Archive | November, 2016

How to Entertain on the Cheap

27 Nov

Signature cocktail and simple decor
Hello

The Holiday season is fast approaching and this means entertaining and lots of it . As someone who does her fair share of soirees I know it can run you ragged; physically , emotionally and of course financially . 
Often, what begins as an intimate gathering with close loved ones can snowball into an all out zoo scene and that cute budget you set goes up in proverbial smoke . 

Here are some tips I often consider when planning to entertain:

1) Plan a menu around items you already have

Don’t go out and spend a fortune on a massive turkey if you already have piece if lamb in the freezer. Decide what you make using whatever you have sitting in your cupboard . 

2) Make the most of your menu

Try to get as much out of the items you do buy. For example , if you buy a pumpkin, use it in as many dishes as you can; pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin, pumpkin pie etc. Do this rather than buying dozens of different items to make different dishes. 

3) Be selective with your invites

The way of the world of entertaining is such that some of the persons you invite won’t come while others will show up with extra guests. Be sure to invite reliable friends asking them to RSVP and make it clear whether or not they are allowed to bring guests.

4) Do potluck 

This is an oldie but a goodie. I am guilty of telling people not to bring anything when I entertain because I somehow feel it is in poor taste. It doesn’t have to be, we all have those friends who always offer to bring something so engage them. Also, people like to feel useful, why deprive your cousin of making his world famous sweet potato pie?

5) Make a punch/cocktail

It can be expensive to purchase multiple bottles of wine, vodka, brandy, scotch, rum and so on. It is far more cost effective to purchase one type of alcohol in bulk and make a punch or signature drink from it. 

6) Keep decorations simple

We all love our homes to look beautiful and festive. This means trees and wreaths and tablesscapes and railing and mantle piece decor, new curtains, new cushions… I could go on. The costs of these things really add up! Focus on a few things e.g the tree and tablesscapes. Chose items that can mix and match and be reused in the future.

I hope some of these tips help to allay the anxiety that can often come with entertaining, I also hope I listen to my own advice. Have an awesome day!

Ten Baking Hacks

20 Nov

Household baking items




Hello

I love a #lifehack. There are hundreds of YouTube videos and websites dedicated to “hacks” but the truth is that many of them are totally pointless and useless . Some times they involve one hundred steps and cost loads of money and generally make your life harder. That being said ,  when you find real hacks, the ones that save you money or calories or make life easier, it makes it all worthwhile . 

I have curated 10 hacks that pertain to baking . Some of them may be obvious ,  some you may have heard before and some may blow your mind but ALL have been tested by me at one point or another and they all add some benefit to your life and use items that most of us have in our homes most of the time. So enjoy…


1) Cake Flour

You may see quite a few recipes calling for this and if you’re anything like me, had no idea there was a difference between cake flour and regular flour. Until now.

Use: Regular baking flour + cornstarch .  For every 3/4 cup of flour add 2 tbsp of cornstarch . 

Cake flour

2) Buttermilk

I remember feeling really pleased with myself when I first learnt this hack. Now it’s practically common knowledge . Still, it’s worth mentioning for anyone who may not already know. Lots of baking recipes call for buttermilk and it is expensive ! 

Use: Milk + vinegar/lemon/lime juice. For each 1 cup of milk add 1 tbsp of vinegar and let sit for at least 10  minutes.

This creates a clotted or soured milk not unlike buttermilk.

Milk and white vinegar 


3) Substitute milk with buttermilk
.

For all your recipes that DON’T require buttermilk but just regular milk, swap it out for buttermilk . It makes the cake smoother and moist.


4) Piping Bag
 

This hack will cost you less than purchasing disposable piping bags. You can also push the tip into the bag and use that way.

Use: A ziplock bag + scissors/tip

DIY piping bag


5) Weigh and measure using metric units

I’m aware this is a point of controversy for many and I don’t even take my own advice half the time but the truth is the truth, metric measurements are more accurate and baking is all about accuracy . 

6) Egg Substitute 

There are actually a number of egg substitutes including bananas,  oil and yogurt but my preference is apple sauce.

For every 1 egg use approximately 1/4 cup of apple sauce.

Eggs and applesauce


7) Wax/Parchment paper cupcake cases
.

This is something I didn’t know was a “thing” for quite a while. My sister did this once as a money saving idea and I loved it.

8) DIY Coloured Sugar

Coloured sugar can be a bit pricey considering what it is: coloured…sugar. Fortunately it’s easy to do.

Use : Granulated sugar + food dye. Mix until dye is fully incorporated . 

White granulated sugar 


Add a drop of food colouring

Mix

Continue mixing 

Coloured sugar 




9) Swap out butter with oil

This makes the cake softer and fluffier, more like a chiffon cake. I find it useful for chocolate cakes which can always tend to be on the drier side.

Swap an even amount of butter for oil in your recipe . 

10) Confectioners/Icing Sugar

Out of necessity comes brilliance . One evening I was baking and realised I had no confectioners sugar but I had granulated sugar. I knew they had to be related somehow so I googled. It was so easy! I feel as if I would never purchase confectioners sugar again because it can tend to be a bit pricey compared to granulated sugar.

Use: Granulated sugar + Food Processor /Blender /Nutribullet .  Blend for a few seconds (literally ) and you have your confectioners sugar . 

 Granulated sugar(left) and confectioners sugar (right)
Thanks for reading. Maybe some of these hacks will help you on your next baking adventure .  Have an awesome day ! 

Battle of the Blending Sponges- BB vs RT

13 Nov

Hello


BEAUTY BLENDER 

It all began with the (Original) Beauty Blender, a pink egg shaped sponge for $30 US dollars  that MUAs, Beauty gurus and makeup enthusiasts alike couldn’t get enough of . I wasn’t sold. $30 for a sponge! I didn’t care what it did. No way!

The ORIGINAL…Beauty Blender 

DUPES

Then came the dupes. This always happens when something becomes shockingly popular . Someone else makes a similar version usually for a lower price. We saw it happen with the Urban Decay Naked palettes: everyone had similar palettes called things like Nude and Natural and Buff. 

I remember the first blending sponge I bought .  It was black with an odd shape(not like an egg) and quite firm (okay hard) . It was from the brand KleanKolor which is the cheapest of cheap and it cost $2. I thought it was great. Shortly after that I realized there were “dupes” everywhere !  All the fast fashion stores, all the drug store brands, everywhere . Yet most gurus online still swore by the Original BB (OBB).

Until…

REAL TECHNIQUES SPONGE 


One day a YouTuber casually mentioned the Real Techniques(RT) sponge, saying it’s the only thing close to the OBB. I was intrigued .  I also came across a few other beauty gurus who mentioned a similar thing. Then, one of my absolute favorite beauty Youtubers ;  Emmy from EmilyNoel mentioned that she actually PERFERS the RT sponge over the OBB. What !  I decided to get my grubby paws on it ASAP and that I did. I was not disappointed . I would see other gurus compare the two and always name the OBB the winner but I couldn’t be swayed . No way was I paying $20-25 (the price came down slightly ) for a freaking sponge !  Not when I could get a RT sponge for $6. So I would never know the comparison and I wasn’t interested . 

The dupe to end all dupes- Real Techniques Miracle Complexion sponge 





Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I walked into Macy’s and saw a Beauty Blender Christmas set. For the price of approximately 2 OBB I could get: 1 OBB sponge, 1 BB Pro sponge (the black one), 1 solid cleaner, 1 Blotarazi blotting sponge and a BB micro mini. DEAL! I jumped on it. Finally I would try the precious Beauty Blender . Finally I would see what the fuss was all about. 

 Beauty Blender Gift set $40 at Macy’s 



I decided to try a few weeks of testing so I could give a more fair analysis and now that time has come. I will be comparing the Original Beauty Blender and the Real Techniques complexion miracle sponge .  Both companies have massively expanded their sponge lines since the launch of the originals but this is comparing original products  . 


COMPARISON
 

Real Techniques Miracle Complexion sponge    Original Beauty Blender sponge 

                                RT                                                                     OBB

COST                 $4.50- 6                                                           $20-25

SHAPE     Oblong with a pointed end                     Egg shaped with a pointed end 

                  a rounded body and a flattened           and a rounded end and body.

                  end.

COLOUR             Orange                                                                  Pink

SIZE           6cm or 2 1/2 inches                                  5cm or (just over) 2 inches

(Dry)

FEEL                       Soft                                                              Very Soft

Comparing the “squishiness” of the sponges. The OBB is softer when dry


RESPONSE         Increases  to                                  Increases to 7cm (just under

TO WATER         8cm (approx 3 inches)                3 inches)

                             Becomes very soft.

APPLICATION    Easy to blend gives  and           Less easy to blend and

                              gives airbrushed finish             gives airbrushed finish 

RT application  using Maybelline Fit Me liquid foundation 

OBB application using Maybelline Fit Me foundation 

Can you tell the difference ? No? Neither can I, lol.

CLEANING   Cleans easily with soap                    Cleans easily with soap

                      once washed immediately.              once washed immediately. 

                      Will ultimately stain .                        Ultimately stains.

                      Doesn’t bleed                                      No bleeding seen (reportedly

                                                                                       bleeds)

 


Final Assessment


Similarities 

Overall, I find these sponges very comparable. The OBB is softer when dry but they feel the same when wet. Both are fairly easy to use blending out foundation  quickly. They both give an ever so slightly dewy finish when used wet, not so much when dry. 

Diffences 

 The RT sponge does seem to remove a bit more of your foundation than the OBB which can be wasteful, however, I personally find that the less wet the RT sponge the less foundation it takes off.

 The flat end of the RT sponge gives a third surface to use and spreads foundation better than the rounded bottom of the OBB.

 In terms of durability I’ve had the OBB for a much shorter time than the RT sponge but I know most people use their OBB for up to a year and I used one RT sponge for  6 months before tossing it, by then it had one or two tears but was otherwise fully intact  (I don’t recommend keeping either sponge for that long, it’s germ city in there.)

Overall

All in all I can recommend either of these sponges.They are different,  I wouldn’t call the RT an exact dupe of the OBB, each has strengths and weaknesses the other does not and I would rate them equally.

 Being as frugal as I am, I prefer the RT sponge because it is less than 1/3 of the price and from all accounts lasts just as long . The OBB is good, I admit it and if you get your hands on a gift set like I did then go for it, but I will not be able to justify purchasing a sponge for $20 when I can get something very similar for $6. That’s what it boils down to for me, dollars and cents. 

Hopefully this review has helped you decide which sponge  (if any) to use and hope you have an awesome day . 

Cheap Trend Socks and Heels 

10 Nov

Hello 

Today I will be chatting with you about a trend that has been all over the runways at many recent fashion week shows : Socks and Heels . 

This is not to be confused with the tourist faux pas : socks and sandals .  No, no ,  this is a more elegant version of that look . 

This trend has been cycling in and out of high fashion for years . I remember it having a brief splash in the mid-late 1990s but not so much after that. Until now. This look has been trickling in since early 2016 and now it’s back with a bang and I love it!

Socks and heels on the runway for Fall winter 2016-2017. From top left: Prada, Tommy Hilfiger and Missoni at the bottom.
I adore fashion , I go on YouTube and watch uploads of runway shows , I read blog posts informing me of the next season’s trends but the truth is I will seldom buy any of these items. This is what is great about this trend it is so easy to afford and pull off in so many ways.

So what do you need to wear this look?

1) A cute pair of heels 

Cute shoes [CHECK]





2) A cute pair of socks 

Cute socks [CHECK]





You probably already own multiple pairs of heels and socks are easy to come by , I got this pair for just $2.50.

This trend is suitible for various temperatures from thick woolen  knee highs paired with boots or ankle socks layered with leggings in cooler temperatures to light weight socks with strappy heels in warmer weather. Best of all you can get creative and DIY customise your socks from be dazzling with jewels to adding lace trim.

I hope my mini trend report has inspired you to try this one out or another affordable trend and I hope you have an awesome day!

Travel Tips- Transport

3 Nov

Oli Oli Bus in Oahu Hawaii 
Hello
Today I will talk about transport options to consider while travelling. I have touched previously on money saving transport tips but I wanted to take a more in-depth look at it.
I really love travelling but as I’ve said before you can easily spend half your vacation budget on transport and for me that’s not good. I will take a look at the major forms of transport and some tips on how and when to use them.
1) RENTAL CAR

Rental vehicles are useful if you are traveling in a group or visiting someplace not easily explored via public transport. For example, I had a family vacation earlier this year to Orlando FL. There were five of us and we went to various theme parks and malls. Due to the layout of Orlando and the number of persons, a rental vehicle was our most feasible option. We split the cost and shared the driving load and it worked out well.

TIPS

Shop around– There are dozens if not hundreds of rental car companies out there. Don’t just rent the first thing you see. In some instances you can even bid for a car. Also, most rental companies don’t charge you on booking but only once you actually rent the car so even when you arrive at your destination you can check out different companies for the best deal.

Read Contract/Policies carefully– This is so important. Make sure you are fully aware of the company’s policies on gas, tolls and damage.

Be wary of upgrades– I fell so hard for this the first time I rented a car. I see upgrades the way I see the tactic fast food companies use when they offer you fries with every meal or convenience stores that offer you gum or water: Trickery via the power of suggestion. 

If an upgrade is recommended be sure to get all the details needed. Sometimes the upgrade ,often sold as being a better deal excludes important and mandatory aspects and it is only revealed when you receive your final bill.

Consider Insurance – All rental companies will offer you insurance for extra money per day. This can drive up the cost of your rental in a major way. 

I say consider because the truth is most of us go through most days without having any accidents at all so the chance of one happening in the few days you rent the car are slim. That being said, in the off chance something should happen you may regret not having that insurance. My advice is to clarify how much the insurance covers and if it seems appropriate then get it and protect yourself.

Nix GPS-By this I mean do not rent the company’s GPS  system for $15 per day. In 2016, you can use Google maps or waze or a similar app and use it for navigation. If you are travelling outside your country you can invest in a sim card so you can use the apps.
2) TAXI

This refers to original taxis, not services like Uber. Taxis are typically safe because taxi drivers are lisensed and members of associations and companies. They have to display their names and credentials and rides are either metered or list preset prices for various destinations to avoid overcharging . However ,  taxis are expensive and this is what has fuelled to popularity of  Uber et al. 

For me I use taxis to take me to and from the airport on trips where I haven’t rented a vehicle or on the off chance I am out someplace after buses have stopped running. Apart from that I am very wary of taxis.

TIPS

Ask about average prices beforehand– Getting a vague idea of how much it costs to go from point A to B prepares you for what you will pay and can clue you in if it seems too pricey.

Get an idea of the fastest routes– The meters go according to distance. If your driver takes a more convoluted route, your price will go up. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the routes via Google maps etc so you know if you’re both literally and figuratively being taken for a ride . This has happened to me before.Don’t let it be you!
3) UBER/LYFT

These are known as ride sharing services. The original and best known is Uber but there are now many similar services available worldwide . For anyone unfamiliar, the service involves using an app where you request a ride from a driver nearby. You are aware of the cost of the ride prior to getting in and payment is via credit card. If you don’t take the ride, you aren’t charged.

The major difference between this type of service and a traditional taxi service is that the drivers are not lisensed taxi drivers. This results in lower fares and makes it a preferred option for many because of this. On the downside there is minimal regulation of said drivers and there have been some unfortunate incidents involving drivers. 

I say use these services with caution. Obviously I advocate for the most cost effective options but safety always comes first . 

TIP

Read reviews – This is a saving grace where users rate drivers and vice versa. This can direct you away from problematic drivers and towards the good ones.
4) PUBLIC TRANSPORT

This refers primarily to buses and trains. This is likely the second most cost effective way to travel. In most well planned cities and even in rural areas there are regular reliable bus/train services.

 I recommend using public transport if you are travelling to a busy city or of you are on a leisurely vacation where you aren’t rushing to go anyplace (’cause public transport can be tedious!) I also recommend this mode of transport if you are alone or in a small group of maybe two or three persons where it is less expensive than car rental.

TIPS

Get a schedule– So you know when and where the bus you want will be arriving. Many bus services now have apps where you can see in real time the current location and estimated arrival time of the next bus or train.

Plan to leave well in advance– As I said , public transport can sometimes be tedious. As the day wears on there tend to be more and more delays. Additionally ,  buses and trains make stops, a lot  of them. This means that a trip that may take twenty minutes in a taxi could take an hour by bus due to these factors. So leave home well before you want to arrive at your destination.
5) WALK

Sometimes this is the best option. If you’re going someplace nearby and you aren’t in a hurry this can be ideal . It is certainly the cheapest as it’s completely free not to mention getting that cardio in.

TIPS

Know your route-Make sure you know where you are going. Google maps etc can help you plot your course.

Make sure it’s a safe area– Keep to well lit, busy areas especially if you are alone.

 I was once the person who took taxi everywhere and it burned my pockets and my very soul, so I know how important it is to choose the right mode of transport on the right time on your trip.

I hope my breakdown and tips have offered some help to anyone planning a trip and I hope you have an awesome day!

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