Friday, December 27, 2019

Shrimp Kung Pao Noodles

Photo: Delish
There's a new Target on the Upper East Side, and the prices are ideal. Recently I bought a 1 pound bag of large frozen shrimp (30 shrimp) on sale for $7.49, then tweaked a Delish recipe to eat it. I make substitutions of similar ingredients I don't stock in my cupboard. At times I also add extra ingredients I like, such as celery and broccoli. Lately I am the Queen of making fresh one pan meals from scratch as the clean up is a breeze.πŸ‘‘ 

Many people love food delivery services like HelloFresh™ or Plated™, but I think if you have access to a supermarket, you are paying a huge markup on meal kits for ingredients you can easily buy yourself for much, much less. For the cost, the service should come with a chef, which it does not! But after paying the 100% markup for the food, you still have to come home to cook the meal yourself. It's cheaper to buy a cookbook. So here is my one pan dish for 2:

Shrimp Kung Pao Noodles

This is the Target shrimp. Looks good, right?

8 oz spaghetti
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon ginger, diced (If you don't have fresh ginger, use dried ginger … less of it though.)
8 oz shrimp
salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 cup chopped broccoli (I toss in whatever vegetables I think I need to eat on a particular day: spinach, carrots, even frozen mixed or green beans I need to get rid of, etc. Chunks of vegetables are good in this dish.)
2 garlic cloves, minced (or dried garlic)
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup water
1 small chicken bouillon
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon vinegar (I use cider)
1/3 cup broken up peanuts


1) Cook spaghetti according to directions on the box (7 minutes for al dente), drain and set aside.

2) In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil. SautΓ¨ the onion and ginger for one minute.

3) Toss in the shrimp, salt and pepper and sautΓ¨ for 3 minutes. Remove from the pan. (If the frozen shrimp is already cooked, put it aside for step #6. Don't cook it for 3 minutes.)

4) Next toss the olive oil in the pan, heat and sautΓ¨ the bell peppers, broccoli and celery until they are soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the flour. Add the water and chicken bouillon, red pepper flakes, Sriracha and cider vinegar. Stir, incorporate and simmer for 1 - 2 minutes.

5) Sprinkle in dried parsley and cilantro flakes.

6) Toss back in the cooked spaghetti, shrimp and peanuts. Heat the ingredients (including the shrimp) if necessary before plating it.

Makes 2 servings. Double the recipe to use the full pound of shrimp for 4 servings.

Now you are a one pot meal Queen also!πŸ‘‘

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Magic Of Christmas

Rockefeller Center at Christmas (Getty images via Metro-NY)
Since the beginning of time people of all cultures have had special holy days on their calendars. It's part of the human condition to think about a deeper meaning to existence. We pause to remember what gives life more purpose and to set-aside quality time to spend with our family and friends during such solemn and festive moments. 
An Upper East Side brownstone is having a lovely blue Christmas.
Our cities, towns and neighborhoods have more sparkle. The magic of Christmas appears on city streets gracing businesses and homes, and when walking along the pavement "in the air there's a feeling of Christmas."
Inside ... homes are adorned also. Tradition and glitter get pulled out of boxes. Cookies bake in ovens, sugar and butter boil into candy on stove tops; and visitors arrive to share in the merriment and treats.

May the magic of Christmas shine all over the globe. Regardless of culture or religion, we are one human family here.
Humans are more alike than different; and we can share the best of one another's traditions without compromising our own. In the spirit of the season ...
My apartment corner "Christmas tree"

Peacejoy and love to all my readers. Enjoy a day of happiness. Merry Christmas! 

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Gift Ideas For Him

#1 and #2 layered - multiple colors available
An interviewer asked the actress Sarah Jessica Parker what one thing would she like to give to her children. The multi-talented and savvy mother of 3 said, I'd like for them to know the pleasure of wanting things. Anticipation ... waiting for something to arrive is part of the excitement, no? And once in hand, you appreciate it all the more.

We have 4 days left until Christmas. L.L. Bean has a few cozy gifts for the men in your life and if still looking you can order the right gift ... enclose an image of it as an I.O.U. inside a glittery holiday card with a heartfelt note. Find a little box, wrap it up and tie a beautiful ribbon around it. Are you short a gift perhaps?

Here are a few more gift ideas:

1) Unshrinkable Mini-Waffle Shirt - Soft and cozy in 2 styles: Henley and crewneck. Layer it with #2

2) PrimaLoft-Lined Shirt-Jac - Part jacket, part shirt. Provides the comfort of a jacket with the feel of a button-down shirt and insulated for warmth. #1 and #2 are a winning combo!

πŸŽ„πŸŽπŸ””Here are alternative men's Woolrich wool shirts. Plus funnel, cotton and jacket shirts. Same style as L.L.Bean. Excellent quality and durable, yet pricey; and the wool shirts are not washable. I bought 2 many years ago that still look new. Their value has risen just like Chanel handbags! Woolrich blankets are first-rate also. Watch for the after Christmas sales!πŸŽ„πŸŽπŸ””

3) Washable Lambswool Sweater - Wash and wear warmth. These soft sweaters are expertly knit and designed for machine washing.

4) Stabilicers Walkers - Sturdy yet lightweight traction for winter walks on icy and snowy surfaces. Slips over most footwear.

And a bonus --
5) NYC Coffee Cups - A ceramic version of the famous NYC paper street cups. Cute coffee cups that fit neatly into a cupboard, or dashboard!

Over the last days before Christmas, you have the option of paying to expedite shipping; or keep the gifts coming after Christmas! Our family doesn't mind the 2nd less expensive option. You decide.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Christmas Decorations Are Up

When decorating a room, it is as important to have empty space as it is to bring the right pieces of furniture into it. The most expensive (or festive) object looks cluttered without the proper amount of space framing it.

I'm lucky to live in a nice apartment in Manhattan, but it isn't big, and it doesn't face the street side of the building, so I've always just decorated my golden pothos (epipremnum aureus) plant in lieu of dragging a Christmas tree into a spot where there is really no room to display it. Gets the job done! I think of it as my Egyptian hieroglyphics "Christmas tree." Tucked into a corner, it only takes up vertical space; and guests seem to be charmed by it, so that's fun too. By necessity, Manhattanites are creative arrangers and decorators!πŸŒƒ
Admittedly I do less in recent years, however, other Christmas artifacts are scattered throughout the rest of the apartment. The nutcracker was my first Christmas decoration. Years ago, I bought him for $17 aSaks Fifth Avenue. My friend, Cara Sue, came into town, and we found her similar nutcrackers at the dollar store for about $3. 

Although not the most church going person in the world, I set out a Nativity Scene. I like to get down to the nitty-gritty of a holiday and remembrance. What's it all about? Striving for better and the hope that the best is yet to come! Go big, or go home. (Who coined the catch-phrase? Answer here.πŸ™‚)
Some years I hang out a huge velvet red bow with gold overlay. I like the simple silver bells also. They continue my parents tradition of stringing up silver bell oraments, which dangle over blinking Christmas candolier lights in our front widows. My Dad was so creative. We miss him every day.
The bells hang outside on my front door to cheer folks walking down the hall. When I first moved into my apartment, it was one of many tasteful Christmas motifs and wealths, but newer neighbors (who celebrate) do nothing, so it is the only modest hall decoration on our floor this year. Well, there's a few days left. Forge on people!πŸŽ„πŸ””πŸ«

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Monday, December 16, 2019

What To Get Teachers For Christmas

Photo: Self
"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten," according to B.F. Skinner. Most of us know the value of good teachers. Priceless! Not only do they teach reading, writing and math, they motivate and shape minds in countess ways, which last over a lifetime. A mind stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimension! 
Photo: personalization mail

Teachers make nowhere near the salary they deserve for the hours they work. (Their pay doesn't reflect their value in society.) They wear many hats too. At times, educators must work 2 or 3 jobs to support their families.

So what holiday gifts should you give in return? 

Frankly teachers don't need a mishmash of trinkets cluttering up their homes anymore than you do. 

Instead of giving the usual candles, snow globes, or candy they don't need, get them something practical they can use: (1) A gift certificate to either a well-known department store; or food store, so they can buy personal things they truly need ... whatever they might be ... like milk and fruit; a coffeemaker; or new sweater. (2) Gift certificates for movie tickets; or a popular restaurant are thoughtful. (3) Or gift certificates to Walmart, Target or Michaels where they can buy school supplies and classroom decorations. $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, any amount helps! Too often, teachers must spend their own money to cover their classroom essentials
Photo: penalization mall
I would also write a warm personal note inside a festive card touching upon a teacher's role in your child's life. Acknowledgement and a genuine expression of gratitude are priceless too! 

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

5 Beauty & Style Finds For Holiday Gifts

Today's 5 beauty and style gift ideas are finds I bought for myself at various times and love so much I have no doubt others will love them too:

1) Anne Klein Women's Rose Gold-Tone Bracelet Watch - I own this gorgeous watch. The rose gold is so pretty, and the watch looks ultra expensive, but it's not. It has Japanese quartz movement, and after over 2 years, it still wears shiny and new! Since the watch has been around for a while, the price has dropped, making it a sweet deal as well!
2) Pro Beauty Tools Professional Gold 1" Curling IronA find from T.J. Maxx, where I discover lots of stellar brands, I would otherise not know about. Reduced to a bargain price of $12! The curling iron heats up in 30 seconds flat; and the 1" barrel is the perfect size for most hair lengths. Finally, the curling iron is easy to hold and compact to tuck away. 
3) SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Shampoo - Usually comes in 13 oz (but look for a special 19.5 oz size) - The beauty brand began in 1912 making personal care products like shampoos and conditions with nothing but clean, botanical ingredients. There is none better on the market! Plus this top-notch brand is sold in drugstores at drugstore prices! 
4) SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Condition - Like the shampoo, this usually contains 13 oz (but luck into a special 19.5 oz size with 50% more free if you see it). SheaMoisture works beautifully on all hair types; and there are tons of different formulas to address individual needs. Every single one is terrific. (The 2 featured in today's blog are the latest formulas I'm trying over the winter.) Each leaves my hair feeling super soft and smelling terrific!

5)  Tinted Lip treatments - Any of the following are intensely moisturzing with a pop of flattering color:

a. Laura Merier Lip Balm - A pricey splurge, but it's a super thoughtful gift because it hydrates, prevents and smooths chapped winter tramatized lips.

b. Fresh - The retailer has special edition balm collections for a festive presentation.

c. Bite Beauty - Ditto, 
also available in special balm holiday editions.

d. Smith's Rosebud Salve - A personal favorite. I may buy a friend a $22 lip balm for Christmas, but I use a $6 - $8 salve for myself that has been around since the year 1892. Gladly would I make the introduction to others by gifting it to them! The lip salve comes in an assortment of flavors from the original to vanilla, strawberry, rose & mandarin and  minted rose. Housed in a practical tin container and sold at drugstores, Walmart, Target and Sephora. You can't go wrong! 

The friends and family on your holiday list will absolutely love their gifts and thank you for opening their eyes to such wonderful tried and true products.

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Monday, December 9, 2019

Hot Tools Black Gold Charcoal Infused One-Step Blowout

A bulky blow dryer in the hand.
For one week I used Hot Tools One-Step Blowout dryer (price $80). Other retailers have a blow dryer wand including: Revlon ($59), Conair ($48) and Dyson ($500). The Hot Tools unit is marketed as a blow dryer used by professional stylists.

Did I like it? Yes ... but not as much as my Conair 1875 Watt 3-in-1 Styling Hair Blowdryer (see photo below; cost $20). If you already have a blow dryer you like, you definitely will not need a wand (also called a hot air brush). My Conair Styler does everything the new wands do better! There is no rod to wrap your hair around, but it doesn't matter!

The Hot Tools hot air brush is easy to use and has good heat output to dry thick hair quickly just like my Conair Styler. But as I said, my type of blow dryer performs several functions better! Moreover it only costs $20 versus $80 for the new Hot Tools wand.

The Hot Tools Blowout is heavier and bulky, while the Conair Styler is sturdy, yet light and compact. The Conair blow dryer has 3 attachments, which are detachable. Not so with the Hot Tools' (or Revlon's) blow dryer wands, which have a single non-detachable brush. If after time and use, the bristles fall or wear out, you must buy a new blow dryer. You can replace my Conair Styler's 3 attachments as needed like you can with the Conair and Dyson wands. But jeez, look what you're paying for the Dayson wand ... $500!

I expect the new one-step wands to be more advanced, as well as, more convenient to use over my Conair Styler, but, their bulky bodies make them less so in my experience. The fact that I can twirl my hair around a rod isn't an advantage. The motion doesn't add greater volume, or body to my hair over the Conair Styler, nor do I end up with curls at the ends with staying power. It seems I get the same, if not more, volume with my reliable Conair Styler by blowing out my hair upside down (i.e. with a downward tilted head).

And too, my Conair Styler adds more shine and smoothness to my hair than the Hot Tools wand type. I think this is due to using a comb attachment, as opposed to, going through my hair with the bristles of a brush. And as mentioned, with the Hot Tools wand, you only get one option, a non-detachable brush to blowout your hair. The Conair Styler's comb tames frizz better.

Surprisingly, Conair's comb attachment is gentler on my scalp also. Even though the Hot Tool's brush doesn't scratch my scalp, it leaves it raw ... and I'm unsure if this would feel more severe over a longer period of use.
Still the champion!
Finally the Conair 1875 Styler blow dryer dries my hair in less time (under 5 minutes). Its compact body allows you to move it through a full head of hair faster and with more passes. The Hot Tools wand (i.e. hot air brush) is more of a workout to use, requiring more turns of the wrist to pass over and through the hair. Its bulk makes it slightly awkward to use.

Don't get me wrong: Hot Tools One-Step Blowout does its job of drying the hair straight with less frizz. Everybody on the Internet is loving the new blow dryer wands. Yet they are not comparing them to the Conair 1875 Styler blow dryer, and I am. 

The verdict is in: The Conair 1875 Watt 3-in-1 Styler is still the champ. Better performance for less cash! To straighten long,  medium, or short length hair, I highly recommend it over the hot air brushes ... at least for now. Wait for the next generation of wand blow dryers to become slimmer, cheaper and come with detachable combs and brushes.

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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Emerald Jewelry Gifts At Macy's

Hey Macy's, you get me. You had me at "hello!":)
Everybody's heart flutters in response to certain luxuries. Some folks gawk at designer bags; for others it's high fashion clothing; and yet others love couture shoes. Or sometimes the temptation is luxe perfume or makeup. I get it! ~ I'm an under buyer; nonetheless, my hot ticket item is jewelry ... and Macy's knows it! They respond by sending me their jewelry sale catalogs. (I bet you don't get them, do you?) 

I see what I want for Christmas on the latest cover. Unfortunately, it will remain only a wish ... since the tab adds up to a huge chunk of change. Do the math: A budget buster even after applying a 30% discount! 

Still perusing and admiring are free! So let's take a look at the beautiful emerald set on the front cover. For sure, some-lucky-body will get more than sugarplums dancing in her head ... and find these sparklers under her tree. Will it be you?

1) Macy's Emerald (15 ct. t.w.) & Diamond (2-1/2 ct. t.w.) 16" Statement Necklace in 14k White Gold -- Utlra classic! 

2) Brasilica by EFFY® Emerald (9/10 ct. t.w.) and Diamond (1/6 ct. t.w.) Pear-Shaped Ring in 14k White Gold, Created for Macy's - How about created for THE SAVVY SHOPPER ... ahhh, doesn't it have a nice ring to it?:)
3) Macy's Emerald (6-1/2 ct. t.w.) & Diamond (1/8 ct. t.w.) Drop Earrings in 14k White Gold -- Jeminy Cricket Christmas, gorgeous! Also should've been created for muah, but someone forgetful forget to tell the universe!

Save for a small stone in a Christmas bell charm, I don't own any emeralds. They are rarer and thus more expensive than diamonds per carat. Emeralds register an 8 on the Mohl's Hardness Scale of gems; their relative sturdiness make them suitable to wear as necklaces, earrings and rings. They are the birth stone for May babies.

As the Savvy Shopper, allow me to throw you several consolation bones. Many people can't afford the stunning set (above and to the right sans ad copy) without mortgaging their home, but we can find pretty emeralds to get something of the effect of the pricey set. Macy's has a big inventory combined with promotions to fit every budget ... a reason I like their fine jewelry department. You can find a lovely piece and honest customer service at Herald Square and onlineHere is a budget friendly pick that will produce a stellar effect for less: 
Macy's Emerald (1-1/5 ct. t.w.) & Diamond Accent Curved Bar Stud Earrings in 14k Yellow Gold - Quite a respectable size! Drop earrings make the effect of smaller stones appear larger.

Other emerald beauties for under $400 (on sale). If you miss one promotion, simply wait for another, as they return during the year:
Isn't glitter fun? Gift ideas for a jewelry lover in festive green. Do you have a favorite?

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Monday, December 2, 2019

Holiday Gifts For A Family

For the holidays sometimes people give one thoughtful gift for an entire family, as opposed to, individual gifts to each family member. I like the fewer, curated gift idea. People shouldn't go broke, or allow materialism to hijack the true meaning of Christmas, Hanukkah (or Festivus for that matter. Hey, to each, his own:)! Giving friends and family hospitality, treats and time together is what they remember the most. 

If you desire and can afford to throw in one gift also, here are 5 gift ideas, perhaps items a family might not think to buy for themselves, yet will love receiving:

1) Wall Heights Ruler (see above) - Parents can record the heights of growing children without marking up a wall or doorway with magic markers. And parents can save the ruler without ever having to paint over the height markings (here's a pricey oak ruler version). Ideal for new parents.
2) Murder Mystery Party - A house party activity ... it's a spirited game as an alternative to the usual playing card games.

3) Corkcicle Classic Wine Chiller Cork - The cold ice in the middle keeps a bottle of wine chilled until the last glass. Ideal for wine and cheese evenings at home.
4) Crep Protect Eraser Cleaner - The eraser removes spots from suede and nubuck on leather shoes, jackets and coats. I'll take a practical gift over a glitzy useless one any ole day. It's unlikely your friends will already have a leather spot remover and will love the eraser once you introduce them to it!
5) Personalized Family Mugs - Mugs start as low as $1.70 each unpersonalized. A company with good customer reviews who personalize mugs with a name or logo for about $6 per mug. You can select the size, style, quantity and how to personalize the mugs. Ideal for families with children (who will be thrilled to see their names on the mugs); or people who simply need uniform coffee and tea mugs.

As you can see holiday gifts need not break the bank, these 5 family gifts will please, as well as, suit every budget. Which is your favorite?

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