Sunday, May 24, 2015

Signs Of Summer



If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know how I love the summer. I wait for it six months of the year. Unofficially, it begins on Memorial Weekend in the USA. 

Oh, let me count a few of the things I love about the summer season ... longer days, balmy weather, less laundry, grilling outdoors and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to eat. Somehow food always enters the picture.

Juicy watermelon and sweet corn on the cob begin the summer in a seriously delicious way. Some people like to sprinkle a little salt on their watermelon and butter their corn on the cob. I can eat them just as they are. When food is picked fresh, it is tasty just as it is. Plain and simple.


If you don't already eat a healthy diet, summer is the perfect season to begin. In the summer months, real food is fresh, plentiful and cheap. You won't feel deprived by working them into your meals and dropping processed, food-like-substances.

On Memorial Day, it is right that we remember all the people in the armed forces who have died while serving our country. Memorial Day like life, itself, is a paradox. Life is sweet and sorrowful. The weekend is usually a happy, relaxing one, where we take a moment to remember people who have sacrificed so much to perserve our way of life.

Photo: Hedwig In Washington of Arlington, National  Cemetery
What will you do with your summer? Do you have a reading list? A vacation to plan? Activities you are looking forward to do? A state fair to attend? Corn dogs to eat? Please feel free to share under the comments, if you wish.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

DIY: Drop Cloth Curtains


Photo: Cupcakes And Curls
On Saturday afternoons I often watch a home remodeling show called Knock It OffEach week two home decorators, Monica and Jess, meet a family on a tight budget to makeover a room. The decorators think of creative ways to renovate and spruce up the area, spending much less than it would normally cost. As you might expect, it usually involves a few Do It Yourself projects to save money.

Lacking their carpentry skills, I could never achieve their results, but I still enjoy watching the show. Who doesn't love a makeover?

Photo: beneathmyheart.net
One of their clever ideas is to make a curtain out of a canvas drop cloth. Think of it as a poor man's linen, the steps are easy: Order a drop cloth. Buy some suitable ring clips. Measure, hem and iron the drop cloth. Attach the clips, and presto: Chic, long, sturdy curtains for just a few bucks. Wow, you save hundreds of retail dollars!
Photo: bhg.com
I think the oatmeal curtains are lovely in their natural, rustic state. However a person with some talent could get creative by stenciling and painting the drop cloth to match a room or furniture. 

As it turns out, there are whole Pinterest boards with color and pattern ideas devoted to all things drop cloth. Who knew? This is one DIY project I believe I could pull off if I apply myself. The curtains are perfect for many homes.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Let the Barbecues Begin


Man Crates, a merchant who sells gifts for men, asked me to blog on the topic of outdoor grilling and to discuss the essentials that go into throwing an awesome barbecue. As it happens, May kicks off the season. With a little planning, a cookout can be fun and memorable for hosts and guests alike.

Consider these ...

Eleven Tips For Hosting The Perfect Barbecue:

1) It all begins with the people. Invite friendly, helpful people who like to mingle and talk to everyone. If your guests are genuinely nice, you will have good karma at your party. Fortunately for me, my friends are the type who if they see a need, will pitch in and help. They are delightful! (Here in Manhattan, I once saw a woman drop some chips on the floor and sweep the crumbs under a table with her foot. Unbelievable! Did she forget she was in someone's home?) Be sure to go around to introduce people. Set the tone for warm and friendly!  

2) A cheese platter (of Swiss, cheddar, brie, etc.) and crackers will get the party started. Perhaps some hummus and cut up raw veggies to munch also.

3) The traditional meats to grill are burgers, chicken, bratwursts or hot dogs. These usual suspects taste great grilled. Depending on your budget, there's also steak, ribs and fish. We use a Cajun rub on the chicken and beef for people who like spice. (Here are two other easy recipes for homemade BBQ sauce.) Cheddar cheese to top burgers, if requested. Other fixings are pickles, relish, tomato slices, lettuce, purple onions, ketchup and brown mustard. Sauerkraut for the bratwursts and hot dogs. We prefer whole grain, crusty breads.

4) For a large crowd, make a big pot of chili and batches of corn bread. Or a sizable ham. Better to have too much food rather than too little. Chili, or ham can be made days ahead of the barbecue.

5) Cold slaw, German potato salad, baked beans, grilled corn-on-the-cob and a green salad will round out a menu. We try to keep our sides relatively healthy.

6) Drinks can include ice tea, craft beer, plus fine red and white wines. In the past, we served soft drinks, but now try to keep it healthy. Pitchers of ice water favored with (1) mint, or (2) lemon slices are refreshing. Some people like to make a signature alcoholic drink, but we don't, to be honest. We'd rather eat than drink at a barbecue.

7) Often guests want to bring something. I think side dishes, bags of ice and desserts are thoughtful. Bring a signature side dish, cake, pie or cookies to help feed a hungry crowd. What you bring should be ready to serve (or display, if flowers) so it doesn't add to the workload of an already busy hostess. Don't make her stop what she's doing to get you a dish to reheat your food, or find a vase for your flowers. I never thought twice about bringing a hostess flowers sans a vase before I co-hosted several large parties, myself.

8) For cookouts, I like serving fresh, in season fruit like watermelon, cantaloupes, blueberries, strawberries, cherries or peaches. 

9) Ice cream is an easy crowd pleaser. Buy some wafer cones, and ask guests if they want one scoop or two ... delish! Don't forget the chocolate sprinkles.

10) Another essential element of a barbecue is listening to great music. So whip out the soundtracks of the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, plus anything current you fancy. All your favorite artists playing while guests mix.

11) If you need games to turn the party up a notch, try playing musical chairs. Buy a few desirable prizes for the winners. Another fun activity is a dice game called Left, Right, Center. Click here for how to play. We found playing the game with real money (over chips) to be more fun. $3 per player is all it takes to add more excitement to the game. Keep it friendly!

And so, my tips for throwing the perfect barbecue come down to: Comprise a good guest list; prepare ahead as much as possible; keep the menu fresh, healthy, simple and pleasing; ask guests to bring ice, sides, or desserts; have lots of great music; plus a few backup games. Enjoy your guests!

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Miraclesuit For Swimming


What an unfortunate, gimmicky-sounding name for such a stylish swimsuit! Known as Miraclesuits, they are designed with a Lycra spandex fabric to make a woman look 10 pounds lighter. I can think of many adjectives to describe them: classic, flattering, darling.

Certainly not dirt cheap, but the swimsuits are made to last at a cost you can work into a budget. Most of us only buy a swimsuit every few years. It's finding an attractive one, which is often vexing. But, it isn't difficult with these suits.

Miraclesuits come in a wide selection of styles, colors and patterns, including the ever popular one-piece, tankini separates, plus after swim cover ups. Much thought and innovation goes into the construction and design. There is a swimsuit to flatter every body type, as well as, hide any real or imagined flaws. 

Summer is coming, and in the words of the company website, a Miraclesuit will help you "make a splash."

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Guilty Pleasure Songs 4

video
Venus In Furs

With long, balmy days ahead, it's time to bring back the Guilty Pleasure Playlist. (See the links below for previous lists of Guilty Pleasure songs.) 

The new list includes songs penned by gifted songwriters, who (in my opinion) are emotional powerhouses ... original and honest. The songs are unique -- carrying a listener into the world of which they speak.

Like-No-Other, The Guilty Pleasure Playlist 4:

1. Venus In Furs - The Velvet Underground, written by Lou Reed: Can you imagine me liking a song that includes the sexual themes of S&M ... dominance, bondage and submission? I don't even what to know what I don't know about the subject, but I absolutely adore Lou Reed and this song. It's sincere, vulnerable and heartbreaking. Everyone from every walk of life wants to feel valued and accepted. When a human being feels broken or rejected, you feel empathy. People are complicated, and pain is pain. Plus, it's not everyday you hear a viola (played by John Cale) and an ostrich guitar (played by Lou Reed) in a Rock & Roll song. And hey, a woman drummer! The Velvet Underground didn't sell many records, but they were very influential on musicians who followed them. When you think about when this record came out (1967), you can appreciate just how special this band was. They were a R&R band who addressed adult themes.

When Lou Reed died in 2013, I was sad. And, I am happy he found a soul mate in Laurie Anderson. Both artists, so smart and multi-talented, they seemed perfect for each other.


2. Welcome To The Jungle - Guns N' RosesAppetite For Destruction, about the underbelly of Los Angeles, was a great album, and this song was often the show opener for the band when they hit the stage. If you're a rock fan, WTTJ has all the essential elements: a hard driving rhythm section, kick-ass guitar riffs and blood curdling screams.


3. Big Daddy Of Them All - John Mellencamp: Certainly, there are people who achieve great success, despite living inauthentic lives. This song is about them, the liars and the cheats; when someone's life doesn't match who they think they are. You can't change what goes unacknowledged, and the song is calling someone out. I'm a big fan of JM. I love his phrases, "You used to raise your voice, so that it could be heard."


4. Time Of The Season - The Zombies - I love the Jazz influence in this song and it reminds me of childhood spent at home listening to music on my father's stereo in our living room. How melodic is Collin Blumstone's airy, high tenor voice? You might know another song by the Zombies, She's Not There, which is currently used in ads on American television. You will always recognize their smooth sound. Where does the hippy-dippy time go?Emoji


5. Come To Jesus - Mindy Smith: Whether you are a Christian believer or not, this is a skillfully-written, catchy song by a Nashville singer-songwriter, who grew up on Long Island, New York. Raised by missionary parents, Mindy Smith lost her mother to cancer at a young age. The song is written from the point-of-view of her deseased mother who is talking from beyond the grave. The sentiment is worldly and hopeful. When Mindy sings the refrain, it sounds very rock-tinged to me. Moreover, YouTube uploader, VideoBikerDude, has created a fine video for the tune. Do you agree?

There you are, a musical blast from the past. Good songs can capture snippets of the human condition. They cross genres and endure ... as they should. 

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Celebrating Mother's Day

Today I'm enlisting the help of Mother Nature to wish a Happy Mother's Day to my mamma and mothers everywhere.
Wishing you days of beauty, wonder and sunshine.
Filled with love, laughter and happiness.
Sent with gratitude ... because there is no other like a mother.
Enjoy your special day, mothers; and to one in particular, Gluckliche Tag der Mutter!
xoxo

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Heatmaps Reveal Where Humans Feel Certain Emotions On The Body


This is a fascinating study, so I will share it. The data is not surprising since the mind and body are interconnected. Emotions play a huge role in our overall well being. If you want to read more from the team of bio-medical engineers, click here

It is interesting how emotions produce heat in specific parts of the body that scientists can actually measure.

For millenniums philosophers have debated: Is the essence of the world ideas (a/k/a, mind; the abstract), or matter (a/k/a, body; concrete; things)? In other words, what defines the world, and by extension, a human being? Some philosophers say it is the mind or ideals. Other schools say, it is body, matter or the concrete. Aristotle, who was a philosopher and scientist, argues that the answer is both. The intrinsic nature of the world (and a human) is both ideas and matter. It is both metaphysical and physical; abstract and concrete; mind, body and he added the soul, (or spirit). I am making this very simple; a watered down explanation of his philosophy. If you are a real academic, cringe! Or, just take over in the comments. (I have a simple brain:).

So the essence of a man, according to the great thinker, Aristotle, is mind, body and the soul. According to him, you can't separate one from the others; and all these years later, science seems to support him, in part. (Science can't prove the existence of a soul. That requires a leap of faith.)


Aristotle's postulates aren't so radical today, since the mind-body connection can be measured. It's amazing how smart he was in 322 BC. Indeed, what scientists discover can help us achieve better health. So stay tuned.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Earth Bellweather: The Perfect Ballet Flat


Last week I featured comfortable heels. Continuing on the subject of shoes, let's discuss another wardrobe essential, the ballet flat. By necessity, I walk many blocks in Manhattan, and ballet flats with flimsy support can lead to foot problems down the road. 

In New York City we have to be ready for anything. Even coyotes. Yes, that's right, the wolf-like wild dogs are crossing the bridge from Long Island to scavenge for food on our city streets. So, if I spot one, I will be in sensible shoes doing the only smart thing ... running away, sister!

It is easy to find gorgeous shoes that kill your feet, or ugly shoes that are kind to your feet, but I want my shoes to have it all, i.e. style, comfort, support and durability. Doesn't everyone?

I'm not a podiatrist, but through a ton of research, as well as, trial and error, I believe I found the perfect ballet flat. Called Earth Bellweather, it has a comfort footbed, which offers arch and shock support. It has extra latex cushioning, plus a padded 7/8-inch heel, and there is a full leather sock lining for breath ability.

The ballet flats have a leather upper too, so they will stretch and breath as you walk. Sometimes synthetic materials don't have the same give or comfort.

These shoes come in many colors: black, navy, almond, Bordeaux, pecan, pewter, three shades of white and black patent leather. I had a hard time choosing a single color, but in the end, only allowed myself one pair. If they go on sale later, I may add another color ... as an investment of course. Yeah, yeah, that's my story, a pair and a spare.

The Earth Bellweather Ballet flat is super cute and versatile. With clean lines and a round toe, you can't go wrong. They complement everything: slacks, dresses and shorts.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

The Pegasus Parade Before The Kentucky Derby

All photos: The Courier-Journal.com
Louisville, Kentucky is a spirited city with wonderful, down-to-earth people. They are preparing for tomorrow's Kentucky Derby. The Pegasus Parade is 60 years strong, and it's a fun event for children of all ages, who enjoy big balloons, street performers and floats. 








Tomorrow people with host derby parties and watch the race, itself, which is called the most exciting two minutes in sports.

Chances are mint juleps and Bourbon balls will also factor into the day. 

If you can't make it to Churchill Downs for The Kentucky Derby (a/k/a the run for the roses) this year, you can watch it on TV. Post time is 6:30 pm EST.
Red rose
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Corso Como Del Pump For Comfort


High heels, in a neutral color, are a wardrobe essential. There are occasions when a woman can't get around wearing them. (For a man the equivalent is probably a necktie.) Often I travel in flats, then change into heels after I arrive at a fancy shindig, but that may be a thing of the past.

Fashion editors are raving about the Corso Como Del Pump. According to PEOPLE's StyleWatch, they are the "most comfortable high heels on the planet." With a 3-inch heel, that's pretty impressive. The shoes have a stylish leather (or patent leather) upper and a leather lining and sole. Built-in padding cushions your foot, and the shoes, reportedly, provide some arch support. Moreover, they look expensive, but cost just under $100.
Customers praise them, giving them 5 star reviews on Amazon. When there are many reviews, I usually trust the consensus. The glowing customer feedback is tempting me to buy a pair in black. What do your think?

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Easy Breaded Pork Chops


My mother always made delicious breaded, center-cut pork chops on a stove top. I have never been able to make them tender or crispy like she did.

Over the weekend I decided to give it another try. Looking at a few recipes to see how ... some said to always buy bone-in pork chops, marinade them for up to 4 hours, or fry them covered in oil; none of which my mother did, yet her pork chops were perfect.

Making 3 chops shouldn't take up to 4 hours, and I prefer boneless center-cuts. My mother's pork chops are still the best (I have to give credit where credit is due); however on Sunday mine turned out tasty too. Below is my recipe:

Easy Breaded Pork Chops

Get out two bowls, a cast iron skillet and olive oil: 

Ingredients for the wet bowl:
1 egg
2-3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Ingredients for the dry bowl:
1/2 cup whole wheat (or all purpose) flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs (or Grape Nut cereal. Who the heck buys bread crumbs?)
Seasonings: I used --
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
a sprinkle of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:
1) Mix the wet and dry ingredients together in separate bowls.
2) Dip the pork chops in the wet ingredients, then the dry ingredients.
3) Repeat the dipping, i.e. double dip. Get as much bread coating on the chops as possible. I was pleased to use up all the wet and dry ingredients. No waste!
4) Lay them in a skillet brushed with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
5) Bake in a 400 F degree oven until golden brown and the meat is done, about 20 minutes.

How lovely to make a homemade dinner that doesn't take all day to prepare. Serve with potatoes, or rice, plus vegetables and a green salad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pixie Market For Unique Style


Pixie Market, which began as a small shop on New York's Lower East Side, features one-of-a-kind clothing inspired by London's street fashion. The owners, Gaelle and Magde, now have a second Los Angeles store, as well as, a thriving e-boutique. So anyone worldwide can order from the catalog with flat rate shipping.

You never know what you will find at Pixie Market. The carefully selected apparel and accessories have a creative, downtown vibe. Unique finds include undiscovered designers, posh hats and one-off jewelry.

While the clothing is exclusive, each piece artsy and different, it is not expensive! Think: cheap, chic.

Although I'm showcasing a few fun, short dresses for spring, longer dress lengths are available, as well as, fashionable tops, trousers and 2-piece sets. The inventory on the website changes weekly, therefore, it's worth bookmarking the link to browse occasionally.

You will find hot-off-the-runway looks at budget-friendly prices. Nice!
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Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Belated Happy 6TH Birthday To THE SAVVY SHOPPER

Photo courtesy of  pinkcakebox.com

On March 3, THE SAVVY SHOPPER turned six years old. Where does the time go? March was very busy, so I am only now getting around to reflecting on the anniversary. 

On occasion someone asks, what got me to start blogging. Well, I started THE SAVVY SHOPPER because six years ago, a lifestyle magazine where I worked was in the process of creating its online presence. So I knew at the time that blogging and social media were going to be important in the future; and I had better learn how to do it.

Intuitively, I knew I had the voice, ideas and skills to pull it off. You have to be motivated and care about the work, but neither journalism nor writing a blog is rocket science, and I didn't want to be left behind.

Today I still have plenty of ideas; and after six years of blogging here's my advice to anyone thinking of starting out. Just start blogging. You don't have to know all the mechanics, you just have to do it. Have something to say and say it. Like everything else in life, the more you blog the better you get. Just start blogging.

Write about topics you ... and readers want to know more about. Offer something of value, and people will come and return to your blog.

THE SAVVY SHOPPER now gets about 500 readers a day from around the world. You have expanded me. We are a global community; and I appreciate each and every one of you. YOU are awesome! Thank YOU for stopping by.

Here's to another engaging year of learning, writing and sharing new stuff!


Party smileGift with a bowRed rose

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Healthy Cabbage-Tofu Soup


Recently, I started making batches of the old Cabbage Diet Soup to keep in my refrigerator. Unfortunately, I'm not losing any weight (like my winter gain of ten pounds), but I'm not following the strict diet either. It's just convenient to have a pot of prepared vitamin rich soup I can microwave and eat with a sandwich (or whole grains; or even cheese and crackers) when I arrive home.

The original recipe calls for a package of Lipton's onion soup, which I replace with fresh onions and seasonings. I add a few more vegetables and a vegetarian protein also. (You can use leftover ham, beef, or chicken, if you wish.) I make mine vegetarian so that it keeps for 7-8 days in the refrigerator (and it freezes well for a longer period of time).

The healthy 7 vegetable soup is delicious the first night you make it and tasty later. I'm writing my recipe down here, so we can return anytime to make it:

Cabbage-Tofu Soup

Ingredients:

1/2 head cabbage, cut up (or pick a small head.)
2 large onions, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
3 large carrots, sliced
1 cup frozen green beans (or fresh if you have it.)
15 ounce can whole tomatoes (I buy a 28 ounce can of tomatoes flavored with basil and garlic and use half. Refrigerate the rest for another dish.)
6 cups water
16 ounces, firm tofu, diced
3 double (or 8 small) bouillon cubes (If you substitute chicken or beef stock, than salt the soup to taste.)
1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
A sprinkle of soy sauce

1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried garlic powder (or fresh)
1 teaspoon dried celery, if you have it.
1 teaspoon dried onion powder
a sprinkle of nutmeg
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon basil
12 turns of the black pepper mill
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

1) Cut up your vegetables (the hardest part of making soup).
2) Throw all the ingredients into a big pot, one by one.
3) Cover, bring to a boil and simmer until tender.

The soup is naturally low in calories. If you follow the diet for a week, the weight will drop off, but I like to add a (side) whole grain and additional protein. I have a huge appetite and always eat a variety of food and textures for a meal. No starving in my house. Bon app├ętit!


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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Best Lip Color Brands Under $10


Lipstick is a makeup item that lipstick wearers should splurge and save on. Splurge when rich pigments matter. The color will stay on your lips all day long; and save on a few trendy colors you won't mind reapplying.

Lip color comes in a variety of textures, including lipstick, lacquer, gloss and lip stain. Luckily, today's corner drugstore sells lip color with real lasting power at a reasonable price. Here is a roundup.

The Best Lip Color Brands Under $10:

1. Revlon's Utra HD Lipstick - The secret ingredient is a clear gel base (instead of wax) that provides a light, smooth, even application of rich color. There are 20 vivid hues in nudes, pinks, reds, plums and browns.

2. Revlon's ColorBurst Balm Stain - Revlon has sooo many different lip formulas, it gets another entry. Throw one of these ten shades in your purse to reapply throughout the day. Moisterize your lips with a pop of color.

3. NYX Matte Lipstick and Soft Matte Lip Cream - Don't let the cheap price fool you. This brand's lipsticks and lip creams are highly pigmented, moist and durable. Truly, the whole line of makeup for face, eyes and lips gets top ratings from customers and makeup artists alike.

4. Neutrogena MoistureSmooth Color Stick - It's a step up from chapstick in eight ultra flattering shades in peaches, roses, plums and browns. 

5. Maybelline Color Sensational Lipcolor - Formulated with pure pigments for crisp color. Lips feel creamy, not dry. There are 52 shades. In the past, women turned to Chanel, or NARS to get unique or subtle hues. Not anymore! Maybelline is another makeup giant with colors and textures galore. Browse their website to select a lip color to fit the benefit you're after. I like watching this fun, lip-color tutorial. Learn how to create different looks with  nudes, pinks, plums and reds. The brief video has me convinced I will look exactly like the gorgeous model by wearing the lush Maybelline shades. :) What? ... I can hearrr you!

So on a visit to the neighborhood drugstore, you can pick up a new lip color without breaking the bank.

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