Friday, August 27, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Live Each Day as if lt's your Last

Synchronicity- not just an album by the Police, but the occurrence of 2 or more events occurring together in a meaningful manner. Lately, I have been getting signals from the universe to PAY ATTENTION in my life. I remember an interview with Diane Keaton talking about Goldie Hawn and how positive she was, like if she was drinking a cappuccino she would say "Isn't this the best cappuccino you've ever had?" Diane Keaton said she was so NOT like that and I have to admit, most days, I am so NOT like that either. Appreciative. Grateful. In awe and wonder of this world.

  • In Women Food and God, the author recommends eating each meal like it's your last. If you were on Death Row and had a final meal, what would you have and how would you eat it? You would probably savor every bite, just like Goldie Hawn savors every sip of her cappuccino. I've been trying to meditate lately and the lady on the CD I listen to instructs you to "Feel every breath as if it were your first breath, feel every breath as if it were your last," and talks about how we take the breath, which is the force of life, for granted.
  • I watched Our Town last week and have always loved Emily's monologue at the end:

"Goodbye world. Goodbye Mama and Papa. Goodbye to clocks ticking, my butternut tree, mama's sunflowers and food and coffee and new ironed dresses and hot baths and sleeping and waking. Oh earth, you're too wonderful for anyone to realize you."

  • And then there's a quote a friend posted on her facebook page this week:

    "It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, that we begin to live each day to the fullest; as if it were the only one we had." Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

The truth is we don't know which day, meal, breath, sip of cappuccino will be our last, so we should make the most of all of it. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, says this is the secret to living. If you are walking across the room to get a pen, put all of your attention into it. Whatever you are doing, give it your undivided attention. (This, by the way, is the opposite of multi-tasking.) So no need to visit the old man at the top of the mountain or spend months in an ashram in India searching for wisdom and happiness. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, the power lies within you. Carpe Diem!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Make the Most of Your Massage

How to Make the Most of your Massage

  • 1. Schedule after you've done what you need to do for the day, like work or exercise. That way it will be a treat and you won't have to worry about the things you need to do.

  • 2. Try to do some light, body-conscious exercise like yoga or Pilate's. This will help stretch your muscles and get you in the right mindset for your massage.

  • 3. Eat lightly. Try not to schedule a massage right after a big meal. Sometimes I eat a "Spa" Lean Cuisine as my meal, to continue the healthy theme.

  • 4. Drink lots of water, before and after your massage. Drinking before helps hydrate your muscles and makes them easier to massage. Drinking after helps flush toxins out of your body. I bring my own, refillable water bottle because they use Styrofoam cups (horrors!) at my Massage Envy.

  • 5. Meditate. This really helps you focus your mind on your massage. So instead of going through your grocery list or thinking about your car needing to get Super-Lubed, you can concentrate on your arm, neck, back being massaged and how good it feels.

  • 6. Make sure you allow plenty of time to arrive at your appointment. The other day, I went with my husband for a massage and we were running late, it was pouring rain and we parked at a meter but had no change. I walked in frazzled, soaking wet and stressed. Not a good way to start my massage.

  • 7. Take a warm bath. I have a friend who is a massage therapist and she wishes she had room for a little tub in her space, so her clients could soak, relax and let their muscles loosen.

  • 8. Put a soothing CD in your car to listen to, on the way to, and from, your massage. Something like Enya, relaxing classical or a spa CD (they sell them at Target) will help set the mood for your massage. I played my Arizona Spa CD on the way to my last massage and enjoyed it so much, I've left it in. Chaos, traffic and road rage can be happening outside, but inside my car I have a tranquil sanctuary (except when the kids are in the car).

  • 9. Tell the massage therapist if you have any physical issues or if there is a place you want him/her to focus on. Likewise, if the pressure is too hard/soft let them know. The other day I went and she asked me if I wanted medium pressure or firm. I asked the difference and she said "Pain". I opted for medium. In this case, no pain is gain!

  • 10. Make a note if you have a particularly good therapist. Thank him/her for the massage, congratulate yourself on being good to your body and have a great day! Namaste.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Rub me the Right Way

A couple years ago my full time nanny quit and about a month later, as I was getting a lovely massage at a hotel spa, I decided to make getting a massage a regular part of my life. I reasoned with the money I was saving with the nanny (and since I was the one becoming Mary Poppins), I would treat myself to a monthly massage. I joined Massage Envy and never looked back. It costs $59 (plus tip) a month for one "pre-paid" massage and if you get another massage in the same month, it's only $39. While some might consider getting a massage an extravagance in a shaky economy, I find with the multiple stresses and negative energy circulating in these precarious times, I need it more than ever. It's one luxury I hope never to give up; the benefits to my physical and mental well being are well worth every cent. Having said that, I do try to make the most of my massage, so I can get the most bang for my buck. I joined Massage Envy because it's relatively inexpensive and convenient for me, but there are also massage schools that give inexpensive massages and individual masseuses (I recommend getting a referral) that are also options. Some masseuses will even come to your house, saving you the stress of driving to and from the massage. Next time, I will follow with tips on how to make the most of your massage.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ God Bless the King of Rock n Roll!

A Good Elvis movie may seem like an oxymoron but since today is the day when Elvis officially "left the building", here are my picks for top 10 Elvis movies. One of Elvis's stated main goals as a young singer was to become an actor, in the vein of James Dean and Marlon Brando. Although he got off to a promising start in the first movies he made, once he got back from serving his time in the Army, good ole Colonel Parker stuck him in one predictable musical after another. With names like like Scott Heyward and Mike Edwards, he had cool jobs like airline pilot and a race car driver; there were always girls, girls, girls and lots of singing. but not a lot of acting. Creativity was out the window and the money came rolling in. Until it didn't. After a while, the viewing public tired of the paint-by-number flicks and stopped going. We all know the story of how Elvis turned down the role opposite Barbra Streisand in A Star Is Born (eventually played by Kris Kristofferson). What would have happened if he had taken a risk and taken the role? Would it have revitalized his career, given him a new lease on life, saved his life? We will never know. Luckily, he lives on in his music and in these movies.

1. King Creole (1958)

Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca), this is one of the movies Elvis made before working for Uncle Sam. He plays a brooding nightclub singer trying to escape the mob's reach in the Big Easy. Walter Matthau and Carolyn Jones, no slouches, were also in this one.

2. Jailhouse Rock (1957)

Elvis plays Vince Everett, a guy in jail for manslaughter who befriends a country singer with connections to the music biz. After he gets out, he becomes a teen sensation (a la the real Elvis), but forgets the friends who got him there. Unlike Vince, Elvis never forgot his friends, sometimes to his detriment. Elvis choreographed the wonderful Jailhouse Rock dance sequence.

3. It Happened At the World's Fair (1963)

I had to put this one in there because this was the movie where I first discovered Elvis. I asked my aunts who he was and they answered "Elvis? He's old enough to be your father!" Actually, he was 6 months older than my Dad. Watch for the scene where a young Kurt Russell kicks Elvis in the shins, his first paid gig. I also love the revolving restaurant atop of the Space Needle.

4. Clambake (1967)

Maybe not the best Elvis movie, but it has a couple things going for it. It takes place in Miami, and stars Shelley Fabares, the actress who starred in more Elvis films than any other girl. Elvis plays Scott Heyward, a millionaire who trades places with a water ski instructor, kind of a sixties version of the Prince and the Pauper. "You Don't Know Me," a great song, is in this one.

5. Flaming Star (1960)

The first Elvis movie I ever saw at a theatre, I went with my sister and a friend and was incensed when a girl sitting in a row behind us asked her friends "Is that him?" Of course, girl. Even though he was sporting a deep tan in this Revisionist Western (he was supposed to be a half breed), she should have recognized Elvis, for Pete's Sake! A still shot of a gun-toting Elvis from this movie was used by Andy Warhol in multi-color frames, a la Marilyn.

6. Viva Las Vegas (1963)

Probably my favorite, old school, Elvis movie. From the time Rusty (played by Ann Margret) rolls into Vegas with her little sports car and short-shorts, we are entertained. Love the dancing, singing scenes with Elvis and Ann Margret (The Lady Loves Me and C'mon Everybody). They had so much chemistry together (along with his and hers Harley Davidsons) it's a real shame they never made another movie together.

7. That's the Way It Is (1970)

Made at the start of his Las Vegas period, the best of his concert films.

8. Elvis On Tour (1972)

This was released around the time I saw Elvis in concert in Miami at the Jackie Gleason Convention Center. He was in great shape physically and vocally. Another concert film, it won a Golden Globe for Best Documentary and the montage sequences were edited by no less than Martin Scorsese.

9. Elvis the TV show (2005)

I loved this show, documenting the early years of EP, played by Irish actor Rhys Meyers. Although it didn't last long, I remember Priscilla, Elvis's ex-wife, being involved in the show, either as producer or consultant.

10. Elvis (1979)

This T.V. movie, produced by Dick Clark, kind of brings my list full circle. Kurt Russell, who kicked Elvis in the first movie I saw him in, does a remarkable job playing Elvis. I remember at the time it was made,Kurt Russell talked about how he studied tapes of Elvis for hours on end, to get his portrayal right. It paid off. As a bonus, Bing Russell, Kurt's dad. plays Vernon Presley. Season Hubley, who later became Kurt's wife, plays Priscilla. Slasher director John Carpenter, best known for his horror flicks like Halloween, directed this one.

While Elvis may have left the building, his memory (and his celluloid images) remain.
God Bless the King!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Mine that Textbook Gold

It's August now, when a young man's fancy turns to... textbooks. Oh no, thinking of springtime and love, but in August, my thoughts turn to selling textbooks. Around three years ago, sick of looking at a stack of textbooks that had accumulated over the years, I decided to sell them on Amazon. While I had an account with e-bay, I choose Amazon because that is where I shop on-line for books, so I reasoned it would be the best place to sell them. Amazon makes it really simple to sell your books, another plus. After you set up a Seller's Account, you click on "List Single items", then you type in the title or ISBN code of your book and up pops the same, or similar books for sale. You then click on "Sell Yours Here" and it gives you spaces to fill in. It will ask you for the condition of the book: (New, Just Like New, Acceptable), the price, and what type of shipping you will offer. I research the book first to see what it is going for. If I can't sell the book for more than $5, I don't list it. Amazon takes out 15 percent of the price of the book as a referral fee, plus $1.35 for closing costs and a per item fee of 99 cents. After you list your books, you need to check your e-mails daily, especially if you have offered expedited shipping. Once you get a notice that you have sold a book, you are supposed to ship it out within two business days.

Amazon automatically charges $3.99 for shipping but, there were times, that $3.99 did not cover the cost of shipping, and I ended up paying more. After two days in a row of the shipping costs eliminating my profit, I complained about it to a post office employee. He asked: "What are you running, a charity?" Not intentionally. If a book is especially heavy, it may be more to mail than the standard rate, and it also depends on where it is being shipped. I try to offer my books at the lowest price (even by a couple cents), so I can be sure they get sold. Once you list them, you can check "Manage Inventory" from time to time, to see if you are still the lowest price. If not, you can edit your posting.

When I listed my textbooks for sale, I made a wonderful discovery. My textbooks laying around like lumps of coal, were actually hidden gold, waiting to be mined. Textbooks, it turns out, can cost a pretty penny. I made close to $500 selling textbooks that year, but had a friend who took it to another level, selling books for friends and family. She made close to $1000! So if you have textbooks lying around, what are you waiting for? Mine that gold!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Miami Spice

August here in Miami means two things: it's so sultry and steamy that my compost heap is growing mushrooms and it's time for Miami Spice. Yipee! Miami Spice was dreamed up by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau as a way to entice locals into frequenting South Florida restaurants during the typically slow months of August and September. For $22 for lunch, and $35 for dinner, you get a three course meal with an appetizer, entree and dessert. While there were some complaints last year about lackluster menus (with similar entree offerings of fish, steak and chicken), this year many of the participating restaurants have stepped up their game and added inventive, and pricey options to their menus. While paying a hundred bucks for a dinner for two may not seem like such a great deal in this economy, Miami Spice gives you the opportunity to eat a restaurants that are normally out of your price range. Choosing the right restaurant is crucial, as some deals are better than others. I took my son to China Grill for lunch a couple years ago and a lunch that would have cost $50 or so, was had for $20. This is also a chance to experience the master hand of great chefs in our area, like Michelle Bernstein (Michy's and Sra Martinez) and Scott Connant (Scarpetta at the Fountainebleau), both seen as judges on Top Chef. My husband and I decided to try Timo, an Italian-Med restaurant on Sunny Isles Beach, Saturday night and had a lovely meal. We stuck to the Miami Spice menu, ordered a $30 bottle of wine and got out of there for a little over a hundred; a splurge, but well worth it. I ordered the lamb chop with goat cheese potato gallete (delicious), but actually loved my husband's veal shank with Gorgonzola cheese and truffle gnocchi so much (with an actual shaved truffle!), we switched. Nothing stingy about Timo's menu! For dessert I ordered a chocolate, peanut butter dome thing, with peanut brittle candy and milk gelato. I was so happy with my mound of yumminess, I didn't even venture near his Key Lime Mojito tart. Why kill a good chocolate buzz? For my next Miami Spice, which I plan to pay for with the refund for buying my energy star dishwasher last April, my sights are set on Asian themed, and supposedly awesome Hakkasan at the iconic Foutaineblue Hotel. It is my own little (delicious) contribution to stimulating the economy. Someones got to do it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ One Woman's Trash...

Today I participated in an All American rite of passage. OK. I'm not sure if it's All American (as I've witness versions in London) or a rite of passage, but what I'm talking about is a good, old fashioned Garage Sale. Yes, even in this time of E-bay and Craig's List, there's still a place for this familiar weekend ritual. I have concluded that you're either a garage sale person (as in having and shopping at them) or you're not. I am. My husband, on the other hand, hates them. He reasons it's just as easy, and tax-deductible, to give our junk to Goodwill. While he may be right, having a yard sale motivates me to go through my stuff, re-assess, decide what to keep and what to get rid of and organize! I didn't make much money with this garage sale (it was a hot, muggy day), but my stepdaughters made more than a hundred bucks. In addition, I found a lot of loose leaf paper (about to be thrown out in some binders), pens, pencils, a t-shirt to work out in and $25 from my last garage sale! While it is a lot of work, it's always interesting and entertaining to have a garage sale. I especially loved the lady who wanted to buy Lauren's Louis Vuitton knock-off purse from Chinatown for a buck.

"No, five dollars," I said. She countered with:

"It's not even real."

"Yes, but my husband paid $30 for it in Chinatown."

Her last stab at it: "I'm sending it to Haiti."

"I don't think the people of Haiti need a fake Louis Vuitton. Food, clothes, shelter, yes, but not a fake Louis Vuitton."

We held firm and ended up getting $5 bucks for it, from somebody else. I also met some of my neighbors and the girls, who had hid at my first garage sale, collected items to sell, priced, displayed and marketed items, negotiated with customers (sometimes in Spanish), calculated amounts and made a little spending money. After it was over, we decided what would go to Goodwill, what to the consignment store, e-bay, Craigslist etc... The printers and paint have been set aside to dispose of at place that accepts them. And we packed the rest of it away...
for our next garage sale.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Goodwill Shopping

Sometimes I come home with a new movie or book from a secret little store called Oodwillga. Pig latin for Goodwill. Before you go "gross", let me clarify the items I purchase at my secret little store. My sister Kelley recently said she was going to head to Goodwill to pick up a yoga mat. My reaction was "yuck!" Certain items, that have been in intimate contact with previous owners, are not things I would buy at Goodwill. This includes yoga mats, undergarments, shoes and hats. I don't shop for clothes at Goodwill (I have gotten Halloween costume pieces there) but if I did, would probably stick with denim and khaki items. Some of the items I regularly look for at Goodwill are: hardback books, VHS movies, glassware, pottery and silver plate items. I picked up some beautiful Christofle silver plate salt and pepper shakers for a couple bucks last year, and hardback books that retail for $20 and up, sell for only $1.50. On a recent trip to a Goodwill Superstore, I saw a hip, well-dressed young woman among the shoppers. I imagined her to be either an antique/vintage clothing dealer or movie producer looking for wardrobe or props. I always take a look at the artwork (located near the restrooms) in the hope of finding a gem among the junk. This has been my fantasy since I saw a lady on Oprah who bought a little painting at a thrift shop and it turned out to be painted by a famous French Impressionist (can't remember who) and worth a bundle. Location matters when shopping at Goodwill, as the ones located in an affluent part of town will be more likely to carry high-end stuff. Of course, shopping at my secret little store is very hit or miss, depending on what merchandise they've gotten in, but this is also part of the fun. I usually limit my purchases to $10, which is how much I paid for the items shown in this picture: a straw purse, first edition of The Prince of Tides, silver plated tea pot from Argentina and a classic John Ford movie. The photos should be titled: Buy This, Not That! at Goodwill. Or as I am going to start calling it, Bonne Volente. It sounds so much better in French, mais non?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Hail to the Chic

A recent eight dollar purchase has given me an immense amount of happiness. It's a little bottle of purple-grey colored nail polish, Sally Hanson Salon Manicure, #370 Commander in Chic. Given Chelsea Clinton's recent nuptials, it seemed a good time to blog about it. I had admired the color on a friend at a dinner party. She told me where she'd gotten it (CVS), so I ran out and bought a bottle. Not only do I like the color, the Salon Manicure includes base coat, top coat and hardener, so you don't have to go through all those steps that you normally would to give yourself a mani/pedi. It also has a rounded tip brush, which is genius and makes application a breeze. I love getting a mani/pedi at a salon, but the price tag (about $40 when you factor in tip) is prohibitive in this economy so I have been doing it myself, a lot more lately. While I like the color in the summer with a tan, I believe it will transition beautifully into fall, which is right around the corner. When I saw this same friend at another dinner party last night, she was wearing Commander in Chic, and so was her best friend. And so was I. To all those Commander in Chic's out there, I salute you! Mazel Tov.