Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Food Revolution

British chef Jamie Oliver has influenced the way I think about food, stock my cupboards and eat. I have his Naked Chef cookbooks, and I enjoy making his simple, but delicious meals, using healthy, unprocessed foods and condiments that you can buy at your local supermarket. Jamie Oliver's style of cooking is quick, easy and flavorful. You need some spices and can even use a few canned ingredients like tomatoes, tuna (and salmon* -- my add, Jamie doesn't list it.) And he says there's nothing wrong with frozen fruits and vegetables when fresh isn't available. Frozen blueberries and peas are picked at their peaks and "preserved that way" until you use them. For several years, Jamie has been on a mission to improve the lunches served in school cafeterias. Now he is making the talk show rounds trying to change the way America eats from coast to coast. He thinks if you stock your kitchen with good basic ingredients, you can come home at night with a nice piece of beef, chicken or fish and prepare exciting food that's also good for you. That's what my mother did for over 40 years, and I couldn't agree more. As Jamie and my mom {who's still at it} know, whole grains and fresh foods don't have to be expensive. They taste much better and can be just as convenient as fast food. [For "You Are What You Eat" a related post, click here.]

Take a look at Jamie Oliver's Essential Pantry Foods. I have many, but not all. How about you?
source: Oprah
Whole grain mustard
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sesame oil
White wine vinegar
Bread flour
Whole wheat flour
Baking powder
Dried yeast
Superfine sugar
Brown sugar
Confectioner's sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Chow mein noodles
Canned cannelloni beans
Canned kidney beans
Canned tuna
Canned coconut milk
Quick-cook couscous
Basmati rice
Brown rice

Maple syrup
Almonds/hazelnuts or mixed nuts
Mixed seeds
Chicken, vegetable and beef broth stock cubes
Jarred pesto
Tabasco sauce
Dijon mustard
English mustard
Olive oil
Canola oil
Red wine vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
All-purpose flour
Dried pasta
Canned garbanzo beans
Canned tomatoes
Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Plain crackers―unsalted saltines
Jamie says: "Think of your pantry like your wardrobe. You won't use everything right away."
Ground cinnamon
Chile powder
Dried oregano
Ground cumin
Ground coriander
Curry powder
Smoked paprika
Five-spice powder
Sea salt
Black peppercorns

Sugar snap peas
Green beans
Sweet corn
Raw shrimp
He encourages us to make a cultural change that involves learning about the food we eat and preparing home cooked meals with our families.
Click here for recipes, and to learn more about Jamie's Food Revolution watch this.

*Canned salmon is low in cost and mercury. Sold in the USA, it is Alaskan wild salmon.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Time To Tidy Up

Spring is a perfect time to get rid of the clutter in your home. I never want to accumulate so much stuff that it makes my living space uncomfortable, unmanageable or unsightly. Regardless of monetary value, no material thing is worth having if you have no use or space for it. Even though I'm not an impulse buyer -- like many people -- I must be vigilant about not bringing too many things into my apartment.

Here are my rules for keeping my home free of clutter:

1) If you haven't worn or used something in two years, get rid of it. Donate mistakes and things that are too big and too small to charity.

2) Discard summer clothes at the end of summer and winter clothes at the end of winter, but never out of season when your judgment isn't as good. On a hot August night, a pile of wool sweaters may not carry the same value as they do on a frigid, snowy day. Trust me, I speak from experience.

3) If something comes in, take something out. Without fail, if I bring new shoes in, an old pair goes out. When new pots and pans come in, the old standbys go out. This strategy saves me money also; if I'm still attached to what I already own and can't part with it, I don't need a new one. Period.

4) Buy for the present day. With few exceptions, nothing should sit around collecting dust waiting for another event to happen. Buy furniture because you have a place for it now, clothes because they fit you now, a yoga mat because you plan to take up yoga now ... and for no other reason. Not as the motivation for losing 15 pounds, or because you have a weakness for beautiful, but impractical things that don't fit your present lifestyle.

5) It's easier to part with things if they are going to a good home. Certainly, it would bother me to throw away good stuff, but I actually feel good about giving useful things to family and friends who can use them, or a charity. Housing Works, Goodwill and The Salvation Army are places where I like to take items in good condition. It's amazing how helping someone else gives you a buzz too.

6) Don't buy things for emotional reasons. When you're feeling stressed, bored or blue, make yourself feel better by exercising, or cleaning your house. Activity will improve your mood, give you a sense of accomplishment and prevent you from accumulating clutter.

7) Look for merchants who offer liberal return policies, so you're not stuck with goods that don't work out.

8) Rent movies and borrow books and music from the library when possible.

9) Trade books you've read with other readers. On websites like Swipetree and PaperBackSwap exchanging books is free. Check out Swapacd also.

10) Throw out old newspapers and magazines. If you don't have time to read a magazine the month you receive it, are you really going to find the time to read multiple issues down the line? You'll want to read what is current.

Whether it's a closet or a room, having fewer, but carefully selected things is a great way to simplify your life. Less is more.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Oscar Looks For Less

Seconds after Sandra Bullock, Penelope Cruz or Angelina Jolie walk the red carpet at the Academy Awards, dressmakers like Allen B. Schwartz and designers at Faviana take out their sketch books. Within days, knock offs of the originals are available for average women to wear. The production is intense. On talk shows Allen Schwartz of the A.B.S label said he can draw and finish a dress within three hours.

A sharp -- not to mention incredibly fast, designer like Schwartz has an eye for which dresses will sell. Generally, four to six Oscar gowns are selected to copy. Prices are kept down by using polyester instead of silk. The dresses are mass produced, as opposed to, being one of a kind. Each replica comes in several colors and is more forgiving than the size zero couture version. While the originals cost $10,000 - $35,000, the look-a-likes go for $250 - $400. So if you see a gown at the Oscars or Golden Globes you want to wear to a celebration of your own, chances are, there exists a knock off to fit both your size and budget.

Allen Schwartz's A.B.S. label is sold at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Lord and Taylor. Can you guess which Oscar dresses he's recreating this year? We will know soon.

Meanwhile, visit these fun sites for Oscar style:
A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz - the go-to designer for gowns and stilettos - sells affordable red carpet inspired clothes - for celebrity inspired bling to complete the look - interpretations of celebrity jewelry and other fun glitter
Faviana - more Oscaresque dresses

Update - Monday, March 15: Designer Allen Schwartz announced he'll interpret five of this year's Oscar gowns. His redesigns will be in stores, including Bloomingdales and Dillards in a few days. The credit goes to stylist Jill Marinelli for obtaining the following photo of Schwartz's A.B.S. dresses, which are still works in progress:
The gowns are inspired by:
1) Penelope Cruz's garnet Donna Karen
2) Jennifer Lopez's pale pink Armani Privé
3) Kate Winslet's sleek Yves Saint Laurent
4) Sandra Bullock's silver beaded Marchesa and
5) Cameron Diaz's gold sequined and jeweled Oscar de la Renta

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Red Carpet Glamour

The Academy Awards were pr-ER-tty good this year, if you'll forgive the pun. Certainly, I'm not the only one who watches to see the lovely ball gowns along with who wins the awards. This year, hands down, I think Sandra Bullock wore the most beautiful dress of the evening. She looked stunning! Such a classic and elegant gown. And, didn't you love seeing her husband, Jesse James, a tattooed motorcyle man in everyday life -- with a tear in his eye during her acceptance speech? Earlier she said what she loves most about being married is having someone who watches her back. Congratulations to Ms. Bullock on all counts! It's quite possible, I love Sandy the way she loves Meryl Streep. You go girl!

My picks of who else stood out at this year's Oscars include:
Top: 1) Sandra Bullock is wearing an embroidered and silver beaded Marchesa gown. [Her Tiffany platinum and diamond earrings and bracelet are gifts from Jesse.]; Middle: 2) Amanda Seyfried is in a light green Giorgio Armani Privé gown encrusted with crystals; 3) Cameron Diaz is wearing a gold sequined and jeweled Oscar de la Renta; Bottom: 4) Demi Moore has on a blush, tiered Atelier Versace gown; 5) Elizabeth Banks is in a blue gray, ruffled and tiered Versace.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Blanket Designed For Outer Space

Are you a restless sleeper because first you're too hot, and a few hours later you're too cold? Or, maybe your partner sweats, but you're always chilly? Fortunately, there is a temperature regulating blanket that could help you sleep better. First developed by NASA for space flights, the blanket is embedded with lots of invisible microcapsules that absorb excess heat when you're hot and release the supply of heat when you're cold, creating just the right temperature and humidity all night long. The temperature sensitive thread is patented under the name Outlast, and it is idea for couples since it has the ability to adjust to each sleeper's body temperature. Outlast is woven into either cotton or wool depending on the manufacturer. The fabric is soft to the touch, lightweight and naturally antibacterial and odor resistant. A blanket containing 50% Outlast acrylic and 50% cotton (or wool) doesn't pull and is machine washable. It comes in all standard bed sizes, several colors and costs about $140 for the queen. Thank you NASA for the technology and extra zzzzz. This makes up for the Tang [actually not formulated by -- but popularized by NASA] and Space Food Sticks.  Sweet Dreams.