Monday, January 31

Beauty Deals in Unexpected Places

You never know when you'll find a beauty deal, especially in unexpected places.

On a recent Sunday, the Diva and I were killing time while we waited to pick up Roo from a birthday party. We decided to go to Borders for coffee - Seattle's Best - and book browsing since, like her mommy, she is the girl who loved books. After hot chocolate - with whipped cream of course - and a latté, we took a look around and found some significant markdowns on Paperchase merchandise. And, voilá!

Marked down from $9.99 to 98¢. What a steal! Lip balm for the winter in yummy flavors and colors.


Sunday, January 23

Radio Silence

Over the past week I've been mulling over my state of affairs. No writing. Thinking. Reflecting. Considering.

I've been thinking about my day-to-day activities and long-term plans. As a stay-at-home mom, I've got a pretty good gig. I can't get fired, I don't get performance reviews (most of the time), and I get to spend time with my kids, volunteer at school and care for my family. 

But it's no secret that women often lose their identities while raising children. On the one hand, you embark on the best and most difficult job you'll ever have. On the other, you put yourself on the back burner. Oh, alright, you can disagree if you want or think it won't happen to you. I never thought it would happen to me. I would NEVER lose myself or step off my path. 

In college I had nothing but disdain for the female students attending simply to get their "MRS" degree. I had better things to do. However, things didn't go according to plan. As they say, "Life is what happens to you when you're making other plans." Nothing tragic or disappointing. Just not many of the things I had envisioned. 

I am, afterall, the sum total of my choices and experiences. No one held a gun to my head and forced me to do something I didn't want to do. I happily made my choices.

I've been thinking and thinking about what I want to be "when I grow up" and I still don't have a clue. I'm troubled that I somehow morphed from a focused child/young person, seemingly without notice, into an adult in a perpetual state of limbo. It's not efficient (read: thrifty) or very satisfying. I know that I'm the only one that can do anything about it. But it's hard to do. 

Let's face it, I'm not Madonna and don't have her preternatural ability to constantly reinvent herself. 


Saturday, January 8

70s Teen Idols

For some weird reason, Boulder Locavore's post about crazy reality TV got me thinking about Oprah's show about 70s teen heartthrobs.

I have no idea how I made the leap. Must be a nostalgia thing because I'm getting old and teen idols were part of my grade school reality. As far as high school goes. . .80s music anyone?

To start, we have Shaun Cassidy. He looks pretty good 30 years later and he can still sing. It brought back all kinds of memories for me. His was the first album I ever bought for myself. It was during 4th grade and I was thrilled to have my own money (it must have been for my birthday). The featured single was a cover of Da Do Ron Ron. Such a sweety tween-y tune.

Peter Frampton was on the show, too. Man does he look different. Crazy. But he's still one of the world's best guitarists. Crazy.

Sadly another teen idol from my 4th-grade year was missing, Andy Gibb. He died in 1988. I had a poster on my wall (?!). At my slumber party that year we played truth or dare, and one of my dares was to kiss the poster. Sheesh, I was embarrassed.

Can't believe I confessed all of this. Blast from the past, I guess.

Chocolate Chip Cookies at Altitude

Yesterday, Todd sent a great question about baking at altitude.

We all need a great chocolate chip recipe. The Nestlé Toll House recipe has never worked for me up here and it's a been a big disappointment. How could such an easy recipe yield less than desirable results?

As I've mentioned before, Pie in the Sky has been a game changer. Here's a great recipe from the book with a brief intro from the cookbook's author. If you don't like white chocolate, just replace white with more semi-sweet. I like Toll House morsels or Valrhona bittersweet chocolate. Valrhona's not a thrifty buy but it's a nice splurge.

Black-and-White Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe for 5,000-7,000 feet)
Makes 55 to 60 cookies (2-3 inch diameter)

White chocolate chips add extra sweetness to these classic cookies; to balance this, you can substitute chopped bittersweet chocolate for the semisweet chips if you wish, or as I have done, throw in a handful of dried cranberries. For best results, use a fine-quality white chocolate such as Lindt Swiss White confectionary bar or Guittard Vanilla Milk Chips or Ghirardelli Classic White Chips.

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ pound unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate
1 cup white chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate
1 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

  1. Preheat over to 375˚ with oven divided in thirds. Line cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick mats or lightly coat with butter or nonstick vegetable spray.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, using a sturdy spoon or the bowl of an electric mixer, preferably with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until soft and creamy, then beat in both sugars. Scrape down the bowl and beater, if using, and mix until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stirring slowly, or with the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture , then stir in the chips (or chopped chocolate) and nuts (if using).
  4. Drop the batter by the rounded teaspoon about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until golden brown. Don't overbake, or the cookies will be too dry and crisp when cooled; it is better to underbake them slightly so the centers will be a little bit chewy.
  5. Cool the cookies on a wire rack. If they were baked on parchment or nonstick mats, simply slide it off the cookie sheet onto the wire rack to cool. When they are completely cooled, store the cookies in an airtight container.

Thursday, January 6

Retailers Hit The Skids

It turns out things are tough all over. Several major retailers, such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Restoration Hardware, abercrombie & fitch, and Blockbuster are closing stores around the US. American Apparel is dangerously close to implosion - or at least bankruptcy - aside from the fact that the CEO, Dov Charney seems like a creep (find article here). In fact, the company's auditor, Deloitte and Touche, dropped American Apparel after finding "material weaknesses" in the company's financial practices.

Not to be an ambulance chaser, vulture or anything distasteful, really, we shoppers can take advantage of savings at the locations that are closing soon. Restoration Hardware is closing many stores, including downtown Seattle and in a mall located near Boulder, due to corporate downsizing. I have a theory as to why the company is downsizing. After luring Gary G. Friedman away from Pottery Barn and crowning him Co-CEO, he took the company in a direction á la PB but at a much higher mark-up. I think consumers rejected the strategy because PB offered similar merchandise at lower prices. Frankly, I miss the original Restoration Hardware full of period light fixtures, and you guessed it, furniture hardware.

The Boulder location is scheduled to close in late January having already reduced everything in the store by 40% before the holidays. I'm waiting for prices to come down a bit further. I've got my eye on some accessories and possibly, floor furniture/art samples.

It's a bit sade, but retailers come and go, a brutal consequence of a "free" market.

Tuesday, January 4

Help! My Nails Are Yellow

No I don't have nail fungus. Dark nail polish has made my finger nails yellow. Yuck.

Not my nails, but the color is pretty close.
The stains on my nails are  just on the top third.

The thriftiest and best tip I've come across is from The Doctors (see video here). Take a soft toothbrush and use a circular motion to spread whitening toothpaste on your nails. It really works. Obviously you don't want to use the toothbrush that goes in your mouth!

White Sale Mania

January and February mean white sales. You can take advantage of deep discounts on both sheets, comforters, blankets, bedding, towels and more. I love the idea of huge savings on goods, but keep in mind that prices may have been inflated from the start.

I've already ordered a featherbed and sheet set from Macy's (the featherbed is no longer on sale). Even if the prices were too high to begin with, I FEEL like I'm saving big. Both were a steal and qualified for free shipping. Saved me a trip to the mall, fighting the crowds and digging through piles of merchandise. Always a good thing.

If you're buying sheets, keep in mind that anything over 230-thread count is basically the same. No need to buy mega-thread count. It's more important to buy quality fabric such as Egyptian or Turkish cotton.

Some other retailers conducting white sales:

Garnet Hill
Pottery Barn
Crate and Barrel

It's best to buy now; selection will go down the closer we get to President's Day.

Good luck!