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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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

My Chocolate Pudding With Oreo Cookies

Photo: Fine Cooking
Chocolate pudding is delicious. Oreo cookies are good too. And, chocolate covered Oreos are divine, likely the nectar of the Gods. What if all three ingredients were out driving late one night and crashed into each other, and you could eat them? Well, a vision becomes an easy dessert:

Chocolate Pudding - homemade is the best!

Ingredients for pudding:

4 cups milk
2 eggs
3-4 tablespoons dark cocoa or cacao powder (You can substitute dark chocolate bars, or Baker's chocolate.)
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) cornstarch (You can substitute all-purpose flour, but make sure to simmer for 5 minutes so the flour doesn't taste raw.)
pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Extras - after you make the pudding: 

Oreo cookies
Chocolate chips, or dark chocolate shavings

Directions to make the pudding:

1) Add all ingredients to a saucepan. Everything goes into cold milk and whisk.

2) Once the ingredients are incorporated, turn on the heat on a stove top. 

3) Keep whisking and beating until it boils and thickens, which only takes a few minutes after simmering begins. Whisk the entire time to keep it smooth!

Pudding is so simple to make, I never buy pudding mix in a box. If you have a box in your cupboard, improve the taste by adding 2 eggs to the ingredients. After using it up, never buy it again. Instead, make pudding from scratch. (For vanilla pudding, bump up the vanilla extract and leave out the cocoa.)

3) After it thickens, pour into pudding cups.

I eat half my pudding warm (because I'm no better than a child. I love hot pudding as a winter comfort dinner) and refrigerate the other half.

Directions continued (after pudding is made):

4) If you have the self control to wait, line a dessert dish with Oreo cookies and alternate with pudding and chocolate shavings.

5) Refrigerate to chill and serve.

Optional Step 6: If you don't mind going one step further, separate your eggs, using the yolks to make your pudding and save the egg whites to beat into a meringue (add a tablespoon of sugar to it). Top off your chocolate pudding, chocolate chips (or shavings) and Oreos with meringue, then brown it in the oven (or use a kitchen torch), before chilling in the refrigerating. Garnish the very top with more chocolate shavings or cookie bits if you like. (Oh my goodness, the wait! The wait! Only for the strong and patient who have not already eaten half the pudding!)

Photo: thecookingchicks

Ok, I won't lie, I only make this layered dissert for dinner guests, but not for just me, myself and I. Moreover, when I layer the chocolate pudding with Oreos and chocolate chips, I double the amount of pudding, or what would my guests eat ... my portion?😋

Easy-peasy, tasty chocolate pudding!


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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving From The Mandarin Duck

Photo: Wallpaperbackground.com
Each of us can find something to be thankful for, often it's our good health and a comfortable home. Family, friends and the kindness of people we meet. A positive attitude is a blessing. At times life will take a bad turn, but a positive attitude can help us navigate through stresses and challenges until things get better. And ... be thankful for the small stuff!
Photo: Audubon.org
New York City's newest resident, the Mandarin Duck, with his colorful feathers and bright pink beak, is a native of China. Nobody knows how he got to the pond in Central Park. Did he escape, or did someone put him there? He gets along with the other ducks, doesn't seem to mind the cold and has made himself at home. A gift to the city, and we love him!
Photo: Richmond Mom
Like you, today I will likely stuff myself with turkey, dressing and healthy sides including: green beans, asparagus, carrots, butternut squash, cranberries and of course, pumpkin pie. I like fresh and  healthy foods, so never feel deprived or guilty when eating plenty of them.

From our home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving all!🦃     


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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Library of Flowers By Margot Elena

If you need to buy gifts for people whose tastes you are unsure of, a small batch perfumery may be the answer. 
Margot Elena offers a portfolio of beauty, bath & body, body accessories and yards of floral fabric under the brand names: Library of Flowers, Lollia, The Cottage Greenhouse, Love & Toast and TokoyoMilk. Truly, there's something to make most everyone feel pampered and special. The retailer kicks personal care products up a notch with luxury ingredients, clean and floral scents and beautiful packaging. 
Personally, I rarely buy or wear perfume, but I do use soap, body lotion, hand cream, lip balm and skin care daily. For friends who sew, the darling fabrics are attractive and cheerful. Good smelling candles for someone's home is a thoughtful gift too.

Despite not knowing every little thing about a person, these types of gifts make a good impression. They should be a hit with people you know well, or not.


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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Find Something Gorgeous At Macy's Like Fine Jewelry


1) topaz with diamonds; 2) amethyst with diamonds; 3) pearls
It's the time of the year (again!) for me to feature a few awesome retailers and gift ideas to make your holiday shopping easy! You really can't go wrong at Macy's as the department store offers choice galore for every budget. Plus it has a long history of fantastic customer service. 
    
4) Tanzanites; 5) emeralds; 6) diamonds 
To be honest, it's not concierge customer service, but as an independent shopper, I'm ok with that. When I do need to ask a sales associate to help me, I always find them to be knowledgeable and honest about their wares. Plus the merchant strives to make things right if something goes wrong after you buy it, an invaluable trait. 

7) amethyst with diamonds; 8) blue sapphires with diamonds; 9) pink sapphires with diamonds
Today's blog features mid-priced jewelry made of real stones and 14k gold (with one silver medal ... the amethyst ring above left) you might consider for your mother, sister or daughter. Far from dirt cheap (as you may have to save up a few paychecks) yet they are affordable and durable gifts that should last a lifetime. 

As longtime readers know, I'm a fan of Macy's fine jewelry because jewelry is rarely an investment. Short of being the estate of Elizabeth Taylor or Queen Elizabeth II, you will rarely be able to resell your jewelry for the price you paid for it. Moreover, at Macy's never buy their jewelry at full price, but wait for a rock bottom promotion (such as Black Friday, Friends & Family Sales, Limited-Time-Specials)!


10) onyx, emeralds and diamonds; 11) rolls of pearls; 12) topaz, amethyst, topaz, citrine with diamonds
Macy's online customer associates offer excellent assistance too. I have telephoned them many times to help buy gifts. And, recently they helped me select a bed mattress with their information and tips. (After narrowing the possibilities, I visited the Herald's Square store knowing what mattresses to try for hardness.)

For this blog, I went online to the fine jewelry department category, selecting "sales", "clearance" and "last act" to pull up this array of gift ideas. Some are classic pieces, while others are modern or whimsical -- something to suite every taste and  occasion. The sparklers are: diamonds, sapphires (blue and pink), emeralds, amethysts, topaz (blue), Tanzanites (violet-blue), and citrine (orange).

13) diamonds; 14) diamonds; 15) emeralds with diamonds
I've had instances in a jewelry store when a total stranger asks me to help him select a piece of jewelry for his girlfriend. What a sweet jesture that he's there, I always think and am delighted to assist! I LOVE buying jewelry! I have also taken a 20-something man to Macy's to get his paramount a piece. I start by asking him for a range of what he wishes to spend, followed by the type of jewelry and stones she likes to wear. I ask what her favorite color is and what metals she tends to wear. If you know these answers, you'll get something she likes. There's less choice when buying men jewelry, but I have no doubt I could find the perfect piece! At Macy's the sales associates are very helpful ... and I find truthful.

Do you have a favorite? What do you wear more often ... earrings, rings or necklaces?


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Monday, November 12, 2018

Stylish Layering From Uniqlo

Looks even sleeker and more stylish then it photographs.
On Saturday, the first breath of brisk autumn air hit New York City, just enough to show us that Old Man Winter was on his way.😱 That's all it took to send me out shopping in order to prepare for the biting cold ahead! Minus a set of wings, I flew over to Uniqlo, one of my favorite retailers for a few stylish layering basics. The 3 pieces I bought easily fit under a winter coat without adding bulk including:

1) Women Ultra Light Down Compact Vest - ↑ (top image)  - This item can be worn as an inner or outer layer. It repels light rain and snow. Has outside  and interior pockets, as well as, snap buttons. Takes up no room to store in a closet, or rolled up in a backpack.

2) Women Heattech Extra Warm T-shirt - Cozy and soft, yet made to handle the most extreme cold. Durable, moisture absorbing fabric you can wear as a layer or a normal top. Also comes in a crew or scoop neck ... so if you have a preference,  pay attention when placing your order.
3) Women Heattech Extra Warm Leggings - Like the matching t-shirt, the leggings are soft and stretchy for ease of moment. A high waist stays in place. Opique -- absoluely not see-through (yay!). Keeps out the cold, but absorbs moisture to feel comfortable against your skin. Wraps you in warmth and is machine washable.

I bought all 3 pieces in black for versatility to go with my entire wardrobe, but there is a selection of colors. A basic black or neutral color can mean that buying less is more!


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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Kally's Kentucky Fruitcake Is The Best Ever!

All photos and recipe by Rita Mackin Fox
Ready or not, the holidays are coming. Today I'm sharing my schoolmate, Rita Mackin Fox's Kentucky (Bourbon) Fruitcake. This is not your typical yucky fruitcake. People who don't like fruitcake, agree on how scrumptious this recipe is! 

As well as her culinary skills, Rita is a talented writer with many worldwide fans. For her Romance novels, she writes under the pen name Kallypso Masters. "Like" her Facebook page to find other delicious recipes, information and entertainment. Thanks, dearest Rita (mostly for being you, and) for letting me share your mother's recipe, plus giving my readers a chance to connect with yours!

Kally's Kentucky Fruitcake 

Makes 3 regular loaves, or one 5+ pound loaf: Rita says, "It can take 6 weeks, from start to finish, so don't wait too long to start!"

Ingredients:


4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
6 large whole eggs
1/2 cup bourbon (this is just for the cake recipe, not the soaking).
4 cups pecan pieces, soaked in bourbon
1 pound candied cherries (8 oz each of the red and green)
8 ounces raisins, or Craisins, soaked in bourbon
8 ounces candied pineapple
1/2 cup orange marmalade (Rita doesn’t like citron, and this is SO much tastier.)

Extras: 

pecan halves and red/green whole cherries to decorate the top of cake(s)
cheesecloth (a package of 6-yards, cut into three relatively equal sections will do it)
1 - 1.5 litres of fine Kentucky bourbon (Rita prefers sourmash.)   

Directions:

1) At least the night before mixing and baking the cake (and even several days or a week before is okay), soak raisins/Craisins and nuts in bourbon in separate containers. Says Rita: "I just put the pecans into a quart Mason jar and the raisins/Craisins into a pint jar, cover with bourbon, and put them in the fridge until I’m ready for them. They will plump up with the liquor, so don’t overfill the jars, but try to keep the fruit and nuts covered in bourbon."

2) Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and another rack below it on the lowest spot. Put a pan of water on the lowest rack. This will add moisture to the oven when baking. Heavily butter a 10-inch tube pan or three loaf pans. Set aside.

3) Sift the flour, baking powder, and nutmeg into a medium bowl.

4) In a separate, large bowl, cream the butter and sugar, beating with a mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending completely after each addition.

5) Drain the bourbon from the raisins and nuts. Measure out and set aside 1/2 cup of the bourbon for later. Pour the rest into a small bowl and add the strips of cheesecloth to soak it up. We NEVER waste good Kentucky bourbon! Set aside.

6) Preheat oven to 325 F.

7) Add the flour mixture to the eggs in two additions, alternating with the 1/2 cup bourbon. Stir in the pecans, marmalade, raisins/Craisins, pineapple, and cherries.

8) Transfer the batter to the prepared pan(s). Rita sometimes decorates the top with bourbon-soaked pecan halves and red/green whole cherries, but that's optional. 

9) Bake until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. APPROXIMATE baking times (ovens vary; also consider altitude adjustments):

  • coffeecake pan or tube pan: about 1-3/4 to 2 hours. (Rita’s is usually done within the 1-3/4 hour.)
  • bread loaf pan: 75-90 minutes
  • 5-inch gift size pans: 60-75 minutes

10) If the top of the cake begins to brown substantially before the cake is set, cover loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.

11) Remove the cake(s) from the oven and let cool 15-30 minutes on a wire rack. Run a knife down the sides to help loosen the cake from the pan. If you made a huge ring cake, before or after turning the cake out, you might want to cut it into three wedges (unless it will be given whole as a gift--and then good luck getting it out without having it break up; Rita's always brakes up). That's why she goes with wedges when she uses a ring pan.

12) When completely cool, wrap each section in a 2-yard strip of bourbon-soaked cheesecloth until covered in several layers.

13) Place the cake(s) in airtight, leak-free containers. (For a ring cake, Rita uses a large Rubbermaid or Tupperware container big enough to fit three loaf-pan sized cakes.) 

14) Liberally, but slowly (so more of it can soak in), pour bourbon over the cake(s). It's okay if liquid is swimming at the bottom a bit in the first week. If you do have a lot of liquid in the bottom, you might not need to add more. Once or twice a day, flip the cakes over so that the bourbon will run back through the cake slowly. Do this for 2-3 weeks, but when you don’t see any standing bourbon at the bottom of the container any longer, and the bottom is no longer “soggy,” you can quit turning it. After a few weeks to a month where no liquid bourbon has been visible, it should be ready to serve or gift, but the cake will keep for months (some even say years). No rush!

This is the best fruitcake you will ever eat! Unlike most, these friutcakes make wonderful gifts!


Friday, November 2, 2018

Beauty Advent Calendars For Less

With many Beauty Advent Calendars customers don't get enough bang for the buck. The high end calenders are expensive and a holiday splurge. And yet, despite paying a hefty price tag, some luxury brands skimp on product. I'm thinking of you Charlotte Tilbury: offering 12 items in travel sizes for $200. At $150 NARS is a little better with 25 gifts, but they, too, are mini sizes (and one offering is a pencil sharper)! Oh c'mon, when we pay the piper, give us full sizes of product!

Today I'm adding three Beauty Advent Calendars for less since not everyone can afford the high end Beauty Advent Calendars I featured on Monday. The following is sure to delight also:
Inside of Sleek Advent Calendar
🔔🐪🎄
1) Sleek MakeUp Can’t Wait Another Day Advent Calendar - 35£/$44. Twenty-four days of goodies. Sold at Boots in the UK. Here in the US, Sleek makeup is available at Ulta and Walgreen's, but I haven't seen the advent calendar in America. The Sleek beauty line is worth discovering, so I'm tempted to buy the makeup to make my own advent calendar of gifts! Included in the UK Advent Calendar is Sleek's doppelganger for NARS Orgasm blush in their own imitation shade of rose gold, so be sure to include it in your mix.

Although Walgreens doesn't seem to stock Sleek's full Advent Calendar, it carries smaller collections of 5 Sleek makeup items in lovely neutral colors retailing from $10 to $15, which I nearly got for myself.😊 As I reminded myself, makeup is not what I entered the store to buy!
2) NYX Sugar Trip 24 Days of Beauty Advent Calendar $55 - Contains 24 gifts consisting of eyeshadow, blush, highlighters, matte lip creams and lip glosses.
Inside of NYX Advent Calendar
🔔🐪🎄
3) Westminster Abbey Advent Calendar from Acorn $35 - This last suggestion is a bit of a stretch as it's not a 3-dimensional beauty calendar. I love it for its history of London's great Gothic church. 24 doors, windows and other openings reveal sections from the Abbey's stained-glass windows! Pair this calendar with 24 wrapped Sleek makeup items and still pay less than the cost of one of the ritzy beauty advent calendars. (Ulta offers 2/1 Sleek makeup often.) Plus this landmark calendar is sure to be kept instead of tossed!
🔔🐪🎄
12 makeup products
Another holiday calendar of interest is No 7 from Boots, yet I stop short of recommending it as a 4th choice. Yes, I love No 7 as a skincare and makeup line, but 12 Days of Beauty contains only 12 (not 24 items). Retailing for $44, they are not full sizes. You know how I feel about small sizes in a collection readers!😠 If it sold for about $20, I'd recommend it. Why not pick out full sizes of 2-3 favorite items in order to give more substanial gifts?

Most everybody spends more than they wish on Christmas gifts. Yet, here is a bit of wow for 24 days costing $55 or less!


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