Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tata Harper's Organic Skin Care With No Fillers

Photo: Tata Harper
As founder Tata Harper says, "potentially toxic chemicals" ... "have no place in the products we use on our skin every day." So if you are searching for skin care that works, yet is free of synthetic ingredients, look no further than her brand. 

But know going in that her luxe elixirs are pricey! You are paying for one-of-a-kind formulas  -- with no fillers or generic bases. Harper's comprehensive line, which includes makeup and treatments, are created from scratch by her -- with skin care chemists -- to provide targeted results, namely preventing and/or smoothing wrinkles. She claims that each bottle of product is a multi-tasker. One bottle of serum is concentrated with between 9 and 29 active ingredients; whereas, competitors have far fewer active ingredients. Therefore, customers can buy one of her products to do several jobs (like brighten, tighten and rebuild collagen) resulting in younger looking skin. That's good because you might only be able to afford one bottle of product!😄

Tata Harper's serums and lotions are made with certified organic ingredients that come from the company's sustainable 12,000 acre farm in the Champagne Valley of Vermont. Each year the farm grows the herbs, flowers and fruit used in Harper's beauty formulas. All the phases of production -- from research and development ... to packing and shipping -- occur at the farm.

Indeed, the line is expensive, which isn't surprising for products that aren't mass produced. For many of us, a purchase is a splurge, but you know what you're getting ... high doses of the finest, organic ingredients with no fillers.

The best deal is probably the Rejuvenating Serum for Home & Travel set. To get the best price, check both Amazon and Harper's website periodically for special offers.

Also check the links below for budget friendly organic skin care. THE SAVVY SHOPPER strives to give you knowledge and options. Enter "serum" in the blog's search box for previous posts highlighting other great products at different price points. Fortunately, effective products are easy to find with a bit of reseach.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Favorite Red Carpet Oscar Dresses 2015


 1) Sienna Miller is wearing Oscar de la Renta; 2) Emma Stone is in Elie Saab; 3) Rosamund Pike has on Givenchy; 4) Anna Faris is in Zuhair Murad; 5) Laura Dern has on Alberta Ferretti; and 6) Reese Witherspoon is wearing Tom Ford.

Along with the rest of the world, I'm watching the Academy Awards LIVE, and we have hours to go! Not much bling this year, but here are my favorite gowns. What are your picks?

If I had to wear one of these dresses, I love the style of Emma Stone's dress. The glittery green is beautiful on her. Emma is a "fall" and looks fantastic in it. I'm a "winter" and would look best in a purple or cobalt blue. Ok, back to reality!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sullivan Street Bakery's No Knead Bread My Way

Photo: The New York Times
Yesterday, the temperature dropped to 3 degrees F, so people tend to stay indoors ... which leads to baking.

Thank you, Mark Brittman of The New York Times and breakmaker, Jim Lahey, for your recipe. This artisan bread has less yeast and no milk, eggs, butter or sugar, unlike many other bread recipes.

What I like about it is: 1) the ingredients are pared down; 2) it's for a single loaf; and 3) time does the kneading for you. Simplicity.

What I don't like is: 1) it takes 12-18 hours to rise; and 2) the bread calls for all white flour; plus 3) it will dry out, if not eaten within a day or so.

So what's a home baker to do? I changed the recipe slightly:

No Knead Artisan Bread My Way -- Whole Wheat


3 cups whole wheat flour (You can use all-purpose if you wish)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon quick rising yeast
1 1/2 cups of warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

Optional: 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar
You can throw an egg in for more protein too. I often do.

Extra flour, plus olive oil for you hands.
Oatmeal to sprinkle on top of the loaf, it looks rustic.


1) Put your flour and dry ingredients into a bowl. Stir together uniformly.

2) Next pour in the water, olive oil and vinegar.

3) Stir into a dough (using your hands if you wish). Sprinkle the dough and your hands with a little flour to prevent sticking and mix it until the dough is elastic. Towards the end, I wet my hands with a little olive oil so the dough won't stick. The olive oil also seems to give the bread extra shelf life after it is baked.

4) Roll the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 5-12 hours. I put the dough inside the oven with just the pilot light to keep it warm.

5) After it has tripled in size, fold the dough over a few times (I don't mess with it too much, just enough to shape it), then transfer the dough to a round pan. Cover it again with plastic wrap.

6) Let it rise in a warm place for another 1 1/2 hours before popping it into a preheated dutch oven pan, then placing it into a preheated 450 degree F oven.

7) Bake covered with a lid at 450 degrees F for about 30 minutes.

8) Finally, remove the lid and bake for another 5 minutes if you want a soft crust, or 15 minutes to get a hard crust.

This easy-to-make, fresh baked artisan bread is a keeper. Enjoy!

Extra tips: Personally, I mix and let the bread rise both times in a big Wok (with a glass lid) before transfering it to a heated Dutch oven to bake. This eliminates washing a mixing bowl, a cutting board, a second rise pan and the need to use plastic wrap to cover the bowl; instead I use the Wok's lid. Yes, I am that lazy! But use whatever you have. A mixing bowl (with plastic wrap) is fine.

Before you preheat your oven, put the rack on a lower level.

You can bake your bread in a heavy duty aluminum loaf pan to get a loaf shape, if you wish. Just remember to cover it with aluminum foil to bake. Remove the cover after 30 minutes to get a crust as you would with a Dutch oven. Once in while when baking in an aluminum loaf pan, the bottom of the bread looks soggy, yet done, so I'll pop it upside down on a baking sheet and bake that way for an extra 5 minutes the get a perfect loaf of bread: crunchy on the outside, moist and fluffy on the inside.

I also like letting the bread rise overnight. So Friday or Saturday nights are ideal times to start. Then you can bake the bread early the next day.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Happy Valentine's Day

I may be a grown up, but I love Valentine's Day. Perhaps, it's the holiday's vibrant red color, or the cute decorations of hearts, cupids and love birds. 

Perhaps it's the anticipation of a lovely dinner with a glass of fine red wine ... or a little taste of dark chocolate. 

And, a pretty flower is a no brainer. Around here the day is casual and low-key-festive.

Happy Valentine's Day, my darling readers! 
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

THE SAVVY SHOPPER'S Seven Healthy Swaps

Photo: PBS: Hasselback potatoes
A huge part of everyone's budget is food and drink. Make these seven healthy changes to your diet and get a bonus ... cash left in your wallet:

1. Swap boxed cereal for unprocessed whole grains: oats, millet, quinoa, brown rice and others. Not only are unprocessed whole grains much cheaper (especially if bought in bulk), they are easy to cook and delicious. You will eat less sugar.  Add your own raisins and honey for a nutritious breakfast. Or prepare whole grains as a savory dish.

2. Swap soda for coffee and tea to drink as hot or iced beverages. You'll save a bundle, plus reap the health benefits. Soda has harmful chemicals. Even soda with artificial sweeteners is bad for your teeth and metabolism, while coffee and tea contain anti-oxidants that are good for your heart, skin and brain. In giving up soda, you may drop a few pounds.

3. Swap canned soups for dried and canned beans. Or buy dried peas. Or lentils. Or cut up your own fresh vegetables and add leftover beef, ham or chicken to make hearty soups. Homemade soup is a convenient one pot meal to cook and freeze, and the taste is far superior to canned soups.

4. Swap frozen french fries for fresh french friesYes, you can have french fries as long as you make them yourself: Brush cut potatoes with olive oil and bake on an oiled baking sheet at 350 degrees F until golden brown. Salt and pepper to taste.

5. Swap potato chips for Hasselback potatoes: Cut a potato into 1/4 inch slices (thin) crosswise (without slicing the potato all the way through). Fan and brush each slice with olive oil and season it with salt, pepper, garlic and spices to taste. If you wish, you can also sprinkle it with a little cheese or crisp bacon. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes. Hasselback potatoes are a cross between french fries and potato chips. 

Future goals for myself:

6) Swap the gallons of Arizona Diet Tea I buy for ice tea made from tea bags - Homemade ice tea, whether it's black, white, green  or oolong, costs pennies a glass in lieu of what I spend on ready-made tea. I'll sweeten the tea with a tiny bit of Stevia, a zero calorie sweetener, extracted from a plant.

7) Swap bottled salad dressing for homemade vinaigrette dressing, using healthy extra virgin olive oil. I have a scrumpuious recipe, but just need to implement the plan!

Make Ahead Vinaigrette Dressing

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar (balsamic, cider or wine, etc.*)
2 teaspoons mustard (dijon, brown or yellow, etc.*)
1 tablespoon minced onion (or dried*)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (or dried*)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix, and refrigerate in a jar.

Over time you may prefer the DIY (do it yourself) dishes over the retailer prepared ones. Here's to a healthier you starting right now ... then deposit the extra savings in the bank. You will need it in your old age!

* I'm a great believer in using what you have in your cupboard. Growing up, my Mam'ma was the best cook in the world! But, she didn't consider herself a gourmet cook, and we weren't foodies. Our mindset was make healthy and tasty food, then get it on the table!! We eat every day. Who has time to be a fusspot?

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Monday, February 9, 2015

What Are PYSIS?

PYSIS, pronounced Pisces (like the zodiac fish) stands for Protect Your Shoes In Style. Marketed as posh galoshes, they are rainboot covers that go on over many different styles of shoes to protect the footwear from the rain, slush or snow. 

PYSIS are designed with a flat, treaded rubber sole and innovated elastic closures to keep your feet insulated, warm and dry, as well as, your dress shoes from ruin.

They have a collapsible construction. The covers fold up in an easy-to-carry pouch that slings over your shoulder on days when it might, or might not rain.

The design also provides stability to high heel wearers. The footbed has a notch that holds the heel in place, and the sheath keeps the ankle secure.

Light and comfortable, they eliminate the need for a bulky pair of rubber boots. Look professional and polished even on stormy days. 

Protect your shoes while you stay dry in style!

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Why Is Ground Beef More Expensive?

Photo: Culinary Arts
The price of beef has gone up. The reason: Last year the midwest experienced a drought, so farmers reduced their herds of cattle and this created a beef shortage. 

Recently, I paid $4.99 (per pound) for ground round on sale! Not tenderloin, mind you, but the meat we use to make burgers! This got me wondering: How can a family stretch their beef budget? And ... what is the difference in all the types of ground beef on the market?

It turns out that some ground beef is made with the leftovers of other cuts of beef from the entire body of the cow. For ground beef to be called a specific type, such as chuck, round or sirloin, it can only come from that section of the animal. So here is what a consumer is buying:

Hamburger: Can have the trimmings from the entire cow. It can also have up to 30% of added fat. Personally, I never buy it. You have no idea what you are getting, nor do you know how many cows are used in one pound of meat.

Ground beef: Has the trimmings from the entire cow, but no extra fat can be added. The fat must come from the pieces of meat used, and it can have up to 30% fat. I don't buy this choice either.

Ground chuck: Chuck comes from the shoulder and neck sections of the cow. It is 15-20% fat. Many people like this cut to make juicy burgers and meatloaf. It is considered a flavorful cut of beef. Pieces of chuck, not ground, often get used in beef stew, or goulash, or stroganoff.

Ground round: Comes from the lean round and rump sections of the cow. It is 10-15% fat. This is a muscular section of the animal and some people consider it too dry to make burgers or meatloaf, but I prefer it. (I also use round and rump roasts ... or round pieces in beef stew. Lacking the marbling of fat, the meat is tough, but braising for a few hours will tenderize and turn it into a delicious meal. That's for a roast. Ground round isn't tough.) 

Ground sirloin: This meat comes from the sirloin section of the cow. It contains 8-10% fat and is the leanest and most expensive of the selections.

Although ground round and ground sirloin make a drier burger and meatloaf, I prefer its flavor to that of chuck, but like the white and dark meat of a chicken, it's a matter of individual taste. So decide for yourself. What's more, I can't tell much of a difference between ground round and ground sirloin, so I usually buy the one that goes on sale.

Now let's discuss how to stretch your beef budget. There are three easy ways:

1. Catch the supermaket sales. 

2. Buy larger quantities: Three pounds or more is often cheaper than lesser weights, then freeze the portions you don't use right away.

3. Use less beef in your recipes: 1) Combine a can of mashed kidney beans with two pounds of ground beef to make a meatloaf {along with a diced onion, red pepper and celery! I also add a cup of oatmeal and two eggs + spices}; 2) Mix rice with a pound of ground beef to make stuffed cabbage; 3) Combine fresh vegetables with ground beef to make hobo packets, etc. These are delicious dishes. You won't miss cutting down on the beef.

I have a hard time giving up red meat altogether, but it's actually a healthy diet to eat less of it and/or to combine it with other food groups.

I'm more mindful these days about how food gets on the table. Now I consider my carbon footprint on the planet, as well as, the cruelty to animals, so I find myself eating less meat in general. However, it's so tasty and filling that I haven't given it up entirely ... not yet! 

How about you?

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Aboard The Underground Railroad: A Picture Book in Verse

THE SAVVY SHOPPER is doing something very different today in honor of Black History month, which begins on February 1st.

African Americans have contributed much to our culture: language, food and the arts. Obviously, we would not be the same country without them. Black history is American history.

In high school I wrote a poem in the form of a children's picture book about the travel to freedom Aboard The Underground Railroad. (Hopefully, I won't embarrass myself by sharing it!) Brushing up on American history, the UR was an informal network of local people -- free blacks and sympathetic whites -- who helped hide slaves along secret routes from Southern States leading to the North and Canada. It is a timeless tale of survival, as well as, the hope for a better life. 

Allow me to dust it off and publish it here for the very first time. Visualize turning the pages of a picture book as you read: 

Aboard The Underground Railroad
by Debra Turner

Thousands of slaves did not yield to their fate,
But developed secret routes to help them escape.

Away from owners and hard labor on Southern plantations,
They followed the North Star in search of salvation.

Traveling in groups, some carrying boxes and sacks,
Others proceeded on, wearing the rags on their backs.

A hazardous journey, runaways moved under moonlight,
And kept carefully concealed with freedom in sight.

A people … a race … destined to be slaves,
Born to be subservient until the end of their days.

For fugitives seeking refuge from a peculiar institution,
The Underground Railroad held the solution.

Neither underground, nor a railroad, with a loose organization,
Railroad terms became code words. Hiding places were called "stations.”

Up to the free states and Canada, passengers walked, sailed, and swam,
Over harsh paths through thick woods, river crossings and mountainous land.

Aboard boats, trains and wagons, each person rode … haunted with fear,
By the specter of recapture that always loomed near.

Free blacks and white abolitionists in both the North and the South,
Provided food, shelter and directions for slaves along the route.

The system gave black men, women and children a chance to flee.
And released souls from bondage in the land of the free.

Here is a useful sidebar and glossary to flesh out history. Visualize them (below) scattered throughout the picture book (with lovely illustrations) had it been published as a picture book.


Sidebar of celebrated “conductors"

Harriet Tubman (1820-1913), a runaway slave, herself, who returned to the South on 19 rescue trips to help 300 slaves escape to freedom.  She was never caught and never lost a “passenger” on any of her trips.

 Levi Coffin (1798-1877), a Quaker abolitionist, whose home in Newport (today Fountain City), Indiana was located on three major escape routes.  Called the “President of the Underground Railroad,” he helped over 3,000 runaways reach freedom.

John P. Parker (1827-1900), a black abolitionist from Ohio, who went down to Kentucky and Virginia and transported 400 or more slaves across the Ohio River by boat.

John Fairfield (d.1861?), the son of a slave holding Virginia family; he ventured into the Deep South and saved hundreds of captives by posing as a slave trader.  His abolitionist friends last heard from him in 1861. (Citing newspaper reports, Levi Coffin concluded that Fairfield was killed in Tennessee on a rescue trip.)



plantation – a large farm on which fruits, vegetables and crops like cotton were grown.

peculiar institution – a term used to describe the practice of owning African Americans as private property. The custom ended in the North by the early 1800s and in the South after the Civil War in 1865.

abolitionist – a person who worked to end slavery.

Quakers - a religious group who sympathized with slaves in their struggle to gain freedom. Many Quakers became abolitionists.

stations – railroad jargon for safe houses. 

passengers – a code word for runaway slaves.

conductors – the men and women who risked their own safety to guide slaves to the next safe house or “station.”

Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 – a law passed to give slave owners the right to recapture escaped slaves anywhere in the United States and bring them back to bondage in the South. It made helping runaway slaves a crime.

Photo: PBS