Thursday, May 6, 2021

Radiant Tsavorite Garnet

Photo: Geology In

An emerald is the birthstone of May babies. The gorgeous green beryl is rarer and more expensive per carat than diamonds, sapphires or rubies. Emeralds also have more inclusions than other precious or semi-precious gemstones. Unlike diamonds where clarity is prized, inclusions (in emeralds called Jardins) are accepted because natural emeralds are never clean.

If you long for a clean (free of inclusions) brilliant green stone, you might consider a radiant tsavorite garnet (Ca3Al2Si3O12) first discovered in 1967 by British gem geologist Campbell Bridges, which Tiffany and Co. began selling as jewelry in 1974. Usually when people think of garnets they visualize a cinnamon (dark red) color, which many garnets are. Yet garnets come in a variety of rarer colors. Garnets are composed of aluminum and calcium but when there are traces of 2 additional minerals, chromium and vanadium, the color is bright green and the semi-precious stone, rating a 6.5 - 7.5 on Moh's Scale of Hardness, is referred to as a tsavorite garnet. This stunning green stone, mined in Kenya (and less intense hues in Tanzania), is incredibly sparkly due to its high refractive index. 

Tsavorite is less likely to shatter than emerald because it is a stone without inclusions. Sans inclusions, tsavorite can be cut into more facets to reflect light more brilliantly than an emerald. And, tsavorite is translucent in nature without requiring treatments like heat or oil.

While emeralds are unmatched in their green-blue color, tsavorites have more brilliance or life than typical emeralds. Still both gems are undeniably gorgeous in their own right.

Finally, tsavorites are not as pricey as emeralds, so in general, you can get more value for the money, either paying less for similar sized stones, or perhaps getting a bigger tsavorite garnet for less money than what you will pay for an emerald. Definitely a radiant green stone ... a beauty of nature not to be overlooked!💚


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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Slip On Lands' End Comfort Summer Shoes

As warm weather approaches sensible shoes with arch support and stable heels are a must! Recently I ordered the perfect spring/summer shoes: Lands' End Comfort Mary Janes

They have leather uppers with sneaker-comfort footbeds and durable rubber outsoles with sturdy traction. Taking them on a test drive, I walked from Manhattan's Upper Eastside to Midtown (a distance of several miles) to find they protect my feet from taking a harsh pounding on concrete. I love them! They're practical and cute!
Moreover on foot, the Lands' End Comfort Mary Janes don't look juvenile and are versatile to wear with pants, leggings, skirts and dresses. Another beneficial feature is their velcro strap closures, for easy slip on and off, as well as, hassle-free adjustments. 

The Woman's Comfort Elastic Ballet Flats are trickier. The sizing is off so you have to order up from your regular shoe size. They are not for walking long distances on concrete pavement but for bouncing around your house, garden and neighborhood. Soft leather uppers have insoles that are foam cushioned. An elastic edge molds to your feet.
Lands' End Women's All Weather Closed Toe Sandals let some air in. They have soft suede uppers, shock-absorbing footbeds and sturdy rubber outsoles suitable for hiking.

For hanging out at the swimming pool or boating dock, there are several styles of quick drying water shoes, water sandals and lightweight flat Comfort Slider Sandals in several colors.


The offerings are priced attractively before adding 40% off promotions and free shipping. This summer, let's get comfy in quality and style without going broke!


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Thursday, April 29, 2021

How To Protect A Pinky Toe?

 

Sorry ... in no way will the following blog be sexy. It's about how aging changes your tootsies when once upon a time, they never gave you any problems.

Ouch! My feet are getting battered, and I don't know what to do about it. We walk everywhere in New York City on hard, unforgiving concrete.

But I'm on top of it! I always wear structured shoes (brands like Merrell and Vionic) with good arch support and stabilized heels. Round, roomy toe boxes, and my shoes seem to be the right size. Supportive flats, not high heels (except perhaps once a year), plus I'm not walking as much as I did before the pandemic. Yet my feet are taking a real beating, especially the inside of the pinky toe on my left foot! Short of wearing band-aids, what can I do to protect it?

Once in a while, I experience painful arches, or an ache in the front part of my foot also, but not often nor severe enough to worry yet. Not quite yet!! If such a pain in the front of of your foot is severe and frequent, then it's time to think about a condition called Morton's Neuroma, which 1 in 3 people have. Women can get it from wearing high heels or a narrow toe box which I have rarely done!
Of course the main reason to explain what is happening is, my feet are aging right along with the rest of me. Regardless of how sensible our footwear, our parts start to wear out! As we grow older (beginning around the age of 45 or so), we lose the fat padding on the bottoms of our feet that protects them from daily pounding, which is why we can't walk barefoot on hard floors anymore without foot pain. 

Years ago I also learned I must buy leather shoes (skipping manmade materials) to avoid many shoe, i.e., foot problems. So let's check that solution off.

What's more, nearly all of my shoes have insoles to provide extra padding. So gezz-Louise, what more do I have to do on a daily basis? After my little toe became so raw and inflamed it felt like it would fall off, I began wearing band-aids, as well as, protective gels to buffer it from my other toes. After years of peaceful living side-by-side, the 4 bigger toes no longer play nice with the little one!
You know, I'd like to walk out of my apartment without too much fanfare. Must I start wrapping my pinky toe every day now!?! 
I've stepped outside of science and am trying 15 minutes of yoga toes each day too in an effort to save the pinky toe! I'm out of ideas.
Do you have any ingenious products to help prevent foot problems? Help ...



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Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Oscars 2021: Red Carpet Favorites

French Director Florian Zeller and his wife Marine Delterme

Yes, the Academy Awards is still in progress on television, but it never takes me long to pick my favorites. The telecast is subdued this year without a huge audience. Not much hype leading up to the awards either as nobody could go to the movies for over a year.

But the show must go on, and as you can see, I threw two stylish couples into the fashion mix -- French Bohemian chic 0n top and American elegance to close the blog.

Below are the dresses on my Oscars 2021 best list. There is nothing flashy or over-the-top this year. The attendees look classic and relatively comfortable. It reminds me of bygone days before stars hired stylists, and they wore their own clothes, although I'm fairly sure stylists and dressers were consulted. I'd call this year's outfits safe and lovely. 

As a non-celebrity, I never have a problem with safe, timeless fashion. If trading places, I'd go for pretty every time. We can't all be Cher or Billy Porter, nor should we try to be. Perhaps it would be one's only time before millions of viewers, and I'd want to look pretty, not like a Cher or Billy Porter wannabe. 


Director Lee Isaac Chung and wife Valerie Chung

Laura Dern is wearing Oscar de la Renta. Reese Witherspoon is in Christian Dior. Viola Davis is in an Alexander McQueen gown. Margot Robbie wears a floral Chanel dress. (All photos: British Vogue.)

So who did I miss? Do you have a favorite Oscar gown to either agree with or add?


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Friday, April 23, 2021

Easy French Onion Soup

Photo: Betty Crocker

It's hard to be a great French cook while limiting fat and calories in your meals. Today I'm making French onion soup for the first time ever and will not cut calories. I don't think it's the most nutritious soup to eat -- lower in protein than many, only one vegetable -- nor is it a low calorie soup ... but at times one must eat what one wants, and today that's French onion soup!

The homemade soup is sitting on my stovetop. It smells and tastes delicious. I sampled it! For tonight's dinner, I'll add the bread and cheeses, broiling the topping in the oven until melted and slightly brown. The quantity is 4 large servings:

French Onion Soup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large onions, cut in strips (not diced small)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large beef bouillon cube (or chicken bouillon cube; or 3/4 teaspoon salt)
3 cups beef stock (or chicken stock - I use whatever flavor is in the pantry)
1/2 cup red wine (or white - I use what's open, most often red. The color doesn't really matter. If tasty to drink, the wine makes excellent soup:)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon Herbs of Provence
Sprinkle of garlic
Sprinkle of dried celery
Tiny pinch of sugar
white and black pepper to taste
Extra 1/4 cup of onion, diced
Swiss cheese (buy a brick of cheese)
Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1) Toss the olive oil and butter into a stockpot and heat it, followed by the onions and simmer on middle-low heat for 20 minutes to caramelize. Cover with a lid. Watch and stir so the onion doesn't burn. After 20 minutes ...

2) Whisk in the flour. Add the bouillon cube (or salt, not both). You can add about 1/2 cup of water if needed to dissolve the bouillon. 

3) Next add the beef stock and wine; follow with your dried seasonings. Add a pinch of sugar too. Simmer on low-medium heat for another 30 minutes. (Without a boil, the soup won't cook properly, yet too high a flame cooks the water out. That's the dilemma. Make sure you have a low boil, not a robust boil.)

4) Near the end of the cooking time (like the last 10 minutes) dice another 1/4 cup of onion (get out another small onion) and 1/4 cup of the Swiss cheese and toss into the pot. This adds omph -- more flavor and texture.

5) Pour into soup bowls and top with bread and cheeses. Read step 6.

6) {a} - For myself, I lay a couple of slices of toasted multi-grain bread on the soup and then top with lots of Swiss and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheeses, broiling the bread-cheese topping in the oven until the cheeses are hot, melted and slightly brown.

b - If I were to make this soup again for guests, I'd buy a loaf of artisan French bread, cut it into thick slices, butter and brown the slices on a baking sheet in the oven, then top the bowls of soup with the oven browned fresh cut bread plus cheeses. Without guests, I skip this step to get out of the kitchen. Butter-less supermarket, toasted bread is fine for me! Still a success.
Update: Dinner is served at 6:50 pm. I'm afraid of ruining a mug or bowl by broiling, so I used mini cake pans, different, I know!
If I say so, myself, the soup looks, smells and tastes amazing! Restaurant worthy. Good enough for guests. Mine isn't as salty as I've eaten it out, so perhaps, it's even better.

Pandemic cook is back, sister!


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Thursday, April 22, 2021

You Could Win This MZ Wallace Tote

MZ Wallace is a New York company based in Soho that makes bags for people who work, travel, exercise, have small children and spend their days running around the city doing errands. The bags have pockets for organization and style to go from day to evening -- so you don't look like a bag lady carrying your stuff around to get all your chores done. Chic, roomy, organized and compact!

The retailer's website shows several available styles of bags. My favorite is the crossover Metro Quatro Tote. Well-designed and durable, with a heavy-duty zipper, yet it's more than I like to spend on a non-leather tote, if I'm being completely honest. It's the cost of supporting a small business, as opposed to, handbag designers who mass produce their goods. Frankly, if you are on a restricted budget, I don't think saving up for this one bag (with leather trim) is the right move. Nonetheless, if you can easily afford it, it's a fabulous, well-thought-out, quality tote.

And for 15 lucky people, here's a link sponsored by the Today Show to enter a contest to win the bag (the deadline for entering is April 25th). Someone's got to win, and it could be you, Savvy Shopper!

Fashion meets function ... and a bag-maker to keep on our radar!


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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Avocados The Healthy Snack

As most of us know, an avocado is considered a superfood. A powerhouse of nutrition, the fruit (not a vegetable) is actually a berry with a creamy texture and mild flavor. It consists of unsaturated good fats. Good fats help the body metabolize vitamins A, D, E and K. 

The pear-shaped fruit, itself, provides dietary fiber and nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and healthy phytonutrients (a substance found in some plants believed to prevent disease), including vitamins E, C, K, B1, B2, B6, niacin, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese and pantothenic acid.

Photo: Target

I did not grow up eating avocado and when I first tried one in college, didn't think much of its mild flavor. Back in the day, avocados were also expensive! Luckily nowadays, we regularly import them from Mexico, making avocados plentiful and relatively cheap. I can find them for about $1 each, and I could eat big bowels of avocado in the form of guacamole until it comes out of my ears. But! At 240 calories per avocado, they are not low in calories. However due to their health benefits, not to mention deliciousness, they are not to be skipped.

If I want to limit myself to half an avocado, I simply cut one and eat the half with a spoon topped with hot salsa or Louisiana hot sauce. If I decide to make a meal out of it, I will make guacamole and have it with saltine crackers or tortilla chips. 

Here is my recipe -- double, triple, or quadruple etc. as needed:

Guacamole

Photo: Williams-Sonoma 

Ingredients:

A ripe avocado, smashed
1 tablespoon of finely diced onion
1 plum tomato, smashed and finely diced
a squirt of lime (or lemon) juice
red pepper flakes to taste (or a fresh jalapeno pepper roasted 1st and diced)
a sprinkle of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: A squirt of extra virgin olive oil is tasty, very healthy but more calories. You decide.

Directions:

1) In a bowel, squirt the lime juice on the finely diced onion and tomato and let it marinate for 15 - 20 minutes. Taking this extra step makes better guacamole.

2) Toss the remaining ingredients into the bowl and throughly mix using a fork. Blend well leaving the consistency a bit rustic. It's that easy!

Avocado toast is popular, though I never make it. Linked below are dishes and ways I use avocado especially as we move into a warm climate. 

On a hot summer evening, a glass of red wine combined with guacamole, olives and a cheese platter is one of my favorite weekend dinners! Include celery, carrot and bell pepper sticks for a satisfying smorgasborg of textures and tastes. Although you don't have to cook to eat healthy be mindful of portions!! Low-calorie, crunchy, raw vegetables help in this effort!🥑😁
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Take a look at a snack I love too much, so will pause buying it at Target for a while:
When in my panty, it tortures me until every last cracker is eaten. That's not nice after welcoming it into my home!😠


Note to self: Eat more avocados not cheese crackers!🙂


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Are Leave-in Hair Conditioners Necessary?



A leave-in hair conditioner is an extra treatment, as well as, an extra step taken after you shampoo and condition your hair, then raise out the regular conditioner along with excess water from your hair. At this point, leave-in conditioner is applied to damp hair before drying it for the day.

No doubt, your hair type determines whether or not you need this extra hair product. Dry, damaged, or curly hair might benefit, but for my abundant mane of straight fine hair, I find a leave-in conditioner to be a waste of money. Despite its lighter formula compared to regular conditions that are rinsed out with clean running water, leave-in conditioner tends to dull and weigh down my hair, making the hair look like I need to wash it again. Certainly, there is no benefit.


On the other hand, I do spray my clean damp hair lightly with TRESemme Thermal Creations, a heat protector, before blasting my hair with a blow dryer every day. Unlike any of the leave-in hair conditioners I've tried over the years, this specific heat protector leaves no residue ... or funky smell behind. Additionally, it seems to untangle the hair and have a taming effect (although the product, itself, makes no such claims). 

If I require anything more to calm flyways on a humid day, in lieu of a leave-in hair conditioner, I apply a tiny dab of body cream on the flyaways or frizzies only and avoid the hair near my scalp. Often I use hand cream to treat dry hands, and before it completely absorbs into the skin, rub my hands through my hair. Voilàmulti-tasking leave-in hair conditioner! Just like a marketed leave-in-hair conditioner, a slight amount of hand cream will neutralize the negative electrons in your hair. Disarm and balance those unruly atoms, and you're good!😂
What do you do? Are you a fan of leave-in hair conditioners?

BTW: All of images of leave-in conditioners on the post are top-rated ones by the editors of Allure magazine. Here's their entire list. What's more, if you have a sharp memory, my interview with celebrity hair stylist, Fashion Henricks, mentioned one of them 4 years ago! Plus SheaMoisture and Garnier Whole Blends are forever Savvy Shopper favorite brands. (You can use the search box to pull up all my reviews.)


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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Saint Laurent Is The Best Value Luxury Bag

If you must own a luxury bag there's no judgment here on THE SAVVY SHOPPER. Living in Manhattan, I look at Hermes, Chanel and Dior all the time in the shops so I understand the appeal of the handbags and totes, but don't own any myself since I don't covet them enough to pay the piper.
I'm happy with my less expensive Coach and Foley+Corinna bags, so I must say so before continuing. When looking and handling the luxury bags, however, I do evaluate them and decide which I like best ... which style and leather I find the most tempting as a "potential" buyer. While perusing, I think about what customers are getting for their money.


Although Hermes is the best made of all the luxury brands, it's so exclusive -- the $10,000+ price tag too high for ordinary people. Chanel is catching up to Hermes without the craftsmanship, therefore I no longer harbor any illusions of ever owning one. Dior has risen in price also, but its handbags are not as steep as Hermes or Chanel. But ... let's consider a 4th competitor.
Compared to Hermes, Chanel and Dior, Saint Laurent is a value buy for a stylish, affluent handbag. Moreover, it truly is a luxury bag. The leather quality, design, craftsmanship and Frenchness are all there. You get a luxury name that's not cheap, yet not as over-the-moon expensive (or let's be honest) gauging like Hermes or Chanel. Moreover, the retailer doesn't make you 1) grovel; 2) coddle an associate to be offered a bag; or 3) have you buy small leather goods 1st before the offer -- therefore you can skip the games and undesirable extra cost. Just walk into the store and buy the bag. Priceless! The Saint Laurent price points on its luxury bags are thousands less for the same quality of its direct competitors. So if a Savvy Shopper wishes to keep $5,000+ (usually much more!) of their money in the bank, it is the luxury bag to buy!!



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