What you need to know about beauty oils

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Beauty oils are one of the fastest growing categories of skin care. They are not as new as some people think. The ancients used exotic oils to beautify skin. French skin care lines, such as Clarins, have offered them for years. I believe that beauty oils have become so popular because they make skin glow, seal in moisture, and also because many women over-exfoliate with chemical or manual exfoliants.  Too much of a good thing – such as retinol, glycolic acid, scrubs, or even Vitamin C – can leave skin red, raw, and dry. 

Aging and dry winter weather can also leave skin looking and feeling like parchment. The right oil can replenish skin and help to seal in moisture. Applying a little oil under a primer or on top of moisturizer can help keep make from looking cakey or pasty. bio-oildolce.jpg

Some experts even advocate oil to balance oily skin. This is a practice I do not endorse. I swear by beauty oils but I have found it best to reserve their use for very dry skin or risk clogged pores. 

Finding the right oil is a matter of trial and error. These days you can find beauty oils at all price points. For your face it is best to select light oil. I prefer one with anti-aging botanicals added. I use ready-mixed oils and also often mix my own. If you have dry skin, an oil is a must. You will be delighted with the instant improvement. 

Here a just a few to try: 

Environ intensive hydrating oil capsules

These individual oil capsules are made by one of my favourite skin care lines. Environ Intensive Hydrating Capsules contain a combination of Retinol and Vitamins C and E.  The oil is easily absorbed so skin looks moist and rejuvenated. The capsules also contain two powerful antioxidants in the form of green tea extract and Lipochromalin to target Nitrogen-free radicals. According to Environ skin care, “the hydrating oil capsules also inhibit lipid peroxidation and help to prevent skin cell damage.” 30 capsules cost about $80. 

Clarins Sandalwood Oil for dry skin is a classic

This light oil contains pure plant extracts in the form of essential oils of sandalwood, cardamom and lavender tone. It is designed to soothe dry, irritate or red skin.  It will also help to prevent moisture loss. It costs $52 for a one-ounce bottle. 

Bio-Oil is popular but controversial beauty oil that is well priced at four ounces for about $14

Bio-Oil was launched in 2002. It quickly gained popularity and a reputation for helping everything including dry skin, itchy scalp, stretch marks, dry elbows, botchy skin, and acne.  The oil is controversial; it contains mineral oil which some people claim is harmful even though there appear to be no studies to support that claim. Mineral oil is widely used in pharmacies and is still the main ingredient in baby oil. Another problem naysayers have is the” breakthrough” ingredient “Pur-Cellin,” which is not actually listed in the ingredients. Pur-Cellin is an oil ducks product. The press release I received says, “Bio-Oil” was “inspired by Pur-Cellin.” So what is in actually in Bio-Oil? The label says: Mineral oil, sunflower seed oil, Retinal Palmitate and botanicals. These are effective and accepted ingredients for a beauty oil. That being said, Bio-Oil feels great and leaves dry skin looking great. It is not a miracle cure, but it is an effective and lightweight moisturizer. And while moisturizing is recommended to prevent stretch marks nothing can promise to prevent them and nothing will cure them. And, I will repeat, I would not use any oil to treat acne. Avoiding mineral oil is a preference however if you like baby oil or most body lotions you may love Bio-Oil. It is also very cost effective.

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How to instantly look taller and thinner


Dr. Ken Hansraj

Dr. Ken Hansraj

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If you think the only way to look taller is to put on a pair of high heels, think again.

Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, spine specialist and author of Keys to an Amazing Life: Secrets of the Cervical Spine, says you can look taller and thinner but you need to change your posture. If you think this sounds too simple to make a difference, you haven’t tried it. In yoga class I am always amazed at how much I can stretch and straighten. Correct posture and alignment can change your life. Here are Dr. Hansraj’s tips: 


Focus on stretches and movements, such as lunges, that open and lengthen the muscles in the front of your body. This will release tension and help you to maintain good posture throughout the day. 

Move often

Changing positions frequently helps maintain a relaxed yet straight posture. Use all of your motion with everyday activities and remember to take a break from sitting in the same position every half hour. 

Think up

Keep your sternum tall to prevent your head or shoulders from jutting forward. Pulling them back and acting as if a string were pulling you from top of head will also diminish the strain you feel in your lower back. 

Use your entire foot

Most people stand with the weight over their heels, which cause their feet to become weak and turn in. This increases the stress on weight-bearing joints (lower back, hope, knees, and ankles). Make sure to distribute your weight evenly to the front, back, and sides of the feet.



Hands up

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Hands work hard so they need constant care to look good. Forget the pricey manicures and paraffin treatments. Focus on regular applications of effective lotions, potions, and sunscreen. 

Glow-ology hand balm contains some of our favourite ingredients such as Shea butter, sunflower oil, and alpha hydroxy acid. There are also skin pampering botanicals. We love these ingredients because they keep hands soft and supple. And the subtle but delicious fragrance of Glow-ology hand balm is an added bonus. Inhale and relax as you apply it.  Gentle alpha-hydroxy acid is as good for your hands as it is for your face. Glow-ology hand balm is clinically-tested and hypoallergenic. It costs $12 for a 3 ounce/85 gram tube. 



No-light gel

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Sally Hansen Miracle Gel, a two-step colour and top coat system for your fingernails, dries quickly for a shiny long-lasting finish. Sally Hansen says it will last 14 days. Best of all, it comes off your nails easily. You can do it at home so it is also easy on your budget. 

I bought this product in Montreal to touch up my own gel mani. Later at home, I used it over my freshly-done gel nails and for a pedicure. It was perfect for travel as the process does not require a lamp. Just one thin coat of colour (that matched my mani) and the glossy top coat covered a multitude of sins or chips until I had time for a redo. It looked good and was an easy fix. I hate using strange nail salons as often the work is bad and it takes too long. 

According to Sally Hansen, the advanced color and top coat contain “an oligomer” which is a chemical that allows them to bond for a longer-lasting lacquer. Another way to explain an oligomer is that it is a polymer or plasticizing agent. The top coat also includes a “photoinitiator” which activates a bond between the color and top coat and cures the polish without a lamp. 

I love this product. It is easier to apply and easier on natural nails – and it looks fabulous. And, equally important, it comes off easily with regular nail polish remover and no soaking or buffing. 

However, while it went on easily over my gel manicure in a pinch, it is thicker and harder to work with over freshly-applied gel nails than regular gel polish. But it is made for natural nails not gel nails – and for that it is hard to beat. 

If your do own nails as I do, you need to try this. It really is miraculous.




Trend alert: Runway trend soft waves

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Retro trends, such as soft waves, abound this year. Gently rippling hair with a flower-child flair was seen at  Chloe and Isabel Marant, just to name two. So-Cal Curls is a fabric headband that lets you curl your hair using just the heat of the microwave. The head band is filled with organic heat resistant material. Just heat the headband in a microwave for about a minute, then, wrap your hair around it – following the video tutorial. Thirty minutes later you will have perfect soft waves or spiral curls. The springness of the curl is determined by how tightly you wrap your hair and your hair’s own texture. 

It is the prettiest and also gentlest way we have ever seen to set hair. A single tie is $18.99.socal2dolce.jpg




Vegan without borders

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Robin Robertson’s Vegan Without Borders: Easy Everyday Meals from Around the World may forever change the way you think about vegan cooking if you are not a vegan or even a vegetarian. This big gorgeously-illustrated cookbook features tempting recipes from around the world that are accessible and easy to prepare.

Robertson doesn’t rely on complex and time-consuming meat substitutes that often taste weird and are disappointing. Instead the book focuses on vegan food that is commonly consumed around the world. Most of us don’t think of brandy-laced onion soup and blue ribbon chocolate layer cake when we think “vegan,” but these are only two of the recipes in this must-have cookbook for vegans and their friends.

The result is an array of soups, pizzas, stews, and desserts that will please vegans and non-vegans a like. Robertson also has sections that cater to gluten-free and soy-free needs.




Rethink Prosecco

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If Prosecco is your second-choice sparkling wine, it is time to consider this sophisticated Italian sparkler in its own right. Last year Prosecco outsold Champagne globally, as well as in the U.S.

Depending on the wine you choose Prosecco can be a great mixer, perfect as an aperitif, or served with the main course or dessert. Certain Proseccos are perfect with dishes that can be hard to pair with wine, such as spicy Asian cuisine or certain seafood.

Look for  DOC, or Denominazione di origine controllata, on the label of Italian Prosecco. This assures you that the wine has met certain standards.

There are different types of Prosecco: Spumante or sparkling, Frizzante or semi-sparkling, and Tranquillo or still. Spumante may be Brut (dry), Extra dry, or Demi-Sec (sweet). Demi-Sec can be very sweet and is best served with dessert. The best way to find out what you like is to try them.

Recently I tried Saome Brut La Tordera Prosecco. This effervescent wine has a nicely rounded flavour with fresh apple or pear and herb notes, and a finish that is crisp but not thin. It was delightful as an aperitif and also paired perfectly with my Pomegranate Glazed Salmon.

Priced from $13.99 to $15.99, this Prosecco is an excellent choice for an affordable, light, but sophisticated sparkling wine. I particularly loved how it held onto its bubbles. I would not use this wine as a champagne substitute but when I want a lighter wine with full flavour.

 Pomegranate Salmon

This recipe is unusual. The sweet-tart pomegranate glazes the fish a beautiful colour and provides a tangy, acid-based sauce.

 Serves 2 and can be doubled

 1 skinless salmon filet to serve two (8-10 ounces/450-500 grams)


3 Tbs. Pomegranate Molasses or syrup

1 peeled crushed clove of garlic

2 Tbsps. Honey

2 tsp. Hot Sesame Oil (Prepared Sesame Oil with cayenne.)

 Line a small shallow baking dish with two layers of foil or parchment that are large enough to bring up and loosely wrap over the fish

Place a skinless salmon fillet, serving side down, in a prepared baking dish, and add the marinade. Make sure fish is well-covered in marinade.  Loosely cover with over hanging foil.

Refrigerate if you like for several hours or bake immediately.

Bake in hot 400F-degree oven for 12 to 18 minutes, depending on your preference for doneness.

More about Prosecco:




The last of the Mitford sisters

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I have always been fascinated by the controversial Mitford sisters. In many ways, both good and truly evil, they defined an era. And now they are back in the news as Deborah Mitford, the last of the famous – some would say infamous – sextet has died. The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, as Deborah Mitford was called, was 94. 

The six sisters were the daughters of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, and Sydney Bowles. Many refer to their father as “a minor baronet,” but the fact is the Mitford sisters were born into the aristocracy, giving them an entrée into a larger world. They made the most of it.  

Deborah Mitford, or “Debo” as she was called at home, was the youngest of the sisters. She married Lord Andrew Cavendish, a “younger son” with no great prospects for love. When his older brother died, she became the 11th Duchess of Devonshire, and, it is said, almost download (11)single-handedly restored the dilapidated Chatsford House estate and created a business empire. With no previous experience she raised chickens, sold prepared foods, organized tours, wrote books, and lectured. Upon her recent death, she left behind a multi-million dollar enterprise. 

Her sisters were no less accomplished – even if they were sometimes nefarious. 

Nancy Mitford became an acclaimed author and historian. One of her most famous novels, Love in a Cold Climate, is still read today. I discovered her by reading her well-respected historical biographies of Louis the Sun King and Madame de Pompadour. Mitford came out in the 1920s. she was considered one of London’s “Bright Young Things” or the British equivalent of a very posh flapper.  She began writing to stretch her scant allowance. Her great professional success came after the Second World War. 

Nancy was never close to Pamela Mitford, the sister closest to her in age. Pamela was mad for horses, married well, and was widowed early in her marriage. Many, including her sisters, feel Nancy’s skills as a writer and her avid imagination were developed to cope with the boredom and isolation of their childhood. 

Jessica Mitford became a well-known political activist and journalist – who joined and later left the Communist party. She moved to the U.S., where she supported the Freedom Riders and had her own run-in with the McCarthyist witch hunts of the 1950s. She refused to testify about any involvement she might have had in radical politics. Jessica became a combative university professor but is remembered for scathing exposes about the high cost of death in America. When she died, her funeral cost just $533. 

Diana Mitford was said to be a great beauty. Sadly was also a fascist and involved with the Nazis. She and her husband, Sir Oswald Mosely, were both interned during the war. Unity Mitford was a Nazi. She fancied herself in love with Adolf Hitler and came to a bad end after attempting suicide in Germany. 

It is hard to explain how the Mitford’s managed to hold the world’s attention for decades.  Think of them as the creative and posh Kardashians of their day and you may get an idea of their popularity. I have never been intrigued by the Kardashians and the Mitford’s glory days were well beyond my time. My fascination with Nancy, Jessica, and Deborah lies in their accomplishments in a time when all a well-born woman was expected to do was marry well. All three of these women used wit, charm, and hard work to leave a mark on the world.

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 Gracey Hitchcock

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