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Cocktail Season

8 Aug

When someone asks me what my favorite season is, I usually say, “The first two weeks of every season.” But I’ve been doing some soul-searching, and while there are few things more glorious than the changing of the seasons, my real answer is summer.

One of the reasons I love summer so much is the endless supply of fresh, juicy, sweet produce. And cocktails. Lots and lots of cocktails. And combining the produce with the cocktails. I do it all the time, but rarely take a moment to capture my masterpieces in mixology. But last night, I did.

Strawberry Lime Ginger Basil Champers


1. Take:

    • 1 handful of strawberries (about 6 medium-sized ones) *Or some raspberries! Or pitted cherries! Or whatever!*
    • Juice of ½ a lime
    • 1-2 teaspoons grated ginger
    • 1 bunch of fresh basil

2. Pulverize in the food processor (or blender, if you’re into mediocrity). It should be a kind of foamy, syrupy juice.

3. Put some ice in a glass.

4. Pour your fruity mix over the ice (as much or as little as you want).

5. Fill up the rest of your glass with Champagne (or sparkling wine/Cava). You may need to gently stir it a little.

6. Garnish with a basil leaf and enjoy! Oh, and you WILL enjoy it.


Note: This post was originally published on my family blog.


Got burnt? Try this:

20 Jun

This stuff has saved my skin before, and I imagine it’ll do it again.

Sunscreen Rules!

28 May

It’s unofficially summertime (in the US)!!! Speaking of…did you guys see this article in the New York Times today?

Clarity on how sunscreen works and what all those numbers mean is something I’ve been talking blogging about for a while.

Here are some of the take-aways from the article that I think are particularly helpful (content copied from the article, my notes are Italicized):

  • Look for products with an SPF of 15 to 50, and that are labeled “broad spectrum protection,” meaning they protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Avoid sunscreen sprays. The F.D.A. has banned sunscreen powders (though some products may still be available) and has asked for more data on sprays. The concern is twofold: that not enough sunscreen makes it onto the skin, and that the spray may be inhaled into the lungs. [Enough sunscreen = 1 fluid ounce (the size of a golf ball)]
  • Avoid products with vitamin A, retinol or its derivatives, such as retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate. At the moment, the F.D.A. says there isn’t enough evidence to suggest these are harmful, but the Canadian health authorities appear to be concerned that the additives increase sun sensitivity. [A lot of “skin tightening” creams (especially for your under-eye area) have retinol in them, so beware!]
  • Look for fragrance-free products. Scents bring more unnecessary chemicals and potential allergens to the mix.
  • Take endorsements and seals of approval with a grain of salt. The Skin Cancer Foundation gives a “seal of recommendation” to sunscreens, but only if their manufacturer has donated $10,000 to become a member of the organization. [I blogged about this a few years ago! Take a look at #4!]

Click here for more of my musings on sun protection, and stay safe this summer!

Facials: Aestheticians the New Dermatologists?

17 Aug

In my last post, I mentioned that I won a facial at the Summerize Your Skin seminar. This was VERY exciting to me, since I’m obviously interested in skin health and who doesn’t love to win things?!

The facial starts with a consultation, since you can’t really get a quality facial without a consultation first. Kerian asked me a lot of questions, like:

  • What do you like/dislike about your skin? I like how soft my skin is, but don’t like that it’s often dry and sensitive. She confirmed that it is dry, but explained that it’s not an internal issue (meaning drinking more water won’t help it), and is instead a topical issue (meaning I’m putting something on it that dries it out).
  • Do you regularly have break outs? I break out right around my period. Just from looking at my blemishes, she could tell that about half of them were hormonal, and the other half were caused by dirt and oils. (I asked her for more information about how she could tell, but she just shrugged and said, “Experience.”)
  • How often do you wash your face? Once a day, at night. She wanted to get me started on twice a day, but if you’re only going to wash once, nighttime is the right time.
  • What do you use to wash your face? Clean & Clear for sensitive skin. “Well there’s your problem,” she said. “Have you ever seen a commercial for Clean & Clear?”


“And who do they market to?”


“And how old are you?”


“Need I say more?”

She’s right. I started using Clean & Clear while I was in high school. At the time, it was the only thing that worked for me. And it kept working for me (or so I thought), so I kept using it. But because teenagers’ skin is naturally oilier than adults’, even the stuff for sensitive skin was drying me out.

  • Do you exfoliate? No, not really. Turns out I should. And I knew that, but I could also tell that my skin– since it was damaged from my teen skincare regimen– couldn’t handle it.
  • How often do you shampoo your hair? Every other day. Even though I cut back from every day to every other day (at the time), it’s still too much cleansing for a part of your body that needs a more natural oil production schedule (otherwise the oil production goes into overdrive). Kerian suggested twice a week, which sounded a little gross to me, but I gave it a shot (future post alert!).

For the actual facial, I got a customized Phytomer treatment using seaweed from the Brittany coast. It included cleansing, exfoliation, steaming, extractions, massage (neck, shoulders, face), mask, and sunscreen, since I did it in the middle of the day and went out into the sun after.

At the end, she writes up a little prescription-type note that suggests products and usage. And if you don’t need something, she’ll tell you. She skipped the toner for me and got me on a new cleanser (for grown-ups!) and a weekly exfoliant. She also told me when she wants to see me again; she said I should get facials twice a year: before winter and before summer (and I imagine this is true for a lot of people).

I was so amazed at the clinical nature of the whole experience (while still feeling pampered), that I was kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

Coming soon: reviews of my new grown-up products and what happened with my hair washing experiment.

Summerize Your Skin Seminar Recap

9 Aug

Remember how right before I disappeared I said I was going to a “Summerize Your Skin” seminar? Well, I did. And the host promised to email us a cheat sheet with all of the things we talked about (lots of technical, scientific information that you don’t necessarily want to take a shot at spelling), but that never happened. In the time I was waiting, I should have just posted what I learned in plain English, but oh well. (If onlys and justs were candies and nuts, then every day would be un de donkfest!)

So this lady, Kerian Bray, owner of Skin ‘n Tonic Spa and Salon in Lahaska, PA really knows her stuff. She’s been in the industry for a long time and can tell you soooo much about skin (and your skin specifically, but I’ll get to that later). She went through almost every ingredient found in sunscreens/blocks/lotions and explained them (this is where the cheat sheet would be helpful). But besides all that stuff, there are a few basic takeaways from the seminar:

1. SPF– Skin Protection Factor– is best explained this way: If you go out in the sun without protection for 5 minutes, the amount of tanning/burning is your baseline (for lack of a better word). The SPF number relates to the time and/or intensity that you are able to be out in the sun. So if you grab an SPF 30, then you can stay out in the sun 30 times longer in the EXACT SAME CONDITIONS as your baseline, or in sun that’s 30 times more intense than your 5 minute baseline (but for only 5 minutes). Questions?

2. For an SPF to work the way I described above, you have to use 1 fl. oz. for each application (and each application would have to be every 5 minutes in the latter scenario). I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I had ever used a whole ounce of sunscreen at once.

3. A white t-shirt provides an SPF of about 7. When it’s wet, about 0. So if you’re planning on using clothing to cover up, go with darker colors.

4. Be careful about endorsements on sunscreens. Kerian trusts the bottles that don the little sticker from the Skin Cancer Foundation. I was really pleased to go home and see that my Eucerin Everyday Protection face lotion had one. But I was really bummed to read the fine print on my regular sunscreen, Neutrogena’s Sensitive Skin Sunblock Lotion, which has the American Cancer Society (ACS) logo on it: “The ACS does not endorse any specific product. Neutrogena pays a royalty to the ACS for the use of its logo.” Boo. The hope is that the ACS only accepts royalties from trustworthy companies.

Besides this healthy dose of summertime skin care knowledge, I won a facial! And that was an incredibly informative experience as well. Details coming soon!

Summerize Your Skin

30 May

be prepared!

After concentrating on caring for skin in the winter on this blog, I’m excited to announce that I will be attending a seminar on how to get my skin ready for summer this week! It will be held at a spa I went to about a year ago for an amazing massage (I haven’t been back because massages just aren’t in the budget), so I’m excited to find out what they have to offer.

I’m also a little concerned that it’s just going to be a sales pitch for some line of products that “real people” can’t afford. But, if that’s the case, at least they’ll have light refreshments (I’m imaging slices of cucumber– ha!), goodie bags, and opportunities to win things.

So. If you have summertime skin questions for a REAL expert, let me know and I’ll ask them on your behalf!