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Archive for December, 2011

Happy Holidays: The Year Ahead – 2012

December 27, 2011 1 comment

I hope that everyone is enjoying a fun and festive holiday season.  Christmas is over, Hanukkah ends tomorrow, we’re on the second day of Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve is right around the corner.  This is the time to be reflective of the year that’s passed and prepare for the year ahead.  This week BRG will focus on setting goals and ordering priorities for 2012.  Consider creating a vision board and getting started on the life you want.  We are all exactly where we need to be, but where we are now is not where we have to stay.  If you want a different outcome it’s time to prepare for it – to be the change we seek.  I look forward to hearing about your journeys and continuing to share my own.  This year we’ll have more guest bloggers and things to make this your best year ever.

Happy Holidays!!

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HOLIDAY GIFTS 2011: FIVE AWESOME, Stylish LAPTOP Sleeves Under 60 some under 25

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Are you still making your list and checking it twice?   I’m in full baking mode and finalizing the last of my giving. If you’re still looking for gifts I’ve got a treat for you.  @KathrynFinney better known as “The Budget Fashionista”   has written this blog just in time!

Five gift ideas from the Budget Fashionista.

HOLIDAY GIFTS 2011: FIVE AWESOME, Stylish LAPTOP Sleeves Under 60 some under 25.

Last Minute Gifts – 5 Days ‘Til Christmas!!

December 20, 2011 Leave a comment

If your year was anything like mine you might be just getting the time to do your Christmas shopping.  I’ve come up with a few ideas for last minute gifts for the nieces & nephews on your list.

Babies and Pre-schoolers: Language Development

I have a 5-month old nephew and he’s getting Bright Baby Books for Christmas.  These Roger Priddy books are a treat for any little one.  Over the years I’ve seen the Colors, Number and Animals titles – anything you can imagine.  There are even some bilingual offerings.  These books have sturdy pages and bold colors.  I’ve seen them in Barnes & Noble, Marshall’s and Target.  Please encourage parents to read to the babies – it makes them smart, calm and obedient.  Well that’s what I’ve heard.

Kindergarten – Third Grade: Young Readers

If you have a young reader – just beginning chapter books look at the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park.  Junie is sure to get your six-eight year-olds interested in reading.  Titles include “Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying” and “Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth.” I ran across the box sets on Amazon. Warning Junie B. is a bit sassy – I read a New York Times article that quotes some parents not pleased with that tone.  I think those parents need to calm down and step out of the 50’s.   Kids are smart enough to appreciate fiction.  If anything the books can provide many teachable moments.

I also recommend the Brain Quest Workbooks which have guidance by age and grade.  I haven’t completed these with my nieces or nephews, but took a peek at them while I was browsing titles in Target.  These exercises can enhance learning and keep your angels occupied with something other than Wii games.

If your niece plays sports – like a couple of mine do – look for creative ways to encourage their athletic side.   Don’t just buy a basketball for that budding WNBA superstar – pick up a biography on Lisa Leslie.  Use Christmas gifts as an opportunity to reinforce the things you think are important.

Reading with  8 – 12 year olds

Every child benefits from an expanded vocabulary.  That’s why this aunt gives books for Christmas – at least until you reach high school.  The Harry Potter books in paperback (numbers 1-7) are in a box set for around $60 at Target.  If you want to have them delivered check out Amazon.com.  For a yet-to-be-delivered gift, I sometimes print a picture of the item, cut it out and put the picture in a card.  That way they’ll have something to open while the gift is making its way.

The “Diary of A Wimpy Kid” series and Judy Blume books are also popular in this age group.  It’s important for kids to read what they like, but remember to push them to read above their grade level. If you find them easily devouring books with simple language, help them find more challenging material.   Find ways to read with them and check on their progress throughout the year.

Teens & College Aged

This age group is sometimes hard to shop for.  Some of them work and have money to buy what they want.  Others have strange habits and styles that we just don’t get.  A great gift recommended by my friend Emily is an iTunes Gift Card –  you can find them at Best Buy, online from Apple.com and sometimes in your pharmacy.  Enhance the gift by sharing a list of music you enjoy, books they could check out and appropriate movies.  This is an opportunity to keep them engaged throughout the year.  Teach them how to use their iPod for more than just music.  Introduce them to podcasts and lectures.  You’d be surprised how interesting they’ll find the BBC and NPR.  Share your favorites and encourage them to become more sophisticated.  You know all teens want that!!

Speaking of sophistication, let’s talk beauty. Lots of young ladies wear make-up.  Lots of them get it wrong.  Invest in a few quality brushes and colors for a unique gift.  This doesn’t have to be expensive.  Target is the exclusive retailer of Sonia Kashuk’s line of cosmetics.  These are high-quality colors and brushes at reasonable prices.  Also check out e.l.f. – the Eyes Lips Face line – they make beautiful palettes and carry a wide range of inexpensive products.  K-Mart and Target tend to carry their products.  You can also order on the e.l.f. website for even greater selection.

Don’t stress about what to give.  Keep it simple, think about fun and happy shopping!!

Upcoming: Top Three – Restaurant Week 2012

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s weeks away you think.  I have plenty of time you say.  Well think long and you will definitely think wrong on this one.  Make your reservations NOW.  Yes over 20 days away.  I’m talking about Washington DC’s Restaurant Week Winter 2012 Edition .

I’ll visit between 6-10 restaurants during the week and these are the three I recommend you not miss.  You should visit – not just because they participate in Restaurant Week, but just because – because they are especially delicious.

1.     Art & Soul – Southern food raised to fine dining status. Housed in the Liaison Hotel on Capitol Hill. Love me some Chef Art.

2.     Rasika – Indian food so beautiful you won’t want to eat it. Then you will and you will remember every satisfying bite.  Around the corner from the Shakespeare Theater.

3.     Oyamel – lovely Mexican dishes in the heart of Penn Quarter.  Creative and delicious ceviche. It’s one of DC’s classiest places to have a margarita.

These restaurants treat RW customers the same way they treat everyone who joins them for lunch or dinner.  They offer wonderful selections from the regular menu and a waitstaff that let’s you take your time.  The service does not change. And that’s a big deal to a Southern woman like myself.  I appreciate that these establishments understand that all customers deserve to be treated well during a meal.  That is not the case at some other restaurants. (I’m in the holiday spirit so not naming names.)

Thank you in advance to Art & Soul, Rasika and Oyamel.  Look forward to celebrating Restaurant Week 2012 in your fine restaurants!!

Get Fine Plan Cooking

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Do you love Mediterranean flavors?  I found this recipe for chicken marinated in Greek yogurt. I made a few modifications – using chicken breasts (bone in) and roasting instead of grilling.  Like the author I didn’t have Aleppo pepper, but used Hungarian paprika and red pepper flakes.  Don’t worry if it seems like a lot of pepper – the result is flavorful without much heat.  Try this out if  you’re looking for something new to do with chicken.

This recipe is also helpful if you’re trying to multi-task – you mix everything together for the marinade, allow the chicken to sit for a couple hours – or overnight, then roast the chicken in the oven.  You can stick to your cooking schedule without standing over the stove.

Here is a shot of the marinating chicken with the lemon slices.  Make sure you shake off as much marinade as possible to allow the skin to crisp.

Here’s the final product.  This dish did well for taking lunch to work.  When reheated in the microwave it still had good texture and stayed moist.

 

Let me know if you try it out!!

Savings Sundays: Not-So-Extreme Couponing

December 11, 2011 Leave a comment

This is the debut blog for ‘Savings Sunday’  – tips coming your way each week for spending less money and using your time wisely.  My goal is to help you keep more cash on hand and manage your most precious commodity – time.

Last night I watched people rack up the savings on shopping trips to grocery stores and retailer Family Dollar on TLC’s Extreme Couponing. Extreme couponing for food hasn’t appealed to me, but seeing the stashes of free and nearly free beauty products got my attention.  I’m also putting together a couple care packages to send to my cousin while she serves in Afghanistan. I’d like to send her enough that she can share with others in her unit. So these thoughts together are my inspiration for a couponing project.

I want significant discounts on paper products, snack foods and other items you can keep for months on end.  I’d like to build a stash of beauty products and first aid supplies.  Today, I asked my stepmom to send me her coupons too.  I want to collect enough coupons that I’ll have options when I go shopping.  I’m frugal, but also believe my time is valuable.  I am trying this, but only for 1 hour per week.

Below are a tips for anyone starting a couponing adventure:

  • Decide your mission.  Choose your items, stores and goals.  Having a mission will keep you focused and motivated.
  • Search print and Internet resources.  Magazines, newspapers and online coupon sites provide a variety of discounts. Local and national coupons allow you to maximize discounts and sometimes multiply your savings.
  • Spread the word.  Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for coupons.  Family, friends and co-workers should know that you want their coupons.  Ask for circulars, emphasize specific items and share your results.  You’ll probably inspire others to participate and find ways to help each other succeed.

Let me know if you have ideas for using coupons to save money.  Any particular method you’ve found useful?  Are the discounts worth the time and energy?

Thanks to the TLC shows and my girl J-Diva for sharing and showing their ideas.  We’re on the way to savings success!!

Workplace Principles for the Christmas Season: Sharing, Caring and Fellowship

December 7, 2011 2 comments

I celebrate Christmas, but it’s not the only game in town.  While it’s natural to focus on your own special holiday, consideration is key this time of year.   This is a good chance to build camaraderie in the workplace.  Take time to learn about other religious traditions and observations.  You never know when you’ll be enlightened by the beauty and love of another faith.   Use this season as an opportunity embrace cultural diversity and find more ways to connect with the world around you.

Let three principles guide you this season – sharing, caring and fellowship.  There is room for everyone to enjoy– the beginning of winter, the end of the fiscal year, the delicious food and cocktails – take your pick.

CARING:  Think beyond your personal Christmas gift list.  Practice the advice of Dr. Martin Luther King and remember “everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”   Take the focus away from the religious observations and things that separate us and focus on the strength of mankind.  There is power in unity and teamwork.  Put together care packages for the military or hold a winter clothing drive for the homeless.  Find an organization that can use your help.  I found this site where he USO puts together care packages for our troops.  You can put in your zip code and find a location near where you live or work.  Use this season to do service in the community.

SHARING – Arrange a cookie swap.   I’m not sure where this tradition began, but it’s one we Southern women embrace with creativity and gusto.  This is a great way to promote and encourage diversity.   Each person brings enough cookies for everyone to sample and the recipe to share.  Colleagues can share holiday stories from their childhoods and connect on a personal level.  Bring your cookie canisters and Tupperware – the best part is taking a few cookies home!!

All Recipes.com has instructions on doing a cookie swap – and the recipes to help!!

FELLOWSHIP Are you tired of the same old tired office party?  Arrange something different this year.  Treat your staff to a special lunch or dinner to thank them for their contributions during the last year.  This will also bolster them for the New Year.  Check on local museum exhibits and arrange for a docent to give you a personal tour.  An afternoon outing away from the office will break the monotony.  If you’re in DC check out one of the 19 FREE Smithsonian museums. A friend is doing that for her staff I know they’re looking forward to it.

Or if your office spends a lot of time telecommuting or working apart, plan a day-in. This would be one day when everyone comes to the office and has a chance to relax and mingle.  Bring in a couple movies for a double-feature.  Show something related to your industry, an American classic or something about the holidays.  Appoint someone outside of the office to handle the logistics.  Movie afternoon complete with popcorn and snacks is sure to be a hit.

‘Tis the season to embrace our cultural, religious and familial diversity. Ho, ho, ho…here comes Santa!!