Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome A New Year: 2012

Practices I started in 2011 and will continue in 2012

This list is in no particular order and a bit uneven in significance:

1) Enjoy rich foods as a treat instead of a staple:  If I want to eat foods like cookies, biscuits and gravy, or french fries I have to make them myself.

2) Eat foods my grandparents would recognize as food.  [Thanks, Michael Pollan.]  For the most part, I've replaced boxed cereals with whole grains (such as oats, millet and quinoa) and canned soups with fresh made soup.  For convenience I buy canned whole tomatoes or beans, not tomato or bean soup, then make my own soup.  It's wickedly delicious and freezes well as single serves.

3) Wear the shoes and clothes already hanging in my closets before buying new things.

4) Use up scented soaps, lotions and personal care products before bringing more home.

5) Deciding not to spend money on storage containers.  The Container Store is very appealing, but even better: Either have a place for it, use the stuff, or give it away.

6) Not taking the people who sell fruit, newspapers, flowers, shine shoes and deliver your groceries, or mail, or pass out flyers for granted.  Realize that the folks who work at a fruit stand get up at 3 AM to buy their produce, plus stand outside in the cold, wind, or rain day-after-day earning their living.  Far from being faceless, these human beings have families and are pursuing the American dream.  Each worker is someone's son, father or brother.  Ever wonder what their lives are like over a 24-hour day?  You just may be their face of kindness.  Treat these workers with courtesy and respect.  Look them in the eye and smile.

A little bit of change matters.  No step in a positive or humane direction is too small.  

As Oprah remarked, "Cheers to a new year and another chance to get it right."  And Benjamin Franklin said, "Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man."  

Have a Healthy and Happy New Year everyone. Let's enjoy life!
Party smile

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Is A Snood?

Wearing a snood the high fashion way
Is it: A) a person with a disagreeable personality; B) a Dr. Seuss character; C) a foot condition; or D) an article of clothing. Still not sure?  Well then, read and learn.
A hot fashion trend this winter will also keep your neck warm. Instead of traditional scarfs, men and women are wearing bulky, woven neck rings.  They are known by many names: an infinity scarf, a cowl, a shrug, or a snood.  They are loops of wool or cashmere, usually knitted, which slide over your head and fit snugly around the neck.  Designers say they are popular because of their versatility. A snood is easy to wear and looks great with, or without a coat.  Last year I spotted them at the Banana Republic, and this year many more designers have come out with them.  How do you like the look?  Here are a few styles from different retailers:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone

The Monkees sing a lovely rendition of Riu Chiu.

Merry Christmas to you.  Have a festive holiday and much peace and love.

A Spanish Carol (1550s)
The English Translation
Riu, riu, chiu...
La guarda ribera
Dios guarde el lobo
De nuestra cordera.
Refrain: Riu, riu, chiu...

El lobo rabioso la quiso morder,
Mas Dios poderoso la supo defender;
Quisole hazer que no pudiesse pecar,
Ni aun original esta Virgen no tuviera.
Refrain: Riu, riu, chiu...

Este qu'es nascido es el gran monarca,
Cristo patriarca de carne vestido;
Hanos redimido con se hazer chiquito,
Aunqu'era infinito, finito se hizera.
Refrain: Riu, riu, chiu...

Muchas profecias lo han profetizado,
Y aun en nuestros dias lo hemos alcancado.
A Dios humanado vemos en el suelo
Y al hombre nel cielo porqu'er le quisiera.
Refrain: Riu, riu, chiu...
Refrain: Riu, riu, chiu (nightingale's sounds)
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf
from our lamb.
Refrain: Riu, riu, chiu...

The rabid wolf tried to bite her,
But God Almighty knew how to defend her,
He wished to create her impervious to sin,
Nor was this maid to embody original sin.
Refrain: Riu, riu, chiu...

The newborn child is the mightiest monarch,
Christ patriarchal invested with flesh.
He made himself small and so redeemed us:
He who was infinite became finite.
Refrain: Riu, riu, chiu...

Many prophecies told of his coming,
And now in our days have we seen them fulfilled.
God became man, on earth we behold him,
And see man in heaven because he so willed.
Refrain: Riu, riu, chiu...
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Books, Bill Clinton's Picks

Someone should hire former President Bill Clinton to be a regular book reviewer. Regardless of politics, he has a brilliant mind, loves books and is excellent at reviewing them. And the fact that The Today Show, a news program, as opposed to, just another entertainment show, calls Clinton's selections "smarty pants" choices revels how often real news and issues are being dumbed down.  Too many interviews with celebrities and reality stars does that. Now I enjoy gossip just as much as the next person [Heck, yeah!], but when I read or watch the news from (what is supposed to be) the legitimate press, I want stories about important world issues ... and I want balance ... and the reporters to interview sources ... plus thoroughly do their homework. Hopefully, the folks who write, edit and produce the news, themselves, read compelling books.  By the way, Ann Curry was terrific this morning anchoring the segment.  It was the website -- probably a cyber editor trying to be cute -- that labeled Clinton's books a "smarty pants" list.

Listening to Bill Clinton review books on The Today Show this morning reminds me what critical thinking is.  There are many world issues and worthy ideas, which are bigger than politics and celebrity.  There are subjects and topics that say something about the human condition and help us understand who we are.

Clinton explains why books are important and make great gifts: Books "make you think" and "feel."  Reading "gives you time" [that's] "intensely personal, but you're completely involved. It's a wonderful way to get away from the helter-skelter of your life ..." [plus] "you can always be growing."  [It keeps] "your mind open and thriving." 

Here are Bill Clinton's book recommendations:
Penned: Back To Work

By Simon Sebag Montefiore (Knopf)
2. Lincoln 
By David Herbert Donald (Simon & Schuster)
By Marcus Aurelius (Simon & Brown)
By David Fromkin (Knopf)
By Seamus Heaney (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
 By Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Harper Perennial)
7. King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa
By Adam Hochschild (Mariner Books)
By Robert Wright (Vintage)

So if you have any last minute holiday shopping, head over to the bookstore. School

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Eggnog, An Old Holiday Tradition

Eggnog has oodles of calories, too many to mention.  But since we only drink it once a year, I want the real thing.  Down through history, people weren't afraid of fat or sugar, they just didn't overdo it.  Processed foods didn't exist until modern times, and the majority of people weren't rich enough to be couch potatoes.  So let's learn a lesson from our ancestors.  Enjoy a few holiday treats, but in moderation.  And whenever possible, make them yourself using the finest ingredients.  Trust me, if you prepare eggnog from stretch, you won't get fat, because you won't make it that often!

Eggnog comes to us from England, although some historians think it aquired its name in the New World.  The drink became popular with the British upper class, who could afford milk and eggs in an age before refrigeration.  They mixed it with brandy, Madeira wine or sherry.  When the beverage crossed the Atlantic, the colonists, in an effort to avoid a wine tax, used rum and later bourbon to make the brew.  Egg and grog (i.e. spirits, rum) got shortened to eggnog.  Ha! Alcohol has that effect!  

In Great Britain, Canada and the US, eggnog is served to celebrate Thanksgiving [USA], Christmas and New Year's.

Traditionally, it is a social drink.  When quality matters, and you want to give your guests the very best, make this recipe:

Old Fashioned Eggnog
6 pasteurized eggs  {sold at 7 Eleven, C-Town, Associated, Whole Foods and many grocery chains.  Or pasteurize the raw eggs yourself. Here's how.}
¾ cup sugar
4 cups whole milk
4 cups {whippingcream
½ cup brandy
½ cup rum
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
½ cup confectionery sugar
sprinkle cinnamon
sprinkle nutmeg
1.  Separate the eggs: yolks and whites.
2. Beat the yolks, then add ¾ cup sugar, a little at a time.
3. Add in the brandy, rum and vanilla.  Beat, beat, beat.
4. Next add and whisk in the milk and half of the cream.
5. Set aside until serving.
6. Then beat the egg whites until stiff, and fold the whites into the eggnog mixture.
7. Combine the rest of the cream and confectionery sugar, and whip until thick.
8. Pour the eggnog into 8 glasses, and top each serving with the {whipped} cream.
9. Garnish with cinnamon and nutmeg. (Extra points if you grind your own.)


I also make a tasty, easy, low-fat eggnog custard.
6 eggs
¼ cup sugar
12 ounces evaporated skim milk
3 cups skim milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼  teaspoon nutmeg
1) Combine all the ingredients into a mixing bowl, one at a time, and beat with an electric mixer.
2) Pour into a sauce pan and heat on the stovetop, stirring continuously.
3) Simmer about 5 minutes until it thickens.
4) Let the custard cool a bit before pouring the mixture into a blender and mix for a minute or so.  This step produces a light custard.
5) Pour into 8 custard dishes.  Serve it warm, or refrigerate and eat cold.

You can turn this custard recipe into a low-fat eggnog drink by not cooking it, but be sure to use pasteurized eggs.  To make a beverage, you also have to separate the eggs; whisk the yolks and whites, separately, as well as, slowly add in, then beat each ingredient.  Enjoy!
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gift Food Baskets For The Holidays

Gift giving is about thoughtfulness, meeting needs and making people happy.  So giving someone a basket of delectable treats is perfect.

A tower of edible gifts can make someone feel like s/he hit the jackpot.  They make smart holiday gifts for several reasons:

1) Retailers offer special deals and combos, making pricy gourmet foods more affordable than at other times of the year.  
2) It's a gift few people buy for themselves, but most like receiving.
3) They help you avoid the craziness of the holiday rush.  No need to beat back the crowd, nor stand in long lines.  Order online to be delivered.  Look for coupon codes for free shipping too. Codes here.
4) There is a food basket to suit every taste and budget.
5) They are the perfect gifts to send out of town. – And convenient: Via a phone call - delivered right to a friend's door on very short notice.  If you forget a relative, it may be the only way to get gifts to a destination by Christmas.
6) Food baskets are festive. – They make a beautiful presentation.  And nothing says "I care" like giving a load of goodies.
7) They can help someone in need – Can you imagine getting a big basket of meats, cheeses, fruits and nuts, if you're a working mother, or a family who has fallen on hard times?  It's a sneaky, considerate way to help.  You can give a gift of generosity without the embarrassment of charity.
8) And last but not least, giving food baskets highlights the spirit of Christmas. – Your recipient will have delicacies to share with family and friends, who drop by to spend time together.  And isn't that what it's all about?  Does anyone really need another blouse or necktie?

Here are a few merchants to consider for your edible gifts:

Harry And David's - Lots of ribbons and bows, nice selection.
Omaha Steaks - Frozen in packages and ready to cook as needed.
Hams and Jams - The Loveless Cafe's mail order business.
William Sonoma - Wine club.
Williams-Sonoma - Seafood or The Butcher Shop.
GourmetGiftBaskets - Plenty of choices, including healthy ones.

You can buy a single (tower of treats), or monthly (fruit of the month) deliveries of goodies.  And check your local supermarkets -- many offer a gift basket service, including delivery -- for savings and peak fruit.  If you have a favorite food basket company, please leave a comment.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Calling All Dog Lovers

This pooch looks like our old family dog.
Do you get nostalgic around the holidays?  Recently I stumbled upon a video, which made me think of my family dog.  He looked and behaved just like this dog. He was independent and smart.  He liked to lay under furniture to rest.  And when he was bored, watch out.  He was too smart.

We had to stay one step ahead of him, or he'd try to take over the leader of the pack role.

When he was 6 months old, my aunt came for a one week visit, bringing her 4 young children.  Our dog must have felt displaced by having company in the house, so while we all slept, he found our guests' shoes and chewed up one shoe of each pair.  He didn't touch any of our shoes.  The next day we had to shop for new shoes, so our relatives would have something to wear for the rest of their vacation.

On that visit, our dog was put in the bathroom after he got underfoot.  Usually, he had the roam of the house.  So he climbed up to where there were folded towels and washcloths and pulled every last one of them down.  And when we opened the door to let him out, the bath towels were so scattered, we couldn't even find the dog.

This breed is supposed to yodel, instead of bark, but ours barked -- only when necessary -- but he never yodeled, so he must have been a mutt, though, he had the same features as the basenji in the video.

After he was several years old, on a Saturday night, we were trying to watch a television program.  It was Easter weekend, and there was a Special airing, but we could not get him to stay away from a widow in the front room of our house.  It overlooked a street.  We could barely enjoy our program and were so annoyed!  For what seemed like forever, we admonished him for barking, making him come away from the window, into the living room, time and again.  But he was stubborn and crept right back to the window.  So we scolded him yet again, saying:  You come back in here! ... WHAT HAS gotten into you!?!

Well, the next morning we decided to go to church and found out as soon as we stepped outside onto the porch.  Our car was missing from the front of our house where we had parked it.  It had been stolen!  And the dog had watched the thieves hot-wiring the car and tried to warn us, while we sat engrossed in our program!  We never made that mistake again.

You learn so much from your first.

There are many benefits to owning pets.  Studies show that having a dog can improve your mood, cure loneliness, lower blood pressure and reduce stress.  Dog owners exercise more than non-pet owners.  Our dog loved to snuggle and always greeted us with unconditional love.

Pet ownership is a responsibility.  But if you don't mind the work, you get joy, laughter and a loyal friend in return.  There are many cute kittens and pure breed dogs at animal shelters and dog rescue organizations who need families.  Look there before buying anywhere else.  It will cost less -- usually around $50-$100 for shots and spaying -- as well as, save the life of a furry friend.  Black dogs and cats, an unpopular color, are especially hard to place in loving homes.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Panorama Views: Take A Look At The World

Central Park, New York, Photo: Ed Yourdon
You may have noticed.  THE SAVVY SHOPPER is primarily a writer's blog, not a design/photography blog.  But that doesn't mean I won't share a clever design, or pictures when they come along.  I am always impressed with how technology has opened up the world to us.  These days if you are not well-traveled, you can still experience, or get a feeling for what you will see if you ever go on your dream vacation.  The internet pushes you out of your comfort zone by showing you places on the globe where you may never think to step foot.  And I mean, show you from your eyeball's point of view, as if you were standing there.  Perhaps you'll be inspired to plan a real trip to see the sights one day.  So take a few minutes out of your hustle-bustle, not-enough-hours-in-a-day life to explore these magnificent 360 degree images. The pictures move horizontally and vertically, and with a click, you can travel up and down, plus zoom in and out.  The image of the Sistine Chapel below can be magnified, so you can study Michelangelo's masterpiece in detail.  Get ready to be blown away … and enjoy!