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GIFTS UNDER $40 THAT GIVE BACK!

TIS THE SEASON FOR GIVING AND IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR a truly ‘feel good’ gift here are four that will keep on giving locally and globally beyond the holidays thanks to some terrific companies I’m partnering.  Best yet they are all under $40-so it’s a win win for all!

GIVE LOCALLY WITH THE GREAT AMERICAN MILK DRIVE! 

milkDriveBanner_CS

You probably don’t know this nor did I but milk is one of the most requested but rarely donated items that food banks ask for each year. AND, this year you can give the gift of a gallon by donating to  The Great American Milk Drive in partnership with Feeding America, dairy farmers and milk companies.  It’s the first nationwide program to help deliver nutrient-rich gallons of milk to hungry families including 16 million children whom are food insecure in the US.  Just go to MilkLife.com/give and enter your zip code to insure milk is delivered to a local food ban near you and they’ll match your donation through the end of the month.  It’s a terrific way to also get kids involved too– just have them go on line with you The Great American Milk Drive to donate the glass of milk they would leave for Santa…Gotta love that!

 

PAY IT FORWARD WITH A HEALTHY ‘N SWEET ACT OF KIND…NESS!

KIND Cube

Next, this idea gives real meaning to acts of kindness and paying it forward to those around you. It’s the limited edition KIND Holiday Cube—It’s filled with 20 of KIND’s nuts and spices chocolate flavor bars plus it’s a healthy alternative to all our holiday indulgences since each only contains 5 grams of sugar or less. Better yet inside the cube, you’ll find a #KINDAWESOME card which you simply hand to a person you see doing a kind act like and that person can redeem the card for three FREE KIND bars, The cube is less then $40…so pay it forward and go on line to be Kind @ Kindsnacks.com !

 

IMAGINE THERE’S NO HUNGER: JOIN YOKO ONO LENNON ‘N HARD ROCK INTERNATIONAL TO HELP MAKE JOHN LENNON’S DREAM COME TRUE!

Imagine 2014 Earbuds

Here’s a a mind blowing stat: more than 16,000 children across the globe die each day from hunger-related causes….But for 7 years now Yoko Ono Lennon and Hard Rock International have teamed up for The Imagine There’s No Hunger Campaign. To date, IMAGINE has helped communities grow enough food to provide more than 9.7 million nutritious meals to children globally through donations and merchandise. This year, you can purchase Hard Rock’s Imagine earbuds which are only $10 and 50% of net revenue goes directly to charity partner WhyHunger.  Makes a great stocking stuffer too! Imagine that!  

 

SAVE A PET WITH THE PAW-FECT GIFT FROM PETSMART!

Pet Smart Logo

Lastly, here’s another staggering stat which is a paw-fect gift for the pet-lover: each year Over 8 million pets that end up in shelters are euthanized because they can’t find a home –That’s about 11000 pets a day. Yikes! And, it’s one of the reasons I saved my doggie Bagels a 4 year old Beagle last year.

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But for those who aren’t rescued and for as little as a $25 donation to Petsmart charities you can help save one pet’s life while they wait for a home by covering things like shelter space, food and vet services.   Plus 90 cents of every dollar goes to help these pets. Woof that! And, For the 11th year in a row, PetSmart Charities earned Charity Navigator’s top 4-star rating and remains in the top one percent of all charities ranked. Woof that! So please visit petsmartcharities.org to make a donation online.

Happy almost holidays!!!

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5 Sanity-Savers for Gift Wrapping

Countdown to Christmas…6 Days to Go!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGift wrapping (especially a lot at one time) can stress any accidental housewife and, even worse, ruin your manicure. Here are a few of my favorite tricks for getting the packages wrapped and bows tied. The Recipients of your gifts will be in awe of their beauty.

  1. BOX IT UP. Squares and rectangles are much easier to wrap that balls, cylinders, and thingamajigs. Box up your gifts as you purchase them. When it comes time to wrap, you’ll save lots of time.
  2. ONE STEP AT A TIME. Wrap your gifts in phases. First, get all your gifts wrapped with paper. Then, go back to add bows. Last, add any special embellishments and gift tags.  Use Post-it notes with the recipients’ names to keep track of the packages through the process so you don’t have an embarrassing mix-up. “Oh Grandma, I know you don’t need a sippy cup.”
  3. THE NEW GIFT BAG. Everyone knows the gift bag is the easy way out of wrapping presents. And hey, sometimes, you’ve just gotta go with a gift bag. If you’re really short on time, you can find decorative gift boxes that already have holiday designs printed on them. Skip straight to the bows and tags!
  4. WRAPPING PAPER SWAP OUT. If you run out of paper and don’t feel like heading to the store, you can use items from the recycling bin to wrap. Funny pages, brown paper bags and even old posters can make great wrapping paper substitutes.
  5. A LITTLE DIRT WOULDN’T HURT. A dirty martini, that is! Make yourself one before you wrap and serve ‘em up as you give out your gifts. Your beautiful packages will look that much better. (PS this technique only works on recipients over 21.)

2013 HOLIDAY GIFTS THAT KEEP ON GIVING! Click it Forward!

What better way to be in the spirit of the holiday season then to give gifts that give back!  So this year I’ve teamed up with five outstanding organizagions where you can do just that for as little as 25!! So on your mark get set. . .  click it forward!

KIVA: GIVA KIVA GIFT CARD and HELP CHANGE A LIFE
Kiva Gift Card_NEWwoman in store

Here’s one that truly speaks to passing it forward  and it’s so simple because you can do it all online. For the past eight years, Kiva, a non-profit organization, has been using the internet to connect people through micro-lending to help alleviate poverty in 70 countries around the world, including here in the U.S. Purchase a $25 Kiva gift card online for your family or friends and give them the opportunity to Make a Loan NOT A DONATION that can Change a Life. Your gift recipient will then choose whom they would like to lend to – from a banana farmer in South Africa to a seamstress in Detroit – there are thousands of borrowers. And, once that loan has been paid back, your gift recipient can choose to take the money back or re-loan that money to a new borrower, essentially doubling the power of your loan money! Simple, meaningful and fun! Truly the gift that can keep on giving!

PETSMART CHARITIES: PAW-FECT FOR THE PET LOVER

Gifts That Give Back Table_2

I am a huge love of PetSmart Charities not only because I love pets but because it’s rated in the top 1% of charities by Charity Navigator:  receiving their highest 4-star rating for ten consecutive years! Best of all, just $25 will save a shelter pet’s life by giving them shelter space, food and crucial veterinary services. And ninety cents of every dollar goes directly to help pets in need, one of the highest percentages among all charities. Also, if you’re in a PetSmart store you might see these adorable Chance and Lucky dolls. 10% of the proceeds from the sale of these cute critters will also go to PetSmart Charities to help save homeless pets.

WORLD WILDLIFE FUND: ADOPT A TIGER…IT’S GRRREAT!

WWF_25mm_tab_VIDEO.eps large-Tiger-photo

Here’s a novel and critical gift idea for the holidays from World Wildlife Fund.  Make a donation to WWF at Donatewwf.org for a symbolic tiger adoption. Tigers need our help more than ever before.100 years ago, there were an estimated 100,000 tigers living in the wild. Now, there are less than 3,200. 97% of the population has been lost. Tigers have also lost more than 90% of the forests they call home. And your donation will be put to work helping reduce threats to majestic species like tigers, and other species in the wild like elephants, rhinos and polar bears threatened by poaching, habitat loss and climate change. And, you’ll get something too! For your donation, you’ll receive a thank-you gift of a cute tiger plush, photo, fact sheet and certificate that you can send to a friend or family member. World Wildlife Fund has an entire Gifts That Give Back catalog with more than 200 thank-you gifts to select from to share your commitment to conservation. For more than 50 years, their vision has been to build a better future in which people live in harmony with nature. WWF works around the world to reduce the most pressing environmental threats to wildlife, wild places and people.

MeeGenius:  WILL MAKE YOU A GENIUS…JOIN THE CLUB!

Front-Preview

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one and wish it were around when my son was young! Check out MeeGenius, it is an incredible library of interactive books for children that works on computers at home, iPads, and iPhones!  I think of it like ITunes for literacy since the library includes over 700 classics, best sellers and MeeGenius-original children’s titles that are hand-picked by editors and educators.  Every single book is beautifully illustrated and includes optional “read to me” narration so kids can have a book read to them while each word is highlighted, promoting their own reading comprehension. And for the first time ever MeeGenius is launching their brand new Reading Club which parents, grandparents, whoever can give as a gift.  You get three months of unlimited access to their entire library for just $19.99 or a year for $59.99 – And, MeeGenius will donate 10% of all sales to PBS KIDS. A genius boredom buster idea too for holiday travel and chants of ‘are we there yet!”

Carpet One Floor & Home:   YOUR SUPPORT MAT-TERS

JulieTerrificTini

This is the second year that the folks at  Carpet One Floor and Home asked me to partner with them to design a welcome mat  of which 25% of  the proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  And, this year we took a ‘graphic’ twist on my signature cocktail…the dirty martini! A terrific holiday gift for the hostess with the mostess that not only looks good but giving one does so much go0d! The mat is a terrific holiday hostess gift  that looks good and does so much good!

Happy giving holidays all!

HALLOWEEN TIPS ‘N TREATS TO SATISFY ANY BOY’S OR GHOUL’S SWEET TOOTH

Halloween is a holiday packed with scary goblins, spook-tacular activities and lots of our child’s favorite treats (and ours too!).  And, half the fun of the day is the time spent going door to door seeing how many treats they can collect. The trick as parents is making sure that our children wait until they get home to go through and enjoy their bounty.  Allowing your children to enjoy their candy in moderation is ok and don’t get too concerned with the type of sugar in the candy (sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup) as experts agree i’ve learned from research and partnering with the Corn Refiner’s Association, that it’s all about balance and moderation as sugar is sugar and all sugars are nutritionally the same.

So here are a few tips and treats to help you balance the sweets they eat and satisfy their sweet tooth:

TIPS

  • Don’t send them out hungry
  • Satisfy their ‘sweet tooth’ pre trick or treating
  • Instruct them not to eat ANY items before they arrive home
  • Compromise ‘n remember you were a child once too and Halloween was a day  for eating a few more candies then usual J

TREATS

YUMMY MUMMY Makes 4

What You Need:

  • 1 8 oz. can of refrigerated crescent roll, seamless if available
  • Cookie sheet
  • Aluminum foil to fit sheet
  • 4 slices of American or cheddar cheese
  • Plastic knife
  • 4 Pre-cooked sausages
  • 1 raw egg, scrambled or cooking spray
  • Mustard

How to Make Them:

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Unroll dough on tin foil
  3. Use knife to cut 4 even sized squares
    1. If not seamless dough connect two crescents together to create four mummies
    2. Place cheese slices on dough before cutting ‘wrapping’ strips and cut at same time as ‘dough’.
  4. Place cheese slices on dough before cutting ‘wrapping’ SP from center
  5. Place ‘mummy’ i.e. sausage in center and wrap strip over strip
  6. Brush with egg or cooking spray
  7. Bake per dough package instructions or until brown:  approx. 10-12 minutes
  8. Use mustard to make the eyes and mouth

TRICK OR TEETH:

What You Need:

Pear or Apple cored and sliced in approx. 1/4 inch slices width-wise

How to Make Them:

  1. Cover the ‘jaw’ i.e. fruit slice with a thin layer of ‘gum glue’ i.e. peanut butter or Nutella
  2. Place the ‘teeth’ i.e. mini marshmallows around the edge of the ‘jaw’ (fruit)
  3. Open your mouth wide and enjoy!
  4. Optional:
    1. Make an upper ‘jaw with teeth’ and place on top
    2. Dye one or several of the teeth using food dye

i.     Red for blood

ii.     Black or blue for rotten

 SPOOK-TACULAR SPICED TEA-Makes a Quart

What you need

Gummie worms

Ice cup trays

2 cups water, boiled

2 caffeine free, apple cinnamon spice tea bags

8 ozs. Apple cider

8 ozs. Ginger ale

4 tsp. sugar

How to make it:

Put a gummy worm in each ice cube compartment and cover with water.  Freeze 2-3 hours.

  1. Dunk the tea bags in the hot water (which should be in the measuring cup) until it turns dark.  About three minutes, and, then, throw them out.
  2. When the tea has cooled, pour it into the pitcher.
  3. Add the apple cider, ginger ale, and sugar.  Stir with the wooden spoon.  Pour over ice, and get ready to enjoy a spook-tacularly spiced drink.

BLACK CAT CUPCAKE CONES Makes 12

What you need:

1 box (1l.25 oz) cake mix

12 flat bottom ice cream cones

12 cup muffin pan

1 16 oz can vanilla frosting

Black gel coloring

Decorative icing tubes in assorted colors

Assorted Candies:  red gum drops, twizzlers, Reeses Pieces, Red and Black shoe laces; Candy cones; M & M’s

How to Make Cupcakes:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325
  2. Prepare batter per box instructions
  3. Fill each cup 3/4 way up with batter
  4. Stand cones straight in muffin pan
  5. Bake 25 mins on center rack…use toothpick to test doneness.. it should come out clean
  6. Cool for 10 min.

How to Make Cat’s Face:

  1. While cupcakes are baking make ‘black paint’ for face with frosting and adding black gel per instructions
  2. Spread on black paint with a plastic knife
  3. Suggestions on making CAT face:
  • Ears:  Candy cones
  • Eyes: White icing to draw slanted football shaped eyes and use colored M & M of choice for pupils
  • Nose:  Red round sugared gum drops
  • Whiskers:  Red shoe lace candy or icing color of choice
  • Mouth: Red icing or red twizzlers torn into 1 “ pieces.

 Goes purr-fect with big glass of milk! 

HI HO HI HO TO HABITAT FOR HUMANITY GLOVES ‘N I GO!

They say one pix is worth a thousand words. Well I have many pix to share with you which will speak volumes for four words in particular:  Community, Empowerment,  Women and Humanity.  And, together these words speak volumes on how Women coming together form an amazing and Empowering Community that truly (and literally) makes a difference building better lives for all Humanity…What can I say :“WE WOMEN ROCK”.

Ok, so why am I so personally jazzed?  See last weekend I had the honor of spending two amazing days hosting events in NYC and NJ/Paterson for Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s Fifth Annual National Women Build Week.  It’s an initiative they’ve partnered on that takes place the week leading up to Mother’s Day.  The 411 is it challenges women to pick up a hammer and join fellow women at construction sites across the country to help build affordable homes alongside  the local family for whom the home is being built.  So here are some of my 1000 plus word pix-

PLEASE NOTE; Doug my trusty photographer aka Beau the Builder took many more pix which will be posted later in the week so if some of you terrif peeps who participated aren’t seen here you will be and deserve to be!

 Day One:  I was in Paterson ‘spreading the glove’ with hardhat, hammer and fellow jersey gals:

Just like a Chorus line!Go ladies…wall’s up!

Giving New Meaning to Hitting Nail on the Head!

Givin’ new meaning to hitting the nail on the head!

Joinin’ hammers w/BUILD GENERATION-gals 18-24! Love her red locks!

Day Two:  I was in NYC at the New York city Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Taft Houses Youth Chorus Center celebrating a ‘brush with kindness’ with paintbrush, shovel,  Lowe’s Heroes, local volunteers, 

And my new best BFF WNBA”S five time Olympian/gold medalist, Teresa Edwards… whom I challenged to a 1 on 1 match and beat gloves down…NOT!

My new BFF, wonder woman Teresa Edwards

OOPS! Accidental me 🙂

NYC fam partner Dimitrea Tokunbo, Hab-by volunteer, moi ‘n Teresa brushing it up!

Hi ho! Hi ho it’s off to dig i go!

She gave me one…backwards LOL!

That’s all for now…just want to say thank you thank you thank you to all my Habitat for Humanity Paterson, NYC and national buds for inviting me to host…gloves are packed and ready to go whenever you need me xo 

PS;  One mo’ thing that I’ll just tease here…at the NYC event I was blown away by the NYCHA Youth Chorus who gave an amazing and inspiring performance. 

Joyfull Noise from NYCHA Youth Choir that made us all smile:)

And, they ended it with my new fave song SMILE by Kirk Franklin…but that’s a blog for another day…But for today remember “you look so much better when you smile” 🙂 Spread the glove!

MARTHA STEWART, MARC ANTHONY ‘N I WANNA KNOW: DOES UNCLE SAM SPEAK PRADA?

I confess I have never done my taxes…not as in didn’t file them which will have the IRS  knocking on my door in about 30 seconds ‘n moi perhaps learning how to knit with my cell mate a la Martha Stewart‘. Nope, in years past I chose to have ‘professionals’  figure out how to give Uncle Sam his fair share of my hard earned income.

And, when you think about it many famous folks like Marc AnthonyWillie Nelson; The Osbornes; and Ja Rule  Slide10.aspx have tried to decide what they think is fair and have not faired well. But, as one of my all time fave performers James Taylor reminds us “You can run, but you can not hide” : 

And, though he was talking about love, the IRS -damn them-eventually finds us whether we’re in New Jersey, Beverly Hills or sippin Pina Coladas on a beach in the tax-free Caymans.

Anyway, this year I’m doing most of the work since like 99.9% of us, I’m trying to cut back on my expenses.  So no more lawyer like accounting firm with 15 partners letting the meter run even when they’re boasting about THEIR kids. Yup this year it’s mostly me.  As a result, I now understand why so many accountants are bald as I’m pulling my hair out and rubbing my head simulaneously trying to  figure out where the hell my money went and how to organize all this s…t 🙂  

It’s truly a humbling experience and made me feel a bit like Rebecca Bloomwood from the best selling book and fun albeit silly movie: Confessions of a Shopaholic which I coincidentally watched last weekend.  The movie starred Isla fisher.  For those who’ve neither read nor seen it, the title pretty much says it all…’cept for girl meets very rich handsome boy whom is her boss, they fall in love, girl lies to him then joins Shoppers Anonoymous, and boy recounts cause afterall love conquers all particularly in the movies…The End.

Anyway, trivial as the movie was it did make me realize how we can easily let things get out of control with our finances…And, in her case with her credit cards which launched her path to becoming a shopoholic at the ripe ole age of 7…

Fast forward 20 years she takes a job at a place where she is asked to help other people save money by writing a financial column.  Clearly in over her head, she decides to relate buying investments to buying shoes…quite an analogy but one that works and her column becomes a huge success…as i said this was a silly albeit fun movie/book.  So as I have been working on my taxes all well and about to loose it, I decided to take to writing this blog hoping it will help me sort through all this stuff.  And, in the spirit of Rebecca’s debut column, I am going forth and approaching doing and organizing my taxes as I would do my closet:  One line item and one pair of shoes, pants and shopping bags at a time labeled: ‘Drop 10’ (as in pounds and bills); Discard (cut the excess) and Donate (an always tax deduction)!    So there I confess and hope Uncle Sam speaks Prada too!  Spread the glove! 

MARC ANTHONY, WILLY NELSON ‘N I WANNA KNOW: DOES UNCLE SAM SPEAK PRADA?

I confess I have never done my taxes…not as in didn’t file them which will have the IRS  knocking on my door in about 30 seconds ‘n moi perhaps learning how to knit with my cell mate a la Martha Stewart‘. Nope, in years past I chose to have ‘professionals’  figure out how to give Uncle Sam his fair share of my hard earned income.

And, when you think about it many famous folks like Marc AnthonyWillie Nelson; The Osbornes; and Ja Rule  Slide10.aspx have tried to decide what they think is fair and have not faired well. But, as one of my all time fave performers James Taylor reminds us “You can run, but you can not hide” : 

And, though he was talking about love, the IRS -damn them-eventually finds us whether we’re in New Jersey, Beverly Hills or sippin Pina Coladas on a beach in the tax-free Caymans.

Anyway, this year I’m doing most of the work since like 99.9% of us, I’m trying to cut back on my expenses.  So no more lawyer like accounting firm with 15 partners letting the meter run even when they’re boasting about THEIR kids. Yup this year it’s mostly me.  As a result, I now understand why so many accountants are bald as I’m pulling my hair out and rubbing my head simulaneously trying to  figure out where the hell my money went and how to organize all this s…t 🙂  

It’s truly a humbling experience and made me feel a bit like Rebecca Bloomwood from the best selling book and fun albeit silly movie: Confessions of a Shopaholic which I coincidentally watched last weekend.  The movie starred Isla fisher.  For those who’ve neither read nor seen it, the title pretty much says it all…’cept for girl meets very rich handsome boy whom is her boss, they fall in love, girl lies to him then joins Shoppers Anonoymous, and boy recounts cause afterall love conquers all particularly in the movies…The End.

Anyway, trivial as the movie was it did make me realize how we can easily let things get out of control with our finances…And, in her case with her credit cards which launched her path to becoming a shopoholic at the ripe ole age of 7…

Fast forward 20 years she takes a job at a place where she is asked to help other people save money by writing a financial column.  Clearly in over her head, she decides to relate buying investments to buying shoes…quite an analogy but one that works and her column becomes a huge success…as i said this was a silly albeit fun movie/book.  So as I have been working on my taxes all well and about to loose it, I decided to take to writing this blog hoping it will help me sort through all this stuff.  And, in the spirit of Rebecca’s debut column, I am going forth and approaching doing and organizing my taxes as I would do my closet:  One line item and one pair of shoes, pants and shopping bags at a time labeled: ‘Drop 10’ (as in pounds and bills); Discard (cut the excess) and Donate (an always tax deduction)!    So there I confess and hope Uncle Sam speaks Prada too!  Spread the glove!