Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Floyd Country General Store

Photo by Growlerfills
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia sits The Floyd Country General Store. People who pay a visit feel like they have stepped back in time. A real country store serving a rural community, its shelves are stocked with a bounty of quirky and practical goods, including penny candy, books on farming, local arts and crafts, eco-friendly cleaning products, kitchen tools, casual clothing, and old fashioned toys and games.

The store has an inviting cafe. All the food on the menu is fresh, locally-grown and homemade. You will find country favorites like barbequed pulled pork, Chicken Brunswick stew and pinto beans with onions and cast-iron-skillet baked cornbread. Be sure to save room for the hand-dipped ice cream.
All year-around, the general store hosts a popular Friday Night Jamboree of Appalachian music and dance, where some of the most esteemed, old-time musicians take the stage. The evening starts at 6:30, features three bands, and by all accounts, lives up to its repulation of excellence. Live music also plays on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

According to public records, the store has been around since 1910. Continuing with tradition, it strives to be a gathering place for its community to make music, attend agriculture lectures, play a friendly game of checkers, or simply catch-up on local news perched in rocking chairs, while sipping craft beer and rootbeer floats. (You will find award-winning craft beer all over town.)

The Blue Ridge Mountains are a beautiful area to visit, and the The Floyd Country General Store is a charming, lively stop along the way. [Read more on Floyd, VA here.]

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nordstrom: Looking For High-End Style?

Nordstrom, the swanky retailer, is running an anniversary sale. The promotion ends August 5th. It's where to shop for upscale clothing, shoes, handbags or jewlery that you want to have in your wardrobe for years to come. It's not where I, personally, turn for articles, which will quickly go out of style, since you can find lots of fun, trendy pieces elsewhere (at H&M, Forever 21 and Target) for much less.
But, what if you don't have a Nordstrom in your town? I hear you! Don't be afraid to buy items from this store online. Since they sell high-end merchandise, you can count on quality arriving in your mailbox, plus Nordstrom offers free shipping and returns. So if you make a mistake, you can exchange, or return the goods at no charge. That's the only way to shop for outfits and boots online!

It just might be the perfect time to pick up a few expensive wardrobe pieces you need at 30% - 60% reductions. Worth a browse.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Breakfast In New York: Not Just Lox And Bagels Anymore

Photo by Tilia
If you find yourself in New York City sometime, there are three breakfast foods you absolutely must try. I have a savory palate and am a big fan of the Scotch egg. It's an egg, wrapped in ground pork or duck sausage, breaded and fried. (I love all things breaded and fried, though I don't let myself eat everything breaded and fried. This is worth it.) The yolk of a perfectly cooked Scotch egg is often a little runny. The egg is served with a grainy brown mustard. I try to limit myself to eating two, but I can devour more. Visit Fat Radish on the Lower East Side (17 Orchard Street), a breezy London themed restaurant to taste them.

A cronut is described as part croissant and part doughnut. The hybrid pastry was invented by Chef Dominique Ansel, who says it's "a fremented dough that's rolled, fried, topped with lemon cream and finished off with maple sugar." Only 300 are baked per day, and they sell out within an hour of the bakery's opening. People line up in the wee hours of the morning to buy 2 per person. Equally in demand is Chef Dominique's Frozen Smores.

Choux Factory makes delectable French cream puffs in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry coffee and green tea flavors. There are several Choux Factory locations in Manhattan. Unfortunately, one of them is within one block of my apartment building, so I don't have to make any effort whatsoever to bring them home. My favorite flavor is probably the vanilla, but perhaps it's the one I happen to be eating at the time.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

New York City On A Saturday Night

Pulling into the dock at the North Cove Marina in front of the World Financial Center down in Battery Park City
The best way to see New York City's skyline, as well as, the Statue Of Liberty and Ellis Island is taking a boat ride on the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan.

The Circle Line offers a number of sightseeing cruises around Manhattan Island, or take the "Admiral's Launch" to the Willy Wall for a glass of wine. Go here for details. It's a lovely way to spend a Saturday night.

Finally, the Staten Island Ferry is free. It serves 60,000 commuters traveling between Staten Island and Lower Manhattan daily. Hop aboard for a prime view of  New York's habor and The Statue of Liberty. 
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Friday, July 12, 2013

Sunscreen Powder

We all know how important it is to apply sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, premature aging and sunburns. But sometimes we skip it because it's greasy and inconvenient. I am guilty of not reapplying sun protection as often as I should. When I'm out, I'm busy, forget and like to travel light, sans SPF lotion.

Thank goodness, there are new products on the market to make protecting your skin easier. Sunscreen powders block harmful UV rays without adding a shine to your complexion. Ultra fine mineral powder delievers flawless airbrushed coverage. You will find them at all price points. Luxury brands (like Colorscience, Peter Thomas Roth and La Roche-Posay) are $30 and up.

You can also find excellent brands at your corner drugstore for less. Physicians Formula Mineral Wear offers the same broad-spectrum protection and has the same ingredients (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) as traditional SPF lotions. You can buy it as a loose power, or a compact (i.e. pressed power) to carry in a purse. L'Oreal also sells a loose power with SPF 19. Costs of each: About $13. Both brands give your face an airbushed finish, contain a high SPF and save you a few bucks.
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Photo Collage Clock

When decorating a home, the usual advice is to surround yourself with the things you love. A photo collage clock of family (and look closely, man's best friend) is a clever way to add warmth and a personal touch to a room.

Your pictures don't need to be exactly the same size, but if you have a colorful wall, you might want to select neutral frames, or if you have a neutral wall, you might think about contrasting it with colorful frames.

I like the idea of arranging familiar faces around a big ticking clock. Not only is it cozy, it's a reminder that our time in history is right now. Life is change. We have a past and future. Pictures capture a moment in time, while time, itself, assuredly marches on.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Hair Tools: Goody Spin Pins

I have fine hair, but lots of it. Although cut uniform in length, it's slippery, or something. Bobby pins and barrettes will slide out of my hair even before I step away from the mirror, but these spin pins will secure an updo. I have no idea how they work, but they do. Hair stays in place. Each of the spin pins claim to do the job of 20 bobby pins. You simply twirl you hair up, twist it into a bun and literally screw the pins in.  

When you want to take your bun out and let your hair down, you unscrew the spin pins by turning them in the opposite direction, as you would with regular screws. They have round edges and don't seem to harm the hair. The only mistake you can make is twisting your bun too tight. A tight bun is too dense, and you won't be able to spin the pins through your hair with ease. Using them, you can create a polished or messy bun. Available in two colors: light (for blonds) or dark (for everybody else). Costs: $6.
Photo: BabesInHairland, their channel here
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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Eat A Peach Cake

Photo: Watson Ashe
This is a peach one layer cake with a coconut and nut topping. Moist and simple to make, it is a delicious dessert to bring to a party. In my opinion, 2/3 of a cup of sugar is sweet enough. I can't imagine using the 2 cups suggested. What a sugar overload! Here is how to make it:

Peach Cake

For the cake -
2 cups sugar (I cut this down to 2/3 of a cup.)
2 eggs
2¼ cups flour (I use one and ¼ cups all purspose and one cup whole wheat.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter, ice cold and diced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large can peaches (drained), or 2 cups fresh peaches (Save the juice and add to the batter if needed to get a not too dry, or runny consistency.)

1. Throw the ingredients into a mixing bowl, in order, and beat with an electric mixer.
2. Mash the peaches, separately, and by hand, fold into the batter.
3. Pour into a greased 9" by 9" cake pan.
4. Bake in a 350 F degree oven for about 40-50 minutes, or until done. Remove and let cool in the pan. (I scrape the sides with a knife.)

For the frosting
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup can evaporated milk
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter (I only use 4 tablespoons.)
1 cup coconut
1 cup walnuts (or pecans), chopped

1. Toast the nuts on a baking sheet in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes and set aside.
2 Put all the ingredients, except the nuts, in a sauce pan and simmer on a stovetop until it thickens.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts.
4. Spread on top of the cake. (Sometimes I take a spoon and twirl holes in the cake so the frosting seeps in.)

We all like desserts occassionally. My Mom is a fussy-fancy-pants baker, unlike me. And yet, just like me she reduces the amount of sugar in recipes when making pastries. (Only recently did I realize she did it too.) You want to use enough sugar to still have a satisfying sweet. Figuring out how much you can cut requires some trial and error. While measuring Mom will quip, "You have to leave some sugar in, or else you end up with a piece of bread." She doesn't know she is funny.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Macy's Is Getting A Facelift

Photo by B.P.
Macy's Herald Square first opened it's doors 155 years ago in 1858. Orginally known as R.H. Macy's & Co., it has occupied its present location, 34th Street and Broadway, for the last 111 years. Last year the landmark building began a full scale rennovation of the entire store.

Over the weekend I paid a visit. I can always find exactly what I want at Macy's. Actually, I can turn into a frenzied fashionistra -- finding tons of merchandise to buy at Macy's -- which is why I don't go near the place unless I truly need something. 

It has phenomenal sales -- 40% off and higher -- usually around 3-day holiday weekends like the 4th of July. Stop at the visitor's center to show your passport, or out-of-state driver's license and get an extra 10% discount on all your purchases. The visitor's center is located in the cellar, on the Broadway side of the building.

Below is the floor plan of the 9½ story,  spruced-up department store. The cellar adds a 10th floor. The interior looks shiny and new, but the departments have not shifted much, which is a good thing. I don't know about you, but I only like a change if it's an improvement. If you know Macy's layout, you can still find familiar departments, mostly in their old spaces. Click the image below, then hit "command" and "+" to enlarge. [If you email me, I'll send you the pdf file, which is cystral clear to read and print.]
You might like sitting in front of Macy's (on Broadway) under the umbrellas, drinking coffee or tea. I miss the days when Macy's sold gourmet deli food. Nowadays you will find Starbucks and several other well-known franchises scattered throughout the store.

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