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Mary Poppins has got nothing on my bag. She might have a lamp in hers and some kind of black magic at work, but I’m pretty sure given fifteen minutes I could MacGyver my own lamp AND a handsome set of nesting tables all from the contents of my bag.

Meet My Bag

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Yes, I normally tote around a bag that looks as if it was used on the Pony Express, and yes, I could probably be subletting it out as a LES studio with a sleeping alcove, but I’ve just grown accustomed to lugging it around. The use of my bag has probably funded my chiropractor’s kid’s private school education, but I like to think of myself as an urban-free-thinking-all-inclusive-boy-scout-LMP that lives by the motto, “Be Prepared.” Over-prepared? Perhaps. But my sensible Marc Jacobs denim shoulder tote has yet to fail me.

Everything is in this bag and everything has to be. I’m all over this city doing anything at any given minute and have to have the things that help make “doing anything” possible. Though it can’t just be thrown all in there. There has to be some kind of method to the madness. I’ve organized (of course) all like things into zipper pouches. There’s one for electronics, one for office supplies, and one for sundries (love that word). Here take a look at what’s in this monster of a bag and how I keep it in line.

Meet My Electronics

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I’m MAC-centric… I blame good marketing!

My iPhone is my life line.

My charger is my savior

My MacBook is my rock.

My iPod is perfection.

I keep a microfiber cloth in there to keep my babies looking good!

And the all important USB, a must!

Meet My Office Supplies

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Post-its for quick note taking when I’ve got to remember what’s what, who goes where, and who’s who.

 Binder clips… you’d be surprised how handy these little guys are. Keeping papers and files in line, organizing electronic wires, or an emergency tailoring fix.

Rubber bands always a must.

Sharpie Marker… is there any other way to write?

 Uni-Ball Pen, because you always need a writing implement AND its the best pen EVER!

An envelope and stationary… because you’ll look like a hero when someone needs it.

Scissors… always handy. Just don’t forget to leave at home when going to the airport.

Mini-stapler… because my mini obsession is a sickness!

Super glue, a great quick fix for almost anything and its easier to carry around than Duct Tape (and less creepy).

Highlighter, it keeps you looking prepared for meetings and adds dimension to your doodles.

Stamps… because everyone asks for a stamp.

Meet My Sundries 

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A Mending Kit because sh-stuff happens.

Mints because no one likes a stinker.

Deodorant for those times you’re UNSURE.

Stain Stick… much like that mending kit.

Bacitracin and Adhesive Bandages, because an ouchy needs tending to.

 A Lighter is useful to have on hand to help set some mood lighting.

Tissues for the sniffles.

Chap Stick to keep those lips kissably soft and works as a good cuticle cream in a pinch.

A wine key… because when you need it, you’ll be happy you’ve got it.

With all due respect, take that Mary Poppins.

 

Post authored by Josh Schulteis. 

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Happy wrapping!

Post authored by Beth Renoni.

Photographs by Brian Renoni. 

Oh October, the one month curly haired gals are almost guaranteed a straight run of perfect hair days, how I love thee. Crisper than September, but without the impending mania of the holidays, October is for nesting. It always feels like a preparation month. Well, I guess for people like me it kind of always feels like preparation month, but that’s beside the point.

This month on Praxis we will share with you our take on nesting. There is a fine line between storing up for winter and hoarding for the apocalypse, we will help you find it. You will hear from your very favorite Josh and from a new LMP Shavanna, and they will bring you into the season with all of the warm fuzzies – and none of the surplus baggage.

How will I nest this month you ask? Well, I just found out I will be the happy host of a dear friend’s baby shower the first weekend in November, so I think it’s time to tackle the stack of unpacked boxes in the corner(s). It’s true. There are still boxes. July wasn’t THAT long ago in the grand scheme of moving. Don’t judge.

Happy nesting!

Brooke

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

Applications for the iPhone (or, if you insist, the Droid or Blackberry) come at all price points, and in many shapes, sizes and…well…applications.  Many people use the obvious ones; Facebook, Gmail etc.  What many people don’t know is that if you look more closely at some of these apps (let’s exclude Angry Birds for the purpose of this discussion) you will find amazing time- and sanity- savers!

My favorite application, hands down, that I’ve installed recently is called “Things”.  I have two clients, a documentary and a casting project to manage.  And yoga teacher training.  And the mundane stuff (buying groceries, cleaning the apartment, plotting world domination…).  It was too much!  I thought I was going to start ripping my hair out, tracking tasks on google tasks and with all these different lists and spreadsheets!  It was too much.  It was clunky, I needed my projects separated but not so separated that I couldn’t have them all in mind.  And then I found Things!  It was like a new religion in iPhone gadgetry!

Things can be downloaded on your mac and your iPhone and will sync between the two.  You can use it to create tasks with due dates and separate those into projects as well as areas.  When I’m sitting down to work on my documentary, I click that area and see all the projects I need to do.  I see what is due imminently on top, and can easily understand my order of priorities without any further thought.  When I complete a task, I click that satisfying little checkmark and the app logs all my completed tasks.  I’m also able to create automatically recurring tasks; every month I need to reconcile Quickbooks for a client; that task generates with a due date automatically.

Things.  Changed my life.  It can change yours

Post authored by Laura Baron 

I just so happen to come from a family of extremely talented female cooks: my mother, my grandmother, my aunt, my cousins, my sister. I’m not exaggerating when I say every woman in my family has been blessed with the Kitchen Gene… except me. To be fair, I’m not horrible in the kitchen (in fact, I’m pretty skilled when it comes to making scrambled eggs), but I definitely spend more time collecting recipes than I do testing them. I’m constantly bookmarking ideas or e-mailing them to myself—all tagged in Gmail with a “Recipes” label, of course. Then there’s my manila folder full of ideas: pages torn from Real Simple and Women’s Health mixed with handwritten recipes scribbled on scraps of paper, and, for good measure, a few childhood favorites Xeroxed from my mother’s cookbooks. The only problem? I love feeling organized, and I hate not having one consistent means by which to keep track of all my carefully collected recipes—you know, the ones I’ll probably never make.

Needless to say, I’ve given this recipe situation a lot of thought. Here are a few (hopefully helpful) suggestions for storing and keeping track of your favorites:

Create an online cookbook. Sure, the Internet is full of databases like AllRecipes.com and virtual cookbooks like MyCookbook.com, but I’d rather have more control over the layout. My solution is a blog called “The Blogged Cookbook” (creative, I know)—a password-protected collection of recipes. The best part? My mom and sister have the log-in information so the three of us can share family recipes and build a comprehensive database of all our favorites. We tag each dish with keywords ranging from “cold weather” and “baked goods” to “healthy” and “side dishes”. The best part? Your recipes are accessible wherever you go.

Save your recipes in a Word document. One of my coworkers saves all his recipes in one document so he doesn’t have to store cookbooks in his apartment. I still prefer to save my recipes in a blog so I can access them remotely, but saving recipes in Word is a great way to eliminate clutter and save paper, especially if you use the “Notebook Layout” view and assign a different tab to each food category (Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Entrees, etc.)

Create a recipe binder. If you’re the hard-copy type, you can always buy a three-ring binder and some plastic sheet protectors with holes.  Whether your recipes are ripped out from magazines or typed neatly, storing them in see-through covers keeps them legible and clean, and you can always add and delete recipes as needed. Use dividers to create customized sections—it’s like your own personalized, constantly evolving cookbook.

Go the Martha Stewart route. What’s wrong with a good ol’ fashioned recipe box? Handwrite your recipe on an index card and file it. You can always re-purpose a shoebox (I’m personally not crafty enough for something like that), use a photo-storage box, or look for an actual recipe box. Store it in the kitchen for easy access.

Use Pinterest. Oh, Pinterest. My new obsession. I just can’t get enough. If you’re already on Pinterest, you can probably relate. A virtual pinboard that allows you to organize and share images you find online, Pinterest is both useful and addictive. You can browse other people’s boards and then re-pin images you like (make sure to cite your sources and link back properly!) You can also install the “Pin It” button on your toolbar—just click it whenever you come across a delicious-looking recipe that you’d like to save for future reference. The end result? A visually stunning collection of images that would have otherwise wound up in some never-visited Bookmarks folder.

How about you? How do you store your recipes? I’d love to hear your ideas! Happy cooking!

Post authored by Lia Zneimer

Originally from Colorado, Lia is a Junior Publicist at Scholastic with a love of all things organized, color-coded, and grammatically correct. When she’s not drooling over sites like Praxis and Real Simple, Lia can be found working on her own blog, Simplicity. You can follow her on Twitter @liazneimer. (And be sure to check out Scholastic’s official blog, OOM.)

If accurate multitasking were an Olympic sport, I’d have a closet full of USA warm-up suits and a room full of gold medals. I can multitask with the very best of them. I can simultaneously answer the phone, file a folder, check a calendar, order lunch and blow my nose with meticulous attention to detail. It’s a wonderful skill to have and to hone, but it is not to be overused. That’s the secret to really being an expert. If you live in a constant state of multitasking, you don’t have anything left in your bag of tricks when the s*** really hits the fan. The Olympic medals of multitasking are made and lost in knowing when to turn the skill on.

I save time every day by saving my multitasking for when it really counts. High level multitasking can only be maintained for short bursts of time. If you try to operate at that level for too long, you cannot, absolutely CANNOT maintain the accuracy and you wind up having to go back over tasks you’ve already done. In general, I work much faster and complete long to-do lists easier if I tackle one thing at a time. But it can be hard to quiet the voices of all the other tasks waiting to be completed. What invariably happens is that a voice in my head keeps yelling out all these other items that I should also be putting my attention towards. This voice will keep shouting until it feels it has been heard and acknowledged – which usually leads to too much multitasking. “I’ll just take a break from this project to start on that other one, so I don’t stress about starting it or worry about forgetting it.” You’ve totally said and done that – don’t even try to pretend you haven’t!

All that switching between projects and actions takes time. To stop that from happening, anytime I start a project that is going to take me more than ten minutes, I start a “I Heard You The First Time” list. I make sure to have a notepad or post-it next to me at all times and anytime that voice pops up, I instantly write down what it says, so it doesn’t have to keep repeating itself. Even if the item seems silly – clearly my brain thinks I need to hear it, so I write it down so it doesn’t feel the need to keep reminding me, thereby distracting me from my task at hand. In the course of writing this blog post, I have written down 3 items on my “I Heard You The First Time List” (in the interest of over-sharing: add taxi receipt to budget spreadsheet, remember to bring computer tomorrow and use up broccoli in fridge for dinner tonight). As soon as I wrote each one down, that voice got quiet and I was able to focus back on the task at hand. If I had stopped typing to find the receipt and open my Excel spreadsheet or to go to the kitchen to set the broccoli on the counter, I would have lost momentum. I probably would have found other things to do along the way as well. If I’m getting the broccoli out, I might as well wash the carrots, since I’m here. And there my blog post sits, half written and still looming out there as an unfinished project. By sticking to it and quieting those nagging voices I save myself time, as well as frazzled anxious nerves, on a daily basis. I think I hear the Star-Spangled Banner – better get to the podium, my medal is waiting!

Post authored by Erin Jerozal 

I have avoided having a full team meeting at BSLM for as long as humanly possible. Many meetings I attend are too long, unfocused, leaderless and happen at times of day when I am starving, leaving me no choice but to daydream about my lunch choice. I typically leave meetings wondering about clear, actionable next steps other than “find food.” But, I knew it was inevitable, that the time would come to bring our, mainly remote, team together. That day was yesterday.

I knew I had to take definitive steps to make the planning and execution of ours enjoyable, or at the very least, tolerable. Here are a few things I did to that end.

Scheduling
I scheduled our team meeting about 8 weeks in advance and was careful about how I described the gathering. I made it clear this was not a super serious, Brooke-talking-about-boring-things, type of meeting. It was instead a special occasion, a gathering never before seen in our company, and, for us, a milestone. I respectfully requested the presence of each team member, highlighting the meeting as an opportunity to be a part of the bigger picture. I also made sure everyone knew there would be plenty of food.

** After I sent my scheduling emails Erin Jerozal introduced me to Doodle.com, an excellent tool for finding a good meeting time for large groups of people. Check it out!

Planning
Naturally, as we do with things we are scared of, I put off sitting down and actually figuring out the structure for the meeting day after day. As the weeks went on and I kept ignoring this task, I decided to dedicate a little notebook (Muji A6 Double Ring Lined, Gray) to recording the random thoughts that popped into my head about what we needed to discuss, what might be good to bring up, what needed a good solid group think, etc. I kept adding to my notebook as the weeks went on and the meeting drew closer. I decided I would not look critically or organize this list until the week before the meeting. This way when I sat down with the monster list the still pertinent and vital topics would pop out at me, fingers crossed.

Creating An Agenda
The week before the meeting I pulled out my trusty notebook and got down to it. There were lots of scribbles and I discovered many of my notes echoed one another. There were themes, thank god, that I could clearly discern. Using the great new, free application Agreedo.com, suggested to me on Twitter by Julian Jansen (@JJansen83), I started plugging in agenda topics and making notes about the importance of each item. Little notes and reminders could be easily and neatly nestled under large categories, and Agreedo was so pretty and fun to use that before I knew it I was done.

Refining the Structure
After I pulled together the big ideas and created a good solid draft of an agenda I got down to the details. How could I facilitate the discussion of each agenda topic so it was engaging? I came up with interactive activities for each topic to get the conversation rolling. These activities called for our team members to get up and moving and talking to one another, instead of just talking to me or to the large group one by one. This helped, not only introduce and dig deeper into our agenda items, but also provided an opportunity for everyone to continue getting to know one another. I built in stretch breaks, food breaks, chat breaks, iPhone checking breaks – we all need them.

Execution
The morning of the meeting I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. Considering I spent most of my time in front of audiences of hundreds as a performer in my past life, that is saying something. I knew I had a solid plan, which I know makes everything possible, but could I execute and not just freak out?! I took a deep breath, had an extra cup of coffee and reminded myself why I and started this company in the first place. Then I ate a croissant, mumbled a jumbled Sanskrit/Hebrew ish prayer and went for it.

During our meeting I tried to pay close attention to everyone, making sure people had all the time they needed to ask questions, bring their ideas to the group and understand the concepts we were discussing fully. If people were looking bored, I was prepared to ask why. Leading this meeting was a growing opportunity for me too after all!

We had a great meeting and now I’m not so scared of the next one. Per usual, having a solid structure and taking it step by step proved the best tools in my belt. I was a little exhausted, but thrilled with the results.

If you have any ideas, or recommendations about meeting planning and execution please share them in our comments! I try to get better everyday, so thanks for your help.

Post authored by Brooke Stone

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