Thursday, January 28, 2016

Meet Modern Citizen

 
Modern Citizen is an online fashion label for young professionals; and in general, women who like everyday, casual-smart dressing. The dresses are elegant and well priced. They have a timeless quality, and you won't empty your wallet to buy one. For women on the go, the pieces are ultra flattering, comfortable and versatile. Think: Modern clothing for modern women!

The e-company is San Francisco based. It's founder, Jessica Lee, worked at GAP.com before starting the brand. The 29 year old aims to sell classic, wearable clothes and accessories that are still chic and affordable. In an interview with Levo, she describes her style as "elegant and understated, with a hint of irreverence." She, herself, shops for value.

Modern Citizen has customers in their 20s and up. As it happens, tasteful, budget-friendly clothing works for every age.

Choice is good, and now there's a new dapper kid in town. Hello Modern Citizen. How lovely getting to know you!

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Down-home Succulent Meatloaf

Photo: muscleforlife.com
Does a main dish exist that is more comforting, or down-home, succulent than meatloaf? I think most everyone grew up eating it. My Mother made a delicious meatloaf!

Once in an attempt to jazz up her recipe, Mom put two hard boiled eggs into the meatloaf only to hear my Dad ask her to turn the meatloaf away from his view, since it looked like the meatloaf was laying the eggs. As he explained, he grew up on a farm with chickens, so it wasn't a sight he cared to see at the dinner table. It was most unusual for my easy going Father to be critical of Mom's efforts. Frankly, I thought the boiled eggs were wacky too, however I genuinely felt sorry for her; and so was uncharacteristically quiet on this occasion. Poor Mom was too fancy and European for us! She took the high road, shrugging off our lack of appreciation. Mothers deserve a medal for cooking day-after-day for 30 years, often without a thank you!

Recently, I made a succulent meatloaf too. Allow me to share the recipe, so like you, I can return here to make it again:

Debbie's Meatloaf

Ingredients: 

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup Old Fashioned, or Quick oats
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
a generous squirt of spicy brown mustard
1 capful of cider vinegar
a sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce
seasonings to taste - I used:
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cilantro
a sprinkle of celery seeds
a sprinkle of parsley
a sprinkle of Italian seasonings
a dash of thyme
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
a few turns of the nutmeg mill
2 raw eggs

Directions: 

1) Mix the ground beef and ingredients together uniformly.
2) Shape into a loaf and flatten the top.
3) Place the loaf into a cast iron skillet brushed with olive oil.
4) Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

The lazy cook's sauce: Eat with ketchup. You can top the baked meatloaf with ketchup and return it to the hot oven for another 5 minutes, if you wish.

The more ambitious sauce: After you remove the meatloaf from the skillet, pour 12 ounces, or so of water into the pan, scrape the bottom particles, and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch (measure 1 tablespoon of cornstarch per cup of water). Simmer over a medium flame while stirring until it thickens into a gravy. Spice to taste.

For a stick-to-your-ribs meal, serve with potatoes or rice, vegetables and a side salad.

As mentioned, this bottom meatloaf was rejected in our house. Perhaps your family is more sophisticated.☺
Photo: Anne Mehr
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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Perfect Diva Den

Pierre Cardin Attributed Bar Stool from Chairish

Just like a man, a woman needs a personal room, or "cave" to get away and relax! So Chairish, an online consignment marketplace for sellers and buyers of designer home goods, invited me to style a board, depicting the perfect Diva Den, and I'm happy to offer a few ideas.

 Whether your Diva Den is a small apartment, or cubbyhole within a big house, here are six helpful design tips:


1) In a room, empty space is as valuable as any object that fills it - So buy to fit the space. Spareness is good, while clutter (and crowding) is always bad. Don't buy anything that is too big or too small; and never, ever overbuy.

2) Surround yourself with beautiful furniture and objects you love - The pieces should make you happy.
3) Select articles that are practical, comfortable and multi-functional - If you do, you'll get lots of bang for the buck!
4) Be organized and tidy - Everything should have its place.
5) Don't be afraid to mix and match high-end with low-end home decor.
6) Remember to use vertical, as well as, horizontal space.

And now, for my style board of the perfect Diva Den ... imagine one room in a house, or a small apartment: I have mixed furniture from Chairish's website with a few inexpensive items:






Southern Living Leather Sofa





 





Altra Ladder Desk and Bookcase (also available in red) from Walmart.com

My favorite stools have soft upholstery with a supportive back (there are many like these on Chairish.com



SUKI 2-4 Seat Black Folding Round Dinning Table from Habitat.co.uk.




 
Brass Barstool With Blue Upholstered Seat





 



As you can see, my Diva Den has lots of comfortable seats. (I mean, who plans to stand in a Woman's Cave? No one!) The daybed acts as a cozy sitting area, or place to snooze. Bar stools offer colorful accents, or a compact seat without taking up much space. While the chandelier adds good lighting to read and work, it's also a sparkling thing of beauty. Finally, my Diva Den is classic and modern. There is a mix of rich textures, soft upholstery, leather, pretty metal and warm wood, as well as, several pops of color. With nine pieces ... a lovely blend of comfort and style!

How would you design your Diva Den?

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Puritan's Pride Beauty Products


I can't praise Puritan's Pride enough. The e-company offers top vitamin and nutritional supplements, as well as, organic and natural body care products at discount prices. You can afford to use them every single day!

Recently, I added two more of Puritan's Pride products to my beauty arsenal. Previously I used the company's seven ounce Coconut Oil For Skin and Hair, which I still love, but its larger 16 ounce Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is the same value per ounce, and you can use this 2nd one in your cooking and baking too. So I will continue to buy it from now on. I keep a tub of the Extra Virgin Coconut Oil in my bathroom to moisterize skin, hair and nails after a shower. It feels and smells lovely!
Next up: Nature's Gate Pomegrante's Sunflower Hair Defense Conditioner has seven healthy hair nutrients - panthenol, soy proteins, vegetable proteins, jojoba oil, borage flower seed oil, vitamin C and vitamin E. 

I bought a bottle mainly because of it's generous 18 ounce size. Hair conditioner (like shampoo) needs to last for a while. This formula does, plus more importantly, it works to untangle and tame my long locks. The conditioner does everything I want it to do: It leaves my hair feeling light, clean and healthy. The true test: If I don't feel a residue on my hands, I know there won't be any left in my hair to weigh it down. The conditioner is a thick consistency and has no harmful chemicals. At $5.99 for 18 ounces, it's a keeper!

Two fabulous beauty finds without breaking the bank! (For a roundup of other inexpensive botanicals, click the links below.)

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Target's Very Own Nail Polish


On January 17 Target launches it's own line of makeup. First up: nail polish. Called defy & INSPIRE, it sells for $7.49 a bottle. Target's defy & Inspire collection is a patented, chip resistant formula that goes on wet to dry without the fuss of lights or heat. Ordinary nail polish remover wipes off the lacquer. The gorgeous 38 colors in the collection are high tech, created to be high gloss and long lasting. 

With trendy shades and a shine to rival expensive luxury brands, Target's new nail polish collection includes protective base and top coats. 

Target has your digits covered in durable and affordable colors!


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Monday, January 11, 2016

Shopping At Zara

Zara is the queen of fast fashion retailers. The style, quality and sheer volume of inventory beats competitors, such as H&M and Forever 21. Topshop is as designer inspired, but the apparel, accessories and shoes cost much more.

According to Forbes, Zara delivers new goods to it's 2000 stores (in 88 countries) twice a week and only takes 10 to 15 days for it to go from design stage into its retail shops. So if you need a new dress, trousers or coat browse often.
I have mixed feelings about fast fashion. I'm all for a wide selection of fashion-forward clothing at budget-friendly prices. Who doesn't appreciate modern, chic and edgy pieces for less? I just worry about over consumption. It is best to shop only when you truly need something and not because you're stressed, bored or depressed. Always shop with your head leading your heart.

Over the years, I've gotten very good at separating my needs from my wants. Now I tend to be an under buyer. But if I need something like a new blazer, winter hat or pair of boots, I do buy it when I see it at a good price.
So at Zara, get to know the various collections and focus on the styles you like. Read the labels and zero in on the fabrics you like. 

In general, the scarves are flattering, and the dresses are classy and up-to-the-minute. Jackets for both men and women are especially vogue: Although many are unlined and a blend of fabrics, Zara's blazers are substantial enough for the price. You can score a signature piece at an unbeatable value during frequent sales ... and that is the time to pounce!
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Thursday, January 7, 2016

How to Make Kombucha Tea

Photo: drivethedistrict.com
In recent years I replaced drinking diet soda with diet Arizona tea. Admittedly, I should give up diet drinks altogether, but sometimes a person wants something refreshing to drink besides water. So that's where Kombucha, a fermented, carbonated tea comes in. Reportedly, the drink contains healthy bacteria and yeast that have a myriad of health benefits. Keeping your digestive tract loaded with good bacteria, you get B vitamins and other nutrients also.

The 16 ounce bottle I bought at my local health food store costs $3, and I had to buy a glass bottle to fill, priced at $1.50. Sooo ... to keep drinking it, the cost needs to come down. For that reason, I decided to try making a batch of the fermented, sweeten (black or green) tea at home.

Before we begin, know that you will need to get a starter kit, which is a scoby floating in a cup of the fermented tea. A scoby is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that ferments the sweet tea. I ordered a scoby from a reputable seller at Amazon.com for $6.99. Once you have a scoby, here are the steps:

Homemade Kombucka
Photo: Williams-Sonoma


Ingredients:

3 quarts + 3 cups water (15 cups total)
1 cup sugar (I cut the sugar to 3/4 cup, but any less stops fermentation from happening. The scopy needs to be feed!)
8 tea bags (I use 4 black and 4 green)
1 scoby with starter Kombucha

Directions:  (They may read complicated, but are fairly simple to follow.)

1) Boil 3 quarts + 3 cups (15 cups total) of water for 10 minutes. Tap water works after boiling it. All water, except distilled water, should be boiled to ensure that it doesn't have any elements that would prevent fermentation. (Heck, I'd boil distilled water too. Why take a chance of the Kombucha not turning out?)

2) Add one cup of white sugar to the water and stir it with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. (Many sources warn against using a metal or plastic spoon.) Also, there is no need to worry about the calories from the white sugar. The scoby feeds off it, and there won't be much sugar left to metabolize once the sweet tea turns into Kombucha (= 30 calories per cup). The same applies to caffeine -- less then in a cup of coffee.

3) Steep 8 tea bags (I use 4 black and 4 green) for 10 minutes in the water. (Don't use Earl Grey or herbal teas; they have oils that interfere with fermentation. You can use white and oolong tea, but decaffeinated tea will not ferment either.) After you know what you're doing, you can experiment with the amount of tea bags in your brew to suit your taste: You may prefer to cut back to fewer or more tea bags to your liking. You might like to brew all black tea, or a mix of black and green teas, etc. You can also adjust the sugar to your taste, but nothing drastic because the scoby needs the sugar for fermentation. 

4) Let the sweet tea cool to about 98 degrees F (or human body temperature), then pour into a clean glass jar. Next drop the scoby with the starter tea into it. (If the water is too hot, it kills the culture.)  Also several sources stress the importance of using a glass jar, or if you must, a porcelain, or wooden container. You don't want the chemicals from plastic to leak into your Kombucha and ruin your colony.
Photo of a scoby colony: thewholedaily.com.au
5) Cover the glass jar with a coffee filter, or a white cotton towel and secure with a rubber band. (The rubber band stops insects from getting into the batch and laying eggs on the scoby. Yuck!) The scoby needs to breathe in order to ferment. Let it sit at room temperature for 7-10 days. Make sure it is out of direct sunlight. Also, don't mess or jostle the tea while it is fermenting. Wow, what a temperamental little scoby!

6) After the 7-10 days, remove the scoby along with a cup of fermented tea to store in a glass jar. This becomes the starter to make your next batch of Kombucha. As it turns out, another layer of scoby grows with each new batch ... "a mother and baby." So after a few batches, you can give a scoby (culture) starter kit to a friend for free. (If you don't make another batch fo kombucha immediately read how to store your scoby here.)

At this stage, you can drink the Kombucha, but for it to be bubbly and favored there are a few more steps ...

7) To flavor Kombucha, fill a glass jar with 1/5 of fruit juice (or crush some blueberries, raspberries etc.). and pour the Kombucha you just made into the jar. Cover up again with the coffee filter (or white cotton towel) secured with a rubber band, letting the tea breathe. After flavoring and bottling, let the komacha set for at least 2 more days to carbonate. 

Here's how I usually flavor my Komacha: I  cut a wedge of ginger and put it in a bottle with Kombucka, then wait another seven days for the Kombucha to carbonate. The reason I wait a week is I put it in the refrigerator as I make the next batch.

8) Pour your finished Kombucha through a funnel into glass bottles with stoppers (like the example to the right) or swew tops and refrigerate. You want to refrigerate it because if fermentation isn't slowed down, the bottles might explode. Also, when done, you want to drink it!

I don't know if I feel like a chemist; brewer; or earth mother, but it's cool to try new things. And, it's illuminating to discover how cheap and easy a more exotic tea is when brewing it yourself!

Watch this YouTube video if still confused about the process. Extra Kombucha making tips are here. I also love this Tim Anderson video from Instructables (so much fun to watch!)

Extra tips
* For some reason, gallon sized canning jars cost $13 - $18, so buy a gallon of pickles for $5 and use its jar.
* Bottle kombucha in old wine bottles and cork it. Saves money!
* Purists will be upset but I sometimes bottle Kombucha in 16 oz plastic water bottles if I intend to drink them soon. I do use recycled glass Lorina sparkling lemonade bottles for long-term storage. Since we can't avoid plastics altogether in our world, I don't worry about the chemicals in plastic for short-term storage. However, I never, ever expose the scoby culture to plastics. The scoby only sits in glass jars. So that's how I do it.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

DIY: Eyeshadow Primer Recipe

Photo: www.beautylish.com
As previously mentioned, I rarely wear eyeshadow, but perhaps that is about to change. I like eyeshadow when it is freshly applied ... yet several hours later, not so much. But! Recently I learned how to extend the staying power of eyeshadow by making a DIY eyeshadow primer. It only requires two ingredients; and chances are you may have them at home. Allow me to share the new makeup hack with you:

Homemade Eyeshadow Primer

Ingredients:

Any face primer (I used L'oreal's Revitalift Miracle Blur.)
Any under eye concealer (I used a fair beige by CoverGirl.)

Directions:

Scoop/quirt a tiny dab of each product into a cap, or the palm of your hand. Using a makeup brush, blend together until uniform. Apply the mixture to your eyelids.

I like the nude color all by itself. It defines the eyes with a polished look. Hence, I've been wearing it solo this week. Topped with eyeshadow, the color stays put all day!  

When next we meet, people may not recognize me. Smoky eyes, here I come!



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Friday, January 1, 2016

A Happy New Year

Photo: TheCircleLine
Today I made Hoppin' John, a Southern black eyed peas and rice dish. Made with the Holy Trinity: onions, celery and bell peppers, it is often flavored with bacon, ham hock or smoked sausage. 

Normally, I would forgo the fat and simply dice lean ham for the dish, but on New Year's Day I used hot and spicy Italian sausage that I got from Fairway, a fancy New York City deli. I don't even want to know how many calories are in the fresh sausage, but the day after New Year's, I'm back to eating lean meat. 

Hoppin' John is thought to have evolved from foods prepared in West Africa. It was brought to the South Carolina low country by slaves before spreading to the entire South. Hoppin' John is served on New Year's Day to bring luck. Ha ... like we need an excuse to eat this mish-mash of spicy deliciousness! Here is the recipe:

Hoppin' John

Ingredients: 

16 oz dried black eyed peas (soaked overnight and rinsed)
1 cup onions, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 bell pepper (green or red), diced
Photo: Betty Crocker
3-4 cloves garlic, diced
4 cups water
2 large bouillon cubes (or 4 small cubes. Bouillon has salt, so you can omit salt.)
1/2 to 1 pound of hot sausage (or diced, lean ham)
spices to taste - I like:
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings (basil, cilantro, rosemary, etc.)
1 teaspoon oregano
sprinkle of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (If you use hot sausage, leave the hot spice out.)
a few turns of the black pepper mill
2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
A few sprinkles of Worcestershire sauce
Sprinkles of dried garlic, onion, celery
2 cups of rice

Optional: A fresh diced tomato, or canned tomatoes (You can throw tomatoes in, if you want a tomato taste.)

Directions: 

1) Dice and brown the meat (sausage today) in a skillet. If you produce a bit of grease, drain your pan.
2) Next stir fry the vegetables for 3-4 minutes in the same skillet: onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic.
3) Transfer the ingredients into a large soup pot (unless your skillet is huge).
4) Add the soaked, rinsed and drained black eyed peas and 4 cups of water.
5) Next add the spices, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce to the pot.
6) Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the black eyed peas are soft and done.

Make the rice separately according to the package directions. This time I used brown rice. (Another time, it can be white rice, or a different whole grain, though the rice + black eyed peas = the authentic Hoppin' John.) I top the rice with the black eyed peas and broth in a soup bowl. You can combine the rice and black eyed peas in the soup pot if you wish. (I'm leaving them separate, so the rice doesn't get soggy.) 

Garnish a serving of Hoppin' John with diced chives, if you have them.
A side of kale or collard greens is perfection!

Here is an excellent history of the dish. Originally, it had just 3 ingredients: 1 pound of black eyed peas, 1 pound of rice and 1 pound of salted bacon. As the article explains, because the ingredients are processed differently today, Hoppin' John would taste bland if you fellowed the original recipe. It's impossible to reproduce the dish like it was back in the day. So that's why cooks add the Holy Trinity, seasonings and a bit of heat. Feel free to make this dish your own.

Happy New Year Everybody!

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