Monday, February 28, 2011

Fashion At The Academy Awards

The Oscars are over.  Did you watch?  It's THE awards show people all over the world are likely to see.  Naturally, I watch for the fashions, as well as, to see who wins the awards.  Nowadays, celebrities hire a stylist, so there's mostly glamour, instead of mistakes, on the red carpet. Plus, the dresses are custom-made, highlighting a nominee's best assets and hiding any flaws. At 5'8" tall, host Anne Hathaway has the long legs and slender body to make her appear elegant and beautiful in whatever she wears. And was she ever busy ... changing an exhausting 7 times during the show!  She looked gorgous in all 8 outfits.  And now the wait: In a few days, we'll learn which designer dresses will be reproduced for the masses. Meanwhile, below is a second look at some of my favorites from last night's ceremony:

Top: Anne Hathaway is wearing a 1. Lanvin custom tuxedo and Brian Atwood heels made with Swarovski crystals; 2. vintage red Valentino Haute Couture taffeta gown with floral train; and 3. Giorgio Armani Prive custom sapphire satin gown.
Bottom: 1. Mandy Moore is wearing a Monique Lhuillier gown with crystal beads; 2. Hilary Swank has on a silver sequined Gucci gown with ombre feathered train; 3. Halle Berry shows off a Marchesa crystal encrusted gown with a ruffled train.

Whose dress(es) did you like best?

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Orange Alert ... Even Oprah Is Trendy

I just returned home from a 40 block browse and walk, down Madison Avenue in New York City.  Every designer from  Prada, Chanel and Ralph Lauren ... to Burberry, Hermes and Donna Karen has shades of orange in their collections.  Orange shirts, dresses and purses are hanging on racks at Express, Banana Republic and Coach to name only a few.  To say that orange will be all the rage this Spring just might be an understatement.  Ms. Oprah is wearing the cheerful color on the February cover of her “O” magazine.  And she looks spectacular in it!  Even conservative labels like Brooks Brothers and Giorgio Armani are incorporating a little citrus flamboyance in their mens-and-womenswear.  And Ugg has come out with a tangerine boot.

Unlike baby blue and graceful pink, vivid hues of pumpkin and carrot are clearly not gender specific.  Just like the Sun, itself, orange is warm, bright and full of energy.

Orange can be loud, powerful and impossible to miss.  If you have a dark, or olive complexion, you can wear a wide range of orange, as well as, lots of it from head to toe.  But if you have a delicate or pale complexion, the dominate color will wash you out.  You need to go easy, be selective of tone and don't wear it too close to your face.  After a harsh winter, I can't wait to leave the layers of clothing at home and Spring forward with the vitality of orange. This promises to be a fun trend.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Waste Not Want Not ... When Less Is Enough

Not long ago my building renovated our laundry room, putting in new washing machines, which require half the amount of detergent to clean a load of clothes.  Use more, and you must run your clothes through a second wash cycle to get the suds out.  Suddenly we learned that less is enough.  And actually, it reinforces a lesson we received several years ago when our building installed new water-saving toilets.  Wad up a big-ball-of bathroom tissue, as some people tend to do, then try to flush it, and you will spend the next 15 minutes with a plunger and an unpleasant task before you.  Many residents in my building needed to replace their old habits with new ones.  Less was enough.

This got me thinking:  How many of us use too much product in other areas of our lives?  As a child, did your parents ever scold you for mindlessly running through paper towels, bottles of shampoo, or using too much electricity, or heat?  Mine were always on my case to turn off a light when I left a room and to use less product when less got a job done.  Figuring out what you need, instead of using too much, is an easy way to save money and the environment.  Not only will we spare a tree and use less gas and oil, but we'll accumulate less garbage and save time by not having to run to the store as often to restock.

Recently, I discovered that my hair looks better if I wash it with only a dime-size amount of shampoo and detangle it with a quarter-size amount of conditioner.  Also, these days I'm less likely to clutter up my bathroom with lots of similar products that do the same things.  I use up what works, before replacing it with something else that works.  Being a little more mindful of purchases and how much you use, simplifies your life and puts a few extra dollars in your pocket.

Although I try to be a careful buyer, recently I was struck with how many bars of scented soaps, pairs of socks and new shirts I have in my closets.  So now I plan to use the soap, socks and shirts before bringing any more of these items home.  It's time to be less of a gatherer and more of a user of what I already have.  Be aware. Use it, or loose it.  Sometimes less is enough.
Click here for The Story Of Stuff.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Hungarian Goulash Made Easy

What's for dinner?  Well at my house, it's a stick to your ribs meat and potatoes meal, which I first saw on a cooking show, than tweaked and spiced to my liking. Simple, delicious and addicting!

Hungarian Goulash
3½- to 4 pounds chuck roast, trimmed of fat, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup dried sweet paprika
3 large red peppers, steamed in the microwave for 6-8 minutes until tender (You will use them to make 1 cup of paste.)
1/4 – 1/3 cup crushed tomatoes
3 teaspoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large onions, diced (about 6 cups)
4 large carrots, scraped and sliced (about 2 cups)
1 bay leaf
1 cup water with 1 large beef bouillon cube
Salt and black pepper

1) Sprinkle the beef with 1 teaspoon salt and let it sit for 15 minutes.  Then sear the meat until golden brown.  Set aside. [Hungarians throw the meat in raw.] 
2) In a food processor, mix the paprika, steamed red peppers, crushed tomatoes, and 2 teaspoons of vinegar until smooth.  Set aside.
3) Combine the olive oil, onions, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large Dutch oven.  Cover and cook 8-10 minutes until the onions are tender, stirring occasionally.
4) Now stir in the paprika paste.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions just begin to stick to the bottom of the pot; takes about 2 minutes.
5) Add the beef, carrots, and bay leaf.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Make sure all ingredients are mixed well.  Cover the Dutch oven and transfer into a heated kitchen oven.  You will cook this for 2 ½-3 hours at 350 degrees F.
6) Check every 30 minutes and as necessary, add water flavored with one beef bullion cube.  You want a finished sauce that is not runny, or dry.
7) Continue to cook until the beef is tender when poked with a fork.  You should have a rich, thickish sauce.

Optional:  I chop 4 cloves of garlic and cook them along with the onions.  I also add parsley and a dash of cheyenne pepper and nutmeg to the dish before putting it in the oven.  I have also been known to throw in peas [last 10 minutes].  I like color and one pot cooking.

Serve the goulash over potatoes, noodles or rice.  My carbohydrate of choice is usually potatoes.  Top with a teaspoon of vinegar.  Enjoy!

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Saint Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is named after several early Christian martyrs.  One of them died, or was buried on February 14th according to different accounts.  The occasion became associated with romantic love during the Middle Ages through the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer.  In a poem depicting the courtship of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia, Chaucer used the images of love birds – who mate for life – as well as, Cupid and Venus.  He also choose St. Valentine as the patron for that marriage.  And so he began the tradition of composing poetry on Valentine's Day.
Other traditions followed, gifts of candy, flowers, jewelry and romantic dinners. Enjoy the day! arrrh

“For this was on Seynt Valentynes day,
Whan every fowle cometh theere to chese his make [mate].”

Chaucer, The Parliament of Fowles, 1380

Saturday, February 12, 2011

M.C. Hammer Presents The ZAGGmate iPad Case

Years ago I met M.C. Hammer at MTV, where I worked at the time. Hammer is the nicest man -- polite, friendly and outgoing. After he finished his “Behind The Music” interview, we rode the elevator down 23 floors to the lobby, and M.C. was charming.

On that day I was dressed in black cotton velveteen trousers, with white accents.
Hammer said: “I really like your white socks, dear.”
I replied: “Thank you, M.C.  I've always loved the look of spats.”
Smiling, M.C. Hammer said: “Me too!”
Sweet memory. He is such a people-person!

M.C. Hammer & Stephanie
As the public knows, M.C. Hammer made a lot of money with his music and lost it all. He spent his fortune on family, friends and people-in-need, as well as, lived a lavish lifestyle. What is less known is, M.C. survived bankruptcy to release more albums and become a music manager of other recording artists. Today he's a rapper, entertainer, preacher, long-time family man [married to Stephanie for 25 years] and a successful entrepreneur. As it turns out, M.C. Hammer was an early technogeek and is now an internet mogul.

One of the gadgets he promotes, the ZAGGmate Case, is a (genius!) ipad accessory. It's a strong, thin aluminum case that converts into a bluetooth, wireless keyboard. Used as a protective case, you can drop your ipad without damaging it. Remove your ipad, and the case becomes a stand with an innovative hinge. Prop the ipad up to type on a real keyboard. Now you can send emails, write blog posts, take notes, or use text editing applications with ease, like you do on a laptop.

Place the ipad on the keyboard in portrait and landscape modes. The ZAGGmate runs on a rechargeable battery that lasts for months. It weighs 12.8 ounces. How cool is this case!  Costs: $100 (new).

Update: When I wrote the blog the ZAGGmate iPad Case was new and innovative, and now competitives have developed simiar key board covers too. Choice benefits the consumer!

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Did Your Grandma Wear An Apron?

Loretta G., who is a reader, mother and herself, a savvy shopper, sent me a nostalgic passage called “Grandma's Apron.”  It reminded me that both my grandma and mom wore aprons in the kitchen, while I rarely bother, despite the fact that I own a very nice blue and white stripped one.  And not surprisingly, my apron is still in mint condition.  When I put it on, I do feel more like a serious cook.  

Once, while helping my mother bake cookies, she asked why I didn't wear an apron.  At the time, she probably got an eye-roll.  Now I think I know the reason.  It's because we've become a t-shirt and blue jeans society, and these are easy clothes to clean in a washer and dryer.  But let's go back a generation (or two) to reminisce about a time when life was more rustic and less convenient:

Grandma's Apron (Original poem written by Tina Trivett)

The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. Aprons required less material, making them easier to wash.

And along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.
And when the weather was cold, Grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something to replace that old-time apron, which served so many purposes.

Remember: Grandma set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.  They would go crazy trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.  I don't think I ever caught anything from an apron, but love.

Times change.  My grandma wore her apron around the property, my mother around the house, and me hardly at all.  How about you?

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Coziness Of Ugg

Uggs.  You either love 'em or hate 'em.  I own two pairs of boots, the ultra short suede, which are mid-shin length, and a smooth leather pair -- a style extending up to the knee.  So without a doubt, I fall into the love camp.    In winter, my Uggs keep my feet toasty, warm, even on the coldest, Arctic-bone-chilling day.  And they are so comfortable.  Some people don't like their look, but there's a good reason for their popularity.  I think they are practical, versatile and adorable.  Wear them with jeans, leggings and certain skirts to look pulled together and casual smart.

As everyone knows, Uggs are made from sheepskins.  The boots have fleece tanned to the leather on the inside.  The fleece draws away moisture, keeping air circulated and your feet at body temperature.  This is why people, who wear Uggs in the summer, don't feel overheated.  

Both pairs of my Ugg boots have sturdy, long lasting rubber soles.  Each is several years old, and what makes them such a terrific value is, they show almost no signs of wear.  They are so well insulated that you can wear them without socks in cold weather, though doctors don't recommend it.  Personally, I wear socks.  Also when the footbed of your boots wear out, there's no need to replace your entire boot.  Replace the insoles for $14, and you are good to go. [$14 price available at Zappos.]

Nowadays, Uggs come in a large variety of styles and colors.  From sandals to shoes to boots, there is choice galore!  The problem I'm having is wearing out the Uggs I already own ... but getting my money's worth on quality winter boots is a situation I will just have to live with ... thanks to the land Down Under.
Pricey Jimmi Choo Ugg boots

Here are some sites for great deals on Uggs: [banner to the right]

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