Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Intentions

So here we find ourselves approaching a new year.

Everyone’s talking about their resolutions.

I’m focusing on intentions this upcoming year.

Resolutions are those things we vow to fix about ourselves. I really don’t think any of us need ‘fixing’; we merely need to think about what we truly want out of life, and declare our intentions for bringing those things to fruition.

We can resolve all day long about losing weight, making more money, relaxing a bit more, but when it comes right down to it, we never set a true course for reaching those goals. That’s where the power of intention comes in: by stating specifically what we honestly want, we’re sending strong signals to the universe in order to make those things happen. Our intentions must be recognized daily, and we must support them through our thoughts, actions, and words.

I encourage you, dear friends, as we greet 2010, to make yourself and your desires a strong priority this year. Surround yourself with people and things you love, and say goodbye to emotional vampires and bad habits. Focus on all the positive occurrences in your life, and pay little attention to any negativity thrown your way. Consider yourself blessed for all that you have, and don’t worry about the things you don’t have. Recognize that positive energy and an attitude of gratitude will take you far.

I wish each of you much love, peace, joy, and success in the upcoming year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gracious Guests and the Hosts Who Love Them

My grandmother, who’s just shy of her ninetieth birthday, keeps her home temperature at 140 degrees. On Christmas day, she usually entertains about 2,000 relatives (maybe not that many, but it sure seems like it at times)in her small house….all of whom become hot, sweaty messes within an hour. No one complains about the heat, though, at least not to Nanny’s face because a) it’s rude, and b) Nanny still hits really hard.

Having learned the finer aspects of being a gracious guest very early in life (“We’re all hot; just go outside and roll yourself in the snow!”), I’m compelled to review with you the finer points of what to do when entering someone else’s home. I say review because, honestly, deep down, I know you know these things. Yet friends, family, neighbors, and clients have all relayed to me truly horrific tales of truly horrifying guests recently.

Any hostess worth her salt will inform guests ahead of time of any home issue that might inconvenience her guests (broken heater, low water pressure, a sick cat, etc.) That’s your cue to figure out how to accommodate yourself (bring along a sweater and leave the extra-sudsy shampoo at home). It is incredibly rude to point out the obvious, especially if she’s already pointed it out. Doing so WILL embarrass her, WILL hurt her feelings, and WILL result in her silent vow never to have you back. Should Fluffy’s hairball issue prove too much to bear, feel free to politely excuse yourself and go home (but only after thanking your hostess for a wonderful time).

Body odor is never an acceptable form of protest. If problems exist with your host’s plumbing, you still must find a way to practice good hygiene.

Remember the old saying, “Guests and fish start to stink after three days” (and in some cases, after three minutes). Never overstay your welcome. If you notice your hostess yawning or appearing glassy-eyed, take the hint and leave. (A side note: if you’re co-hosting a ‘do, never tell your co-host, “I told so-and-so-to come over whenever”. By golly, you better call so-and-so back and tell them a specific time -2:00-2:30 sounds nice. Time frames are helpful and give hope).

Never turn on the television in someone else’s home, unless you’re invited to do so. If you must catch ‘the big game’, there’s a lovely sports bar just around the corner.

If you’re an overnight guest, learn and live the rules of the house and always pick up after yourself. Keep your bags and toiletries tidy and as inconspicuous as possible.

Leave your dog at home unless your host gives you the okay to bring him. Don’t yell at other guests if Fido happens to make a run for it out of an opened door. Fido is your responsibility.

Having small children does not give you permission to tell others how to baby-proof their homes. Your hostess may like sharp objects – that’s why she doesn’t have kids. Take heart, though: a hostess with enough snap is already one step ahead of you, and has caged her pet raccoon and locked up her guns.

Don’t take the liberty of dusting someone else’s home, unless you’re asked to do so. A guest who asks, “You know what would make this room look really good?” deserves to be smacked in the gob, so watch it.

Don’t bring brussell sprouts to a party.

If your hostess keeps a framed photo of a certain ‘80’s pop star on her desk, it’s okay to say, “My goodness, you’re so silly,” (trust me, she knows she is), “Hey, look, it’s that guy!” or “My god, that man still looks fantastic after all these years!” (because he does). It’s not okay to say, “Why on earth would you have that?” Your hostess may be tempted to respond with, “Why on earth would you wear those shoes in public?” But your hostess has class, and would never point out something she feels is ridiculous.

If the topic of conversation is the return of the legging, it’s a safe bet no one wishes to discuss health care reform. Parties and FOX News do not mix.

Remain mindful of your volume. If you notice other guests going to another room to chat, covering their ears, or waiting by the door for the cops to show up regarding noise complaints, that means you’re probably too loud.

If the party invitation states BYOB, then do it.

A huge difference lies between “Pour me another” and “Call me a cab”. Know your booze limits, and never assume your host will allow you access to her guest room, couch, or front lawn if you pass out.

If you notice a small fire in the bathroom, please alert your host immediately.

Our homes are our sanctuaries, and we should all feel honored when invited into someone’s home. We must remain on our best behavior at all times, even with our closest of kin and best of friends. We expect our children to act accordingly, and they certainly won’t learn that lesson unless we lead by example. Good guests are rewarded with invitations to come back, the fancy coffee (‘not the swill we serve everyone else, Darlene’), and increased admiration. Practice the Golden Rule, my friends, and treat others’ homes they way you’d like for yours to be treated.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holidays and Happy Days

I suppose I was about four years old. Christmas loomed large; our small home sparkled with multi-colored lights, my mother spent hours whipping up all sorts of holiday treats, and I learned a great lesson about the true meaning of the season. I didn’t learn it from my family or in Sunday school. I learned it from the coolest cat around in the mid-1970’s: The Fonz.

In the early episodes of Happy Days, Arthur Fonzarelli had yet to ingratiate himself into the Cunningham household. He was merely a hoodlum mechanic who spent a little time with Ritchie and the gang. One Christmas, though, he found himself alone. He gave the guys some story about visiting relatives in another town. Everyone bought it except Ritchie and me. I knew Fonzie was to be alone, and it made me sad…very, very sad. I remember fighting back tears, my young heart aching for Mr. C to invite the Fonz to their home for Christmas.

Finally, Mr. C and Ritchie went to Fonzie’s place and confronted him (this was before the Fonz moved into the Cunningham’s garage apartment). They tried every trick to get Fonzie to join them. “We’ve got a great big tree!” Ritchie proclaimed. “I got a tree,” Fonzie replied. The camera cuts to a small, sad-looking table-top tree. I cut to the bathroom, where I had a good cry.

I finally got control of myself and was able to catch the last five minutes or so of the episode – a happy ending, of course. The Fonz spent Christmas with the Cunningham family, and I realized that Christmas wasn’t all about the glitzy lights, the presents, and Santa Claus. It was about reaching out to those who needed it, and offering the best present of all – our time. The best part about it, of course, is that it need not only apply during the holidays.

Happy days, indeed, are the result.

Beth Newman
Look, feel, and LIVE your absolute best!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday Ease (Part Four)

We’ve already discussed giving and why we do it. Today I’d like to share some great little finds friends and I have discovered that make wonderful gifts or stocking stuffers:

For Fashion Forward Gal Pals:
Anything from the Miss Oops line ( Quick little fixes for the fabulous at heart. Delivery is super fast.

For the Traveling Man Who Has Everything:
Travel-size versions of his favorite colognes, shampoos, etc.

Light Reading for the Well-Read:
Magazine subscriptions (Vogue, Men’s Vogue, Town and Country, Vanity Fair)

For the House Proud:
Poopourrie ( A small little miracle for any bathroom. No more overly-scented room deodorizers!

For Kids Who Aren’t Your Own:
Gift bags filled to the brim with all sorts of inexpensive little goodies (Silly Putty, whistles, colored chalk, etc.)

Now, I’ve received many inquiries regarding tipping and gifts for those who provide year-round service. My general rule of thumb is a follows:

Manicurist/Pedicurist/Massage Therapist/Hair Stylist – Double the tip you normally give them, and throw in a lovely little box of chocolates (or something to that effect).

Housekeeper- If you use a service, include a small tip for each person who cleans your home (that’s in addition to what the service normally charges). If you use an independent cleaner, I’d recommend a generous tip or even doubling what you usually pay them. A jar of nice hand cream along with the extra cash will be greatly appreciated!

Favorite Waiter/Bartender – Again, double your usual tip and slip them a card expressing how much you appreciate their attentiveness as you wine and dine.

Charitable Giving
Should you desire in lieu of gifts to make a charitable donation in someone’s name, do check with that someone to make sure it’s okay. Yes, giving to charity is vitally important, just don’t assume your loved ones (especially children) will be completely on board with it. .

Again, dear friends, it’s our intentions while giving that really matter. I encourage you to do it willingly and from the heart.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Beth Newman
Fashion and Lifestyle Advisor
Look, feel, and LIVE your absolute best!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Ease (Part Three)

Too often, we forget the real meaning of the holiday season. Gift-wise, we’re focused on what we’ll give rather than why we give. It seems we race from one store to the next for quantity rather than quality. Surely, we could make things so much easier for ourselves if we find one great thing for a loved one, something he or she will really love and can use, rather than merely load up on “stuff” for him or her.

I’m reminded of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. The characters, Della and Jim, had little money and ended up giving up their most prized possessions (Della cut her luxurious locks while Jim hocked his pocketwatch) in order buy the other the perfect gift. Their gifts were heartfelt, but perhaps not necessarily wise: Della gave Jim a chain for his watch (even though the author points out that Jim needed a coat and gloves), while Jim presented Della with decorative hair combs. Useless, of course, since those gifts were intended to complement what they no longer had. I like Della and Jim, though, for their desire to please and their willingness to sacrifice. Their gifts for each other came from the heart.

I fear that a good deal of gift-giving today isn’t necessarily from the heart. We merely go through the motions and do it because “it’s that time of year.” Oftentimes it’s accompanied with complaints of cost and the time spent at shopping malls.

We should give because we want to give, not because it’s expected of us. Those heartfelt gifts truly are the best. Think about it as you make your gift list this year. Think about your family and friends and what might make them feel truly special.

That, to me, is the reason for the season.