Thursday, September 29, 2016

Gadgets For A Small Space

The Breakfast Station
People who know how to live big in a small space fascinate me. Design shows that give tips on how to organize and maximize a room always grab my attention, as do posts featuring the tiny house craze. Teeny-tiny homes are designed to use every square inch of space in the most efficient and innovative ways.

We can all learn from such a lifestyle. Certainly, it's good to be mindful of over consumption, as well as, lessening our carbon footprint in a world where resources are limited.

Often urban dwellers learn to lessen their carbon footprint out of the necessity of living in a small apartment. There is never enough space for the 99% of New Yorkers in particular. The same is true of London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and many major cities. But a lack of space doesn't have to mean a lack of modern appliances that do the jobs of their full size siblings. 

1) First up is the above photo^,  a 3-in-1 Breakfast Station - How clever for a resident of a tiny apartment (or dorm room) to have an all-in-one space saving: toaster oven; 4 cup coffeemaker; and griddle. It's the only gizmo a cook needs to make a hot traditional breakfast for 1-4 people. Sometimes people in tight quarters eat out because they don't have the tools to make breakfast at home, but eating out gets expensive! This unit pays for itself in less than a month's time!
2) EdgeStar 6 Place Setting Countertop Dishwasher compact unit that gets high ratings from owners. Reportedly, it's relatively quiet, powerful and has 2 wash cycles (short and long). A hose hooks up to the sink for filling and emptying water.

I don't have a home dishwasher and would need to give up a cupboard where I store pots and pans, if I ever decide to install one, so it's nice to have the option of setting a dishwasher on a countertop. But right now, I don't want to give up any space, period; however much I like the idea of using a small, portable dishwasher.

And for no logical reason, I don't mind hand washing dishes. (I use rubber gloves.) It's putting away dishes after they dry that I dislike. Unfortunately, a dishwasher would still leave me with that repetitive task.
3) On the other hand, if my apartment building lacked a laundry room, I couldn't stand to hand wash clothes, or haul my laundry outside of my building to a Laundromat. On a weekly basis, noooo! The Panda Portable Compact Washer/Spinner Dryer sits next to a sink or tub to wash (depending on the model selected) either 7, 10, 12 or 15 pounds of laundry per load. The semi-automatic washer has an inlet hose, but you can use a bucket to quickly fill the tub with water directly. A built-in pump makes for easy drainage. Overall, customers love the Panda washer/spinner despite not having all the bells and whistles of a big machine. Many reviewers recommend cutting back on the detergent (to half) when washing a load of laundry. (Coincidentally, using less detergent works better in my building's commercial-size washers also. Less seems to be best all around!) The spin dryer leaves clothes slightly damp, but almost dry. Hang items to finish drying.


4) For homes too small for a combination washer/spinner dryer, there's still hope! A stand alone, Panda Mini Portable Compact Washing Machine goes anywhere. It has a 5.5 pound laundry capacity. Customers report, this mini washer has the strength to clean blue jeans, several t-shirts, plus other light articles (socks, undies) in a single load (sounds like a super hero:).

5) Pair it with the stand alone Laundry Alternative Mini Portable Countertop Spin Dryer - The electric, spin dryer is ventless; quiet; and super gentle on clothes. Handles 12 pounds of laundry per cycle; dries clothes in 3 minutes; water empties out via a drain. Users say the clothes come out slightly damp, but close to dry. (A tumble dryer uses heat to vaporize water, whereas, a spin dryer removes the water by spinning and draining.)



6) Singer 4423 Heavy Duty Extra-High Speed Sewing Machine - Frankly, I don't how to use one of these, but imagine a competent seamstress can't be without a sewing machine regardless of how small her living space is. The Singer 4423 has 23 built-in stitches, an automatic needle threader and top drop-in bobbin. It only weighs 14.5 pounds. Click the above link to read about its many features, as well as, to compare it to other models. 
7) 6 Sheet Strip-Cut Paper And Credit Card Shredder Without A Wastebasket by Aurora - I do know how to use one of these :). Powerful with sharp blades, this compact paper shredder for scrapping sensitive documents and expired credit cards fits over a kitchen trash can. The labor saving device doesn't cross shred, but cuts 6 sheets of paper at a time into thin spaghetti strips. It also reverses to clear paper jams caused by overloading. If a person with limited space has nowhere to sit a big paper shredder, this little guy has all the parts needed to shred regular-sized paper, yet it fits into a desk drawer. And at $14-$16 (depending on the seller), it's cheap!

Surely living in tight quarters requires compromise, but just look at the ingenuity and efficiency of the mini gadget market. They lower energy bills too. Living big in a small space is very smart and doable in the 21st century!

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Meet Trendcue Pop-Shop

A Trendcue Pop-Shop
Last Thursday I attended my very first Trendcue Pop-Shop in New York's downtown Chelsea neighborhood. The event spotlighted the fashion of several new designers, namely: Nan Seo (womenswear), Stephen Sung (A. Posse sneakers), Josh Stark (organic cotton t-shirts), Polet Guzman (Muza lingerie and wearable art) and Isidoro Francisco (menswear).

Launched in June, 2016 by CEO Ryan Wiltshire, Trendcue, is a unique "marketplace where established and emerging designers, artists and creatives" come together to present their work to shoppers both online, as well as, in curated Pop-Up spaces via trendy venues around New York City.

A sponsored, social happening is a fun way for fashionistas to discover new designers and to see the latest collections from a diverse creative community. Meanwhile, a Trendcue Pop-Shop provides designers with the opportunity to "collaborate, brainstorm and learn from each other" under one roof.

Last week's Pop-Shop event featured music, a fashion show, video, several racks of menswear, womenswear, shoes, a smattering of accessories, the chance to talk with the designers about their work, as well as, an occasion to enjoy some cocktails, appetizers and ice cream cones.

Getting the word out is vital to a new brand's taking off. The Chelsea bash was expertly curated by its organizers; and the designer goods on view were top-notch -- with fine leathers and fabrics; solid craftsmanship; and innovative designs. 

An exciting, posh, friendly and fun energy pervaded the evening. It was an à la mode success for designers and attendees alike. 

The plan is to have a Pop-Shop each month going forward. For updates and cutting edge fashion, browse the website.
Isidoro Francisco
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Friday, September 23, 2016

Lovely Freshwater Pearls

By nature I'm an under buyer. However, if I see something, which has "me" written all over it at a great price, I pounce to buy it. Pearl jewelry usually has the word "me" written all over it ... as I enjoy wearing a few pieces. Not to mention: diamonds, rubies and sapphires (but oh, I digress!).

These Glitzy Rocks Colored Freshwater Pearl Stretch Bracelets are selling for $10 on Overstock. Sooo, I bought myself a treat in the white color. Love them! 

They are big, real, freshwater pearls. Yes, I see some blemishes and uneven coloring. My bracelet arrived with 24 unknotted pearls (that do not slide) on a comfortable elastic strand. None of the pearls are perfect, however for under $10 I didn't expect Akoya cultured pearls. For less than the price of costume jewelry, these freshwater pearls look very classic on the arm. As a matter of fact, I like them so much, I bought my mother a bracelet in white pearls also. She should receive hers in the mail today.

You can get the pearl bracelets for $4.50 per strand if you buy all 10 colors. Plus, Overstock coupons may be applied on the purchase for additional savings. (Wow, if only my under buying nature hadn't kicked in.) For a generous number of big, beautiful, real, freshwater pearls, it's a steal!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Five Second Rule For Food Is Untrue

Original photo: Greg Williams
A confession: If I drop non-sticky food on the floor at home, I pick it up and eat it, despite the presence of bacteria. My home is reasonably clean. I clean it. When I return from the streets of Manhattan, I remove my shoes and walk around my apartment in socks or house shoes. So I'm not that concerned about germs. I even feel like exposure to some germs builds up a body's immunities to keep us healthy.

I never eat food that has dropped on the bathroom floor, since I never take food into the bathroom. Sticky foods are another matter also. They pick up debris, that I'm not willing to pick off, so into the trash they go.

Still I'm sorry that the 5 second rule for food has been debunked by science. I really like that rule! It seems so sensible (waste not, want not :) and non-phobic. However in reality, I have never eaten food that has fallen on the sidewalk. I mean, who does that short of a young child? 

The study leads one to wonder if a large percentage of people are eating food that drops in a public place. Are they? If not, why was the study commissioned? And now definitively, they must stop! If it didn't make them sick before, surely it will now!

Yet truthfully, I will continue to eat the food I drop on the floor at home. Just last night, I dropped a strawberry on the kitchen floor, which I quickly picked up and ate. I have done the same with popcorn. What can I say? Old habits die hard. According to the study though, "Bateria can contaminate instantaeously," especially if you drop wet food like watermelon on a stainless steel floor. I will be vigilant and not take chances if I have lots of foot traffic, but I usually don't.

Do you eat food dropped on your floors too? If so,where do you draw the line? And now, will you stop?

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

DIY Taco Seasoning, Plus 8 Others

Photo: diskusjon.no
Recently I began making my own spice mixes to get the best quality. As a bonus, I get more spice mix for less moola. Plus, the seasoning has less salt. (More salt can always be added if a dish needs it.) Though delicious in all things Mexican, the taco mix is truly all-purpose. Grab it instead of salt and pepper to season meat, soups, vegetables and salads. I have used it as a rub on steaks. The following is my recipe:

Taco Mix

2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika (Smoked piprika if I have it.)
2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (Lately I'm using Himalayan pink salt.)
1/4 teaspoon cumin (It's a strong spice. A little packs a punch. Just like salt, you can add more cumin, separately for certain dishes.)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon = 6 turns of the black pepper mill 
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (the hottest of the peppers!)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Stir togther with a folk, then store in a small Mason jar with a tight lid. Making spice mixes ahead of time saves time when cooking! And of course, you can always double, or triple the recipe if you run out rapidly.

Not only do spices make food tasty, they keep us healthy.

I love this handy-dandy spice blend chart from Women'sHealth on how to mix 9 common ones, including their version of taco mix. You can print and post the chart on your refrigerator, if you wish, or bookmark it here. Bon appétit!


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fine Goose Down Pillows

Photo: Bed, Bath & Beyond
My parents always had feather pillows. I'm sure they didn't pay an arm and a leg for them. Our old feather pillows were plush and perfectly supported our heads and necks in all our sleep positions: back, side and stomach. 

The comfort of a bed pillow is very subjective, but how did buying one get so complicated? Goose down verses down alternatives verses memory pillows verses non-traditional shapes like wedges, squares and horseshoes, etc. It gets very confusing! All you can do to narrow down your choice is to lay your head on the possibilities in a store (as you would try a mattress) and buy the most comfortable. 


I proceed straight to the goose down pillows. Familiar with sleeping on them, I can't get used to synthetic fills on a nightly basis. I also select extra firm (but not rock hard), since within six months, most pillows soften. However, if you can't sleep on a firm pillow, you should go with a medium or soft density pillow, since you need to be able to sleep well from the get-go.

I also want the goose down pillow to come zipped up in a fine 100% cotton enclosure. I don't care about pure silk, or Tencel Lyocell (which wicks away moisture). The goose down and cotton enclosure feel cool and smooth enough to me. Plus, the pillow goes into a pillow case, so I'm not paying for silk.

Then I buy a pillow protector (a barrier against dust mites and bed bugs.) I mean, why not? Protection against dust mites extends the life of the pillow; and if you live in New York City, you are petrified of bed bugs! 


I selected an 800 goose down fill, a queen-size, which weights 28

ounces. (Queen, since that's what my old pillow was, and I won't need to buy new bedding.) Unfortunately, I have to pay $199 (minus 20% = $159) for it. I bet my parents paid about $20 for the same quality pillows years ago, and those pillows lasted forever. My mom hang them out in the sun periodically. Now feather/down pillows are washable, yet dry cleaning is often recommended. More then likely, I will be afraid to machine wash a $200 pillow! 

So here's what I learned:

1) A goose down pillow lasts a good 10-15 years if you take care of it. Feather/down fill count (such as 600, 700, or 800 fill) and weight (21 ounces, 24 ounces, 28 ounces, etc.) make a difference in comfort and how flat the pillow gets when you lay your head on it to sleep. Some people will like a pillow lighter and flatter, while others prefer one heavier and filler. The fill comes in different percentages of down to feathers. Just lay your head on the options to decide and don't sweat the math!

2) I dislike goose down alternatives and memory pillows. They have no give and feel hot. Often they are cheaper and must be replaced every 2-3 years. Who wants to buy another pillow so soon? I mean, I have other things to do.


3) At the end of the pillow-shopping day, buy whatever feels most comfortable to you. It's all subjective.

4) It is risky to buy a pillow online. If you don't see, touch and place your head on a pillow, you might make a mistake and not buy the pillow that is right for you. If you are braver then me, I did find an online pillow, which appears to offer excellent quality for the price: Royal Hotel's Goose Down Pillow. I nearly ordered it, but went with an 800 fill instead that I tried out at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If only I could've put my head on the Royal Hotel one. At $79 bucks, 750 fill, 28 ounces and 90% down, it's a steal! Anyone need extra pillows?


5) Reluctantly $172 (with tax, sheesh!) is my limit for a pillow. I like some pillows in the $300-$400 price range (LL Bean, I'm thinking of you), but I am too damn cheap to buy a pillow that is half the cost of a sofa!

How the heck did a bed pillow get so crazy expensive? After my pillow arrives, I will want to hire a guard to stand outside my home!


Do you have a favorite type of pillow for sleeping?

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Save On Cosmetics At Bed, Bath And Beyond

 

Wow, Bed, Bath & Beyond is the best place ever to shop for cosmetics and personal care products.

The store near my home has a huge beauty section, so there's plenty of choice. Just like stepping into Sephora ... for less! BB&B is often several dollars cheaper per makeup item, compared to Sephora or the corner drugstore. One example is Maybelline lipstick: At Duane Reade/Walgreens, the lipstick is $8.99 verses $5.50 at BB&B.
But it doesn't stop there! BB&B offers their own Hermon Face Value knockoff brand on many popular products, so customers can save as much as $10 on a single product without compromising on quality. Olay's Regenerist Micro-Sculping Cream at $24.99 has a Hermon knockoff selling for $14.99. I buy nothing but the Harmon brand knockoff of Listerine's Whitening  Anticavity mouthwash. It costs half of what Listerine does.
Plus when I get to the cash register, I pull out a Bed, Bath And Beyond coupon, saving another 20% off a single article. BB&B is very liberal with their coupons. If you sign up, you get their coupons via email -- those expire. But any paper coupons you clip out of magazines, or receive in the mail are honored past their expiration dates. So hang onto them! 

I had a $20 coupon from Maybelline, which was about to expire, so last Thursday I stopped by BB&B to redeem it.

Using my Maybelline manufacturer's coupon along with two BB&B (20% off a single item) coupons, I brought home the following Maybelline cosmetics:
Photo: Beautyloom

1 - FACESTUDIO Master Contour blush palette - $9.99

1 - Maybelline Brow Drama Pomade Crayon - $6.99

1- Maybelline New York ColorSensational Lipcolor - $5.50

Minus coupons, my grand total was an unbelievable $1.88. How's that for savvy shopping? Happy Belated Birthday to me!

And don't worry about BB&B's bottom line. The Maybelline coupon is like cash to them, and over time I buy plenty of bedding and other housewares there as well. In fact, on Saturday I returned to buy an 800 fill goose down bed pillow. Wow, that's a big ouch out of a budget, even with 20% off!
(Click to enlarge) After shopping, you can sit outside for a cup of coffee. Starbucks and TJ Maxx are next door.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Raincoats On The Brain

This zip hooded raincoat is everything I like in a raincoat except for the $650 pricetag.

First of all, a black trench, or raincoat is chic, slimming and goes with everything. Designed by Yoeh Lee, the coverall is sleek, modern and ultra lightweight. Made of 55% polyester and $45% polyurethane, it's waterproof, wrinkle-free and ideal for travel. The raincoat folds up into a small rectangle. Wear it in the rain to repell water, or over wool for warmth. I also love the zipper, as opposed to, a button closure.


Dry cleaning is unnecessary. To clean the coat, you just wipe the fabric with a damp cloth. Reportedly, it is durable, lasting for decades.

Speaking of a raincoat lasting for decades, my old London Fog has a very tattered lining, and yet I love it so much, I keep wearing it. (On sale, I paid $80 for the coat.) It, too, is black and feminine, although not as lightweight as the Yeohlee raincoat. My raincoat closes with snaps, which is also convenient. 

One spring, I wore it (with a red scarf) to cross Central Park; and as I waited for my turn to walk, none other than Ralph Lauren jogged by (and I kid you not) he turned his head to give my London Fog a long second look! I wanted to say, "Oh, Ralph, you like!?"


The raincoat looks good until I take it off to reveal the riped, long-past-its-prime inner lining.

So friends, what should I do? Spending $650 for the Yoehlee is a tad steep, and I'm not finding a new London Fog replacement that I like. Perhaps I'll just wear my oooold London Fog raincoat to it's last thread. If I must take it off in your presence, please don't judge!😳👀

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Every Woman Should Have a Denim Dress

A denim dress is an ultra versatile staple in a women's closet. Wear it nearly all year around, stopping short of the coldest days in winter.

They come in a multitude of styles and washes and flatter all body types. Dress a demin frock up, or down with the right scarves, shoes and jewlery. Wear one to the office, or around town or home to run errands and do chores. I prefer looking casual smart instead of sloppy. A stylish demin dress does the trick! I bought the middle denim dress from Old Navy, and it is even cuter tried-on than it photographs. Before ordering it, the frayed edges worried me, but they look more polished than in the image, thankfully! The fabric is substanial and doesn't easily wrinkle.

Though you will find demin dresses on the racks of high end stores, they are so popular -- with so many retailers offering them in their collection -- this is one item you can buy cheap. Always look for 100% cotton. Quality demin dresses (soft and of weighty material) are often sold for under $40. I got the Old Navy suspended-neck trapeze demin dress for $17 on sale and receive lots of compliments when I wear it.

Good news, readers! Old Navy has sales around the clock, including right now: Running 50% off of their entire stock of demin! Do you need a demin dress?
Banana Republic

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Stawberry Oatmeal Bars

Photo: relativetaste.net

 Hello September ... the baking season begins. Feast your eyes on these delicious cookie bars! Less effort than jam cakes, but resulting in a buttery, moist texture, plus a bit of filling fiber. A tad simpler then my Christmas Czechoslovakian cookies, but every bit as delicious:

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

Ingredients: 

1 stick (half cup) butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teapoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup of strawberry (or raspberry) preservatives

Optional: Often I press about 1/4 cup of walnut halves into the top and bottom layers of dough. I like the balance of sweet with nuts.

Directions:

1) Blend the butter and sugar together.

2) Add the flour, oats, baking soda, vanilla, lemon juice and salt. The batter will be crumbly. Mix together uniformly.

3) Press half the batter into the bottom of a greased square baking pan. (I use a long 12'' German loaf pan.)

4) Next, spread the preservatives on top of the crumbly batter.

5) Finally, sprinkle the remaining mixture on top of the preservatives.

6) Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes.

7) Remove from the oven and scrape the sides with a knife. Let cool, then cut into squares. 

You deserve a treat today. Lovely with afternoon tea or coffee. Simple ingredients, which really hit the spot!

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