Smart Perks State of the State: The Heat is On!

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No colony collapse in my garden! Lots of fuzzy bumblebees.

Greetings & Salutations, Friends!

We’re in the thick of summer and our Smart Perks HQ team is all abuzz with activity.  We just sent our fabulous fall money-saving offers to the printer (look for them in your mailbox mid-August,) and now our creative department is busy giving the Smart Perks website its fall makeover.

The next Smart Perks mailing includes some amazing offers for refreshing your home for the new fall season from leading brands like 3-Day Blinds, Wayfair, The Company Store, DirectTV (NFL Sunday Ticket – YES!) and many others. If you’re not on the Smart Perks mailing list, you’ll want to sign up for the next mailing.

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Loved these books!

In-between gardening, reading some great books, filling my bird-feeders (lots of hungry hummingbirds and ravenous woodpeckers,) and enjoying some time ON the lake and IN the lake, I’ve been having a lot of fun taking photos of all the new puppies in our neighborhood.

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Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota

My husband just built a new front porch. He’s quite the handyman. So while sitting out in my new rocker, (oh my gosh, I’m in my early 40s!) I have to stop anyone who passes by with a dog to visit. That’s how I met the  5-month old Bernese Mountain Dog from across the street, and the 6-month old Siberian Husky from around the corner.

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Enter the Summer Caption contest! http://on.fb.me/1JexQsX.

The darling husky puppy, Kash, is so cute, that he was chosen for the Smart Perks Hot Dog Caption contest running this month on our Facebook page. The prizes include Best Buy® and restaurant.com gift cards, along with a darling heart bracelet and a 27-piece tool kit. Get creative and enter your caption today. Share it and encourage your friends to vote, too! Winners will be announced on Friday, July 31st.

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Sweet Martha’s Cookies – A perennial MN State Fair Favorite

Next up, it’s fair time. For us here in Minnesota, The Great Minnesota Get-Together, or Sweat-Together, to be more accurate. Whatever you have planned, stay cool and enjoy. Summers are way too short, so be sure to make time to really enjoy your favorite summertime traditions.

Next up in the blog, some great tips for laptops versus tablets from our Smart Perks Electronics expert, Karl. Stay tuned.

The Mani/Pedi: What to Know Before You Go

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Summer’s here and it’s the time of year to expose your tootsies and toe-cleavage to the sun and sand! From sandals to peep-toes, summer shoes are more fun. And we feel more care-free and bold in our nail polish choices as well. I love it! No matter your age, a good nail color is an expression of your personality, and a mani/pedi can make your spirit soar.

Whenever I tell my mother I had my nails done, she gasps and recoils with such disgust at my shockingly foolish extravagance. You would think I just bought a diamond-encrusted sports car!

“Why would you ever throw money away like that? I’ve never had a manicure. That’s just such a waste,” she exclaims with righteous indignation. But the days of the mani/pedi being an exclusive indulgence for the wealthy, or something a girl does once or twice in a lifetime, for prom or her wedding day, are long gone.

The emergence of the mall nail salon, rather than having your nails done in a high-end hair salon, has made clean, pretty hands and feet accessible to everyone at a reasonable price! The strip mall next to my office has a nail salon that I’ve gone to now for five years.  For $14, I can get a regular manicure and polish, and I’m in and out in under 45 minutes. I always tip over 20% because the hand-massage alone is worth $14 during a break in my stressful workday. A gel mani typically costs double, but it will last 2-3 weeks, as opposed to the one week that a regular polish typically lasts without chipping.

A “luxury” pedicure which involves a calf and foot exfoliation with a tingly mint scrub and to-die-for massage, followed by having your feet slathered in a thick oil and wrapped in steaming towels, runs between $40 -$50 in my area before the tip, and takes about an hour. It is heaven on earth, and believe me, you deserve a luxury pedicure, at least once a year.

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I love that I don’t need an appointment because I’m a “fly-by-the-seat of my pants” kind of girl, and with the exception of the holiday season, I can just walk in, pick a color and I’m good to go.

If you really want to see a certain person and if you gravitate towards acrylic nails, which take longer, you can make an appointment. For instance, at my salon, there’s one nail technician who does amazing acrylics, and the last time I was in, he was doing the nails of one of the leading female business leaders in the country. I couldn’t believe I was sitting next to her, but it’s really a testament to the quality of work and talent you can find in a mall salon.

So about those gel manicures… I have had varying results with these. They’ve been around now for several years, and the color selection has improved 10-fold. Now you can generally find any color in a gel that you can find as regular polish.The thickness and hardness of the layer of gel applied seems to affect the length of time the polish lasts. I just had a french gel manicure and it only lasted a week before the first gel peeled off (note: I tried a different salon while on vacation.) And once one nail goes, I immediately start picking the others off. This is VERY bad. It removes the top layer of your nail, which leads to weaker, brittle nails. The alternative is soaking your fingers in an acetone polish remover, typically at the salon.

Another consideration with gel nails is that the UV light exposure needed to get the nails to set. Some may be suspicious of the UV light used in the nail dryers at salons. According to a study from the December 2012 Journal of Investigative Dermatology, nail lamps would be safe to use for over 250 years of weekly manicures and even then there would be a low risk of skin cancer. Click here for more on UV light exposure at the nail salon.

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Make sure your salon uses instruments that are properly sterilized and wrapped in a sealed paper package, so you can see they are using a fresh, sterile set of tools for every client. With pedicures, you should watch or ask to make sure that the foot bath is thoroughly cleaned with a disinfectant between each customer.

If you can’t get in for a pedicure, then treat yourself at home. Keep a pumice stone in the shower and gently slough heels and calloused areas. Especially during the summer months, when you’re running around barefoot or in sandals. Also, for dry, cracked heels, try slathering them in Vaseline, Udderbalm (yes, that’s what it’s called…check the foot care aisle at Target or WalMart) each night before bed and cover with socks. This really does work!

Just for fun, I asked some of my girlfriends on Facebook to share some of their recent mani/pedis with me. I like seeing how each of their personalities are reflected in the colors and styles they choose. What about you? What are you doing with your nails this summer? I’d love to hear. Nail art? Jamberry Wraps? Please share!

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Need some at-home help to keep your feet looking lovely between salon visits, here’s a great deal from The Great deal company. Only $4.99. Look for a mani kit, too. http://bit.ly/1HxHJgA

Blogger Melanie B, a Smart Perks employee, has been known to go through 3 whole cycles in her nail salon massage chair, during her pedicures. Big shout out to Twin Cities Nails in Minnetonka! You are the best.