Thursday, May 25, 2017

Do You Have A Design Challenge?

Edouard Manet's Masked Ball at the Opera - on display at the National Gallery of Art and in my living room.
Havenly, an online interior design company, invited me to tell the story behind a decorating piece I have in my home. I will depict not one, but a few things, as well as, talk about making the most of a small space.

As it is, I live in a modest Manhattan apartment compared to the 3-4 bedroom houses that people elsewhere tend to occupy. My #1 decorating rule is, there is to be no clutter, and so all the objects I bring into my space are full-sized, yet compact and multi-functional. Often I say, "I don't buy pretty. Everything must have a purpose." My couch and ottomans have storage for pillows and blankets. What's more, the top of a sturdy ottoman can be flipped over to use as a table.
I painted my walls an off-white (with a tint of warm yellow) and the trims a bright white for a pop of crispness. A bright white as a main color looks institutional and sterile, but not so with a yellow tinted white.

Since the walls are white, I bring color into the apartment with a huge Pottery Barn wool rug, colorful pillows, plus prints of museum paintings I like. The Manet 1873 painting (at the top) is one of them. As a congressional intern for the U.S. Senate, I walked over to the National Gallery of Art frequently to look at the original. I simply bought the museum poster and had it framed. Artwork on a wall is a smart decorating choice for a small space since it only requires vertical and not horizontal cubic feet. Select art, or personal themes that make you happy, as you will look at them everyday.
I have one article of whimsy in my apartment, James the Butler, but he, too, has a function. He holds a wine glass or cheese platter for guests who come into my home. Every city dweller needs a butler! Sometimes he holds my mail, gifts or other items I need to take with me to events. Always ready to work, James serves me faithfully. He charms my guests and never complains!

Do you have an item in your home that is especially useful, has a history, or makes you smile?

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Boscov's Department Store Deals


As a child, when I needed new shoes for school, or a special occasion dress my parents loaded me into the car for a drive to an old time dry goods, department store. With many floors (at least 5 or 6), it was a wonderland of everything a shopper could possibly want or need. A customer has choice galore as he/she walks through floor after floor, each one stocked with luxuries and pretties.

What fond memories! Is it any surprise how I love an old fashion department store?

Boscov's is a traditional, well-stocked department store that has expertly adapted to online shopping. Immigrant Solomon Boscov started in sales in 1902. He opened his first brick and mortar store in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1911. Today the family-owned business has grown to 50 stores throughout the eastern United States and includes a thriving web business.

The merchandise ranges from apparel, shoes, handbags and accessories, watches and jewelry, home goods and beauty products, as well as, a 21st century add-on: webdeals. As expected, there is a wide selection for men, women and children, and like any worthy department store, there are always money saving deals to be had.

Even with the convenience of a click on a computer, the shopping experience feels like visiting a familiar department store. 


In a time honored practice, Boscov's offers selection and quality that can't be beat at super affordable prices.


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Thursday, May 18, 2017

What's Your Money Quirk?

Even people who are not tightwads have something they don't like to pay money for because perhaps they feel: If a person applies him/herself, he/she could get "it" for free. My father's money quirk was not wanting to pay for parking. An acquaintance of mine dislikes paying to check her coat at an event. I may have a touch of each since I will drove around a block several times, only pulling into a parking garage if there's no other place to park a car. Ditto with the coat checking. If I can be discreet and the layout of a gala allows it, I prefer holding onto my coat and my $5-$10. Plus at the end of the evening, leaving is easy if I don't have to return to a coat check.

But I'm not going to claim either of these examples as my money quirk. I'm going to list two others. 

1) Makeup bags - Buying cosmetic bags? I mean, what a waste of the green! There are so many promotions that give bags away for free. I keep a few of the freebies in a drawer, using them to organize not only my makeup, but small items while traveling. To boot, there's always inexpensive zip lock bags to carry articles in a suitcase.
2) Another item I'm too parsimonious ... err sensible to pay good money for are travel bottles. Sure, colorful matching travel containers look snazzy, but frankly I don't value them enough to spend $10-$20 for a set. Instead, what I do is pack a few of the product samples I get (again freebies) of face cream, body lotion, shampoos and conditioners, or sunscreen and use the samples while away from home. A ton of product samples weigh practically nothing, making them a breeze to pack. Once I reach my destination, I can usually stop at a drugstore to buy travel sizes of products if I need more, though usually I don't run out. In buying travel sizes, we get mini containers (free) with product in them!! Once empty refill those if you wish.

I like the ideas of making use of freebies, recycling and saving a few bucks.

So now let me open the discussion to you. Are there product(s) you are simply too frugal to buy because if you apply yourself, you can get "it" for free? Confess!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Using Charcoal To Whiten Teeth


Tooth whitening is trendy at the moment, but I'm not too keen on using bleach or chemicals. Therefore, I want to try the ingredient, activated charcoal. Reportedly, it is one of the most effective ways to whiten teeth naturally without harsh chemicals. A black paste, the color of soot: How ironic to blacken teeth in order to whiten them!

I'm super curious to test one of these brands on my pearly whites. All 3 have high costumer ratings. Each is organic and mixed with coconut oil. Charcoal powder alone whitens teeth, but is messy to use. So the charcoal power is mixed with coconut oil. 


Occasionally, I see people whose teeth are oddly too white for their complexion. I think you can avoid artificial-looking results with a natural whitener. 

Moreover, charcoal powder is a muti-tasker. It will also brighten your skin. Any of these brands would do. Next step, look for the best price.

Extra tip: Eat strawbarries to whiten teeth.🍓🍓🍓


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Friday, May 12, 2017

My Mom's Mother's Day Card

My Mom will surely quirk, "I'm your only mother."
This is the Mother's Day card I'm sending my Mamma. She does not like to receive fresh flowers, so I often send her cards decorated with pretty flowers so she doesn't miss out on the beauty of nature.

My Mom is an alien (or rather an overly practical German. Same thing!😄). Unfortunately, if she receives a vase of flowers, rather than focusing on how lovely and thoughtful real flowers are, she thinks about how much money will soon end up in the garbage. And ... how that money could have been spent on something more permanent.

Luckily, she approves, as well as, appreciates a pretty card and good wishes on a day that honors mothers. So I'm covered. I'm even allowed to buy a pretty card (but if crazy expensive, she would not approve). 

The last two years, I made her Mother's Day cards for fun, and they look fancy [free printable cards here]. Sometimes I throw in an unexpected nonperishable gift too. But it gets harder to select useful gifts as she grows older. As it is, a strong willed German prefers to select her own gifts. 

Certainly, the old saying applies, and flipping it: When Mamma is happy, everybody is happy!

Thank you, MOTHERS, for all your sacrifices. 


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Skinfood Beauty Line

Gold Caviar for anti-aging
Skinfood is a skin care, hair care and cosmetic line that uses the highest quality food, such as black sugar, royal honey, egg white, avocado, peach sake, yuja and gold caviar to create its products.

The company buys food from organic farms around the globe, which utilizes eco-friendly and sustainable growing methods, then formulates powerful food-based skin care, hair care and makeup.

Address specific skin concerns like acne, dryness, redness or anti-aging with a variety of special face serums and creams; or add an Argon Oil Serum to repair and condition your hair. The focus is "on long-term beauty, not short lived results." 

The cost of items start at $5 and go up. With promotions, prices are reasonable for clean, top-notch ingredients. It's another winning brand to get to know. Makes terrific gifts; and choice is a Savvy Shopper's best friend!

Currently beauty editors are excited about Skinfood's limited edition Snoopy Collection, a collaboration with K-Beauty.
The Snoopy Collection

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Easy Low Fat Ice Cream

Photo: King Arthur's Flour
Nothing beats Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. The cold, slurpy scoops of goodness (2 scoops, one is never enough!) must be what Homer names ambrosia, the food of the gods. B & J's ice cream contains rich cream and loads of sugar, but undoubtedly, it is worth every single calorie. So delicious!

Well I cannot duplicate the results of the Ice Cream Masters, but what I like to do with my overripe bananas is make an, easy, refreshing, creamy, low fat ... and yes, healthy ice cream in a food processor.

When my bananas get too ripe to eat, I slice one up, throw it into a container, or plastic seal bag and store it in the freezer. When I feel like a dessert, I use it. If I slice 4 overripe bananas, I still freeze each one separately for single serves. Here's how I like to make and flavor the ice cream:

Quick Chocolate Moca Ice Cream

Ingredients (for one serving. You can always double, or triple the servings):

1 sliced frozen banana
a tiny bit of milk (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon of cocao, cocoa or Dutch chocolate powder
A sprinkle of instant coffee (I use decaffeinated coffee for desserts.)
A sprinkle of sugar, or Stevia

Directions:
Photo: Brit & Co

Throw all the ingredients (except for the sprinkle of sugar) into a food processor. Pulse; then blend until smooth and creamy. Scoop into a bowl, or on top of a cone to eat. Top with a sprinkle of sugar, if you wish. 

You can also make a plain banana ice cream without the other ingredients, but I would get tired of only banana ice cream and much prefer chocolate-mocha ice cream. Also you can leave off the sprinkle of sugar, but I like the extra sweetness. (If you toss the sugar into the food processor, the sweatness gets lost in the mixture, that's why I save it as a finisher.) Keep the dessert simple with just a sprinkle of sugar, or get fancy by topping with syrup; chocolate shavings; shredded nuts; or coconut.  

Slurp away and enjoy!

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Papr Watch By Paprcuts

Geometric designs for the Papr Watch
Paprcuts, a Berlin start-up, was founded by Nils Wagner in 2012. The German company makes innovative, feather weight accessories, such as wallets, makeup bags and pouches.

Recently Paprcuts invented a trendy watch using the same material as in their other accessories. The material, which is called Tyvek®, derives from paper. Like regular paper, it is light-weight. Yet unlike ordinary paper, it is strong, durable and waterproof.
Animal designs
The new digital timepiece is called a Papr Watch, and it comes in 29 chic designs - from Retro, Maritime and Animal to Geometric and Black and White. Weighing less than a clove of garlic, there is a Papr Watch design to suit a variety of tastes.

A video (play it below) shows customers just how strong and durable the watch is by having two people tug the Papr Watch in opposite directions and tossing it into a glass of water. It does not break, or get ruined. Moreover, you get see how the watch wears on your arm.
Retro designs
The Papr Watch also glows in the dark, has an exchangeable battery, is nickel-free and sustainable. The band has a magnet closure.

What an innovative and unique watch! Are you tempted to buy one?


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Thursday, April 27, 2017

More Photos: Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany


Leopold and Helena forever!😍

Since my blogs on Prince Leopold are popular (you never know which subjects will be a hit!), I will share a few more photos I love, but did not use in the 1st or 2nd post. In truth, I am touched by the Prince's personality and life story and now consider him my Victorian history pet. So if you find any rare photos of Leopold or his wife, Princess Helena, Duchess of Albany, send them my way!

I love the top left photo of Prince Leopold taken in 1874 at Oxford University by Alice In Wonderland's author, Lewis Carroll. Wearing a gorgeous suit and shoes, Prince Leopold is handsome in his cap and gown. It is my favorite college photo of him, despite initially posting one of the Prince standing and looking into the camera.

The top right shot of Leopold's wife, Helena (a/k/a Helen), is a bit washed out, but I like how she faces the camera looking like a lovely doll in her wedding attire. So often Victorians look off to the side, or stare at an object, such as a book, but she looks directly into the camera. Smiling in photos came later. At this time, it was thought to be a sign of insanity. Yikes!

Here are a few more images:
Prince Leopold with friends at Oxford
It took nearly a year of careful persuasion for Prince Leopold to convince his mother, Queen Victoria, to let him attend Oxford University. Had she refused, nobody could have overruled her. The Prince's Oxford years (1872-1876) were happy ones for him. 

As a prince, he lived in a house with a small staff: a gentleman's attendant and cook/housekeeper. Sometimes a doctor monitored his health. Victoria kept a close eye on him. He was allowed to throw small dinner parties (inviting sons of "respectable families"), which is probably what the above middle photos show.

Leopold embraced his studies; became President of the Chess Club; made life-long Oxford friends; and joined a musical group (the Victorian equivalent of a rock band, if you think about it.) In fact, he was a founding member of the Oxford University Music Club.🎷🎹🎻
Prince Leopold is the 4th man from the left. He was a gifted pianist, flutist, tenor singer and played other instruments. Obviously, bands wore off-beat, tousled grab even in his day!

The above left image is one of Leopold and Helen's engagement photos, taken in November 1881 in the Princess' German hometown. I think her casual posture shows her warm personality; and how rare in a Victorian photo for an engaged couple to be torso touching, no? (You never see it with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert even after having 9 children together!)

Again, I adore Prince Leopold's tailored clothes and beautiful shoes! A stylish couple, despite the corset high society women were required to wear! I have no idea how a woman sat down with a corset sticking out the back, nor why such an exaggerated bum-hump was considered flattering! But one can't judge another era with contemporary eyes.

The above right photo with their baby daughter, Alice, was taken in 1883. She was born 10 mouths after her parents April 27, 1882 wedding. Most Victorian couples had their 1st child within a year of marriage, since the only sure form of birth control was abstinence (and who wants to start a marriage practicing that?). Helen had 3 pregnancies [resulting in one miscarriage] in 23 months of their marriage, which was not unusual. Also, childbirth was dangerous even for royal women.

In Victorian times, it was vital to have children (boys in most European countries) in order to pass on titles and property. During an era when many children died of disease, people desired large families.
Here are Queen Victoria's 9 children as adults: Vicky (b. 1840), Bertie (b. 1841), Alice (b. 1843), Affie (b. 1844), Helena (b. 1846), Louise (b. 1848), Arthur (b. 1850), Leopold (b.1853) and Beatrice (b. 1857).

I'm enjoying reading about the Victorian era. Now I'm waiting on the arrival of a book called, How To Be A Victorian: A Dawn-To-Dusk Guide To Victorian Life, written by the historian, Ruth Goodman. But make no mistake, I don't wish to be a Victorian, only to learn about the era and how people lived at the time. 


There are lessons for us in submerging ourselves in history. Nonetheless, I'm too much of a diva ever to endure such harsh times. I need hot running water and indoor plumbing at all times. Also, keep your mitts off my blow dryer and spandex, mister


Now that women can vote, own property and earn money, there's no going back.



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Monday, April 24, 2017

Garnier Whole Blends Smoothing Shampoo And Conditioner Coconut Oil & Cocoa Butter Extracts


Weighing price, convenience and effectiveness, I lean towards organic personal care products. When it makes sense, I switch from drugstore brands to products with cleaner, organic ingredients. It's difficult to go totally orgainic, but we can be mindful to reduce the amount of chemicals we use in our beauty products.

Most shampoos will clean your hair just fine, but the commericial hair conditioners still work better than any organic conditioner I have tried. Plus, the mass produced name brands of shampoos and conditions are less expensive than many organic brands. If you wash your hair every day, it's worth considering how much money to wash down the drain. Will it be pennies, or dollars? Sometimes it's worth the extra cost, sometimes it is not.
Photo credit: Jacqui Writes
I always return to the drugstore brands of hair conditioners. Recently I tried Ganier Whole Blends Smoothing Shampoo and Conditioner Coconut Oil & Cocoa Butter Extracts. Forumulated with South Pacific coconut oil and African cocoa butter extracts, the shampoo and condition tames and smooths hair. It has a clean, coconut scent and leaves a shine. Thankfully, both shampoo and conditioner are paraben-free and gentle for daily use.

While it is always wise to check ingredients, drugstores are responding to customer demands for better, safer ingredients. For the price, effectiveness and hair sans frizz, I recommend this new Garnier forumula. Try it, you'll like it! 

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Introducing Lori's Shoes Of Chicago




Lori's Shoes Of Chicago is a fabulous find! Launced in 1983 in a vacant storefront on Armitage Avenue by Lori Andre, the entrepreneur has two passions: shoes and gourmet cooking. Thirty-four years (and three sons) later, her business now includes several other brick and mortar stores, as well as, a thriving website. 

Moreover, Lori's business model remains the same: Offer fashionable, high-quality shoes that customers won't find elsewhere at affordable prices. The retailer's shoe buyers select styles from small factories in Italy that are new, fresh and fashion-forward, but not so bizarre and aggressive as to be impractical. 
'
Some of the shoes are made in the very same factories as well-known couture brands, but Lori's Shoe stock is aimed for people who don't spend $1,000+ on footwear, yet still covet well-made shoes.

As reported in The Chicago Tribute, her top selling brands include Bernie Mev, Jeffrey Campbell, Franco Sarto, Sam Edlelman and many contemporary brands. The inventory now includes some apparel and accessories also.

Personally, I scored a sleek pair of leather sports ballet flats for $29 (+$8 shipping). With great arch support and athletic rubber soles, they are marked down from $100. What a steal!


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Easter Holiday

Easter is this Sunday ... and not a moment too soon. Old Man Winter begone! On the Western Hemisphere, it's symbolic how Easter arrives as spring begins. In the west, we have persevered through another cold, harsh winter when nothing grows, and now can look forward to sunny days as a new cycle of life begins.
Christianity recognizes that not all is right in the world. Both good and evil exist. There is much suffering and injustice on earth. In fact, history is a solemn record of hard times marked by hunger, disease, death, natural disasters and political unrest, etc. But Easter reminds us to look at the big picture. Find the light at the end of the tunnel. With perseverance, good can ... and will overcome evil.
Explaining why evil exists is difficult, and yet without strife, there is often no growth. I have heard it said, we learn as much from our hardships and failures as we do from our successes. Easter reminds us to look on the bright side of life! Be positive. Have hope. Opt to do good. Keep striving, and never give up! 

A Happy Easter! Likewise, a Blessed Passover. ðŸŒ·ðŸŒ»ðŸŒº

River Jordan 
The Secret Sisters
'Go to the river Jordan', said the prophet to the king
'Wash in that murky water seven times and you'll be clean'
Yeah, that deep rollin' river's gonna make you new and whole
And the faith acquired of you will save your soul
Let's go down to the river, raise our voices in prayer
And get ourselves a snow white robe to wear
Take away the earthly stains, remove each and every one
In the name of the Father and the Son
Jesus said to John the Baptist, bury me in that cold grave
Made of Jordan's icy water, I will show you all the way
And a light came down from Heaven saying this is My Own Son
And I sure am please with what has just been done
Let's go down to the river, raise our voices in prayer
And get ourselves a snow white robe to wear
Take away the earthly stains, remove each and every one
In the name of the Father and the Son

I'm looking for the river Jordan, that old life giving stream
Within its waves of mercy sweet forgiveness ever teamed
I'm a weary broken soul living in a house of clay
And that river's gonna wash my sins away
Let's go down to the river, raise our voices in prayer
And get ourselves a snow white robe to wear
Take away the earthly stains, remove each and every one
In the name of the Father and the Son ... Bury me, river Jordan
Songwriters: Laura Elizabeth Rogers / Lydia Lane Rogers
River Jordan lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.


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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Inge Christopher Makes Cute Party Bags


To be honest, I only own 3 party bags. One was a gift, the second a hand-me-down from my mother and and the third one, I bought for under $50. And ... I can't claim to personally own a costly clutch purse, made of silk, or decorated with glittery Swarovski crystals. But that doesn't stop me from recognizing beauty when I see it. 

Inge Christopher makes some fine party purses! You will pay 3 to 6 times more than what I paid for mine, but will get upscale silk, snakeskin, leather, metal or wood, as well as, eye catching embellishments. If you're always partying, you can justify the greater expense as an investment. 
Many of the clutches are designed to hold an iphone, and there is a wide selection of materials, shapes and styles. I picked a few of my favorites. As you can see, I tend to stick with a classic style, but you might like something more unique like the Luma Mini Tote.

When putting on the Ritz, most of us want to look our swanky best, which just might include a quality, durable clutch! Let's take away some style tips from Inge Christopher. We can either search for a budget-friendly knockoff, or better yet, catch a sale on one of these lovely bags!


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