February 21, 2011

Skin Care

I've mentioned previously how much trouble I have finding things I can use on my skin without it turning into an itchy, scaly, reptilian mess - there aren't many products out there for someone who can't handle artificial colors, scents, or preservatives (and I like to think I'm low maintenance - pffft!). I used to think my inability to use any kind of moisturizer meant that I was doomed to look like Yoda by the time I was 45, but thankfully I've found something that I can use on my skin, and it works so well that I think everybody should have a bottle in their medicine cabinet!

My skin's best friend.

Safflower oil is said to be as close to our skin's natural oils as you can get, and the linoleic acid it contains helps lock moisture in the skin. I like to smooth a few drops over my face and neck while my skin is still damp after washing, and the oil soaks right in (my skin is naturally fairly oily, and it doesn't at all make me look like an oil slick). If you're a little heavy handed, any excess can just be blotted off. I've tried coconut and olive oils this way, but neither disappeared into my skin the way safflower oil does, or left my skin looking as nice.

To soften more than your face, you can add a few drops to your bath water while it's filling, or apply it over wet skin after stepping out of the shower; it also works wonders on hands that are parched after a day spent digging in the garden.

But wait, it gets even better. The 375 ml bottle in the photo was $9 at our local (overpriced) health food store, and it's organic to boot. Good luck finding that much of anything for less than $10 at a beauty counter. Not to mention, I've had this bottle for about a year and it's only half empty - a little goes a long way. I do find, however, that it's easier to handle if you decant the oil into a smaller, more manageable bottle (I only had to knock the large glass bottle over once before coming up with that brilliant idea).

It may not smell delicious, come in a fancy bottle (unless you put it into one, I suppose), or get you a bonus "gift" of product samples you'll never use, but it's just the thing to ward off mid-winter chapping (and maybe even a wrinkle or two).

February 18, 2011

Building a "Champagne" Garden on a Beer Budget: Part I

The view out my window when I woke up this morning didn't exactly shout "spring!", but the angle of the sun has changed noticeably in the past few weeks and I've been dealing with a pretty bad case of spring fever. This can mean only one thing - time to start thinking (obsessing) about the garden.

The view from my bed this morning.

Having such a large, blank canvas to landscape, and very little money with which to do it, we've had to get somewhat creative in our approach to planting. If you're in a similar situation, now is the time to get yourself to the local garden center and take advantage of some mid-winter deals. 

I went to one of my favorite places with my mom last weekend on what was a completely miserable "Wet Coast" winter day (read: grey mist and pelting rain), hoping to satisfy my recent gardening cravings. The sight of all those lovely hellebores and primroses was almost overwhelming, and I was tempted to fill my cart with colour (at a hefty price), but then I stumbled upon the clearance rack. 

It wasn't nearly as exciting to look at, being comprised mainly of pots of soil with a few dead twigs stuck in them, until I started reading the tags and noticed the prices. These perennials had been marked down 50% at the end of the previous growing season, and were now being cleared out for an extra 75% off the sale price! 

I scored Heucheras, Fuschias, Joe Pyeweed, Astibles, Bee Balm, Creeping Thyme and all kinds of other goodies, at a fraction of what I would pay for lush looking ones a few months from now. Perennials are usually expensive, because they come back year after year, and can eventually be divided and spread around the garden, which makes them perfect for a low-maintenance, low-budget garden. In the end, I came home with over $300 worth of plants, but spent only $38.

My one word of caution would be to look for signs of new growth on any clearance items you buy, so you can be sure that it will actually produce for you come spring. Since most perennials should be starting to put out new growth right now (especially if they're living in a greenhouse), it's the perfect time to go looking. What better way to spend a wintery weekend?

Now if only this darn snow would melt, I could get these babies into the ground!

February 14, 2011

A Chocolate Valentine Treat

Happy Valentines day! I hope everyone is enjoying a break from the February blahs, and that you're taking the time to indulge yourself in the obligatory V-day chocolate binge. If you haven't yet made it to your local chocolate shop, all is not lost. In a matter of minutes you can whip up a batch of these delicious chocolate scones, which are perfect for sharing with your sweetie (or not).

I didn't have the white chocolate chips the recipe calls for, so I upped the semi-sweet chips to 1/2 a cup, which seemed to work well. They were perfect paired with a slathering of homemade raspberry jam.

Check back over the next few days for the first in a series of posts on what we've been doing to build a "champagne" garden on a beer budget.


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