Wednesday, December 19, 2018

5 Gifts For New York City Lovers

Judging by the numbers, people love New York City.🏩 It happens to be the most popular U.S. tourist destination. Chances are you know people who enjoy coming to the city. According to EscapeHere, "any season, for any reason, New York has it all!" So for those on your shopping list who are in a New York state of mind, here are 5 charming Gotham themed gift ideas:

1) The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings - For NYC + art lovers: A lavishly illustrated book, with history and descriptions of 500 masterpieces in the Met's iconic collection. There are a slew of other art books and museum gifts on the institution's website.

2) Godinger Silver Art Empire State and Chrysler Building Bottle Stoppers - For NYC + wine lovers: Made of nickle plate.
3) Subway Map Onesie - For NYC lovers + new parents of an infant (as babies don't really want anything): Comes in 3 colors - blue, pink and black.
4) New York Library Lion Bookends - For NYC + book lovers: The famous lion statues on 5th Avenue at 42nd Street watch over Bryant Park, and they have names, Patience and FortitudeThe bookends are carved of pink Tennessee marble laying on bases of Milford granite.
5) NYC MetroCard Charm and chain - For NYC + jewelry lovers: Available in sterling silver, or 14K gold vermeil.

These  New York City themed gifts are fun for natives and visitors alike! I was given the wine stoppers at the end of a gala dinner. They are cute and made to last.

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Sweets And Treats As Holiday Gifts

Some people are difficult to buy gifts for because they really don't need anything, or we are unsure of their tastes. For these folks I select delicious treats I'd be delighted to receive. If I don't know what you want, I'll get you what I want, (and ha, maybe you'll share it with me!😋) Here are 5 additional gifts to consider:

1) Dark chocolate Belgium truffles (see above↑) would probably top my list. A special treat at Christmas when visions of sugar plums are dancing in our heads!
2) Dark chocolate is also perfection combined with a thick layer of white chocolate and pieces of peppermint. Williams-Simona offers their peppermint bark starting in November. Select dark, or milk chocolate.
A refreshing and irresistible candy; and this year you can personalize the tin, if you wish. Putting a name on the tin adds an $8 charge.
3) With cookies and sweets in abundance, a gift of deluxe nuts is a lovely change ... and healthy. This salty snack may last into the New Year.
4) A box of chocolate covered Oreos is another holiday gift idea. You can either purchase them finished; or buy Oreos, dip them into melted Baker's chocolate and box them yourself for less money, depending on how busy and industrious you are. Cheapest price/but for 5 lbs at
5) The last gift idea is a box of good ole American Russell Stover Chocolate Covered Nuts selling at your local drugstore. As a child, I often got a box for Christmas. A winning combination of milk chocolate and nuts, and the quality of the chocolate is good (which unforturnately isn't always true of American chocolate).

All are gifts people can share with family and friends during the holidays. A hostess needs lots of tasty snacks to welcome extra people into their home, so thoughtful gifts, indeed!

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Feel The Warmth With KuSan Kits

Still looking for that perfect gift to put under the Christmas tree? Wool hats, gloves and scarves are popular for a reason. Winter is coming!

As temperatures drop, the folks on your holiday list might like to feel the warmth of handmade knitted accessories. KuSan is a merchant of warm knitts, whose offices; design studio; and warehouses are based in North London. The wool used comes from New Zealand; and the items, which also include knitted bags and rugs, are ethically made in Nepal. 

Hand knitters receive fair wages and work humane hours within safe, caring environments. Workers are offered participation in collective bargaining; free association; sufficient breaks; and free staff food. Many have stayed with the company since it began 18 years ago. Since the launch, the company's reputation has grown!

All goods are produced using eco-friendly and substainable practises. 

KuSan sells its woolly goods from London's skate parks to chic boutiques across Europe. Here in the USA customers can find them on Ebay and occassionally at T.J. Maxx. The quality is high end, yet the cost is low.

Super cute style, lovingly handcrafted and affordable, the hats, gloves and scarves are 100% wool and fleece lined. Plus, the retailer is always innovating and updating its collection. I bought a pair of colorful, striped mittens!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Why A Baby Sleeps in A Cardboard Box

The practice of using baby boxes instead of cribs for sleeping started in Finland (in the 1930s), then took off in the UK before being introduced in the U.S. As it turns out, Finland has one of the lowest infant death rates from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) in the world since beginning their baby box initiative. The country provides them for all new parents to take home with their infants as they leave the hospital.

To reduce SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends letting infants sleep in the same room as parents (but not in the same bed) for the 1st six months.
Each cardboard baby box comes with a mattress and fitted sheet. Sometimes retailers include a load of baby essentials like diapers, baby wipes and onesies. California, New Jersey and Ohio have become the first states to sponsor programs to give free baby boxes to expectant and new mothers.

The baby box is easy to move to different rooms for babies to play in, or take naps. Babies should sleep on their backs with all objects removed from the box. A great Christmas gift for expecting parents, perhaps? 
I have to say, I'd still buy a proper crib to elevate the infant overnight. (I mean, what if you have a flood, or a pet?), but use the box to move the baby from room to room and for out-of-town stays. It goes to show how "proper" can be simple without expensive bells and whistles. A nod to Finland! (My mother once said: "Buying a bassinet is a waste of money, since a baby outgrows it after a few months.")

Amazon and Walmart offer baby boxes as sets with starter clothes. As you can see, pink for girls; blue for boys. Thoughtful gift, no?

Perhaps I'm writing this blog to have a reason to post this adorable baby photo. Jokingly I sometimes tell friends when the subject of children or puppies arise, I'm at a mind and point where I no longer want to bring anything home that poops.🙂 Still I like seeing and buying gifts for little ones! Nowadays, I'm a great, Aunt Debbie. And, as we know, it takes a village to raise children.

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Christmas Cactus or Poinsettia?

Photo: theseedhouse via Etsy
I won't lie. I stopped buying Christmas flowers a few years ago. I've killed too many potted poinsettias to hope they will last after Christmas. Are they meant to live? Because, they don't! The light, temperature and moisture are likely all wrong in a Manhattan apartment for them to thrive. Still their bright red blossoms are beautiful, indeed!

Some sources claim that a Christmas cactus is hardy compared to the more delicate poinsettia. Certainly, they are lovely too. Just like poinsettias, they have the same contrast of vivid green and red Christmas colors. Here is how to care for the latter in case you're looking for holiday plants.

What's more if you lack a green thumb, there's no shame in settling on an artificial plant. Perhaps they can't fully replace real flowers, yet some arrangements can fool you, short of a close inspection. For me, buying a couple of sprigs from Michael's, a NYC art and craft's store, turns the trick, and after the season I store them away with the rest of my Christmas decorations.

What I love about decorating for Christmas is, there are many ways to deck the halls. Everybody has their own tradition. Do you buy potted plants? Christmas cactus, or poinsettia?? 
Photo: 1-800-flowers

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

5 Beauty Gift Ideas

If you have makeup loving friends -- who either wear it daily, or want to, have I got 5 thoughtful and affordable gifts for you to consider. Each one has good ingredients wrapped up in a clever presentation sure to please your recipients. The first up is:

1) The Color Workshop Brilliant Beauty Classic Glamour Makeup Palette (above) - 41 everything you need cosmetics: 18 eyeshadows, 12 lip glosses, 2 blushes, 1 contour, 1 lip primer, 1 eye primer, powder highlighters, 3 lipsticks -- all housed inside a fancy locking, black train case equipped with a mirror and carrying handle. $9.88.
2) The Color Workshop Nail Pail Nail Polish Gift Set - 15 essential items: 9 wearable nail polish colors,  3 tubs of fun glitter powder, 2 toe separators -- it comes in a sleek, keepsake storage pail. $9.88.
3) Real Techniques Neon Lights Brush Set -  Nearly all women have basic makeup brushes. A few extras in a set (your friend may not have) makes a lovely gift: 5 professional pieces: buffing brush, smugging brush, shadow brush, contour fan brush, plus a complexion blending sponge. These brushes are multi-taskers, so this set either supplements, or upgrades the cosmetic brushes your friend already owns. $13.99. Pretty brush handles to boot!

4) L'Oréal Paris Colour Riche La Palette Lip, $8 - $10 and Maybelline New York Lip Studio Lip Color Palette, $5 - $8 - depending on seller - The quality of L'Oréal and Maybelline lipsticks are top notch. Customers rarely do better even paying 4 to 5 times more for designer lipstick, so why do it? For much less, you can buy your friend both palettes, so she has 16 new beautiful and wearable colors to try.
5) EOS Lip Balm 3-Pack Limited Edition Collection - I bought myself this lip balm set last Christmas. This year they are back!  - Contains beeswax, Shea butter, jojoba oil, olive oil, coconut oil and other moisturizing ingredients in peppermint, ginger and holiday flavors to keep your lips smooth and conditioned during dry seasons. $10.63 for 3.

Festive, useful and affordable gift sets your makeup maven friends can enjoy all year long. Plus, you might be tempted to treat yourself! At these prices, why not?

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Inside A Snow Globe With Santa At Bloomingdale's

On Black Friday I walked to Bloomingdale's to see their Christmas display. There were not many decorations compared to years past, when ornaments and trees took up half the floor. But they had a giant snow globe, and a lovely young lady asked me to step inside of it to have my picture taken with Santa. Sooo I did. (#Bloomies59) The day was very cold outside, and I am bundled up in layers, plus a goose down coat. It's hood was pulled up outside that day.
Photo: Associated Press (click to enlarge)  - The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lite tonight.
During the Christmas season, I try to go to Macy's and Saks 5th Avenue also to see who is selling the most beautiful ornaments. Then there's a stroll over to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree, as well as, a stroll up and down 5th Avenue to gaze at store windows. St. Patrick's Cathedral will have a huge Nativity Scene, garland, white lights and poinsettias all over the church.

Let the holiday season begin! Have you, Dear Readers, bought any gifts yet?

Extra Tip: Don't miss the beautiful tree covered in blue lights a block away from Bloomingdale's at Bloomberg news.
The surronding trees are about 12 feet tall. The center one is several office floors tall.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

My Chocolate Pudding With Oreo Cookies

Photo: Fine Cooking
Chocolate pudding is delicious. Oreo cookies are good too. And, chocolate covered Oreos are divine, likely the nectar of the Gods. What if all three ingredients were out driving late one night and crashed into each other, and you could eat them? Well, a vision becomes an easy dessert:

Chocolate Pudding - homemade is the best!

Ingredients for pudding:

4 cups milk
2 eggs
3-4 tablespoons dark cocoa or cacao powder (You can substitute dark chocolate bars, or Baker's chocolate.)
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) cornstarch (You can substitute all-purpose flour, but make sure to simmer for 5 minutes so the flour doesn't taste raw.)
pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Extras - after you make the pudding: 

Oreo cookies
Chocolate chips, or dark chocolate shavings

Directions to make the pudding:

1) Add all ingredients to a saucepan. Everything goes into cold milk and whisk.

2) Once the ingredients are incorporated, turn on the heat on a stove top. 

3) Keep whisking and beating until it boils and thickens, which only takes a few minutes after simmering begins. Whisk the entire time to keep it smooth!

Pudding is so simple to make, I never buy pudding mix in a box. If you have a box in your cupboard, improve the taste by adding 2 eggs to the ingredients. After using it up, never buy it again. Instead, make pudding from scratch. (For vanilla pudding, bump up the vanilla extract and leave out the cocoa.)

3) After it thickens, pour into pudding cups.

I eat half my pudding warm (because I'm no better than a child. I love hot pudding as a winter comfort dinner) and refrigerate the other half.

Directions continued (after pudding is made):

4) If you have the self control to wait, line a dessert dish with Oreo cookies and alternate with pudding and chocolate shavings.

5) Refrigerate to chill and serve.

Optional Step 6: If you don't mind going one step further, separate your eggs, using the yolks to make your pudding and save the egg whites to beat into a meringue (add a tablespoon of sugar to it). Top off your chocolate pudding, chocolate chips (or shavings) and Oreos with meringue, then brown it in the oven (or use a kitchen torch), before chilling in the refrigerating. Garnish the very top with more chocolate shavings or cookie bits if you like. (Oh my goodness, the wait! The wait! Only for the strong and patient who have not already eaten half the pudding!)

Photo: thecookingchicks

Ok, I won't lie, I only make this layered dissert for dinner guests, but not for just me, myself and I. Moreover, when I layer the chocolate pudding with Oreos and chocolate chips, I double the amount of pudding, or what would my guests eat ... my portion?😋

Easy-peasy, tasty chocolate pudding!

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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving From The Mandarin Duck

Each of us can find something to be thankful for, often it's our good health and a comfortable home. Family, friends and the kindness of people we meet. A positive attitude is a blessing. At times life will take a bad turn, but a positive attitude can help us navigate through stresses and challenges until things get better. And ... be thankful for the small stuff!
New York City's newest resident, the Mandarin Duck, with his colorful feathers and bright pink beak, is a native of China. Nobody knows how he got to the pond in Central Park. Did he escape, or did someone put him there? He gets along with the other ducks, doesn't seem to mind the cold and has made himself at home. A gift to the city, and we love him!
Photo: Richmond Mom
Like you, today I will likely stuff myself with turkey, dressing and healthy sides including: green beans, asparagus, carrots, butternut squash, cranberries and of course, pumpkin pie. I like fresh and  healthy foods, so never feel deprived or guilty when eating plenty of them.

From our home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving all!🦃     

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Library of Flowers By Margot Elena

If you need to buy gifts for people whose tastes you are unsure of, a small batch perfumery may be the answer. 
Margot Elena offers a portfolio of beauty, bath & body, body accessories and yards of floral fabric under the brand names: Library of Flowers, Lollia, The Cottage Greenhouse, Love & Toast and TokoyoMilk. Truly, there's something to make most everyone feel pampered and special. The retailer kicks personal care products up a notch with luxury ingredients, clean and floral scents and beautiful packaging. 
Personally, I rarely buy or wear perfume, but I do use soap, body lotion, hand cream, lip balm and skin care daily. For friends who sew, the darling fabrics are attractive and cheerful. Good smelling candles for someone's home is a thoughtful gift too.

Despite not knowing every little thing about a person, these types of gifts make a good impression. They should be a hit with people you know well, or not.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Find Something Gorgeous At Macy's Like Fine Jewelry

1) topaz with diamonds; 2) amethyst with diamonds; 3) pearls
It's the time of the year (again!) for me to feature a few awesome retailers and gift ideas to make your holiday shopping easy! You really can't go wrong at Macy's as the department store offers choice galore for every budget. Plus it has a long history of fantastic customer service. 
4) Tanzanites; 5) emeralds; 6) diamonds 
To be honest, it's not concierge customer service, but as an independent shopper, I'm ok with that. When I do need to ask a sales associate to help me, I always find them to be knowledgeable and honest about their wares. Plus the merchant strives to make things right if something goes wrong after you buy it, an invaluable trait. 

7) amethyst with diamonds; 8) blue sapphires with diamonds; 9) pink sapphires with diamonds
Today's blog features mid-priced jewelry made of real stones and 14k gold (with one silver medal ... the amethyst ring above left) you might consider for your mother, sister or daughter. Far from dirt cheap (as you may have to save up a few paychecks) yet they are affordable and durable gifts that should last a lifetime. 

As longtime readers know, I'm a fan of Macy's fine jewelry because jewelry is rarely an investment. Short of being the estate of Elizabeth Taylor or Queen Elizabeth II, you will rarely be able to resell your jewelry for the price you paid for it. Moreover, at Macy's never buy their jewelry at full price, but wait for a rock bottom promotion (such as Black Friday, Friends & Family Sales, Limited-Time-Specials)!

10) onyx, emeralds and diamonds; 11) rolls of pearls; 12) topaz, amethyst, topaz, citrine with diamonds
Macy's online customer associates offer excellent assistance too. I have telephoned them many times to help buy gifts. And, recently they helped me select a bed mattress with their information and tips. (After narrowing the possibilities, I visited the Herald's Square store knowing what mattresses to try for hardness.)

For this blog, I went online to the fine jewelry department category, selecting "sales", "clearance" and "last act" to pull up this array of gift ideas. Some are classic pieces, while others are modern or whimsical -- something to suite every taste and  occasion. The sparklers are: diamonds, sapphires (blue and pink), emeralds, amethysts, topaz (blue), Tanzanites (violet-blue), and citrine (orange).

13) diamonds; 14) diamonds; 15) emeralds with diamonds
I've had instances in a jewelry store when a total stranger asks me to help him select a piece of jewelry for his girlfriend. What a sweet jesture that he's there, I always think and am delighted to assist! I LOVE buying jewelry! I have also taken a 20-something man to Macy's to get his paramount a piece. I start by asking him for a range of what he wishes to spend, followed by the type of jewelry and stones she likes to wear. I ask what her favorite color is and what metals she tends to wear. If you know these answers, you'll get something she likes. There's less choice when buying men jewelry, but I have no doubt I could find the perfect piece! At Macy's the sales associates are very helpful ... and I find truthful.

Do you have a favorite? What do you wear more often ... earrings, rings or necklaces?

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