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5.27.2015

Favorite Links Around The Web


1. Such great tips on how to keep white jeans white, which I'm sure applies to all whites.


3. Still debating whether the college debt is worth it or not? Here's a list of the nation's best jobs without a 4 year degree.  

4. When you think mason jars couldn't be anymore useful, here are more uses you wouldn't expect.




5.26.2015

Small Bites: Watermelon Caprese Skewers


All the steady beautiful weather that we finally have been having around here, has put me in the mood for some of my go-to favorite light summer dishes - one of which is the Caprese salad. This classic is not only refreshing, but it packs visual punch and can be made in 15 minutes or less. However, being the type of individual that always adds my own touch and flavor to dishes to keep things from getting boring too quickly, I took this classic to all new heights without veering too far from its simplicity with an unexpected simple twist of adding watermelon balls that I scooped with a melon baller for a hint of sweetness, and texture which made it feel a bit more summer-y. The addition of the sweet crunch of the watermelon combined with the slight acidity from the burst of the cherry tomatoes, plus the buttery goodness of the ciliegine cheese (aka: bocconcini or small mozzarella balls) dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette turns this salad into a savory dish that certainly screams summer party in your mouth with every small bite. Here's how I made it...



Ingredients {makes 24 skewers}:

Cherry tomatoes, 12 ( can be halved)
Half a watermelon slice scooped out into balls with a melon baller
Fresh mozzarella balls, 12 (can be halved)
Fresh basil leaves
Skewers {I prefer this kind}

Directions:

Thread 1 tomato, 1 basil leaf, 1 mozzarella ball, 1 basil leaf, 1 watermelon ball on skewer. Repeat to make the remaining skewers.* Arrange on a platter and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

1/2 Cup olive oil
1/4 Cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano
Pink Himalayan salt and ground black pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a glass jar with a lid. Close lid on the jar and shake vigorously until thoroughly combined.


*The skewers may be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 hours. Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

P.S. See my other Caprese salad version here.



5.25.2015

10 TIPS ON HOW TO MAKE WORKING FROM HOME A SUCCESS


Once I decided that I wanted to become self-employed and work from home full-time, I knew I had to be organized and well-disciplined in order to see positive results. But even with strategic planning there were still an innumerable amount of unforeseen obstacles that I encountered as I wrote about here. However, once I realized what some of the fundamental issues were, I decided to take action in order to maintain proper balance and have success. Ultimately, part of the formula of the key to success is not giving up, including the 10 tips I list below.

10 Tips on how to keep your balance:

1. Create a nice/clutter-free specific space to work {Definitely, not the couch}. Speaking from experience, I used to find that I constantly had to get up to either go get a pen, or the calendar or notepad and phone that I'd forgotten in another room, which of course exhausted me and made feel unproductive as I was wasting a lot of time going to get things instead of hunkering down and getting real work done. So having a specific space will make setting up a daily work schedule much easier, because there will be that sense of separation of your personal living quarters and business working quarters.

2. Being self-employed requires that you be disciplined, self-motivated, and willing to take the initiative (see #7 below).

3. Must take breaks. As I mentioned (see #8), one of the cons is getting so engrossed in what you're doing that you can completely forget or forego taking those necessary breaks. What I've been doing is setting my phone timer to go off every two hours, so I can get up for snacks and lunch breaks, or to just simply give my mind a break.

4. Accept failures. I'm constantly working on this one. It's important to remember that life isn't perfect and that things, no matter how well planned, won't always turn up or guarantee success as expected. Just do the best that you can that day and move on. "Don't worry about failures, our greatest glory is not in never failing but in rising up every time we fail."

5. Dress for success. Okay, one of the pros of working from home is that you can just roll out of bed and work in your PJs. Though that's true and there are occasions that will happen, especially if you're not feeling too well or motivated to get dressed, it's also imperative to remember that how you're dressed affects you psychologically too. I find that when I take the time to groom myself and get dressed before heading to my office upstairs. I feel more motivated and end up being more productive. Possibly because it separates my personal lounging time to business mode time.

6. Avoid internet surfing. Let's face it, Instagram|| Pinterest|| Twitter|| can be a time drain if we don't set time limits. I find in my case that there are some mornings, I'm more interested in looking at what's happening on IG instead of starting my work day. But when I stick to my to daily set schedule, I find that I not only get a lot done but I feel happy for being productive. It's very essential to avoid social media or texting friends and other distractions during your set business hours in order to maintain a good consistent working schedule.

7. Get out and meet people. As much of a freedom working at home is, it also can make you become an introvert. So there's a need to be self-motivated by pushing yourself to get out of the house to have human interaction. It helps build relationships, fight loneliness and gives you a chance to meet new people. I haven't done this lately and desperately need to get back to it, as it helped greatly for my mental health. I used to set up in local coffee shops at times where a girlfriend would bring her own laptop and we would brainstorm, which motivated productivity. My goal is to at least get out once a week to start.

8. Set up a schedule. It's true working for oneself comes with the benefits of flexibility, but to see results and be successful, there's a need to be disciplined (ties in with #6). Trust me, I know because some days, my work day ends up filling up with doctor's appointments, cleaning, shopping and/or cooking. The key to getting things done is to keep a strict working hours schedule in order to maintain balance, thus avoiding falling behind which will only result in exasperation that can lead into self-defeating thoughts, and obviously will be counterproductive. Create daily work hours and stick to them.

9. Allocate time for reading and inspiration. Now that you've got that extra commute time on your hands, proper management of your time can be put to good use. Maybe take 30 minutes to an hour in the morning or noon time to read something inspirational and/or meditate to regain mental clarity.

10. Don't rush into a business without considering/researching all the costs and factors involved, such as will you be required to pay taxes? Will you need to obtain a license or permit?

If you've been working from home for a while - what are some tips that you'd like to add to these 10? Please share in the comment box below.

P.S. Here are 5 easy steps to create a stylish clutter-free home office...



5.21.2015

ON THE BEAUTY PRODUCTS SHOPPING LIST

After a harsh winter of defeat trying to keep my skin properly hydrated, I'm ready to sloth off the dull winter skin by giving it some extra TLC. That means going back to basics and reintroducing into my beauty regimen several tried and true products as I'm on my last drop of ones that failed me miserably this past winter. I've always been of the mindset that you have to give a new product a minimum of three months before you see results to be able to properly deem it good or bad. But I have to admit that sometimes I've held on way too long to some products that are clearly not doing the job for my skin. So this is the inventory of beauty items that's on my shopping list thus far. Some I've used in the past and a couple have been recommended by friends as must-try beauty products, so I'd like to give those ones a go.

Elizabeth Arden Prevage Boosting Cleanser: A product that one of my Aunts has been using for over 20 years that I've used in the past and loved, but gradually started trying other products (because I felt that I was too young to use it back then). First of all, the name says it all. Right now, I'm all for products that prevent aging and plum up skin. After all, prevention is the best medicine.

Shiseido Express Eye Mask: A girlfriend introduced this product to me over ten years ago, because her mom uses/loves it and buys it for her. And she was right. I once accompanied her to buy some cream that she ran out of, and ended up buying me one to try it out. I just loved how smoothly it went on my skin and just a little bit goes a long way, not to mention it smells divine as well. Since I've never tried their eye mask, I thought it's time I give them a try as well.  

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence: I discovered this product in 2013, I think in Cosmopolitan and decided to give it a shot. At the time, I ordered the 250ml bottle with great skepticism, until my first application of it and I absolutely love it. It gives your face what I like to call "the JLO glow." I even have the hubby using it too. What I do is fill up a small traveling spray bottle with the liquid and just spritz it right on my face before I apply moisturizer. Though it's a pricey product, it lasts a very very long time - depending on how often and how much you use. Mine is finally finishing up from almost two years ago. And that's with both of us using it. It's worth the money. It's essentially getting that summer vacation glow in a bottle without having to actually go on vacation.

Thayers Alcohol-Free with Organic Aloe Vera Witch Hazel Toner: Since my high school years, this product has been one of my beauty must-haves during the summer months as I do tend to be a little bit more oily in my T-zone area. (I also love this one. It is perfect for sensitive skin).

Lucy B Manuka Honey Sugar Scrub: This scrub is one the most amazing scrubs I've ever used and believe or not, helped keep my skin moisturized this winter. I used to think using a scrub during the winter is a no, no, and then read somewhere that it was actually really good to do to help shed the dead skin cells. So I tried this particular scrub once a week which left my skin looking smooth, shiny, and shockingly moisturized enough to the point I didn't have to apply lotion or oil. Definitely getting me more of it.

Biore Charcoal Pore Minimizer: Was a recommendation that I Just started to use about a week ago, and I'm liking it a lot. It's a mild exfoliating wash that leaves your face feeling like you got a facial every time. I've yet to try using my sonic cleanser afterwards to see if this product removes all the dirt from the surface and underneath the skin. Will update.

La Mer: Is one of those fantastic products that every lady should at least try once.


Shiseido Sheer Eye Zone Corrector: There are mornings I wake up and have to reach for a concealer before leaving the house as an act of kindness to not shock America, or at least the poor folks that I will have to face. This one is on my must-try list for sure. 

Biore Pore Strips: Talk about going back to basics. As a nod to my high school pampering nights (on some Friday nights) with those strips on my nose while watching TV and eating popcorn which was one of those treats that said, "yay, it's the weekend!"            



5.20.2015

WORDS OF WISDOM WEDNESDAY {COMPLIMENTS}


Over a week ago, after giving a presentation at a meeting, one of the attendees called me late at night to pay me a compliment on doing a great job. Though compliments make me very uncomfortable, she unknowingly brightened my day as it really came at the right time - on a day that I felt like giving up. Such a small act went such a long way and is a great reminder of the importance of how we all need commendation. How often do you take the time to tell others how much you like, admire or appreciate them for what they do? This effortless random act of kindness takes no time to do, yet it pays enormously. Think of the benefits: it helps someone feel that they're noticed, that someone cares. It brightens someone else's day, motivates us to apply ourselves again in the future, and reassures someone that what they did was worth the effort. We need not wait for others to be in tears to compliment them. Instead, we can make it a point every day to look for opportunities to sincerely compliment at least one person about something we like, admire and appreciate about them, including those that are not in our circle or might even appear as a threat or competition. That's why I thought the above quote summed it all up nicely.


P.S. More Words of Wisdom Wednesday here.

Happy Hump Day!




5.19.2015

10 Pros and Cons I Never Thought About Until I Started Working From Home


As I've been battling serious hay fever lately that's been keeping me almost bed ridden with fatigue. I recall in my 20's when I would be over some of my adult friends' homes {who owned their own businesses} on a Sunday night, and once the needle on the clock would pass that 8:30pm mark - I would suddenly get that sunken heart feeling as I knew I had to get going to get ready for work on Monday. On the other hand, I would note on their faces a rather relaxed unbothered feeling by what day or time it was. I used to think 'how amazingly free it must feel to be one's own boss' and used to dream of working for myself too, one day. Thankfully, that dream became a reality nearly six years ago after getting laid-off from a mind-numbing desk job due to budget cuts. I can't help, but feel so appreciative that I now have the privilege to nurse and properly recuperate from any sicknesses that may unexpectedly hit without the worry of losing my job or being given a stern warning not to miss any more time from work. However, while being your own boss is rewarding, there are several things that I never thought about until I started to work from home. For that reason I wanted to share this list of some of the pros and cons that I learned along the way with the hopes that It'll help someone else that might be thinking of becoming self-employed.

The Pros:
  1. You stop watching the clock praying for lunch time/quitting time.
  2. Your office can be anywhere on any given day as long as you have a laptop and there's Wifi. Think of the possibilities.
  3. Car fuel/metro card/lunch/break expenses drop dramatically.
  4. The sickening Sunday night back-to-work dread the next morning feeling is gone.
  5. Can sleep in late if you feel like it, or can even work in your PJs.
  6. Work commute is less than 15 steps away from the coffee/tea pot in your kitchen.
  7. No more office cattiness, gossip and/or backbiting.
  8. The freedom of flexibility. Not having to worry or ask for permission to take a walk or break.
  9. You can make your home office or workspace area as beautiful as your personal flair calls for.
  10. You can deduct many expenses related to your home office, such as utility bills, home repairs and even mortgage interest or part of your rental payments. 
The Cons:
  1. It is more difficult to network for opportunities with career advancement.
  2. Sometimes you can go days without getting exposed to any sunshine.
  3. You no longer get that excited about Friday. So no TGIF.
  4. You forget what day of the week it is because you no longer have that work calendar schedule of the holidays/days off posted on your cubicle wall.
  5. Working on holidays while many are relishing their extra day off on a long weekend.
  6. The week and weekend sort of blends into one.
  7. No more end of the year bonuses or gift cards/free iPads {which one of my friends got this year} from the boss. BOO! :(
  8. Can go a whole day sitting at the computer without taking necessary lunch breaks.
  9. No exposure to human interaction {for me, as a people person, this is one I still struggle with}.
  10.  The major downside: you no longer get money back in taxes, you must pay self-employment taxes if you're the sole proprietor. If you're set up as a corporation, however, different tax rules apply. Check with the U.S. Small Business Association.
What have I left out? I know there are many more than just these 10 things I chose to highlight here, so please feel free to add others in the comment box below on what you've found to be crucial in order to make working from home happy and productive.

Coming up soon: 10 tips on how to make working from home a success and keep proper balance.



5.12.2015

That 70s Vibe In a Sea of Cherry Blossoms In Central Park


Those who follow me on Instagram, got a peek of how beautiful the weather has been here in NYC. The weather was so nice this weekend, the hubby and I went for a stroll in Central Park after lunch. We sat on a bench and watched tourists and locals with their families and their dogs walk around the park enjoying the day. The nice Spring days here lately are slowly inspiring me to take outfit shots again. While the winter is usually one of my favorite seasons - this particular one however, was fun to dress for in the beginning only for a short while. As the temps gradually dropped to unbearably icy levels, it slowly turned me into a recluse. When you have to bundle up so much that the weight and the bulk of all the heavy layers make you look more like a sumo wrestler than stylish, sure took all the fun and the motivation out of taking any outfit photos. But as the nice warm weather seems to be finally here, it inspired a couple of incidental snapshots of this casual not-so-subtle 70s vibe ensemble, which was breezy enough for the slight mugginess in the air this past Sunday.






Palazzo pants: last year's purchase at a Santa Monica boutique on main street (also loving this one and this one), Nordstrom Top, Steve Madden bag, Old Studded Sandals


5.08.2015

Grateful Moments

~Enlivening my outdoor space with pretty plants~

Happy Friday everyone! It's been a good while since I've written my grateful moments post or any other posts for that matter. It's not because I haven't been feeling grateful. Every now and again when I find each day too short for the posts I want to write, all the books I want to read, and all the things on the to-do list to get done - that's when I find it necessary and therapeutic to simply shut out all the electronic noise so that I can regain mental clarity and peace. And let me tell you, the couple of weeks of barely opening my computer felt very freeing. I got so much done at home, including hosting brunch, and doing a lot of planting on my terrace, getting it prepped up for al fresco dining and spending more time outdoors. It will be relaxing to enjoy reading outside on these beautiful refreshing spring days that have finally arrived in NYC.

~Reflection of the Sun on an early morning ~

~Another fun cabaret night at our local favorite restaurant/bar~

~Change of scenery: a beautiful Spring day drive in Brooklyn~

~This amazing sunset on the highway from Long Island~


Have a good one.




5.06.2015

Favorite Links Around The Web



1. Is social media really "social"? This must see video makes me realize that I'm not the only one who feels this way.

2. 9 ways to get the best sleep.

3. This great printable checklist on how to spring clean room by room makes the task more organized.

4. And here I thought I was the only one who did this. Yet the goddess of today's world is just as guilty as I am.

5. This commercial brought tears to my eyes and make me wish I was given the chance to develop such a bond with my mother.



5.05.2015

Homemade Hostess Gifts {Tomatillo Salsa Verde}


Now that we've officially entered into the warmer months when invitations to barbecues and dining al fresco with friends are imminent. It's time to really start thinking and planning about the kind of out of the box type of hostess gifts we'll be bringing as an 'I appreciate you so much for including me on your guest list to enjoy life's special moments with you...' thank you.  Personally, I've always been one who tries to bring something homemade only because I like to make my hosts feel just as special as they make me feel. And what better way to do that by way of a homemade gift (when possible of course). One of my go-to gifts that I like to bring is this mildly spicy salsa verde. It's an easy, delicious recipe that will leave your hosts grateful that they invited you as they munch on chips dipped in it on nights/weekends when the mood calls for a simple snack with a spicy tang.



Ingredients

10 tomatillos, husked and quartered
1 medium size yellow onion, quartered
1 medium size red tomato, seeded
6 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno or serrano chile, stemmed and quartered
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

On a large baking sheet, toss together quartered tomatillos, onion, tomato, garlic, jalapeno or serrano pepper, oregano, basil with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly charred, and then cool for 5 minutes or so.

Pour the mixture into a food processor along with the cilantro, lime juice and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer your salsa into pretty jars and wrap it with your favorite twine or tissue paper and tag.

...remember:

"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving."