Archive for December, 2008

Best Products for Winter Dry Skin Relief

The official first day of winter is Sunday, December 21st. But in many parts of the U.S. it has felt like winter has already arrived. One of the things that come with cold weather and indoor heat is dry skin, scalp, and lips. The first step to helping with dry skin is to switch to handmade soaps. I am not just saying this because I love handmade soaps, but it is less drying for your skin. It contains naturally occurring glycerin and less harsh ingredients. And second step that’s free, is to get as much natural sunlight as possible. Sunlight has many good benefits and it can help those that suffer from psoriasis. Just be sure to wear facial sunscreen.

giabI wanted to list here some of my favorite winter skin relief products. I am not paid to endorse any of them. Just thought they would help people not waste their money and time on things that don’t work. It also bothers me when fashion and beauty magazine editors (Lucky, Elle, Health, etc) come out with a list of all these new products that is suppose to be the next best thing for your skin. But you know it’s basically free advertising. And they usually don’t help your wallet, with cost of $30 or more for all these new creams.

I usually prefer to use all natural botanical products, but it this case they did not help me as much as these regular products listed here. And these are also much easier to locate at your local drugstore.

I had suffered from peeling skin on my fingers for the past 9 years and have tried almost all types of cream. Thank goodness they are not contagious! My dermatologist said it was some type of psoriasis. So I have tried prescriptions after prescriptions, and nothing helped. I also tried many drugstore creams, from Corn Huskers to the German brand Weleda, but those didn’t help either. Then about a year ago, a friend recommended Gloves In A Bottle. This one was more difficult to locate, so I got mine at the Kaiser Permanente pharmacy for about $10 a bottle. But I think the price may have gone up to $15 now. After using it for a couple of days, I was so happy with the skin on my hands. It was healing much faster then before and was not peeling as much. Imagine suffering for all those years to finally finding this, it was a miracle for me. And I think more people should know about GIAB. Now I don’t even bother looking at any other brands since using this lotion. GIAB are popular amongst people who wash their hand frequently, such as hospital workers, car mechanics, and florists. The lotion forms a thin barrier that helps retain moisture. Many people have even used this on their face and lips. I think that would be a good idea! Read the rest of this entry »


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ABC Teahouse – Guava Leaves

Tea Review: Guava Leaves Tea by ABC Tea House


Of the two brands of guava leaves tea I’ve tried, this is my favorite brand. It is from ABC Teahouse of China. The box said it contains 100% guava leaf.

The other brand I’ve had is Hung Phat from Vietnam. The box said it contain guava leaf and fruit. I actually thought this would be better as it contains fruit pieces. But I could not even finish my first cup. Of the whole box, I’ve only used no more then 3 tea bags. It is very bitter tasting. So after seeping the tea for several minutes, I opened up the tea bag from Hung Phat and found there were more then guava leaf and fruit pieces. It also look like small pieces of twigs or bark too. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but they should at least label it on the package. And I would think that more pieces of the guava plant, the better. But in this case, it just taste worse.

The guava tea leaf from ABC Tea House is much smoother tasting and not as bitter. I opened this tea bag and did find all guava leaves. This brand was bought at a Chinese grocery store for $2.99 per box. As I wrote in a previous post, guava leaf has many benefits. In Asian countries, it is mostly used to soothe stomach aches and dieting. But recenlty I found out that it is also suppose to help with menstrual cramps too.

In the past couple of years, my menstrual cramps have been really painful. Studies show that adding more calcium to your diet would help with the cramps. So I drank more milk, ate more cheese and yogurt. Even tried taking calcium supplements, but they all seem to help in the beginning and the pain came back. Now that I started to drink guava tea leaf with the first sign of PMS, I have found that it has also help my mood swings. I have only been drinking this for 1 month and did notice a big improvement on my PMS already. But I can’t say how conclusive it is for me, so I’ll have to wait and see after 3 months of drinking.

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Christmas Cheers

The best thing about Christmas are really the lights. Even bare trees wrapped in lights look beautiful this time of year. To help me get into the holiday cheer, I found some really nice pictures from flickr. There is also “Christmas lights of the world”, a flickr group which has lots more holiday lights. Happy Holidays!


Akfirebug took this picture of a lighted Christmas tree taken in the afternoon at a chilly -20 in Fairbanks, Alaska. I like how the little tree gets all the attention in what looks like the middle of nowhere.


Idle_Type took this picture of homes in Baltimore. Check out these bright lights on 34th street in Hampden. It would be great if San Francisco had something like this. Read the rest of this entry »

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Beautiful Paper Flowers

I saw some of these beautiful crepe paper making flower kit from Martha Stewart’s Collection. They look really crafty and they won’t wilt. I actually had mixed feelings about them at first. It would seem cheaper to just whip them up yourself. Or you can always find a pattern from a craft book and use that instead. But if you still want a kit, they are now on sale at 50% off the original price ($12.99 – $19.99).


Crepe Paper Dogwood Blossom

I like the dogwood the best. It looks simple and clean. The idea behind it is neat, at first I thought it would be a good project to do with kids. Except the crepe paper look a bit too delicate. Maybe more suitable for older children. Another down side is that the novelty will wear off. And soon they will be collecting dust and fading into the background, just waiting to be tossed out. So maybe fabric flowers are a better bet…

None the less, they look extremely pretty when taken by Martha’s talented photographers and art director. Here are some of my favorites:


Crepe Paper Peonies Read the rest of this entry »

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Winter’s Treat: Yuzu & Bergamot

I usually don’t obesses too much about body lotion, but since it is winter time I find a reason to enjoy them more. Especially the ones with an uplifting scent. I also prefer lotions that aren’t too greasy and has all natural ingredients.

Boots UK has a great lotion made with essential oils of citrus of bergamot and olive oil. Bergamot is of the citrus family and grown mainly in Southern Italy and parts of France. Essential oils are extracted from the rind of the fruit and used in soaps and lotions, as well as in aromatherapy.

Another new discovery I’ve found that is great in lotion is yuzu. It is also called Japanese grapefruit. In Japan, the fruit is very popular and has many uses. Nothing goes to waste! Yuzu is made into jams and the rinds are used to make tea. But the fragrance is most valued of them all.


Photo from The New York Times by Tony Cenicola

The fruit is rare, and highly prized. The New York Times food writer also mention that it sells for $19 per pound and the juice are good squeezed on grilled or poached fish. From the look of the picture above, you would think the fruit isn’t fully ripe yet. But I guess it can be used green or yellow and a little bit probably goes a long way. Tradeswind Fruit described the fruit as yellow to orange skinned citrus, medium in size, with highly fragrant rind and flesh. The flavor is acidic and tart. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dreaming of Maui

It’s cold and foggy out here in northern California. I thought these pictures would warm me up. They are some of my favorite pictures of luxurious villas in sunny, warm and green Maui. They are luxuriously priced from $1,000 to $6,000 per night. So enjoy!

Hale Pikake
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii


Turtle Beach Villa. Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Reflections.  Napili, Maui, Hawaii

All photos taken from Luxury Retreats International, based in the UK.  You can view more pictures from their gallery from their website.  The company has over 1,600 villas in 70+ destinations, from the beaches of Barbados to the rolling hills of Tuscany.

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Kudzu’s Good Side

There are these lush green vines that I have seen from many pictures and movies coming from the southeastern United States. They even have pretty purple flowers too. The plants are usually seen growing endlessly along highways and forests. What is the name of this interesting plant? It is kudzu ( scientific name: pueraria lobata), a Japanese native plant that has been labeled as “invasive” and is taking over the native plants of the area.


Purdue University’s Photo of the nice kudzu with pretty purple flowers.

The plant first came to the US as an ornamental plant in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Then in 1935 to 1953, farmers in the South were encouraged by the United States to plant kudzu to reduce soil erosion. But in was declared as invasive by the US government by the mid 1950’s. The southeastern US has hot, humid summers, frequent rainfall, temperate winters and few hard freezes. So the conditions are almost perfect for the kudzus to keep on growing. In some ways, the plant reminds me of the end of the world when the vines start to take over cities and towns.


Michael Jon Jensen, Director of Publishing Technologies of the National Academies Press took this picture of kudzus taking over this abandoned Honda Civic. Looks like it is just in the edge of town too. Watch out!

But in Japan, they love to eat kudzu. Kudzu is high in fiber and protein and is a good source of vitamin A and D.   Read more about Kudzu’s Good Side here.

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