Friday, February 13, 2015

3 Sweet Treats for Your Valentines

Fill jars with discount store candy
to create an easy V-day candy station.

Even if you don't have a significant other, you can turn holidays like Valentine's Day into something extra special for your loved ones (and even yourself!). After all, we need treats here and there (does every day fall under that category?!), and the good news is that doing so does not need to cost a lot or take up much of your time. Be creative with items you already have around the home and let your imagination take over. Quick last-minute ideas can be a simple as organizing a candy station for the kids (left), creating a paper heart wreath (middle) to cheer up a single friend's home, or making a flower power LOVE craft for Mom (bottom). These 3 sweet treats that will surely stir up your own Valentine's Day inspiration: 

A paper heart wreath adds cheer to any room in the house. 
                                                         For instructions, check out: How to Make a Paper Heart Wreath

Mom will feel so loved when you give her this homemade V-day craft. 
                                           For craft steps, check out: How to Make a Flower Power Love Craft

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Our Valentine's Day CRAFTernoon

The cookie exchange party I hosted prior to Christmas with all of my fun and spunky girlfriends from work prompted a future get together. Since 2015 is my gun-ho year of creativity, I suggested a CRAFTernoon (of course). The day finally came. We met last Saturday with the kids and got crafty with Valentine's wreaths made of various scrapbook papers. It was so neat to see how unique each of our wreaths turned out, but we all admitted that it wasn't about the craft--or the tasty snacks and tea. The bottom line is we were thrilled to come together for the companionship and camaraderie. After all, what could be better than escaping into the creative zone . . . with friends?! That's why I encourage ladies everywhere to organize crafternoons and make a habit of gathering their girlfriends together for some good times. Here's what we did (and you can easily do it, too!):

We used stencils to create hearts on the 
scrapbook paper . , . 
 and then we cut out the hearts . .
(That sounds bad, like something from Indiana Jones. Hehe.) 
To form easy DYI paper wreaths!!!
How cute the wreaths are with the hearts facing outward . . . 
Look at what each of my craft buddies did. 
We called this one the "teacher" wreath since there are apples on the hearts. 
I couldn't resist myself and made a few V-day cards
(with scrapbook paper and stickers) for my family, too. 
This one's for my sis. Luv u, Annie! 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Simple Valentine's Day Craft {to add a little LOVE to your home}

Since one of my goals for 2015 is to do more of what I enjoy and for me that means to be CREATIVE whenever possible, I've been setting aside time to get out my arts 'n crafts supplies to see where my inspiration takes me. Tonight, I picked up a wooden board I painted pink last summer--with serious intentions of finishing with painted cherries on it for my kitchen--and then set it aside where it has been neglected and gathering dust for 7 months. Thankfully, it caught my eye the other day and I thought it would come in handy as a base for a Valentine's Day project. So, I paired it with this stencil I just purchased for a different project altogether (ha!ha!), but thought the flower would balance out some scrap-book letters that spell L-O-V-E. And after this crazy week I've had, I need a little more love around the house to comfort me.

Never underestimate using items around your home as inspiration for new craft projects. Use what you already have, skip that trip to the store, and make more time for crafting!!!

My neglected pink board called to me . . . 
Using the stencil here for the first time
A few of the flower petals smeared, so I
stenciled over the purple with pink. I like
how the multi-layered colors turned out. 
A little glitter and some scrap-booking letters to make it
complete . . . ah, some love to greet us when we come home! 
Linking to: One Project at a TimeMoonlight and Mason Jars Link PartyTip Me TuesdayKatherine's Corner Thursday Favorite ThingsWeekend Retreat Link PartyToday's Creative BlogPink Saturday

Friday, January 30, 2015

4 Actionable Tactics to Accelerate Career Success

Navigating the Gray: Expert tips for communicating clearly and confidently and building stronger workplace relationships in pursuit of upward career mobility by Vivian M. Ciampi

Globalization, technology, rampant regulation and fierce competition at every turn have made today’s workplace more complicated than ever.  This is causing professionals at all levels—from the mail room to the board room—to flounder as they attempt to navigate the escalating complexities, consistently perform at a high level, and achieve upward career mobility.

Because modern workplace dynamics have become so complex, leaders have less time than ever to spend coaching and mentoring employees, and to benefit from such guidance for their own professional gain. In addition, universities systematically churn out graduates who have learned black and white technical skills and theoretical concepts, but not how to aptly prepare for, and traverse through, the inevitable “Gray Area” of a company—the environment and culture that manifests from the multi-faceted challenges and forces an organization faces. The result is a glut of entry-level and entrenched professionals who are unprepared, unequipped and unable to effectively communicate in a way that will productively impact their career.

“While an intangible, the Gray Area is a very real phenomenon driven by human nature, internal and external politics, industry guidelines, company protocols and market pressures, among other factors,” notes Vivian Ciampi, an esteemed Executive Coach and Harvard Business School Executive Education department coach and facilitator. “The importance of learning how to effectively communicate within this ambiguous environment cannot be understated. Too many in our nation’s workforce, both employees and executives, are ill-equipped to engage with an audience—any audience—with ease and intention, which is keeping them from realizing their full potential and attain a maximum measure of success.”

With this in mind, Ciampi offers these 4 tactical tips to help professionals at every level become a more effective communicator and, in doing so, gain better control of their career trajectory:
  1. Become the Universal Translator. The most valued and successful person in any business is the one that can translate facts, figures, and concepts into actionable ideas that will not only make sense and resonate with their direct network, but also with any and all constituents those ideas will be presented to. This includes superiors, subordinates, peers, customers, prospects, business partners and vendors. The Universal Translator does the following: steps out of their comfort zone or discipline; let’s go of any insider department lingo or technical terms and focuses on the audience at hand; suggests specific ways others can move forward with the information relative to what is important to them; and presents the vision, plan or theory in a way that is clear, crisp, confident and above all, ACTIONABLE.  This person is so successful because of their ability to translate complex or technical concepts into strategic steps that will impact the bottom line.  If others can understand, relate to and rally around what you are presenting, it is sure to yield winning results.
  2. Meet before you meet. There’s few things more painful and embarrassing than getting completely derailed in a meeting. Many have seen it—someone showing up with well-prepared and rehearsed slides only to get completely pummeled with questions from every discipline in the room before they even get beyond the intro page. Instead of moving forward with their agenda, they are sent ten paces back and five paces to the side, only to leave the meeting with more work, lost credibility, a confused and frustrated audience and, above all, no progress on the agenda at hand. If you have ever experienced this personally or seen it happen to another, you know it is hard to recover. The best way to counter this is the following: determine who your key constituents are relative to your topic ahead of time; set up one-on-one meetings with all of them at least a few days in advance of the big meeting; socialize the topic with each of the constituents individually; and make sure you understand their perspective and answer any questions or concerns that they have ahead of time. By taking these steps, you will undoubtedly gain valuable information that will not only help you refine your presentation, but also be poised and prepared to actually present in the real meeting. Socializing the idea ahead of time may feel like extra work, but the benefits far outweigh the additional time—and the very real risks of not doing so. This strategy will facilitate your ability to effectively cover a lot of ground and actually garner decisions in the meeting without playing catch-up or spending valuable time trying to get everyone on the same page. Effective communication, speed and alignment are a few of the key advantages here.
  3. Stop, ask and listen! Today’s fast-paced workplace has most of us running at record speed, often in circles like we’re on a hamster wheel. We are putting out fires and have more in our email inbox than our outbox each and every day. The resulting pressure of this overload causes us to rush through conversations so we can cross it off our proverbial “to do list” and move on to the next triage task. Unfortunately, plowing through important conversations will never yield a productive outcome, but often produces more work and headaches. The best way to approach key conversations that need a little extra finesse or persuasion, particularly in the midst of a time-pressed schedule, are the following: stop and take a breath so you don’t rush into your agenda in the first five minutes of the conversation and ask open ended questions, such as “What’s going on in your department?” or “How has this system helped you?” Once the person you’re engaged with has the opportunity to respond, make sure you are actively listening—not just hearing them—and that you give them ample time to convey their thoughts without your interjection, direction or interruption. The majority of the time, you will gain key insights from these conversations and will be able to craft a more informed response—one that better resonates with the person(s) you’re speaking with. Even if you already know the answer or have a brilliant retort, slowing down and letting others speak first, in full, allows them to “empty their cup” which puts them in a better position to have it filled back up with what you have to say in response. When you do finally have the chance to speak, keep in mind people only have the capacity to absorb so much. If we provide an overload of verbose detail, you risk overflowing the listener’s “cup” and may ultimately lose the real essence of what you are trying to convey. Stay focused on who your audience is and what they care about to ensure that your dialogue and key points are streamlined and succinct. This tactic also helps build more productive, trusting professional relationships. The most successful people in any company aren't necessarily the smartest, but rather those who take the time to listen and learn from others because they truly value what they have to say. Adhering to this strategy will not only make you a much more effective communicator, but it will also garner tremendous goodwill throughout the organization as you start to hone a discipline of talking less and listening more.
  4. Converse with clarity. People today are inundated with data, work under tight time frames, and talk in acronyms. Some technical people and other professionals tend to use a lot of insider jargon and industry terminology when they communicate, making it difficult for anyone outside their immediate network to understand. Also, incompetent people tend to rush through important details hoping no one else will ask questions or notice their ineptitude, and you certainly don’t want to be perceived in this light. Such conversation crushers can leave others feeling intimidated, out of the loop and unable to effectively contribute. Rather than contributing poorly to the conversation or sitting on the sidelines as the dialogue ensues, a better approach is to pick the right setting and ask clarifying questions to ensure messaging remains on point and resultant activities on track. If you’re not sure where to start, ask the basic who, what, where, when, why and how questions. For example,
    “Why are we doing this?”; “How will that work?” or “Where will this help the organization?” are some examples. The win-win with this strategy is that it fosters clear dialogue, makes people accountable to answer direct questions and often uncovers problems that need to be addressed but would have been overlooked had this approach not been utilized.
“Throughout my more than two decade tenure as an Executive Coach and Vice President inside Corporate America, I have seen millions of dollars senselessly lost merely due to ineffective communication,” said Ciampi. “It’s imperative for achievement-oriented professionals to communicate well in all aspects of their job.  Doing so can be the key to cutting through the bureaucracy of an organization and taking control of one’s career as opposed to feeling like a victim of circumstance.  Mastering even a handful of skills, such as those cited above, can help professionals better negotiate their way through the proverbial career maze with speed, dexterity and accuracy.”

About the Expert 
Vivian M. Ciampi is a Principal at Professional Coaching, LLC, a business navigational coaching firm that helps universities, small to mid-size businesses and large organizations accelerate the growth and success of their top talent.  She specializes in helping professionals become better communicators in order to achieve greater success in their careers and balance in their lives.  She is also a coach and facilitator in the Executive Education department at the Harvard Business School.  Ciampi has been providing leadership/strategic coaching and workshops to professionals for over ten years.  Prior to starting her own business, she spent over two decades leading teams and managing businesses at JP Morgan Chase, formerly Chase Manhattan Bank and Travelers Property Casualty. Ciampi is a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation; holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Finance and Marketing from the University of Connecticut, and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Fairfield University.  Learn more online at

Saturday, January 24, 2015

TaDa . . .The Thrifty Chick 2015 Challenge!!!

How did last year’s Thrifty Chick Challenge (to find fashion items for $10 or less) work out for you? If you missed the 2014 Thrifty Chick Challenge, here are some frugal fashion posts you won't want to miss:

The Thrifty Chick 2014 Challenge
Thrifty Chick Finds . . . Brought to You by my Coworkers
The Thrifty Chicks Take on the Rosebowl Flea Market
The Thrifty Chicks Ugly Christmas Sweater and More Cozy Clothes

All you need is a hot
glue gun, clips, and
fabric flowers to make
cute hair accessories.
While I loved the experiment and was thrilled to find a ton of pieces that met the challenge, I still spent more than I needed to on clothing in 2014, but probably not as much as the average woman since it just about kills me to pay full price for anything. Nevertheless, I do admit I have a closet stuffed full of clothes, some of which I hardly wear. The commonly known statistic that most people wear only 20% of their clothing 80% of the time rings true with me and, in fact, haunts me because I feel guilty about having a closet full of clothes I am not fully taking advantage of. So this year’s challenge is to maximize what you already have by updating old clothing combinations with new or used inexpensive accessories. With a little ingenuity, you can create potentially hundreds of different outfit combinations from clothing items you have forgotten about in your closet and update these combos with new accessories you buy on the cheap or, better yet, make for yourself!!!
These fabric flowers were on sale for $2 at Michaels. 
You know I love wearing floral hair clips,
so I was thrilled when I found these leopard ones
to match the new $5 top that Mom bought
me for Christmas at thrift store. 
Matched up the top with my turquoise capri pants.
Then found a pair of animal print shoes in my closet . . . 
Voila! A brand new outfit for $7. That's right. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

3 Creative Uses for Vintage Handkerchiefs

Home decorating can easily become costly, leaving many frugal moms feeling overwhelmed about decorating their abodes. If that is the case for you, it’s time to get creative with those lovely items tucked away around the home that you might have forgotten about. For example, your grandmother’s beautiful vintage handkerchiefs. Why not free them from your hope chest, display them, and enjoy the benefit of their vintage beauty? Even if you were not able to save Grandma’s vintage items, you can purchase a lovely handkerchief for as little as $3-$4 at a vintage store, flea market, or antique shop.

I bought this vintage handkerchief at a flea market for $4. 

There's Grandma's navy blue and white
handkerchief in a glass frame.
For easy project ideas, try the following:

1.       Hand wash, dry, and iron a handkerchief. Use a Michael’s framing coupon and find a frame that fits the handkerchief, so you can display it in your favorite spot.

2.       Hand sew the edges of several handkerchiefs together to form a banner you can string above your curtains or dresser.

I sewed the tips of Grandma's hankies together
and attached flower clothespins. 

3.       Use several overlapping handkerchiefs on top of your nightstands to add color to your bedroom.

My flea market find is the perfect nightstand topper. 
Linking to: Weekend Retreat Link PartyThursday Favorite Things Blog PartyPink SaturdayTip Me TuesdayMoonlight and Mason Jars Link PartyOne Project at a Time

Monday, January 12, 2015

Kick Start Your 2015 Money Makeover {and Learn to Be Financially Confident}

If one of your goals for 2015 is getting financially fit, then you will not want to waste another moment without Mary Hunt’s The Financially Confident Woman: What You Need to Know to Take Charge of Your Money. An essential read, especially for single moms, Hunt begins with a refreshing fiscal confession and shares the secrets of working out from beneath $100,000 in debt into a financially responsible, debt-free, and frugal lifestyle. Chalk full of self-assessment quizzes, tips for smart spending, and money do’s and don’ts, this book will not only help you to assess your current view on finances, it will forever change your relationship with money. The nine habits of a financially confident woman, broken down into a chapter each, will thoroughly teach you how to properly save, spend, and invest your money. You’ll learn to know where your money is going and how to avoid the root of financial disaster, a lack of confidence regarding money. Sharing her financial trials and triumphs, Hunt partners with you to walk you through your own financial fears and helps you develop a take-charge approach.

But how can you incorporate these changes into your financial life and make them stick this year? The Financially Confident Woman includes practical and user-friendly charts such as a checkbook balancing worksheet and a monthly spending plan that will help you make significant changes as you learn to manage your money instead of letting it manage you. More importantly is the six-week action plan at the end of the book will consolidate everything you have learned and enable you to implement a total money-makeover. Are you ready to get going? After all, you—and every woman—owes it to herself to learn all she can about her financial situation and how to improve it. Let Hunt’s words become your monetary edict this year and you will find yourself in a better financial position come 2016: “Every woman, regardless of her marital status, age, strengths, or weaknesses needs to know how to manage money confidently and effectively.” 


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