Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Re-thinking the Holidays

Good news, the economy seems to be on it's way back up. What, your bank account hasn't gotten the memo? Mine either. It's no fun to have a skinny wallet, especially during the holidays. Here are five easy tips to make the most of the season while keeping both your savings and your sanity in tact:

1. Hop in the Pool
Instead of the usual gift-giving routine of buying each relative a gift, try a gift pool among the adults. Have each grown-up bring a wrapped gift worth up to a set dollar amount, keeping it reasonable for everyone participating. Assign each gift a number that corresponds with numbers drawn from a hat or bowl.

You can keep it as simple as that or take it a step further by making it a "white elephant"
game where gifts are "stolen" or traded.

If there are children in the family let relatives spoil them at will if they so desire.

Contributing to a pool takes mountains of gifting pressure off of relatives and can help remind us what it is we really love about the holidays by taking the focus off of gifts.

2. BYOFF: Bring Your Own Favorite Food
Hosting family gatherings can mean a hefty bill at the grocery check-out. Especially if your family is, like mine, enormous. It can be tremendously helpful to ask relatives or friends that live within reasonable distance to make and bring their own favorite side dish or dessert.

You won't have to chain yourself to the stove all day and you might find out that cousin of yours is quite the culinary genius!

3. Make it Personal
Home made gifts can be both inexpensive and wonderfully personal. Make the most of your creative talents and give a little piece of yourself with each gift. One of my favorite such presents was a simple cookbook that my vegetarian aunt made me. A few lovely pieces of artwork printed in color were tucked into every third page or so. The book is full of seasonal recipes including soups, stews and warm salads and was made using a simple report cover found at any office supply store and bound with twine. It's delicate and I love the fact that it was made by the hands of someone I love.

Figuring out what to make isn't as hard as it may sound. Love music? Burn a few mixed CD's containing some of your favorite songs and give them out. Love to knit? How about a hat or cell phone cozy? Whether it's a talent or something that you're really interested in, you have something to share. Another plus, homemade gifts eliminate the need to check for stray price tags!

4. Turn off the Tube
Advertisers for major retailers are paid top dollar to make you feel guilty and obligated. They wave shiny gadgets in your face and convince you that if really love your spouse or child or best friend you'll break the bank to prove it. Don't indulge them. Turn the TV off and ignore the barrage of junk mail ads and billboards.

One of the few neat things about a national recession is that no one is alone, we're all in this mess together. Your friends and family know that times are tough and they don't expect you to prove you care by going broke.

5. Get Back to Basics
Why do you celebrate the holidays? Are your celebrations based on religion? Family traditions? We all have a reason or two that we acknowledge the holidays, for me, it's all about family and my children. I have a big family that doesn't get together often. Christmas is an opportunity to catch up and reminisce. It's also a time for my kids to bond with the relatives they don't see often enough. When the day is over and the food is gone and the wine bottles all corked, no one is really thinking about gifts. We're all just happy to have had another year together.

Don't fret over price tags or wear holes into the soles of your shoes on epic shopping trips, instead, embrace your friends and loved ones and remember why you celebrate the season.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Summer glow - in December?

For most people, cold winter days translate into very dry skin. Itching, flaking and tightness are all symptoms that your dermis is parched. Heaters that warm our homes sap the humidity levels in the air and are the main culprits behind this annoying winter problem- robbing your skin of essential oils and moisture. Before you hide beneath long sleeves and pack on layers of uber-expensive skin creams, try these four tips for reviving your skin's youthful glow:

1. All about the ABC's
We hear it all the time - taking vitamin and mineral supplements contribute to your overall health and longevity. You know it, I know it, but do we practice it? Unfortunately, the common answer is, "NO". For your skin's sake, give it a try. Vitamin A is, by far, the most effective anti-aging supplement. By helping your skin to retain moisture levels it prevents premature aging while preventing dryness.

Vitamin B3, aka, Niacin, is also a friend to your skin. 15mg a day is enough to satisfy the needs of an adult woman. Boasting a wide array of health benefits, B3 is essential for maintaining proper moisture levels in the skin.

Vitamin C, a hero among supplements, is a must for the skin and the body. Making sure you consume ample amounts of C enriched foods is key for a healthy immune system and ensures that your body can heal damaged cells. While eating vitamin C enriched foods is important, your body can only store so much. The best way for your skin to benefit from this wonder protein is through active vitamin C serums applied directly to the skin. These serums address fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and, of course, dryness - lots of bang for your buck!

2. Don't Dawdle!
Limiting the time you spend in the shower will keep the dull away. Hot showers literally suck the moisture right out of you. Lower the temp a bit and try limiting your daily shower time to ten minutes or less. Sounds tough, what, with shaving, shampooing, conditioning and washing it seems downright impossible. But try.

3. Slather, press, repeat
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Did I mention moisturize? Before you reach for that sweet smelling, double whipped buttery perfumed goo in the pretty bottle, remember this: perfume = alcohol. Alcohol is very drying. Why swallow handfuls of vitamins, rush through showers and dab on serums just to rub the moisture right out of your skin? Choose a moisturizer that contains no perfumes or dyes, such as, Cetaphil or Eucerine. If you enjoy a little bit of scent, try a body butter made from real cocoa butter. Just try to avoid synthetic scents.

When applying your moisturizer, try gently pressing it into the skin with the palms of your hands instead of rubbing, which may cause the product to air dry before allowing your skin time to absorb it. If you still feel a bit dry you can always apply more. Carry a small container of moisturizer with you so that your hands and exposed skin can stay well protected from the elements. Apply as often as you need.

4. Calm Down
We all know that stress is no good for overall health. By taxing the immune system, stress can have a slurry of ill effects on our bodies and behavior. Between combating seasonal illnesses and keeping up with your frantic shopping trips, your immune system is on overdrive during the holidays, making it harder to heal and boost the health of your skin. Make sure to take some time for relaxation every day. Put the shopping bags down, kick off the heels and find a nice yule log to sit by. Spend a little time each day doing something that feels good - your skin will thank you.