Get Fit Through Winter!

Just like the weather, some girls’ activity levels turn sluggish when the winter blows in. But no more using the big chill as an excuse to camp out on the couch! We have some fantastic ideas for getting fit indoors during the frosty season -- without having to pay for a ridiculously expensive gym membership.

Get Fit by Going to the Mall

Walking is great exercise, and a shopping mall serves as an excellent indoor track. Grab a friend and do a lap around each level of the mall. Oh, and take the stairs -- not the elevator! Pick up a pedometer (usually available at dollar stores) to gauge your mileage, and add several more steps to your route each week. Reward yourself with some shopping once you’ve met your goal.

Get Fit in Front of the TV
Don’t just veg out on the sofa. Hit the floor for some sit-ups and pushups while you watch TV. Turn on a dance show, or a music channel, and bust a move. Play Wii, or pop in an exercise DVD. (Some libraries lend DVDs out for free or a small fee.) If you have on-demand cable, surf the menu to see if any exercise programs are offered. You can even jog in place or do jumping jacks -- just no cartwheels in the house, please!

Get Fit by Staying After School
Take advantage of after-school sports programs. Try out for the basketball team or the indoor soccer league. Take tumbling lessons. Learn karate. If your school doesn’t have programs that interest you, check with a local recreational council. You can also organize your own activity: Ask school officials if you and your friends can use the gymnasium for a weekly just-for-fun game of kickball.

Get Fit While Scoring Points
Want to score points with the parents? Offer to help around the house! Your mom will be shocked when she sees you vacuuming, dusting, folding laundry ... whoa. Not so sure you want to sign up for this? Look, tackling household chores might not be your idea of a fun workout routine -- but it really does flex muscles and burn calories. So consider it a triple-doozie of an investment: You’ll get fit, have a clean room and maybe earn more privileges when your parents see how responsible you’ve become.

Be the Life of the Holiday Party

Whether you’re planning a party at your place, heading to a friend’s bash or prepping for your school’s winter dance, we’ve got pointers guaranteed to make you sparkle all night long. Even better, they’re super easy to follow -- we promise.

Pencil in Some Pre-party Fun
Tons of girls spend the days leading up to a party just sitting around and thinking about the big night. Don’t be that girl! Instead of zoning out, do something you love -- like practicing ballet or volunteering at an animal shelter. It’ll put you in an awesome mood ... and you’ll have something fresh and exciting to talk about with party pals!

Dress to Impress … Yourself!
You know that super-cute outfit that boosts your confidence level the second you put it on? Now’s the time to wear it. Knowing you look amazing will put an extra swagger in your step. Don’t have anything in your closet that dazzles? A cool new accessory can instantly (and inexpensively) up your glam factor. Raid the sale racks or a secondhand store for a glittery headband, sequined belt or sparkly pendant to add major pizzazz to your look.

Bust out With a Buddy
One of the most stressful moments of any party is ... the second you walk in the door. That’s when you’re taking it all in, feeling overwhelmed, and possibly wondering what to say to your crush when you first see him. Shake the grand-entrance jitters by inviting a friend over to your place to get ready together. When you arrive as a pair, you’ll be excited -- not nervous -- about what the night has in store.

Talk to Strangers
We know it’s totally tempting to stick like glue to your BFF -- or the cutie who sits in front of you in math class. But here’s the thing: You’ll have way more fun if you chat up your crew and even some people you don’t know very well. For a convo-starter, comment on how much you love the music (or snacks or whatever). Then ask your new friend what she thinks. It can be as simple as, “OMG, I love this song! Are you a Rihanna fan too?”

Get Your Game Face On
There could be awkward silences (even the best parties have them!). To get the vibe buzzing again, whip out an idea for a fun party game. Suggest something like “20 Questions” with a reality-TV theme. Another of our favorites is “Do You Know the Lyrics?”: Just put an iPod on shuffle and take turns pausing at a random point in each song to see who knows which words come next. The party pace should pick up momentum in no time flat!

Get a Head-start on the Holidays!

’Tis the season to be jolly -- so from gleeful tunes to sweet treats, why not take advantage of the merriment right away? We’ve made a list (and checked it twice!) of our favorite simple activities that’ll add a festive pep to your step.

1. Decorate your bedroom with a happy holiday vibe! String garland and lights around your bedpost, hang a wreath on your door, and tie some long ribbon to your favorite ornaments so you can dangle ’em from your curtain rod.

2. Swap your daily alarm sound with a holiday tune. Our pick? Mariah Carey’s classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

3. Add red and green sprinkles to your morning pancakes.

4. Switch your phone wallpaper to a wintery scene. Bonus points for changing your ringtone to “Jingle Bells.”

5. Host a hot cocoa tasting, complete with different flavors and toppings like whipped cream, chocolate shavings and cinnamon sticks.

6. Customize your holiday cards. Print pics of your year’s top moments. Glue each to the front of a folded piece of colored cardstock. Break out the markers, stickers, glue and glitter, and get artistic! Inside, write sappy personal messages.

7. Embrace peppermint chapstick. You’ll be feeling the holiday cheer every time you lick your lips.

8. Leave an anonymous gift in someone’s locker.

9. Make melt-in-your-mouth snowmen. Push a thin pretzel stick through a stack of three jumbo marshmallows to form the body. Snap another pretzel stick in half, then stick one half on both sides your snowman for arms. Using dabs of icing as “glue,” dress him with mini chocolate chips for eyes and buttons, a red cinnamon candy for the mouth, candy corn for a nose, and shoestring licorice for a scarf!

10. Have an “ugly sweater” fashion show. Each friend sports the kookiest holiday sweater they can find. Add silly accessories, like your grandma’s red-sequined beret, and have the ’rents judge who rocks it best.

11. Munch on a seasonal snack mix. In a large plastic zipper bag, toss together some popped popcorn, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, candied pecans and mini pretzels. Shake, shake, shake! Grab a handful and eat.

12. Go no-snow sledding. Even when there isn’t a single snowflake in the weather forecast, if you have a hill with a good incline, you should be able to get some decent momentum going just by sliding downhill on a piece of cardboard. Woo-hoo!

13. Start a holiday countdown chain. Whether you’re celebrating Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or Christmas, cut out 2-inch by 8-inch strips of colored construction paper. Staple or tape the ends to form loops, linking together as many pieces as you need to count the days until the main event. Hang the paper chain on your door, and remove a loop every morning. Ah, the anticipation!

14. Learn how to say “Happy holidays” in five languages.

15. Spring for a sprig of mistletoe. You never know when you might run into your crush between now and the holiday!

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/ALEAIMAGE

25 Things You Can Do to Make Today Shine!

Happy summer! You get to stay up late, sleep in late, play outdoors … and you don’t have to do homework.

Still not satisfied? Whining is lame, so here’s our list of 25 super-simple things you can do to shine awesomeness all over your day! (Refer back to this list often for instant mood-lifting.)

1.    Make a jelly-jar bouquet. Pluck some backyard blooms, and then plunk ’em in water in a clean jar.

2.    Take 10 minutes to still your mind. Look around (or within) and find something to appreciate.

3.    Make a watercolor postcard by cutting a piece of thick stock paper to 4 inches by 6 inches and painting on it. Write a sweet note on the back, and mail it to a friend.

4.    Create a salad! Hit up the fresh produce stand (or a garden) for veggies and fruits. Add a handful of nuts or crumbly cheese and top it off with a splash of oil and vinegar.

5.    Plant some seeds. Pick up inexpensive packets, or use seeds from fresh produce by letting them dry out on a paper towel before planting.

6.    Hug someone you wouldn’t normally hug, like your sweaty brother or the neighbor who has an old-lady smell. Go on. …

7.    Start a rock collection. Rocks are fun to paint too!

8.    Play hopscotch. Break out the chalk … and a rock from that collection.

9.    Take a cool bath. Beat the heat with a tub full of bubbles.

10. Enjoy fresh mint sprigs in your iced tea or lemonade. (It’s the little things that matter.)

11. Wash the car. Water-filled fun and points with the parentals!

12. Read something a teacher didn’t assign. Flip through a magazine, comic book or paperback.

13. Dance. Need we say more?

14. Drink lots of water. From the hose.

15. Walk your dog or a neighbor’s dog.

16. Swing on the nearest swing set … or tire swing -- even better!

17. Tune in to the language of birds. Swear, heard one recently that went, “Jupiter, Jupiter, Jupiter!”

18. Play in the sand. No beach? No problem, mon. Buy a bag of sand from the craft or garden store and dump it somewhere parent-approved. Your castle awaits.

19. Paint your toes and fingers in rainbow colors.

20. Have an eagle eye for nature’s gifts, such as stray feathers and robins’ eggshells.

21. Put your head in the clouds, and let the puffy formations inspire your imagination.

22. Sing out loud, even if you’re certain you’d never make the first cut of “American Idol.”

23. Smile and LOL. Just because.

24. Cook something on a stick after the folks torch up the grill. Sure, marshmallows and hot dogs are good ol’ standbys, but what else?

25. Walk barefoot in the grass. Watch your step -- honeybees!

Pool Party Time: Make a Spectacular Summer Splash!!!

Summertime is party time! So why not throw a pool party? Oh, and if you don’t have a pool? Doesn’t matter -- it’s not required!

Huh, wha-? That’s right. You can put the “cool” in pool just by making it your party’s theme. We’ve got all the best pool party ideas right here -- invites, décor, menu, games and more!

Pool Party Invites
To make fun invitations, take some blue construction paper and cut each sheet into four equal squares. This will give you flat cards that are roughly 4 inches by 5 inches -- cut enough to have one for each guest.

Using crayons or markers, write the party info on the back of each card (tell your guests to wear swimsuits and bring beach towels, even if you’re pool-less!). Once that’s done, flip over each card and hot-glue a wrapped Life Saver (or any round hard candy with a hole in the center) onto the front of the “pool” and a wrapped stick of gum to the edge to look like a diving board. On the surface of the “water,” write something fun, like, “Too-cool No-pool Party! Dive Right In to the Fun!”

Pool Party Décor
Pool or not, you’ll want to have your party outdoors. If you have a pool, great! If not, buy a small, tot-size wading pool as your party’s centerpiece and load it up with inflatable swimming toys.

For the rest of the décor, get grass skirts from the party supply store and use them to line railings, tables and doorways (trim to fit if necessary). Fill cheap plastic beach buckets with sand and stick pinwheels in them. If you have a patio, string up silk tropical flowers or outdoor lamps. Scour your house for anything that has a summer vibe, such as those carved-coconut souvenirs you got during last year’s family vacation. And set out plenty of lawn chairs!

Pool Party Munchies
If your dad or mom loves to grill, enlist his or her help for some outdoor barbecuing. Hit up the local produce stand for fresh fruits and vegetables to make salads and kabobs. Mix up fresh-squeezed lemonade for thirst quenching
-- and don’t forget the little paper umbrellas!

For dessert? Bake your favorite cake and add a few drops of blue food coloring to white icing before you frost it. Then go all-out by decorating it with candy (unwrap the candies this time around!). As with the invites, use sticks of gum as a diving board, then add lots of gummy fish, make “rafts” from Fruit Roll-ups or other fruit snacks and string a candy necklace or licorice twist across the center for a “rope.”

Pool Party Games
Set up several “fun-in-the-sun spots” around your pool party area for these activities:

Lifeguard Loop
Purchase a bunch of inflatable life rings (usually available at the dollar store), blow them up before the party and use them for a ring-toss game. Have your guests throw them at a tall, thin tropical floor plant, or enlist the help of your little brother (if he can stand still long enough!).

Braid in the Shade
Put out a pile of plastic beads, hair elastics and floral hair accessories, and let your friends braid each other’s hair. Go for a single braided strand on one side, or experiment with piles of messy braids upon braids.

Hot Hula
Gather together some hula hoops and let your guests show off their skills. The world record for hula-hooping is nearly 75 hours! Think one of your pals could beat that?