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

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 --

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

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.)

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.


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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!

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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