Archive for December 13, 2011

Soothing those party eyes

Most evenings I go to bed too late. I swear by a 10.30pm bedtime, but somehow I seldom make it.

It would be nice to think that the holidays were a time for more sleep, but between the good stuff (parties and gatherings) and the less good stuff (late night baking and present wrapping), that often does not happen. So, I look for other ways of feeling – and looking – better in the morning.

One of these is to slap on a good coating of eye cream before I sleep at night.

green-eye-md

This feels particularly therapeutic in the dry, cold winter here in Ottawa. Winter, for me, is a time of cracking skin, limp and static-filled hair and a bleeding nose. I like the skiing and the skating, but I can’t say I welcome these other features of our longest season.

My eye remedy is Keys Soap Eye Butter. The thing I like about this cream is that it feels entirely inert, buttery-even (as the name suggests). It barely smells and it does not make my eyes water or sting (a common problem with eye cream). A reviewer on another site mentioned that she liked to let her eyes `marinate’ in it for the night and I think that sums it up pretty well.

keys eye

Does it reduce puffiness and all those wrinkles around my eyes? I am not too sure, but it feels good and kind to my over-taxed eyes, and it makes me think that my chronic lack of sleep will affect me less.

The ingredients are self-evidently natural (Avocado Oil, Shea Butter, Black Cumin Oil, Carrot Seed Oil, Distilled Cucumber, Aloe Vera, Purified Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Vegetable Wax, Rosemary Extract) so it is not surprising that it scores a zero on the Skin Deep cosmetics database.

The cream comes in a glass container in two sizes, The smaller one (0.5oz or 15ml) does not sound like much, but I can assure you that it pretty much lasts forever (since it is a very dense cream you don’t scoop much up on any given occasion). It costs around $20 and is available from the manufacturer or from Amazon (and elsewhere).

In Canada my favourite supplier is Hornet Mountain Natural Products in BC. The eye butter is available as a stand-alone item for $22.25 but Astrid, the proprietor, also does a great Keys Soap Cleanse and Moisturize package for $60. This contains full size versions of the Eye Butter, Island Rx Foaming Cleanser (which I have previously recommended) and Keys Luminos Day/Night Moisturizer. I like, and use, this moisturizer but it is on the heavy side and I generally prefer a little fragrance in my facial moisturizer (though not around my eyes).

Keys Soap products are generally very benign and contain no fragrances or preservatives whatsoever. This blog posting tells you more about how the products are made, and how they manage to eschew preservatives. The company was an early signatory to the compact for safe cosmetics and now has champion status. Prices are generally reasonable (in my view) and they ship far and wide. What’s not to like about that?

Chimney cushions

Winter is slow to arrive this year. But I live in Ottawa, one of the world’s coldest capital cities, so I know that it will eventually come, with a vengeance.

When we moved here we did a home energy audit and we have since made significant investments in upgrading the insulation, windows, heating system, etc. One of the quickest (read: easy and cheap) fixes was to install a fireplace draftstopper (available in Canada and the US) or chimney balloon (available in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and the US).

The name pretty much says it all. These are low-tech but effective beasts: literally heavy-duty plastic cushions which you partially inflate then lodge in front of your chimney flue (even if closed, this may well be a big source of drafts).

draftstop

The cushion stays in place courtesy of the (included) telescoping rod. You then fully inflate the cushion through a mouth tube (is this what a breathalyzer feels like? or inflating one of those dubious lifejackets that they claim to have under every aeroplane seat?). Once snug the cushion prevents drafts, makes your room more comfortable and saves you money.

theballoon

At least that is the claim. I can’t say exactly how much money I have saved or whether I have recovered the approximately $50 I shelled out for the cushion, but I do notice significantly fewer drafts from my fireplace, which has to be a good thing. One of the vendor websites claims that without a cushion many fireplaces have an `effective leakage area’ of 30 square inches (that would be about 200 square centimetres) even when the damper is closed. 30 square inches of -25C air falling down my chimney is not a happy thought.

In my homeland (the UK) the weather is seldom this cold, but the UK chill is still stuff of legend. Since most UK homes do not have fireplace dampers that can be opened and closed, there really are gaping holes to be plugged.

You can choose various shapes of cushion to accommodate different fireplaces (both websites discuss this and the Chimney Balloon website presents a detailed sizing guide). By choosing which vendor you use, you can also choose between black (Fireplace DraftStopper) and transparent (Chimney Balloon). I have a black one and I really don’t notice it when it is tucked up my chimney (as long as the tube is not hanging down). The Chimney Balloons appear to have detachable inflation tubes so you would not even have that problem (though you would have to decide where to store – and not lose – the tube).

Though easy to insert and replace, I do admit that the cushion might provide a slight disincentive to lighting a fire, but I think it is the cleaning up after the fire that is the real culprit. Certainly if you were having a fire every night, you might not want to use a cushion. But as an occasional fire builder, I am happy (and I do have to note that it is not exactly eco to burn wood every night).

If you are concerned about accidentally leaving the cushion in place when lighting a fire, apparently you don’t have to be. The cushion will melt, fall and smother the flames or at least let the fumes escape (assuming you have opened your flue). A $50 loss for the cushion, but nothing worse…oh, apart from those rather nasty fumes from burning plastic (probably best to remove the cushion, after all).

Last word on these nifty things: there seems to be a bit of a battle over who invented them. Both websites claim to be the original inventors of the product, one in the UK and the other in Canada. Maybe the two are different enough that this is true. Or maybe we are about to witness the eruption of a global chimney cushion patent war.

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