Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween Tricks And Treats

Oh, won't you come a little closer? ... click here.

Do you enjoy Halloween like you did as a child?  Now that I'm an adult, I still love dressing up to celebrate. Give me an excuse, or a party to attend and I'm in.  We never grow too old to wear costumes for some frightfully-good fun.  So I want to get you in the spirit with today's spooky post.

The tech wizards/geeks who come up with these greetings are so clever.  First sketching, then painstakingly syncing image, music and sound effects seamlessly together to tell a short, eerie story.  It takes hours to build.  What a great age we live in to experience such creativity and magic with the click of a mouse [or a touch on a screen].  Boo!

Let's also do a roundup: What are your favorite Halloween candies?  

Mine include Peanut M&Ms, Bit-O-Honey, Cry Babies, SweetTarts and Smarties.  How about you?

Here are some ways to save on Halloween sweets:
1) Use the coupons printed in newspapers for Halloween candy.
2) Look for stores offering 2 for 1 deals and sales, such as Walgreens, Target, and Walmart.
3) Buy candy your family doesn't like, so it won't get eaten.
4) Mix expensive chocolates with cheaper lollipops, bubblegum and Jolly Ranchers.  It's the sugar kids like, and variety is nice.
5) Save your receipts. You can return unopened bags of candy for full price. It will be half price the day after Halloween.  I've never done this, but these are thrifty times, so I can understand returning candy you don't want to eat.

If you want to know how many calories are in those fun-size, tempting treats, click here.

Happy Halloween, everybody! For a history and costume ideas, see the post below.


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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Will You Ride A Bike?

photo: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
If I lived in a city as bike friendly as Copenhagen, a bike would be my main mode of transportation.  What would be the downside?  Certainly, riding one is good for our health, wallets and the environment.  But the truth is, I'm scared to ride a two-wheeler during rush hours against aggressive drivers.  That can be dicy.  It would be ideal if more cities passed ordinances to make everyday bike riding safe.  Would restricting motor vehicles to certain areas and hours work in the city where you live?  Let's entertain the thought: Truck deliveries could only happen between set hours.  No private cars allowed during peak hours.  Then offer alternatives, such as bike lanes, as well as, trolleys, or frequently running buses at low fares.  Continue to allow taxis and car service for people who need and will pay for them.  Plus, set a speed limit for bike peddlers too.  No racing like a maniac.  If you're in a hurry, take a cab.  Ticket recklessness and violators big time!  People who endanger other people should be fined up the gazoo, and add the money to a city's coffers.  It boils down to priorities. What values and practices do cities and locals want to encourage?
Copenhagen mom
New York City will soon try a program where people can rent sturdy bikes for a reasonable rate.  Details are still pending, but the plan is to set up 600 stations and 10,000 bicycles throughout the city by next summer.  For a yearly fee, pedestrians can unlock a bike, use it for up to two hours, then return it to any other bike station.  It may not be as convenient as owning a bike, and after time, who knows what condition the public bikes will be in, but lets give the city and the company, Altra Bike Share (who will provide the bikes and split the revenues with the city) credit for an innovative idea that we hope (and pray) works.

Copenhagen's MIT wheel for a smooth ride
It's a step in a greener direction, not to mention, a cultural change.  Perhaps, it's time for city people everywhere to think about investing in bikes like we invest in automobiles.  And cities should bend over backwards to support bike riders by making bike transportation safe, convenient and affordable. 


Let's say, riding a bike becomes the norm. A barrier to owning your own might be a lack of space.  So here are a few high rated fold up bikes for city dwellers and travelers to peruse:

Citizen Bike
(1) Citizen Bike – Very affordable. Offers several types and prices. I like the MIAMI City Bike 20” 6 speed for $199.  And it's cute too!
(2) Dahon – Lots of models for different purposes, starting at $479. Look for big wheels to ride up hills.
(3) Brompton – A bicycle shop employee folded one up for me in 6 seconds.  Ultra expensive starting at $1,270!  But, it's the most compact fold up bike available.  It locks and can be carried by its nose like luggage.  Nice, but quite an investment!

Also check foldingbikeoutlet.

My fantasy is to ride a bike to do errands, hop off, fold and push it into a store just like a baby carriage. [I don't want to have to find a place outside to chain up my bike.]  And after I finish, I'd like to unfold it, hop back on and ride off ... into the sunset.Smile 

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

All About Apples

Can you imagine?  I don't like apple pie.  It's almost un-American, but I can't help it.  I like fresh apples and applesauce and apple cider, but not the pie, nor apple strudel for that matter.  And my mother makes a scrumptious apple strudel (I hear).  Sometimes she makes a cherry, peach, or blueberry strudel, which I love.  Ditto for other fruit pies and cobblers.  There's just something about the texture and flavor of baked apples I don't like.  Go figure my taste buds.

Pie aside ... apples make healthy snacks.  They contain flavonoids, which help the body kill germs more efficiently.  Apples are excellent sources of antioxidants and fiber.  Studies suggest they prevent dementia, lower cholesterol and reduce your risks for lung, colon and prostate cancers.  Due to their bulk and high fiber content, apples can help people lose weight too.

Fun facts* include: People have been eating Apples since 6500 B.C.  They are a member of the rose family.  An average apple is about 80 calories and has 5 grams of fiber.  They grow in all 50 states, and there are 7,500 varieties grown throughout the world.  Apples have no fat, sodium or cholesterol.  After the orange, the apple is the most valuable fruit gown in the United States.  The top apple producing states are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.  To learn more about apples click here.

There are many delectable varieties of apples to eat.  I usually buy 3-pound bags of small McIntosh apples.  The small ones are crisp, sweet and tangy.  An unbeatable value, averaging $1 or less per pound, they keep for a long time in the refrigerator.

Below is a chart to help you select the best apples for eating (snacks), cooking (applesauce) and baking (pies).  Apples suitable for snacking will add a delicious crunch if used in a salad:

Name
Taste
Best Use
Baldwin
Tart, sweet
Snacks, cider
Crispin/Mutsu
Sweet
Snacks, applesauce, pies
Empire
Sweet, tart
Snacks, applesauce, pies
Fuji
Sweet, complex
Snacks, applesauce
Gala
Sweet 
Snacks, Applesauce
Golden Delicious
Sweet
Snacks, applesauce, pies
Granny Smith
Tart, sweet
Snacks, applesauce, pies
Honeycrisp
Sweet, tart
Snacks, applesauce, pies
McIntosh*
Sweet, tart
Snacks, applesauce
Red Delicious
Sweet
Snacks
Rome
Sweet, tart
Snacks, applesauce, pies
Russett
Tart, sweet
Snacks, cider
red_delicious_apple  grannysmith_apple  Jonathon_apple    Jonagold_apple  cortland_apple  
In a pinch combine baking apples with non-baking apples to get the right textures for pies.

Chopped apples also make an easy coffee cake that's moist and very tasty.  Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
¾ cup all purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
A sprinkle of black pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped, apples (peeled)
Drops of buttermilk (used to moisten and form a dough)
¼ cup real butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg
¼ cup chopped nuts
¼ cup raisins
A teaspoon of powdered sugar, for decoration

Directions:
Throw all ingredients in a bowl and hand mix it well.  Add a few drops of buttermilk at a time until a dry dough forms.  Put the dough into a well-greased loaf pan, or a cast iron skillet and bake at 350 F in the oven for 25-30 minutes.  When done, let it cool for about 5 minutes before removing it from the pan.  Then let it rest on a dish, or baking rack until cool. Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and serve.

*source of apple facts: University of Illinois


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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Welcome To The USA Joe Fresh

Neoprene-coat in assorted colors, $99

If you haven't heard of Canada's Joe Fresh brand of clothing, you are missing out on cute, contemporary, inexpensive style.  Truly, I can't rave enough!


Designer Joseph Mimran, best known for the understated, minimal look he created for Club Monaco,* before launching his Joe Fresh label in 2006, just crossed the Canadian boarder to open stores in the US, including a flagship store on Fifth Avenue (at 43rd Street) and another shop on Madison Avenue (at 80th Street).  Yanks should be thrilled!  He has an entire line of fashion forward basics for men, women and children.  Apparel and accessories range mostly from $16 {for a soft, extra long, thin cotton, t-shirt with a pocket} to $99 {for a chic, neoprene coat in assorted colors, including orange, blue, teal, brown and black}.  A tailored silk blouse is $19. Wool-blended jumpers are $49, and cotton chino, or wool pants are $39.  His coats and skirts have classic good looks, with pizzazz and retro influences. 

His tops, trousers and dresses are the perfect blend of relaxed, practical and casual smart.  He combines eye-popping, bright colors like yellow, orange and berry with clean neutrals -- tan, brown and black.  His collection is calm and balanced without being boring.  You look sophisticated and modern while spending less than $100 for an outfit.  And his clothing is suitable for everybody -- consisting of jeans, weekend wear, workout clothes and business attire.  Joe Fresh will launch additional stores, (hopefully one near you!) and he's calling all frugal fashionistas.

*Mimran sold Club Monaco to Polo Ralph Lauren in 1999.


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Monday, October 3, 2011

Good Housekeeping's Food Safety Tips


According to a segment on The Today Show, 40 million people get sick from food poisoning each year.  It sends 128 thousand people to the hospital and kills three thousand adults and children (the very old, very young and folks who have compromised immune systems).

Rosemary Ellis, editor-in-chief of GH, reminds us to be mindful while preparing food at home, or eating out.  If you missed the story, don't fret; I watched and bet some of her not "to dos" will surprise you:
[Paraphrased]
1. At the grocery store, prioritize shopping. – Buy can and packaged goods first and cold food last.
2. Make sure your supermarket's produce cooler is cold. – Bacteria thrives in warm temperatures. If cold food doesn't feel cold, don't buy it.
3. Keep a cooler with ice packs in your trunk. – Store foods in it, if you run errands instead of heading home.  Foods that need to stay cold can make you sick if left out for over 2 hours, giving bacteria a chance to grow.
4. Don't wash raw meat, or poultry. – Cooking the meat, not running it under water, kills bacteria.  By washing it in your sink, you are splattering bacteria around your kitchen.
5. Prevent cross contamination. – Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and vegetables.  Put raw meat in plastic bags before storing in your refrigerator/freezer to keep juices from contaminating other food.
6. Defrost meat and poultry properly. – Thaw frozen meat in a 1) refrigerator; 2) microwave; or 3) inside a non-leaking plastic bag placed in a sink of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes.
7. Always wash fresh fruit and vegetables.
8. Don't wash produce labeled “ready to eat,” “pre-washed” or “triple washed.” – If they are contaminated, washing won't help.
9. Check a restaurant's latest health inspection:  Click here.
10. Don't eat a hamburger unless the restaurant uses a meat thermometer to test its doneness.
11. Don't eat at salad bars unless they remove the old batches and replace with a new batch.  Watch for salad dumping.

Personally, I was surprised by #4, #8 and never thought about #10.  How about you?


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