Friday, December 28, 2012

Yuletide: A cash cow season?

Image Credit:

I know it’s almost Christmas when my son Jacob sings his favorite Christmas songs in the morning. Ah, the holiday cheer is in the air. For many, this is the time for best buys, best gifts, and best parties. 

I, Ingrid Callot, am a big fan of the Yuletide season. Who wouldn’t be, when we have the perfect excuse to splurge, party, and receive gifts. Although my family and I are among the happiest during this time of year, I always think that commercialization ruins what should be an otherwise happy season.

Image Credit:

Since time immemorial, commerce and businesses have dictated the way we spend our Christmas and New Year. There is the incessant hype to spend and splurge because it wouldn’t be that much fun if we do not burn holes in our pockets or, to say the least, if we do not shell out money.

For so long, I’ve been among those who would rush to the malls and buy whatever is on sale. I would decorate the house until there is no more space to decorate, and I would party until we cannot stomach what’s left on the table. But since I turned over a new leaf, I have vowed to myself that my family will never be victims of commercialization.

Image Credit:

This year, my family and I have decided that while we will have gift-giving and holiday feasts, we will be mindful of the meaning behind this celebration. While spending won’t be inevitable, we have recourse to a mindful spending and to a celebration where the focal point is on selfless giving than receiving. What is important is not the quantity, but the quality of the celebration. This time of the year should be about family, love, and selfless giving.

Read more on Myspace.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tips for Keeping New Year's Resolutions

Want to start the new year with a clean slate? This Do-It-Yourself.comarticle provides great insights on how you can make and keep your New Year’s resolutions.

 It’s the time of year again when we all gather to celebrate the New Year and make the resolution that it will be a better and more successful year than the one before. We’ve all made our New Year’s resolutions in years past, and while some of us meet with success, many of us flounder our goals before January is over. This year, however, really can be different. Here are some sure-fire ways to make sure that you make the best resolutions for your life and actually stick with them this year.

You might be surprised to hear that most New Year’s resolutions are doomed from the start. By making too many resolutions or by having unrealistic expectations, you are really just setting yourself up for failure and disappointment down the road. Keeping the number of resolutions under five is ideal.

Tip 1: Focus on a Goal

Make one of your resolutions the main focus, the one major goal you want to have for this year. Then make a couple of small resolutions that will keep you motivated and help you improve the smaller facets of your life. Make sure all of your goals are attainable and realistic. Don’t promise to exercise three hours every day or to read all of Shakespeare’s works within a month. Instead, make a commitment that you have a good chance of keeping.

Tip 2: Make a Plan

It is important to have a plan of action for any resolution, but especially for a major one. Plan the small steps you will take to attain your goal over the next year. Also, plan what you will do when you are tempted to give up on your resolution, like having an internal-dialogue ready or calling a close friend who knows about your goal. Writing your plans down and keeping them in a place where you can see them on a daily basis will help you stick to your resolution.

Tip 3: Recover Lost Commitments

Part of making realistic resolutions is realizing that you will have a day or even a week where you fall off track and lose commitment for your goal. This is normal, human behavior, and it will happen to everyone. What’s important is that you get back on track and renew your commitment to your resolution. Think positively about the steps you have achieved so far, and be confident that you can keep going. It takes time to build a habit into your life. The longer you stick with your goal, the better you will feel and the easier it will become.

Tip 4: Reward for Good Behavior

Sticking it out through the hard times is important, but so is rewarding yourself for the successes you’ve had. When you’ve accomplished a small part of your goal or stuck to your resolution for a certain amount of time, reward yourself! The best way to reward yourself is with something that coincides with your goal. If your resolution is to lose weight and you’ve lost five pounds, go buy a new outfit that you can enjoy wearing now that you are becoming a healthier person. This will not only be a reward to you now, but it will help you stay motivated to achieving your goals in the long term.

Tip 5: Create a Support System

Having a support system can be vital in staying committed to your New Year’s resolutions. Telling your family, friends, and even co-workers about your goals will keep you motivated to stick with them and reach success. These people can be very helpful when you are having a hard time sticking to your resolution and they will help you celebrate as you successfully keep this year’s resolutions.

The path to success may not be the easiest road, but it is certainly possible for everyone to keep their New Year’s resolutions and reap the benefits in the upcoming year!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Fears of Aging Color the Discussion of Gray Hair

A woman shares her experience with the dreaded grey hair, which everyone will get to experience as they grow old. Read more about it from this NY Times article.

I OFTEN think longingly of buying a wig. My newly bought hair would be the little black dress of wigs. It would be my hair, or rather, someone else’s hair, but it would look the way mine did at its best: raven, not too long, not too short, glossy, curly without frizz and easy to wear.

I still have that kind of hair, somewhere in my mind, and somewhere in the vague recesses of eternal hope, I expect it to return, just as I expect that with enough discipline, I will be able to get into shape such that I can again wear that cotton red strapless dress I only wore twice: to my engagement party and to interview Brian Wilson (though that history alone might justify my keeping it).

The hair that I now see in the mirror is inconvenient impostor hair. It is still dark, but it has a hint of shellac to it; its color is solid where there should be hints of light, and the tone only varies toward the ends, where, thinned and frizzed, a faintly electric red takes over.

I dye my hair, and every time I do, my hair dies a little. What age was already doing slowly to its texture, in addition to its color, the dying process is only exacerbating in some sort of vicious death-spiral, like the relationship between global warming and air-conditioning: the more one suffers from the first, the more one needs the second, which only exacerbates the first.

Here is what burns: Within weeks of the coloring, still there is the creep, the inexorable encroaching of gray at my temples that make me think, with uneasiness, of the word “distinguished.” I see those hints of gray and I think of aging male executives with drooping eyes, I think of Birkenstocks and faded Barnes & Noble canvas bags, and I think I should maybe have my hair colored again.

But wasn’t I just there? Wasn’t I just in there, politely making small talk with Arnulfo, a kind and talented colorist who asks me questions about how my hair has fared with the concerned, exacting tones of a good internist? Wasn’t I just there, opening my wallet to pay in cash so that my husband, who would not really care, does not know exactly how much I spend to stop that creep of distinguished gray? Wasn’t I just there, my heart rate elevating with every passing wasted minute, waiting out the slathering on, the processing period, the shampoo, the rinse?

I never think more about buying a wig than I do in those last 10 minutes at the hair salon, itching out of my skin, not only at my scalp. “I’ll just go out with it wet!” I invariably tell Arnolfo toward the end as he goes for a hair dryer. I try to keep the hysteria out of my voice. I am not sure I have succeeded. Arnulfo generally looks at me with that same medical concern, this time concerned more about my mental health than my roots.

The salon where Arnulfo works, Cristiano Cora, offers a seemingly miraculous hair dye that requires only a 15-minute wait, though Arnolfo told me sadly that it is not as short for people with hair as coarse as mine. And there are the temporary fixes: powder sprays and mascara wands for stray graying strands and the like. I have something that looks like a thick lipstick, only it is so dark brown it is almost black. If I suddenly notice I am looking too distinguished, I sometimes apply this magic wand of product furtively to my roots in the office bathroom. It smells faintly cloying, and makes me think of the powder my grandmother used to wear, a beauty trick I knew she used more out of habit than conviction.

My wand is designed to look like lipstick, but somehow instead of that making it seem less strange, it only reminds me how strange lipstick is, a highly packaged, pigmented formula applied to the face. My ambivalence about one heightens my ambivalence about the other, causing midday existential questions about mortality and identity when I am merely trying to tamp down some self-consciousness about messy-looking roots.

I am, if nothing, a practical person. I buy black dresses in quantity, ideally ones with three-quarter-length sleeves so that they are flexible for every season. I am not going for noticeably stylish; I am going for the easiest thing that will look the most put-together. I am going for clothing that is a form of invisible, and that is what I would like, in many ways, in my hair.

But that is the problem with hair once it starts to turn gray: there is no version of invisible. There is always the tell. To dye one’s hair is to confess to caring, to fighting age: it fools no one, although it reveals the effort to do so. It only tells the viewer that I am someone who is unwilling and unready to give in to the physical symbols of aging, which is its own social signaling. But not to dye one’s hair is to make a whole other statement: I am someone who does not care. And I am not ready for that one, either.

As a child, when I thought determination could trump genes, I aspired to having blond hair like Barbie, or at least like Shelley Hack in that Charlie perfume ad (kind of now, kind of wow). Over time, that obsession faded and I made my peace with having Everywoman hair color, appreciating its globalist chic.

It is only now, as I get older, that I see the real advantage of blond hair: it ages so nicely. Aging with blond hair offers the choice of keeping up those fake honeyed tones that we associate with wealth or glamour — artifice, yes, but artifice that is imbued with its own appeal, that is separate from authenticity, but rewardednonetheless. Artificially dark hair at a certain age has no such luxurious associations; to the contrary, I am afraid.

I would buy a wig, except that, too, would be its own tell: young hair would contrast with my skin, its color too harsh. I read somewhere that people can guess other people’s age, from behind, from a surprising distance, and with surprising accuracy. It is surely some Darwinian assessment the brain does, below consciousness, to determine mate-worthiness or vulnerability, calculating at lightning speed factors like posture, width and hair color. The most sophisticated hair dyes, I am afraid, do not stand a chance at fooling thousands of years of evolutionary insight.

It is just hair. But it is one of those reminders of our own limits. Maybe if I really committed to it, I could lose 10 pounds and tone my upper arms, or I could sleep eight hours a night and look generally fresher. None of that might actually be true, but people generally believe that there are some signs of age we can vanquish with virtue and discipline. Clearly, no amount of discipline will turn my hair back to what it was: my one vanity, shiny, natural, unusual, so dark it was dramatic. To battle the encroachment of gray is to battle the exigencies of aging, and one of these days, I will have to make my peace with both.

I almost look forward to it.


REPOST: How to Make Your Own Aromatherapy Oils

This article from teaches you how to make your own relaxing aromatherapy oils.

Image Source:

Distilling essential oils is a long process, and it means quite a large capital outlay for a small amount of oil. Buying essential oils is also expensive, but there is a way you can get the therapeutic benefits of aromatic oils and vinegars quite cheaply at home.


To begin, you will need a collection of clean, sterilized bottles and jars. You can recycle jam jars, and glass bottles, but you need to wash them thoroughly first in hot soapy water, then boil in a large saucepan for 20 minutes.

You will need at least one standard American cup of plant material. For your first attempts, use strongly aromatic plants like lavender, rose petals or rosemary. These will give you an oil that can be put to many uses around the home.

The oil you use should be related to the purpose you have in mind – you can use baby oil or almond oil for cosmetics, safflower or canola for general purposes, and olive oil for cooking.

Image Source:
 Place the plant material in your jar or bottle. If you are using a bottle, you can push stems of lavender or rosemary into the bottle.

Now pour the oil over the plant material, making sure the bottle or jar is full. As a rough rule of thumb, use two cups of oil to one cup of plant material. You don't need to warm the oil before you pour it in the bottle or jar.

Now cap the bottle or jar tightly and place it in a warm spot. This could be a sunny place on the veranda or windowsill, or in a warm cupboard, such as an airing cupboard or next to the hot water heater. Leave the oil to infuse for a few days, or until the plant material begins to brown. Take the cap off and sniff - if it is not strong enough for you, strain the liquid, fill the jar with fresh plant material, and pour the oil back over it. Leave for another few days. Keep doping this until the mixture is as aromatic as you want.

Additonal Tips:

 If the plant material used is very strong, such as a strongly scented rose, or jasmine, you should get a good scent just changing the plant material once or twice.

When the oils are done to your liking, strain thoroughly and put in a clean bottle. Keep your aromatic oil in a cool place, or add to recipes for lotions and creams.

For example, if you want a rose scented cleansing cream, make up a batch of rose oil and add a tablespoon to a jar of plain sorbolene cream and whip it up. To make a wrinkle fighting night cream, add the contents of six Vitamin E oil capsules and whip them in as well.

You can use any strongly scented flower petals, and the range is as wide as the scented flowers in your garden. Try jasmine, frangipani, honeysuckle, marigold, violets - the choice is endless.

For culinary use, put some sprigs of herbs, such as rosemary, thyme or basil, into a tall bottle, and pour over good quality cooking oil such as safflower or olive. You can also add garlic, chilies or whatever seasoning takes your fancy. Leave where the sun can warm the bottles for a couple of weeks.

You use the same method for making aromatic vinegar. Choose a good quality wine or apple cider vinegar and pour it over your herb sprigs. Leave for a few days in a warm place and you will have a delicious addition to salad dressings.

This Ingrid Callot Facebook page shares some other DIY projects that stay-at-home moms can try.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A merry, appetizing Christmas: Banquet decoration ideas for an enchanting holiday feast

Image Credit:

The joyous feeling during the holidays is not only because of the gifts received or the mouthwatering food that we stuff our cheeks with, but also because of the vibes that emanate from the decorations that can be seen everywhere.

Face it; Christmas won’t be complete without the towering trees adorned with candy canes, shiny and glittery balls, poinsettias, and the symbolic star atop. With the alluring aesthetics that wrap the whole world during the holidays, the festive feeling is but automatic. In line with this, I, Ingrid Callot, am a big fan of all-out decorating during the holidays, which I start a month before the big day and often end a few days after New Year.

Image Credit:

As we seldom experience snow in Van Nuys, my theme almost every year revolves around “winter wonderland.” This year, I’m going all white. I believe the monochromatic shades of white, grey, taupe, and a bit of black, will make a perfect palette this year.

Apart from filling our humble abode with Christmas ornaments, some of which I managed to craft by myself, in every possible spot, I, Ingrid Callot, also do extensive planning for our family’s Christmas celebrations, including the Christmas eve sit-down dinner and the Christmas day family get-together, focusing not only on the menu, but also on the table setting.

Image Credit:

Instead of dressing the chairs in white cloth, I will be placing wings on them, as inspired by this heavenly holiday table theme I saw online. A big vase of white stargazers and tulips will be the centerpiece. For the name plates, I’m still undecided if I should go for pinecone holders or small gift boxes with dedication cards, where the names of the guests will be written. For the utensils, I’d definitely prepare our chinaware and silverware for added sophistication.

Image Credit:

I’ll most probably do the same table setting for our family get-together for practicality purposes, but the buffet table will have a special corner for sweets. Cake stands will be filled with chocolates, muffins, macarons, cupcakes, and candies, which will all be in white.

For more home styling tips, visit this Facebook page.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Are you a workaholic mom who cannot find time to have your nails done in the salon? Learn how to achieve salon-perfect manicure and pedicure from this article. 

There's nothing quite like breaking away for a salon manicure and pedicure, but busy moms know how hard it is to find two free hours for the pampering nail treatments. To help you out, we've got some expert tips for achieving a salon-perfect manicure and pedicure at home.

Still questioning the whole DIY manicure and pedicure? Don't. The following tips, courtesy of nail expert and Orly Educational Manager Catherine Baek, break down the process so you can achieve flawless nails yourself — without having to shell out cash and head to the salon. Trust us — we were skeptical too, until we tried these savvy manicure and pedicure tips. The key? Be patient, don't expect perfection the first time and don't rush the steps.


First, prep work is very important. Begin by removing all the old nail lacquer from your nails. Use Orly's Slip-it Off Gentle (or your favorite nail polish remover) to easily erase the left over lacquer with a sponge removal system. "It's quick, easy and you don't need messy sticky cotton balls," says Baek.


Follow up with trimming and cutting your nails. Pick a desired length and shape, and use Orly's Buffing Trio (or your favorite nail clipper and emery board) to file, shape and smooth your nails. "There are three sides. First use the 240 grit (the black side) to determine your shape," Baek explains. "You should always use 180 or higher to prevent from shredding or damaging the free edge of the natural nails. Smooth with 400 (white side). Very important: Try to keep all of your nails the same length. Keep in mind that shape can determine if it looks professional or not."

Not sure how to file your nails? Here's how, according to Baek: File flat to the tip and do not angle the file as you shape. You want the tip of the nail to be as thick as possible for strength, and filing at an angle will weaken the edge. Also, file one direction from each side to the center of the nail.


Keep your cuticles nice and clean. When your cuticles have been pushed back, it creates a clean and professional look. Apply a drop of cuticle oil and lightly massage your cuticles. Then soak your fingers in a bowl of warm water. Next, brush on cuticle remover, such as Orly Cutique, wait three minutes and then push your cuticles with an orange wooden stick. Then, rinse with water. Make sure you remove any residue with nail polish remover as it will affect how the polish stays on your nails.


Just like you apply a primer for your foundation, it's best if you apply a base coat for your nails. A base coat helps the nail polish adhere to your nails and prevents discoloration of your nail plate.


Follow with a thin application of nail polish of your choice. Start with one hand first and paint one nail at a time. Then move on to the other hand. Repeat with a second coat of polish. Finish it off with your favorite top coat to seal the polish. 


After your application, double check your work. Most likely, you've applied your nail polish slightly onto your skin. Don't worry. You can "fake it like a pro" with Flawless Fixer Corrector Pen. It will correct any mistakes, including the hard-to-reach grooves around the nails, with an easy to use precise tip.


After correction and careful inspection, add a couple drops of Flash Dry or any quick-dry nail polish to your nails. It will instantly dry your nails and will prevent any other mistakes.