Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Homemade Creole and Cajun Seasonings

Hard as it is to believe (I mean, it's not exactly strenuous, is it?) I get tired of taking multiple spices out of my kitchen cabinet to season the meat, vegetables and soups I prepare. It's sooo repetitive! So I'm making my own batch of Creole and/or Cajun spice mix. Let me explain how to tell  "Creole" from "Cajun."

Today it's not easy. The differences between Creole and Cajun cooking are subtle, as the two groups have blended together. Both are heavily influenced by French cooking. The Creoles tended to be city slickers, who migrated to New Orleans, while the Cajuns settled in rural Louisiana and lived off the land. Creole cooking picked up ingredients from Spain, Africa, the Caribbean, Italy and Germany. 

Think of Cajuns as country folks. Generally, Cajun cooking was more likely to use pork, chicken, crawfish and sausage, plus a heavier dose of cayenne pepper, while Creoles, with the Italian influence, were more likely to add tomatoes to the "Holy Trinity" of bell pepper, celery and onion -- the vegetable blend found in the cooking of both groups.

The Creoles tended to use more crab, shrimp and oysters in their dishes. But present day chefs often interchange the seasonings (and foods) of what was once purely Creole or Cajun cooking, since nowadays all the ingredients are readily available.

To show the similarities of the two heritages, I will list a spice mix recipe for each:

Creole Seasoning - Makes about 1 1/3 cups

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons sea salt
5 tablespoons paprika, regular or smoked
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh black pepper (144 turns of the pepper mill)
1 tablespoon white pepper
2 tablespoons dried garlic
2 tablespoons dried onion
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon dried cilantro
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried thyme (Traditionally, thyme was more characteristic of Cajun cooking.)
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

Directions:

Add ingredients, one by one in a mixing bowl, blend and store in an air tight Mason jar.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Cajun Spice Mix - Makes about one cup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons dried garlic
1 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons dried onion
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons oregano (Traditionally, the Italian influence was more characteristic of Creole cooking)

Directions:

Blend thoroughly in a mixing bowl and store in an air tight Mason jar.

As you can see, the Creole and Cajun spice mix is nearly identical. So feel free to choose one. I had all of the ingredients for the Creole seasoning mix in my cupboard, so went with it. 

Now I can reach for a single spice mix and be done without skimping on flavor. 

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Max Factor's Pan-Stik Is MIA

A wonder cosmetic, one used for over 60 years bites the dust ... at least in the USA. Max Factor's Pan-Stik is no longer sold here. And what a dumbfounding loss it is.

During Hollywood's Golden Age, Max Factor (1877 - 1938) was the cosmetician to the stars, developing  cosmetics for the likes of Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert, Jean Harlow and Rudolph Valentino to name a few. It was Max Factor who coined the word, "make-up." According to Wikipedia, he became famous for "customizing" his products to "compliment the individual complexions of actors and actresses" so that each one looked flawless on screen. Legends from Marlene Dietrich to Judy Garland flocked to his shop near Hollywood Boulevard. 

Working with his sons (Frank and Davis), Max Factor took his silver screen expertise into the consumer world, and in 1948 the Pan-Stik was introduced. There is nothing like it for covering under eye dark circles, hiding blemishes or evening out skin tone. The Pan-Stik glides on silky smooth, looks completely natural and lasts until you wash it off.

Best of all, it was available at the corner drugstore -- a generous 14g (.5oz) size -- for about $6. Now consumers must fork over $40 and up for comparable Chanel or Bobbi Brown cover sticks, which come close, but don't outdo the Pan-Stik. What a pity that Proctor and Gamble, the company who bought Max Factor, didn't see fit to keep such a quality (irreplaceable!) item on the market. It's enough to make grown women cry, or drive us insane!

Even so, there is a silver lining. Although not for sell in the United States, a smaller 9g size Pan-Stik is sold in Great Britain. You will pay more and get less, but you can find it here through Amazon. It's now manufactured in Ireland, not the USA. 

Out of desperation, I ordered four "smallers" in True Beige. Honestly, somebody is laughing all the way to the Riviera. (Hey, glad we could help with your finances!) I have one 14g size left also. Thankfully, my stash will last for a while. 

Meanwhile, come back to America old friend!

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Lil Davinci Art Cabinet

Every spring I purge and organize my apartment. It's liberating and brings a sense of accomplishment, especially in a small space. I start with my closets. With everything in its place, I don't even need to decide what I will wear the night before. Everything is clean, hanging and ready to grab in the morning.

Then I move onto books and paper. Ever notice how much paper you need to keep ... and how much space all that paper takes up?

Which brings me to a clever gadget I stumbled upon recently ... the Lil Davinci Art Cabinet. It's brilliant for displaying and storing your children's artwork in a tidy, orderly way. The cabinet comes in two sizes. Placed in a foyer or hallway, the Lil Davinci stores up to 50 pieces of artwork. Great for family photos and/or other flat mementos too. Ingenious and stylish! Why didn't I think of ... and patent it myself!

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Monday, May 12, 2014

How Much Should You Spend To Store Your Stuff?

Call me parsimonious, because I ask myself this question every time I think about buying storage of any kind, whether it's a file cabinet, armoire, or Tupperware. I realize a few containers or cabinets are necessary for organization. It's easy to keep your home tidy if everything has its place. But oh man, do I deliberate whenever I consider bringing another storage receptacle home.

Usually I don't really want to give up the space it will occupy. So if the need for additional storage is greater than the hit, i.e. the loss of the space, I will bite the bullet. Although I'm sure before acting, I spend the next week looking at the new unit and asking myself if I made the right decision ... before I settle into actually liking the new piece.

Another issue I wrestle with is how much to pay for storage. It involves how much I value the things I plan to keep. Should I spend hundreds of dollars to keep them? Or ... should I get rid of the stuff I rarely use? Do I bring a cabinet into my apartment so I can hang onto certain things (clothes, papers, books, pillows), or would it be cheaper to give stuff away and buy it again, if a need arises?

After grappling with such thoughts for a while and deciding to take the plunge, I inevitably find I don't want to spend big bucks for storage. So I assess my needs thoroughly and look for deals.

Recently I decided to take the plunge by buying a file cabinet. File cabinets are expensive! 

Luckily, I found one (manufactured by Hirst Industries) at Target (which is also sold at Amazon, Staples and Overstock). It has 3 drawers and a lock -- 2 drawers for letter-size files and a top drawer for "junk." 

Since I don't need to worry about theft like office workers might, I accepted a few limitations in lieu of paying serious money for a heavy duty file cabinet. Basically, I just need to keep my papers and office supplies organized and occasionally away from prying eyes. The lock is good enough for that. Only the top 2 drawers lock. With a powerful jerk, the lock could be brokened open. Although legal-sized drawers are more versatile, letter-size drawers are idea for a small space. Constructed of steel, the cabinet won't fall apart, and the handles look expensive. It holds lots of files, making it perfect for a home office. I bought the pretty pearl white. Very nice for the price! $39 - $89, depending on where you buy it. 
I bought this caddy for it.



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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

"There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one." - Jill Churchill
"The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world." - W. R. Wallace
"If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." - Ferrell Sims
"God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers." - Rudyard Kipling
Red roseRed roseRed rose
Like the character, Loretta Castorini, played by Cher in Moonstruck, my Mother doesn't understand why anyone spends money on flowers, since they end up in the garbage. She told me never to buy her flowers, saying, "It would not make me happy." But even my Mom will admit how pretty the above images are, and they are as permanent as the internet turns out to be.


When I was 3 to 4 years old, I remember picking my Mom the dandellions, wild violets and clover flowers growing in our yard. They are one step up from weeds, yet she always put them in a cup of water for a few days. That was sweet of her ... considering. 

Mom doesn't like nonsense, or as she puts it, "nonesensers." It's up to the rest of us to figure out what that is. Because ... um, she's German. :) Please send any flowers purchased for her my way.

Alles Gute zum Muttertag Mamma, xoxo!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Joss And Main

Joss and Main is a flash sale site that focuses on selling home goods and decor. It is a fabulous place to go for decorating tips and inspiration. If their stylists were to show up at my door for a makeover, not only would I let them in, they could  -- carte blanche -- do whatever they wanted. If I didn't love it, that would be the surprise.

The online retailer runs seven flash sales daily, beginning at 11 a.m. EST. Each flash sale usually lasts for 72 hours. You have to register to see them.
While there are bargains and good value to be found on the website, you should do extensive research before submitting an order. Visit furniture showrooms, read product descriptions carefully, pay attention to measurements ... and google item reviews. In other words, only take calculated risks. Don't buy articles blind, so you don't make expensive mistakes. However, if you do your homework, you can end up with a special piece, or an attractive price.
Also know going in that customer reviews for Joss And Main are mixed. While many customers report: Customer service is responsive and sends out replacements for damaged goods, there are too many complaints saying it takes a long time (over a month) to receive furniture, plus it is nearly impossible to cancel goods once an order is placed. And buyer beware, shipping is expensive, which seems to be common with flash sale sites. None of them offer discounted or free shipping.
So take a gander, get inspired ... and proceed mindfully. You might pinpoint your style and learn a few decorating tricks, but keep in mind, it's a lot of trouble to return a couch or table.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

The Anatomy Of The Brain


brain lobes

Have you ever looked at the anatomy of the human brain? Indeed, it is a three pound marvel of such complexity, it is challenging to process all the information about the organ. How does it control the body, form thoughts and embody the essence of the mind and spirit (a/k/a the soul)? As much as we know, there is so much we do not know. Life is a mystery ... beginning with the brain.

Consider the areas of the brain for yourself:

Figure 3. The brain is composed of three parts: the brainstem, cerebellum, and cerebrum.
The cerebrum is divided into four lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital.

  • The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and is composed of the right and left  hemispheres. It performs higher functions like interpreting touch, vision and hearing, as well as speech, reasoning, emotions, learning and fine control of movement.
  • The cerebellum is located under the cerebrum. Its function is to coordinate muscle movements, maintain posture, and balance.
  • The brainstem includes the midbrain, pons, and medulla. It acts as a relay center connecting the cerebrum and cerebellum to the spinal cord. It performs many automatic functions such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature, wake and sleep cycles, digestion, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and swallowing. Ten of the twelve cranial nerves originate in the brainstem.
The surface of the cerebrum has a folded appearance called the cortex. The cortex contains about 70% of the 100 billion nerve cells. The nerve cell bodies color the cortex grey-brown giving it its name – gray matter (Fig. 4). Beneath the cortex are long connecting fibers between neurons, called axons, which make up the white matter.

gyrus

Figure 4. The surface of the cerebrum is called the cortex. The cortex contains neurons (grey matter), which are interconnected to other brain areas by axons (white matter). The cortex has a folded appearance. A fold is called a gyrus and the groove between is a sulcus.


The folding of the cortex increases the brain’s surface area allowing more neurons to fit inside the skull and enabling higher functions. Each fold is called a gyrus, and each groove between folds is called a sulcus. There are names for the folds and grooves that help define specific brain regions.

Right brain – left brain


The right and left hemispheres of the brain are joined by a bundle of fibers called the corpus callosum that delivers messages from one side to the other. Each hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body. If a brain tumor is located on the right side of the brain, your left arm or leg may be weak or paralyzed.

Not all functions of the hemispheres are shared. In general, the left hemisphere controls speech, comprehension, arithmetic, and writing. The right hemisphere controls creativity, spatial ability, artistic, and musical skills. The left hemisphere is dominant in hand use and language in about 92% of people.


Lobes of the brain


The cerebral hemispheres have distinct fissures, which divide the brain into lobes. Each hemisphere has 4 lobes: frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital (Fig 3). Each lobe may be divided, once again, into areas that serve very specific functions. It’s important to understand that each lobe of the brain does not function alone. There are very complex relationships between the lobes of the brain and between the right and left hemispheres.

Frontal lobe

  • Personality, behavior, emotions
  • Judgment, planning, problem solving
  • Speech: speaking and writing (Broca’s area)
  • Body movement (motor strip)
  • Intelligence, concentration, self awareness
  • Parietal lobe

    • Interprets language, words
    • Sense of touch, pain, temperature (sensory strip)
    • Interprets signals from vision, hearing, motor, sensory and memory
    • Spatial and visual perception

    Occipital lobe

    • Interprets vision (color, light, movement)

    Temporal lobe

    • Understanding language (Wernicke’s area)
    • Memory
    • Hearing
    • Sequencing and organization
    Messages within the brain are carried along pathways. Messages can travel from one gyrus to another, from one lobe to another, from one side of the brain to the other, and to structures found deep in the brain (e.g. thalamus, hypothalamus).

    Honestly, my poor brain can barely process all this wealth of information, which explains why I only took 6 hours of science in college (i.e. chemistry ... and not my idea either). I had to study like the dickens! Under the gun, I can sometimes recall a bit of the subject, and as the years pass, there's a lot of other crap up there too. Oh well, I digress ...

    Enjoy the weekend, and always take good care of your magnificent brain.

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