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Friday, December 31, 2010

Upscale Gifts circa 1561-1562: New Year's Gifts for the Queen

These make for a fascinating read. Just the tip of the iceberg. Good records were kept. Note the recording of the value of the gifts. Sorry about the formatting.

Happy New Year!

Neweeyeur's Gyftes gevon to the Quene her Majestie by those Parsons whose Names hereafter ensue, the first of January, the Yere above wrytten.
£. s. d.
By the Lady Margaret Strainge, a little round mounte of golde to conteyne a pomaunder in it.
With the Qene her Majestie.
Duke, Marquisses, and Earles.
By the Duke of Norfolke, in a purse of purple silke and golde knit, in sundry coynes of golde 20 0 0
By the Marquis of Winchester, High Threasourer of Englande, in a purse of crymsen satten, in angells 20 0 0
By the Marquis of Northampton, in a purse of crymsen silke and gold knit, in dimy soveraignes 20 0 0
By the Earle of Arundell, Lord Steward, in a paper, in angels, 30 0 0
By the Earle of Shrewesburye, in a red silke purse, in dimy soveraignes 20 0 0
By the Earle of Darbye, in a purse of crymsen satten, embraudered with golde, in dimy soveraignes 20 0 0
By the Earle of Pembroke, in a purse of black silk and silver knit, in new angells 30 0 0
By the Earle of Bedforde, in a purse of black silk and golde knytt, in dimy soveraignes 20 0 0
By the Earle of Rutlande, in a purse of red silk and golde knytt, in dimy soveraigns and angells 20 0 0
By the Earle of Huntingdon, in a red silk purse, in angells 15 0 0
By the Earle of Westmerlande, in a red silk purse, in dimy soveraigns 10 0 0
By the Earle of Oxforde, in a red silk purse, in dimy soveraigns 10 0 0
By the Earle of Northumberlande, in a purse of black silke and silver knytt, in angells 10 0 0
With the Quene her Highness.
By the Earle of Warwike, a smocke wrought with black silk, a peire of slevis, and a partelett wrought with gold, silver, and black silke.
Delivered to the Lady Cobham.
By the Viscounte Mountague, in a purse of cloth of golde, in dimy soveraignes 10 0 0
With her said Majestie.
By the Archbusshop of Caunterbury, in a red silk purse, in dimy soveraigns 40 0 0
By the Archbusshop of York, in soveraigns 30 0 0
By the Busshop of Duresme, in a purse of crymson silk and gold knytt, in angells 30 0 0
By the Busshop of Ely, in a red vellat purse, in angells 30 0 0
By the Busshop of Wynchester, in a purse of crymsen silk and gold knytt and set with pearles, in angells 20 0 0
By the Busshop of London, in a red satten purse, in dimy soveraignes 20 0 0
By the Busshop of Salisbury, in a red satten purse, in dimy soveraignes 20 0 0
By the Busshop of Worcester, in a black vellat purse, in dimy soveraignes 20 0 0
By the Busshop of Lyncoln, in a red purse, in dimy soveraignes 20 0 0
By the Busshop of Chychester, in a red purse, in dimy soveraignes 10 0 0
By the Busshop of Norwich, in a blew silk purse 13 6 8
By the Busshop of Hereforde, in a green silk purse, in dimy soveraignes 10 0 0
By the Busshop of Lychfield and Coventry, in a red satten purse, in angells 13 0 0
By the Busshop of Rochester, in a red purse, in gold 13 6 8
By the Busshop of Saint Davies, in a red silk purse, in angells 10 0 0
By the Busshop of Bathe, in a purse of red silk, in angells 10 0 0
By the Busshop of Exetour, in a blew silk purse, in angells 10 0 0
By the Busshop of Peterborowe, in a red purse, in dimy soveraignes 10 0 0
By the Busshop of Chester, in a red purse, in angells and soveraignes 10 0 0
With her said Majestie.
Duchesses and Countesses.
By the Duchess of Norfolke, in a prse of crymsen silk and gold knyt, in angells 20 0 0
By the Duchess of Somerset, in a purse of silver and black silk, in royalls and ducketts 14 0 0
By the Countess of Surrey, in a purse of tawny silk and gold, in dimy soveraignes 5 0 0
By the Countess of Pembroke, in a cherry bag of crymsen satten, in new angells 15 0 0
By the Countess of Bedford, in a purse of crymsen silk and silver knytt, in dimy soveraignes 10 0 0
By the Countess of Darby, in a purse of crymson sattin embrodred with gold, in dimy soveraignes 10 0 0
By the Countess of Oxford, in a red purse, in dimy soveraignes 5 0 0
By the Countess of Shrewisbury, Dowager, in a purse of black silk knytt, in dimy soveraignes 12 0 0
By the Countess of Shrewisbury, in a red silk purse knytt, in dimy soveraignes 10 0 0
By the Countess of Huntingdon, Dowager, in a red purse, in dimy soveraignes 10 0 0
By the Countess of Huntingdon, in a red purse, in angells 10 0 0
By the Countess of Northumberland, in a purse of black silk and silver knytt, in angells 10 0 0
By the Countess of Rutland, in a red purse, in dimy soveraignes 13 6 8

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Long-Cooked Broccoli: It's Divine and Versatile

I've always been a broccoli lover, but I find most cooking methods fussy. Woe to the LAZY COOK. Then I discovered this broccoli, which is perfect for the lazy cook.

The first version I made came from a book by Evan Kleiman and Viana LaPlace. I can't remember which book; all are good and worthy of your perusal.

Then I found an even easier method from, to my surprise, Alice Waters. Will I go to h-e-l-l if I admit that I find Waters' public persona rather annoying? Who cares (she certainly doesn't)?

AW's broccoli couldn't be simpler: Chop a bunch of broccoli, trimming woody stems. Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a pot; add 6 garlic cloves and some red pepper flakes. Stir and add the broccoli and some salt. Add a cup of water and cover. Keep it at a simmer and stir now and then. After an hour or so, it will be a mush. Add a squirt of lemon if you have any around.

This method is so opposed to the health-food broccoli method drummed into us. I love it for that alone.

What to do with it? Stir it into pasta as a sauce. Serve it on bread as a bruschetta topping. The famous restaurateur Nancy Silverton proposes a sandwich: bread, broc, feta, scrambled egg. This is divine too.

So, to give credit to AW.

Not sure where the sandwich is from. Maybe this one?

Let me know if you try this. Take the leap!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snowball Savings with the Tightwad Gazette

Everyone talks about the Debt Snowball, a term invented (?) or at least popularized by Dave Ramsey of Get-Out-Of-Debt-with-Total-Money-Makeover fame. Many of the get-out-of-debt bloggers attribute their success to Ramsey's methods. Like most things involving numbers, the snowball can work in reverse: once you are out of debt, you can begin a savings snowball.

An amusing essay on the Savings Snowball is provided by Amy Dacyczyn in the first of her Tightwad Gazette tomes. I read her books from time to time not so much for inspiration as for comfort. I love the timeless principles of frugality. And I love that with frugality, you can start small.

Amy D. thinks so too. For her snowball essay, she contrasts two families: the profligate Smucksters and the frugal Albrights. Each family has $100 left at the end of the year. The Smucksters go out to dinner, buy a Nintendo, whatever. So they have nothing.

The Albrights put their money into savings or into purchases that yield future savings. First year: $50 to savings, $50 to cloth diapers. Then they start bulk purchasing grocery items on sale. And so on.

As they go, they are buying CDs, more fuel-efficient cars, sewing machine, chain saw, etc. Some of their savings are a little bogus, like using the sewing machine to make handcrafted items that you can sell for $900. Good luck with that idea! Still, the point is a good one.

At the end of year 5, the Smucksters remain at Square One, while the Albrights have amassed $11,000.

I know that everyone urges saving on the big stuff these days (or increasing your income), but I am a believer in the power of little choices. So I guess Amy D. remains my role model. Plus, she's a very good writer.

Amy would tell you to check her book out of the library, by the way. You can also check out Dave Ramsey (but watch out for his assumption that your investments will earn, on average, 12%/year).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Todd Henderson, Larry David, and Tax Cuts for Top Earners

Remember Todd Henderson? He's the U of Chicago law professor (with doctor spouse) who wrote a notorious blog post detailing the miseries of those of his income. He darkly prophesied greater miseries to come if the Bush tax cuts for the $250,000 earners (that's after all deductions, btw) were not extended. So much scorn was heaped upon him that he pulled the post.

Read about it here.

A WSJ columnist offered some advice on how to make ends meet for those in the $250,000plus brackets.

I had pretty much put Todd out of my mind until I read the New York Times piece by Larry David titled "Thanks for the Tax Cut!"

Should I laugh or cry?

At least we don't have to worry about Mr. Henderson's holiday.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Will Frugality Be on the Wane in the New Year?

Not wanting to influence your spending one way of the other (who knows what effect THAT would have on the world economy!!!), I saved this post for the post-holiday period of reflection.

As I write (December 23), I have just learned that, according to the Wall Street Journal, people are spending. Other indicators that I read here and there suggest that the economy will improve in 2011. Something--as Hamlet said--"devoutly to be wished."

I wonder: will frugality fly out the window too? The easiest time to be frugal is when you don't have to be. To inoculate myself against the temptations of spending, I looked at a video done by New England Public Television in 2009. The video features Amy Dacyczyn, someone who practices a far more pathological mode of frugality than I do. You can see the clip on Boston Gal's Open Wallet, which is where I first saw it.

If you don't want to take the time to watch Amy, let me paraphrase some of her words of wisdom. The reporter asked her for ONE PIECE of ADVICE. Amy said she would urge people to practice frugality during the good times, so that when the bad times came, they wouldn't be so bad.

if you want more Amy--for philosophy as much as for tips--see the book. Take it out of the library. Interestingly, if you look at Amazon, you will see that the book retained its value better than most of its genre and vintage.

Do you think the lessons of the financial meltdown will stay with people as we--hopefully--move to better times?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Supper of the Lamb: Day 3

Day 1 was the lamb with couscous and greens. In retrospect, this was the least interesting so far.

Day 2 was lamb with Diana Kennedy's Syrian yogurt sauce, far more sublime than the chicken version we've had (still good, of course). One of Frugal Son's high school friends (a picky eater from way back) showed up at dinner time. He deigned to eat some and pronounced it good.

Day 3 was lamb in Thai curry sauce. Even more sublime.

This is a totally flexible recipe as long as you have Thai curry paste and a can of coconut milk. The nice thing about Thai curries is that you can make it a sort of stew. You don't need to worry about overcooking as you do with stir-frying. You can use any combo of veggies you want (or even no veggies). In a pinch, even frozen vegetables would be pretty good.

We are STILL trying to use things up, so we sauteed scallions, cauliflower, pepper, and greens--all from our garden. (Cauliflower was an experiment and it got those little mold spots, which we had to cut off, shrinking the vegetable considerably.) When all was done, we stirred in about 3 TBS red curry paste (though yellow or green would be good too) and a can of coconut milk. Then we stirred in chunks of lamb and some of the broth that remained in the roasting pan.

Of course, we cooked our rice in a rice cooker.

It's this kind of meal that makes me reluctant to spend big bucks at restaurants. It was so easy and so good and so cheap. The conversation was excellent.

I should have taken a picture. We ate it all up. Luckily, Frugal Son eats a lot and fast and is still growing. Coconut milk is verrrrry high in fat.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Poems by Robert Southwell and John Milton

If Christmas is part of your tradition, you might like to read this poem, by Catholic martyr Robert Southwell. Even if it's not part of your tradition, this is a great poem. Ben Jonson said that he would forfeit many of his own poems to have written "The Burning Babe."

FROM St. Peter's Complaint, 1595
By Robert Southwell

As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow ;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear ;
Who, scorchëd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I !
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns ;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defilëd souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I callëd unto mind that it was Christmas day.

Another beautiful Christmas poem is "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" by John Milton. This is a long poem, so I'll just provide a link for you.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Shopping as Gift Part 2: Gift Cards or Cash Encore?

For the last few days, my inbox has been filled with offers of gift cards. Physical gift cards arrive quickly. E-giftcards are, of course, instantaneous.

I wrote yesterday about how pre-holiday shopping excursions could be part of the gift. Mulling over earrings and perfumes with Miss Em is a lot of fun. Returning later to buy something I know she will like is also fun. Stress-free gifting! A great concept.

It occurred to me that gift cards and cash, which many find inappropriate at worst or unimaginative at best, could be factored into the shopping as gift concept (should I trademark???).

For instance, why not put $$$ into an envelope with a note: Let's go shopping on XX and you can pick out a gift?

Or, if you know where your recipient likes to shop, why not include a gift card with a similar note?

You could even do this across the miles. I wrote a little while ago about getting a new toaster oven with an Amazon card I was gifted. THANKS AGAIN, DEAR GIVER.

An un-anticipated advantage of this tactic is that your money can go farther. The recipient can choose a full-price item or can take advantage of the post-holiday sales.

So, if you want to buy me a gift card, I always appreciate Amazon, Garnet Hill, or LL Bean. THANKS IN ADVANCE. You know I'm kidding, Dear Readers. You presence is a gift in itself.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shopping can be the Gift: The Invention of Tradition

Shopping as Gift. A weird concept, is it not? Let me explain. I am hardly one to offer holiday tips, since my family (thanks, mostly, to me) is rather haphazard in the holiday department. What traditions we have are ad hoc and keep changing as we change.

So, for instance, Miss Em was enamored of fairy tales for many years. So each year, we would get her a beautifully illustrated book of fairy tales. These were met with happiness, so we continued. Till one holiday: a ho-hum response.

My favorite fairy tale book.

The next tradition developed by accident. We were at Zita's, which is mainly a head shop. She does have some jewelry appealing to the young (and lots of items for piercings--not that kind of jewelry). One year, Miss Em expressed a desire for something. I went back and bought it. She was happy.

The gift looked something like this.

In subsequent years, we returned to Zita's and other local gift shops. We were in search of the gift. So-no-there wasn't a real surprise, though I did purchase the item later. It occurred to me that the gift was not the receiving, but the hours of exploration beforehand, as Miss Em decided on her favorites. The hours were pleasant and stress-free. No Shopping ADD (thanks to Revanche for this useful term).

I can't imagine doing this with my son or husband! But for teenage girls, it seems perfect. At least for my girl.

Have you ever made shopping part of the gift?

P.S. According to historians, traditions can be, have been, and are invented! So we can do it too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Makeup Tips from Paula Begoun and How I Took the Path of Frugality

You probably know these already, but you might take a look at her product recommendations. I love how her list ranges from the low to the high, showing, that in makeup, perhaps more than most things, low end products may be just as good as high end.

I remember watching a show on Public Television--back in the day when we called it Channel 13--which did an expose on cosmetics. I was under 10--at least in my memory. I was fascinated. I learned that lipstick is mostly wax, for instance. I remember learning that 25 cents of raw ingredients could become a designer lipstick. I wonder if that--plus the fact that my father worked in market research--set me on the path of severe skepticism about product claims. Of course that path intersects with the path of frugality.

Enough autobiography! Here are Paula's tips, copied from my email. Remember, she has FREE shipping on a $20+ order. Paula has never steered me wrong, I must say.

Paula's Choice Skin Care

Essential Makeup Do and Don'ts!
Beauty Tips from The Cosmetics Cop Team!

Paula & The Cosmetics Cop Team love to share makeup tips and product recommendations for looking young, healthy, and vibrant. All it takes are just a few simple rules, some practice and a dash of finesse. To help you, we've assembled our list of makeup Dos and Don'ts along with some bonus product recommendations!

Makeup DOs

• DO apply eyeliner as close to the lash line as possible: A soft or charcoal brown shade can look beautiful by enhancing the lashes and framing the eye. If the outer corners of your eyes have begun to droop, make sure the eyeliner turns up ever-so-slightly so you don't emphasize the drooping. For the lower lash line, use a softer color than you did for your upper lash line. Powder eyeshadows work great as eyeliner - M.A.C., Shu Uemura, Sephora, and Trish McEvoy offer wonderful options.

• DO wear lipstick: Soft lip color is a sexy, glowing look any time of day. Red is a great option, and it makes a dramatic statement, just keep it on the brighter side as opposed to magenta, purple or browns. Some of our favorite red lipsticks include:

* Make Up For Ever Rouge Artist Intense in s21 or s43 Moulin Rouge ($19)
* Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Cherries in the Snow, or Fire & Ice ($7.99)
* Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Lipstick in Stay Scarlet ($22)

• DO consider color balance: In other words, if you are wearing a pinkish lip color, your blush should be in a similar color family. It's sort of like if you are wearing a pink skirt and orange top; it can sometimes work, but be careful. High contrast makeup can look glaring, and if you're thinking young, vibrant and healthy, stick with related color tones.

• DO complement the intensity of your blush with your skin tone: If you have fair to light skin, pale pink, rose, or peach shades will always flatter more than deep berry or plum shades, which can make the cheek area look bruised. In contrast, women with medium to tan skin tones can look gorgeous with berry or plum-hued blush. The Cosmetics Cop Team has some favorite powder blushes, and they are:

* American Beauty Blush Perfect Cheek Color ($15.50)
* Jane Blushing Cheeks Blush ($4)
* NARS Blush ($25)
* L'Oreal True Match Blush ($10.95)

• DO pay attention to your smile: Whiter teeth make you look healthy and vibrant, adding incredible brightness and beauty to your face. Since Paula's Choice launched our Brighten Up 2-Minute Teeth Whitener we have all become fastidious about our smiles! And our customers agree: This product has become the best-selling item Paula's Choice has ever launched!

• DO test out makeup primers: You want a primer that enhances your skin tone while also giving your skin the ingredients it needs to look and feel healthy. Some formulations smooth out skin and help create a lit-from-within look, while others can leave garish shine or accentuate dry areas. It can also depend on what type of makeup you're applying on top of it, which is why experimenting is crucial to finding the right primer! Some of our favorite primers include:

* Giorgio Armani Light Master Primer ($55)
* Jan Marini Age Intervention Prime Face Primer ($75)
* M.A.C. Prep + Prime Line Filler ($19.50)
* Victoria's Secret Airbrush FX Face Primer SPF 20 ($14)

• DO blend (and blend, and then blend again): Whether it's foundation, blush or eyeshadow, blend away harsh edges. If you're trying to cover up imperfections, blending is crucial to imperceptible concealing. Don't use emollient/greasy concealers on blemishes. Do use a lightweight, flesh-tone (that means no yellow, orange, or lavender tones) concealer that is a shade or two lighter than your foundation.

Makeup DON'Ts

• DON'T cover up skin problems instead of treating them: No matter how good a makeup product is, it will only look as good as the skin it's applied to. Skin must be smooth and free of dry, flaky patches or yucky, clogged pores. Using makeup to conceal what you don't like about your skin is the wrong approach. Start with good skin care and your makeup will always apply and look better.

• DON'T forget to check your eyebrows: Brows that are drawn-on, pencil-thin, overly sparse, or too-arched are not what you want to see. These mistakes can make someone who is 25 years old look much, much older. If you need to fill in and shape brows, here are some of The Cosmetics Cop Team's favorite products:

* Billion Dollar Brows Brow Powder ($16)
* Paula's Choice Browlistic Long-Wearing Precision Brow Color ($9.95)
* Maybelline New York Define-a-Brow Eyebrow Pencil ($5.59)
* Sephora Arch-It Brow Kit ($35)

• DON'T forget to check your makeup in a magnifying mirror: What you can't see, you can't fix, especially makeup settling into lines around the eye and folds along the mouth. A little powder applied directly over the line, blending upwards and out, can keep everything in place, but you have to see it up close to get it done right. Paula prefers 10X magnification, but anything 4X or above will certainly do the trick. These mirrors are widely available at many stores, such as Bed, Bath & Beyond.

• DON'T over-moisturize around the eyes: It's a slip-up waiting to happen. It will encourage concealers and foundations to travel right into the very lines you want to hide. If you feel you need an extra-emollient moisturizer around your eyes, do it at night after you've removed your makeup, and use lighter-weight products during the day.

• DON'T over-do the shine during daytime: Extra shine or glitter is fine at night, but during the day it just looks immature and overdone, kind of like wearing a sequined gown to the office. However, there are many "radiance-boosting” makeup products that forgo obvious, distracting shine in favor of creating a subtle luminosity. Examples of our favorites in this category include:

* Clinique Fresh Bloom Allover Colour ($29.50)
* Physicians Formula Mineral Glow Pearls ($14.99)
* Lorac Oil-Free Luminizer ($28)
* Jane Shimmering Bronzer ($5.99)

• DON'T over-apply lip gloss: Too much gloss can look like you're drooling, instead of adding a glow of color over your lips. Also be very careful with glossy, slick, or creamy lipsticks; if you have lines around your mouth, these will bleed quickly and won't last past mid-morning before a touch-up is needed. You can also stick with softer colors from some of the best lipsticks we've found for comfortable, long wear - and they don't feather into lines around the mouth! Our favorites:

* Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Lipstick ($22)
* M.A.C. Lipsticks ($14)
* Rimmel Lasting Finish Intense Wear Lipstick ($4.99)
* Revlon Matte or Super Lustrous Lipsticks ($7.99)

• DON'T use cream blush: When you blend it on, you're generally wiping off the foundation and powder you just worked so hard to apply. It also tends to slip and fade more during the day, and is generally hard to control. Given how soft and beautiful blushes are these days you can achieve a sheer, creamy look without a cream blush and get better, faster results. If you must have a cream-type blush, stick with cream-to-powder formulas such as:

* Revlon Cream Blush ($9.79)
* Clinique Blushwear Cream Stick ($18.50)
* Studio Gear Naturalism Cream-to-Powder Blush ($15)

Now that you know what to do and what not to do we hope your makeup application and the look you're going for will be easier than ever to achieve! Here's to beautiful days ahead - and using makeup to enhance your best features rather than covering them up!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Customer Service Technique: Asics and Asian Food Grocer Don't Respond

Every now and again I chronicle my (usually) depressing tales of customer service. Yes, we should ASK, but we don't always RECEIVE. Recently Funny About Money recounted the exciting story of getting reimbursed for a big turkey that made her little dog throw up.

Here are my most recent efforts, both of which met with indifference.

1. ASICS. I emailed Customer Service with the true story of how my son's shoes fell apart after a few months of moderate use.

2. Asian Food Grocer. I emailed Customer Service asking why the tofu I ordered in late November expired in early February. The website says their items have a 6-month self-life.

As my title indicates: in both cases, NO RESPONSE. While the Customer Service doesn't reach the level of egregiousness I experienced with Virgin Mobil or the downright rudeness I experienced with Chico's, I must admit that my feelings are hurt by the indifference.

Tip to Customer Service Reps: Even a little sympathy would go a long way. Be nice.

Should I try another email? Or should I give up?

P.S. We're eating tofu a lot.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My First Groupon! And a Good Gift Idea: Museum Membership

One of my colleagues who is kind of a shopaholic told me about Groupons (group coupons, but you probably know that). As someone seeking the attainment of TRUE--as opposed to FALSE--frugality, I tend to shy away from advice offered by indebted people who discuss how they "saved" $1000 on children's clothing (while spending how much?).

But I joined anyway, just to check things out. Groupons offers deals by your locality--hence, restaurants, massage therapists, and so on, will offer a discounted price IF (and only IF, as my math teacher used to say) a certain number are sold.

So far, I have deleted all offers without opening the email. But today came an offer for an inexpensive membership to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. We've been meaning to do this anyway. In addition to its exhibits, the Ogden hosts Ogden After-Hours on Thursdays, with musical performances.

The membership should help us in our quest to get out and about more.

To tell you the truth, museum memberships are always worth the cost. Whether art museums (I have been a member of MOMA, Chicago Art Institute, and others) or children's museums or anything, the membership makes you go more. That's a good thing. Even if you don't go--shame on you!--you are supporting a cultural institution.

What a great gift too!

Are you a museum-o-phile?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Supper of the Lamb Chez Nous: Leftover Love

The Supper of the Lamb: That is a famous book by the Episcopal priest/cook Robert Farrar Capon (his real name!). It is a wonderful read: Capon cooks some lamb, and then provides recipes for several more meals with the leftovers. As might be expected from his vocation and from the title of the book, Capon includes lots of spiritual content. He also provides lots of opinionated information on knives, stoves, and the like. So wonderful is The Supper of the Lamb that it was reprinted in the Modern Library series of food writing.

We had a leg of lamb last night, thanks to the Dairy Store at LSU, which sells the products of the Ag School. It was fine. Frugal Son braised it and we had garden greens and couscous on the side. Now comes my favorite part: leftovers. Although I don't share Capon's religion, I do find cooking--especially with humble ingredients and leftovers of luxurious ingredients--an enterprise imbued with spirituality.

Eventually, we will have Scotch Broth, which means we will make stock from the bone, add onion, carrots and barley, plus whatever scraps of meat remain.

Tonight, I am thinking of making Diana Kennedy's yogurt sauce, which I've written about before. I've only had it with chicken, though she says it's good with lamb too. Here's the recipe, copied from my blog post of yore.

From Nothing Fancy: Recipes and Recollections of Soul-Satisfying Food. It's called Syrian Yogurt Sauce with Cooked Meat. Kennedy notes that it's especially good with cooked lamb or chicken. Hence it would be great for a rotisserie chicken, a fairly cheap boon for college students and harried working people.

Cook 1 onion in 2 TBS butter--caramelize it.

Put 1 beaten egg in 2 cups plain yogurt. Cook over lowish heat, stirring till it bubbles and thickens.

Add 1/4 cup (optional) broth to yogurt mix.

Add 2 cups cubed, cooked meat, salt and pepper. Stir till heated through. Sprinkle with dried mint.

Kennedy forgets to mention the onion again, but either stir it into the melange or use as a topping.

Serve with bulgur or brown rice...or white rice...or couscous. All would be better than pasta.

The next day, I will make pita sandwiches with lamb, feta, yogurt, maybe some olives and roasted peppers. The best thing is that none of the lamb recipes requires any shopping. We will be cleaning out the cupboards too.

The only other thing I want to make is a Chinese dish. I seem to remember reading a recipe for Hunan lamb somewhere. I just found a recipe, which I can adapt to leftovers.

How I love leftovers. I have had acquaintances who throw leftovers away as unworthy of a second chance. Are leftovers coded poor? perhaps, like beans and greens, they deserve another chance.

I look forward to my upcoming meals.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Make-Do: The Beauty of the Imperfect and the Broken

I really don't like new stuff. In this holiday season, I have generally avoided shopping. An hour with Miss Em at JC Penneys (a middlebrow shopping venue) and Marshall's (supposedly discount) was enough for me. So much nice stuff! So cheap! No wonder we all have too much.

With my predilection for the imperfect and abandoned, I had a moment of wonderful harmonic convergence in this season of the new and shiny. First, I read metscan's blog, which I haven't had time to do for a while. In a series of pictures, she shows how she both hid, embellished, and drew attention to various imperfections in her living space.

Today I read in the New York Times of a collectible heretofore unknown to me: the make-do. Back in the day, people broke plates and the like and reconstructed them in artful ways.

I have written about the scads of cashmere I find at thrifts, rejected because of a single pinhole. A tiny chip on a plate is enough to consign it to the dustbin. An antique quilt with a bit of fraying is a tiny fraction of the price of a perfect one.

I've always loved buying used books, especially if they have notes from an intelligent reader. I learn so much from them.

I think the cult of perfection may be a particularly American thing. And certainly the cultivation of the imperfect may be the epitome of frugality.

So which came first for me? The love of the imperfect? Or the frugality?

Where do you fall on the perfect/imperfect continuum?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How to Cook: An Answer

Not THE answer, of course. In my strolls through the blogosphere, not to mention real life, I am always meeting people with the same lament: I CAN'T COOK.

Helpful types are always proffering advice: Get Mark Bittman's cookbook. It's so easy. It's true. It is. But giving someone such a massive tome is often counterproductive: all those recipes are intimidating.

So here's how to begin, carnivore version. Get a slow cooker. Buy a piece of pot roast beef (chuck, brisket,whatever). Put it in the cooker with a little water and an onion. Too hard? Throw in some of that dried onion soup mix. Cook for a long time. This will give you enough for several meals.

Are you a vegetarian or a vegetarian wannabe? Mash up some beans (drain them!). Put on a tortilla with some cheese. Roll it up. Heat in the oven, the microwave, or in a pan. Serve with salsa.

See? It is not a big deal. If you eat both items, you have the basis for 3 meals--half the week.

If I had to recommend one cookbook for the timid cook, vegetarian or otherwise, it would be Jeanne Lemlin's Quick Vegetarian Pleasures. This is not as well known as other veggie cookbooks that, to my mind, are far inferior. (Mollie Katzen comes to mind.) Everything is good and easy. Many of her pastas and grain dishes are one-dish meals. Some are so simple: rice mixed with broccoli and feta, for instance.

The book is short so it doesn't provoke a panic attack or send one back to reading The Paradox of Choice.

If you MUST get the Bittman, this is what it looks like.

The Lemlin (or the Bittman, really) would make a great gift for the holidays. Lemlin lives in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, near where I visit every summer. I wonder if I've ever caught a glimpse of her strolling through the wonderful downtown.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two More Picture Books for the Young and Not-So-Young

I am gradually emerging from the end-of-semester stupor. Soon I will respond to blog comments left over the past few days: I've had to be so responsive to the zillions of pieces of work recently received that it's hard to respond to anything I don't absolutely HAVE TO.

My daughter, Miss Em, loved my blog post yesterday about Napping House.

She confided that she didn't love the book quite as much as I did; maybe I read it too much?

Anyway, in my quest to revive the fortunes of the picture book, I will recommend two other favorites. Both are WORDLESS books. The illustrations can provoke endless discussion, with readers of different ages getting different things from the books.

First is one we have packed away in the attic, awaiting a new generation.

Second is one we checked out of the library time and again.

Frugal Son, for whom this was a particular favorite, was stunned to hear we never owned a copy of this one. Perhaps I should buy one for him.

Do you have a soft spot for wordless books?

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Napping House: Our House

When Mom and Dad are teachers and children are college students, the entire household runs along the rhythms of the academic calendar. As of last night, we are ALL DONE.

And now we enter The Napping House.

This remains one of my all time favorite picture books. We still have ours, packed away for some future recipient. There was an article in the New York Times recently, chronicling a change in the publishing industry: so many parents are pushing their children away from picture books and towards chapter books and other more "mature" early readers that the industry is publishing fewer and fewer picture books each year.

Don't do it, Dear Readers! Picture books are wonderful and, in the best, there's a lot going on in the illustrations. I'm sure they develop some part of the brain that chapter books do not. Our children read both, and I'm sure they are the better for it. I know I'm the better for having read all those picture books with them.

Isn't it great that on a coldish day, we can talk about "our cozy bed" in the "napping house where everyone is sleeping." So today, we're drinking tea, taking occasional naps between our feather beds and the big down comforters. We're all wearing thrifted cashmere sweaters and fuzzy slippers.

Eventually--on account of the wakeful flea--everyone in the napping house wakes up and goes outside. We don't have the flea, but I suppose we will all get back to work soon enough.

If you have a child to buy a gift for, think about The Napping House. Or buy it for yourself, just in case a child comes over. Or just in case you feel in need of a little beauty in word and picture.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tete a Tete: Mason Pearson Knockoff?

I am at the end of grading, a painful process, in which I go head to head (though not in a tete a tete) with student work. (I hope my wonderful French teachers--Mlle. Moore, M. Giordano, M. Moore, and M. Danon--are not looking at this wielding their red pens, looking for any little mistake. I KNOW I need circumflexes and an accent. I am too burned out to find out how to do them. Thanks for understanding.)

Anyway, every time a holiday comes around I fantasize about buying myself a Mason Pearson brush.

I've actually owned a few. I first bought one when I was in high school WITH MY BABYSITTING MONEY. They were about $12 at the time, representing about 16 hours of labor. Within 10 minutes of ownership, I left it in a NYC phone booth, When I returned 2 minutes later, it was gone.

I went back to the store in tears and bought another, representing another 16 hours of labor. I had it for many years. Mine didn't last forever, even though people say they do.

Amazingly, I found one in New Orleans, at a yard sale in a fancy neighborhood. It was 75 cents. That didn't last forever either, though it did last a long time.

I don't really need one. Today--newsflash--I learned that Target carries a knock-off. This was news a few years ago, but not being a reader of Allure magazine or of beauty blogs, I missed it.

Has anyone used the knock-off? What do you think of the hairbrush tete a tete (Sorry again to French teachers)? Is it a crime to buy a copy of an iconic brand? Is it a crime for said iconic brand to charge so much for a hairbrush?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cold Weather Wear for the Deep South

You would think that--living in the Deep South--I would have Florida temperatures year-round. NO. It has already gone below freezing a few times. Basically, we have horrible high-humidity heat for many months, followed by a week or less of autumn, followed by a coldish and damp winter, followed by a few days of spring. So even though I don't need the warmest winter clothing, I do need some. Plus, my old house is pretty drafty, in spite of Mr. FS's efforts to insulate and our use of ceiling fans.

Cold weather calls for comfort clothing. So does Finals Week, especially for teachers, who labor on after students have finished, and who have had several weeks of absorbing toxic levels of student anxiety and tales of disaster.

Naturally, in my case, the thrift store has provided. My latest comfort cold weather wear?

Bottoms (these turned up in a men's small, which fit me fine):

Outer layer on top:

The pants are the exact ones I found. While I would never spend that much on sport pants (since I don't do any of the winter sports they are intended for), they are toasty warm. The cape-jacket is similar. Mine is reversible navy wool (navy tweed inside) MADE IN WALES. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I get lots of things like that. I'm sure it was bought on vacation and never worn. I have already worn it non-stop since I got it.

In these two garments we see the opposing philosophies of cold weather wear. The pants are made of polypropylene, a synthetic I've probably misspelled. The topper is wool, of extremely good quality, which will last forever. The pants will probably pill and get disgusting in a few years.

Strangely, since the pants look like leggings, I can wear them when I'm out and about, and look perfectly au courant. And the topper is great, because I can wear layers and layers under it.

You may think this is outdoor wear...and it is. But I should mention that I am wearing the combo indoors too. It HAS been cold inside.

And what of my accessories? I found a pair of fingerless gloves that I bought Miss Em several years ago. They were bought for an 8th grader. Needless to say, they are too dorky for her now. They are great indoor and outdoor wear for me. You can even write a blog post while wearing them

Headgear: a problem. Since reading Duchesse's post about sheepskin earmuffs, I am filled with desire for a set for myself. Hey: a gift I would actually want!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Poetry and Manly Meatballs

Last night, Mr FS and I went to a reading of Auden at the home of a former colleague. We were so excited! Our "going out" life is picking up.

The hostess's house was beautiful, full of old rugs and other neat things. Her father was a famous Proust scholar, originally from Germany, so she had many things that evoked that older European culture.

But the food! Amid all the cheeses was a plate of meatballs on bread. I said, "Are those MANLY MEATBALLS?" The hostess was shocked that I knew. We both had the same cookbook, which described the recipe. I'd always meant to make them. The meatballs are manly as opposed to froufrou appetizers. According to the lore surrounding them, manly meatballs are guaranteed to disappear. Indeed, they did.

So, if you're doing some entertaining, try these MANLY MEATBALLS. It's fun just to say the name. The recipe below is copied from this site. Both my hostess and I found the recipe in Best American Recipes 1999. You can get that book for a mere penny (plus shipping) on Amazon.

Alan Richman is the esteemed and always witty food writer for Gentleman's Quarterly magazine, but I take the blame for calling these his "manly" meatballs. He made them for a birthday party of our mutual friend Alexis Bespaloff, the well-known wine writer. As he was passing them on a platter, taking full responsibility for their simplicity and strong flavor, he explained that he made them because when he heard the menu planned by Alex's wife he felt there might be too much "sissy food" -- you know, pasta and salads.

They are not, of course, anything like any recipe you've ever seen for Swedish meatballs, but to my mind they make an even better stand-in. Baking them on bread slices -- which, by the way, do not burn or get too hard, even though it seems as if they would -- makes them perfect finger food.
1 pound ground chuck (not leaner beef)

3 scallions, finely minced (use most of the green)

4 tablespoons dark soy sauce (or regular soy sauce, if that's all you have)

1 firmly packed teaspoon brown sugar (a rounded teaspoon, if using regular soy sauce)

1 baguette or ficelle (a small diameter French bread), about 20 inches long, sliced about 1/2-inch thick (if the bread has a large diameter, cut the slices in half, just a bit bigger than the meatballs)

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients, except bread. With your hands, mix and knead thoroughly until the meat is a fine paste.

Make balls the size of smallish walnuts.

Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and place one meatball on each.

Bake for 7 to 9 minutes in a preheated 450-degree oven until done to taste (Richman says "until just cooked through." I like them still rare.).

Serve hot.

Do you have any favorite foods for entertaining? Or poetry to read aloud?

The Best Gift for Children aged 5-14: Klutz Create Anything With Clay

Oh, I am a lazy girl. Here is another re-post from last year. Honestly, I don't have many good gift ideas. So when I have one, I have to re-use it--ditto for posts, I guess.

This is not a joke. I know what it is.
The Klutz Incredible Clay Book.*** EWRGH. This masterpiece is out-of-print??? Ok, then you must buy its successor: Create Anything with Clay.

This is under $20.00 and is a book filled with pictures of creations and a set of fimo (or sculpey) clay with which you can make anything in the book. Or whatever you want.

I know this from experience. I am not too good on gifts. Each year we used to go to Pasadena for the holidays, where we had to buy gifts for 3 nieces. Most of my efforts were ho-hum.

One year I gave the aforementioned Klutz book to one niece and watched the whole group of 5 children play with the clay for the whole day. And much of the rest.

The clay is in bright colors and flexible enough to make tiny things. Then you bake it in the oven (or toaster oven)* to harden. Why is it so much fun to make tiny hot dogs in buns with squiggles of mustard? Or tiny cabbages? I don't know why we are so delighted by miniatures, but it is so.**

My mother-in-law braved the post-Christmas crowds to buy MORE clay at the crafts store.

This became my go-to gift and it was always a hit. Even with my video-game addicted nephews.

I just thought of ANOTHER great gift. Stay tuned.
Do you have any foolproof gifts for kids?

**An academic book that explores the miniature.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Paula's Make-Up Recommendations: Frugal to Splurge

As you know, I love Paula Begoun. I buy mostly skincare items. I love that she recommends make-up (and skincare too) all across the price spectrum. Of course, you can guess which end of the spectrum I favor.

She has FREE SHIPPING with a minimum $20.00 purchase.

This is a loooonnnggggg list, copied from my email.

Paula's Choice Skin Care

The Best of the Best

Although this is a pretty long list, it is not by any means complete. There are many more top-rated makeup products reviewed on For this report, we included products that not only were highly rated for performance but also really impressed us and are easy to find. Given how many thousands of makeup products we review, we can assure you that these are among the best of the best. Below each product you'll find brief points describing each product. For the complete review, please visit on your computer or mobile phone.

* = a makeup splurge

Almay Clear Complexion Liquid Makeup ($11.99)

* Liquid foundation with medium to full coverage
* Ideal for oily, breakout-prone-skin

Avon Smooth Minerals Pressed Foundation ($11)

* Smooth texture that's easy to blend
* Leaves a luminous glow on all skin types

*Clinique Almost Powder Makeup SPF 15 ($23)

* Superb pressed-powder foundation that slips on like a second skin regardless of skin type
* Provides sun protection and a sheer matte finish with a hint of shine

Cover Girl TruBlend Whipped Foundation ($9.60)

* Whipped, slightly creamy texture with a soft matte finish and hint of luminosity
* Best for normal to slightly dry or slightly oily skin

*Estee Lauder Resilience Lift Extreme Ultra Firming Creme Compact Makeup SPF 15 ($34.50)

* One of the best cream foundations for dry skin not prone to breakouts
* Looks beautifully natural and is a pleasure to blend

*Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($58)

* Liquid foundation with a well-earned reputation among makeup artists
* Best for normal to slightly dry or slightly oily skin

L'Oreal Paris True Match Super Blendable Makeup SPF 17 ($10.95)

* Liquid foundation with sun protection and gorgeous shades
* Leaves a luminous glow on all skin types

*M.A.C. Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation ($26)

* The classic pressed-powder foundation with shades for almost everyone
* Never looks dry or chalky, best for normal to slightly dry or slightly oily skin

*Make Up For Ever HD Invisible Cover Foundation ($40.00)

* Liquid foundation with enviable coverage and shades for pale to dark skin
* Suitable for all skin types

Maybelline New York Dream Smooth Mousse Foundation ($7.99)

* Mousse-like cream-to-powder texture that looks amazingly natural
* Leaves a luminous glow on all skin types

Maybelline New York Dream Liquid Mousse Airbrush Finish ($8.79)

* One of the easiest-to-work-with liquid foundations
* Leaves a luminous, soft matte finish that's best for normal to oily skin

Paula's Choice All Bases Covered Foundation SPF 15 ($14.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* Creamy liquid foundation with sun protection and a satin matte finish
* Best for normal to dry or sensitive, rosacea-affected skin

Paula's Choice Best Face Forward Foundation SPF 15 ($14.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* Silky, fluid texture blends like a dream and sets to a weightless matte finish
* Created especially for normal to very oily or acne-prone skin

Physicians Formula Healthy Wear SPF 50 Powder Foundation ($11.99)

* Pressed-powder foundation with medium to full coverage
* Ideal for oily, breakout-prone-skin

Revlon ColorStay Mineral Mousse Makeup SPF 20 ($13.99)

* Innovative liquid mousse texture with a lasting matte finish
* One of the best for oily to very oily skin

Tinted Moisturizers

* = a makeup splurge

BeautiControl BC Color Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 ($20)

* Creamy, smooth texture with a satin finish and sun protection
* Perfect for normal to dry skin

Boots No7 Soft & Sheer Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 ($11.99)

* Sheer, smooth, and slightly creamy with sun protection
* Moist finish that's best for normal to dry skin

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer SPF 20 ($11.99)

* Brilliant blend of sheer color with sun protection and anti-aging ingredients
* Satin finish that's ideal for normal to dry skin

Paula's Choice Barely There Sheer Matte Tint SPF 20 ($14.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* Super smooth and lightweight hydration with gentle sun protection
* Leaves a natural finish suitable for all skin types, especially sensitive skin

*Stila Sheer Color Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 ($34)

* Lightweight lotion texture plus translucent color and sun protection
* Soft matte finish that's best for normal to oily or combination skin


* = a makeup splurge

L'Oreal Paris True Match Concealer ($8.95)

* Silky liquid concealer with helpful brush applicator and buildable coverage
* For all skin types, including acne-prone skin

*Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer ($30)

* One of the best for truly full coverage that doesn't look heavy
* Wonderful camouflage for dark circles and discolorations

Maybelline New York Instant Age Rewind Double Face Perfector ($7.49)

* Dual-sided product includes a liquid concealer and soft shimmer highlighter
* Works great to conceal dark circles and brighten shadowed areas

Mary Kay Concealer ($10)

* Long-lasting liquid concealer with impressive coverage
* A top choice for dark circles or for concealing red marks from acne

Paula's Choice Soft Cream Concealer ($9.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* Suitably creamy for use around the eyes—and it won't crease into lines
* Balanced texture that isn't too slick or greasy, yet is easy to blend

Revlon Age-Defying Moisturizing Concealer SPF 25 ($8.99)

* Silky liquid concealer plus extra sun protection for the eye area
* Moderate coverage that's best for use underneath the eyes

Loose Powders (including mineral makeup)

* = a makeup splurge

Avon Ideal Shade Loose Powder ($9)

* Sheer powder that adds a glow without being shiny
* Looks great in any light, especially on normal to dry skin

Boots No7 Perfect Light Portable Loose Powder ($12.99)

* Perfectly packaged for on-the-go use with a built-in brush
* Feather-light texture ideal for normal to oily skin

*Jane Iredale Amazing Matte Loose Powder ($31)

* Absorbent formula and matte finish for superior shine control
* Perfect for oily skin

*Estee Lauder Nutritious Vita-Mineral Loose Powder Makeup SPF 15 ($33.50)

* Unbelievably light texture and seamless application
* A great way for normal to oily skin to add sheer sun protection

Pressed Powders (including mineral makeup)

* = a makeup splurge

Lacura Compact Powder ($3.49)

* Among the least expensive superior pressed powders
* Velvety, sheer finish perfect for normal to dry skin

*M.A.C. Select Sheer Pressed Powder ($22)

* Does what powder should without looking dry or unnatural
* A formula for all skin types and a wide range of shades

Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Protector Finishing Powder SPF 25 ($6.95)

* A substantial find for those with normal to oily skin
* Refines skin while offering a boost of sun protection

N.Y.C. Smooth Skin Pressed Face Powder ($1.99)

* Beautifully silky texture and sheer application
* The best and least expensive powder for anyone with normal to dry skin

Paula's Choice Healthy Finish Pressed Powder SPF 15 ($14.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* Silky-smooth application and a gentle formula for sensitive skin
* Great way to boost or touch up your sun protection at home or on-the-go

Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Talc-Free Mineral Face Powder SPF 16 ($12.95)

* Shine control and extra sun protection in one convenient pressed powder
* Doesn't look cakey and doesn't make your skin look dull

Prestige Cosmetics Perfectly Matte Translucent Powder ($5.99)

* Silky texture and, true to its name, a perfectly matte finish
* Wonderfully affordable option for normal to oily skin


* = a makeup splurge

Boots No7 Cheek Tint ($9.99)

* Easy-to-work-with cream-to-powder blush
* Creates a natural-looking flush that lasts

*NARS Blush ($25)

* Some of the best shades around, from mild to wild
* Impressive color payoff that lasts, and shine that doesn't flake

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Custom Glow Blush & Bronzer ($12.49)

* Two products in one: soft blush and flattering bronzer
* Use alone or mix for sheer, natural color with shine

Revlon Cream Blush ($9.79)

* Great cream-to-powder blush for normal to slightly dry or slightly oily skin
* Compact includes a helpful pop-out mirror

Sonia Kashuk Beautifying Blush ($7.99)

* Beautiful colors and a smooth, natural result
* Includes versatile shades with a matte finish


* = a makeup splurge

Maybelline New York Dream Mousse Bronzer ($5.99)

* Super-smooth whipped texture for a soft, foolproof application
* Two great shine-infused shades for fair to medium skin tones

Rimmel Natural Bronzer ($5.49)

* Pressed-powder bronzer with a perfectly smooth texture and application
* Shades infused with just a hint of shine for a soft tan glow

*Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzing Powder ($28)

* A truly matte, utterly believable bronzer
* Concentrated formula requires just a sheer touch for great results

Wet 'n' Wild Bronzer Ultimate Bronzing Powder ($2.99)

* One of the best, least expensive bronzing powders anywhere
* Natural-looking colors with a matte or soft shine finish


* = a makeup splurge

*Clinique Colour Surge Eye Shadow Quad ($25)

* Velvety texture, easy blending, and lasting color
* Well-coordinated sets that shape and shade the eye

*Laura Mercier Matte Eye Colour ($22)

* Awesome, smooth texture that blends impeccably
* Almost matte finish (you'll see just a hint of shine) with lots of light shades

NYX Cosmetics Eyeshadow ($4.99)

* Impressively smooth, pigmented powder shadows that give M.A.C. a run for its money
* Dizzying array of shades, with plenty of everyday colors in matte or shimmer finishes

Physicians Formula Matte Collection Quad Eye Shadow or Bright Collection Shimmery Quads Eye Shadow ($6.75)

* Whether you go for matte or shine, these quads are tough to beat
* The shiny shades don't flake, and most sets are smartly designed

Revlon Luminous Color Satin Eye Shadow ($4.99)

* Silky texture that glides on and imparts sheer color and shine
* Some beautiful nude and brown tones for a can't-go-wrong look

Revlon Illuminance Creme Eyeshadow ($6.50)

* The go-to choice for fans of cream eyeshadow and beauty steals
* Soft colors that won't crease and can be used with powder shadows

Wet 'n' Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Singles ($1.99)

* Surprisingly good performance and color payoff for the price
* Variety of finishes from matte to sparkles (but the sparkling shades flake)


* = a makeup splurge

Avon Perfect Wear Eyewriter Liquid Eye Liner ($8)

* Waterproof liquid liner with a helpful felt-tip applicator
* Wears without flaking, smearing, or fading

M.A.C. Technakohl Liner ($14.50)

* Creamy texture and super-smooth application give way to a soft powder finish
* Smudge-resistant, and each shade adds a subtle gleam to your lash line

Maybelline New York Expertwear Defining Liner ($5.79)

* Twist-up, retractable eye pencil that won't smudge
* Includes a built-in sharpener for those who need a finer point (but sharpening isn't required)

Sonia Kashuk Dramatically Different Long Wearing Gel Liner ($8.99)

* Among the best gel-type eyeliners, regardless of price
* Absolutely won't flake, smear, smudge, or break down from oily eyelids

*Tarte Cosmetics EmphasEYES High Definition Eye Pencil ($18)

* One of the few eye pencils worth its higher price
* Ultra-fine tip for natural emphasis plus a creamy texture that won't tug delicate eyelid skin

Brow Products

* = a makeup splurge

e.l.f. Wet Gloss Lash & Brow Clear Mascara ($1)

* You won't find a better clear brow gel for anywhere near this price
* Dual-sided component allows use as clear brow gel and clear mascara

Paula's Choice Browlistic Long-Wearing Precision Brow Color ($9.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* Brilliant way to fill in and define your eyebrows with soft color
* Stays put all day without smearing or flaking

Paula's Choice Brow/Hair Tint ($9.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* Expert, dual-sided brush allows you to groom and define unruly brows
* Sheer color that sets to a soft, non-sticky finish while keeping brows in place

Physicians Formula Brow Definer Automatic Brow Pencil ($5.95)

* Among the best brow pencils at any price
* Smooth application and sheer colors for natural-looking definition without smearing

*Urban Decay Brow Box ($29)

* A brilliant, all-in-one brow-grooming and -shaping kit
* Includes shades for blonde, auburn/red, and brunette brows

Regular Mascaras

* = a makeup splurge

Almay One Coat Nourishing Mascara Lengthening ($6.49)

* Thickens as well as it lengthens
* Clean, clump-free application that wears well and removes easily

Cover Girl Lash Blast Volume or Lash Blast Length ($8.69)

* Whether you want volume or length, these mascaras are tough to beat
* Dramatic, sweeping results with minimal effort

*M.A.C. Studio Fix Lash ($14)

* A mascara anyone can get right with just one coat
* Thickens and lengthens in equal measure without flakes or clumps

Maybelline New York The Colossal Volum' Express Colossal Mascara ($5.99)

* Your ticket to dramatic lashes—this isn't a mascara for the lash-timid!
* Produces impressive results almost instantly; the more you apply, the fuller your lashes get

N.Y.C. Curling Mascara ($2.99)

* Really works to curl lashes, leaving a beautiful fringe of impossibly long lashes
* Comes off with any water-soluble cleanser

N.Y.C. Lengthening Mascara ($1.99)

* The least expensive mascara that still provides long, defined lashes
* Comes off with any water-soluble cleanser

Paula's Choice Illicit Lash Maximum Impact Mascara ($10.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* Creates supremely long, beautifully separated lashes with a soft curl
* Specially designed brush ensures you reach each lash, for maximum results

Paula's Choice Great Big Lashes Mascara ($9.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* Enjoy instant thickening and impressive length with just a few strokes
* Applies smoothly and won't flake, smear, or smudge

Waterproof Mascaras

* = a makeup splurge

Jane Max2 Lash Waterproof ($5.29)

* Lash primer and waterproof mascara in one dual-sided package
* The primer really makes a difference if you want thicker lashes

*Lancome Definicils Waterproof High Definition Mascara ($24)

* The waterproof partner to Lancome's esteemed Definicils Mascara
* Among the best waterproof formulas at any price, and it leaves lashes soft

Revlon Double Twist Volumizing Mascara Waterproof ($8.99)

* Outstanding length, moderate thickness, and lashes that hold up to moisture
* Leaves lashes soft, not brittle—and won't flake all day


* = a makeup splurge

*Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Lipstic ($22)

* Paula's personal favorite true matte lipstick (and she's tried them all)
* Beautiful shade range and a smooth application that won't bleed into lines around the mouth

Maybelline New York Color Sensational Lipcolor ($7.19)

* A modern cream lipstick that keeps lips moisturized
* Huge range of shades, helpfully divided into color families

Neutrogena MoistureShine Lipstick with SPF 20 ($9.49)

* Lightweight, smooth, and creamy with strong color payoff
* Provides sun protection and stunning color all in one

Paula's Choice Sheer Cream Lipstick SPF 15 ($10.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* Almost weightless texture imparts soft color and healthy shine
* Great way to protect lips from sun exposure while keeping them smooth

Rimmel Lasting Finish Lipstick ($4.99)

* A creamy lipstick that surpasses some that cost four times as much
* Feels great and leaves lips with a soft gloss finish

Sephora Rouge Cream Lipstick ($12)

* Beautifully creamy and a shade range that's sure to impress
* A great option for those who don't want a shimmer or frosted finish

Long-Wearing Lip Color

* = a makeup splurge

Cover Girl Outlast Smoothwear All-Day Lipcolor ($9.99)

* One of the earlier two-step lip paints, and it remains among the best
* Cover Girl trumps most competing brands on the basis of price and color selection

*Laura Mercier Satin Lip Colour ($22)

* Semi-matte lipstick that lasts without making lips feel desert-dry
* Longevity is maintained if you top this with a dazzling lip gloss

*Lorac Co-Stars ($19)

* A standout due to its creamier color-coat, which lasts for eight hours
* Glossy top coat adds a sexy, non-sticky sheen to richly colored lips

Lip Glosses

* = a makeup splurge

e.l.f. Cosmetics Super Glossy Lip Shine SPF 15 ($1)

* The least expensive lip gloss with sunscreen that we know of—it's truly impressive
* Smooth texture and non-sticky finish (but avoid the glitter-infused shades)

Lacura Beauty Lip Gloss ($2.49)

* Silky, comfortable gloss whose shades go on lighter than they appear
* It's hard to believe such a sophisticated lip gloss costs so little

*Korres Natural Cherry Full Color Gloss ($16)

* Unexpected, but very good, balm-like texture that works great to prevent chapped lips
* Imparts soft color with a non-sticky, wet shine finish

N.Y.C. Extreme Glider Lip Gloss ($3)

* Convenient, generously sized squeeze tube with angled applicator
* Sheer shades for a soft wash of color and non-sticky finish

NYX Cosmetics Goddess of the Night Lip Gloss with Mega Shine ($4.99)

* Unique applicator makes it easier to apply gloss with precision
* Exceptionally smooth and emollient without being syrupy—and the shade range is considerable

Victoria's Secret VS Makeup Sheer Gloss Stick ($12)

* A lip gloss that's packaged like a standard lipstick
* Sheer colors with an attractive glossy finish

Liquid & Powder Shimmer Products

* = a makeup splurge

e.l.f. Cosmetics Mineral Glow ($8)

* Loose powder with shine adheres well without flaking
* Soft colors that cast a subtle glow wherever they're applied

*Trish McEvoy Shimmer Pressed Powder ($32)

* Superior smooth texture that's a cinch to blend
* Provides soft, non-flaky shine that's suitable for day or night

Victoria's Secret VS Makeup Pro Radiant FX Face Illuminator ($14)

* Housed in a bottle with built-in pump applicator
* 1/4 to 1/2 pump is all it takes to softly highlight facial features

Wet 'n' Wild MegaGlo Face Illuminator ($2.99)

* Liquid shimmer with an emollient texture
* Leaves a gleaming, moist finish that stays in place surprisingly well

Brushes & Cases

* = a makeup splurge

e.l.f. Cosmetics 11 Piece Studio Brush Collection ($30)

* All the essential brushes and then some, for a great price
* Includes a brush case

Paula's Choice Brushes ($9.95-$20.95)

* Wide variety of expertly designed, precision-crafted brushes
* The exact same brushes Paula uses on herself

Paula's Choice Mini Brush Set ($38.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* The most essential brushes tucked into a sleek pouch
* Perfect for travel or on-the-go use; fits easily into a small evening bag

Paula's Choice Ultimate Makeup Bag ($19.95)
Free Shipping on $20+ through December 31

* Designed by Paula to accommodate all of your brushes and makeup products
* Keeps all your makeup essentials in one place—no more digging through drawers or rooting through small cases

Sonia Kashuk Brushes ($7.99-$19.99)

* Beautifully made and built to last, with elegant, ergonomic handles
* Great for those who prefer full-size brushes

*Trish McEvoy Brushes ($14-$90)

* Quite simply, these are among the best brushes money can buy
* Practically endless options, whether you're a makeup novice or professional

*Trish McEvoy Ultimate Beauty Organizer ($85)

* A "beauty briefcase for the makeup diva intent on perfect organization
* Impeccable craftsmanship and thoughtful design makes the price easier to justify


Gifts for Teachers: The Frugal Way

Since this is the season of TEACHER GIFTS, I'm taking the liberty of reposting an oldie (but I think still goodie).

No, I'm not going to recommend that you buy a mug with an apple on it. Or a mug that says A+ Teacher. These are to be found at any Dollar Store.

There are also scores of such mugs, along with similarly emblazoned teacher gift items, at any thrift shop. Do not burden your child's teacher with these; your teacher has already donated last year's gifts. Since my definition of frugality involves getting the most from the resources of time and money, even $1.00 mugs are not frugal, since every teacher is given scads of these, every year.

Frugal Son had a wonderful teacher in grade school. Mr. Callahan was so gifted at classroom management that his class was filled with a large percentage of kids with behavior problems. At assemblies, I would watch with awe as he, with only a small gesture, would quiet down a kid about to go out of control. Mr. Callahan was also an artist, and retired in his 40s to pursue that full-time. He disappeared from our purview after Katrina. If you see him, say hi.

Mr. Callahan also had a gift for gifts. He told his class that he didn't really need anything. So no gifts were necessary. This in itself was thoughtful, since more than half the children at the grade school received free or reduced lunch. But, he said, if their parents HAD to buy him something, they should mention that he didn't need any coffee mugs. He already had a lot. Oh, and he needed socks, calf-height, size 10 and always appreciated coffee beans.

What a wonderful gift to us. Frugal Son and I spent perhaps an hour at the local coffee shop deciding what kind of coffee beans to purchase. There were so many choices: Colombian, Tanzanian, Ethiopian, and more. We picked two half pounds because we couldn't decide on one kind.

At the year end party, Mr. Callahan opened his gifts. He got a lot of coffee and a few pairs of socks. Then he opened a box and out came a mug. Grade school kids don't have the "politeness" of adults. One child blurted out, "You said you didn't want any coffee mugs." Without missing a beat, Mr. Callahan replied, "I wasn't talking about THIS mug. This is the exact one I wanted."

Many thanks, Mr. Callahan. The lesson here for recipients: if possible, indicate what it is you want. For givers, consumable gifts (who wouldn't want coffee? or tea? or a gift card?). We often gave teachers bouquets from our garden. These were always well-received. The best-received gifts: appreciative notes from parents and children.

Dear Readers: what are your best gifts for teachers?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Standard Gifts: Preppy Style

How I happened upon a blog called Daily Prep is something of a mystery. Muffy Aldridge is a very good writer. She's one of those people absolutely certain of her opinion: Navy=YES, Black=NO. I look on such people with awe: I am so wishy-washy.

I have learned, from my occasional visit, that "I am not a preppy, nor was meant to be." I am disqualified by many things. My taste in colors is but one: my favorite colors to wear are black (a no-no), cobalt blue, purple, cranberry (also no-nos).

The other day I found news I can use, at least in the blogging department. It turns out that Standard Gifts may, in fact, receive the preppy seal of approval. Muffy LOVES key rings made by Leatherman. In her post, she presented an array of these as they awaited wrapping. They are so cute (I think that's a prep-approved word). Little whales, sail boats, and more, all in your choice of color.

Naturally, I felt I had to peruse the offerings. What would I choose? I am so non-preppy: I don't play tennis or golf. I don't know how to sail, although my father had a sail boat for many years. I didn't see any with books, which would have been perfect.

I know. A crab-themed key ring. Not because I go crabbing. Not because I like crab very much (other seafood is more to my taste).

You guessed it: because I am VERY CRABBY at the end of the semester.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Toaster Ovens

As a teacher, I love being asked to explain something. Shelley asked why I love toaster ovens. I will explain. Please feel free to tune out whenever you wish. That's what my students do!

Shelley mentioned a toaster oven as a substitute for a microwave. No. You need both. Microwaves are good for heating coffee, melting chocolate, and a few other things, but are not good for bread products.

A toaster oven is a toaster and an oven. So: you can toast bread in it, make bread with melted cheese on top, and, if you have an appropriately sized pan, bake in it. Some people put a whole chicken in. I haven't done that. But I do use it to make things like corn bread in a small pan. And it's great for baking potatoes. So much better than heating up your giant oven space to bake two potatoes!

I mentioned in my last post that toaster ovens are short-lived appliances at both the low and the high end. We alternate. We just replaced our Cuisinart with a cheapo Black and Decker.

We almost bought the higher end and better looking WaringPro.

Dillards advertised this at $49.99, a great price. We went in. They said, "We only had one. We'll call you Monday when we get more in." That was two weeks ago. So much for the ease and customer service of a department store.

The highest end toaster oven is by Breville.

This toaster oven was the subject of an ecstatic article by food writer Raymond Sokolov, where he detailed the unexpected joys of cooking without his big professional range, which failed right before Thanksgiving a few years ago.

Even if you're not in the market for a toaster oven, you should read this delightful piece.

I mentioned that we used our Amazon gift card for our little toaster oven. To tell you the truth, I don't think I would have spent so much on Sokolov's Breville, even if my gift card had been big enough.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gift Cards. Cash: Appropriate Gifts?

I come from a cash-giving family. I still remember the last time I saw my born-in-the-Old-World grandmother Sylvia. Even though I was 30 years old, she shuffled over to a cabinet and brought out a $20.00 bill for me. In contrast,Mr. FS comes from a family that sees cash gifts as "vulgar."

Gift cards might seems like a good "gift": cash-like, but without the vulgarity many people might associate with cash. But the rise of "sell-your-gift-card sites"--as outlined by Donna Freedman recently--suggests that gift cards may not be a welcome gift. Actually, now that I think of it, Donna's post suggested the gift card sites as a way to get a discounted gift for your intended recipient. You can buy unwanted gift cards for a certain percentage off.

I noticed, though, that the gift cards I might actually want came with a very small discount. That's because everyone else wants them too. And I know that I have occasionally received gift cards and found them a pain to use. Plus, I was always afraid that I would lose them, to the delight I'm sure of the merchant.

Yesterday. my eagerly-awaited toaster oven arrived! We use our toaster oven all the time; they are a fairly short-lived appliance unfortunately, whether you buy at the higher or lower end. We recycled our busted high end Cuisinart and unpacked our low end Black and Decker.

Oh. how wonderful to have a working toaster oven. At the end of the semester especially bread with melted cheddar is a welcome comfort.

And guess what? We bought the toaster oven with an Amazon gift card we received. Given the length of my Amazon wish list (which is really a reminder list for us), I guess I have to say that an Amazon gift card would be welcome--even for gift-haters like myself.

Thank you to our gift-giver. We are so happy with our gift.

What do you think about cash? gift cards, Amazon or other? Giftworthy or cop-outs?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holiday Gifts for Children: Amy's Decision/Amy Dacyczyn

I was talking to a colleague, Amy, yesterday. She mentioned that she does not buy her two children (boys--aged 8 or so and 3???) Christmas gifts. She said, "We give $500.00 to charity each year and I send all the standard recipients (teachers,for instance) a note describing the charity."

WOW! I always think I am such a free-thinking, free-spirited, unconventional person. I guess not.

Here's what's interesting. She went on to say that her kids didn't mind. That they had tons of toys, all gifts from family and hand-me-downs from friends. AND THAT THEY STILL HAD TOO MUCH.

I opined that many material desires expressed by children are implanted by the parents. My colleague agreed. My children rarely asked for the latest toy, for instance. As I've said before, they would go to the homes of their friends to play with the "popular" toys, while the friends would come to our house and play with what we had. No complaints from anyone.

But NO HOLIDAY gifts for kids! What a concept! Amy Dacyczyn of Tightwad Gazette fame wrote about how she gave each of her six children a few new items each holiday accompanied by a few stashed yard sale finds. She wrote about how some people wrote accusing her of child abuse: kids deserve new toys, they said.

What do you think of my iconocalstic colleague's decision? And what about Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced decision)?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Paula's Choice: Free Shipping

A good time to try out this wonderful line: Free Shipping with $20.00 purchase.

Paula's Choice Skin Care

I like the moisturizers, sunscreens. My daughter LOVES the toners. Oh yeah, we BOTH love the brushes.