Musings and Ramblings

I’ve been a bit remiss about posting. Part of the reason for that are rehearsals ramping up for my next theater project: Enchanted April. I’m so excited to be playing Lady Caroline Bramble in the stage adaptation of the novel. Lady Caroline is a lovely young socialite with a troubled past and plenty of secrets. She’s very private and quiet most of the time, so it will be an interesting role. And she has a very daring and ecclectic wardrobe, which will be fun. The costumer and I have worked together before, so I’m looking forward to seeing what she pulls for me in a couple weeks.

I’ve also been spending a not-small amount of time planning out my recently-upgraded skin care routine. Because I’m waiting on packages from overseas, I have time to really spread out the testing of different products and watch for adverse reactions from each one. Because I love organization, I’ve put all this into a spread sheet. I’ve also decided to organizer my hair care routine like this as well. This past weekend, I indulged in a scalp massage with peppermint oil, a lovely scalp exfoliation with an acidic shampoo, and a deep conditioning treatment. I have a few new hair treats coming soon to add in, as well.

This weekend, I also had another opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City to see a matinee of their production of Manon Lescaut. It was a gorgeous production, with sets and costumes inspired by wartime France in the 1940s, which I thought was a neat update. The singers were not only wonderful singers but also fantastic actors, and the lead tenor managed to make it through despite suffering from the flu! Having just had the dubious honor of performing with an unhealthy voice, I could hear where he really started straining and I was that much more impressed at how well he was able to maintain the strength and quality of his vocal sound.

So a whirlwind week of rehearsals, a whirlwind weekend of travel and culture, and what little time in between taken up with beauty planning means less time to plan, write, and take photos for blog posts. But I am not going anywhere for long, and I do have posts planned and photos to take for the future. Until then, I hope you will curl up with a cup of tea and wait patiently!

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How a Complicated Asian-Style Skin Care Routine Fits into a Vintage-Inspired Lifestyle

As I mentioned before, I’ve recently re-investigated Asian or Korean skin care and started developing my own multi-step routine. Currently, I mostly use relatively ordinary, Western products, but both the outlandish products and the ritual of the routine fit into my vintage-inspired mindset for my lifestyle. So many people have memories of their grandmothers or mothers sitting in front of the vanity and carefully doing their skin care routine. My own grandmother, though she is not fussy or vain in any way, had her vanity with her jars of creams. I used to play with them sometimes when I was over there, and had to be reminded that grandmother’s room is not for children.

Vintage-style beauty hearkens back to days when makeup was neither widely commercially available nor socially acceptable. While the red lipsticks of the mid-20th century are well-loved, and the feminist makeup boom of the 1920s is known, before that, women were expected to at least look like they were bare-faced and came by their glow honestly. What better way to do this, at least in part, than by having lovely, tended-to skin? And this philosophy is explicitly shared by Korean skin care devotees. The idea is to spend more time on your skin care so you don’t need as much makeup.

Obviously, some of us do just need makeup for things that skin care alone cannot entirely fix. I know I personally have inherited dark circles that no amount of eye cream will diminish, and so I use concealer as well as eye cream. But the idea that the right combination of skin care products will leave you with a perfect, makeup-free glow is an old idea indeed. And while so many “vintage beauty” guides focus on the fact that historical skin care products were made from pre-industrial ingredients, human beings have always had a fascination with the new and outlandish. Before widespread cosmetic manufacturing, odd ingredients or the odd use of ingredients piqued the interest of historical beauties. Rumors about beautiful women bathing in this or that showed that there was an idea that seemingly extreme beauty products were the secret to eternally youthful skin. Cleopatra and Empress Sisi were both said to have bathed in milk. Empress Sisi even wore raw meat sheet masks to enhance her beauty. So is snail secretion or donkey’s milk really that different or new?

And once cosmetic ingredients started to become industrially synthesized, such as the 19th-century discovery of fatty alcohols, people were fascinated by these new ingredients. Perhaps one of the reasons women would put radioactive materials on their skin was because such things were a novelty and thought to be the next big thing. I promise you that if Empress Sisi could have gotten her hands on a peptide serum, she would have tried to bathe in the stuff.

Finally, all this involved skin care helps me stay connected to the practice of enhancing one’s beauty through care and attention. Women in history, particularly in the upper classes, had to engage in elaborate routines to get their hair to curl or even to get in and out of the clothing they wore. So much of modern convenience has meant that some of us no longer spend that time on ourselves. And reconnecting with that bit of self-appreciation has been highly therapeutic to someone to whom “getting ready” used to mean pulling on jeans and a t-shirt and putting her hair into a ponytail (or pinning back a third-day-unwashed pixie cut). Becoming the kind of woman who has a skin care routine has helped me feel better about myself, even when I don’t bother putting on makeup. And that has always been the goal of a beauty routine, throughout history, I think.

Friday Musings: Lip Treatments, Asian Skin Care, and Lady Friends

I was going to post about the new lip treatment I made this weekend, but I am not as enamored with as I thought I would be. I wanted something similar to the Bite Beauty Agave Lip mask because, while I love that, it’s rather expensive and it seems like I could make something similar for less money. Plus, I wanted to incorporate honey instead of agave into it. So I made a version of Egyptian Magic, but with some coconut oil instead of beeswax, so it had more of a soft texture than a salve/balm texture. Unfortunately, coconut oil always feels too light on my lips. I suppose the lanolin in the BB mask is necessary. I shall keep experimenting.

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So as you know, I’ve been shaking up my skin care routine. After going about a month without putting anything but water and a little rosehip oil on my face, I’ve determined that I have dehydrated, combination skin, and I get clogged pores in my oily areas. I found Caroline Hirons, who convinced me to use non-foaming cleansers, perform a two-step cleansing in the evening, and layer my skin care to create a “moisture sandwich.” She also taught me the benefits of using hyaluronic acid on breakout-prone skin.

I took this one further and joined Reddit this week. I at first started posting in the Skincare Addiction subreddit, but soon found that many of the posts that interested me were in the Asian Beauty section. My routine is already an Asian-style routine, with several layered steps. And this week’s research has convinced me to try some actual Asian products to replace certain steps of my routine.

Of course, no Westerner’s discussion of Asian skin care is complete without mentioning the snails. One of the higher-profile Asian skin care ingredients is snail slime, which is supposed to have benefits to repairing the skin. So I mentioned to Boyfriend that I might try snail skin care and his response was that I wasn’t “allowed” to use snails. This naturally made me determined to put snails on my face. I went to some well-reputed Amazon sellers and found two bundles of sheet masks (a product I use, but that I have currently run out of) that each included one snail secretion sheet mask, among others that are also intriguing. For good measure, I threw in some cushion makeup and an undereye concealer with salmon in it. They just arrived yesterday, so we shall see how they treat my face.

And then, I plan to replace items in my current routine with Asian options as I run out, if I’m not already in love with the product I’m using. Most intriguing is Asian sunblock. Asian women seem to have the same love of tanning that I do: that is to say, none at all. And so they actually wear sunscreen every day and reapply it. This means that it has to be light and cosmetically elegant enough to wear every day without disrupting makeup. So I’m intrigued to see if an Asian sunscreen is more appealing than the current product I use.

I’ve also taken a step back from “clean” personal care. I still use a lot of my old favorites, and my hair will always prefer more natural products without silicones and the sulfates necessary to wash them out. But I’ve come to realize that certain ingredients I was avoiding were based on outdated research. And so I’ve tentatively embraced more conventional, albeit unconventional, products.

Finally, as I continue to delve more into skin care and makeup, I’m thankful for my lady friends. This weekend, I’m having an outing with two friends of mine, so we can go to Sephora and Ulta, and maybe Target, and just generally shop around. I don’t do a lot of shopping, and part of that is that I find shopping alone to be awkward and shopping with Boyfriend to feel rushed. I’m excited to shop with a group of ladies who wants to be there! And it will be a far different experience than researching online to find a product that I was already looking for.

So that was my week and look forward to the weekend. Happy Friday, all!

Treats Without Sweets: Cheese Scones

Lately, I’ve tried to take the advice of Lady Hirons and trim sweet things from my diet. Because I found myself reaching for sweet treats more often than not, I’ve decided that a three week fast from sweets was necessary to somewhat reset my cravings and remind me that I can, indeed, live without sugar.

Sadly, this coincided with the beginning of a new rehearsal cycle with a director who likes to schedule Saturday morning rehearsals and loves to have breakfast treats to keep us motivated. I generally like to bake for my acting colleagues, so I was somewhat disappointed that I couldn’t bring a batch of soft, sweet cream scones with cream and jam. But then I thought, well treats don’t have to be sweet, and I could easily bake scones without sugar. But they might be rather bland. So I thought back to my old Nigella Lawson recipe for onion pie with cheese scone dough and decided to make a batch of cheese scones.

These are really a simple batch of scones, without even any egg to give them more structure. I recommend you use a nice, sharp cheese, as the sharper the cheese, the stronger the cheese flavor will be. I eat them without any accompaniment, though I imagine a tart jam might be nice.

Cheese Scones

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 stick of cold butter, cubed
4 oz. shredded cheese
2 cups cold milk

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder, and then cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the cheese. Add the milk, a little at a time, until a soft dough forms. Pat the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/2″ thick, and then fold three times, like a letter, and again in half. Pat this out again and cut out your scones. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until quite brown. Makes about 8 scones.

On Celebrating Love

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I was just tickled by that little Doodle yesterday for St. Valentines Day. Traditionally, I’ve not be a great celebrator of Valentine’s Day, and this year was no exception. Boyfriend and I had had plans to go out Saturday evening for dinner and a movie, but I was tired after going to aerials and a friend’s matinee, so we stayed in an ordered Chinese food.

Special Valentine's Day Sunday #coffee date at the new and improved @vigilantecoffee

A post shared by Elizabeth Tweed (@tealeavesandtweed) on

Yesterday, we did go for our standing Sunday morning coffee date at a local coffee shop. The shop had recently renovated and it was fun to see the change. Plus they added this cute little table with two padded chairs that were still free for the taking. It felt a bit more special as we ate our kolaches and had our coffees. Despite not doing anything particularly out of the ordinary for the day, I prefer our standing coffee date.

Getting out of the house and out of our weekday routines has be a great way for us to reconnect with each other over a meal. Boyfriend doesn’t often eat breakfast, but will always have a cup of coffee, and I don’t often drink coffee, but will make an exception for the occasional, well-made cappuccino. And the ambiance of the shop is both quiet and not too quiet, if that makes sense. They play music that is enjoyable and unobtrusive enough that the rest of the patrons, many of whom are working, can focus.

We like watching the people and discussing the coffee, too. Boyfriend is surprisingly vehement about his coffee, despite being relatively unfussy elsewhere. And I appreciate that, should I desire a cup of tea instead, they do serve one of my favorite brands.

And so we wake on Sunday mornings, dress, drive to the shop, and find a place to park. The short walk and the lingering breakfast is the perfect amount of time to focus on just us, without the distraction of work or electronics or television, before we both head out back our lives.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A Beautiful Floral Facial Oil

One of my favorite DIY blogs is Marie Rayma’s blog Humblebee & Me. She has a beautiful approach to DIY, creating products for herself and her friends for the joy of it, and never selling. Because she does not sell, she can also go into discussions of the healing benefits of certain products, and she tends to provide recipes that make a reasonable amount of product (for example, five tubes of lip balm instead of fifty).

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She recently posted a recipe for a facial oil serum based on mixing her favorite, argan oil, with evening primrose oil to help heal and prevent hormonal acne. Now, I’d looked at evening primrose oil for that same reason, although I don’t use argan oil. I decided to try blending it with my preferred oil: rose hip. I finally got my order of fresh rose hip oil and a bottle of evening primrose from Mountain Rose Herbs and have been using my oil blend of fifty-fifty rose hip to evening primrose for a few weeks now. It is a heavier oil than rose hip alone and took some getting used to. It also has a bit of a deep-fryer scent to it.

To remedy that, I decided to add some skin-regenerating essential oils, inspired by True Nature Botanicals Face Oil. Now, I love the scent of their oil, but the particular blend skews higher in oleic acid than I like. The oil itself is quite dear, but the ingredients are not a whole lot cheaper than the finished oil itself. That said, the formula is not what I would consider ideal. So I found an Etsy seller who would sell me small amounts of precious floral oils.

I blended 1/16th of an ounce each of jasmine, rose, vetiver, and neroli essential oils, along with ten drops of frankincense essential oil into my bottle of rose hip oil, which had about 3.5 oz. left in it. This I mixed well, and then blended half and half with evening primrose oil. It works out to about a 3% dilution of the essential oils. It has a light fragrance and just covers the oily scent of the oils itself, plus the essential oils are known for being good for healing skin and helping it retain moisture.

I’ve been using the oil for the last several days in the evening, and it is a lovely experience for all my senses, I think having a lovely-smelling facial oil prompts me to take a bit more time massaging my face in the evenings. And I don’t smell quite so much like a fast food restaurant when I go to bed!

A Tea Tasting: Simple Loose Leaf Jade Oolong, in Guywan

This weekend, I received my February box from Simple Loose Leaf. In it, I found a sample of a tea I’d actually had before. I had a cup of it (about half the sample) on Friday morning before going to mum’s, and had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. So when I had a quiet hour on Sunday, I decided to do a proper tasting in my guywan.

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Jade Oolong is a lightly oxidized oolong with rolled leaves that is, sadly, unavailable from the Simple Loose Leaf shop right now. Hopefully they get it back in soon! I drink a lot of black tea in the winter because it feels rich, warming, and comforting, but I do love a good cup of Oolong. Jade Oolong is a classic floral Oolong with honey and grassy notes, and just a bit of tannin. It really shone in the guywan because the different steepings had distinct characteristic. It wasn’t until the third steeping that I really noticed a new wave of sweetness coming out.

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I was also excited to use one of the lovely holiday gifts Boyfriend got me: a new electric kettle! Our old kettle’s lid broke and we managed as best we could, but recently, it failed spectacularly enough that we had to retire it entirely. We had been using my office kettle for a while, but I awoke Christmas morning to find that Boyfriend had bought me a fancy new kettle. The new kettle not only will heat water to an exact temperature, but it will also hold the water at that temperature if you set it to. So I was able to set the kettle to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and keep it there while I did the various steepings. That way, I didn’t have to wait for the kettle to reheat in between.

All in all, Jade Oolong is a medium-bodied tea with a golden color and a floral-grassy aroma. The flavor brings in more honey notes, and the first steeping finished with a long tannic finish. The later steepings gradually lost the bitterness and tannin, and the third steeping brought in a lovely bright acidity and sweetness. I drank four steepings before I stopped taking notes, but I had a fifth a little later on. It is a truly lovely tea and I hope Simple Loose Leaf gets it back in stock soon!

 

A Weekend at Mother’s, plus Skin Care to Go

This weekend, my mother had surgery, and so Boyfriend and I went over to help her while she recovered. I arrived late Friday morning, where I could work remotely for the rest of the day, while Boyfriend arrived that evening after a day at work. Mum got home shortly before noon and was instructed to lie flat and not get up except to use the toilet, so I did a bit of waiting on her. I got her water and made her a milkshake and helped her with her medication.

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We stayed the night Friday and then on Saturday morning decided to stay one more night to make sure she was doing alright. Part of packing for the weekend was packing up a version of my new skin care routine to hold me over for a night or two. I was able to put together a travel skin care kit from samples and deluxe samples I’ve gotten in packages, plus a sample kit from Trilogy I bought recently.

Trilogy Natural Skincare is a natural brand from New Zealand that has a Rosehip range, based upon rosehip oil as an ingredient. I found this sample kit on sale at Whole Foods just after the holidays for half price. It has a sample of the cream cleanser, Vital Moisturizing Cream, and Rosehip Antioxidant+ oil. And the whole thing comes in a little bag that’s great for non-air travel. I tried out the products for a day or two to make sure they didn’t cause immediate breakouts, and then put them away for travel.

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To create my skin care to go kit, I added in a deluxe sample of cleansing oil, glycolic-lactic acid mask, and serums. Then, I popped in some little single-use samples of facial sunscreen and foundation or skin tint. The brands mostly don’t matter, although I’ve recently bought the full-size of the BareMinerals serum because I love it. It’s not a full version of my skin care routine, but it works for a day or two. And anywhere I travel will provide me washcloths. I think the only thing I would add is a mini acid toner instead of the exfoliating mask because I can’t use that two days in a row. I know Pixi makes a travel size Glow Tonic.

I just pop all of this into the adorable little bag from Trilogy to go on a car or train trip. I would have to transfer it to a plastic zip-top bag for air travel, but that’s not so much of a bother. This is just for a couple of days’ travel. I’ll have to start working on a kit for longer, as I have to travel for work over the summer.

A Homemade Herbal Eye Balm

Last week on Instagram, I teased a photo of a snow-day craft project. I had spent some time reading beauty reviews and decided I wanted to make my own nighttime eye balm. I had some herbal infused oil that I made for holiday body butters but ultimately didn’t end up using, and lots of other skin goodies. I had infused calendula and red clover, both fantastic for sensitive skin, in avocado oil, which has loads of vitamins, plus a high level of oleic acid for nourishing dry skin. Since I don’t get acne right around my eyes, I didn’t worry about using a high-linoleic acid oil.

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Then, I decided to use mango butter and babassu oil for the solid fat portion of my balm because Tata Harper uses mango butter in almost everything she makes, and babassu oil absorbs so nicely into the skin. I finished off with a bit of cetyl-stearyl alcohol to harden it up, as it’s less occlusive than beeswax, and some Vitamin E, both for skin benefits and to prevent rancidity. I melted the hard oils and fatty alcohol together, then added the liquid oil and Vitamin E, and then poured it into a little tin that I had leftover from making lip and nail balms. I did sterilize the tin with some 95% alcohol before using it. I let it harden at room temperature, to a rather firm, translucent balm.

At warm room temperature, it’s almost a gel, but upstairs, where it’s a bit cooler, it becomes quite firm. I sometimes have to scratch out a bit of the balm with my fingernail, but as soon as I put it on my fingers, my body heat melts it instantly. I dab it on my ring fingers and the pat it all the way around my eyes as the final step of my night time skin care routine.

Herbal-Infused Eye Balm

Infused oil:

Fill a jar with half calendula petals and half red clover blossoms. Pour avocado oil (or oil of your choice) over the herbs to cover. Poke down with a chopstick or skewer to remove air pockets and top off with oil. Allow to sit in a cool, dark place for several week, shaking occasionally. To use, strain out the herbal matter and reserve the infused oil.

Eye balm:

2g cetyl stearyl alcohol
4g mango butter
4g babassu oil
6g infused oil
1g Vitamin E

Melt together the cetyl stearyl alcohol, mango butter, and babassu oil until completely melted. Add the Vitamin E and oil and stir until well melted and incorporated. Pour into a tin. Fills just a bit more than one 1/2-oz (15g) tin.