Sunday, March 1, 2015

Make Waves With This Y.S. Park Ion Diffuser

Photo: Y.S. Park: The diffuser comes in two sizes.
The Japanese have invented a softer, better hair diffuser. Women with curls or waves often use a plastic diffuser over a blow dryer to tame and style their hair. It reduces frizz.

The Y.S. Park Ion Diffuser is cloth, not plastic. It weighs almost nothing. Top stylists report that using the Japanese diffuser leaves a wavy head of hair shinier, smoother and softer ... all in less blow drying time than when using traditional diffusers. Hairstylists also say that unlike other diffusers, this one stays put; ties prevent it from falling off the nozzle as you blow dry.

The nylon mesh on the front is infused with silver and titanium to produce negative ions, which reduce both blow drying time and static electricity.

Leave it to the Japanese to develop innovative beauty tools! Get better results faster -- cute ringlets and luscious waves with greater ease. Oh, sounds like a terrific investment!

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tata Harper's Organic Skin Care With No Fillers


Photo: Tata Harper
As founder Tata Harper says, "potentially toxic chemicals" ... "have no place in the products we use on our skin every day." So if you are searching for skin care that works, yet is free of synthetic ingredients, look no further than her brand. 

But know going in that her luxe elixirs are pricey! You are paying for one-of-a-kind formulas  -- with no fillers or generic bases. Harper's comprehensive line, which includes makeup and treatments, are created from scratch by her -- with skin care chemists -- to provide targeted results, namely preventing and/or smoothing wrinkles. She claims that each bottle of product is a multi-tasker. One bottle of serum is concentrated with between 9 and 29 active ingredients; whereas, competitors have far fewer active ingredients. Therefore, customers can buy one of her products to do several jobs (like brighten, tighten and rebuild collagen) resulting in younger looking skin. That's good because you might only be able to afford one bottle of product! :)

Tata Harper's serums and lotions are made with certified organic ingredients that come from the company's sustainable 12,000 acre farm in the Champagne Valley of Vermont. Each year the farm grows the herbs, flowers and fruit used in Harper's beauty formulas. All the phases of production -- from research and development ... to packing and shipping -- occur at the farm.

Indeed, the line is expensive, which isn't surprising for products that aren't mass produced. For most of us, a purchase is a splurge, but you know what you're getting ... high doses of the finest, organic ingredients with no fillers.

The best deal is probably the Rejuvenating Serum for Home & Travel set. To get the best price, check both Amazon and Harper's website periodically for special offers.

Also check the links below for budget friendly organic skin care. THE SAVVY SHOPPER strives to give you knowledge and options. And finally, enter "serum" in the blog's search box for previous posts highlighting other great products of various prices points.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Favorite Red Carpet Oscar Dresses 2015







Photos: Oscar.com

 1) Sienna Miller is wearing Oscar de la Renta; 2) Emma Stone is in Elie Saab; 3) Rosamund Pike has on Givenchy; 4) Anna Faris is in Zuhair Murad; 5) Laura Dern has on Alberta Ferretti; and 6) Reese Witherspoon is wearing Tom Ford.

Along with the rest of the world, I'm watching the Academy Awards LIVE, and we have hours to go! Not much bling this year, but here are my favorite gowns. What are your picks?

If I had to wear one of these dresses, I love the style of Emma Stone's dress. The glittery green is beautiful on her. Emma is a "fall" and looks fantastic in it. I'm a "winter" and would look best in a purple or cobalt blue. Ok, back to reality!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sullivan Street Bakery's No Knead Bread My Way

Photo: The New York Times
Yesterday, the temperature dropped to 3 degrees F, so people tend to stay indoors ... which leads to baking.

Thank you, Mark Brittman of The New York Times and breakmaker, Jim Lahey, for your recipe. This artisan bread has less yeast and no milk, eggs, butter or sugar, unlike many other bread recipes.

What I like about it is: 1) the ingredients are pared down; 2) it's for a single loaf; and 3) time does the kneading for you. Simplicity.

What I don't like is: 1) it takes 12-18 hours to rise; and 2) the bread calls for all white flour; plus 3) it will dry out, if not eaten within a day or so.

So what's a home baker to do? I changed the recipe slightly:

No Knead Artisan Bread My Way  

Ingredients:

3 cups all purpose flour
+ whole grain flour {I make 2 varieties of bread: (1) Add 3 cups of whole wheat = a whole wheat loaf; or (2) a single cup of oatmeal = oatmeal bread. Each loaf has fiber without being too dense.}
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon quick rising yeast
1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar
1 5/8 cups of warm water

Extra flour, plus olive oil for you hands. (My way: I add a tablespoon of olive oil to the dough.)

Directions: 

1) Put your flour and dry ingredients into a bowl. Stir together uniformly.

2) Next pour in the water and vinegar.

3) Stir into a dough (using your hands if you wish). Sprinkle the dough and your hands with a little flour to prevent sticking and mix it until the dough is elastic. Towards the end, I wet my hands with a little olive oil so the dough won't stick. The olive oil also seems to give the bread extra shelf life after it is baked.

4) Roll the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 8-12 hours. I put the dough inside the oven with just the pilot light to keep it warm.

5) After it has tripled in size, fold the dough over a few times (I don't mess with it too much, just enough to shape it), then transfer the dough to a round pan. Cover it again with plastic wrap.

6) Let it rise in a warm place for another 1 1/2 hours before popping it into a preheated dutch oven pan, then placing it into a preheated 450 degree F oven.

7) Bake covered with a lid at 450 degrees F for about 30 minutes.

8) Finally, remove the lid and bake for another 5 minutes if you want a soft crust, or 15 minutes to get a hard crust.

This easy-to-make, fresh baked artisan bread is a keeper. Enjoy!

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Extra tips: Personally, I mix and let the bread rise both times in a big Wok (with a glass lid) before transfering it to a heated Dutch oven to bake. This eliminates washing a mixing bowl, a cutting board, a second rise pan and the need to use plastic wrap to cover the bowl; instead I use the Wok's lid. Yes, I am that lazy! But use whatever you have. A mixing bowl (with plastic wrap) is fine.

Before you preheat your oven, put the rack on a lower level.

You can bake your bread in a heavy duty aluminum loaf pan to get a loaf shape, if you wish. Just remember to cover it with aluminum foil to bake. Remove the cover after 30 minutes to get a crust as you would with a Dutch oven.

I also like letting the bread rise overnight. So Friday or Saturday nights are ideal times to start. Then you can bake the bread early the next day.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Happy Valentine's Day


I may be a grown up, but I love Valentine's Day. Perhaps, it's the holiday's vibrant red color, or the cute decorations of hearts, cupids and love birds. 



Perhaps it's the anticipation of a lovely dinner with a glass of fine red wine ... or a little taste of dark chocolate. 


And, a pretty flower is a no brainer. Around here the day is casual and low-key-festive.

Happy Valentine's Day, my darling readers! 
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

THE SAVVY SHOPPER'S Seven Healthy Swaps


Photo: PBS: Hasselback potatoes
A huge part of everyone's budget is sustenance: food and drink. Make these seven healthy changes to your diet and get a bonus ... extra money left in your wallet:

1. Swap boxed cereal for unprocessed whole grains: oats, millet, quinoa, brown rice and others. Not only are unprocessed whole grains much cheaper (especially if bought in bulk), they are easy to cook and delicious. You will eat less sugar.  Add your own raisins and honey for a nutritious breakfast. Or prepare whole grains as a savory dish.

2. Swap soda for coffee and tea to drink as hot or iced beverages. You'll save a bundle, plus reap the health benefits. Soda has harmful chemicals. Even soda with artificial sweeteners is bad for your teeth and metabolism, while coffee and tea contain anti-oxidants that are good for your heart, skin and brain. In giving up soda, you may drop a few pounds.

3. Swap canned soups for dried and canned beans. Or buy dried peas. Or lentils. Or cut up your own fresh vegetables and add leftover beef, ham or chicken to make hearty soups. Homemade soup is a convenient one pot meal to cook and freeze, and the taste is far superior to canned soups.

4. Swap frozen french fries for fresh french friesYes, you can have french fries as long as you make them yourself: Brush cut potatoes with olive oil and bake on an oiled baking sheet at 350 degrees F until golden brown. Salt and pepper to taste.

5. Swap potato chips for Hasselback potatoes: Cut a potato into 1/4 inch slices (thin) crosswise (without slicing the potato all the way through). Fan and brush each slice with olive oil and season it with salt, pepper, garlic and spices to taste. If you wish, you can also sprinkle it with a little cheese or crisp bacon. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes. Hasselback potatoes are a cross between french fries and potato chips. 

Future goals for myself:

6) Swap the gallons of Arizona Diet Tea I buy for ice tea made from tea bags - Homemade ice tea, whether it's black, white, green  or oolong, costs pennies a glass in lieu of what I spend on ready-made tea. I'll sweeten the tea with a tiny bit of Stevia, a zero calorie sweetener, extracted from a plant.

7) Swap bottled salad dressing for homemade vinaigrette dressing, using healthy extra virgin olive oil. I have a scrumpuious recipe, but just need to implement the plan!

Make Ahead Vinaigrette Dressing

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar (balsamic, cider or wine, etc.*)
2 teaspoons mustard (dijon, brown or yellow, etc.*)
1 tablespoon minced onion (or dried*)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (or dried*)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix, and refrigerate in a jar.

Over time you may prefer the DYI (do it yourself) dishes over the prepared ones. Here's to a healthier you starting right now ... then deposit the extra savings in the bank. You will need it in your old age!

* I'm a great believer in using what you have in your cupboard. Growing up, my Mam'ma was the best cook in the world! But, she didn't consider herself a gourmet cook, and we weren't foodies. Our mindset was make healthy and tasty food, then get it on the table!! We eat every day. Who has time to be a fuss-butt.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

What Are PYSIS?


PYSIS, pronounced Pisces (like the zodiac fish) stands for Protect Your Shoes In Style. Marketed as posh galoshes, they are rainboot covers that go on over many different styles of shoes to protect the footwear from the rain, slush or snow. 

PYSIS are designed with a flat, treaded rubber sole and innovated elastic closures to keep your feet insulated, warm and dry, as well as, your dress shoes from ruin.

They have a collapsible construction. The covers fold up in an easy-to-carry pouch that slings over your shoulder on days when it might, or might not rain.

The design also provides stability to high heel wearers. The footbed has a notch that holds the heel in place, and the sheath keeps the ankle secure.

Light and comfortable, they eliminate the need for a bulky pair of rubber boots. Look professional and polished even on stormy days. 

Protect your shoes while you stay dry in style!

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Why Is Ground Beef More Expensive?

Photo: Culinary Arts
The price of beef has gone up. The reason: Last year the midwest experienced a drought, so farmers reduced their herds of cattle and this created a beef shortage. 

Recently, I paid $4.99 (per pound) for ground round on sale! Not tenderloin, mind you, but the meat we use to make burgers! This got me wondering: How can a family stretch their beef budget? And ... what is the difference in all the types of ground beef on the market?

It turns out that some ground beef is made with the leftovers of other cuts of beef from the entire body of the cow. For ground beef to be called a specific type, such as chuck, round or sirloin, it can only come from that section of the animal. So here is what a consumer is buying:

Hamburger: Can have the trimmings from the entire cow. It can also have up to 30% of added fat. Personally, I never buy it. You have no idea what you are getting, nor do you know how many cows are used in one pound of meat.

Ground beef: Has the trimmings from the entire cow, but no extra fat can be added. The fat must come from the pieces of meat used, and it can have up to 30% fat. I don't buy this choice either.

Ground chuck: Chuck comes from the shoulder and neck sections of the cow. It is 15-20% fat. Many people like this cut to make juicy burgers and meatloaf. It is considered a flavorful cut of beef. Pieces of chuck, not ground, often get used in beef stew, or goulash, or stroganoff.

Ground round: Comes from the lean round and rump sections of the cow. It is 10-15% fat. This is a muscular section of the animal and some people consider it too dry to make burgers or meatloaf, but I prefer it. (I also use round and rump roasts ... or round pieces in beef stew. Lacking the marbling of fat, the meat is tough, but braising for a few hours will tenderize and turn it into a delicious meal. That's for a roast. Ground round isn't tough.) 

Ground sirloin: This meat comes from the sirloin section of the cow. It contains 8-10% fat and is the leanest and most expensive of the selections.

Although ground round and ground sirloin make a drier burger and meatloaf, I prefer its flavor to that of chuck, but like the white and dark meat of a chicken, it's a matter of individual tastes. So decide for yourself. What's more, I can't tell much of a difference between ground round and ground sirloin, so I usually buy the one that goes on sale.

Now let's discuss how to stretch your beef budget. There are three easy ways:

1. Catch the supermaket sales. 

2. Buy larger quantities: Three pounds or more is often cheaper than lesser weights, then freeze the portions you don't use right away.
Photo: faithfulprovisions.com

3. Use less beef in your recipes: 1) Combine a can of mashed kidney beans with two pounds of ground beef to make a meatloaf {along with a diced onion, red pepper and celery! I also add a cup of oatmeal and two eggs + spices}; 2) Mix rice with a pound of ground beef to make stuffed cabbage; 3) Combine fresh vegetables with ground beef to make hobo packets, etc. These are delicious dishes. You won't miss cutting down on the beef.

I have a hard time giving up red meat altogether, but it's actually a healthy diet to eat less of it and/or to combine it with other food groups.

I'm more mindful these days about how food gets on the table. Now I consider my carbon footprint on the planet, as well as, the cruelty to animals, so I find myself eating less meat in general. However, it's so tasty and filling that I haven't given it up entirely ... not yet! 

How about you?

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Aboard The Underground Railroad: A Picture Book in Verse

Photo: media.rochester.k1.mi.us
THE SAVVY SHOPPER is doing something very different today in honor of Black History month, which begins on February 1st.

African Americans have contributed much to our culture: language, food and the arts. Obviously, we would not be the same country without them. Black history is American history.

In high school I wrote a poem in the form of a children's picture book about the travel to freedom Aboard The Underground Railroad. (Hopefully, I won't embarrass myself by sharing it!) Brushing up on American history, the UR was an informal network of local people -- free blacks and sympathetic whites -- who helped hide slaves along secret routes from Southern States leading to the North and Canada. It is a timeless tale of survival, as well as, the hope for a better life. 

Allow me to dust it off and publish it here for the very first time. Visualize turning the pages of a picture book as you read: 

Aboard The Underground Railroad
by Debra Turner

Thousands of slaves did not yield to their fate,
But developed secret routes to help them escape.

Away from owners and hard labor on Southern plantations,
They followed the North Star in search of salvation.

Traveling in groups, some carrying boxes and sacks,
Others proceeded on, wearing the rags on their backs.

A hazardous journey, runaways moved under moonlight,
And kept carefully concealed with freedom in sight.

A people … a race … destined to be slaves,
Born to be subservient until the end of their days.

For fugitives seeking refuge from a peculiar institution,
The Underground Railroad held the solution.

Neither underground, nor a railroad, with a loose organization,
Railroad terms became code words. Hiding places were called "stations.”

Up to the free states and Canada, “passengers” walked, sailed, and swam,
Over harsh paths through thick woods, river crossings and mountainous land.

Aboard boats, trains and wagons, each person rode … haunted with fear,
By the specter of recapture that always loomed near.

Free blacks and white abolitionists in both the North and the South,
Provided food, shelter and directions for slaves along the route.

The system gave black men, women and children a chance to flee.
And released souls from bondage in the land of the free.

****************************************************************
Here is a useful sidebar and glossary to flesh out history. Visualize them (below) scattered throughout the picture book (with lovely illustrations) had it been published as a picture book.

****************************************************************

Sidebar of celebrated “conductors"

Harriet Tubman (1820-1913), a runaway slave, herself, who returned to the South on 19 rescue trips to help 300 slaves escape to freedom.  She was never caught and never lost a “passenger” on any of her trips.

 Levi Coffin (1798-1877), a Quaker abolitionist, whose home in Newport (today Fountain City), Indiana was located on three major escape routes.  Called the “President of the Underground Railroad,” he helped over 3,000 runaways reach freedom.

John P. Parker (1827-1900), a black abolitionist from Ohio, who went down to Kentucky and Virginia and transported 400 or more slaves across the Ohio River by boat.

John Fairfield (d.1861?), the son of a slave holding Virginia family; he ventured into the Deep South and saved hundreds of captives by posing as a slave trader.  His abolitionist friends last heard from him in 1861. (Citing newspaper reports, Levi Coffin concluded that Fairfield was killed in Tennessee on a rescue trip.)

****************************************************************

Glossary

plantation – a large farm on which fruits, vegetables and crops like cotton were grown.

peculiar institution – a term used to describe the practice of owning African Americans as private property. The custom ended in the North by the early 1800s and in the South after the Civil War in 1865.

abolitionist – a person who worked to end slavery.

Quakers - a religious group who sympathized with slaves in their struggle to gain freedom. Many Quakers became abolitionists.

stations – railroad jargon for safe houses. 

passengers – a code word for runaway slaves.

conductors – the men and women who risked their own safety to guide slaves to the next safe house or “station.”

Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 – a law passed to give slave owners the right to recapture escaped slaves anywhere in the United States and bring them back to bondage in the South. It made helping runaway slaves a crime.

Photo: PBS

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Apple Watch 2015

Hand it over!
It is vital to keep up with technology even if you can't always afford to pay up.  

In a few weeks, Apple will launch their much anticipated Apple Watch. Starting at $350, I won't be buying one in the near future, but I'll definitely play with it on trips down to the Apple store.

Presently, I use a 2008 MacBook Pro, which could cough and die at any moment, so I am budgeting for the inevitable. Last year I bought an ipad mini to take on trips, so that is enough of a splurge for me right now.
All photos: Apple
Nevertheless, the availability of the new iwatch is super exciting! Not only can it tell time, it can pull up the weather; or maps; or your calender; or make phone calls; or send messages to the people in your network, as well as, keep track of your physical fitness. Perhaps, it's too much information, but the watch also lets you share your heartbeat with a second person, who can feel it on his iwatch! And, you'll be able to pay for coffee, groceries and other things with Apple Pay (an app) instead of pulling out a wallet.

 Oh yeah, the Apple Watch has apps! New technology makes navigating the apps on the watch's small face (i.e. screen) fast and fluid for the wearer. The device is somewhat intuitive. It detects motion when you raise your arm. The apps are designed to only require "lightweight interaction," letting you "make numble and precise adjustments." In sum, the watch and its apps are reported to be very user friendly.

The Apple Watch comes in a myriad of editions from 18k gold to aluminum and stainless steel. Some editions have metal bands, others have leather bands while still others have gel bands, and they come in a variety of band colors and fasteners.

The way we communicate with the world is changing once again. How futuristic to input, or call up important information; check email and connect with people on something as small as your watch! (Positively George Jetson-ish.) As Apple's Jony Ive, Senior VP of Design, says, their new watch is "technology designed to be worn and personal."

Why did I write about this new Apple watch? Now I want one! Don't you?

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lovely SAG Award Gowns 2015

Photos: Getty
The Screen Actor Guild Awards are taking place in Hollywood tonight. I took a glance at the red carpet arrivals and quickly selected three dresses I think are especially cute. Sophie Turner is wearing Osman, Julie Bowen has on Georges Hobeika and Camila Alves is wearing Donna Karan Atelier.

Do you have a favorite?

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

German Rice Pudding

Photo by Juan Guaman - gopixpic.com
Brrr, it's cold outside.

As temperatures drop, I start to crave my Momma's comforting rice pudding. She makes it on a stove top, and it is relatively healthy. On cold hectic days, rice pudding makes a mighty fine, one pot dinner at my table! Here is my mother's recipe:

German Rice Pudding

Ingredients:

4 cups milk (2% fat is creamy; whole milk and/or cream is creamier still! It will be thinner, but I sometimes use skim milk.)
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste (If you can eat it with less sugar, more power to you!)
a sprinkle of sea salt
1 cup of white rice (Alternative: See directions for brown rice below.)
1 tablespoon vanilla, 0r scrape out a vanilla bean
sprinkles of cinnamon and nutmeg

Directions:

1) Pour the milk, eggs and sugar into a large saucepan and beat thoroughly while the milk is cold. Add in the sea salt and dry white rice.

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Directions for brown rice: It's a bit trickier. Although white rice makes a creamier pudding, I sometimes substitute brown rice to make the dish even healthier. Brown rice will be slightly chewy compared to white rice. I cook the brown rice according to the directions on the package first. (One cup of dry brown rice takes 45 minutes to cook, which is the amount I use.). After it's done, I pour in the cold milk, eggs and the rest of the ingredients, except for the vanilla, then proceed to step two below.
*********************************************

2) Turn on the flame to bring the mixture to a boil before reducing it to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes while stirring frequently with a spoon. (I lower the heat and put a lid on the pot, but watch it carefully.) Simmer and stir until the mixture thickens into a pudding, and the rice is tender.
*********************************************

3) Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Top with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Extra tips: We like our rice pudding plain. It's about the vanilla! But you can add raisins, chopped nuts, dark chocolate shavings, or whatever you like. Some folks make the pudding without the eggs. But, my family likes the richness and extra protein that eggs give the pudding.

Serve German rice pudding warm along with your favorite fruit (peaches, pears, blueberries, strawberries) for balanced nutrition. Chill any leftover pudding in the refrigerator to eat the next day. It's tasty warm or cold.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Uniqlo's Heatteach Gear

Made with ultra fine fibers that have Camellia oil woven in for softness.
It is very cold in New York City right now. So I headed to Uniqlo to buy some Heattech long sleeve t-shirts for layering. The store is running a big blowout promotion on their entire Heattech line, therefore I picked up a lovely pair of knitted Heattech sapphire gloves too.

Uniqlo designs clothing, which lets men and women layer for warmth without bulking up. The pieces mix and match beautifully, creating a chic downtown vibe.

Their Heattech t-shirts are soft and static-free. The fabric generates and retains body heat, absorbs sweat and odor and keeps it's shape even after repeated washing.

They are perfect for layering whether you're on a ski slope, or running errands in a windy city where temperatures are plummeting. Great to take on trips!

Years ago, a good sale might have tempted me to overbuy. But not today! I purchased two Heattech t-shirts (at $9.90 each) and a single pair of Heattech gloves (at $7.90). Nowadays I tend to be an under buyer, and still wear less than 20% of what I own. How about you?

The Heattech t-shirt is a knitted-and-stretchy fabric. It runs small. So order a size up. 

There are several colors and neck styles. I bought crew necks in blue and purple to wear with black leggings and cardigans. I like adding a pop of color to neutrals.

The quality, style and prices are awesome!
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