Planning a Wedding on a Budget

As tradition shows, a bride’s family paid for the cost of a wedding while the groom incurred the expense of the honeymoon.

These days it’s not uncommon to find couples paying for their own wedding with their own money.

However, you don’t have to spend a fortune or go into lifelong debt just to have a beautiful wedding. Determine what your budget is and stick to it. Keep track of all of your expenses and receipts in a folder or binder so that you can stay organized and accurately keep track of where your money is going.

Here are a few more helpful wedding planning tips to help you build a memorable wedding without going broke:

THE WEDDING DRESS

• Avoid overly elaborate dresses because they’re always more expensive.

• Choose a floor sample dress, if possible, and have it dry cleaned, if necessary.

• Look for a dress during prom and homecoming season or consider wearing a bridesmaid dress. You could find a beautiful white or cream colored dress that would be perfect for a wedding at a fraction of the cost of a traditional wedding dress.

• Look at consignment shops and in classified ads. Wedding dresses are generally worn only once so purchasing a gently used dress at a huge cost savings could be the way to go when you are working with a small budget.

THE RECEPTION

• Try to keep the number of guests down. You and the groom should make a first draft of the guest list and carefully consider who can be removed from the list.

• Offer a cash bar instead of an open bar. Or just provide wine and beer to keep the costs down.

• Hold the ceremony and reception at the same location. You can truly cut the cost of the location for the ceremony, decorations and transportation to the reception site this way.

THE FLOWERS

• Purchase your flowers at wholesale and pay a professional florist just for the labor to arrange them.

• If you have the time, arrange the flowers yourself. Bouquets made of all roses with a little eucalyptus filler, then tied with ribbon makes a stunning bouquet and you don’t need to be a professional in order to put this together.

PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY?

• Find a photographer with reasonable hourly rates and pay them only for the time it takes to do your formal poses. Then you can designate friends or family to take the candid shots throughout the rest of the reception.

• Put disposable cameras at each table with a note asking guests to take pictures to help you capture memories. Friends and family always love doing this!

THE INVITATIONS

• Print your own invitations using your home computer. Visit your local arts and crafts store or search online and purchase a do-it-yourself invitation kit. You would be surprised at how easy these are and how nicely they turn out.

OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

• Make your own wedding favors. Wrap Jordan almonds, butter mints, or other candies in lace and tie them up with ribbon pre-printed with your names and wedding date.

• Keep the number of chosen bridesmaids and groomsmen to a minimum or choose not to have them at all. This will keep the rehearsal dinner cost down, as well as eliminate the need to buy groomsmen and bridesmaid gifts.

Just because you’re planning a wedding on a budget doesn’t mean it has to look like it. With a little homework, and creativity, you can have a beautiful, memorable wedding that looks like you’ve spent a fortune!

© 2012, Dee @ Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Used Car Salesmen Tricks To Avoid

One of the biggest moments in a person’s life is driving off in a brand new vehicle — it’s an exhilarating feeling.

It’s also a big moment because in that very instant, as you’re driving it off the lot, that brand spanking new car loses a big chunk of its value (the difference between the retail price you paid and the car’s wholesale value).

That’s typically thousands gone in an instant.

It’s for this reason that some car buyers choose to shop around for a used car. You save yourself that steep initial drop-off in value. More importantly, you get a car that runs just as well (if it’s within 2-3 years old), is just as dependable, and looks and feels as good as that new car-that is, if you play your cards right.

If there’s one pitfall of buying a used car, it’s the risk of buying a lemon, a junker — call it what you want, you get the point: THE WRONG CAR. After all, used car dealers have nearly as bad a reputation, if not worse than lawyers do. This also holds true for individual people selling their cars through newspapers, web auctions and classified sites, or the old-fashioned way (with signs in their car windows). The saying, “Buyer Beware,” as most shoppers know, has more meaning with cars.

The opposite of that, of course, is that there are some real steals out there in used cars. We’re talking about quality vehicles that will perform beyond your expectations at a low price. Here’s how to find these perfect used vehicles, and avoid the top scams that used car dealers everywhere try to pull.

GET A SECOND OPINION!

Used car dealers will bombard you with every adjective under the sun to sell you on a car. Just don’t take their word for it. Instead, find someone you know, whether it be a neighbor, colleague, family member, or friend who owns the same make and model of the vehicle you’re interested in, and ask them for their opinion.

BACKGROUND CHECK’S AREN’T JUST FOR JOB SEEKERS!

One of the most unethical, but legal, things someone can do to you is sell you a used car that’s been in a flood (and repaired), or one that’s had 10 previous owners (none of whom repaired it). To be sure you don’t fall victim to this, track down a history report, including a clearance check on the vehicle title. Carfax anyone? You can even get some of this information from the seller, simply by asking why they are selling it. You’d be surprised what beans people may spill.

LOOK FOR THE OBVIOUS!

Used car dealers may also try to peddle a vehicle that was wrecked in a major accident. It’s amazing what autobody experts can do to repair a car’s exterior. So don’t go by the outer appearance of a vehicle. Before you buy it, make sure it doesn’t have serious damage to its frame, which it would if it was involved in a crash. Pull out the fine tooth comb!

ASK YOUR MECHANIC!

Used car dealers, especially the major lots, will say they put their used cars through a “100 point inspection,” or something like that. Once again, a second opinion is in order. Get this from your own mechanic. He or she will be able to tell how good a shape the car is actually in. Also, be sure to ask him or her how often the car has been serviced. Believe it or not, a good mechanic can even gauge that.

CONTACT THE MANUFACTURER ABOUT RECALLS!

Needless to say, a used car dealer may sell you a car that’s actually under recall in his mad rush to get the car off his lot. So, be sure to call the cars manufacturer, or visit their website, to see if the vehicle has any active recalls.

AVOID THE LEMON THAT’S BEEN PICKED OVER!

Along with recalled vehicles, dealers may even perpetrate something much worse on you in the form of a “lemon”. By definition, a lemon is a car that’s still under warranty, which has such major problems that, warranty or not, still cannot be fixed in a reasonable way. The best way to avoid this is to research using Consumer Reports or the various automobile magazines, which all have yearly reviews of every make and model on the market. They’ll tell you whether a type of car is known for being a lemon and prone to breakdowns. Don’t touch it no matter how pretty or cool it is!

DON’T USE ROSE COLORED GLASSES!

Along with performing their “100 point inspection,” car dealers may shine and wax a used car — even repaint it to hide dents, dings, and rust spots. A keen eye, though, can see right through this.

TAKE THAT BABY FOR A SPIN!

Once you’ve done ALL of your research, homework, extra credit, and everything else listed above, take a test drive. Drive the car for as long as its owner or dealer will allow you. Don’t just take it around the corner and back. Hit the highway also so you can see what happens when it hits higher speeds. Then you’ll get a better feel for how the vehicle handles, accelerates, brakes, and otherwise suits your tastes (or doesn’t).

BEWARE OF THE PUSHY SELLER!

At any stage of the game — from the moment you first talk to the seller, to the test drive, be careful if the seller gets pushy. Any dealer or seller who is in a rush to move a vehicle should set off bells and whistles. Why the rush? Are they hiding something? In some cases the seller may just be excited to sell you the car, and actually happy for you, but in many other cases, they may be up to no good. Better be safe than sorry.

Follow these simple steps to avoid the scams and pitfalls of used car deals, and you could wind up with the car of your dreams — for far less than you’d pay had it been brand new. Plus, you get that same high when you drive your “new” used car home, without losing thousands of dollars.

© 2012, Dee @ Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Makeup & Bacteria Don’t Mix

Do you know how old that powder, foundation, eyeliner, or mascara you have in your cosmetic bag is? Those cosmetic products could be bacterial breeding grounds. Ick!

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If you are unsure how old your makeup is, chances are they are past their expiration and it’s time you throw them out. Old makeup not only harbors bacteria but it can really wreak havoc on your skin and cause unwanted breakouts. And no one wants to wake up with a shiny new, red pimple. Take these simple steps & your skin will thank you later:

Never Touch or Share Your Cosmetics … Ever!

The simplest and easiest way to handle makeup and not contaminate it is just don’t touch it with your bare hands. To keep your makeup bacteria-free, try this advice:

  • Take your foundation out of the container before applying - Remove the stick or pressed foundation with a small, clean makeup spatula or sponge, or pour a small amount of liquid foundations on to a little pallet or small plate. That way you avoid contaminating the container with your fingers. Use brushes to apply makeup for better results.
  • Clean your beauty care applicators – When you’re finished with your spatula, sponge or pallet and brushes, clean them thoroughly with soap and hot water — every time you use them. A brush cleaner is a great way to get rid of any bacteria on the brushes and removes excess makeup as well. You can do the same thing with blush and lipstick applicators too.

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Take Special Care to Prevent Eye Infections ~

These cosmetic products need special attention:

  • Eyeliner – Wipe off your eyeliner pencil with alcohol on a fuzz-free cotton pad which you can find near the cotton balls at your drugstore; with alcohol, it will dry quickly and stay sterile. Don’t use the eyeliner on the moist, pink part of your eyelids. Most eyeliners are not designed to be used there nor close to your tear ducts (the inner corner of your eye).
  • Mascara – To avoid conjunctivitis and other eye infections, replace your mascara every 3 to 4 months. Mark the month you purchased the mascara on the side of the tube with a permanent marker to help you remember to buy a new one. Also, don’t shove the brush back and forth in the tube to get more mascara on it — when you do that, you’re also pushing air and bacteria inside the product. Instead, spin the brush around in the tube before you pull it out and use it. And be careful when using mascara not to touch or scratch your eye – apply only to the tips of your lashes. Otherwise, you risk scratching your cornea and raising your risk of eye infections or vision loss.
  • Cream or powder eye shadow – These cosmetic products should be treated the same way as foundation and lipstick: Use a brush or spatula and pallet. Don’t touch eye shadow with your fingers.

Remember to replace all of your beauty care products every year, and your mascara every 3 months. Make sure you don’t touch your makeup with your fingers, and keep all of your makeup applicators clean and sterile. This kind of careful treatment will keep germs and bacteria at bay and your skin looking fresh and beautiful.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

The Basics of Baking

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“I’m not a cook, but I love to bake.” How many times do you hear that? Why are practitioners of the baking arts so fond of their subject?

Maybe it’s the alchemy factor. In all branches of cooking, the application of heat changes one thing into another.

In baking, this mystery is even more pronounced. You make a dough or a batter, put a wet, sticky thing into the oven and eventually remove a mouthwatering solid object that smells so good people will think Betty Crocker has been incarnated in your kitchen.

Baking is basic, but it can be tricky. It’s one of the more advanced kitchen arts, but you can learn it. Be forewarned right now: Baking can be addicting. I know. I’m a bread junkie. Baking is awesome. And it can be easier, once you learn the basics.

In baking, there is One Big Rule. You can’t fudge on it. Unlike other types of cooking, you can’t just add a little bit here or substitute a little bit there, until you are pretty advanced.

The One Big Rule is you must measure.

This is probably another factor bakers love. They are kitchen chemists, more than any other kinds of cooks, using measuring spoons and cups instead of test tubes and beakers.

You must measure accurately and have the right tools, for it all to work. You need different measuring cups for liquids and dry ingredients. Flat-topped measuring cups are made to be filled to the top with dry stuff. Liquid measures are usually glass, with more space at the top to eliminate spills, and a pour spout.

A 2-cup Pyrex liquid measure is more useful than the 1-cup; a 4-cup measure is handy because it can also be used as a small mixing bowl.

Add liquids to the cup, set it on the counter, and look at it sideways, on its own level. If you hold it up in front of your face, the liquid sloshes around and is hard to read accurately.

One cup of flour weighs four ounces. You can buy a kitchen scale and weigh it, or you can properly measure flour: Stir the flour in a bag. Gently spoon flour into the measuring cup that you hold over a sheet of waxed paper or the flour canister. Do not tap it or shake it to level the flour. Let the flour heap up. When the flour is over the top, use the flat side of a knife or spatula to level off the top of the cup.

If you tamp flour into the cup it could weigh as much as six ounces. See the problem here? The only dry ingredient you pack into a cup is brown sugar. Solid shortening is packed, too, unless you purchase the stick form pre-marked in measured amounts.

Do you need to sift? Only if the recipe recommends doing so, because today’s all-purpose flour is pre-sifted. If you do have to sift and you don’t have a sifter, use a sieve or strainer.

After you get your fix of measuring, you will arrive at the crux of baking magic. The alchemy all depends on leavening, the agents that make dough rise. Leavenings can be yeast, eggs, baking powder, baking soda combined with an acid such as vinegar, or other more arcane things, such as sourdoughs and the artisan baker’s “old dough” saved from previous loaves.

Yeast can be a tricky beast, so for today’s Cooking 101, we concentrate on the quicker, easier baked goods made with baking powder. Yes, there is every kind of mix these days, but you should know how to make basic muffins, biscuits, cornbread, brownies and a loaf of banana bread. See how much better homemade can be. Next week, we’ll focus on cakes and pies.

PREHEATING

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Why do recipes for baked goods always start out “preheat oven to . . .?” It’s because of “oven spring,” which is the initial leap that leavenings make when put into a hot oven. If your oven’s not hot when you put the pans in, the mixture won’t rise like it’s supposed to. Most ovens will preheat in 10 to 20 minutes.

You should also prepare baking pans according to the recipe. Cookies with a high fat content may not need to go on a greased surface. You can use a paper towel to smear shortening or butter into pans, and remember to coat those pesky corners well, or you can spray with PAM, one of the greatest inventions of the modern world. Reminder: Some non-stick pans can be ruined if you apply non-stick sprays.

SUBSTITUTIONS

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Adventurous souls: Now read this. Where many beginners go wrong in baking is trying to substitute one ingredient for another. I want to make this more healthful, they think, so I’ll just put in whole-wheat flour instead of white flour. Then they wonder why they have baked a brick. Adobe would be easier to eat.

Whole wheat is heavier. You can substitute half of the flour amount in an all-white-flour recipe with whole-wheat flour, but, more than that, and you’re risking your teeth.

One of the most frequent baking mistakes is the use of breakfast spread instead of butter or margarine. This is a guaranteed way to wind up throwing your results in the trash can.

“Spreads” that are less than 60 percent fat have a lot of water included and will make cookies spread too thin or otherwise mess up recipes. If the first ingredient on the label is water, don’t use it for baking.

Stick margarine that is at least 80 percent fat can be substituted for butter. For best results, use butter if the recipe calls for butter. Eat smaller pieces.

Baking powder cannot be substituted for baking soda. They are not the same thing.

Bottom line: Don’t mess with the basic ingredients, the flour, liquid, salt, fat, leavening.

In one area you may unleash your creativity. It’s in the add-ons. Nuts and dried fruits can be substituted freely. Out of almonds? Use pecans. Or use dried red cherries instead of apricots in a scone. Coconut counts as a dried fruit.

However, substitute dry for dry. Fresh fruit cannot be used in place of dried fruit because the extra moisture in the fruit will change the finished product.

Spices and extracts can often substitute for each other, too. Try nutmeg for a change instead of cinnamon, or use almond extract instead of vanilla. Remember, however, that too much of any spice will overwhelm instead of complement. Go for subtlety.

In general, don’t make more than one substitution per baked recipe.

Of course, you can put chocolate chips in anything. Subtract or add. They’re a health food, aren’t they? Chocolate chips are one of the four food groups.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

When To Teach Your Kids Adult Life Skills

Even if your kids are far from adulthood, it’s a good idea to teach them at an early age the staples they’ll need when they’re all grown up and on their own. Otherwise, you could wind up with a panicked phone call from your adult child later on when they are clueless on how to perform even simple tasks such as drawing money out of the bank. Teaching life lessons now will lead to functioning adults later on.

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Here are some tips and at what age it’s best to teach:

How To Ask For Help

When to teach: age 12 or younger

Key teaching: Open, honest, ongoing communication

Lesson Plan:

  • Provide phone numbers and access to their doctors, dentists, religious leader, etc.
  • Make sure they know the school nurse, counselor or other appropriate health professionals
  • Children need to know how to communicate with these important people and how to ask questions when necessary.

How To Keep House

When to teach: ages 5-7

Key teaching : Basic chores

Lesson Plan:

  • Establish 2 specific daily chores. For example: at age 5, kids can put toys away or help set the table.

Lesson Plan for ages 8-10:

  • Let them watch and help you. Then let them complete tasks on their own. Praise a good job well done. If a chore is done incorrectly, suggest they try a trick that will help correct the problem for the next time.
  • Set up a reward system. Award a star for each weeks worth of successfully completed chores. Then let them redeem their stars for money, privileges or other rewards. Apply previously agreed upon consequences if chores are not done.

How To Manage Money

When to teach: ages 5-10

Lesson Plan:

  • Choose between a chore based no-strings attached allowance, or one that combines a base amount plus bonuses for chores.
  • Let your child know the conditions for getting an allowance.
  • Set the amount for each. One rule of thumb: 50-cents to a dollar per year of age.
  • Define spending guidelines. Otherwise, they’ll go on a spending frenzy.
  • Establish an amount to be saved. Offer a piggy bank so they can keep track.
  • Be consistent. Give the allowance on the same day each week, such as Friday.

Lesson Plan for ages 11-13:

  • Set up a meeting with your child and a bank manager to discuss the difference between a checking and a savings account, monthly charges, fines, and interest rates.

Lesson Plan for ages 14 and up:

  • Have them open a checking account
  • Agree on how their pay should be used. Will some be saved for a car or college?
  • Discuss taxes and show how FICA and income taxes are deducted.
  • Introduce the “paying yourself first” concept. Encourage them to deposit some of their money into a savings account before spending any of it.
  • If you want to allow it, let your child sit with you as you manage your check book to give them an insight as to what amounts go where, how to keep track of money deposited and deducted, etc.

How To Manage Healthcare

When to teach: ages 16-17 or sooner

Lesson Plan:

  • Arrange for them to talk with your family doctor in private.
  • Teach them how to get a prescription filled. How to drop off a paper prescription and how to call in a refill.
  • Explain how to use health insurance.

How To Avoid Risky Behavior

When to teach: ages 10-17

Lesson Plan:

  • Help your child think of options for getting themselves out of a sticky situation safely. Don’t stop until you’re satisfied that your child knows what to do, and work in some brush-up skills on occasion. Have then act out different scenarios.
  • If they are being bullied in school, teach then what they should do.
  • If they’re at a party and one of their friends are getting drunk or doing drugs. What do they do if someone were to start to take advantage of them?
  • If they are in the back seat of a car and the driver acts impaired and the car is weaving in and out of traffic. What should they do?

How To Care For A Car

What age to teach: ages 14-15

Lesson Plan:

  • Even before a child learns, let them look over the owners manual of your car. Point out where the maintenance information is located.
  • Teach them your cars maintenance schedule and invite them to tag along when you take your car for a routine visit. Make sure they know when fluids need to be filled or changed and tires get rotated.
  • Create fun quizzes to test their already learned knowledge so you know where they need more help.
  • Have them create a plan for what to do if their car were to break down.

Lesson Plan for ages 15-16:

  • Teach them how to change and properly inflate a tire, check oil level and windshield washer fluid. Your owners manual lists the proper tire pressure. If you can not locate your owners manual, check the inside of the drivers side car door for proper air pressure.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Speed Clean Your Home

Spring is a great time to clear the cobwebs & get organized. But big cleaning projects can turn into overwhelming tasks that take forever to finish. Below are some tips to help you find some quick ways to tackle these chores and make an immediate difference in your home.

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Start With A To-Do List

  • Break down what you want to clean and organize by area and room. For example, want to clean out and organize your home office? Separate the space into manageable sections you can clean in 10 to 15 minutes, such as one drawer. When you tally up the small tasks, you may find the idea of large-scale cleaning isn’t so overwhelming.

Clean Up Your Cleaning Supplies

  • Disorganization can add unnecessary steps to your cleaning projects. Before you clean, take the time to categorize your cleaning products by room, and then place the groups of products into separate, labeled caddies or buckets. Keep all your cleaning containers in one area, such as a storage closet or the garage, and you’ll know just where every product is for any cleaning project you start.

Take Short Breaks For Quick Tasks

  • Take advantage of the time in between other activities, and you’ll find that it’s easy to keep your space spotless. Have 15 minutes before that chicken is done on the grill? Disinfect your kitchen sink and counters. Have a three-minute commercial break during your favorite show? Sweep the kitchen floor and be back on the couch in no time. When you use small blocks of time in your day to clean, you’ll be surprised at how much you accomplish.

Let Natural Sunlight Help You Clean

  • There’s nothing better than that first warm, sunny day of spring. Why not use those rays of sunshine to motivate yourself and help yourself clean? Open all the windows in your house to let the fresh air and warm sun inside. Then, use the sun to guide your dust cloth. Direct sun rays highlight dust better than diffused light, so you’ll be most likely to find new areas to clean and dust on a sunny day.
  • Springtime is all about new beginnings, so take this spring to develop new cleaning habits. Try to focus on small projects that you can actually complete, not overwhelmingly large projects that use up your time and patience. By taking the time to organize your cleaning schedule and categorize your cleaning products, you’ll find that most cleaning projects become quicker and easier. This spring, cut out the worry and focus on how great it feels to be organized and prepared to clean.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

De-Stress & Slim Down with Relaxation Techniques

Work, kids, your partner, errands, bills: Juggling all these everyday tasks can add up to tons of stress. And your body may react to your hectic life by packing on a few extra pounds. Learn how to fight stress, and how to stay in shape, with these relaxation tips.

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Fighting Stress Before It Begins -

 

  • When you know that a stressful week is about to begin, prepare yourself. You’ll be tempted to seek out the nearest vending machine for high-calorie comfort foods, such as cookies or chips, as the stresses pile up, so be sure to plan ahead. Eat a balanced diet—never skip out on a healthy breakfast—and pack snacks, such as grapes, carrots, and pretzels, to keep you going all day long. Simplify dinner by preparing no-frills meals for your family, such as veggie-filled salads or tasty turkey burgers.
  • Exercise is another great way to combat stress. Too busy to hit the gym? Incorporate physical activity into your daily schedule by going on a power walk during your lunch hour or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. By being prepared to combat stress, you’ll keep control over your weight and overall health.

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  • When you start feeling stressed, don’t let it overtake you. Address the stress before it builds with a quick relaxation technique, such as deep breathing or focusing on something that makes you feel calm.
  • After a stressful day, let yourself relax by taking a warm bath, chatting with a friend, or watching a funny movie. You may also find it helpful to write in a journal about your stress, and then compose a list of ways to reduce your anxieties. You won’t be as tempted to overindulge on junk food when you’re feeling calm and composed.

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  • Being stressed can often make you feel tense and negative, and it’s easy to forget the joys in your life. Planning for an active afternoon spent hiking, a relaxing spa day, or a fun family vacation can help you focus on the positive and work through your stress.
  • Don’t let stress take over your life, or affect your weight. Be prepared, eat healthy, and exercise to keep your body in check, and your stress under control.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

An Orderly House for an Organized Mind

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The benefits of organization include peace of mind, neatness, and even making your space appear larger. The number-one rule of organizing is “a place for everything and everything in its place.”
Here’s how to find a place (or create one) in every room of the house & keep your sanity:
  • Kitchen - Start with the kitchen sink. To keep it uncluttered, corral your dishwashing soap and hand soap, brushes, and sponges in an attractive tray. Don’t have a tray? Simply store your sink accessories neatly under the sink. You can get them out when you need them, and enjoy a clutter-free sink for the rest of the time. Are your pots and pans creating chaos? Turn unused wall space into stylish storage with a simple rod and S-hooks. Then hang pans and large cooking utensils on the rod.
  • Bathroom – To minimize chaos, place small objects in containers. Then consolidate the containers into boxes or trays. For example; line a long mirrored tray or wicker basket with the containers and place it on the back of the toilet. Consolidate larger items in a simple plastic container under the sink.
  • Bedroom – Organizing the bedroom comes down to smart storage. For starters, use the space under your bed for drawers. Keep off-season clothing, extra bed linens, and blankets there. Have a jewelry drawer? To create an extra level of space, mount two café curtain rods inside the drawer and then top with a tray that can slide along the top of the rods. Voila—you’ve just doubled your storage capacity.
  • Shed or Broom Closet – You can bring order to your shed or broom closet with a few common (and inexpensive) items from the hardware store—spring clips and S-hooks. For easy access to garden tools, simply attach a rod to the wall and attach spring clips and S-hooks to hold your supplies. You can do the same for larger cleaning items such as a broom, mop, and dustpan.
  • Bedroom Closet – When it comes to the closet, the key is to use every available inch of space, high and low. Add cubbies or low shelves on the bottom of the closet for shoes. Add a shelf up high for things you don’t use every day. (Just make sure you can see them.)

Consider using containers for smaller items and then storing the containers on a shelf. You even can add a pegboard with hooks for scarves, belts, and other smaller items.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Mommy Guilt ~ Is it normal?

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If you’ve experienced bouts of mommy guilt from time to time, you’re far from alone. It’s like PMS and a whopping 94% of moms are said to feel that way. Guilt can range from the amount of time you spend with your kids to the kind of diapers you use.

Mommy guilt is an equal-opportunity affliction and can hit any one. It hits whether your 20 or 30 or you are a working mother running a Fortune 500 company to a stay-at-home mom. Guilt provides something such as a checks and balances tool and can actually be very useful. An emotional tool to help you with the demands of your busy day. The trick is that you want to be in control of the guilt, rather than letting the guilt control you.

Here are some examples and simple tips to help you take charge of the most common mom cringe-inducers:

Feeding your little bundle of joy (your baby)

  • Don’t despair over what you feed your baby. Whether it’s formula and all other moms you know breastfeed. Don’t feel that you are not doing enough for your baby. Although breastfeeding is said to be the best for baby, formula is still a great option for you and for your baby.
  • You may feel like you’re the only formula-feeding mom in the world, but this is far from the truth. Whether it’s due to supply issues, latch-on problems, going back to work, or something else entirely, many mothers find themselves relying on formula to supplement or replace breastfeeding. Just remember that breast milk is not what makes you a great mother. Formula-fed babies are completely nourished and nurtured. If you’re upset that you did not nurse, allow time to grieve and then move on and accept that you’ve done your best.

All in all, loving your baby is the most important thing anyway.

Using your television as a babysitter

So it’s time to cook dinner and you place your baby in front of the television as a distraction so you can get your food prepared? You’re not alone. Many moms do this. Although some may lie about it, it’s not an evil thing to do. As long as it’s done in moderation.

  • If your child is under 2, try to keep television viewing to a minimum. Breaking it into 15 minute segments is best. You can even watch it with your child and pick programs that are age appropriate.
  • Even though you may hear from some people that children under 2 shouldn’t be watching tv at all, it can be educational and free up some time for moms to catch up on their never ending list of chores.

Feeding your kids junk food

After what seems like an endless day of work, the drive-thru window at the fast food joint calls. But as you hand over the goods wrapped in noisy paper bags or fancy cardboard boxes you start to wonder if this is wrong or “what other moms would think?”

Yes, there may be kids who have never tasted a french fry or juicy hamburger. And maybe you used to be one of them. But if your kids can smell those french fries from a mile away, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many parents have been said to rely on fast food as a dinner option a few times per month. But what we tend to forget is although some items on the menu do not offer the best nutritional value, there are some items that you can serve that aren’t so bad.

  • The key is choosing the foods that offer healthier nutrition such as a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a hamburger, a baked potato instead of french fries. Or better yet, order a salad. Get vegetables on your pizza instead of strictly meats.
  • You can forgo the fast food window altogether and try prepared foods from the grocery store like roasted chicken, sliced roast beef, and bagged salads. But when you do make the choice to make a quick trip to the drive-through, let your children know it is a one-time thing. Then let your guilt go out the window.

Leaving your child with a child care provider

 

It’s the first day of daycare and your baby seems fine but you’re in tears. Tears drip down your face as you stop for one last kiss, and you drive to work fighting the urge to turn around.

Working moms often struggle with intense guilt, especially when they first go back. This is normal. Working moms can also feel guilty for wanting to work. If you’re in this position, just know that studies have shown time and time again that good childcare can promote cognitive, language, and social skills. Relieve your guilt by choosing the best daycare center, home daycare, babysitter, or nanny that you can. A good way to find a reliable one is to ask other moms. Find out who they would refer. Then you can avoid the negative side of childcare.

  • To ease the transition, become familiar with your care provider before you go back to work. Do practice runs. Maybe even leave your child there for a few hours while you run an errand.
  • Stay away from the online mommy wars between working and at-home moms, and tune out any judgmental comments you may receive. This vulnerable period is no time to stress. There are many supportive online forums for working mothers. Turn to one of these instead.
  • And finally, remember that your work serves a crucial purpose. You know you’re doing what’s best for your family, whether you’re working for financial reasons or because it makes you happy.

You yell at your children

Your older child starts shrieking moments after your baby finally goes down for her nap. You snap, much louder than you meant to. Your toddler looks at you with wide, frightened eyes. No one feels good about yelling at their children.

  • When this happens, take a careful look at your own behavior. Was the yelling out of the ordinary? Are you usually calm and collected with your child? If yes, then let yourself off the hook and take this as a learning opportunity for both of you. Even the most peaceful easy-going parent loses patience and yells from time to time.
  • Let your child know that everything is okay, and explain what happened: Tell them that sometimes people yell when they’re upset. But that can hurt people’s feelings. Then apologize. Tell your child that it would have been better if you had said ‘Please be quiet. The baby is sleeping.’

If screaming is becoming a habit, you may need to take action to manage your anger and reduce your stress levels. Join a support group, see a counselor, read relevant books and articles.

All in all, don’t beat yourself up or let guilt consume you. Just remember that you are doing the best that you can do and being a parent is the hardest job there is. The most important thing is that your child knows you love them. Because that is all he or she will remember in years to come.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Tips to prevent Morning Sickness

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Morning sickness or nausea during pregnancy does not have to be a foregone conclusion. If you are proactive and take care of yourself, especially during the first trimester, you are bound to ward off motions sickness easier. Not all pregnancies are the same. With all of my pregnancies I started in with morning sickness at 7 weeks. During my first pregnancy I was sick all day long. I even lost weight. With the others I was only sick upon waking in the morning. Boy was I glad when it all subsided.

Here’s some things you can do to try to prevent suffering or at least lessen the symptoms:

  • While it may be difficult to even fathom the thought of eating, always keep something in your stomach. This can be dry toast, saltines, ginger cookies or even a little protein. Try to eat small, frequent meals and realize that this too will pass and give way to a new stage of eating in pregnancy. Keep crackers by your bed to keep something in your stomach late at night so you will not awake to nausea in the morning.
  • Wearing magnetic wristbands can help ward off nausea before it begins. This a safe, healthy and non-medicated way to prevent morning sickness. You can also use this method in conjunction with other methods.
  • If you must work or cook food, avoid odors that can trigger feelings of nausea. Realize that your sense of smell may be enhanced during pregnancy and you might pick up on scents that were not bothersome in the past. If you can, go out to lunch or leave the office if they are heating up meals that bother you. Get someone else to cook at home or leave during dinner if the sight of food makes you sick. Try to get some fresh air and eat something when everyone else is finished eating. Opt for a sandwich, some fruit or other cold food.
  • Ginger or chamomile tea may work wonders when it comes to warding off morning sickness. Have a cup right away in the morning or whenever you feel like your stomach may betray you. Make sure this is all right with your doctor before you begin this regimen.
  • Keep as active as possible as this will give you less time to dwell on feeling nauseated. If you can, get outside for a walk or fresh air at least three times a day.
  • If your doctor allows, you may take B6 or other supplements or herbs to help with the morning sickness problem. Decide with your doctor which herb or vitamin and what dose you should be taking.
  • Check with your doctor to see if you can switch prenatal vitamins or back off on the iron, as some of these have been known to upset the stomach. Never take anything on an empty stomach.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration, especially in more severe cases of morning sickness.
  • Keep a small journal to journal feelings about the babyand any pregnancy symptoms you may have. You could be surprised at how freeing this feels and how expressing your feelings can help ease discomfort.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Sleep Apnea In Children ~ Common signs

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder in which blocked or narrowed breathing passages cause people to snore and stop breathing briefly while asleep. Two percent of kids have apnea, usually because their tonsils or adenoids are enlarged. Untreated, the condition can lead to developmental and behavioral problems, including an increase in night terrors in a child who’s predisposed to them. If your child has night terrors and any of the symptoms below, have him evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea. Treatment (usually the removal of adenoids and/or tonsils) can be very effective.

  1. Snoring — it’s the most common sign.
  2. Pauses in breathing during sleep.
  3. Breathing through the mouth, both while asleep and awake.
  4. Contorted sleep positions, as your child unconsciously maneuvers himself to try to breathe more easily.
  5. Noisy breathing, coughing, and choking while asleep.
  6. Short-term wakefulness in sleep due to interrupted breathing.
  7. Unusual grumpiness in the morning.
  8. Persistent bed-wetting in a child who snores loudly and frequently while asleep.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Shed up to 9 pounds in a week

Want to know how you can shed some weight without dieting?

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Here’s some tips you’ll want to know:

ENJOY AN EARLY BREAKFAST. Dig in as soon as you wake up, and you’ll shrink your appetite all day long, women downed about 100 fewer calories on days when they had breakfast at 7:30 a.m. compared to days when they waited until 10:30 a.m. when you’re up and about for hours before you eat, it seems to throw off satiety cues. POTENTIAL CALORIE SAVINGS: 700 A WEEK.

GET A MORNING PROTEIN BOOST! Before you reach for another bowl of cereal, consider this: protein-rich foods have extra hunger killing power when we eat them in the morning. Protein is the best nutrient for triggering satiety. And when you eat it in the morning, the benefits start early and last all day. POTENTIAL CALORIE SAVINGS: 400 CALORIES A DAY.

LUNCH ON SEAFOOD! Protein shuts down hunger better than any other nutrient and fish shuts down hunger better than any other protein.people who had fish at lunch consumed 11% less dinner than those who had an equal-calorie beef lunch. Scientists suspect amino acids in fish increase the power of the stop-eating hormone called Leptin. So fix yourself tuna salad with low-fat mayo, or try the new lean cuisine tortilla crusted fish entree. POTENTIAL CALORIE SAVINGS: 160 CALORIES A DAY

SWITCH TO TEA! Folks who start sipping four cups of black tea a day slash their levels of a fattening stress hormone called corisol by 20%. Tea can help us burn an extra 266 calories a day. Plus,those of us who drink tea in place of sugary beverages will save, on average, an additional 300 calories daily. POTENTIAL CALORIE SAVINGS: 566 A DAY.

CHEW EACH BITE 15 TIMES! And put your fork down between mouthfuls. These simple strategies slow down eating, giving the brain more time to register satisfaction so much so that we automatically eat 10% fewer calories. POTENTIAL CALORIE SAVINGS: 200 A DAY.

PULL UP A CHAIR! Before you eat, take a seat. We tend to eat 75% more if we dine standing up! When you stand, you’re usually distracted and your brain doesn’t fully register the meal. POTENTIAL CALORIE SAVINGS: 300 A DAY.

THROW BACK A “SHOT”! Slimeshots contains a slowly digested oil emulsion that’s been proven to dial down hunger by 14%. POTENTIAL CALORIE SAVINGS: 280 CALORIES A DAY.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Preventing a frozen “pupsicle”

chilly_dog_BSSIf it is at all possible to keep your pets indoors, of course that is the best option, but it’s not always possible.

Here are some tips to keep your pup from becoming a “pupsicle”:

1.) Find out where you can purchase straw bales in your area. When transporting straw bales, it’s better to do so in a truck. If a truck is not available to you make sure to use some kind of underlay. An old blanket, plastic, or just about anything that you can put in your car that will contain the mess straw will leave behind.

2.) Find a location in your yard or garage where you will build your pet’s home. I have my pets’ home in the garage for extra shelter. I installed a pet door for easy access. If your location is outside, clear an area for your pet’s new home.

3.) Stack the straw so you have three walls. From a bird’s eye view the hay will look like the shape of the letter -u-. I used six square bales stacked two high. Don’t worry about the roof at this point.

4.) After your straw is stacked to your liking, run your tape measure across the top of your hay bales to find the measurement of the outside perimeter of your hay walls. This measurement will be the determine the dimensions that you’ll need to cut your plywood to make your roof. It is very important to have a plywood roof, the weight of the snow will cave in the pet’s house without plywood. We will water proof the plywood later.

5.) It’s time to cut your plywood using the measurements you came up with in step 4. If using a saw is not something you’re familiar with, ask for help.

6.) After you have your plywood cut, Drill holes around the perimeters of the plywood about 2″ inches in from the edges and 12″ apart from each other. This step is extra to secure the plywood to the straw bales.

7.) Take the plywood, and put it on top of the straw bales locate the center of the plywood. Make one more hole in the exact center. The hole should have a 2 inch diameter. Now you should have three walls and a plywood roof with holes in it.

8.) Use stakes and hammer through the holes you made in the plywood to anchor them into the straw bales. You can use a variety of different materials for stakes. Examples are tent stakes, rebar, heavy gauge metal, long nails.

9.) Install your heat lamp fixture in the center opening you made in the plywood. The bulb and metal heat shield should be fastened in the interior of the pet house. The electrical cord should run through the top of the house. This light fixture must be mounted well onto the plywood. The most critical part of this project is securing the light onto the plywood. You don’t want your pet to bump it and knock it over. This is why I chose a plywood roof and drilled holes on the edges of the plywood securing the plywood to the bales of hay to insure no movement. Use only a red heat light, the red lights give off heat not a great deal of light. neighbors and your pet will be annoyed if it’s too bright in the pets house.

10.) Now you should have your straw bales stacked, the plywood roof fastened to the straw bales, the light fixture attached to the plywood, and a red heat bulb in the light fixture.

11.) Using a tarp that’s big enough, tarp off the top of your pets home. Take the tarp edges that overhang from the top and nail them into the sides of the straw bales. This keeps water from making contact with the heat lamp and moisture entering the interior of the pets home. The tarp is also need because plywood is not waterproof.

12.) Put your pet’s water in the enclosure. The heat from the lamp will keep the water bowl from freezing and warm your pet during freezing temperatures.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Has kitty got the “Cat Scratch Fever”?

To you, your catscratching the sofa might look like deliberately destructive behavior. To your cat, it is a matter of marking your home as its territory, the same way a lion on the African savannah claws a banyan tree to stake its claim and let other animals know who rules that turf. Scent glands beneath the claws release an odor that other animals can read as easily as you read traffic signs. The signal here is “mine.”

You can’t stop a cat from scratching, but you can avoid shredded carpets, curtains and couches. Finding a compromise between your need to have intact upholstery and your cat’s natural territorial behavior can be tricky, but not impossible.

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Here’s some tips to help teach kitty better behavior:

1) Buy or make a scratching post or scratching pad. Cats generally prefer a rough texture for exercising their claws. Choose a post tall enough to accommodate the height of your cat on its hind legs with front legs extended upwards. The post must also be sturdy enough to hold the cat’s weight. Cats don’t like surprises or having their dignity disturbed. A feline who has had her scratching tree tumble on her will shun that place permanently. For a cat that prefers horizontal scratching, place a scratching pad near the place where the cat has been scratching the carpet or furniture.

2) Place the scratching substitute where your cat likes to mark its territory. Cats, whether in the wild or living with humans, naturally choose a prominent place to scratch. So placement of the scratching post, tree or mat near the previous scratching place helps redirect your cat’s focus. Once your cat has established a connection to the post, you may be able to move it. However, to begin with, keep it near the spot the cat has chosen. Show your cat the new scratching area is central to its home life by playing with or feeding him in its vicinity.

3) Make the substitute scratching place more desirable to your cat. Spray catnip on it to attract your kitty to the newly acquired post, tree or scratching pad. Since cats have a natural pleasurable reaction to catnip, a sort of feline “high,” your cat will want to visit the source of this enticing scent often. Again, reinforce your cat’s perception of the new scratching place by feeding and playing with her by the post.

4) Gently discourage your cat from using the drapes or sofa as a scratching place. Yelling at or hitting a cat will only result in the cat fearing you. Instead, try keeping a spray bottle of water on hand, and mist the cat when it misbehaves. If possible, squirt the bottle from outside the cat’s line of vision so it sees the water as a consequence of its inappropriate scratching and not as you expressing anger.

5) Be patient. Like any housemate situation, your living arrangement with your cat may require some periods of adjustment and compromise. Following these guidelines will help you and your feline companion negotiate the scratching issue smoothly and go on to a long and mutually happy relationship.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Burn that Holiday Butter

Getting_Fit_BSSMake 2010 the year you tone, tighten, and lift not only neglected muscle groups but also droopy skin. While it’s easy to see the aesthetic benefits of having more toned muscles and skin, there is also a host of other benefits from improved body image to stronger bones, allowing you to move with ease and grace. Exercise doesn’t have to be just for the privacy of your own home or that expensive gym either. Take it everywhere you go. Do it… you’ll “lose” it and tone those muscles much, much sooner!

Try these helpful exercises:

AT HOME:

Start sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Lean back so that your upper body is at about 45 degrees. Extend your arms out, turn your palms to the sky, and lift your feet off the floor. Beginners can keep your knees bent, or hold onto the back of the hamstrings. The more advanced movement is done with legs completely straight. Hold the pose for 5–10 breaths.

AT WORK:

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While you’re sitting at your desk take a moment and lift your rib cage and slide your shoulder blades down your back. This will increase your oxygen, blood flow and your energy.

JUST FOR YOUR HEALTH:

A big part of toning your body is also detoxing and nutrients. Be sure to check out the wealth of information that Vita-Mix has to offer regarding cleansing your system and eating right as you work on toning and tightening your body.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella So Savvy. All rights reserved.

CPR for Children – Easy Steps

All parents should take a CPR course to be fully prepared for emergencies. Always call 911. If your child is not breathing but still has a pulse, you’ll need to perform rescue breathing. If there’s no breathing and no pulse, you should perform full CPR until help arrives.

Rescue breathing (where you place your mouth over the victim and give breaths) and CPR (rescue breathing plus chest compressions) are skills you hope you never have to use, but if your child stops breathing or loses his/her pulse, they can be lifesavers. Always call 911 before performing either technique to ensure professional help is on the way.

Children Under 1

Rescue Breathing: Lay the baby on her back, tip her head back, and lift her chin to open the airway. Place your mouth over the baby’s mouth and nose and give two small breaths; each should last about a second and a half and should cause the baby’s chest to rise. Continue with one breath every three seconds until she is able to breathe on her own or help arrives.

CPR: Perform two rescue breaths, and check for responsiveness. If there is none, place the tips of your third and fourth fingers in the center of the baby’s chest, about half an inch below the nipples. Perform compressions by pressing 1/3 to 1/2 the depth of the chest at a rate of 100 compressions per minute. After every 30 compressions, give your child 2 breaths.

Children 1 to 8

Rescue Breathing: With the child’s head tipped back and chin tilted up, pinch his nose closed and seal your mouth over his. Give two breaths, then continue with one breath every three seconds.

CPR: Give two rescue breaths and check pulse. If none, perform compressions with the heel of one hand in the center of the chest at about the nipple line. Press 1 to 1 1/2 inches into the chest, giving two breaths every 30 compressions.

Children 8 and Older

Rescue Breathing: Tip her head back and chin up, pinch her nose closed, seal your mouth over hers, and give two breaths. Continue with one breath every five seconds.

CPR: Give two rescue breaths and check pulse. If there is no pulse, perform compressions with the palm of one hand in the center of your child’s chest, half an inch below the nipples. Press down 1 1/2 to 2 inches into the chest, giving two breaths after every 30 compressions.

Source Parents Magazine

© 2009 – 2010, Bella So Savvy. All rights reserved.

Is your New Year’s Resolution to lose weight?

Organize a clothing swap!

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What could be better than getting a new outfit for your new figure without spending a cent? Invite friends to bring over clothes they no longer wear, and everyone can take turns “shopping” for treasures.

Your swap can be expanded to include baby clothes. Since kids outgrow clothes so quickly it’s nice to know someone else is going to use them.

Make sure everyone knows that the clothes they bring should be clean and free of stains, rips or other damage. Also, arrange to donate any items your guests don’t want to a charity or shelter.

With the money you save by swapping, you’ll be able to treat yourself, too. Still itching to get something new? A handbag to go with your “new” wardrobe, perhaps? Go for it.

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Sticking With Good Habits

Have a hard time sticking to those good habits? So you’ve got good intentions but after just a few months, weeks or even days your enthusiasm just fizzles out? You’re not alone. Try these simple techniques to help keep you motivated.

First, figure out how your new habit will work into your current schedule. To start, you might need to commit time on your calendar and set up a reminder system, just as you would for a class or appointment. Online software with features like checklists, journals and email reminders (one example is lifetick.com) can help you stay on track.

Second, set up a support system of neighbors, friends or family who have a similar goal—and to whom you can report progress. Or try searching online for like-minded folk to support your efforts; meetup.com, for instance, is a great resource for finding exercise buddies or fellow hobbyists.

Rewarding yourself for progress can also keep you on track, as can keeping a journal or log of your accomplishments. Finally, many experts believe that it takes about three weeks to form a habit, so think positively and stick with it!

© 2009 – 2010, Bella Savvy. All rights reserved.

Nip your hangover in the bud!

Prevention is better than cure, they say. It’s all well and good curing a hangover, but wouldn’t it be better not to have it in the first place?

Here’s some quit tips to help you celebrate without the worries of that awful “next morning” feeling:

  1. Know your limits. 75% of people who drink to intoxication will have a hangover the next day. The number of drinks it takes to reach a state of intoxication varies from person to person. Don’t have more than 3 drinks in 1-2 hours, and no more than 5 drinks in one night. Women and people of Asian descent might want to consider having a little less because they are more susceptible to hangovers. Women tend to have a lower metabolic rate due to a higher ratio of body fat and Asians tend to have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that breaks down alcohol.
  2. Eat before drinking so alcohol isn’t absorbed as quickly.
  3. Drink a glass of milk before alcohol. It coats the lining of your stomach and slows the absorption of alcohol.
  4. Choose light liquors (vodka, gin) over dark liquors (brandy, whiskey). They have fewer congeners, which contribute to hangovers. Overall, drinks with more chemicals produce worse hangovers. Red wine is one of the worst culprits. A study found that hangover symptoms varied by the type of alcohol consumed: (in order of decreasing severity) brandy, red wine, rum, whisky, white wine, gin, vodka, and pure ethanol.
  5. Stick with noncarbonated mixers. Carbonated drink mixers accelerate alcohol absorption.
  6. Choose less concentrated drinks. Beer is better than shots of whiskey, for example.
  7. Stick with one type of alcohol. Variety is not the spice of life in terms of a hangover.
  8. Stay hydrated. Alcohol makes you urinate more, which can lead to dehydration. Drink water or sports drinks before, during, and after drinking alcohol. The processes that break down alcohol also produce lactic acid and other chemicals that interfere with the production of glucose (sugar) and electrolytes; that’s why sports drinks are a good idea. Don’t drink caffeinated beverages – those make you urinate more, too. Have one glass of water after each drink. It keeps you hydrated and can also slow your alcohol consumption.
  9. Be happy. Research suggests that guilt about drinking, a neurotic personality, becoming angry or depressed while drinking, and having suffered “negative life events” in the past 12 months are better predictors of symptoms of hangover than how much or what you drink!

© 2009 – 2010, Bella So Savvy. All rights reserved.

Shop Last Minute for the Holidays?

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Are you a procrastinator when it comes to holiday shopping? You’re not alone. You’re actually in good company with those who are still looking for that perfect deal, can’t decide what to buy or maybe just simply don’t have the time.

If you still need to pick up a few more stocking stuffers, you’ll join many Americans who have the same idea. And many choose to live dangerously, leaving their entire list till the last minute.

For those who wait until after December 15th to shop, it might be time to get the gift for that hard-to-shop-for person or that relative who has it all. What’s hot and available when time is down to the wire? Here are some ideas for holiday crunch-time shopping success.

Here’s some ideas you may find helpful for last minute shopping:

  1. Give a financial gift. Money, CDs and savings bonds are all good ideas that keep on giving, especially for kids and young adults who are establishing themselves in the world. Plus, there are clever holders and cards to package your gift and make it fun. Sure, these gifts are a bit redolent of your grandparents’ generation, but this gift category has remained popular for a reason.
  2. Get an assortment of herb and spice plants and box them creatively to give someone a personal fresh herb garden. Home Depot always has herb plants in bloom; the local supermarket may also sell them in the horticulture section. They are easy to maintain and perfect for the chefs among your loved ones.
  3. Purchase theater tickets for a hot event. You can make the purchase for a date several months in the future, saving everyone involved from having to schedule-crunch. If you do this for a child, though, be ready to make some speedy explanations. They just might wonder how Santa knew a specific was going to take place & where.
  4. Go to your nearest art store and purchase something that’s truly special and rare. These stores often stock one-of-a-kind gifts that will bring a smile to your recipient’s face. These shops are terrific for scarves, hats, jewelry and housewares. Plus, you’re helping to keep a small business kicking during a rough economy. If going to a boutique isn’t a possibly, drop by Etsy and take advantage of the large number of sellers that offer expedited shipping. This is also a great way to get an expensive-looking gift for a small amount of cash.
  5. Sign the person up for a subscription gift service. For foodies, there’s Bacon of the Month; shoe lovers can find nirvana at Kim Kardashian’s ShoeDazzle or J. Crew’s Shoe of the Month Club. For men, J. Crew also offers a Tie of the Month club. Although these seem like pricey options, they truly aren’t; many include options for three, six or 12 months, not just the whole year.
  6. Assemble items with a common theme in a bag and throw a bow on it. These could be an assortment of mp3 accessories (headphones, speakers, slipcovers and a gift card for music), childhood toys (travel-sized board games and Mad Libs books), or retro-style jewelry and hair clips. Many of these gifts can be pulled together on the cheap in one store location. The larger quantity of gifts will look pleasing to the eye, and you’ll save lots of time.
  7. Appeal to their tastebuds if you’re truly stuck at the zero hour. Chocolate, liquor and cigars usually go over well, as does a gooey dessert or bottle of perfume. For this, remember that packaging is everything; even Hersey bars seem more delicious if wrapped in a cool bag or box.

Tips:

  • Try to do as much as possible in one central location. As time grows shorter, so does the amount of space you’re able to cover. Sal Ciolfi of AskMen.com advocates narrowing down from the mall to one superstore (Wal-Mart, Target, Macy’s) if time is dear.
  • Ship smart, ship (quasi) early by following these guidelines for the best possibility of Christmas delivery: ship with UPS and USPS by Dec. 21st to beat the worst of the expedited shipping rush, and for guaranteed shipment of Priority packages. Most major carriers are able to deliver up to the 23rd. For overnight packages arriving Christmas Eve? Have your wallet ready, because you’ll be paying dearly.
  • Avoid lost packages by using the correct ZIP code (no guessing; it’s better to leave it blank), writing address information clearly and shipping in a box with no wrapping paper. Clumsy preparation results in lost or delayed packages.

Simple Ways to Add Meaning to the Holiday Season

All the baking, buying, and burning the midnight oil can make the holiday season feel frenzied. To make this season more meaningful–not to mention serene–slow down and refocus on what makes this time of year so special: family, service, and spirituality.

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Celebrate Family and Friends

Show your little ones how much relationships matter–and how joyful they can be–by spending the season connecting with loved ones near and far.

  • Open holiday cards and letters with your children, making sure to talk about what your elementary school best friend was like in second grade or tell funny stories about Great-Aunt Shirley. Then let your little ones tape the enclosed photos on a map to mark where loved ones live–and help you remember them all season long.
  • Choose holiday gifts that bring you closer. For instance, create a mini photo scrapbook of your kids for far-away grandparents. Have preschoolers create homemade storybooks about their relatives. Or offer gifts of time, like a promise to take a gaggle of cousins to the zoo.
  • Dedicate a night to honoring your family’s cultural heritage with traditional holiday foods (like lechon if you’re Filipino, or a traditional Christmas pudding if your ancestors came from England) or by playing game.

Share Service

The simplest antidote to your children’s seasonal gimmes? Teach them to help others. The more they give, the less your kids will care about what they get.

  • Create a construction-paper advent chain and write a simple good deed on each ring: pick up trash, phone a far-away relative, deliver a plate of cookies to a neighbor. For each day of December, rip off a link in the chain together and make time to help someone else.
  • Set aside a small amount of money for your children to donate to charity. Help them research where to give, like an animal shelter or the local library. Little ones can use their cash for something concrete, like a new toy for a child in need or canned goods for the food pantry.
  • When you catch your child lending a helping hand, place an ornament, like a snow globe or a bell, on her pillow. She can leave it for another family member she spies being kind. The pass-along prize motivates your kids to catch each other being good, so the holidays are happier for everyone.

Nurture Spirituality

Whether or not you regularly attend a house of worship, the holidays offer a chance to share your beliefs and values with your children–or just create a sense of peace and mindfulness.

  • Unplug electronics and turn off all the lights, except the ones that glow on the Christmas tree or menorah. In the stillness, talk quietly about your blessings and share your favorite wishes for the holidays.
  • Celebrate Three Kings Day (January 6, when the Magi supposedly visited baby Jesus) by leaving out a shoebox filled with hay (or, in a pinch, cookies) for the wise men’s camels to devour. In the morning, the hay will be gone, replaced with a few small gifts.
  • Tune in your kids to some of the season’s sacred music, like Handel’s “Messiah.” Find a performance in your area, or check out internet radio stations for seasonal selections.

Copyright © 2009 Meredith Corporation.

4 Steps to Potty Training During the Holidays

Travel, excitement and disruptions in routine are characteristic of the holiday season. And these factors make potty training your child more of a challenge than it would normally be. Plus, bulky winter clothes make getting undressed and into position more difficult, especially for little ones with an urgent need to go. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t potty train at this time of year.

Although the holidays may seem like an inopportune time to start potty training, you can’t plan when your child’s readiness will strike. Your little one may start to wake up dry from naps or in the morning. He might become more anxious than normal when his diapers are dirty. And he may actually express a desire to start using the potty.

If your child is ready to potty train during the holiday season, use the following strategies to ensure your success:

1.) Stay Positive, Despite Stress

Holidays mean shopping for gifts, cleaning for company, sending cards, traveling long distances, preparing big meals and many other stressful activities. When you’re busy and stressed about all the things on your to-do list, you may not have as much patience for potty training as you would at other times of the year.

It’s hard not to get frustrated, but you have to stay positive. Give yourself a break from the hustle and bustle, and make time to focus on your child. Do something together, like re-reading your favorite potty book or talking about what a big boy or girl your child has become since last holiday season. Understand that your child needs your attention and support, and expressing your frustration will likely do more harm than good.

2.) Make Potty Time Fun

Kids love new experiences and exciting adventures. If you can present potty time as something fun and special, then your child will be more interested. When you’re traveling or heading to holiday parties, prepare ahead of time by purchasing a portable toilet seat adapter that is easier to manage than a small potty that sits on the floor. You and your child can even decorate it with holiday stickers and give it a name, like your Special Holiday Potty.

Introduce the Christmas Potty at home two weeks before you’re traveling. Then practice outside the home in a kid-friendly place, like a favorite restaurant or toy store.

3.) Take Frequent Potty Breaks

Kids live for the holidays. And who can blame them – at that age holidays mean presents, parties and sweet treats. Your child may get wrapped up in the excitement of fun holiday activities, such as visiting Santa and attending parties, and forget about going to the bathroom until it’s too late.

Kids are easy to potty train when you catch them at the right minute. If you want to avoid accidents, you must take frequent bathroom breaks. Keep an eye on how much your child is drinking and make sure you ask if they need to go every 30 minutes to an hour. And remind them that if they need to go potty, they should let you know right away.

4.) Prepare for Accidents

No matter how well your child seems to be catching on to potty training, accidents are inevitable. The best way to handle the situation is to help your child understand that accidents are OK – and to be prepared.

Let your child know that everyone has accidents when they’re learning something new. When you’re away from home, pack extra clothes and a supply of toilet paper or wipes for cleanup. Don’t make a big deal out of accidents to avoid embarrassing your child when you’re at a holiday party. And just to be safe, consider dressing your child in disposable training pants when you’re visiting family and friends or when you’re on the road.

Although it may seem like too much to handle at this time of year, with a little preparation and understanding you and your child can accomplish anything you set out to do – even potty train. When you keep a cool head and use these tips for potty training during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, your child can enter the New Year diaper-free.

Avoid Holiday Accidents

Even the most motivated little ones can easily get wrapped up in holiday excitement and forget about potty breaks. To reduce the risk of accidents try following these tips.

1.) Before entering a long line, whether you’re waiting to see Santa or checking out at a store, always take a potty break even if your child says he doesn’t have to go.

2.) When you enter a mall or other large shopping center, stop at the directory and scope out the bathrooms. Then show your child where they are, so they can see and understand.

3.) Carry disposable training pants just in case restrooms are scarce or you run into unexpected delays.

Source Huggies

Cloth Diapers 101

Cloth Diapers New & Improved

 

Think cloth diapers are impractical? Think again. They’ve changed a lot since Grandma’s day. Here are the latest facts.

Cloth Diapers: The Basics

For disposable users out there who wince when contemplating your family’s personal contribution to the local landfill but even more so at the thought of the alternative, cloth diapers are an option you may want to consider again. They’re not what they once were.

Say goodbye to your notions of the pins, the big square pieces of cotton, leaky kids, and the daunting task of cleaning up. Easily laundered all-in-one diapers are the order of the day. With snaps or Velcro closures, waterproof banding around the waist and legs, and natural, breathable fibers that require no soaking, cloth diapers can be a more palatable choice than you may imagine.

For the fashion conscious, there are all the cool patterns to consider. For those concerned with keeping little bottoms pristine, you won’t have to worry about blowouts and suspicious chemicals used in making disposables so absorbent. Add to this the potential savings and you may want to give cloth-diapering a try.

The Bottom Line

If you go cloth and launder them yourselves, the cost over three years will be between $800 and $1100, half as much as disposables. And diapering a second child will only cost you the laundering (about $400 for three years).

Home Laundering 101

 

Don’t worry that your house will become a toxic waste dump. There’s no longer any need to soak, rinse, or flush a diaper. Simply shake solids into the toilet and drop the diaper into a plastic-lined pail after a change. When the pail is full, tip into your washer. Wash once with a detergent like Tide or Cheer Free, reset washer, add more detergent, and wash again. Don’t use bleach. Rinse twice to be sure all residue detergent is completely rinsed away and dry on hot. Not as bad as you thought! And it won’t leave your washer stinky. It will be exactly as clean as the diaper and drains to the same place your toilet does.

Stocking the Changing Table

 

Experts estimate that you’ll need about 2-3 dozen diapers if you get to the wash every third day, about 75-80 if you use a weekly diaper service. Many diaper services include diaper rentals in their price but you sacrifice choice.

Eco-Friendly Diaper Services

 

If your motivation to use cloth isn’t based on finances, and the prospect of home laundering is an intimidating one, you may want to opt for a local diaper service. As a rule, services now use biodegradable detergents in their cleaning process rather than the harmful phosphates of old. Like disposables, the costs of using a diaper service plus diaper covers will fall in the range of $2000-$2500 over a three year period.

Related Links:

National Association of Diaper Services

Parenting Tip of the Day
Gone are the days when cloth diapers meant painful pins, awkward leaks, and unpleasant, nose-wrinkling laundry days. Today’s cloth diapers have snaps or hook-and-loop tape closures and waterproof banding, and they are much easier to clean.

Source Parents Magazine

A Pea In The Pod launches Spring/Summer 2010 Collection

A Pea In The Pod collection

Good news for those expecting! A Pea in the Pod is releasing their Spring/Summer 2010 collection of denim and other great spring clothes.

One of the highlights of the collection is the denim leggings, which can easily be paired with many of the looks from the collection. The line is crafted with the highest standards using fabrics from the world’s finest mills, A Pea in the Pod Collection delivers high-quality and high-fashion specially fit to the pregnant silhouette.

A Pea in the Pod is a favorite among Hollywood’s celebrity moms-to-be, they have dressed clients such as Heidi Klum, Nicole Richie, Rebecca Romijn, Angie Harmon, Naomi Watts, Cate Blanchett, Salma Hayek.

Article from PRnewswire.com

Teaching Babies to Soothe Themselves to Sleep

When you bring a new baby home, you have two choices; you can cater to the baby’s schedule, or you can teach the baby how to fit in with yours. Parents who want to go to their baby every time he cries may be encouraging a fussy baby. If your baby is not getting a good night’s sleep, this may lead to fussy daytime behavior too. The solution is to get your baby on a schedule and stick with it as best as you can. The Ferber method is one way to teach babies how to soothe themselves to sleep.

I don’t know any Mom who wants to lose sleep and feel stressed all day due to lack of sleep. We all want to feel refreshed and ready to take on our daily duties and to be able to connect with our babies from day one.

Sleeping Baby (the sound of music)

Here’s some life saving tips to help you teach your little one techniques to lull them to sleep on their own:

1.) Put your baby down when she is awake. After you feed your baby, play with her for a while, and when it is time for a nap or for bed, put her down when she is awake. If you let her fall asleep while nursing, when she wakes up to find the breast or bottle gone, she will probably start to cry because she uses the nursing to put her to sleep. If you put her to sleep awake, she will teach herself how to self-soothe herself to sleep.

2.) Use the Ferber method. Introduced by Dr. Richard Ferber in the 1980s, many people associate the Ferber method with simply letting the baby cry himself to sleep. While that is part of the method, it is not that simple. There is more to the Ferber method than simply putting your baby in a crib and leaving him there to cry.

3.) Choose to start the Ferber method when your baby is at least 3 months old. Also, pick a time when it is not crucial that you get a good night’s sleep for up to a week or two. This method is time-consuming at first, and if you feel you must get up the next morning, you will be tempted to give up and continue with your old habits, which will put you back to square one.

4.) The first night put your baby to bed when she is tired, but awake. After you leave the room, expect your baby to start crying. Allow this to go on for five minutes. Come in the room just to check on your baby. This will provide some comfort for both of you. Do not linger in the room or pick up your baby, just come in, maybe rub her back a little and leave.

5.) Wait 10 minutes. After you leave the room for the second time, wait10 minutes before going back in. Repeat what you did the first time you came in, and leave.

6.) Wait 15 minutes. If the baby is still crying after 15 minutes, go in again, and repeat what you have been doing. Do this all night until your baby falls asleep. The first night is usually the worst one. On rare occasions, the baby will throw up during one of the crying episodes. Calmly clean up your baby and the bed, and then put him back down. Continue with the 15-minute intervals.

7.) The second night, start by waiting 10 minutes before entering the room the first time, 15 minutes the second time and 20 minutes the third time and for the rest of the night. Each night increase the increments by five minutes. Your baby will eventually learn to fall asleep on his own the first time you put him down with minimal or no crying.

References

http://www.babycenter.com/0_the-ferber-method-demystified_7755.bc?showAll=true

Living With Kids With Autism

Did you know parents of children with autism have a divorce rate that is much higher than other parents. Because of the stress that this diagnosis can cause the whole family it is important to take steps to strengthen your household.

Having each member of the household perform chores will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and assists the family in working together as a team toward a common goal. Surround yourself and your family with people that are helpful. Whether it is a trusted babysitter or a therapist that you see weekly, they can give you the assistance you need.

Keep a calmer household by having a regular schedule. Hygiene, meal and bedtime routines can provide comfort for your child with autism along with other family members.

Stressed Parent

Here’s a tip:

Take time for yourself and the other relationships in your household. This can mean going out on a date with your spouse or spending special one-on-one time with a child without autism. Parents of children with autism are on a roller coaster with good days and bad days. They should not feel guilty if they sometimes feel frustrated or overwhelmed.

Fade a Scar Fast (Yes you can!)

Unsightly Scars

Scars, known medically as cicatrices, are caused when the skin is cut or injured and fibrous tissue replaces the normal skin. Large unsightly scars can cause a person to become self-conscious of her appearance. This is due in part to the fact that today’s society places a great deal of emphasis on appearance. Luckily, now more than ever, people with scars have a wide variety of different treatment options to fade and eliminate their scars. Taking advantage of such treatment options will ensure a fast fade of even the deepest scars.

1.) Go to the skin treatment aisle at your local drugstore. A few popular skin cream treatments for scars include ReJuveness and Tru-Derm. Mederma is another great one! I used it when I had to have some biopsies done to check for skin cancer. Such creams soothe and rejuvenate skin affected by scars. Apply daily as directed in the instructions on the treatment label. Also consider purchasing a skin-lightening cream. With daily use, skin-lightening creams fade dark marks left behind by scars.

2.) Purchase a container of cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is a natural treatment that helps soothe the skin and keep moisture in. This allows the cocoa butter to break down scar tissue and help heal the dermis. Cocoa butter can be found at most drugstores and beauty product stores.

3.) Cut a lemon in half and squeeze a teaspoon of the juice onto a small towel. Gently dab the scar with the towel. Repeat daily. Lemon juice has been used for many years as a natural skin lightener.

4.) Squeeze a small amount of aloe vera gel on the tip of your index finger and gently rub it on the scar. Aloe vera gel is effective in minimizing scars by soothing the skin and improving skin elasticity.

5.) Pick up a bottle of tea tree oil at your local health food store. Tea tree oil stimulates collagen production and hydrates the skin. To use, simply apply two to three drops to the scarred area and gently massage into your skin. Repeat this process daily for the best results.

6.) Consider laser scar removal to get rid of your scars. Laser treatment works by eliminating the blood cells that give scars their dark color. Laser treatment can also restore skin collagen and improve skin elasticity on and around the scarred area. Not all scars can be treated with laser treatment. Consult a laser scar removal specialist to see if your scar can be removed with this treatment.

Also, avoid picking at scars.

Choosing the Correct Shoe for Your Height

Too much height is way too much!

The average height for a female used to be 5’4″ to 5’6″. Your shoes should be balanced to not add to or take away from you if you are over average or under average in height. The average height may or may not be the same now. The word “normal” seems to change all of the time but some people seem to be better at carrying or should I say “working” a certain style better than others.

The person of average height can wear more of a variety in the height of the shoe. In short, a person who is 5’6″ can get away with a four inch heel and likewise, she can get away with flats. I am 5′ 3″ and I myself prefer a heel on all of my shoes at least 2 1/2″ – 3″. Height for me provides the illusion of longer legs. That’s exciting for me!

However, the misnomer is that a much shorter person should wear ‘stilts’ or what used to be termed ‘Tom Walkers’. They should not. A shorter person should wear only a couple of inches. The 4 or 5 inch heel would only give your body an imbalanced look rather than a taller look. And I for one am not looking to be a circus act. LOL

Likewise, the taller female should wear moderate to higher heels because the shorter heel will cause her am imbalanced look. Tall, long legs and higher heels are the rule.

Organizing Your Winter Wardrobe

Organizing for Winter

Organizing your wardrobe for the winter shouldn’t have to be hard on your budget. Fashion style and colors do change from season to season but as long as you have the basic colors you can add the new style pieces to what you already have. And that saves you lots of money in the long run.

Here’s some helpful tips to get you started:

1.) Take out your fall clothes, keep the items that can be transitioned from fall to winter like jeans, t-shirts, handbags , belts, and jewelry. Transitional pieces along with your accessories can form a base for you to build on.

2.) Shop for the fashions and colors that are in style for the winter season. Keep in mind which pieces you have and when buying new pieces choose ones you can wear them with other pieces you already have.

3.) Coordinate your accessories by choosing pieces that show your personality and your style, like a necklace, a bracelets, a purse, a belt, maybe a watch or sunglasses. Picking out your accessories should be easy.

Some other helpful tips when updating with new items and accessories:

  • Have a shopping partner with you for second opinion
  • Don’t over think, if it’s you and it works with other pieces choose it.
  • Stay with a budget.

How to Find Your Body Shape

Women today come in many shapes; curvy, skinny, round, strawberry, and the list is ongoing. Jean Vague, a French physician in the 1950′s first brought the idea of the four main body types; fashion designers have come up with as many as twelve.

The standard apple, pear, hourglass and rectangle (also known as a banana) body shapes have stood the test of time. Easily determine your body shape to develop an appropriate workout or clothing style to compliment your figure naturally.

All of us ladies have learned a lesson or two on how to camoflauge our imperfections but wouldn’t you like to know how to find that perfect outfit for your specific shape? Here are some helpful tips on how to do that.

Finding your body style

  1. Undress completely and stand in front of the mirror. I know, this may not be a pretty sight but hey, no one is watching! If you wish, you may wear form fitting leggings and tank top; you need to be able to see your body shape without any loose clothing getting in the way.
  2. Stand in front of the mirror. Concentrate on the upper body which consists of the bust, arms, and shoulders. You will also focus on the lower part of the body which consists of the waist, thighs and buttocks.
  3. Notice whether there is a well-defined waist or mid-section. Apple shaped women will see that their upper body is noticeably larger than their bottom half.
  4. Determine if the chest and arms are noticeably smaller than the lower body, which indicates a pear shape form. The hips, buttocks and thighs will be larger than the upper body. A majority of women fall into this body shape.
  5. Hourglass shaped women are very curvy with a well defined waist. A larger bust and bottom with a clear indentation at the waist, fits this body shape.
  6. For bodies that are basically a straight up and down figure, with little to no curves or indentations and possibly a small bust, you are a rectangle/banana shape.
  7. Decide and shop for clothing based on your body shape in order to minimize and maximize the sections you wish to enhance.

Shopping On Black Friday

You love it or you hate or maybe in between. It’s a love hate relationship. Right?

Everyone loves a great deal and that is what drives us out of our warm, cozy beds into the bitter cold & those dreadful lines. We dread it every year but yet we are ready to do it again every time. Yes, Black Friday, is what I’m talking about.

You can make it easier with a little help. I’ve listed some helpful tips below that might help you get through yet another stressful but yet fulfilling shopping season.

Black Friday shopping

1.) Make a list of what you NEED or are hoping to find and from there search as many places as possible (websites provided and or newspapers) for those specific items and of course the best deals.

2.) STAY FOCUSED – do not let yourself stray. Stores will try and attract you for the special deal then hope you buy something else that is not such a great deal. Also, time is of the essence because of the EARLY BIRD prices at various stores.

3.) LISTS will be your best friend because you need to keep track of the TIMES stores open and which ITEMS you will be buying from each store…now be prepared for LINES: OUTSIDE of the store and INSIDE the store. If you have a person with you think about splitting up one in line the other racing to the item because it is chaos and there are multiple stores to get to in a short time.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Coffee/hot tea
  • list of what you WANT/NEED
  • shopping buddy or someone to stand in line for you
  • twitter/facebook account
  • download the ad early
  • Morning Newspaper

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