Saturday, September 29, 2012

Benefits of Plant Oil for Your Beauty


Oil.  It gets a bad rap when it comes to beauty products.  But I'm here to tell you that oil, good clean plant oil, is really quite good for you, your skin, and your hair.

I was once at a beauty products party and the leader put a cracker in a bowl of oil.  Even after twenty minutes, the cracker was still crispy and hard.  This was supposed to show us that oil is not good for our skin because oil does not soak into the skin (like the cracker, I guess).  Then, she told us to buy all sorts of expensive products that had no oil in them.

On the way home I thought "But our skin is not a cracker."  The human skin has oil in it.  It is made of oil, excretes oil, and when you put oil on your skin the oil DOES soak in.

Now, I'm not an oily person.  In fact, I'm a very dry person.  I have very dry skin that itches in the winter and is so sensitive that when I scratch it my nails leave big red marks.  If you have more oily skin I understand if you are hesitant to try oil.  I have heard that even for people with oily skin, oil is good for them. I don't know first hand, because my skin is not like that.  I guess you will just have to experiment and decide for yourself.

I have read a lot about the benefits of oil in many of my magazines lately.  They all say the same thing: that people don't believe it but (OMG) oil is good for you.  I always laugh a little when I see this because I think America is the only nation in the world that is so afraid of oil for their skin and hair.

Great Ways to Use Oil for Your Beauty Needs



I grew up in India and I saw the Indian men and women put oil in their hair every week.  They would rub oil in their hair and scalp and sit in the sun, then rinse it off later in the day.  I have never seen a nation with more beautiful hair.  Most Indian women have long, thick, beautiful hair.

I have put oil in my own hair plenty of times.  I like to use olive oil, apricot oil, almond oil, coconut oil, or any hair oil I find that smells good.  It is great for my hair.  Different oils are good for different times of the year.  For example, I never use coconut oil in the cold northeast winters.  Coconut oil is for hot tropical climates and coagulates in the cold.  I don't want that to happen in my hair, so I keep the coconut oil for summer.  I have one hair oil I bough in India that actually heats up when you rub it.  I love using that in the winter.

The oil conditions my hair like nothing else.  I like to put the oil in my dry hair and leave it on as long as I can.  If I have time, I sit in the sun, but most of  the time I wrap it up in an old scarf and sleep with the oil in my hair.  In the morning I wash my hair (usually twice) and skip the conditioner.  My hair comes out smooth and soft.



Once, while living in North India, I went for a massage in Rishikesh.  I was on vacation from my teaching job and a couple of friends and I decided to get a massage.  I have had several massages in  my life, in several different countries all over the world.  I had an open mind about this one.  It was meant to be a special yoga massage.

One of my friends was scarred for life.  She came out of the little room with a look on her face like she had been violated in some strange way.  I was actually scared to go in.  But I had paid, and I really needed that message.

It was a bit weird, I admit.  The lady that massaged me had me completely naked and had me in all these weird positions.  She even messaged my breasts (in a non-sexual way).  In the end though, I did feel better and more relaxed.

The point is, that during the message in Rishikesh my lady used so much oil.  She had a huge bowl of oil and pored it all over my body.  She then pored the remaining oil all over my head.  I was doused in oil.  I had to take a twenty minute shower just to get it all off.  But the truth is, it felt amazing and my skin felt like butter.   I had the softest and most radiant skin of my life.  I don't know what kind of oil she used but it was amazing.

Now, my yoga teacher, who has also lived in India for a log time, taught us that we should rub our bodies with almond oil (organic and all natural) every day before the shower.  The idea is that you rub the oil into your skin until it is a tacky texture, and then wash the oil off in the shower.  The almond oil will soak in enough to get the healing and moisturizing benefits in just that short amount of time.  My mother, who is also a yoga teacher, used to put apricot oil all over her body as well.  Growing up I though she was nuts, but now I understand.

I don't have time to do this every day, but the days that I do, my skin does feel better.  I'm getting over a bad reaction to the Sulpha antibiotic (a long story) and the almond oil has helped with the itching.  The oil also helps with slight aches and pains.  When my neck hurts from too much hunching over a computer, the almond oil is great for fixing that pain too.

Removing Makeup

I even use oil to remove makeup.  I started by buying the oil based stuff in the pharmacy.  I found that the oil based eye makeup remover worked the best and left my face feeling less irritated.  I read somewhere that your face should not feel tight after you wash it, something that always happened when I use a normal facial cleanser.  Now, I have moved on to making my own eye makeup remover, and in truth, I use it all over my face and neck.  This stuff is so gentle.  I use just a touch of very mild organic soap, olive oil, and water.  I'm thinking of tweaking the recipe and adding even more oil and less water.  We'll see how it goes.  The remover works great and gets off even water proof mascara.  I'm sold (and not just because I made it).  


I learned this trick from an old friend that was a show girl.  She did a lot of dancing in close quarters with very short skirts.  Instead of shaving with shaving cream or soap (the worst) use oil.  I have found over the years that the body oil you buy in the pharmacy is the best.  I used to love the Palmer's Cocoa oil but I can't find it anymore.  I love the smell of that stuff, it smells like chocolate.   Anywho, oil of any sort, and I have used olive in a pinch, is great for a close shave.  Oil also makes it much easier to shave in the shower because the oil does not wash off.  I can run my hands over my legs and find any spots I have missed.  I'm a blonde so that is important.  One caveat, make sure to tell your house mates you used oil in the shower because the tub gets slippery.  Hubby asked me to warn him after I shave.  

I just poor the oil right into my hand and then rub it all over my legs.  I just read a blog post about not liking using oil for your legs and I must say, olive is not the best choice.  You want something thinner in consistency so the razor does not get clogged.  Also, after your shower I have never had a problem with the oil staining my clothes or towel.

Internal Health

We have all heard about how good the "good oils" are for our health and I'm all for it.  If I have an excuse to eat avocados (oh wait, that's "good fats," whatever) I'm all in.  We need oil, and the better the oil the better it is for us.  I think of it like a car.   I have a good car made by BMW (a Mini Cooper) and I have to put the most expensive gas in it.  Every time I fill up I remember that for my car to run well I need to give it good food.  So I treat my car well, and it treats me well (still running perfectly after 6 years, knock wood).  Same with my body. I have to put good stuff in, to get a good result.  I feel it when I don't eat well.  So eat good oils.  

I just read an article in Whole Living about a woman in her early 60s who drinks olive oil from time to time.  She looked great. She said something that struck me as quite insightful.  It was along the lines of "You need to oil the system to keep things working."  Now our bodies are not metal, but if I want to keep my innards working I might just want to make it a little more slippery in there.  Who knows.  

That concludes my very own take on the whole oil craze in the United States of America.  Trust me, the rest of the world has been using plant oil as a beauty product for ever.

What is your take on oil?  Like it, hate it?  Use it for beauty or avoid it like the plague?  Lets start a conversation.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chair Glidder

I just discovered the best little trick for my chairs.  They always say that you should put protective sliders on your furniture to keep the wood floors from being scratched.  In fact, I had a land lord, of a very nice apartment, require i have pads on all my furniture.  Guess it really makes a difference.

I used to use the sticky pads that stuck to the bottom of chairs and such.  I thought this was pretty good.  I was even really excited when I found that if you buy said sticky things at a Lowes or Home Depot, they are much cheaper.

Well I found the problem with these sticky things.

It is hard to see on this shot, but the sticky glue attracted all kinds of yucky cat hair and other gross stuff.  The sticky pads also were not even, because the base of the chair had worn down, so they were not very helpful.

Now I have discovered something better.  Plastic gliders that screw into the chair base.

They are awesome!  I used my hubby's drill and in no time all six of my chairs had these great gliders.  The best part?  The chairs really do GLIDE along on the wood floor.

I can't wait to do the chairs I have at my kitchen peninsula bar too.  I need to get rid of all that gross sticky stuff.

It is a small change, but so much better.  Trust me.

What small change has changed your life?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tea Tin Herb Garden

How to make a Tea Tin Herb Garden

The Tins 

I have been meaning to make this herb garden for a while, but when the temperature dropped, I realized this was my chance (more on that later).

I used to live near the Harney and Sons tea factory.  They have the cutest little shop in Millerton, NY.  Over the two years I lived there I collected a bunch of the tins as various gifts.  I held onto these four because the tins are so pretty.

Unfortunately, I have not drunk much of the teas (I drink loose tea and mostly decafinated).

The tea is great, and these tea bags are so cute.  But I had no need for them.  I just wanted the tins, so the tea went in some plastic bags with the tops to identify them.  Down to the basement they go.

Importance of Drainage 

To make planters out of anything, you have to provide drainage (you don't want to drown your herbs).  The easiest way to make holes in a tea tin is to use a nail and a hammer.  Just puncture the  bottom of the tins.

I put holes in all four tins.

Again to help with the drainage, add rocks.

Add Herbs

Now, all I have to do is add herbs.  Here is where I get back to the season changing subject I alluded to in the beginning.

You see, I made this back porch potted herb garden in the spring (and the spring before).  In the fall, now, with the frost, the herbs usually die.  Instead of just letting the herbs go this fall I decided to transfer them to my kitchen window.  That way I will have herbs all winter long.

Here comes the tough part.  To get my herbs from that large pot on my deck to the small tea tins I have to be brutal.  As my father taught me, you have to break up the roots so they grow into the new container.  When the container is larger, this is very important.  In this case, I just have to make the root system a bit smaller.  For the thyme above I actually had to cut down the plant.  It had grown a lot this summer.

Insert plant, with a smaller root system and some air around it, into the tea tin.  Be sure to have some dirt in the base for the roots to hold on to.  Fill in around the roots with more potting soil.  Pat down, and don't forget to water.

Repeat for all four tea tins (or however many tins you have).

Cork Labels

I added cork labels in case I forgot which herb was which (but really, for other people because I can identify most common herbs).

All Done

Keepin' it Real 

Now, just to keep it real, you can't really just leave the tins on your windowsill because the holes you made will drip water all over the place when you water your herbs.

By the way, I suggest you water the herbs only as needed.  I learned early on that you can kill your plants with too much water, just as easily as too little.  The best way to take care of your plants is to only water them when the soil feels dry.  Just stick your finger under the soil an inch or so and check once in a while to know.

The plan is to get a nice white dish to hold all four tins, but the dish I had in the house was too small (boo hoo). So I put three tins in one dish, and used a smaller dish for the last tin.  My windowsill actually looks like this (above).    Still not bad.  I will have to keep an eye out for a longer white tray (trip to HomeGoods here I come).

In case you have not noticed, I am trying to make my images more Pinterest friendly.  Please, if you like what you see, PIN IT.  I'm trying to get more traffic to my blog.   

The mint, thyme, and rosemary are fine, but the basil might need to be transplanted soon.  I'll just have to wait and see.  At least I have rescued my herbs from the frost for the foreseeable future.

How are you with herbs?  They are not easy to grow indoors.  Hubby and I have killed our fair share.

Keeping It Simple

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Home Baked Bread

My First Real Loaf
My friend came over and we had a cooking fest!  We made soup, stew and two loaves of bread.  Today I will try to teach you how to make your own bread.

In the words of my friend ... "Bread is really not that hard."  I have heard that before, but in this case it really was pretty easy.

Now my friend, Elizabeth, has a blog of her own and has written up all the instructions there (follow the links to read it and other great posts), but I took a bunch of pictures, and I don't know about you, but for me, pictures really help.  Elizabeth encouraged me to write this, so I'm not worried about that either.

So here is my rendition of Elizabeth's bread recipe.   


Before you start be aware that with bread making you can't use metal (except for the cookie sheets).  You want all your bowls, spoons, measuring cups and such to be NOT metal.  (I did use a metal measuring spoon for the olive oil, I guess you just don't want metal to touch your yeast mixture)

You will need a bowl to mix the dough, and another shallower bowl, coated in olive oil, to rise the dough.

Sourdough Starter 

Elizabeth arrived with the sourdough started that she had made the night before.  Here's what she did.  

2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups tepid water (meaning not cold, but not warm)
1 teaspoon yeast

Let it sit at room temperature or 80°F (Elizabeth keeps her starter in the bread machine at 80°, so I guess that works).  For the rest of us we can just let it sit out or keep in the fridge if you are keeping it for a couple of days.  Keep the starter in an open container (not air tight) that is big enough to have the yeast double in size.  If you want to keep it for a couple of days all you have to do is feed it (like a puppy, hehe).  Elizabeth recommends adding two tablespoons of new flour and a teaspoon of sugar every forty eight hours.  From everything I have read yeast feeds on sugar so this makes sense.  

Sourdough Bread "Recipe"

Because bread is so funny I think it is better for me not to give you a traditional "recipe" but to just give you guidelines and rough estimates.  The element you want to focus on is the consistency of the dough not the amounts of ingredients.  As Elizabeth told me bread is different in every house, in every kitchen, and at different times of the year (I see this with pie dough too).  So read the descriptions, look at the pictures and take the measurements with a grain of salt (hehe, pun intended).  

Activate Yeast Starter

Before you start baking you want to get the yeast going again, you should add two tablespoons of flour and a teaspoon of sugar to the starter and let it rise for about half an hour.  My friend had to drive over and she put the starter under the heat on high to get it ready.

The starter looked like this when Elizabeth got to my house.  This is enough for two loaves.  

Mix one cup of the starter with one cup of tepid water, a table spoon of oil and a teaspoon of salt.(Elizabeth's blog notes that you can use any sort of oil or shortening, or even butter.  I noticed she never uses butter, I think it is an Italian thing.  I like olive oil best, but might play around with it.)

Your dough will look like this.

Add two cups of flour.  We used half white and half whole wheat.  

Because the dough was too wet we added another cup of white flour.  (That makes it two cups of white flour and one cup of whole wheat.  Remember not to rely on measurements...this is an example of that) You want the dough to be pretty dry.  

Then poor out the dough on a wood surface and gather dough to incorporate.  

It is not pretty, but once you kneed it and let it rise your bread will look better.  

Elizabeth's dough looked like this.  She said you want to be sure everything is incorporated and there are no seams.  

Then put in an oiled bowl.  

Cover your dough with a clean cotton cloth and let it rise for about two hours.  My house was a little chilly today so we tried putting the dough in a low oven, it got a little too hot.  I might not try that again, or at least keep it in the oven for less time.  The bread turned out fine, but if I'm cooking on a winter day I can just put it near the heater (or in the sun in the summer).  

Coffee Break

We took some time to make an espresso-like drink.  I don't remember the Italian name, but it was a double shot of espresso with a touch of steamed milk and a little foam.  It was yummy.  

Back to the Bread 

After the bread has risen it should look like this:

Because of the oven debacle, we had a little stickage (that's word, I swear) to the bowl.  I was busy making soup and Tagine, so Elizabeth put the dough onto a flowered wood cutting board and kneaded it "just to get out the air" as she put it.  

You will want to kneed the dough for a few minutes.  Our dough was still very wet, so we added a little more flour until it was a drier consistency and did not stick to the board.  Then you want to roll the dough into a long shape with a small seam that is not too defined.  As Elizabeth put it "you don't really want a seam."  

The bread (I'm calling it bread now, wow.  I wonder where the line is between bread and dough?), should look like this.  

Take a clean knife and cut three lines in the top.  I'm not sure what this is about, but since Elizabeth said to do it, I will (hehe). 

Put the bread (I almost wrote dough, sheesh), on your oil lined backing sheets (mine are so embarrassing, I just can't get them clean, no matter how many cleaning-baking-sheet-tips I pin).  Cover with the same cotton cloth, and let rise one more hour in a warm spot (the oven was cool enough that we put them back in there).  

After the bread has risen one more time you will see that the cuts in the bread looks much better and a little more bread-like.  

Pretty On Top

To add a nice topping you have to make some sort of binding agent.  This is really cool, so keep reading.  You take about three tablespoons of water in a little pot, and a teaspoon and a half of cornstarch.  Heat the water and cornstarch mixture over a low heat and whisk or mix with a fork until it forms a thick paste.  Brush the paste onto the bread with a pastry brush and sprinkle your topping.  We used quick oats because that's all I had.  I would love to use sunflower seeds, yum.  

Looks good already, but now you have to bake it.  

Bake the Bread 

Bake the bread in a preheated oven at 450°F for ten minutes, and then turn down the heat and bake for twenty minutes more at 350°F.  When the bread is cooked and a good golden color it is done.  


Cool the bread on a rack.  I had to try a piece while it was still warm.  It was so good.  

I put butter on the bread and it was so delicious that I had to stop myself from eating the whole loaf (I still want to eat more bread right now, as I write this.  My mouth is, literally, watering).  I really have to try this bread the way Elizabeth likes it, with salt and olive oil (see no butter).  

I know it looks complicated, but really it is harder to write the recipe than actually make it.  Part of me wants to eat this whole loaf so I can make another one.  I can't wait until I am good enough at this to try and play with the recipe.  One hundred percent whole wheat?  Maybe with some flax seeds?  Maybe even an olive loaf or herbs?  I can't wait to try.

Ok, now you have to tell me what you think.  Do you bake bread?  Do you want to try it?  (You should try it, it is so good)  What is your take on the whole "home baked bread" thing?

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Waltz and Ballroom Dancing Classes

Two years ago Hubby gave me the gift of a "coupon" for a class that we could take together.  All I had to do was decided what I wanted to take and find a class.  Well, two years latter I finally found the right class at the right time.  Ballroom Dancing and the Waltz.

When we were first dating we took swing dance lessons and really enjoyed them.  They have weekly swing jams in our area and we used to go all the time.  Now we wanted to branch out a little.  So tonight was our first Waltz class.

It was so fun.  It only took me about 40 minutes to realize that the basic waltz step is the same waltz step I learned in ballet class as a child.  It is just done with a partner now.

I like to think we look like this:
But in reality I think we look more like this:

Maybe by the end of the five weeks we will at least be able to hold our own at a wedding.

I'm really excited about our class.  It is a chance for Hubby and I to reconnect and have some fun.  Our Fridays are pretty simple.  We meet after Hubby's work and go to the gym together.  We have taken to running on the elliptical (or do you call it gliding?) and talking about our respective days.  Then we do some weights and call it quits.  After a quick shower and a little freshening up we head out for a quick dinner.  The night ends with our dance class.

The instructor wants us to take the other class they teach, Swing and ChaCha, but I'm not sure if that is too much for Hubby after a long day at work.  Maybe we will save that for next semester.

Other classes I thought about over the past two years were cooking lessons, and perhaps French.  I'm not good with languages because I have a terrible memory, but I do want to have some french under my belt next time I take a trip to France (some time in the distant future...we have other priorities right now).  
If you could take a class with your significant other what would it be?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How to Make Your Jeans Like New Again

A week ago, I wanted to buy some new jeans, but now I have too many jeans to fit in my drawers!!!  I didn't buy a single pair.  Instead I just stitched up and dyed my old jeans to look like new.  I'm so happy I don't have to go to a million stores to find new jeans that fit right.

Repair Small Rips

First, I had to stitch up some of the little rips that were beginning in the crotch area.  I don't know why but I never wear out the knees of my jeans, instead I get rips by the zipper.  So this is what I did.  

It is hard to see in this shot, but the fabric was ripping right below the zipper.  I took my tip from some recycled jeans I saw in a Levi store back in the 90's.  They stitched over the holes in old jeans with the zig-zag setting on a sewing machine and blue thread.  Really there is no rhyme or reason to the technique, I just kept going back and forth with my zig-zag stitch until the rip was repaired.  Easy as that.  

It may not be too pretty, but after I dyed the jeans and put them on, the thread virtually disappeared!     

Dye Your Jeans

The best way to bring life back to an old pair of jeans is to get that nice dark color back (and it is slimming, yay!)  So I bought two boxes of Denim colored Rit and went to town.  

The powdered stuff is fine.  Just don't leave some powder in the package and accidentally shower it all over your bathroom (I'm not saying this happened to me, hehe.  My bathroom was covered with a fine sprinkling of blue powder that still has not come out of the toilet seat.  Just sayin'.).  I used two boxes of powder for three pairs of jeans.  I also used two buckets I picked up at Lowes.  

The directions are on the box.  It is pretty simple.  Just wet your jeans and mix the powder with hot water in a bucket.  You can dye clothes in the washing machine too, but mine is a front loader and I'm afraid I will mess up the new washer.  

The worst part is that you have to rinse out your jeans under warm to gradually cooler water.  You rinse until the water from the jeans run clear.  Don't be fooled.  I never got the water totally clear, but it did get better.  

Be sure to use gloves for the rinsing step because this stuff stains.  Don't worry, the dye come out of the tub quite easily.  

To dry my jeans I simply threw them in the washer for one last rinse/spin cycle and then the dryer.  I have worn and washed the jeans since, and the color has not come out, although I would suggest you wash your jeans in cold water and with other darks.  (My white towel got a slight bluish tinge, nothing I can't fix with some bleach and really hot water.)  

Now I have three new pairs of jeans that I am not ashamed to be seen in public wearing.  They look good, and I didn't have to spend more than the $5 it cost for some dye.  Not bad.  

Let me know if you are inspired to dye anything.  The possibilities are endless.  I'm so excited to be wearing jeans again after a summer of so much heat.  Jeans and scarves here I come!  What do you look forward to now that it is fall?  
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