Pumpkin– the Holiday Beauty Food

pumpkinsPlump, round and orange pumpkin are virtually synonymous with fall.  Carved into gouls for Halloween  or baked  into pies for  Thanksgiving, pumpkins are a staple  when leaves turn red and gold.

No question that pumpkins are adorable, but are they healthy?  Short answer, yes.  Pumpkins are packed  with beta carotene and vitamin A.  Even better, 4 oz of roasted pumpkin   clocks in at less than 40 calories.  By comparison, the same size portion of  roast potatoes add up to  tktk.  Pumpkin also has respectable amounts of vitamin C.  Despite  its stringy texture , it is  not a good source of fiber.

Adding Pumpkin to Your Menus

When selecting pumpkins for eating, rather than carving look for small, firm and deeply orange pumpkins. WHen making pies, most people use canned pumpkin puree.  Its good, but fresh, young pumpkin is absolutely delicious.   Here are two variations of one  of my favorite pumpkin  recipes:

Savory Roast Pumpkin

Ingredients: 1 small pumpkin, peeled and  cut up in 2 inch chunks ( save the seeds), 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 medium onion, sectioned, 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss  all ingredients together. Cover cookie sheet with non-stick tin foil. Spread onins and pumpkin on cookie sheet.  After 10 minutes flip over to caramalize on the other side.  Cook additional 10-15 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife.

This is a lovely side dish with roast chicken or turkey.  You can also use  it in the now ever so trendy rice bowls.  Layer over  freshly  cooked rice or quinoa in a bowl.  Add a few sauteed spinach leaves and top with a sprinkle  with  a sprinkle  toasted pine nuts.

Sweet Roast Pumpkin

Ingredients:  1 small  pumpkin, peeled and diced into 2 inch  chunks, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon brown sugar or  mayple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:  Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss pumpkin oil and salt.  Cover cooking sheet with non-stick tin foil. Spread pumkin out  on the  sheet.  Cook 10 minutes then flip over and sprinkle with brown sugar.  Cook another 10 minutes.

Sweet roast pumpkins raises plain pork chops to a whole new level.



Its Fashion Flash Monday!

Fashion-Flash-logoThis week Josephine of Chic At Any Age  is hosting Fashion Flash!  These days whenever I have a style question, I first   look for answers  on Chic At Any Age.  In her archives I  can find the answer to almost any  style questions from what to wear to a concert in the fall to  best  looks for weddings. Following her  beautiful and affordable advice, I feel confident and pretty.


Fashion Flash Book review: Style StalkingFashion Flash Book Review:  Style Stalking by  Barberich and Gelardi

Style Stalking is the second book in my series of fabulous lifestyle books by equally fabulous bloggers.  It was created by the founders of the uber popular site Refinery 29. The organization of Style Stalking is as original and compelling as the fashion its offers.  Rather than  the usual style advice offered in the usual way, the chapter titles include Brights, Layering, Denim and Metallics.  Each chapter  has six sections including ” basic training”,  “seasonal” and “style moves”. This  provides helpful structure to the dynamic  fashion that  pushes the style envelope.

The book opens with a bang with a chapter called Brights. Great text provides  compelling commentary to the street fashion photos.  I was fascinated how pink can be used as a  neutral in a lace skirt, hot pink sneakers, or a voluminous overcoat. The chapter on layering clearly illustrates how an all white outfit looks much more interesting when layered.  Apparently the key to layering without causing bulk is to vary the length of each item. In summer the secret to comfortable layering is to wear wide cropped pants and breathable fabrics like linen and chambrey.

The seasonal section in my favorite in every chapter.  Most  fashionistas seem to ignore climate in their idea inspirations.  IMO it  doesn’t  matter if styling is flattering and fabulous– if I freeze in witer or roast in summer, these looks are non-starters.  Style Stalking adapts each  look to the season  that takes this book to an altogether new level.

Most of the photos are not fashion shoots, but real women captured on the streets of NYC.  They look wonderful and  I  tried to see how I could  pick-up some ideas that I  could adapt to  my own life.  However I found that in photo after photo I didn’t  own any of the  featured  coats, bags, and sweaters. By contrast flipping through the styling in other fashion books I can always find new ways to wear  what i already have in my closet.   My takeaway–  I need to step out of my comfort zone.  And  isn’t this just what a good  book should do!

Choosing A Microdermabrasion Device

microdermabrasion  is the key to beautiful skinHome  microdermabrasion is  IMO one of the great skin care developments in the last  ten  years.  Its well known that men appear to age more slowly than women– and  some experts believe  that it  may be due to their daily shave.  When  men scrape off a fresh crop of bristles each morning, they also take off the top layer of dead dry skin cells, stale  oil,  and ground-in dirt.  Lifting this top layer signals the lower level  to start producing a new supply of healthy young cells.  But we can defy  gender  and get the same benefits by using a home microdermabrasion device to  gently and throughly exfoliate the skin.  The rotating head and cleanser will take off the top layer of dead cells that muddy  the complexion and slow down cell growth.  These tools can range from less than $20  to almost $250– and I tried six  widely available models.

1. Clarisonic  Pro Microdermabrasion ( $225)

Clrisonic is the gold standard for  a home microdermabrasion tool.  The Clarisonic Pro is sold with two brushes and samples of different cleansers.   The cleaning cycle is two  minutes with beeps that prompts you to move to different parts of the face. The back and forth  oscillating motion enhances the basic brushing action of the Clarisonic bristles.  The recharger means that  the unit will  always mean  the unit will be ready to use.   It can even  be used in the shower and  you can buy a slightly larger brush for the body.

My only reservation for the Clarisonic is the price.  The Pro model kit is $225 and the travel model is $119.

2. DDF Revolve ($100)

This device is small, but mighty.  Each kit comes with a foam head, a soft brush head and a small tube of exfoliating cleanser.  It left my skin clean and fresh, albeit a bit tight.  There is no timer and no way  to replace the batteries so when they are dead you will need to buy another machine.  However I have used my DDF several times a  week for more than two years and its still going strong.  I LOVE the cleansing grains, but the only way  to get more is in a kit that contains a 2.5 ounce tube as well as two replacement heads for $50.  When I ran out of cleanser, my heads were still in good shape.  Bummer.

3. Oil of Olay Professional PROX ( $33)

When I opend the box, I took a double take.  It  looked EXACTLY  like the DDF Revolve but the batteries were easily replaceable.  The Oil of Olay PRO X has only  one brush head and a very small tube of exfoliating cleanser.  The brush was slightly rougher than DDF, but it molded effortlessly around the nose  giving those pores a through cleansing.  If you have dry or sensitive skin, I would use the cleansing grains once a week and a mild cleanser  the rest of the time.

Instructions are a bit different for this device.  Instead of wetting the face and applying  the cleanser to the brush head, the PRO X cleanser is applied directly to the damp face and then worked into the face with the rotating brush.

Replacing the cleanser and brush is super easy and affordable. A six ounce tube ( $20) and two brush heads ( 2 for $12) are available in the Olay section of most pharmacies.

4. CVS Facial Cleansing Power Brush ( $19)

Another DDF Revolve lookalike at  just  1/5 the cost.  The starter kit comes with two brushes and two AA batteries. The device has one button that controls high/low speeds and a second button that changes the direction of the brush. The device moves easily around the face and effortlessly clears out clogged pores on the nose.  There is no special cleanser which leaves you to use your favorites. I love this tool! It is a great little device at a great price.  Its  the one I toss into my suitcase when I’m traveling.

5. Neutrogena Microdermabrasion System ( $20)

This hand held device uses disposable pads to polish and exfoliate the skin.  The kit includes two AA batteries and 12 disposable pads which are designed to last a month. Additional pads are available in most pharmacies where the device is sold ( 24 for $16).  The vibrations felt intense as I worked the head around  my face. The flat hard head made it difficult to get around the nose, but my skin felt very clean and fresh– maybe too fresh.   My  skin felt a little too  tight  and my skin tends to be oily.  While Neutrogena Microdermabrasion System is aimed at anti-aging issues, it might be too intense for thin, fine drier skin.   I was not surprised  that directions on the box recommended using the device only 3X/wk. By comparison, other types  of devices including Neutrogena Sonic and CVS Power Brush suggest using their exfoliating  tool every day. My skin needs daily, gentle exfoliation and 3X/week just doesn’t  work for  me. Since Neutrogena only uses their disposable pads you can’t control  the  impact by using a gentle cleanser.

6. Neutrogena Wave Sonic Power Cleanser ( $19)

This little pink tool fits  neatly in the palm of your hand.  A disposable foaming  pad on the top gently rotates on the skin. Although the pad  contains salicylic acid, my skin felt less tight than with other devices.  The box also contains two AA batteries and 14 foaming pads — a two week supply. The head rotates rather than vibrates and can be used in the shower.   However the  hard head makes it rather difficult to clean ut the pores on the nose.  There are two types of replacement pads.  For  normal and dry skin there are the original foaming pads ( $30 for $9) and exfoliating pads for  oily/acne troubled skin ( 30 pads for $9).

One final thought:  When I do a review of a group of products, usually some are better than others. But  in this selection of  microdermabrasion tools, they were all  well designed and  delivered great results. Like  most beauty  bloggers  I tend extra  products to friends and family.  But I fell in love with each and everyone of these  age busters and  kept all of them.They are that good.

Its Fashion Flash Monday!

Fashion-Flash-logoThis week, Cindy of Prime Beauty is  hosting Fashion Flash!  There  is certainly  no shortage of beauty bloggers and each year  they seem to be getting younger and  younger.  I’m no longer startled when a well known blogger turns out to be working out of her dorm room. Cindy  is on  many best beauty blogs list and I have learned to  trust  her experience and judgement.  If you  follow  Prime Beauty  you know what I mean.  If  she  is new  to you , you’re in for a treat.

 Fashion Flash Book Review: 200 Tips, Techiques and Natural Recipes for natural beautyFashion Flash Book Review:  200 Tips, Techniques and Natural Recipes for Natural Beauty by Shannon Buck

I get weekly questions  about DIY skin and hair products and I’ve uploaded a few demos on Youtube. I limited my suggestions to  simple homemade  masks  or fortifying  existing commercial products.  I’ve stayed away from the real thing– cooking up original cleansers and moisturizers..  it seemed  extremely technical and a bit  overwhelming.  200 Tips and Techniques and Natural Remedies finally gave me the tools and confidence to create  a complete line of  products in my kitchen.Written by Shannon Buck, the founder of the  well known  site, Fresh Picked Beauty, this beautifully designed book is the best guide to DIY beauty care products I’ve ever seen– and I’ve seen  many.

The book begins by offering detailed charts on natural oils, clays, emulsifiers and herbs.  Ms Buck not only evaluates their impact on the skin and hair, she explains how to  make  oil  or water  based herbal infusions.  Amazingly easy!

The book clearly explains what equipment is needed and illustrates  exactly how to use them in cosmetic production. Many of the tools like measuring spoons, graters, a cutting board were already in my kitchen.  The other items were easily found in the cooking  section of my  local  store.

I finally got over my fear of melting waxes and  using thermometers and  produced  my first totally home made rosemary cleanser.  It smelled delicious and left my skin  fresh and  clean.There are recipes for both water and oil based moisturizers,  and a tea tree oil lotion for oily skin that has to be seen to be believed. I rarely find an eye care product that I  like, but the  basic eye cream with lecithin and  shea  oil is now an essential in my skin care routinue.

While the  equipment  is easy to find, you will need special sources for items like  beeswax and bentonite clay and marshmellow root.  Not to  worry. Buck   has  provided   a wide range of suppliers including  online sources for  herbs, waxes, clays, carrier oils,  labels,  and bottles. This beautiful and useful book is my  holiday gift  for 2014.


Are E- Cigarettes Safe For Your Skin?

Question and Answer about Retin AQuestion– I know that cigarettes can cause heart and lung problems as well as wrinkles ,  but I’ve heard that e-cigarettes are  healthier. Is this true?

Answer–  Since  November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month this is  the perfect time to answer this question. Electronic  or e-cigarettes are battery powered devices that produce a nicotine infused vapor which is inhaled by the user and absorbed through the airways.  These products  have been offered as a less expensive and safer alternative to traditional cigarettes and as an aid for smoking cessation.   But  with the addition of flavorings  like buble gum and chocolate has  raised its appeal especially  among  teenagers.

E-CigarettesHealth Concerns of E-Cigarettes

The heart and lung problems of nicotine and tobacco   are all too real and most doctors  are concerned about the potential hazards of a new nicotine delivery system. Nicotine  is a highly addictive toxin tht raises  blood pressure, crosses the plcenta durng pregnency, and causes changes in the lungs similar to those seen in cystic fibrosis.  Nictotine  has been liked to a whole slew of cancers  including  breast cancer, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. On the beauty front, nicotine is a rapid skin ager. It constricts blood vessels, shutting down  food and oxygen to the skin.  As a result  it slows skin growth and repair.

Because the  nicotine vapors of e-cigarettes do not contain the same products of combustion of traditional cigarettes, “vaping” has been heavilly  promoted as a safe and effective way to quit smoking. Its not nearly that simple and there have been few if any studies  that deals with both the short and long term health  problems of e-cigarettes.

The Marketing of E-Cigarettes

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of e-cigarettes is their marketing to women and teenagers.  Sweetened and colored flavorings make the vapors see more  like candy than an addicting introduction to nicotine.   Even the name is designed to  hook  the young tech  generation on nicotine.

The dangers of tobacco  are well defined and accepted by virtually all doctors, whereas the impact of e-cigarettes is not. The last thing we need is another beauty buster  nicotine delivery system.

Its Fashion Flash Monday!

Fashion-Flash-logoThis week,  Kari  of  Fab Over 40  is  hosting Fashion Flash! Kari is one of the most active beauty bloggers and her almost daily posts are packed with  up to date beauty, fashion and health information. There are no fillers or guest posts from brands, but original  and thoughtful articles  on a topics we care about. I’m so proud to be blogging with  her!

Fashion FLash Book Review-- Younger next YearFashion Flash Book Review:  Younger Next Year– for Women

The title of the book was  so empowering, I could not wait to crack it open and get started.  It was the  follow-up book to the hugely popular ” Younger Next Year”  that was aimed at men and endorsed by Dr Oz, New York Times and the Washington Post.  With this type of heavy weight support, it had to be fabulous.

But from the first pages I was disappointed.  Its  main ( and singular) advice was the benefits of gut busting, sweat drenched  exercise.  Rather than advising  to go slow, warm -up or providing genuine  advice , it  keeps  pushing the reader  not to be afraid of going beyond their limits.

There are two authors, both men.  One is  forty smething internist and the other is an older lawyer/businessman.  They have basically written a 300 page  pep talk   promoting exercise.  There  is  little information  on health issues, skin care,or stress reduction, all essential   factors  for longevity.  On diet,  the authors  sum up their nutritional advice   as “Don’t eat crap. And don’t eat too much.

There is very little  information that deal with issues that are unique to women.  For example when   the book addresses   menopause, Dr  Lodge states that  menopause does not cause weight gain.   That’s simply not true. The hormonal firestorm that is menopause radically changes  a woman’s metabolism that leads to  rapid weight gain. For  safe and effective health and exercise advice, that are focused on  the needs of women, I suggest  you Pass on Younger Next Year and visit two of our blogs- Moving Free With Mirabai and Society Wellness. In these two sites  up will find factual practical informtion for women of any age.


Can Arctic Cloudberry Prevent Wrinkles?

arctic cloudberryArctic  Cloudberry is an especially hardy berry that grows in the bogs and forests  of Finland, Newfoundland, and Sweden. The harsh climate is challenging to any plant and scientists have found that those that do survive  have super high levels of antioxidants. Its really impressive that Arctic Cloudberry  has 2X the vitamin C  found in oranges.   Since  studies like NHANES have shown that people have  diets  high in natural vitamin C have less wrinkles, this is certainly  interesting  for an anti-aging ingredient.  But wait there’s more.  Arctic Cloudberry  also  has vitamin A, vitamin E, Omega 6, Omega 3, citric acid, and disease fighting polyphenols  like anthocyanins, quercetin  and ellagic acid.  Impressive!  Some researchers have reported  that Arctic Cloudberry can fight oxidative damage and strengthen  the skin.

Adding Arctic Cloudberry to Your Skin Care Routine

The antioxidant profile of arctic cloudberry has certainly   attracted skin care practioners.  Its looks great in theory, but the challenge is to get these health benefits into a skin care routinue. Fresh berries cannot be mixed into a commercial  cleanser or moisturizer, so  they need to be heavily processed.  Its well known that heat and alcohol damage antioxidants and its doubtful that the arctic  cloudberry  health benefits would remain in an extract.  Even if some  of them are still active,  there is the question of how  much are actually present in a product or even what concentration is  needed to be effective.

The  best way to get the antioxidant benefits of  arctic cloudberries is  to  mash up fresh berries  and add them to  a homemade treatment like an egg or oatmeal mask.  But fresh  arctic cloudberries  are  only available in their natural  environments ( eg Newfoundland or Finland). For the rest of the world the best source of these antioxidant-packed berries is in the form of  thick golden jams which are available on Amazon. ( Eat them on toast, rather than a  mask)   Fortuneatly the individual antioxidants like quercetin and ellegic acid are available  in  a wide range of products.  You can also find them in capsules in health food stores  and can add them to boost the value of inexpensive  skin care  products.

Its Fashion Flash Monday!

Fashion-Flash-logoThis week Cindy of Prime Beauty is hosting Fashion Flash.  She is my go-to expert  for  all things make-up  and fragrance.  She has a unique ability to drill down into the  details of a product to help me find exactly what I need.  For example if  I need a eye liner, I automatically click on Prime Beauty  to find  profiles of different options  at a range of prices.  She does the  hard work so that I don’t waste my time  or  my money.  Subscribe to this site  so that you don’t miss  some of the best beauty advice on the web.

No-Nonsense Book Review:  SingleNo-Nonsense Book Review:  Single by Judy Ford

Last week I had lunch with a good friend who just celebrated the first year of a successful new business. But rather than enjoing  her well-deserved success, she was  weepy.  The cause of  her depression?  Now almost 40, she had not found Mr Right– or even Mr  Right-For-Now.  We’ve had  the same  sad conversation too  many times and I’ve run out of helpful/comforting advice.

When I discovered Single by psychotherapist Judy Ford, I found a source of  ideas and inspiration for my friend and  in fact   for women of all ages.  The author  is both a mental health professional  and a twice married  single  mom who has certainly walked the walk.   A widow at 29 and then divorced from a second  husband  who stole   both her heart and her money,  Ford  has written a book packed with lists, tips, case histories  and assignments for building a better single life.

A New Look at an Old Problem

The booked is packed with compassion and genuinely useful advice. I think  my favorite section deals with a singleton’s  idea of hell– Valentine’s day. Ms Ford  takes back the holiday from  fickle  men and makes it an opportunity to show friends and family how  much you care. My successful friend starts dreading Valentine’s  Day  in early January– not uncommon  according  to Ms Ford.  Single shows  how to take back the holiday from men and makes it an opportunity to show friends and family  that you care. She also sends out an annual Valentine’s Day letter to  practically everyone she  knows and bakes  Valentine’s Day  cookies to share with visitors and co-workers.  In her home, Ford puts out red candles and sets the table with  her best  china and linens.  Rather than waiting  for some guy to  being  over flowers and candy, Ford  has turned the holiday into a true expression of  love for  all those in her life.