Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Not All Pillows Are Created Equal

Hello there! Hope you've had a wonderful Christmas, because I did! After all that eating and late night socialising, now I feel like I need to catch up on some sleep. As you might have suspected already (from the aches you experience every morning), finding the ideal pillow that will result in quality ZzZ is like finding the perfect hairdresser - tough, but oh so worth the effort! Make sure though, you don't lose sleep over finding that elusive pillow.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Last Minute X'mas Shopping? Fret not!

If you haven't done 90 per cent of your Christmas shopping by now, boy are you in trouble. Last minute shopping breeds frazzled, poor gift-buying. There are, however, some very thoughtful gifts you can get for your loved ones without you having to throng the shopping malls and fight tooth and nail with fellow strung out shoppers! Take for example, giving that person an whole year's subscription of his or her favourite magazine. Each time the magazine arrives at their doorstep, they're reminded of you. The gift that keeps on giving indeed!

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Stop despairing, holiday procrastinators!
10 low-stress gift-shopping tips for those who wait until the last minute

Something seems funny about you today, Gentle Reader. Your palms are sweaty. You appear to be having difficulty breathing. And you’re so jumpy and uneasy.

Wait, wait! I know what’s going on! Have you procrastinated about doing your holiday shopping? Again?


(All of you ultra-organized, non-procrastinating readers out there, bear with me for a few minutes. You just might be able to use the following information to help someone you love!)

Deadline-pushers, stop despairing. These quick tips can help you survive another holiday season and elate your friends and family as well.

1. Do your online shopping TODAY. If it’s important to you that people on your gift list have actual items in their hands by Dec. 25, then today’s the day to start clicking. Many online retailers promise to deliver presents by Christmas Day if you place your order by Dec. 20 using two-day shipping. Some lenient retailers will continue to guarantee on-time delivery if you use overnight shipping by noon Pacific time on Dec. 22. You can quickly check the shipping sections of stores’ Web sites to find out which deadlines you’ll have to hit.

2. Send electronic gift certificates or gift cards. Another option is an online gift certificate that gets sent out via e-mail. Many retailers offer them, and their convenience to you is unparalleled – so long as you feel reasonably comfortable that your recipient won’t mistake your electronic gift for spam. Some retailers allow the certificates to be used only on their Web sites, not in their stores, so make sure the person on the receiving end is comfortable shopping online. You’ll often have until around noon on Dec. 24 to order the e-gift cards and guarantee their timely arrival.

3. Buy tangible, plastic gift cards. Everybody from the drugstore to the electronics store to the coffee shop is offering gift cards these days, so you have plenty of opportunities to look thoughtful by tailoring your gift-card purchases to certain individuals. Just be sure to read the fine print before you buy. Some cards have onerous expiration dates and fees, particularly those bearing the logos of major credit card companies. Fees have become less common with gift cards sold by specific retailers, though. If you’re not comfortable just handing over a card, wrap it inside a mug or put it in the arms of a small stuffed animal.

4. Shop on Dec. 24. Most non-procrastinating types relax on Christmas Eve day – meaning traffic at the malls should be thinner then. Of course, this approach only will work for presents you can give in person locally, not for gifts that need to be mailed.

5. Think food and drinks. Consider “splurges” that your loved ones might not get for themselves – and that also won’t require you to step foot into a crowded mall. Some ideas: nice bottles of booze and liqueur; a case of wine; caviar; prosciutto; gourmet cheeses; fine chocolate; premium olive oils; hard-to-find hot sauces.

6. Order magazine subscriptions. Know someone who loves cooking? Get him or her “Cook’s Illustrated.” Travel? “National Geographic Traveler.” Outdoor and adventure sports? “Outside.” Smart budgeting and money decisions? “Consumer Reports” or “Kiplinger’s Personal Finance” magazine. (You get the idea.) You can buy a current issue of the magazine in question, wrap it up so it looks fancy, and let your loved one know there are 12 more where that came from.

7. Give the gift of yourself. For a gift that’s both personal and easy to execute on a deadline, create “coupons” for services you can provide in the weeks to come. You can give coupons for an amazing multi-course meal, babysitting services, pet-care services, massages, Web site building, car repairs, painting and other handyman services around the home. Just be careful not to over-promise; you’re sure to be remembered for giving a “gift” and failing to deliver on it.

8. Opt for practical ideas. You can get large quantities of items your recipients are sure to use, such as art supplies for art lovers, prepaid calling cards for friends who travel a lot, or specialized emergency kits. For someone with chronic car problems, give a flashlight, gas can, jumper cables, flares and a membership to AAA.

9. Donate to charity in someone else’s name. Through the nonprofit Charity Checks, you can order a check in any dollar amount, then let your recipient select a charity from among 800,000 in the United States. Go to or call toll-free 1-800-854-5601. (Once again, if you want your gift to show up by Christmas Day, it’s best to place your order by Dec. 20. You might be able to get away with waiting until Dec. 22 to order, so long as you’re willing to pony up for overnight delivery.)

10. Save on speedy mailing. The Priority Mail service offered by the U.S. Postal Service delivers packages in the United States within two to three days for less money than major delivery companies. The flat rates for packages weighing up to 70 pounds are $4.05 for an envelope and $8.10 for a box. To take advantage of this deal, though, it’s best to head to the post office today so your package will arrive by Saturday, Dec. 23.

Friday, December 18, 2009

For The Love of Books

Have you ever wondered if money and space were not an issue, what books would you have in your home library? Well, meet the most famous book lover in the world who does not have either as an issue - Oprah Winfrey! How does the busiest woman in America find the time to read? Apparently it's because she does not watch TV. Imagine the irony of that! Let's see what this modern day Wonder Woman has in her well-stocked library.

Ps: I covet her high fashion collection.

Photo: Matthew Rolston

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An Anatomy of Oprah's Bookshelves

Oprah's library—1,500 volumes strong, and still growing—includes first-edition Pulitzer Prize winners, Oprah's Book Club selections, and John Steinbeck's first novel, Cup of Gold. Look closely and you may find titles you want to add to your own reading list....


The work of notable 19th- and 20th-century African-American writers—including Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Sojourner Truth—coalesce in this 12-volume collection published in 1996. A golden portrait of each author is rendered on the spines.


"He's definitely on her list of favorites," library consultant Kinsey Marable says of this African-American poet. Oprah's cache contains a rare copy of Dunbar's first book of poetry, Oak and Ivy, which he published in 1893 at the age of 21.


First-edition biographies of Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Helena Rubinstein sit alongside The Art of Vogue: Covers 1909–1940. Marable also tracked down an original 1976 copy of Hollywood Costume: Glamour! Glitter! Romance! by legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland and Dale McConathy.


This exhaustive archival project—a collaboration between the King Center and Stanford University—began in 1985. These five volumes contain notes an 11-year-old King wrote to his parents, letters he sent them while working one summer on a tobacco farm in Connecticut, his doctoral dissertation, and speeches he delivered during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.


"We decided to do a run of first-edition Pulitzers when we first met," says Marable. A rare copy of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence; Our Town by Thornton Wilder; and Collected Poems by Robert Frost occupy the section behind the sofa.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Slice of Turkey

Who would have thought there's more to carving a turkey than meets the eye? Having been on the receiving end (as opposed to the preparing end) of the Thanksgiving turkey all these years, I've never given much thought to the art of carving a turkey. Turns out, it most certainly is a skill which requires careful planning and deliberation.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ready, Get Set, Soak!

I don't know about you, but my second most favourite thing in the world (first being a decadent aromatherapy massage) is soaking in a hot tub. Yes, thou shalt be allowed to have 20 minutes of ME time everyday and not answer any phone calls. There's something about closing your eyes and shutting out the stresses of the outside world and being wrapped in a plush, fluffy towel afterwards that makes you feel thoroughly pampered.

Oh, but the one thing this article has forgotten to mention is music! Don't forget to play some of your favourite music to complete that spa ambience! Happy soaking!

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Affordable Ways to Create Your Own Spa Bath
By Michele Capozzoli

Imagine yourself relaxing in a big spa bathtub, surrounded by bubbles, with candles flickering in the background. Sound relaxing? You don't need to buy an expensive day at a spa to find an escape like this. Make your bathroom into a place where you can retreat from the stresses of the day for less money than you think. Try these easy and affordable ideas to transform your bathroom into your own private oasis.

The Right Light Finding the right lighting for your bath can be tricky since your bathroom requires many different kinds of light to meet all your needs. It needs task lighting that's bright when you're putting on your makeup or brushing your teeth, but you also want to be able to turn the lights down when you're relaxing in the tub. One inexpensive way to adjust your lighting is to install a dimmer switch. They're available at most hardware stores and are easy to install.

Clean and Organized A disorganized bathroom can feel cramped, so be sure to keep the clutter of toiletries to a minimum. Stash cosmetics and other products in the medicine cabinet, under the vanity or in the linen closet. The clean, sparse effect will help you let go of your worries so you can relax without the reminders of your daily routine.

Pamper Yourself There's nothing like the feeling of wrapping yourself in a big, plush spa towel. Pamper yourself by splurging on a large bath sheet that will envelope you completely when you step out of the bath. Choose a towel that's soft and absorbent for that spa-like feeling.

Protect Your Feet A bath mat is essential for a spa bath. Nothing can shock you back down to earth after your relaxing bath like the feeling of cold tile on your warm toes. Choose a mat that covers a large section of the floor so that you'll have room to move around without having to step on the floor.

Set the Mood Set a spa-like mood for your bath with the right accessories. Candles lightly flickering in the background and soft music are sure to help you forget your worries, at least for a little while.

Color Change One of the easiest ways to give your bath a new look is with a color change. A coat of paint is an inexpensive option that can completely transform the feel of your bath. Try white for a clean, crisp, sparse look. Or consider a rich neutral for an earthy effect. Either way, a couple gallons of paint and a few hours of work could give you the bath of your dreams.

Friday, December 11, 2009

How to Childproof a Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree - a source of joy and wonderment for parents and kids alike. But we know what kids are like around anything that's shiny, dangling or colourful. When you say, "Don't touch it. It's hot.", what they hear is, "Go on touch it. It's mighty fun." Ahh, children. We, as adults should know better than to tempt them so, or at least learn to childproof the Christmas tree. Have a safe Christmas!

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Christmas is heaven for children but it can be hell on parents and other adults. Ease your mind - and safeguard the kids in your life - by preventing problems before they happen.

Assess your child realistically. How old is she? How far can she reach? (from the floor? from the couch?) How high can she jump, when she really tries (and is she likely to)? Is she old enough to understand words like "no," "hot" and "sharp" and the concepts behind them?


Place the tree in the safest spot you can find - a corner works well (it works even better if you can move any furniture your child might be tempted to use as a stepladder to a safe distance).


Move all breakable ornaments (and any unbreakable ones you think your child might be tempted to eat) higher up the tree than you think your child can reach.


Move them a bit higher.


Remove any particularly valuable or prized fragile ornaments and use them somewhere safely out of reach (to decorate the mantelpiece, for example).


Tie the tree securely to a wall, column, or heavy piece of furniture if you think there's a danger that your child will jump on it, climb it, hang on it or otherwise manhandle it (this is not a bad idea in earthquake country anyway).


Use bricks or cinder blocks to weigh down the legs of the tree stand.


Don't forget to check the outlet - a shield should be available for times when the tree's not plugged in.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Home Decor Design Trends for 2010!

Wouldn't you sleep better if you knew the sheets your body is lying on was produced socially responsibly? I've always sought ways to live more conciously by incorporating elements into my life which are in line with my beliefs. Boy, am I glad that such responsible living movements are on the rise. Check out other home decor design trends likely to be huge this coming 2010!

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Home Decor and Interior Design Trends 2009
Written by Carmen M. Natschke

It's that time of year again! Design trends for 2009 have been compiled and are ready for showing. I picked the top ten decor, furniture and design trends that I think will have a major impact through 2009 and onto 2010.

Home Decor Trends 2009

1. UNIQUELY ME CHIC Personalized and eclectic approach to design. Re-emergence of styles like Hollywood Regency where furniture and decor is mixed and matched to suit the homeowners personality and showcase decor they have collected "along the way".

Desire for one-of-a kind items and an appreciation for the artisan, hand-crafted products for the home.

3. PATTERN PRIDE An increasing movement toward Art Deco and Art Noveau inspired shapes and patterns, paisleys, geometrics, floral, botanicals, animal prints and birds.

4. STYLE SHOCK Mosaics and patchworks on everything from soft textiles to furniture. One of my favorites and rather ambitious mix of styles, materials and patterns is the Bellini Chair from Versace Home.

Silky eco-bedding and other high-end objects get the Green Treatment. Green goes Luxe will be huge for 2009 and beyond with companies like Anna Sova and SDH Linens bringing to market eco-linens that feel like and look like silk.

6.MODERN EMBRACE Not really a new trend, in itself, but rather a continued movement toward contemporary design at home. A fun stylistic twist gaining prominence and becoming "mainstreamed" is the re-interpretation of class period pieces in new , fresh vibrant forms and designs. One personal favorite is Louis XVI Medallion Chair (Gilles Nouhailhac) painted a modern color and wearing an updated 21st century upholstery.

7. FASHIONISTA FINERY Dressmaker details on soft textiles brings the glamour and beauty from the fashion runways home. Accent pillows will be wearing belts, crystals, sequence, 3d floral embellishements and other details that will make the Fashionista in you swoon.

8. DESIGN WITHOUT BORDERS Merging of multi-cultural designs - Inspired from cultures and nations across the globe - with specific focus on China, Russia, Morocco, several Latin American countries and India.

Green, Sustainable and Fair Trade in products for the home. Consumers want more than a "Green" label they want the story behind the product. They want proof that what they buy meets their Green Standard and allows for societal responsibility. One company of several that I like to highlight that produce "Live Responsibly" products is Malaika. Their linens are created from organic cotton that is grown, spun, woven, sewn and embroidered in Egypt by underprivileged women who are taught how to embroider.

Designing and decorating the home in soothing earth inspired colors and creating a serene, secure and happy environment (through design) in which to retreat from the crazy economic upheaval, global conflicts and the multitude of stresses outside the door of your home.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Don't Save That China!

Using fine china for daily use - unthinkable? There's truly no reason for you to store that fine china in their boxes or light up candles only for special occasions. So when you unpack that fine dining set and use that only-for-guests tablecloth this December, make sure they stay unpacked long after Christmas. Go on, live a little, we highly recommend it!

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Easy Ways to Add the Christmas Spirit to Your Home
Holiday Sparkle in No Time at All
From Coral Nafie

If you're like most people, you don't have much time left at the end of a busy day to do anything extra. But at this time of year, you want to do something to make your home look festive and special and create the wonderful Christmas holiday atmosphere. You'll find some ideas here for quick and simple ways to add a festive look to your home without spending a lot of time or money. And you'll have time left over to really enjoy Christmas! Most are our ideas are very easy, many are free, and none takes more than a minimum of time and effort.

1. Decorate everything with bows
Tie generous ribbons to chair backs, candlesticks, picks in plants, wreaths, garlands, basket handles, drapery tie-backs, stair railings, and doorknobs.

Bows look festive and the ribbons you choose should tie together with the rest of your decorating. Choose ribbons in colors and patterns that coordinate with your decorating scheme.

You don't have to stick with red and green. Choose plaids or florals that tie in. If you can't find anything that looks quite right, then choose metallic silver, gold, green, or red.

Choose a ribbon that you can untie and re-tie each year. This will save money in the long run, and you'll end up with a good collection.

When the holidays are over, untie the ribbons and press them lightly. The bows won't get crushed and the ribbons will be ready when you want to take them out the next year.

See instructions on how to make your own floral bows of all sizes using wire. By using wire to make your bows, you'll be able to attach them to many objects.

2. Use holiday tableware for every meal in December
Look through your cupboards and get out any dishes that look festive.

Discount stores often carry seconds of name brand china, as well as fun designs that are not so common.

Start a set of holiday dishes with dinner plates that coordinate with your everyday dishes. Add new pieces each year, like salad plates and mugs. Note: Be sure the pattern you select will be continued from year to year.

Buy 1 or 2 place settings each year. Before long, you'll be able to serve a feast.

If you're adventuresome, choose a different pattern and one place setting each year. Arrange the different dishes around the table and get lots of comments and rekindle memories. When they're not in use, the dishes can be displayed around the room.

3. Turn off the lights
Arrange lots of candles on the dining table and dine by candlelight, even if you're just having leftovers. Every meal will feel special.

Burn a fire in the fireplace each evening and encourage family members to gather around and read, do homework, write Christmas cards, or snooze.

Arrange pillar candles in your bathroom, on the sink or around the tub. Take time to soak and enjoy! If you have little children in your home, you should be very careful with candles around the house. Always have an adult in the room.

4. Hang holiday wreaths
Put a wreath or swag on every door you have. Of course, start with the front door to welcome guests.

Go on to the back door, inside and out. Remember over the mantle, and in all your front windows. Don't forget bedroom doors, inside and out.

Use real pine, holly, or grapevine, decorated with bows, berries, fruit, pinecones, raffia, ornaments, birds, photos, or candy.

To keep wreaths year after year, buy artificial wreaths that will last. Remember, you'll need room to store them!