Beauty on a budget: A touch of Spring

After weeks of being cooped up because of the cold weather I took a long walk this past Sunday.  It was a day where hints of Spring were everywhere in Bay Ridge.  I saw bees flying in one garden where a few flowers had begun to bloom.  The tips of the trees are looking fuller, a sign of the green buds that are forthcoming.

I longed very much for a light floral fragrance to fill the air but it’s still too cold for the earth to send forth the fragrances of grass and flowers.  I was in the mood to buy a fragrance but without the money for any kind of a name brand, pricey purchase.

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I ended up at one of my favorite 99 cents and up stores where they are selling copies of designer fragrances at $4.99 a bottle.  My late Mom loved Anais Anais, a fragrance that not only evokes Springtime for me but a feeling of well being since memories of my Mom always lift my spirits.  When I saw the tester bottle of Ana Ana I was very skeptical.  I decided to try it.  To my surprise Ana Ana was very light, reminding me mostly of lily of the valley.  I went outside the store and waited a few minutes to see what the fragrance was like after a few minutes.  It was still light but growing faint.

I decided to buy the bottle anyway.  The fragrance remained faint but that is fine with me because I do not like a fragrance that is very noticeable.  I decided to use Ana Ana as a tool for aromatherapy.  In the evening I will spray my bed with it before going to sleep or spray my lingerie before getting dressed.  Having this fragrance around me even for a short time is very pleasing and worth the $4.99.  So many happy memories arise and you really can’t put a price on that.

I bought Ana Ana at New Wang Fa Trading at 6926 4th Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY.

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Note:  This posting is for informational purposes only.  I do not receive any merchandise or remuneration from the manufacturers of products featured nor from the stores mentioned.

 

Beauty on a budget: a perfect mask for sensitive skin

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Oatmeal Oxygen Bubble Mask pack contains two treatments.

Of all the home beauty treatments I’ve tried so far, the Oatmeal Oxygen Bubble Mask is the one that is just right for my sensitive skin.  It refines the skin texture and eases fatigue lines on the face but does not result in a tight feeling once washed off.  The mask is like a gel that you apply to your face after thoroughly washing and drying your face.

The gel works into a rich foam that has a mild fragrance.  The instructions did not say how long the mask should stay on.  I kept working the foam into a rich lather and left it on for 2 minutes.  There was no pulling or hardening.  The mask remained rich and creamy as I washed it off.  I recommend using a clean wash cloth and warm water as the foam becomes thicker the longer you massage it into your skin.

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Soften winter weary skin with a Cucumber Extract Facial Mask

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Packet containing facial mask by Cala Products.

I’m continuing a series of home treatments using different products from the 99 cents & up stores in my part of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.  Today I tried a facial mask made by Cala Products.  The label describes it as containing Cucumber Extract and being good for all skin types.  It also claims to relax the skin.  My skin is showing signs of stress from the cold weather and the many matters I have to attend to right now.  My eyes are very puffy, too.

I have repeatedly heard that putting two cucumber slices on my eyes would bring the puffiness down.  But I’m a little reluctant to use a food product on my skin since it is very sensitive.  I once tried a homemade mask made with egg whites and honey as a teenager.  My skin was very oily at that time.  The mask did tighten my pores but also irritated my skin.  I do not want to have any problems with my eyes so I’ll skip experimenting with cucumber slices.  I went shopping for an eye mask but could not find such a product.  When I saw a Cucumber Extract facial mask I thought it might be good to try since I want to find a product that will give my skin a boost, a kind of substitute for a mini-facial.

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Epielle Deep Cleansing Nose Strip

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A box of Epielle’s “Deep cleaning nose strip” comes with three strips.

I’ve always wondered if these strips you put across your nose really worked at clearing out the dirt that accumulates in enlarged pores.  I decided to give them a try when I picked up the Epielle brand of “Deep cleansing nose strip” at a nearby 99 cents and up store.

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The strips are very easy to use.  First wash your face and dry.  Moisten your nose area with some water and then apply the strip according to the directions on the box.  The important thing is to smooth the strip so that no air bubbles remain.  The strip stays on for 12-15 minutes.

In the beginning I did not feel anything but gradually the strip began to harden and I felt a tingling.  It did not hurt but it definitely felt like something was happeneing.  I just hoped my skin would not look red or puffy when I took the strip off.

When I took the strip off I was surprised by how many blackheads had been lifted up and out from my pores.  At first my skin was a little puffy but after a few minutes it was very smooth.  The pore size had minimized.  I decided to forego make-up or moisturizer until my skin no longer felt puffy.  The package directions state that the strips can be used every three days but I think given the sensitivity of my own skin I’d use them once every 7 to 10 days.

I think the strips do a superior job of cleaning and tightening pores.  I plan to use them rather than a mask.  Epielle “Deep cleansing nose strip” is made in Korea for KareWay Products.  I paid $1.29 for a box at New Wang Fa Trading at 6926 4th Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY.

I have placed a photo of what the strip lifted out of my pores behind the cut which follows.  It’s really icky to look at so if you’re easily grossed out just skip to a different posting.

Please note:  I do not receive remuneration of any sort from the stores or manufactures whose products I review.  This posting is for informational purposes only.  Before using any type of skin care product do a test on a small part of your face or arm to ensure you do not have any negative reactions to it.

Behind this cut is a photo of the gunk the strip lifted out of my pores…

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Is $9.99 a pound a bargain price for good quality coffee? I say “Yes!”

My first bag of Javatazza coffee.

I finally did it.  I spent more than planned for on a pound of coffee.  I love a cup of flavorful coffee early in the morning.  I also love using an old percolator for the nostalgia value.  The aroma of coffee perking early in the morning takes me back to some very good memories.  My Mom used a percolator and my favorite Auntie used an electric percolator.  I have many happy memories of sleepovers at my Auntie’s house with my Cousin Jackie.  All that comes back with the sound of the percolator and the aroma of the coffee!  It’s a pleasant way to gradually wake up in the morning.

The store brand of canned coffee or even brands like Chock Full O’Nuts don’t work well with this percolator.  So I decided to take a chance and buy a pound of Javatazza at the Food Dynasty on Third Avenue between 74th and 75th Streets.  I chose the “Coarse Ground” setting when grinding the beans.  The French Vanilla Decaff sounded like the new flavor I was seeking.  It didn’t disappoint.  I’m very happy to spend $9.99 for a pound of this flavorful and mellow coffee.  It even has a slight touch of chocolate.

The reason why I’m now perking my own coffee is that lately the coffee I’ve bought is either bitter or too strong.  When I think of a cup of coffee costing $1.25 and up I start getting more fussy.  I drink two cups of coffee between breakfast and break time when I work at my home office.  If I was to buy a large coffee or two cups of coffee per day, I’d spend almost the same amount in one week as what the pound of Javatazza cost.  After a week, there was enough of the Javatazza coffee to take me through another week.  So although the outlay was more, the purchase was worth it.  I loved the flavor and enjoyed my coffee so much more because it is so mellow.  And at two weeks, two cups per day that is a total of 28 cups of coffee.  Each cup cost less than 35 cents each!

Making muffins using Jiffy Muffin Mix.

I’ve also started using Jiffy Muffin Mix to make corn muffins or blueberry muffins to go with my coffee.  It’s not fancy gourmet quality but I’m fine with my home made muffins using Jiffy Mix.  Using a small sized muffin tin also helps with portion control.  I’ve spent $2.00-3.50 on oversize muffins often feeling disgusted by the price and the amount I can’t finish.  Even if the flavor is good, the amount left over does not justify how much I spent and how much is leftover.

I like perked coffee much better than coffee from a coffee maker.  If you’d like to try an old school way to make coffee here’s how:

1.  You’ll need a stainless steel or aluminum percolator, one cup measuring cup, measuring spoon for 1 tablespoon, coffee with a grind suitable for percolators.

2.  Measure one cup of cold water for each cup of finished coffee.  Put the water into the coffee pot.

3.  Add one tablespoon of coffee for each cup of water added.  Then add one more tablespoon for a fuller flavored coffee.  I find that for three cups of water I need four tablespoons of the Javatazza coarse ground coffee.  The brand and grind you use may require more or less.

4.  Place the top on the basket and close the top of the percolator.

5.  Put the percolator onto the stove using a medium-low flame.  Keep close to the kitchen to listen for the “perk-perk” sound that starts once the water begins to boil.

6.  As the water boils it rises up the stem, hits the top of the glass and then falls down into the basket where it seeps through the coffee grinds.  Lower the flame a little.  You don’t want the coffee to bubble over and out onto the stove.

7.  Time the coffee to perk 7-8 minutes for a light-medium flavor.  For stronger coffee let it perk for a longer time.  The time may have to be tweaked depending on the grind and brand you choose.

8.  After the coffee has finished perking, shut the flame off and let the pot rest for a minute or two.  Then remove the basket.  Never pour the coffee with the basket still in the percolator.  The brew will become bitter.

Now you can enjoy your coffee in a cup or pack it into a travel mug like the one I got from Birdie at GreenNY.  If you’re at home, you can reheat the coffee later and it will still have a good flavor.  I don’t recommend letting it sit in the pot all day but an extra hour or so is ok.

Use soap and water to clean an aluminum or stainless steel coffee pot instead of Brillo.  Once a week you can soak everything in a mix of baking soda and white vinegar for an hour.  This removes all the oil that builds up on the inside of the basket and percolator.  It will also also leave everything shiny clean.

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You can buy Javatazza coffee in any quantiy you want. I’ve bought 1/2 lb this week for under $5.00.  I shop for it  at Food Dynasty, 7414 Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY.

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This review is provided for information only.  I do not receive any remuneration for my write-ups of stores or products.

Lunch for $5: Original Pizza in Bay Ridge

I got off the R train on 69th Street and 4th Avenue after a long and slow ride back from Chinatown.  I was very hungry and not in the mood to spend $10 or more on lunch.  I went into Original Pizza for the first time today.  I was not disappointed in the pizza or the service.

The young men who serve at the counter are polite and work quickly to heat and then box your pizza.  If you want to eat in the pizza is put onto a paper plate.  I recommend asking for one of the round metal trays available because it’s so much easier to navigate your way to a table when using the tray.

I ordered two slices of the Grandma Pizza.  The crust was just right.  Crisp but not crunchy and the sauce was mild.  In addition to garlic salt, oregano and red pepper flakes, Original Pizza offers fresh basil leaves for topping your slice.  Today the basil was very fresh with a beautiful fragrance.  It complements the Grandma Pizza very well.  Two slices cost $5.  This was an excellent lunch.

The customers are from the working people and teenagers in the neighborhood.  They stay for a reasonable amount of time and then move on.  I do not think it will be difficult to find a seat on another weekday after 3 p.m.

Original Pizza is located at 6823 Fourth Avenue on the corner of Bay Ridge Avenue.  I highly recommend stopping by if you’re hungry when you get out of the Fourth Avenue Station or get off the bus that stops in front of the check casher across the street.

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Note:  This posting is for informational purposes only.  I do not receive any type of remuneration in return for a review.

Time for a Treat: CREAM Coffee & Tea Shop

The Little Bear logo of the CREAM Coffee & Tea Shop.

CREAM
Coffee & Tea Shop
7210 Third Avenue
(bet. 72nd & 73rd Streets)
Bay Ridge,  Brooklyn, NY

I have saved so many coins and dollar bills over the summer.  Two penny jars full!  It has been too hot and humid the past month to venture out for a treat but this weekend the weather was lovely.  It was time to splurge on the kind of treats that make life sweet.

When I first saw the logo of the little bear on the shop awning I felt transported back to past vacations in Tokyo and Sapporo.  The Japanese cute factor has always held a place in that universe of things I’m fond of.  I had a feeling CREAM was going to fit into it, too.

The teas, coffees, muffins, scones and confections are only slightly higher than you’d pay at more run-of-the-mill coffee shops where you can get a cup of regular coffee, a sugar donut or a cinnamon raisin bagel.  What my initial impressions of CREAM were:

  • The excellent customer service.
  • The knowledgeable barristas.  They can explain every product and suggest what tea or coffee harmonize with the muffin or scone you’re considering.
  • The baked goods are fresh, light and come in wonderful combinations of flavors.
  • The inside is very small but relaxing.  You never hear the clatter of dishes and the music is at a low volume.

On Saturday I had a Café Au Lait made using Stumptown Coffee.  It was smooth and mild.  Along with that I had a Pear Corn Muffin.  It was soft and crumbly as corn muffins are but not dry.  The only thing I missed was having a pat of butter to go with the muffin.  I will ask next time.  The total cost was $5. but I thought this treat was not only worth it but also well earned.  It had been a very busy day and I accomplished completion of all errands early.

A late lunch on Sunday consisted of a cup of the de-caff blended tea called Gold.  It was a mixture of blossoms and black tea that was light and very soothing when had with honey.  I also had a Cheddar Scallion Scone and bought an extra one in case a friend joined me.  The scone was very light with a smooth blend of flavors between the cheddar cheese and finely chopped bits of scallion  inside the scones.  The Cheddar and Scallion scones are $2.75 each and a medium cup of the Gold tea was $2.50

After my second visit to CREAM the initial delight in the cute factor plummeted. This is because there are laptop hobos and table hogs amongst the clientele. Management has a very lax policy towards customers who use the free Wi-Fi long after they have finished their coffee and no longer order anything else. This is the one area where I find CREAM lacking in it’s overall approach. It is simply not fair to other customers who come in sometimes buying more than a beverage to have to leave when they see the people sitting there talking non-stop and oblivious of other people’s needs. I spent less than 20 minutes on each visit to this shop and saw a young mother with her little girl have to leave when the child complained she wanted to sit down. Another time I saw a couple who bought several baked goods also have to leave because none of the table hogs showed any indication of leaving.

The conversations indicate a well-educated, well-travelled and well-off customer. You would think they’d at least show some courtesy towards other customers clustering at the counter and looking for a seat. There are many places one can work on their laptop such as at home. I cannot believe the clientele cannot afford internet access at home. Nor can I believe they simply have no where else to go and conduct a non-stop conversation. CREAM would benefit from a much tighter policy in regards to how much time a customer can spend using free Wi-Fi and when they need to buy an additional menu item to stay. It would show more thoughtfulness and consideration to the other customers who come into the shop and purchase more than a beverage. These are the customers you want to cultivate. These are the ones who contribute to the profitability and success of the business.

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Note:  I am not affiliated with any business I review in this blog nor do I receive any form of remuneration.  These entries are for informational purposes only.