Thursday, May 28, 2015

Traveler Meet The Barracuda

The swivel handle is attacked to an pull down laptop tray.
The Barracuda -- a collapsible, hard sided, carry-on, suitcase -- is a Kickstarter item, not yet available in stores, but I already want one.

You see, I don't have enough room in my apartment for my luggage. 

Although we have a locked storage room in our building where I have kept three suitcases (of different sizes) since moving into the building, recently when I went with a porter to retrieve the carry-on, it turns out that two of my suitcases -- the said carry-on, as well as, the next size up -- went missing. 

It is disappointing to say the least. Only building staff has keys to unlock the room; and for years the same porter accompanied me to get and return the suitcases from the storage room. It was a system that worked very well (for years) until it didn't. And, it's not like someone took my bags by mistake. Each size was wrapped in a protective plastic bag and double tagged (inside and out) with my identity and apartment number. We always layed them on the same shelf. So where did they go???
And now, I don't know what to do. It's not like I can do without, but where can I put a new carry-on when not in use? 

A duffel bag is easier to store, but not the best option to protect my stuff. I always travel with a blow dryer ... and you never know what else. Moreover, I like to organize my clothes; and sometimes on a small aircraft, passengers are asked to place their carry-ons on a cart before boarding. The suitcases are then loaded into the belly of the plane where bags without structure could be crushed by other luggage en route.
Certainly, the Barracuda carry-on would solve my dilemma. It is hard sided, yet fully collapsible for storage under a bed. Other cool features include an ergonomic swivel handle, a built-on tray for a laptop, GPS for location tracking, plus 2 USB ports for recharging your electronic devices.

Practically speaking, such high tech features are more than I really need. I'd be satisfied with a lower priced collapsible bag, lacking the fancy electronics. The Barracuda suitcase will retail for $480. We'll have to wait for an el-cheapo knowoff to hit the market sometime after the Baracuda's launch.

It's about time someone has thought to invent a classic, hard sided, collapsible, carry-on suitcase. If anyone sees my fairy godmother, please ask her to call me!

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Signs Of Summer

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know how I love the summer. I wait for it six months of the year. Unofficially, it begins on Memorial Weekend in the USA. 

Oh, let me count a few of the things I love about the summer season ... longer days, balmy weather, less laundry, grilling outdoors and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to eat. Somehow food always enters the picture.

Juicy watermelon and sweet corn on the cob begin the summer in a seriously delicious way. Some people like to sprinkle a little salt on their watermelon and butter their corn on the cob. I can eat them just as they are. When food is picked fresh, it is tasty just as it is. Plain and simple.

If you don't already eat a healthy diet, summer is the perfect season to begin. In the summer months, real food is fresh, plentiful and cheap. You won't feel deprived by working them into your meals and dropping processed, food-like-substances.

On Memorial Day, it is right that we remember all the people in the armed forces who have died while serving our country. Memorial Day like life, itself, is a paradox. Life is bittersweet. The weekend is usually a happy, relaxing one, where we take a moment to remember people who have sacrificed so much to perserve our way of life.

Photo: Hedwig In Washington of Arlington, National  Cemetery
What will you do with your summer? Do you have a reading list? A vacation to plan? Activities you are looking forward to do? A state fair to attend? Corn dogs to eat? Please feel free to share under the comments, if you wish.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

DIY: Drop Cloth Curtains

Photo: Cupcakes And Curls
On Saturday afternoons I often watch a home remodeling show called Knock It OffEach week two home decorators, Monica and Jess, meet a family on a tight budget to makeover a room. The decorators think of creative ways to renovate and spruce up the area, spending much less than it would normally cost. As you might expect, it usually involves a few Do It Yourself projects to save money.

Lacking their carpentry skills, I could never achieve their results, but I still enjoy watching the show. Who doesn't love a makeover?

One of their clever ideas is to make a curtain out of a canvas drop cloth. Think of it as a poor man's linen, the steps are easy: Order a drop cloth. Buy some suitable ring clips. Measure, hem and iron the drop cloth. Attach the clips, and presto: Chic, long, sturdy curtains for just a few bucks. Wow, you save hundreds of retail dollars!
I think the oatmeal curtains are lovely in their natural, rustic state. However a person with some talent could get creative by stenciling and painting the drop cloth to match a room or furniture. 

As it turns out, there are whole Pinterest boards with color and pattern ideas devoted to all things drop cloth. Who knew? This is one DIY project I believe I could pull off if I apply myself. The curtains are perfect for many homes.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Let The Barbecues Begin

Man Crates, a merchant who sells gifts for men, asked me to blog on the topic of outdoor grilling and to discuss the essentials that go into throwing an awesome barbecue. As it happens, May kicks off the season. With a little planning, a cookout can be fun and memorable for hosts and guests alike.

Consider these ...

Eleven Tips For Hosting The Perfect Barbecue:

1) It all begins with the people. Invite friendly, helpful people who like to mingle and talk to everyone. If your guests are genuinely nice, you will have good karma at your party. Fortunately for me, my friends are the type who if they see a need, will pitch in and help. They are delightful! (Here in Manhattan, I once saw a woman drop some chips on the floor and sweep the crumbs under a table with her foot. Unbelievable! Did she forget she was in someone's home?) Be sure to go around to introduce people. Set the tone for warm and friendly!  

2) A cheese platter (of Swiss, cheddar, brie, etc.) and crackers will get the party started. Perhaps some hummus and cut up raw veggies to munch also.

3) The traditional meats to grill are burgers, chicken, bratwursts or hot dogs. These usual suspects taste great grilled. Depending on your budget, there's also steak, ribs and fish. We use a Cajun rub on the chicken and beef for people who like spice. (Here are two other easy recipes for homemade BBQ sauce.) Cheddar cheese to top burgers, if requested. Other fixings are pickles, relish, tomato slices, lettuce, purple onions, ketchup and brown mustard. Sauerkraut for the bratwursts and hot dogs. We prefer whole grain, crusty breads.

4) For a large crowd, make a big pot of chili and batches of corn bread. Or a sizable ham. Better to have too much food rather than too little. Chili, or ham can be made days ahead of the barbecue.

5) Cold slaw, German potato salad, baked beans, grilled corn-on-the-cob and a green salad will round out a menu. We try to keep our sides relatively healthy.

6) Drinks can include ice tea, craft beer, plus fine red and white wines. In the past, we served soft drinks, but now try to keep it healthy. Pitchers of ice water favored with (1) mint, or (2) lemon slices are refreshing. Some people like to make a signature alcoholic drink, but we don't, to be honest. We'd rather eat than drink at a barbecue.

7) Often guests want to bring something. I think side dishes, bags of ice and desserts are thoughtful. Bring a signature side dish, cake, pie or cookies to help feed a hungry crowd. What you bring should be ready to serve (or display, if flowers) so it doesn't add to the workload of an already busy hostess. Don't make her stop what she's doing to get you a dish to reheat your food, or find a vase for your flowers. I never thought twice about bringing a hostess flowers sans a vase before I co-hosted several large parties, myself.

8) For cookouts, I like serving fresh, in season fruit like watermelon, cantaloupes, blueberries, strawberries, cherries or peaches. 

9) Ice cream is an easy crowd pleaser. Buy some wafer cones, and ask guests if they want one scoop or two ... delish! Don't forget the chocolate sprinkles.

10) Another essential element of a barbecue is listening to great music. So whip out the soundtracks of the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, plus anything current you fancy. All your favorite artists playing while guests mix.

11) If you need games to turn the party up a notch, try playing musical chairs. Buy a few desirable prizes for the winners. Another fun activity is a dice game called Left, Right, Center. Click here for how to play. We found playing the game with real money (over chips) to be more fun. $3 per player is all it takes to add more excitement to the game. Keep it friendly!

And so, my tips for throwing the perfect barbecue come down to: Comprise a good guest list; prepare ahead as much as possible; keep the menu fresh, healthy, simple and pleasing; ask guests to bring ice, sides, or desserts; have lots of great music; plus a few backup games. Enjoy your guests!

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Miraclesuit For Swimming

What an unfortunate, gimmicky-sounding name for such a stylish swimsuit! Known as Miraclesuits, they are designed with a Lycra spandex fabric to make a woman look 10 pounds lighter. I can think of many adjectives to describe them: classic, flattering, darling.

Certainly not dirt cheap, but the swimsuits are made to last at a cost you can work into a budget. Most of us only buy a swimsuit every few years. It's finding an attractive one, which is often vexing. But, it isn't difficult with these suits.

Miraclesuits come in a wide selection of styles, colors and patterns, including the ever popular one-piece, tankini separates, plus after swim cover ups. Much thought and innovation goes into the construction and design. There is a swimsuit to flatter every body type, as well as, hide any real or imagined flaws. 

Summer is coming, and in the words of the company website, a Miraclesuit will help you "make a splash."

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Guilty Pleasure Songs 4

With long, balmy days ahead, it's time to bring back the Guilty Pleasure Playlist. (See the links below for previous lists of Guilty Pleasure songs.) 

The new list includes songs penned by gifted songwriters, who (in my opinion) are emotional powerhouses ... original and honest. The songs are unique -- carrying a listener into the world of which they speak.

Like-No-Other, The Guilty Pleasure Playlist 4:

1. Venus In Furs - The Velvet Underground, written by Lou Reed: Can you imagine me liking a song that includes the sexual themes of S&M ... dominance, bondage and submission? I don't even what to know what I don't know about the subject, but I absolutely adore Lou Reed and this song. It's sincere, vulnerable and heartbreaking. Everyone from every walk of life wants to feel valued and accepted. When a human being feels broken or rejected, you feel empathy. People are complicated, and pain is pain. Plus, it's not everyday you hear a viola (played by John Cale) and an ostrich guitar (played by Lou Reed) in a Rock & Roll song. And hey, a woman drummer! The Velvet Underground didn't sell many records, but they were huge influences on musicians who followed them. When you think about when this record came out (1967), you can appreciate just how special this band was. A R&R band who addressed adult themes.

2. Welcome To The Jungle - Guns N' RosesAppetite For Destruction, about the underbelly of Los Angeles, was a great album, and this song was often the show opener for the band when they hit the stage. If you're a rock fan, WTTJ has all the essential elements: a hard driving rhythm section, kick-ass guitar riffs and blood curdling screams.
3. Big Daddy Of Them All - John Mellencamp: Certainly, there are people who achieve great success, despite living inauthentic lives. This song is about them, the liars and the cheats; when someone's life doesn't match who they think they are. I'm a big fan of JM. I love his phrases, "You used to raise your voice, so that it could be heard."

4. Time Of The Season - The Zombies - I love the Jazz influence in this song and it reminds me of childhood spent at home listening to music on my father's stereo in our living room. How melodic is Collin Blumstone's airy, high tenor voice? You might know another song by the Zombies, She's Not There, which is currently used in ads on American television. You will always recognize their smooth sound. Where does the hippy-dippy time go?

5. Come To Jesus - Mindy Smith: Whether you are a Christian believer or not, this is a skillfully-written, catchy song by a Nashville singer-songwriter, who grew up on Long Island, New York. Raised by missionary parents, Mindy Smith lost her mother to cancer at a young age. The song is written from the point-of-view of her deseased mother who is talking from beyond the grave. The sentiment is worldly and hopeful. When Mindy sings the refrain, it sounds very rock-tinged to me. Moreover, YouTube uploader, VideoBikerDude, has created a fine video for the tune. Do you agree?

There you are, a musical blast from the past. Good songs can capture snippets of the human condition. They cross genres and endure ... as they should. 

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Celebrating Mother's Day

Today I'm enlisting the help of Mother Nature to wish a Happy Mother's Day to my mamma and mothers everywhere.
Wishing you days of beauty, wonder and sunshine.
Filled with love, laughter and happiness.
Sent with gratitude ... because there is no other like a mother.
Enjoy your special day, mothers; and to one in particular, Gluckliche Tag der Mutter!

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Heatmaps Reveal Where Humans Feel Certain Emotions On The Body

This is a fascinating study, so I will share it. The data is not surprising since the mind and body are interconnected. Emotions play a huge role in our overall well being. If you want to read more from the team of bio-medical engineers, click here

It is interesting how emotions produce heat in specific parts of the body that scientists can actually measure.

For millenniums philosophers have debated: Is the essence of the world ideas (a/k/a, mind; the abstract), or matter (a/k/a, body; concrete; things)? In other words, what defines the world, and by extension, a human being? Some philosophers say it is the mind or ideals. Other schools say, it is body, matter or the concrete. Aristotle, who was a philosopher and scientist, argues that the answer is both. The intrinsic nature of the world (and a human) is both ideas and matter. It is both metaphysical and physical; abstract and concrete; mind, body and he added the soul, (or spirit). I am making this very simple; a watered down explanation of his philosophy. If you are a real academic, cringe! Or, just take over in the comments. (I have a simple brain:).

So the essence of a man, according to the great thinker, Aristotle, is mind, body and the soul. According to him, you can't separate one from the others; and all these years later, science seems to support him, in part. (Science can't prove the existence of a soul. That requires a leap of faith.)

Aristotle's postulates aren't so radical today, since the mind-body connection can be measured. It's amazing how smart he was in 322 BC. Indeed, what scientists discover can help us achieve better health. So stay tuned.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Earth Bellweather: The Perfect Ballet Flat

Last week I featured comfortable heels. Continuing on the subject of shoes, let's discuss another wardrobe essential, the ballet flat. By necessity, I walk many blocks in Manhattan, and ballet flats with flimsy support can lead to foot problems down the road. 

In New York City we have to be ready for anything. Even coyotes. Yes, that's right, the wolf-like wild dogs are crossing the bridge from Long Island to scavenge for food on our city streets. So, if I spot one, I will be in sensible shoes doing the only smart thing ... running away, sister!

It is easy to find gorgeous shoes that kill your feet, or ugly shoes that are kind to your feet, but I want my shoes to have it all, i.e. style, comfort, support and durability. Doesn't everyone?

I'm not a podiatrist, but through a ton of research, as well as, trial and error, I believe I found the perfect ballet flat. Called Earth Bellweather, it has a comfort footbed, which offers arch and shock support. It has extra latex cushioning, plus a padded 7/8-inch heel, and there is a full leather sock lining for breath ability. This shoe runs big, so I ordered 1/2 size smaller than my usual shoe size to keep my heels from slipping out of the shoe.

The ballet flats have a leather upper too, so they will stretch and breath as you walk. Sometimes synthetic materials don't have the same give or comfort.

The Earth Bellweather Ballet flat is super cute and versatile. With clean lines and a round toe, you can't go wrong. They complement everything: slacks, dresses and shorts.

The shoes come in many colors: black, navy, almond, Bordeaux, pecan, pewter, three shades of white and black patent leather. I had a hard time choosing a single color, but in the end, only allowed myself one pair. If they go on sale later, I may add another ... as an investment, of course. Yeah, yeah, that's my story, a pair and a spare.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

The Pegasus Parade Before The Kentucky Derby

All photos: The
Louisville, Kentucky is a spirited city with wonderful, down-to-earth people. They are preparing for tomorrow's Kentucky Derby. The Pegasus Parade is 60 years strong, and it's a fun event for children of all ages, who enjoy big balloons, street performers and floats. 

Tomorrow people will host derby parties and watch the race, itself, which is called the most exciting two minutes in sports.

Chances are mint juleps and Bourbon balls will also factor into the day. 

If you can't make it to Churchill Downs for The Kentucky Derby (the run for the roses) this year, you can watch it on TV. Post time is 6:30 pm EST.🌹🐴

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