Saturday, February 27, 2010

*Giveaway* For Book Lovers




It's time for another giveaway! If you love books like I do than this one is for you. I have recently received e-mails from some of you who were interested in my husband, Paul F. Davis' books and as you'll see he is now one of this blog's latest sponsors and for good reason.

After receiving some amazing testimonials (shown below) from ladies who recently purchased one book in particular, I knew exactly which book I wanted to provide for this month's giveaway:

Empowering and Liberating Women to Achieve Greatness



Most women find it fascinating that a man wrote this book specifically for women with such insight. It is definitely a must-read for every woman who desires to reach her fullest potential in life. It is consistent with the message that I always try to convey via this blog: being a classy woman, living your best life and loving as well as respecting the life you've been given. I feel blessed that my husband is my ultimate partner in life and that we even possess the same passion for the messages we want to share with the women of the world.

Here is what other woman are saying about this book:

"Paul, I really enjoyed your book on liberating women. It has given me so much insight into the traps that some of us women fall into but it also gives me insight into taking control and moving forward with my life without getting hung up on all the past war stories that some of us tend to go over and over in our heads. Thank You!"

~Kiri Wellington, New Zealand

"I'm in shock. Total shock and I'm loving it. I've not only found a brand new way of looking at things, but I've found a mentor who appears to have the best insight into women that I've EVER known a man to have. This book gently lays out the facts; and does so in a friendly, non-accusatory way; a surefire 'hook' to get me to read the next sentence, and the one after that. Paul presents us with a background of who we 'were'; who we are now, how we're perceived and how our own feelings about ourselves are the ultimate key to who we grow to become as women.

Mr. Davis' point is that as women, we've been seen (and seem to have accepted) as the inferior sex when, in fact, that's ridiculously erroneous. We're every bit as capable as men are and I won't even take that statement a step further out of respect for men!!! This book will become a bible to women who are struggling with self-issues and who want to break through the fear and GET ON WITH THEIR LIFE'S PURPOSE. 

It's about time that a man write a book about how women are far more capable than we know. It's about time we talk about self-empowerment...about gaining ground in life through the tools given in this book. My heart is full with the blessing that Mr. Paul Davis has given me...and amazingly, he's written 15 books yet I've never heard about him."

~Rhona Page, Sarasota, FL.

"Paul Davis’ 'Empowering and Liberating Women to Achieve the Greatness' practically and comprehensively explains why women in particular needs to establish their self-identity and to emancipate themselves from the limits they have set for themselves.


Also, this inspirational book clearly shows us the family values we must learn to have, as the mother, the wife or the daughter of the family. It is our Divine purpose to enjoy living to the fullest as the women we are and that we want to become.

I have been so thankful that I am a woman and above all, that I am me since I have read this book. What a great feeling to have!"


~Maya Siegert, California

{**THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED**}

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

THE PRIZE: Empowering and Liberating Women e-book valued at $17.77.

HOW TO ENTER: *Follow this blog and leave a comment to let me know you did.

{ Be sure to provide a way to contact you via your blog or leave an e-mail address (this is so that I can contact the winner}.

For EXTRA entries, leave a separate comment for each of the following:

1. Blog about this Giveaway OR Create a link from your blog to this Post
2. Follow me on Twitter
3. Tweet About this Giveaway

GIVEAWAY CLOSES: Friday March.5th at Midnight EST
NUMBER OF WINNERS: Two
RULES: The winners will be selected using random.org and announced next weekend!
SHIPPING TO: Worldwide

A big thank you goes out to my Author-Hubby for offering copies of his book to two lucky winners! To see a listing of his many other published books or for purchase details, they are listed on Amazon HERE or you can visit his website at PaulFDavis.com.

This giveaway book is also available on Amazon.com should you want to purchase a hard copy of the book or an e-book version for a friend.

Have a wonderful weekend and Good Luck!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Favorite Organic Snacks For Under $4



The other night while I was grocery shopping at Target I was thinking about all of the new goodies I've been trying out recently and how affordable organic foods really can be.  Now, I'm not talking about  organic produce or beef from grass-fed cows (although let me assure you that they do taste much better, are far healthier and are must-haves in our home), I'm referring to the plethora of amazing snacks in the organic world.

These are my new favorite, organic go-to snacks that I have fallen in love with. The best part? They are all under $4. In many cases I can purchase these great snacks for less that the traditional chemical-laden food choices available and they taste better because they are real, whole foods. The prices listed below were the regular prices at my local Target store before I used any coupons.

My Favorite Organic Snacks



1. Archer Farms Organic Blue Corn Chips with Flax $2.69

Although there are few ingredients in each bag, they are packed with crunch and flavor! It's almost hard to believe that there is no added artificial flavors or saturated fats, they taste that good. I've tried their organic blue chips with and without flax and the ones with flax are far better, crunchier and have an overall better flavor. I haven't missed regular potato chips after eating these and I love they come in a ziploc resealable bag too. These are a staple on our grocery list now.




2. Archer Farms Organic Cilantro Thick and Chunky Salsa -$2.69 
                                               AND
    Archer Farms Organic Mango Peach Thick & Chunky Salsa

We love cilantro in our house so this was a natural choice. The Mango and peach salsa is great too if you like a little sweetness to switch it up. They are both chunky, thick salsas which I love, I'm not a fan of watery, runny salsas that lack flavor. These come packed with flavor but no chemicals, preservatives or excess sugar or salt. They are 100% delicious and I sometimes use some on top of chicken or fish for a garnish. As you can see from my photo, they've both been opened already. ;)



3. Green and Black's Organic Dark Chocolate and Cherry Chocolate Bar $2.99

This chocolate bar is actually kind of dangerous for me. I shared it with my hubby but I probably could have eaten the whole thing myself. It is made from 60% cocoa and is heavenly. This is a large, 100g and is divided into individual little squares for sharing. They have so many flavors but I happen to love dark chocolate (they also make milk chocolate) and it is filled with dried cherries which add so much flavor.



4. Cascadian Farms Chocolate Chip Granola Bars $2.59

I discovered these over a year ago and they are still my favorites. Sure there are other granola bars that taste like you're eating a chocolate bar, but they are filled with no-no ingredients that I don't want. These are chewy, yummy and they still have chocolate chips in them which I love. They offer other flavors too such as white chocolate chip.



5. StoneyField Farms French Vanilla Fat Free Organic Yogurt $2.89

I neglected this brand at first because it can be a bit pricey but it does not contain high fructose corn syrup and I know where the milk has come from, it's not treated and it's fat free to boot! It tastes really good and I love knowing that I'm not gobbling down loads of chemicals on a daily basis since yogurt is a staple in our house. They also have a plain greek style yogurt called Oikos which we love too since it's so thick and decadent.



6. Smucker's Organic Creamy Peanut Butter $3.29

First, I love that this product comes in glass, no BPA or Pthalates to worry about because it is not contained in plastic. Upon trying this after using all of the hydrogentated, chemical and preservative-filled peanut butter it will taste different. You have to mix it up with a spoon or butterknife as I do for a minute. Because it's natural, the oil settles to the top. Once it is stirred you'll see it tastes so pure and natural the way peanut butter was meant to taste not artificial and goopy. It contains peanuts and a very trivial amount of salt-that is it! No oils, no sugar, no preservatives! They also offer a non-organic Natural version at a cheaper pricepoint with the same ingredients minus organic peanuts, so that is a good place to start if  you're concerned about price. If you like a little sweetness they make an all-natural with honey which is very addictive. That is where we started but I want to avoid the excess sugar.



7. Cascadian Farms Oats and Honey Cereal-$2.59

Not only is this a great cereal with organic milk or organic soy or almond milk, but it's also a wonderful little snack as-is for kids and adults too. You can also add in nuts, raisins or cranberries and put some in little snack bags. They make other flavors of their granola cereal too. On a side note my favorite brand of organic milk is Organic Valley's Lactose-free milk in 1% or skim. I rarely drink milk but when I do, it's this. I love that I can buy it for such a steal when I combine my grocery stores' sale price with my coupons. Another brand to try is Horizon Organics, some offer additional DHA which is great for kids' growing brains.



8. Organic Wholly Guacamole- $3.04

I am in love with this guacamole. I like to make my own but this is far cheaper and easier and I'm guaranteed to have a great snack for guests without the mess. It has some pieces of avacado but is mainly pretty smooth, if you don't like lumpy, thick avacado, this one is for you! I love it both ways, however this makes for a nice spread too for sandwiches, etc. It has just the right amount of everything and I could literally eat it everyday .





One of the best healthy options I know of for take out also happens to be one of my favorites-Chipotle Mexican Grill. They are in multiple states now and use meats that are hormone and antibiotic-free and the feed fed to animals is pesticide free and they were recently featured on Oprah! They take a slower approach to fast food using locally grown produce and work with local farmers. They have some of the best guacamole I've tasted. Their burrito bowls are amazing and are what I order every time! You choose from shredded beef, shredded pork, chicken or steak topped with salsas, beans, rice, cheese, corn, lettuce, sauteed onions and peppers, and the list goes on. It is one of the healthier meals to grab on the go.  

They also sell Izze drinks by the bottle, the sparkling pink grapefruit is my favorite! These drinks are natural, made with fruit juice and beet juice for natural coloring, no additional sugar, no artificial sweeteners but enough fizz to be a great alternative to soda.

*Please note that I am in no way receiving compensation for my above mentioned recommendations on products or food chains. This is my personal experience and opinion.

These are a few of my favorite organic and natural treats! I love knowing that the selections I make are free of MSG, high sodium, saturated or trans fats, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, modified ingredients (anything with the word 'modified' on the ingredients label means it has been genetically modified from it's natural state), artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Equal and Nutrasweet which damage the liver and kidneys (and often cause seizures and even death, epecially in small children).

I hope you will try out some of the snacks I listed above, they are all full of flavor and nutrients which are great healthy choices for your family and they won't empty your wallet. Target frequently has these items on sale and many coupons can be found online or attached to the products themselves on on shelf hangers.

If you like trying out new products or like reading other blogger's 'Favorites Lists' like I do, you might enjoy a post I did a few months ago on my favorite things from Whole Foods. You can also visit THIS LINK to see some of my all-time favorite things which include shoes, decor and kitchen appliances!

What are YOUR favorite organic foods or treats? I'd love to read about what they are so I can try something new too.

Happy Snacking!

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's Not The Circumstances, It's You!



Do you feel frustrated by the state of the economy, your present weight, your job? Do you find yourself making excuses or blaming others for why you are in your present situation or circumstances? We've all been there and sometimes we recognize our actions more than other times. The great news is we are all capable of more and changing so we can take control of and better our lives.

Imagine what your life could be like if you stopped blaming your circumstances on other people and things and took responsibility of your own life. In Oprah's most recent e-newsletter, Mike Robbins gives you the tools you need to take control of your life and become more aware of your experiences.

Last year I subscribed to Oprah's Spirit Newsletter, while I don't read every single one, often I find some great little gems. Today, I wanted to share this topic with you because it affects ALL of us and determines how we live our life, experience our days and interact with those that we love.

This is a piece worth reading and reflecting upon inwardly. Since they are the words of Oprah's people and not me, I thought I'd create a link, you can read the full article HERE.

I also love this quote (which is also in the article) by Ben Franklin:

"Joy doesn't exist in the world, it exists in us." 

That is so empowering! How many times do we think about what we want, and sometimes feel sad when we cannot have it? That quote is proof that no matter what your circumstances, financial situation or present age, we are all capable of being completely happy and filled with joy, but it is our choice to bring that feeling and experience forth!

In a similar vein, I love this quote by spiritual teacher Byron Katie:

"The definition of insanity is thinking that you need something you don't have. The mere fact that you exist right now without that which you think you need is proof that you don't need it."


Before blackberries, iPhones, microwaves, laptops and big shiny SUV's came into our lives we got along just fine. We are always capable of living on less than we think or living without things we believe we need, it's just a matter of our comfort level and decision to do so.

Oprah's article really resonated with me as I can see some of these little things in my own life and the lives of my close family. I also realized that growing up, some of their thoughts and beliefs about circumstances shaped my life at an early age. Some great, some not so great.

I've definitely been guilty of that, in my own mind I had built up reasons why I haven't completed certain projects in our home or haven't spent more time at the gym. The truth is that I just didn't make time for it in the past. Nobody and nothing else helped me make those choices. I chose to do other things instead, it's my own fault and only I can make the changes I want to see happen. You might remember, I had a little wake up call a few weeks ago and realized that facebook was a contributor to some of these areas, as it can be a huge time sink. However, it is my discipline in using such social media tools and not the tools themselves that were the problem. Taking some time away however by de-activating my account for now, was just the discipline I needed in order to refocus and make my priorities exactly that.

Is there anything in your life you've felt as though you need (and can't presently have) that you truly know you can live without? Have you felt as though you've been blaming your circumstances, lack of motivation or results on someone or something?  Feel free to share anonymously if you like.

Have an awesome week!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How Was YOUR Weekend?



Hi Ladies! Sorry for the lack of posts, I've been MIA for the past few days. I'd love to say it was because I was super busy or because I went away for the weekend but neither are true. I just haven't felt like writing the past few days. It's funny, I get flurries of time where I jot down tons of ideas and can't stop writing and searching for fun photos online and times where I sit down with the best intentions but can't seem to type more than a couple sentences that seem to lead nowhere. It also happened to be a really nice weekend and I was thrilled for the warmer weather and spending more time outdoors.

Did you have a nice weekend? What did you all do? Mine was relaxing, I worked a little and played a little. I got to watch a fun movie called 'My Life in Ruins' which had Athens as its gorgeous backdrop which reminded me of our Europe trip last summer and I also caught a bit of the Olympics. I got to catch up with a girlfriend whom I haven't seen since her baby shower 8 months ago (her baby was a preemie and she spent a lot of time in the hospital), and finally got to meet her precious little girl. I love days like that. I got to cuddle little Ava and watch her play and smile, hubby took a few pictures too, here is one of us below:



I also enjoyed a weekend of no cooking-woohoo! I'm not sure how I pulled that one off, it just sort of fell into place. It was great while it lasted buy now I'm getting ready to make another home cooked meal tomorrow. I love Thai food and I think I may have to try out this recipe. It is so colorful and I love sweet Penang curry! Here is a photo. YUMMMMM!

PENANG CURRIED PUMPKIN AND PRAWN SOUP


I'd love to hear what you did this weekend. Did anything outrageous or funny happen? Did you try an interesting recipe or write a great blog post? Share it with us! :)

I promise there will be more posts this week and we'll also have a giveaway too, so check back for your chance to enter and win!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How I Saved $150 Today



I have a question to ask you all. How many of you set your bills to auto-pay and simply file the statements when the arrive? Do you review your grocery, restaurant or shopping receipts? If the answer is NO, you could be throwing hundreds of dollars down the drain every year without even realizing it!

This morning I received my monthly statement for my new AT&T internet service. I switched from wireless to a regular hardwired DSL service and saved quite a bit in the process and was thrilled to get a promotional credit for changing providers too. What I didn't know was that what seemed like a simple switch would involve some ridiculous billing rates. Upon receiving my bill, I reviewed it thoroughly and called the company. My service was supposed to be $24.99/month and my bill was for $168.03 so you can imagine my surprise when I opened it.

 When I had received my special rate I had documented whom I spoke with and their Rep ID number (as I always do) to keep for future reference for times like this.I also did the same when I had their tech support team come out and install a new jack, something that the company had to cover because there was a discrepancy between what I was promised with my service and what I had recieved. They also corrected my monthly billing rate which was more than double what was promised. Thankfully my call only took up 10 minutes of my time.  Sadly, some people set all of their bills to autopay, the money comes out and then months later (if they even realize it then) they're left with a much more difficult battle to get their money back. I was thrilled to have all fees except for my monthly rate removed.

Adventure #2 came when I visited my local grocery store. I had loaded up everything we needed, coupons in hand and watched most of the prices ring up as I unloaded my cart. Afterwards, I reviewed my bill and realized that one item was rung up twice in error. Hmm, I wonder how many times that happens per day? I also had a sale item ring up as full price. Between the two items, I was able to get back just over $7 after showing my receipt to the customer service desk.

With both the grocery error cash back and my internet billing error adjusted, I saved myself over $150 in one day by doing one simple thing-verifying that the prices were accurate. I highly encourage you all to take even just 2 minutes of your time to scan through every incoming statement on a daily basis and tackle these situations as they come up. You'll save yourself a lot of money and a huge headache in the end. I can't tell you how many hundreds of dollars I've saved over the  years with this easy tip!

Here are some other money saving tips to help you make the most of what you have:

1. How to Save More Money this Year
2. Fabulous Free Finds
3. Budget Decor Inspiration
4. Fabulous Decor Finds for Under $5
5. Dine and Save with Restaurant.com
6. Celebrate & Save
7. How to Save Money While Dining Out

What is the largest amount of money you were able to save yourself or 'catch' while reviewing your bills?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reader Request: Stationery Savvy

Image Sources: Betsy White; J Press Design OblationBetsy White (clockwise)



Today’s request comes from a reader that would like to remain somewhat anonymous, given the uniqueness of her name. She has a couple of tricky dilemmas to tackle when it comes to stationery, monograms and which names to use as she has kept her maiden name and her husband is often referred to by his nickname versus his given name.

Here is what she e-mailed me:

I have a question about Stationary. I want to order some custom stationary, but am not sure what to put on it. If I order note cards, do I put my name on the front, or my monogram? If it has my name on it, can I use them for Thank You cards for things for myself AND my husband, or only myself?


Also, my husband and I have different last names so how do I create a monogram to use on things? This has bugged me since our wedding as I have always wanted personalized stationary, but none of the stationary companies I have contacted seems to have an answer.


My initials are MMB and my Husbands are DEC. To make it more complicated, my husband is known to almost everyone as a Nickname as he and his father share the same name. This nickname (Woody) does not share any of his official initials. We even had to put the nickname on our wedding invitations so people would know that I was marrying the SON not the Father.


HELP!!!  If you have ANY idea where I can find info on this, it would be great.


Thanks so much!!


M. Bourne


First of all, thank you for your question Ms. Bourne. I love custom stationery and it’s a fun way to send out correspondence, thank you cards and to keep in touch with friends while adding your own unique and personal touch.


To answer your first question about note cards, you can really use whatever you would like on the cards, but bear in mind that it will ultimately depend on who will be using these cards. If they'll be used exclusively by you, then you can use your first name only, your first and last (maiden) name or a monogram which is unique to your three initials which would include your maiden name. Tradition dictates that it is always appropriate for a woman to use or incorporate her maiden name, even after becoming married. So, one alternative that many women choose (as do those without a middle name) is to use their maiden name as their middle name. HERE is a whole site page dedicated to the very topic of using names within a monogram.


If you intend to share the note cards with your husband, you should probably use the initial of your married surname. For a joint monogram which would include both of your names, list your first initial, your married last name initial in the middle (which is larger than the other letters on either side) followed by his first (most commonly used) initial. This is very common now and many family and friends of a newly married couple often purchase stationery or other custom items like bed sheets with the couple’s combined names for a truly united monogram.


Any of these selections would allow you to use your note cards as thank you cards for a wedding, baby shower or for an occasion such as a housewarming party.


In terms of the monogram that you’d like to create for other uses, tradition calls for the use of a given name vs. a nickname. However, in these modern times, you could use his nickname since that is the name that he is really most known by. It’s really a matter of personal preference. For formal invitations or events, I would encourage him to be listed with "Jr." behind his first name or use the roman numerals “II”, so that he can be differentiated from his father. My husband has a similar situation as he shares his father’s name also. As such, he often uses the above additions to his name and frequently uses his middle initial as part of his name professionally, since Paul Davis II would just come across a bit 18th century.


Since you have already made the decision to keep your maiden name, you can continue to create personal cards or monogrammed items for yourself that involve all 3 of your original initials. For anything that you purchase together such as something monogrammed for your home, because you are now married and share the home it would be most appropriate to use his surname initial “C”.

I hope I was able to answer all of your questions and that you feel a bit more confident about proceeding with the purchase of your new custom stationery. Be sure to visit Pear Tree Greetings' website via my sidebar button, under 'sponsors' as they offer some gorgeous designs! Custom return address labels will really complete the overall polished look.


Your e-mail is also very timely because there will be a fun giveaway involving stationery in the coming weeks. Check back for your chance to win some gorgeous goodies!


Warmly,

Monday, February 15, 2010

Manners and Etiquette for Driving



These days it would appear as though many have left their driving etiquette at the door of their local DMV upon getting their license. I felt it was time to revist a topic that each one of us are faced with everyday-driving- and how to be more considerate and safe while doing so.

Just last week I was driving to the bank and I watched a woman beside me moving in and out of her lane. I assumed she was probably on her cell phone, however I was wrong. She was actually scratching a lotto ticket on her steering column while driving and smoking a cigarette! It's very clear that a lot of people these days are trying to use up time in their car by completing other tasks such as reading, texting and the list goes on, which brings me to the first tip. Below are 11 important tips to remember to become a better and more respectful driver.

Driving Etiquette Tips

1. Distracted Driving- Cell phones, books, cameras, the list is long when it comes to what people are doing while driving. Driving commands our FULL attention and we can't do it effectively when we're distracted. Make it a point to focus on one task at a time. I bought my husband a GPS a couple of years ago for his birthday and it is so much easier to follow than printing mapquest pages and trying to read them while driving. Vow not to use your cell phone while driving, and it's especially important to avoid texting.

2. Light the Way- Unfortunately, I live in a city filled with people that choose not to use an indicator light. It's very frustrating and was one of the first things I noticed when moving here. It's the only way to let someone know that you are turning or merging and that they should slow down. Driving 60 miles per hour then slamming on your brakes when your turn approaches (causing the person behind you to do the same) is an accident waiting to happen. Indicator lights are there for a reason and are one of the best tools for safe driving. When you use your indicators lights be sure to turn them on several seconds before a lane change or turning onto a steet or corner so that driver's beside and behind you can respond accordingly.

3. Mind your Highbeams- Highbeams are great for night driving or when you're driving down a dark, winding road. They become blinding to others however when oncoming traffic is approaching. The proper thing to do is turn them off temporarily until the oncoming car passes you and then you're free to resume using them again. They're also a great tool to get someone's attention without honking if someone's lights are not on at night, etc. No matter how frustrating a driver in front of you is, it's never okay to leave your highbeams on or flash them on and off to irritate them, that is just immature.

4. You're Cut Off-This is probably one of the most common annoyances and complaints from drivers and it is the most rude too. Again, if rule #1 is implemented, then this is less likely to happen. Give someone adequate time to see that you are moving into their lane or across lanes. Most drivers look in front of them, their side and rearview mirrors but also check on the baby in the backseat, look for their ringing cell phone, etc. It would be easy for someone to crash right into you or cause an accident amongst other drivers because of such behavior. Do unto others what you would want them to do to you.


5. Say Thank You-I grew up in a family of respectful drivers. My parents always thanked others for letting them in. Remember, while it would be rude for someone not to, they don't HAVE to let you in. A quick raise of the hand or even an arm raised out your window will let the other driver know you appreciate their gesture. It just creates a more postive driving experience for everyone all around.

6. Speeding and Dangerous Driving- Coasting through a red light, not properly stopping at a stop sign and weaving through lanes is a sure fire way to harm either yourself or others on the road, yet many do it everyday without a care in the world. Speed limits are set for a reason. It only takes looking away for a split second and next thing you know you've struck a child. It's not worth it. The truth is (I actually shake my head at these people) these type of drivers never really get to their destination any faster. These are the same people you usually wind up catching up with at the next traffic light. Besides, speeding and accelerating quickly actually use up more gas which takes more money from your wallet too!

7. Stealing is Stealing- Whether you are in a hurry, shopping for that perfect last-minute gift or are late for an appointment, it's never okay to steal someone's parking spot. You all know what I'm talking about, because it happens all the time during the Christmas season. I am amazed at what people will do to score a spot at the mall. If the other person was angry enough after you've parked and run into the building, they might even key your car. Be patient and wait just like everyone else. Likewise, handcap spots and expectant mother parking areas are designated as such for a reason. Unless you have a clear pass to use them, steer clear! If you were 8.5 months pregnant or using a walker, you probably woudn't appreciate it. Not having a permit sets you up for a hefty fine too!


8. Don't Be Trashy- Throwing garbage out of your window is not only completely unclassy, and contributes to our growing trash problem, but it's also dangerous! Depending on what is thrown out, a carton of milk could hit the windshield of a car behind you and completely obscure their view causing an accident. Last year my husband was behind a large van, the driver threw a chocolate pudding cup out of his window and it covered his car in sticky, gooey pudding. This happened to him on the way to work and he wasn't able to clean it until after hours. By that time the Florida sun had baked it to the paint and it was nearly impossible to get off. It was just plain rude and completely unnecessary. On that note, HERE are some helpful tips on how to keep a clean car and how to handle the trash inside your car from taking over.

9. Drugged Up and Driving-Using prescription medication is equally as dangerous as taking other forms of recreatoinal drugs and drinking before getting behind the wheel. Combining these two can be lethal! I know of one woman who hit a streetlight in her son's elementary school parking lot! Needless to say, the police were called and it wasn't a pleasant ending for her. Some people even fall asleep behind the wheel which is incredibly dangerous too, it's becoming more common as people try to accomplish more and run on less and less sleep each day.

10. Pollution of All Kinds-Don't you just love pulling up behind someone with their stereo cranked? The bass is thumping in the trunk and the tunes are probably not at all what you'd care to listen to. Noise pollution is just as annoying as those that don't properly care for their cars that emit loads of toxic emmissions in the form of air pollution. Even worse are other drivers who subject you to second hand smoke as you try to enjoy a beautiful day with the windows rolled down and they are too, just with a lit cigarette in hand. I actually encountered ALL three of these things today. I had to laugh knowing this was today's post. The noise pollution however, came from my neighbor across the street who seems to believe that blaring her SUV's radio at the maximum volume is a pre-requisiste for washing her car. Since my hubby and I are both work from home and are writer's, concentration is one of the most important things for us. After about 30 minutes he finally went over and asked if she could turn it out. After all it was 2:30 in the afternoon on a Monday and she was completely oblivious. Parked, or moving, it's best to keep pollution to a minimum if you want to avoid offending anyone.

11. Honk or Knock?- I was going to leave the tips at ten, however this one is so incredibly annoying and common that I had to add it to the list. When you are carpooling or pick up a friend, family member or colleague at their home it is always appropriate to get out of your car and ring their doorbell or knock. Sitting in your car and honking is very rude and I'm amazed at the amount of people that do it. If you carpool with someone everyday and they come to expect you at 7:30am like clockwork, you can just wait in your car for them. If you arrive at a condo or apartment complex, the person you are picking up may not see you and it doesn't make a lot of sense to spend an extra 5 minutes going to their front door (unless you are on a date) so you could simply call them once you are parked and waiting for them.

A couple years ago I sold something on craigslist and the lady purchasing it called me and we discussed a time for pickup. She pulled all the way up my driveway and didn't even have the decency to come and knock on the door. She sat in the driveway and honked loudly three times to let me know she was there. Needless to say, it sparked a whole article on Craigslist etiquette!



Oprah recently dedicated a whole hour to the topic of cell phone use while driving which includes texting. The familes who lost love ones and the footage aired was both sad and frightening. I can't image anyone wanting to talk on their cell phone or text while driving after watching that show. She has started what is known as the  'NO Phone Zone'.

I used to talk on the phone while driving, mainly while sitting in traffic to pass the time. I'll be honest, I did text a few times from a stoplight also. Although the car wasn't moving, it still wasn't allowing me to pay full attention to the cars around me. Now, I never have it on while I'm driving in the car. I always carry it but turn it off and it is in my purse for emergencies only. I had started doing that before adopting my new pay-as-you-go plan but it certainly makes it even easier knowing that I need to use each minute productively. I made the decision because I don't believe that anyone can multi-task, it's wishful thinking, not reality. We can never give our full attention to more than one task, it's half-hearted at best and all we are doing is constantly switching gears (pun intended) which is actually less effective. I would dare to say that about 80% of the phone calls made are mindless chitter chatter and not important or emergencies, just a way to pass the time while shopping in a store, waiting in a line or sitting in traffic.

If you haven't seen that above mentioned Oprah episode, HERE is the link to the video titled: America's Deadly Obession. CLICK to learn about and sign her no phone zone pledge. Almost 125,000 people have already signed the pledge to avoid using their cell phones and texting while driving. I'm so happy she's created this inititative! I just signed her pledge today.

What poor manners and etiquette have you encountered while driving? Have you made your car a no-phone zone?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sharing a Little Blogger Love




Happy Valentine's Day Ladies! I hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend with your sweet, precious spouses, families, kids, friends and/or loves!

Yesterday, I was thinking back to a special moment many years ago. My dad (whom I'm very close with) did such a sweet thing for me one Valentine's Day. I was single, had broken up with a long term boyfriend and most certainly wasn't expecting anything, especially not flowers from anyone. My dad knew it would be a rather uneventful day for me and surprised me by popping over to the house with some pink sweetheart roses for me. It was a reminder that sometimes the best thing you can do on Valentine's day is brighten the day for someone who may not experience all of the giddy love and celebration that others are enjoying.

I wanted to share a little love with you all today, blogger style. I thought I'd share with you my top 5 Favorite go-to blogs. These are the five blogs that I read and visit nearly every single day. I hope you will check them out and may enjoy them as much as I have.

My Favorite Blogs:

1. Young House Love- I heart this blog! Why? Because,Sherry and John are a young couple who purchased a charming, older home in Virginia and blog every single day (sometimes multiple times per day) on the ins and outs of decor, their home renovation projects, their new baby nursery for their little 'beanette' on the way and their cute little pup named 'burger'. Oh, and they have some pretty sweet giveaways too. If you love do-it-youself decor projects and witty humor you'll love Young House Love!

2. Fashion Under $100- May of you have been asking for more fashion posts via the blog poll in my sidebar. One site I'm loving right now for great outfits under $100, celebrity wardrobe requests on a dime and fab finds under fifty dollars is this one. You might remember how I dedicated a whole fall fashion post to it HERE. You can even write in with your requests for reunion attire, what to wear on your next hot date, etc.

3. Rare & Beautiful Treasures-Erin is a sweet gal who like the Young House Love couple, is also pregnant, blogging about baby treasures, the wondeful celebrations and details in everyday life as well as some stunning inspirational decor images too! Erin writes beautiful and inspirational posts that always pull on my heart and make me reflect.

4. Copy Cat Chic- If you love great home design but can't afford the designer price tags, then this blog is for you! Reichel takes finds from Potterybarn, Restoration Hardware, Horchow and the like and shows you (in most cases) a great knock off for a fraction of the price! She too will take on reader requests so send her some furniture or accessories you love (but can't afford) and she'll do the rest!

5. Closet Cooking- You may remember me featuring Kevin's blog on my Fabulous Fare post. I stumbled across this blog completely by accident many months ago and was delighted to find so many creative and delicious-looking recipes. I also thought it was neat that he's a blogger from my hometown. :) You will have a blast whipping up some fun, new recipes after visiting this blog. Over 2300 followers can't be wrong!

How about you? Do you have a favorite blog that you'd like to share with us? Let's continue to share the love. Have a wonderful long weekend!


Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day Treat Inspiration {in pictures}



With Valentine's Day just two days away I thought it was about high time that I put together a fun post to celebrate the day of  love and provide some inspiration should you want to tackle making your own treats this year.

If you haven't seen last year's V-day post, included is a recipe for Chocolate-Coconut Bars and a photo in all their yummy glory!

These Meringue message cones are super cute and so unique!


What would valentine's day be without a cupcake?  I love how all 9 of these are so pretty and individual.


What about these? I love how they are displayed lengthwise and topped with hearts.





A few months ago my girlfriend introduced me to little pieces of heaven on a stick, they were called cake pops, or they can be made into cake balls minus the stick. They look like truffles and they are 100% yummy!





Who doesn't love a good cookie? Especially the jam-filled, heart-shaped cut out kind?




You could always whip up your own chocolate-covered strawberries. Below are photos of the chocolate/chocolate-almond covered strawberries as well as the chocolate-coconut bars that I made for my hubby last year. 


  



Overall, my hubby and I don't take the day too seriously, we both prefer to give each other little surprise gifts and cards throughout the year instead but we do like to enjoy some sweet treats and a dinner or lunch out together so that I don't have to cook. I always insist that he not buy me red long-stemmed roses, since they're usually double the price and I'd much rather have an elegant and long-lasting white potted orchid instead. There is a local shop here in Orlando that sells them for a steal!

As much of a sweet tooth as I have, I like to stock up on my candy stash when it is marked down to 75% off. Yes, I'm a frugal gal and nothing makes me happier than scoring an awesome deal. Anyone else with me on that one? Just a head's up all you Target shoppers- they usually post 75% off on the Wednesday after Valentine's day. They typically do 30, 50 then 75% each day (provided that there is actually any inventory left). It's a great way to stock up on kids' classroom valentine cards for next year too!

How about you? What do you and your hubby or your kiddos do to celebrate Valentine's day? Do you make homemade desserts and go all out or keep it simple?

I hope you are having a LOVE-ly day!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reader Request: From Farm Girl to Classy Lady



Today's reader request comes from Lindsey who grew up on a farm in Florida, is currently attending College and desires to become more lady-like and an overall classy woman. Thank you to Lindsey for her honest e-mail. Here is what she wrote:

Hi Karla,


Lately I have been trying to become a more classy lady. I'm a freshman in college, so I am at the point in my life where I need to decide what I want in life. I came across your blog and I love it. I find myself reading old posts during classes trying to soak up as much knowledge I can. Do you have any tips on how I can begin this journey of becoming a classy, sophisticated, and elegant young lady?


I have my career path lined out so I have that moving on a path. When it comes to being a lady I'm just very lost. I live on a farm in North Florida, and have always been the farm girl. I'm at the point in my life where it just doesn't really cut it anymore. I want to be the girl a guy can take home to meet mom. I also want to be the girl who is known for her manners and class. A modern-day Jackie or Audrey. Is this a complete crazy dream or could I make it happen?


Within the next three to four years I'm leaving my tiny home town and moving out on my own, degree in hand. I love my country life style. It has taught me some of my great life values of hard work and team work. I just feel it needs to be put on the side. I feel like I'm going to need classy girl skills over my ‘how to plow a field’. Please give any advice you can!


Thank you for your time,


Lindsey Lewis, FL

Here are my suggestions for you Lindsey:

Being a freshman, you are at a time in your life where a lot of change is taking place and becoming more of who you really want to be is a big part of that process. There are definitely many ways that you can move in the direction of being more classy, elegant and sophisticated so that you can become the classy and well-mannered lady you desire to be.

You don't have to completely abandon the farm/country girl values or lifestyle that has made you who you are. You can blend who you are with the new woman you want to become. Of course if you wanted to completely move into a new direction and leave that lifestyle behind, that is always possible too so it's not a crazy dream. It's very attainable! :)

There are three main areas that you will want to focus on while beginning your journey to becoming a more classy lady. These three areas will be broken down into more specific detail below.

1. Attitude/Behavior
2. Manners and Etiquette
3. Appearance

Many people, when they think of a classy woman, think about only one or two of these aspects such as how one dresses, and the truth is there are many elements that make up a classy lady. I'm really glad you are enjoying the information on this blog, two posts in particular that will be beneficial to you are:

1. How to Be Classy and Elegant with or without Money
2. How to Dress Classy on a Budget

These will help you in the area of wardrobe and graceful, lady-like behavior.

To elaborate on the three imporant areas above, I've included a breakdown on each:

1. Attitude/Behavior-Your attitude really determines who you will be as a person. You could come from the most desperate situation but by having a positive and winning attitude, you'll be sure to be unstoppable! It's not our circumstances that determine who we will become. We must take action and be determined to have a positive, upbeat attitude, even when it feels as though things may not be going our way. Remain non-judgemental as it pertains to certain situations or upon meeting new people. Above all, be a gracious and kind woman who other people will naturally be drawn too. People are attracted to other warm, inviting people who smile a lot, see the glass as 'half full' and enjoy the opportunities that each new day brings. These women not only make the best friends, but best employees, colleagues, mothers and wives also. Be a person that other people want to spend more time around.

When it comes to behavior, remember to act like a lady, but be yourself. Don't  try too hard to act like or be someone that you are not. Behave in a respectful way no matter what you are doing and be consistent. A classy woman isn't one who acts a certain way around her friends and family but the total opposite at work or on a date. You need to uphold what is important to you, your values and morals need to be as in line and true in one venue as they are in another.

Overall, being polite and respectful is key. Speak with a moderate tone, don't yell, raise your voice or curse. Always say 'please' and 'thank you' and remember that your body language can often speak for you. Crossed arms say a lot about how someone is feeling. Be conscious of your body language and how it lines up with your attitude and overall presence.

2. Manners and Etiquette- As mentioned above, basic manners are a must-holding a door for someone, saying please and thank you as well as helping others that are obviously in need of your help. Etiquette is something that if one hasn't learned in their home as they've grown up, might take a bit more time to learn and develop. Since we've never met and I'm not sure exactly where you are at, I would recommend reading some specific books on Etiquette such as those by the ever-popular Emily Post. Etiquette books are typically very in depth and will reveal a lot of information for you about all types of events, occasions as well as day-to-day etiquette such as how to turn down a date. You will also find more upcoming 'Manners and Etiquette' posts right here too!

3. Appearance-Unfortunately, we are all evaluated and often judged by our appearance. Sometimes, whether it be an interview or 'meeting his parents' you'll only get one impression that will be a lasting one with the other person in question. You always want to make an effort and put your best foot forward for such scenarios but also on a daily basis too. Even if you are running to the grocery store, you want to arrive in a presentable manner. This isn't just for everyone else, it makes you feel good about yourself too. Wherever you are remember to walk with your head held high, stand up straight and pull your shoulders back as to lenghthen your body and be more confident and alert vs. showing up slouched over without any visible confidence or attention paid to your appearance.

In terms of clothing, you'll want to be yourself. Dressing in a classy manner doesn't mean you need to wear little shift dresses 24/7 or that you always look perfect. Some keys to dressing classy are in the overall details. Make sure that hem lines are appropriate, it's never classy to 'let it all hang out' by way of a short skirt or a low cut top. Make sure makeup is natural and pretty, not overdone. Wear great accessories but use them sparingly, overaccessorizing can ruin an otherwise great outfit.

If you are not comfortable in such items as high heels or skirts, practice wearing these in your home so you can master the art of walking in pumps or crossing your legs in a lady-like fashion before going out into the real world. It's important to be comfortable, confident and not fidget. Classy women don't constantly fidget with their outfits, always adjusting a belt, or taking off a pair of heels because they are too tight. You want to make sure that whatever you wear is comfortable regardless of current fashion trends. On that note, it isn't important to embrace all of the latest trends. Being a classy woman involves coming into your own, developing your own style and owning it.

When I was fresh out of college and started working as an Account Manger with a Telecommunications company, I was still developing my style and perfecting it. Sometimes that may mean that you and your close friends will have very different styles. I was always the 'preppy one' of my group of friends. My outfits were usually more 'prefessional and polished' back then vs. hip and trendy. Many of my friends were working in casual setting so that worked for them. With a small clothing budget, I really tried to make blazers work with jeans on a weeknight and the like to stretch my work and casual wardrobes. These are things that you will also want to think about. Be sure to buy clothing that looks good on you. Make sure a particular style suits your body type and highlights your best features and minimizes your least favorite.

My rule is always quality over quantity. Buying several pairs of discounted shoes that are not as well constructed will never beat out one really great pair of quality, leather shoes that can be worn for many years to come, as the chosen style is one that would stay consistent. Think about clothing pieces as investments, for fun, trendy pieces you can afford to spend a lot less as they won't be worn for years to come. Some investment pieces are a few great pairs of jeans that flatter, a great pair of black pumps, a well-fitting coat, quality v-neck and crew neck t-shirts, button down dress shirts, especially a couple in white as well as a great fitting pair of black dress pants and own at least one great suit for interviews and important events if that is not your required day-to-day attire.

Be sure to get a great haircut that suits your face shape and is easy to manage. Coloring or highlighting is up to you, just make sure it looks really natural. Wearing makeup that won't break the bank is always a good idea and make sure the colors suit your skin tone also. Maintain your nails and overall appearance in a way that says, 'neat, clean, and well put together'. You never want to look frumpy or unkempt. Classy women make the effort, they care about themselves and their health too. A classy woman eats well, gets enough sleep and exercises to keep her energy levels up and maintain a healthy physique too.

Lindsey, you may want to start first with mastering manners and etiquette and incorporating new items into your wardrobe if necessary. It may mean thinking about the way you approach your day, what your attitude is like, or perhaps thinking back to previous events or social engagement and what you may like to improve upon. You don't want to beat yourself up, but just really think about some of these things and determine what you were happy with and where you wish to improve.

On your journey to becoming a more classy lady you will learn that it takes time, patience, effort, grace, and consistency. Nobody will do everything perfectly, so just do your best and know that each new day you are moving forward into the woman that you really want to be.

I hope this answers some of your questions, being a more classy woman is a big topic to cover, which is I wrote a book about it and why I dedicated a whole blog to it! It is my hope that your questions will help other women who have been raised in a similar environment that may want to break forth and transform themselves too.

Have a great week!

As always, if anyone has a reader request for me to answer, please e-mail me. You can find a little envelope in my side bar that you can click to send a message and I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Facebook Sabbatical



It's been a long time coming but I've finally decided to take a facebook sabbatical. While I haven't entirely decided to remove my personal profile and de-activate my account, I will not be visiting my page or any one else's for a good long while.

Facebook is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends, especially those that are long-distance. My friends kept asking me to join and that is ultimately why I joined, so I could catch up with my hometown friends from Canada. I really enjoyed seeing new photos of their babies, their wedding photos after the big day in which I had celebrated with them as well as new home purchases, updates about their day and a quick way to send and receive emails.

So, you might be wondering with all of these positives- Why am I taking a long break from this ever-popular social networking site? The answer is four-fold. Here are the reasons for my decision.

Firstly, although it's a great tool, facebook is also a huge time sink. I've said that so many times before but haven't taken any action with the exception of a one-week voluntary vacation from it a few months ago. When I have extra time, what begins as a 5 minute login to respond to a message in my inbox turns into an hour of reading wall posts or the news feed to catch up on daily happenings and browsing through photos online. That is a whole hour I could be spending on other important things that help me make the most of my day.

My second reason is because I don't feel that facebook truly lets me get to know my friends in a deeper way. It's so easy to post a quick wall comment here or post an album of photos there. However, it takes more time, energy, patience and love to meet people face-to-face, and really spend time with them, really hear what is on their heart, get to know them and be present. Facebook is just another tool in our fast-paced world that lets us think we are accomplishing more or staying in  better touch, when in actuality it has provided the exact opposite (for me).

Thirdly, because of the nature of facebook and its features, anyone can read anything that you've typed on someone's wall, comments you've left about a photo and complete strangers can get access to photos of you through another friends album in which you've been tagged  (if they haven't properly set up their privacy settings). I know this because I've had access to other people's photos in this manner, which immediately raised red flags. I am not a fan of the lack of privacy which is out of my control.

Lastly, I don't think that facebook helps me contribute to becoming a better person or friend. We've all heard that the written word can easily become misconstrued or received incorrectly and I believe that it's true.  I find that it would be easy for a friend or friends of friends or even complete strangers to judge you and sum up your life and who you are based on your wall, your friends' comments and most of all, your photos. This has never happened to me (that I'm aware of) but I want to be mindful of it. In some ways facebook lets you be a voyeur into other people's lives, focusing too much on what they are doing instead of focusing on yourself. I've also come across many posts and walls filled with boasting, complaining and also harsh words about others (celebrities, family or friends) too. Once information is out in cyberspace, it cannot be reclaimed..

Often times, such posts or distateful photos have changed my view or level of respect for someone, however it is important to remember that facebook isn't the be all, end all. I owe it to myself and my freinds to spend more 'real' time with them and less time learning about them via the web. Of course I visit with many regularly and phone calls are a good substitute for my non-local friends but I believe this will allow me to listen more intently too, because their stories won't be second hand news that I already read about in last week's wall post.

Please know that I don't judge anyone for using Facebook, this is just my personal decision. I have defined my priorities and this is something I need to do to re-balance and get more out of my life so that I can be the person I want to be and reach all of my 2010 goals too. I will keep you posted on my journey and let you know what I was able to accomplish with my 'extra' time and if/how it has improved my life in any way. I believe that one full month away (to start) will be a huge eye-opener into how much time I was actually wasting, similar to the way that creating a budget and reviewing past expenses does for the finances.

Have any of you moved away from facebook or social networking sites? What was your motivation? How did it help or change your life? I'd love to hear your stories.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Home Life in Orlando: Eye Candy


Don't you just love it when you find a great blog that leads to another and another and then next thing you know you've been blog hopping for an hour and have no idea how you got to the one you're visiting? Well, this morning I visited one of my favorite blogs which led me to another blog that I already follow named, 'The Inspired Room' with a post on home drive by's. The home at the top of the post looked so familiar and I wondered if it was from my nearby neighborhood. It turns out it is!

The post I came across took me straight to a blogger by the name of Tara. You see, she has just begun blogging a few days ago and it turns out she lives in Orlando too! I love meeting neighbors in the blogosphere that I otherwise may never have met face-to-face.

Without further ado,here is her post and it is filled with more awesome eye candy from the city of Winter Park, Florida. I've driven down the cobblestone roads there so many times and wished I had had my camera on hand to snap some pics. Tara has done that for me and I wanted to share a little piece of the Orlando area with you all. If you don't know the area, have never visited here and think that Orlando is all about Mickey Mouse, here is another side, a charming and elegant side to Orlando that is tucked away into a beautiful area just ten minutes from my home.

I hope you'll join me too in welcoming Tara to the blog world!

Do you have any drive-by photos of your home town or an area that you've visited and fallen in love with? Please feel free to leave a comment with the link to your photos/blog so we can all check them out! :)

XO

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