Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscar Dresses 2013: What Did You Think?

All photos are courtesy of  IN STYLE. Click to enlarge1) Jennifer Hudson is wearing a glittering dark blue Roberto Cavalli dress; 2) Kristen Stewart selected a cream Reem Acra gown. It doesn't photograph well, but cute details; 3) Jennifer Aniston's red dress is by Valentino; and 4) Sandra Bullock is wearing Elle Saab.

Some years you see lots of wow at the  Academy Awards.  Standouts, both good and bad.  Not so much this year.  What you saw on the red carpet this time was tasteful dressing and pretty packages.  Tame, but elegant and smart.  Here are a few of my favorite Oscar gowns.  What about you?

(Another gorgeous dress was worn by best actress winner, Jennifer Lawrence, to Vanity Fair's Oscar after party.  She changed from the earlier Dior Couture one.  I like the second dress better and posted it on our facebook page: here.)

You many enjoy:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cheap Botanical Beauty For Body And Hair

Lavender Photo courtesy of  Flower Picture Gallery
Your skin, measuring 20 square feet, is your largest organ and the first line of defense, keeping all kinds of wicked microbes from entering your system. At the same time, everything you rub on your skin can penetrate it and get absorbed into your blood stream. As winter sets in many of us slather on moisturizers from head to toe to counter the dryness. Some of us wonder: Are the chemicals in the beauty products we use every day harmful?

Although I haven't given up commercial products (I still love my corner drugstore); when all things are equal, such as performance, price and convenience, I prefer products with certified organic, or 99% all natural ingredients. Patricia, writer of the Red Cardinal blog, asked me to feature a few paraben-free products from time to time, and I'm happy to oblige.

If you live in the US, UK or Australia, you can order many certified organic lotions, potions and creams, as well as, vitamins and supplements from Puritan's Pride, an online manufacturer of vitamins. The natural e-company offers low prices and super sales, but more importantly, they guarantee that their products are of the highest quality.  I placed several orders with them at different times ... all positive experiences. Once I had to cancel an order, and customer service was very helpful.  And finally, I find their website easy to navigate. (Some aren't.)

Here are a few botanical beauty products I like ordering from Puritan's Pride:

1. Perfectly Pure Argan oil  - It has only one ingredient, argan oil. I use it on skin and the ends of my hair right after a shower. 2 oz./various deals - 5 for $55.
2. Organic Health Emollient Lavender Lotion with Antioxidants - This smells lavender-amazing; it's non-greasy and moisturizes skin with essential oils. 12 oz./various deals - 5 for $20.
3. Organic Health Invigorating Tea Tree Oil Shampoo - Tingles your scalp; great for oily, dry, fine, limp and most hair types. 12 oz./2 for 1 and other deals - 5 for $19.98.
4. Organic Health Invigorating Tea Tree Oil Conditioner - Leaves your hair tangle free, shiny and silky smooth. 12 oz./2 for 1 and other deals - 5 for $19.98.

And one from Amazon:

5. Everyday Shea Moisturizing Body Lotion Lavender (also available in vanilla and unscented) - The ingredients include shea butter, lemongrass extract and vitamin C.  In winter I mix in olive oil, argan oil, or Burt's Bees Diaper Ointment (or Boudreaux's Butt Paste) to make a heavier hand cream. By itself, the Everyday Shea lotion is light and completely absorbes into your skin. It is formulated for sensitive skin. 32 oz. for $10.

These five personal care products, made with the finest botanical ingredients, are generously sized, so you can afford to use them every day.
You may also enjoy:
Going Organic: Face, Body And Hair Essentials
When Is Organic Necessary?
Creamery Creek Goat Milk Soap: A Review
Greenmarkets, Community Gardens And CSAs 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Deep Dark Chocolate Cheesecake For Valentine's Day

In celebration of Valentine's Day ... a deep dark chocolate cheesecake straight from the gourmet food magazine, Bon Appetit.  As this blog credits sources whenever possible, the recipe was created by Jeanne Thiel Kelley.  My habit is to tweak recipes a little bit, but not this time.  (Oh, no, I can't help myself -- I always cut the sugar in cakes by ½ cup.)  Here are the easy steps:


24 chocolate wafer cookies (9 ounces)
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted

Use a high quality 70% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate in the following steps. The magazine recommends Scharffen Berger.

1 9.7-ounce bar 70% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs

¾ cup whipping cream 
70% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar

Bittersweet chocolate curls


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 3-inch-high sides. Blend cookies in processor until finely ground; blend in sugar. Add melted butter and process until well blended. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom of oiled pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes. Cool while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.

Stir chopped chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water; cool chocolate until lukewarm but still pourable. Blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder in processor until smooth. Blend in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in lukewarm chocolate. Pour filling over crust; smooth top. Bake until center is just set and just appears dry, about 1 hour. Cool 5 minutes. Run knife around sides of cake to loosen. Chill overnight.

Stir cream, 6 ounces chocolate, and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over center of cheesecake, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edge and filling any cracks. Chill until topping is set, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with foil and keep refrigerated.  Release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Top with chocolate curls. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving.

I say, go out to dinner and have this decadence waiting for you at home.  Pair it with good coffee, or a fine tea like those from Teavana.  Some restaurants charge more on Valentine's Day and may be crowded, so many couples prefer to eat at home.  You can always order in.

Warm, good wishes for glitter and gold and tender loving care.  Happy Valentine's Day! 

You may also enjoy:
Happy Saint Valentine's Day  (How did the day begin?)
Happy Valentine's Day  (ideas for celebrating)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Snow Boots Fit For A Fashionista

Patagonia Lugano Waterproof
Trust me, I have looked.  The right snow boots are a challenge to find.  If you want style, comfort and function, as opposed to, sacraficing one for the other ... good luck.  And how much must you shell out for lightweight boots that are durable enough to track through ice, snow and slush?  One week's salary?  Two weeks ... or more?!?

I think Canadian companies have mastered making the perfect snow boots, giving fashionistas a lot of bang for a buck: flair, comfort and toughness. Unwittingly, I bought a great pair of Canadian snow boots a few years ago -- designed by Cougar, a company I hear cut back on their production of boots.  So I'd love for Canadians to weigh in with their favorite winter boot picks.  Please, if you are Canadian, we need you!

Meanwhile, my quest leads to two brands sold in the U.S.:

Patagonia Lugano Waterproof - A beautiful suede, the upper boot is a soft waterproof pigskin.  Inside, they have a 200-gram Polartec lining. They keep your feet warm and dry.  They are cute, that is to say, not bulky or chunky, but fashionable like regular boots.  They are lightweight and provide arch support, so are comfortable for city dwellers to walk 20-30 blocks on concrete pavement.  Another plus, your feet can breathe, so you will not have to change your footwear once you reach indoors.  Nonetheless be aware, the boots do not have a zipper and seem impossible to slip on the first few times.  You seriously think about returning them.  But soon they loosen up, and it gets easier.  Once on your feet, you love them. $195/without a sale.
LL Bean Women's Storm Chasers, Side-Zip Boot - These slender, lightweight snow boots keep your feet ultra warm and dry.  Recently re-designed, they provide comfort and support, as well as, the same protection as rubber boots.  They are stiffer than the Patagonia boots, so they will last much longer, but are not as soft nor as suitable for long walks on city pavement.  These boots are perfect for shoveling snow, walking through ice and slush to get to your car, or several blocks to reach a neighborhood store.  If you live in the suburbs and walk to the corner to catch a bus, these offer comfort and excellent protection at an unbeatable price.  And you will probably get a decade or more of wear out of them. LL Bean provides exceptional customer service.  They will resole boots that wear out. $99/on sale

Extra tip: Many snow boots run small because of padding, so consider ordering up from your regular shoe size. This also gives you room to wear insoles and thicker socks.

You may also enjoy:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cosmeceutical Skin Care ... Say What?

Photo by Osmosis skin care
Cosmeceuticals is a new vocabulary word I leaned by picking up a street copy of a magazine called Image.  The free monthly is published by plastic surgeons, and according to them cosmeceuticals are the new wave in skin care.

 Let me sum up the article for you.  Our new word is a hybrid of the words cosmetic and pharmaceutical.  Cosmeceuticals are key ingredients with anti-aging benefits that can be bought without a prescription.  Common over the counter cosmeceuticals include glycolic cleansers, anti-aging moisturizers, skin lightening serums and skin tightening creams. 

Skin ages due to oxidation and free radical damage.  Sun exposure is a major cause of free radical damage.  Free radicals breakdown the skin's molecular structure leading to wrinkles and the loss of elasticity and resilience.

According to the article, studies show that antioxidants slow down free radical damage and can improve the skin's appearance.  Cosmeceuticals contain high doses of antioxidants, plus complementary ingredients like phytochemicals, enzymes and essential oils so that your skin can absorb the anti-aging ingredients.

Here is a list of cosmeceuticals -- 10 Active Ingredients -- to look for in high tech youth serums:

1. Retinoids (such as Retinol, a vitamin A treatment) speeds up the skin's natural exfoliation process, lessening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by thinning and flattening the top layer of the skin.
2. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) – Exfoliates the skin.  Encourages cell turnover.
3. Alpha Lipoic Acid – Erases fine lines and wrinkles, shrinks pores and reduces under-eye puffiness, improves circulation; brightens your complexion.
4. Glycolic Acid – A fruit acid that exfoliates the skin and speeds up the growth of new skin.  Promotes a smoother, fresher looking complexion.
5. Antioxidants – Look for vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid), vitamin E, green tea, Q-10, Vitamin B Complex. They have anti-inflammatory properties and help build collagen.
6. Peptides – Are tiny protein molecules used to slowdown the loss of collagen, as well as, stimulate skin repair.
7. DMAE – This ingredient may or may not be effective in lifting and firming sagging skin.  There is no consensus on whether it works.
8. Epidermal Growth Factors (EPG) – Fights the loss of skin elasticity and discoloration.
9. Hyaluronic Acid – is a protein that keeps the connective tissues of the skin moist; makes your skin look soft, supple and smooth.
10. Enzymes – remove dead skin cells.

To zero in on specific anti-aging skin care products to try, click the links below.  The first link explains face serums.  You can also peruse THE SAVVY SHOPPER's many posts on good skin care by using the "Search This Blog" box.  It's located at the bottom right-hand corner.
You many also enjoy:
The Skinny On Face Serum ... And Skin Care