Monday, December 30, 2013

Chocolate Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

Photo: Debra Turner via iphone
Don't start your diet yet because the next two blog posts will feature food. Christmas may have passed, but some of us are still celebrating, right up until New Year's Day. Par for the holiday course. Accept it.

This year I was a slacker when it came to baking cookies. I reasoned ... with the eggnog, chocolate candy and mulled apple cider (not to mention nuts and a few bakery cookies), did I really need to bake cookies too? Well, apparently, the answer is ''yes'' because I baked a butch.

Friends who live in the neighborhood went out of town for the holidays, leaving me the keys to their apartment. When I went over to check on things the first day, on their counter they left me a festive basket of fresh fruit and dark chocolate. Very thoughtful (and delectable) right?

So when they return tomorrow, they will find a batch of these cookies sitting in their kitchen (along with bags of white tea and chai tea, a surprise!). So you see, it is really their fault that I baked them. The oatmeal gives the cookies a nice texture, and there are chocolate chips in every bite. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup peanut butter (if you leave pb out sometimes, add a tablespoon of liquid)
Photo: Dr. Oz Show
1/2 cup graduated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 large egg                                       
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut (optional: I threw it in)
6-7 ounces chocolate chips (that's a package)

Directions:

1. Start by throwing the butter into a mixing bowl and microwave for 20 seconds to soften. 
2. Add the peanut butter. Mix together.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, one at a time, using an electric mixer to combine.
3. A full cup of oatmeal produces a drier (but still moist dough). Form into 1 inch balls and place on an oiled cookie sheet (or on parchment paper). I flatten them slightly.
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes in a preheated 350 degree F oven. When done, cool for 2 minutes before removing the cookies from the pans. Let cool completely before storing in a container.

I have a feeling my friends will enjoy these cookies as much as I do. Naturally, I had to taste their deliciousness before offering them as a gift.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

THE SAVVY SHOPPER Wishes You A Merry Christmas

Christmas images from several magnificent Southern cities:

Downtown Louisville, Kentucky, named after Louis XIV, France's Sun King, whose statue stands in front of the courthouse. "Old Louisville," located just South of downtown, has more Victorian, or Queen Anne homes than anywhere else in the USA.  (Photo: free Wallpaper)
Washington DC: Here is this year's National Christmas tree and behind it, The Capitol. (Photo: The Washington Post)
Opryland's Winter Wonderland Christmas, Nashville, Tennessee. Ice sculpures of the King of kings, his family and more.
Graceland, home of another king, Elvis Presley, Memphis, Tennessee. He must be having a blUe, blUe, blue Christmas. (Photo: CMT)
It's time for some end of the year thoughts ...
  
Thanks so much for stopping by the blog and visiting our Facebook page. I know from the stats that we are a global community. We may live all over the world and celebrate various holidays, but we are one human community here. We may take different paths, but we are all trying to live a life of purpose and value. Our differences make the world an interesting place, and we are more alike then we sometimes acknowledge. In the end, we strive for the same things ... love, understanding, acceptance and a secure place to live and raise our families.

Whether you're traveling or staying home, warm wishes for peace and joy this holiday season and always.Emoji

Merry Christmas Everyone! 

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas From Rockefeller Center

Always stunningly beautiful at night. Come visit during the holidays.

While at Rock Plaza, turn around and look across the street (on Fifth Avenue) to see Saks' light and sound window display:
Watch for Yeti, the snow monster and holiday mascot of Saks, who makes an appearance.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Should You Give Money As A Gift?

Photo: LiveAsAMom
Is it ever okay to give cold hard cash as a gift? Heck, yeah!! These are hard times for many people. The average person lives on a budget and can certainly use it. Cash is a much better gift when you truly don't know a person's tastes or needs. 

Why give a family member some useless item that will only take up space until it is donated to charity or regifted? (If you're a regifter be honest.)

I think the closer the relationship, the more appropriate it is to give cash. If you are distant, perhaps a gift certificate to a desirable retailer is less awkward. (Tips for service are another matter.)

If friends have a special need (like mounting bills due to illness), consider being their secret Santa, if you can afford it. That could avoid any embarrassment. 

Grandparents often give cash to their grandchildren, and I think it opens up an opportunity to teach kids a few lessons in money management. Have you noticed how much harder it is for kids to part with their own money then it is when you buy stuff for them? It's not uncommon for a child to be more deliberate when spending his own money. Having to consider a budget is good training for later in life. 

Toys and gadgets run on batteries, so I like to get them to think about those as part of the expense too. Batteries don't grow on trees either. Somebody has to buy them. As a rule of thumb, try not to add money to the Christmas, Hanukah or birthday sum, so a child can buy a more expensive gift; but if you must, cave on the batteries. You don't want your kid to end up in tears. Keep the lesson fun. 

If you're giving cash, you can still take the time to present it cleverly, if you wish. A money box with festive ribbons and bows is a darling idea. Be creative ... without damaging the money.
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Twelve Stocking Stuffers For The Twelve Days Of Christmas


Good things come in small packages ... small enough to fit inside a Christmas stocking. 

The perfect gift should: 1) meet a need, 2) satisfy a desire or 3) put a smile on a face. When you don't know what to buy for someone, just ask, "Will this gift make him or her happy?" A gift is a token. You want family and friends to feel appreciated.

With that criteria in mind, here are 12 Stocking Stuffers ... ideas for adults. Give one each day of Christmas, if you like:

1. Bling - Trust me, you can never go wrong by giving a woman jewelry ... for example gold post earrings and/or bracelets with sparkle: diamonds, rubies or sapphires. (Just saying ... for um no particular reason.)

2. Silk ties, or snazzy cuff links for him. He needs a few nice ones for grown up occasions when he must dress up.

3. makeup palette in flattering colors for her -- if you're skilled at choosing them -- or a travel makeup brush set, if not.

4. A travel grooming kit, so toiletries are organized, compact and easy to throw into a suitcase.

5. Gift certificates to a friend's favorite store, so he can buy himself  that perfect gift, one he really likes. 

6. Batteries - Everybody needs batteries, not just during Christmas for new gadgets, but throughout the year. It's a super thoughtful gift!

7. Scented candles - Containing soothing essential-or-floral-fragrant-oils. Men and women alike love good quality candles and rooms illuminated by candlelight.

8. Goat milk soaps - Rich and moisturizing to care for winter skin.

9. A handy kitchen, or bar tool - One you know will make your giftee's life easier, like a lemon squeezer (for making margaritas), or an avocado slicer for making guacamole dip. Something practical you know your friend will love.

10. An assortment of warm, colorful socks.

11. A music mix of favorite tunes.

12. Favorite snacks: A Cajun-flavored nut mix (again just saying ... for um no particular reason😊, dried fruit and nuts, or a granola-dried fruit mix, and/or chocolate (everybody's favorite).

We have nine days left ...


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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

TIME's Person Of The Year

Who is it going to be? Any guesses? Oh, I wish it were THIS easy. I like it inside this red border.

TIME's Person Of the Year "profiles the person, group, idea or object" who for "better or worst" had the "greatest influence on events" in the past year. Dispite what many people think, it is a distinction, not an honor nor an award for goodness. For that reason, the distinction has gone to world leaders, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and inventors like Mark Zuckerberg, as well as, tyrants, Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin. The Person Of The Year is chosen by the editors of TIME magazine. TIME's managing editor (influenced by others -- namely, staff editors and corporate bosses) makes the final decision.

Editors are human, so the selection is arbitrary, but for the most part, TIME does a terrific job in making its decision. The one year, I might have differed is 2001: with Osama Bin Laden for Person Of the Year (not Rudolph Giuliani). I mean, we're still being searched every time we board a plane (and I lost my Olay lotion!) because of him.

Even "You" were TIME's Person Of theYear. In 2006 it went to individual content creators of the internet, i.e. all of us!

Now let's talk about the cover above ^.  Bright idea, right? Hey ... that was a rhetorical question. Be kind! There is no money in the blogging budget for lights or photo shop. And ... it is probably my only chance.

+++++++
UPDATE: December 11, 2013 - TIME's Person Of the Year is Pope Francis.

I was rooting for him. First of all, it's more interesting when the selection is a person. Secondly, P. Francis seems to be a people's pope and an excellect example of humility, who is making the Church mind its Ps & Qs. (Jesus was a carpenter, right? You go Francis!) So far, so good.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Nursing A Cold

I rarely get sick, but came down with a head cold the day after Thanksgiving. I forgot what a nuisance having a cold is. 

December is such a busy time of the year. It is not the ideal time to get one ... nor to rest. Work picks up, there are gifts to buy, a few Christmas gatherings to attend, and I need my full energy to get everything done. But, I am trying to spend some evenings at home in order to get rid of the unwecome virus as soon as possible.

And, I am getting better. After a week, I'm breathing out of my nose again and haven't coughed once. No chest congestion, thank goodness, so I don't need an expectorant (a component in Robitussin) to break it up.

I don't know if anything has proven to shorten colds. I think the only ingredient scientists can agree upon is time. Regardless of what you do, it takes 14 days to get over a cold. Still, I am treating mine by doing the following:

1. Drinking fruit juice, including my delicious green smoothie.
2. Taking a multi-vitamin.
3. Consuming extra vitamin C and zinc.
4. Using a neti pot rinse (warm water, sea salt (without iodine) and a couple drops of tea tree oil). For the record, I hate putting ANYTHING up my nose, but the warm rinse seems to ease my unhappy nasal passages.  They have been very angry the last few days!
5. Enjoying a nightly rum hot toddy (consisting of 5 oz hot water, 1/2  lemon, honey to taste and about 3 caps of rum). The hot toddy seems to work like cough medicine. It soothes my throat and repertory system. Yes, that's my "for medicinal purposes only" story, and I'm sticking to it. Delish!!

So watch out holiday world ... I am on the mend.
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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

One Kings Lane


One Kings Lane is a website offering inspiration and discounts on upscale home goods. Some of the merchandise may be extravagant for the average person, but if you familiarize yourself with the site and its sales, you can buy many fine pieces, marked down, for your home. 

The site is part information-packed magazine and part online sample sale store. It is the place to go for ideas, flair and knowledge. A few visits will help you nail down -- and perhaps expand -- your personal style.


But note: Only store credits (not refunds) are given for returned articles, so you have to order very carefully. Know or have a pretty good sense of items before you buy. Avoid expensive mistakes by googling and studying goods before you place an order. Don't be too hasty to pull the trigger. Err on the side of letting the sale go if you are uncertain. However if you are willing to do the homework, you can acquire some stylish and unique furniture and home furnishings at up to 70% off. 


And ... One King's Lane is a terrific place to find beautiful, one-of-a kind, holiday gifts for family and friends. Indeed, if you're looking for quality, there is something for everyone; and the prices of many chic "him" and "her" things are very affordable.Emoji

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Party At Ryan's Daughter

Photo: The Drink Nation
In early November, I was invited to a party to celebrate the results of a local election. It was held at a cozy bar on Manhattan's Upper East Side called Ryan's Daughter. 

The party was to be low key and mellow, so despite the anticipation of not knowing many faces, I decided to drop in for a drink and appetizer to say hello.

Ryan's Daughter is a neighborhood bar. There is no hostess. But as I entered the small establishment, I could hear people cheering, so I followed the voices, which lead me to the celebration. 

Upon entering the party, already in progress, I was greeted by a lovely woman. She pointed to a nice spread and told me to fill up a plate with food. Even though my invitation said, there would be food, it turned out to be more elaborate than I expected.

I met other friendly people and stood around eating and chatting with them. A photographer took pictures, and my new "friends" gathered around me, and we all leaned in for the photos ... to go into a newsletter I thought.

After a respectable amount of time, I decided to leave. I said my goodbyes, made my way to the exit of the bar ... was just about to step out ... when all of a sudden, I realized I had spent an hour at the wrong "private" party -- as the uninvited guest at a baby shower!  The party that actually sent me an invitation was taking place in another section of the bar -- an area I was just now seeing for the first time. I was momentarily horrified! It was an honest mistake. This could happen to anyone, right!? Yikes!

So I ended up staying an hour longer, because in fact, I hadn't yet attended the party. Even with encouragement, I couldn't eat another bite.

Oh, and can you imagine what the people at the first party will think when they look at their photographs to see a strange woman, with a big smiley face, brazenly posing with their friends? 
OMG!! (Who is that woman! She ate our food!! What the hell!!! Did anybody bring her?!?)

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Happy Thanksgiving

Photo: FiradayHarbor
Photo: Sindig
Click here to download. The advice may be useful this weekend.
Photo: (free) Wallpaper  - Photoshopped. Real turkeys are weathered and dirty.
Although I eat lots of vegetables and meatless meals, I'm still a carnivore. I can't imagine a Thanksgiving without a turkey. So lately here is how I think: I take a lesson from Native Americans. Indians ate meat too, but were mindful. They killed only what they needed, then used every part of the animal. Nothing went to waste. 

As a bonafided city gal, I'm a bit of a hypocite. I let others do the killing, then buy the meat from a supermarket. If I raised cows, pigs or turkeys, they'd become pets, my farm would go out of business and my family would starve. (I might be able to kill a rooster who cock-a-doodle-dooed at the crack of down every morning! He might end up as chicken and dumplings, but other than that, I couldn't do it.) Once in a while, I like to reflect on what it takes to get food on the table. Today ... and everyday I am grateful for farmers and the food industry.

A Happy Thankgiving to all! Thank you for stopping by.
Cranberry Sauce
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Savvy Shopper's Guide For Holiday Gifts

The 30 language talking translator for a world traveler
The holidays are coming, and the time to start thinking about gifts is now. This year why not buy fewer, but more thoughtful presents? Quantity doesn't make people as happy as quality does. 

So let's begin: Peruse for ideas. Select items to put smiles on faces. Gave people gifts they need, like and will use, especially things they might not buy for themselves.

Here are six smart websites offering unique gifts:
Planisphere watch
UndommonGoods

1. UncommonGoods - Advertised as "creative living, mindful giving," it offers upscale merchandise and creative design at reasonable prices, including jewelry, accessories and home goods for men, women, and children.

2. Smallflower - Established in 1875, a retailer specializing in European herbal toiletries and remedies. It is an authentic international apothecary shop.

3. Hammacher Schlemmer - The perfect place to shop for the men in your life. Enough with the ties ... a store offering "the best, the only and the unexpected." Lots of practical goods and toys! If you want to spoil your dad or husband with a special gift, this is the place to look.

Crystal box
Archus Jewels

4. Archaus Jewels - It offers Artisan and hand crafted jewelry and accessories for women. They create articles with a breezy style and natural and lux textures.

5. RSH Online Plant Shop - Tools and plants for the gardeners on your holiday list. The Royal Horticultural Society only delivers to UK addresses, but the website is such fun to browse. A look will generate ideas, then check the horticultural society in your town for gifts.

6. The Company Store - Established in 1911, this merchant is all about comfort, offering high thread count bed sheets, cotton quilts, duvet covers, home decor and bath towels. Everyobody loves new, plush bedding and/or big, thirsty bathroom towel sets.

Finding gifts online can help you avoid the holiday crunch, as well as, save you a few bucks. No gas to put in your car, and shipping is often free of charge. Look for extra value and savings on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Agate coasters - Uncommongoods
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Photo: Tina's Chic Corner
Recently I attended an all day conference at Lincoln Center, where I ate ... I won't lie ... several squares of cinnamon streusel coffee cake (also known as crumb cake). Why do conferences always serve platters of pastry? I had to pass the sweets station to get to the morning coffee. I was not tempted by the chocolate biscotti nor the buttery croissants, but the crumb cake -- Arghh! -- was very moist and delicious! And you know what? Indulging ... opened a Pandora's confectionery box. I couldn't get its goodness out of my mind! So this weekend I baked a cinnamon streusel coffee cake.  

By definition, a streusel is a crumbly topping consisting of butter, flour, sugar and often cinnamon. It derives from the German word, streuen for "sprinkle." Here's my version:

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake (a/k/a Crumb Cake)

For the cake --

Ingredients: 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, plus more if needed in the batter
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup butter

Directions:
1. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat together with an electric mixer.
2. Next add the wet ingredients to the mixing bowl, one at a time, and blend until the batter is smooth ... not too thick or runny. If the batter seems dry, add small amounts of buttermilk until the batter is creamy and smooth.
3. Pour into a greased square 9" by 9" baking pan.

For the cinnamon topping --

1 cup oatmeal, pulverized in a food processor (or use all purpose flour, if you wish.)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup ground pecans or walnuts
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger (optional: for an extra kick)
2 tablespoons cold butter
(I like to double the streusel topping, but leaving the nuts at 1/4 cup.)

Directions:
1. Grind the oatmeal in a food processor until fine like flour.
2. Throw in the nuts.
2. Add the cinnamon, vanilla and ginger to the food processor and pulse until well blended.
3. Finally add the butter, but pulse using the lower setting a few seconds at a time. Leave the texture of the streusel topping lumpy. You want the crumbs.
4. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the cake batter.
5. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

If you use all purpose flour in lieu of oatmeal, you can mix the streusel topping by hand or with an electric mixer. 

A dusting of powdered sugar on the very top looks nice.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Boathouse Farms Green Goodness

Looks bad, right? It's delicious!

My mom tells me I was always a good eater. Our family ate lots of meat and potato dinners along with seasonal vegetables and salad. Mom only made dessert, often a cheesecake (with either a lemon or strawberry topping), on Sundays that we ate several hours after dinner while watching televison.
Growing up, I remember eating lots of carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and green beans. It didn't occur to me not to like healthy food. A side salad usually consisted of lettuce, tomatoes, onion and cucumbers topped with a homemade vinaigrette dressing.

People like food that is familiar to them. Some parents encourage their kids to take a few small bites before deciding they don't like a particular food. Then they back off  ... and every so often have their kid try the new food again ... without making a big deal out of it.

Thinking back on our family meals makes me sympathetic to Peter Pan. Unlike Peter Pan, I wanted to grow up. But when I moved out of the family home, I also lost access to the family cook and baker. Alas, all good things do come to an end.

Today I still eat my vegetables, and as a sweet treat I recently discovered Boathouse Farms' Green Goodness smoothie. According to the label, it's loaded with anioxidants A and C, plus a few minerals. It is a blend of 13 servings of fruit and vegetables -- including 6 apples, 2 kiwi, 3 2/3 mango, 1 1/2 banana and 1 1/4 pineapple, as well as, broccoli, spinach, barley grass, blue green algae, garlic and jerusalem artichoke. It has no artificial flavors or preservatives. The texture and taste are fantastic! After dinner if I crave something sweet, I often have a glass of this spinach green drink. 

And equally important, it's reasonable priced: $6.50 for 52 fl oz (1.54L). Buying the ingredients separately to make a similar smoothie costs much more. So the drink is a great value, in my opinion. 140 calories per 8 oz.

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Happy Thanksgiving From THE SAVVY SHOPPER

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hair So Silky, It Shines

Photo: Elle
I spend less on hair care than on skin care. That's because hair cells are dead cells, and I don't want to go broke on hair care products.

Nonetheless, if my hair doesn't look good ... I am upset. I bet every woman has cried at least once over a bad hair cut. And, I would guess some men have too! So it all begins with a flawless, percision cut. That's why I will follow Penny, who cuts my hair, wherever she goes.

Since you need to fiddle with your hair every single day of your life, it's only common sense to:

(1) Find inexpensive hair products that really work.

(2) Love the hair you were born with, be it straight or curly. If you make changing your natural texture a daily chore, the hours and money you spend on your hair really add up. Embrace what you have to keep your hair routine simple.

(3) Focus on keeping your hair healthy, clean and neat, and you will always look fabulous!
Photo: thebeautydepartment.com

I have straight hair ... that actually has some wave or body to it, if it is left to air dry. Here's how I style my straight hair to make it shine:

1) Wash it with a nickel-size amount of shampoo. I like TRESemme, a drugstore brand. Using less shampoo cleans hair without removing all the natural oil from your scalp, making hair look its very best.

2) Some sources tell us to wash with lukewarm water, then switch to cold water for a final rinse. I don't think it matters. Lukewarm water feels better than hot or cold. What is important is to rinse your hair and scalp squeaky clean of shampoo.

3) Follow with a rich conditioner suitable for your hair type. My favorite is Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Length's Strengthening Conditioner, another drugstore buy. Use a quarter-size amount, applying most of the conditioner to the ends, working your way up to the roots of the hair (but stop short about an inch, your roots don't need conditioning). Most of us use too much product, which doesn't make hair look any better. It just gets washed down the drain.

4) Towel dry hair removing as much moisture as possible. This shortens your drying time.

5) I spray my damp hair lightly with TRESemme Thermal Creations, a heat protector. If you let your hair dry naturally, you don't need it. I blast my hair with a blow dryer every day.

6) Next, a blow dry: For straight hair use a blow dryer with a comb attachment. To give hair volume and shine, start with a cool setting until nearly dry, then switch to hot to style it. 

The drill: I begin blow drying my hair (on the cool setting) by tilting my head forward and flipping my hair over my head. That way, I dry the under layers first and against gravity. I use the blow dyer with its comb attachment on one side of my hair and a paddle brush to free the hair of tangles on the opposite side. When my hair is nearly dry, I pause ... part it ... switch to hot, then continue styling.

Remember that the cool setting at the beginning adds fullness, and the hot setting near the end produces shine. Drying my hair takes 5 - 7 minutes. 

Most days, this is all I do. Done!

But on days when I notice some hair static, I will either smooth the flyaways with the heat of a (1" plate) flat iron ... or with a tiny bit of body lotion. I think body lotion works as well as a fancy hair smoothing cream. The results are exactly the same, and the fewer hair products you use the better (less build-up). Your hair will look silky clean. Basically, what you're doing by rubbing a tiny bit of body lotion with your fingers on the flayaways is neutralizing the charge (electrons) in your hair. Rub some on the ends too, especially in winter.

Furthermore in my experience, there is no real need to buy expensive blow dryers or flat irons. High-priced brands do not dry your hair faster, style your hair smoother, nor last longer. All blow dryers and flat irons damage your hair if misused, as well as, burn out with frequent use. It hurts less to replace a $22 Conair 1875 Styler than a $125 Cricket Centrix Q Zone dryer.

Likewise, your hair looks the same whether you use a $20 Revlon Cermanic Straightener, or a $100 Farouk CHI flat iron. Usually a well known beauty company will make a good, inexpensive blow dryer or flat iron that gets the job done.

Since I can't give tips on caring for curly hair, I am turning to YouTube. Here's an information-packed clip where four different women tell you how they care for their curls. (The video has a cornball introduction, but stick with it.)

Now go out and have a gooood hair day!

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