Feng Shui Suggestions to Bring Peace & Prosperity

In this crazy, chaotic series of moments that we call life, couldn’t we all use a little more harmony and balance to keep things on an even keel? One of the best ways to implement a sense of calm is by practicing feng shui. While the ancient art of Chinese feng shui can seem a bit mysterious, fear not! In honor of the coming Chinese New Year on January 23 (Monday!), snap up any (or all!) of these pieces that stem from the five elements of feng shui—they’ll allow your home to look fabulous and your qi to flow freely!

EARTH – If you’re a feng shui first-timer, start small. Amy Hafemann Pottery’s Jade Green Ceramic Bathroom Set ($12 on Etsy.com) embraces the earth element beautifully. The imperfections in these pieces add character and remind us that although life can have its rough patches, it’s still worth celebrating!

WOOD – Since plant life is often hard to come by during the winter months, why not bring some greenery into your home, feng shui style? Bamboo shoots are not only easy to care for and maintain, they also increase health and peace. Breathe some life back into your space (especially now that the holiday decorations have come down) by introducing ProFlowers.com’s 7 Stalks of Lucky Bamboo ($29.99) as your element of wood.

WATER – Who says you need acres to enjoy the tranquility of a typical feng shui water feature? According to feng shui, water rids your home or office of negative energy and ushers in wealth and prosperity. Even if you’re low on space, this Homedics Envirascape Silver Springs Illuminated Relaxation Fountain with Natural Stone ($15.97 on Amazon.com) can afford you some H2-ahhhhh.

METAL – While it’s true that less is more, a blank wall in your home could probably stand for some decoration. A piece such as the SEI Gemstone’s Forest Wall Sculpture ($51.50 on Amazon.com) may be exactly what you’re looking for. The metal element fosters mental power, so not only will this piece light up your space, it may also light up that little thought bulb in your head with some stellar ideas!

FIRE – Fire is a symbol of energy and passion, so if you’re feeling lethargic, this element can do wonders for your energy levels. We don’t all have the luxury of a fireplace in our homes, but Bed Bath & Beyond’s Unscented Red Ball Candles (SALE: $4.49/set of 6) are fun and offer a nicely contained bit of passion. Plus, red is the traditional Chinese symbol of good fortune! Just be sure to keep these out of the bedroom if you ever want to get any sleep.

Want more tips about feng shui? Check out our basics on feng shui, too>

GIRL TALK TIME: Do you already practice feng shui? Do any of these pieces fit in with your design style? What element do you utilize the most in your own home?

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Let Me Get This Straight: End of a 6.5 Month Stretch

After my longest stretch to date (26 weeks and 6 days) I relaxed my hair using Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Lye regular strength relaxer on 12/16/11. Usually, I go to the salon to get it done but I’m tired of being dissatisfied with my hair being under-processed, under-conditioned, and being overcharged.
Here’s how it all went down:
I mixed 2 tablespoons of EVOO into an 18.75 ounce container. My mother thoroughly based me with petroleum and I used Herbal Essences Hello Hydration and EVCO on the length of my hair. She parted my hair in 4 sections and was able to get through my head in about 15 minutes. We could have let it sit a little longer but my right side started to burn a little.
She rinsed out the relaxer with warm water and then I used Aphogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor for 5 minutes BEFORE neutralizing. I did this mid-protein step in order to start rebuilding the protein bonds broken by the relaxer. When possible, it’s best to do this step before neutralizing because the cuticle is still open and most receptive to treatments. It’s safe because both water and the protein treatment start lowering the relaxer’s pH.
After the 5 minutes had elapsed, it was time to neutralize. I used Isoplus Shampoo with the color alarm. My mother complained that her back was hurting so my boyfriend stepped in to help neutralize. He was extremely gentle and did a great job under my mom’s watchful eye. He also had fun while doing it smh.
 I then applied a DC consisting of ORS Replenishing Conditioner, EVOO, EVCO, Avocado Oil, and SheaMoisture Deep Treatment Masque. I left this mix on all night and most of Saturday (my sister had a track meet) and washed it out Saturday afternoon. My mother then wet set my hair with gray and black rollers using Chi Silk Infusion and water. I sat under the dryer for about 2 hours and then silk wrapped my hair.

My mom did EXACTLY what I needed and I’m really happy with the results. I’m currently flirting with BSL and by my next relaxer, I should definitely be there.  I am experiencing a slight bit of breakage and normal shedding so I’ll curb both with another protein treatment and moisture DC next wash. While I’m proud that I was able to successfully stretch that long, I won’t be doing that again! My mother found it challenging to get through my new growth so I’m bone straight in some areas and and have a little wave in others. 14-16 week stretches will be what I do moving forward.
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Summer Institute 2011: Not the Average Conference

During my relatively short career with the City University of New York, I have had the opportunity to attend a few conferences to foster professional development.  I have been to the NYSACAC conferences at Niagara University and University of Rochester.  The workshops offered at these conferences provided information instrumental to succeeding in higher education.  I had the opportunity to attend Summer Institute 2011 with seven of my colleagues  and our University Director of Admissions, Richard Alvarez.

The annual conferences are wonderful, but for someone that is new to this field, the sheer number of people can be overwhelming.  Networking is a fundamental part of this career, but when faced with higher education veterans, sparking conversation can be an especially daunting task.  Summer Institute makes conversation and networking more manageable because there is a smaller group of participants.  With fewer people present, it was easier to get to know my colleagues from other institutions and to glean pearls of wisdom from more seasoned counselors.  I appreciated meeting people with varying levels of experience since we were all able to learn from one another.

As with all of the workshops offered at NYSACAC’s conferences, the ones at Summer Institute were quite informative.  The presenters were knowledgeable and responsive to questions and concerns raised during the course of the week.  During the “Nuts and Bolts” presentations for experienced counselors, we were given information about making presentations, building relationships with colleagues, and professional development opportunities.  This session provided me with information I will be able to utilize moving forward in my career as a counselor.

The most touching presentation was “Coming Together to Guide Underrepresented Students to College.”  Navigating the admissions process is a challenging for most students, but it is even more difficult for those without resources available to them.  The work that Chris Farmer does as the Director of College Counseling with Young Women’s Leadership School is admirable.  The videos he showed us of the students receiving their acceptance letters brought me to tears.  In this field, it is easy to get caught up in the numbers and to sometimes lose sight of the students.  Actually seeing how much our students have riding on an acceptance and how enthused they are to be admitted reminds me of what we are working for.

Summer Institute 2011 renewed my drive and made me want to redouble my efforts to make an impact on everyone I work with from colleagues to counselors to applicants.  I want to make a difference in the lives of our students and Summer Institute offered me a perspective I did not previously have.  I am quite lucky to have been given this professional development opportunity, and I strongly recommend everyone have the chance to attend Summer Institute.

Styles You Won’t Be scared to Wear on Friday the 13th

With so much superstition surrounding it, Friday the 13th (tomorrow!) can be scary biz! Between black cats and paranormal activity, it’s no wonder some people want to stay inside at all costs. Instead of letting your Triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13!) get the best of you, why not step out and celebrate with a few spooky-cool accessories? In homage to all things scary, these five pieces are sure to bring any wardrobe back to, er, life!

This simple, classy scarf is fun and will make you feel like the cat’s pajamas! Or scarf. For a mere $15, design prototype’s Cat Print Scarf ($15 on Etsy.com) is long and airy and won’t make you cringe when reaching for your wallet. It’s also long enough to double as a belt so you get two fierce accessories for the price of one!

For a little bit of fun with your fright, Betsey Johnson’s Dark Forest Skull Bead Bracelet(SALE: $36.95 on karmaloop.com) is dead on. The tassel, heart and bead accents on this piece render it more sweet than scary. And the rhinestones are sure to make any outfit a scream!

A true fashion-forward woman can find beauty even in the macabre. This Jalda Pebbled Evil Eye Clutch ($118.64 on Endless.com) is elegant and versatile. Step out on the 13th with this piece at your side and it’s sure to be all…er…eyes on you!

If you really can’t drag yourself out of bed this frightening Friday, why not be warm and fuzzy in the meanwhile? The P.J. Salvage Ditsy Skulls Velour Thermal Night Shirt(SALE: $43.99 on Zappos.com) will keep you warm even if in a bone-chilling situation. It comes in a cheerful pink, which is a no-brainer if you need to brighten your mood!

This piece of bling may not appeal to the Arachnophobe in you, but your chic side will be crawling all over it. The Cara Topaz Spider Ring ($48 on Bloomingdales.com) is perfect to add a bit of pizzazz to blasé fingers while keeping the real critters at bay. This fabulous ring almost makes up for the real creepy crawlers. Almost.

GIRL TALK TIME: Would you wear any of these accessories? What are you doing for Friday the 13th? Will you be celebrating this creepy day or keeping it low-key?

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Treat Winter Hands to a DIY Manicure

Are you finding it hard to arrange your mani sesh after splurging on the holidays? Does the cold weather have your hands looking haggard and in need of TLC? Sounds like a little pampering is in order—DIY style. Not only is doing your own manicure super relaxing, you’ll save quite a bit of money in the process. In order to help rehabilitate your skin, we’ve compiled a list of products any DIYer should have…er…on hand! Better yet? Invite buds over for a “Salon Soiree” and DIY each other’s nails.

If you think stuffing your hands in your pockets is as effective as wearing gloves, you’re likely suffering from dry digits and palms. Keep hands moisturized and soft with AveenoIntense Relief Hand Cream (now $5.59 on drugstore.com). This non-greasy formula is dermatologist recommended and will even last through hand washing!

As the cold weather intensifies, so do our chances of getting the real game-changer: snow. Since you might be stuck in the house and in between manicure appointments, why not invest in your own tools of the trade? The Earth Therapeutics Manicure and Pedicure Deluxe Set ($17 on Ulta.com) will help you achieve a salon-perfect mani from the comfort of your couch.

Love the polished look but hate sitting around watching the paint dry? Sally Hansen’sInsta-Dri Fast Dry Nail Color ($4.95 on Ulta.com) will cater to your impatiententhusiastic side. In a few short minutes, you can have 10 perfectly polished digits. To spice things up, why not try out one of the funkier colors like Mint Sprint? It’s like a sassy mood-booster for your hands!

For some ladies, a run-of-the-mill manicure isn’t even worth the effort (or the money), but don’t go to pieces about it. Or do! OPI’s Katy Perry Nail Lacquer in Black Shatter($8.50) will add that coveted crackle texture to ho-hum hands and makes maintenance oh-so-easy since a little chipping is perfectly acceptable.

Now that your hands are supple, smooth and ready to show off, you’ll have more than enough time to hang out! Admire those fancy fingers while you veg out with a fun rom-com.

GIRL TALK TIME: How do you battle the bitter elements to keep your hands supple and smooth? What are your fave nail polish colors this year?

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Best Spas to Detox After Holiday Decadence

With the holidays over, you may have noticed a lingering pain from partying a little harder than usual or your skin might look not-so-hot after all those NYE toasts (eek! Is that a pimple?). Fret not! We’ve compiled a list of the best spas across the nation to help return your face, mind and body to pre-holiday brilliance, all of which are Beauty at Its Best winners!

For Boston babes seeking relaxation and skin purification all rolled into one treatment, consider étant’s Detoxifying French Green Mud Therapy. This $110 treatment will rid your skin of impurities and leave you stress-free.

If you haven’t seen your girlfriends since 2011 (gasp!), what better way to catch up with them than by visiting Charlotte’s Celestial Soul? You can regale one another with your NYE tales while being pampered with the $129 Pure Waters treatment. This sesh lasts 90 minutes, which gives you more than enough time to talk it out!

Short on time but in dire need of a quick cleansing? Chi-Town residents should head over to Urban Oasis for a 30-minute deep-tissue massage. The $65 price tag ensures that your wallet can handle this quick session, but make sure you’re tough enough. Deep tissue massages may smart for a bit before the relaxation sets in!

If you want to be pampered like a queen, head to Denver’s Spa at the Brown Palace! For $110, you can enjoy a 50-minute Colorado Detoxifying & Cellulite-Reducing Salt Glow treatment. It’s ideal for ladies trying to shed a few of those pesky holiday pounds and allows you to enter the ultimate state of relaxation while you’re at it.

Imagine mixing a delicious cocktail…but you’re the glass! That’s the premise of the African Red Tea Ritual offered at L.A’.s Ole Henriksen Spa. In addition to a scalp, foot and hand massage, this treatment boasts an organic scrub, minerals and vitamins to help flush your body of toxins. A 110-minute session will run you $225, but how can you put a price tag on tranquility?

GIRL TALK TIME: Have you visited any of these spas? Do you know of a secret spa location that you want to share? Do you prefer to spa it up solo, with your girls or with your sweetie?

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Do a Winter Workout That Whittles Your Waistline

The holidays have an interesting way of making us think we can bend the universe to our will. We begin to believe that the cookies for Santa and the slices of pie we eat will be more forgiving because of the holiday season. It must be those self-induced sugar comas.

If you find that ALL of your jeans have somehow mysteriously shrunk in the wash, it’s time to get active again. And with these fun winter workouts to do in two hours, you’ll have no excuse not to get your buns in gear!

The Northeast gets some pretty rough winters, so why not use all the snow to your advantage? My family always goes to my grandmother’s house to shovel for her. For two hours worth of this labor of love, I can burn about 680 calories. If you don’t have any property to shovel (lucky!), you can help your neighbors and possibly pick up some cash while working your waistline!

Cold weather is great for snuggling up with your sweetie, but also for exploring the great outdoors! Why not throw on your warmest coat, comfiest boots and head out with your lover for a hike? If you two have been off the exercise circuit for a while, set a pace you’re both comfortable with. For 120 minutes of quality time with your sweetie, you can burn about 740 calories. The fresh air may spark great conversation and make this something you’ll keep doing…again and again!

The malls have been crazy-busy the last few weeks, so there hasn’t been much space to take a nice, calming walk. If you arrive at the mall before the stores actually open, you can leisurely stroll while burning some calories. By your third time passing the Gap, you can figure out if you really need that second red cardi. Channel your inner mall rat for two hours and you’ll burn about 600 calories!

Being snowed in doesn’t have to mean you’re stuck inside. When you get your first real blast of winter weather, invite the fam outside and have a snowball fight! It’s a bit immature…but aren’t snow days all about having fun? If you spend two hours battling playing with your family, you’ll burn about 638 calories.

Some days, you may not feel like leaving the house, but don’t leave your workout in the cold. Invest in equipment for your home and you can break a sweat indoors! Try hand weights, jump rope or a fitness DVD. Depending on your activity of choice, you can burn between 795 and 1110 calories in 120 minutes! Not too shabby for a lazy day, huh?

GIRL TALK TIME: Have you gotten your winter workout regimen in place? What’s your favorite workout when the cold weather hits? Do you prefer working out by yourself or with a group?

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Perfect for a NYE Kiss: Long-Lasting Lipsticks

With the clean slate that January 1st offers every year, loads of kissing is definitely a prerequisite for New Year’s Eve. Whether you’re smooching with your sweetie or locking lips with a new lover, you’re going to need a long-lasting lipstick that can hold up under heavy use. Here’s a list of lippies that are up for the job!

Regardless of your skin tone, nothing pops like bright red lips. Apply Clinique’s Long Last Soft Shine Lipstick in Red Red Red ($14.50 on Nordstrom.com) and prepare to stand out with soft, long-lasting color that won’t dry or stain your kisser!

Want a look that’s a little more subdued? Covergirl’s Outlast Smoothwear All-Day Lipcolor ($9.29 on Drugstore.com) in Soft Pink Satin will do the trick. This super-soft lipstick conditions and stays on for up to 10 hours (even through eating a few NYE hors d’oeuvres!).

A heavy NYE makeout sesh doesn’t calls for a lipstick…it calls for a lip stain. Stila’s Cheek & Lip Stain ($24 on Sephora.com) reacts to pH levels in cheeks and lips for color that’s unique to you! The price tag is worth every penny, since it’s usable for lips and cheeks, comes in an easy-to-apply pen format, moisturizes AND helps slow the degeneration of collagen. All that in addition to being long-wearing? Yes, please!

Maybelline’s Superstay Color ($9.99 at Ulta.com) in Reliable Raspberry boasts long-lasting color without flaking. If you’re a shine junkie, add the included golden shimmer balm for additional kiss-me blingage!

L’Oréal’s Infallible Never Fail Lipcolour Compact ($11.99 on Walgreens.com) in Apricot will make your lips look absolutely delectable. A mirrored compact with gloss and a mirror means this stuff glides on and stays on…for 16 hours. Talk about a self-contained product!

GIRL TALK TIME: What do you think of these picks? What are your tried and true lip products for a night on the town?

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