Thursday, February 11, 2016

Happy Valentine Day Pretties


Valentine's Day is fun for young and old alike! I first became aware of Valentine's Day in first grade. We glued red hearts on brown paper bags, then walked around the classroom dropping Valentine's cards, which we brought to school that morning, into the festive sacks of each of our classmates. As we were still learning to read, matching the correct names with the intented recipients was hit and miss. That evening, I remember my parents laughing as they went through my cards, addressed to schoolmates with names like "Sammy," "George," and "Michael." 

My classmate, Sharon, received a card, but the giver had trouble spelling her last name, "Rhodes," which was misspelled and crossed out. No problem: Sharon "Streets" was substituted. Indeed, it's the thought that counts!


As adults the day is celebrated with all the goodies we still cherish, a heartfelt note, delicious dinner, good conversation and laughter.


Fine chocolate truffles often make an appearance on Valentine's Day. Men ... your mate never gets too old! And ladies, don't be above dropping a few chocolatey hints. It's hard to believe, but not everyone can read minds!
Moreover, every woman deserves to have a few nice pieces of jewelry from time to time. Valentine's Day is an idea time to give and get it.

On my way to work this week, I saw a pink hoodie hanging in a store window. "Love Everybody," was printed across the front of it. Indeed, THE SAVVY SHOPPER loves you!

EmojiHappy Valentine's Day my precious readers!Emoji


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Monday, February 8, 2016

Winterize Your Skin: Natural Awakenings Advanced Healing Skin Cream

Manuka honey is the healing ingredient.
Winter is rough on skin. My hands used to feel dry and chapped, my cuticles cracked, and the skin below my knees flaked off like dandruff. But not this winter.

Slathering on rich moisturiser all winter long, right now I'm using Alba Botanical Very Emollient Body Lotion Original Unscented, and it's making a difference.

For years I made the mistake of using lotions and creams that contain perfume. Freesia smelled great! Although my aim was to moisturize my skin, the perfume in the lotion was, in fact, drying it out. Essential oils are different. Although essential oils have fragrance, they are not drying when added to moisturizers, and certain essential oils go further to benefit the skin with healing and anti-aging properties.

Nowadays I'm always on the lookout for good skin care products. Choice is good for consumers.

At my local health food store, I stumbled upon another promising skin cream, Natural Awakenings Advanced Healing Skin Cream. It's more expensive than what I buy, but it has some ultra hydrating and therapeutic  ingredients. The balm contains essential oil of rosehip, peppermint, nutmeg, clove, black pepper and lavender; aloe vera; shea butter; oat flour; flower essence of oak, sunflower, pine and vervain. It also has Manuka honey (from New Zealand) which has anitbacterial properties. Manuka honey is used to heal damaged skin. 

The Advanced Healing Skin Cream is in the not cheap, but affordable catagory. Depending on how chapped and raw your skin is, it might be worth the price. You could also try adding essential oils and the honey in your cupboard (as all honey is antibacterial) to your present (perfumeless) skin lotion, until you can justify paying the piper. There's nothing wrong with adding the same beneficial ingredients of a quality formula to make a DIY skin potion for less!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Common Space: Budget Friendly Style

All Photos: A Common Place
A Common Space is another online boutique offering trendy, inexpensive, everyday  clothing. Launched in 2015, the company's mission is to help women "elevate" their personal style on a budget. Clicking the website's Clean Slate tab takes you to quite a few wearable $20 bargains.
The clothing is designed for comfort. There are a mix of styles: Some pieces have a retro influence, while other items are modern, and still other articles have an edgy flare.
Very cute accessories also! And, the e-store writes a blog where upon you get shop talk, styling tips and various lifestyle subjects, all of which are informative and fun to read.
A Common Space is where you will find on-trend fashion (and more) for alot less. Very worth a browse and re-visiting from time to time!

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

New Beauty Products

Photos: Taken from each product's website put togther by THE SAVVY SHOPPER
Three new beauty products just hit the market, and I'm eager to try them:

1) Eminence Rosehip Triple C + E Firming Oil - Gravity is a powderful force. Will a face oil stop our jowls from going south? Doubtful, a 
fountain of youth doesn't exist. But, we do what we can to slow down the effects of gravity! Rosehip is rich in vitamin C, and vitamin C has anti-aging properties. Reportedly, vitamin E helps vitamin C work better. So rosehip (and the vitamin C it contrains) slows the breakdown of collegan and elastin, which is what gives the skin a youthful appearance. You can't stop from aging, but taking good care of your skin will let you look your best at every age. {It is pricey, so here are two cheaper equivalents: Deep Rosehip Facial Oil Serum and Organic Roship Carrier Oil.} 

2) Lancome Visionnaire Nuit Beauty Sleep Perfector - Don't we all want to grow more beautiful in our sleep? Of course we do! This is a gel that turns into an oil upon application. It contains ceramides to hydrate and adenosine to firm the skin. Moist, firm skin is the name of the game.

3) Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Definer - Except for plucking away a few strays, I pretty much neglect my eyebrows. This pencil allows us to fill in our brows to define them, then use the brush on the other end for a blended polished look. While nobody wants to look Joan Crawford severe today, well-defined-eyebrows frame the face and give it a more youthful appearance.


We never get too old to look our absolute best!


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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Meet Modern Citizen

 
Modern Citizen is an online fashion label for young professionals; and in general, women who like everyday, casual-smart dressing. The dresses are elegant and well priced. They have a timeless quality, and you won't empty your wallet to buy one. For women on the go, the pieces are ultra flattering, comfortable and versatile. Think: Modern clothing for modern women!

The e-company is San Francisco based. It's founder, Jessica Lee, worked at GAP.com before starting the brand. The 29 year old aims to sell classic, wearable clothes and accessories that are still chic and affordable. In an interview with Levo, she describes her style as "elegant and understated, with a hint of irreverence." She, herself, shops for value.

Modern Citizen has customers in their 20s and up. As it happens, tasteful, budget-friendly clothing works for every age.

Choice is good, and now there's a new dapper kid in town. Hello Modern Citizen. How lovely getting to know you!

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Down-home Succulent Meatloaf

Photo: muscleforlife.com
Does a main dish exist that is more comforting, or down-home, succulent than meatloaf? I think most everyone grew up eating it. My Mother made a delicious meatloaf!

Once in an attempt to jazz up her recipe, Mom put two hard boiled eggs into the meatloaf only to hear my Dad ask her to turn the meatloaf away from his view, since it looked like the meatloaf was laying the eggs. As he explained, he grew up on a farm with chickens, so it wasn't a sight he cared to see at the dinner table. It was most unusual for my easy going Father to be critical of Mom's efforts. Frankly, I thought the boiled eggs were wacky too, however I genuinely felt sorry for her; and so was uncharacteristically quiet on this occasion. Poor Mom was too fancy and European for us! She took the high road, shrugging off our lack of appreciation. Mothers deserve a medal for cooking day-after-day for 30 years, often without a thank you!

Recently, I made a succulent meatloaf too. Allow me to share the recipe, so like you, I can return here to make it again:

Debbie's Meatloaf

Ingredients: 

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup Old Fashioned, or Quick oats
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
a generous squirt of spicy brown mustard
1 capful of cider vinegar
a sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce
seasonings to taste - I used:
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cilantro
a sprinkle of celery seeds
a sprinkle of parsley
a sprinkle of Italian seasonings
a dash of thyme
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
a few turns of the nutmeg mill
2 raw eggs

Directions: 

1) Mix the ground beef and ingredients together uniformly.
2) Shape into a loaf and flatten the top.
3) Place the loaf into a cast iron skillet brushed with olive oil.
4) Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

The lazy cook's sauce: Eat with ketchup. You can top the baked meatloaf with ketchup and return it to the hot oven for another 5 minutes, if you wish.

The more ambitious sauce: After you remove the meatloaf from the skillet, pour 12 ounces, or so of water into the pan, scrape the bottom particles, and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch (measure 1 tablespoon of cornstarch per cup of water). Simmer over a medium flame while stirring until it thickens into a gravy. Spice to taste.

For a stick-to-your-ribs meal, serve with potatoes or rice, vegetables and a side salad.

As mentioned, this bottom meatloaf was rejected in our house. Perhaps your family is more sophisticated.☺
Photo: Anne Mehr
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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Perfect Diva Den

Pierre Cardin Attributed Bar Stool from Chairish

Just like a man, a woman needs a personal room, or "cave" to get away and relax! So Chairish, an online consignment marketplace for sellers and buyers of designer home goods, invited me to style a board, depicting the perfect Diva Den, and I'm happy to offer a few ideas.

 Whether your Diva Den is a small apartment, or cubbyhole within a big house, here are six helpful design tips:


1) In a room, empty space is as valuable as any object that fills it - So buy to fit the space. Spareness is good, while clutter (and crowding) is always bad. Don't buy anything that is too big or too small; and never, ever overbuy.

2) Surround yourself with beautiful furniture and objects you love - The pieces should make you happy.
3) Select articles that are practical, comfortable and multi-functional - If you do, you'll get lots of bang for the buck!
4) Be organized and tidy - Everything should have its place.
5) Don't be afraid to mix and match high-end with low-end home decor.
6) Remember to use vertical, as well as, horizontal space.

And now, for my style board of the perfect Diva Den ... imagine one room in a house, or a small apartment: I have mixed furniture from Chairish's website with a few inexpensive items:






Southern Living Leather Sofa





 





Altra Ladder Desk and Bookcase (also available in red) from Walmart.com

My favorite stools have soft upholstery with a supportive back (there are many like these on Chairish.com



SUKI 2-4 Seat Black Folding Round Dinning Table from Habitat.co.uk.




 
Brass Barstool With Blue Upholstered Seat





 



As you can see, my Diva Den has lots of comfortable seats. (I mean, who plans to stand in a Woman's Cave? No one!) The daybed acts as a cozy sitting area, or place to snooze. Bar stools offer colorful accents, or a compact seat without taking up much space. While the chandelier adds good lighting to read and work, it's also a sparkling thing of beauty. Finally, my Diva Den is classic and modern. There is a mix of rich textures, soft upholstery, leather, pretty metal and warm wood, as well as, several pops of color. With nine pieces ... a lovely blend of comfort and style!

How would you design your Diva Den?

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Puritan's Pride Beauty Products


I can't praise Puritan's Pride enough. The e-company offers top vitamin and nutritional supplements, as well as, organic and natural body care products at discount prices. You can afford to use them every single day!

Recently, I added two more of Puritan's Pride products to my beauty arsenal. Previously I used the company's seven ounce Coconut Oil For Skin and Hair, which I still love, but its larger 16 ounce Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is the same value per ounce, and you can use this 2nd one in your cooking and baking too. So I will continue to buy it from now on. I keep a tub of the Extra Virgin Coconut Oil in my bathroom to moisterize skin, hair and nails after a shower. It feels and smells lovely!
Next up: Nature's Gate Pomegrante's Sunflower Hair Defense Conditioner has seven healthy hair nutrients - panthenol, soy proteins, vegetable proteins, jojoba oil, borage flower seed oil, vitamin C and vitamin E. 

I bought a bottle mainly because of it's generous 18 ounce size. Hair conditioner (like shampoo) needs to last for a while. This formula does, plus more importantly, it works to untangle and tame my long locks. The conditioner does everything I want it to do: It leaves my hair feeling light, clean and healthy. The true test: If I don't feel a residue on my hands, I know there won't be any left in my hair to weigh it down. The conditioner is a thick consistency and has no harmful chemicals. At $5.99 for 18 ounces, it's a keeper!

Two fabulous beauty finds without breaking the bank! (For a roundup of other inexpensive botanicals, click the links below.)

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Target's Very Own Nail Polish


On January 17 Target launches it's own line of makeup. First up: nail polish. Called defy & INSPIRE, it sells for $7.49 a bottle. Target's defy & Inspire collection is a patented, chip resistant formula that goes on wet to dry without the fuss of lights or heat. Ordinary nail polish remover wipes off the lacquer. The gorgeous 38 colors in the collection are high tech, created to be high gloss and long lasting. 

With trendy shades and a shine to rival expensive luxury brands, Target's new nail polish collection includes protective base and top coats. 

Target has your digits covered in durable and affordable colors!


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Monday, January 11, 2016

Shopping At Zara

Zara is the queen of fast fashion retailers. The style, quality and sheer volume of inventory beats competitors, such as H&M and Forever 21. Topshop is as designer inspired, but the apparel, accessories and shoes cost much more.

According to Forbes, Zara delivers new goods to it's 2000 stores (in 88 countries) twice a week and only takes 10 to 15 days for it to go from design stage into its retail shops. So if you need a new dress, trousers or coat browse often.
I have mixed feelings about fast fashion. I'm all for a wide selection of fashion-forward clothing at budget-friendly prices. Who doesn't appreciate modern, chic and edgy pieces for less? I just worry about over consumption. It is best to shop only when you truly need something and not because you're stressed, bored or depressed. Always shop with your head leading your heart.

Over the years, I've gotten very good at separating my needs from my wants. Now I tend to be an under buyer. But if I need something like a new blazer, winter hat or pair of boots, I do buy it when I see it at a good price.
So at Zara, get to know the various collections and focus on the styles you like. Read the labels and zero in on the fabrics you like. 

In general, the scarves are flattering, and the dresses are classy and up-to-the-minute. Jackets for both men and women are especially vogue: Although many are unlined and a blend of fabrics, Zara's blazers are substantial enough for the price. You can score a signature piece at an unbeatable value during frequent sales ... and that is the time to pounce!
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Thursday, January 7, 2016

How to Make Kombucha Tea

Photo: drivethedistrict.com
In recent years I replaced drinking diet soda with diet Arizona tea. Admittedly, I should give up diet drinks altogether, but sometimes a person wants something refreshing to drink besides water. So that's where Kombucha, a fermented, carbonated tea comes in. Reportedly, the drink contains healthy bacteria and yeast that have a myriad of health benefits. Keeping your digestive tract loaded with good bacteria, you get B vitamins and other nutrients also.

The 16 ounce bottle I bought at my local health food store costs $3, and I had to buy a glass bottle to fill, priced at $1.50. Sooo ... to keep drinking it, the cost needs to come down. For that reason, I decided to try making a batch of the fermented, sweeten (black or green) tea at home.

Before we begin, know that you will need to get a starter kit, which is a scoby floating in a cup of the fermented tea. A scoby is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that ferments the sweet tea. I ordered a scoby from a reputable seller at Amazon.com for $6.99. Once you have a scoby, here are the steps:

Homemade Kombucka
Photo: Williams-Sonoma


Ingredients:

3 quarts water (12 cups)
1 cup sugar
5 tea bags (black or green)
1 scoby with starter Kombucha

Directions:  (They may read complicated, but are fairly simple to follow.)

1) Boil 3 quarts of water for 10 minutes. Tap water works after boiling it. All water, except distilled water, should be boiled to ensure that it doesn't have any elements that would prevent fermentation. (Heck, I'd boil distilled water too. Why take a chance of the Kombucha not turning out?)

2) Add one cup of white sugar to the water and stir it with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. (Many sources warn against using a metal or plastic spoon.) Also, there is no need to worry about the calories from the white sugar. The scoby feeds off it, and there won't be much sugar left to metabolize once the sweet tea turns into Kombucha (= 30 calories per cup). The same applies to caffeine.

3) Steep five black, or green tea bags (or a combination of both) for 10 minutes in the water. (Don't use Earl Grey or herbal teas; they have oils that interfere with fermentation. You can use white and oolong tea, but decaffeinated tea will not ferment either.) After you know what you're doing, you can experiment with the amount of tea bags in your brew to suit your taste: You may prefer to cut back to four tea bags, or add a sixth tea bag. You might like to brew all black tea, or a mix of black and green teas, etc.

4) Let the sweet tea cool to about 98 degrees F (or human body temperature), then pour into a clean glass jar. Next drop the scoby with the starter tea into it. (If the water is too hot, it kills the culture.)  Also several sources stress the importance of using a glass jar, or if you must, a porcelain, or wood container. You don't want the chemicals from plastic to leak into your Kombucha and ruin your colony.
Photo of a scoby colony: thewholedaily.com.au
5) Cover the glass jar with a coffee filter, or a white cotton towel and secure with a rubber band. (The rubber band stops insects from getting into the batch and laying eggs on the scoby. Yuck!) The scoby needs to breathe in order to ferment. Let it sit at room temperature for 7-10 days. Make sure it is out of direct sunlight. Also, don't mess or jostle the tea while it is fermenting. Wow, what a temperamental little scoby!

6) After the 7-10 days, remove the scoby along with a cup of fermented tea to store in a glass jar. This becomes the starter to make your next batch of Kombucha. As it turns out, another layer of scoby grows with each new batch ... "a mother and baby." So after a few batches, you can give a scoby (culture) starter kit to a friend for free. It is fine to store the scoby with a cup of Kombucha in a glass jar in the refrigerator if you plan to wait a bit before making another batch. (How to store your scoby here.)

At this stage, you can drink the Kombucha, but for it to be bubbly and favored there are a few more steps ...

7) To flavor Kombucha, fill a glass jar with 1/5 of fruit juice (or crush some blueberries, raspberries etc.). and pour the Kombucha you just made into the jar. Cover up again with the coffee filter (or white cotton towel) secured with a rubber band, letting the tea breathe. Let it set for another 2 days to carbonate.

I may just cut a wedge of ginger and put it in the final bottle with Kombucka, then wait two days for the Kombucha to carbonate. That may be flavor enough until I've made a few batches.

8) After the tea has carbonated, pour your finished Kombucha through a strainer into glass bottles with stoppers (like the example to the right) and refrigerate. You want to refrigerate it because if fermentation isn't slowed down, the bottles might explode. Also, when done, you want to drink it!

I don't know if I feel like a chemist, brewer or earth mother, but it's cool to try new things. And, it's illuminating to discover how cheap and easy a more exotic tea is when brewing it yourself!

Watch this YouTube video if still confused about the process. Extra Kombucha making tips are here. I also love this Tim Anderson video from Instructables (so much fun to watch!)

Extra tips
* For some reason, gallon sized canning jars cost $13 - $18, so buy a gallon of pickles for $5 and use its jar.
* Bottle kombucha in old wine bottles and cork it. Saves money!
* Purists will be upset, but I sometimes bottle Kombucha in 16 oz plastic water bottles if I intend to drink them soon. I do use recycled glass Lorina sparkling lemonade bottles for long-term storage. Since we can't avoid plastics altogether in our world, I don't worry about the chemicals in plastic for short-term storage. However, I never, ever expose the scoby culture to plastics. The scoby only sits in glass jars. So that's how I do it.

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