Monday, November 30, 2009

Please try again

This blog is temporarily out of service, for reasons of existential angst. We will hopefully be up and running again soon. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Winter Care for Skin and Hair

I'm still reeling from the idea that people think I deserve to pay more for health care based on a physical attribute I can't change. So I don't really have the emotional reserves for anything that meaningful. I'm not normally a "beauty and fashion" type of blogger, but since winter is here and the air is drying, I thought I'd share my personal tips.

Here in the north, winter means artificial heat. The word of the season is dry. My skin is constantly tight and itchy, my heels crack, my hair turns to straw. I don't have a lot of disposable income for expensive products, so I fight the dry fight on a budget.

The first thing I do is switch from soap to body wash for the season. Nothing fancy, but the difference between the best moisturizing bar soap and a reasonably priced bottle of body wash is significant in terms of moisturizing power. I buy the Suave cocoa and shea butter wash when it's on sale, the off-brand knockoff when it isn't.

Cost: Approx $2/month

I invest in a good razor with cartridges, instead of the cheap disposables. Dry skin is easily irritated and vulnerable to razor burn. On the other hand, I don't bother with shave cream; the body wash works just as well without an extra purchase. I use Shick Quattro for Women, and change the cartridge every two weeks.

Cost: Approx $5/month

Since my skin is so dry, I skip the expensive lotions and go straight to virgin coconut oil. It's easy to find in health food stores or specialty Asian or Indian cooking supply stores. Coconut oil is an extremely lightweight oil that's solid at room temperature but melts almost instantly on the skin. It's easily absorbed and doesn't evaporate over time like lotion. If you have sensitive skin or break out easily you might want to test it on one spot for a few days before using it everywhere. I put it on right after I shower in the morning and a little goes a long way. a 16 ounce jar lasts me at least 3-4 months, including using it on my hair. I then wait a few minutes for it to absorb before getting dressed.

Cost: Approx $3.00/month

For my face, I avoid the $40 sugar scrubs in the stores and just use sugar. Regular, cheap, old-fashioned white table sugar. Why pay for the artificial suspension mediums and perfumes in the commercial sugar scrubs? I keep about a cup of white sugar in a bowl on a shelf by the shower, dig out a small handful onto a washcloth and scrub gently until it dissolves. I try to not keep too much in the bathroom at a time or it will start to clump. I don't use cleansers or toners in addition to this, because I've found that the sugar cleanses the skin pretty well, suppresses breakouts, and rinses clean.

Cost: Approx 10 cents/month

As a facial moisturizer I also bypass the commercial cosmetic industry that puts a drop of shea butter in a bottle of lotion and charges you outrageous money for it. I just bought the raw shea butter directly from a fair-trade source in Africa. I keep a lump of it in a jar and the rest in the freezer. So far a pound has lasted me over a year. I only need about 1/4 teaspoon to moisturize my face, so it goes a long way. Better yet, I don't end the day with dry flakey face because the pure raw shea actually stays on the skin instead of evaporating. Of course I bought it when I had a wholesale license, so it was much cheaper. When I have to re-order I'll have to hit up a friend of mine who owns a store to order it for me. I can also usually find it at Pagan festivals, the annual Black Arts festival, Island Fest, etc. here in town for around $20/pound. The extra effort is worth it when you're talking about 1/20 the cost of re-packaged versions.

Cost: Aprox $1/month

My main hair product, other than shampoo and conditioner, is virgin coconut oil. I have very long, thick, dry hair that desperately needs treatment in the winter to keep from getting brittle. Before I wash my hair I use about two teaspoons of oil as a detangler (and it works marvelously!). I brush the hair to distribute the oil evenly through the middle and ends and let it sit for about 10 minutes before I get in the shower. I only wash my hair every other day, and on the off days I rub a very small amount (1/2 teaspoon) of coconut oil into the last few inches of hair, then brush as usual to distribute. By applying just to the ends I keep the hair at my scalp from getting too oily.

Cost: Nothing (accounted for as body moisturizer)

My feet are a real problem year round. I hate to wear shoes and socks, so my feet dry out easily and crack until it's painful to walk. I tried to keep up with them by using a foot rasp to remove the callouses and intensive moisturizer, but a friend who works at a podiatry office told me that the rasping to remove dead skin actually causes the callouses to form more quickly. I finally just started using Vaseline morning and night. Well, I say Vaseline. What I mean is dollar-store petroleum jelly, which is the same thing at a tenth the price. I smear it on my feet at night and wear socks to bed. I smear it on in the morning and wear socks for half an hour until I have to leave for work. As a result I haven't had the splitting callus thing in over four months, and my heels are actually starting to look like skin instead of a desert landscape.

Cost: Approx $1/Month

So that's my winter daily care routine. Your mileage may vary, especially if your skin is more oily than dry. But I'm a big fan of cheap, especially when I'm using things that work better than the expensive store-bought. Altogether it looks like I spend about $12.10 each month caring for my skin and hair. I've spent more than that on a single bottle of fancy facial moisturizer before I called foul and put my money to better use.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On another front...

This is pretty damn awesome!!!

Sure, it's offset by the bad news from Maine, but it's good to know that my corner of the world has become a little more humane.


I don't even know

where to begin

With my fear

and rage

and helplessness

in the face of this new wave of institutionalized discrimination.

I call absolute bullshit.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Recipe Box: Homemade Crabmeat Rangoons

I made these on Sunday with an Asian-style salad with chow mein noodles, mandarin orange slices and sesame dressing. They don't taste exactly like the kind you get from takeout, but they're infinitely cheaper and still oh-so-yummy! You may be able to get closer to the restaurant-style if you have a deep fryer; just deep fry them for 3-6 minutes at 375 instead of baking.

Makes about 52 Rangoons. I base the recipe on using up an entire package of wonton wrappers, since they don't store well once open. These are good in the fridge for a week (re-heat at 350 degrees for 4-6 minutes). I haven't tried freezing them yet, but cream cheese isn't known for freezing well. An alternative is to cut the filling in half and make a batch of spring or egg rolls at the same time to use up the extra wonton wrappers.


1 12 ounce package of wonton wrappers
2 8 ounce package of cream or neufchatel cheese
1 pound of real or imitation crabmeat
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
spray canola oil (Pam, etc.) (you can brush on sesame oil instead for an interesting flavor)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Mix cheese, crabmeat and chives in a large bowl until well blended
spray cookie sheet with canola oil, or lightly coat with oil using a paper towel

place 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of a wonton wrapper.
bring the corners up and pinch together (if you're looking to do the "butterfly" style with the high corners, a small amount of water will make the wrapper stick to itself)

Place on the cookie sheet

Once the sheet is filled, spray the rangoons liberally (3-4 seconds) with canola oil, making sure to angle it from a few directions so that the sides are coated as well. Alternately, brush them lightly with oil using a pastry brush.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, checking every five minutes. They're done whenever the tips are browned. They'll be very hot right out of the oven, so let cool a bit before serving.

Note that the leftover filling is pretty awesome as a cracker spread or on a bagel. I actually make extra filling (using 3 packages of neufchatel and an extra half pound of crabmeat) just so that I have leftovers :-)