Friday, September 23, 2016

Lovely Freshwater Pearls

By nature I'm an under buyer. However, if I see something, which has "me" written all over it at a great price, I pounce to buy it. Pearl jewelry usually has the word "me" written all over it ... as I enjoy wearing a few pieces. Not to mention: diamonds, rubies and sapphires (but oh, I digress!).

These Glitzy Rocks Colored Freshwater Pearl Stretch Bracelets are selling for $10 on Overstock. Sooo, I bought myself a treat in the white color. Love them! 

They are big, real, freshwater pearls. Yes, I see some blemishes and uneven coloring. My bracelet arrived with 24 unknotted pearls (that do not slide) on a comfortable elastic strand. None of the pearls are perfect, however for under $10 I didn't expect Akoya cultured pearls. For less than the price of costume jewelry, these freshwater pearls look very classic on the arm. As a matter of fact, I like them so much, I bought my mother a bracelet in white pearls also. She should receive hers in the mail today.

You can get the pearl bracelets for $4.50 per strain if you buy all 10 colors. Plus, Overstock coupons may be applied on the purchase for additional savings. (Wow, if only my under buying nature hadn't kicked in.)  For a generous number of big, beautiful, real, freshwater pearls, it's a steal!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Five Second Rule For Food Is Untrue

Original photo: Greg Williams
A confession: If I drop non-sticky food on the floor at home, I pick it up and eat it, despite the presence of bacteria. My home is reasonably clean. I clean it. When I return from the streets of Manhattan, I remove my shoes and walk around my apartment in socks or house shoes. So I'm not that concerned about germs. I even feel like exposure to some germs builds up a body's immunities to keep us healthy.

I never eat food that has dropped on the bathroom floor, since I never take food into the bathroom. Sticky foods are another matter also. They pick up debris, that I'm not willing to pick off, so into the trush they go.

Still I'm sorry that the 5 second rule for food has been debunked by science. I really like that rule! It seems so sensible (waste not, want not :) and non-phobic. However in reality, I have never eaten food that has fallen on the sidewalk. I mean, who does that short of a young child? 

The study leads one to wonder if a large percentage of people are eating food that drops in a public place. Are they? If not, why was the study commissioned? And now definitively, they must stop! If it didn't make them sick before, surely it will now!

Yet truthfully, I will continue to eat the food I drop on the floor at home. Just last night, I dropped a strawberry on the kitchen floor, which I quickly picked up and ate. I have done the same with popcorn. What can I say? Old habits die hard. According to the study though, "Bateria can contaminate instantaeously," especially if you drop wet food like watermelon on a stainless steel floor. I will be vigilant and not take chances if I have lots of foot traffic, but I usually don't.

Do you eat food dropped on your floors too? If so,where do you draw the line? And now, will you stop?

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

DIY Taco Seasoning, Plus 8 Others

Photo: diskusjon.no
Recently I began making my own spice mixes to get the best quality. As a bonus, I get more spice mix for less moola. Plus, the seasoning has less salt. (More salt can always be added if a dish needs it.) Though delicious in all things Mexican, the taco mix is truly all-purpose. Grab it instead of salt and pepper to season meat, soups, vegetables and salads. I have used it as a rub on steaks. The following is my recipe:

Taco Mix

2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika (Smoked piprika if I have it.)
2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (Lately I'm using Himalayan pink salt.)
1/4 teaspoon cumin (It's a strong spice. A little packs a punch. Just like salt, you can add more cumin, separately for certain dishes.)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon = 6 turns of the black pepper mill 
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (the hottest of the peppers!)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Stir togther with a folk, then store in a small Mason jar with a tight lid. Making spice mixes ahead of time saves time when cooking! And of course, you can always double, or triple the recipe if you run out rapidly.

Not only do spices make food tasty, they keep us healthy.

I love this handy-dandy spice blend chart from Women'sHealth on how to mix 9 common ones, including their version of taco mix. You can print and post the chart on your refrigerator, if you wish, or bookmark it here. Bon app├ętit!


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fine Goose Down Pillows

Photo: Bed, Bath & Beyond
My parents always had feather pillows. I'm sure they didn't pay an arm and a leg for them. Our old feather pillows were plush and perfectly supported our heads and necks in all our sleep positions: back, side and stomach. 

The comfort of a bed pillow is very subjective, but how did buying one get so complicated? Goose down verses down alternatives verses memory pillows verses non-traditional shapes like wedges, squares and horseshoes, etc. It gets very confusing! All you can do to narrow down your choice is to lay your head on the possibilities in a store (as you would try a mattress) and buy the most comfortable. 


I proceed straight to the goose down pillows. Familiar with sleeping on them, I can't get used to synthetic fills on a nightly basis. I also select extra firm (but not rock hard), since within six months, most pillows soften. However, if you can't sleep on a firm pillow, you should go with a medium or soft density pillow, since you need to be able to sleep well from the get-go.

I also want the goose down pillow to come zipped up in a fine 100% cotton enclosure. I don't care about pure silk, or Tencel Lyocell (which wicks away moisture). The goose down and cotton enclosure feel cool and smooth enough to me. Plus, the pillow goes into a pillow case, so I'm not paying for silk.

Then I buy a pillow protector (a barrier against dust mites and bed bugs.) I mean, why not? Protection against dust mites extends the life of the pillow; and if you live in New York City, you are petrified of bed bugs! 


I selected an 800 goose down fill, a queen-size, which weights 28

ounces. (Queen, since that's what my old pillow was, and I won't need to buy new bedding.) Unfortunately, I have to pay $199 (minus 20% = $159) for it. I bet my parents paid about $20 for the same quality pillows years ago, and those pillows lasted forever. My mom hang them out in the sun periodically. Now feather/down pillows are washable, yet dry cleaning is often recommended. More then likely, I will be afraid to machine wash a $200 pillow! 

So here's what I learned:

1) A goose down pillow lasts a good 10-15 years if you take care of it. Feather/down fill count (such as 600, 700, or 800 fill) and weight (21 ounces, 24 ounces, 28 ounces, etc.) make a difference in comfort and how flat the pillow gets when you lay your head on it to sleep. Some people will like a pillow lighter and flatter, while others prefer one heavier and filler. The fill comes in different percentages of down to feathers. Just lay your head on the options to decide and don't sweat the math!

2) I dislike goose down alternatives and memory pillows. They have no give and feel hot. Often they are cheaper and must be replaced every 2-3 years. Who wants to buy another pillow so soon? I mean, I have other things to do.


3) At the end of the pillow-shopping day, buy whatever feels most comfortable to you. It's all subjective.

4) It is risky to buy a pillow online. If you don't see, touch and place your head on a pillow, you will probably make a mistake and not buy the pillow that is right for you. If you are braver then me, I did find an online pillow, which appears to offer excellent quality for the price: Royal Hotel's Goose Down Pillow. I nearly ordered it, but went with an 800 fill instead that I tried out at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If only I could've put my head on the Royal Hotel one. At $79 bucks, 750 fill, 28 ounces and 90% down, it's a steal! Anyone need extra pillows?


5) Reluctantly $172 (with tax, sheesh!) is my limit for a pillow. I like some pillows in the $300-$400 price range (LL Bean, I'm thinking of you), but I am too damn cheap to buy a pillow that is half the cost of a sofa!

How the heck did a bed pillow get so crazy expensive? After my pillow arrives, I may have to hire a guard to stand outside my home!


Do you have a favorite type of pillow for sleeping?

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Save On Cosmetics At Bed, Bath And Beyond

 

Wow, Bed, Bath & Beyond is the best place ever to shop for cosmetics and personal care products.

The store near my home has a huge beauty section, so there's plenty of choice. Just like stepping into Sephora ... for less! BB&B is often several dollars cheaper per makeup item, compared to Sephora or the corner drugstore. One example is Maybelline lipstick: At Duane Reade/Walgreens, the lipstick is $8.99 verses $5.50 at BB&B.
But it doesn't stop there! BB&B offers their own Hermon Face Value knockoff brand on many popular products, so customers can save as much as $10 on a single product without compromising on quality. Olay's Regenerist Micro-Sculping Cream at $24.99 has a Hermon knockoff selling for $14.99. I buy nothing but the Harmon brand knockoff of Listerine's Whitening  Anticavity mouthwash. It costs half of what Listerine does.
Plus when I get to the cash register, I pull out a Bed, Bath And Beyond coupon, saving another 20% off a single article. BB&B is very liberal with their coupons. If you sign up, you get their coupons via email -- those expire. But any paper coupons you clip out of magazines, or receive in the mail are honored past their expiration dates. So hang onto them! 

I had a $20 coupon from Maybelline, which was about to expire, so last Thursday I stopped by BB&B to redeem it.

Using my Maybelline manufacturer's coupon along with two BB&B (20% off a single item) coupons, I brought home the following Maybelline cosmetics:
Photo: Beautyloom

1 - FACESTUDIO Master Contour blush palette - $9.99

1 - Maybelline Brow Drama Pomade Crayon - $6.99

1- Maybelline New York ColorSensational Lipcolor - $5.50

Minus coupons, my grand total was an unbelievable $1.88. How's that for savvy shopping? Happy Belated Birthday to me!

And don't worry about BB&B's bottom line. The Maybelline coupon is like cash to them, and over time I buy plenty of bedding and other housewares there as well. In fact, on Saturday I returned to buy an 800 fill goose down bed pillow. Wow, that's a big ouch out of a budget, even with 20% off!
(Click to enlarge) After shopping, you can sit outside for a cup of coffee. Starbucks and TJ Maxx are next door.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Raincoats On The Brain

This zip hooded raincoat is everything I like in a raincoat except for the $650 pricetag.

First of all, a black trench, or raincoat is chic, slimming and goes with everything. Designed by Yoeh Lee, the coverall is sleek, modern and ultra lightweight. Made of 55% polyester and $45% polyurethane, it's waterproof, wrinkle-free and ideal for travel. The raincoat folds up into a small rectangle. Wear it in the rain to repell water, or over wool for warmth. I also love the zipper, as opposed to, a button closure.


Dry cleaning is unnecessary. To clean the coat, you just wipe the fabric with a damp cloth. Reportedly, it is durable, lasting for decades.

Speaking of a raincoat lasting for decades, my old London Fog has a very tattered lining, and yet I love it so much, I keep wearing it. (On sale, I paid $80 for the coat.) It, too, is black and feminine, although not as lightweight as the Yeohlee raincoat. My raincoat closes with snaps, which is also convenient. 

One spring, I wore it (with a red scarf) to cross Central Park; and as I waited for my turn to walk, none other than Ralph Lauren jogged by (and I kid you not) he turned his head to give my London Fog a long second look! I wanted to say, "Oh, Ralph, you like!?"


The raincoat looks good until I take it off to reveal the riped, long-past-its-prime inner lining.

So friends, what should I do? I'm not ready to spend $650 for the Yoehlee, and I'm not finding a new London Fog replacement that I like. Perhaps I'll just wear my oooold London Fog raincoat to it's last thread. If I must take it off in your presence, please don't judge!

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Every Woman Should Have a Denim Dress

A denim dress is an ultra versatile staple in a women's closet. Wear it nearly all year around, stopping short of the coldest days in winter.

They come in a multitude of styles and washes and flatter all body types. Dress a demin frock up, or down with the right scarves, shoes and jewlery. Wear one to the office, or around town or home to run errands and do chores. I prefer looking casual smart instead of sloppy. A stylish demin dress does the trick! I bought the middle denim dress from Old Navy, and it is even cuter tried-on than it photographs. Before ordering it, the frayed edges worried me, but they look more polished than in the image, thankfully! The fabric is substanial and doesn't easily wrinkle.

Though you will find demin dresses on the racks of high end stores, they are so popular -- with so many retailers offering them in their collection -- this is one item you can buy cheap. Always look for 100% cotton. Quality demin dresses (soft and of weighty material) are often sold for under $40. I got the Old Navy suspended-neck trapeze demin dress for $17 on sale and receive lots of compliments when I wear it.

Good news, readers! Old Navy has sales around the clock, including right now: Running 50% off of their entire stock of demin! Do you need a demin dress?
Banana Republic

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Stawberry Oatmeal Bars

Photo: relativetaste.net

 Hello September ... the baking season begins. Feast your eyes on these delicious cookie bars! Less effort than jam cakes, but resulting in a buttery, moist texture, plus a bit of filling fiber. A tad simpler then my Christmas Czechoslovakian cookies, but every bit as delicious:

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

Ingredients: 

1 stick (half cup) butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teapoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup of strawberry (or raspberry) preservatives

Optional: Often I press about 1/4 cup of walnut halves into the top dough. I like the balance of sweet with nuts.

Directions:

1) Blend the butter and sugar.

2) Add the flour, oats, baking soda, vanilla, lemon juice and salt. The batter will be crumbly.

3) Press half the batter into the bottom of a greased square baking pan. (I like to use a long bread loaf pan.)

4) Next, spread the preservatives on top of the crumbly batter.

5) Finally, sprinkle the remaining mixture on top of the preservatives.

6) Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes.

7) Remove from the oven and scrape the sides with a knife. Let cool, then cut into squares. 

You deserve a treat today. Lovely with afternoon tea or coffee. Simple ingredients, which really hit the spot!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Do You Need Earring Lifts?

Photo: Levears, earring lifts
Although I have long, straight hair, I wear pretty conservative, post earrings. Often the more fashion-forward, flashy bling is heavy or bulky, and I can't stand the feel of the weight as I turn my head throughout the day. Frankly, I'm also too vain to wear the weight! Eventually, heavy earrings stretch and tear a wearer's earlobes. After years of damage, some women have to undergo surgery to repair their earlobes. Yikes!

But now there's hope for my wilder side, namely earring lifts. They have several benefits: (1) They relieve the pressure of the weight, preventing heavy earrings from stretching the earlobe; and (2) they stop heavy earrings from dropping if a woman already has stretched earlobes (or not); (3) they also give a heavy earring more stability and comfort; and finally, (4) they improve the appearance of earrings ... with a lift.

Here's how to wear them: Put the lifts in, behind your ears as you would an earring backing. Attach your earrings to the lift to make them stand upright. 
Photo: Levears
Earring lifts go from pricey to cheap:

Levears - are available in serling silver and 14k gold. If you wear heavy earrings every single day, or have stretched earlobes, perhaps the bigger investment of over $200 is for you.

Lobe Wonder Earring Support Patches - are much cheaper, but must be purchased again and again. Buy 60 in a box for about $10.

BlingGuard BlingDots - These are memory foam discs to support and keep earrings in place -- right where they belong. Comes 90 per box for $12.50.

Weather you have stretched earlobes, or just want to wear heavy earrings, no more dropping!


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Friday, August 26, 2016

Salmon Cakes With Spicy Remoulade Sauce

Photo: eat-spin-run-repeat.com, where you can get another fine recipe.
Recently I began making salmon cakes with a crunchy kasha coating and topped with a spicy remoulade sauce.

The first time I dipped salmon cakes in kasha occurred because I had kasha, but no breadcrumbs. It turns out that dinner guests love the crunch; thereafter it's become my permanent way of making salmon cakes.


Remoulade sauce is popular in New Orleans. A French condiment, it is delicious on po' boy sandwiches and other seafood dishes, such as crab, shrimp or lobster. My party guests say, remoulade sauce makes the salmon cakes. I agree; so now when I make the one, I always make the other. A graduate of New Orlean's Tulane University gave me the remoulade sauce recipe, and I'm very grateful! I add a few more flavors like pickle juice to it, though the original recipe is mighty fine too.


Salmon cakes can be seasoned a number of different ways. Here's what I add:

Salmon Cakes


Ingredients:


1 14 ounce can of Alaskan salmon, drained and skin removed
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup of Quaker oats (or breadcrumbs. I use 1-minute, or 5-minute rolled oats.) 
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I use reduced fat, but never non-fat -- which has zero flavor.)
2 tablespoons mustard (I use either Dijon, or spicy brown mustard.)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or lime, whatever you have)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
a sprinkle of dried garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (= 12 turns of the pepper mill)
a turn of fresh nutmeg (I have a nutmeg mill to save my fingers.)
a sprinkle of Herbes de Provence
a sprinkle of parsley
2 tablespoons of olive oil (for the skillet)
1 cup of kasha (to coat the salmon cakes)

Directions:

1) Set aside a skillet brushed with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I use my hand to coat the pan with the olive oil, then mix the salmon with my oil-residued-hand. Extra virgin olive oil is healthy to eat.

2) In a large bowl, combine the salmon, eggs, oats, red bell pepper, onion, celery, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and seasonings and form into patties. Usually I make them hamburger size (for dinner), or small bite size (for a party tray).

3) Pour the kasha onto a large plate and dip both sides of the salmon cakes into it, coating each side.

4) Next lay the salmon cakes in the heated olive oiled skillet. Brown both sides. I like to put a lid over the pan as each side gets golden brown. It takes a few minutes per side, then onto a big serving plate they go.

Next finish the dish off by mixing the hot, creamy sauce.
Spicy Remoulade Sauce

Ingredients: 

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4  cup Dijon mustard (A spicy brown mustard works too.)
1/4 cup tomato, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
2 teaspoons hot sauce, either Louisiana, Frank's, chili or Sriracha
2 tablespoons of pickle juice (Eyeball the thickness.)
a sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce
a sprinkle of soy sauce
a sprinkle of dried garlic
salt and black pepper to taste
parsley for garnish

Directions:

Stir the ingredients together with a fork and pour into a serving dish. Guests can add a dollup of the sauce on top of their salmon cakes.

This healthy dish is a real crowd pleaser. One can of salmon generously feeds four people. It's fancy, filling and frugal. It reminds me of ultra delicious bar food!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Extra Storage Solutions

A PopHome ottoman
Do we ever have enough storage for all our stuff? To avoid clutter everything we own should have a home. After moving into a Manattan apartment, I learned to buy savvy pieces to help organize a room. Keep your space tidy with these useful, inexpensive furnishings:
Ottoman by Seville Classics.
1) Ottomans - A multi-purpose ottoman serves as extra seating; lets you put your feet up in comfort; and stores blankets, pillows; knitting and sewing tools; or toys. Some have tops that flip over to become a coffee table. The above oatmeal-beige ottoman not only seats a 400 lb adult, plus holdes lots of essentials, it folds up to be tucked away if not in use. Positioned near a door, it could house scarves, gloves, or shoes.

2) Walmart sells these adorable storing cubes - 2 for $15. While multiple storage units, consisting of 3, 4 or more cubes are also available, what I like about the single cubes includes: They are sturdy, mobile, have ample storage and a small footprint. You can use them as accent tables; and sometimes a pair of single storage cubes are all you really need to keep a room neat.

3) Acrylic Wall Mounted Shelves - The Container Store sells these, sleek, translucent, floating shelves. Available as single, double or corner shelves, their transparency is suitable for any type of room, leaving it airy.
           

4) Decorative Floating Wall Mounted Shelves - add style to a room while creating a place for your clock, phone or flowers. Small enough to fit beside a bed, near a couch or inside a nook.


5) Bathroom caddies - A shower, or bathroom space saving caddy helps you organize your necessities by using vertical square feet. I prefer the open, as opposed to, a closed, solid design -- which could box in a small bathroom to feel claustrophobic. Of course, an open caddy lets guests see everything, so you are forced to straighten up!

You don't need to shell out big bucks on storage solutions to be organized. Why pay more when these clever items help to get the job done!

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