Thursday, November 28, 2019

A Very Happy Thanksgiving

Photo: 123greetings
Despite challenges along the way, life is good! Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon our stokes of good fortune: Home, family, friends, health, work, purpose and freedom ... how lucky are we?
Photo: Getty
Again this year, I'm roasting a Thanksgiving chicken in lieu of a big turkey. As much as I love turkey, it's too much of a good thing. Due to all the sides (like potatoes, gravy, asparagus, carrots, broccoli, butternut squash, cranberries, my beer bread) and desserts (pecan pie and pumpkin cheesecake -- we couldn't decide on the finisher, so we didn't:) even a chicken leaves more leftovers than can be eaten! Next year perhaps it will be a small Thanksgiving Cornish hen. My favorite side, the bird's stuffing, I'm omitting because it's simply too much to consume, plus the beer bread turned out sooo good ... and can be dipped into gravy! Enough starch, I decided.🙂
Photo: thsobrosnetwork
Wishing all my readers time to relax, reflect, connect with family and friends and a scrumptious meal with all your favorite trimmings to enjoy.

🌽Happy Thanksgivinmy Friends ... I'm grateful you stopped by today!🦃    
-- xoxo --


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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Which Diamond "C" Is The Most Important?

Photo: Getty Images - 101.7-carat - Worlds largest flawless diamond
Pure carbon, heat and pressure makes a diamond. The gem is the hardest natural mineral on earth. It takes 1-3 billion years for nature to create one and 6-10 weeks for a lab to do so. Although both are real diamonds with the same chemical composition, lab diamonds are substantially cheaper due to demand. The demand for diamonds made by nature is greater.*

Most of us know when buying diamonds there are 4 Cs to consider and they determine the value. But do you know how the 4 Cs fall in importance? I won't keep you in suspense for long! When buying diamonds the order of importance is the following:
Photo: Blue Nile

1) Cut -  The most important of the 4 Cs is the cut. Why? Because it has the biggest influence on the diamond's sparkle (its "brilliance" and "fire"). Even if a diamond has a perfect color and clarity, a poor cut -- one that is too "shallow" or "deep" -- will make a diamond look dull. In an "ideal" cut -- one in the right proportion -- "light is returned out of the top of the diamond" (source: Blue Nile Jewelers).
2) Color - The 2nd most important C is a diamond's color ... in reality its lack of color. The less color the higher the grade and cost of a diamond. 

3) Carat - The 3rd C in the hierarchy is the carat, which refers to the diamond's total weight, not it's size.
4) Clarity - Often the least important C is clarity since tiny imperfections are microscopic and can't be seen with the naked eye. Natural diamonds nearly always have flaws: blemishes (exterior) and inclusions (interior) but usually lumped together as inclusions. The number and size of inclusions will set the price as they can effect the beauty, brilliance (how well white light reflects) and fire (how well colored light reflects) of the diamond. Tiny imperfections that can only be seen by using a loupe may not effect the beauty of the diamond to the naked eye.
The value of diamonds gets complicated. Bigger diamonds are rarer in nature, therefore a 5 carat diamond will cost much more than 5 times the cost of a 1 carat diamond.

On a budget, you can get more carats for your money by choosing lower grades of color and clarity and still end up with beautiful diamonds. In order words, by being flexible with color and clarity, you can get a great effect without going broke.
Here's how I see it. Like sapphires, rubies, emeralds and other precious stones, diamonds are the work of nature over billions of years improved by the artistry of man. Although the element carbon is as common as dirt, people covet and will pay $1000s for it after heat and pressure have worked their magic by turning it into a diamond.

*Diamonds created by nature are marketed as unique; no two are alike. Lab grown diamonds can be mass produced in a factory, which lowers their price. Weather or not, it's a bad thing is debateable. Hey, I'll take an affordable lab grown 20 carat diamond. Hand it over! :)



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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Sèzane: The French Way

Once again it's time to think about the holidays. Noël is upon us, so I'll feature a few places to pick up some lovely gifts and/or attire for holiday parties.
Sèzane is an clothing, shoes and accessories retailer designed with a French flair. Launched in 2013 by Morgane Sèzalory, many items are handmade using quality fabrics and leathers that are created to last over time. The merchant is committed to making quality pieces -- not exactly cheap, but affordable with margins below the industry standard for what you get. 
An e-company, Sèzane also has brick and mortar stores in 3 major cities: New York, Paris and London. The shops sponsor fun activities like group yoga, talk events and teas.   
Goods are made to be durable with eco-friendly materials and manufacturing. Giving back is important to the retailer and backed up with sustainability and philanthropy programs.
It's French style you don't have to jump through hoops to acquire  -- like spending years on waiting lists, or buying lesser items first before you move up on that list (a practice of Hermès). Just walk in the store (or go online) and walk out with your selections, as well as, a few bucks left in your wallet. Ooh la, la! 

Finally uncomplicated French fashion fit for a fashionista!


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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Artisan Beer Bread

This one I tossed in 1/2 cup of oatmeal instead of all the flour.
On the spur of the moment at the supermarket, I decided to come home and make a loaf of Beer Bread. Fresh baked bread is always appealing, as is trying something new, so the next step was to find the beer aisle. I bought a single can of Wolters Pilsener, a German beer for $1.50. The choices were either buy it; or a Russian can of beer; or a 6-pack of a familiar brand. I only wanted one can, and I don't think Russia is known for its beer ... or am I wrong? Moreover 45 loves Russia, or at least he loves Putin, but does Putin love us back? 'Tis dubious😳, so I went with German beer.🙂

Next I chose to use all-purpose* flour because I always have it at home, and simply add eggs instead of buying 5 pounds of bread flour (which is slightly higher in protein). I also like to add ground flax seed when not using whole wheat flour, but y0u can use bread* or whole wheat* flour in the recipe ... as all three types of flour work in making bread. (I leave flax seed out if using whole wheat, a denser flour.) Finally if you let the dough proof overnight, you won't have to kneed it. The flavor develops during the proofing process. Here is my recipe:

Artisan Beer Bread (for a large 2 pound loaf)

Ingredients
14 ounces beer (of your choice)
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
4 cups all purpose flour*↑ (+ extra for sprinkling.) Note: When I use all-purpose flour, I will use whole wheat flour for sprinkling to give the bread more fiber. At times I desire the lightness of all-purpose flour in baking, but do try to make the bread healthier by tossing in flax seed and use whole wheat flour for sprinkling to work with the dough. Life is about balance. Eating healthy 90% of the time, while enjoying treats 10% of the time keeps you healthy and happy!
1/2 - 3/4 cup ground flax seed (more or less)
a squirt of extra virgin olive oil (or butter)


Directions: 

1) Pour 14 ounces of room temperature beer into a bowl.

2) Toss in 1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast and stir.

3) Add the salt (it fizzles) and mix.

4) I like to toss in 1/2 cup of the flour and next incorporate 2 eggs before mixing in the rest of the flour and ground flax seed. You can use the long handle end of a cooking spoon to incorporate the flour and ground flax seed to form a ball of dough. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl clean with a spatula. Let the dough sit to proof in the bowl.

5) Squirt a tad of olive oil on the top of the dough; cover with plastic wrap and and proof it in a warm spot in your kitchen. After 12 hours (overnight) or so, it doubles in size.

6) The next morning use the long handle of your cooking spoon to stir the air out of the dough. Sometimes I use a small spatula to help twirl and press the air out of the dough. Sprinkle flour on top of the dough as needed. Work the dough by stirring a few times, not much is required. It should feel elastic and smell like yeast.

7) Next lay the dough into a well greased baking pan. Pull the dough long if you bake it in a large rectangle loaf pan, or leave the dough round if using a cast iron dutch over with a lid ... whichever you desire.

8) I butter the pan and top of the dough. After laying the dough in your greased loaf pan (or greased dutch oven), let it raise (i.e., proof) again for another 1 hour, or longer. (One hour minimum time. I let the bread double again in the pan.) You are now ready to bake the bread.

9) In a 400 degree F preheated oven, bake covered for 40 minutes and another 10 - 15 minutes uncovered to get a fluffy loaf of bread with a hard crusty top. In a loaf pan, I use aluminum foil as a cover before removing it at the end to let the top brown.
The finished bread is tasty with butter, or soup; and a 2-pound loaf makes nice sized slices for sandwiches too. To preserve the feshness of your loaf, slice and store in the freezer (not the refrigerator). You can remove slices from the freezer as needed. Enjoy!


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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Stuff I No Longer Buy

Efforts to simplify life can involve either 1) getting rid of things; or 2) buying (and restocking) less for home. To illustrate, I'll share a few articles no longer on my shopping list:

1) Nick-knacks and decorative trinkets - Nowadays I don't bring anything into my home that has no function. Not even a footrest that doesn't also provide storage! Every object must do something more than collect dust. It must hold, organize or have a job - a talent (so to speak) like mixing a cake, or housing a blanket.

2) Windex glass/mirror cleaner - Now I use a mixture of white vinegar and water. On the rare occasion I need a stronger solution for an extra tough stain, I mix water with ammonia. So I no longer need to buy Windex.

3) Bathroom cleaner - I use a mixture of white vinegar, water and baking soda to clean bathroom fixtures. Adding plain ole table salt to the mix removes extra tough gooey soap scum. To be truthful, I do keep one bottle each of bleach and ammonia to attack stains that other solutions won't clean, but honestly I very rarely use either.

4) Spot removers and specialty laundry soaps - An eco-friendly laundry ball to wash clothes which easily fade. Dish soap to get out a food stain on a shirt. Frankly I still use liquid laundry soap for a full load of laundry. Until the balls are validated by scientific studies, go with soap, the tried and true method for heavy duty laundry cleaning.

5) Floor cleaners - White vinegar and water cleans and kills germs without ruining rugs.

6) Oven cleaner - I clean with less abrasive white vinegar and water to keep my new stove looking pristine. I also use white vinegar to clean inside a microwave.

7) Breakfast cereals - The box keeps shrinking to the point it's not worth buying anymore. Instead I eat oatmeal and other whole grains.

8) Guacamole - Rarely do I buy it. Alternately I buy avocados, usually at $1 each from a fruit stand to eat with hot sauce or salsa. Or make your own guacamole by spashing an avocado in a bowl with a folk. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste, garlic, chopped cilantro and some lemon juice. Delish.

9) Cake mix and canned icing - Nope. Homemade from scratch, or made by a good bakery. No in-between!

10) Fashion jewelry - All I need is a few pieces of fine jewelry which I love wearing over and over again. I wouldn't discourage a teenager or twenty year old from having the fun of experimenting and changing up their looks with inexpensive fashion jewelry. Been there, done that. Nowadays I'd rather save up for a few lovely pieces of real gold and stones, then wear them to death. Less is more ... as you only need a few good pieces.

Can you make my list longer by adding  items you've stopped buying?


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Monday, November 11, 2019

Fall's 3 Trending Plaids

Royal Stewart Tartan
Fall's 3 trending patterns are not new, nor do they ever truly go out of style, yet they are hot looks right now, and all the designers have them in their collections. How old are they? Each pattern is centuries old and British in origin. 



Prince of Wales - is Glen plaid or checks, short for "Glenurquhart" (a valley in Scotland) and is usually made of black/grey and white but can have stylish accents of another color. It was favored by the UK's Edward VIII for his custom made suits. He was the king who abdicated to marry a divorcee, American Willis Simpson. Present day Prince of Wales attire includes: 1) Persona by Marina Rinaldi's check jacket; 2) MSGM check blazer and skirt and 3) Farfetch Samantha Sung butterfly check dress
Houndstoothis a two-toned  pattern of small broken, or jagged checks that is suggestive of a hound's (or dog's tooth). Also called four-in-four check, or guncheck. Its origin is likely the Scottish lowlands. The fall Ann Taylor offers lots of attractive houndstooth plaids like the above: 1) Anne Taylor Trumpet Sweater Skirt; 2) Ann Taylor Chesterfield Coat; and 3Vianne Sequin Pumps.






Finally Tartan - is a pattern of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands of multiple colors, which is traditional and iconic to Scotland. Chic specimens are  a 1) J. Crew Black Watch Tartan Poncho Scarf; 2) Patricia Nash Rienzo Tartan Satchel and 3) Ralph Lauren Tartan Blazer.

In fashion everything old becomes new again, no? Do you have a favorite fall tweed?


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Thursday, November 7, 2019

8 Shapes Of Feet

Illustration: Library of Congress
Thanks to what pops up on my Facebook feed, I now know what the shape of my foot is called. I have Egyptian shaped feet, the 1st illustration below.

According to science, it means absolutely nothing. Despite the names given to each foot shape, there is no correlation between how your toes align on your feet and your ancestry, or personality traits, therefore I won't bother expounding on them. In fact, people of all ethnic groups, nationalities and personalities have each type of feet. So all we really know is what the name of our own shape of feet is. And it's all in good fun. 

Here are 8 types of feet people throughout the world have:
Using this above illustration going in order: 

1) Egyptian - The toes are tapered going from the longest big toe down to the little toe.

2) Roman -  The 2nd and 3rd toes are longer in length than the big toe. It is the most common of all the foot shapes.

3) Greek - The 2nd toe is the longest toe. The ancient Greeks found this foot shape to be aesthetically appealing and incorporated it into paintings and sculptures. Later artists followed suit. Michelangelo's David and the Statue of Liberty have Greek (also called Morton's) toes.
4) German - The big toe is the longest, followed by toes nearly the same length.

5) Oriental - Looks like the dark foot on the right. The toes are very slightly tapered, more rounded then an Egyptian foot. 

6) Celtic - The foot with a tattoo.

7) Peasant - Also called Giselle, all the toes are nearly the same length.

8) A Very Short Little Toe
👠👞👡
As mentioned, a majority of people have Roman  shaped feet, and because the 2nd and 3rd toes are about the same length, it's thought to be good for balance and may give athletes an advantage in sports. I think after a lifetime of practice all 8 foot shapes work well for balancing a body as people are so adaptable.
Peasant shape feet
In my research I also learned that some people can wiggle their little toes while others can't, but must use a finger to move them. It turns out I can move my little toes unassisted. Now what can I use my newly found talent to accomplish?🙂

Have you figured out the shape of your feet yet? Oh, get wild and crazy ... also see if you can wiggle your little toes. We'll start a movement!😊


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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Walmart's New Earth To Skin Care

Walmart now has it's very own skincare line, called Earth To Skin. The collection contains simple, clean and luxurious ingredients. There 28 products of cleansers, toners, serums and creams. Each one is packed with anti-oxidants and protective agents, all found in nature . There are absolutely no parabens, phthalates, petrolatum, mineral oil, sulfates, or glutens, and the skincare elixirs are not tested on animals.

There are 4 formulas which treat different skin needs: 
1) Super Greens - are anti-oxidant rich (containing vitamins A, C and K) created to detox the skin of impurities.

2) Super Fruits - brim with vitamins C and B6 to smooth, brighten, moisturize and add radiance to the skin.

3) Monika Honey - calms, smooths and hydrates sensitive skin. It also has anti-bacterial properties.

4) Tea Time -  has anti-aging ingredients, including white, green and black teas to encourage quick cell turnover and diminish fine lines. Mushroom extract and chamomile impedes inflammation (a major cause of aging skin); and herbal ingredients gently rejuvenate and tighten aging skin.
Skincare with effetive ingredients can be pricey, but Walmart developed its line to be affordable for everyday use. Full size products cost between $7 - $10, or you can buy a starter kit for $10 to try the formula suitable for your skin.


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