Tuesday, May 26, 2009

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Keith Richards & Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones

Don't get me wrong, I like nice things, but am not an overly materialistic person -- and I don't like to accumulate clutter which is what would happen if I bought everything that popped into my head. At the same time, when I need something I don't hesitate to get it.

When buying a product gives me pause, it's usually because I'm tempted by a good price or feature ... but I don't necessarily need that item. I either already have something comparable, an older version, or I probably wouldn't use it very often -- but having it " just in case" is appealing.

Every winter I wear a pair of black UGG suede boots which my feet adore! They are incredibly comfortable, toasty warm and ultra stylish when paired with jeans or dresses. And boy, do they hold up. Even after five seasons, they still look terrific. But they DON'T look brand new. So when I passed a shoe store that offered my UGGs for $50 off, temptation reared its ugly head. I nearly bought them on the spot. In the end, I decided, "no," because, 1) I'm not ready to throw out the old pair, 2) I have plenty of boots, and 3) I don't need another pair (not really). It took discipline, but ultimately I saved $110 by passing on the sale.

Now I'm going through the same temptation over buying a new printer. I have a compact Hewlett Packard deskjet that sits neatly in the corner of my room. It prints beautifully, but that's all it does. Lately, I wonder if I should get an all-in-one printer. If I needed to fax, copy, scan and crank out photos frequently my decision would be an easy "yes," and I'd replace my old inkjet in a heartbeat. But the fact is, I mainly need to print. On rare occasions when I need to copy, I have a drugstore across the street that charges five cents a page. Another drugstore on the opposite corner develops photos. And, my low tech printer shows no signs of wearing out. So the dilemma is, do I get what I want "just in case?" Or save $150 plus by keeping what -- so far -- fits my needs? What kind of a buyer are you? Do you over buy? Or under buy?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Treat Yourself To One Nice Thing

I don't wear costume jewelry. I'd much rather own a few good pieces of the real thing — even if it's just inexpensive sterling silver, or a simple gold chain — over having a dresser drawer full of designer, sometimes more costly costume jewelry.

And I hope everybody has the experience of receiving classic jewelry like 14k gold earrings for a 21st birthday, or a bracelet with precious stones to celebrate a graduation, given to you by someone who matters in your life. That's why it's the worst feeling in the world to lose a piece of jewelry. Often there's a story and sentimental value behind that neckless, so it can't easily be replaced.

Once in a while I'm even good to myself. I notice that with jewelry I'm a more modest spender and not quite as generous with myself, as I am when buying for another person. But it all works out, because that's how special people in my life are with me also.

I have a pair of cultured pearl earrings that I bought on sale at Macy's department store for $80. They may not be flawless Akoya pearls, but they are nice. They are classic ... real ... and a thing of beauty. They dress up any outfit -- and with care, they will last for decades.

So here's a pearl of wisdom. Every so often when you reach a milestone, or overcome a hardship, let yourself have one nice thing. Reward yourself for meeting a challenge with a strength and resilience you didn't know you had. It doesn't have to be a top of the line purchase, necessarily; just factor into your budget a little something you are hankering to buy. Make sure it's something that brings you happiness ... and enjoy it, because the reality is, it doesn't take long to live a life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You Are What You Eat

Good nutrition builds body cells, keeps us healthy and helps us stay mentally alert. With spring here and summer fast approaching, it's the perfect time to add healthy foods, including an assortment of fruits and vegetables to your diet. The price is right, and you can afford to be adventurous. Have fun mixing it up. Eat a variety of colors and experiment with new recipes.

Recently I tried making homemade tomato sauce. It was nearly as convenient as opening a jar, and I thought tasted better and fresher without the unnecessary preservatives -- with names I can't even pronounce.

Then I wanted a cool, sweet treat, so I threw blueberries and skim milk into a blender and added sweetener to get a refreshing, low fat - high protein smoothie. It's cheaper than ice cream, good for you and delicious. (You may not want to give up ice cream entirely; just reserve it as a special treat.)

Both recipes are keepers. See if you agree:

Homemade Tomato Sauce

2 28 oz cans whole tomatoes (Break the tomatoes up with your fingers.)
Extra virgin olive oil for sautéing garlic, onions and vegetables in a skillet --
1 medium onion, diced and sautéed
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano [all the spices to taste]
1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon garlic (or sautée 4 cloves garlic)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes


Add any, or all the following to the tomato sauce --
1 small bell pepper, diced and sautéed
1 small zucchini, diced and sautéed
2 or 3 mushrooms, sliced and sautéed
Separately, brown and add some lean ground beef

Throw the above into a large pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour over cooked pasta of your choice. Makes 6 servings.

Berry Smoothie

Drop into a blender:
1 cup skim milk
Choose one: 1/3 cup frozen strawberries; or 1/3 cup frozen blueberries; or use fresh berries and 3 ice cubes
2 teaspoons sugar, or a natural sweetner.

Blend for a minute, or until smooth. Pour into a tall glass. Makes one serving, so multiply for the number of servings needed. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Great Gifts For Mom And Everyone Else

For natural beauty products I count on two stores, their names so similar that folks looking for one might make the mistake of walking into the other. The Body Shop and Bath & Body Works are two separate stores with much in common. Both offer skin, body and hair care items made from pure, ultra indulgent ingredients. Both sell pretty gift sets – ideal for birthdays, special occasions and days when you just need to pamper yourself. And both give terrific discounts on spa and glamour products that are already reasonably priced – usually just when you need gifts for special occasions like Mother's Day.

Recently I received a thoughtful gift – The Body Shop's "Love Your Body" card. It comes with exclusive member-only benefits. On Thursday, the card's 10% discount increased to a whopping 25% [for one day only], so I ran in to stock up on my favorite product in the store, their Mononi Miracle Oil. It's a great after bath moisturizer and ends-of-hair treatment. I was given my membership card along with a gift certificate – the perfect combination to make someone feel like a VIP. The Body Shop also has top notch makeup. Rich in pigments, colors last all day.

At Bath & Body Works the inventory is enormous! Whether you buy fragrances, skin care, or accessories, you'll get excellent quality and value. There are literally 1001 gifts to choose - including their signature body sprays, lotions and shower gels, soft micro-terry loungewear, self-heating gloves and booties, plus blends of aromatherapy oils, shea butters and candles. Brand new this year is a lovely "garden in a pail.'' You can select a mix of snapdragon, petunia and marigold, or bring home indoor sunflowers, or choose parsley, basil and chives. You simply can't go wrong with either store for finding the perfect gift. And while you look, be sure to pick up a tiny indulgence for yourself.