Thursday, November 7, 2013
After reading an article with lots of pictures showing how run down KMart has begun, I reflected a little on how much time has changed between K-Mart and me.
When I was a little girls I LOVED going to K-Mart with my mom. She would put me in the cart and then we would go over to their little cafeteria and buy a cherry Icee for me to enjoy while she did her shopping.
As I got older we also bought some of my school clothes there, and when I was 19 I remember buying my first two-piece swimsuit at K-Mart.
When I was preparing for my first Christmas with my husband I bought all our new ornaments and lights for the Christmas tree at K-Mart. Martha Stewart had launched her branded stuff there not long before.
Christmas is probably the only time now that I shop at K-Mart. It's not super close to where I live, and I just don't really like how it's laid out anymore. It used to be open feeling at the entrance with clothing and jewelry the first thing you see, but several years ago they remodeled it and when you walk in now the first thing you get are tall shelves with personal care items, so it feels very closed off, like you are walking into a maze.
When I think about it, the old K-Mart that I liked as a kid was like how Target is now. The layout, the celebrity partnerships, the food counter, etc. The difference is that at the time I was a kid I don't think people were as relaxed about the source of your clothes, etc. When I was in middle school, for example, I was embarrassed to have anyone know I bought my clothes or shoes at K-Mart. But today I don't think kids would care as much if someone knew they had gotten clothes from Target.
K-Mart just seems like it has gotten stuck in the past, and they need to start over fresh if they want to stay around. They have had bits and pieces of advertising that look inviting, but when you get to the store it's shabby and feels depressing. No one looks happy at K-Mart- customers or employees!
If I ran K-Mart I would give it a face lift and develop their workforce into the thing that makes K-Mart different from their competitors. Customer service isn't something always associated with a discount merchant, but it could be their saving grace.
People want to shop where they can not only get a good deal but I think also where they know employees are being treated right. Staying open on Thanksgiving, like they are doing at K-Mart, seems like a desperate move that won't gain them much positive press. Some people may end up coming in to shop, but is it really worth it to further the public perception that K-Mart is lame and doesn't care about the holiday or its workers? Maybe employees get holiday pay at least??
If they made that employees as partners in their success then this potential K-Mart cornerstone could lead to other good things: Cleaner stores, better looking displays, happier customers. You need good hard-working employees to make that happen.
I would also go back to the old layout that allows you to see the whole store as you walk in, lower the shelving units and put some "K-Mart Blue" paint on the walls with accents. Go back to the old layout, but make it look fresh and new. They have tried new color some in the past (orange or green) but I think instead of a new color they should just update their blue since that's the color people associate with them.
I know all these things cost money, but going out of business has to be avoided some how because there must be a lot of people counting on their jobs from the store level to corporate. Continuing down their current path just means that eventually K-Mart will close. It's been in the works for many years now, but eventually it will happen if they don't open their minds to what so many people are telling them.
If you ran K-Mart, how do you think it could be improved? OR do you think it's beyond help?
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Similar to doughnuts but without the wait, Beignets are a tasty treat to make for any time of day. I was originally going to type "breakfast" or "dessert" but I thought to myself...
"When aren't beignets good?"
You can make these to eat right the same day, or prepare the dough, and after the first rising, put them into the fridge for the next day. You can even freeze them at that stage and later take them out to thaw them out before frying them.
This recipe is a good basic beignet recipe that you can eat as is or add different flavorings if you are feeling creative. For example, the last time I made them I added 1 T of ground cardamom and it was pretty tasty. If you want pumpkin beignets, just add 1/2 c. of canned pumpkin to the wet ingredients and 2 T pumpkin pie seasoning to the flour when mixing.
Full recipe is at the end of this post.
Here's how I make beignets:
1. Combine 1 packet yeast with 1 1/2 c. of warm water. Sprinkle a pinch of granulated sugar over the top to feed the yeast and help it grow. Once yeast looks foamy combine in mixing bowl with the sugar, evaporated milk and eggs. Add half the flour, then the shortening, then the rest of the flour.
2. Let the dough rise until doubled, then roll out and cut into squares. I like to use a pizza slicer for this:
At this point you can either fry them or refrigerate/freeze them.
3. Fry them up! Have a plate covered with paper towels ready where you can put the finished beignets. To check if your oil is hot enough for frying, drop a piece of dough into the oil and observe if it immediately begins to fry, or if it sinks to the bottom. If it fries easily, the oil is ready!
Beignets puff up pretty quickly when they are fried, and when you can see a change in color on the underside, flip them over with a pair of tongs:
A little FYI: Dough that rests overnight tends to be more dense than beignets made the same day they are mixed. If you want to be sure to have pockets inside for filling with some kind of cream, or applesauce or jelly the best results are from the fresh dough because they come out the fluffiest.
Finish the beignets off with a little sprinkling of sifted powdered sugar:
1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
1 package yeast
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. evaporated milk
1/4 c. shortening
7 c. flour
powdered sugar for dusting
I hope your family enjoys them as much as mine!
Thursday, October 17, 2013
We rented a car seat from the car rental company once.
The car itself was nice but the car seat that came with it looked like it had definitely seen better days. Maybe it was even made in the 80s, judging from the oddly patterned fabric it was covered in.
It reminded me a bit of the Velveteen Rabbit. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, there were worn off patches on the arm rests from where little hands had grasped them. A few stains around the edges of the seat spoke of tasty little snacks previous occupants had enjoyed while strapped in to the car seat. Yes, it had been well used, but unlike the Velveteen Rabbit there was no love inspired in me by looking at it! Tossing it into a fire would have been an improvement.
From then on, I have preferred to buy an inexpensive booster seat to take on our trip which I don't mind leaving with the car at the end of our trip, if I want to lighten our load a bit as we travel back home. I like having a car seat that I know is clean and safe.
This picture at the top is one I took after we turned in our rental car at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris just this last August. Those are the car seats they use, all piled up in heaps on the ground! I thought it was kind of yucky to think of strapping one of my kids into a seat that had been stored this way. I don't know that this is how all rental companies treat the car seats, but it's something to think about.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
|Doesn't everyone take pictures of their stroller on vacation??|
The Britax B-Agile stroller has to be one of my favorite baby-related purchases of all time. I bought it ahead of my family's trip to France this last summer because I wanted a lightweight stroller that would be easy to fold as well as being simple to navigate anywhere I took it. The stroller has performed beautifully since I bought it. I have added some accessories that really make it even nicer, and I wanted to share my experience of them in this post.
A video I made highlighting the Britax stroller accessories that I like and use:
Below is a photo I took of my oldest son walking with the Britax stroller bag through Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. It was so nice to receive this stroller bag from Britax. Using it at the gate check-in made me feel reassured that the stroller wasn't going to get all banged up between when I left it at the gate and when we landed:
I thought I would end up talking more shots later, but this ended up being the only one! At this moment we had just left one of the two Air France traveler lounges at Schipol because we realized that that first lounge was a lot farther from the gate of our next flight, and so we wanted to be at the other lounge which was closer to eliminate any worry about whether we would make it to the gate in time for early boarding.
To keep the inside of the stroller looking nice, and to add a little extra padding for your little one, there are Britax Fashion Inserts in a few different patterns. Here the set Britax was kind enough to send me in the "Redwood" pattern:
Here is a close-up of the seat. If you need to remove it to clean it, it's easy to due since it utilizes Velcro to close:
Funny story about the insert...
As we sat in the airport lounge ahead of our first flight, I felt pretty satisfied that I prepared as much as possible for this trip. Thinking back to our first trip to France 10 years ago, I remembered how badly the stroller we had at the time had fared and I knew this time it would be different since I had the stroller bag and even a seat protector.
...Wouldn't you know it that one of my kids ended up knocking my husband's glass of red wine all over the footrest section of the stroller? Good news is, I cleaned it off, and when it dried there was no sign of any stains. Even when you make plans you have leave room for the unexpected :)
Back to the fashion insert, here is the underside of the top panel which you thread the straps through to install:
The Britax beverage holder/key pouch. I don't think I could use a stroller without one of these!:
Monday, October 14, 2013
Antibes is an ancient city used since the days of the Roman Empire. In fact if you want to see some Roman history while you are in France (known as Gaul in those days), this is a good city for it. We went to Antibes for half a day to walk around a bit and to visit the Musee Picasso. This Museum was a home (Chateau Grimaldi) in the 1920s when Pablo Picasso came to stay for 6 months, and most all of the Picasso works here are from that visit. There are many other artists' work here, in fact they outnumber the Picasso stuff. If you have a stroller, there is a small elevator.
Bell tower of church by the Museum:
Checking out some frolicking fawns:
One of three walls worth of Picasso's pottery experiments:
Sculpture garden out the back of the museum:
Where we parked in Antibes:
A vast covered outdoor market on the way to the Museum:
I wish we had more time to explore Antibes, but it was a nice experience. We finished up with some gelato on the way back towards the car.
One tip- Know what your bill total should be and what change you should expect back after paying for things in a tourist-heavy town like Antibes. It can be an all too common occurrence that people selling you goods- be it at a café, a market stall, a gelato stand, etc- will either charge you differently than the advertised price or give you back the wrong change. Don't worry, if you point out the difference in what you were expecting with what they are asking/returning, there is little chance they will be unpleasant. They will just be like, "Oops!" and make it right.
Friday, October 11, 2013
Most of the makeup that I use include ingredients designed to make these products long-lasting and smooth-wearing. I'm happy with the makeup when it's on, but when it comes time to take it off, it doesn't go away. I find that even when I have washed my hands between using the products and handling my contact lenses there can be a film that develops on the lenses and despite using a cleaner, I just can't get it to go away. I wear Rigid Gas Permeable contact lenses.
I finally found a cleaner that works for me, and so I wanted to share it in case someone else out there is having the same difficulty:
An important feature of this cleanser is that it is called ESC, or Extra Strength Cleanser. From what I understand after talking to my eye doctor, this type of RGP cleanser has a bit of alcohol in it that can cut through the greasy film that long-wearing cosmetics can leave behind due to the silicone, etc. that they contain. I also included a picture of the rewetting/soaking solution I use because anecdotally and from personal experience the Simplus version of Boston soaking solution also contributes to build up on lenses. This basic one works nicely for me.
Eye makeup remover can also be a problem for RGP contacts, at least in my experience. I use to feel like they messed with my contact lenses, so I generally avoided makeup remover and instead only wore eye makeup that would come off easily by holding a warm damp washcloth to my eyes to remove it.
I worried that this was not good for the skin around my eyes, so I searched around and found a eye makeup remover that works really well without getting in my eyes. It's by Bliss Labs and it's called lid+lash wash. It's a gel formula, so you don't even need to use cotton balls. Just squirt it onto your fingertips and smooth it on your eyes, and then wipe it away. I'm really happy with it.
Lastly, the face wash I've been using alternates between the Clarins One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser and the Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser. I use the Clarins with my little Sephora silicon cleansing pad and the foaming cleanser with a washcloth. It just depends on what I feel like that evening- the Clarins feels more moisturizing and deep cleaning for the days that I use a primer underneath my foundation, and the Caudalie is good if you only wore light makeup that day.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
When you have blonde eyebrows, they are basically invisible to everyone. If they are overgrown, it's only noticeable to you. But if they are groomed, it does look nice...
See what I mean?
The results are less dramatic when your eyebrows are blonde, but if you can find the times, it's nice to make the effort. The most important part of grooming your eyebrows is tweezing or waxing them. If you do nothing else, this will make your eyes look more awake.
I usually tweeze my brows and the best thing that I've found is to use a pair of "crab claw" tweezers. Their shape helps you to grab the brow hairs better and I think it hurts a bit less than traditional straight tweezers.
If you want to go further with defining your brows with a pencil or gel, the biggest tip I have is to use a highlighter/illuminator underneath the length of the eyebrow. Making it brighter and lighter helps to define and provide some contrast for your brows.
I use either "High Brow" from Benefit or Nars illuminator in Orgasm. You can also just use a light ivory or slightly shimmery eye shadow that you might already have on hand.
There are a few ways to enhance your eyebrows- you can choose between pencils, powders or gels. They can even be combined if you are really into it :)
To define your brows with powder it isn't necessary to buy a special brow powder product. For example, I just use a shade from one of these two palettes I like and use. From Urban Decay Naked 1 there are two options: "Naked" or "Buck," and from the Bobbi Brown Soho Chic palette I use "Cement." I bought a stiff angle brush for $5 and save it just for eyebrows.
If you are interested in using a brow pencil, the best blonde eyebrow pencil I've found is the Brow Whiz in "Ash Blonde" by Anastasia Beverly Hills. So many "blonde" eyebrow pencils are too dark or orangey, but this one looks natural. When I use a pencil this is my technique:
- Lightly trace a line along the bottom of the eyebrow
- Define the inner and largest part of the eyebrow
- Trace a light line along the top of your eyebrow
- Lightly add in some pencil to the body of the brow
- Brush/rub the brow hairs a bit with either an eyebrow brush or a fine-toothed comb to finish
Brow gel is a great option if...
- You want to experiment with a little definition without feeling nervous that you are over-doing it.
- You are in a rush
- You want to set your brow pencil or powder
Grooming your brows when you are blonde might be something you usually skip because you think no one will notice, but if nothing else it can be something nice to do for yourself. If you aren't already give it a try!
If you have any tips or products to recommend, I'd love to hear more- Please comment below!!
Friday, October 4, 2013
This summer a nice person at YakPak sent me a backpack to try out. It's sturdy, the bright pattern makes it stand out, it has zippered pockets and bottle holding mesh pockets on the sides and the straps were wide enough not to dig in. Our trip to France this August was the perfect opportunity to use it as the kids' entertainment backpack. Now that we are home, my 1st grader uses it as her school backpack. The minute she saw it, she was like, "Ooooh! Can I use that???" It's about as big as she is, but in first grade you don't carry a lot of heavy things, and it's working perfectly for her :).
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Today's school lunch is shorter by one than what I usually make.
I just couldn't get going this morning in time to make my teenager's lunch. I was tired and all I could do was sit there, drink coffee and wait for my brain to engage the body. Once this happened, there was no longer enough time to make his lunch.
As brightly as I could say it to possibly make him think I was offering him something fun, I asked him, "Hey, do you want to try making your lunch today?!?" He just mumbled a no (he's not really a morning person either) and said he would buy it today.
High school starts an hour earlier than my girls wake up, so by the time I need to take them to school I've had plenty of time to make them a nice lunch. Today I even boiled the eggs and put them in the mold, but you can't really tell from the pictures that they are supposed to be a heart and a star shaped egg. The rest is leftovers, homemade paneer and cocktail weanies, and cherry tomatoes and apples. Next to the juice boxes are some tiramisu cups by Bertolli that you can find in the frozen section at the grocery store.
We'll see how much gets eaten when they come back this afternoon- some days they are so anxious to get done eating to go play that the food hardly gets touched!
Monday, September 30, 2013
A trip to France is not complete without a pit stop at Disneyland Paris!
Located in Marne-la-Valle, it's not far from Paris. If you are staying in Paris, you can get to Disneyland by either a 30 minute drive or by riding the RER A4 train which will deposit you at the train station in Disney Village, a general shopping and eating plaza just outside the entrance to the two parks of Disneyland Paris. If Disneyland Paris is your first stop in France, there is a shuttle that will bring you to the park from the airport.
We decided to stay at the Sequoia Lodge because it was newly renovated and we liked its theme of the rugged outdoors. Here is the lobby:
We decided to book a stay in the "Golden Forest Club." The Golden Forest Club gives you centrally located rooms, free breakfast with Character visits and afternoon snacks in a special lounge, a one per day/per guest Fastpass to use on any attraction in the parks and a private check-in that never seems to have a line:
The view from our room:
We last visited Disneyland Paris in 2011, here is the post I wrote on that visit to the Disneyland Park. Looking at these photos as I post them, I wish I had a red candy apple right now!
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of my favorites: it goes under the lake that surround the ride and is a little longer than the one in California. After we ride this, the kids and I seem to develop a prospector accent like the one on the ride: "Tarnation! Ya cayn't just ride it once!"
The Indiana Jones' ride is a roller coaster that loops upside down:
Inside Sleeping Beauty's castle you can walk around the upper level and see the story told through stained glass:
When you are almost to the end of Pinnochio, you can see a little Bull's Eye sitting on the shelf:
The other part of Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney Studios, has some of my family's favorite rides: Finding Nemo's adventure is told through the Crush Coaster. My daughter got to talk to Stitch in "Stitch Live!" and the kids made several visits to the Tower of Terror with their dad. I wrote about Walt Disney Studios also during our last trip in 2011. Click here to see lots more pictures and details.
Toy Story Land:
One of my favorite roller coasters anywhere, The Rockin' Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith:
In between the entrance of Walt Disney Studio's and the park there is a big building you pass through which has most of the fast-food service for this park. There are kiosks and a sit-down Remy themed restaurant inside the park as well.
General fast-food menu for Walt Disney Studios:
My husband and I always make time for Disneyland when we come to France because we think it's nice to have a part of the trip that is all about fun for the kids. They have fun in general, but they also have to be patient and well-mannered so much on a trip like this that it's nice to have a time and place where they can be totally relaxed like we all can when we go to Disneyland Paris.