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!

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