Secrets for Healthy Hollywood Hair

One thing most women spend almost too much time on is their hair. Whether you have long, short, curly, or straight hair, it always seems to be a struggle getting your hair to look flawless (unless you’re the Kardashians, of course). But us normal folk sometimes forget that the keys to perfect hair lie in the basics of hair care. We looked to hair stylist and salon owner Greg Griffin (check out his fun filled site equipped with a blog and more http://www.barberlounge.com/) to give us some tips and tricks to help keep our locks as healthy as can be.

BRUSHES GALORE

Choosing a hair brush can be an overwhelming task. Not only are there countless styles, but also we can hardly distinguish when to use each brush! We’ve done some research and nailed down a few key brushes we think every girl should have. 

1. Paddle Hair Brush. A paddle hair brush is typically larger, flat, and wide with an oval or rectangular head. The bristles sit on an air cushion and can be boar, nylon or a mix of both. This is your everyday hair brush you often see in drugstores because it’s used for smoothing, detangling and adding shine. Don’t worry about your hair type, this brush works for everyone!

2. Round Thermal Hair Brush. A round hair brush has bristles around the entire head of the brush and is usually ceramic. This brush is typically used for blow drying and styling hair; experiment with different brush sizes to create larger or smaller curls, or simply blow dry straight.

3. Vent Hair Brush. Vent hair brushes have holes in the middle of the base to allow air to pass through the brush for faster blow drying. These brushes also add volume and detangle those difficult knots in any hair.

Now that you know what brushes you should have, Greg Gifford tells us perhaps the most important thing to remember about our new tools. He says, “The best way to clean out a brush is to use a wide-tooth comb, and comb out any hair and debris that has collected. It’s a good idea to do this every few months or when [the brush] starts looking gross. About twice a year use a clarifying shampoo on your brush to remove product build-up, and lay flat on a towel to dry.”

HOT HAIR TOOLS

Flat irons and hair dryers can be scary to use on your precious locks, so make sure you do your research and invest in tools that minimize heat damage. Choose hair dryers and flat irons that are made of quality ceramic, not just ceramic coated. For flat irons, buy one with a temperature control so you can choose a temperature best for your hair type. Another plus? A quality hair straightener will have the ability to curl and manipulate hair as well– in fact, my favorite curler is my straightener!

When styling hair, use product to protect from heat and make your job easier. Because hair product will often build up on your flat iron, Greg recommends to “use an alcohol pad or a paper towel with some windex. This should remove any residual burnt on product.”  In terms of build up for hair dryers he says, “On most hair dryers you can unscrew the back and take out the filter. You can use a comb to comb out the lint or if it gets really bad you can request a new one from the manufacturer.” Make sure to take proper care of your styling tools to ensure a longer life span. Try storing your hair dryer, flat iron and curling iron in a hair styling station. The station also hides cords and has ceramic interior liners perfect for your hot accessories.

Hair Styling Station

HELPFUL HAIR HINTS

What you put in your hair is equally as important as buying the right hair tools. We admit to having some hair products for well over a year, so is it time for us to toss our goods? Greg says, “Most products have a 2 year shelf life. For hair care products and shampoos, there is a little more leeway on the expiration dates; you could probably push it another year or so. It also depends on how it’s stored, if the lid has been kept on tightly and if it’s been stored at room temperature out of direct sunlight.” Speaking of shampoo and conditioner, we also confess to having at least four different types in our shower at a time. Are you actually supposed to switch up shampoo/conditioner to reduce build-up? Greg admits, “This is a tricky one; if you find a shampoo that works great for your hair it’s okay to stick with it. If you are heavy handed with products it’s a good idea to use a clarifying shampoo once a week to clean off any product build up.” Need help organizing all those bottles in the bathroom? Keep products right by your side with a snap-on bottle organizer, perfect to place over a towel bar, shower rod or shower door.

Snap-on Bottle Organizer

For something smaller and more portable, we recommend a waterproof mesh bath tote. This is especially handy for travel and showers in college dorm bathrooms.

Mesh Bath Tote

Now that we’ve given you our tips and tricks, go tend to those luscious locks!

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com. 




Fresh Tips For Beauty Bliss

Ladies, we know how important your makeup is to you. We know how often you splurge on new mascara or brushes to keep your makeup collection in tip-top shape. But we’ve all been there– you suddenly loose your favorite new Lady Gaga limited edition lipstick in your bottomless purse or ruin your brushes in the midst of travel. So, we’ve identified some tips and products to help you keep your makeup collection fresh all year round!

KEEP IT OR TOSS IT?

We’re always wondering if we should keep our six-month-old eyeshadows and face creams or run to the store to purchase all new beauty products– we’re sure you’re wondering the same. For beauty tips, we’ve looked to Mario Dedivanovic, a celebrity makeup artist whose work has been featured in top magazines (he shares celeb beauty secrets in his tell-all blog http://blog.makeupbymario.com/).

We first asked Mario about mascara. How do you know when it’s expired? Mario says, “Mascara will begin to go bad after about 2-3 months.  When the wand comes out looking dry and flaky, it’s time for a new mascara.  Another simple way to tell when your mascara is too old is by smelling it.  After a few months of use, mascara tends to get a very bitter smell – similar to vinegar in my opinion.  If something smells abnormal like that, close it and toss it.” Since we all love luscious lashes, this is definitely a tip worth remembering.

Next comes foundation. Especially for liquid foundation, Mario says if it “begins to seperate in the bottle and change colors, please do yourself and your skin a favor and get rid of it. Products that contain oils will eventually go bad and will certainly accumulate all kinds of bacteria.” What else can’t Mario stand? Filthy sponges. Mario tells us “wash your sponge at least once a week.  It takes a few seconds to wash with soap and water.  Reusing these sponges over time and not washing them will be more harmful to your skin than anything else.   If you dont want to wash them, you can use a new sponge every time and toss it when done.  Every pharmacy has bags of disposable sponges that are fairly inexpensive.” Washing your sponges will keep your skin and your makeup fresh– good to know!

KEEP IT ORGANIZED

Most of us have a simple makeup bag that holds absolutely everything we need to keep our faces looking pretty. But, we’re here to tell you that there’s a much better way to store your makeup. A cosmetic travel pouch is lightweight, washable, and has specific compartments for all your makeup essentials. You’ll finally be able to see what you have (or don’t have), and can keep items secure in your purse or while traveling.

Cosmetic Travel Pouch

Another solution? A purse organizer.

Purse Organizer

Instead of taking their entire makeup bag, many women will simply carry a lipstick, mascara and blush for touchups. The problem? We know how many other items you carry in that enormous bag of yours. So try a purse organizer– it fits right into your bag and has exterior pockets to hold anything and everything (including makeup)! A cosmetic pouch or purse organizer will help with Mario’s final tip: “Try keeping liquid and cream products including lipsticks and glosses away from the sunlight.  Instead, store them somewhere dark and cool like a drawer or medicine cabinet.” There you have it, ladies. Now go clean up those makeup bags!

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com.

Primping Up Your Pet’s Space

We know that taking care of pets is a tough, time intensive job; as if kids don’t keep you busy enough, you now have animals to worry about. Better yet, your house has probably been turned upside down since the addition of your furry friends. We’ve done some research and found tips and tricks to keeping your pet’s area (aka your home) clean as can be– follow along!

FOOD AND WATER 

The food and water area is perhaps the  most important aspect of your pet’s area. As dog owners ourselves, we know the feeling of your puppy spilling water on the newly cleaned floor because of his flimsy bowl. Another hassle? Cleaning the bowls. We got some great info from Paris Permenter and John Bigley who run a pet blog of pet tips, product reviews, news, travel, and more (check out www.dogtipper.com and www.cattipper.com for great advice on caring for your special pet). Paris informs us that for dogs, “it’s best to set up your dog’s food bowl in an area away from the main traffic in your house but, on the other hand, not too far from the action. You’ll want to supervise your dog’s eating and drinking habits, especially if you have more than one dog, to make sure each is getting appropriate amounts of food and water. It’s handy to set up the food bowl fairly close to the kitchen. Most dog lovers set out the food and give their dog about 15 minutes to eat; after that time, leftover food goes into the refrigerator or is discarded and the bowl cleaned.” For cats, Paris says to “set up the food and water bowls away from the litter box (because no one wants to dine in the bathroom!).” In terms of water, she suggests having more than one bowl or a fountain for your pet.

Pet Bowl Holder

So considering our goal is to eliminate mess and keep our pets healthy, we suggest a sturdy stainless steel pet bowl holder. The holder looks fancy enough to keep in practically any room in the house, and the removable bowls and leatherette base make cleaning easier than ever. The best part about the holder? It definitely won’t be sliding around your hardwood floors and creating a mess! If you’ve already invested in high quality pet bowls, try a pet bowl mat to keep them in place.

CLEANING

Cleaning is of utmost importance with pets, for your sake as well as theirs. Paris says, “Dog and cat bowls should be washed daily, just as we’d wash our own bowls.  Stainless steel or ceramic bowls are excellent for both water and food. (With ceramic, make sure the bowl has a lead-free glaze.) For cats, it’s especially important to avoid plastic bowls. The soft surface of plastic scratches easily; those scratches can harbor bacteria.” To ensure you leave your pet bowls sparkling clean, try a sturdy pet bowl cleaner sponge.

However, the washing is just the beginning of the cleaning process. It’s important to eliminate pet odors and clean up shedding. There’s really only one solution, which Paris urges: “Frequent cleaning is the best way to avoid pet odors around the house. This means daily vacuuming and frequent mopping, using pet-friendly solutions such as vinegar and water.” Of course, bathing your pet consistently will make your job easier (and make your pet more fun to cuddle with)! However, Paris says, “if you don’t have time, there are numerous “between bath” products you can spritz on your dog’s hair to break up oils.” If you’re a cat owner, don’t forget to clean out the litter box completely every week.

FUN PET ACCESSORIES

Need a better place to store all those pet biscuits and brushes? Try a pet pouch that you can even tote along with you on vacation. The pouch has plenty of labeled compartments for storing snacks, toys, grooming equipment, and more!

Pet Pouch

Fatboy Doggielounge

Finally, if your dog has been extra well-behaved recently, surprise her with a new Doggielounge! The lounger shuts out moisture and odors, and provides your puppy with the perfect spot for some much needed shut-eye.

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com

Stylish Summer Gardening

Summer is often the time when people clean out their closets, throw away old papers and start afresh, so why not take the same approach with your garden? We know gardening can become a bit tedious, especially in the summer sun. But for those of you who are willing to bear the heat with us, we’ve come up with some fun ideas to help you and your garden stay stylish for the rest of the summer!

DIY

Do-it-yourself projects are often far more complicated than we hope, but we promise we have easy ideas for sprucing up your garden. Some of the simplest pieces to add to your outdoor space are decorated containers. Kathleen Hassinger is part of The Garden Media Group specializing in promoting lawn and garden products and services (check out their fantastic company and clients http://www.gardenmediagroup.com/index.htm), and she has given us some great garden tips. She says that “creating interesting containers is easy, economical and quick.” Decorate plain containers to hold flowers and smaller vegetables that you particularly enjoy showing off. Kathleen adds, “I love including herbs in my deck containers so when I need some fresh herbs I don’t even have to put shoes on to add them to the recipe!” Featured below are some fabulous containers Kathleen spotted at the Association of Professional Landscape Designers conference. We love them all, but our favorite is the last one– it’s chic and we love the display of herbs inside. Don’t forget to try hanging containers this summer, too!

SUMMER TRENDS 

We’ve been especially curious about this summer’s gardening trends–what designs or plants are most popular this season? We’ve discovered that color is definitely the way to go, whether you’re planting in the ground or in your newly designed containers. People have been trending toward tropical plants (like a hibiscus) and vibrant lilies. Besides color, also play with heights and bloom sizes to create a more interesting garden design. Kathleen informs us that “one trend the Garden Media Group has been spotting a lot of is green walls.” The photograph below is a product she spotted called Wooly Pockets.

KEEP IT STYLISH

Alice Supply Co. Lime Garden Hose

Besides keeping your garden in tune with summer trends, it’s equally as important to keep yourself looking and feeling good. Add a burst of color to your gardening equipment to make looking at the not-so-pretty things out there a bit more enjoyable. A bright lime green or orange garden hose is a fun accessory you’ll enjoy using and your guests will definitely ask you about!

A toolbox is another typically mundane item that everyone tends to hide in their garage. We promise you’ll want to show off your gardening tool box when it’s decorated with summer colors and fun stripes!

Alice Supply Co. Striped Tool Box

Garden tools can also easily be kept in mesh wire baskets.

Mesh Wire Basket

These mesh baskets are sturdy and spacious, and can be easily organized in any closet space. The mesh is extremely helpful for shaking out excess dirt and debris from your gardening adventures!

Besides a sturdy tool box and wire bin, we know you gardening gurus need something a bit easier to lug around the backyard.

Organizing Tote

An organizing tote is versatile and suitable for all weather conditions; great for fitting every tool and even gardening scraps; and a colorful addition to your gardening wardrobe. The best thing about it? If you one day decide gardening just isn’t for you, your organizing tote will be sure to come in handy for whatever you decide to take on next!

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com. 

Beach Bags and Bikini Swag

Summertime is all about soaking up the sun by the beach or pool and strutting your stuff in a cute bikini. But we know getting to the beach isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’re probably thinking: What do I pack? What bag even fits all my stuff? How do I entertain the kids? What kind of swimsuit do I wear? Well don’t worry, we’ve got the answers to make your summer beach days as relaxing as can be!

PACKING FOR THE BEACH 

We’ve all been there. You think you’ve packed everything you need for a fun day in the sun, only to arrive at the beach and realize you’ve forgotten towels (or even your swimsuit). Read through our list of essential beach items to make sure you don’t forget a thing this time!

1. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. Pack some for your face and body. 

2. A hat. The more protection for your face, the better.

3. Sunglasses. Believe it or not, your eyes can sunburn, too. Trust us, it hurts.

4. Towels and blankets. Either can be spread on the sand, but towels are a must if you plan on taking a dip in the ocean. If you prefer, bring an umbrella chair that folds up easily, blocks the sun and keeps your beach area stylish!

Beach Chair with Umbrella

5. Water. We can almost guarantee you’ll be dehydrated after a day in the sun, so drink up! Also pack light snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated, or take a cooler if you prefer something cold.

6. Change of clothes. There’s nothing worse than driving back home in a sopping wet bathing suit filled with sand.

7. Beach toys. Take frisbees and footballs to occupy the young ones on your trip, and take a book for yourself.

8. Camera. Documentation of your perfect beach day is required.

Now, what bag is beach worthy and can fit all your items? Large mesh totes are great for the beach and can withstand the harsh sand.

Mesh Beach Tote

With these bags, you’ll be sure to leave the sand and water behind, and won’t have a problem fitting everything you need.

CARING FOR YOUR SWIMSUIT

You’ve got a new, super cute bikini for the beach, but how do you keep it looking good as new all summer long? Michelle Koch from V i X Swimwear (check out their amazingly beautiful bikinis http://www.vixswimwear.com/) gave us some great tips that we promise to abide by from now on.

Michelle says that before wearing your suit to the beach, “to prevent fading, bleeding, and to keep colors vibrant longer, soak new swimsuit for 30 minutes in a mixture of water and white vinegar (1 tbsp vinegar per 1 quart water).” After your day in the sun, she tells us to “rinse your swimsuit in cool water immediately following swimming in salt or chlorinated water” and then “hand wash your suit with a mild soap– do not wash in the washing machine.”

But we had more questions for Michelle. What if your bikini has delicate embellishments? Michelle says that for V i X suits in particular, “all embellishments (gold, leather, beads, etc) can be worn in salt and chlorinated water.” However, she warns that “sun, tanning/bronzing lotions, tinted moisturizers, oils, harsh chemicals and minerals, salt water, chlorine, and extreme heat naturally put wear on any swimsuit and can turn it yellow. To prevent wear as much as possible, be careful to follow the care instructions.” We can’t wait to keep our suits sparking this season!

WHAT SWIMSUIT TO WEAR WHEN

Let’s face it, most of us have numerous swimsuits we like alternating and mismatching, and it’s often difficult to choose which to wear. However, our decision may be easier once we know what suit is best for every beachy occasion. We’ve asked Michelle Koch from V i X Swimwear to help us out once again.

For lounging on the beach/soaking up the sun, Michelle suggests to “glam things up and pick a suit with more details, like leather, studs or embroidery.”

For swimming, Michelle says to “make sure that you have a suit that fits well. A natural quality of lycra is to expand slightly when wet, so make sure your suit fits well to begin with. Avoid Bandeau tops as they are prone to slipping off in the waves!”

And finally, for surfing and other water sports, Michelle recommends to “avoid a suit with any sort of embellishment.”

So next time you’re planning a beach trip, remember our tips and tricks– we guarantee you’ll have the perfect summer day!

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com. 

The Perfect 4th of July Outdoor Bash

This Independence Day, wow your friends and family by igniting the grill and throwing the ultimate backyard bash.  We know grilling for the gang sounds intimidating, but we have great recipes and helpful tips to make your outdoor party a blast. Now all you city dwellers (or non-grillers) may be wondering how you can throw an outdoor Independence Day celebration, too. We are well aware that in states such as Massachusetts and New York, it’s illegal to use propane BBQ grills on apartment balconies! But don’t worry, we have a multitude of ideas to help you throw a July 4th picnic party your friends and family will love. Let’s get started!

OUTDOOR PICNIC PARTY

The great thing about a picnic is that it can be done just about anywhere. Just lay out your picnic knapsack and let the fun begin! Melissa Clark is a Food Writer (check out her delectable site http://www.melissaclark.net/) and also recommends bringing extra dishtowels, “great for draping over platters, especially if you’re in a buggy area. Then you can use them to help clean up.”

Picnic Knapsack

In terms of food, food blogger Amy Sherman (visit her delicious site http://cookingwithamy.blogspot.com/) recommends taking “fruit, cheese, salami, crackers or a baguette, plus a cutting board and knife.” If baguette sandwiches aren’t your thing, try Amy’s flavorful Lavash Sandwiches. With fresh ingredients like avocado and tasty spreads like hummus, you’ll want to eat this everyday of the summer. Just throw a side salad and refreshing drinks into your Deluxe Modern Lunchbox to complete the meal! Melissa gives us a great tip for salads: “Choose salads that taste better as they sit, sturdy vegetables like broccoli, green beans, corn, cucumbers take in more flavor from the dressing.”

One last recipe we can’t get over– Potato Chip Cookies, definitely my ideal dessert. The cookies are the perfect blend of sweet and savory, and the crunch of the chips and nuts is an addition you can’t help but enjoy. Bake time is only 15 minutes, so pop these in the oven right before your picnic or while your BBQ guests are finishing up their entrees.

BACKYARD BBQ PARTY 

Grilling is a fun, interactive activity because guests can customize their food and help the host cook. So whip out your handy recipe organizer and let’s get grillin’!

Recipe Organizer

When grilling for a large  number, try simpler foods like burgers, hot dogs, or chicken. Burgers can be easily customized, and we love Bobby Flay’s unique toppings. What’s our favorite? The L.A. Burger– be careful, it can get spicy!

We know kids are always fans of hot dogs, so now it’s time to convince the adults. A sophisticated version of a hot dog, the Bruschetta Dog, kicks it up a notch with fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic, a combo the adults are bound to love (for more unique hot dog recipes, visit Food Network). Finally, get in the outdoor spirit with some perfectly barbecued chicken. This tangy BBQ sauce is easy to make and will leave all your guests wanting more!

Just as important as the meat are the sides, and one of our favorites is grilled corn. There are many ways to grill corn, but we love simply placing the corn directly on the grill (no husks or foil). To prep the corn, drizzle with olive oil. You are looking for lightly blackened kernels, so don’t forget to rotate the corn. My family’s trick is to dip the corn in heavily salted water when it’s fresh off the grill.

Another classic BBQ side-dish? Potato salad. Check out Delish for a great Americana Potato Salad recipe that is easy to make the day before your big party. Just pull it out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving so it’s a temperature your guests will enjoy. Finally, serve your guests a summer salad. I love including colorful ingredients like strawberries, bell peppers and feta cheese to give my salads a fresh kick. Mix balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard (to your liking), salt, and pepper to create a delectable basic dressing to top off any type of salad.

For dessert, help your guests cool off with some fresh fruit, or bake them up a batch of those delicious Potato Chip Cookies! Make sure you whip up a few summer cocktails, too. Try making this red wine sangria– it’s so delicious and a rare treat for your guests!

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com

Packing And Traveling Made Easy

Today is the first day of summer, but we’re sure everyone has already begun planning vacations with family and friends. Of course, one of the biggest challenges for all travelers is packing. We dread packing just as much as you do, but we’ve come up with some tips and tricks to make the task easier. Whether you’re traveling to the Caribbean or across the country, these tips will ensure you arrive at the airport on time and with everything you need!

KEYS TO PACKING

1. Make a checklist. Research the weather at your destination and create a packing list accordingly. We know it’s hard, but resist taking multiples of what you’ll rarely use (e.g. only take one pair of jeans to a tropical island instead of three). Another key to remember is that you’ll only need about half the amount of clothes you think you need. Check out this printable checklist that’s great for any vacation.

2. Consider packing cubes. Packing cubes like the ones shown below allow you to organize your clothing in categories and save space while doing so. You can follow our same packing tips while adding another level of efficiency to your suitcase.

Packing Cubes

3. Pack bottom heavy, starting with shoes. Stuff shoes with socks and small items, then align them heel to toe at the bottom of your suitcase. Place shoes in packing cubes to add extra protection and prevent clothes from getting dirty. Your toiletry bag, jewelry and makeup should go at the bottom of your suitcase, too.

Shoe Packing Cube

4. Pack clothes starting with pants. Roll pants first and fill in empty spaces created by your shoes and other items. Remaining gaps can be filled with smaller items like light scarves and tights. Check out these tips on how to roll clothes to reduce wrinkles!

5. Next, roll t-shirts. Create an even layer of rolled shirts on top of the pants and other items. Place t-shirts in packing cubes for even more division. Roll underwear to fill up remaining space around the layers of clothing.

6. Finally, fold and stack button-down shirts and dresses. Pack these items on top of the t-shirts to reduce wrinkles on more delicate clothing.

7. Pack electronics and other kick-knacks in your carry on. Optimize space with a glam travel case to carry extra special jewelry, essential makeup items and small electronics.

Glam Travel Case

OTHER NOTES…

Make sure to pack something for dirty clothes. When repacking at the end of your trip, layer dirty clothes on the bottom of your suitcase. Make sure they are covered or enclosed in a packing cube before layering clean clothes back on top (see “Worn” packing cube).

If you’re traveling under special circumstances (ex. small children, pets), consider a multi-purpose tote to carry and organize essential travel items.

Kids/Pet Care Tote (available in 3 designs)

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com