Tuesday, March 31, 2020

5 Tips For Buying A Tennis Bracelet On A Budget

Photo: Photo: Windsor Bishop
A tennis bracelet is a hot piece of jewelry! Dressy or casual, it's very versatile paired with either a little black dress, or t-shirt and denim. 

Traditionally a tennis bracelet is a diamond line bracelet, but nowadays the term also describes a style of bracelet that can feature other stones like sapphires, rubies, emeralds, topaz or tanzanites, etc.

Worn since the 1920s, it became known as a tennis bracelet during the 1978 U.S. Open after tennis champion, Chris Evert, asked for the match to be stopped in order to find the diamond line bracelet which flew off her arm. (That woman knew her priorities!😊) The style has grown in popularity ever since with tennis bracelets sold at every price point.

What hasn't changed: The bracelet contains small gems connected by precious metals, most often in 14k gold, 18k gold, platinum, or sterling silver. There are 3 common design settings: prone, channel and bezel (see the images below - in  the order mentioned).
In comparing carats, "more" rises in price more than portionally. In other words: 10 carats is FAR MORE than 10 times more expensive than 1 carat of diamonds. Why? Larger diamonds are rarer in nature. 

So My Tips to get the Best Value, i.e. a Greater Effect for Less Money includes the following:

1) Be flexible in selecting the metal: For value buy 14k gold. It will lower the price by $200+; and 14k gold is a sturdy metal for a bracelet since it is stronger than purer 18k gold.
Photo: Macy's Effy designed bracelets

2) Be flexible with the color and clarity of dimonds: Accept up to a "J" color with up to I2 clarity to get more carats. A "J" color is still a colorless stone, and I2 clarity will have flaws invisible to the naked eye. In a tennis bracelet where the diamonds are smaller, you might even consider a "K" color and/or I3 clarity (although not a grade you'd ever desire with a large solitare diamond ring because tint and flaws are easy to see on a big diamond, less so with small ones). Probably for ordinary people, a tennis bracelet in grades higher than an I - J color, or I1 - I2 clarity would burst their budgets! (Think $30,000+) 

Of course, inspect the bracelet with your naked eye before buying, or only buy online from a trusted merchant who offers a full return policy. Jewelry retailers Macy's, John Allan and Blue Nile offer good selection, value and customer service.

Photo: Macy's - prone setting
3) Buy a setting with less gold: Settings are subject to personal tastes, but for value buy a prone setting (the diamonds float) over channel and bezel settings (in which diamonds are encased in metal). All 3 settings are stunning, yet a little less gold -- not needed to secure the stones -- subtracts $200 from the sticker price. Many people like a floating diamond look to better see the sparkling diamonds! Why hide diamonds?

4) Buy a tennis bracelet set with your favorite gemstones like sapphires, rubies, emeralds, topaz, or tanzanites: Sapphires, rubies, emeralds and tanzanites cost more per carat than diamonds as large stones, but in a tennis bracelet consisting of a line of small stones, the price is nearly always cheaper than a line of ONLY diamonds. Other precious jewels make equally gorgeous tennis bracelets that are often adorned with tiny diamonds (so you get sparkle) while giving you more affordable options to consider.

5) Fake it until you make it: If you can't afford precious gems in gold, turn to cubic zirconia in sterling silver. Silver is a precious metal too, and cubic zirconia glitters enough to make your thrifty heart sing. Look classy minus going broke ... and wear it proudly, sister!
Photo: Saks 5th Avenue
With a choice of metals, stones, design, price points and sales (Savvy Shoppers ALWAYS get a sale!), there's a tennis bracelet for every wrist!

Extra tip: Count the number of diamonds on a tennis bracelet before buying. If carats and prices match between bracelets, I want bigger diamonds (count: 36 - 40 stones) over number of diamonds (count: 44+ stones) for a greater effect. Pure preference. Know what you like!

Buyers are finding good stones at a nice price at Costco's, but report faulty clasps which need to be taken to a jeweler for replacement so they don't fall off the wrist to be lost.

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Homemade Golden Syrup

Photo: tastessence
Every year my blogging friend, Patricia of The Red Cardinal makes Anzac biscuits to remember all the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who served and died in wars and service for their country. Anzac Day is obeserved on April 25th. Originally the cookie was created by the Army Corp wives of the soldiers serving in World War I. The spouses came up with a crunchy cookie that could survive its mailing and reach the soldies still delicious to eat.

Every April I want a bite of Trish's golden oatmeal cookies, but can't get Golden Syrup, a key ingredient to make them, here in the USA. Well, this year will be different. I have a recipe to make Golden Syrup at home. 

I compared many recipes, noticing they were all alike in their ingredients, but I came up with a sure-fire, no fail technique, namely, adding lemon in step 1 (not step 2 like others) plus a lid to cover the pot while it simmers. I'll share my cooking times, but yours may be shorter, which is fine. A stainless steel pan is needed to do the task. Using a non-stick pot was a complete failure as the water dried out before the sugar carmelized in step one. Carmelized sugar gives the syrup its taste and golden color:

Homemade Golden Syrup

Photo: indiamart

For step one:
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of boiling water
 slice of lemon (or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice)

For step two:
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups boiling water

Extra tip: When simmering cover the pot with a lip to stop water from evaporating too quickly and the sugar from crystalizing. 


1) On a stovetop, pour 1/4 cup of boiling water into a saucepan, followed by 1/2 cup of sugar. Swirl the pot around to dissolve the sugar.

2) Add the lemon and turn on the heat until it simmers. Cover the pan with a lid. The lemon and lid keep the mixture from forming crystals while cooking.

3) Leave the heat on a medium-low setting simmering until the mixture turns into a golden amber color. It may take 15 minutes, but be patient. A medium-low boil carmelizes the sugar. Watch and swirl the pan around periodically, but resist stirring with a spoon.

Photo: Todd on youtube
4) Next add the rest of the sugar and boiling water to the carmelized mixture. Put the lip back on the pot to let the mixture simmer for another 20-30 minutes. You can swirl the mixture as needed.

5) Look for an amber color and a slight thickening.

6) Remove from the heat. As the mixure cools, it thickens even more turning into syrup. 

7) While still warm pour into a jar with a tight lid to seal. Golden syrup keeps well in a cupboard.

When the day rolls around, I'm ready to make Anzac cookies along with you, Trish!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Die Coronavirus Die!

Photo: AP - Electron microscope image shows the coronavirus that causes COVID-19
I'm of the mind that you should never deal with a crisis, or challenge by allowing fears to overtake you. Nor do I believe you should bury your head in the sand. Knowledge is power IMHO in solving problems. Try to find out all you can about an issue by consulting crediable sources to answer your questions. Ignore fools who may take you down the wrong path. Every life that can be saved is worth saving! We must listen to scientists to fight a disease! Proceed with caution and common sense; than go on with your life. Our leading experts of infectious diseases tell us we may have to stay home for another 2 months -- plus keep 6 feet apart from non-family when we must go out for food, medicine and vital services -- to flatten the curve of Coronavirus. Without a vaccine, isolation is the only measure that stops the spread of the disease. So let's all count on doing so until scientists tell us it is no longer necessary. And continue to wash your hands like a maniac!
Although there are no known cases of ANYONE catching coronavirus by eating food ...  after buying unwrapped celery from the supermarket (which after arriving home I scoured with hot water and a tiny bit of soap in my kitchen sink), I asked the internet: 

1) Can I kill coronavirus by freezing? 
The answer: Temperature not reported, but no; in a lab it preserved them for 2 years. Normally they die in days;

Getty: Spikes make Coronavirus sticky.
2) Can I kill coronavirus by boiling? 
The answer: Yes, at 132 F for 1/2 hour;

3) Can I microwave coronavirus to death? 
The answer: Yes, at 800 watts for 2 minutes. Most small 1.4 cubic ft microwaves are 1000 watts.

Die, coronavirus, die! I'm home too much, and LOOK, how I'm spending my time!

Together we'll defeat this pandemic! In a year or two, a vaccine will be ready. But for now, stay home, be vigilant, stay well!
Source: circulating on Facebook

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Consider Bvlgari Bags

The butterflies are only for show and not part of the design of the bag.
Let's say you love the classic elegance of French designed Chanel or Dior handbags, but know you will never cough up $6,400+tax to buy them. You love them but not enough to part with such an enormous wad of cash.

Introducing jewelry maker Bvlgari bags for your consideration. Fine, durable calf leather (as well as other material options) in a multitude of pretty colors (including the 3 here) from their new spring collection.

Bvlgari handbags are luxury bags, so not cheap, yet they are less than half the price of their French rivels for similar rich quality. Funny how most of us could never afford Bvlgari fine jewelry, but saving up for a handbag is possible for many working people. It's a worthy, lasting and perhaps one-time splurge for a luxury bag; and one not every other luxury bag lover owns. For folks who never buy luxury bags, it's inspirational. Know: I own zero designer bags -- my blog mentions what I buy -- but I live in Manhattan and am always looking and appreciating them! Looking at expensive bags helps me to recognize a good, legal inspired bag!!
The "Serpenti Forever" crossbody bag features light gold pleated brass hardware and a signiture snake head closure. Although not a big fan of snakes myself, this jeweled one doesn't look too ominous for me. What is the obsession with snake eyes so many top designers seem to have?

A sophisicated, stylish bag to own without the gouging price tag (or other nonsense associated) with buying from Hermes or Chanel. The purse has the compact, refinement of Dior for less moola!

Btw: Bvlgari offers equally lovely wallets, but I won't lie, I buy $10 Mundi wallets from T. J. Maxx. They, too, fit nicely inside a Bvlgari handbag.😊

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Surviving A Pandemic

Photo: Airport Technology If you are sick, a mask helps you not spread the illness. If not sick and untrained to put the mask on, it won't keep you from getting sick. Doctors and nurses are short of masks, so don't buy them up.
What makes the Coronavirus spread so quickly includes: 1) it's a new virus to which nobody in the world has immunities against; 2) unlike the flu, a person can walk around feeling well, yet be contagious, for up to 11 days before s/he gets sick; 3) the Cornonavirus lives longer on door knobs and other surfaces compared to the relatively short period of the flu; and 4) the Coronavirus acts in ways, we don't yet understand.

We must do our part to contain the virus by staying home except to buy food, medicine, walk the dog, or take a walk outside while practicing social distancing. Below is a clever way (circulating on Facebook) of reminding all of us that the actions of one person can effect the health and lives of many:
I also read: (1) Men should shave their beards. (2) Everybody should cut her/his nails short so the virus can't hide under finger nails, and hands can scrubbed better. (3) I removed the decoration from my key chain, so it doesn't touch the metal as I turn the key to unlock my door. And (4) we are paying attention to the wrong set of numbers. The numbers reported of people diagnosed with Coronavirus are misleading due to the current lack of testing. Knowing how many people have it tells us nothing as the Coronavirus is already everywhere in the population. The pandemic will get worst before it gets better as test kits become available and test data becomes known. It is why social distancing, self-quarantine and the Shelter-In-Place orders are so vital. At an early stage of Coronavirus, such measures help hospitals to cope with fewer critical care patients; and will result in fewer deaths. Furthermore for people who recover, the Coronavirus can cause more lung damage than the flu. (Update: A good piece explaining what researchers know.)

We are in this together, folks! Stay home. Buy a little extra food. But please, no hoarding as there is no shortage of food. Supermarkets are restocking daily. Like doctors and nurses, foodstore and drugstore workers are in overdrive. Be sure to show your appreciation!
Morever I'm so glad Jamie Oliver changed the way I think about food. His influence and my own thrifty nature as a value shopper means I was unwittingly  prepared for a pandemic. Although I don't buy more than one or two of an item (depending on how fast it goes), I always buy large sizes of basic groceries and personal care items. I do so out of laziness, so I don't need to run back to the store as often, nor have a job to do (shopping) before doing a job (cooking dinner) if I'm inspired to make a dish. If you can cook and bake, it helps immensely in dealing with a pandemic.

Here are basic groceries and personal care items I buy. (Feel free to add your favorites):
Photo: Wikipedia

all-purpose flour - 5 lb bag
whole wheat flour - 5 lb bag
sugar - 4 lb bag
cans of beans
cans of whole tomatoes
cans of pineapple
cans of condensed milk
cans of tuna
cans of salmon
dried fruit
walnuts - 2 lb bag
dry roasted peanuts
whole grain saltine crakers (a few boxes)
potatoes - 5 lb bag
carrots - 5 lb bag
dried beans
dried peas
dried whole grains
frozen vegetables (mixed; lima beans; corn; and broccoli)
cheeses (extra sharp cheddar; Swiss; brie; cottage)
dry powder milk
extra large eggs - 2 dozen
 a couple of top round beef steaks
breaded Prudue chicken cultlets (Not great tasting but convenient)
red wine
aspirin + non-aspirin pain relievers
70% rubbing alcohol
toilet paper (24 triple rolls at a time)
Well, what do you know? I have Klondike bars too.
shampoo and conditioner
basic toiletries (body lotion and oil, toothpaste, etc.)
dark chocolate candy
ice cream - Yes, trust me: you do need chocolate, ice cream and wine in a pandemic!

Fresh fruit, vegetables and a bit of meat, I'll get from the supermarket as needed and available. I bought Run Raisin ice cream, and perhaps I will add some real rum to it!😳

Stay vigilant and be well, my readers!💋XOXO

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Calling all History Buffs

It's likely you don't think watching 2 maps changing for a duration of 19+ minutes (each) is interesting, but you are wrong! There is a ton of information to absorb, and they move very fast, but are most fascinating! 

If you click to watch, I guarrentee you'll sit through the videos until the end. After a break at the end of the 1st, you will return to watch the 2nd one! I know it!

Readers, I present to you the history of our manificant world ... all the changes and upheavals, as well as, the unifying stability.

Should we be anxious about the Coronavirus? Absolutely! The key is to block your exposure to the virus. Respond by being smart and turn to science: Wash your hands constantly, don't touch your face, and stay at home as directed.  We've got this!

Remember our long history in times of uncertainty. We will endure! ❤️📚🍷

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Zero Waste: 5 Things I Won't Buy

Paper clips are on my double duty list, keeping me from buying something I don't need.
On March 1st, a new law went into effect in New York City that requires us to bring our own bags, or pay 5 cents for a paper bag at the supermarket. Last week I had my 1st experience taking my reusable fabric bag with me. You can get one free sent to your home by taking a zero waste pledge, click here. Now I carry my orange fabric bag everywhere I go as I don't know all the types of stores participating in the city's plastic bag ban ... and I'm too cheap to start paying for (1) paper bags, i.e. items I'm accustomed to getting for free! (It's a waste of my money!) As it turns out T. J. Maxx follows the plastic bag ban too. Extra tip: Don't forget to laundry your reusable fabric bag to keep it clean and germ-free.

This got me thinking: In all my adult life, I've never bought a garbage bag, so when my supply of plastic grocery bags are depleted, I must figure out an eco-friendly substitution. I will put the environment first! (But, must I start paying for my trash bags? To be determined.)

Another item I'm too darn cheap to buy is a (2) food bag clip. If you buy special chips to keep your potato chips or salad bags closed, surely you're not applying yourself! I just use office paper clips (like the top image) to keep a clear bag with servings of food in it closed.

Moreover these days I'm more mindful of not buying certain kitchen, or household tools if something I already own gets the job done! At times I'm tempted to buy a (3) lent brush for my clothes. However I find they work no better than a household bristle scrub brush. So I decided against a special lent brush.

Another example, I sometimes eyeball, but decided not to buy a (4) cookie dough scooper because it works no better than a tablespoon to get out the right amount of cookie dough to drop on a cookie sheet. What's more do I even make cookies enough to buy a special tool? And will a cookie scooper make my task easier? Nope ... pass.

I also decided not to buy a special (5) watering can for the 2 house plants I have in my living room. Water cans come in tiny and big sizes with narrow or wide nozzles, but I use either a cup, or my tea kettle to water my 2 house plants. I think it makes more sense to buy a watering can for a garden because you are unlikely to drag your tea kettle or cups outside.

This year I intend to buy EVERYTHING I need, but NOTHING I don't need. Small purchases can add up to clutter and waste, not to mention less money for big ticket items, or your emergency fund.

What are some every day items you won't buy because if you think about it, you can get them for free; or you really don't need them after all?

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Monday, March 9, 2020

Moissanite The Glitter Gem

Photo: Instagram from LaurenJewelry
Moissanite, a naturally occurring mineral in nature, was named in honor of Henri Moissan, the French chemist who discovered it in 1893. While a diamond is common, a pure carbon in nature that is heated by the Earth over billions of years; a moissanite is a combination of silicon and carbon (a/k/a silicon carbide - SiC) that is likewise heated by the Earth over billions of years to produce the rare gem. In fact, there are so few moissanites in nature that all moissanites on the market are lab created gems. (If anyone ever finds mineable silicon carbide in nature, moissanites will cost more then diamonds.)

Registering at 9.25, the gemstone is 2nd to diamonds on Moh's Scale of Hardness, making it a good choice for an engagement ring (as well as other jewelry!) since like a diamond, it is beautiful and durable. What's more, a moissanite has twice the brilliance and fire of a diamond, so it will sparkle and light up a room like no other gem! Side by side, moissanites look much like diamonds, but not exactly once you know their characteristics. A moissanite isn't an imitation diamond, but gorgeous in its own right!

What makes a moissanite especially attractive is its affordable price. At about $400 per carat (compared to $4,000 per carat for a similar diamond), the stone costs up to 90% less than a diamond.

This is partly due to the mineral's rarity in nature and the need to create it in a lab for jewelry. And just like lab created diamonds, a lab made moissanite has the same chemical makeup, hardness and optical value as its counterpart in nature. A moissanite costs less per carat than both natural and lab created diamonds because of  (1) the consistency of the produced stone; (2) demand; as well as, (3) the clever DeBeers marketing strategy of 1947 ("A dimond is forever") that lingers with us even today. Yet in reality, while diamonds are common in nature, moissanites are very rare, gorgeous and last forever too!
Photo: Wikipedia

Charles & Colvard were the 1st scientists to create "near colorless" ... and later "colorless" moissanites, which they began selling in 2015. Called Forever One, these colorless moissanites are similar to GIA-certified E color diamonds. A colorless Forever One stone costs about $600 per carat, a tad more than a near colorless one. Still a great savings for a brilliant white stone. A similar grade diamond would cost $4,000+ per carat -- more per carat once you pass 2 carats.
Moissanites outshine diamonds because at 2.65, the stone has a higher refractive index (i.e, the way light comes into and out of a stone) than a diamond does at 2.42, with greater fire (colored light) and brilliance (white light). The unique sparkle of moissanite is especially notable in sunlight and with bigger stones.
Some people love the flashes of color, called a "rainbow," or "disco ball" effect, while others claim the greater sparkle makes the stone look "fake," when compared to a diamond. It comes down to personal taste ... and to a degree the longer popularity of diamonds. We like the familiar ... until the "new" becomes the familiar.
Moissanite is sold as a diamond alternative, an excellent gemstone choice for people who either worry about the ugly history of diamond mining, or desire a huge stone and effect on a budget.
Priced lower than diamonds by far, these gorgeous white stones can put the sparkle on your fingers, or neck without breaking the bank. In the photos above, can you tell the moissaites and diamonds apart? Watch this YouTube video for the answers to see if you are correct. And, Savvy Shoppers always shop around to get the best price!

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Thursday, March 5, 2020

A Convertible Briefcase

Once upon a time a briefcase was heavy, bulky, full grain leather and expensive. No wonder the man of the house threw his back out periodically! But times change, and nowadays there are many user-friendly styles available. 

Hands-free of weight, a convertible briefcase is the only way to go! Today I'll feature two briefcases I like, both under $50.

First up, Ecosusi's Woman's Briefcase Backpack is multi-functional. Made of soft vegan leather, it holds a 14-inch laptop; has 2 sections (a wide and a slim) and wears like a backpack. Brass hardware for enclosures. Plus it comes with a separate small purse for pens and small items. Adorable style in 4 different colors, and if you prefer more of a handbag look, this is the one for you.
I have owned the next briefcase for about 2 years. Mine, too, is slender; designed to organize; and it looks more like a briefcase than the 1st one. At times T. J. Maxx sells this 2nd briefcase for half its listed price ($25!).

The name, Solo's Duane Convertible Briefcase, is made of grey polyester fabric and suitable for both men and women. I selected the polyester material for its durability in all types of weather, and it's proven to be rain resistant.
The interior is divided into two large compartments with a 3rd inside slim pocket. One compartment is fully padded to hold a 15.2 inch laptop. Furthermore, there are 2 attached good-sized front pouches with inside slits to hold lists; IDs; credit cards; a phone; or thin electronics. There is also a large slit-pocket in the back by the shoulder straps that fits a magazine. 
The 2 center carrying handles, hold together with megnectic snaps and are padded to make carrying the briefcase comfortable. But I don't carry it very far. I wear it as a backpack.

Lots of zippers make opening and closing the briefcase a breeze! With so many amazing pockets for storage, I confess to sometimes organizing a few of my essentials out of existence. C'mon, you do it too, right?😳
Solo's briefcase is more stylish in person. Since I rarely stuff books in mine, only notes and papers, an iPad, a snack (Yes, a snack. Who are you judging?😏), water, and small umbrella, it's thin when I carry it. I love how strong it is on occasions I do carry my laptop, or extra stuff.

For a 3rd choice of convertible briefcase that is a full grain Italian leather with a hefty price tag to match go here to one of my eariler blogs. Senreve's Maestra will last a lifetime verses replacing a cheaper briefcase a number of times. Yet clearly not everyone requires an ultra costly briefcase.
So consider your needs. If an article is durable enough to last several years for much less, I don't mind replacing it. But if you use a briefcase night and day, plus need it for long communtes, it might make sense to spend big bucks. A value shopper buys what s/he needs, nothing more and nothing less.

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