Saturday, August 27, 2011

The End Of Summer

Goodbye Summer
Here are five simple things I will miss about summer:

1} The long, endless days – Daylight lasting until 9 PM.

2} Cotton and linen fabrics – So comfortable to wear, or wrap around yourself.

3} Skimpy clothes and sockless feet/No layers to bother with – Grabbing a wallet and a set of keys and heading out the door dressed as you are, in a crisp summer dress, or a pair of shorts and a soft cotton t-shirt.  I love not having a lot of stuff weighing me down.

4} Fresh picked fruits and vegetables – Especially peaches, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, tomatoes and corn-on-the-cob.  It's true you can eat them all year around, but they don't taste the same.

5} Summer rain – It sweeps over you swiftly, and an hour later the sun is back out.  I don't mind walking in the summer rain.

So long summer.  Until next year ...

Summers go by so quickly.  And once again fall is right around the corner.

Hello autumn.

Five simple things I like about fall include:

1} Boots

2} Cashmere sweaters

3} A lack of humidity

4} Falling leaves and 

5} Freshly picked apples.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Feather Hair Extensions, Patterned Nail Polish And Smoky Eyes

Smoky eyes and feather hair extensions on Hilary Duff and Selena Gomez

As the summer winds down, it's not too late to take a walk on the wild side. Embrace one of these popular tends.  I don't think they will end anytime soon:

1. Sultra's Natural Feather Hair Accents are authentic rooster feathers, dyed in 4 color combinations that you clip in your hair like a braid.  They are easy to attach and remove.  You can also curl, wave and straighten them for a 1970s glam look.  Costs: $25 at Sephora.

2. Another fun fad is wearing fancy patterned nail polish.  But you don't have to spend a fortune, or hours at a nail salon to get your nails done.  Sally Hansen offers a set of new Salon Effects Real Nail Polish Strips that you press on yourself at home and go.  Get intricate graphics and colorful patterns.  There are 23 color combinations.  It is real nail polish, but requires no time to dry and lasts about 10 days.  Costs: $10.

3. And, the smoky eye endures.  Sephora sells a Beauty In A Box Smoky Eyes Patelle that is mistake proof.  It is a collection of handpicked colors, tools and illustrated instructions on how to achieve classic smoky eyes in six steps.  Costs: $36.

With these fashion-forward accessories, there's absolutely no need to stick with the same-old, same-old.  Here's your chance to break out of your comfort zone and have a little uninhibited fun​.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

German Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

Believe it or not, I don't have a sweet tooth.  I crave salty snacks.  Hickory smoked nuts, French fries and cheddar nachos are my weaknesses and calories of choice.  That's not to say I don't enjoy sweets, occasionally, like today.  I'm having friends over for afternoon coffee and tea, which is all the motivation I need to make a scrumptious cake.  The one I'm serving calls for two unusual ingredients: sauerkraut and mayonnaise.  But don't be fooled.  It's not how you start, but how you finish.  You end up with a moist and rich chocolate confection your guests will love!  Here's the easy recipe:

Tip before starting: Be sure all your ingredients are room temperature as you will get a flaky cake. At times I've made the mistake of using cold butter or eggs, which results in a dense cake texture. Live and learn!

German Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

Ingredients for the batter:

¾ cup butter
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cups whole wheat flour (or half all purpose flour)
¾ cup real cocoa (plus blocks of dark chocolate)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 cup chopped sauerkraut – I pour the liquid off, but don't strain it.
½ cup flaked coconut
½  cup finely chopped pecans, oven roasted for 5 - 8 minutes
Extra skim milk, if needed, to get a not-too-dry (or runny) batter consistency – add a few drops at a time.  You want a thick, but liquid batter that you can stir and pour into a pan without difficulty.

Directions for the batter:

1. In a bowl, mix the 14 ingredients in order, adding one at a time.  Beat until smooth.
2. Pour into two greased 9 inch cake pans and bake at 350° for 25 minutes, or until the center is done.
3. Remove from the oven.  Cool
4. While the pans are still warm remove the cakes.
5. Set aside and cool completely.

Ingredients for the frosting:

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, melted
2/3 cup mayonnaise, regular or light (but not non-fat)
2/3 cup flaked coconut
2/3 cup finely chopped pecans, oven roasted for 5 - 8 minutes

Directions for the frosting:

1) Melt the chocolate by putting the chips in a mixing bowl and microwave it about 30-40 seconds.
2) Remove and stir in the mayonnaise.
3) Add about half of the coconut and pecans.
4) Spread the frosting on the inside layer, then frost the top and sides.
5) Sprinkle the top and sides with the remaining flaked coconut and chopped pecans.
I prefer this chocolate frosting, but click here for another choice.

And now a quiz: Name the country of origin. ??? Au contraire: German chocolate cake did not begin in Germany.  The name comes from the chocolate, not the country.  When Englishman Sam German created dark baking chocolate for his American employer, the Baker's Chocolate Company in 1852, the product was named after him.  According to several sources, the first recipe for German Chocolate Cake was submitted by a Texas housewife to a local Dallas newspaper in 1957.  It became an instant hit, driving up the sales of the chocolate.  I don't know who, later, added the sauerkraut, perhaps a crafty sauerkraut company.
Flirt-maleLight bulb
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Personal Care Products: Get Stellar Results For Less

What's In A Name?
Once you pay for a product and walk out the store, it's nobody's business how you use it.  Recently I discovered that diaper rash rub makes an awesome hand, cuticle and eye cream.  The active ingredient is zinc oxide, making it highly effective in treating dry skin.  So far, I love it.  It's richness will protect hands all winter long.  A good one, available at drugstores, is called Boudreaux's Butt Paste, so you know the inventor has a sense of humor.

The idea of consolidating toiletries by finding new uses for old products is appealing.  So is saving time and money by finding drugstore counterparts that work as well as their high-end-cousins.  Why buy three different products if one gets all the jobs done?  Or, overpay to achieve identical results?  On occasion I may want an expensive cosmetic.  But if I choose to spend twenty times more for a luxury brand, I have to like it twenty times more than the cheaper version.  I like products with more than one use to reduce clutter.  And whenever possible I want to keep life simple with one-step shopping at the corner drugstore.

You don't have to change your personal care items all at once, but as a savvy shopper, ask yourself why you use them and what you expect them to do for you.  Consider: (1) does a product work; (2) what are its active ingredients; (3) and, can you get similar results for less?

Below are a few items to compare:

If you like:
Kiehl's Lip Balm  $15 for .5 oz.  It's 91% petroleum jelly.
Eucerin Aquaphor  $2.19 for a pocket size .35 oz tube, or Vaseline, $3.49 for a 14 oz jar.
Frederic Fekkai Shampoos and Conditioners, .08 oz at $24 and up.
Pentente's Shampoos and Conditioners in several formulas to treat your specific hair type. 25.4 oz at $7 and under.
Chanel Inimitable Intense Mascara, $30.  It's a great mascara, but so are drugstore options.
Maybelline – $7.  There are mutiple formulas to choose from, in waterproof or washable.
Lancome Huile Douceur Remove All Deep Cleansing Oil  $35 for 6.8 oz.
Noxema Original Deep Cleansing Cream – $3.99 for 14 oz.  It contains Eucalyptus oil and camphor to soothe skin.
Go Smile Go Whiter Whitening System  $89 for a kit.  I'm afraid of most home whitening treatments.  It's better to go to a dentist if you need extensive whitening.
Dr. George's Dental White –  $10 for 5.2 oz.  This is a hydrogen peroxide gel that's safe on enamel.  You can buy a kit with a tray for about $15, or use a dab of gel as a toothpaste booster when needed.

When you travel, you quickly learn that many cosmetics can be used for several purposes.  Lipsticks easily double as check color.  Bronzers too make excellent blush and eyeshadows.  Talcum power keeps the shine off your forehead and your feet dry and comfortable.  Doesn't it make you wonder why we accumulate so many personal care products?  As I've stated elsewhere, these days I try to put a little more thought into why I buy things ... learn about products and make better choices.  Plus, lessen my carbon footprint whenever possible.

Sorry Madison Avenue.  But.  Have you found a cheaper brand that works as well as a designer one?  Or, have you found a new use for an old standby you'd like to share? 
Red lips
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Guilty Pleasure Songs

When it comes to music, you know good from bad.  Nonetheless, there are songs you like, but you don't want to admit it.  Despite the ridicule of friends, you find yourself tapping your toe to the beat and singing along when you hear the song on the radio.  Well, shut you up!  You know you shouldn't, but ... let's share several of our guilty pleasures, the songs we enjoy, even if we think we shouldn't.  Mine include:

Peace1. Hair by the Cowsills – A pop band consisting of a mother and her six kids.  They sang a memorable cover of the Broadway tune, which became a #2 Billboard hit. Excellent harmonies, but a pop band shouldn't include your mom.
2. Sugar, Sugar by The Archies  – They were not even a real musical group, but a cartoon.  If I worried at all about what others thought, I'd be mortified.  Obviously, I am beyond help, because I don't care.  Ron Dante sang the lead.  Definitely a good beat, and you can dance to it.
3. Secret Agent Man by Johnny Rivers – I can't even remember when I first heard this 1966 hit.  In spite of being known for this cheeky song, Johnny Rivers is a talented musician.  And still a hottie!  Give this song a listen, and tell me you don't like it.
4. Wheel In the Sky by Journey – This song is from a band I can't stand.  They earned millions of dollars for recording 80s elevator rock.  But, sometimes such a band has a song with a good guitar riff, and Steve Perry has a good voice.  Plus, the lyrics are decent.  Still if anyone uses the fact that I actually like a Journey song against me, I will hurt you.
5. Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down – A fun song with a clever hook, marching drum rolls and skillful guitar licks.  Play it LOUD, and pick up your air guitar.  A good melody that builds. [YouTube here: Use their seach to listen.]

And I'm throwing in the featured song [above], because the Raiders often wore silly Revolutionary War costumes when performing (a 60s thing???).  But I'm not embarrassed about liking “Indian Reservation.”  Produced by lead singer, Mark Lindsay, it's a terrific raw song that has held up over the years.  The drum and organ are spectacular.  It was written by John D. Loudermilk, who also wrote songs for The Everly Brothers and Marianne Faithful.  I.R. is the perfect pop song that happens to have a meaningful message.  Much is accomplished in three minutes, and I never get tired of it.  That's why I slapped it up here. 

If pressed, I could come up with a longer list of guilty pleasures, but now it's your turn.  My list illustrates what is often said about music:  You either like it, or you don't.  There's nothing wrong with letting a catchy pop song lift your spirits.  It's not like you can't listen to other music too.  Are you still too timid to admit you like certain songs?  C'mon, get it off your chest.  Confess under comments.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Here Comes The Sun ... 10 Sunscreen Mistakes

Now that the dog days of August are here, doctors advise us to be vigilant about protecting our skin.  Everywhere I turn, there are articles and news segments telling us what to do and not do in the war against skin cancer.  The consensus: Skin cancer is on the raise.  One out of five people will get it in his or her life, with melanoma being the most serious diagnosis.  Many people today know they need protection.  But here are 10 common mistakes people make when using sunscreen, as cited by many dermatologists:

1. Not avoiding midday sun – The sun is stronger between the hours of 10 am - 4 pm, so shun peak hours.
2. Not wearing a high SPF sunscreen – If you are outdoors for hours, dermatologists recommend SPF 30.
3. Not reapplying sunscreen every two to three hours – This is what yours truly fails to do.
4. Not applying enough (quantity) sunscreen – At the beach you should use two tablespoons, or a shot glass amount to cover your skin.  A family of four should go through a bottle of sunscreen every 3 to 4 days, says [You] Dr. Mohmet Oz.
5. Not applying sunscreen to your scalp, ears and lips.
6. Using a sunscreen that blocks only UVB rays – A sunblock that contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide blocks both UVB and UVA rays.  UVB causes burns and cancer, and UVA causes aging.
7. People with dark or olive skin not wearing sunscreen – Unlike centuries ago, the earth's ozone layer is compromised.  Today every skin type needs protection while outdoors to prevent skin cancer.
8. Using expired sunscreen  Some experts tell you to replace your sunscreen every year to be safe, but according to Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson, a dermatologist from the Mayo Clinic, sunscreens are made to last for 3 years and will remain stable as long as they don't bake in the sun.  So keep the bottles tucked away in a tote, or indoors, and check exploration dates.
9. Wearing only sunscreen, but not wearing protective clothing  Dermatologists advice us to wear wide brimmed hats and cover ups, along with sunscreen while outdoors.
10. Only wearing sunscreen in the summer – We need to protect exposed skin all year around even on cloudy days, or while driving.

However, the prescription gets a tab more complicated.  While dermatologists, who -- naturally, see lots of skin cancer -- warn patients to stay out of the sun, other doctors worry that we are not getting enough vitamin D, and a lack of vitamin D may cause other cancers and health issues.  So now the conventional wisdom is, be sure to get 10 - 15 minutes of direct sunlight 3-4 times a week, before using sunscreen and/or covering up the rest of the time to guard against skin cancer.  These doctors say getting a little direct sun allows your body to make vitamin D without significantly increasing your risk of skin cancer.  Got that?  So once again, everything in moderation. 

Good health care is always a matter of weighing risks against benefits.  I like to wash sunscreen off my skin before bed, because in the absence of the sun, I don't need the chemicals.  Enjoy the easy, breezy long days of summer.
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