Anti-Age ME!

Skin care is very important. I spent most of my 20’s getting carded or just being told I look so young in general. Even the best, clearest, healthiest skin ages because of exposure to the sun, smoking and drinking, free radicals – whatever those are, but you get the idea. For my own skincare routine, I’ve always followed the 3 step method: cleanse, tone, and moisturize. For moisturizers, I’ve tried several and I like a few, but I just don’t ever trust that what I am doing is helping. A lot of people, bloggers giving reviews, dermatologists and aestheticians, are generally trying to sell products. And, because I’ve never needed to address skin issues with a doctor, and I’m way too cheap to visit a spa for a facial, I’ve never consulted a dermatologist. I just don’t know who to trust, so I decided to come up with my own routine based on some rudimentary Internet research and some discriminating evaluations of reviews.

My search started with what is the key ingredient to anti-aging formulas and what is the best vehicle to get it into my skin. Vitamin A is the winner. In its prescription strength, Vitamin A is known as Retin-A. For over the counter anti-aging products, it can be found in a lower dose, Retinol. Retinol has apparently been found to have the best results for over the counter products at reducing fine lines and the signs of aging. Retinol concentrations that are considered effective can be found in the form of a serum or a lotion. I am not a cosmetologist or dermatologist. I am not going into more science here, but that is the general idea of where I started. Also, because Retinol products can cause skin irritation and make it more susceptible to sun damage, it should only be used at night. I recently saw an aesthetician’s vlog where she was saying the moisturizer is not where the money should go, the retinol serum underneath is. Now, here’s my grain of salt, she’s selling the products she uses in her salon. So, I will take that info and go elsewhere for product recommendations. Thanks and no thanks!

Now I need a night moisturizer as well. I am totally going to take her advice here and look for an affordable yet respectable moisturizer. Neutrogena, Aveeno and Olay have always been my go-to drugstore skincare brands. Why not look to my old faithfuls?! All have products that I considered are highly rated by reviewers on Amazon.com as well as other online retailers. All are extremely affordable and can be found in my local drugstore or my good ole fav, Amazon. Which one will I try first? Whichever one I want and I will try them all at one point in time or another.

So, a nighttime routine changes it is. Because I am going to be adding a fairly harsh addition to my skincare regimen, the retinol, this will be the only change to my current routine. Unless I have a harsh reaction to the retinol products, I will give it the 6-8 weeks to see if it’s worth the extra effort and money. Then, I can start work on my day routine.

In case you’re wondering about the specific products, I think I’m going to start with the Philosophy Save Me and the Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Ageless Night Cream with Natural Shiitake Complex combination. After I use the Philosophy tube up, barring any adverse reaction, I will move to a 0.5 Retinol formula. That way my skin can get used to the Retinol. Wish me luck on my new regimen and let me know if you see any improvements!

Heather

P.S. I forgot to add a warning in case anyone decided to try facial products containing Retinol.  When using Retinol products, you MUST wear a broad spectrum SPF lotion during the day!  These products do make skin photo sensitive.  Also, if you have a reaction using it nightly, use it 2-3 times a week until your skin adjusts to the product, increasing frequency if symptoms subside, stopping if symptoms persist.  Happy fighting!

Posted in Skin Care | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Supernatural Brownies… for dinner!

I have NO idea why I was supposed to wait a day before cutting into these brownies.  My theory is that it gives time for the crust to harden some and the center will stay moist while the outer layer dries out?  Who knows… I almost made 2 pans of these when I read this step in the instuctions, but I can’t have 2 pans of brownies hanging around this place, and if they didn’t come out right, I surely wasn’t going to bring them to my co-workers!  Even then, I added an experiment in the mix.

The primary differences in recipes from the previous two weeks… Tons of butter – 2 whole sticks; uses both brown and white sugar; and, the chocolate was semi-sweet.

I weighed the chocolate chips on a kitchen scale.

My experiment comes with the sugar step and a side-story. The one magazine I’ve received for years faithfully is Cooks Illustrated. The May/June 2009 issue has a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that is to die for!  It calls for letting the sugars (also a mix of white and brown) melt in the butter mixture for 10 minutes in order to create a caramelized and crustier exterior, which in turn causes the moisture to concentrate in the center, making crusty outside with chewy guts.  I thought, why not try this with this recipe?!  I didn’t like last week’s, and I was nervous about another dull outcome, so I figured what could I lose.  Clearly this isn’t a scientific experiment or there could be only one variable, but in reality, the goal is a good pan of brownies.

The outcome is a good brownie with a couple issues.  The edges were super chewy, by any standards, and not hard chewy.  The bottom crust was also chewy, so that was good as well.  But, the part of the science that concentrates the moisture in the center was a bit much for a pan of brownies.  Cookies allow more moisture to evaporate because more surface area is exposed to the heat.  The brownies couldn’t let as much moisture escape because of the pan.  So, though the center is dense and fudgy, chewy, it’s a tad too much for me.  (After 45 minutes, a toothpick came out with only a couple crumbs, so this is not a raw batter issue)  Brown sugar contributes moisture as well.  The 2nd issue was a slightly caramel/butterscotch flavor, which I assume comes from the brown sugar as well as the caramelization of the sugars during baking.  I don’t add extra chips or nuts to my brownies, so it’s not too much of a foreign flavor, but it is there, and I can only assume why.

I wonder if these issues would also be remedied if I only used white sugar.  That may be an experiment I do on the DL and, if they are good, I’ll share… Overall, these are still very good brownies.  I would not wait overnight for ANY brownie recipe ever again.  It’s just not fair!

Supernatural Brownies

Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers, by

Nick Malgieri

Makes 24 2-inch brownie squares

Ingredients:

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

One 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment or foil

1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and pre-heat to 350 degrees.

2. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and turn off heat. Combine butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over pan of water. Stir occasionally until melted.

3. Whisk eggs together in a large bowl, then whisk in salt, sugars, and vanilla. Stir in chocolate and butter mixture, and then fold in flour.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 45 minutes, until top has formed a shiny crust and batter is moderately firm. Cool in pan on a rack. Wrap pan in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature or refrigerated until next day.

5. To cut brownies, unmold onto a cutting board, remove paper, and replace with another cutting board. Turn cake right side up and trim away edges. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares.

Two more recipes to go, and it’s a good thing!  I think I’ll be over brownies for a little while!

Heather

 

Posted in Brownies, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Brownie Quest – Left me hungry!!!

I am SO disappointed with this recipe… WHY, you ask?  Because the smart guy that wrote it has you wait for the brownies to cool, then cover and wait OVERNIGHT!  These brownies better be super because it is unnatural to leave a pan of brownies that long!  But this pan of brownies looks just SO DAMN GOOD that I couldn’t wait till tomorrow to show you!

The name of this recipe is Supernatural Brownies.  YUM!!!  I was so disappointed with last week’s recipe, if these are anywhere as good as they look, it will be worth the wait.

Tomorrow I will be having Supernatural Brownies for dinner with the recipe, pictures… and my review!

Crackly Shiny Candy Crust!!!

Heather

Posted in Brownies, Recipes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Essie’s French Affair – Spring 2011 Collection

Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner and I am already on the hunt for my favorite colors and must-haves of the season.  One of my resolutions for this year is to put more effort into my appearance… and I love color! So nail polish is just a great way to add that pop of spring color trend into a wardrobe – a finishing touch.  I knew this spring I wanted a set of pale Essie colors.  I look at OPI as bright, vibrant and colorful and Essie as muted, feminine and girly.  So, I googled Essie Spring 2011 Collection and found my next purchase!  It’s already on order and I cannot wait for it to arrive!

I love the muted neutrals and the orchid like pigments of the pinks and purples…

French Affair - Coat Azure - Nice is Nice

French Affair - Coat Azure - Nice is Nice

Topless & Barefoot - Kisses & Bises - Sand Tropez

Our trip to Turks and Caicos is in March and I’m already having problems deciding just which color I’m going to wear!

Heather

UPDATE: Click here for my post with pictures of swatches of the entire collection. 

Posted in Make up, Nail Polish, Pretty Things | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Brownie Quest – Joy of Cooking (Not this time…)

Okay, so all week, well at least since we finished the first pan, I’ve been looking forward to baking the next recipe in my series in search of my ideal brownie.  The second recipe is from the Joy of Cooking book, 75th anniversary edition.  I’ve had this cookbook for a few years but I’ve never tried this recipe.  It should be as worthy recipe as any since this is a significant resource for the home cook.

This was also a simple recipe with few ingredients.  It calls for unsweetened chocolate in place of the cocoa powder, as used in the previous recipe, and less butter and more eggs.

It's Playoff football! Pats have a first round bye... Not a good result for KC today

The batter was a similar texture to those I’ve made from a box – nothing like my cocoa brownies, so I still had no idea what to expect.  and, I really enjoyed licking the spatula!

I will use parchment paper for my slings from now on - even if the directions state foil.

In the pan, they look like they have a slightly cakier texture than the cocoa brownies, maybe from the 2 extra eggs?… The top is rather dull and not candy crackly like the last batch.  The taste is dark chocolate and it is rather a fudgy brownie and not very sweet in spite of the 2 CUPS of sugar.

Dull Dense Brownies

Recipe for Brownies Cockaigne from the Joy of Cooking

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • optional -1 cup of chopped pecans

If you want chewy brownies, use a 13×9-inch pan; if cakey, a 9×9-inch pan.

PREHEAT oven to 350º F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan lined with foil.

MELT in a small saucepan butter and chocolate.  Let cool. If you don’t, your brownies will be heavy and dry.

BEAT until light in color and foamy in texture the eggs and salt.  Gradually add and continue beating until thick the sugar and vanilla.

With a few swift strokes, stir in the cooled chocolate mixture until just combined.  Even if you are using an electric mixer, use a wooden spoon for this.

STIR in the flour until just combined.  Gently stir in the nuts now, if using.

SCRAPE batter into the prepared pan.  Bake about 25 minutes.  Cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack.

Overall, these brownies were okay – I will not make them again, not even to test different chocolates or whipping stages of the eggs, etc.  At this stage, I prefer the Chewy Cocoa Brownies.

Next week, I’ll continue the series with a recipe I found posted in a forum for supposedly chewy brownies, called Supernatural Brownies.  I hope for better results next time!

Heather

Posted in Brownies, Recipes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pretty things – Rebecca Taylor

I have an obsession!…  I will charge up my credit cards, mortgage my home, sell my soul for the prettiest pieces ever and they are made by Rebecca Taylor!  Maybe I’m not supposed to wear some of the cuts, but frankly I don’t care.  The fabrics are such high quality, the patterns, so pigmented, fresh and the cuts are classic yet modern… and they fit!  The Spring 2011 Runway Collection is full of gorgeous dresses and I will be picking up a couple!

Good thing for sales!

LOVE!

Posted in Fashion, Pretty Things, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Pretty Things – Bobbi Brown and Korres

I love make-up!  I think I started wearing make up to school when I was in the fifth grade.  In the 80’s, when bubble gum pink lipstick was in, I would wear it around the house with blue eye shadow and the shoulders cut out of some shirt with my Madonna lace gloves with the fingers cut out.  I wore Wet and Wild, Bonne Bell, Cover Girl – whatever I could get my hands on.

I haven’t really been buying many products because I subscribed to Bobbi Brown’s minimalist look – you only need really one eye, blush, lip, and good mascara.  I think eye liner may have been in there too, but I’ve never really worked that into my routine.  But, I’m starting to get into a rut, and I think I need to add some new stuff to my collection.  I asked for a couple of things to get me started for Christmas and Santa was good to me.

My first was a gift set from Sephora of Korres Lip Conditioners that included three Lip Butters and four Cherry Full Color Glosses.  I know it was a gift, but I also know it was a $30 set that was worth $98!  It’s such a great buy and it’s very functional.  The colors, though bold in the packaging, are subtle and glossy and all work well for me.  I have really dry lips, so this was perfect for me!

My second gift was the Bobbi Brown Modern Classic Palette.  I never ask for palettes that contain lip products, because I never use everything.  These colors have a good range, nude for a natural look, and deep burgundy for a more dramatic night look.  (I am new to BB lip products, but in the next couple of weeks, I plan on trying the Creamy Lip Color.)  The eye colors cover a broad range and have very “classic” colors.  Gee… this palette is very appropriately named.  I haven’t worn them all yet, but they are similar formula to my other palettes.  I plan on trying the gel liner and brush applicator soon, so I’ll have lots of eye looks I can play with once I get those home!

Did you get any pretty makeup for the holidays?  Is there anything you were hoping for?

 

Posted in Make up, Pretty Things | Tagged , , | Leave a comment