Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Scottish Shortbread

Photo: Nikki
When I was a teenager, I began helping my Mama make Christmas cookies. Mostly, we worked separately, not together. One person might peer into the kitchen to see how it was going, but the cookie baker did her own thing, while the other person walked in and out. Over the years, some cookies fell to my Mama to make, and she would ask me to make certain varieties I hit upon that she liked. 

My Mama made the best butter cookies, and I don't know how to make them since she always did it. Plus, I don't have the patience to decorate them. The cookie varieties I make are done the moment, I pull a tray out of the oven. After I bake a cookie, it's annoying to have yet another step before they are ready to eat. I've mixed, laid out the dough, baked, washed bowls ... I mean, the work is done. Mom can handle starting over to decorate baked cookies. Her butter cookies are festive and delicious. What a fancy-pants, fusspot ... going back to decorate done cookies.๐Ÿ˜Š

Well, this year for first time, I made a butter cookie for Christmas. But bah humbug, I'm still not going to decorate it. Therefore I made Scottish Shortbread. Same ingredients, but no colored icing, no sprinkles, no chocolate chip eyes. Just a good traditional butter cookie. Here is the recipe:

Scottish Shortbread
Photo: Gooseberry Patch

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter (= 4 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar (= 2 ounces)
1 cup all-purpose flour
a sprinkle of salt
Extra flour for the rolling surface.

Optional: I add 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1 egg and 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds (none are in traditional Scottish Shortbread)

I can't get the dough to form a ball without the egg. My mom never makes butter cookies without vanilla, and my friends like the ground flax seeds, so lately I add some to all the white flour recipes I make. (For authentic Scottish Shortbread, leave these optional ingredients out.)

Directions:

1) Cream together the butter and sugar. Add vanilla and egg if desired.

2) Combine the flour and salt.

3) Add the dry to the wet ingredients until you produce a dough. 

4) Knead for 5 minutes. If the dough gets soft, refrigerate it for a few minutes, then knead again for a minute before rolling the dough out flat on a surface. Aim for 1/2 inch thickness.๐ŸŽ„๐Ÿ‘‘๐Ÿซ

5) Cut into 1-inch width rectangle stripes. Eyeball it. Place on an ungreased baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Prick the cookies with a fork.

6) Bake in a preheated 325 degree F oven for 20 - 25 minutes.

Sometimes there's nothing better than a simple butter cookie. I will enjoy making these Scottish Shortbread cookies for Christmas (and teas during the year). If you must be a fancy-pants, fuss-pot (Mom) dip half of each shortbread cookie in melted dark chocolate mixed with a bit of cooking paraffin.


Double or triple the recipe for Christmas cookies. A single portion is the perfect amount to bake for teas. Tastier than most store-bought cookies and easy!

Photo: Mother Earth News


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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Beauty Advent Calendars

Many retailers offer Countdown Advent Calendars or 12 Days of Christmas Calendars with gifts of makeup and/or skin care. For a beauty enthusiast, receiving an advent calendar of beauty items, one per day, feels like winning a lottery! Here are the top 2 impressive ones: 

1) Let's begin with the holy grail from Liberty (see top photo). Expensive at £169, which is $226.22 for 24 days of gifts. A click on the Liberty link here shows you what a magnificent presentation it is. The makeup and skin care contained in it is top-notch of lesser-known, up-and-coming brands giving a beauty aficionado the chance to discover fantastic new products. Wow, people are selling just the empty box on eBay for $60 bucks!

2) Estee Lauder - Created another festive package. The multi-dimensional star is a big ornament made of sturdy cardboard with 25 hidden compartments of goodies! Estee Lauder is the parent company of several famous cosmetics: Not only the Estee Lauder line, but Clinique, Origins, MAC, Bobbi Brown, Aveda, Bumble and bumble, Darphin, Smashbox, Michael Kors and GlamGlow, therefore the holiday star contains 25 wonderful products from all these lines! Cost: $270 per box. 

Good luck getting your hands on the #1- Liberty or #2- Estee Lauder advent calendar as they are wildly popular. At this point, I'm seeing them marked up in price on eBay. (Make a mental note to look for next year's Limited Editions in October 2018.) But don't fret ... there are tons of other fetching Advent Calenders with makeup and skin care items that are equally desirable, not as pricey and still available. Here are some to consider:
3) Ole Henrikson 12 Days of OLE Glow Skincare Advent Calendar - From Denmark, an assortment of 12 cleansing and nourishing skin care products, including mini sizes of facial scrub, botanical moisturizers, hydrating gels and anti-aging serums. Sells for $49.

4) Ulta 12 Days Of Beauty - A box of fun, trendy holiday tinted and generously sized blush, crayons, illuminators, glitter eyeliners, matte lip cream and metallic lip gloss. Price: $13.50
5) NYX Professional Makeup Lippie Countdown Advent Calendar - 24 days of NYX's most loved lip colors, including glosses, creams, matte and bright vamps. Usually $65, but $45 at Ulta.

A fun roundup of the Best Advent Calendars of 2017 can be watched here.

Something for every budget. Any of the choices make pleasing gifts! More is not always better, but it's certainly gooood.๐Ÿ˜‰


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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Gifts for Travelers +

Do you have family who flies? Two awesome holiday gifts for the folks in your life going on a long flight include: 
1) The Trtl Travel Pillow - It is half the size of the usual travel pillow and designed to support the neck by holding it in an ergonomic position during rest. The soft felt-like fabric is machine washable and comes in 4 colors. Moreover, a passenger looks like a normal person using one.

2) Go2 Elite Compression Socks - For men and women, these colorful stockings reduce the swelling and leg pain many flyers experience due to high attitudes. They are 15-20mmhg compression stocks that are also perfect for people who stand on their feet all day, runners and athletes, as well as, pregnant women. Available in 30 colors and patterns. They are made of the highest quality fabric but sell for less than the usual cost, which helps your wallet as compression socks need to be replaced after repeated use.
Great quality, price and benefits, plus stylist for all your family and friends who find themselves Up In The Air. Or buy them for yourself.

The travel pillow would be great for long car rides also, and the compression socks to go on long hikes in the mountains and walks on city pavement. Whether up in the air or down: prevention is better than a cure! Be good to the body, and it will be good to you!


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Monday, December 4, 2017

QBracelet with iPhone Charger

Photo: Bloomingdales
In the coming weeks, THE SAVVY SHOPPER will again feature a few holiday gift ideas in case you're stumped. Here's one that comes at different price points.

Look at this genius and stylish QBracelet. It's really an iPhone charger made of stainless steel, available in 3 colors: rose, white and yellow gold. 


Open the bangle at the hinge to get to a lightning connector that can boost your battery life by 50%. There are 2 sizes: small (to fit most women) and medium (to fit most men). The built-in lightning connector charges Apple iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6 Plus, 7 and 7 Plus. A thoughtful gift for tech-savvy fashionistas who like their bling. 
Cost: $149. 
Here are several more budget-friendly bracelet chargers (some will also sync your smartphone) for folks who wish to leave their cables and cords at home too. The same idea for under $10.
Beaded ones come in white, naval, black and a rainbow of other colors. The black hue looks elegant and rich, yet bright colors are playful. Paying less, you can splurge on more than one hue to match your outfits.
Here is a lovely pearl charger bracelet to show the variety of styles. Make sure you read all the Amazon customer reviews to ensure your choice works with your device and generation, or else you risk buying a mere piece of custom jewelry. Around $15.

Perhaps a man will want something plainer as we don't see many of them wear bangle bracelets. Below, the Three Legs Flat Bracelets are sleek, colorful bands suitable for both men and women. About $10.

These iPhone charges make fun, affordable and unique stocking stuffers. Stay tuned for more gift ideas!


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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Macy's For Fine Jewelry ... Yes or No?

With holiday gift-giving approaching, consumers may wonder: Is Macy's a good place to buy fine jewelry?

My answer is yes with conditions: I would not buy a diamond engagement ring at any department store, including Macy's. First of all, for such an important piece of jewelry, a buyer is smart to shop around to compare the quality of diamonds vs price. In the best of all possible worlds, you can find a trustworthy jeweler at an independent jewelry store to sell you a nearly flawless diamond at a reasonable price. An independent jeweler should have top diamonds. Department stores often don't sell the very best diamonds; or sapphires; or rubies; or emeralds.๐Ÿ’Ž

So why buy fine jewelry at Macy's? Because everything you own doesn't need to be the apex of quality, and you probably couldn't afford it if it were.

Rubies and diamonds
Using a sapphire as an example: Naturally, I'd love a light Ceylon blue sapphire from Sri Lanka, but they are rare and thus, super expensive ... perhaps costing as much as a new car for a bigger stone. If you can afford them, go for it. However, if you can't you must either go smaller or darker. Personally, I can accept darker-yet-still-blue natural sapphires. The dealbreakers for me are sapphires, that are not blue, but black; teeny-tiny stones; or beyond-crazy-expensive. So know yourself!

Macy's at Herald Square in New York City has a big inventory of mid-price jewelry at a good value if you shop the sales. However, don't buy their jewelry at the inflated marked-up prices at any other time. Always shop the sales and wait for your sparkler to go on sale. Rock bottom (yes a pun!) prices will be when your ring, earrings or bracelet become the Black Friday (or another holiday) Special or get reduced by 65%-70% during a Friends and Family SaleThis is the time to buy it! It won't get any cheaper. The trick is to watch it for a while so you recognize the rock bottom price.

At Macy's you will notice that although the jewelry ends up in the 70% off display case, it often returns at a higher price. So don't feel any pressure to buy if undecided; plus don't worry as your jewelry won't disappear after the sale.

What I like about Macy's is the beauty of their designs, the wide selection, the sales and the customer service -- all good. I bought a few pieces at Macy's -- 14k gold, reasonably good stones at unbeatable prices  -- over the years that I am happy wearing, and when something goes wrong (i.e. a small stone falls out), the retailer will often repair it for free.

The salespeople behind the fine jewelry counters are knowledgeable and straightforward. The associates are upfront about the quality of the stones and the good buys. They have never tried to con, rush, or pressure me into buying something. Without reservations, it's the place to find a good value on fine jewelry under $1,000 (meaning sale price, not original listed price). Nonetheless, you end up with a piece of fine jewelry -- i.e., real gold with real diamonds and gems -- that you haven't paid for with an arm and a leg.
Indeed, the diamond district offers better stones, but the cost is 3 or more times higher. Usually, customers do not get a deal regarding price there. Pay the piper when it matters, such as an engagement ring; but can you shell out $7,000+ for every ring, earrings, or bracelet you buy? Or give?? If set well, less than perfect jewelry is pretty too.๐Ÿ’

Never consider jewelry an investment. Unless you are a queen, it is not. Think of it as beautiful and a source of enjoyment; and once you own a piece keep it sparkling by cleaning it.

Extra tips: 

1) Buy 14k gold to lower cost. An 18k gold or platinum setting is about $200 - $300 higher but not much different in appearance. While 18k gold is purer (75% pure gold) than 14k gold (58.3% pure gold), 14k gold is more durable. Gold is mixed with another metal to harden it.
2) Save a couple hundred dollars by buying a stone slightly under the carat. A tad under 1-carat looks much like 1-carat. Slightly under 2-carats looks as big as 2-carats to the naked eye. Trust me, you will not miss the small difference.


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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving Thursday

Photo: William-Sonoma 
Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and a day to reflect and count your blessings. Despite the turmoil and divisiveness in the world, we are fortunate to live now and not earlier in history. Could you have survived harsher times?
Photo: WAVE Los Angeles
I am thankful for so many things: family, friends, modern medicine, good sanitation, health, nutritious food, clean water, work, leisure, etc. ... many things that make life better, easier and meaningful. Freedom, education, equality. A safe and comfortable home.
Thanksgiving wallpaper
Fellow bloggers and readers, I am also thankful for you. I love exchanging ideas and learning new things. We are a global community. Blogging has brought us together! Thank you for stopping by and sharing.

๐ŸŒฝHave a very Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!๐Ÿฆƒ
                                                                      ๐Ÿ‚

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Corelle Dishes Are Ideal

Hindsight is 20/20. If I selected a dish set today, it wouldn't be fine china, or from Pottery Barn (where I bought mine in 1990). Instead, I'd buy a Corelle dish set.

Made of Vitrelle®, "a tempered glass ... consisting of 2 types of glass laminated into 3 layers:" The dishes are sleek, lightweight, modern, classic, simple, durable and cheap. If a plate drops on the floor, it will not shatter. Plus, it's microwave, refrigerator, and freezer safe; not to mention you can set a pretty table and eat off of it for years.
A Corelle dish set is full sized. The sizes of the plates and cups are generous, yet they are compact and designed to take up less room when stacked in a cupboard. Wow, I wish I had considered the storage factor when selecting my dishes.
A Corelle dish set comes in over a hundred colors and patterns. There are 2 shapes: round or square (as in a "square meal" a phrase coined by the British navy in the 19th century during recruitment." The plates aboard the ships were square to fit the tables on the ships.) Corelle dish choices include solid white, solid colors, cute florals, geometric shapes, polka-dots, or white with colorful lines.
Personally, I'd select the round, solid white set for versatility, but I would not be unhappy with a bright simple patterned dish set either. 

Moreover, Corelle offers platters and serving bowls to match their dish sets, so you can add-on what you need to serve food. Although I don't own an entire dish set, I bought a set of 3 large white soup bowls in order to microwave leftover soup, stews and chili. In a pinch, I can serve vegetable side dishes in them also. They look as new as the day I bought them.
Furthermore, the dish sets come in quantities to suit your family's needs. Buy a set of only 16 pieces, or a set of 128 pieces, or more ... and cheap!

If I were to do-over, Corelle would be the only dishes in my cupboard! Sold at Walmart and Amazon.๐Ÿ˜


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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Velvet Is Posh Again

Betsey Johnson embellished velvet shoes 
Does soft, downy velvet ever go out of style? Of course not! I have 3 velvet jackets, 2 velvet dresses and 2 velvet suits in my closet, and none were purchased recently. Velvet looks rich, dressy and glamorous, which is why I love it. It doesn't wrinkle, and you can wear it nearly all year around. 

Although velvet is always fashionable, it is making a huge comeback on the clothing racks of retailers this fall. Everything is velvet, from jackets, trousers and leggings to capes, hats and shoes.

On a trip to Express and Macy's, I spotted these garments:
Express
Macy's - 3rd floor
Macy's - 3rd floor - Calvin Klein section
Macy's - 2nd floor - shoes
A velvet burnout fabric top is paired with a solid velvet suit in the left bottom photo. In the right image, the black velvet trousers look chic with a faux fur vest. 

Over to Topshop for a hot pink velvet pinafore dress:
Velvet in living color
Next a stop at TJ Maxx where I found these black leather ballet flats embellished with cute black velvet bows, our lovely fall trend. For $29 bucks, they came home with me!
A touch of velvet
Finally, a reach into my closet for an Anna Sui jacket I got at one of Macy's big blowout sales several years ago. Each sleeve has the brass buttons you see on the front, and there are two buttons in the back also. It pays to hold on to the things you love since everything old becomes new again.
Vintage velvet
I'm on this velvet trend. How about you?


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Friday, November 10, 2017

A Trip To The Japanese Grocery

Photo: Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
As we move into the nippy months of the year, I crave warm soup for dinner. New Yorkers eat out alone in restaurants all the time. I mostly don't unless I'm out of town. With a companion, I think of eating out as entertainment. Alone, I don't mind cooking dinner at home.

Miso soup (a food I 1st tasted eating out) is easy/breezy to make at home ... and for a fraction of the restaurant cost. So I keep a tub of miso paste in my refrigerator, along with dried seaweed and dried Daikon radish (an ingredient in many Japanese dishes). 
Scores of big supermarkets and health food stores carry miso paste. We have a convenient Japanese grocery in the neighborhood. 

Recently I bought:

Ryotei Aji Dashi Miso (paste)               $5.99
Sengirl Daikon (radish)                         $3.35
Tkon Cut wakame (seaweed)                $3.39
Akagi Joshu Akagi Soba noddles          $1.99
                                                             ________
                                                                  $14.62
A tub of miso paste makes lots of soup (about 45 - 50 servings), and it lasts a long time in the refrigerator. The dried seaweed and radish keep in a cupboard. At restaurants, a small bowl of miso costs $3.00, which totals $135 - $150 for the amount that one tub of miso paste makes. Wow, what a saving!

Miso Soup 

Directions:

For a serving of basic miso soup, combine about 2 tablespoons of miso paste to 2 cups of water. I taste the mixture for the right proportion. Increase the water or paste as needed.

Next, add any protein/vegetables/starchy ingredients you like:

Ingredients could include --

-- Tofu (cubed); leftover chicken or beef; seaweed; a handful of dried Daikon radish.
-- Other Vegetables: Often I toss in mixed frozen vegetables. You can also thinly slice and dice fresh carrots, onions, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, snow peas or any root or leafy green vegetables you have on hand. Fresh vegetables you can saute in a pan first. Frozen vegetables I just microwave in a soup bowl with water first, then add the miso paste, dried seaweed, and dried radish during the last 2 minutes.
-- Sometimes I toss in cooked soba noodles (they are high in protein), sometimes I don't. Rice works too.
-- Season to taste: I like minced (or dried) garlic and fresh pepper. Ginger is another option.

As mentioned, I microwave one serving of miso (with ingredients) in a soup bowl. Large quantities can go into a saucepan to simmer on a stovetop.

From thought to bowl to table, preparation and simmering take about 10 minutes. !็ณ–่“ใฎappรฉtit

Have you ever been introduced to a dish in a restaurant that you now make at home? 


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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Express Style: Classic With An Edge

Express (along with its sister company Limited) has a special place in my heart. They became my first go-to stores as a Manhattan resident. Between the two, I could dress in fashion-forward and quality clothing on my entry-level publishing salary. The clothes are classic with a cutting edge, making them versatile for work, parties and home. I still wear the jackets, tops and skirts I bought from Express years ago. Classic pieces never go out of style!
The retailer continues to offer the best (๐Ÿ”ทblue ribbon, 5-star⭐️ leggings and tights in town. You will easily spend 3-4 times more for the same quality elsewhere. Their basic leggings are mostly cotton with a touch of spandex. They are jet black, soft, classy yet sexy, cozy and opaque. Personally, I wear them all fall, winter and spring -- alone or under dresses and skirts to keep warm! So inexpensive, I buy many, many pairs to machine wash and wear during cold temperatures.
This autumn Express has truly stepped up its edgy-posh factor, bringing out a line of party dresses and glitter leggings, some of which could do double duty. Wear the outfits to the office during the day and later for a holiday party or night out on the town. Sparkle in holiday attire without breaking the bank!
I have always found Express to have a great selection of the latest style, and this year is no exception. The retailer offers an excellent inventory of evening bags, fashion jewelry, and needed accessories to complement your lovely evening dresses.
Men have a wide selection of classic, slim and extra-slim suits at Express. Both sexes have suits, sweaters, shirts, dress pants, jackets, coats, scarves, hats, and gloves galore. Plus, a few practical and cute odds and ends, like faux fur, belts, vests, and throws.

Express is still going fashion-strong ... and for less! Sales are frequent with 40% off.


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