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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Party Perfect

Have a few holiday parties on the calendar in the coming weeks? Feeling pressure to look holiday fab? I sure am even though I'm learning in my wise old age that no one really cares - or remembers. But it's the holidays. It's a time to do up your 'do, slip on a sequins dress and dust off those high heels you haven't seen since you had kids.

Not sure about you but when it comes to stepping out of my day-to-day make-up and hair routine (aka -- pony tail, mascara and a dusting of bronzer) I go absolutely brain dead. So when I saw this Glamour tip come to my email this week, it was like God was telling me, "Hailey, DO THIS. Don't spend all week stressing about how you're going to spice it up. Just do this."

If you too are looking for a quick and easy way to take your look from drab to fab, DO THIS:

1) Line under your eye with black eyeliner pencil.
2) Swipe your upper lids with a liquid eyeliner.
3) Apply a gray shadow over the top to soften the dark black line.
4) Dust some sparkly pink over the entire lid.
5) Apply lighter gray into the creases of her eyes for shading.
6) Pair with a peachy lip and don't forget the mascara!

Overall this look is a little friendlier than most smoky eye looks, which means it's perfect for an office party or anywhere you're going for "festive" over "sexy."

Want to shop for a liquid liner or a shimmery pink eyeshadow now? Start your shopping here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

If you do ONE thing this week...

Disinfect your kitchen sponge.

Can you remember the last time you cleaned your sponge? While the moist, micro-crevices in a sponge do make it an effective cleaning device, they also make it a cozy home for germs and more difficult to disinfect. Wiping your counters or dishes with a dirty sponge will only transfer the bacteria from one item to another.

How to: According to Carolyn Forte, Director of Home Appliances and Cleaning Products at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, you have three choices -

1) Put the sponge in the dishwasher for a full cycle, set on "heated dry."

2) Microwave it on high for a minute. Make sure the sponge is wet or it can catch on fire.

3) Soak it for five minutes in a mix of 3/4 cup bleach and 1 gallon of water.

You should aim to do this once a week. And toss out that sponge once/month. My sponge cleaning day: After Sunday night dinner. It's nice to start the week fresh!

Wondering what other bacteria is cooking in your kitchen? Check out this previous post. This might just motivate you to clean more than just your sponge this week.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Black Friday: Don't buy the hype

Are you a Black Friday junkie? I'm not and never will be. I'm all about a good deal but this just seems excessive. I'd definitely be throwing some elbows amongst that crowd. If you like the thrill of it, that's one thing - I guess. But if you're looking to score bigger deals than what's online, you might just want to stay in bed and shop till you drop in the comfort of your home. Experts agree that it's marketing at it's finest and you shouldn't give into the hype.

"[Early sales] are media events more than anything else," says Steve Schaffer, CEO of "You don't need to get to a store at midnight to find good deals." In fact, the only thing the early bird may actually be getting a jump on is holiday debt, as the longer hours decrease a consumer's odds of actually scoring the limited number of doorbuster deals retailers use to hook them.

"Stores seem to be just pushing the early envelope to create an urgency, hoping people will buy early before realizing they've spent too much," says Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert with She says retailers aren't likely to add extra doorbusters just because they are opening up earlier.

"There are lots of big sales out there, but it doesn't seem there are more of them than in the past," Woroch says. "I don't think it will be a huge factor on the number of deals," echoes Brad Wilson of

All experts suggest consumers increase the odds of scoring the lowest prices by researching beforehand. Schaffer says consumers may even want to consider sticking to online shopping because it enables them to compare prices rather than succumbing to impulse buys in person. "Consumers get much more empowered by weeks of research, especially compared to the old model of just rifling through the morning paper and making quick decisions," Wilson says.

If you just can't resist the temptation, click here for year's post on survival tips for braving the mad rush and long lines.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sweet Sunday

Pumpkin and apple pies might be classic, but this deliciously sinful dessert puts a chic (and mouthwatering) spin on tradition. You can make in a glass trifle bowl or for individual servings that look super fancy with little effort, serve in wine glasses. Or for larger groups and easy clean-up, dish into plastic cups. Any way you serve it, you can be grateful wont have you slaving in the kitchen for hours.

~Pumpkin Bread Trifle~

1 loaf of Pumpkin Bread
1 package of Toffee bits (found at store by the chocolate chips)
1 jar Caramel ice cream topping
1 qt Whipping Cream
1 1/2 c Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla


1) Purchase a loaf of pumpkin bread or make your own. Trader Joes has a yummy pumpkin bread mix.
2) Cut loaf into cubes.
3) Whip the whipping cream adding in the brown sugar and vanilla.
4) Create trifle by layering ingredients. Start by placing half of the pumpkin bread cubes in the bottom of the trifle dish. Put the bread and other ingredients around the edge so the layers can be seen through the glass.
5) Drizzle caramel sauce over the pumpkin bread.
6) Sprinkle toffee bits over the bread and caramel.
7) Spread a generous layer of the whipped topping over the pumpkin bread.
8) Repeat all of the above for the second layer. Garnish with toffee bits.
9) Refrigerate a few hours before serving.

Hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note! Happy {beginning} of Thanksgiving week. xo

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fancy Friday

Something I love about the holidays are the family traditions that come with them. Now that I have my own family, there are several traditions that will carry on from my childhood into my own children's childhood but I do always keep my eyes and ears open for traditions we can start as just our own little family.

One thing that tickled my fancy this week was this particular Thanksgiving tradition from Simply Vintage Girl (picture above) that is so simple to make and encourages dialogue amongst your family on what you are most thankful for. Call them what you like - Gratitude Tree. Thankful Tree. Thanksgiving Tree. Not a new idea but one worth starting.

The idea is simple: Have each family member write heartfelt sentiments for the things they are most grateful for and during Thanksgiving dinner go around the table and have each person read their tag. It fosters communication, teaches gratitude and gets the room glowing with smiles.

If you're bundled up inside this weekend, this is an easy and fun craft to do with your kids to keep them away from yet another hour of tv. You don't need much - just a few twigs from the yard and some craft paper.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Deal Alert: Starbucks Buy One, Get One Free!


Starbucks is offering a special this week for their holiday drinks - Buy 1 Holiday Drink, Get 1 FREE! This special deal on their holiday drinks will be from Thursday November 17th – Sunday November 20th between the hours of 2pm & 5pm. {not to be combined with other offers or discounts}.

The drinks included are: Gingerbread Latte, Peppermint Mocha, Skinny Peppermint Mocha, Caramel Brulee Latte, & Eggnog Latte.

Happy sipping!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Give Thanks

What do you get when you try to buy Thanksgiving decor a few days after Halloween? A clearance table of picked through, half chipped miscellaneous decor hidden behind robust Christmas trees, reindeer ornaments and red berries. Obviously I was a little late to the party but c'mon I hadn't even sifted through the Halloween candy yet.

So I got to thinking. Why are so many people quick to overlook Thanksgiving? What's the big rush to deck the halls? Don't get me wrong - I do enjoy Christmas but I personally consider Thanksgiving to be the calm before the storm, the last chance to breathe before the busy holiday season. It’s a time to celebrate our faith, family, and friends and meditate over the many rich blessings we have in our lives.

Now that Chase (my 3 year old) is old enough to 'get it' (kinda), I figured it was time to teach him to savor 'giving thanks' for Thanksgiving’s sake. So in an effort to teach him to count those blessings, I let him choose a couple people he wanted to give a gift of thanks. He picked his Preschool teacher and nanny Vira.

Together we went to The Coffee Bean - his teacher's favorite coffee spot - and bought a gift card, wrapped it with a note that reads, "Thanks for 'bean' a fantastic teacher!" For Vira, he helped me make a batch of white chocolate covered pretzels - her favorite. Attached is a note that reads, "Thanks for being so sweet to me!"

Taking the time to do this with Chase has been such a precious time for me. It taught him the act of being thankful as well as the joy of giving. And it taught me to slow down and reflect on what I am most thankful for. Too often, I get bogged down with never ending holiday to-do’s and shopping lists that I even forget to say thanks in the midst of my abundant blessings.

If this struck a cord with you, it's not too late. I encourage you to team up with your child(ren), have them pick a few people they would like to give a special thanks to and make it a fun activity. Below are a few inexpensive gift ideas to get your juices flowing:

1) Have your child hand-dip fortune cookies with chocolate and sprinkles, box them in a Chinese take-out box found at any craft store with a note attached that says, "I'm fortunate to have you as my _______!"

2) Create Thankful Jars;
Fill a mason jar with mints with a note that says, "Knowing you has 'mint' a lot. I'm so thankful for you!"

Fill a mason jar with gummy bears with a note that says, "I'm 'beary' thankful for you!"

Fill a mason jar with M&M's with a note that says, "I'm thankful for a Marvelous & Mighty Mrs. ______"

Monday, November 14, 2011

If you do ONE thing this week...


When holiday gatherings, family traditions and too many gifts make the holiday season hectic, a little organization can go a long way. So, how do you become a master of merriment without having a mid-holiday meltdown? One way; organize your purse/handbag.

Don't underestimate the value of purse organization! From family dinners to holiday parties, clearing the clutter from your handbag will help you minimize chaos when you're on the go during the busy holiday season - and make room for holiday shopping receipts.

Follow these tips to make keeping your handbag organized a cinch;

What should I have in my handbag?
A wallet or a small pouch for currency, credit cards and identification are “musts” for every handbag. Many women choose to carry a small cosmetic pouch for touch-ups on the go. You’ll want a place for your mobile phone, sunglasses and/or reading glasses. It’s also a good idea to carry supplies such as medication, bandages, tissues and antibacterial wipes.

What should I leave out of my handbag?
Full-size bottles, tubes or a large hair brush are too big and take up too much space inside a handbag. Use travel-sized bottles and opt for a folding hairbrush instead.

How do I keep it all organized?
As handbags have gotten larger, the need for internal organization is essential. It’s best to use a variety of pouches to separate and contain like items inside your bag. Pouches also make changing purses simple and fast. Pouches in bright colors are easy to spot. Clear or mesh pouches are another great option — they allow you to see what’s inside at a quick glance.

And chances are that your holiday wardrobe may require more than one purse, so a removable purse organizer such as the Pouchee ($24-27) makes matching your bag to your shoes the easiest thing you do this holiday season.

How often should I clean out my handbag?
Cleaning out your purse once a week will allow you to maintain your handbag organization. Try and make it part of your Sunday night routine, which will help you start the week organized.

Happy purging!

Friday, November 11, 2011


It probably no longer shocks most of us to see Christmas decorations in stores before Halloween is over. And in my book - the Christmas creep is just wrong. So the one thing that tickled my fancy this week is Nordstrom's policy to hold off in "decking the halls" until after Thanksgiving.

You will find signs throughout Nordstrom stating this;

"Happiness is celebrating one holiday at a time.

That’s why you won’t find any holiday trim in our stores until after Thanksgiving day. So relax. Reminisce. Enjoy the day as we will — with family and friends. Then when Friday, November 25 rolls around feel free to stop by for a bit of good cheer. It’s then we’ll be decked in our holiday finery — and eager to welcome the season with you.

From our family to yours, happy Thanksgiving. We will be closed on Thanksgiving day."


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

ON THE MENU: Ravioli Skillet Lasagna

When I think lasagna, I think time consuming. All the ingredients. All the layering. Definitely not a realistic dish for busy moms.

As an alternative, try this fresh twist on lasagna that takes just 25 minutes from start to finish that your kids will enjoy too!

~Ravioli Skillet Lasagna~

2 cups purchased pasta sauce
1/3 cup water
1 - 9 ounce package refrigerated or frozen cheese or meat-filled ravioli
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 15 ounce carton ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 - 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

1. In a 10-inch skillet combine pasta sauce and the water. Bring to boiling; stir in ravioli. Reduce heat. Cook, covered, over medium heat about 5 minutes or until ravioli are nearly tender, stirring once to prevent sticking.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl stir together egg, ricotta cheese, and the 1/4 cup Romano cheese.

3. Top ravioli with spinach.

4. Spoon ricotta mixture on top of spinach.

5. Cook, covered, over low heat about 10 minutes or until ricotta layer is set and ravioli are tender. Sprinkle each serving with additional Romano cheese. Makes 4 main-dish servings.

Bon appetit!

Monday, November 7, 2011

If you do ONE thing this week...

Vacuum your carpet.

Ever wondered how often you should vacuum? Although there is no concrete, scientific answer, it is recommended that in high traffic areas you vacuum once daily. Seem ridiculously impossible? Ok shoot for at least 2-3 times per week but just remember that the cleaner your carpet, the healthier you and your children who are the ones rolling around on them will be.

According to an MSN & Men's Health, carpets are wall-to-wall germs. Think about it - you walk in a public restroom that has god knows what on the floor and visible pee puddles around the toilet and then those same soles trample on the carpets like it's no big deal. Gross.

Tierno's research indicates that your carpet probably contains about 200,000 bacteria per square inch, making it 4,000 times dirtier than your toilet seat. "Rugs are botanical and zoological parks," says Tierno, who says hundreds of thousands of different types of species live there. These invasions occur because the average person sheds about 1.5 million skin cells every hour; these skin cells hit the rug and serve as food for germs. Add in food particles, pollen, and pet dander, and you have a gratis buffet, he says. And since a vacuum cleaner's suction and rotating beater brush don't usually reach the bottom of the carpet, you're bound to have communities of E. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus, and other bacteria down there. Every time you walk on the carpet or roll around on it with your kids, you disrupt the bacteria, bringing some closer to the surface, Gerba says.

In order for bacteria to thrive, certain conditions must be met. They must have constant supply of food and an area where they can breed. However, these creatures don't need much to go on. Plus, they have a high tolerance for different environmental conditions. Some can tolerate very acidic conditions while some can withstand extremely high temperatures. Moisture is also one culprit that helps bacteria multiply. There are even some types that can live without the presence of oxygen. This life form is one of the first ones that existed on earth. Pathogens are species of bacteria cause diseases in humans. Examples of diseases caused by pathogenic species are cholera, syphilis and tetanus.

And don't forget about those little spots. Spots that we may very well ignore can often contain harmful particles. The variations will depend on the kind of environment that the carpet is located in. For example, germs that come from pets who are allowed to roll on carpets will be different from the germs on the soles of corporate personnel. It can range from bacteria, fungi, allergens, viruses, parasites, allergens and other hazardous material may be trapped deep inside carpet fibers. If you are like the many, who just depend on vacuum cleaning, consider this fact; It only takes away the dirt on the surface but invisible microorganisms don't necessarily die after vacuuming. Often our noses, eyes, and skin still itch because of the remaining dirt in them.

Stores offer a wide selection of cleaning products like bleaches and disinfectants. These chemicals will kill pathogens but most people do not have the time and patience to do a thorough job. Large and fluffy carpets are beautiful but it takes a lot of work to keep them clean. For those people with busy lifestyles that wish they had the time to do it right, I suggest hiring a professional carpet cleaning service every 4-6 months to do a deep steam clean and consider covering high traffic areas with machine washable area rugs. And if you really want to decrease the germs in your home, don't eat on the carpet, take your shoes off outside and if you want to go extremee - get rid of your carpet all together.

There is no price for your health and the well-being of the entire family. It is a fact that unseen organisms can make us sick. The best way of protecting yourself and your loved ones against harmful things that live deep in carpets, is by doing a thorough job of cleaning it. But this must be done on a regular basis. And if you're like the majority, you're just "toooo busy." If you have the money, hire professionals do this time-consuming and demanding job. If not, make it a priority every week.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Nothing screams fall more than a warm apple cake. With only 15 minutes of prep time, this cake is a snap to make! And yes you can eat well, even out of box.

~Whole-Grain Apple Cake~
Serves: 12

1 box Duncan Hines Whole-Grain Apple Cinnamom Muffin mix
2 large eggs
1/4 cup oil (I prefer substituting applesauce)
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Apples of your choice (Honey crisp or Fuji are my particular faves)

1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
2) Coat a 9-inch springfoam pan with non-stick cooking spray.
3) Prepare muffin mix as package directs, using 2 eggs, 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup oil (or applesauce).
4) Gently stir in 1 sliced apple with the provide apple-cinnamon pouch and stir into pan.
5) Arrange remaining apple slices in concentric circles on top.
6) Sprinkle 3 Tbsp sugar and then the granola topping on top.
7) Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Try this too:
~Sprinkle 1/4 cup chopped walnuts on top along with granola.
~Use 3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced instead of apples.
~Stir 2 tsp grated lemon zest into batter.

I hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note! xo

Friday, November 4, 2011


Spring forward -- Fall back.

That means plan to set your clocks & watches back one hour THIS weekend as Daylight Savings Time comes to an end. Yipee, an extra hour of sleep!!

The official time change is 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 6th so if you're smart you'll set your clocks back one hour before going to bed Saturday night, to make sure you aren't late for church services or other Sunday morning activities.

If you've got little ones at home and are stressing about how your child is going to transition to the time change, here are two tips to ease the transition and keep sleep deprivation at a minimum. No matter what approach you take, your child will adjust to the time change within a few days to a week:

•Maintain your child's regular sleep, wake and nap times; Try not to compensate for the lost hour by delaying bedtime or allowing your child to sleep in. This however will increase the time it takes to transition. There may be some crankiness from being tired, but this should last only a day or two.

•Make gradual adjustments; This is personally what we've done and it's always worked perfectly for us. We always start on Friday night and make a slow transition throughout the weekend by moving Chase's bedtime earlier by 20 minutes each night. We bank on that come Sunday night he will be right back on schedule.

In addition to changing the clocks, it's a great time to consider changing batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. If you do the two together, you'll never wonder when you last changed them out.

"The most commonly cited cause of non-working smoke alarms is worn or missing batteries," said Stacie Durham, MFD public information officer. "The peak time for home fire fatalities is between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are sleeping. Smoke alarm maintenance is a simple, effective way to reduce home fire deaths. Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire in half."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

DECORATE: BIG statement, LITTLE effort

Whenever the holidays roll around and I know we have family coming into town, I put this crazy stupid pressure on myself to want to change up the decor in my house. Above and beyond the festive cornucopia table centerpiece and gourds on the mantle. As if they remember what it looked like in the first place or even care for that matter. Regardless I lay in bed and think about what I can do differently to 'spice' up my predictable Pottery Barn'esk interior. You know - white couches, brown walls, floral area rugs, red accent pieces.

If you find yourself in the same mental predicament but don't have a lot of time or money to be making drastic changes, here are a few ideas that make a big statement with little effort:

1) Change out your pillows: Mix in a wild or bold print - possibly zebra or yellow - to add some contrast to a simple couch and inject some personality. For $20, you can transform a boring, drab room with a few decorative pillows from TJ Maxx or Marshalls. Tip: Toss a few large throw pillows onto your couch rather than a jumble of smaller ones for a cleaner design.

2) Bring in flowers: Perk up a room (inexpensively) with a bouquet of vibrant flowers set in an equally vibrant vase. If you're like me and can't seem to keep anything alive longer than a few days, find a Michael's 50% off coupon and go buy a bundle of fake flowers. Nobody knows if you don't tell.

3) Paint a wall: Introduce color on the walls to add a pop of liveliness and warmth. A blue like this is as versatile as a neutral, such as beige or gray. Pick a wall or two and have some fun with an unexpected color. For $15, this will change your room from drab to fab!

4) Use mirrors as art: Have a bare wall and can't afford expensive artwork? No worries. Target has pages of fantastic inexpensive large mirrors online that will fill the space and actually make a room appear brighter and larger by positioning a mirror to reflect light and a view. Find a big, cool clock you like? That works too!

5) Hang a gallery of photos: Mine your albums for your best shots (pick a theme: weddings, birthday parties, vacations) and put them in identical frames. Hang in a tight grid or a long line - you can’t go wrong if you stick to a geometric arrangement. Best spot in town to find simple, super inexpensive frames to achieve this look - IKEA. The Ribba series frames range from $2.99-$24.99.

6) Bring in shades of color: Colored lamp shades can make a bold statement. Limit the colors to one per room, and select other lamp shades in neutral tones, such as parchment and white. If you're super crafty, you can pick out a fabric of your choice and re-cover an existing lamp shade yourself.

7) And for no money at all - Re-arrange your furniture: My favorite. Just a quick shift of the furniture and it will feel like an entirely new, inviting space.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

DEAL ALERT: 1/2 Yearly

It's time to get your shop on!! The Nordstrom 1/2 yearly sale for Women & Children is going on now through November 13th. Use your Nordstrom card between November 2-5 and earn double rewards points!

This is the perfect time to get some of that holiday shopping checked off the list! Start shopping NOW!

Monday, October 31, 2011

If you do one thing TODAY...

Throw away (or donate) all your leftover Halloween candy!

That means even your kid's candy too. Sure they might throw a fit. But you're the mom. You make the rules. You know what's best.

It has been said that the average American gains 7 pounds between Halloween and New Years. Don't let those tempting calories linger around. They aren't good for your kid's teeth or your waistline. Have your children pick out five more pieces and then rid the house of the sweets. If it kills you to simply throw it away, most every city has a school or organization that has some type of candy donation. Chase willingly donated his to the Blind Children's Center in our city.

On a side note; I can't believe it's been a year since I started Hailey's Helpful Hints! I set a goal that I would do this for one year and then re-evaluate how much I enjoyed it. Or better yet, how much my reader's enjoy it. I'm happy to report that I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.

Click here to read my Halloween tip from last year. You might be more convinced to toss out the candy once you read how much work it takes to burn off that bite here and nibble there...


Happy Halloween!! The United States might be in a tricky economic situation, but it won't stop Americans from buying vampire fangs or princess tiaras this year. And if the ghosts and goblins aren't scary enough, the health statistics and effects from all that candy might be. Get ready for trick-or-treating with these nuggets of information:

*According to an annual survey done by the National Retail Federation, 7 in 10 Americans will celebrate Halloween in 2011 (the most in the surveys history), and spending will be slightly up. Yes even in the down economy! On average, people will spend $72.31 on costumes, candy, and decorations. Total Halloween spending: $6.9 billion.

*According to CNN; The average household has shelled out $21.05 in Halloween candy alone.

*The U.S. Census Bureau says roughly 41 million children ages 5 to 14 go trick-or-treating each year.

*According to Nielsen Research, approximately $1.9 billion (or 598 million pounds) of candy is sold during the Halloween season in the U.S.

*Chocolate makes up about three-quarters of a trick-or-treater’s loot, according to the National Confectioners Association.

*National Confectioners Association more than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year: “That equates to nearly 9 billion pieces—enough to circle the moon nearly 21 times if laid end-to-end”

*One serving of Candy Corn (about 30 pieces) has 140 calories, the equivalent of three miniature Hershey bars.

*The average child collects an estimated 3,500 and 7,000 calories on Halloween night, according to Dr. Donna Arnett, chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Public Health. The estimate was based on nutrition facts of popular Halloween candies.

*A 100-pound child who eats 7,000 calories worth of candy would have to walk for almost 44 hours or play full-court basketball for 14.5 hours to burn those calories, according to Arnett.

*Four out of ten (41%) adults admit that they sneak sweets from their own candy bowl.

*90% of parents admit to sneaking goodies from their kids' Halloween trick-or-treat bags.

*, a Web site that debunks urban legends, has a well-annotated article entitled Halloween Poisonings in which the author finds no evidence of their ever having been a “genuine Halloween poisoning” — one in which a child randomly has been given a cyanide-laced candy or razor-embedded apple while going trick-or-treating. A documented case of a child being poisoned by Halloween candy, on October 31st, 1974 in Houston, Texas, turned out to be a filicide — a father deliberately poisoned his son, and blamed it on Halloween. (He allegedly gave the poisoned candy to other children to cover his tracks, but nobody else fell ill.) Ronald Clark O’Bryan was convicted of the crime of murder and executed. In other words: mom's stop freaking out!

*This from an article last year on CNN: “although some parents may be tempted to space out the amount of candy their children consume after Halloween, dentists have advice to the contrary: When it comes to teeth, it’s better to eat a whole lot of candy at once than to space out candy consumption over time. Basically, the fewer episodes of candy eating, the better. “It makes sense, given that cavities form when bacteria in plaque ferments the sugars in candies and creates acid that attacks the tooth’s surface, says Dr. Clarice Law, assistant professor of dentistry at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Dentistry. “Repeated “attacks” lead to cavities, so eating a bunch of candy — for example, with a meal — and then brushing your teeth is better than spreading that candy out over time. Law doesn’t recommend binging but does advise that children limit their candy-eating episodes.”

Have fun and be safe out there tonight!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

LAST MINUTE: Halloween Dessert Ideas

In case you need some last minute Halloween dessert ideas or are looking to do some fun baking with the kiddos this weekend, you must check out Glorious Treats. Drool.

You can find the recipe for this Candy Corn Cheesecake Mousse here. Enjoy!


Friday already?!?! Thank goodness. My week was filled with nothing but medical crap. From my 6 month old pulling all-nighters because of Croup and countless tests to diagnose a stomach infection that hit me hard last Sunday. Despite the not-so-fun stuff, my fancy was still tickled - aka; to enjoy, adore or be satisfied by.

This week it's LANTERNS.

I was so inspired by the above picture I found on Pinterest. How fabulously simple is that front porch decor using lanterns and candles? Keep the pumpkins through Thanksgiving then swap them out for glittery ball ornaments or pine cones for Christmas and change the candles to red. I'm sold.

Side-note: No, I do not have a personal Pinterest page. I think I might be the only girl on the face of this planet that doesn't. Why you ask? To be honest, I've deliberately stayed away from the monster. Now I know all you Pinners are thinking I'm totally missing out but for my addictive personality, it screams "Stay the hell away!" I'm not saying it won't happen in the future but for now, I'll stick to browsing when I have a free minute.

Ok back to Lanterns...

Having a party? Lanterns are an easy decoration for table centerpieces and add a whimsical, glowing effect when you hang them from tree branches.

To add lanterns to your holiday decor repertoire, you can find the classic set of three at Pottery Barn. The initial purchase will set you back a little money but they are timeless accents that you'll be able to use for years to come.

If you're looking for smaller lanterns and don't want to spend a ton, I noticed on Tuesday that Ikea has out their small tea-light lanterns (available in white, chrome, black and red) for $3.99 in their holiday section.