Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sacher-Torte, The Perfect Birthday Cake

Sacher-Torte from the Hotel Sacher, Vienna

My Mother is serious about the coffee and confections she serves.  They have to be great.  So over the years, only she made the coffee in our house.  And, I pity the fool who'd dare to bring a Hostess cupcake to the table.  When birthdays rolled around, you got an old world, European, torte cake -- with dark chocolate, ground nuts, jam, butter, cream ... and candles.  Mom is a good baker, so sometimes she made and decorated these layered cakes in her own kitchen.  At other times we ordered them from a fancy German/Viennese-inspired bakery.  They were always scrumptious and worth every calorie!  It's a birthday tradition I carry on to this day.

A Sacher-Torte consists of two dense layers of chocolate sponge cake, with a thin layer of apricot jam in the center and dark chocolate on the top and sides.  It is rich, but not too sweet.  Three special chocolates produced by three chocolatiers are used to make the chocolate icing.  First baked in 1832 by 16 year old Franz Sacher, the original recipe remains top secret.  But to bake one at home, try this recipe.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Swimsuits, All New Styles

Lands' End, new styles and mix and match combinations
Whether you wear an itsy, bitsy, bikini, or rely on yards of spandex to minimize your imperfections, there's a suit created to flatter your figure.  This season Lands' End, along with other retailers, are swimming in possibilities, making it easier to find a cute suit that's perfect for your body type.  Choose a chic one piece, with all over control, to look a whole size smaller, or select targeted control -- bathing suit separates with slimming panels and push-up bras to give your figure a boost.  Then there's color, patterns and style.  Lands' End offers grecian, demi and halter body suits, plus new “ShapeWear” separates, which provide tummy control, make your legs look longer, or draw the eye up, away from the waist.  You can mix and match tops and bottoms for the most flattering look and fit.  I think Land's End has the best selection of designer quality suits for MEN and WOMEN.  Their entire line of beachwear is adorable, from coverups to water shoes, minus the designer price.  Summer accessories including over-sized towels and canvas snap totes are also available.  Search for sales and free shipping.

If you prefer a bathing suit with glitter and jewels, look no further than Newport News. Stylish stone-trimmed tankinis start at $19.

Looking for sexy and to show off your cleavage and curves?  Try Victoria's Secret Catalog.  Get a bright stripe twist bandeau bikini for just $29, or separates starting at $9.99 and up.

There's a suit for every age, body and budget.  The days are hot, but you can shop for comfort and style ... and look your best.  See you by the water, friends.
Bejeweled at Newport News

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy Father's Day, Some Fun Trivia

I love this picture by Norman Rockwell of a dear old dad sending his son off to college, probably the first in the family to go, and the boy's mom packed him a lunch for the train ride.

While listening to a sermon in her Methodist Church in 1909 about the newly recognized Mother's Day, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington got the idea that there should also be an official day to honor fathers everywhere.  Her father had returned as a Civil War veteran to singlehandedly raise six children.  The first observance of Father's Day occurred the next year on June 13 in her hometown, but it took 63 years for the day to become a national holiday.  

In fact, at first the idea was met with laughter, scorn and satire.  While Mother's Day was greeted with enthusiasm, many felt creating a Father's Day was an attempt to fill up the calendar with mindless holidays.  

It took Lyndon Johnson to designate the third Sunday of June [in 1966] as the day to celebrate fathers in the United States.  And it wasn't signed into law until 1972 by then President Richard Nixon.  Wow, that is recent history!

Countries around the world celebrate Father's Day on different dates. Russia celebrates it on February 23, Sweden and Iceland in mid November, Australia on the first Sunday in September, and Germany on Ascension Day in May.  

It's traditional to wear a red rose to honor a living father and a white rose to remember one who is deceased.  And regardless of country or date, the best gift you can give your dad is your time.  So make Father's Day a great family day.  

For ideas on how to spend the day and to read a few thoughts about my father, click on the first link below.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy … wherever you are ... and to all fathers.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Serendipity 3's Frrrozen Hot Chocolate Lite

Never deprive yourself of chocolate
New York City's Serendipity 3 is famous for serving decadent desserts with rich toppings.  The portions are outrageous!  The cafe's a fun place to satisfy a sweet tooth for locals and tourists alike.  The Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, its signature drink, was featured on The Early Show and Oprah, and extolled as something chocolate lovers must try before they die.  Well, that is a tall order ... but ... I think I've come up with a chocolaty and equally satisfying low-fat-low-calorie version that you can make at home.  My healthy shake is loaded with vitamins, minerals and protein, the building blocks of the body.  And it's delicious!  I love smoothies and cold, slurpy drinks, especially on hot summer days.  My taste-alike-drink definitely takes care of a chocolate craving.  It's so simple to prepare and costs a lot less too.

Here's my Frozen Hot Chocolate recipe:
1 envelope Carnation Dark Chocolate Instant Breakfast
10 oz skim milk
4 ice cubes
1 teaspoon sugar, or sweetener
[Optional: Add an extra teaspoon of real cocoa powder. However, it's chocolate rich without it.]

Throw all the ingredients into a blender.  Blend for a few minutes until the ice is crushed, and the chocolate mixture is smooth.  Pour into a tall glass and serve.

You can top with chocolate shavings, cocoa powder and whipped cream, if you like.  The extras are between you and your waistline.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Brilliant Must-Have Summer Accessories

The T-Rex, cute name ... no? (arrrh)
I can think of lots of summer essentials but will focus on three, inexpensive, ancillary ones. Once you discover their existence, you can't live without them:

1} FHI Heat T-Rex Hair Clips – These have a strange name and a stranger appearance, but they are the best hair clips I've ever used.  They are designed to hold any type, or amount of hair securely in place and release the hair easily.  You can hold your hair in sections, or pile it all in a bun on top of your head with one clip, regardless of whether your hair is thick and long, or short and fine.  It even holds hair in awkward positions while you blow dry it.  And the clip never snags, tears, becomes tangled, or damages your fragile locks.  Whoever invented these clips is a genius!  A two-pack costs $5.

2} KT Tape – It stands for “kinesiology therapeutic tape" and comes precut to treat muscle and joint soreness and injuries.  First used by Olympic athletes, KT Tape gives overworked limbs, muscles and tendons flexible support.  It allows movement while alleviating the pain and pressure.  Super light and strong, athletes use it to prevent further injuries and to heal faster.  I don't fully understand why -- but it works.  And compared to other treatment options, it's cheap at $12 for a 16-foot roll.

3} Flip flops – What's a summer without “air conditioned,” liberated feet? And so practical. Old Navy sells an assortment of styles and colors for both men and women, and they're not too loose or flimsy like some brands.  Regularly $3.50 - $5.00 each, and on promotion days pay $1 a pair.  So you can afford to buy every color.  Great to wear around the house and to protect your feet at the beach, a public pool or gym shower.  

Can you make a case for other clever, summer, must-haves? Sometimes it's the inexpensive little things that make life a little bit easier.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Prevent Aging And Cancer With Four Top Performers

The most effective anti-aging product on the market today also prevents skin cancer and sunburns.  Can you guess what it is?  If you said, sunscreen, you're absolutely right.  And with summer fast approaching, you should apply a shot-glass portion (or 2 tablespoons) of it on your exposed skin every two hours throughout a sunny day.  Most of us don't reapply sunscreens as we should. And with so many brands available, which one should you choose?  Well believe it or not, it's not always the fancy, overpriced variety that offers the most protection.  Fortunately for consumers, two of the sunscreens rated best, are store brands and relatively inexpensive: 

Consumer Reports tested 12 sunscreens and found 4 to be superior.  The top performers all (1) provided great UVA and UVB protection, (2) were water-resistant and (3) met their SPF claims.  Other considerations included (4) smell and (5) greasiness.  The top 4 were judged to be pleasantly scented and left little residue on the skin.

They are:
Target's Up & Up Sport Continuous SPF 30. - It's a spray and costs $0.88 per ounce.
Walgreens' Sport Continuous SPF 50. - Also a spray.  Cost $1.33 per ounce.
Banana Boat Sport Performance Continuous SPF 30 - A spray. Cost $1.60 per ounce.
Aveeno Continuous Protection SPF 50 - A spray. Cost $2.00 an ounce.

Most dermatologists agree on the following:  Sunbathing is bad.  When you do go out, wear protective clothing and hats.  Buy sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30.  Get a formula that's water-resistant.  Consumer Reports says the ingredient avobenzone absorbs more UVA radiation than do alternatives like titanium dioxide.
And I'll add, make sure your sun protection smells and feels good to you so you will wear it.

Now for a confession:  Although doctors say a SPF 30 is best, I sometimes use SPF 15 because it's not as thick or greasy.  My favorite is Oil of Olay lotion for sensitive skin, with SPF 15 and UVA and UVB protection. I also like Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 30 and Walgreens Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70+. None of these made Consumer Reports' Top 4.

Here's my reasoning for using the SPF 15: If your skin will burn in 10 minutes in the afternoon sun without any sun protection, and you applied a sunscreen with an SPF 15, you have 15 x 10, or 150 minutes (2.5 hours) before you'll burn. This still seems like good coverage to me.

The Percentage of Protection from damaging UV rays that you get by increasing the SPF is:
SPF 15 = 93%
SPF 30 = 97%
SPF 50 = 98% – So this one isn't worth the extra money, but when you get value buy it.
So friends, SPF 30 rules. Listen to your doctor to be safe. Enjoy the easy, breezy, long days ahead. Island with palm tree

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