Category Archives: advice and tips

Gifts for Wordless Wednesday (well semi-wordless)

In honor of Wordless Wednesday I’ll be shutting up, which also honors What the !@&$ Wednesday! I’m simply posting links to sites that can help you make or save money, get free things or cash back on things you’d already buy. Silence is after all golden.

Right At Home, coupons, contest, cooking and more

AdBrite, an ALTERNATIVE to Adsense

Viva Diva Cafe Contest

Vocal Point, free stuff, coupons and more

Market Force, become a PAID Secret Shopper

Opinion Outpost, PAID surveys I get actual CHECKS!

Grab this coupon for a FREE Mocha from Bob Evans, good through 3/11

Ebates, get CASH back on things you buy online, I cleaned up at Christmas..IF you sign up (FREE) tell em I sent ya!

You choose, she speaks..From the Desk of Mariana Howard…

Hey ladies! Wow, I am SO psyched to be guest-blogging on my girl DiPaola Momma’s page. She is truly a gem, and I am beyond HUMBLED by the hype she has built over this post! Thank you for having me!
Ok, brief bio: I have worked in the Beauty industry for almost 14 years. For the past 8, my career has been in Training & Development. I’ve represented such companies as Origins, Shiseido, Dr. Perricone, Dr. Brandt and am now an Instructional Designer for Victoria’s Secret Beauty. My husband is the touring drummer for Avril Lavigne and Gavin Degraw (he is lucky enough to be able to alternate between them). I love what I do with a genuine passion, because at heart I am just a girl who is a total Beauty junkie.
I am loving the winning topic because ALL women can relate to it. Whether you’re a career-driven workaholic, or a kick-ass housewife we all have something in common: our femininity.
Somehow, as life takes over and we get older, we tend to lose sight of that simple pleasure we enjoyed as little girls playing with mom’s makeup bag. Demands on our time mean that most of our beauty choices are ultimately dictated by two things: function and practicality. Nothing wrong with that at all! But since it is Valentine’s Day, I am proposing a different approach…
Keep an open mind – some of these suggestions may seem frivolous or time-consuming. But that’s exactly the point! We come up with so many reasons NOT to take time for ourselves that this list is the antidote for that habit. For the record, I’m keeping it real: there will be no mentions of Balinese Spa getaways or hiring a private masseuse (although that would truly rock).
SO – your life is exhausting! How do you keep your face from showing it?
In keeping with the Freebie theme, most of these products can be found at Sephora (or as I call it, “Mecca”). Here are my suggestions to look like you’ve had a full 8-hours of rest (when you’ve really only had five…like, this whole week):
Facial peel. Hands down, this is the easiest and FASTEST way to look refreshed and renewed. It takes 10 minutes once a week and the results are instant. A great one is the Green Apple Peel for Sensitive Skin by Juice Beauty (Sephora). It’s made with organic fruit extracts that gently dissolve away dull skill, revealing a healthy, radiant glow. Now be aware: the very nature of what makes this so effective is that fruit extracts are acidic, which means that you WILL FEEL this working. You may even get a little red right after. Everyone’s threshold is different, so I won’t tell you it’s no big deal (although for me, the tingling sensation is totally tolerable). But I WILL tell you that the payoff is fabulous – an hour later, my skin looks and feels brand new.

Gradual self-tanner. Don’t freak out, I’m not talking about the hard-to-manage, messy Oompa-Loompa stuff. A daily moisturizer (which you’d probably use anyway) with a touch of self-tanner to slowly give you a natural, peachy glow can work wonders over a few days. Sephora makes a good one for $6. But if you’re like me and have a deeper skin tone, this may not have enough pigment. I like Jergen’s Natural Glow Face Moisturizer in Medium/Tan (at drugstores).

Concealer. A good one will forever become your BFF. My new obsession is Time Balm (Sephora). The shades are great, the coverage is natural but effective and…ready for this?…it has anti-aging ingredients, so you can wear it to bed and it will fight fine lines! My hubby actually thinks I wake up with no dark circles! Bwahahaha!

Eye gel. Everyone knows about the importance of using eye cream, but why does its cousin Eye Gel get no love? There really is nothing better for banishing puffiness. Here’s the trick – find one with Cucumber or Rose extract – they help shrink tiny engorged capillaries and aid in releasing excess fluids around the eyes. Eye Contour Gel by Clarins has been a longtime favorite (Sephora). Then KEEP IT IN THE FRIDGE and put it on when you enter the kitchen each morning. Feels great and works for de-puffing. No joke.

Ice-blue eyeliner. No really, hear me out! It’s called Eye Brightening Stick and it’s made by Origins ($14 at department stores). You don’t use this like a regular eyeliner. You actually use this on the inner rim of the eyes. The ice blue tint counteracts redness, so tired bloodshot eyes look clearer and more rested. Use it before mascara, and remember to be conservative with it (too much will create an early-80’s New Wave vibe).
Thanks again for having me as your guest! All the best for a beauty-full Valentine’s Day

Thanks Mariana!! Okay now it’s up to you gang.. tell me what piece of this GREAT advice you think you’ll put to use first. I’ll pick one person (at random) and award them a gift card to Sephora.. or as Mariana calls it Mecca. I hope you enjoyed this post.. if you did let me know, maybe we can bribe her to come back and give us more advice! OH and don’t forget to enter to win WOO HOO part DEUX I’ve made some great additons already.. more on Sunday!

A meal fit for the Greek Goddess of Love

As promised I’ve scoured through dozens of books, spent hours doing online research, poured over stacks of clinical research all to help you put an extra punch into your Valentine’s Day dinner…am I exhausted, or what!

If you buy that one I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell sell ya..(insert evil cackle here).. Actually being that I have an ever growing collection of cook books I’ve turned to a couple of those to help out. In this post I’ll be giving you a few of my favs. I realize that many of you may already think my taste is lacking, so I’m starting with a list of edibles you can use as you see fit, that are reported to “bring back that lovin’ feeling”…oh, that lovin’ feeling… cuz it’s (oh you know the song!). I’ll finish up with some recipes and detailed instructions for my famous “Shake u hiney it’s so fine-y” dance made famous at SITS roll call..okay stop laughing!! I’ll leave the dance out of it!! (meanies)

Asparagus: Aside from the more “obvious” attributes of this wonderful veggie, it also contains a high levels of potassium and phosphorous that are believed to help increase hormone production. Heck Ben Franklin actually wrote about the stuff and WE ALL KNOW about his famous “love life”. Of course he wrote that it makes your pee smell funny but that’s not a very romantic story.
Chile Peppers: What do you think makes Latin flavor so HOT HOT HOT? Chills DUH, but there is some real science in this one. The capsaicin in chile peppers gets your blood pumping, you get flushed and might just feel a little warm and tingly (sort of like the effects of a great kiss)
Basil: There is an old folk tale in the Islands that Erzulie (the goddess of love) leaves a path of Basil under her feet.
Grapes: What would a beautiful Greek fresco be without the ethereal looking young slave woman feeding grapes to a God? How many famous love poems include references to wine (a grape by any other name) and lips? You can use your imagination from there.
Strawberries: Not a big surprise here, this one is a famous fruit of love.
Honey: Hippocrates himself, father of the Hippocratic Oath, prescribed this luscious golden elixir for amorous vigor. In India it’s given as a gift to newlyweds.
Rosemary: A traditional holistic treatment for headaches, rosemary opens the nasal passages allowing you to breathe easier, relax and enjoy the smell and each other.
Edible flora: Did you know that there are several types of tasty flowers you can cook with and eat? Being that Valentines day is the day of roses my recipe will use them but lilies, fuchsia, hibiscus, pansies and jasmine are some of the others you can choose (all are great dipped in chocolate or rolled in sugar)

Are ya ready to cook? Here are a couple of recipes I’ve prepared and recommend.

Pasta with Strawberries
(a sweet and savory dish)

2 cups fresh strawberries
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup heavy cream or half and half
3 tbsp butter
1/2 pound of thin spaghetti or angle hair pasta
(torn basil for a garnish.. two for one on the aphrodisiacs in this dish)
Cook pasta according to the box directions. Put the berries in a blender and pulse until smooth, strain out seeds. In a medium pan melt butter, add cream and simmer on medium heat 2-3 minutes add in cheese until it melts into the cream. Turn off heat, mix in berry puree and pour over strained pasta. Serve with extra grated cheese on top and the torn basil.

Spicy Shrimp and Mango
(a sweet and spicy dish)
1 pound large shrimp (peeled and deviened)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic (minced or grated)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup diced mango
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Heat oil on medium high heat, add in garlic and saute for 1-2 min until golden. Toss in shrimp, lemon, and pepper flakes. Cook until shrimp is pink. Add in mango, toss and serve.

Roses and Champagne
(a fragrant libation for the occasion)
Pedals of one rose
1 tbsp sugar (super fine if you can find it)
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1 bottle champagne

Separate rose pedals into a bowl, add sugar. With a pestle or the back of a spoon gently crush the pedals until the sugar begins to dissolve. Put Champagne into a pitcher (glass is best).. and the juice (this gives flavor and helps keep it cold) and float the rose pedals in the mix.

I hope you all have a wonderfully romantic Valentine’s Day!

Meet Your Beauty Expert

Well the poll has closed and 40% of you have an exhausting life (big surprise there being that most of you are either moms, trying hard to be a mom or working hard at building a career). AND you’d like to know how to keep it from showing on your face.. ME TOO! Of course I also have huge poors, my DH says I pout all the time, I’m terrified of eye liner and I could NEVER go from blah to babe in less than 5 hours (even with a whole beauty entourage!)… so I’d have been happy no matter what the poll said.

I know you are dying to learn more about your mystery expert. I’ll give you a few details. I’ll let her fill in with the truly juicy stuff.. ha ha.

Her name is Mariana Howard. She has been in the beauty and fashion industry since she was a teenager striking out on her own in no less than Manhattan itself! Her talents are renowned in the industry. She has worked in the development of world wide training programs for high end skin care companies like Doctor Brandt and Doctor Perincone (check Sephora for the price tags on some of those babies, WOW). She is currently working in the Times Square offices of one of the world’s largest retailer’s of women’s undergarments, cosmetics and fragrance. I’ll leave it to her if she’d like to tell you who (it may be a “secret”). She is beautiful inside and out and one of my bestest best friends and I count myself very lucky to be able to say that.

I also know you want to know about her rock star hubby.. so I’ll dish just a bit there too. Let me first say that beyond his amazing talent and the respect and gigs he gets for that he too is truly a great guy and I adore him. I’m honored that my oldest son calls him a mentor and inspiration. If you have a daughter between 8 and 14 I’m sure you’ve heard his drumming skills and maybe even seen his trademark spiky hair in the music video for Avril Lavigne’s hit song “Girlfriend” he as been with her band for the past year and has also joined Gavin Degraw on a world tour.

These two are the perfect combo of cool and cute, kind and honest, and have more talent between them than should be allowed any couple! I’m honored that Mariana will be giving you some INVALUABLE tips. I know you’ll love her. She is already working on her piece and as long as it doesn’t get side tracked by her other obligations, I’ll have it for you Friday.

Oh, by the way.. I’ll be giving one lucky reader a Sephora gift card so they can go pick up some products to help them put her tips to work!

One more teaser.. I’m half way done with tomorrow’s post.. Valentine’s Day edible aphrodisiacs!

What The Heck Is A Quarter Auction?

So you’ve been invited to a quarter auction. It’s likely your first reaction to join in this recreational enterprise was, “What the heck is a Quarter Auction?!” Yeah, me too.  I’ve enlisted the help of the pal who drug invited me to my first one, to help explain how these things work, why they’re so much fun, and frankly… what the heck they are.what the heck is a quarter auction?

Quarter auctions appear to be the “new thing” in some states. I’m not sure how or where they began (I think they started in Virginia but I can’t be held to that) but they had their launch and the rest is history…

From my experience with the auctions here in Maryland, quarter auctions (also termed “Quarter Mania”), are a venue where you go to bid and win items of your choice. Bidding is in quarter increments, thus the name.

There are a million variations on how quarter auctions are run. It’s impossible to cover them all but I’ll give a general overview of those I’ve participated in.

Typically, a fundraiser group will plan the quarter auction for their organization to raise money. The auction items can be ANYTHING! I’ve seen brand new items such as restaurant gift certificates, jewelry, purses, food, home goods, toys, and tools auctioned off.

What The Heck Is A Quarter Auction?

As a quarter auction participant/player you’ll arrive to the location at least half an hour in advance of the start time, loaded with tons of quarters. You want to arrive early so you have the opportunity to view all the items being auctioned off (there are usually about 100 auction items). You will also need to arrive early to make sure you get a seat. Some venues have been known to sell out!

When you arrive, you’ll find a table where they are selling paddles and making change in quarters. Here you pick a numbered paddle (or two, or three) that you will use as your bidding number(s). You’ll pay a rental fee for the paddle that generally ranges from $1 – $3 and you’ll return the paddle at the end of the auction. The paddle money is retained for the charity organization. The person selling the paddles will put a corresponding numbered chip/ball into a bucket.

When the auction begins, each item will be displayed to the crowd and auctioned off, one by one. At this time, you will use your quarters and paddle(s) to bid. Each item will have a retail value that determines the number of quarters required per paddle to bid. For example, 1 quarter for an item with a $10 – $25 value, 2 quarters for $26 – $50 value, and so on up to 4 quarters. The values and quarter amounts do vary from auction to auction.

Once you deposit the required number of quarters per paddle to bid (quarters are dropped into bowls on the tables and collected) you can raise your paddle(s) in the air. The announcer will begin calling numbers from the chips/balls in their bucket. If the announcer calls a number that wasn’t played (the person didn’t bid and raise their paddle), that person with the number will yell out, “No bid.” The announcer will continue calling numbers until there is a winner amongst those who bid and had their paddles raised in the air.

Here’s an example:
Jane really wanted this beautiful new necklace. Its retail value was $50 and it required 2 quarters to bid. Jane had two paddles, numbers 6 & 104, and since she REALLY wanted the necklace she put four quarters in the bowl (two quarters per paddle) and raised both. The announcer called her first number, “2.” Joe had 2. He didn’t bid on the necklace so he hollered out, “No bid.” The announcer called the next number, “104.” “Right here!” yelled Jane. The necklace was hers! So, for a $50 item, Jane won it for just quarters.

Still muttering to yourself, “What the heck is a quarter auction?” To sum it up, quarter auctions are good, clean fun and they don’t require a lot of money to play! Check your local papers or craigslist.com to see if there are any auctions in your area.