2012 Home Gift Guide

Christmas Gifts

The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s time to give and receive Christmas gifts!  Personally, we hate dealing with crowds at the mall and suffering through parking lot traffic jams, so every year we try to do all of our holiday shopping online.

Since we’re big fans of home décor items, home gadgets and home appliances, we thought it would be fun to put together a list of some of our favorite home gifts.  We chose products that were more affordable (less $150), but rest assured that all of these are items we’d be thrilled to both give and receive.  Happy shopping!

Sweet Dreams Cupcake Pillow – $24

Sweet Dreams Cupcake Pillow

Who doesn’t love cupcakes?  Modeled after a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles, this super-realistic cupcake pillow is the perfect gift for anyone with a sweet tooth.  The best part is that it’s calorie-free.

Cardboard Animal Heads – $28 to $58

Cardboard Animal Heads

We’re not hunters by any means, but we love the idea of these cardboard animal trophies.  Easy to assemble and cruelty-free, we think one of these would be awesome in a modern man cave.  Choose from an elephant, deer or moose head.

Waring Pro Double Wine Chiller & Warmer – $129.99

Waring Pro Wine Chiller

Good wine makes a great gift, and we always get a few bottles every year.  This easy-to-use wine chiller and warmer is unique in that it holds 2 bottles at once, letting you chill a bottle of bubbly to celebrate and another one to go with dinner.

Baby Chef Artisan Yogurt Maker – $19.99

Baby Chef Artisan Yogurt Maker

Yogurt is one of our household staples.  Instead of buying regular yogurt that’s chock full of chemicals at the grocery store, prepare natural yogurt that’s free from additives and yucky thickeners  with this artisan yogurt maker.  Don’t be fooled by the brand – this product works great for making yogurt for adults, too.

Paella Gift Set – $59.99

Paella Gift Set

I fell in love with this flavorful dish while vacationing in Spain 2 years ago.  This paella gift set contains almost everything you need to recreate this Spanish delicacy in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Luma Comfort HCW10B Humidifier – $129.99

Luma Comfort HCW10B Humidifier

Sometimes the best gifts are the most practical.  This Luma Comfort humidifier produces both warm and cool mist in one compact, great-looking unit and is sure to be a cold and flu season mainstay.

Plaza 400 Thread Count Sheet Set – $89.99

Plaza Hotel Sheet Set

What is it about hotel linens that makes them feel so luxurious?  If you’re looking to recreate the same sleep experience you’d get in a 5-star hotel, these sheets are the answer.  Pottery Barn’s sumptuous 400 thread count hotel sheet set will let you slip away into luxury.  Best of all, you can get them personalized with your monogram.


Natural Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Did you know that up to 20% of all Americans get the flu each year? Flu season usually runs from October to May, and I’m noticing more people around me getting sick as the weather gets colder.

Every year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designates the week after Thanksgiving as National Influenza Vaccination Week.  This annual event is aimed at educating people on the virus and encouraging them to get vaccinated.

For the most part, we don’t always think of the flu as a serious or life-threatening illness, but it can be. Young children, the elderly and people with health problems are more likely to suffer from flu complications due to weakened immune systems. Some emergency warning signs include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe vomiting
  • Chest pain and/or pressure
  • Fever with a rash

When it comes to flu treatment options, there aren’t many. You can do one of three things: prevent the flu, treat the flu or ease flu symptoms.   If you’re looking to stop the flu before symptoms start, you’ll have to consider prescription antivirals in the form of injections or nasal sprays.

Personally, I hate injections of any kind and have read that both the flu vaccine and nasal spray can sometimes cause minor side effects such as swelling, aches, pains and even low-grade fevers.  I also usually shy away from unnecessary medications if I can and prefer to practice good hygiene as a way to prevent the flu.  While not foolproof and definitely not as effective as getting a flu shot, by following these easy, drug-free tips, I’ve been able to stave away the sniffles for the past 3 winters in a row:

  • Cover up. I try to cover up my nose and mouth with a tissue when I cough and sneeze to stop the spreading of germs
  • Wash hands frequently. Flu viruses are mostly spread by direct contact, which is why I wash my hands often. I also keep hand sanitizer handy in case I can’t get to a sink.
  • Avoid touching your face.  Viruses enter your body through your nose, eyes or mouth.
  • Exercise regularly. Sounds silly, but it’s true: exercise speeds up your heart to pump larger quantities of blood, which also helps transfer more oxygen and increase your body’s natural flu-killing cells.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. The natural chemicals in plants can actually give your immune system a huge boost, which is why you should eat more of these foods during flu season.
  • Breathe cleaner air. We tend to stay indoors more during flu season due to the cold, but did you know indoor air can sometimes be much more polluted than outdoor air? My air purifier is always on during the fall and winter months for this reason. Some units such as the Luma Comfort AP170W also utilize UV bulbs which destroy biological contaminants such as bacteria and viruses.
  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick.  I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but since the flu spreads so rapidly, it’s best to keep your distance from someone who’s sick.  Moreover, if you happen to catch the flu this winter, try to stay home from work or school and away from public places for the health and well-being of those around you.

How to Combat Dry Winter Skin

There are five basic skin types: normal, dry, oily, combination and mature.   Not sure about which one describes you? Try this simple test. Gently press a square of rice or blotting paper over the face, focusing on the nose, forehead and chin (or the T-zone).  If the paper sticks to the skin, especially in the T-zone, or turns a translucent color (from blotting up a lot of sebum), you most likely have combination or oily skin.  If the paper doesn’t stick to the skin or change color, your skin is normal to dry.

What causes dry skin?
Dry skin occurs when moisture is lost through the outermost layer of the epidermis.  This special layer keeps your skin properly hydrated and actually creates a barrier against pollutants, germs and other irritants.  Sun damage, decreased oil production due to age, medical conditions and even some medications can all cause dry skin, but one of the most common causes is the weather.

Cold weather is the culprit
Your environment has a huge effect on your skin.  Since the humidity level of the air changes with each season, this causes a change in your skin’s moisture level.  For example, the dry deserts of the American Southwest and the extreme cold temperatures up north can make your skin feel paper dry.  Moreover, the driest season is oftentimes winter – the very same time of the year that you’re more likely to use your heating system.  Many heaters force moisture out of your skin and hair, which is why your skin can also feel especially parched during the cooler months.

How to treat it
Here are a few simple ways to hydrate your skin this winter:

Use a gentle, non-foaming cleanser.  The key is to use a product that will cleanse your skin without drying it.  Murad’s Resurgence Renewing Cleansing Cream is an ultra-moisturizing wash that lifts away dry skin while restoring hydration levels at the same time.

Avoid hot showers.  Hot water strips your skin of moisture and its protective oils.  Opt for warm showers and baths instead.

Don’t forget to moisturize.  A quality moisturizer will allow water to bind to your skin and help it lock in moisture.  Always the perennial favorite, Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar is formulated without any sulfates, GMOs or synthetic dyes, and helps comfort and soothe dehydrated, allergy-prone, thin or aging skin.

Use a humidifier.  This simple appliance adds needed moisture to your immediate area, which can dramatically alter how your skin looks and feels.  The Luma Comfort HCW12B produces both cool and warm mist and works in areas over 500 square feet.

Top 5 Nursery Essentials


Top 5 Baby Essentials

I recently welcomed the arrival of my first child over the summer and was a bit overwhelmed, to say the least. Although I had a baby registry and shopped for baby things during pregnancy, no one really told me that dry-clean only pink sweaters and floral headbands should not have been at the top of my list.

I didn’t know I needed certain items until my little one arrived, so I thought I’d share some wisdom for other new moms-to-be. These may not work for everyone, but these are my list of top 5 nursery essentials I just can’t live without.

5. Maya Wrap
I’ve tried quite a few baby carriers, including the Moby Wrap, Ergo and Baby Bjorn, but the Maya Wrap is my personal favorite. It takes some time to get used to baby wearing, but I found that the ring ones such as the Maya Wrap felt more comfortable for both me and baby. The ring also lets you easily adjust the carrier as your baby grows. We use this daily.

4. Kiinde Kozii Bottle Warmer
Some moms may argue that bottle warmers aren’t a necessity, but I beg to differ. What I don’t like about other bottle warmers on the market is that there’s still the risk of burning and hotspots since the water temperature gets too high. The Kozii is the only one that uses a warm water bath that’s as warm as tap water. This lets you warm up your baby’s meal without exposing bags or bottles to hot steam or boiling water.

3. Luma Comfort Humidifier
Babies are notoriously susceptible to upper respiratory illnesses, and while I don’t want to see my little one with the sniffles, a cool mist humidifier like the Luma Comfort HC12W will make her feel better even if she does happen to get sick this winter. Not only is it wonderful for soothing a cold, it also provides a bit of white noise for her. The chic, vase-inspired design also looks great in her super girly nursery.

2. Mustela Facial Cleansing Cloths
Doctors recommend bathing infants only a few times a week, so in between baths, I like to use these wipes from Mustela to clean my baby’s face, neck and hands. These are alcohol-free and specially designed to minimize the risk of allergic reactions. Mustela products also smell lovely!

1. Fisher-Price Cradle Swing
If I had to pick one product I couldn’t live without, it would definitely be this swing. My baby isn’t particularly fussy, but when she gets in one of her moods, this is the only thing that will calm her down. Part of Fisher-Price’s Sugar Plum Collection, this swing swings in a side-to-side or front-to-back motion and plays 8 different lullabies. Not only is it great for a crying baby, but it’s also nice when you need to put your child down for a few minutes to clean up around the house or whenever you just need a “me” moment.