DIY: How To Give Yourself The Perfect Natural Nail Manicure

DIY: Natural Nail Manicure

Like most women I’ve always wanted long nails that I could be proud of. Although I’m quite the active type, I still think that nicely polished nails give me the feminine touch I enjoy. Each time my nails grow long enough, one will end up breaking and ruin my whole look. I don’t think I’m alone! My friends fit into two categories those that pay for a professional to apply artificial nails or a gel manicure; and those that have tried everything and given up (the category I have been in for quite a few years now). Thanks to Julia of, I have finally found a process and the products that give me the look I’ve always been after, great looking natural nails done at home!

This first video will show you how to perform your home manicure. Julia takes you through the process of properly preparing your nails; then applying a base coat, color and a top coat.

Products you will need:



The second video will show you how to repair a nail with a tea bag. With this repair technique you don’t have to lose the look you’re after, even if a break does occur.



I hope these tips and techniques will bring you the perfect natural manicure you’re looking for. If you have further tips you would like to share, please leave a comment.


Photo Credit: juzara via stock.xchng


5 Criteria to Set SMART Goals for 2013

As we come to the end of 2012, it’s time to reflect on what we accomplished (or didn’t accomplish) and what we could have done differently. In this process, please don’t beat yourself up over the miss-steps made, but just identify and learn from them. Maybe you wanted to save $50 or $100 each month last year and weren’t successful at it. Why not? You will need to analyze those things that didn’t go just right, or you just may end up making those mistakes again.

I had one of these learning experiences recently. While trying to balance work and family responsibilities; along with a week-long business trip with my husband in December, some Christmas activities were put off a bit too much. In the week and a half between our trip and Christmas Day, I completed all Christmas gift shopping, decorating and cooking. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay close enough attention to the dates I needed to ship gifts out of state before the prices were outrageous. My brother and his family recently moved and I just wasn’t used to this shipment as one of my holiday duties. I’m usually a person that plans far ahead and finishes holiday tasks early, to make the most out of the Christmas season with family and friends. This experience really taught me a lesson. It was a mistake I won’t make again!

With this analysis complete, we’re ready to head into 2013 by setting goal to help us prevent past mistakes, creating new and healthy habits. I typically set goals in a few different categories (finance, fitness, household, education, etc.) and concentrate on one primary goal in each category. To be the most productive and successful, make sure you’re not working on too many or complex goals. There is no reason to set a goal or set of goals that you know you won’t be able to accomplish. To help you create goals that will really assist you in accomplishing more, here are five criteria that will help you document your 2013 goals. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) is an acronym that will assist in your goal development.


How to Set SMART Goals:


Each of your goals should be as specific as possible. If you want to work on your home, be specific about what you would like to accomplish. Do you want to paint? What room or rooms? Do you need to purchase new furniture? What specific pieces do you need to replace and for what room? The more detail that you add to documenting your goals the better it will be.


Each goal will also need to be measurable. How will you measure if you have attained your goal? If your goal is to lose weight, how will you measure that? Is 1 pound a success or is it 10 pounds that you really want to lose?


Make sure each of your goals are achievable. There is no reason to “bite off more than you can chew” or set yourself up for failure. If you’ve never exercised, or it’s been a while, start by setting smaller goals that you will be able to attain. If you’re just returning to running, for instance, consider completing a 5K for this year’s goal and save that marathon for a future year’s goal. Successfully completing a smaller goal will give you confidence to keep going, and you’ll be able to set more advanced goals in that category for many years to come.


The goals must also be relevant to you. Is it important to you and what you want to accomplish in your life? If your goal won’t make an important change in your life, maybe it’s not really a goal you should spend your time and energy on. If you’re planning to learn a new language, to dance, to cook a new cuisine or to work on your car; is this goal import to you and will it change your life for the better? If you’re just as happy taking your car to a garage, then maybe learning how to work on your own car isn’t the best goal for you to spend your time on. There are plenty of other goals to consider that will matter to you.


What timeframe do you want to complete your goal in? Do you want to lose those 5 pounds by the end of January or by the end of the year? Without setting a timeframe for each goal, there is no way to know when you’ve successfully completed it!


Some of the goals that I have set for 2013 are:


• Save $X each month (yes I have documented a value for X, but there are a few things I like to keep private).  🙂


• Walk 1000 miles by the end of the year.

• Complete 1 strength training workout per week.


• Paint the family room, kitchen and hallway by the end of the year.


• Complete a personal finance course by the end of January. This one I’m very excited about and will write a post on in the near future.


What are the most important goals that you will set to complete in 2013?


Frugal Gift Ideas for the Busy Woman

Homemade Milk Bath Every busy woman, whether a busy executive or a busy stay at home mom, can all use some pampering. Women give so much of themselves to their families, friends and work associates. When that birthday or holiday comes around, it’s a great time to give back to her and show her how much you appreciate her and all she does throughout the year.

Choose your gift theme

Planning ahead and thinking of what she really enjoys, will help you chose the right gift theme for her. Does she dream of that luxurious spa day? Maybe some home spa products would be perfect for her. Does she enjoy propping her feet up and watching an old movie? A home movie night theme may be just the thing to make her happy. Think of what she enjoys doing in her free time. Did her face light up when a friend was talking about a special piece of dark chocolate or when you spoke of your favorite lasagna recipe you made last night? Paying attention to these queues will give you the perfect hint to what gift theme to choose that will really make her happy.

Scale your gift to fit your budget and the gift occasion

Selecting a gift that she will enjoy is so much more important than selecting a gift that is large, expensive or showy. When she knows you put thought and effort into her gift, she will surly appreciate it. With that being said, depending on the gift occasion and your current budget, you can easily scale the gift to fit the situation.

That special birthday for your mother will typically be of a larger scale, than when you are giving Christmas gifts to 10 to 20 people in your office or want to give a small token of appreciation to an acquaintance. You can scale your gift to fit the situation by the size, number or items and/or even by choosing different packaging. This gift scaling technique can be used with all the themes listed below. Always remember a true friend will not want you to outspend your budget, they will be appreciative and happy with a gift that shows you thought about the selection, care about them and remembered them.

Think of the Spa Theme (below) for an example. The small scale gift can be a smaller portion of the milk bath recipe in a cellophane bag, tied with a ribbon and gift tag. A larger version of this gift idea would be a larger amount in a glass container. If you wanted to take this idea to the next level, you could make a gift basket including a variety of similar themed products. I’ve included examples of this technique for each of the below themes.

Spa Theme

What women doesn’t need some time to herself to relax? What better way to help her do this than to bring the spa products and atmosphere to her home?

I’ve made and given Lavender Milk Bath as a gift many times. The lavender essential oil I’ve used provides relaxation through aromatherapy. Additionally, this is a gift that can be made in different sizes to fit the gift occasion at hand. In one situation, I gave milk bath in small glass containers to a group of co-workers for Christmas. At another time, I gave a larger decorative jar of the milk bath as part of a bridal shower gift. This has been a huge hit with everyone I’ve given it to.

Below are three recipes to help you get started making homemade spa gifts.




1 cup Powdered Milk
½ cup Epsom Salts
1 tablespoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Cornstarch
Lavender Essential Oil (3-4 drops or to your taste)

Instructions: Combine the above ingredients in a bowl and place in container for storage.

Note: Other essential oils can be substituted for your preference.




1/2 cup Epsom salts
1/2 cup Sea salt
Peppermint Essential Oil (5-6 drops or to your taste)
Liquid Menthol (5-6 drops or to your taste)

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and then transfer to a container for storage.




I cup Sugar
1 cup Olive Oil
Lavender Essential Oil (5-6 drops to your taste)

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then place in a glass or plastic with a tight fitting lid for storage.


Small Scale Ideas: For a small scale gift, consider one of the above recipes, in a smaller package. The milk bath or bath salts can be placed in small portions in cellophane bags (available at your local craft store, such as Michael’s in the cake or candy decorating section). Small glass jars are another great option. They can be purchased at craft stores (such as Michael’s), discount stores (such as Big Lots) or even thrift stores (such as Good Will or The Salvation Army).

Medium Scale Ideas: To make this gift theme a bit larger, you could make the milk bath in a larger decorative glass container. I’ve used small canisters found in the kitchen section for this. Another option would be to have multiple items, either different products or the same (such as a set of 3 portions of milk bath in cellophane bags).

Large Scale Ideas: To make this an even larger scale gift, you can make a gift basket of many spa items. I’ve seen many beautiful baskets at thrift stores as well as some great decorative jars of various sizes. Along with the above recipes for spa products, you can also include other spa themed products to enhance your basket, some ideas include: lotions, soaps, exfoliating products, facial masks, an exfoliating scrubber, fuzzy socks, microwavable bed buddies and even candles. When making a gift basket it’s always nice to have an odd number of items for a nice presentation.

Chocolate Theme

Chocolate is another gift that will please most women (and many men too). By making the chocolate gifts yourself you can create a thoughtful and great tasting gift, which can also be prepared at reasonably priced.


A batch of homemade brownie mix, displayed in a mason jar, is another one of my favorite gifts for larger groups of people. This is another gift I’ve given to multiple co-workers and received many over-the-top complements.



1 1/2 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Cocoa Powder
3/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Chopped Pecans or Walnuts, optional

Instructions: Layer each ingredient in the above order into a 1 quart mason jar. Each ingredient can be packed down by tapping the jar lightly on a flat surface. Label with baking directions.

Baking Directions:

1 Jar Brownie Mix
3/4 cup Butter, softened
3 Eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 12 inch baking pan. Combine softened butter and eggs in a bowl. Add the jar of brownie mix to the butter and egg mixture, blend well. Spread mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool brownies in pan and cut into squares.


Cocoa mix is another quickly made gift, which is great for the colder months. Smaller amounts can be put in cellophane bags or larger amounts in small mason jars or other glass jars.



3 cups Nonfat Dry Milk
2 cups Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 cups Cocoa Powder

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Place in containers for storage. Label packaging with directions to make hot cocoa.

Hot Cocoa Directions:

Mix 1/3 cup of hot cocoa mix to 1 cup of hot milk or water.


Homemade truffles are surprisingly easier to make than you may think. By using the highest quality of ingredients you can afford, the taste can amaze for family and friends. Candy boxes and other packaging options are readily available in the cake and candy decorating section of your local craft or discount store. With homemade truffles and great packaging, there will be no need to buy expensive chocolates from a chocolate boutique store.



1/2 cup Heavy Cream
14 ounces Dark Chocolate Chopped, or use Dark Chocolate Chips
3 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 tablespoon Liquor, optional

Instructions: Slowly heat heavy cream in a double boiler, until it reaches a slow boil. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is melted. When the chocolate is melted, add the butter and mix until melted and you have a thick, rich chocolate sauce. Add the liquor and combine well.

Place the chocolate mixture in the refrigerator until firm. Once firm, roll into one inch balls and coat with powdered sugar, cocoa powder or chopped nuts.

Note: If you don’t have a double boiler, place a glass or metal mixing bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Place the ingredients in the mixing bowl.


Small Scale Ideas: For a small chocolate gift, you can prepare one of the above recipes in a smaller size that fits your needs.

Medium Scale Ideas: If you’d like to give a bit larger gift, you could create a larger portion of one of the above recipes, more elaborate packaging or gift more than one item. For example, a cellophane bag of hot cocoa mix can be placed in a decorative mug for a larger gift.

Large Scale Ideas: To make a large scale chocolate themed gift, I would again move to the gift basket idea, for flexibility. Any or all of the above chocolate gift recipes can be included. Other items that can be added for this theme are, but are not limited to, hot chocolate mugs, chocolate bars (dark chocolate is a great option), a batch of brownies already baked and/or a chocolate cook book. If you want to be even more creative, the base of the gift basket can be a brownie pan instead of a basket.

Wine Theme

A bottle of wine can be a great gift for the wine lover in your life. Good wines are available in any price range, but you will need to pay attention to the type of wine that your gift recipient likes to choose the right one. You will need to know if she prefers white or red; sweet or dry; and even mild or bold. Below is a guide created by Andrew Snavely of It nicely outlines the main wine choices you will have.

Wine Chart

Small Scale Ideas: A bottle of a less expensive wine will give her the idea that she’s thought of. For packaging, various gift bags / containers are available just for bottles of wine. The gift containers are available in paper, fabric and even more elaborate and decorative cardboard tubes. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for these throughout the year. They are frequently on sale at craft stores (such as Michael’s) at Christmas time. Also, this is a good thing to buy and keep on hand when you have an extra discount coupon from Michael’s or JoAnn’s.

Medium Scale Ideas: To upscale your wine gift a bit, you could purchase a more expensive bottle of wine (if you think she will enjoy it more) or add a wine themed gadget or two that she may enjoy.

Large Scale Ideas: For an even larger gift you can create a gift basket, which can be as large and elaborate as fits your gift occasion and budget. A basket can be purchased for a relatively inexpensive price at craft stores and thrift shops. To your basket with the bottle of wine you can add any number of wine themed gadgets. Some additions you may want to consider are wine glasses, decorative stoppers, a cork screw and a wine themed t-shirt, just to name a few. If you’re the crafty type, a wine themed t-shirt can be made quite inexpensively from a blank t-shirt and iron on decals or other decorate accents (these items typically available at craft stores, such as Michael’s or JoAnn’s).

Movie Night Theme

Would your gift recipient love to escape from it all, prop her feet up and enjoy an old movie at home? What is her favorite movie genre? Romance? Tear jerker? Chick Flick? Horror? Some great older movies can be picked up at dollar stores and discount store, for just a few bucks. As an alternative to DVDs, you could substitute a NetFlix gift certificate. They are easily purchased online and the certificate printed out. Printing out a gift certificate is a convenient option when you’re short on time or need that last minute gift.

TIP: DVDs are a good thing to keep your eyes open for all year around. There are frequently sales on good DVDs at grocery stores, drug stores and other places you wouldn’t normally shop for them.

Small Scale Ideas: A smaller gift for this theme would be a DVD (some older ones are less expensive or bought on sale) or a small Netflix gift certificate.

Medium Scale Ideas: If you’d like to upscale your movie night theme gift you could choose 2 or 3 movies with the same theme, include some microwave pop-corn or candy (think of all the things you looked forward to at the movie theater when you were a kid).

Large Scale Ideas: For the ultimate up scaled movie night gift you can make a gift basket out of as many of the items that you choose. Instead of a basket, you can start with a bowl that can be used to serve popcorn. Items that can be added to the popcorn bowl include DVD(s), microwave popcorn, candy, beverages (soft drinks, fruit juice, tea bags, hot chocolate mix or a favorite alcoholic choice). Gift baskets are a great way to customize a gift to fit your need and the exact situation.

Dinner Theme

What busy woman wouldn’t want dinner prepared for her? You could invite her (and her family) over and prepare dinner for the gift. Not only will you save her time cooking dinner, but also enjoy spending time together. Try to do as much as you can in advance to allow for as much socialization as possible.

If time and schedule don’t allow for a relaxing evening together, another option is to deliver a meal that she can heat up or cook easily. Meals that can be made in one pot or pan are a great option for this. If your time is also limited, a crock pot meal can also prove to be a time saver. Homemade chili on a cold evening, a pan of homemade lasagna or a comforting casserole, are all great options. Make sure you include cooking or re-heating directions. A recipe of your dish is also a great addition.

Small Scale Ideas: For a smaller scale option, you could give your friend a single casserole or even a plate of homemade cookies. Meatless meal options are a good way to reduce the cost of an entrée. She will know she was thought of and her special occasion (birthday or holiday) was remembered. Adding recipe cards for the dishes you give, also makes a great touch.

Medium Scale Ideas: For a larger scale gift, additional dishes can be provided with your gift, such as a casserole and dessert. Another way to enhance the dinner theme gift would be to prepare a meal with more expensive ingredients.

Large Scale Ideas: For a more elaborate dinner gift, you could provide a complete dinner (entrée, side dishes, bread, dessert and beverage), either in your home or delivering the food (don’t forget to include cooking / heating directions).


When giving a gift, being creative can go a long way. Planning ahead and scaling the size of your gift allow you to give a gift that she will enjoy and one that won’t break your budget. Making her feel special on her special day is much more important than the amount of money you spend.


Should You Repair or Replace Your Broken Appliance?

Whirlpool Washer Our society has moved through the years from repairing something when it broke, to replacing the item without even attempting to repair it. In the past when an electric cord was frayed, the cord was repaired; often today the appliance will be in the land fill before the cord has time to wear out. We’ve all heard from a repairman that an appliance will cost more to repair than to replace, at one time or another. This may be the case and it may not. We have so many internet resources available to us, that we can at least do a little research before blindly trusting someone else’s opinion.

This situation really hit home when my family was put in the repair or replace dilemma. The other day I noticed that my washing machine wasn’t washing as it once did. The agitator was barely moving around, and I knew this wasn’t a good thing. I have been in such a habit of putting the clothes and detergent in and just closing the lid, so usually don’t even look at the clothes washing. I hope this hasn’t been going on for long. I pointed out the new finding to my husband who of course wasn’t happy, but soon looked up the issue on YouTube. He found out there were some broken pieces in the agitator, it was easy and quick to fix, and the best news yet, the new pieced were available through Amazon for a little over $3 with free shipping. Within a few days the small plastic parts arrived and with 15 minutes of repair time, the washer was back to agitating like new. SUCCESS!

I know that part of the problem is that the products we purchase and consume aren’t made with the quality that they once were. We often will buy something just looking at the price and don’t think of quality or how long the product will last. There are many times when we are able to save money in the long run by spending a little more to purchase for quality initially. On the other hand, the high quality items that were once made to last, may no longer even be manufactured and some products are even now designed to be disposable.

Not everything can or even should be repaired. There are times when it’s not cost effective to repair the item. Maybe the labor costs are too high and it’s not an item that you or a family member can manage. There are other times when the repair may be close to the cost of a replacement and the benefit of a warrantee with the new item will outweigh the extra cost.

It’s always good to consider all your options, educate yourself with available resources (internet search, YouTube search and the manufacturer’s website are all good places to start) and made a wise decision that works for you and your family. You never know. You just may be able to find that perfect $3, 15 minute fix to your problem too.


Photo Credit: Whirlpool


Natural Laundry Cleaning Product Recipes

Natural Laundry Cleaning Product Recipes Expensive chemical laden laundry products can not only damage our environment, but also the clothes we are trying to clean and protect. With these easy recipes, you can make your own laundry detergent both cheaper and safer.


Laundry Booster and Softener

Add a cup of white vinegar to your washer’s rinse cycle for a frugal laundry booster. This will whiten your whites, brighten your colors, eliminate static cling, remove lint, prevent the dye in new clothing from running, kill bacteria, remove soap residue from fabric and your washing machine, soften your laundry and neutralize any odors.


Laundry Detergent Recipes

(Laundry recipes courtesy of Soaps Gone Buy – Ingredients can also be purchased from them)

Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe 1:

3 Pints Water
1/3 bar grated Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
2 Gallon bucket to mix it in
1 Quart hot water Hot Water

Mix Fels Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints hot water and heat on low until dissolved. Stir in Washing Soda and Borax. Stir until thickened, and remove from heat. Add 1 Quart Hot Water to 2 gallon Bucket. Add soap mixture, and mix well. Fill bucket completely with additional hot water, and mix well. Set aside for 24 hours, or until mixture thickens. You may add additional HOT water if the mixture becomes too thick. Mix Well before each use. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load. Makes 64 loads. Cost per load .03.


Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe 2:

1 bar grated Fels Naptha Soap
5 gallon bucket
1 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
4 1/2 gallons water

Put grated Fels Naptha in saucepan and cover with water. Heat on low until dissolved. Fill bucket with hot water and add soap. Stir to combine. Add 1 cup washing soda and 1 cup borax and mix well. As it cools, it will thicken. If mixture becomes too thick, add hot water to thin it to desired consistency. May be used immediately. Mix well before each use. Use 1/2 (normal) to 1 cup per load (heavy). Cost per load .04.


Powdered Laundry Detergent Recipe:

1 cup grated Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

Mix and store in airtight container or bag. For light or small loads, use 1 tablespoon. For normal loads, use 2 tablespoons. For heavy loads, use 3 tablespoons. Cost per load .15.

To make a large batch – grate 6 bars of Fels Naptha Soap and then add 3 cups of Washing Soda and 3 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax. Mix well and store in covered container.


TIP: The above recipes will NOT make suds in your washer so don’t be alarmed. Fels Naptha Soap is a pure soap and typically makes little or no suds in the water. This makes it perfect for use in the new HE washers as well as traditional washers. You will also notice the need to either reduce your laundry softener or in most cases you can even eliminate the use of softener completely.


Photo Credit: Meghan Anderson-Colangelo via stock.xchng