Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Halloween Wishes

These are the "yes" RSVPs attending the Village Parade. (Go to Heather's Animation here to see them animated. She is brilliant!)

I love Halloween just as much now as I did as a child. What's not to like about a chance to dress up in costume, eat tasty treats, spook your friends (with gore) and PARTY.
When I was a congressional intern in Washington, D.C. there were bewitching festivities on Halloween night in the streets of Georgetown. As darkness fell, zombies, skeletons and bloody, lacerated faces walked M street in every direction before dispersing into bars, restaurants and private parties.

Here in New York City the annual Village Parade marches up Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village on Halloween night. The parade was founded in 1974 by Ralph Lee, who worked as a mask and giant puppet designer in the theater. Giant marionettes, controlled by puppeteers, are still part of the parade today.

ANYONE in costume can join the parade, and it can get wildly creative and bizarre. People dress as aliens, cartoon characters, landmarks, mermaids, Frankenstein, a Monopoly Game set, a brass band of mummies, brides and grooms, celebrities, politicians, massage parlor employees, royalty, super heroes and so much more. You will see anything and everything, including dog owners with their pets disguised as a lion tamer and lion cub, or a feathered swan and "her" ugly duckling. The Village Halloween Parade may be big, exotic and original, but it's also friendly and very much a neighborhood celebration.

The Village Parade almost didn't happen this year. Last year's cancellation due to the blackout of lower Manhattan caused by Hurricane Sandy left a huge debt. The organizers successfully raised $50,000 by appealing to the public, and thanks to private donations from ordinary people, it's back on.

And now to put you in the Halloween spirit, I dug up a classic, yet haunting song performed by a dead artist who influenced an entire generation of singers who followed him. Have you heard of this iconic singer and songwriter? A blast from the past. Guess who???
Have a safe, frightening and Happy Halloween!

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Friday, October 25, 2013

NBC's Dracula

Photo: NBC
Tonight Dracula premieres on NBC as a ten episode limited series, starring Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Shot in Hungary, the bloodthirsty drama begins in London at the end of the Victorian era. I love a scary vampire story -- the colossal interplay of good versus evil -- so I hope this one, based on Bram Stoker's 1897 legendary tale, is well-made. 

I am looking forward to the lavish costumes, the period sets, the acting chops (or fangs, grrr) of an international cast, as well as, the blood, lust and gore that result when a character uses bad judgment and ends up keeping Dracula alive for another day.

A modern Dracula has to be smart, charming and drop dead handsome. Otherwise you would sense the danger and run away screaming. But to be tempted and lured into his orbit, you have to perceive evil as good (and perhaps good as evil).  Oh ... you may sense there's something off about the Count of Darkness, but your eyes see only what they want to see, and your ears hear only what they want to hear ... and so you trust! (Into his lair, you go, grrr.)

And what if you are the Bloodsucker Prince? How will you hide your evil nature? You wake up every day of your undead life thirsting for blood. For you to live another day, someone ... a human ... must die. You did not ask to be immortal ... or a monster, but so it is. A curse.

Now ... what happens if you fall hopelessly in love with a woman? A good woman. An innocent woman. How safe is that person in your arms ... considering your evil, predatory nature? Most likely, you have heightened senses. You remember what it was like to be a man. Can love ever trump evil? Or will the smell of her warm blood be too strong to resist? Will you ... in the end ... suck the life out of her???

Dracula is centuries old, so when he rises from a long slumber, he always has a few scores to settle. Festering wounds that require vengence. Surely, the past will mingle with the present. That should be fun to watch.

 I hope this mini series thrills and frightens viewers to death ... and would it be too much to ask for it to adhere to the spirit of the original ... and have a few kernals that ring true about the human condition?  

Ok, I'll settle for clever entertainment. Please writers and show creators ... just don't mess it up!
Photo: NBC: Cast of Dracula
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

6PM.Com ... Outlet Shopping At Home

Calvin Klein Olwyn, $41.99 (53% off) 

6PM.COM just celebrated its sixth birthday, but I only discoverd the website recently. Best described as internet, outlet, shopping, it features name brand clearance clothing, shoes and accessories.

Since July, I've ordered several designer dresses and pairs of shoes, receiving tremendous savings. I needed 3 to 4 new summer dresses, as well as, the shoes to replace wardrobe items that wore out ... and was thrilled to find quality and style at bargain prices. Where was I for six years?

Customers can expect the same awesome customer service that sister company, Zappos, provides ... plus free shipping on all orders. But there is one difference. While Zappos offers free returns, at 6PM you pay for returns or exchanges if articles don't fit. In my opinion, the risk is acceptable because you get fabulous deals on all merchandise. You will come out ahead even when paying for return postage occasionally. To avoid ordering mistakes, do as much product research as possible. Read decriptions and google customer reviews. Other customers will talk about sizing and how they like the product. When purchases do work out, you save up to 75% off of retail.
Ted Baker

So try putting the name of your favorite brands in 6PM's search box before looking elsewhere. 

A customer loyalty program leads to additional 10% off coupons, which is a nice bonus. 

Above, meet Calvin Klein Olwyn, my new walking shoes. They are constructed of a leather and mesh material. Padding in the arches and heels, plus supportive rubber soles will make my feet happy. I love their dressy-and-sporty look. 

6PM has such a wide selection of designer goods, you really can find exactly what you need at budget-friendly prices.

Happy 6th year, 6PM.COM! Thanks for making it easy to be a savvy shopper!

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Kiehl's Super Multi-Corrective Cream

There's a new Kiehl's face moisturizer out on the market. It's lightweight and non-greasy -- an all-in-one cream that does the job of several products. As the jar says, the moisturizer contains beech tree extract, jasmonic and hyaluronic acids to lift, firm and smooth the skin. At $62 for a 1.7 ml size, it isn't cheap, but it is created to reduce the number of separate anti-aging face products you need to buy.

Kiehl's is famous for its skin care products. According to industry reports, half of its clientele in Los Angeles and New York are men. The company began as a 19th century homeopathic pharmacy in New York's East Village. The original store at 109 3rd Avenue still exists, and the lotions, creams and toners are still made from botanicals. It's a great line for sensitive, dry or problem skin.

Other Kiehl's skin care products I like include their face serum, Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate, which brightens your complexion and the Midnight Recovery Concentrate, which is nice to slosh on right before bed. I can also recommend Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve. It's rich, protective and healing, yet absorbs completely into your skin.

The cost of good skin care can take a big bite out of your budget. A face serum and moisturizer are probably your bare bone essentials. (I usually forgo the face cleanser, exfoliator, toner and eye cream. I don't want to empty my wallet, nor spend all my time in the bathroom! I use Noxzema as a cleanser and Olay as a sunscreen.) You can save a few bucks by choosing and using products wisely. Figure out what you really need, what works and never waste a drop of product.

By the way, I have my morning routine down to 30 minutes. That includes showering, hair washing, blow drying and styling, makeup and dressing. I've gotten it done in 14 minutes after oversleeping (MANIC!), but would rather ease into the morning. Multi-tasking skin care helps speed up getting ready. Sometimes a lush body lotion smoothes dry hands and tames a mane of flyaway hair. What? You've never tried it? Trust me ... just as good as John Frieda.

Kiehl's gives out tons of free samples for you to see which targeted treatment is best for you. Their staff is knowledgeable and helpful. You can buy their products online, but it's worth a trip to the store.
Photo: Kwame J - Kiehl's original store

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

10 Websites That Save You Money

Like many of you, I find myself shopping more and more online lately. Not only is purchasing online convenient -- saving time and transportation costs -- the mechandise, itself, is often less expensive. Here are ten easy-to-navigate websites, which can save you big bucks on essentials, plus cut down on your errands ... leaving you with free time on your weekends:

Merchants:

1. Walmart - There is a wide range of non-perishable grocery and drugstore items you can order online and have delivered directly to your door with free shipping, as long as, you have a $50 minimun order. Examples include: bathroom tissue, snacks like dry roasted peanuts and Tazo chi tea, personal care products such as soaps, shampoo and hair condition, as well as, home goods like storage containers, blenders and food processors. The prices at Walmart are usually unbeatable; and it is easy to put together a $50 order of articles you need to restock each month.
2. Amazon - You can buy just about anything on the site -- truly the sky is the limit-- and there are always many sellers around the country, so you can select the best price. But, the reason this blog loves Amazon is because it offers amazing customer service, so if anything goes wrong with a purchase, Amazon will step in and help you resolve the issue.
3. Overstock - Offers lots of products, low prices and fabulous customer service. (See my review here.)
4. Zappos - Ditto. (See here.) Zappos began by selling shoes, but quickly expanded to include clothing and home goods. Their customer care is awesome.
5. 6PM.COM - Offers deep discounts on name brand clothing, shoes and accessories for men, women and children. 6PM is Zappos' sister company, so you receive the same excellent customer service and free shipping on all orders. Unlike Zappos where returns are free, you pay to send back a mistake, which is fair enough considering the huge savings.

Tools

6. TheFind - A website to help you peruse your favorite stores, locate the best prices on goods of interest and (if you wish) receive sale alerts on products you like. You enter the name of a product in the search box to pull the information up.
7. InvisibleHand - A browser add-on to notify you when there are lower prices available on goods, flights, hotels and retal cars.
8. PriceGabber - A website that compares prices and provides product information so you can zero in on the best deals.
9. PoachIt - A browser add-on that tracks products you are watching to go on sale and emails you as the price goes down. 
10. RetailMeNot - A website to find discounts for all your favorite retail stores. I never buy anything without first checking this site for promotional codes to save 10% - 80%.

With a little help from the internet, you can always find the lowest price, rarely paying retail for anything. Plus, what a blast receiving packages in the mail these days!
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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dr. Oz's 12 Natural Immunity Boosters

Sage Photo: Dr. Oz
I'm a big fan of Dr. Mehmet Oz. He makes medicine easy to understand and gives smart tips to follow on staying healthy. Even when you practice traditional medicine, it never makes sense to over medicate with drugs if a natural remedy works just as well. Dr. Oz is a respected heart surgeon who is open to natural remedies and alternative medicine. When someone with Dr. Oz's backgound talks, people listen (and we should!). He recommends eating a diet rich in immunity boosting foods to help your body better ward off illness or recover quicker. I am condensing and publishing his list below: 

Dr. Oz's 12 Natural Immunity Boosters:

1. Kill a Cold: With Japanese mushrooms - They are loaded with ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant that doesn't get destroyed during the cooking process.

2. Cleanse Your Gut: Try oregano oil - It helps to eliminate bad bacteria that may be dominating your digestive system. Dr. Oz says spread out your dose by taking 200 mg 3 times a day.

3. Relieve Your Liver: Eat cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, lettuce and cabbage - They boost the liver's ability to flush out toxins.
Avocado photo: Dr. Oz

4. Attend to Your Adrenals: With avocados - They contain essential amino acids, antioxidants and healthy fats to help balance hormone production. Eat 1/2 cup per day.

5. Clear Your Lungs: use ginger - According to Ayurvedic traditions, ginger warms the body and helps to break down the accumulation of toxins in the organs, especially in the lungs and sinuses. It helps clean the lymphatic system - the body's sewage system. By keeping your airways open, ginger may lessen your risk of infection.

6. Improve Your Vision: Try black currants - They contain compound anthocyanosides, which may be helpful in promoting night vision. Black currants are also super rich in vitamin C, making them a powerful immunity booster.

7. Lower Your Cholesterol: Eat Oatmeal - A super food, oatmeal contains soluable fiber. It reduces LDL, or "bad" cholesterol.

8. Get Healthy Skin: With pomegranate seeds - They contain elegiac acid and punic alagin which fights free radical damage and helps preserve the skin's collagen. It also has phytonutrients, which also promotes healthy skin.

9. Reduce Heart Attack Risk: Eat pumpkin seeds - They are rich in magnesium, which may help lower blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart attacks or stroke.

10. Ease a Cough: Use sage extract - It works as an expectorant, which helps your body move mucus out of your respiratory tract and helps calm your cough. Dr. Oz recommends putting a drop of sage extract in tea or hot water, as needed.

11. Strengthen Your Hair: Eat eggs - The iron, biotin and vitamin B12 in eggs can help to strengthen hair, and the iron will guard against anemia - a cause of hair loss in women.
Graviola photo: Dr. Oz

12. Kill Cancer: With graviola - As a natural immunity booster, graviola has been traditionally used to kill parasites, ameliorate liver problems, reduce fevers, and help treat colds and the flu. Scientists have studied graviola since the 1940s and research has centered around annonaceous acetogenins, a group of natural compounds that appear to have anti-tumor properties, meaning they may fight cancer and boost immunity.

Eating a diet of healthy food to boost immunity is a time honored way of staying healthy. Your grandmother preached it. But never, ever treat yourself for a serious illness. If a cold, cough or condition lingers, hot tail it to your family doctor. Listen M.E.N., you especially ... nip it earlier than later, because we love you!

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Let's Have A Pillow Talk

How often do you wash your pillows? I checked several sources, and they differ. Some experts say every six months using laundry detergent, bleach and borax, while others cite once a year in cold, warm or hot water and mild detergent. Pillows aren't cheap, so homemakers have two issues: cleaning versus perserving pillows.

What people worry most about is getting rid of dust mites, microscopic creatures that feed on dead human skin and live in your house and in bedding, including your pillows. Dust mites leave droppings causing some people to have asthma and allergies. (Wow, everything poops!) Over time 2% of the weight of a pillow can be dust mites.

Are you alarmed!?! Don't be: The majority of us will be just fine by washing our bed sheets once a week, and our pillows once a year; however only hot water kills dust mites. (AMAZING, if you or I got thrown into a washer filled with water, detergent and spun around for 30 minutes, we'd die, but not those pooping dust mites!) A New York Times' article explains who should be concerned about dust mites and who shouldn't. Bottom line: If you do laundry regularly, no need to worry. You will still have some dust mites, but they won't hurt you.

People are very particular about the type of pillow they like sleeping on. It comes down to different stokes for different folks. For tips on selecting a better pillow click here.

My pillows are 75% white goose down with 25% goose feathers. The down gives a pillow plushness and softness; the feathers structure and fullness. I can sleep on synthetic filled pillows as a guest in someone else's home, but I love my natural fills. They are firm, but soft and supportive.

All the pillows in my home are encased in pillow protectors to guard against dust mites, feather allergies ... and bed bugs. All New Yorkers (including transplanted New Yorkers) are petrified of bed bugs. The local news makes us very paranoid! Don't even get me started: I can't tell you how many times I've nearly freaked over discovering a black speck, which turned out to be a dark piece of lint. (That's normal, right?) I highly recommend pillow protectors to extend the life of your pillows, and why not get the most protection for the buck? (If you think I'm bad, try attending a party in a New York City luxury building. Rich folks don't let guests bring their coats inside their apartments. Coats are hung on a coat rack in the hallway ... far, far away from the host's closets, or bed.)

On Friday I decided to wash my pillows. I used a front load washing machine, hot water, a mild eco-friendly detergent and tumble dried them on hot for 30 minutes. Some people like to throw a few tennis balls into a dryer to fluff  them up. (I didn't.) As of Monday morning, my pillows are still slightly damp.

So be sure to have alternate pillows to sleep on. After a wash, you want your pillows completely dry before putting them back into their encasement to prevent mold.

And as for the saying "Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite" ... please!  I perfer, "Sweet dreams."
Washing Machine


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