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, January 31, 2009

Shopping event alert: Barney's Warehouse Sale

What: Designer clothing, accessories, shoes and handbags from current and previous seasons, up to 75% off.

When & Where:
Los Angeles:
February 5th-16th
Barker Hangar, Santa Monica Air Center
3021 Airport Avenue

New York:
February 12th-March 1st
255 West 17th Street
(between 7th and 8th Avenue)

I find live sample sales and warehouse sales a little scary, but this one might just be worth it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cool finds of the month: January 2009

Here it is again! It's back. There may be no sales in the new edition, but there are some cool things from the web and the blogosphere. Enjoy!

We used to think that fashion and technology were two separate things. Now we know better. And here's the latest example: World-renowned designer Vivienne Tam and HP created the perfect fusion of fashion and technology for the HP Vivienne Tam Special Edition notebook. This gorgeous "digital clutch" is now finally available on HP Direct, starting at $699.99 (U.S.).

Looking for affordable edgy, unique accessories? Check out Love Madds. Madeline Rhodes' pieces are pretty without being boring, girly but with a bit of an edge. And best of all, they are very affordable. I dare you to get just one!

Private sale websites have become increasingly popular, because of the possibility to buy designer and brand items at more affordable prices. The latest addition is RedTagCrazy, where you can score apparel and accessories from popular labels and get $5 off you first purchase, which will already be discounted at 50-80% retail prices. RedTagCrazy says it best on their website: "Quantities are limited, time is limited, and our attention span is limited - so stay awake."

Being single in New York was never as celebrated as it has been since Sex and The City started airing, and now there's a great post-SATC chance for celebration: New York City's Hotel Giraffe offers a Single & Fabulous package for you and friends to celebrate Valentine's Day with brunch, Bloomingdale's discounts, makeup sessions at MAC, and VIP passes to nightclub Marquee.

With more and more people using Wii Fit to get back into regular exercise, it was just a mater of time before someone came up with more gadgets to use in conjunction with it. Riiflex is a not-yet-produced-but-already-promoted dumbbell-like weight to click onto the Wii Remote to add weight to strength training exercises. It may work or not, but you have to admit it's an interesting idea.

Don't buy this for your Valentine, unless you are trying to send a message: the Kissometer is a device that works much like a breathalyzer, except it will rate your "kissability" based on your breath, and gives you one of five possible answers: Kiss me, Possible, Maybe, Risky, and Never.

- A Classic Housewife in a Modern World tells us about blog branding.

- Allison Worthington, beloved author of the popular blog Mrs. Fussypants and Editor in Chief of Blissfully Domestic, has another winner on her hands: Worthington Wire pulls all the latest news in many different fields and topic, including but not limited to: Politics, Pop culture, Healthy Living, Recipes and much more. Follow Allison's updates on Twitter @WorthyWire

- Marie Denee tells us about a vintage store catering to plus-size and full-figured women.

- WhoWhatWear tells us how to update old favorites.

- On Running in Heels, Alison Stewart tells us which jeans to pick for different looks, and how to accessorize them.

- Sue at Happy Meals and Happy Hour shares a helpful video for those of us who want to exercise at home.

That's it for this month! I hope you enjoyed this post. If you want to suggest something to be included in the next installment of Cool Finds of The Month, e-mail me or send me a Tweet!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Better late than never

I just finished cleaning my fridge. I know, it was overdue – but hey, read the title of this post.

Hubs must agree with me, because he came in today and said "Oh, you are cleaning" in a "That's a pleasant surprise" tone (in fact, most of my cleaning gets done during the hour before my husband gets home from work). "Yes, I'm cleaning the fridge" I replied, without looking up, then added "and I'm re-organizing the shelves, just so you know" and turned to look at him. I could sense a "uh-oh" – he avoided my gaze and walked over to Sarah to decorate the cookies they made on Sunday. He hates it when I re-organize. Not hate the result, hate how neurotic I get about keeping it that way. But hey, who wants to do all that work just to see it messed up like it happens to everything else? (which, by the way, is one of the reasons why I hate household chores – they just don't STAY done)

Later on, I showed him the newly-cleaned and organized fridge. "Ooh, nice!" he said, closing it quickly, no doubt trying to avoid me illustrating the new system. Fat chance. I re-opened it, explained him where everything went, while he nodded and rolled his eyes. When I caught the eye rolling I stopped and asked: "Are you going to remember this, or should I make you a flowchart?" Someone else might have laughed. But my husband, knowing I am perfectly capable of doing that, said "No, it's ok" and then quickly left the room, supposedly to go say hi to Stella, but most likely just trying to avoid more fridge talk. I'm onto him.

What about you? I know I couldn't be the only neurotic one. Come on, 'fess up.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sharing the fabulous: Interview with Jean Vouté Pratt, of Style Observer

I'm like a shy guy: pretty girls make me nervous. Maybe because often they will look you up and down (what Becky Bloomwood refers to as the "Manhattan once-over") and on a low-self-esteem day, it's all I can do not to hit the ground running. Jean Vouté Pratt, the fabulous woman behind the popular fashion blog Style Observer, is nothing like that. She is as nice and friendly as she is gorgeous – translation: very.

I had the chance to meet Jean and her lovely husband for coffee, and when I asked her if I could interview her for my blog, she gracefully accepted. (My reply? A very professional "Yay!") If you know and love Style Observer (and why wouldn't you?) you'll love this, so get reading!

Hi Jean!

I'm really excited to have you on my blog, so before I start babbling, let's get right down to it:

Mother of two, happily married, but also business woman and renown fashion expert. You are an inspiration! How do you do it all?

Since I work from home now, it's easier to manage my time. I can work into the night if I have to. I make it clear to myself and anyone else that my boys come FIRST. So, I work around their needs – which sometimes means I'm up until 2 A.M.

I have been a fan of Style Observer since I first found it, last year. You never seem to miss a beat! Like the recent "Splurge vs. Steal" post, a really fitting topic in the current economic climate. These days people are more careful what they spend their money on. What do you think are the things one should splurge on, and get the best available? Is it the shoes? Handbags? The perfect pair of jeans? Special occasion clothing?

Everyone is feeling it [recession] right now! So, we're all looking to save money. I don't think many people are splurging on big items right now. If you want to invest in items right now, it should be the classics: handbags, shoes, trench coat... pieces that you will use for years.

I love the most recent posts where you show how to dress for your body shape! We all want to highlight our best features and... well, hide our flaws a bit :-) I have enjoyed the "universal" tips a lot too, like when you showed us how the perfect pair of black pants can get you out of a "what to wear?" conundrum. Are there other "key" pieces you think every woman should own?

Absolutely! Every woman should own: a crisp white shirt, a pair of black pumps, a black skirt, a festive top - in a color that suits them, a pair of well constructed jeans, a great white tee, a trench coat, a pair of brown boots, a tote bag, and a clutch. These are your "go to" pieces that will never let you down.

I noticed you included pieces from the Anya Hindmarch for Target line in some of your posts. What do you think of the partnerships between designers and popular store chains? Target's Go Designers, Vera Wang for Kohls and so on. Do you own any items from these collections?

Yes, I have an Anya Hindmarch shoulder bag and clutch form Target. I love when designers partner-up. I want their designs at reasonable prices, just like the next girl. I have no problem carrying a Target bag to fashion week, as long as it's chic and good looking. Anya Hindmarch did a phenomenal job with her design for Target – it translated really well! I'm usually really hopeful when I hear a designer is doing a collection for Target or H&M etc – BUT I'm usually disappointed with what comes out. Except for Anya.

You seem to enjoy casual clothing as much as dressing up. What is your favorite item in your closet?

I love to dress up sometimes, but I need to be able to hang around with my boys most of the time. Casual clothes are a huge part of my life . I have a pair of motorcycle boots that I have had for almost 15 years, and they are perfect! They are my everyday boots that I can wear into the city or running around with my kids.

You and your blog work as inspiration for many women out there. Who is your inspiration?

My parents! They grew up in the Bronx together, and worked their "bottoms" off to build a great marriage, family, and business. It's truly an American Dream story. I've learned such different things from each of them that I use in business everyday. My Mom taught me to trust my "gut" instincts, and my father taught me to "never give up". They both taught me that family comes first- no matter what. I always refer back to that.

You recently answered a reader's question about how to update her "business casual" style. This reader had no problem defining her style, but I know plenty of people who are still struggling to find their own. Can you offer some tips?

What do you like? When you see other girls' styles, what catches your eye and why? What do you feel comfortable in? What impression do you want the world to get when they see you? A good tip would be to try on, try on, try on, and play a little with looks. Take someone you really trust with you to a store and ask what looks good etc. Cut out pictures of looks that you like and pin them on your closet wall.

Your posts on Style Observer are really helpful and insightful. Do you offer personal stylist services?

I'm about to start offering some services. A closet consultation, where I will help the girls go through what they have and pull outfits together. Also, I will be available to go on shopping trips for advice on looks etc. I'll probably try to figure out a way to do a Skype call for girls who are not in the NY area. Style Observer is about to expand offering more to the readers. Stay tuned for that!

Thank you Jean, for all the fantastic tips! Thank you also for fitting this chat into your busy life.

Thanks Elisa, I had fun answering your questions!

Jean blogs about fashion on Style Observer, where she breaks down current trends and helps readers put fashion and real life together. If you have a style question for Jean that you'd like addressed on her blog, e-mail her at Questions@StyleObserver.com

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Slow-start routine.

This morning I read a post on a lovely blog, The Inspired Room. Have you ever heard a more perfect title for a home-decor blog? I don't think I have. The last post on the blog is titled "The Five Minute
Jump Start the Day Routine"
and it outlines the 5-minute routine Melissa goes through every day to start her day on the right foot: make the bed, open the shades, turn off the porch lights, unload the dishwasher. She does this every morning, no fail. No wonder she has a blog about keeping house and I have one about... well, not keeping house.

It's not like I don't have any aspirations as far as my house goes! I do love decorating, the clothes hanging in my closet are organized by color and my shoes are all in clearly labeled fabric shoe boxes. Also, my spices are organized in alphabetical order. But that's more or less where it ends. I'm a messy organizing freak, which means I get all excited at the idea of alphabetizing and organizing minutiae but loading the dishwasher and vacuuming is about as much housework as I can tolerate in one go. (I am awesome at emergency cleaning, though.)

Here's how my ideal Jumpstart morning routine goes:
- I get up at 5.30
- by the time the alarm clock goes off for the rest of the family, I have already exercised and showered
- I get Sarah ready for school and make everybody breakfast
- I clean up the kitchen and start the dishwasher
and most importantly, in this scenario I don't go near the computer until Stella is down for her nap, around lunch time.

Now, you have to remember that's all in my head. Here's how the real morning routine goes:
- 6.30am, alarm clock goes off, I wake up and find Stella in my bed. Try to remember how she ended up there. Oh, yeah, that was the 5th time she woke up. Ok.
- get Sarah up, make her breakfast, keep saying "get dressed, brush your teeth, comb your hair, (etc)" until she gets through the morning routine and is ready to go. See her off.
- drink water. Sit at pc, check e-mail while I wait for Stella to wake up.
- make Stella breakfast, cuddle, have breakfast, tweet, blog or read fave blogs.
- sooner or later, load dishwasher.

Yeah, I know what you are thinking. So close.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stamp of approval: great everyday bag

A few months ago I was lucky enough to win a Botkier Sasha satchel from ThisNext. I saw it, I really wanted it, and spent many hours doing recommendations on the site, disregarding the household chores (ok, that's nothing new). It paid off. I won it.

The Sasha was my very first designer bag. I've had "brand" handbags, but never a designer bag. I've always been of the opinion that spending several hundred (or several thousand) dollars one one bag was silly and wasteful - why do that when you could have several less expensive bags instead, and have more variety?

That was my opinion, until I started using the Sasha. The bag is a medium size, which means I can fits lots in but no so much that it's so heavy that I can't carry it comfortably. It has two handles but also a wider strap, so it can be held like a satchel or carried on the shoulder like a hobo, leaving my hands free to pick up Stella, hold a coffee, push the stroller and so on. And the fact that the bag is made of nylon (with patent leather accents) means that it won't get ruined if I wear it when it's raining, and that it doesn't stain as easily. In other words, a perfect bag for a fashionable mom. And don't let the word "nylon" put you off: because of the quality of the material and the way it was dyed, the bag looks more like satin, it's really lovely! I get a lot of compliments on it.

Because of the bag's characteristics, I ended up using it for 3 weeks straight after I got it, no change. Needless to say, that had never happened before, and I finally had to admit the truth: when you have a really nice handbag, it will go with almost everything and you won't feel the need to change it as often. Which means that instead of owning the current 20-something bags I have in my closet, now I'd much rather have 3 really great bags (saving up for a Jackie or Asher right now).

The Sasha nylon satchel retails for $480 ($450 online), but is now on sale at Tobi ($270), LunaBoston ($225), Endless ($300), ShopDressOnline ($332, large), Shoes4Go ($315). Mine is burgundy, but the bag also comes in Chocolate Brown, Electric Blue and Black.

Pssst! If you are reading this on January 21 or 22, you might be lucky enough to score a Medium Sasha on RueLaLa for $175! It's by invitation only, so if the link doesn't work, e-mail me for an invite.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Insider Shopping: January 2009

The first change of 2009: the "Insider Shopping" section of the Cool Finds of the Month post is going solo. The Cool Finds post was getting a bit crowded, so I decided to split it in two: the sales and offers will still be published on a monthly basis, mid-month; the Cool Finds post will still come out at the end of the month and contain cool finds, new things that come out, favorite blog posts from the blogosphere, and so on. So here's the first issue of Insider Shopping, I hope you like it!

Free shipping and a free Virtuose Mascara with any Lancome purchase, through January 18th.

Special offer at Clarins: choose two of your favorite products and receive two free products! Order by January 21 and get free shipping, too - just use coupon code NATURE.

Everybody loves the spa, but having to go back just to find that fabulous body lotion is annoying. No need: many hard-to-find luxury skincare products can now be found at Spalook, often at much better prices. And right now they have some great offers! Through February 25th, spend $75 and choose your free gift:
- FREE Avene Ystheal+ Cream and Ystheal+ Eye Contour Care with promo code AVENE2Y
- FREE full-size Janson Beckett Vitamin C&C Facial Serum with promo code JBCC

And for a limited time only, you can get free products with any online order - from Covet by Sarah Jessica Parker to a Juice Beauty travel set and many many more. Choose your free product among the many available here.

20% off all PureGloss on Jane Iredale. These glosses are fabulous. Great colors, not too sticky, and all natural! Check out www.janeiredale.com and use promo code INSTYLE09 through January 31st to receive your 20% discount.

25% off merchandise from popular celebrity makeup artists at Paula Dorf Cosmetics and Suresh Beauty. Use promo code INSTYLE09 through January 31st.

Receive a Stephanie Johnson make-up case filled with beauty samples and coupons with your beauty of fragrance purchase of $50 or more at Saks Fifth Avenue, using code SHAPEUP. Offer expires January 18th.

Receive a free Be Delicious DKNY fragrance with any purchase from Sephora.

Free Youthopia firming eye cream with any Origins order through January 20th with code YouthEyeLS.

20% off any purchase from Baghaus with coupon code 2009SALE, plus free shipping for any purchase $50 and above, and 50% off all wallets when you spend $75.

20% off all online shoe purchases at Chinese Laundry trough January 25th with coupon code CLFRIENDS2009.

Post-Holiday sale at Greenloop and NIMLI: enjoy up to 75% off the best in eco-luxury apparel.

25% off your purchase at CoutureCandy with coupon code 25DAY.

Through January 31, get free shipping and $15 off any order over $100 at Linea Pelle using code CJLP15, or get 10% off any order with code CJLP10. You'll find lots of great deals in the "Specials" section, including a Dylan Croco Double Zippy and Dylan Croco Shoulder Bag both at 40% off!

15% off all purchases on Rich & Skinny jeans with promo code INSTYLE09. Valid until January 31st.

Designer Modi Soondarotok launched her line Idom after working form Peter Som, Donna Karan and Armani in NYC. Get 20% off all purchases on Idom Designs with promo code INSTYLE09. Valid through January 31st.

Add Hayden-Harnett to your friends on Facebook and enjoy their special "Inauguration sale"! 50% off any online purchase, including sale items, using code PRESIDENT at checkout. Offer ends on January 21, so hurry up!

Accessory blowout sale on Editor's Note! All items that were not sold on previous private sales, at even lower prices. Hurry, quantities are limited!

An additional 20% off Net-a-Porter's fabulous designer sale items with coupon code WINTERUSA. Valid until January 18th.

Get up to 75% off in the French Connection Winter Sale.

20% off all purchases on Jules Smith Designs. Check out the intricate jewelery pieces loved by many celebs, including Cameron Diaz, Angelina Jolie, Leighton Meester, Blake Lively, and Eva Longoria. Use promo code JULES20 through January 31st to receive 20% off all purchases.

25% off all purchases on Laura Elizabeth Jewelry - her designs are worn by many celebrities, like Hayden Panettiere, Brooke Shields and Maria Menounos. Use promo code INSTYLE09 through January 31st.

20% off all purchases on Tejani. Find out why Stars like Teri Hatcher and Kim Kardashian love the timeless hand-crafted jewelry pieces designed by Urvi Prunier. Use promo code INSTYLE09 through January 31st.

Need help in keeping the kids' room organized? Save 20% on the Somerset Storage Collection at Pottery Barn Kids through January 20th. And while you are there, check out the Clearance section and save up to 75% on furniture, bedding and more.

Save up to 50% on baby gear, apparel and furniture on the Giggle Winter sale. Lots of great deals on strollers, diaper bags, crib bedding, and more lovely things for your favorite tot.

That's it for this month, I hope you found something you liked! See you next month with the February installment of Insider Shopping... and another surprise ;-)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The little devil on your shoulder? Yeah, that's me.

Because who else would tempt you with chocolate when you are trying to stick to your New Year's resolutions?

'Cause this post here, is actually... a giveaway! That's right, I'm giving away chocolate! Even better, custom-made chocolate boxes.

Let me elaborate. In fact, let me start from the beginning. Ok, not the very beginning, you know, just the beginning of this story (Heck, if I keep going like this it will be a miracle if I ever finish this post, and even more of a miracle if anyone actually reads it, instead of going "oh, forget it!" and closing the window. Or tab, if you are on Firefox).

So: You all know how I have a love affair with chocolate. (If my husband is reading this: I am sorry honey, but you must have known on some level. Or many. And you hold some of the blame, since you brought me to Switzerland! For God's sakes.)
Well, as a self-proclaimed chocoholic, I obviously couldn't resist the chance to sample some gourmet chocolate. I have a fairly discerning palate when it comes to chocolate, no Hershey's or candy bars for me. Yuck. Lindt? Sure.

So imagine my surprise when I actually enjoyed the chocolate I was offered. A lot.

That chocolate, my friends, was from See's Candies. They have lots of different kinds of chocolate praline, and you can customize your box to include the ones you like best. How cool is that?

Another cool thing I found on their website: the possibility to organize "chocolate fundraisers" selling See's Candies, and make up to 50% on sales - much better than that pain of a project we did when Sarah was in second grade, where I spent almost 20 hours scanning drawings and creating a graphic "collage" to print on dishtowels. But that's a story for another time.

Right now, if you want to enter the giveaway, all you have to do is post a comment here, telling me which of the flavors and fillings sounds most irresistible to you (good luck picking just one!).

For extra entries:
- Tweet this giveaway and post Tweet URL. (1 extra entry per tweet)
- Blog about the giveaway (ditto, URL) (2 extra entries)

Contest will run until January 30th at midnight. Winner will receive a $25 gift card to See's Candies. US residents only.

Please make sure you include your e-mail address or blog url so I can reach you if you win!

Good luck everyone!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Let's play shape-up

The other day I was with a friend, discussing exercise and such, and she said: "This is the worst time of the year for regular gym-goers. The first few weeks of the new year the gym is full of people who have included 'exercise' or 'weight loss' as part of their New Year's resolutions, and the gym is overcrowded, full of people who don't really want to be there, and let me tell you, they are not good company". Heh. That sounds like a familiar scene. Statistics tell us that over 50% of the people who started going to the gym as part of their vow to get healthier, slimmer, more active in the New Year will drop out within the first 3 months, and likely not return at all before the year is over.

Is that a surprise? Hardly. And not because exercise is a generally disliked activity - it's because when you say "exercise" most people envision sweating for hours running on a treadmill, or frantically pedaling in spinning class. Personally, I have to admit that neither of those things sound tempting to me, either. I don't really like running or pedaling without ever getting anywhere (although some would beg to differ, since regular spinning got them to a smaller size).

The truth is that in order to be healthier, more active, you don't necessarily need to have a gym membership. You can workout outside. Your can get some equipment or videos and workout at home. I personally have a nice collection of videos, and while most gym bunnies snob exercise videos as dorky and "so 80s", anyone who has tried some of the new videos knows that there are some really good workouts out there on DVD. BeachBody, would appear as the obvious choice, because their 30-minute infomercials make them sound very appealing.

To be honest, I have tried 4 different programs they carry and I didn't like any of them. I found Power 90 incredibly boring, while some others, like Yoga Booty Ballet, Hip Hop Abs and Turbo Jam were way too cheesy for me. Not to mention that Turbo Jam didn't feel safe for the knees and Hip Hop Abs was, as my friend Sam would put it,"a load of wank". I ended up giving them away or trading them on SwapaDVD.com which, frankly, is just a brilliant idea. It's great to have a place where you can trade your DVDs if you don't like them, because you never feel like you wasted money, as long as you get to try something else. By the way, if you decide to check out SwapADVD (a free service), my nickname is HipMom - feel free to add me to your buddy list if.

An even better option, if you don't really know what you ware looking for, is to rent workout DVDs and try them at home for a few days. Netflix has some workout DVDs. Another option is Mypypeline.com, where you can download videos to keep or "rent" them for 24 hours and stream directly from your pc. The cool thing is that they also have programs for lots of different goals and levels, from beginner to advanced, from getting fit to play golf to postpartum fitness.

In the past year, a new trend has developed: people using Wii Fit to become more active. To be completely honest, I don't think you can have a well-rounded fitness routine by using only the Wii Fit, however it does offer lots of good points:
1. for starters, it's infinitely better than doing no exercise at all. At least you are standing and moving around.
2. if you are a busy parent you may find it easier to fit in a few challenges on the Wii Fit with your kids, than getting through a 30-minute workout uninterrupted (yes, that is from personal experience).
3. if you are just starting out, playing is a way for you to gradually get into exercising, improve your balance, your strength, your cardio capacity, without it feeling like too much work.

The market for Wii Fit-related products has grown by leaps and bounds in the past year, and now there are lots of games and activities to choose from. Even Gillian from The Biggest Loser made a Wii Fit workout!

Everyone wants to get in on the action! The popular videogame chain GameStop has actually come up with a month-long a campaign called “Sharpen the Mind, Shape the Body” that includes a special incentive to discover active gaming. This isn't limited to Wii-Fit, it also includes Dance Dance Revolution and other active games, as well as games that do more in terms of "sharpening the mind" like Brain Age or Crosswords DS. You can stop by a local store and try out games that match your interests and skill level, and if you spend $35 or more on designated products will receive a free 12-month trial subscription to Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Redbook, Good Housekeeping or Esquire.
This is your chance to see if this is something you might enjoy, because you can try different things for free!

Like many, I really didn't see the big deal about Wii until my husband got one last Christmas. And now I see why it isn't like the other game consoles, a passive thing. Same with Wii Fit: I wasn't even sure I wanted it, but my husband got it and now I have to admit I'm glad he did. My favorite part about using Wii Fit is reason number 4: after a while using the Wii Fit, you will likely realize that you don't actually dread exercise as much as you though, and you might feel more comfortable branching out into other activities, be it pilates, kickboxing, dancing, or jumping on the elliptical trainer that has been sitting in the home office pretty much unused (*ahem* no reference to anyone specific, I swear).

And then you'll be on your way to a healthier, slimmer you. It may be trite, but little changes add up.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A brand new year of ramblings

There is a saying in Italy: "What you do at New Year's, you'll do the whole year" - in other words, if your want to ditch cigarettes and booze in 2009, don't spend New Year's chain smoking and getting drunk (I can hear a chorus of "how else would you celebrate the New Year?"); and if your resolutions include losing weight and "everything in moderation", perhaps you shouldn't spend New Year's stuffing your face ("oh, that's how!") at a huge banquet with all of the foods you are getting ready to swear off as soon as you are ready to start on your impossibly unreal resolutions to be thinner, smarter, better organized and just nothing resembling your current self, really. No? Just me then?

Everybody is making a list of resolutions, things they want to accomplish in the New Year. Because that number one on the calendar is like a signal, like someone giving you carte blanche, and then you can do whatever you want do, be whoever you want to be, or become - it's like a new year gives you more freedom, like the beginning of the year is a new beginning.

And maybe it is. Or maybe we just like to find excuses for new beginnings, new chances to start over. And of course we all look for ways to motivate ourselves to start doing better, start being better, and why not? Motivation isn't the kind of thing you can just wait for. You need to go after it.

So here we are, at the beginning of a new year, going after motivation and going after our goals, after our better selves that we know - or at least we hope - are somewhere in our future. Oh, who am I kidding? Most people's idea or "better" these days means "richer, thinner, better dressed". How many people do you know who include "be kinder" in their New Year's resolutions? If it wasn't for the fact that being "green" is trendy right now, most people wouldn't even think of including that in their resolutions, either.

Oh boy. Maybe watching Six Feet Under while writing a new year-themed post wasn't the best idea. Then you come up with a sad, preachy thing instead of a nice, motivating, hopeful post. Because who wants to hear (or read) dark, preachy thoughts when they are trying to start the new year right? (That is - in a good mood?)

And I'm actually in a good mood, despite appearances :-) I started off the year just right, just as I wanted to. And while I know that my bad traits - like being a procrastinator and kind of a control freak - will resurface here and there, I'm hoping that it will be less than last year. And I'm hoping that I can improve myself this year. Because hope, that's what the new year holds, and why we like it so much. Because it tells us there's still hope, that we don't have to give up on our dreams and goals, we can hold onto them and we might just reach them, this year. And what more reason for a celebration could you ask for?

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