Gingerbread Men

Nothing tastes quite like Christmas as much as gingerbread with all its Christmassy spices and scents! Not only is the end result worth every bite, but it is a fun activity to keep adults and kids alike occupied in the holidays. I made a batch this week and they turned out really well and made the whole house smell festive, so I thought I would share the recipe (it’s a keeper!).

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Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1teaspoons baking powder
  • 3teaspoon baking soda
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1cup golden or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Directions:

  1. Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add syrup, egg and vanilla;mix well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Divide dough into two and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 hours.

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  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface. The thicker the dough the softer the gingerbread men, the thinner the crispier. Cut into gingerbread men shapes with a cookie cutter and place on a baking bray  (they need some space to expand).

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  1. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are set and just begin to brown. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. 

Icing:

The fun part is decorating your gingerbread men once they are cool with royal icing. Whisk one egg white with half a teaspoon of lemon juice until frothy, then gradually add in 1 1⁄2  cups icing sugar and beat until smooth. Royal icing is perfect for piping and sets hard.

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Royal Icing also acts as glue for astros, smarties or any other christmas decorations!

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Damaged hair?! A scary hairstory with a happy ending. Thanks Kerastase.

Blonde is a battle I’m always writing about, but never in the 15 years I’ve been colouring/highlighting/bleaching my hair have I had such a bad experience as I did about two months ago. I went darker for winter with Herbatint (you can read about that here if you’re looking for a natural hair dye) and decided I missed my blonde too much. I can’t look in the mirror and see my true self unless I’m blonde. So I booked at Partners for a full head of highlights and had an Olaplex treatment to protect my hair in the process. I was hoping that paying over R500 for a treatment would guarantee my hair would be in good shape afterwards, but I was bitterly disappointed.

Because the whole procedure took so long and I ran out of time I had to leave with damp hair (no blow dry). When it dried it was so frizzy you would have been forgiven for thinking I had stuck my finger in a plug socket. When I got home I brushed it and half my hair came off in the brush. My hair was breaking off in clumps. I had done it. I had officially destroyed my hair. Once and for all. Kerastase has a scale for classifying damage to hair, levels 1 and 2 being caused by things like too much brushing/flat ironing etc. and levels 3 and 4 being caused by chemical damage. I think I can safely say my hair fell into the ‘total destruction’ category.

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The salon recommended Kerastase Bain Therapiste to me and I was so glad they did. I was willing to try anything and spend any amount to get my hair sorted out, so I jumped straight on to Retailbox and ordered myself the Bain Therapiste shampoo (R300) and the Soin Premier Therapiste conditioner (R360). This was a pricey combination after paying for the Olaplex etc., but from the first wash it was clear that it was money well spent! The conditioner is designed to be used first before shampooing, to protect the hair. You can feel a difference from regular conditioner in that it doesn’t leave hair feeling slippery. The shampoo has a  unique jelly-like texture which I find entertaining. Both products smell great (something I can’t help looking for in hair care) and without a doubt leave hair feeling stronger, less brittle and healthier. They are designed for very damaged and overprocessed hair, so anyone with “regular” damaged hair (just a bit too much heat styling etc.) might find the products too heavy. If your hair is truly fried, like mine was, they will become your new best friends. In the beginning I also used Joico K Pak Intense Hydrator after shampooing just to give my hair an extra moisture boost. The combination did wonders and within the first week I could see and feel a big difference to my scarecrow hair.

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After being so impressed with these two I thought, well, in for a penny, in for a pound and bought myself the Therapiste Serum (R500). Retailbox’s blurb sold me on it:

“Kérastase Resistance Therapiste Serum transforms very damaged and over-processed hair to leave it hydrated, conditioned and healthy-looking. Ideal for thick, unruly hair, the treatment works as a repairing cream and binding serum to resurface hair and improve its structure. With amino acids and its unique FIBRA-KAP™ formula, the serum delivers heat protection up to 230°C to prevent split ends, minimises breakage and aids drying time so you can experience silky soft locks.”

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This was just what my hair needed. For a few weeks I couldn’t even blow dry my hair for fear of damaging it any further, it was in such bad shape, but after I used this I actually flat iron my hair for a wedding without causing any damage. My hair felt smooth and strong and frankly in better condition than it was before those highlights. I honestly thought my hair would never feel soft again, and it actually does every time I use this. You can use it on damp hair before blow drying/styling or as a finishing serum.

This whole experience was a very expensive learning curve, but it was also my first foray into Kerastase beyond the Elixir Ultime, and I was very impressed. They’re not the most budget friendly brand but I feel the products honestly do work and are really worth the money. This particular range might not be your everyday shampoo, but for anyone else out there who is going through a bit of a hair nightmare, I can honestly recommend it. I’m pleased to report thank thanks to Kerastase my hair has had a happy ending.

*This is not a sponsored post and all the products I’m raving about were bought with my own hard earned money!

How to fake perfect skin with a little help from Dior

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I seriously wanted to call this blog post “How to fake perfect skin the expensive way”. Dior never was your budget-friendly, pop-a-few-in-your-shopping-basket kind of brand, but with the exchange rate the prices these days are cringe-worthy. Nevertheless for the sake of science I kindly tested these two skin-perfectors out for you, so you know where to direct your 13th cheque if needs be. 🙂

Since I’ve been leaning towards lighter coverage and less made up looking skin *high five to Dermaceutic* I was out to try a new BB cream. I wanted one with a decent SPF of at least 30 so I decided on Dior’s Hydra Life Water BB Tinted Aqua Gel. This is what Dior says about it:

“For the 1st time at Dior, Hydra Life has created the new generation of water-based beauty treatments, combining the moisturizing power of Mallow with a natural colorant that is gentle on the skin. Upon shaking, the freshness of the water is revealed, delivering a feeling of intense comfort after application. The skin is gently hydrated while also protected from UV aggressors.

The natural radiance of the skin is sublimed 97%
The skin is more luminous 97%
The skin is immediately moisturized 87%
The skin is fleshier 87%”

Despite making me laugh out loud, who doesn’t want their skin “sublimed”, right?!!

Anyway, I wasn’t laughing out loud when this bloody expensive BB cream (circa R900) completely failed to work. I tried it again and again over my usual routine of skincare products, and then just paired with a serum, and every time it pilled, clumped, refused to blend in or absorb and just generally looked hideous. I was about to take it back to Dior and say, here you go, use this as a tester or something.

Then I tried it on clean skin without using any skincare underneath, and lo and behold it blended in effortlessly and looked fabulous. The coverage is light but adequate (I still need concealer on any red marks or dark freckles) and it feels lightweight and comfortable on the skin. It doesn’t feel tacky to the touch and it keeps my skin balanced, no oiliness around my T-zone or dry patches anywhere else. It really feels like a moisturiser, sunscreen and light coverage in one product, which is what a BB cream ought to do. Basically, it is a beautiful daytime BB cream for the summer. I just agonise over skipping my precious antioxidant-laden skincare regime beforehand, so I don’t use this every day. I save it for weekends or particularly hectic week days when I’m short on time. Price-wise it is mad, but then you only need very little and it should last a long time. So despite initially hating it, and wishing it would work WITH my skincare rather than against it, I do actually love this product when it’s on my face. It makes my skin look really nice.

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Then Dior recently launched its new Dreamskin Perfect Skin Cushion. We’ve been hearing about cushions since they made their way out of the East and the concept in creeping into a variety of products. I am excited about the convenience and mess-free application it offers and I also have a disease which makes me want to try everything new that Dior comes up with regardless of whether I really need it or not. This is what Dior has to say about it:

“All the correcting and skin-perfecting power of Dreamskin within a portable compact to treat, enhance and protect your skin on the go. Upon application, its lightweight texture perfectly fuses with the skin to reduce the appearance of redness, shine and pores. The complexion is naturally fresh, radiant and luminous under all circumstances. Day after day, the skin and complexion are naturally and beautifully enhanced.”

First of all the SPF50 made me sit up and take notice. I’m always looking to up my SPF without having to use an additional sunscreen (something like step 5 in my skincare routine!). Secondly, perfect skin sounded pretty good to me. So I closed my eyes and handed over my debit card, and I’m quite pleased that I did. At R1,315 this is even more expensive than the BB cream. You do get a refill compact as well for this price, so each would work out about R650 on average, which is below the price of a regular Dior foundation.

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When I popped into Dior I tried the Dreamskin Cushion on one half of my face and immediately saw the huge difference. It really does remove redness and shine, and reduces the appearance of pores. The coverage is very light, so if you have a lot you want to cover up then probably don’t bother spending the money. If you prefer a light coverage that looks completely natural then this is for you. This is meant to be used in the morning as the last step in your routine, and frankly you’re quite likely to just skip foundation and opt for a dab of concealer. It is also intended for touch-ups during the day, so if you are wearing foundation over it you can refresh it and touch it up quickly and conveniently during the day – boosting your SPF protection and perfecting your skin in one go. I never normally bother touching up my foundation, but the compact is so convenient to carry around in my bag and apply using the puff that I can do it in 5 seconds at a traffic light.

If you’re looking to spoil yourself (birthday coming up? Mine is, in self-defence) then this is worth a look.

A peek into Retailbox Secret Box #31

For all fans of the #RBSecretbox – the one-off box containing surprise products at amazing value – I got a sneak peak and trial of box number 31 which contained three full-size products for blonde hair. It’s true that you don’t know what you will get beyond the hint that accompanies the box, but it is guaranteed that you will get a real bargain. Box #31 was a trio for blondes getting summer ready, to restore keratin and enhance shine. To be specific, it contains Schwarzkopf BlondMe Keratin Restore Shampoo 250ml, Keratin Restore Treatment 200ml and a BlondMe All Blondes Spray Conditioner 150ml. The total retail value of these products is R866 and you can order the box for an amazing R350… That’s a whopping saving. The set also comes with a gold toiletry bag to take your summer hair products travelling with you. Oh, and a gold luggage tag – perfect for the holidays.

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I’ve used the Schwarzkopf BlondMe range in the past so I knew when I received the box that I would like the products, even before I tried them. It is a range for general blonde, colour treated, highlighted hair and addresses the damage that comes with being blonde by restoring keratin, smoothing, conditioning and enhancing shine. It might not be right for seriously damaged hair, but great if your hair is in okay condition but not as healthy as it could be.

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The products smell lovely (one of my favourite things about BlondMe) and are really softening and smoothing. Sometimes I go to bed with damp hair and wake up with hair like Dolly Parton. After using the shampoo and leaving the treatment in for 10 minutes, followed up by a spray of leave-in conditioner, I woke up with pretty sleek hair by my normal standards, which means these products really do work. I love how beautiful the gold particles swirling in the conditioner bottle look too. It’s shallow of me, but it is so pretty I look forward to using it! I also find it really useful for taking with me to the beach and using after I rinse my hair. It’s suitable for natural and colour-treated blondes.

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All in all I think this box is a bargain and the products are really good ones which I know and trust. You had better hurry up and get your hands on one before they sell out from www.retailbox.co.za. You can follow Retailbox on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram for news about when their upcoming boxes will be released.