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 instantly 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 (top image) as an example: Naturally, I'd love a rich 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 deal breakers 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 becomes the Black Friday (or another holiday) Special or gets 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 $4,000 (meaning sale price, not original listed price for larger pieces like necklaces, bracelets). A browse will find lovely pierced earrings, or rings for under $300 (sale, not retail 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.

Never consider jewelry an investment. Unless you are a queen, it is not. Without the fame, you will never get back the price you paid for your jewelry. Think of it as beautiful and a luxury buy, to be enjoyed; 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) verses 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.๐Ÿ’

3) Based on my personal research, a good Macy's sale can beat the offers of Blue Nile and James Allen (online retailers known for their reasonable prices and stone quality) at comparable quality. This may be because Macy's has a big inventory and relationships with a number of fine jewelers.

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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

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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:
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
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 


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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Monday, November 6, 2017

SVA's Fashion Show On Madison Avenue

Fashion created from (left) pouches and (right) Polaroids.
Students from Manhattan's School Of Visual Arts fashioned attire that is on public view on the sidewalks in front of the famous fashion houses on Madison Avenue.

Fourteen exhibits enclosed in glass run from East 61th Street through East 76th Street. The layout is called One-Of-A-Kind Luxury, and the outfits are made of unusual materials for clothing, including house keys, packing peanuts, computer keys, forks and spoons, white paint, copper pennies and orange earplugs. 

Dresses designed using: 1) silverware (the bust is created from 2 ladles, the neckless is a spoon); 2) copper pennies; 3) Monopoly themes.
A cup of tea to go with a stylin' raincoat made of teabags anyone? Take a look.

Clothing created from: 1) paint; 2) Lipton teabags; 3) left - metal keys and right - packing peanuts; 4) earplugs.
Each reveal looks posh in my humble opinion. If designed out of cloth, people would want to wear them. The students are as talented and clever as the professionals whose couture shops face their creations.

Dresses made using 1) tree bark; 2) left - darts and right - computer keys; and 3) the slinky.
The art exhibit will run through November 15, and it's free! Walk down Madison Avenue for a close-up. Enlarge the photos I snapped by clicking on each one, or simply hold down your "command" and "+" keys at the same time. Here is a Print magazine link to see the 3 exhibits I do not have photographs of using: 1) tin cans, 2) wheat stalks and pencils and 3) a computer (program part). Between my blog and Print magazine (Ahh, with a better camera), you get an excellent view of the show!
Where the School of Visual School Arts sits in Manhattan

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cheap Wine ... And It's Devine!

Photo: wpid
By law, Whole Foods can only sell wine in New York City at one of its locations. So every 6 months when I go to the dentist nearby, I buy 2 bottles of delicious cheap Spanish red wine. As wine connoisseurs can tell you, the price of wine does not always reflect the quality.

Whole Foods has spectacular wine under $5. Once it sold for a low $2.99 but increased to $4.50 per bottle. I buy 2 varieties: Listed in order of how I like them, but it is a matter of individual taste. Both are fruity, low in tannins and balanced:

Don Simon Tempranillo - Made with 100% Tempranillo grapes, a grape variety only grown in Spain. Not sweet, this fruity, complex wine has hints of strawberries and cherries. A good drinking wine with pizza, burgers, chili or any meat and potatoes dinner. I especially enjoy drinking a glass paired with extra sharp cheddar cheese on dark Lithuanian rye bread (or just saltine crackers). 

Don Simon Shinaz - Although also fruity, it's a tad dry (or tart) with traces of red currant, raspberries and a dash of pepper. A great everyday drinking, dinner or party wine also.

Spain (and South America) makes tasty inexpensive wine overall. In a wine store, I tend to trust wines from these countries. What a bargain Whole Foods' Don Simon wine is! There is also a Chardonnay to try. The reds are the wines I bring home.

Unfortunately, they cannot be sold at my neighborhood Whole Foods, and I dislike making a special trip over to the Upper West Side just for wine. So I don't stock them as often as I'd like. I can only carry 2 bottles home! Blame it on city bureaucracy -- hopefully, there's a good fairness-to-compete reason behind the one store law.๐Ÿท

Update: The last time I walked over, the wine wasn't in stock, so I discovered another delicious inexpensive wine: Three Wishes brand for $2.99 a bottle; I bought Merlot.๐Ÿ‡ 

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