Monday, November 28, 2016

10 Best Mascaras

Photo: New Beauty
Introducing a friend or sister to new beauty products is lots of fun, and mascara makes a fabulous stocking stuffer. Whether a woman wears it everyday or not, most of us keep a tube of mascara in our makeup bag.

Some beauty products require spending big bucks to get better ingredients because top ingredients matter, but mascara isn't one of them. Regardless of whether you save or splurge, all formula's of mascara do basically the same thing. There are some very fine brands of drugstore mascara available.

A great mascara lengthens and volumizes your lashes without clumping or flaking off, and you shouldn't end up with raccoon eyes at the end of the day. Sometimes a great  mascara has an innovative brush that makes separating, lengthening, or curling the eyelashes easier. One brush might be designed to give you natural, yet defined lashes, while another is designed to create drama.

Here is a list of 10 Best Loved MascarasThey have different price points, but get high ratings from hundreds of customers. Did your favorite make the list?:





1) Avon Big and False Lash Volume; 2) Covergirl The Super Sizer; 3) Giorgio Armani Eyes To Kill






4) L'Oreal Telescopic; 5) Lancome Definicils; 6) LeVolume de Chanel Waterproof; 7) Marc Jacobs O!Mega Lash Volumizing





8) Maybelline Lash Sensational Luscious Waterproof; 9) Nars Audacious; 10) Too Faced Better Than Sex Waterproof

What's in my makeup bag, you ask? Answer: Lancome Definicils. Chanel is the one, I wish I weren't too cheap to buy, and Maybelline is the one I will switch to in the future, as the drugstore brands have really stepped up the quality!

What's your favorite mascara?

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Friday, November 25, 2016

How To Make Gravy From Roux

Photo: Food.com
My usual method for making gravy is to add cornstarch to the pan drippings for roast chicken, beef or turkey, but I didn't thicken the gravy with cornstarch on Thanksgiving Day.

Instead, I used flour to make a roux, which turned into the perfect gravy consistency. Cornstarch thickens gravy, but sometimes when over cooked, the gravy thins out again. I didn't want to take any chances of serving runny gravy on Thanksgiving. As it turns out, my gravy was such an unexpected hit that making gravy from roux will become my new regular way of gravy making.


What an unplanned pleasure for me! I tried something new, and it paid off. The day before Thanksgiving, I had a vague idea of using flour to thicken gravy, but I didn't know how to make roux. I knew flour tasted raw unless cooked a certain way, which is the sole reason I have always used cornstarch to make gravy. 


I'm so glad I took a risk! Furthermore, I considered buying a couple of jars of ready-made gravy as a backup, but decided against it. Succeed, or fail, the desire was homemade gravy all the way.


A dinner guest asked me to post my winning recipe on THE SAVVY SHOPPER ... and to tell you the truth, if I ever want to make the gravy again, I'll have to return here myself. So now my lovely readers, you understand why these recipes are published on the blog.
Before we start, know that I use bouillon cubes, but certainly chicken, or beef stock can be substituted.

Homemade Gravy
Photo of roux: The Creekside Cook

Ingredients:


2-3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons of flour
2 large bouillon cubes (I used Maggi chicken flavor.)
32 ounces water (or substitute 32 ounces of beef or chicken stock. I dissolve the bouillon cubes in the water ahead of time and let stand.)
1 teaspoon dried garlic
1 teaspoon dried onion powder
12 turns of the black pepper mill (= 1/2 teaspoon fresh pepper)
salt to taste (if using stock. No salt needed if using bouillon cubes)
1/2 teaspoon dried celery
About 1/3 teaspoon dried sage (I omit sage if making a beef gravy.)

Directions:


1) Melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter into a large skillet.


2) Whisk in 4 tablespoons of flour, and cook over a medium flame for 2 to 3 minutes. Keep whisking as the butter bubbles and simmers.


3) Next add the liquids to the roux: If you have pan drippings, scrape and use the juices. With enough juices from the roast, there is no need to add water. Use the meat juices as your liquid. If you don't have enough pan drippings, round out the liquid with water to get 32 ounces of liquid. (You can use wine as part of your liquid, if you wish).


4) Season to taste. Add the black pepper, dried garlic, onion powder, celery and sage.


5) Simmer and stir until the mixture thickens into gravy.


Leftover gravy using my recipe freezes well for several months, as opposed to, a gravy made with cream. (A cream, or milk gravy separates if reheated). Bon Appettè!


I really enjoyed hosting Thanksgiving this year. First of all, I would not have discovered this delicious new way (to me) of making gravy had dinner not been at my place. It takes having company over for many of us to apply ourselves. Thank you, Thanksgiving company, for your tasty contributions, not to mention your wonderful ... well, um, company! Until next time ...


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Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Happy Thanksgiving To All


This year I'm hosting Thanksgiving for a small gathering, so instead of a Thanksgiving turkey I'm serving a Thanksgiving roast chicken with all the trimmings, including homemade gravy and buttermilk biscuits. I can't wait to dig in!

We are having butternut squash, potatoes, green beans, brussel spouts, carrots and homemade cranberry sauce. I will throw in mushrooms and peas as garnishes. Most likely no one will eat the fresh fruit, namely apples, oranges, tangerines, plums, strawberries and blueberries sitting in the refrigerator because ....

A dinner guest is bringing pie! When asked for suggestions, I said pumpkin, sweet potato and pecan pies are favorites, but what comes through the door will be a surprise!

On this Thanksgiving Day, let us honor our Native American brothers and sisters, whose forefathers shared in the first Thanksgiving. They might be the only Americans, who should have built a wall to keep out immigrants! For 523 years they have been driven off their lands time and again and disrespected. It's time to stop taking what they have ... left. Today they are fighting to save their ancestral burial grounds, as well as, for something even more basic ... clean water! If you are looking to give to worthy causes this holiday season, help them fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline: here with a donation. It's the right thing to do! How can we love our own children and not care about someone else's children!! We owe a debt to the Indigenous People of America, who did not, in fact, build a wall to keep us out.


Oh, I have a feeling it will be a tough Thanksgiving for some families. Perhaps it is best to forget about national politics for the one day and remember our many blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving all!旅

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Monday, November 21, 2016

In My Jewelry Box


Invaluable, the London auction ehouse, invited me to tell the story of a few pieces of my jewelry -- how the pieces came into my life; what they mean to me; and do I wear, or keep them locked away as keepsakes. I will focus on some ladylike pearls I have. They are as lovely as diamonds, yet more budget-friendly.

I acquired a love of jewelry from my father. We sometimes stopped to peer at display windows of jewelry while out and about. It wasn't the dollar amount that caused us to Ooo and Ahh. My father (and I) loved the aesthetics of the jewelry. With an eye for design and an appreciation for beauty, my dad simply liked the way in which gold and gemstones sparkle and shine. I like the durability of a fine piece of jewelry also. To be sure, no one in our family is overly materialistic, but to mark special occasions, my dad might buy my mom or me a nice piece of jewelry (for a pivotal birthday, or an accomplishment, etc.). Mom had to marry the man to get a nice ring; I didn't have to do much of anything!

When I was 14 years old my dad bought me a 14k gold pearl ring. There was no special occasion. He saw it, thought it was pretty and just wanted me to have it. And because it was a gift from my father, the ring is very valuable to me. In fact, it's irreplaceable. Honestly, I wouldn't take thousands of dollars to part with it, even though such a sum is many times over its monetary value. Perhaps with the ring, my dad taught me ... I deserve to be spoiled just for being me, a lesson of unconditional love. 

Many years later ...

I bought this second pearl ring from Macy's department store during one of the retailer's big blowout sales. By this time, I had decided I favor white gold. The ring was a working girl's splurge, but a practical working girl, who at times needs some bling for dressing up. 

My splurge has a happy ending. Since buying the ring, the price of jewelry has tripled, while the quality of Macy's jewelry has gone down ... I'm sorry to report; and the store knows it. It was once the place to go to pick up beautiful, yet affordable rings, earrings, and bracelets. I hope Macy's savvy buyers find a way to bring their old quality and value back. 
I miss it in their jewelry department!

Which brings us around to the pearl necklace at the top of the blog. About seven years ago, I thought it was high time to own a string of pearls, not fake ones, but a real pearl necklace. Some jewelry wearers might consider it matronly and old fashion. I don't! A pearl necklace is a classic that matches perfectly with another old standby, the little black dress.

Here I am at a Manhattan shindig (standing on the right) illustrating the point. I've gotten tons of wear out of that necklace! It seems like neither a string of pearls, nor the little black dress will soon go out of style. Both look sharp on everybody!

Finally, to answer the last question posed: My three jewels are to be pulled out and worn every chance I get. None are wildly expensive, though I'd hate to lose any of them. 
Lock them away for what? In general, I think all material things, including jewelry, should be used and enjoyed!


Invaluable has a jewelry "box" of its own. Their jewels are a bit pricier than my pearls, but browsing is fun and free. And ... we can dream.



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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Chocolate No Bake Cookies Are Quick

Photo: The Food Network
Called preacher cookies in Appalachia, rumor has it: When a family saw a preacher on horseback at the base of a mountain riding towards their house, they could make and cool these cookies by the time he climbed up the front pouch to arrive at their door.

Chocolate No Bakes were the first cookies I made by myself as a child. Although we lived far from Appalachia, it seems like every mom in my neighborhood made them. In grade school our cafeteria ladies (who were moms) served them to us for lunch sometimes. Not every child ate her green beans (I won't mention any names ... um, Norma Oliver, nor the reason I ate two portions of green beans on Wednesdays), but I don't remember a sixth grader who wouldn't eat his/her No Bake cookie. They travel well, so are a favorite cookie to make for a picnic or holiday. When you crave something rich and sweet, these cookies really hit the spot.

Chocolate No Bake Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
1 stick butter (= 4 ounces)
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick oats (I like using 5 minute Old Fashion oats. Both work.)
1/2 cup peanut butter (I like to use crunchy.)

Directions: 

1) Pour the sugar, butter, cocoa powder and milk into a saucepan on a stove top over the flame. Stir with a wooden spoon.

2) Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about 3 minutes. Keep stirring.

3) Lower the flame (as low as it goes). Stir in the vanilla, salt and oatmeal until smooth and uniform.

4) Finally, stir in the peanut butter. Remove from the heat.

5) Using a tablespoon, scoop and drop the cookie batter onto waxed paper. The batter is very hot, so be careful not to drop any on your skin. If the mixture cools before you get it all out of the sauce pan, return it to a burner for another minute, and it will come out clean.

6) Let cool for 20 minutes. The No Bake cookies harden like a candy.

Store in a cookie tin, or Tupperware. Usually a batch disappears lickety quick!

Although not true, the recipe seems so wholesome! Over the years I tried to reduce the butter, or sugar, however it changes the texture of the cookie, so now I just follow the original recipe. Eat them as a once in a while treat. How many of you grew up making these cookies?


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Saturday, November 12, 2016

The French Braider


Photos: Pinterest

Ever dream of French braiding your hair, but don't know how to do it? Here's a cheap tool to make the braiding easier. Notice: I didn't say easy, but easier. The French braider is made of plastic and sponge. It comes with instructions guiding you to cross over four sections of hair A, B, C, and D in the correct order to create the braid.
French braiding your own hair isn't as simple as doing someone else's hair. Doing your own hair is hard period. The tool can't grow you two additional eyes in the back of your head, which would be ideal to see what you're doing. But, like most anything else, you get better with practice. 

For under $2 the French braider is recommended as a helpful tool. Know that Bed, Bath and Beyond sells a more expensive Conair French braider for $4.99.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Flower By Drew Barrymore

Photo: Flower by Drew Barrymore
For years I've admired Drew Barrymore. Not only is she a lovely, spirited human being, the woman acts, produces, supports worthy causes and creates a budget-friendly line of makeup that rivals the luxe brands. Called Flower, her stellar cosmetics sell at Walmart. Flower keeps quality high and costs low by not advertising; instead the company puts its profits back into its formulas and packaging.
Flower's kohl eyeliners are at the top of most beauty editors' lists. Use them to create a smoky eye with one easy stroke!

Also topping the lists of beauty editors are Flower's eyeshadow quads, blush/bronzer duos and foundation stick. The lipstick receives high praise. Whether you go natural or bold, you get luxury texture and pigments at drugstore prices.

Moreover, the brand offers a full array of other beauty items and tools for less that includes mascara, fragrance, nail polish, makeup bags and brushes.
Rarely these days do customers have to spend big bucks in upscale department stores to get upscale makeup. Hold onto your money! As Drew's cute company slogan says,  "Be em-flower-ed!"

Here's what I'd like to know: How did a Hollywood kid develop the heart and sensibility to create a smart line of makeup for the masses? Thank you, Ms Barrymore!
🌷💋
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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Buying Light Bulbs

Photo: Lowes
Ever since Congress phased out the production of incandescent light bulbs (as energy inefficient), I have struggled over which bulbs to buy for my home. Incandescent light bulbs are still available as long as supplies last, but are no longer being made. At home I have 4 incandescent light bulbs left and I love the brightness and warmth of these bulbs. I will use them, one bulb at a time, in a reading lamp, which stands beside my living room couch.

Even so, I'm trying to adopt. Sooo, recently I went to Home Depot on a light bulb run. The choices are many (between LEDs, CFLs or Halogens) ... and it gets confusing!


After standing in the light bulb aisle for about one-half hour comparing light bulbs (Jeez, we must study now!) and listening to the home depot sales rep talk about the bulbs (frankly, she didn't know what to buy either!), here's how I whittle it down:

 Constellation Residential and Small Business Blog
The majority of homes will need to replace their standard incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient: LED, or CFL (i.e. fluorescent) bulbs. They are more expensive than the old light bulbs, so prepare yourself for sticker shock! Also keep in mind that a soft white emits a warm, yellow glow; while bright white and daylight white emit a cool, blue, brighter glow. "Daylight" is the brightest bulb.

Perhaps you can consider what I selected for my home as a guide for what you might buy for your home:


I. For My Living Room: LED Light Bulbs - 100 watts in soft white


LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. 

The most expensive of the bulbs, I bought one LED bulb - 100 watts (equivalent) for one side of my couch. It produces light most similar to the old incandescent bulbs. The 100 watts LED bulb is bright enough to read a book, yet warm and not harsh on the eyes. Reportedly it will least 22 years, but who will remember? I've kept the receipt to help with remembering, and believe me, I will return that expensive sucker ... um bulb (I'm the sucker for paying so much for a light bulb!) back to Home Depot if it blows out early.


II. For My Kitchen: CFL Bulbs - Three 40 watts in soft white 


CFL stands for Compact Fluorescent Lighting. 

Know that fluorescent blubs contain mercury and should be recyled. They are about half the price of LED bulbs.


Because the kitchen requires 3 light bulbs, I discovered, a bulb higher than 40 watts is too bright and harsh on the eyes. The 40 watts, yellow tinted "soft white" provides enough brightness when I use 3 light bulbs.


If you have a dimmer switch in your kitchen (or no natural light ever), bumping the light output up to "bright white" and/ or increasing the watts is worth considering. 


III. For My Bathroom: CFL Bulbs - Two 100 watts in daylight white


These are ultra bright and blue tinted (and likely) too harsh on your eyes elsewhere in the house. But for a windowless bathroom, they are the perfect brightness, to see how much makeup you are applying; or to stylishly pluck your eyebrows. They are the right choice for a dark closet also.


Generally, I find {a} LED and CFL bulbs marked "daylight" too bright for rooms where I spend hours of time, such as a living room. On the other hand, the ''soft white" choice for a living, or bedroom has a warm, yellow glow. {b} Anywhere I use a single bulb, I prefer 100 watts and only like less wattage (75 watts, 60 watts, 40 watts) in lamps that require multiple bulbs. That is probably a personal choice. For me ... let there be light so I don't feel like I'm going blind, or inside a vampire's lair!

I only bought one of the more expensive LED bulbs for my living room where I spend most of my time at home, although if it does last for 22 years, it will end up being the best buy. I'll buy a 2nd LED bulb for the opposite side of the couch after I get over the shock of paying for the first one!


I selected the initially cheaper CFL bulbs for the rest of the apartment because life is uncertain. They last 9 years, according to the box. This seems like a good compromise. Honestly, who knows if I will last for 22 years to get the value of the higher priced LED bulbs! Considering how costly light bulbs are now, should we worry about thieves breaking into our homes to steal them? Surely, the new ones fall under the category of "valuables," no?


Future news story - Homeowner: "And I returned home, flicked on the lights, but an intruder had removed all of my light bulbs!"

While at Home Depot, I spent so much time trying to figure out which bulbs to bring home, I attracted a following of three equally perplexed, light bulb shoppers. They accompanied me up the aisles as I grabbed options, and so I began reading the light bulb facts out loud. I believe I did a good deed by getting a man to switch from 100 watts "daylight" to 100 watts "soft white" for his living room. The camaraderie was nice. My next Home Depot trip will feel lonely in comparison!

Dear readers, light bulb shopping will make your head spin. Hope you find this blog illuminating!
  Another helpful page: Energystar.gov.

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