Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Venus Et Fleur Roses Last A Year

Photo: Shopify
Every year on my birthday I get a beautiful vase of flowers, but they rarely last more than a week. It's a big expense that all too soon ends up in the garbage. How would you like to smell the roses for a long period of time? Believe it or not, now you can.
Venus Et Fleur is a flower company which has figured out a way to give real roses ... well a shelve life. Their roses are treated with a special formula and process to preserve the color, freshness, biological structure, softness and scent for up a year.
Supplied by growers in Ecuador, the roses are cut at their peakiness and treated with a non-toxic, non-allergic wax formula (similar to silica). Next the roses sit in dye to enhance or change their color before being styled and arranged in Parisian keepsake boxes.

The only maintenance needed is a light dusting from time to time. The retailer recommends keeping the flowers out of direct sunlight, and you do not water them. They also stay in their box.
Venus Et Fleur Everlasting Roses are popular with celebrities, hotels and weddings. A small box costs $299, and a large or special collection can run between $399 to $589. Oddly enough, buying a single rose at $99 is the cheapest, but not the best value.
So what do you think? Would you spend more to send roses that last until someone's next birthday?🌹

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Intense Orange Julius

Photo: Wildrosekitchen
Years ago when my friend, Cara Sue, married I hung out at her house most weekends. I think I'm the one who started us on Orange Julius drinks, one of our many snacks. Ahh youth, we were thin as rails, and I remember making them with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream and 1/4 cup of sugar! Once in a while I added some rum or Bourbon, but mostly not. Without the alcohol, the drink tastes like an old fashioned orangesicle ice cream treat. Remember those? Packaged in a round paper cylinder on a stick, you ate the sherbet-like dessert by pushing it up beyond the cylinder and licking it as it melted. In those days, we ate ice cream without a thought. Nowadays I make a reduced calorie Julius.

Here is the still rich, organgey, creamy and delicious recipe:

Orange Julius


1 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate (I buy orange juice with pulp. Why pulp free?)
1-2 tablespoons sugar or Steevia (Sweeten to taste. I can drink it without any sweetener. Try it plain first.)
About 1 1/2 cups ice


Toss everything into a blender using about 1/2 of the ice. Blend, then add the rest of the ice and blend until the ice is crushed.

A refreshing icy drink in the summer. An infusion of vitamin C in the winter.

Extra tip: Feel free to use 6 oz of pineapple concentrate to make Pineapple Julius also. For parties, you can serve both! 

Single serving: If I make an Orange or Pineaple Julius for one, I scoop out only 1/3 of the concentrate from the can (return the rest to the freezer), then reduce the milk to 2/3 of a cup and ice to about 1/2 of a cup + eyeball a couple of drops of vanilla. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

15 Makeup Dos & Don'ts

Photo: Maybelline
For many of us, applying makeup begins as trial and error until we figure out what flatters our faces. And, we can always learn new tricks, especially for an evening out when we tend to wear more makeup. Here are 15 common makeup dos and don'ts. Let's replace bad habits -- Don'ts with better habits -- Dos:

Do: Start with primer on your face and under your eyes.

Don't: Skip primer. Makeup glides on easy and stays put on primed skin!

Do: Dampen your blender sponge with water.
Don't: Dip a dry sponge into makeup. It soaks up too much product.

Do: Blend foundation beyond your jawline down to your neck and up to your hairline. Dab and pat is the way to go.
Don't: Stop foundation at the jawline to create a visible line.

Do: Match a concealer to the skin on your inside wrist.
Don't: Use a concealer lighter then your skin. You will look like a raccoon.

Do: Use correct makeup brushes for your foundation, blush, contour, bronzer, highlighter, eyeshadow and powder.

Don't: Apply makeup with the wrong brushes. Using the correct brush lets you apply each item correctly.

Do: Apply blush on the apples of your cheeks.

Don't: Extent blush beyond the apples of your cheeks. You may look like a clown.

Do: Apply cheek contour right under the hollow of the cheekbone and stop midway.

Don't: Apply contour too low and too far across your face. It ends up looking unnatural, or dirty.

Do: Stroke bronzer lightly above contour to produce a warm sun kissed glow. (A contour and bronzer are often used interchangeably, however professionals use contour to create edges on the face with faux shadows, while bronzing is used to bring a warm luminesce to the skin.)
Don't: Overdo the bronzer. Light is right!

Do: Use an eyebrow pencil shade lighter than your hair color and be sure to stroke lightly following your natural brow. Next soften and blend using a brow brush. (Exception: Blonds go a shade darker.)
Don't: Make eyebrows look unnatural. Polished is good/harsh is bad!

Do: Apply darker eyeshadow near the base of your eyelashes, not at the crease.

Don't: Go lighter (from the lids) to darker (at the crease). You will then produce ghoul eyes!

Do: (1) Use an eyeliner to draw thin lines; or increase line thickness as you move out away from your nose.

Don't: Draw a thick line near the nose that gets thinner moving out. It makes eyes look droopy.

Do: Use mascara starting at the base of eyelashes to lengthen lashes. You can do top and bottom lashes. Blot excess away with a tissue so it doesn't smear later.
Don't: Apply mascara only at the tips of lashes. It won't lengthen them.

Do: Apply highlighter where light hits your face: on the cheekbones, the nose, a dot at the hairline and cupid's bow. Moreover, use a light brush stroke to avoid a "heavy simmery mess."

Don't: Overdo highlighter by putting it all over your face. Less is best! (Go here for highlighting images and tips.)

Do: Use face powder to set your makeup and to take away shine.

Apply with a powder brush.
Don't: Use a "dirty" brush, one that you use for blush, contour, bronzer or highlighter.

Do: Apply a glamorous lip color to your lips. 

Don't: Minimize your lips, nor go more than a hair passed the lip line. Aim for full, pouty lips (do) without looking like a vampire after a meal (don't).

Remember: The purpose of makeup is to balance and flatter the face by enhancing or softing features. People should think ... you look great, not your makeup looks great!

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Royal Engagment Rings: Let's Take A Look

When a royal couple gets engaged, count on seeing a gorgeous ring. Although diamonds are the hardest, most durable stones, there are plenty of diamonds in the world. Sapphires are rarer, which is why royalty often chooses a sapphire engagement ring. For fun, let's look at several famous royal rings: 

Kate Middleton (2011), now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge - A 12-carat sapphire with 14 diamonds that once belonged to fiancé Prince William's mother, Lady Diana Spencer (1981), is a favorite. Its creation was inspired by a sapphire brooch which Queen Victoria received on her wedding day from new husband Prince Albert that today is often worn by her great, great granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. I adore blue sapphires, and you don't need to be engaged to a prince in order to wear a royalty inspired knockoff. Trust me! (In a window of a Madison Avenue jewelry store near my home sits a 12-carat Ceylon sapphire ring exactly like the royal engagement ring. I'm going to walk over there, wearing all my cheap imperfect jewelry, to try it on. Heck, yeah!! It's the one, I wanted to buy.😊)
Queen Elizabeth II (1947) - To make his betrothed, Princess Elizabeth of York's engagement ring, Prince Philip's mother, Princess Alice (née of Battenberg) who married Prince Andrew of Greece, gave her son one of her tiaras, a wedding gift she received from Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra (Romanov) of Russia. Princess Alice was Tsarina Alexandra's niece. Diamonds were removed from the tiara and reset into an engagement ring. The ring is a round 3-carat brilliant stone flanked by smaller pavé-set diamonds mounted into platinum.
Queen Victoria (1840) - On the right is the exquisite sapphire brooch that a century later inspired Lady Diana's engagement ring. On the left is Queen Victoria's engagement ring. Both were designed by Queen Victoria's fiancé, soon to be husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and presented to her for the wedding. The serpent is an ancient Roman symbol for everlasting love and seems to have been a popular motif for rings during the Victorian era. (It is not for me, I hate snakes!) Set in 18-carat gold, the serpent eyes are rubies, the mouth a line of diamonds and the large center emerald is Queen Victoria's (born May 24, 1819) birthstone. Prince Albert put a lot of thought into the Queen's wedding gifts!
Princess Eugenie of York (2018) - Queen Elizabeth II's granddaughter selected a 3-carat padparadscha pinkish orange glow sapphire, surrounded by diamonds for her engagement ring. It is an ultra rare sapphire. (Not that anybody asks, yet I always prefer blue.) Her own mother, Sarah Ferguson (1986) received a red ruby with diamonds engagement ring commissioned by Prince Andrew as a nod to her red hair. Newspapers wonder if Eugenie is trying to carry on a family color tradition. Only Eugenie knows.
Sarah's ruby and diamond engagement ring
Maghan Markle (2017) - A trio of 3 diamonds, one 2.5 cushion-cut central diamond with two round side diamonds to make 3 carats, set in yellow gold designed by her fiancé, Prince Harry, who used some of the jewelry once belonging to his mother, Diana, later the Princess of Wales.
It's always fun to look, write and gush over jewelry. 

Although sapphires are my favorite gems, I still prefer a traditional round-shaped (called a Tiffany setting) diamond as an engagement ring ... a BIG one, surrounded by smaller diamonds! Do you have a favorite stone.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day Readers

I'm sending Valentine's out to you today! For ...

Love, peace and compassion.

 Courage and enthusiasm for life.

Hugs and an ounce of chocolate. xoxo

Happy Valentine's Day! Look out for Cupid's arrows.😉

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Jambalaya Made Easy

Photo: Kiss 99.9 FM
Let me begin by saying I love spicy food and one-day will visit New Orleans where I aim to eat my way across the city and meet the warm, wonderful people. Of course, I will take in the culture, music and history too. To be sure, it's on my bucket list!

Meanwhile, I'm delighted by a chance to make an authentic pot of Jambalaya and King Cake Cupcakes at home in New York City. Zatarain's, the food and spice company, as well as, a New Orleans' tradition since 1889, sent me the food items I need to make real Cajun/Creole cuisine from scratch! As I write, it's cooking on the stove and baking in the oven, and I can't wait to eat dinner tonight!! Smells delicious! 

Here's what I received in my box: 

1) Rice Dinner Mix; 2) Creole Seasoning; 3) Cajun Hot Sauce; 4) Creole Mustard
5) Crab Boil Complete Mix; 6) Root Beer Concentrate -- Available at Walmart, Amazon and many supermarkets. Tasty and inexpensive, spices are also healthy!

Did you know that Zatarain's is famous for their root beer? Root beer concentrate is used as an ingredient to make King Cake frosting. By tradition, a tiny figurine of a baby is baked into a King Cake. The person who finds the baby in their piece of cake provides the King Cake next time. I bet it brings luck too!

Here's a Zatarain's tutorial on all things Jambalaya. After serving tonight's dinner, I plan to make the many other recipes found on Zatarain's website, a handy resource. The Creole seasoning is a convenient mix to add zest to stews, soups and vegetables. A scroll through this blog demonstrates just how up THE SAVVY SHOPPER'S alley this opportunity to cook Cajun/Creole dishes is.

Eating real food, plus cooking and baking at home can be simple. I love the ease of one-pot, yet delicious and nutritious dinners as well as, the spirit of gathering family and friends together over a meal. Gabbing and catching up. What better way to celebrate?

Thank you, Zatarains's for sending the flavor of New Orleans into my home. My first attempt at preparing Jambalaya and King Cake in my own kitchen made easy. The cupcake idea is brilliant!

Happy Mardi Gras ... y'all! Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Best Time To Buy A Mattress Is?

Photo: Matresses Direct
Right now, as it turns out! Across America, new mattress styles launch in March, so retailers put last year's stock on sale to make room for new inventory. Price-cuts run from the end of January through February.

As happens, a spot in my mattress began to sag. Likely I could have slept on my old mattress longer as it wasn't lumpy or causing me to wake up stiff, etc. But I knew it was only a matter of time. What if the sinking grew worst after the sales? So I took the plunge.

I went to 4 merchants and looked online. Oh, buying a mattress is a racket. Different style names used by each retailer for the same mattress makes comparing prices difficult! But after you decide on what type of mattress (coil vs. memory foam vs. latex vs. hybrid, plus the degree of firmness) you get a better sense.

After I visited stores to test a few mattresses I was sure I wanted to stick with a traditional wrapped coil mattress and I like a firm mattress. I also took note of the coil count just to grab onto something to make price comparisons between the same brand easier when going between stores.

How firm a mattress to buy depends on the type of sleeper you are. Back and stomach sleepers tend to prefer firm while side sleepers like a softer mattress for the comfort of their shoulders and hips. Ultimately, get whatever feels best to you! I ended up with an extra firm mattress after finding that while the extra firm is, indeed, a firm mattress, it is not hard. The cushion firm version has 2-inches of extra padding and costs $100 more, but to me wasn't more comfortable, only softer and higher. The advice is to lay on a mattress for 15 minutes to determine how you will like sleeping on it. What helped me the most was mattress hopping once I narrowed my selection down to 4 display mattresses.

For American readers the 4 mattresses I like best are made by the following manufacturers: Beautyrest (extra firm and luxury firm), Home Collection (ultra firm) and Stern & Foster (ultra firm). HC and S&F were the most expensive. By a lot! Although not as pricey, Beautyrest makes an excellent mattress. In business since 1931, it doesn't cut corners: Equipped with good coils, box spring, fabric and support; and well made. Therefore, I bought a Beautyrest extra firm mattress.

After selecting a mattress, you may wonder if you should also buy the box spring. My suggestion: Buy only what you need. However, as I said buying a mattress is a bit of a racket, so for me buying a complete set -- mattress and box spring -- was only a few dollars more than buying a mattress alone. This is Manhattan, so buying only a mattress kicked in an $85 delivery fee. (The box spring added only $119 to the cost of the mattress and free delivery. See what I mean? It's splitting hairs.) You will be told that buying only a mattress cancels the manufacturer's guarantee. But read the fine print: It is not always true. Buy out of necessity, not out of fear if it means saving big bucks.

I find the Mattresses in a Box quite comfortable but stuck with what I am used to sleeping on. My research suggests that the Mattress in a Box (a medium firm foam mattress) won't last as long as a coil/box spring combination, but they cost much less too, so if you don't mind going through this mattress buying process again a bit sooner, they are supportive and not a bad mattress choice.

Furthermore, Macy's has the best selection and prices on mattresses across the board. The store's free White Glove Delivery is awesome too. With a two-hour window, the deliverymen came on time and did more than I expected: vacuumed the bed space, dusted my frame, unwrapped and slid the mattress and box spring into their protectors and laid each on the bed frame. In no time flat! Also vital: In my experience, Macy's will make something right that goes wrong after a sale.

Buying a mattress takes a big bite out of a budget. Still, after the sticker shock wears off, I recommend buying mattress and box spring protectors. They keep out water, dust mites and bed bugs. (This is Manhattan. OMG Bedbugs!? I'm terrified!!) I got all cotton, quilted protectors for $65 total at Bed, Bath and Beyond, an excellent price. (Use your 20% coupons.) If possible avoid the enclosures with polyurethane, a plastic interior coating because over time the coating disintegrates into a big mess. In addition, I layer on top a mattress pad that I can remove and wash, saving me the hassle of sliding the mattress out of its encasement to wash often.

Another consideration if you like a firm mattress: Most mattresses get softer within 6 months. So you may want to order extra firm like I did.

While breaking in your mattress, feel free to buy a cheap foam topper. I used one the first few days but decided I don't need it. My new mattress has enough padding for comfort. But everybody is different. 

Selecting a new mattress is exhausting. After the job is done you will need a rest ... hopefully on the right mattress for you!

Extra tips: 

1) Mattresses today are higher than years ago (12-15 inches vs 7-10 inches). I didn't consider this when I chose a standard profile (9") instead of a low profile (5") box spring. So my new bed sits higher than my old one but not too high to go with my furniture. But phew, I don't have an inch to spare. So perhaps measure your nightstand to avoid "the princess and the pea" effect as a return is an expensive mistake! 

2) Turn your mattress every 3 months  -- head becomes feet and feet become head -- to extend its life by years. Nowadays new mattresses are upholstered on one side only and constructed (we are told) to make flipping over unnecessary. Call me skeptical, but do they last as long, really? Tick-tock, time will tell.

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