Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Greetings From The Savvy Shopper

A haunted house with flying bats, fog and a jack-o-lantern. Oh, come a little closer. Open the gate to enter. Inside the hosts are waiting for you!
Blue Oyster Cult's familiar song is our Halloween mood setter. The song has a catchy reoccurring guitar riff and a cowbell percussion. Click the arrow below to listen, and follow along to the lyrics, if you wish. Have a frighteningly good night! And remember ... the day after All Hallows' Eve is All Saints Day ... followed by all Soul's Day (November 1, 2). Booo.

Don't Fear The Reaper

All our times have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain ... 
We can be like they are
Come on baby, don't fear the reaper
Baby take my hand, don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly, don't fear the reaper

Baby I'm your man, 

Valentine is done
Here but now they're gone, Romeo and Juliet
Are together in eternity.

Romeo and Juliet
Forty thousand men and women everyday, Like Romeo and Juliet
Forty thousand men and women everyday, Redefine happiness
Another forty thousand coming everyday, We can be like they are
Come on baby, don't fear the reaper
Baby take my hand, don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly, don't fear the reaper
Baby I'm your man, 

Love of two is one
Here but now they're gone
Came the last night of sadness
And it was clear she couldn't go on
Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew then disappeared
The curtains flew then he appeared, saying don't be afraid
Come on baby, and she had no fear
And she ran to him, then they started to fly
They looked backward and said goodbye, she had become like they are
She had taken his hand, she had become like they are
Come on baby, don't fear the reaper

Walk this way past the welcoming committee.
Happy Halloween!

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

CoverGirl Cheekers Blush Is A Top Performer

Savvy Cosmetic Shoppers should only splurge on makeup when top ingredients count. Blush usually falls into the must-splurge category, since rich pigments will stay on cheeks all day long without fading. That's why it's very exciting to find a steal for under $5 at the corner drugstore!

CoverGirl Cheekers is a winning blush that performs nearly as well as its luxe cousins for a fraction of the cost. It gets top ratings from magazine-end-of-year lists and everyday women because it comes in 17 natural looking shades to suit a multitude of skin tones. You can also build on the color to flatter your unique complexion; or to-go-from day to evening. The variety of hues blend easily, and each color has a subtle shimmer that gives the face a radiant finish. With a staying power of 5 - 8 hours, it is a smart blush to have in your makeup bag. Inexpensive and fabulous!
Do you have a favorite makeup, cheap-drugstore-buy to recommend?Emoji

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Classic Dark Chocolate Cake

Let the baking begin. It was my first time making a traditional chocolate cake from scratch, but I didn't let that stop me and neither should you. Look how easy/breezy.

After checking a few sources, I used the recipe off the side of a Hersey's Unsweetened Cocoa canister. The chocolate company was established in 1894. I tweaked the ingredients a little bit for the benefit of real chocolate lovers:

Dark Chocolate Cake

Cocoa, in all its glorious forms: beans, powder; a chocolate bar
½ cups sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
¾ cup dark unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

optional: 2 melted squares of gourmet (or Baker's) dark chocolate bar (if you have it)

1) Put the ingredients, one by one, into a mixing bowl while beating with an electric mixer until blended (about 2 minutes). You don't want to over mix this cake. Expect a thin batter.
2) Pour the batter into two 9-inch greased baking pans (or three-8 inch baking pans).
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degree F in the oven.
4. Remove the pans from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pans to cool completely.

Next select a frosting ...

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips, or pieces
½ cup heavy cream (or you can substitute ½ cup of condensed milk, which also works. Naturally, the fatty heavy cream tastes better.)
Choose one flavor: 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules, or 1 teaspoon real vanilla

1. Heat the cream in a pan on a stove top until it just begins to simmer.
2. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate (and coffee or vanilla). Allow the chocolate to melt.
3. Whisk thoroughly. (If I want to thicken the ganache because I've used too much condensed milk, I will return the pot to the stove to simmer it on a low flame while whisking continuously.)
4. Let the mixture sit at room temperature until it thickens and cools.
3. Frost the layers and sides of the cake.

Or you can make a Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting: Blend together: 1 stick of melted butter, 1/3 cup milk,  cup of dark cocoa powder; choose one flavor: 1 teaspoon vanilla, or 1 teaspoon of instant coffee; and add about 3 cups of confectionery sugar until you get a thick, spreadable frosting. Baker's tip: Double Frost your cake: Frost the cake, refrigerator it, then frost it again. That's how professional bakers make cakes look so scrumptious. Add the chocolate shavings, if you wish!

For an intense chocolate flavor, as well as, the health benefits of anti-oxidants, try using organic raw cocoa powder in lieu of a commercial processed cocoa powder.

Invite friends over ... and serve.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Masters Of Sex, A Review

Photo: Showtime
Recently I binge watched the Showtime period drama, Masters of Sex. There are two seasons of 12 episodes each to watch, and it's a good investment of time. 

The show depicts the lives of sex therapists Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who are brilliantly portrayed by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. The real William Masters was an esteemed fertility doctor; Virginia Johnson, a divorced mother of two and former night club singer without a science degree. Initially, Mrs. Johnson was hired as Dr. Master's secretary. 

They began their sex studies in the 1950s when such research was considered smut, not science. It's not easy being pioneers in a field with controversy and misconceptions galore, and it requires brains, ambition, panache and an unrelenting tenacity to succeed. Each of the groundbreakers had qualities (i.e. strengths) the other lacked. First Masters and Johnson needed to set up a sex lab at the hospital where they worked; then they needed more autonomy so they moved their study to independent offices, therefore they needed backers with deep pockets; and still later, they needed to get published for their work to be taken seriously, not to mention, reach the ears of scientific grand poobahs and the public ... all of which took personal sacrifices and years of their lives.

Masters of Sex is one of the best written shows airing. It's a rich story. The characters are real and multi-layered, sometimes flawed, but not irredeemable or destructive. You understand what motivates them. There are no throw away characters on the show. You are interested in the entire cast of lead and supporting characters. There is not one person, who I haven't felt sympathy for at one time or another.

It gets complicated too. Smart people aren't always smart, and moral people fall short. Sometimes ignorance, ambition, ego, insecurity, politics or the times get in the way. The scripts are beyond good; they are sophisticated with slice of life insights.

Overall, it's an upbeat show. But at times people make compromises ... to get ahead ... to get along ... to get the job done.

And yes, there is plenty of sex to watch. But, none of it is gratuitous. Um, let's just anoint the show's talented cast as the bravest actors on TV. They do not flinch. Television viewers experience the venerability ... and get into the hearts and minds of all the characters. We root for them; and sometimes, ache for them.

What a quality show. There will be a season three.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Halloween Themed Clothes And Accessories

Sidney Evan 14k rose gold ring with ruby and garnet.
Halloween comes at the exact right time of the year. We have all of October to get ready for Fright night! If you don't dress up in full costume, you can still have a bit of ghoulish fun with these haunting accessories. The ring at the top is probably my favorite. love it ... and will use it as inspiration, since at $620, I can't really justify the expense. Surely, I can find a gold-plated-rhinestone knock-off for a few dollars elsewhere. (Wouldn't I always like to be wearing rubies and solid gold though!)

Esty, which focuses on homemade, vintage and unique factory items, is a fantastic website to find these kinds of things at affordable prices. The e-company provides "personal storefronts" to artists, craftsmen-and-women and other small sellers, who pay a small fee to list a piece of merchandise. Here is a round-up of several spooky pieces to get you into the spirit for All Hollows' Eve
A black cat iPhone 5 cover here.
These tiny skull studs here.
How about these creepy spider earrings here?
A jack-o-lantern glass pendent neckless with an attitude here.
A spider and web neckless here.
A vampire knuckle ring here.
Oooh, an Alexander McQueen skull silk blend scarf. Pricey, so for inspiration.
An inexpensive skull print sweater from ASOS. I'll take the leather skirt too!
Halloween comes but once a year ... and what a lovely season it is in the western hemisphere! Falling leaves, pumpkins, the light layering of a sweater, hot cider, craft beer and candy corn.

For more goth inspired clothing and accessories click this link for ASOS.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Sole Society For The Latest Style

Boho wrap bracelet, $30
When it comes to chic shoes, handbags and accessories, The Sole Society is right up THE SAVVY SHOPPER'S alley. The site features timeless style, the latest trends along with well crafted goods at mostly affordable prices.

That said, buyer beware. Order with great caution because although shipping is free both ways, returns aren't always hassle free. Customers report that shoe sizes are unpredictable. One size 8 might fit perfectly, yet in another style, a size 8 is too big or small. Not uncommon with footwear, but with this merchant, when shoes or articles don't work out, consumers are given either:

1) store credit for returns; or 2) pay a $7.95 restocking fee (per item returned) for refunds to their credit cards. For these reasons, I would not order shoes directly from the company's website. Instead I recommend ordering Sole Society shoes from other retailers who sell the brand, such as Nordstrom or Amazon, which have friendlier return policies. Who wants to pay $8 to get refunds?

Nonetheless, if you see shoes on the site too posh to pass up and are willing to accept the return policy, be sure to read all the customer reviews for insights before placing an order. Other customers will often tell you if the shoes run big or small, or discuss the quality and look.

Personally, when shopping online, I only take calculated risks on familiar, or inexpenive merchandize. The cost of mistakes can really add up.

Sole Society has a couple of features that make the website fun to browse. Its Tastemarker Series is a useful section where fashion insiders, including top editors and industry bloggers, give you advice, plus select their favorite items. Also appealing is the Shop The Look section, where you can click on a hot outfit to explore and buy the trendy pieces. It's like having a personal cyber stylist at your service!

So enjoy the fashion-forwardness of The Sole Society ...  just shop mindfully.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Show Off Your Blue Shoes To Fight Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed worldwide, according to AM New York. One out of four women gets it globally. While the rate of breast cancer is high, over the last decades our ability to detect it early, at its most treatable stage, has greatly improved. Thanks to advances in screenings and treatment, there are more than 6.3 million breast cancer survivers today. Most of us know someone touched by it. It's a disease that effects the entire family.

During October, which is breast cancer awareness month, many retailers are lending their support. Nine West is sponsoring a campaign to raise awareness and funds, and you can be part of it. Upload a photo of yourself wearing any blue shoes to Instagram or Twitter with the tag #9WFTBC, and the company will donate $10 (up to $275,000) to Fashion Targets Breast Cancer. Click here to participate.

Let's beat breast cancer, and while we're thinking about the subject, be sure to go for your yearly exams. Many cancers, as well as, other illnesses are treatable (and often curable) if caught early. Chronic illness is costly. As this article points out, preventive medicine helps everyone ... you, your family and society! 

Do your part ... take good care, stay informed and join the cause.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Best Bean Soup

Photo: FineArtAmerica
As temperatures fall, do you eat more soup? I certainly do ... and as mentioned, I don't buy canned soups anymore. Homemade soup tastes much better. It's chunkier and you know exactly what's in it. Plus, you can freeze leftovers in 16 ounce containers for quick lunches, or dinners. Simply pop a single serving into the microwave.

Recently I made the best bean soup ever! Although I used pintos, other beans will do. Mix it up each time you make a batch. Use navy, pink, pinto, or whatever bean you like. Also, the ingredients can change slightly, depending on what's in your refrigerator and cupboard. Sometimes I'll throw in carrots or ham, but this time it was vegetarian. If you don't have the Cajun seasoning (click below for recipe) I put in my soup, then season to taste with black pepper and the spices you like. 

Here is my tasty recipe:

Pinto Bean Soup

16 ounces dried beans
(Soak overnight in water according to the package.)
8 cups water
2 large (or 4 small bouillon cubes)
1 large onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried celery
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
a dash of soy sauce
a dash of nutmeg
a dash of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried mustard seeds
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
12 turns of the black pepper mill

optional: 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes; 2 cups ham, sausage or hot dogs, sliced. (Next time around for me. This time vegetarian.)

1. Throw all the above ingredients into a big pot. 
2. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat.
3. Cover with a lid and simmer for 2 - 3 hours. How easy, breezy!

I often make corn bread to eat with bean soup. However, last night I served my pinto bean soup with Virginia ham sandwiches on hearty whole grain bread and a mixed green salad.

Another quick pairing is Cheesy Garlic Toast: Lightly butter slices of whole grain bread. Sprinkle with dried garlic, onion powder and parsley, then top with a generous amount of shredded, sharp cheddar cheese. Place on a cookie sheet: Bake in the oven at 350 degree F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bread is crispy and the cheese melted. If you have a whole loaf of unsliced bread, you can slice it in two ... lengthwise to get 2 long halves. Put the toppings on each of the loaf halves. Bake it on a cookie sheet until the bread is golden brown and the cheese bubbles (about 20-30 minutes), then cut the loaf halves into single portions. Either way works. Serve with your delicious soup. 

Bon Appetit!

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