10 Herbs to Cultivate for Health and Beauty

6:30 AM 6 Comments

Before this post begins be sure to check out my latest video How to Care for Orchids where I share with you tips and tricks for keeping and cultivating one of my favorite flowers. To see the video click here, look in the sidebar of this blog or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

And now for this special Thursday post…

I am delighted to share a special guest post written by Green Living Expert Randi Ragan of the award winning GreenBliss Eco Spa in Los Angeles.

I have a passion for herbs- I love cooking with them and making teas with them but I know there is so much more I could do with them. I had the unique opportunity of asking Randi about the top ten herbs anyone can cultivate for health and beauty and am so happy to share with you her response.

Her list is fascinating to me and so informative. Whether you are fortunate enough to have an herb garden of your own or a few pots on a balcony or window box (which is my situation), you can cultivate herbs to better your life.

So without further ado...

The 10 Herbs Anyone Can Cultivate for Health and Beauty

By Randi Ragan

Holy Basil (tulsi) Place the mature shrub near a doorway or window to get the full effect of its rich, spicy scent. Make an infusion of the leaves for a tea to drink, which produces high antioxidant protection against free radicals and helps bolster the immune system, purify the blood and balance the digestive system. Drinking the tea will also provide a calming effect and relief from feelings of stress and anxiety. Chewing the leaves will support healthy gums and prevent mouth ulcers. Gargle the tea for sore throat relief and to break up mucus from post nasal drip.

Lemon Verbena Leaves steeped and used as tea, are extremely relaxing, lower blood pressure, slow heart rate, ease cramps and indigestion, and strengthen the nervous system. It is the premier garden herb for tea drinking due to its superior and unique flavor. Mixed with lavender, the dried flowers and leaves make the most beautiful potpourri imaginable. An easy way to use the leaves in food, is to steep them in any kind of unflavored/plain milk (soy, almond, hemp, organic cow) that can then be used as an ingredient for puddings, cake or cookie icings, or homemade ice cream -- for anything calling for milk that would be pleasant with a lemony addition. The tenderest leaves can be used chopped up in salad dressings or in fruit salads, or left whole as a garnish for chilled drinks.

Mint (spearmint, pineapple mint, chocolate mint, peppermint) Hot mint tea is good for colds, fever, indigestion and stomach upset. Chilled tea made from dried leaves makes a great foot soak, and face spray for a hot day. Fresh mint leaves can be mixed with fruit salad for a tasty twist. Add spearmint leaves to just about any kind of grain/legume salad (tabouli, couscous or lentil); blend with cucumbers and yogurt for a classic raita dip.

Thyme is a member of the mint family, with over 100 varieties. Honey from bees that feed on thyme flower nectar is a gourmet delight. Yet interestingly enough, insects are repelled by thyme. Make a cup of thyme tea, put it in a plant mister, and spray around doorways and windows in summer to repel insects. Thyme strengthens the immune system, so when feeling a cold coming on, make a tea from the dried or fresh leaves. It is also useful for easing menstrual cramps and headaches. The fresh or dried leaves as well as flower tops work well to flavor soups, stews, baked or sauteed vegetables, and is especially tasty when paired with olives.

“Where rosemary grows, the goddess goes”. The aroma from the growing plant increases brain alertness and counteracts depression and sadness. Its volatile oils are antimicrobial/antiseptic: put fresh sprigs in bath or foot soak for detoxification and to reduce swelling; make tea out of dried leaves for mouthwash to kill bad breath.
Boil a handful of rosemary in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes to yield an antiseptic solution for washing bathroom fixtures. Lay sprigs among linens. Scatter the stems on a barbecue to discourage insects. Add minced rosemary to breads and muffin dough; sprinkle on roasted potatoes or mix with butter for a tasty spread for roasted or steamed vegetables.

Lavender Lavender is a member of the mint family and is useful for easing stress and calming agitation; it is antimicrobial & antiseptic. Make a tea infusion and dab on insect bites and burns, make a sachet of dried flowers to drop into bath or to tie up in a mesh bag for a lingerie drawer sachet. Put the fresh or dried leaves into a mesh bag and place under your pillow for a calming and restful night’s sleep. The weight of your head as it shifts during sleep will release the lavender’s aroma. Mix the fresh flowers into honey and butter for lovely spreads to put on toast and scones. Mix into vanilla ice cream and cake batters.

takes its name from the Latin salvare (to cure); there is no part of this plant that cannot be used. The leaves, flowers and stems all have healing attributes. Use fresh sage for the most efficacy, and make into an infusion. Dab on insect bites, gargle for sore throats and mucus build up, drink as a tea for respiratory congestion. Because sage has a powerful antiseptic effect, combine a tablespoon of strong sage tea with your toothpaste to help remove plaque and tone the gums. As a mainstay savory herb, add fresh or dried sage to bean and potato dishes, as well as gratins, casseroles and pastas.

German Chamomile This member of the sunflower family has powerful flavonoides which effect the nervous system. Make a tea out of fresh or dried flowers for upset stomach, stress or insomnia. Chamomile also has an effect on the immune system and helps fight off colds and infections. Cold chamomile tea is a great eyewash for tired and red eyes. A chamomile flower bath is great for relieving skin irritations. Wash your face with unsweetened chamomile tea to treat acne or bee stings. Brunettes or dark shades of blondes may consider taking the unsweetened tea to rinse their hair after it has been washed. It is a great and natural way to bring out the gold highlights.

Calendula (Pot Marigold) Calendula has been used both for cooking and for medicine since the sixteenth century. The flowers of calendula were once used to give cheese its yellow color. You can use both the leaves and flowers of the herb calendula. But make certain you have planted calendula and not another plant that is called marigold (of which there are many). Calendula is THE treatment for skin. It promotes skin cell division and hence healing. It is anti-inflammatory and can be used for cuts, scrapes, rashes, heat burns, sunburn, insect stings and acne. Make a strong tea by cutting up the flowers and leaves and steeping in hot water, then spray or dab onto the affected area. Put the flowers into a mesh bag and then toss into a warm bath for an overall body treatment. Its bright orange and yellow flowers look pretty wherever it grows; its flavor is slightly sweet at first then turns tart. It’s good to add to salads, like nasturtium flowers.

Basil, oregano, lemon balm, garlic, fennel are also easily grown and extremely beneficial herbs to have around for multiple uses.

Thank you, Randi for your wonderful insights!

For more information on Randi Ragan please visit www.greenblissecospa.com

I would love to know… what are your favorite herbs and what do you use them for?

One of my beloved orchid plants is pictured above.

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Signature Scent Conundrum

4:40 PM 15 Comments

Before this week’s post begins be sure to check out my latest video titled At Home Manicure where I show you a tutorial on how I give myself a manicure at home and share with you my new favorite neutral shade of nail polish, Diego Dalla Palma's French Pink No. 16. To see the video click here, look in the sidebar of this blog or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

And now for this week's post...

As many of you know lately I have gone on the search for a new signature scent. I have worn Stella by Stella McCartney for a good part of the last decade and felt it was time for a change. I’m not sure what I expected to encounter on the hunt for my new signature perfume… some good fragrances, some bad fragrances… an adventure perhaps? Well, yes I have encountered all three but I also have encountered something a little unexpected…

I have found that I like some of the perfumes on my hunt so much that I am beginning to wonder if I can choose and be faithful to just one! I know many of you readers have expressed the same issue. Of course I didn’t just use Stella for the past decade, I also used a few other fragrances for certain occasions but I mainly used Stella… it would be very accurate to have called it my signature scent.

But I am starting to wonder if perhaps I should have a capsule perfume collection to go with my capsule clothing and makeup collection…

I have received large sample sizes of most of the perfumes I’ve reviewed enabling me to wear them much more than once. When I recently attended a baby shower I had a strong desire to wear Jo Malone’s Grapefruit as I felt the occasion called for something fresh, vibrant and crisp.

When going out to dinner with my husband recently I wore Bvlgari’s Rose Essentielle because I wanted something heady and romantic.

And last night just to wander around the house I had a strong desire to wear Love, Chloé because I longed for a powdery, ladylike fragrance.

This is quite a conundrum because, you see, I had it in my mind (firmly in my mind) that I wanted to have a signature scent. I wanted my daughter 20 years from now to smell a Bulgarian rose and think “Ahhh that smells like Mommy’s perfume- Rose Essentielle!” Wouldn’t that be nice?

And also because that’s what this entire series is on… finding my signature scent! I suppose I could always change the title to The Search for my New Capsule Perfume Collection- but it doesn’t quite have the same ring…

And to complicate matters further I came across the most amazing niche perfume boutique in Venice last week called Strange Invisible Perfumes and feasted my eyes (and nose) on a whole slew of their organic, botanical perfumes that were just totally desirable to me (reviews forthcoming)…

I do suppose this is a high quality problem… but all the same I am going to go meditate on the subject for a while.

I would love to know… can you relate to my perfumed conundrum?

This Thursday look for a special guest post by Randi Ragan on the top 10 herbs to cultivate for beauty and health (including recipes, tips and tricks!)

The porcelain figures pictured above are from China's Kangxi Reign and date back from 1622 - 1722 They are quintessentially Chinoiserie and can be found at the Getty Center in Los Angeles

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Paris Life & Luxury and my Interview on BBC Radio

4:44 PM 14 Comments
Hello everyone... Today I have a few special announcements to make before we get into this week's post...

Firstly I am very happy to tell you that I was recently interviewed for BBC radio! The lovely Anna King in Gloucestershire interviewed me on the subject of only using the best things you have (one of my favorite topics, as you know). To listen to the interview click here and then click on the link titled Your Best China. My interview shows up at the 1 hour and 13 minute mark. The interview will be up for 7 days.

And secondly, Monday was my birthday :) I can't believe another year has gone by- this past one has been the best of my life thanks to my daughter, my family and you wonderful readers of The Daily Connoisseur... so thank you for being a part of it...

And now for this week's post...

I recently attended (twice!) the Paris: Life & Luxury exhibit at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. (You know as soon as I saw that billboard I scheduled it into my calendar: priority high) What a breathtaking exhibit it was… While they would not let me take pictures I can describe to you the riches I saw.

The exhibit showcased the treasures that made daily life in Paris so luxurious for the upper classes and mainly showed how they spent leisure time… primping, playing music and games, reading and eating magnificent feasts were all on the agenda… Sounds nice doesn’t it?

The items in the exhibit dated back from 1715 to 1766- right in the splendor of the Rococo period.

It seems the Parisians have always taken a thrill from the normal aspects of daily life… The exhibit showed everything from a decadent bed made for a Duchess covered in beautiful silk satin coverlets and draperies to an exquisite Toilette Equipage (or travel toiletries case) containing a silver cup, saucer and cosmetics pot by Saint-Cloud Porcelain dating back from 1693 – 1715. Apparently Parisian women of the era enjoyed taking perfumery and toilette with them while on the road- some things never change…

Because I take such an avid interest in what compromises daily life for other people the Daily Toilette Service was one of the most interesting things I saw. Dating back from 1738-39, it was comprised of a box, candle sniffer, basin, table mirror, brushes and pots of cream- entirely in silver- the ornament and decorative quality were breathtaking… Talk about a heightened way to do your morning beauty routine!

A silk dress and petticoat dated between 1760 – 1765 with silk and metallic thread and metallic lace trim and brocaded silk faille detail was a beautiful sight to take in. Apparently it took the Parisian women up to 5 hours to get ready for the day what with the elaborate hairstyles, makeup, and ornate clothing…

Another of the favorite items I saw was a harpsichord from 1754 that was paneled with wood and lacquered paint… It just called for me to play a minuet on it!

There were also some stunning paintings in the exhibit. A portrait of Madame Marsollies and her daughter from 1749 by Jean Marc Nattier stood out to me particularly. In the painting Madame M and her daughter sit in front of a dressing table as she pins ornaments in her daughter’s coiffeur. This picture touched me. It was so beautiful to see mother and daughter engage in the private ritual of adornment together…

There also was an entire room devoted to the playing of games, which the Parisians of the Rococo period were very fond of…

In the room I saw a writing table that doubled as a card table and a box set of gaming pieces from Austria 1735-40

Some of the more popular games of the period were:
Nombre- a trick tacking card game
Quadrille- a 4 player game
Hombre- the ancestor of whist and bridge

And, of course, the tablewear for the period was ornate and just as over the top as the food (if not more so). I saw gold lidded tureens, plates and cutlery dating back from 1673 – 1748, a guaranteed way to make dining a formal affair…

If you live in or near Los Angeles, I highly recommend visiting Paris Life & Luxury at the Getty Center… it will be on display until August 7th, 2011.

In other exhibit news I have also recently attended the Beauty Culture exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography (I am pictured below in the exhibit)

...and the Tim Burton exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Beauty Culture Exhibit explores the perception of beauty and how it has affected our modern day culture. And the Tim Burton exhibit displays an incredibly impressive and prolific collection of the movie director’s artistic work- everything ranging from drawings to paintings to sculptures to stories. All exhibits are highly recommended.

I would love to know… have you seen any good exhibits lately?

I was not able to take photos inside of Paris Life & Luxury but the above photo is from the Getty Center's ongoing exhibit on French furniture and decorative items. The porcelain, china and earthenware treasures pictured above date back from 1723-1725

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Ramy Beauty Fall 2011 Makeup Collection- Fall in Love

7:50 AM 0 Comments
Even though it is the middle of summer, it isn’t too soon to start thinking about fall beauty. Ramy Beauty Therapy sent their gorgeous fall 2011 makeup collection called Fall in Love to review on The Daily Connoisseur. To see the video where I describe the makeup and show you how I apply it click here, look in the sidebar of this blog or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

Ramy Gafni is known as the ‘brow king’ in New York as he is the guru to go to for shaping brows. He also has a high quality eponymous makeup line. The fall collection of makeup is a re-release of his favorite shades for the season- warming taupes, luscious plums, bronzed peaches… The colors, textures and pigments in this makeup line are quite luxurious. All of the shades in the collection are universally flattering- so you do not need to worry about what shades match your skin tone. I can personally attest that each shade worked well with mine. I am very impressed with the makeup- the high quality composition of the cosmetics allow the makeup to blend seamlessly into the skin tone and give off just the right amount of color and contour... and the sumptuous colors can be applied lightly for le no makeup look or a little heavier to bring in the drama of the season.

Here is the collection:

Eyeshadow in Neutral Impact
I’ve always loved taupe shades to wear as eyeshadow because they look natural and can bring out subtle nuances in eye color. This color can be worn lightly for a slight le no makeup look-esque definition or it can be layered for a smoky eye effect.

Blush in Alive! This is my new favorite blush. It has a peachy, gold bronzed color- perfect for the transition of summer to fall. For those of you who long for le no makeup look but do not have time to apply eyeshadow, you can sweep this color over your lids with a blush brush and create an instant flattering glow to your skin and make your eye color pop.

Ramy’s lipsticks are very moisturizing and are made with vitamin E, avocado oil and sunscreens. The fall collection has two shades:

Ramy Red! (pictured above, right) This is a deep pomegranate red whose color brings luscious connotations of the season. It can be worn in one sheer layer for a flush of color or layered for a dramatic red lip.

Thrive! (pictured above, left) This is my favorite color as I tend to favor deep plums. I find that plum colors can really make the eyes (especially green) stand out. A delightful shade for fall.

OMG Over Mascara Glitter and Eyeliner-
This is not something I would typically wear as glittered eyelashes do not exactly fall in line with le no makeup look, but it would be fun to wear this to a holiday party or for an occasion that requires a bit of whimsy. The glitter is very subtle- so much so that you cannot see it on my eyelashes in the video. It is the sort of thing you would notice up close.

The prices for the collection are as follows:

Neutral Impact Eye Shadow: $17.00

Lipstick in Ramy Red! and Lipstick in Thrive!: $17.00

Alive! Blush: $19.00

OMG! :$24.00

For more information on Ramy makeup please click here or visit: www.ramy.com

I would love to know… what are your favorite makeup shades for fall?

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How the Duchess is Bringing Lady Back

4:29 PM 21 Comments
Before this week’s post beings, check out my latest video On Sleepwear where I show you my own sleepwear collection and discuss the important concept of looking presentable always- even in your pajamas! To see the video click here, look in the sidebar of this blog or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

And now for this week’s post…

For those of you that follow me on Twitter you know how I adore the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. I was thrilled with their wedding and thought her wedding dress was one of the loveliest I have ever seen. I wasn’t just thrilled because it was a royal event, however, but because I’ve had my eye on the Duchess of Cambridge for quite some time as one to watch- style-wise.

In our society of late, young women have had few (if any) good fashion role models. Platform pumps, bandage dresses, hair extensions and orange tans are much too prevalent on the fashion scene. Too much flesh exposed, too little grace and class displayed.

And then came Catherine in the public eye- now scrutinized to the last detail like her late mother-in-law Princess Diana. But thankfully this delicate Duchess is anything but garish and showy. In fact, it is my humble opinion that she is single-handedly (if I am to make a play on that famous Justin Timberlake song) bringing “lady” back.

Demure knee-length dresses, court shoes, polished hair and understated makeup (le no makeup look, if you will)- Catherine is showing young women all over the world that being classy, tasteful and polished is the height of chicness and style. My favorite look from the whole tour is the Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen sweater dress she wore to Prince Edward Island (pictured above). I adore this dress because it is a nod to the 20s, nautical and ladylike- perfect for the romance of Prince Edward Island- the setting for one of my favorite childhood books (and apparently the Duchess's too!), Anne of Green Gables.

Elements of her ladylike style:

The dress. Catherine’s dresses are always modest, yet alluring. Her hemlines and necklines do not expose too much skin, yet because her clothing always fits her beautifully she does not come off as frumpy or old fashioned in the least. She also has fun with color wearing yellow, red, lilac and purple on her royal tour.

Sheer pantyhose This look is being dusted off from the 80s and I am, surprisingly, loving it! It is Royal protocol to have the legs covered in tights. Catherine’s flesh colored sheer tights create an added polish to her looks. I am thinking about how I am going to incorporate sheer tights to my wardrobe this fall...

Catherine’s shoes are always understated and ladylike. She forgoes today’s popular platform heels for more traditional court shoes, tasteful heels and ballet flats. She often wears nude-tone shoes which give her outfits a modern look and are a great way to elongate the leg. In her downtime she opts for classic footwear. Just a few days after her wedding she was spotted going grocery shopping in a pair of London Sole brown croc ballet flats (a personal favorite of my own).

Hair There are several ways Catherine wears her hair:

Long and flowing: a polished blow dry and curling iron create this effect- very princess-y

Half up and half down: with some volume at the crown of her head and the top half of her hair neatly tied back in a semi-bun

Ponytail: Catherine's ponytails are never pulled too tight on her head... she usually has movement and body to her ponytails as is demonstrated in the above picture.

A sophisticated chignon: one of my favorite looks for her- pinned artfully and with volume at the crown, this is a chic and polished hairdo.

Jewelry I imagine as the years go on Catherine’s jewelry will become more and more spectacular. On this tour her jewels have been very subtle and understated- Kiki McDonough gemstone earrings, delicate bracelets, a diamond broach (on loan from the Queen) and, of course, her stunning sapphire and diamond engagement ring.

There you have my recap of Kate's spectacular royal tour fashions. To see a picture of all of the outfits she wore on tour, check out this Daily Mail article by clicking here.

Some critics have called her sartorial choices boring. I, on the other hand, have never been more thrilled.

I would love to know... what do you think of Catherine's style?

This Thursday, look for a special review of Ramy Beauty's Fall 2011 makeup line...

Image of the Duchess in the Alexander McQueen sweater dress is from fashionista.com

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Paula’s Choice RESIST Skin Care Review

4:45 PM 7 Comments

This week’s video and post are on Paula's Choice Resist Anti-Aging Skincare products. To see the video where I show you the products click here, look in the sidebar of this post or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur

I’ve recently had the pleasure of sampling Paula’s Choice RESIST Anti-Aging Skincare line for review. Paula Begoun is the author of 18 books on skincare and makeup including the bestselling, Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me. She also started the website www.beautypedia.com which has comprehensive reviews of over 45,000 beauty products.

I was interested to try Paula’s Choice skincare, which I had previously heard a lot of good things about, because I figured that Paula would have a strong criterion for excellence after reviewing so many beauty products. And my assumption was correct- This is a line that has a serious amount of research backing it. It has been created based solely on what published research has said is effective for maximum impact skincare.

I was initially apprehensive to review an entire skincare line as I am prone to breakouts and have sensitive skin. I didn’t know what to expect from an anti-aging line in particular. Would the ingredients be too strong for my skin? Would I break out?

The results after having only used Paula’s Choice products for 30 days have been remarkable. I have not broken out and my skin feels clean, healthy and (dare I say?) younger…

Here is a rundown of what I have been using:

RESIST Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser
I use this cleansing lotion in conjunction with my Clarisonic to fully remove makeup and cleanse my skin. It is mild, gentle, creamy and fragrance free- perfect for everyday use- I use this morning and night.

RESIST Advanced Replenishing Toner Skin Remodeling Complex
This is step two in the skincare routine. This toner has a milky consistency and makes the skin feel smooth and silky. Just a few drops on a cotton square do the trick.

RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% Alpha Hydroxy Acid
This could be the product in the whole line that is responsible for the most change in my skin. I had always heard about the power of AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and now I know why. This acts as a gentle exfoliant to my skin and makes my skin feel clear while simultaneously protecting against breakouts. If I had to only buy one product in this line- this would be it!

RESIST Weekly Resurfacing Treatment with 10% Alpha Hydroxy Acid

This is a bit stronger and is meant to be alternated with the Daily Smoothing Treatment. I only use this once a week as it is 10% AHA instead of 5%... Even though this is strong it still does not irritate my very sensitive skin.

RESIST Barrier Repair Moisturizer
This is a lovely, light moisturizer that restores collagen to the skin. I like its fluid, light texture. This is a great moisturizer for evening.

RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
This serum reduces inflammation and the visible effects of sun damage. It is also packed with antioxidants and acts as a booster to the moisturizer. I used this only at night because the texture is a bit greasy and would not go well under makeup.

The price range for these products is competitive. The products range from $16.95 to $24.95, which is very affordable for my budget. I have been known to spend a lot more on other skincare lines. For example, the moisturizer sells for around $22, which is a lot more affordable than the $45 I usually spend on face creams. The serum is around $24 which is also a nice price considering serums usually run quite high. Also, you get a lot for your money because a little goes a long way. I could see these products lasting me three months…

I am delighted with these products and what they have done for my skin. Once I run out of my samples I will purchase the entire collection again, if not try other products on her website. I appreciate that the products are fragrance free, backed by published research, environmentally friendly and not tested on animals. The only thing I would change is the packaging. I do like my beauty products to be a little more decorative but I suppose their minimalistic appearance is a contributor of their low price.

For more information on Paula's Choice products, click here or visit: www.paulaschoice.com

I would love to know… what are your current favorite skincare products?

For all of my American readers… Happy 4th of July! Today is not only Independence Day but Gatsby’s Birthday as well… He turns six ☺

The Paula's Choice RESIST line is pictured above.

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