Tag Archives: tips

Savvy Styling Tips Every Holiday Host Needs To Know

This season, deck the halls with styling tricks to elevate your holiday party without putting a freeze on your bank account. Home entertaining expert and party stylist Chris Nease, of Celebrations at Home, shares her stylish secrets to throw a posh holiday bash on a budget.

13041_BIt’s All In the Details
Fact: A swanky holiday party does not require a ton of decorations or perfect coordination, according to Nease. A little creativity goes a long way with inexpensive touches. Use pieces that you already have to create an effortless look that feels cozy and stylish all at once:

* Make it Pinterest-worthy by casually draping two versatile fabrics over your primary serving area. Set up food stations with complementary items grouped together on serving platters. Garnish platters with fresh herbs and cranberries for a rustic, fancy touch.

* See you later formal dining, tiny food is here to stay. Whip up a scrumptious menu of small bites to encourage guests to try new foods. Make it easy for the not-so-adventurous ones and label appetizers and pairings that aren’t so obvious (like gourmet meats and mustards).

* It’s all about plating when you weave in a holiday classic like glazed spiral sliced ham. For a new rendition, make it a small plate by cutting slices of ham in half to create mini sliders with a sweet chutney fruit spread. The saltiness of ham pairs deliciously with pineapple, apple or cranberry.

* Cinnamon spice and everything nice. Keep it classy with a fancy cocktail, like a spiked apple cider. Try the Not Your Momma’s Cider recipe from ALDI below. For a simple garnish, thread diced red and green apples on a toothpick (sprinkle lemon juice on the apples to keep from browning) and top with a cinnamon stick for the perfect fancy embellishment.

A Holiday Party To Remember
For a simple homemade touch, send guests home with a sweet something to end the evening:

* Good things do come in small packages. Fill mini holiday tins with an assortment of European sweets, such as German chocolates or marzipan.
* Swoon your guests with a touch of rustic charm by filling Mason jars with layers of premeasured ingredients for your favorite cookie recipe. Wrap with a ribbon and add baking instructions on a festive gift tag.
* Purchase limited-time European cookies at ALDI. Have the kids dip each cookie halfway in melted chocolate and add holiday sprinkles for a simple holiday treat. These will almost feel made from scratch, but no one will know.

13041_ANot Your Momma’s Cider

You will need:
1 cup Wicked Grove Hard Cider
8 cups Nature’s Nectar Apple Cider, divided
6 cinnamon sticks, divided
12 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
8 ounces dark rum
1 red apple, diced
1 green apple, diced

In bowl, combine hard cider and 4 cups apple cider. Pour into ice cube trays. Freeze overnight.
In pot, combine remaining apple cider, 2 cinnamon sticks and 8 sprigs thyme. Bring to boil. Remove from heat, stir in rum.
Strain mixture into bowl. Place mixture in refrigerator overnight to cool.
Divide liquid among 4 mugs.
To serve hot, remove steps 1 and 3 and serve immediately.

12 Tricks to a Better Nights Rest

bellawebNow that the days are getting longer, the nights shorter, and your to do list filling up, you might find yourself tossing and turning in bed. Here are a few tips that we love to help achieve a fuller and better nights rest.

  1. Move electronics out of your room. The blue light from electronics is stimulating and will make it harder for your mind to rest.
  2. Turn the air conditioning down. Sleep specialists say that the best temperature for sleeping is about 67 degrees. If you are too warm, your body can’t relax.
  3. Don’t use electronics with in an hour before bed. Your body needs time to prepare itself for bed. So stay away from stimulating things like electronics, even TV.
  4. Take a warm shower. The heat will relax your body and send your mind into a relaxation mode.
  5. Don’t eat with in two hours of bed. Digesting your late night snack takes a lot of energy and doesn’t allow your body to rest and prepare for sleep.
  6. Keep a bedtime. Going to bed and waking up at the same times every day allow your body to get on a good circadian rhythm. Keep your schedule, even during the weekends and vacations otherwise you throw off your circadian rhythm.
  7. Make a bedtime routine. Whether it’s reading a book and then taking a warm bath or something else, a bedtime routine will help your mind start to relax when you begin your routine.
  8. Working out regularly keeps your body healthy, helping you fall asleep better.
  9. But don’t exercise within an hour or two before sleep. Working out increases the amount of adrenaline and endorphins in your system. These are stimulants and will keep you awake.
  10. Avoid naps during the day. When you sleep during the day, your body thinks it needs to sleep less at night, but you will still wake up feeling tired in the morning. If find that you really need to take a nap, limit your nap to no more than 45 minutes. Any longer than that and your body will begin the process of going through the deeper parts of your sleep cycle.
  11. Avoid shift work if possible. Our bodies have evolved to sleep at night, and having the bulk of your sleeping in the day is counter to our circadian rhythms. Your body will never actually adjust to sleeping during the day and flipping the circadian rhythm because it wasn’t designed to do that.
  12. Keep most activities out of the bedroom. Your bedroom should just be for sleeping and sexual activity. Otherwise, your mind associates the bedroom with those other, stimulating activities, and it will be harder to fall asleep.

If you continue to have insomnia for more than seven days, you should seek the advice of your doctor. Some medical conditions and medications can cause insomnia and sleep apnea.

 

Written by Krista Knauer

Embracing Your Curls

bellawebCurly hair is beautiful but can be hard to appreciate when it is a mystery to take care of. As a child, my mother and I unsuccessfully struggled to tame my ringlets, which left me wearing my hair in a defeated ponytail or bun.

At 12, I was given the greatest gift known to all curly girls: A flat iron. I cringe remembering the hissing steam of my scalding wet-to-dry straightener as it went over my wet hair. I cringe even more when I think about how I never owned heat protectant.

By the time I was 15 my hair was destroyed. It’s been four years, but I’ve finally regained my curls. Here are some helpful things I’ve learned along the way:

  • Refrain from using heat products as much as possible. Using them from time to time is okay, but heat damage is detrimental to curls.
  • Cut out products containing harsh chemicals. Many gels and shampoos contain sulfates, silicones or parabens that strip hair of natural oils needed for curls. CurlMart is a great website for finding and purchasing products that are healthier. It also has reviews!
  • Reduce frizz as much as possible. There will always be some degree of frizz, but doing things like sleeping on a satin pillowcase and using t-shirts or microfiber towels to gently scrunch water out of hair is easier on hair.
  • Don’t over wash. Curly hair is drier than most types of hair and doesn’t need to be washed everyday. Every other day is a better alternative. To reactivate the products already in your hair, just add water. Keeping a spray bottle filled with a mixture of water and conditioner is a good idea.
  • NEVER brush dry hair. Brushing hair breaks up curls. It’s best to do all detangling in the shower or when the hair is still wet. Wide tooth combs are the most gentle. I personally use the Tangle Teezer.
  • Do research. All hair is different, so what works for one person’s hair is not guaranteed to work on someone else. NaturallyCurly.com is a great website for researching hair types. They have a Texture Typing method that “will let you create a hair profile to identify the unique properties and needs of your hair.” It’s easy to use and very helpful.
  • Have patience. If hair has been through years of abuse, it’s not going to bounce back to normal in a few days, or sometimes even a few months. It’s a process that takes time and effort, but looking back I found that learning to appreciate and bring out natural beauty is worth it.

 

Written By Danielle Raymond

Cooking for Beginners

Written by Kacee Eddinger

Success in the kitchen is not always guaranteed.  If this is your first time cooking, or if you avoid it as much as possible because of past failures, here are some tips to improve your experience:

Eliminate Distractions
An ever important thing to remember while cooking is that it requires your attention. I’m not saying you can’t jam out to Pandora while you cook, but it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the food so that it doesn’t over cook or make a mess. If you have kids, spouses or friends who want to talk while you’re cooking, just ask them to help you keep an eye on the food.  If a recipe does tell you to let something simmer, or that you can leave a meal alone for a while, remember to check back periodically.

foods

Timers
When I was first cooking for myself, I realized the absolute necessity of timing my food. The more you cook, the less you need a timer, but if you live in a distracting environment and need to step away from the food (it needs to cook unattended for a few minutes, something else needs your immediate attention but will only take a minute, etc) just set a timer so that you remember to come back and check on the food.

Read a recipe twice (and then follow along as you go)
This is a trick my mom taught me when I was first learning how to cook, and it’s something I tell all of my friends. When first learning a new recipe, reading it multiple times gives you the general order of how to add ingredients, and what to do next. I find it also relaxes me, because since I have a better idea of what to do, less will go wrong. Make sure to have a copy of the recipe readily available to check occasionally.

Cooking is an art, baking is a science
As you begin to grow more confident with your abilities around the stove and oven, you might want to try new things with old recipes. Just remember: cooking is an art, baking is a science. You can vary recipes, but things that you bake, especially with sweets, are often best left less varied. When you put something into the oven to bake, you often don’t know how it’s going to turn out until it has finished, because you can’t see what it’s doing. Whereas, when you cook something on your stovetop, it becomes much easier to notice when the food is cooked. You can even do a taste check to see if a recipe needs something else.cooking

Have Fun and Practice
It may be a touch cliché, but here’s the fact of the matter: you probably aren’t going to burn down your kitchen. Even if you’re a nervous cook, you will probably come out of a cooking experience with something edible and notes for next time. Don’t stress over cooking. Grab a friend, your spouse, or even your kids and have a fun experience together. Also, the more you cook, the better you’ll get. You’ll learn from the recipe books, but also from experience. So keep trying, and you’ll do great.

To get started, try these simple recipes:

salmon

Salmon Patties
I’ve been making Salmon patties since I was kid. They’re also one of my favorite foods, and since I’ve started living on my own, I’ve made them a lot. I don’t have a particular reference for this, except for my mom. Thanks, mom.

 Ingredients:
Oil or Crisco for frying
1 can of pink Alaskan salmon
2 eggs
1-1 ½ cup bread crumbs

Optional:
Lemon powder or zest
Pepper
Chopped Onion
Garlic
Rosemary
Mustard
Cheddar cheese

Directions:
I. Heat skillet on the stove at medium heat. Add oil or Crisco to pan while it is still cool. You need at least enough to cover the bottom of the pan, but you can go up to an inch high of oil or Crisco (the oil is better for you than Crisco, but the Crisco gives the patties an nicer golden brown finish).
II. Open and drain canned salmon. You can either dump it into the bowl how it is, or clean out the bones and skin. Mom always said the bones and the skin were good for me, and you really cannot tell the difference. The bones are also soft enough to mash up, or chew through.
III. Once salmon is in the bowl, add eggs and mix together with a wooden spoon or your clean hands. If you have kids they might enjoy squishing the egg together with the salmon.

IV. Gradually add bread crumbs. Every batch of salmon patties is different, so you’ll always need a different amount. Start with about a half cup and add gradually from there, mixing well each time.
V. After about a cup of bread crumbs stop and make patty. If you’ve never made one, scoop up some salmon mix with your hands, and roll it into a ball. Then press it between your hands—the patty should be about the size of your palm. If a lot of the mix sticks to your hands, then it’s still too wet, but if there are a lot of cracks around the edge of the patty or it doesn’t hold its shape, then it’s too dry. Add a little mayo to break it up. A patty that will hold its shape, doesn’t have too many cracks or isn’t too sticky will be just right for frying.
VI. At this time, you can add any extras that you like. I typically put in a little mustard, lemon powder, pepper and garlic just to give the patty a little extra flavor. You can put a little slice of cheese in the middle of patty, and it will melt as it fries. But they’re your patties so use whatever you want! Just remember not to add salt to the patties—the packaged fish is salted to keep it fresh, and you’ll want to throw a little salt on it after it’s done frying to help drain off the oil.
VII. Test oil with a small bit of salmon to see if it fries. If the oil is hot enough, slide the patties on to the pan. You can usually cook two to three at a time without much trouble. Fry until brown on one side and then flip. If it’s not brown enough, you can always flip them over again. When both sides are brown, lay patties out on a double layer of paper towels. Salt lightly, or you can use powered parmesan cheese in place of the salt.

cookies

Cookie Dough
                I’ve made so many batches of chocolate chip cookies in my life, I’ve lost count. This dough is based on a recipe you’ll find on the back of every bag of Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chips, but I’ve made adjustments over the years for a perfect dough.

You Need:
1 cup / 2 sticks of butter, soft but not melted
1 cup of brown sugar
½ cup of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
2 eggs
2 ½ cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Add ins:
Chocolate Chips
Nuts
Dried fruit
Oatmeal
M&Ms
Other goodies

Directions:
I. In a medium to large bowl, mix together softened butter, brown sugar, sugar and vanilla. Make sure the butter is soft, but not runny or melty. If the butter is runny your cookies will be too.
II. Add in one egg and beat until incorporated. Add second egg and beat until incorporated.

III. In a separate bowl, add together flour, salt and baking soda. You may sift if you like, but it’s not a big deal if you don’t.

IV. Slowly add flower mixture to the butter mixture. The dough should start to thicken.

V. When flour mix is fully incorporated with the butter mix, you should have your dough! Add in chocolate chips, nuts, fruit or anything else you would like. Almost anything tastes great with this dough.

VI. From here you can bake them at 375°F for 8-12 minutes, until the cookies are brown, chill for a day to make the dough easier to work with, or freeze to bake another time. Dough will last 6-12 months in the freezer.

 

Tips for Natural Hair Care This Winter

Harsh winter weather can be detrimental to all different types of hair, but the cold, dry air is especially brutal to Black hair and other types of textured hair. Natural hair, and newly transitioned natural hair, risk undergoing extreme breakage and damage when exposed to the winter elements. Need some help on how to upkeep the quality of your natural hair? Avoid damage this winter with these must have items and habits to introduce to your hair.

natural hair3

  • An Efficient Protective Hairstyle

Protective styling, such as twists, braids, or locs, helps to retain length by stretching out your hair and encouraging growth. With minimal manipulation, you natural hair will be allowed to grow freely, eliminating the constant threat of tangling and breakage. Because your hair will already be in a style, all you have to worry about is maintenance–which allows more time to focus on moisturizing your scalp and roots! But be sure to only keep protective styles in for their maximum time limits–let your hair breathe! Keep box braids in for no longer than three months at the max, for example!

  • A Satin-Lined Beanie

Want to cover up your hair and keep your ears warm in style this winter? Invest in a satin-lined hat or beanie to keep your ends protected and to retain moisture on the go! You can find many of these online on Etsy or you could make one yourself with this easy online tutorial video!

  • Incorporate Heavy Products

Add heavier sealants and oils into your normal routine like shea butter to guarantee maximum moisture retention in the cold weather. You can find heavy shea butter at your local health food store.

  • Wash Your Hair Less

Unlike less textured hair, natural hair requires less frequent washing as it removes essential moisture from already dry hair. At least limit hair washing to every ten days or two weeks to limit drying out your hair even more.  Use fewer products to encourage healthy growth.

natural hair

  • Condition, Condition, Condition!

Ditch the shampoo and co-wash regularly! Carol’s Daughter has a lot of products in stock to cleanse and condition your hair all at once! If you don’t already do so, incorporate frequent deep conditioning treatments to your lifestyle. You can buy products to deep condition with in your local beauty store or stick to hot oil treatments with Extra Virgin Coconut or Olive Oil (and any other essential oils if you’d like!) Apply warmed oil to your hair and scalp and leave on for about an hour. Then, simply rinse and co-wash!

Red Hair Tips

As seen in our March issue…

With such a rare hair color (and fewer and fewer natural redheads), it can be difficult to choose outfit colors that enhance your natural hair color.

It is common to put redheads in green clothing– stick with it, because it works! And St. Patty’s Day doesn’t have to be the only time you show off your vibrant hair color.

Go with a contrasting kelly green top or dress (and why not try out emerald green, 2013’s color of the year!). Neutrals are also always great, and the subtleness of it makes your hair stand out.

If debating the perfect hue, be sure not to go too light with your neutral color selection as it may wash you out. A medium tan or camel color will make you look professional and put together – and leave your hair mesmerizing.

Written by Emily Burnette

Is Organic Food Really Better for You?

As women we are constantly looking for ways to boost our health and the health of our loved ones. A recent trend is the demand for organic foods, especially produce. But does organic actually mean healthier? And is the product worth the price?

The difference in organic versus non-organic foods is simply the methods in which they are grown. Organic farmers use fewer pesticides, and those that are used are naturally occurring.

While many non-organic farmers use growth stimulants and hormones, organic farmers are closely watched and must be given certification to farm according to USDA organic standards which does not allow artificial hormones. The products are more expensive because farmers go through various assortments of certifications, guidelines, and natural methods to produce a back-to-basics product. Sounds great, right?

Make sure to be careful when buying organically. Check for spots and holes on produce because sometimes the lack of pesticides means small creatures burrow into the product.

Also, be mindful that USDA organic does not mean 100% organic; it just means that at least 95% of the product came from organic methods, and that 5% can make a big difference on some items. Unless the product is considered USDA organic or 100% organic, chances are only 70% of the original material is organic. Be mindful that organic foods do not have synthetic preservatives and thus can go bad quicker.

Basically, organic foods do have their benefits and can be much safer than synthetically produced items. However, just like with any trend, there are many foods made to look organically produced that aren’t and there are some organic foods that are produced using the same methods as the one without the sticker.

Remember to shop smart and know your facts before being lured by the organic kick!

 

Home Grown Herbs

While vegetables are the most popular container plants and flowers the prettiest (although not as useful), herb gardens can be both beautiful and delicious.

When deciding which plants you’d like in your herb garden, look first at the herbs you know and use the most (perhaps the most empty jar in your spice rack), but don’t limit yourself to that. You can look up herbs online (try Annette’s Herb Garden) and see which are most commonly used or simply go to your local nursery and pick out the ones that smell the best.

Here five of the most popular uses and some gardening tips (in order of my favorite to least favorite):

Rosemary – First, it’s delicious. It also dried wonderfully and can be used indoors. If you plant this herb, consider harvesting an entire stem at one time, freezing it, and using it as a skewer later.

Basil – Also, delicious. There are many varieties of basil so it is very customizable, but make sure to break off a leaf and smell it before you buy it. This herb likes a lot of water, but be careful because it can mildew.

Mint – My parents’ favorite use for mint is in a mojito, but we use it in several other things as well (probably because of, again, the bush). Be careful about controlling your mint. You can also pinch the buds off to keep it from cross-pollinating.

Thyme – This herb is great because it requires minimal watering and can grow little, purple flowers. However, it tends to get “woody” and may have to be replaced every couple of years.

Sage – Also needs to be replaced (usually every three years), but dries easily. It does, however require a lot of maintenance to keep it from getting “woody” too soon.

Of this list, thyme tends to be the least used (such a shame considering the wealth of puns it opens itself up to, of which I am resisting). If you’re thinking about planting thyme or even have thyme in your garden, but lack ideas, check out Home Cooking.

Lastly, here are just a few tips to maintaining a happy, healthy, herb garden:

Herbs need full sun, but don’t like to be cooked. Use good quality soil so the plants can drain properly. Go easy on the fertilizer or don’t bother with it at all. And finally, don’t be afraid to harvest a lot at once. The herbs are truly happier this way and you deserve to reap what you sow!