Thursday, December 27, 2018

What Did You Get For Christmas?

What gets spent on Christmas gifts can vary from year to year depending on what we need. What's more, I'm too practical to buy, or ask for useless gifts. (Well, if something dippy brings happiness, it's worth the price of the gift. But I tend not to have a frivolous gift dilemma as my loved ones are thrifty like me.) We want stuff we can use!

This year was a modest Christmas as far as the cost of gifts go. Nonetheless, I love♥ my gifts! Here are several:

1) Chanel-Inspired Purse from Ainifeel - a lambskin, Chanel inspired double flap bag (which I featured earlier) - This is not a replica, but an inspired (or dupe) of the $5,700 bag. It doesn't have a fake Chanel logo, and it is not illegal to sell. The price of the real Chanel bag goes up by hundreds of dollars every year, and I don't wish to spend such a sum on an article, whose every wear and tear would bother me. I can accept wear and tear on a bag that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. This inspired purse can be replaced 49 times for the price of the original! Like the authentic designer bag, the leather is smooth, the stitching is lovely, and the Chanel vibe is there. Look for it draped over my shoulder. 

(Update: You now must google key words to find the seller, as they no longer sell on Amazon. Also google the words "Chanel inspired bag." Btw: Chanel has initiated a lawsuit to stop even resale companies like the RealReal from selling their bags, which so far they have lost. "Exclusivity" is a key element of brands like Chanel and Hermes, but in reality women who buy 2nd hand and inspired bags are not lost to Chanel. Some will buy one in the future. Others are never going to pay over $6,000 for a bag ever. Inspired goods flourish in the fashion world. Even Karl Lagerfeld sells a Chanel inspired bag under his own name. The difference in costs between "inspired" (minus logo) and "geniune " is so wide, is Chanel truly losing sales? The legal ruling given against Chanel is: Once customers buy a item, it's theirs (they own it) to resale, or use it how they wish.)
2) Vaneli Adelle Booties - These are Italian suede leather booties, so I'm surprised they, too, are made in China. I like the balance of walking in block heels. Comfortable, cute and the gold hardware goes with the purse.
3) Two Coffee Talk Mugs from Pier 1 - Big enough to microwave single serve mug cakes, which I plan to start making in lieu of baking 9" cakes. These 18-ounce, stoneware mugs can go into a microwave. I like drinking coffee out of them also!
4) Uniqlo's Women Pocketable Parka and 5) Heattech Knitted Gloves - Both are on sale! The parka is travel friendly, yet keeps you warm as a top layer when needed. The gloves have Uniqlo's unique heattech yarns to keep hands warm. I didn't get them in white, but want you to see the Touch-Screen function that lets you operate a phone or bank screen without taking off your gloves.
6) Champagne Stopper by MiTBA - So often I don't open champagne or wine at home as all I desire is a single glass. This stopper might change my reluctance. It has a built-in pressure pump to keep once-opened bottles of the bubbly fresh and carbonated. Hoping it fits most red wine bottles also.
7) Metropolitan Museum of Art Notecards - This was a  wonderful surprise gift from a friend, who I know didn't read my blog on Gotham City-themed gifts! Note cards are an item adults can always use. Any of the Met's selections would do, but my friends will enjoy seeing the sites of New York City. For sure, My Gift-Giver has a 6th sense for choosing the perfect gift!

As you can see, a good gift makes your life better, happier or easier regardless of price  ... not because of price.

What was your favorite gift this year?


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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Greetings From THE SAVVY SHOPPER

The Christmas Tree in Carl Schurz Park at East 86th Street and East End Avenue, New York City



As we end 2018, may a little sparkle and shine enter your life. Wishing you joy in the present, a clear-eyed past and a bright future! 
A decoration in a corner of my New York City apartment. This year it shares its spot with a tin of basil.
Peace and goodwill to my readers around the globe. We are one human community, who celebrate our differences and note how much we are alike. Be kind to one another!
A close-up.
Love to each and every one of you! Happy holidays everyone, where they fall on your calendars; and Merry Christmas to all who celebrate today!





Sunday, December 23, 2018

Buckingham Palace Gingerbread Cookies


Photo: Royal/UK
There are Christmas cookies I make every year. Gingerbread cookies are not one of them. Often we bought Lebkuchen dipped in dark chocolate from a German bakery, so there was no need to make gingerbread cookies. Our confections tended to be cookies we could make better ourselves at home. But I do like to try new recipes. A British Facebook friend gave me this Christmas cookie recipe, and they are very simple to bake:

Buckingham Palace Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients:

7/8 cup self raising flour (I will  substitute 7/8 cup of all-purpose flour, adding 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt because I do not buy self-rising flour.)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice (includes 
cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)
Photo: McCormick

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup soft dark brown sugar
2 tablespoon granulated sugar for dusting

3/8 cup milk (= 6 tablespoons)

Directions: 

1) Add the ingredients, one-by-one, to a mixing bowl and incorporate.

2) Chill the dough in the refrigerator for up to 1/2 hour.

3) With a rolling pin, roll out the dough flat. Eyeball it, not too thick or thin. 

4) With cookie cutters, cut your dough into shapes. Dusk with a little sugar.

5) Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. Let cool.

Royal Icing to decorate the cookies:
Wilton.com

Ingredients: 


2 pasteurized egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Optional: Food coloring of your choice; or leave the frosting white

Directions:

Mix and decorate your gingerbread cookies however you like. If you don't have a special icing tool, cut one corner off of a plastic sandwich bag to fill and squirt out the icing to decorate. The cookies that look like the work of a first grader, get eaten quickly!

What surprises me is, there is no call for an egg in the recipe, a fact I didn't know about gingerbread cookies.

As readers are aware, not only do I feature recipes in order to share them, but so I can return here to remember how to make them again!  Lately cooking and baking requires grabbing an iPad. Oh, what a digital age we live in!

For very busy people, Voorman is a small cookie company on the East coast. Their cookies are nearly as good as homemade and available at Rite-Aid and Target for about $3 for a 14 ounce bag. There is no shame in buying a bag!

Enjoy!


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Friday, December 21, 2018

Last Minute Shoppers Head To T.J. Maxx

Photo: Echo silk scarves, a favorite of mine
If busyness stopped you from completing your Christmas shopping, do not despire! Run (don't walk) to T.J. Maxx. I'm always astonished by the quality, value, variety and ever changing stock of merchandise on its shelves. High end labels are affordable! I never fail to discover new designers and brands by shopping there.

I will never buy another purse, backpack or suitcase any place else! I found the perfect handbag and briefcase/backpack for $25 each.  

Pots and pans of all sizes and kitchen tools are professional grade, so there's no need to go elsewhere where you will pay more.

Furthermore, I love the beauty products! The skin care and makeup are top-notch even if you covet organic and all natural based ingredients. Recently as a small $6 spurge, I got a lovely rose body oil to try. It has nourishing anti-aging properties and a non-greasy formula, which lets me dab drops on my face too. Now I want to learn more about Natrave, the company that makes it. 

I haven't bought clothes at T.J. Maxx since lately I haven't needed new coats, dresses, trousers or tops, but I see plenty of well known designer names and adorable style in its aisles, and know where to find replacements as I wear articles out!

I picked up baby clothes as gifts; Totes umbrallas; a pair of Nike sneakers, Merrell leather shoes, designer silk scarves and Cuisinart pots and pans. Every item is a fabulous find and a much needed buy for less!
The sensational rose body oil from Natrave I discovered at T.J. Maxx.
So if you still need gifts; or new party attire, certainly you'll found them at T.J. Maxx without compromise or breaking the bank. Moreover, the spectacular inventory is forever changing, and you will love browsing! Guaranteed.🎄




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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

5 Gifts For New York City Lovers

Judging by the numbers, people love New York City.🏩 It happens to be the most popular U.S. tourist destination. Chances are you know people who enjoy coming to the city. According to EscapeHere, "any season, for any reason, New York has it all!" So for those on your shopping list who are in a New York state of mind, here are 5 charming Gotham themed gift ideas:

1) The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings - For NYC + art lovers: A lavishly illustrated book, with history and descriptions of 500 masterpieces in the Met's iconic collection. There are a slew of other art books and museum gifts on the institution's website.

2) Godinger Silver Art Empire State and Chrysler Building Bottle Stoppers - For NYC + wine lovers: Made of nickle plate.
3) Subway Map Onesie - For NYC lovers + new parents of an infant (as babies don't really want anything): Comes in 3 colors - blue, pink and black.
4) New York Library Lion Bookends - For NYC + book lovers: The famous lion statues on 5th Avenue at 42nd Street watch over Bryant Park, and they have names, Patience and FortitudeThe bookends are carved of pink Tennessee marble laying on bases of Milford granite.
5) NYC MetroCard Charm and chain - For NYC + jewelry lovers: Available in sterling silver, or 14K gold vermeil.

These New York City themed gifts are fun for natives and visitors alike! I was given the wine stoppers at the end of a gala dinner. They are cute and made to last.



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Monday, December 17, 2018

Sweets And Treats As Holiday Gifts

Some people are difficult to buy gifts for because they really don't need anything, or we are unsure of their tastes. For these folks I select delicious treats I'd be delighted to receive. If I don't know what you want, I'll get you what I want, (and ha, maybe you'll share it with me!😋) Here are 5 additional gifts to consider:

1) Dark chocolate Belgium truffles (see above↑) would probably top my list. A special treat at Christmas when visions of sugar plums are dancing in our heads!
2) Dark chocolate is also perfection combined with a thick layer of white chocolate and pieces of peppermint. Williams-Simona offers their peppermint bark starting in November. Select dark, or milk chocolate.
A refreshing and irresistible candy; and this year you can personalize the tin, if you wish. Putting a name on the tin adds an $8 charge.
3) With cookies and sweets in abundance, a gift of deluxe nuts is a lovely change ... and healthy. This salty snack may last into the New Year.
4) A box of chocolate covered Oreos is another holiday gift idea. You can either purchase them finished; or buy Oreos, dip them into melted Baker's chocolate and box them yourself for less money, depending on how busy and industrious you are. Cheapest price/but for 5 lbs at CandyStore.com.
5) The last gift idea is a box of good ole American Russell Stover Chocolate Covered Nuts selling at your local drugstore. As a child, I often got a box for Christmas. A winning combination of milk chocolate and nuts, and the quality of the chocolate is good (which unforturnately isn't always true of American chocolate).

All are gifts people can share with family and friends during the holidays. A hostess needs refreshments to welcome extra people into a home, so thoughtful gifts, indeed!


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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Feel The Warmth With KuSan Kits

Still looking for that perfect gift to put under the Christmas tree? Wool hats, gloves and scarves are popular for a reason. Winter is coming!

As temperatures drop, the folks on your holiday list might like to feel the warmth of handmade knitted accessories. KuSan is a merchant of warm knitts, whose offices; design studio; and warehouses are based in North London. The wool used comes from New Zealand; and the items, which also include knitted bags and rugs, are ethically made in Nepal. 

Hand knitters receive fair wages and work humane hours within safe, caring environments. Workers are offered participation in collective bargaining; free association; sufficient breaks; and free staff food. Many have stayed with the company since it began 18 years ago. Since the launch, the company's reputation has grown!

All goods are produced using eco-friendly and substainable practises. 

KuSan sells its woolly goods from London's skate parks to chic boutiques across Europe. Here in the USA customers can find them on Ebay and occassionally at T.J. Maxx. The quality is high end, yet the cost is low.

Super cute style, lovingly handcrafted and affordable, the hats, gloves and scarves are 100% wool and fleece lined. Plus, the retailer is always innovating and updating its collection. I bought a pair of colorful, striped mittens!



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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Why A Baby Sleeps in A Cardboard Box

The practice of using baby boxes instead of cribs for sleeping started in Finland (in the 1930s), then took off in the UK before being introduced in the U.S. As it turns out, Finland has one of the lowest infant death rates from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) in the world since beginning their baby box initiative. The country provides them for all new parents to take home with their infants as they leave the hospital.

To reduce SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends letting infants sleep in the same room as parents (but not in the same bed) for the 1st six months.
Each cardboard baby box comes with a mattress and fitted sheet. Sometimes retailers include a load of baby essentials like diapers, baby wipes and onesies. California, New Jersey and Ohio have become the first states to sponsor programs to give free baby boxes to expectant and new mothers.

The baby box is easy to move to different rooms for babies to play in, or take naps. Babies should sleep on their backs with all objects removed from the box. A great Christmas gift for expecting parents, perhaps? 
I have to say, I'd still buy a proper crib to elevate the infant overnight. (I mean, what if you have a flood, or a pet?), but use the box to move the baby from room to room and for out-of-town stays. It goes to show how "proper" can be simple without expensive bells and whistles. A nod to Finland! (My mother once said: "Buying a bassinet is a waste of money, since a baby outgrows it after a few months.")

Amazon and Walmart offer baby boxes as sets with starter clothes. As you can see, pink for girls; blue for boys. Thoughtful gift, no?

Perhaps I'm writing this blog to have a reason to post this adorable baby photo. Jokingly I sometimes tell friends when the subject of children or puppies arise, I'm at a mind and point where I no longer want to bring anything home that poops.🙂 Still I like seeing and buying gifts for little ones! Nowadays, I'm a fabulous Aunt Debbie. And, as we know, it takes a village to raise children.


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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Christmas Cactus or Poinsettia?

Photo: theseedhouse via Etsy
I won't lie. I stopped buying Christmas flowers a few years ago. I've killed too many potted poinsettias to hope they will last after Christmas. Are they meant to live? Because, they don't! The light, temperature and moisture are likely all wrong in a Manhattan apartment for them to thrive. Still their bright red blossoms are beautiful, indeed!

Some sources claim that a Christmas cactus is hardy compared to the more delicate poinsettia. Certainly, they are lovely too. Just like poinsettias, they have the same contrast of vivid green and red Christmas colors. Here is how to care for the latter in case you're looking for holiday plants.

What's more if you lack a green thumb, there's no shame in settling on an artificial plant. Perhaps they can't fully replace real flowers, yet some arrangements can fool you, short of a close inspection. For me, buying a couple of sprigs from Michael's, a NYC art and craft's store, turns the trick, and after the season I store them away with the rest of my Christmas decorations.

What I love about decorating for Christmas is, there are many ways to deck the halls. Everybody has their own tradition. Do you buy potted plants? Christmas cactus, or poinsettia?? 
Photo: 1-800-flowers



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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

5 Beauty Gift Ideas

If you have makeup loving friends -- who either wear it daily, or want to, have I got 5 thoughtful and affordable gifts for you to consider. Each one has good ingredients wrapped up in a clever presentation sure to please your recipients. The first up is:

1) The Color Workshop Brilliant Beauty Classic Glamour Makeup Palette (above) - 41 everything you need cosmetics: 18 eyeshadows, 12 lip glosses, 2 blushes, 1 contour, 1 lip primer, 1 eye primer, powder highlighters, 3 lipsticks -- all housed inside a fancy locking, black train case equipped with a mirror and carrying handle. $9.88.
2) The Color Workshop Nail Pail Nail Polish Gift Set - 15 essential items: 9 wearable nail polish colors,  3 tubs of fun glitter powder, 2 toe separators -- it comes in a sleek, keepsake storage pail. $9.88.
3) Real Techniques Neon Lights Brush Set -  Nearly all women have basic makeup brushes. A few extras in a set (your friend may not have) makes a lovely gift: 5 professional pieces: buffing brush, smugging brush, shadow brush, contour fan brush, plus a complexion blending sponge. These brushes are multi-taskers, so this set either supplements, or upgrades the cosmetic brushes your friend already owns. $13.99. Pretty brush handles to boot!


4) L'Oréal Paris Colour Riche La Palette Lip, $8 - $10 and Maybelline New York Lip Studio Lip Color Palette, $5 - $8 - depending on seller - The quality of L'Oréal and Maybelline lipsticks are top notch. Customers rarely do better even paying 4 to 5 times more for designer lipstick, so why do it? For much less, you can buy your friend both palettes, so she has 16 new beautiful and wearable colors to try.
5) EOS Lip Balm 3-Pack Limited Edition Collection - I bought myself this lip balm set last Christmas. This year they are back!  - Contains beeswax, Shea butter, jojoba oil, olive oil, coconut oil and other moisturizing ingredients in peppermint, ginger and holiday flavors to keep your lips smooth and conditioned during dry seasons. $10.63 for 3.

Festive, useful and affordable gift sets your makeup maven friends can enjoy all year long. Plus, you might be tempted to treat yourself! At these prices, why not?

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Inside A Snow Globe With Santa At Bloomingdale's


On Black Friday I walked to Bloomingdale's to see their Christmas display. There were not many decorations compared to years past, when ornaments and trees took up half the floor. But they had a giant snow globe, and a lovely young lady asked me to step inside of it to have my picture taken with Santa. Sooo I did. (#Bloomies59) The day was very cold outside, and I am bundled up in layers, plus a goose down coat. It's hood was pulled up outside that day.
Photo: Associated Press (click to enlarge)  - The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lite tonight.
During the Christmas season, I try to go to Macy's and Saks 5th Avenue also to see who is selling the most beautiful ornaments. Then there's a stroll over to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree, as well as, a stroll up and down 5th Avenue to gaze at store windows. St. Patrick's Cathedral will have a huge Nativity Scene, garland, white lights and poinsettias all over the church.

Let the holiday season begin! Have you, Dear Readers, bought any gifts yet?

Extra Tip: Don't miss the beautiful tree covered in blue lights a block away from Bloomingdale's at Bloomberg news.
The surronding trees are about 12 feet tall. The center one is several office floors tall.

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