Friday, November 7, 2014

homemade facial toners

As much as I love splurging on a decadent face cream or a fancy cleanser, sometimes it's nice to create inexpensive beauty products in my own kitchen. Today I'm sharing two of my favorite facial toners that are simple to make and use all-natural ingredients that are perfect for sensitive skin. The first is a rosewater and witch hazel toner that I use after cleansing to control my acne. Most acne medications cause my skin to break out but this toner keeps my skin clear without irritation. The second toner is chamomile, lavender, and aloe that I like to apply as a mist after using the rosewater toner and before my moisturizer or whenever my face flushes from rosacea. This toner moisturizes and soothes irritated skin.

Rosewater and Witch Hazel Toner
makes about 8 ounces

1 cup distilled water
1/2 cup dried rose petals
1 tablespoon witch hazel
8 oz glass bottle (optional)

Add rose petals to a small glass bowl. Heat water until almost boiling and pour over petals. Allow mixture to cool. Strain petals and pour rosewater into bottle. Add witch hazel and gently shake. Apply with a cotton ball or pad after cleansing or whenever skin needs a bit of refreshment.

Calming Chamomile and Lavender Facial Mist
makes about 4 ounces

1/2 cup distilled water
2 teaspoons dried chamomile flowers
1 teaspoon dried lavender
1 tablespoon aloe vera gel
4 oz glass bottle with atomizer (optional)

Add chamomile and lavender to a small glass bowl. Heat water to almost boiling and pour over chamomile and lavender. Allow mixture to cool. Strain flowers and stir aloe vera into water. Add to bottle and store in the refrigerator. Apply after cleansing and before moisturizing or when skin is dry, hot, or irritated.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

rosemary gin cider

As much as I can't wait for a break from the ridiculously hot, humid summers we have here, I don't really go crazy for fall. Scarves make my hair all tangly, pumpkin patches are torture, and Halloween is just the worst. However, I can definitely get into making (and eating) fall foods. I especially love honeycrisp apple cider, so I couldn't resist combining it with gin, rosemary, and a bit of lime for a perfect autumn cocktail.

Rosemary Gin Cider

2 ounces gin
4 ounces honeycrisp apple cider, chilled (we used Trader Joe's)
1 1/2 ounces lime juice
1 ounce club soda
Sprig of rosemary

Remove a few leaves of rosemary from the sprig.  Muddle the leaves with gin in the bottom of a glass. Stir in the gin, cider, and lime juice. Skim off the muddles leaves, then top with soda. Garnish with the sprig of rosemary, if desired.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

october beauty favorites: kathleen

1. A few weeks ago I headed into Rainbow Blossom looking for an Andalou Naturals serum. They didn't have it, but they had a tester of this 1000 Roses Moroccan Beauty Oil, so I dabbed a little on my hand before I left. I seriously could not stop petting my hand for the rest of the night--it was so soft. I went back and purchased it the next day, and have used it twice daily ever since. It's a blend of oils including sunflower seed, rosehip, argan, and (my favorite) jojoba. After it sinks in, skin feels somehow not at all oily, just silky and moisturized. I definitely prefer the feel of this to the Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate that I have used before. While I love the hot pink glass bottle, I should mention that my bottle's dropper doesn't work, so I can only get the one or two drops that cling to the end of the tube before having to dip it in again.

2. I wasn't expecting to like Laua Mercier Smooth Finish Flawless Fluide all that much, if not for the press and advertising overload then definitely for the price tag. Of course, I tried it anyway. I was completely floored by how just a tiny bit of this thin liquid covered my rosacea so well, but still looked completely natural. Be sure to start with exfoliated, moisturized skin, start with just a few drops, and blend really well. I will say that the packaging is not great--store upside down, shake with the lid off and your finger firmly over the opening, and try not to squeeze the bottle.

3. Essie nail polish in Smokin' Hot has been one of my favorite fall/winter polishes for a few years now. It's a beautiful purple-gray with a glossy, opaque cream finish. It's a great choice for when you don't want to commit to a super-dark color. I find Essie to be pretty hit-or-miss in terms of formula and application, and this one is definitely a hit.

4. As the weather transitions, my skin tends to go a little haywire--it gets dry, sensitive, and red. I picked up Andalou Naturals Probiotic + C Renewal Cream (after I was so impressed with the 1000 Roses oil), and really love it. It's a really silky cream with a pronounced citrus scent. It sinks right in and isn't at all heavy or greasy. I can't say if the probiotics are responsible, but my skin has been staying moisturized and calm.

5. I am usually pretty wary of celebrity cosmetic lines, and I more or less dismissed Kat Von D's. However, the Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Bauhau5 caught my eye at Sephora, and I couldn't resist. It's a matte fuchsia that goes on as a liquid and dries to a long-wearing finish (like these, another favorite). I recommend a light coat first, and if you want a deeper, more raspberry color, apply a second coat after the first is completely dry, otherwise it ends up a little sticky and may transfer. I don't find this to be drying, but it will accentuate any dryness on lips.

Friday, October 10, 2014

the sort-of fauxdenza

The fauxdenza has been recreated on dozens of blogs ever since Anna of Door Sixteen unleashed it onto the world, and with good reason. It's an affordable and easy way to create attractive storage. The clean mix of white cabinets and dark wood made me swoon when I saw it on The Brick House a couple of years ago and I wanted to make my own so badly. Unfortunately, installing wall cabinets wasn't exactly a renter-friendly option, so I filed it away as something to maybe try when I own my own home in approximately 100 years. Fast forward to a few months ago, and I was still on the hunt for a credenza. I wanted something moveable, modern and minimal, not too expensive, and maybe even something that needed a little extra work or customization. Craigslist, flea markets, and antique stores were fresh out of exactly what I wanted, and though there were several store-bought options that were close, their price tags were high enough to make me choke. So I thought about those pretty little white Ikea cabinets some more, and decided it was time to make a fauxdenza 2.0.

Supplies used:

- 2- 30x30 Akurum wall cabinets
- 4- 15x30 Applåd doors
- 4 packages Integral hinges
- 2 packages Integral soft-close door dampers
- 1 4' x 8' piece of birch underlayment
- package of 100 #8 1-1/4" wood screws
- package of 12 #8 3/4" wood screws
- Liquid Nails Projects construction adhesive
- 6 inch flat brackets
- Weldwood Original contact cement
- Minwax Wipe-On Poly
- Minwax oil-based stain in Honey (sort of)
- birch iron-on veneer
- 4 Streamline knobs from Anthropologie
- drill
- circular saw
- miter box and handsaw
- cheap paint brush
- hammer

After a nightmarish trip to Ikea (Kathleen was scolded in the throw pillow section) and letting the parts sit in boxes for a couple months, I assembled the base cabinets.

Next, I flipped the cabinets on their sides and drilled two rows of two pilot holes on the sides of the cabinets that would be stuck together. The rows were staggered so that there could be screws going in from either side. Then I covered one side in Liquid Nails, set one cabinet on top of the other, and clamped them together. I let them dry for a while before driving the 1-1/4" screws into the pilot holes. Then I let the cabinets dry over night.

Once the cabinets were dry, Kathleen and I flipped them upside down. Then I attached the flat brackets to the bottom for more stability with the 3/4" screws.

I wanted the cabinet to have tapered legs, but didn't exactly want to pay $10+ per leg. So I bought inexpensive 12-inch Waddell legs and cut them down to 6 inches to remove the ugly feet. I screwed the square leg bracket to a piece of wood and clamped it to the table. Then I just screwed in each leg all the way before cutting it in the miter box so they would all be the same length. Next I stained the legs with Minwax Honey and gave them a coat of wipe-on poly, which I later covered with white paint. I originally planned on having five legs because I thought the cabinet would need the support, but the fifth leg looked weird and the cabinet was plenty stable without it.

Next I cut down my birch underlayment to size with the circular saw. We painted contact cement on the outside of the cabinets and the wrong sides of the wood pieces. Then we stuck them to the cabinets and hit them with a mallet to activate the adhesive. Then I covered up the ugly plywood edges with birch veneer. I had originally planned on staining the whole thing with the Minwax Honey, but loved the look of the birch so I decided to give it a very light coat of wipe-on poly instead.

Next I drilled the handle holes in the doors. I used some wood scraps to help line up all the doors perfectly and clamped them down before drilling through them all at once. This probably doesn't seem like the best idea to some, but I was really worried that all the holes would be off and the handles would look bad. This scheme worked great for me and all the holes were perfectly aligned. Lastly, we moved the credenza to its new home, I put on the hinges and doors (somehow the most frustrating part of the whole project), and put on the knobs. Then I stood back and did a little dance because it was finally complete.

Light, airy, and modern, it's exactly what I was hoping for. I'm honestly really proud of this project because I was worried it might actually end up being a disaster. Fortunately, it turned out just right and it can go with me wherever I move.

Friday, October 3, 2014

et cetera

We're off to Chicago for a weekend trip. After several weeks of nothing but work, it will be nice to eat, shop, and relax in the city. Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 29, 2014

repurposing an old mirror

Kathleen and I had been hunting around for a large mirror for a living room mantle, but since we were looking for a pretty specific size, we kept coming up short. Kathleen had wanted to try frame-building for a while and we had a frameless mirror that was 36" x 72" that had been removed during some renovations that was just sitting in the basement. So we ordered a glass cutter and set to work on building our own mirror. There were a few hiccups along the way (like accidentally buying one pack of the wrong size mirror clips) and a hardware store employee who was doubtful that we were capable (jerk), but we managed to pull it off and didn't get cut along the way. The final mirror is 41"x 45" so this was a pretty large-scale project, but it only cost about $30, which is a lot less than a store-bought mirror this large.

Supplies used:

- 4- 3" x 1" x 48" pieces of pine
- Stanley miter box
- 1/4" mirror clips
- D-ring hangers
- 100 lb. picture hanging wire
- corner brackets
- corrugated fasteners (we found these at St. Matthews Hardware)
-  3/4" wood screws
- glass cutter
- wood glue
- Minwax oil-based stain in Espresso and Ebony

We bought two 8-foot pieces of pine at Home Depot and had them cut down to 4 feet to make them a little more manageable. Then we used the miter box to cut the pieces to exact length at a 45º angle. We cut two pieces to 45 inches and two pieces to 39 inches. If you use a miter box, clamp it down to your work surface, or have someone (carefully) hold the sides down. This will make sawing a lot easier and the cut will be more precise.

Next we laid out our pieces and glued the mitered edges together. We used a moving strap to squeeze all of the pieces together. We let the glue joints dry for about 20 minutes before hammering in the corrugated fasteners. We had to move the frame from the wood floor to a tile floor to hammer the fasteners in because the floor was causing the frame to bounce back, making it impossible to drive in the fasteners. We used two fasteners for each corner.

Next, we took off the straps and sanded down the frame with 120 grit sandpaper. Then we stained it with one coat of Minwax oil-based stain in Espresso and two coats of Ebony. Once the frame was dry we applied a couple coats of our favorite Minwax Satin Wipe-On Poly. Make sure you stain or paint both sides of your frame so that you don't have to do so after you put the whole thing together and realize that the raw edge of the frame is reflected in the mirror. (This may or may not have happened to us...)

Since we had never cut glass before we decided to do it outside in case there was a lot of glass dust or tiny shards. There were, and we are glad we did. We also didn't know what the ball on the end of the cutter was for when we started (always do your research before you start a project...) so the first piece we tried cutting ended up being a bunch of broken chunks. We set a flat door on two sawhorses for a work table. We clamped a drywall t-square to the mirror and table for a straight edge to make sure we got a nice, straight cut. We highly recommend doing a couple test cuts before trying to make your final cuts, especially if you are working with double-strength glass. We also recommend wearing work gloves and doing this with two people if you are using a large mirror. I didn't get any good pictures, but you hold the glass cutter with the toothed-edge of the cutter facing down. You want to apply enough pressure as you drag the wheel along the glass that you hear a ripping sound. For the double strength glass, we had to use the ball on the end of the cutter to hit the scored line from underneath to make the crack propagate through all the layers of the glass. Then you want to remove your straight edge and position the scored line just a couple inches past the edge of your work table. Hold the glass down to the table firmly with one hand and grip the edge to be broken off with your other hand. Pull down on the free edge and the glass should break in a relatively clean line. We vacuumed our glass and covered the cut edges in masking tape before bringing the pieces inside.

We laid the frame right-side down on some cardboard and positioned the cut mirror over the frame. Then we removed the masking tape and applied some electrical tape to the cut edges. Next we screwed on the corner brackets. Then we screwed on the mirror clips. Since our mirror was enormous and heavy, we used four clips for each side of the mirror. I did not get a picture, but next we screwed on the D-ring hangers and attached the picture hanging wire. We attached the hangers close to the top and the wire was not very tight so that the mirror could lean on the mantle, but so it would also not tip off the mantle and crash on the floor.

Hanging the mirror was a bit of a doozy since it weighs a truckload and the mantle is about 4 feet off the ground, but once we hoisted it up there we were very excited to see the final result. The fireplace under the mantle needs a makeover and the built-in shelves surrounding it need some cleaning and styling, but the mirror has made a huge impact on the room and makes the paneling look a lot less dated. We'll be sharing some more updates to this room soon!

Friday, September 19, 2014

quick-pickled peaches and strawberries

The first time I ever had pickled strawberries was at Seviche, a Latin restaurant here in Louisville, served with goat cheese and radishes. Tangy and almost spreadably soft, they were the opposite of what you normally think of a strawberry, but I've been craving them ever since. Since summer is coming to an end, I decided it would be the perfect time to pickle my favorite summer fruits. These pickles are stored in the fridge and are ready in just a couple of days. They are delicious with goat cheese on crusty bread or crackers with pepper, in salads with some of the pickling liquid as dressing, or on oatmeal, ice cream, or yogurt.

Quick-Pickled Peaches
makes about one 1-liter jar or two 1-pint jars

  7-8 ripe peaches
  2 cups sugar
  1 cup apple cider or white vinegar
  1/2 cup water
  2 cinnamon sticks

Fill a medium-sized bowl with water and a few handfuls of ice and set aside. Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add peaches to saucepan and cook for 15-20 seconds, then transfer peaches to ice bath with slotted spoon. Peel peaches and cut into wedges. Add peaches and cinnamon sticks to a sterilized 1-liter or two 1-pint glass jars. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, and sugar over medium-high heat and stir until sugar dissolves.  When vinegar mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and pour into jar over peaches, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Let jar cool uncovered to room temperature. Cover with lid and store in the refrigerator. Let peaches sit for 2-3 days before opening. Peaches will keep for up to one month in the refrigerator. 

Quick-Pickled Strawberries
makes about one 1/2-liter jar or two 1/2-pint jars

  1/2 lb strawberries
  1 cup apple cider or white vinegar
  1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  1/2 teaspoon of salt
  a few mint leaves
  1/2 teaspoon peppercorns

Thoroughly wash strawberries and remove tops. Cut strawberries in halves (thirds or quarters for larger berries). Add sliced strawberries, mint leaves, and peppercorns to a sterilized 1/2-liter jar or two 1/2-pint jars. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, combine vinegar, sugar, and salt and stir until sugar dissolves. When vinegar mixture comes to a boil, pour into jar over strawberries, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Let jar cool uncovered to room temperature. Cover with lids and store in the refrigerator. Let strawberries sit for 1-2 days before opening. Strawberries will keep for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. 

Photos and text by Tamsen Anderson