Thursday, July 31, 2014

Going Cruelty-Free

For months, I've been telling myself it's time to investigate cruelty-free alternatives to beauty and health-care items. When I realized that these products are tested not just on bunnies (awful enough!) but on Beagles, for Heaven's sake, I could no longer deny the truth:

I need to change the way I shop.

So I finally went to my local alternative grocery store, Whole Foods, to see what I could find, and Wow! did I find stuff. They have everything--bar soaps for hands and body, cleansers for face and body, lotions, potions, fragrances, sunscreens, scrubs, and an entire range of makeup. On this first trip, I bought just a few things I needed. As my old (non-cruelty-free) products wear out/get used up, I'll go back for more products that don't rely on animal testing:

On this first trip into the happy land of cruelty-free products, here's what I got. First off, premoistened towelettes (not particularly great for the environment, perhaps, but SO invigorating when you're hiking or picnicking--or anywhere away from a water source):

The citrus/cucumber scent is light and refreshing. Speaking of refreshing, I love this old-fashioned number:

Witch hazel astringent has been around forever. I remember my dad using it when I was just a kid. But I don't think Dad ever had the pleasure of using this lemon/aloe vera version. It is light, crisp, and absolutely a beast at removing grime, oil, and sweat from skin:

I apply a little on a cotton ball, zip it around arms, chest, neck, and face, and it is like heaven.

Instead of the overpriced-but-beautifully-packaged skin cleanser I had been using (not naming names, but it sort of sounds like "Empty Larder"), I found this:

The helpful guy at Whole Foods said "Pycnogenol" is great for aging skin. Whatever. I bought it because it is light, scent-free, and does a great job at cleansing my face:

And it costs a fraction of what that EL product used to cost.

(Eeeuw! Remind me not to photograph my hands close up ever again. Creepy lines!)

Lastly, I bought this fabulous liquid eyeliner by Zuzu:

Zuzu offers a half-dozen shades of eyeliner, including a jet black and a beautiful teal. But for me, their "Black Pearl" is perfect. It's a sort of soft, charcoal-y black. The tiny brush allows me to make a line as fat or as thin as I want:

(Umm, pardon the chipped nail polish. See self-deprecating hand comment, above.)

If you want to dip a toe into the lovely world of cruelty-free products, start by locating your local crunchy-granola, tree-hugging, green-alternative grocery or health-food store. Almost every community has one, so poke around; you'll find it! And read your product labels:

If you are confused about all the various labels, just look for the leaping bunny logo:

or the pink-eared PETA bunny logo:

These absolutely guarantee that the product is NOT tested on laboratory animals, nor is any ingredient that goes into the product likewise tested this way.

Unfortunately, phrases like "Not tested on laboratory animals" can be misleading, because they are not regulated. So look for the bunny logos and you'll be fine.

If you want, here's a website that explains it all a little more,

Happy shopping!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Iced Coffee

My favorite way to get caffeine in me during the summer is iced coffee:

Yummmm. But I don't always want to pay Starbuck's or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf prices. Not to mention, all that plastic--the cup, the lid, the straw. Egads.

Here are three ways to get iced coffee that are cheaper, easier on the environment, and only as far away as your kitchen:

1. Blue Bottle, the premier coffee roasters/purveyor, now offers iced coffee--sweetened and laced with milk--in convenient cartons. There's no multi-syllable scary chemicals in the ingredients. Just coffee, milk, chicory, and cane sugar. All you do is add ice cubes:

2. "Secret Squirrel," a cold-coffee concentrate, is great if you prefer your iced coffee straight up. It's available in several different-sized glass bottles. I first noticed Secret Squirrel at my local farmers' market. Then it popped up at my local Whole Foods Market:

The brown bottles, by the way, are called "growlers," and the company takes them back to wash and re-use, so they are easy on the environment.

3. Medaglia d'Oro Instant Espresso Coffee is the cheapest way I know to make wonderfully flavorful iced coffee at home. The granules deliver a powerful punch of flavor--one rounded teaspoon is all it takes to make a big, icy glass. I like adding a little of my favorite pure vanilla extract and some sugar or sweetener for a special treat:


Happily, the espresso powder is sold everywhere, including Walmart and online through Amazon. Blue Bottle and Secret Squirrel are local brands, not available everywhere. But poke around your local farmers' market, or the refrigerator case of a local grocery store. You will probably find some version of these cold-coffee products in your neighborhood, too.

Just stay away from those chemical-laden "flavored coffees" and "coffee creamers." They are scary!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Downton Abbey" Beauties

1. How I miss watching "Downton Abbey," and how I wish Season #5 were sooner!
2. In the meantime, there's the August 2014 cover of Harper's Bazaar.
3. How beautiful are these gowns--and these women?

4. I will take Lady Mary's dress, please. Thankyoueverymuch.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Encouraging Signs

Yesterday Lovely Daughter #1 took her Step Two National Medical Exam, a grueling, all-day affair. She told me she'd be checking her phone during breaks, and that words of encouragement were welcome.

So the pugs and I put our heads together and sent her some love:

And got through it, she did!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

One Super Market

A supermarket in my neighborhood recently revamped itself into a super-supermarket. I visited yesterday for the first time and was agog. Inside its cavernous interior, there's a full-size sushi bar. And an in-house Starbuck's. And a "boutique" selling nothing but reusable shopping bags (Los Angeles banned plastic grocery sacks starting this year.)

There were some kind of scary products, too. SPAM Lite? Turkey SPAM? Who knew?:

Euwwww. No.

I was thrilled to find canned, wild-caught salmon (on the right, below). I try to only buy wild-caught salmon (better for the environment), but I've never seen it canned. (I use it in a very yummy salmon loaf. Maybe I'll share the recipe with you, soon.):

I was also thrilled to find kosher, organic chicken. Up until now, this supermarket has only carried kosher or organic. You had to choose one or the other. Now, I can get both together:

The supermarket has two floors of parking underneath its massive acreage, so to get your shopping cart down to the parking lot, you pop it in the escalator on the left while you ride down the escalator on the right:

So cute! I wonder what treasures I'll find the next time I buy groceries?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Stunning Garden Door

Near a local coffee shop in a modest neighborhood of small houses and Mom-and-Pop stores, there is this stunning, one-of-a-kind garden door:

Are the faces flanking the oxen possibly monkey heads? Or people heads? Who carved this amazing door--a local artist, or an artist halfway around the world? Who lives behind the door?

And what might the rest of the house look like, if this is just the entrance?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Roundup of the Week's Cuteness

For the past week and a half, I had jury duty, so I was away from the pugs all day long. Two of them went to day care, which they love. But Pao was recovering from Bordatella, a.k.a. "Kennel Cough." He couldn't be around other dogs, because they might catch it. Instead, he spent several days at the home of Lovely Daughter #1. Her kitten, Olivia, wasn't sure about the arrangement.

Neither was Pao:

Especially when she took advantage of her position in her kitty tower to smack him upside the head:

Ultimately, Olivia vacated the tower, and Pao took her place. Revenge is sweet:

Also this week, LD#1 went to a fundraiser to find homes for kittens that were born in the wild, then scooped up and neutered/spayed by a cat rescue group. Here's one of the cuties available for adoption:

Oh, that face!:

When LD#1 wasn't cuddling kittens or studying for her next med-school exam, she took selfies with Pao:

And they hung out in local, dog-friendly coffee shops. (In California, dogs are allowed on restaurant patios):

After a long, fun day at the day care center, Mu Shu showed me once again how happy he is that we built a window seat in the dining room:

And I got an email containing this adorable photo of a Chihuahua meetup in Central Park. This is a very special group of Chi's: All of them are from L.A. They were plucked from the city's animal shelter and airlifted to the arms of loving adopters in the New York City area. They are alive and thriving today, thanks to a wonderful nonprofit called "Project Flying Chihuahuas":

Just in case you thought this entire post would be about critters, here's a photo of the ultimate booklovers' cupcakes. They are made by a British baker/artist (here's her website). If you are lucky enough to live in the U.K., you can mail-order these teeny literary toppers:

Adorable! (And I bet they're delicious, too.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Planetary Alignment?

A few days ago, I walked into my kitchen on a hot morning and found my pugs all arranged on the floor like this:

They were all pointing in the same East-West configuration:

And, upon further inspection, I saw that the middle pug had appropriated a dish towel and turned it into a bed:

Why were they all aligned like satellite dishes receiving a signal from outer space? Why does my eldest pug think a tea towel is a comfy bed?

Why ask why? They're pugs.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Weekend Finds

 Over the weekend, I purchased some beautiful second-hand kitchen towels.

(All they need is a wash in very hot water to be perfectly okay to use.)

Two of them came from a favorite local shop that carries vintage items. The shop owner (a neighbor of mine) says they are French. Bigger than an ordinary kitchen towel, with a heavy, crisp feel to them, they are probably pure linen, although there are no identifying tags on them:

The top and bottom of each towel is hemmed, and the side edges have a wonderful selvage:

They weren't cheap, exactly, but they are beautiful quality. The next three towels were very inexpensive. I picked them up at a yard sale for $1 each:

They're French, too:

They're a linen-cotton blend:

Although they're not vintage, they sport vintage motifs:

Adding the price of the towels all together and dividing by five, I get a very nice price I can live with:

And they are so sturdy, I'll be able to enjoy them for years to come:

Sometimes you have to look at the big picture when you make a purchase:

Quality, durability, and beauty at a good overall price? Works for me!


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