Sunday, March 21, 2010


Hi All:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the productivity of the American workforce was up by 6.9% annual rate during the 4th Q of 2009. While I am definitely not an economist or any kind of labor guru, I would probably venture to guess that those who are working are doing more with less and/or working their butts off to keep their jobs.

We are proud to say we squeezed 15 hours of work into 8, have the ability to prepare, cook and eat a meal in under thirty minutes and are on the verge of apoplexy when someone can't get to the point in 5 words or less.

So, today I'm going to share with you some of my favorite ways of chillaxin. All of my favorites are either free or under $10.

the local library
It probably won't come to anyone's surprise that libraries reported an increase in traffic over the past few years. The recent economic times have challenged most of us to find creative ways to save money, yet not feel deprived. So if you are looking for the latest hot title, movie, music or video game, look no further than your municipal library. There books, DVD's, CD's, Games and social events for are all available for free. Personally, just walking into the doors puts me in a state of calm. If I'll looking for a good read I my library offers suggestions via a print out of the NY Times Best Seller List and 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. If it's TV I'm interested in, the entire series of Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect is available. Upon getting home with my I change into my loungewear (aka pajamas), make myself a big mug of tea, grab some cookies and settle in for a few hours of relaxing bliss. For those of you who have kids, most libraries have an extensive children's section. What better way for the next generation to develop a lifelong appreciation for one of our country's greatest assets.

Take a Walk

In this case it isn't a power walk, more like an amiable stroll. With spring officially here, there are so many changes happening. Already the crocuses and daffodils are adding some color and soon the trees will be starting to blossom. I'm lucky enough that Forest Park, one of the nation's premiere urban parks, is close by. I'll leash up McEnore and we'll meander through the park and people watch. will A long walk is both soothing and refreshing at the same time.

Give yourself a facial
Blocked pores, dark circles, general discoloration and crows feet are all physical evidence of stress and burning the candles on both ends. While a day at the spa would be lovely, instead I slather on some Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque (about $4 at Walgreens) and relax for 15 minutes while it works its magic on shrinking pores, keeping blackheads at bay and making me feel better in general.

CBS Sunday Morning

venerable news magazine originally aired in 1979 and brings interesting stories on quirky American characters both famous and not. As I write this, I'm watching a segment on the Muazak company. The previous story was about a retired biology teacher who has an extensive tulip garden in Southern California, apparently quite a feat since the flower of spring is difficult to grow in the hot, dry climate. The last few minutes are the best of all since the show always ends with some very relaxing scenes from nature. So if you're too awake to sleep in, but not quite awake to get moving, grab a cup of coffee and tune in.

I hope this suggestions inspire your own favorite ways to relax and tune out.



Sunday, March 14, 2010

Two Fabulous Cleaning Products

Hi All:

My blogging has been sporadic, (umm...nonexistent) as of late. One of the reasons being I just haven't found anything that has tickled my fancy enough to tell you about. Well today that's changed.

Though not necessarily a neat freak, one of my many obsessions is with cleaning products. The Magic Eraser and Swiffer make me positively giddy (which is something I should perhaps have sent to Post Secret rather than admitting it on a blog with my name attached to it.) Stanley Steemer once came to my home to clean the couches and upsold me, by performing a demo, on steam cleaning the the kitchen tile floor. Admittedly, I was mesmerized by the ability of extremely hot water to steam the dirt off the tile and grout. The appearance of the clean floor was almost trace inducing.

Two new cleaning items that have become part of my arsenal are the Pledge Pet Hair Sweeper and a Fiber Cleaning Mitt. Both are inexpensive and reusable.

The Pledge Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair (about $4 - $5) picks up pet hair quickly and effectively. Although McEnroe doesn't climb on the family room couch (he prefers the one in the living room), his dark fur collects on the its sides and bottom. The one-two combination of vacuuming and lint roller didn't work very well and was a hassle. During a pilgrimage to Target while perusing the cleaning products aisle, this caught my attention. Upon getting home from the store, before even taking off my coat, I ripped this out of the package to try it out on the sofa. It works like magic to pick up the hair. After spending some time working on the cushions, I made my way to other pieces of furniture in search of McEnroe hair. Now, when there is some dog hair that makes the couch look unsightly, I am almost giddy as I reach for my fabric sweeper. Which may be a sign my life needs some more excitement.

The second item is a cleaning mitt (about $4). One side looks like a funky sea creature the other side is a micro-fiber like material. The sea creature side is made from some kind of space age chenille and cleans just about any kind of surface from stainless steel to mirrors to wood without having to use any kind of cleaning solution or even water. Just slip it over your hand and clean away. (Though it doesn't necessarily work well for stubborn residue like toothpaste or food particles) The beauty of it is that its machine washable, so it will last for a long time.

So whether you hate to clean or love it, the Pet Fabric Sweeper and the Cleaning Mitt are two items that will make your cleaning routine easier and faster. Leaving you more time to do some of your other favorite things.



Sunday, February 07, 2010

Herbaria Soap Company

Hi All -

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and another six more weeks of winter is on the horizon. Whether this news makes you want to hit the slopes or burrow underneath the covers, this season is synonymous with the colds, flu and Xerosis.

Moisture deprived, sand paper rough, itchy skin can be downright uncomfortable. There is nothing worse than sitting in a meeting, trying to pay attention, when it feels like you're wearing a wet wool sweater while receiving a bear hug from your aunt who wears too much perfume.

Luckily I found a remedy that not only is all natural, but comes in combinations like lavender oatmeal, lime coconut aloe and sassafras birch. The place to go is Herbaria Soaps. Visit them online or 2016 Marconi Ave.

Their soaps are all natural, cruelty free and come in a nice 4.5 oz sized bar. Plus if you buy six bars, the seventh is free.
Herbaria came into my life quite by accident. While at Skif, I struck up a conversation with an engaging man who invited me to visit his soap shop next door. Always a sucker for bath and body products and wanting to support a mom and pop business, I made my way over.

Wowee Kazowee! I am in love. Upon entering the store my senses were greeted by a bouquet of fruit, flowers, spices and herbs. It was just the pick me up I needed on a cold, grey December afternoon.

Interestingly enough, Herbaria has been
in existence for over six years doing a brisk business online before opening its shop, and has devotees from Massachusetts to Kansas to France. Started by LaRee DeFreece and her husband, Ken Gilberg. She she was a real estate attorney and he a graphic designer (which explains the elegantly simple packaging) prior to entering the soap business.

They make their soaps using cold process soap making method and use lye to convert food-grade vegetable oils to soap. I don't really know what this means exactly, but it makes a luxurious bar that lathers nicely and doesn't quickly melt.

Another great find is the organic jojoba oil, it comes in unscented, lavender, may chang (an essential oil) and patchouli. Use it after a shower and your skin will feel silky smooth all day. It absorbs quickly since jojoba oil is close to oil in skin (who knew).

So check out my new favorite, Herbaria. I hope it becomes one of yours too. xxoo, Jill

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


While I am completely hopeless about things like keeping my closet organized or sticking to my rule of using my credit card only in dire emergencies, working out is one thing I am disciplined, some would say fanatical bordering on obsessive, about. So, if one of your 2010 goals is to incorporate more fitness into your life, here are some of my favorite things to stay on track and motivated.

Early AM workouts
Getting up when it is still dark out does take a bit of getting used to, but the benefit is you've completed your workout before your day has begun. Stuff can, and does, arise during the day that makes time for fitness fall to the bottom of the list (such as your significant other whisking you out for a romantic evening or the day's carpool driver got sick giving you the added task of after school pick up). If you are restarting your fitness regimen and the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn just makes it more daunting, just aim for getting up 20 minutes to a half hour earlier two days during the work week and one day on the weekend. There is a certain stillness and beauty in the early morning that you get to experience (my friend and I call them Masengill Mornings), plus if the rest of your day goes to hell at least you got one good thing accomplished.

Prepare the night before
Take 5 minutes the night before to get everything ready. If you are going to the gym that means bag packed with everything you need (toiletries, clothes etc), and work out clothes ready to go. To make prepping even easier, when you are putting away your clean laundry throw a pair of socks and undies (items you're likely to forget) in your gym bag. If you're working out at home to a DVD put it in the player so all you have to do is hit play. Make it so you don't have to think, just do.

Vary your activities and choose ones you like.
Some people love to run everyday. If that is not you, choose a
ew activities you like such as walking, Pilates, Wii Fit, lifting weights, yoga Spinning/bike riding and mix it up. If it's hard enough to figure out what you're going to make for dinner every night let alone plan your work outs, write each activity on a slip of paper and fold it up. Put all the slips of paper in a jar and pull one out. That will be your work out. And since you're only choosing among things you like to do, there's less chance you will cheat by putting that piece of paper back because you don't like the activity. Plus mixing things up keeps you from getting bored and injured.

Manage your own expectations
Some days you will feel like pushing yourself,
other days it will be challenging enough to lace up your kicks and go for that walk. I used to think that every work out had to be 110%. But as I've gotten older I've come to realize sometimes a crappy work out is better than no work out at all.

Splurge vs. Save

Invest in a few key foundation items like shoes, socks (I'm a big fan of SmartWool) a good hat and gloves for cold days and sports bras (got to keep the girls perky). Luckily workout clothes have evolved from the Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton John Spandex and thong days. Cute clothes can be found across the pricing spectrum from Target and Old Navy to Athleta and Lulu Lemon. It doesn't take any extra effort or a whole lot of money to be comfortable and look good.

I hope these tips help you meet your fitness goals for 2010 and that working out becomes one of your favorite things.



Sunday, January 10, 2010

Zicam Extreme Congestion Relief


2010 was ushered in by a head pounding, sinus blocking cold that made its entrance on the heels of 2009. At about 4:30 New Years' eve morning I awoke to the suspicion that a group of gremlins mistook my head for a country bar, sinuses as blocked like the Lincoln Tunnel during rush hour and muscle aches that felt like I had run a marathon. Since ignoring these symptoms wasn't working, I broke out the Neti pot, gulped down Tylenol, filled a ziploc bag of ice to put on my head, curled up under a blanket on the couch and watched an MSNBC documentary about the 1979 Jonestown Massacre.

Fast forward a few hour
s later when Tom made his appearance in our TV room. By that time I was engaged in an equally uplifting Law & Order SVU marathon. While we previously made plans to go out, he was quickly working plan B - dinner in. As he was leaving to go to the grocery store I summoned from my La-Z- Boy perch "Get some Zicam". By that I meant the stuff that heads off the cold. He came home with Zicam Extreme Congestion Relief.

At first I was reluctant to use a nasal spray.

Will I turn into an addict like Felix Unger who always seemed to turn to the junk at the slightest bit of an attack? Do I troll the medicine cabinet for some pills in a hard to open blister-pack from colds gone by that may dry my head out completely and leave a tinny, bitter taste in my mouth but not open up the risk of becoming the equivalent of a crack whore?

But throwing all caution to the wind (and not wanting to go through the hassle of changing out of my pj's and driving to the store to exchange it), I tore open the box, negotiated through the tamper resistant plastic and stuck the applicator up my nose.

Three pumps on each side. In less than about a minute I could breathe clearly and felt a thousand times better. It works great - the package says it lasts 12 hours, which in the throes of my cold started to wear off at about 10 hour mark, but as the severity of my cold abated it seemed to last as promised.

Extreme Congestion didn't rid me of my cold completely and it took a few days to fully recover, but it allowed me to breathe clearly and my head didn't feel like it being pinched in a vice. My malady only lasted a few days, and am happy to report not a nasal spray junkie.

So in addition to the tried and true ways to deal with a cold, this has become one of my favorite solutions to deal with head congestion.

I hope you have a healthy New Year!

xxoo, Jill

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bourbon Slush

The week of Christmas. Not a dust bunny in sight, the silver is polished and all I need to do is sit back and enjoy the season.

Who am I kidding?

The house is a mess, the holiday hand towels are MIA and the Christmas Eve menu has yet to be planned (though it will be fish of some kind). None of that really matters because the bar is fully stocked with everyone's favorites, although what gets everyone in the spirit for an evening filled with family togetherness is Bourbon Slush.

It's festive, easy, can be made a day ahead and is good for a crowd. Since it is a popular party favorite, there are lots of versions. The one I use from
1 (12 oz.) can frozen orange juice
1 (12 oz.) can frozen lemonade
2 c. strong tea (3 tea bags)
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. bourbon
7 c. water
1 bottle maraschino cherries, drained (optional)

Freeze until slush, stirring occasionally and serve with 7-Up or Sprite.
For those of you classy enough to actually own a punch bowl, it makes a nice presentation on the cocktail table. I serve it in highball glasses, pour in the soda and give it a quick stir with a cocktail swizzler, or, at our house, a chop stick.

The earthiness of the bourbon mellowed by the tea coupled with the tartness of the lemonade sweetened by the sugar makes a very sippable and delicious frozen delight. If you do decide to add in the cherries keep in mind they soak up the bourbon. One Christmas my mom, who is not much of a drinker, ate just the "fruit" which put her in in such high spirits our family had not witnessed since the Reagan era.

For those of you worried about the overindulgence of holiday season, it's got vitamin C from orange juice, water for hydration and antioxidants from tea. And bourbon does not contain any additives, preservatives or artificial colors.

Maybe Bourbon Slush is already a favorite to toast to family and friends or perhaps it will become a new one.

xxoo and Fa la la la la,


Monday, December 07, 2009

Skif International

Finding an ownable look can be challenging. Trendy without looking like everybody else. Age Appropriate without being F&D (Frumpy & Dumpy) or a Cougar. Now that it's winter, my standard uniform is a pair of jeans and a turtleneck sweater. In order not to look completely boring, I put on a sweater from Skif International and my drab outfit is transformed into an actual "look".

Skif International, has hand made knit wear that is funky (its sweaters were featured in the Matrix film), unique and comfortable.
e retail shop, housed in a former furniture store, is located on Marconi Street in the St. Louis' The Hill neighborhood across from DiGregorio's Italian Market (another fave). Walk into the store and you'll find it's part retail part workshop - as unfussy as the clothes. Be prepared to spend some time in order to see the full range of offerings, when I go there I do one lap to take it all in and then another to find what I want to try on and then a third to see if there is anything I missed. In addition to the fabulous sweaters, you can find jackets, pants, dresses, hats and scarves. If you aren't sure how the clothes all look together ask Nina Ganci, the owner, or one of the other sales associates for help. I was in the store the other day for a pre-Christmas scope out and spied a beautiful sweater that could be worn three different ways; the way it was intended, backwards and as a poncho. Many of Skif's sweaters can be worn almost all year round. One sweater that I've had for at least 7 years is worn with a long sleeve tee and skinny jeans in the winter, with a cami and cropped leggings in the spring/summer.

If you want to jazz up your significant others wardrobe, Skif would be a great place to start. Nina has a great selection of mens' sweaters.

For those who want to design their own look, Skif also sells its yarn as well.

Not in St. Louis? Skif does sell its sweaters at botiques in a few differe
nt markets. You can also contact Skif at 314-773-4001.

Skif International is definitely one of my favorites. Perhaps it will become one of yours as well.

Talk to you next week.