Friday, March 26, 2010

Product Review: The Body Shop Vitamin E Serum

Hi folks! After a week of blessedly balmy spring-like weather, we're getting hit with some chilly, depressing winds today. But this cold snap DID remind me that I wanted to talk about my new skin-saviour, The Body Shop's Vitamin E Serum. (See? I told you there was a reason I kept harping on about Body Shop sales!)

Normally I'm not much for serums. I mean, I love them and all their luxe goodness, but I don't tend to see them as a necessary part of a skincare routine. Well that all changed when my skin started flipping out for no reason last month. Red splotches, irritation, dryness... and don't even get me started on how difficult it was to put on SPF in the morning (yeeowtch!). I was baffled... I hadn't changed anything, wasn't trying new makeup, my makeup brushes were clean... and yet there I was. I even started breaking out a bit (which rarely happens anymore). I switched up my moisturizers... stopped using silica powder... I even bought a new "sensitive-skin" night cream, but nothing worked.

Then I remembered that I had tried TBS' Vit. E serum a while back (when my skin was normal), and how soft and supple it made my face. So I dashed out in a hurry to buy another bottle, and God, it's like a cool drink of water. Within days (like, overnight, really), it soothed the red splotches and irritation, and started to take care of the dry flakes. I still need to use moisturizer over it (the new one I bought from Nivea seems to be working well), but now I can bear to wear sunscreen again. Plus, my skin's stopped breaking out, which is a big relief.

For $20 CAD, this baby's a bargain. (Of course, it's even better when there's a sale!) The airless pump is sanitary, and a tube lasts about 2 months for me with daily and nightly use. It sinks in fast, with a light, clean, slightly floral scent that I like. This isn't your fancy-ass, peptide-collagen-transfolipid-speed-of-light kind of serum. But for adding a soothing boost of moisture to your skin, you can't ask for much more!

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quickie PSA: Body Shop 1/2 off and a good cause

Okay, I know it sounds like I'm just constantly telling you about Body Shop sales. Like I'm getting daily PR emails from them or something. But truly, I happened to stumble upon this great deal today (plus, I don't even have a contact at TBS!).

Buy a paper bag for $5, and get 50% off on everything you purchase that can fit in the bag (sets excluded)! What a deal. I stocked up on some skincare items and a Nut butter (because, obvs). Plus, $2 from every bag sold goes towards helping stop sex trafficking of children and youths.

Incidentally, they have a skin care promo on right now, where if you buy 2 items, you get the 3rd free. Not sure if the 2 promos can be combined -- I did buy 2 skin care items, but I didn't see the deal until after I got home, and the sales person didn't mention anything at the till. But it's worth asking!

Hop to it! This deal is only good for TODAY, March 13th!

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Product Review: Dove Bar

aka: In which Dove totally saves the heck out of my skin.

You guys ever go through a time when nothing seems to go right? Those things that you thought were so steadfast and reliable fail you, and when you try to fix it, everything just seems to screw up more?

Well I have. Just recently, in fact. Of course, I am talking about my skin here. For weeks (months?) I'd been battling these weird dry itchy patches on my torso. (Hot image, I know). They recur from time to time, for no discernible reason. It might be mild eczema, or just the frustratingly vague "contact dermatitis". I don't know, it's never bothered me enough to go get it diagnosed. I don't know what triggers it... it usually appears on my neck or torso, and it can happen during any season. I haven't changed my skincare routine or even laundry detergent recently. But when these patches flare up, they're super irritating, never mind the gross scaly appearance and feel. Ugh!

Anyway. Because these incidents don't seem to be tied to any changes in my skincare routine, I never bothered changing my showergel to try stop the irritation. I mean, I'd used the same stuff for months without problem, so why should I switch? Luckily for me, the kind folks at Dove decided to send me a Dove Bar to try out.

An unassuming looking little thing, right? In the age of fancy body washes which promise to exfoliate, and moisturize, and turn back the hands of time, and make your skin glow like Jennifer Garner's (as if!), it's easy to forget about the plain ol' "beauty bar". But maybe it's time we gave it another look!

Dove's big claim is that the Dove Bar doesn't leave the filmy soap scum on your skin that regular soap does. Well, as someone who doesn't typically use regular soap, I didn't think this was a big deal. But maybe "soap scum" is code for "irritating weirdness", because ever since I've started using the Dove Bar, my annoyingly itchy skin has started to fade! I've been ultra lazy lately, and haven't been moisturizing much. But despite this, my skin is feeling remarkably normal, and those itchy patches seem to have gone into remission. Could Dove Bar be the secret weapon against irritated skin?

Okay folks, let's be good critical thinkers here. It *could* be the case that the skin irritation would have stopped on its own, and that the Dove Bar had nothing to do with it. After all, in the past, the patches do eventually disappear on their own. On the other hand, I've been using fancy moisturizers and healing oils on the dry patches, and no permanent relief happened until I started using Dove. And, the Classic bar I've been using isn't even the Sensitive Skin (fragrance-free) one, which would presumably be even more soothing for problem areas.

Personally, if the shoe ain't broke, I'm not going to fix it. That is to say, the Dove Bar is going to be my "gentle" cleanser of choice now unless some other problem crops up. Sure, it's not fancy or incredibly indulgent, but it works. I'd even be willing to use it on my face in a pinch, which is something I would have hesitated to do with my old body washes. (Incidentally, bar soap doesn't count as a "liquid" during air travel, which makes it a great choice for the travel toilettries kit.)

And bonus? It's really affordable, and the bar makes my bathroom smell nice even when I'm not using it. So yeah, that's pretty much a no-brainer for me. Good for the wallet, and for the skin!

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Split Pea Soup: Great for tastebuds, not so much for hair.

Dude. So I'm basically a carnivore, right? I love veggies and carbs and all, but when it comes down to it, nothing wins me over like protein. (Unless it's cheese. Or kittens. But the latter not for eating, obviously.) So when I come across a recipe that is mostly made up of not-meat, and I'm raving about it, you guys should know that it is SERIOUS.

These days, my main obsession is split pea soup. Made with smoked ham, it's basically the best thing ever. It's silky and creamy and decadent, but the ingredients are surprisingly healhty. Best of all, if you've got a slow cooker, you just chuck everything in it, and let it bubble away. It's a no-fuss way to make your whole apartment smell absolutely mouthwatering. (Okay, so I guess there was one fussy moment when I got pea gunk in my hair. But I'm naturally super klutzy, and also I'd been drinking a lot of Cava. So for a normal sober person, it's not at all fussy.)

I found this recipe on Food and Whine, which is a lovely (Canadian!) food blog with lots of other recipes I'll be exploring. The only change I made was to subsitute some chicken broth in for the water.

This serves about 4 as an entree (serve with a nice salad and toast points, maybe) or 6 as an appetizer.

- 1 (16 oz./450 grams) pkg. dried green or yellow split peas, rinsed
1 meaty hambone or 2 ham (pork) hocks (or you could use 2 cups of diced ham, in a pinch.) [Edit: smoked ham is the best!]
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2 ribs of celery plus leaves, chopped
- 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
- 1 tsp. seasoned salt or kosher salt (or to taste) [Go easy on the salt if you're using chicken bouillon]
- 1/2 tsp. (about 20 grinds) fresh pepper
- 3 cups chicken broth or bouillon
- 3 cups hot water


Layer ingredients in slow cooker in the order given in the ingredient list. Pour in hot water and bouillon. (Note: if you have a smaller slow cooker and all the water won't fit, pour in what will fit then add the rest later as it cooks and liquid is absorbed by the peas). Do not stir the ingredients. [You can also cook this on stove-top. Just put everything in a pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours. I like it better in the slow cooker (the flavour seems richer) but it's tasty either way.]

Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours (for best results) or on low for 8 to 10 hours until peas are very soft and ham falls off bone. Remove bones and bay leaf. Mash peas to thicken more, if desired. Serve garnished with croutons. [I did not do this, I just put it in my mouth as soon as it cooled enough. Could also shred some cheddar on it, or serve with toast points or tortilla chips] This soup freezes well. [Really, it does. I couldn't tell the difference after thawing and reheating. Amazing.]

This is the kind of soup that makes one happy about chilly weather. It's healthy, easy, and satisfying. What more could you want? Try it now!!!

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