Friday, October 18, 2019

My Loaded Potatoes Quick Meal

Salad as a meal, never!
Sometimes I don't want to cook because of the clean-up ... due to laziness; a long hot summer, or the lack of time. It's when I turn to quick meals. My latest quick meal is Loaded Potatoes

The recipe changes slightly depending upon what I have in my refrigerator at the time. I'll list the ingredients I often use as a guide. But feel free to toss in leftover meats, or vegetables you have, or love. You can oven bake the potatoes 1st, scrape out the insides, then smash and mix the filling with melted butter and cream and stuff it back on top of its skin. But, I'm not going to lie, I don't take the time, as the Loaded Potatoes are no longer a low-fat, quick meal. And isn't the point of coming up with a quick meal, not to go through the extra steps? So I've learned to like: 

Microwaved Loaded Potatoes


1 baking potato (or 2-3 small potatoes from a 5 lb bag)
1/2 cup broccoli, fresh, or frozen
ham, diced (or crumbled crispy bacon)
1 carrot microwaved tender, then sliced (Often I skip this step of microwaving the carrot 1st and simply slice it as thin as possible -- it gets tender enough for me to eat.)
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/4 of an onion, diced
Mexican salsa (or Italian tomato sauce)
Salt, pepper and spice to taste
Extra sharp cheddar cheese

Optional: Whatever else you have in the refrigerator: mushrooms, red peppers, garlic cloves, etc.


1) Microwave the potato(es) until done. It takes 5 - 8 minutes, depending on the size and how many potatoes you use. Poke with a fork to test for softness. Lay in a bowl and slice and dice them. I leave the skin on to eat as it has lots of nutrients too. I don't do so, but if you wish to mash the potatoes and add butter and cream, this is the time to do it.

2) Toss the other vegetables and meats on top and distribute evenly. Microwave for 1-2 more minutes. Add minutes of time at this stage to tenderize the vegetables.

3) Salt, pepper and spice to taste with dried garlic, onion powder, red pepper flakes and other dried green leaf spices.

4) Pour on the sauce of your choice: Mexican salsa, or Italian tomato sauce.

5) Top with a generous portion of cheddar cheese. (If I use Italian tomato sauce, I might switch to Mozzarella and  sprinkle on 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese instead of using cheddar. But sharp cheddar is good with tomato sauce too.)

6) Microwave for another 1-2 minutes to get the cheese hot and bubbly.

As you see, homemade meals can be fresh, quick, easy, balanced and as healthy as you wish! After dinner all you need to wash is a bowl, cutting board and a few utensils, and you're done.😊

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Trendy Faux Fur Coats

All photos: Nordstrom - Apparis Sophie faux fur coat
THE SAVVY SHOPPER is fashion heavy this month since designers launch their fall collections. As I browse department stores and Madison Avenue windows I see how trendy faux fur coats and jackets are this fall. Every fashion house seems to have faux fur in their collection! 

Know that the price is not always cheaper than real animal furs, nor the fad necessarily better for the environment. The reasons are a couple: Many big designer names make faux fur out of acrylic and polyester -- synthetic fibers constructed from plastics, which take 500 - 1000 years to biodegrade. Another reason is real fur lasts for 60 - 70 years and can be recycled by passing them down to a younger generation to wear. Here is a worthwhile article to read which explains the real fur verses fake fur dilemma.
Designers: 1) Bardot; 2) Avec les Filles animal print; 3) Sam Edelman; 4) Rachel Parcell grooved jacket

When I was in my 20s I thought for a benchmark (50? or 60? year) birthday I'd buy a mink coat to keep warm, but after I got my goose down coat, the need and desire for mink evaporated. Also winters in America are less harsh than years ago. How many days would I actually wear it? Fortunately my practice is to let myself want big ticket items for a while. Too often instant gratification results in money spent unwisely on wasted purchases

But frankly, I still think fur coats look rich and stylish, but I'm a practical gal (over an image gal) who tends to buy goods based on needs, as well as, sustainability.
Topshop boxy faux fur coat
Originally faux fur appeared to be a great compromise, and I'm still tempted to buy a faux fur neck wrap/warmer to get the mink look. (No way do I need another winter coat.)
Teddy faux fur coat designed especially for Nordstrom
Considering the faux fur dilemma, should I buy a neck wrap? Doing the right thing means weighing benefits and drawbacks.  Now I'm not as hot to buy one. Hm, what will I do if it stares me in the face at T.J. Maxx? How do you feel about faux fur?

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Monday, October 7, 2019

The Marriage of Charles II And Catherine of Braganza

I recommend all 3 biographies as scholarly in understanding history. The middle bio is drier; while the 2 books on the ends explain Charles II's character and are written with more flair. Don't let the "King's Bed" title fool you into thinking it is not a serious bio. Paramours are expertly fleshed out and connected to explain the King, events and the royal court.
Recently I found myself back in Stuart England. My desire was to learn more about the life of Catherine of Braganza, who married King Charles II, becoming the Queen of England. Unable to find a comprehensive biography on her, I turned to bios of the King.
What a complicated royal court the new Queen found herself joining and was powerless to change. It would not be wrong to say, Charles II was a rake, a predator with royal pimps and powerful mistresses, and yet, unlike the bloodthirsty Tudor kings (such as Henry VIII), he had something of a heart. Although he neglected his wife too often, when necessary, Charles II also protected her (from statesmen in the realm who hated her due to her Catholicism). What's more, the King refused to divorce his Queen because she couldn't produce an heir, as well as, recognized and took care of his 12 illegitimate children by 5 of his (I lost count!) powerful mistresses. He gave each titles, property and wealth* [funded from taxes and bribes paid by France's Louis XIV via an ultra secret treaty].

I have no idea how Queen Catherine coped with her flawed husband who lived (his princely, then kingly) life exactly as he pleased. When first married, she tried to object, but couldn't change the libertine life that characterized the Stuart court at Whitehall, so she had no choice but to accept and make the best of her humiliating circumstances.

King Charles II was a 17th century Don Draper, a cad, who you still like (in spite of yourself) ... I suppose because you see him as debauched, but not evil. After a happy start in life, followed by the beheading of his father, Charles I, he was one of the few kings to live outside the privileged walls of a castle, without money, position, or stability and among the local folk before the Restoration of the English Monarchy in 1660. As the restored King of England, Scotland and Ireland, he was generous, charming, self-depreciating, well-intentioned and had unfailingly good manners. He became a popular king in England. He had flashes of temper, or coldness, but usually could control it. Unlike some kings, he wasn't petty, nor vindictive. He loved reading unflattering criticism about himself and laughed along with it.
May 29, 1630 - February 6, 1685
For all his faults, Charles II is difficult to hate. There are times the King showed genuine courage, decency and loyalty. Author Christina Croft shared the following with me: "I recall one book about her [Queen Catherine] that portrayed so beautifully her terror that she was about to be arrested for her beliefs [Catholicism]. She was led before the King and, to her amazement and that of the court, he stepped down and took her hand in a show of affection and solidarity. It was very moving to read ... that one episode enabled me to forgive all his misdemeanours!! I also like the way he threw off his jacket and got to work with all the other people trying to put out the Great Fire of London [1666]."

Charles II had a soft spot for his illegitimate children, another of his admirable traits.

Still your heart goes out to the sheltered, convent-raised Portuguese Princess who left her home to became his Queen, and you wonder what might have been ... without all the stress and nonsense of the Stuart court. Portugal sent a very classy daughter to England. She was intelligent, religious, kind and fun-loving when given a chance. She had a talent for acting, dancing and athletics. Catherine of Braganza is credited with introducing the practice of drinking tea in England. Charles II grew fond of her, and she remained devoted to him, despite the fact he was never at any time faithful to her. Not only did he have multiple courtesans and casual flings, his serious mistresses along with their bastard children, were flaunted within his court, as well as, openly in public. His philandering brought sadness and isolation into her life.
November 25, 1638 - December 31, 1705

Queen Catherine had 4 miscarriages and stillborn children. Nobody can really know why she couldn't carry her babies to term, but as it turns out, the Queen was given quinine by 17th century doctors, which is known to cause miscarriages. Also the stress of having powerful wenches and their bastards in her face; the worry of being tossed out by divorce; and having little say in her own court, couldn't have helped matters in the least. Then there were the sexual transmitted diseases, including syphilis the King and his French mistress, Louise deKèrouaille (who caught "the pox" from him), were known to have been treated for in 1674. Miraculously the Queen is not known to have contracted the disease. 

But could she have caught other viruses effecting childbearing? We will never know ... but perhaps Charles II's hedonism was a factor in his own lack of a legitimate heir. He alone was responsible for his lubricious court. Queen Catherine remained a treasure ... her integrity and benevolence in tact. It is speculated that the King never divorced his Queen partially out of guilt.

The book, The Kings Bed, depicts Charles II as a clever and shrewd King, but mentions that some historians reason, he was "a man who never truly grew up" ... perhaps "his problems steamed from the violent death of his father and the subsequent years of his enforced exile." The King's "contemporaries agreed, his time in France [in the court of his cousin Louis XIV] corrupted him." Modern psychiatrist Dr. Paul Harlow thinks Charles suffered from "arrested emotional development stuck irredeemably in adolescence," listing several symptoms, including his "avoidance of emotional mature relationships and the need for endless female couplings ... In his formative years he lost the close contact of a mature male figure, leading him to 'Don Juan syndrome,' a condition in which a man fails to take charge of his life in an adult, mature way." Also toss in the factor: As absolute ruler, Charles received a pass from the expectation of following normal, social behavior. Accepting moral responsibility for his pleasure dome lifestyle "didn't come into play." 
According to the same book, Charles isn't viewed as a psychopath as "he enjoyed life too much and engaged in it too well to be a psychopath." Moreover the authors observe: "Whatever his failings ... Charles carried himself well enough throughout his life, usually with good humor and with a good word for the humblest of his subjects, though he cared little about them. ... Generally speaking, as long as he got his way, he was congeniality itself."

Furthermore, his erotic and parasitic behavior cut the monarchy down to size. For his subjects it "broke the spell" of the idea of divine monarchy. Majesty -- or ''greatness of God" was forever after seen as less majestic and more human.

On Queen Catherine's final visit to her husband's deathbed in 1685, she was overcome with grief and tears. The Queen half-fainted in response to his suffering, as well as, his tenderness towards her and had to be carried back to her own rooms. She sent back a note asking Charles to forgive her if she had offended him. To which the dying King replied, "Poor woman, she begs my pardon! I beg hers with all my heart."
Here again you wonder what might have been. The actor, Jon Hamm who played and knew Don Draper so well, always maintained that while his character was distinguished in his professional life, he was a coward in his private life. Was Charles II a coward also? 

A question scholars always ask is: What of his early promise went unfulfilled, due to his duplicity and need of a huge purse?

If Charles had put his energy into what should have been his most important intimate relationship, his marriage (and cared more about statesmanship) in lieu of a pleasure-seeking court, what an influential team the outwardly Protestant King and his capable Catholic Queen might have been in England at a time of fierce religious intolerance. Perhaps, just perhaps the Stuarts would be remembered as the dynasty that brought the country back together ... and is it possible the Stuarts would still be sitting on the throne today? We can only wonder.
As head of the Church of England, King Charles II was a pragmatist. In private, he sympathized with the religion so many of the people around him (his Queen, brother, James, his courtesans) followed. On his deathbed he willingly converted to Catholicism. He died bravely, remaining congenial to the end. The cause of death was probably a stroke ... but possibly accidental mercury poisoning from experiments in his windowless lab at Whitehall.

Later in life ... years after the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary (1688), the widowed Catherine of Braganza returned to Portugal to successfully act as regent for her brother, Peter II ... where she died in 1705.👑

*Charles gave his mistresses the rights to the proceeds from certain government taxes collected, or the King's pardons. For example Louise deKèrouaille got the money from prisoners who paid bribes to be pardoned - a practice at the time. Many were in jail because they couldn't pay their debts. If they couldn't pay her, she then sold the prisoners into indentured servitude for $3 - $12 a head, and they were shipped off to Virginia as slaves effectively, making her and her descendants rich.

At times mistresses, Barbara Villiers and Louise deKèrouaille, were able to crush politicians who dared to criticize their influence on the King, then were given their properties (now lost to the heirs of the ousted men). They broke the property up and sold it increasing their own wealth. Barbara Villiers "borrowed" jewelry from the Crown, but in her hands, the pieces became gifts. Charles II did nothing, so Queen Catherine was powerless.

Interesting fact: Prince William will be the 1st direct descendant ever of Charles II -- 350 years later -- to sit on the British throne. His mother, Diana Princess of Wales was a direct descendant of 2 rival mistresses: Barbara Villiers and Louise deKèrouaille. Camilia, Duchess of Cornwall and Sarah, Duchess of York are also direct descendents of Charles II through Louise deKèrouaille. It's one big happy illegitimate family! But we're cool with Prince William and company. Heaven forbid if we never let bygones be bygones and had to atone for all our ancestors. Hopefully we can look at history without judging innocent people who try to live meaningful lives.

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Thursday, October 3, 2019

Lilysilk Clothing, Bedding And Accessories

Natural fabrics rule as they are stylish, comfortable, durable and often affordable. Lilysilk offers silk dry goods, including clothing (like tops, dresses, trousers and blazers); accessories (such as scarves, under garments, or hair ties) and bedding (for example pillowcases, sheets and bedspreads).

Lilysilk also sells a smattering of cashmere and wools.
By definition, a savvy shopper is a curated buyer, so lacking a Paris Hilton trust fund, each of us must decide how to spend our money. In my case, I'd add a lovely silk blouse, dress, blazer, or scarf to my wardrobe; but forgo the expense of silk pillowcases, sheets, or pajamas, in other works, items needing frequent washings. I'm fine with cotton PJ's and bedding I can mindlessly machine wash and dry; but, will spring for a versatile piece of clothing such as a brazer to pair with all my trousers for work or dress-up. But everybody is different, so know your own budget and needs!

In addition to quality merchandise that customers love, the retailer provides excellent customer service: from fast deliveries; to lovely packaging and presentation. Also  customizing certain wares like pillowcases is available.

Lilysilk as a fabulous place to go for a wardrobe staple, splurge or special gift.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Elie Tahari Women's Apparel Fall 2019

Elie Tahari Dominica Zebra Print Dress
I got invited to an Elie Tahari "Meet and Greet" at Bloomingdales, so I went. There was a short runway show at the end of an interview between the designer and journalist Katie Couric. We learned during the interview that Elie Tahari came to Manhattan in 1971 with $100 in his pocket after serving in the Israeli army because he loved the energy of the city. Where would a melting pot like America be without the energy, creativity and dreams of its immigrants? For better or worst, Tahari is the designer who came up with the tube top.😱 

A few of my favorite frocks from the evening's fashion show are the following👠👗🎩:
The Yenet Skirt on the left is a scene stealer IMO ... fancy and fun. And, the Elissa Sequined Snakeskin Print dress on the right is timeless. It hung slightly longer in length on the leggy model, as well as, on the rack, which is a good thing.
Stud Trim Faux Suede Fit and Flare Dress
Although brown isn't my best color, I like the Dominica Zebra Print Dress (top photo) very much. The (above) Stud Trim Faux Suede Fit and Flare Dress in black is a better color on me. The style of the dress is universally flattering on everybody.
Here are a couple of snaps from the evening: The 1st photo is the interview with the designer to the left and Ms. Couric, who sits on the right. The 2nd photo shows a quick flash of a model wearing a silver evening gown.

Looks like black will never go out of style, nor will animal/snake prints!

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Collection

Olay makes anti-aging skincare as good as the luxe brands for less. In fact, with the advanced anti-aging ingredients contained in elixirs from The Ordinary, as well as, other drugstore brands, including L'Orèal and Neutrogena, there is no real need to spend big bucks elsewhere. Not only do drugstore brands start at lower price points, they also go on sale for additional savings!

The Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Collection contains the bonafide ingredients that science says work. The collection hydrates, brightens, evens out skin tone, minimizes pores and smooths the appearance of fine lines and winkles by using a combination of retinol, retinue propionate and vitamin B3. The formula is created to deeply penetrate the skin and encourage quicker skin cell turnover with less irritation.

Do we need more retinol youth lotions and potions on the beauty market? Yes ... yes, we do! Why? Because ... consumers win: More product, competition, selection and savings!

The Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Collection consists of 3 items:

1) Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Moisturizer - Contains retinol, vitamin B3 (a hydrator) and amino peptides. Hydrates the top layer of skin. Apply after serum.

2) Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Serum - Has retinol, vitamin B3 and amino peptides. Serums have smaller molecules and the ability to penetrate deeper layers of skin, the reason we use them. Apply before a moisturizing cream.

3) Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Eye Cream - Contains retinol, vitamin B3 and amino peptides for the sensitive skin around the eyes.

Even at drugstore prices, the cost of skincare adds up. For that reason I recommend buying the serum and moisturizer, but the eye cream only if you have sensitive skin under your eyes requiring a separate cream. The Night Moisturizer is unscented, so many people tolerate it to treat and moisturize their entire face, including the more delicate skin around their eyes.

Bring it on Olay, the more anti-aging skincare the better!

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

NARS & NUDESTIX For Everyday Wear

Nudes are popular for a reason. Wear them to look natural, yet polished ... like yourself only better. Most of my makeup falls into the nude camp. The attraction is intense! At times I buy a lipstick ... in what I think is a beautiful new shade ... get it home only to discover I own one that is nearly a dead ringer. A gorgeous nude has that kind of power over me: Sitting on a shelve in a shop looking so gorgeous, I'll buy it again! (However I'm watching this tendency and am committed to finishing what I have before bringing more home.:)

Nudes are for everyday wear, and what I like most: A nude color palette is low maintenance compared to bold, bright colors like reds or pinks. Nudes will still look great 8 hours later. You won't have to touch up your makeup as often. Enhance your features using nudes and forget about it.

The new Makeup Your Mind NARS palette is a collection of nudes with pizazz. There's sparkle and shimmer in the shades. The nude palette consists of: 3 blushes, 8 eye shadows and a simmering bronzing powder. All are blendable for high impact looks. At $49 (at NARS), it's a worthy splurge.
If looking for a handy, dandy lip color kit, it's here. NUDESTIX just dropped one that includes 3 highly pigmented lip+cheek pencil-crayons: one matte, one cream, and one gel. Containing a super moisturizing formula without stickiness, they come in a sleek mini tin with a mirror and a sharpener. When reasonably priced, I will buy a mini set of an otherwise pricey brand. If not overpriced, you appreciate how the minis fit conveniently into a purse. (But if a ripoff, make space to carry a full size, or find a knockoff brand). Cost of the lip/cheek kit: $25.

When it comes to makeup don't go naked, go nude!

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Pecan Cinnamon Coffee Cake Streusel

With fall arriving on the Western hemisphere, I began to crave a generous slice of coffee cake paired with a delicious, oversized cup of coffee on weekend mornings. But my rule is if I eat such treats, mostly I must make them myself. 

Otherwise I could balloon up to 300 pounds, and thus the reason for my rule: I can eat anything I want as long as I'm willing to make it myself! Make sense? Stops mindless eating. Homemade is often better ... and involves more time.

A browse of my blog's cakes and pastry recipes tells you I like sweets containing cinnamon and nuts. So America's Test Kitchen's Pecan Cinnamon Coffee Cake Streusel hits the cinnamon-nuts spot!  

Since you can watch the recipe being made for free online by registering, I think I can post the ingredients below, plus mention -- the (1) streusel topping and (2) cake batter are made separately blended in a food processor. It is necessary to mix the ingredients in the exact order listed with 4-5 pulses of a food processor. Do not over pulse, nor add ingredients out-of-order in this recipe, or what should be a light and fluffy coffee cake will form glutton resulting in a tough cake. And nobody wants to eat that!

America's Test Kitchen's Pecan Cinnamon Coffee Cake Streusel

Ingredients for the streusel topping:

Toss into a food processor --

1 cup of toasted pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
🥮 Pulse 4-5 times in food processor
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
🥮 Pulse 4-5 times in food processor again. Set aside.

Ingredients for the cake batter:

Toss into a food processor --

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
🥮 Pulse 4-5 times in food processor
The spring form pan I own.

7 tablespoons of soften butter
🥮 Pulse 8-10 times in food processor


1) Watch America's Test Kitchen's video as a thank you to them for creating the recipe for us!

2) After watching ATK, you can return here to my cheat sheet for the ingredients. I watched and jotted them down for you and me to return to time and again.:)

3) You will see how the bakers of America's Test Kitchen pour the cake batter into a 9'' spring form pan.

4) The topping is added from the outer edges first, followed by pouring it in the middle. That way the middle doesn't sink with streusel leaving uneven topping on the edges.

5) Bake at 350 degrees F for 55 - 60 minutes. Wait for the coffee cake to cool before you cut and eat it.

Undoubtedly, you can make the coffee cake with an electric mixer, but ATK made the job quicker with guaranteed light and fluffiness if you follow their directions exactly. 

You can watch AKT for other excellent recipes also!

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

SIRUM Aims To Save Lives With Unused Medicine

Occasionally my doctor gives me a prescription for medicine, and sometimes I have some leftover. I know what not to do with it:

1) Don't stop taking the medicine just because you feel better unless your doctor says it's OK. If she says take it as needed, you can stop when you no longer do. If she puts you on antibiotics for an ear infection, it's important to take it all.

2) Don't toss the extra medicine down the toilet, nor in the trash can, as it ends up in our waterways killing fish and harming the environment.

3) Don't take it upon yourself to share your medicine. You need to go to medical school and understand the medical history of another person to know what's safe.

So what should we do with unused medicine?

Recently I asked my pharmacist if New York state lets him redistribute unopened, unexpired medicine free of charge to patients in need who come in with a prescription they can't afford to fill. Not a surprise, the answer is no.

There is a conundrum in our country: 50 million people in the USA skip their medicine because they can't afford the cost. Moreover, it costs money to destroy medicine, and 70 of our waterways are polluted from pharmaceutical runoff.

Waste, waste, waste! But now there is a solution.

SIRUM (or Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine), is an innovative website started by Stanford University students, which aims "to stop medication waste and save lives" by doing what my pharmacist cannot do. Accept donations from organizations, as well as, individuals and get it to the people who need, but can't afford to buy it.

The nonprofit venture has coordinated a network of medical, administrative and distribution facilities to collect, check, follow state regulations and redistribute the medicine safely and legally.

So whether you need medicine you can't afford, or have medicine you can donate, here is SIRUM's website (and a phone number: 650-488-7434 for questions) to get started.

It's been a goal of mine to find such a resource. So glad it exists!

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