A Little Holiday Retrospective

January 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Family, Modern

By: Jenna Smith

So you’ve packed up the menorah, or taken down the tree, bubble-wrapped the ornaments….and now you’re buckling down on that resolution list. If you’re like me, the “new you” list includes simplify life, stay on top of things,  organize better, and be more sociable.
So, while packing up those holiday dishes, think about what went right and what went not-so-right this holiday season. Did that dessert turn out the way Mom promised it would? Did people at the office love the homemade treats you gave? Were you rested or exhausted? Stressed out or enjoying the good cheer?  Make a list of the good, the bad, and the never again so that yes, starting now, you’ll have a plan for the next holiday season before it (and the family) arrives.
(After all, “Plan ahead” is on your resolutions list, right?)

Obviously food plays a major role during the holidays. And no matter how much you may try to make it perfect, problems are bound to occur. Especially when you’re trying to stagger a variety of dishes and have them all come out of the oven at the same time- a difficult feat for even the best of home cooks. Take inventory of what worked and what didn’t, what can be fixed and what should be scrapped.

Cooking is a big part of entertaining, but there are plenty of other aspects that need consideration when trying to enjoy the holidays. Did you have enough space for everyone you invited? (Does anyone? EVER?) Was the table large enough to accommodate your guests? Questions such as these can help you ensure that your next holiday goes exceptionally well, or at least that Auntie’s new boyfriend doesn’t have to sit on a bean bag chair during dinner.


As you pack up the mercury glass and snow globes, think about how you felt about your Christmas decor this year. Holiday decor sets the tone for your celebrations and dramatically impacts the moods of you and your guests. Display the nostalgic and timeless pieces (sentimental is always good during the holidays) but, allow yourself to switch things up, too. A couple new, glammy, glittery pieces can look quite charming next to your somewhat ratty yet beloved childhood stocking.
Try to remember that the holidays are chaotic and crazy (and that’s part of the fun), but there’s nothing wrong with tucking a few ideas and plans away now (yes, NOW) to ensure a smoother time next year…besides, it will be Christmas again before you know it.

Music to Bring Us Closer

November 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Modern, Modern Living, Parenting

By Jennifer Smith


Bringing the entire family together is easier said than done. This is especially true in these modern times where computers and the Internet have all but completely taken over the lives of teenagers and young adults (and let’s face it: us parents, too). And many family-time options are costly. But music is one perfect option for bringing family together, and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime.

Consider the following ways in which music brings us closer, all of which make a case for exploring music more with your friends and family:

Learn an Instrument Yourself.  Many people feel as if they’re incapable of learning how to play music simply because they haven’t taken the time to do so yet in their lives. The fact is, however, learning to play an instrument doesn’t need to be difficult, and can be an extremely enriching and rewarding experience. You can often find big brand guitars for cheap prices by shopping the sales at your local music stores.   Lessons don’t have to expensive either. You can pursua a new interest AND spend time with your family by teaching it to them as well.


Have a Weekly Jam Session.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of learning how to play an instrument is having the opportunity to jam with other people. While family schedules can often get in the way of spending quality time at home, you can help to get your family more involved by holding a weekly jam session –every Monday night, for example. This way, you can teach your family what you’ve been learning about music, and can even invite friends over to take part in the jam. This is a fun and inexpensive way to have a truly exciting evening at home.

Encourage Your Family.  As rewarding as learning how to play music can be, it can also be an extremely frustrating experience. Those who are trying to learn a new instrument can often get discouraged throughout the process, and many decide to stop playing as a result. You should do everything possible to encourage your family members to stick with music, especially if they begin to show signs of frustration. Explain that nothing worth seeking out is easily attainable, and that music is no exception to the rule; this can be a very encouraging statement.

There is no doubt that music – be it for celebration,  expression, ambience, appreciation -has the power to bring people together.  Remember to utilize music with your family time as often as possible.


Get the Creativity Back

November 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Modern, Modern Living

By Jennifer Smith

When you were a kid you were probably encouraged to participate in creative activities ranging from drawing and painting classes in elementary school, to music and art classes in high school. However, as you’ve gotten older, you may have lost some of that creative spark simply because financial responsibilities and the need to take care of your family took over.

Making a little time in your life to do something creative is an excellent way to relieve stress and have a little fun in your downtime. Creative activities can also keep your brain active as you age, which may be an important part of preventing problems like Alzheimer’s disease, according to recent medical research.

Take Music Lessons

If you’re like most people, you would love to be able to play an instrument. Learning to play an instrument can be a great way to flex your creative muscles, and there are fortunately a lot of places to get help, like takelessons.com. It does not matter if you choose to play the piano, guitar, violin, or a brass instrument.

All these great instruments will help you take on a rewarding and challenging hobby. With the resources of the Internet, want ads, word of mouth, and more, music lesson tips and resources.



If you are pressed for time and always feel like you have somewhere to be, but want to work a creative activity into your day, drawing may be for you. Drawing is a simple activity since it doesn’t require a lot of setup time and materials. All you need to begin drawing is a pencil and a sketch pad – if you enjoy the activity, you can invest in higher-quality art materials like charcoal, colored pencils, and archival quality paper so you can keep your drawings.

If you don’t know what to draw, just draw something in your house or purchase a basic skill book. Such books provide exercises and scenes in which you can set up household items like fruit in a basket or a vase with flowers in it.

Watercolor Painting

Watercolor painting is one of the best creative activities you can do if you are looking to relieve the stress of a busy day. Like drawing, watercolor painting is fairly simple and doesn’t require a lot of expensive materials or setup time. To start watercolor painting, all you really need is a book of watercolor paper or loose sheets of paper made specifically for watercolor painting, a set of watercolor paints, watercolor brushes, a mixing tin, and an easel. Many art supply stores even sell packages of watercolor items for low prices.

C’mon Rembrandt, we adults need our “choice time” too.  Explore your creative side again – just like when you were a kid.



Sending Holiday Cards This Year

November 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Modern, Modern Living

By Jennifer Smith


It’s that time of year again and you’ve probably been thinking about getting your holiday cards in the mail. Whether or not your family and friends admit it, they do enjoy receiving your card. Many look forward to checking the mailbox around the holidays because they often receive cards from all kinds of relatives with pictures and good wishes. This is a fun part of the holiday and it all starts with designing your card.

You don’t have to create the typical card with just a family picture and a message that says “Happy Holidays”. With the right online options, you can choose a custom template and make the card your own. The entire family can be involved and you can even include your pets in the card. Holiday cards by Invitation Box, for example, can help you create a fun and enjoyable card for everybody.

Designing the Perfect Holiday Card

Your family is very unique and you all have a personality you share. This should be a part of your card every year. The first step whenever you need to design a card is to choose the theme. This may be the most difficult part of the entire process. Most families already have a picture ready for the card, so choosing the theme is the part they struggle with, especially since there are so many choices.

The best way to choose a theme is to browse through and pick a handful that you really like. Get the kids involved and make it a family experience. This can be fun and the entire family should have some input. Narrow it down to three to five different choices and find out which one the whole family likes the most. Kids get excited when they get to help, especially the younger ones.

After you’ve chosen a theme, you can customize it a little with different colors, fonts, and the actual message of your card. All of these changes can reflect your family in personality and how you want your card to look. Just because your friends and other family members might choose a more basic theme, font, or colors, doesn’t mean you have to. Remember, this is your holiday card and you can make it look however, you want.

A few other things you may want to consider: the size of the card, whether you want to use both sides or just one, a card that folds or one of many other options. When Mom, Dad and all the kids get together and choose the card, it will be a fun experience. Making this a family tradition can also help make the card reflect your family and your family’s personality.


Stop Magazine Air Pollution!

October 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Eco, Modern

By: Rachel Sarnoff/Ecostiletto

Do you hate the way perfume samples in magazines make you sneeze–or worse? So do we. That’s why we were so proud of EcoStiletto’s founder, Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, for launching an online petition to convince the CEOs of Condé Nast, Time Inc, Hearst Magazines and Fairchild Fashion Media to stop poisoning our air and ban fragrance samples from the magazines that they publish.

A 2010 study by the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that top-selling perfumes contain, on average, 14 different hazardous chemicals that aren’t listed on their labels.

Many of these perfumes contain toxic chemicals like diethyl phthalate, which has been linked to developmental, reproductive, endocrine and immune system problems, as well as allergies and hormone disruption. Typically, perfumes also include paraben preservatives, which have been linked to early onset of puberty in girls.

We can choose not to buy toxic perfumes, but we can’t do anything about the perfume samples that scent magazine pages.

Will you please sign the petition and share with your friends? Thanks!


P.S. Want a truly natural perfume that won’t make you sneeze? Rachel demo’s her DIY recipe, using ingredients from your kitchen cupboard, in this video.

Feeling lucky? During the week of 12.24.12 FOUR EcoStiletto Subscriber will each win a $25 shopping spree at Zosimos Botanicals, where they you can try a gorgeous, petrochemical-free, solid jasmine perfume for just $3. Really! All subscribers are entered to win.


Metro Shelves

October 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Modern

By Shira Gill / Simply Sorted


Metro shelving can be used for pantries, garages or anywhere else you need sturdy shelving. I like the simple industrial  look and they can be secured to the wall for added security.

Happy storing!


Erase Sun Spots, Naturally

October 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Eco, Modern

By: Rachel Sarnoff

Got spots? A true friend won’t let you get away with calling them “freckles,” and we’re totally the real deal. Those dark patches are in fact hyperpigmentation, a sign of sun damage caused by an increase in melanin production, which happens when the skin is trying to protect itself from overexposure to UV rays.

So now that summer’s over, how do you get rid of the resulting spots?

Dermatologists and estheticians might prescribe hydroquinone, a lightening agent that’s super-effective because it suppresses melanin production. But hydroquinone is also a major Big List offender: It’s been linked to cancer and neurotoxicity; it’s toxic to the immune system, a known skin irritant and allergen, an endocrine disruptor, and classified as an air pollutant and pesticide by the EPA.

Oh, and if you stop using it for a minute the spots come back in triplicate.

So what’s a bespeckled gal to do?

Exfoliate. Removing surface layers of damaged skin will lighten dark spots over time, as new skin replaces damaged skin. Try an AHA product like REN’s Resurfacing AHA Concentrate. The potent, yet non-irritating blend of glycolic, lactic, tartaric and citric acids promotes skin-cell turnover, leaving skin looking brighter and smoother while working to lighten those dark spots.

Lighten up. Use a safe, natural lightening formula like Tatcha’s Deep Brightening Complex. Made without hydroquinone or a number of other nasties, it’s formulated with time-tested, Asian botanicals plus their patented HADASEI-3 Bioactive Complex brightens areas of darker pigmentation for more radiant skin.

Cover up. Wear a physical (not chemical)  SPF every day, even on cloudy, cold, winter days. Yes, every minute counts: You can soak up necessary vitamin D by exposing the rest of your body to the sun, but not your face! COOLA makes fantastic, no-nano, titanium dioxide based sunscreens, with matte formulations available for oily girls, and hydrating for those with dry or sensitive skin. Both are available in a tinted version that we’re obsessed with: Just add a little mineral powder and you’re good to go.

Moral of the story? As tempting as a quick fix for sun spots it may be, do yourself a big favor and skip the hydroquinone in favor of safe-and-effective natural options.

Swag alert! Swag alert! Week of 12.10.12 FOUR EcoStiletto subscribers will each win a $36 COOLA mineral sunscreen of their choice. Tell a friend! Subscribing is free and that’s $100 in swag. Not a subscriber? Click through to sign up, already! 


Alysia Reiner Exclusive Interview

October 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Eco, Modern

By: Rachel Sarnoff/ Eco Stilleto

Alysia Reiner stole scenes in “Sideways” and “Kissing Jessica Stein” but our biggest props go to her eco-commitment. Alysia, an award-winning actress and producer who green renovated a Harlem brownstone with her husband David Alan Basche in 2007, currently appears in “Backwards.” In this exclusive interview with EcoStiletto, our source for sustainable fashion, beauty & lifestyle, Alysia talks the walk.

EcoStiletto: So what are you up to these days?

Alysia Reiner: It’s been a crazy few days with the premieres of Backwards, which comes out September 21st. They just sent me the most beautiful dresses to wear. I need to find an eco-designer but meanwhile I love borrowing—it’s so much more green than buy-and-wear-once!

You just wrapped “Primrose Lane.” Is it true that you asked the makeup artist to use eco-friendly makeup on set?

Actually, it was the first film I ever worked on where I requested green makeup and they not only listened, they had it planned already! It’s nice to have a green rep.

Usually, I do what I can to green a set:  bring my own coffee mug (love this corn plastic one), bring my own cutlery set (got this super-cute one on etsy), make sure there are recycling bags and bring a pen so people can label their water bottles and coffee cups.

But makeup is a hard one. Most makeup artists are not that into eco friendly choices. YET. Every makeup artist in the world now uses Joa instead of Purell, but that’s as green as they get. (P.S. I am MAD for their GOE body oil. OMG amazing!)

Who was the makeup artist? Was she a green beauty girl?

It was Nikki  Williams. She was great because she wasn’t married to any brands and open to trying anything.

What brands did you use?

We used mostly Bare Essentials  and Jane Iredale. I hadn’t used either a lot before and thought both were good. I’m now a Bare girl—love the powder. My director felt both were ideal for shooting HD.

I also brought a few secret weapons. I am a huge TARTE fan. No, they’re not organic but a lot of it is free of petrochemical crap, and they have an awesome Lip Tint/Stain that I love in Rose. It’s very wine colored—love love—and STAYS ON, which is so key for film.

I also love RMS Uncover—it’s so great for undereye and covering red—from Spirit Beauty Lounge. I love a ton of stuff from Spirit Beauty, but that’s another article!

Thanks Alysia! Hopefully we can talk again soon!


Alysia Reiner in Theia at the “Backwards” premiere. Photo: Radar Online

It’s Workin’ For Us: Project Closet Nursery!

October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Modern, Modern Living

By Shira Gill, Simply Sorted
We have two kids now. Soooo…we decided we needed a three-bedroom. But we have a two-bedroom. We needed to make our space work for us and fast! It only took three days and under one hundred dollars to transform a spare closet into a nursery for Baby Emilie! I must say we are pretty pleased with the results and did everything on a dime. Our fabulous friend, Mahnee, sewed the quilt and curtains faster than a speeding bullet and all we bought was a cozy rug and some fabric. We are feeling very New York-y and industrious. Hooray!! PS. Please don’t judge me for putting my kid in the closet. It is only a temporary solution. She sleeps really well in there. And there’s a window…

BEFORE: A large utility closet used to be a catch-all for the vacuum cleaner, kid stuff, and to-dos. We had to relocate everything to prepare for the new nursery!

AFTER: A cozy rug, new lighting, and some handmade curtains did the trick on a dime!

We added a few toys and dolls to make it a bit cozier.

Amazing what a carpet can do to warm up a space!

Any creative uses for your closets? Share, please!


Natalie Portman’s Secret Weapon Against Stretch Marks

October 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Beauty, Eco, Modern

By: Rachel Sarnoff/Ecostilleto

Are expensive eco lotions and potions really worth it? When EcoStiletto, our source for sustainable fashion, beauty & lifestyle, heard about Natalie Portman’s secret — albeit expensive — weapon against stretch marks, they had to check it out.

According to Pai, their vegan Stretch Mark System—a cream to be used in the morning, and an oil at night—was Natalie’s go-to throughout her pregnancy.

No expense was spared in the formulation: Pai utilizes an omega-rich blend of seven oils, and eschews essential oils to make the duo suitable for all stages of pregnancy—including the stage where the scent of anyfragrance makes you want to throw up.

And no petrochemical crap’s in the mix either: Pai eschews synthetics, artificial fragrances, alcohol, parabens, phenoxyethanol, propylene glycol, formaldehyde and sodium lauryl sulfate, among other things.

But is the cost worth it? Natalie Portman is one gorgeous mama. You be the judge.

For more beauty bits check out Ecostilleto 

Swag alert! Week of 11.12.12 FOUR EcoStiletto Subscribers will each win a $25 jar of Farmaesthetics Deep Lavender Rub. Subscribing is free and that’s $100 in swag. Not a subscriber? Click through to sign up, already! 


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