Tuesday, December 29, 2015

NYX Cosmetics: Cheap And Fabulous

My friend, Clorinda, just returned from New Orleans, but she is upset after discovering she left her makeup behind at her hotel. It's a painful loss! 

I rarely take expensive makeup on vacations. The reason: Anything can happen when you're traveling. Cosmetics can melt, roll out of your bag, not make it passed homeland security, or be forgotten at your destination, as happened to Clorinda. A traveler has too many other things to think about. Minding costly belongings shouldn't be one of them.

NYX, the drugstore label that is pronounced like "Nicks," is perfect to take on trips. For just a few dollars, $6 for lipstick, $9 for blush, or $4 for eyeshadow, you get professional quality makeup. An all-in-one cosmetic palette runs about $12!

Named after the "Greek Goddess of the Night," NYX has oodles of choice for eyes, lips and complexions: Awesome colors; a moist and smooth consistency; all-day staying power.

Other budget friendly tricks I use for traveling include:

1) Save the free samples of pricey face serum, face primer, hair shampoo, hair conditioner and suntan lotion that retailers, such as Kiehl's, give out. Take the samples with you to go on vacation.

2) Multi-task products: In a pinch, talc powder works as face powder. Body lotion moisturizes skin, lips and hands, as well as, slicks down flyaway hair. Lipsticks can double as a cheek color; and cream blush can double as a lip color. A dollop of Vaseline is ultra versatile!

 3) Visit e.i.f -- i.e. eyes, lips, face -- to pick up cheap makeup brushes costing from $2 to $3 dollars each. In fact, I now use e.i.f's blush brush daily at home, and it works, as well as, my more expensive brushes. Had I bought the e.i.f blush brush first, I would have bought the entire set as my primary brushes. Expensive makeup brushes aren't supposed to shed; and yet, I keep picking bristles off my face!

4) Take a break from makeup: Who looks at us on vacation? Bring less and simplify your routine. You'll have more time to relax and have fun! 

NYX cosmetics and e.i.f brushes are fabulous finds. Save money without compromise. You may still be upset if you leave them behind, but the reason won't be because you spent lots of cash!

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wishing You A Merry Christmas

Photo: Joseph's Studio by Roman Nativity

My friend, Margareta, said, "It's been hard getting into the Christmas spirit this year." I can understand the feeling. Likely, it's due to the solemn events that have occurred in the world so recently, as well as, losing people we care about at home. Several of my mother's longtime neighbors have died, which makes visiting home bittersweet. Every year there are one, or two fewer familiar faces to see.

We hope there is more to the world then the here and now. An ultimate good, a God who cares about us, a holy child who was born to return us to grace. Philosophers and theologians have argued for millenniums that there is more than just the physical world. Life has a meaning, a greater purpose.
We live on a globe. There are many paths to answer life's Ultimate Questions. Each person must find his or her own responses. In the end, how you live life and treat people matter.
St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City [Photo: Wikepedia Commons]
Soon many families will gather to take a leap of faith that life goes on beyond what we can now see. Somehow remembering a humble, Holy Family, who slept in a stable helps believers deal with life's ups and downs. Worshipers are reminded to dig a little deeper; try a little harder; don't give up; and focus on what's truly important.
Cathedral of the Assumption, Louisville, Kentucky [Photo: Wikepedia]

Life is change. Children grow into adults. One generation passes onto the next. 
St. Cecilia Church before closing

St. Cecilia Church was a neighborhood parish for 175 years before shutting its doors. Modest and tidy, the parish ran a fish fry and bingo on Fridays, as well as, a yearly festival to support its school, and of course, held midnight Mass on Christmas Eve like local parishes elsewhere.🐑

Sometimes when I step inside an old church, or hear of one's closing, I think about its bygone generations of parishioners who attended. You don't need the Ghost of Christmas Past to know that on Christmas Eve, every seat in this little neighborhood church was filled.

Where on Earth does the time go? Missing are souls, with us for only a dash of time. Which brings us back to a humble holy child, whose birth we celebrate.

Wishing you lots of love, peace and joy, dear readers. MerrChristmas!🎄

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Know Your Body Mass Index This Holiday Season

Photo: londonaunaturale.com
With the holidays upon us, good luck maintaining your ideal weight. Although I avoid mindless eating, if someone offers me a homemade Christmas cookie, I will be gracious enough to eat it. Life is a balance, and I would not risk hurting a giving person's feelings by refusing his/her hospitality. Now if that someone tries to get me to eat a dozen homespun cookies (and you know who you are!), no matter how delicious they are, I must beg off, not to mention that I too bake Christmas cookies.

Knowledge is willpower. According to AARP, here's what we should weigh using our body mass index, or BMI.

The following formula should help us with discipline:

Woman: 100 pounds of body weight for the first 5 feet of height, plus 5 pounds for each additional inch. Example: An average frame 5'7'' woman = 135 pounds, ideally.

Men: 106 pounds of body weight for the first 5 feet of height, plus 6 pounds for each additional inch. 
Example: An average frame  6'1" man = 184 pounds, ideally.

If you have a small frame, subtract 10%, and if you have a large frame, add 10% to your total weight.

This is timely information as we face a festive period of constant temptation. Remember: Everything in moderation. Stay strong, peeps! For the holidays enjoy a few treats. Be festive, just don't be crazy, over indugent festive.

Since many of us will consume more sugar over the holidays, it helps to add some exercise to our routine. Walk wherever you can. Eat mostly balanced meals. Include fiber. Aim for single servings of treats. And for heaven's sake, try not to eat around the clock. Repeat: Thou shall not go up a trousers size!

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Sequin Shift Party Dress

Black or gold?

Is this sequin shift dress worth $30? I saw it online at Sears and instantly decided yes! I already have two fancy dresses I wear time and again whenever I have an elegant event to attend. I never believed I needed more evening wear. Frankly, as long as I like my clothes, I don't mind wearing them over. Unless you're Kate Middleton, people don't even notice. (And she too recyles her clothes, doesn't she?) Nonetheless, having a third party dress rocks!

Recently, I attended an elaborate dinner hosted in a big banquet hall and noticed that half the women there wore short cocktail dresses, not long ball gowns. Apparently, people are less formal and dress for comfort these days for all occasions. Also, in New York City, we don't drive cars as there is never convenient parking, so just like men, women must schlepp to a venue. Regardless of your mode of transportation, a trip is rarely door-to-door, and you end up walking a few blocks in the Big Apple.

This dress is ultra comfortable. It has a stretch knit lining. I love the fitted three-quarter sleeves, rounded neck, and keyhole back closure. And readers, you know how I adore sparkle! (I selected the blueish-black for my skin tone. The rose-gold would look gorgeous on olive complexions.) It turns out, the sophisticated dress can be hand washed. Can you imagine?!

This is my first clothing purchase from Sears. It fits perfectly! The retailer has a very stylish inventory and unbeatable sales. Do you need anything?

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Kohl's Is A Department Store For Savvy Shoppers

I'm a big fan of a major department store. Stepping inside of Kohl's is enough to make a Savvy Shopper swoon. The stock is huge! Everything you could possibly need or want is spread out and organized throughout the various departments of the store. 

How do the store's staff buyers do it? Certainly, Kohl's is well-stocked. Variety and choice galore. Usually you can find exactly what you need since there are many dresses, or dishes, or shaving kits, or bookshelves to consider. You can zero in on the style, size, color and price that's right for you.

When I buy something, I look for value (quality vs price). Owning mass produced things doesn't bother me in the least. Truthfully, once I bring a rug into my apartment, or put a dress on my body, it becomes unique. Inevitably, I style it differently than will the next person. I want pretty, well-made and coordinated, but buying one-of-a-kind isn't really a priority.

Kohl's offers spectacular savings. As a major retailer, they have the clout to buy large inventories of stuff so they can offer customers competitive prices. And because they want to keep inventory fresh and moving, there are always sales at 20%-50%-70% off. I love it!

Finally, I am not overwhelmed by the largeness of a major department store. On most shopping trips, a customer is looking for one or two specific items, like a new pair of shoes, or a couch. So walk into the store with a plan: Go to the shoe and furniture departments, not the other square feet of store. (First things first. Get what you came for done! You can browse in other departments after your real purpose is met, if you desire.)

If you are a last minute shopper, Kohl's is perfect for finding a fantastic gift at a reasonable price. Shop in the brick-and-mortar store(s), or online. But if you're still scratching your head over what to buy as a Christmas present, two words of advice: gift certificates. Your giftees are sure to get something they like, if they select it themselves.
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Monday, December 14, 2015

Kaufmann Mercantile

Kaufmann Mercantile is on a mission to offer products that hold up over time rather than fill up landfills. Everything from accent furniture, kitchen utensils, office gadgets, grooming and beauty supplies, camping gear and gardening tools is top notch.

The company scours the USA, Europe and Japan to find useful, better-made goods, including a homemade copper tea kettle, metal Plier Office Stapler, or Merchant & Mills Heavy Fabric Pins. The inventory is diverse, yet it has one characteristic in common; the items are meant to withstand a lifetime of use. 

Quality, practical basics make awesome Christmas gifts. People need them. In my opinion, much of the merchandise has a bit of old world charm, and it is easy to find something unique. The recipient isn't likely to already have an Italian olive wood pocket knive, Pivo solid brass bottle opener, or handcrafted pewter shaving mug.

The website is simple to navigate: Search for gifts by category, dollar amount, or country of origin. Often it pays to spend a few more bucks on necessities that won't have to be replaced. Excellence always makes the perfect gift.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Strange Invisible Perfumes: For People Who Don't Wear Perfume

A Facebook pal introduced me to a botanical perfume company called Siperfumes.com. The company has a Los Angeles store, sells in department and specialty retail stores around the USA and Europe, as well as, on the web. They call their brand Strange Invisible perfumes.

In general, I don't wear perfume. Giving me bottles of it is usually a waste. Once I brought a few bottles of pure perfume oils back from Cairo, Egypt and ended up giving them to my mother, who wore them.

In my defense, I use soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers and talcum powder, which all smell pleasantly-like-something, and I do shower everyday. I suppose I reek of tea tree oil, coconut and baby powder.

Siperfumes makes fragrances for people like me, who don't like synthetic or overpowering aromas. The perfumery blends plants, flowers, seeds, wood and resins to get their natural scents. I love the clean smells of botanicals, such as lavender, white sage and English peppermint.

The company's Perfumes of the Zodiac is a creative idea. A gifter would have to know something about the giftee to select the right fragrance. There are many lovely combinations of scents to consider ... all "100% authentic botanical perfumery." They are expensive, but my FB friend suggests buying their sampler, which is available at an affordable $6. Naturally, for a special someone on your holiday list, you might spend a little more. 

If interested in other unique LA based finds, you can read the book: 111 Shops In Los Angeles That You Must Not Miss, written by Desa Philadelphia.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Building A Cheese Platter On A Budget

Photo: teacuptea.com
Walmart has expert advice on how to build the perfect cheese platter just in time for the holidays. The retailer calls it a party platter, but I call it a cheese platter, since I think a great party platter consists of lots of cheese!

As it happens, I often begin a dinner party with a cheese platter since most eveyone loves cheese, and it's easy because no cooking is involved, lightening my load so I can enjoy my guests. Personally, I usually go with extra sharp cheddar, baby swiss and Brie, pairing them with saltine crackers, or slices of rye bread, or a bakery fresh baguette. What a delicious start! 

However, here is what the pros recommend:

Photo: NotesOnDesign.com

1) Choose 3 cheeses: One hard: such as sharp cheddar; one semi soft: like blue cheese, or Goulda; and one soft: like Brie, or goat.

Yikes, I dislike goat cheese, so not at my table, but many people love it. I like Havarti, a Danish semisoft cheese from cow's milk.

2) Next select 3 savory items to go on your platter: Nuts, olives, turkey or ham are examples.

3) Finally, choose 3 sweet food options: Fresh or died fruit works. Walmart suggests a pot of honey also, which I've never done.

Extra tips: Remember that cheese tastes best at room temperature, so set it out beforehand; and pick plain crackers that won't overpower the cheese. As mentioned, I like a combination of 
fresh bread and crisp crackers.

All excellent Walmart suggestions for hosting the ultimate "party" platter. (I have to remember not to serve chilled cheese.)  Another tip is to prop Post-it-notes on toothpicks with the names of the different cheeses. However, I think most people know the usual suspects of cheese so I'll skip the labels. I mean, I never take a bite of goat cheese by mistake. The thought alone makes me pucker.

Nonetheless, what an appetizing spread on a budget. Cheese, cheese, and more cheese! For a crowd, I like leaving the platter out for the duration of the party. 

Perfect nibbles before and after dinner, washed down with some mightly fine wine!

Photo: winecurmudgeon.com

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Homemade Antiseptic Cream

Photo: notrashproject.com
If I need to clean a cut or scrape, I usually saturate a cotton ball with some rubbing alcohol, or tea tree oil and apply it directly to the wound. Than again, if it's just a small cut, I might simply wash the area with soap and water and leave it at that. All three solutions kill germs to keep the open skin from getting infected.

If I stay home I leave the wound uncovered, but if I'm out and about touching public doors and subway poles, I wear a Band-Aid. (BTW: I don't bother buying Band-Aids decorated with cartoon characters for children. I mean, if you don't start, nobody will expect it. I buy a box of 100 flexible fabric Band-Aids and a box of 100 flexible non-fabric bandages that can get wet. All sizes, everybody is covered. No reason to run back to the store anytime soon.)

It's been a while since I've nursed a boo boo worth mentioning 
for either myself, or a family member. If you have young children, treating mishaps is a way of life until they are grown. On such occasions, here's a fantastic homemade antiseptic cream. Relatively cheap to make, it has a shelf life of up to 5 years. Here's what goes into it:

Homemade Antiseptic Cream 


3 tablespoons beeswax, grated

1 cup of coconut oil (or olive oil)
1/4 teaspoon vitamin E oil
Add drops of your favorite essential oils -- I like ...
20 drops of tea tree oil
15 drops of lavender oil (or Camimille oil)
10 drops of lemon oil (or 1 tablespoon of witch hazel can be substituted.)


1. Drop the grated beeswax and coconut (or olive) oil into a sauce pan and melt over a very low heat. Stir together.

2. Remove from the heat. Add the vitamin E, tea tree oil, lavender oil and lemon oil. Mix well.

3. Pour into a small sterilized jar with a secure lid.

4. Keep in a dark, cool place.

Coconut oil makes a lovely base with a creamy consistency, but olive oil works too.

The essential oils in the cream kill germs and help heal wounds. All essential oils are anti-bacterial and anti-fugal, so you can usually substitute your favorite scent. Reportedly, lavender essential oil has the benefit of dulling pain. Vitamin E oil gives a cream its self-life and is thought to prevent scaring. Witch hazel soothes the skin.

Nature's medicine. Treat abrasions as needed. And of course, serious cuts, burns and animal bites should be examined by a doctor.

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