Monday, January 30, 2017

Soothing Chamomile

Since I wrote about the benefits of peppermint last week, I will now feature chamomile (a/k/a camomile), another tea in my mother's arsenal of heath remedies. Not only was I given a cup to cure the flu, Mom sometimes used a chamomile tea wash to soothe skin conditions like a winter's rash.

Chamomile is an aromatic European herb of the daisy family. The white and yellow daisy-like flowers are dried and often infused into a tea. Two types of chamomile are used to promote health: German chamomile (Matricaria retutica) and Roman (or English) chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). German chamomile is the more popular and studied of the two.

Chamomile tea is used to calm maladies, such as an upset stomach, hay fever, migraines, inflammation, menstrual cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, muscle spasms and insomnia.
Medical studies suggest, chamomile boosts immunities. It has properties to ward off colds, as well as, breast and thyroid cancers. Rubbed topically on minor scrapes and burns seems to speed up healing. 

Chamomile is also added to skin serum and moisturizers. Reportedly, its anti-inflammatory properties slow down the aging process and brightens the skin.

Like essential oils, the chamomile flower has antioxides and anti-fungal properties. As an essential oil, chamomile can be diluted with water to kill germs on household surfaces.

Chamomile has a subtle pleasent scent and a mild, slightly sweet taste when brewed as a tea. Worth its space in the pantry!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Boost of Peppermint

Photo: Shutterstock
Peppermint is a member of the Lamiaceae family. A hybrid mint, it's a cross between watermint and spearmint. It has been used in a myriad of ways for centuries.

My mom made me drink peppermint (also chamomile) tea whenever I stayed home from school with the flu. She said, "I bet you don't know I'm a doctor, do you? Listen to me!" When I felt sooo very baddd, she had the advantage, so I drank up.

As it turns out, peppermint tea does have proprieties that give it a few medical benefits: It seems to soothe an upset stomach, nausea, irritable bowel and bloating. Some studies (lead by Dr. Mark Moss, Robert Jones and Lucy Moss from Northumbria University in the U.K.) also suggest drinking peppermint tea boosts alertness and long term memory.*

Peppermint oil kills bacteria and fungus and can be mixed with a carrier oil (like grapeseed, almond, olive or avocado for skin); or diluted with water to kill germs on household surfaces.
Peppermint's high menthol, menthone and menthyl acetate chemical constituents are responsible for its cooling and anti-flammatory powers. Externally, peppermint oil has been used to relieve muscle and nerve pain. Apply it (diluted) to your temples and forehead to treat a tension headache.

Peppermint is also popular as a flavor in toothpaste, mouthwash and chewing gum. Peppermint oil is often an ingredient in shampoo, soap and skin products. It makes your scalp and skin tingle. A few drops in your shampoo can be used to treat dandruff. 

Not only is peppermint a refreshing tea, it is the oldest known flavor of candy: peppermints. Furthermore, it is a popular ice cream favor; can be added to hot chocolate and mixed drinks; and the fresh leaves can be tossed into green or fruit salads to kick up the flavor.

Peppermint is easy to grow indoors in pots, but like any mint, it will take over a garden, so even outdoors, you may want to pot it. Reportedly, insects are repelled by pots of peppermint. They don't like the scent.

Growing peppermint in a windowsill is very doable! You will have a room with pretty green leaves that smell fresh and clean to humans!
*(source) The Epoch Times, September 23-29, 2016

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Soulmates High Heeler

Carrie Underwood is wearing a pair.
Soulmates are designed to save an expensive pair of high heels from ruin. How? By fitting snugly onto the heels to prevent them from being destroyed on concrete, cobblestone and subway grates, as well as, stop you from sinking into grass at outdoor events, such as a wedding. 

Nearly invisible when attached, Soulmates are available in 4 colors: clear, black, gold and silver. There are also 3 sizes: classic, narrow and wide to fit different heel widths. Eventually, the protectors stretch out, but for a fair amount of time, they are removable, washable and reusable. Cost: $10 a pair.

Sellers on ebay offer knowoffs for a dollar. Is it worth a $1 risk to pocket $9 on a copy-cat tool? Be sure to read the reviews before taking a chance. 

Whether you pay a buck or a Hamilton, it's a practical way of keeping your expensive heels looking new.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Smallflower Apothecary ... A Web Shop Find

Ahhhhh, a well stocked drugstore. There are a myriad of practical things laying in its aisles, ranging from medicine, makeup, snacks, cleaners, office supplies and housewares, etc.

Am I the only person who thinks perusing inside a drugstore is a must-stop-and-do in a foreign country? Nowadays I don't have to wait for a vacation. There is an online international apothecary that offers 14,000+ European and world products on the web. I'm in apothecary heaven! opened in 1875 in Chicago, Illinois as Mertz Apothecary. Back-in-the-day, the shop's clientele consisted mainly of European immigrants who lived in the neighborhood. Therefore in addition to modern (allopathic) medicine, the drugstore also offered the herbal medicines and formulas, which were already familiar to its international customers. In the old days, a pharmacist advised and hand mixed remedies for each customer's specific ailments. Today customers can order health and personal care items from around the world, including Great Britain, Germany, Asia, South America, Africa, or Australia.

When looking for an item, you can shop by brand, country or scent. Featured in the blog are two German products my Mamma favors: 

4711 Original Eau de Cologne is a unisex scent containing notes of citrus, basil, lily, Bulgarian rose and jasmine. It smells refreshing and clean, as opposed to, overpowering and perfumey. Although not created for headache relief, my Oma (grandma) treated her headaches by spraying the cologne on a moist towelette and rubbing it on her temples.

Penaten Cream - Mom swears by Panaten Cream to treat winter's dry, broken skin and rashes. It contains zinc oxide, Panthenol, Hamamelis Virginiana extract and Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil among its healing ingredients. Mom calls it cream with medicine.

With over 140 years of experience and a focus on internal and external health, as well as, affordable prices, Smallflower Apothecary is a terrific find! Cost-wise, it's international inventory is very competitive with the corner drugstore. 

Thankfully, now we don't have to fly oversees to pick up a few personal care items!

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Are You Prepared For An Emergency?

Emergency Solar Hand Crank Radio, Weather Radio, LED Flashlight and Smart Phone Charger
I walk a fine line between being prepared versus being paranoid in dealing with possible emergencies. Ever since the Northeast blackout of 2003, I keep a pitcher of water in my refrigerator, a small flashlight and a transistor radio in a drawer. Now I'm diligent about having a supply of tealight candles and batteries also. Luckily, I had all of these items to use during the blackout. (The radio was a Christmas gift ... when received I thought, will I ever use this? The tealights were leftover from a party. It's not that I prepared for a blackout, I was just lucky.) 

My Mom, who as a child lived through a war and its aftermath, once scolded me by saying that she could survive the chaos of war and hard times, but I would not!" Unfortunately, at the time I was a teenager, who shot back, "Oh, you can survive a war, but can you live in peace?"

Perhaps I was disrespectful (yes ... yes I was!), but when you think about it, we are both right. Primarily, we should enjoy life and not live every day expecting the worst; and yet, we are wise to prepare for a few events that inevitably go wrong: a car breaking down, a heavy snowfall, or a power outage.

At another time my Dad scolded me for wearing flimsy shoes when driving a car in winter. He said, "If your car breaks down, you'll freeze to death because you couldn't walk in the snow to get help." He continued,"At least, keep a pair of boots and a blanket in your car." In addition to noticing how adults liked to jump on my case (for no reason, I sensed) the lessons stuck.

Lately I'm tempted to buy the all-in-one Emergency Solar Hand Crank Radio, Weather Radio, LED Flashlight, and Smart Phone Charger manufactured by Brolar. For under $30, it's compact and offers enough power and survival tools to make it a smart buy. I'm not convinced yet, I need one in New York City. I do think it's one of the best available for the price, and is perfect to keep in a car.

Photo: FlickerBox
In Manhattan, we lost power for 2 long days during the August, 2003 blackout. The elevators were out. Without electricity, water pumped up to the floors in a tall building stops running after an hour. We soon couldn't flush our toilets. Neighborhood businesses closed, including banks. 

Our area was one of the last grids to have power restored. I showered at a friend's apartment who had electricity restored before me, and I attended a Broadway show to escape the heat, as well as, to use the bathroom! No tall glasses of water, or ice tea for me during that time.

I learned two important lessons during the emergency. Always have money at home in case the banks can't open; and if there's a power outage in a high-rise, always fill up your bathtub and sinks with tap water. You can then transfer water to your toilet to flush it. Well, live and learn!

Here's a comprehensive list of supplies to have for emergencies, according to the CDC. You decide how much of an alarmist to be.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

4 Affordable Beauty Products To Try Now

A new year to discover new beauty products for less. Here are 4 cosmetics as good as their designer counterparts to try. You and your wallet will love each and every one!💄

1) Milani Rose Powder Blush (see above photo) A blush with rich pigments for under $10. It flatters your complexion with radiant, soft, natural color and a pearl finish. A choice of shades to complement pink and olive skin tones.🌹
2) Osmosis Water Color High Intensity Eyeshadow is sheer loose powder designed for layering. You decide how soft or intense your smoky eyes will be. This eyeshadow has pigments meant to last. 
3. Rimmel London WonderLash Volume Color Mascara delivers semi-permanent color to your lashes. Even on days you don't wear makeup, your lashes will appear darker and defined. Customers love the gradated brush shape (like a Christmas tree) for a perfect root-to-tip application.
4) Mac's Ruby Woos is a red lipstick that complements every skin tone, hair color and eye color. Due to the shade's universality, Ruby Woos has a big cult following. Look smashing for those nights out on the town! In stores, it sells for $17. If you wish to spend even less, two doppelgängers are Sonia Kashuk - in Satin Luxe Lip Color 16 (sells at Target) and Wet N Wild MagaLast Lip Color in Stoplight Red (sells at Walmart).💋

Is it time to update the contents in your makeup bag? Priced between $10 - $17 dollars, these 4 beauty items are cheap, chic and boutique-caliber!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cinnamon Raisin Nut Swirl Bread

Usually when I make homemade bread I'm forced to make 2 loaves at once, which is more bread then I care to eat. Yes, I know I could freeze one, but often I'd rather make one fresh loaf, enjoy eating it, then go on to some other food. So I've got this tasty bread recipe down to a single loaf, and I add all the things I like: cinnamon, raisins and nuts. The cinnamon swirl filling makes it extra cinnamon delish! (You can skip the cinnamon swirl filling if you wish, but really why would you?!) Also, I prefer a sweet bread that is sweet enough without being too sugary, therefore I don't put much sugar in the dough itself; rather I add a swirl of cinnamon brown sugar. Finally, the raisins add moisture, so the loaf will stay fresh longer.

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Swirl Bread


3 cups all purpose flour (I also use all whole wheat flour. The loaf is whole grain, not as light as using white flour, but still fluffy.)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fast acting dried yeast
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins (Raisin lovers can go up to 1 cup.)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans work.)
1 3/4 cup milk (or buttermilk; or 1 3/4 water with 8 tablespoons dry powder milk)
2 eggs

About 1 cup of extra flour for folding over the dough on a cutting board. (You end up using 4 cups of flour to make 1 loaf.)


1) In a mixing bowl whisk, or use the handle of a wooden spoon to stir the dry ingredients together.

2) Mix in the wet ingredients. Add the ingredients in the above recipe in order if you wish. Incorporate well with the whisk, or handle of the wooden spoon. Form into a ball. I moisten the top with a little water.

3) Cover the dough in the bowl with a towel, or plastic wrap, and let it rise overnight in a warm place. I place the dough inside of my oven. The pilot light keeps it warm.

4) The next morning after the dough has doubled, slide it out of the bowl onto a floured cutting board. No need to knead much (the overnight rising kneads the dough). Simply fold it over a few times. {I pour a teaspoon of olive oil on my hands so the dough won't stick as I work it. I also think olive oil (or butter!) locks in the moisture of the bread after it is baked.} Flatten the dough out to prepare to add the swirl filling --

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Filling

Ingredients and directions: 

Combine 1/3 cup brown sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
(Substitute white sugar if you wish. The nutrition and calories are the same as brown sugar.)

5) With the dough flatten out, sprinkle and spread the cinnamon sugar evenly on top, then grabbing an edge, roll the dough up into a loaf, and pop it into a greased loaf pan. Cover again with a towel.
6) Let it proof for a 2nd time in a warm place for about 1 hour.

7) Next bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 - 40 minutes until it forms a golden crust and an inserted tester produces a crumb.

8) When the bread is done, remove it from the oven; wait 10 minutes; remove from the pan; let it cool a bit (if you can!) before slicing.

The bread is delicious on day one, as well as, toasted days later. To eat fresh bread, slice and store it in the freezer, not the refrigerator (which dries it out). Remove a slice at a time to pop into a toaster.

Baking bread from scratch is easy. Enjoy!

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Pretty Dress I Did Not Buy ... Sigh

Oscar de la Renta - Floral Print Seamed Dress, Periwinkle

Like many people I can be a bit of a fashionista attracted to beautiful things. Fortunately, I don't tend to be an emotional buyer, but generally stick to my budget and am good at separating my ''needs'' and ''wants.'' An emotional buyer can easily go broke; or live in a house of clutter. Not wanting to fill a closet with beautiful but impractical things keeps me from making impulse buys.

When I saw the above Oscar de la Renta fit and flare dress, I loved it instantly! It is made of silk and cotton, and I love the cute floral print, as well as, the color blue. A lovely, flattering, ladylike dress. And classic, no worry of it going out of style anytime soon.

So why did I let the dress go? Well, it costs around $2,400. (Later it went on sale, but not drastically.) I couldn't justify buying such a pricey, although exquisitely tailored dress. It's not as if I sing and dance in front of thousands of people with my band mates, nor walk across a stage collecting my awards. Moreover, I never get followed by paparazzi with bulbs flashing in my face. Often I shlep to shindigs aboard a subway.

So nope, I have nowhere special enough to wear this beautiful Oscar de la Renta dress. I have pretty, less expensive dresses to wear to all the events I attend. And despite missing out on this periwinkle beauty, I was right not to buy it. I still love the dress, but it will have to live here on the blog. Am I hearing some Ooos and Ahhs from my readers? Or is it only me?

Consider the questions: Are you an over-buyer or under-buyer? Do you shop with your heart or your head?

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Sephora Collection: Cream Lip Stain

Recently I visited Sephora to find a long lasting lip color. My mission: Find lip color that stays on to reduce the need to reapply lipstick as often as I do. I'm tired of it fading! Luckily, a rich pigmented, full coverage lip color exists under the Sephora Collection line, which means get excellent quality for less moola. 

There are 40 colors in the collection, including an assortment of nudes, berries, pinks, reds and what I call Katy Perry bold hues. I bought a nude called pink tea, #40. It goes on wet and smooth and changes from a creamy texture into a silky, long lasting lip stain. Some shades are mattes, others are satin finishes. They are infused with avocado oil and don't dry out your lips like some lip stains do. The product I applied is comfortable and not sticky; and indeed, it does last for hours. 

For the best coverage, I like to apply the Sephora Lip Stain in the morning and touch it up later in the day with Maybelline Baby Lips (tinted lip balm) or even lipstick, but if I don't, I still have color on my lips when using only the cream stain, and thus accomplish my goal of less fuss.

So if you're looking for richly pigmented colors that last for hours, I recommend the Sephora Collection: Cream Lip Stain. It works as it claims, plus the many shades are beautiful! $14 each.

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