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How did you do that?!

Hey 2013! Been waiting for you, thanks a million for getting here. Gone is the December rat race of buy, wrap, give, repeat, and here is the new day we have been waiting for. Much though I love the festive fun that is the holiday season, my involuntary sigh of relief on December 26 was a sign I was more than ready to move on and face the new year, with renewed energy and certainly with some resolutions in mind. Here on Praxis we have mentioned the importance of goals once or a million times, so we can’t help but get on board with the cultural phenomenon of New Year’s resolutions. So what will you resolve yourself to in 2013? Here at BSLM we will work with the concept of ease in action, we will focus in on refining the how, while clearly articulating the what. Uh….what?! Right, so….

There are things you do everyday, habits, that are helter skelter, just admit it. When you get up in the morning do you run to the coffee machine in your pajamas, only to get there and realize you are freezing (which you are every morning), thereby necessitating a trip back to the bedroom and a rummage through drawers for a sweatshirt and a return trip to the morning altar? Try leaving a sweatshirt out next to the bed and putting it on as you sprint to your one true love, ease in action friends. The what = coffee to face ASAP upon opening eyeballs, the how = warmly and without instant irritation. Now you try. Look for places in your life where you experience consistent frustration. How can you make it go away? How can you make it easier?

Erin and Josh will give us some insight on how to find ease in very common actions or situations so we can all get off to a solid start. We will get a look at what the inside of a busy NYC assistant’s purse or bag looks like, answering the often exclaimed question “How do you always have what I need?!” in photo essay form. Simply having on hand the things you need to get through your day will make all of your actions easier, trust us on this one.

We will interview a few of our favorite doormen, post office friends and other service professionals to give you an inside look on how to get exactly what you need without resorting to eye rolling, muttered expletives and yelp.com complaints. Believe us, it’s so much nicer when you can easily and collaboratively problem solve with these kind folks, they are not trying to make your life harder – promise!

These are only two examples of how to streamline your life, and find ease in everyday action – but there are so many more! How do you do it? Tell us here, or share with us in Facebook and Twitter. As our holiday lady imparts, wishing you a 2013 with easy assembly!

Post authored by Brooke Stone. 

BSLM Holiday Card 5by7 FRONT copy copyBSLM Holiday Card 5by7 BACK copy copy

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As Angela told us last week, gift giving can actually be GOOD for you! Putting some thought into a gift, instead of just giving something to give something, can be truly gratifying and make your friend feel like you really care about them. (Which you do!)

So you’ve hit the streets, hunting down that perfect gift… but now what? You can’t just hand over the shopping bag sans receipt. You have to make it look spectacular! Sometimes the appearance of a gift can elevate the gift to make it seem even better than it already is. A thoughtful wrapping job is just as important for making the receiver feel like you put that extra time and effort into it.

My number one recommendation on taking gift presentation to the next level: accessorize! It’s easy enough to slap some wrapping paper around a box, but by adding some gifting accessories, you can add just the right touch of personalization.

Here is my list of the top 5 gifting accessories:

  1. Ribbon: Tie it, curl it, twist it… the world is your oyster!
  2. Stickers: Grab some cute holiday stickers to give plain wrapping paper a boost.
  3. Markers: Same concept as the stickers – maybe let your kids doodle personalized drawings onto Grandma’s gift box – she will never undo the wrapping paper more carefully!
  4. The Bonus Gift: if you have a small item to add to the outside of the box, it makes it look like they are getting 2 presents in one! For example, tuck an organic chocolate bar under the string, or tie a small Christmas ornament to the bow. Maybe the gift is some homemade hot cocoa mix – tie a small stirring spoon onto the top of the box for mixing up the perfect mug
  5. And last, but certainly not least, my personal favorite: Grandma Clara’s Homemade Bow!!!!

My grandmother was the BEST at wrapping presents. Whether it was a HUGE box, filled with progressively smaller boxes that led down, 12 individually wrapped boxes later, to a very tiny gift (think a $50 bill or a pair of earrings) or just thinking outside of the box (no pun intended!), to put a very ordinary shaped item, into a very strangely shaped package.

She always kept you on your toes and you never truly knew what you were going to find inside, no matter how many times you shook it or turned it over. (Well, except for the golf balls. Dad ALWAYS guessed right on the golf balls.)

But even more amazing about Grandma’s gifts, were the handmade bows that she would put atop each and every present. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was very distinctly Grandma Clara. And when you saw that bow, you knew the gift had been wrapped with love.

Here are the 6 simple steps on how to make Grandma Clara’s bows:

 

Supplies: Curling Ribbon (cut to be approximately 2 arms lengths long) & Scissors

Ssupplies

 

Step 1: Spread your fingers apart, with your palm facing upward. Lay the ribbon across your palm, gripping one end between your pinky and ring finger, leaving approximately 6 inches of extra ribbon hanging; the other end should run between your thumb and pointer finger.

Step1

 

Step 2: While holding onto the one end with your pinky and ring finger, run the ribbon back and forth in a figure eight pattern, with the “loops” going around your thumb and pinky finger, until there is about 6 inches of ribbon left hanging.

Step2

 

Step 3: Pinch the center of the figure eight with your free hand and remove the ribbon bundle from your hand.

Step3

 

Step 4: Tie the two loose ends in a knot around the center of the ribbon bundle so that it is tight.

Step4

 

Step 5: Spread out the ribbon “loops” to create the bow look and use your scissors to curl the loose ends. You can tie the bow on using the 2 loose ends or attach it with tape.

Step5

Happy wrapping!

Post authored by Beth Renoni.

Photographs by Brian Renoni. 

It’s September. My favorite month, actually. Aside from it being the month of my wedding anniversary and the birthdays of about 7 different family members, it’s when we get that first hint of fall! Labor Day passes and suddenly the air smells a bit crisper and you start itching to wear those boots and sweaters you have had packed away since spring. September also means back to school time which, for me, was JUST like that Staples commercial – the most wonderful time of the year! Skipping through the aisles of your favorite office supply store while tossing brightly colored pens and notebooks into the cart… but I digress…

As Brooke mentioned in her post last week, September inspires a shift in our lives. Back to reality. No more beach vacations or summer Fridays or days spent lounging at the pool. So how can we use this change for good? You guessed it – resolutions! That’s a fancy way of saying goals. Use this time as a way to inspire yourself to do those things that you have been meaning to do, but just haven’t gotten around to actually doing. Resolutions don’t just have to be for the new YEAR – they can be for any new time in your life. Here’s a few tips on how to go about setting your September resolutions:

  • Make a list of everything you want to get done, and post it somewhere in your home or office where you can see it throughout the day. I find that if I make a list on my phone or computer, I forget to look at it! But if it’s sitting in the middle of the coffee table or hung up on the fridge, I’m more likely to remember.
  • One of the things that really helps me keep organized with the changing of the seasons, is to swap out my closet. I know, it sounds simple, but so many people don’t actually do this. The sweaters are hanging up right next to the sundresses, and the Uggs are piled on top of the flip flops. Which is fine, if you have a GINORMOUS walk-in closet that BSLM has organized by season. But for most of us – especially here in NYC – our closets are not exactly spacious. Take an hour (or two, if you have a lot of clothes) and just sort through everything. Move the summer stuff to a high shelf or back corner that’s hard to reach, and display those fall gems front and center! This will also make getting dressed in the morning a snap!

Now the final part of making resolutions or setting goals is always the hardest – ACTUALLY DOING THEM!

  • My best advice is to make your goals public. Post them on Facebook or email them to a few close friends and family, then ask them to check up on you to see how you’re doing. If your whole family is participating in these fall resolutions, have a weekly check-in to see how everyone is doing. Hopefully the fear of having to admit you didn’t do any of the things you said you would, is enough inspiration to get them done!
  • If you have a fitness or health related goal, you can sign up for GymPact (www.gym-pact.com).  You pledge an amount of money, per week, that you would like to receive for going to the gym/working out a certain amount of times. If you accomplish this goal, they PAY YOU! However, if you DON’T go to the gym, you have to pay them! Talk about motivation!

Now, if you need that last little push to get going on your fall resolutions, here’s a playlist that will surely have you bopping around the house getting things done before you even realize you’re being productive!


Post authored by Beth Renoni

Its springtime folks! And that means it’s time for a little Spring Cleaning. Time to fling open the shutters and roll up your sleeves and reclaim your space as a home, and not the den of hibernation you spent the winter in. Perhaps a light cleaning will do the trick or maybe an overhaul is in order. Whatever the case may be I thought I’d share some of my most favorite new uses for old things with y’all, so while doing your spring cleaning you can keep your eyes peeled for some of these otherwise overlooked items.

A Tape Cassette Case

if you haven’t shipped all of these off to the Smithsonian yet, you can repurpose it as a fantastic storage case for your earbuds. A great way to keep them neatly stored away and knot free.

Rubber Bands

I am a super fan of the rubber band, it is my MacGyver go to. But my favorite use for it keeps closets looking spit spot. Slipping a thick rubber band onto each of end of a hanger will keep those strappy little tanks and summer dress from slipping off and becoming unsightly heaps of strappy things.

Magnets

For those little metal office trash bins that seem to always lose their plastic liner at the bottom, try using magnets as trash bag holder! Just pull the trash liner over the rim of the trash bin and set at least 4 magnets around the edge to keep the liner in place.

So, those are some of my favorite new uses for old things. What are some of your favorite new uses for old things? Be sure to share them with us!

Post authored by Josh Schulteis

I am passionately in love with math. I, capital L, Love long division. When I was a kid (and maybe even a few months ago when I was home for the holidays), I’d make my mom give me strings of large numbers to divide by other strings of numbers – for fun! I got a 5 on my high school AP Calculus test and owned a graphing calculator. I also had great friends and a date to the prom, so don’t worry, this math nerd story has a happy ending. I love that with math, you get a straight answer. I find calm and relaxation in its square-ness. As an adult, most answers to questions come in shades of gray; but with math, there really is a black and white, a right and wrong. Two plus two will equal four, no matter what your hair looks like that day or whether you’re a Republican or Democrat.  Math feels like a strong hand to hold on the craziest of days.

Now, I know not everybody feels this way about my beloved. Math makes many people sweat and break out with anxious hives. And that’s okay, you don’t have to love it, but you shouldn’t be afraid anymore. Vow today to take control of your checkbook, to get a handle on your monthly budget and to call your accountant with confidence at tax time knowing that your deductions are itemized and in order. The secret? A simple Excel spreadsheet.  With just a few simple steps, the Excel spreadsheet will happily and easily do most of the work for you. Sure, call in the experts for the big stuff (even I don’t do my own taxes), but if you arm yourself with the knowledge to take care of the small stuff along the way, April 15th will be much more pleasant and you’ll have the ability to create a financial plan for yourself based on truth about your spending, not just a vague idea. Do you know how much you spend on food each year or shoes or supplies for your small business? You should. Having this knowledge will bring peace and calm to a subject that usually creates anything but, giving you the power to change what’s not working and to celebrate what is.

I am going to take you through creating a basic Excel spreadsheet step by step. Be warned, things are going to get scary at about Step 5 (or Step 1 for some of you) – just breathe. Use this opportunity to embrace your fears and to commit yourself to sticking with it. You will be so happy you did! Here we go:

Step 1

  • Open Excel, it’s that big green “X” in your dock (if you’re a Mac user, PC’s you’re on your own!) Do this now and then come back for Step 2, seriously go ahead, there is no time like the present to learn something new! I’ll wait . . .

Step 2

  • Name your columns going across the top of your spreadsheet. The header columns are labeled A, B, C, etc. Let’s say we want to track our basic expenses for the year. We would name our columns: Rent, Utilities, Food and Entertainment (yes I’m simplifying, but wouldn’t life be great if these really were our only expenses!)
  • Be sure to leave the first column empty, so we have room to name our rows in Step 3.
  • Now, go type those into your sample spreadsheet, starting with “Rent” in column B, “Utilities” in column C, etc.
  • Also, you can adjust the size of any of the rows or columns by hovering over the grid line, clicking and dragging. Easy as pie (mmmm. . . pie!)

Step 3

  • Now, save your document. Give it a fun name that will make you smile. Part of getting over our fear of math is re-framing how we see it. If you give your spreadsheet a name that makes you smile and laugh, you’ll be more apt to actually open it and use it. Seems silly, but it works! I’m a big fan of using song lyrics.

Step 4

  • Next up, name your rows going down the left hand side. These are labeled 1, 2, 3, etc. For our sample expenses spreadsheet, they would be the months of the year.
  • Start with row 2, so January doesn’t get mixed up with our column names. For those of you who remember playing the game Battleship – you’d be typing “January” into A2 (it’s a hit!), “February” into A3, etc.
  • We also want to name the row after December “Total”, so we have a place where it all adds up!

Step 5

  • This is where the magic happens. We are now going to create our math functions.  We want to add up all the months in each column, so we know how much we’ve spent in each category for the year. Put away your calculator, you don’t need it. Seriously, let it collect dust. Excel has got you covered.
  • Put your cursor in the Total box for our Rent column (That would be B14 for those Battleship lovers)
  • While in B14, click on this symbol in the toolbar: ∑.  Here is what will magically appear in your Total box: =Sum( ). In the parentheses, type “B2:B13”.
  • I know these numbers and symbols are scaring your right now, but hang in, keep reading. Take it step by step. You got this! Congratulations, you have just told Excel to add your Rent from January to December.
  • So when you enter your rent into this spreadsheet each month, Excel will do the math. Easy! Just for fun, try it. Type “500” into the January and February Rent boxes. DO IT! Did it total automatically? Do you feel giddy and awesome? Yes and yes!
  • Now, repeat Step 5 for the other boxes in Row 14, remembering to use the correct letter for the column. B was for “Rent”, C will be for “Utilities” and so on.

Step 6

  • Okay, we are almost there. Take a quick stretch and sit back down. Now you may be asking, what do we do for the categories that will have multiple monetary entries throughout the month?  Good question! Most people have one rent payment, so that’s easy to enter, but what about our Food column?  To add things as you go within a box is even easier than what we did in Step 5.  Let’s add up some food purchases in January.
  • Click into the D2 box and type this: =2.99+3.55 and then press enter. Voila! Excel added it for you!
  • Any time you have an expense to add for Food in January, click on that box and add it on (+expense amount, press enter). Excel will add it up there, as well as updating the yearly total down in row 14. Two equations for the price of one!

Step 7

  • Play! This spreadsheet isn’t real. We are making up the numbers. So, save it now and then go wild. Click around and add numbers and play, play, play! This is the best way to get comfortable with something new.
  • You can undo any “mistake” (Command Z for the cool kids) and mistakes are golden when you’re starting out. Make them here, so you’ll know how to handle them when you make your real life spreadsheet.
  • Save as you go and make it fun. Put on some music and get down with your math nerd self!

Step 8

  • Pour yourself a glass of wine or ice tea or chocolate milk and pat yourself on the back.  Feel proud of yourself for taking the risk to learn something new.  Rest easy tonight knowing that you have a new tool in your life skills toolbox to better manage your finances and therefore your life!  And if you have any questions, give me a call at BSLM, I’ll be happy to talk you through it.

Post authored by Erin Jerozal

One of the most common frustrations I hear is “I’m so overwhelmed I don’t even know where to start – so I just don’t do anything!” I have certainly been there, and you probably have been too. The most difficult part of having too much to do, a back log of half completed tasks and a big old hot mess on your hands really is knowing where to start.

Here is how I figure it out. I hope you will be able to use this system or modify it to work for you. Please share your thoughts through comments!

I start with lists. Not one list, but many. Make a separate list for each part of your life: Work, Personal, Friends, Family, Upcoming Travel, Kids, etc. By compartmentalizing and breaking down one big list into multiple, smaller lists everything immediately becomes more manageable. Looking at one page of tasks will always be more heartening than flipping through 10 pages.

I use and love Tada Lists (from 37Signals), a free program that houses your lists online so you can access them from your phone or any computer. If you feel committed to paper and pen, I get it. Get one notebook and some adhesive tabs and you are all set. Place a labeled tab on the first page of each list for easy reference. The idea is to set this up so you will only look at one list at a time.

Put on your favorite jam (Beyonce), pour a glass of wine (Pinot Noir), light a candle (Target brand all the way) and close the door. Spend the time it takes to fill in each list completely with all of your to do’s in each category. Thoughtfully review your lists, making them as complete as possible. Once you have taken this inventory, you will have accounted for everything that needs doing and will have gained perspective about what your situation really looks like.

Next, look at your lists one by one. Grab a highlighter and highlight anything that is truly urgent. If you are using Tada Lists there is no highlight feature (dear 37Signals…), so use the reorder feature and drag all of the urgent things to the top of each list. Remember, very little is truly urgent, but some things that may get highlighted include:

  • flights that need to be booked because they get more expensive by the day
  • anything due in the coming week
  • anything you know will bring you immediate relief and add to your ability to tackle everything else, for example, a massage for your painfully tight shoulders (remember, even if it is for you and you alone, it can still be urgent and is important)

Now, starting with your first list, complete the highlighted, urgent items. Once you have finished all of the urgent items on the Work list, do not continue down this list to tackle un-highlighted items. Close the Work list for now and look at the Personal list. Do all of the highlighted, urgent items on the Personal list and move to the next list. Once you have completed the highlighted, urgent tasks on each list you will feel like you have lost 20 pounds, I swear it. The relief of having everything timely done on time will be palpable, and you will be encouraged by your success, which will spur you on to tackle the rest of it.

Now… time for the rest of it. Grab your highlighter again and highlight items on each list that will take 15 minutes or less to complete. Once you have finished highlighting each list, pick one list to start with and do all of the highlighted, quick items on that list. Continue cycling through your lists as before, completing the highlighted, quick items on each and moving to the next. Keep plugging away at the highlighted, quick items until all of them are crossed or checked off on each list. Feel encouraged? Like you deserve a cookie? You do! You are probably about 70% out of the woods here – don’t quit now.

The only items left on your lists now should be larger projects (book plan), items that take more than 15 minutes to complete (research), have many steps (figure out Europe trip) and involve coordinating moving pieces or many people (dinner at some point with 4 couples). Schedule time into your calendar to complete these more time consuming projects, or to outline how you will attack them in pieces. Stick to the plan and you will knock these items off the list soon enough.

Here we are then. Not only have you managed to figure out where to start – but you have started! And nearly finished! Ideally you will not find yourself in this overwhelmed spot very often, but realistically, it happens to the most organized and productive among us more than we might like to admit. More important than the constant struggle to stay on top of everything is to have patience and a plan for yourself when you become overwhelmed.

Don’t panic. Make a plan. Take a deep breath. Show your life who is boss.

Post authored by Brooke Stone.

I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to my writing implements. I like pens and fine tipped markers in black ink only. Lately, my pen of choice is a Uni-Ball Vision Elite 0.8mm Bold in black ink. Though, my Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Marker is always on standby should the job call for it. Manila envelops, labels, and nametags just look better when a Sharpie is used. These markers have one part professional gravitas, one part youthful mischief, and one part pure swag. They are magic and I love them!

Except when they bleed through the paper and stain my desk. Permanent marker stains give me the hardcore whams – I hate them! I just can’t bring myself to quit my Sharpie habit. The fact that my desk looks like it has track marks brings me to tears, but my discerning taste for fine writing implements continues to threaten the future of my desk and other furniture deemed suitable as writing surfaces. What to do?!

In lieu of an impending intervention that played out in my mind like the scene from Beauty and the Beast when the furniture fights back, I came upon my salvation. I discovered a quick solution for getting rid of permanent marker stains on surfaces – TOOTHPASTE! Yup, regular toothpaste (not the gel kind) will clean most surfaces of those unfortunate run-ins with permanent markers.

  1. Apply a generous amount of toothpaste and rub into the stained surface with a paper towel or cloth.
  2. Allow the toothpaste to set for a minute or two on the stain.
  3. With a soapy and damp paper towel or cloth, scrub the toothpaste and stain away – Voilà! The stain is gone.

Sharpie fans need not fret; the senselessly marked innocents of permanent markers are no longer stigmatized by your folly. These presumably permanent spots are out, out, out and it’s all thanks to this Quicker Fixer Upper. All it takes is a little elbow grease and some toothpaste. You’ll be having your desk looking new in no time and smelling minty fresh.

Post authored by Josh Schulteis

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