stores to finish (or start) your Christmas shopping, be sure to print these coupons off before you go!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Party Pleasers: Little Cuties

I love the idea of Little Cuties. Translation: Fruit, custard, cream or meringue mini-pies baked in ½-pint, oven-safe mason jars. What a perfectly portioned treat. Just press the crust into the containers (available at Amazon, Walmart, even your hardware store). Choose a canned filling or whip one up yourself. Come dessert time, there’s no need to cut and serve. “People can grab a jar and dig right in,” says Shaina Olmanson, author of Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats That Shine. “They’re great for parties.” And your waistline - as long as you eat just one. Great as gifts too!

:: 2 Crowd Pleasing Little Cutie Ideas :: 

Mini Apple Pies: Who doesn't love apple pie!?!?


2 boxes refrigerated pie crusts
8 Tbsp. butter
1/4 C flour
1/4 C granulated sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
6 C sliced apples
1/2 C dried cranberries (optional)


1. Heat oven to 350° and set out 8 wide-mouth 8 oz jars. Cut out eight 6-inch circles and eight small circles (using jar lid as guide) from 2 boxes refrigerated pie crusts. Press into bottom, up side and over the lip of jars.

2. In saucepan, melt 8 tbsp butter over medium-high heat. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and cook, whisking continuously, until golden brown, 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup each granulated sugar and brown sugar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/8 tsp salt and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour over 6 cups peeled, cored and thinly sliced apples and, if desired, 1/2 cup dried cranberries. Toss to coat. Spoon into jars.

3. Cut small dough circles into strips; weave into lattice and crimp edges. Brush with lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place jars 2 inches apart on large baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 45 to 55 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool.

Lemon Meringue Pies with a Thyme-Shortbread Crust : Herbed shortbread becomes the crust for this classic lemon meringue pie, adding a bit of a twist on an old favorite. These tiny treats will win the hearts of the lemon lovers in your life.


For the shortbread crusts:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

For the lemon filling:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water
1 cup fresh lemon juice, from about 4 lemons
Grated zest of 4 lemons
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
8 large egg yolks, beaten

For the meringue:
8 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

Makes 10 individual lemon meringue pies


1. Make the dough for the crusts: Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes on medium-high speed. Mix together the flour, cornstarch, and thyme in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter and mix until incorporated.

2. Have ready eight wide-mouthed 8-ounce jars. Turn out the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Shape the dough into a long cylinder with a diameter 1/2 inch smaller than the diameter of the jars you are using. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Slice 1/4-inch slices of dough from the roll and place a slice in the bottom of each jar. Place the jars 2 inches apart on a large baking sheet. Bake the crusts for 10 minutes until just lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.

4. Make the filling: Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium-size saucepan. Mix in the water, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stir in the butter until it is melted. Place the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of the lemon mixture into the egg yolks, whisking continuously to temper the eggs. Whisk the egg yolks into the saucepan. Bring to a boil again and continue to cook over medium-high heat until the lemon filling is thick, about 5 minutes. Spoon the filling into the warm jars over the crust.

5. Make the meringue: In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Beat in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Beat at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Spoon or pipe the meringue over the lemon filling in the jars, mounding it in the center to create peaks.

6. Place the jars 2 inches apart on a large baking sheet. Bake the pies for 10 minutes, or just until the meringue is golden brown. Remove from the oven, let cool completely, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Serve cold.

Deal Alert: Starbucks BOGO

Starbucks Buy One Holiday Beverage Get ONE FREE of equal or lesser value is here!!!

Stop by Starbucks Thursday, December 13th (today) thru Sunday, December 16th between 2PM - 5PM and when you buy One Holiday Beverage, you get ONE FREE of equal or lesser value. Mix & Match your favorite flavors.

This BOGO Free offer only valid for four days, so hurry on over with the kids after school or a friend you've been meaning to catch up with during promotional dates & times. If you're unsure if your location is participating, simply call your local Starbucks. Starbucks will carry the Holiday Drink tradition thru 12/31/12.

Valid at participating locations. Not valid at airports & grocery retailer stores.

Holiday flavors to choose from:

Caramel Brulee Latte: Made with espresso, steamed milk and caramel Brulée sauce, topped with sweetened whipped cream and caramel Brulée topping.

Peppermint Mocha: Made with espresso, steamed milk, mocha sauce and peppermint flavored syrup, topped with sweetened whipped cream and dark chocolate curls.

Gingerbread Latte: Made with espresso, steamed milk and gingerbread flavored syrup, topped with sweetened whipped cream and nutmeg.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Goodies to Gift: Festive & Edible

Give the sweetest present this year; yummy treats wrapped in pretty packages!

:: Sweet ::

Peppermint Bark : 2 pounds (4 small tins) at $1.96 each

Chocolate-Peppermint Cake Pops : 48 pops at $.23 each

Layered Chocolate Cookie Mix : 1 jar at $7.33 each; 3 1/2 dozen baked cookies

Marbled Walnut Fudge : 4 dozen pieces at $4.01/dozen

Mixed Berry Granola : About 6 cups at $1.98 per cup

Cranberry-Poppyseed Biscuits : three 2 3/4 cup bags at $1.55 each

:: Salty ::

Chunky Salsa : Makes 10 cups at $1.53

Trio of Rubs : 1 jar (11 teaspoons) at $1.50 each

:: Fast and Easy Gift Packaging Ideas :: Raid your pantry and drawers for these items to repurpose on the fly...

Mason or other lidded glass jars: These are ideal for holding homemade candies, nuts and other small bites. Just sterilize with a quick boiling water bath first. A ribbon around the top makes it extra special.

Brown paper bags: Use lunch sacks or cut apart large bags to make wrapping paper. Add a gingerbread "icing" border around the top of the package with a white pen or white out. If you gift wrap, you can use yarn or stamps to do something other than ribbon.

Shoe, jewelry or other boxes: Pick a box based on the size or amount of your to-be-gifted treats. Wrap in paper and line with tissue or wax paper. No one will notice what the box originally held.

Dish towels or cloth napkins: If you have spares - or one in set that's not stained - bundle it around your sealed backed goods especially breadas and tie with twine or burlap ribbon. An old recipe card makes a perfect gift tag.

Oatmeal canisters: Cylinders are great for small items and easy to wrap. Roll in paper, cut it and tape it. Or create "candy wrapper" ends by gathering excess paper on either side of the tube with ribbon.

Decorative tin cans: If you don't have anything lying around the house, hit up the $1 store and pick yourself up a holiday tin can. Line with tissue paper or wax paper and you have an inexpensive,

Take-out boxes or favor boxes: Available at any craft store, with a lid or just the scalloped top ($20 for 50 at Line with food safe cellophane, tie with a stitched grosgrain ribbon and wah-la!

Friday, December 7, 2012

An oldie but goodie: Bangin' Bargains under $25

Back in 2010, I jotted down a few gift ideas for specific people in your lives - the workaholic, the beauty queen, the movie buff. The list goes on. Sadly I'm sure there will be links that don't work and a few products that might seem "dated" or not even available anymore but reposting wasn't necessarily about the specific products but more to inspire your inner creativity to give something more thoughtful. Instead of just getting them something mainstream, think about each individual person. What do they really like to do? What is a gift they will keep and use, not toss in the drawer?

Check out the post HERE. Happy Shopping!

Gift Guide: Stress-free Shopping

When you need a last minute present or just simply don't have time to package and ship, the "Treater" app can't be beat! This free app (for both iPhone & Android) lets you instantly give any friend gift certificates from everything from movie tickets and massages to gourmet dinners. Simply pick and purchase a "treat" and send it via Facebook, text or email.

Great for the holidays but a useful app all year round for those life events that sneak up on you!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gift Guide: Mail Order Beauty

No time to shop? Stumped on what to give a girlfriend that has everything? Give the gift of a
re-occuring monthly box of high-end assorted cosmetics. Truly the gift that keeps on giving.

For only $10-$21 per month (you can pick how many months you want the box delievered), the recipient will be able to try out in-demand, luxe skin creams, perfumes, makeup, and hair products.

Here are a few beauty bento boxes to consider:

Birchbox: Sidestep dissapointment by testing trial-size luxe beauty supplies that have receieved numerous thumbs-up. My favorite option from the list. $10/month.

Myglam: Not only does myglam offer it's four or five monthly samples in full or deluxe sizes, it also includes a cute makeup bag with every package. The website offers makeup tutorials too. $10/month.

Beautyarmy: This sampling program recommends makeup, fragrances, and more based on feedback from customer questionnaires. You can take user's advice or select six goodies on your own. $12/month.

Eco-Emi: If going green is more your style the Eco-Emi box will include 5-10 samples of natural, organic, green, Fair Trade or eco-friendly products in chic earth friendly packaging. $15/month.

Glossybox: Delivers at least five products in-demand cosmetic products from lines like C.O. Bigelow, Cargo and Burberry Beauty with the occasional full-size item - no teensy-weensy foil samples here. $21/month.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gift Guide: Simplify with Style

I don't know about you but I'm always struggling to juggle my money clutch, phone (god forbid I go anywhere without it), Target bags and a child's hand or two so whoever had the patent pending idea to manufacture a wallet that accomodates an iPhone, up to three credit cards and alittle cash is a genius in my book.

The Q Card Case for the iPhone 4/4s and 5 are a practical gift for both men and women, even teenagers, this holiday season. At only $40, you could even slide in a small gift card or some cash into the pocket for a secret surprise.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gift Guide: Make it Personal

I love the idea of a lunch box filled with a few extra goodies as a Christmas gift. I'm especially obsessed with Frecklebox's personalized lunch boxes ($29.95) that have a chalkboard inside the lid for those "I love you notes" you want to include.

They also offer a  "look like me" box ($29.95) that allows you to customize the lunch box with the correct skintone, hair color, and their favorite activity.

And if you want to take the lunch box to the next level, you can personalize a Yubo box ($39.95). Incredibly functional with three built-in food containers and a custom built ice pack. All dishwasher safe and BPA-free, phthalate-free, and lead-free.

So much to choose from! Now fill it with little surprises and you've got yourself a super fun gift!

Frecklebox also carries an entire line of personalizable items from chore charts, placemats, puzzles and binders. All so cute and affordable prices.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gift Guide: Fashionable under $50

Stumped on what to get your sister? Friend? Babysitter? I know clothing is hard to give but the Bobeau Asymmetical Fleece Wrap Cardigan makes the perfect gift. It lightweight so it can be worn year round. Flattering. A comfy throw on piece. And on sale! Currently marked down to $39.90 in the "Point of View" section at Nordstrom. Pair with a pair of earrings or a some nailpolish and you've got yourself a fashionable gift for under $50.

Or if you want to bypass the mall chaos, buy online and get free shipping! Available in 13 colors.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Get ORGANIZED. Get this...

December 1st. A perfect time to set out a game plan for the chaos of the coming weeks. And by game plan, I mean start making lists. I am a total list person. I have a list of a list of a list. I find that when I am most busy though, the Any.DO app is my saving grace. It's slogan says it all - MAKE THINGS HAPPEN. Reviews on the internet claim it's better than Gmail Tasks. I agree.

The functionality of the Any.DO app is spot on. When a to-do pops into my head, I quickly and easily log it as a today, tomorrow, this week or later task. Under each task, you have the ability to mark the task as urgent, move it to another folder (this is great if you want to separate lists into personal, work, etc), set an alarm to alert you about it on a specified day and time, add a note to it, or forward it to someone in your contacts book as an email or Facebook message. And if you don't want to type out your list, it has voice recognition. Think driving and list making. Ahhh, that sings to my soul!

And if you're not naturally a list maker, here are a few of my efficient list making tips:

1) Jot down whatever comes to your mind into the lists. Even if it's simply replying to an email or text. That way it will stare you back in the face all day until you cross it off the list. And you'll never have that awful feeling that you forgot something.

2) Cross off as you go. It will keep you motivated and proud of your visual productivity. I love with the Any.DO app, you simply just swipe your finger on the screen from left to right and it crosses off and deletes. Complete satisfaction.

3) At the end of the day, take time to do some list maintenance. Meaning - clean up your list. Move what didn't get done "today" onto your "tomorrow" and get them done before moving to the next. They were put on your "today" list for a reason. You want them done. They need to be done. My mom always said, "Don't put off tomorrow, what should get done today."

But and a HUGE but - don't spend too much time on this. I find that people spend far more time managing their lists than actually doing them. I feel similar about Pinterest. Sure you have an account filled with inspirational boards of wonderful crafts, delicious food to make, and exercises to do but are you really doing them!?!?! Remember - make things happen.

4) At the end of the week, go through your "laters" and move 2-4 onto the appropriate lists for the week. That way you don't get an overwhelming, mile long "later" list that haunts you.

5) Arrange your tasks in order of how you see your day playing out. Taking time to visually map out your day will allow you to accomplish more. You'll save yourself from backtracking or doing circles all day long. What I love about the Any.DO app is you can re-order your tasks by pressing on a task and dragging it to another place on the list. Super easy and fast to do, even when you have one hand unloading the dishwasher and one hand on the phone.

Some additional key highlights and features of the Any.DO app if I haven't already sold you: Seamless cloud sync, speech recognition, time & location reminders, folders, notes, repeating tasks, calendar view, gesture support & more! All FREE!!! Available for both Android and iPhone users.

You can also sync your task lists with any other devices that also have the Any.DO app installed by signing up for a free account on the Any.DO site. You can also sync your Any.DO lists with your Google account to use with Google Tasks.

Bottom line: Any.DO is intuitive, has a simple, easy-to-read interface and allows you to effortlessly create, edit and adjust your task list for a stress-free (ok let's be realistic - stress-LESS), uber organized holiday season and 2013!!

Once you've downloaded the free app, you can reference this site for additional questions on how to use.