Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Health Benefits Of Tea

Do you know that tea, not coffee, is the most widely consumed beverage in the world ... second only to water?  And perhaps that's good, since many studies indicate, drinking 4 to 6 cups*per day has huge health benefits.  Tea is produced from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tree.  It is loaded with antioxidant polyphenols -- microscopic compounds thought to help stabilize free radicals, which trigger diseases like cancer, heart disease and Parkinson's.  While debatable, scientific studies say drinking a lot of tea helps to thin the blood, as well as, lowers the risk of strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer's. Other studies suggest, tea aids digestion and helps to prevent dental cavities and gum disease -- if you omit the sugar.

 As it turns out, tea is an important source of vitamins and minerals, such as carotene (turns into vitamin A), vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, nicotinic acid, pantothenic acid, folic acid, manganese, potassium, and fluoride.

Based on the maturity and processing of the leaf, you get different varieties of tea, including the familiar: 
White – It's the least processed; unoxidized
Green – Also unoxidized
Oolong – Partially oxidized
Black – Most processed; fully oxidized.

If not dried quickly, tea leaves oxidize.  Oxidation turns it darker.  Whereas, white and green are the least processed -- their tea leaves are simply steamed quickly;  oolong and black teas are dried, crushed and fermented.  But regardless of processing, all 4 varieties contain polyphenols, so you can reap the health benefits by drinking the tea you like best.

Interestingly, herbal teas are not produced from the Camellia plant, so although some may have healing properties, they lack polyphenols along with those benefits.  Most herbal teas aren't really tea at all, but are blends of flowers, herbs and spices.  They are properly called "tisane" beverages.  Personally, I'll continue to call them "tea," thank you very much.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I believe in treats.  Perhaps most of the time, we can be happy with just tea.  But people can't live on tea alone.  So here's a “healthy” version of a favorite sweet.  Like many of you, I tend to use what's in my pantry, so here's the original recipe along with my tweaks in blue:
Art Smith's Healthy Hummingbird Cupcakes [with my tweaks]
Dry Bowl
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, or spelt flour
¼  cup whole wheat pastry flour [I use one flour, 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour]
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder [I use 1 teaspoon.]
¼ teaspoon salt
Wet Bowl
1 ripe banana, mashed
½ cup crushed pineapple, with juice
2/3 cup organic granulated cane sugar [I use honey, instead.]
¼ cup canola oil
1/3 cup applesauce [I use all crushed pineapple, so extra 1/3 cup]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, finely chopped

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners.  
2) In a large bowl, shift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
3) In a separate bowl, mash the banana with the pineapple, then whisk in the sugar, oil, applesauce and vanilla until completely incorporated and relatively smooth. Fold in walnuts.  You can also add coconut flakes.
4) Gently mix the wet bowl into the dry bowl, stirring until just combined.
5) Pour batter in the paper liners, which are resting in the muffin pan.
6)Bake for 25 minutes, until a tooth pick is inserted and comes out clean.
7) Cool on a baking rack.  Next top with icing and sprinkle with walnut pieces.

Frosting Preparation:
1 container tofu cream cheese (or non-dairy cream cheese) [I substitute low-free cream cheese]
½ cup soy margarine [I use 2 tablespoons real butter and skim milk, adding a little at a time]
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice

Combine the cream cheese and margarine.  Slowly add the powdered sugar, then vanilla and lemon juice.  Do not over beat the frosting.  Makes 8-10 servings.  Now get ready to throw a tea party!

*Doctors say avoid too much caffeine if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure or take coumadin.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Does Your Hairstyle Flatter Your Face?

The spectacular Sarah Jessica Parker has more style hits than misses
I love to watch makeovers.  And truthfully, I enjoy when someone lets me make him/her over!  All of us have the ability to look our absolute best.  One of the reasons, celebrities look so glamorous is, they can hire a cavalcade of stylists to help them pick out a look to accentuate their best features and hide their flaws.  And, once in a while even they make a mistake.  But we can all learn from each other. featured the best and worst celebrity hairstyles for a particular face.  Now, consider your own bone structure, the size of your nose and how wide your eyes are set apart; then, find the celebrity who shares the shape of your face in the photos below to learn what to do and what not to do with your hair.   Choosing the right hairstyle -- and avoiding others -- will help you to always look your fabulous best:


Flatters  Every Face

Flatters Every Face
Celebrities: 1. Oval: Halle Berry, Kim Kardashian; 2. Round: Carla Gugino, Kirsten Dunst; 3. Square: Jessica Alba, Jennifer Aniston; 4. Heart: Hayden Panettiere, Christiana, Ricci; 5. Oblong: Kelly Rowland, Sarah Jessica Parker; 6. Flatters Every Face: Jessica Biel, Jennifer Lopez Figuring out the shape of your face, click here

It's all about symmetry and looking polished.  When you see it, you just know it. Thankfully, we, non-celebs, can switch it up and make all our hairstyling mistakes in private.
Red rose
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

5 More Home Remedies -- Cool Stuff To Know

A few more home remedies I find fascinating are:

1. Aspirin – It contains acetylsalicylic acid, a salicylic acid derivative.  Use it to brighten the skin and treat acne:  Add 2 aspirins to water, mix thoroughly, rub into the skin and wait 5 minutes before rinsing.  Repeat once a week for a clear complexion and to lighten and brighten your skin over time. 

2. Celery – Chewing on stalks of celery whitens your teeth.  Plus, it's good fiber and low in calories.

3. An apple, or a slice of hard cheese – Both will remove food from your teeth and bacteria from your month, if you are without toothpaste and can't brush your teeth.  Apples contain malic acid, which also removes stains.

4. Black tea – Soaking feet in unsweetened black tea curbs the production of sweat and cures foot oder.

5. Vinegar – is a natural way to get rid of oil:  Mix 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar with one egg yolk to use as an emergency shampoo.  Vinegar, or lemon juice will act as a natural hair rinse also.  Plus, rinsing with cold water will add shine to your hair.

Isn't it great to have options and know what to do in a pinch, or if away from home?   With knowledge and a little ingenuity, you never have to go without ... not when there's an inexpensive, natural solution.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Skinny On Face Serum ... And Skin Care

This beautiful woman has no wrinkles, freckles ... or pores due to air brushing.

If you are lucky and blessed, you get old.  All of us are heading that way, so why not accept it?  You will never be 21 again, not in Hollywood, nor on Main Street. 

But, you can have healthy skin at every age.  With so many products flooding the market, which one do you really need?  According to leading dermatologists, the answer is face serum.  Face cleansers and moisturizers don't matter as much as the serum.  That's because the serum can penetrate deeper layers of skin.

Skin experts say, a face moisturizer has larger molecules than a serum.  The only purpose of a moisturizer is to hydrate the top layer of the skin.  Unlike moisturizers, face serums have tiny molecules and are formulated to deposit moisture and nutrients to deeper layers of the skin.

There are a variety of face serums to address specific skin needs from (1) blocking the loss of collagen and (2) brightening the skin to (3) rebuilding collagen and (4) treating deep winkles.  After you figure out what the target of your skin regimen is, choosing a serum becomes less confusing.

It is not necessary to use both a face serum and a moisturizer, but many people like the feel of the combination.  Always apply a face serum before a moisturizer.  Remember that only the serum penetrates the deeper layers of skin to slow down, or improve the signs of aging.

According to skin doctors, there are a few rules of thumb:
*You can apply antioxidant serums (prevents the breakdown of collagen) or skin brightening serums in the morning, followed by a moisturizer with sun protection.
* It is not necessary to wait for the face serum to dry completely before you apply a moisturizer.
* Apply anti-wrinkle serums with either retinol (over-the-counter) or retinoids (prescription strength) at night, but not during the day.  Sunlight destroys the vitamin A derivative, which speeds cell turnover.  To work, use a product with at least 0.1% retinol packaged in aluminum [to protect it from sunlight and air].  You may also have to transition, i.e. use a few times a week until your skin builds up a tolerance for it.
*A glycolic acid serum (exfoliates and brightens skin) deactivates serums containing vitamin C, retinoid or hydroquinone [a skin whitener] cream.  Be careful when layering products so you don't cancel the benefits of one with another.

Tip: The most expensive skin products are often not the best.  When comparing brands, if the first three ingredients are the same, the products will work exactly the same.

Recommended face serums that are reasonably priced include:

Use Day or Night --
3. Mad Hippie For Your Face Contains Vitamin C + E +Hydaluronic Acid Serum, $28 - Brightens, tightens and smooths skin. Vitamin C serum is also thought to help sunscreen work better.
6. Patricia Wexler M.D. MMPi Skin Regenerating Serum, $65
*The whole line of Olay skin care products are highly rated by several dermatologists and product rating lists.
Use Only at Night --

And a few final thoughts:

When you look closely at mature celebrities whose faces have been treated by the best plastic surgeons and potions money can buy, they may not have wrinkles, but they don't look young either ... only different.  The celeb may not look like other 60 year olds, but neither does he/she look like a 30 year old.  That's because nothing can truly turn back the hands of time.
Personally, I am as susceptible to clever marketing as the next person.  So two years ago I started using a face serum that claims to hydrate my skin and fight free radicals. I like how it feels, but when comparing my face to areas where I don't apply a serum, like arms, legs, shoulders, belly, etc, I don't see a difference in my skin.  All of my skin looks the same.  I think the best way to preserve your skin from aging is to eat good food and stay out of the sun.  My mother says worries will kill you ... and make you look old.  So if you want to look younger, stop worrying about wrinkles and all the things you can't control and lead a life you enjoy.  A positive, open spirit takes years off your face!
The quote cracks me up! These girls should get out of the sun.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Meet The iPad 2

A Siren-like creature has been calling me for quite a while now.  Just like in a Greek myth, it is alluring, fascinating, and somewhat dangerous.  I knew a day would come when it tried to lure me in.

It looks innocent enough, but don't be fooled. If you stop by an Apple store to play with it, a strong compulsion to bring it home takes hold!

The iPad 2's features include several enhancements over its predecessor:
1. There are two cameras, back and front (for point shooting and video chatting).
2. It's 15% lighter, weighing just 1.33 pounds.
3. It's 1/3 thinner – The dimensions are, height: 9.5 inches, width: 7.3 inches, and depth: a teeny 0.34 inches.
4. A HDMI port is now built-in, so you can connect it to a TV.
5. It's 2 times faster, running on a 1GHz dual-core processor with iOS 3.4, which lets you do all kinds of sophisticated computing and graphics.
6. The battery lasts 10 hours, the same as before.
7. The price stays the same too, from $499-$829.

So now the conversation in my head goes something like this: 

It seems like only yesterday I bought a nice laptop.  Really, everything I need to do, I can conveniently do on a laptop.
 But ... newer, lighter, and thinner is very nice!

My laptop is fairly lightweight ... or IS it?  Oh, the iPad 2 is four times lighter! 

But … my laptop is easily transportable … or, IS it?

Rather than need I simply want an ipad. Right?!?
This iPad 2 is sooo cool!

I have also tried to convince myself that my laptop is the new desktop, and the iPad 2 is the new laptop, which in fact, changes my want into a need!  And having an iPad 2 would,  for surrre, make me even more productive ... but that's a lie.  My MacBook Pro does that very well.

Right now, I want an iPad 2 real bad!  But what I need is a new battery for my Macbook Pro.  Unfortunately ... in order to stay strong and not give into temptation, I will have to avoid going into an Apple store altogether.  Want. Need. Want.  And on it goes!

The iPad 2 is available in stores and online beginning today.

A letter to Steve Jobs from me:
Dear Steve,
We have never met, but you are an "evil" man.  Thanks a lot!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When Do You Pay Top Dollar?

There are certain things in this world you will buy despite their costs.  If you can't find a discount, you will brace yourself, bite the bullet and empty your wallet because you believe they are worth the expense.

In my opinion, everyone has a list of things he/she will pay top dollar to get -- where quality rules.   You will pay serious money even if it means you have to delay the purchase while you save up, or do without other things in order to afford the things on your list.  Let's make it interesting by sharing some of the items on our lists.  They can be big or small: 

Mine are in no particular order:

1. Pillow
2. Mattress
3. Bed sheets - Must be 100% cotton with a high thread count.
4. A sharp kitchen knife
5. Comfortable walking shoes - When your feet are happy, you are happy.
6. Warm winter coat - Lands' End has quality coats for a good value.  If anything happens to LE, it's back to overpaying.
7. Fancy birthday cake and/or fine chocolate - We all need rewards and special treats to celebrate special occasions.  And, the treat should be worth the calories. 
8. A comfortable home in a safe neighborhood - I have to like the location and layout.  It's where I nest.
9. Education - Look where good schools got Kate Middleton. "A mind stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions."  There are lots of good schools!
10. A reliable car - When I lived outside the city, I drove a Honda Accord LX and liked listening to the radio and music while driving.  It was my nest on wheels and kept me safe and mobile.

Lucky 11 bonus item: Face serum - Stay tuned for a future post, where I'll explain why it's an essential.

That's what made my cut.  Everything else is negotiable.  If you'd like to share a few of your own choices, please do.  Our lists can change as we move through life.  So no need to over-think.  Have fun with it.
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Monday, March 7, 2011

Waste Not Want Not Native American Style

According to editor, Todd Marks, who works for Consumer Reports, we waste 25% of all the products we buy because we can't get them out of their containers.  He says the pumps for personal care items like body lotions and face serums are so poorly designed, you end up throwing away about a week's supply of product -- the stuff that gets stuck at the bottom and won't come out.  I think it's more like two weeks worth– because oh, how I hate when a favorite cosmetic or conditioner is discontinued.  So much so that I'm not above splitting open the container with a utility knife to get to every last drop before it disappears forever!  The first time I was forced to do this I was amazed at how much product was left.  Lipsticks will last many extra months if applied with a lip brush.

When using every last drop, though, be prudent.  Some cosmetics like mascara have a short shelf life.  Mascara should only be kept for 6 months.  Then you have to worry about germs and ineffectiveness.  Safety should always outweigh attempts to save money.  Nonetheless, many other personal care items, like shampoos, conditioners and moisturizers, last a long time.  Using an entire container of these products, including what is normally wasted, will add up to big bucks. 

Consumer Reports magazine's Todd Marks also suggests that we pour apple cider vinegar in bottles of ketchup and barbeque sauce and use the last bits in cooking.  I admit, I don't go that far unless I'm short of the ingredient while right in the middle of trying to prepare a dish.  Even if you choose not to get this extreme, it's not a bad idea to be a little more mindful of waste ... and conserve where you can, a value held by earlier generations, including American Indians who killed one buffalo as needed, then used every part of the animal -- meat, bones, horns and hide -- for a practical purpose.  Nothing went to waste, partly out of respect for the slaughtered animal.

Another idea the editor supports, I do practice:  Freezing very ripe fruit and using it in recipes.  Not only do I stock nutritious strawberries, blueberries and peaches that, otherwise, would  go bad (they make delicious smoothies); I also cut up vegetables like celery, red and green peppers, as well as, meats such as lean roast beef and chicken, then pull them out of the freezer at a later date for quick meals.  The frozen meats and vegetables make tasty soups and stews with a minimum of effort.  Plus, families tend to eat better with a little thought and planning.  Below are links to a couple of earlier posts for quick and easy recipes.  Enjoy!

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