Hello there!

If this is your first visit here, please go to my blog's new home, here. You will find more updated posts and if you are lucky, I might just be running a giveaway :-)

If you have been here before, welcome back! I have moved to self-hosted Wordpress, so now you can find me by just typing www.theunlikelyhousewife.com in your browser. I hope to see you there!

XO, Elisa

P.S. This blog's comment are now closed. One more reason to visit me on WP ;-)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cool finds of the month: Holiday Edition, part 2

Hi everyone!

Here's the second part of the Cool Find of the Month, Holiday edition. Here you will find a few tips about things you'll need for the Holiday Parties you'll be attending: clothes, accessories, hostess gifts, and even party necessities like decorations and recipes, if YOU will be the one hosting.

I hope you find this helpful!

If you have trouble picking hostess gifts, consider this: those (crazies) who don't like chocolate are few and far between . And when we are talking about one of the scrumptious confections from Recchiuti, the number is even smaller. Order a bunch and be set for all the holiday parties you are going to attend – you'll get 15% off your order using coupon code ARTISAN.

If your hostess is a fashion maven, she will definitely love these cookies by Eleni's! The handbag cookies are fashioned after designer handbags, and will be delivered to your door already in a gift box, ready to give... or keep (they are so pretty!)

A gourmet gift basket is always a welcome present. It includes several things so you can be sure to cater to all tastes. GiftBaskets.com has many different kinds of gift baskets: choose a prepared one of customize it to fit your host's taste. Whatever you pick, you can get 10% off by using this code at checkout: ZK-8978.

If your hostess is a "green goddess", an eco-friendly gift is a must. Browse the Acacia online store for gorgeous eco-friendly gifts that will please anyone, whether they care about their carbon print or not ;-) They also have a clearance section with items priced at 50% off.

I just found the most delicious, affordable natural skincare line ever. Garden Girl is a fantastic line of natural skin care products that do not include parabens, mineral oil, petroleum derivatives or synthetic fragrances. They smell fantastic, have a great texture, and really work. After only 3 days using 3 Garden Girl products on my face, my skin feels incredible and I'm definitely hooked! Today (Saturday 20) is the last day to get $10 off your order, but after hearing my rave review Kristin, the owner of Garden Girl, created a special offer just for readers of this blog: use coupon code HIPMOM through December 31st to get 15% off your entire order!
(Though honestly, even without it, these products are fabulous and a real bargain for the quality!)
Unlikely Housewife pick: Pucker Up Coconut-Line Sugar Scrub, $22

Get pretty and save a pretty penny: use code SAVEGOOD to get 20% any order from Benefit Cosmetics today (Saturday 20) or get FREE next-day shipping (US) on Sunday and Monday with code LASTGIFT, so you can still get your gifts in time for Christmas!

Tobi is a special online store – and what makes it special isn't just the great selection, the multiple search possibilities on the site, the Beauty Bar section or even the section dedicated entirely to Eco-friendly fashion lines – though all those are definitely good reasons to love it :-) What makes it really special is that when you go on Tobi.com you get to chat one on one with a stylist, who will help you choose the best pieces for your party or occasion, suggest how to wear them (like how to accessorize a great dress) and all without charging you a dime more than the price of the merchandise. Yes, it's true. And on top of that, through December 31 you can get 25% off your Tobi purchase with this coupon code: INSTYLE08.

If you prefer a colorful, bohemian style for your party dress, InStyle helps us there too: December 31st to receive 20% off your purchases at the Oyouki online boutique using promo code INSTYLE08. You will find collections from international designers, and you will have lots of fun looking.

If you like the edgy vibe UK fashion has, you will LOVE the party dress/accessory selection at TopShop! Check out their Christmas offers, get recommendations with their party picks and get ideas on how to put your own party look together with their party looks.

The DVF Holiday Collection is on sale, 40% off! Go to DVF.com to see (and shop!).

You can score DVF and more at the Barney's Designer sale - designer clothes, shoes and accessories up to 60% off.

Other great online retailers where you can get fabulous party dresses:
- CoutureCandy: get 25% off already discounted merchandise with code 25DAY
- Fashion Chateau: get 20% off all orders, whether you shop for new designer dresses or choose to browse the sale rack (up to 85% off!!); just use code CHATEAU20. Also while there, enter to win a $1,000 shopping spree!

And if you need some lovely (but affordable) shoes to go with your new dress, check out Chinese Laundry, where you'll get 20% off any order (including new merchandise), through December 23. Discount is applied when item is added to shopping cart.

In other words, why brave the crowds, when you have a veritable goldmine of gorgeous fashion and accessories (and better sales!) at your fingertips?

Not to mention the private sales! If you are reading this on December 20, you are in luck: there is a Catherine Malandrino sale going on at GiltGroupe, and it closes tonight! No one is better than Catherine Malandrino at designing perfect party dresses, and with this sale you can score one at a fraction of the retail price!

If you still need a few decorations to get your home ready for the holidays, here are a few places you can get them at, at better prices:
- The Crate and Barrel Holiday Sale, where you can find ornaments, everything you need to set your holiday table, and even cookies for Santa :-)
- Wrapables.com, which already has lots of stuff on sale, including decorations and "Dining and entertaining" items.
- Pier 1 Imports, which has lots of items on sale at 50% off inclusing some really cute gift bags and decorations.

And if every year you scramble to find your favorite holiday recipes, you really need to get a custom-made cookbook at Tastebook. Find a cookbook, customize it or create your own with recipes from Epicurious, Allrecipes, Food Network, MyRecipes and more, or import your own recipes and mix and match! You can even select the cover. I'm totally in love with Tastebook – it was about time someone came up with this!

So there you have it, the cool finds for this month. I hope they make your holidays more fun, less stressful... enjoy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Moderation, what a concept!

Among the commenters to last week's post, Sue rightfully said: "been dieting since I was 16. Just have to shut my damn mouth" which, really, is such good advice. If only I could master moderation! Alas, that's never been my strong trait. Can one learn moderation?

Despite the Extreme Makeover and Biggest Loser, which seem to have a lot of a appeal (based on the crowd - and volunteers! - they gather), there's also a new trend in weight loss and health, and moderation seems to be the key word. Two big proponents of this trend are Devin Alexander and Ellie Krieger.

Devin Alexander is actually the mind behind the Biggest Loser meals and cooking tips. She is the author of The Biggest Loser Cookbook, which I bought and wasn't too impressed with, mostly because of the format. I like cookbooks that look like cookbooks (not showcases), with recipes and photos of the finished dish, because I find them most inspiring and enjoyable - which is why I immediately loved her new cookbook, The Most Decadent Diet, and I plan on using it to avoid holiday weight gain this year.

My family will be flying in from Italy a few days before Christmas and stay until New Year's. They are, as all Italians, most spoiled when it comes to food; and even when they need to shed a few pounds they have absolutely zero tolerance for anything that vaguely resembles "diet food". So I plan on using this book to trick them into eating diet-friendly food ;-) *cue evil laugh here*

Do you know who Ellie Krieger is? I had actually never heard of her until a couple of months ago, when she appeared in SELF (I think that was the mag), but I have since googled her and found out that she is a Food Network celebrity chef, with quite a following! She has written two books (including a cookbook)and now also has an online program, where you can sign up for healthy eating/healthy cooking lessons and coaching.

I've never done this - I've been tempted, but the various "E-Diet"-type websites and so on don't seem to focus on how healthy and wholesome the food you consume is - but if I was to sign up, this would probably be it. Because if you want to be healthy and keep in shape, in the real world you will need to be able to juggle and balance indulgences with a healthier day-to-day lifestyle. And that's the goal, isn't it? Because personally, I have lost weight before... it just didn't stay off. Real life gets on the way. So despite last week's diet-focused post, I'm thinking that dieting isn't really the way to go, when it comes to long-term weight loss.

The problem I have when faced with this decision is that the little devil on my shoulder whispers in my ear "yeah, sure, you can learn to do things the healthy way and that will last, but you will lose weight much faster if you diet! And that's what you want, isn't it? FAST weight loss. You know I'm right". And damn it if I don't fall for it every time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Baaaad mood!

Bad mood this morning. It might improve later on, but I can't make any promises. Unless, you know, I get a present or something. That might help. No, chocolate isn't enough today. We are swimming in it, thanks to my husband's recent trip to The Great Land of Cheese and Chocolate.

Why the bad mood? Sleepless night. And while that isn't unusual to anyone with kids (or anyone with an interesting social life – but the first scenario is much more relevant here), it wasn't their fault. It seems I might be developing CTS, which really sucks – especially considering I am about to finally get a laptop for Christmas. Awesome timing, just great.

So here's a few dark, grumpy thoughts on this fine (read: cloudy) morning.


Stella is watching TV. Which is normally a time I cherish because I have a chance to check my e-mail (I swear, if you are saying "bad mommy" right now, I will have to respond with "Bite me". I warned you about the mood.)

Today however, I am cringing – so much so, in fact, that I think after this day they will have to invent new names for wrinkles. You know, "cringe lines" or something. Or "annoyed out of her mind" lines. Or "if I hear any more of this I'll have to shoot the TV" lines.
Because on that recent trip to Switzerland that caused the current (and above-mentioned) inundation of cheese and chocolate, my husband also bought some German DVDs for the girls. Among them, a special Christmas edition of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. In German. So what I'm hearing now is the beginning of the show, the song, which goes like this "Das is das Micky-Maus Wunderhaus/Komm herein/Wir laden euch ein" which is just, you know, wrong.


It is NOT ok to use a real celebrity's name as your Twitter name. Because if someone (and I mean, just anyone, you know, no one in particular) was to look up a celebrity on Twitter, like say, Hugh Jackman (again, this is totally theoretical) they would be pretty blipping annoyed to find a loser who is trying to be funny by Tweeting about what he thinks Hugh Jackman is doing while filming Australia, instead of the real, sexy, fabulous, amazing REAL Hugh Jackman. Even worse, a German loser doing so. Which is, you know, just about as far as you can get from Hugh Jackman.

(I know it sounds like I have a bone to pick with Germans today. Sorry about that. It's not your fault if your language isn't pretty.)


Yesterday I was getting all ready to go out and enjoy the sunny (albeit cold) day, but when I reached for my favorite sunglasses I found that they were broken. Big deal, right? Except these were my favorite sunglasses. The kind that works perfectly with your face shape and doesn't make your nose look bigger. I know I sound like a shallow spoiled brat from Gossip Girl. But if you found a pair of sunglasses that looked that good on your face you'd understand. Even worse, these were by Gattinoni, whose stuff I'll probably have a very hard time finding anywhere out of Italy without spending an arm and a leg. And they were a present from my mom, which means I'll never hear the end of it. (Have I mentioned she is arriving on Sunday?)


I knew there was something to make me feel better! This irreverent humor blog is my new favorite: Just another ink-stained wretch.

And if you, like me, woke up in a bad mood, this Tweet might help. Even if you aren't in a celratory mood yet, there's hope ;-) National Cupcake day, people!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ungrateful brats, the lot of you (ehm... us) ;-)

I really wish I had found this before Thanksgiving, to give everyone a little inspiration – you know when you sit at the table and you go "Ehm, I'm thankful for... hey, anyone else wanna go first?" Well, now you woulnd't need to. Check it out, and be thankful for Blackberries and planes, if nothing else ;-)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Once a yo-yo, always a yo-yo?

Ah, yes. One week has already gone by since I joined the sisterhood.

First challenge: deciding what to do with my eating. I am already a healthy eater: mostly organic, no processed foods, no refined grains (except for when I make risotto), I rarely eat fried foods, and we don't keep sweets in the house.

I know excluding sugar, wheat and dairy would already do marvels. But I do best on structured plans, which leaves me looking for a plan that may be good for me.

What to pick? Plans by celebrity trainers have great reviews, and great testimonials: who can forget Heidi Klum stepping on the catwalk at the VS show only 6 weeks after delivering her second child? She had David Kirsch to thank for that – who is also the fitness guru behind Extreme Makeover.
I'm no Heidi Klum, but I sure could use a makeover (not an extreme one though – I'll stick with my imperfect nose, thank you very much).

I have 3 of his books. The Ultimate New York Body Plan is hardcore. I'm really not ready for that. The Ultimate New York Diet is basically a less demanding version of the UNYBP, but the eating guidelines for the first phase are pretty strict. Eating only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., no fats except 1 tsp of oil a day and fish oil supplements, no egg yolks, no dairy, no alcohol, no grains, no starchy vegetables, no beans, no fruit. I can do everything else but the 1 tsp oil and no fruit rule are tough for me. I can limit my fruit, but cutting it out is hard.
The third book, Sound Mind, Sound Body, is actually an older one, from the days when he didn't think you could lose weight fast and keep it off. The eating plan allows for more variety, but the exercise plan is stricter. Of these three, the one that appeals to me the most is the Ultimate NY Diet, mostly because of the flexibility – so we have our first contender, ladies and gentlemen.

Others I'm considering:
One Body, One Life by Greg Joujon-Roche. His philosophy is very similar to mine, as he believes in detoxing, good-quality food, and variety both in nutrients and in types of exercise are the keys to weight loss and well being. So there we have it, our 2nd contender.

Dr. Perricone Weight-Loss Diet is great for general health and skin health, but I found it hard to follow for weight loss. It allows a lot of things, so you need more willpower. I think it makes for a great maintenance plan, though.

Jonny Bowden's Shape-up Plan is great if you like to go gradually. It also comes with a workbook (sold separately) and it contains great info of health and weight loss, without dragging it on and on. He basically guides you to create an exercise program from scratch adding a little each week, until at the end of the 8 weeks you have a complete, well-rounded program and you will have no doubt improved your diet, too. And I think this might just be contender #3.

Of course like any former yo-yo dieter, I have other weight loss books at home that still hold enough appeal not to get rid of them, but not enough to actually consider them for this challenge. Among them you can find Bill Phillips' Body for Life, the less-known Bikini Bootcamp, and the famous The South Beach Diet, which I can't warm up to, no matter how popular it may be (but the cookbook is fabulous).

Told you I've been there before :-)

You might be wondering "can't you just eat less and workout more?" no, that's not enough for a control-freak like me, I need a more precise plan. Don't look so surprised, you already knew I was neurotic ;-)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holy... it IS true, we never stop learning! (letter to myself)

Dear Elisa,

I think you REALLY need to wake up properly before you do anything at all in the morning. Either that, or the universe thinks you are too cocky and you should remember you don't know everything, so you should get some lessons, starting NOW.

Lesson 1: do not use olive oil spray on a cast iron pan that is already on the burner, with an actual flame underneath it. Not unless you want to have eyebrows flambé for breakfast. You were lucky to have barely escaped that one. Consider it a warning.

Lesson 2: you know that hyper-sensitive fire alarm right outside the kitchen? You know how it goes off any time you fry, caramelize or bake anything, and the only way you normally avoid it is by turning on the your stove's exhaust fan? Good. Well, since the exhaust fan is broken and you keep forgetting to call the repairman, you should have expected the aforementioned hyper-sensitive fire alarm to go off when you made breakfast this morning, you silly moo – hence alerting all your neighbors that you were cooking something, and likely burning it.

From now until the fan is fixed, you are to open any and all windows in the kitchen and let in the freezing-cold New York winter air, in the hope that this morning's occurrence can be avoided. You choose, either you call the repairman or you'll have to start wearing your winter coat while making breakfast.

Lesson 3: what is wrong with you, going to the mall on the first week of going on a diet? The mall, where you have to pass Harry & David and a cafeteria to go to Sephora, and you have to pass Starbucks, Godiva and the pretzel place to go to Gap Baby, and where you have to go upstairs to the food court to go to the family restroom. Honestly. You know you can't resist carbs when your blood sugar is low. And you know you can't resist anything chocolate-filled or chocolate-covered... ever. Testing your willpower, were you? Bad idea. Don't make that face, you know what the results were! Starbucks Mint Brownies 1, Willpower 0.

Ah, what a great start to the day. It builds character, I tell ya.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chocolate makes everything better. Even school events.

Ugh, school events. Can't stand them. I'd even go as far as saying I despise them. Maybe I wouldn't if I liked the school more, but considering it's full of stuck up obnoxious snobs and their spoiled offspring, there's a small chance of that. And that's the least of my problems with this school. As far as the school is concerned, I actually can't wait to go back to Switzerland.

But let's get back to the task at hand: school event today, yearly Christmas Bazaar - yes, not Holiday Bazaar, Christmas Bazaar because who could possibly attend this school and maybe have a different religion, right? Which is probably the reason all pupils have two hours of mandatory religion every week. Two hours. Mandatory. Guess which religion: why, the official German religion of course, Lutheran. Not that I have any problem with the Lutheran religion, but I'd prefer it if my daughter was exposed to different faiths – in fact those two mandatory hours wouldn't bother me if they were spent discussing different religious beliefs, to teach the children diversity and that one's spirituality can be expressed in different ways. That could be confusing, you might say. True. And that makes the mandatory thing bogus. After all, this isn't Sunday school.

But I digress, again – it might have something to do with the fact that I am tired and cranky, and that might have something to do with the fact that
a. Stella has been waking up at 4.30am for two weeks and
b. my husband just left for a 1-week business trip to Switzerland.
He has promised (kind of under coercion, but still) to come back with a new charm for me, which has me somewhat mollified, but I'm still not happy he's away. I think I'll have to make sure I meet friends daily this week, so I don't go nuts from lack of adult interaction (not that kind of adult interaction, although, that will be missed as well).

Shoot, I went off-topic again – will I ever manage to stay on-topic in this post? Who knows. I'm kind of falling asleep (at 10.44pm, what a glamorous life I lead), and the only reason why I'm still up is that I think this is the only time I'll get to dedicate to the blog this week.

Anyway... where was I? Right, the Christmas Bazaar – Weihnachts Bazaar, as they call it. It's such a drag. There's a show, which takes place in the too-small hall, and then there's food, which is sort of a good part, because they also have a Raclette Stube
, a room where they set up tables and raclette grills and of course cheese, potatoes, silver onions and tiny pickles. Yum. When I think back, my mood starts to improve :-)

There's also a Caffee Stube, a room where you can buy desserts, coffee and tea – each class brings 5 cakes, so you are guaranteed a wide selection.
Geez, I can almost hear my mood swing. The thought of chocolate cake always brings a smile to my lips.

xxx chocolate cake : up close personal

Did it work for you too?

In fact, all of a sudden, I don't think the Holiday Bazaar (yeah, that's how I'm calling it) is half bad. Except for the polite small talk, that is. I did meet a few people I like, but I also ran across people I don't like a lot, including the Queen Bee.

But let's look at the positive (because I need a good night's sleep and going to bed in a bad mood isn't a good idea):
1. I got a chance to wear my new ankle boots, which were murder on heels the first 30 minutes but then became bearable
2. I got to give my sitter her gift (love my sitter, got her a Clinique gift set)
3. I got to eat Raclette
4. I got to eat chocolate cake
5. I got to spend some time with Sascha and the girls before he left
6. Nobody can say I didn't go to the Holiday Bazaar, and yet I made it out of there in a little over two hours, so I could finish my husband's luggage with plenty of time to spare before the shuttle picked him up.

There. So I guess it wasn't so bad. I'm no longer in a bad mood. But I still can't help but feeling like the gal in the graphic above when I think of school events. Is it just me?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Oy, I'm in a sorority

the Sisterood of the Shrinking Jeans
Just kidding :-)
This is actually more fun... and more useful.

I hesitate to discuss my weight issues on my blog, but hey, it is MY blog, so heck, I should be able to share stuff. Without oversharing ;-)

My weight has been an issue ever since my first pregnancy. And the yo-yo dieting that followed (once Sarah had been weaned) didn't help things, I'm sure. I did manage to get almost to my goal weight several years ago by following The Fat Flush Plan (cheesy title, but good program), but a family crisis kind of threw me, and as usual when there are changes in my life, I throw my routines and my needs out the window and just put everyone else first (mommy complex).
The same thing happened when we moved here: Stella was just a baby, Sarah was having a hard time at the new school, my husband was working long hours at his new job... Just recently I started feeling like everyone else was sorted out and comfortable, and it was time to take care of ME (finally!)

Which brings me to: I really need to start exercising and maybe plan my eating better (I don't really want to say "go on a diet"), and I realize the Holidays are upon us, but hey, no time like the present, right?

So I joined the Sisterhood. Because really, a support network goes a long way when you are embarking upon something new, especially something you are dreading a bit. And let's face it, doing stuff together just makes it more fun!

So here I am. Goal: skinny jeans :-)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Beauty Giveaway winners!

The time has come... to announce the winners of the beauty giveaway!

*drum roll* (yes, I like a little drama, I am Italian after all)

The winner of the first prize, a full-size jar of Elizabeth Grant Biocollasis™ GOLD Advanced Cellular Radiance, worth $300...
Biocollasis™ GOLD Advanced Cellular Radiance
... is Marilyn, from Marilyn's Musings!!

The Winner of the second prize, which includes two full size products, Elizabeth Grant Vitamin C Eye Cream and Collagen Face Pads, for a total worth of $110...
Vitamin C Eye CreamCollagen Face Pads

... is Pamela, of Pam-Fried Family Life!

Congratulations ladies! Please get back to me within 48 hours to claim your prizes!

Thank you everyone else for entering! Stay tuned, there's more coming! I am about to host a really cool giveaway on my cooking blog, Unlikely Housewife in the Kitchen. Follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my RSS feed or just check back here to find out when the next giveaway starts!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tag! I am it, apparently

Been tagged. Must tag.

If you want to blame someone, blame Julie, who is the one who tagged me – I dare you to get mad at her, she's a sweetie :-)

The Rules:
1. Copy/paste the questions
2. Type in your answers
3. Tag four people in your list
4. Don’t forget to change my answers to the questions with that of yours.

4 places I go over and over: Whole Foods, Stabucks, the library, Target.

4 people who email me regularly: Kristina, Jax, PJ, Dajiela.

4 of my favorite places to eat:
Whole Foods, Outback, Grafton Street, Manora in Zurich

4 places you’d rather be: geez, 4? I can only think of one place at a time! And right now that place is definitely... in bed. Sleeping. (Stella has been waking up at 5am)

4 TV shows I could watch over and over: Gilmore Girls, Friends, Ally McBeal... I'm out.

4 people I think will respond (let them know you tagged them): well, hopefully ;-)
I'm picking some new Twitter friends:

* A Southern Fairytale
* ShoeSmitten
* Cynthia of The Good Enough Witch
* Jo of The Adventures of Kitchen Girl

Ha! So there :-) Now I'm off to bed, a hard day of shopping awaits tomorrow ;-)

Into the wild

Today was a lovely day. And if that sounds sappy, please consider that my Saturdays are usually spent running errands and cleaning. Instead, let's revisit what happened today:

Good stuff:
- I went to the movies with my daughter Sarah.
- I bought a cute pair of boots on sale.
- We went to see the Holiday Boat Parade at Stamford Harbor.
- I got a great adjustment at my weekly chiro visit, which got rid of my backache.

Not-so-good stuff:
After the great adjustment I found out that the stupid insurance company kept my lovely chiro waiting for 5 months before ultimately declining coverage for the last 5 months of treatment. If it wasn't for the fact that I try to keep this blog PG13, I would share a few colorful adjectives that go with said insurance company in my head.

Still, you can't make one thing ruin your entire day, so I choose to look more closely at the first list (which is longer, anyway).

My favorite part of the day was definitely spending time with Sarah. We never get to do stuff, just the two of us. Today Stella stayed home with daddy so Sarah and I could enjoy some time together, and we went to see Madagascar 2. We are huge fans of Madagascar, so I was just as excited as she was – in fact, I even attached some Madagascar character dog tags to my bag, while Sarah refused to go out wearing them, concerned that she might look ridiculous. I obviously had no such concerns.

We loved the movie – it reminded me a bit of Shrek, the way the humor appealed sometimes to the kids, other times to adults, and most often to both. Sarah of course had a better idea than I did about the movie before we even entered the theater, since she has seen the preview and played the game several times already.

Yes, she played the game before watching the movie. Originally I had planned on going to the movies first and giving her the game after, but she had a stellar couple of weeks at school, getting three good grades in a row; and then, the day before Thanksgiving, she went through her very messy room and re-organized and worked until it was perfectly tidy. So come on, she deserved a reward – hence the Madagascar 2: Return to Africa Wii game!
And she really loves it. All weekend she has used her TV time/PC time to play the game, and is still super-excited about it. I think it's perfect for her age. It consists mostly of mini-games, which I think are better to keep children interested; and of course being a Wii game, it isn't exactly stationary :-)

It contains lots of action but no violence, and because it revolves around cartoon characters it keeps those watching entertained as well – Stella seems to think so at least! She just sits and watches her sister play, and laughs and laughs. I tell you, I don't know many things that can keep them BOTH entertained for a while, and anything that accomplishes that is a plus in my book ;-)

If you got this far despite not knowing what the heck I am talking about because you have never seen Madagascar, I gotta tell you, I am truly flattered that you find me this interesting, but really – you need to get off the pc and go rent Madagascar. Go on. Especially if you are a New Yorker. Just go. I know very well it's a cartoon, thank you very much – but don't let that stop you. Otherwise I'll send Gloria to sit on you.

And if you don't get that, it's because you haven't seen the movie yet ;-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cool finds of the month: Holiday Edition, part 1

With the holidays approaching, it is only fitting that I dedicate the cool finds of the month to stuff that can make this lovely season more bearable ;-) No, seriously, with the shopping, the cooking, the planning, the spending, by the time we get to the part where we are supposed to let go and have fun, we don't want to be too tired to enjoy it, do we?

So this first installment of the Holiday Edition will focus on gift-giving and other holiday-related activities – I hope you find it helpful.

Multitaskers tend to get lots done but we also have the highest stress levels, and the holiday season is stressful enough as it is! If you are trying to cramp a whole lot of stuff into your lunch break, and you find yourself trying to catch up on unreplied text messages while out shopping, here's something to make things easier: install Vlingo on your Blackberry and you'll have your very own text-messaging assistant. Just say what you want to send and Vlingo will convert it into a text message. It's easy to use and it's a free service!

If you, like me, are expecting house guests for the holidays, and are getting everything ready for them, here's my tip: give THEM your pillow and get yourself a customized pillow from Sleep Number! Their Create Your Perfect Pillow program allows you to personalize the exact outer comfort, inner support and pillow protector materials in their pillow. I recently upgraded to one of these pillows, and I was very surprised to see what a difference something so small makes in the quality of my sleep.
Pillow prices start at $90, and gift cards are also available for purchase – check it out at any of the Sleep Number stores nationwide or online.

How gorgeous are Nancy Gonzales handbags? But who can afford them? Well, maybe you don't have to. Enter the Sweepstakes (hosted by Neiman Marcus) for your chance to win a $3000 Nancy Gonzales shopping spree!

Going on a trip for the holidays? Taking your little one with you? If you are staying at a Hyatt hotel, you can travel a lot lighter by using the Hyatt Travel Lite service, which allows you to order anything you might need, from formula and baby food to strollers and carriers, and have it delivered it to your Hyatt destination.

Need to get your home ready for the holiday parties you'll be throwing? Check out Amazon's Home and Garden Holiday Markdowns, to score kitchen equipment, cookware, table linens and tableware at 30-50% discount.
Also save on decorations on Amazon's Get Ready for the Holidays section.

If you think your sister or best friend would love to find something cute from Bebe under the tree, make sure you use coupon codes to get it for them: through November 30th, get $20 off your purchase of $125 or more with coupon code BBSAVE20 – heck, get something for yourself too, and get $100 (!) off your purchase of $300 or more with coupon code BBGET100.

If your favorite jewelry is feminine but edgy, you'll love Meredith Kahn's Made Her Think line. And you'll love even more that she has a lot of fantastic pieces on sale, up to 60% off! Perfect time to get a present... especially if it's for you ;-)

Women are so easy to shop for! Another example: makeup. Clinique is, in my experience, the brand with the best "gift with purchase" offers. This year Clinique has teamed up with leading designer Trina Turk and has a great offer at one of my favorite stores, Nordstrom. You will receive Trina Turk’s first-ever cosmetics bag, filled with 6 beauty essentials, plus a mirrored lipstick case, FREE with any Clinique purchase of $25 or more — exclusively at Nordstrom, until supplies last.
Or – if you already have too many make-up bags – you can shop at Clinique online get a free tote with your purchase of $50 or more.

This year, Drugstore.com is giving Clinique a run for their money! Their Kooba Beauty Bag is filled with goodies from Stila, Boscia, Sue Devitt, Oscar Blandi, and many more - a $200 value for just $85. The products sound lovely, but the Kooba wristlet is the real catch!

Another great, "no-brainer" gift is pre-packaged gift sets with products already paired up, where you can pick the type of product and/or the scent and get several items already in a lovely gift box. Origins is definitely my favorite place to get gift sets, because they products look and smell lovely, and the gift packages are always so pretty (in fact, I think some of them also make great hostess gifts) – check out this year's Holiday Sets!
Bliss is another popular brand, especially here in the NYC area; and their gift sets are very affordable, like The Big Orange set, which includes two products and a tote.
Clinique gloss trio
If you prefer natural and organic makeup and beauty products, you'll be excited to know that Lavera, one of the top natural brands in the world, is now running a Clearance Sale on their website where you can save up to 90%! There is also an Anniversary Sale going on, with newly released products at 15% off. Personally, I think their lipgloss is one of the best I've ever used, and that includes both natural and not-so-much ones ;-)

Send a positive message by gifting your favorite tot with a lovely organic slogan tee by Eco Ike, and enjoy free shipping on any order of $50 or more, and free holiday packaging (including a card) on all orders. My favorite is the "bee green" tee!

And for the mom of the eco-tot, you can't do better than a gift from NIMLI, which is possibly the most fabulous eco-friendly fashion online store! Right now you can enjoy the extensive selection in the fall sale (check out the pashminas!) as well as 20% off your order with coupon code FALL08, and free shipping on all orders over $100.
Pink car
I don't know about you, but I usually do most of my holiday shopping online. You get great deals, can find coupons to apply (like those at RetailMeNot and CouponNerds) and you can even get money back when you purchase through Ebates. And on top of that, you don't need to go out with the baby in the stroller and fight the madness of the holiday crowds. There is one problem though: some items you really want to see before you buy them. I found a solution, at least as far as toys are concerned: Amazon's Holiday Toy List lets you narrow your choices by age or by price, and then actually see the toys in action! Check it out here.

If you don't know what to get as a Christmas gift for someone on your list, consider a magazine subscriptionmagazine subscriptions. Get $5 off a one-year subscription to Cooking Light, Elle, Martha Stewart Living, Men's Fitness and others by using code MYPOINTS5OFF during checkout.

Get your little ones gorgeous wooden toys and playroom furniture for Christmas and save by shopping the Pottery Barn Kids online sale, with items up to 65% off.

One for the men: girls like jewelery. But we don't necessarily like the classic stuff, maybe we like more interesting pieces, pieces that will still be lovely years from now, but never boring. You can't go wrong with pieces from Melissa Joy Manning – and you can get 15% off any purchase by using coupon code ARTISAN.

You know what else girls like: bags.
Luna Boston is having a great handbag sale on designer handbags! Foley + Corinna, Hayden Harnett, Botkier, Gryson and more - great chance to snag a designer bag at a discounted price. LunaBoston.com also ships offers free same day shipping on all orders over $100, and free returns – can't go wrong.
But if your budget doesn't allow you to splurge on a designer bag, check out the wide selection of designer-inspired handbags at Baghaus. Through December 1, take $10 off purchases of $50 or more with coupon code TENOFF.

If you'd like more tailored recommendations, you cannot go wrong with GiftGirl. Provide some details about the recipient, and Jean will recommend several fantastic gifts. Whether you choose the 24-hour access option for $5, year-round access ($20) or a personal consultation with Jean ($200), you will get tailored, honest, unbiased suggestions (no paid endorsements!). Here's a little freebie from Jean:

Happy Holidays - and happy shopping!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cleaning flu – ehm... fever

Be inspired: join the 100-Day Challenge!

Forget the flu, and forget the fact that last night, for the first time in a week, I actually slept (like a stone, thanks to Nyquil – which is also to thank for my current hangover), but haven't quite made up for the rest of the week.
Forget the fact that I'll be taking Sarah to dance class this afternoon, and that I still have to workout how to get her home from her afternoon classes on Tuesdays, and have to finalize the Thanksgiving menu so I can make the weekly shopping list, and have to finish my "Cool Finds of the Month" post and decide exactly what to get for my dad for Christmas so I don't have to brave the holiday madness that takes over every online and real-world store after Thanksgiving.

Yes, forget all that. Because today I am starting my home makeover. No, I don't mean that I will be re-decorating every room and picking new fabrics and so on (although that would be fabulous, I love interior decorating) – no, I mean I plan on changing my home into a place where anyone can show up, any day, any time, and I can let them in without melting in shame at the sight of the mess everywhere, until I am reduced to a little puddle on the floor like the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz.

Of course I've already made one fatal mistake, the same I make when starting a new diet: unrealistic expectations. But isn't is the dream of every organizing freak to have a house like that? A house where everything has its place and can be found immediately when needed, rather than having to be tracked down? A house where you can have unexpected guests at any time, and give them a tour of the house if the ask (or even if they don't ask but expect it, like in Switzerland) without having to lock and bolt the doors of the rooms where you stashed all the mess you took away from the rooms that are now somewhat presentable? No? Just me then?

Ok, fine. But still. I don't need the house to be magazine-worthy, but I would like the unexpected-guest thing. So instead of chosing one of the very very many self-help books for failed housewives available on Amazon, I chose to use the guide Simple Mom wrote. Afterall, "Spring Cleaning for Normal People" sounds like the right thing. I'm pretty sure I fall in the category of "normal people" despite my being kind of neurotic (yeah, I do know I said 'kind of'). And Simple Mom, like me, has experienced moving overseas with the family. (Yeah, I know I was messy before that. I'm just milking it. Try to keep up.)

So today I am starting with her guide. Ideally, I'd have a presentable house by Thanksgiving without having to kill myself doing the marathon-cleaning thing.

Yes, I am starting. Soon. Just as soon as I've checked my e-mail. And maybe had a cup of tea and watched Will & Grace. No, I am not procrastinating again! And if I am, it's just because typing this, trying to be all reasonable... it's actually killed my buzz. I know I can spark it up again if I make myself a cup of tea and start reading SCFNP again. Yes. That's what I'll do. And I promise to keep you posted on my progress. But I'm going to make tea now, so don't hold your breath. I live in Westchester, you know, I don't have to do things in a New York minute.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Beauty giveaway - 2 winners!

I don't know about you, but after having my second child and turning 30, I started seeing a change in my skin – and not for the better! So I started looking into anti-aging skincare without toxic ingredients, and eventually found the right one for me.

During my little experiment, I realized that trying things out until you find the right one can end up being not only annoying and time consuming, but also expensive.
So in light of the fact that:
a. the Holidays are upon us
b. they are the most stressful season of the year (not to mention the most expensive!)
c. and stress contributes to aging... I decided to treat you to a little pre-Holiday gift and hold my very first beauty giveaway, with anti-aging products by Elizabeth Grant. I am currently using the Vitamin C Body Scrub and I really like it!

Here's what you could win:
1. Elizabeth Grant Advanced Cellular Radiance
2. Elizabeth Grant Vitamin C Eye Cream and Collagen Face Pads

So what do you say? Would you like to feel pampered? Here's how you can earn multiple entries for this giveaway:
- Tweet about this giveaway (1 entry)
- Blog about this giveaway (2 entries)
- Place the giveaway graphic on your sidebar (2 entries)

Then come back here and let me know. Please include links to your tweets/posts. Contest entries will be accepted through November 30th. Contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only (sorry Sherry!)

That's it!

Good luck everyone!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nonsequitur (or just random, if you prefer)

Boy, was I crabby yesterday. Not totally over it, gotta say. Hey, it happens. Today of course the flu came back, and of course despite it being Sunday I couldn't stay home and sleep it off, instead I went to run some errands in the morning and then to a birthday party in the afternoon. It was lovely. Except for the screaming children and the annoying music. The cake did make it much more bearable, though. I tell you, chocolate cake cures all ills (especially the bad mood variety).

Just finished Julie & Julia. Didn't really like it. But maybe you will. Come get it before I leave it on a park bench ;-)

Read an interview on Entertainment Weekly with Robert Pattinson, the actor cast to play Edward in the much-anticipated Twilight movie. Apparently when the choice was first made public, there was an uproar from fans, who complained he wasn't good-looking enough or something. I though he was cute already in the Harry Potter movie, so I don't really get the problem – but then again, I haven't read the books. Anyway... I thought the interview made him sound like a bit of a twit. I wonder if that was the goal of the interviewer/EW correspondent or whatever, or if he really is like that. But then again, he is 17. Been there, seen (and dated) that. 90% of 17 years old boys are stupid at least some of the time, so we shoulnd't expect famous ones to be any different, right? It would be de facto discrimination, politically incorrect and all kinds of other bad stuff ;-)

I haven't been doing so well on my 100-Day Challenge Goals. I think I need a buddy. Or a coach. Someone to boss me around and tell me to get off my butt and get cranking on my goals. Because really, I can still make progress, even though the 100 days are now down to 45. Hey, 6 weeks is the perfect length of time for a makeover! And the makeover shows, they concentrate on houses and appearance, right? Well, actually I am ok with my general appearance, I would just like it to be less... round, I guess :-) The period approaching the Holiday Season is probably not the best time to start a new fitness/weight loss plan, but hey, there's no time like the present right? So... would you like to be the one bossing me around?

I have been thinking of changing my blog template and layout. I'd hire someone, except: a. I am a control freak and I may just drive that someone crazy; b. the best designers charge hefty sums for their work; c. I get bored fairly quickly and I'd hate to get bored quickly of something I was charged a hefty sum for. Much better to get bored of something I wen totally batty to make myself.

Tips? Input? All welcome (though I can't promise I'll listen). In fact, would you do me a favor and vote in the following poll? I know, I am a loser, posting polls about this stuff. My excuse if that I am feverish (barely) and out of it (often). Just vote, will ya? Come on, who doesn't like to tell people what to do? And now I am actually asking for it. You know you want to :-)


Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's Saturday: clean your fridge, get coffee, and for goodness sakes, don't lock yourself out

For those of you who didn't know it, today was National Clean Your Fridge Day – which, I am sorry, but comes up with these things? And when are they going to come up with a Global "Your House Is A Mess So Get Off The PC" Day? Because that I could actually get on board with. But anyway – do you think I cleaned my fridge today? No, of course not. What I did was spend 5 hours in a room with about 30 other people, for my Defensive Driving Course, or whatever it's called. It was actually not that bad, except I had no coffee. No. Coffee.

"Why, Elisa? Why would you go to a 5-hour class without coffee?" You may ask. (Or at least, the few of you who care may ask.) Ooooh, don't get me started. Or actually do. Because I am just dying to tell you about how I planned the whole morning perfectly so that I would have time to go to the Chiro, drop by Trader Joe's to get a sandwich and a smoothie to take with me for lunch, and then swing by Stabucks for a Grande Soy Vanilla Latte with an extra shot, and then arrive to the driving school 15 minutes before the class, and all without breaking a sweat.
To accomplish that, I moved our Saturday Chiro appointment from 9.20am to 8.30am, and got up early despite the fact that Stella woke me up at 4.30 again and didn't fall back asleep for over an hour, and that's only after I brought her into my bed and she twirled and pulled my hair for what felt like an eternity before falling asleep and almost pushing me off the side of the bed.

(Ooh, boo-hoo. Worse night have happened and people still got up. Yes. But ready to face a 5-hour class without coffee? Don't think so.)

So. Despite that, I got up, got ready, did my makeup and straightened my hair, got dressed and was out the door and at the chiro on time with the family. And miraculously, we were out of there at 9.30 and had plenty of time to go to Trader Joe's and do our stuff. We were out of there before 10 (!!) and getting ready to get our Starbucks drinks and maybe even drop by the house to pick up my cell, because we had plenty of time. THAT'S when my husband realized he had, once again, left the keys in the car. We were locked out. And THAT'S when the light drizzle changed into pouring rain, so I coulnd't even follow my first instinct, which was to walk to Starbucks with the girls and wait there, peacefully enjoying a lovely hot coffee drink, while my (obviously mommybrained) husband waited for the road assistance guy.

So instead of doing all the stuff I would have had time to do thanks to my planning ahead, I had to sit in Trader Joe's like a bag lady (with actual shopping bags! albeit reusable ones) waiting for the guy to show up, and then rush to the class. Without coffee. And once there, I sat down and watched as people trickled in, while the teacher explained that he was allowing late arrivals until 11.15 because of the weather.
I could have gotten my bloody coffee after all.
That's what you get for being polite.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Lucky Shops... oh yes she does!

On Friday, as planned, I met my friend PJ and we made our way to Lucky Shops. Contrary to what you might expect however, I didn't show up really early, bracing myself for several hours of marathon shopping. After being warned by a friend who had attended last year's event that most of the merchandise would be "cheaper than usual, but still pretty expensive" I had decided to follow my organizing-freak instinct and had already planned (almost scheduled) my purchases for the approaching holiday season; so I was going mainly in an investigative capacity, so to speak, and using the fact that I had won the tickets as excuse to have a girl's night out. Of course I am only human, and I'm a girl, so I left ample room for the possibility that I'd find something I simply must have (and could afford), and I took a credit card with me anyway.

We showed up a little before 5 p.m. (closing time was 7 p.m.) and started making our rounds. Here's a summary.

Lines & crowds: Doors opened at 10 a.m., but as I said we didn't show up until a little before 5 p.m., so I can't testify to the lines and crowds before then. But I can tell you that I was VERY impressed with the venue (Metropolitan Pavillion, in Chelsea) - it was airy, well-organized; the bar, the ottomans, everything perfectly placed so as to be easily accessible but not in the way, not to disturb the flow of shoppers. Impressive.

Cocktails/drinks and food: Beer, cocktails - including a delicious one with tangerine juice - bottles of Coke and Diet Coke free for the taking, as well as the newest iced coffee drinks by POM. Miniature Larabar fruit-nut bars, 100-Calorie Packs of Ritz crackers and Cheese Nips.

Gift bags: No giftbags, really - unless you count the miniature shopping tote from Shop Rock & Roll containing a Chevy notebook and a sample of Benefit "That Gal", which you got after taking a survey at the Chevy Maliboutique.
Other freebies:
- full-size Garnier Nutritioniste products (Skin Renew face moisturizer and Nutri-Pure Gel Cleanser), and skin consultation at the Garnier Nutritioniste booth;
- a sample of Benefit You Rebel tinted moisturizer and free shipping on the next purchase at the Benefit online store (use code LUCKYYOU) valid through tomorrow, November 11;
- a 25% online discount from Lizzie Scheck Jewelry using code LSJ25;
- a free silver Nintendo DS pocker mirror, exactly like the pink one I got at Shecky's Girls Night Out;
- free consultation with stylist Danna Weiss.

Merchandise and discounts: lovely clothes, jewellery and shoes, for the most part. Mostly designer. Prices were discounted, some even affordable, but not cheap. Example:
- Foley + Corinna city clutch, $220 (retail price $440)
- Chloe suede wedge boots originally priced at $1,150, 50% off at LuckyShops
- MINT by Jodi Arnold top, $138 (retail price $308)
- And these gorgeous Kate Spade peep-toe pumps, $135 (retail price $328), which I definitely would have bought if it wasn't for the fact that I have 3 brand-new pairs of peep-toe pumps that I have yet to wear, just sitting prettily in my dresser.

A few highlights:
- Shoes, bags and accessories from (as in: worn on) Project Runway.

- Conscious Jewelry by Danna Weiss: gorgeous necklaces. Thick gold-plated chains with perfectly shaped and polished crystals and gems, each related to a specific chakra. Designer Dana Weiss describes her line as "metaphisically designed and eco-conscious" and recommends choosing your pieces carefully, based on what you are drawn to the most, because that is the stone covering the area where you need to restore balance. This may sound ridiculous, but after following the instructions and putting on the chosen stone, I believe there is something to this.

- The Denim Bar was definitely brilliant. Several brands, all priced under $100 (discounted) and a Singer station where you could get your newly purchased denims hemmed for free. Smart thinking, Lucky!

- The Botkier booth was a thing of beauty. Lots of gorgeous bags and shoes in different sizes, models, colors and materials. When even a nylon bag feels and looks so rich and luxurious and you find yourself preferring it to more expensive leather handbags, you know that's a label to go for.

As closing time approached, the deals started popping up. A few we noticed:
- Siegerson Morrison flats for $30
- Rafe New York peep-toe flats for $30
- Gucci sunglasses for $90
- knee-high Dr.Martens patent combat boots for $60

That, of course meant that just as we were trying on shoes, the event ended and we were left to watch the booth attendants add more styles to the shelves for those same low prices, in preparation for Saturday's "Shop-a-thon" (Lucky's words, not mine).

Which is pretty smart when you think about it, because PJ and I were actually tempted to purchase a Saturday ticket and return the day after, to do some actual shopping. But since we were exhausted after only 2 hours and we had taken it pretty easy, we figured we woulnd't enjoy the "last man standing"-like atmosphere that was probably going to characterize the Saturday Shop-a-thon, so we decided to let it go - PJ had scored a lovely pair of leather pumps

A word of caution: if you ever plan on attending any such events and do a day of marathon-shopping, don't stop until you get home. Don't even sit. If you do, you might end up falling asleep, surrounded by your shopping bags, in an inappropriate place where you might be filmed and/or photographed. Don't believe me? Scroll down.

Told you ;-)

P.S. Didn't make it to LuckyShops? Don't be sad. Bluefly is now making the fabulous clothes and accessories from LuckyShops availalble online!

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