Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Design on a dime: The art of the stack

Sick of looking at that messy set of shelves? Want to make them more of a decorative focal point rather than a hodge-podge of clutter? Fret no more - here is a design on a dime tip that will help you achieve storage and style all in one.

The art of the stack:

1) Start with a few chunky books. Three or four is usually enough. If you don't already have a library of books, you can always hit up Goodwill or a secondhand bookstore to find some books with character.

2) Put the biggest books on the bottom, then stack the others like a pyramid, getting smaller at the top.

3) You have two options for positioning; lay them even with the binds flush with each other, or place them slightly askew - but never at purposeful diagonals, which looks too forced.

4) Top off your pile with an object that has a rounded shape, like a sculpture or a footed bowl. Make sure it fills enough space on the top book so it doesn't look dinky.

5) Fill the unused space on the shelf with vases, picture frames, collectibles and/or decorative pieces that have meaning to you. Adding dimension to your shelves with different heights and textures. Thrift stores, flea markets and clearance sections of retail stores  are great places to find inexpensive treasures that you can prime and re-paint (if need be) for decorative bookends, etc.

Want to add a splash of color to your shelves? Try this fun tip from Better Homes and Garden:

Remove the jackets, then group books by color, standing some upright and stacking others. Shelves will seem more organized and have an artistic, color-blocked look.

Want to take your shelves to the next level? Start in the back. Simple inexpensive bookcases become stunners when their backs are dressed up with paint, fabric or wallpaper. Eddie’s Billy Bookcase was brought to life with a pattern that accentuates the balanced display of books and collectibles. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Design on a dime with paper napkins

Want to add a pop of color at your next gathering? Don't want to spend a fortune on decor?

Solution: Paper Napkins. Make an easy, inexpensive table runner for your next get-together with assorted, patterned paper napkins. Lay out napkins (lunch size seems to work best but cocktail size would also work) in desired design, tape the edges together and flip over.

Add a mason jar of fresh cut flowers and you've successfully designed on a dime!

You can find a great selection of napkins HERE.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Must Have: Quarter Dispenser

A product I can't live without: The Quarter Dispenser.

I love it so much I gave it as a summer "Favorites" gift at our most recent girl get-together. For $2.99, you can have a stash of quarters handy and organized.

Perfect for when you pull up to the beach and you unexpectedly have to pay a parking meter. Great for toll roads on those summertime road trips. Camping. Laundromats. A spontaneous stop for ice cream when you don't have your wallet. Also a great gift for a recent grad going off to college for laundry and vending machines.

Just stock with quarters and throw it in your center console or glove compartment of your car so you're never inconvenienced again. Or buy two and put one in your travel bag or purse. Truly a must have. Available at The Container Store

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summertime beauty dilemma solved

The Beauty Dilemma: Your fingernails and toenails have an icky yellowish tint.

I can't remember the last time my toenails weren't painted so you can only imagine how freaked out I got when I took off the polish to discover my toenails had this funky yellow tint. After ruling out "Yellow Nail Syndrome" (yes it's a real but rare condition) or a fungus infection, my prolonged wear of nail polish is to blame.

While dark-color nail polish may be incredibly trendy and a summertime must, consistent wear can leave your natural nails looking like they’ve been permanently dyed a scary shade of sunflower. So what now?

The solution: To restore your nail beds to their natural nude hue, mix a few drops of fresh lemon juice with 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide in a plastic bowl. Completely saturate a few cotton balls in the mixture and rub your fingernails and toenails until the stain is removed. Moving forward, be sure to double up on your base coats!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sweet Sunday: A summertime must

Gosh it's been forever since I've done a Sweet Sunday post. Lance had a runny nose this morning so I stayed home from church, went on a nice power walk and figured since I have a minute while Barney streams on the tv, I'll post a dessert for you to try this week.

Saw these Jello Cookies on Pinterest and meant to post before 4th of July so you could do red, white and blue cookies but that clearly did not happen. Lots on my plate lately hence the lack of posts. Seriously though - who would have thought to put jello in cookies?!? What a fun bright and colorful cookie for summer. If you're brave enough to bring the kid's to the grocery store, you can make this a fun outing to pick out their special jello color/flavor.

Another fun thing is the batter is moldable like playdough. Wash up their hands, whip up the batter and let them create sculptures while the oven heats up like they did over at I Heart Naptime blog...

~Jello Cookies~
Yields: 2 dozen | Prep: 20 min | Cook: 10 min | Ready in: 30 min

3.5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1.5 cups salted butter softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
4 (3 oz) pkg jello (use any flavors you want)


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Beat butter in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Blend in egg and vanilla. Mix flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

3) Divide dough into 4 sections. Sprinkle 2 Tb of jello onto each section. Knead together with dough. You may want to add a few drops of food coloring to make the dough more vibrant.

4) Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in the extra jello from the packets. Place, 2 inches apart, on baking sheets. Flatten with bottom of bowl.

5) Bake 8 to 10 min at 350 on lined baking sheets. Cool on baking sheets 2 min. Remove to wire racks and cool completely.

I hope this ends your weekend on a sweet note. Enjoy!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Deal Alert: Anniversary Sale is here!

The Nordstrom Anniversary sale starts TODAY!! It's the perfect time to get your back-to-school shopping done.
Next season's newest styles are marked down for a limited time. Shop early for the best selection. Prices go up August 6.
From July 20-22, Fashion Rewards members EARN DOUBLE POINTS. See details.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Meal in minutes: Crispy Balsamic Chicken

Don't let "crispy" scare you off. This meal from Good Housekeeping magazine is the epitome of healthy in a hurry. Coating cutlets with mustard and crumbs ensures a satisfying crunch for oven-baked breasts and keeps it low fat. Top with arugula and you get bold flavor plus heart healthy antioxidants.

~Crispy Balsamic Chicken~
Total time: 30 min
Yields: 4 main dish servings

1 lb. carrots, thinly sliced at an angle
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. panko (Japanese style bread crumbs)
1 1/4 lbs skinless, boneless thin sliced chicken breast cutlets
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. plus 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
5 oz. baby arugula
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, torn
salt & pepper

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2) On jelly roll pan, toss carrots with oil and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Roast 8-10 minutes or until crisp tender. Transfer carrots to large bowl to cool.
3) While carrots cook, place panko on large plate. In medium bowl, toss chicken with mustard and 1/4 tsp pepper until well coated. Coat chicken with panko pressing to adhere. Arrange chicken on rack fitted into same jelly roll pan.
4) Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until juices run clean when pierced with tip of knife (165 degrees).
5) Meanwhile, in 1 quart saucepan, heat 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/8 tsp each salt and pepper to boiling on high; reduce heat to simmer 8-12 minutes, or until syrupy.
6) To same bowl as carrots, add arugula, basil and remaining Tbsp balsamic vinegar, tossing to mix.
7) Serve salad with chicken and balsamic glaze.

- Use prewashed arugula for superfast prep.
- For even crispier chicken, run under the broiler after baking.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Deal Alert: FREE Starbucks

What: Free tall (12 oz) Starbucks Refreshers
When: Today, Friday 7/13 from NOON - 3 PM
Where: Participating Starbucks stores
Details: No purchase necessary, limit one per person

The energy drink craze is making its way to Starbucks. Made from unroasted coffee bean extract and real fruit juice, Starbucks new Refreshers are thirst-quenching pick-me-ups when you want a boost, not a buzz. The drinks deliver about 50 mg of caffeine for a grande (about what you get in a cup of tea).

Available in either Cool Lime (50 calories per grande) or Very Berry Hibiscus flavors (70 calories per grande). A great low-cal option on a hot summer day! Enjoy yours FREE TODAY!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Food tip: What to keep out of your refrigerator

Summer is prime time for produce and while you may know how to eat and cook all this seasonal deliciousness, do you really know how to store them? Thanks to the Food Network, here are 8 fresh finds that you should never refrigerate.

The chill of the icebox makes tomatoes dull and mealy. Store on the counter (under-ripe ones can go on the windowsill). If they begin to get too ripe, it’s time to make tomato jam or roasted tomato sauce.

Keep whole melons like watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew on the counter for best flavor. USDA research found that storage at room temp may even help keep the antioxidants better intact. Once cut, store in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

Cold temps will break down the starches in potatoes, making them unpleasantly sweet and gritty. Cool and dry darkness is a spud’s best bud.

Uncut onions are happy out of the cold. The humidity of the refrigerator makes them moldy and mushy. Avoid direct sunlight and once cut open, place in a resealable bag in the vegetable drawer.

Preserve the powerful flavor of garlic by storing in a cool, dry and ventilated container. Once the head has been broken open, use the cloves within 10 days.

Freshly picked apples will do well (and look pretty) on your counter. If they aren’t eaten after a week or two, make them last a little bit longer by then chilling them in the fridge.

Fresh berries from your local farm taste amazing at room temperature so it’s the sooner the better for munching. For long-term storage keep them in the fridge. To avoid soggy or moldy berries, rinse just before eating.

Stone Fruit
Allow peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums to ripen at room temperature. If you can’t gobble ‘em up right away, place in the fruit bin of the refrigerator for a few extra days.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

How bad is it...

...to reuse a plastic food baggie?

A: Really bad.

Grandma may have done it, but that doesn't make it ok. Even if you rinse it out before reusing it, the bag can still contain bacteria from food and your hands.

"Everytime you reach in, you leave behind germs," says Joan Saige Blake, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "And once inside the bag, those germs can multiply to levels that could make you sick."

Putting baggies in the dishwasher won't cut it either, since this kind of plastic isn't made to withstand high heat.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Sipping: Drinks that won't kill your waistline

With summer officially underway, there are many more opportunities - lounging poolside, backyard bbq's, beach vacays - that can sobotage your diet. If you've been reading this blog long enough, you should all know by now that I'm a huge advocate for not drinking your calories. But - and a heavy but - I am all about enjoying a few cocktails.

While I'm not a big beer drinker as I don't like the stomach bloat that comes after and red wine on a hot day does not sound appealing, I stick to a "skinny" cocktail. Knowing that traditional umbrella drinks can contain 400-1,000 calories per drink, I've found other ready to pour, yummy, summery picks besides the boring 'ol vodka soda that will get your swigging alittle smarter on a hot day:

Skinnygirl - Pina Colada ($15)
Coconut cream usually takes this rum treat into waist-widening territory. But testers of this coconut and pineapple juice concotion didn't seem to miss it. So put on grass skirt and shake the night away as you sip this low cal alternative. 89 calories for 4 oz.

Jose Cuervo - Authenic Wild Berry Light Margarita ($15)
No salt rim required for this fruity with a kick margi. Each serving combines a shot of tequila with the flavors of strawberries, blackberries, and with the tartness of lime. Yum! 95 calories for 4 oz.

VNC Cocktails - Vodka Mojito ($12)
Put down your muddler! Traditionally made with rum, this mojito mix is a concotion of vodka, real lime juice, and fresh mint. This preservative-free libation is a "ringer for the real thing," according to a satisfied tester - with none of the usual taxing handiwork. Hallelujah!! 111 calories for 3.4 oz.

Eppa - SupraFruta Red Sangria ($12)
If you can't give up your red wine, this is a refreshing life from a melange of organic pomegranate, blueberry, blood orange, and acai juices. Just chill and serve. 120 calories for 5 oz.

Enjoy and sip smart and safe!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Looking for a new book? Summer's best reads

Bury your feed in the sand and your head in a book as you kick back and relax this 4th of July weekend. If you've already made your way through Fifty Shades of Grey or found that it's not your thing, here are a few others that will grab your attention and keep you reading all summer long:

 Need comic relief? Girl Walks Into a Bar.

The debut book from the former Saturday Night Live cast member Rachel Dratch, is a hilarious midlife memoir about laugh out loud adventures, the unexpected joys of dating and becoming a mother when she least expected it at age 44. A look into how unpredictable and beautiful life can be.

Amazon reviews: 4.5/5 stars. 44 reviews.

Love compelling characters? The Chaperone.

In Laura Moriarty's historically based novel, you'll meet the irreverent Louise Brooks, who at age 15 - a few years before achieving fame as an actress - teaches her caregiver, Cora Carlisle, to live life to the fullest. The Chaperone is the enthralling story of two women  and how their unlikely relationship changed their lives. In this layered and inventive story, Moriarty raises profound questions about family, sexuality, history, and whether it is luck or will - or a sturdy combination of the two - that makes for a wonderful life.

Amazon reviews: 4.5/5 stars. 36 reviews.

Got a flair for the dramatic? Gone.

Lose yourself in Cathi Hanauer's tension filled tale of a woman who becomes a single mother when her husband vanishes after driving the babysitter home. Gone is an outstanding novel about change and about redefining, in middle age, everything from one’s marriage to one’s career to one’s role as a best friend, parent, and spouse. It is a novel about passion and forgiveness and knowing when to let something go and when to fight to hold on to it, about learning to say goodbye - but, if you’re lucky, not forever.

Amazon reviews: 3/5 stars. 10 reviews.

Want some perspective? Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.

Anna Quindlen, in her witty and irresistible memoir, looks back at - and celebrates - every stage of womanhood. From childhood memories to manic motherhood to middle age, Quindlen uses the events of her own life to illuminate our own. Along with the downsides of age, she says, can come wisdom, a perspective on life that makes it satisfying and even joyful. Candid, funny, moving, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is filled with the sharp insights and revealing observations that have long confirmed Quindlen’s status as America’s laureate of real life.

Amazon reviews: 4/5 stars. 110 reviews.

None of these doing it for you? Check out Oprah's 2012 summer must read's HERE. There's a book to suit every mood.