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2019 Holiday Gift Guide — Mary’s Favorite Things

If you woke up this morning with a sense of panic realizing there are just two weeks left until Christmas, let me offer some sweet relief—a compilation of my favorite things that I have purchased from my own money, with all details updated and now gathered into one convenient place.

You’re about to discover that my favorite things are mostly practical, which could explain why prefer practical gifts. A new vacuum for Christmas? I’d be thrilled and delighted. All that to say that no doubt, My Favorite Things seriously reflect that personal bias. Enjoy!

 

cont’d below … 

1. Rowenta Steam Iron

This is one amazing steam iron. It is affordable, reliable and gives me great results consistently. It is comfortable to use and has enough heft to give a good press, has a super shiny stainless steel soleplate. The high steam rate blasts away wrinkles through its 400 micro steam holes. Auto shutoff has saved my bacon on a couple of occasions.

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How To Make Your Own Teeth Whitener—Cheap and Easy

According to a study by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the most important thing people want to change about their smile is the whiteness of their teeth.

woman pointing to her bright white teeth

There are plenty of ways to achieve beautifully white teeth with over-the-counter kits, whitening products, and whitening procedures at dental offices—all good ways to get white teeth. And that can get expensive.

But here’s the deal: Bright smiles and white teeth were desirable long before there were whitening kits, strips, trays, pens, toothpaste, mouthwash, and professional treatments. Homemade whitening pastes are cheap to make, easy to use, and remarkably effective.

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6 Easy Spa Treatments You Can Do at Home to Pamper Yourself

This post may contain affiliate links, some of which are intended to show you what I am describing, not necessarily to advise you to buy. However, should you make a purchase, this site may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. I only recommend items I love and have had a positive experience with. Thank you!


If you don’t happen to have an extra hundred bucks to enjoy a day at the spa, don’t sweat it. There are lots of easy DIY spa treatments you can do for yourself, at home for less. A lot less!

14873611 - beautiful girl after bath touching her face skincare

Salt scrub

You can pay a small fortune for a jar of salt scrub body exfoliant, or make your own for about a buck.

Find a nice container (a small glass jar or with a tight-fitting lid works well) and fill it about 3/4 full with Epsom salt. Now slowly mix in either almond oil (better) or baby oil (cheaper) and stir until the mixture looks like wet snow.

It’s optional, but you can add your choice of aromatherapy-grade essential oil to add a lovely scent. Lavender is a great choice! And you can substitute sugar for Epsom Salt.

TO USE:  Massage over wet skin in a hot shower with hand or washcloth. Rinse. Scratchy, scaly skin is suddenly gorgeous. Do not use on broken or freshly shaven skin.

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How to Break the Acrylic Nail Habit and Help Your Nails Recover Beautifully

I just received an email message from one of my readers that stirred up some very poignant memories for me.

Hands with manacure on white background

 

For years I, like Carol, was on the fake acrylic nails bandwagon. From the first time I gave that manicure option a try, I loved it. Polish lasts longer on acrylic nails; my nails were always uniform—shaped perfectly and just the right length. All I had to do was go to the nail salon every three weeks to have them maintained.

The problem is it became addictive. I couldn’t do the maintenance myself. And if I didn’t go regularly to have them done, they looked horrible. I became a slave to my local nail salon and acrylic-applying nail technician. It was not cheap.

Anyone who’s ever had acrylic nails knows that they absolutely ravage your natural nails if removed incorrectly, or worn for years without taking a break. And no wonder. Part of the process is to sand down one’s natural nails to get the stuff to stick and not “lift” before the next appointment.

It was a difficult habit to break and I’m glad I did, not only for my nail health  (Google “acrylic dangers” if you dare) but even more so for my wealth. Here’s what Carol wrote:

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Six Secrets for the Perfect Home Manicure

I wish I had all of the money I’ve spent over the years on salon manicures. It would be quite a tidy sum. And perhaps I wouldn’t have had such horrible nails and even worse cuticles. Thankfully, after untold trials and errors, I’ve come up with the perfect home manicure routine that has turned my nail life around—and keeps me out of the pricey nail salon.

 

Finger nail paint with glass file

 

By way of a little history, over the years I’ve done the acrylic thing (don’t even get me started on what years of that did to my natural nails). I’ve endured wraps, gels, hot oil, dipping powder, and superglue. 

My cuticles have been snipped, nipped, ripped and clipped. I’ve purchased expensive lotions, potions and nail notions but to no avail. Nothing has ever worked long term. 

I’d just about given up completely on finding a reasonable and workable solution for my nails when finally, I put together a routine with specific products that have given my nails a brand new life. I’ve followed this routine for years and can report without hesitation:

This is it—the perfect home manicure and nail care program for dry, cracked, horrible cuticles and jagged, splitting, peeling nails.

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19 Surprising Ways Epsom Salts Can Improve Your Life

I can recall vividly—and count on one hand—the migraine headaches I’ve had in my life, all of them before age ten. Once I turned double digits, I outgrew them. Until about two years ago.

With no warning at all, there I was back to my 8-year-old self, flat on my back with a raging migraine. Why then, after all these years?

Flower in bowl next to bath tub

In reading up on the latest findings on what might cause my migraine headaches, I discovered the importance of magnesium to overall health.

Turns out that an estimated 68 percent of the U.S. population suffer from magnesium deficiency causing all kinds of health issues—one of them being migraine headaches. One study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine concludes that all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. 

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I learned that common, ordinary Epsom salts is one of the richest sources of magnesium. Studies like this one offer scientific evidence that magnesium can be absorbed through the skin—by soaking in it. In a nice warm bath! Just make sure the bath water is not too hot, otherwise your skin will eliminate rather than absorb.

You can be sure that Epsom salts soaks are now part of my routine to boost my magnesium and hopefully continue to avoid migraines in the future.

In the nearly two years since I wrote about my recurring migraine experience, I’ve been working Epsom salt baths into my regular routine and I have not had even the hint of another migraine.

Epsom salts, also known as hydrated magnesium sulfate (not to be confused with table salt, which is sodium chloride and NOT even close to the same thing) is plentiful, inexpensive, and available at drugstores, supermarkets, and online. And it has dozens of other practical uses and health benefits, too!

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The Best Inexpensive Skin Care Products Recommended by My Doctor

How shocked was I to read it in a popular women’s magazine? Speechless, but somehow I gathered enough strength to respond, “There’s no way!”

Even so, I did a quick search only to discover it was no typo at all. 111SKIN Celestial Black Diamond Cream 1.7 oz. — $1,095!

All I can say is at that price, it better contain a miracle. Seriously. It almost makes Lancome’s Hydra Zen Neurocalm Soothing Recharging Night Cream 1.7 oz. look like a bargain!

Lady taking care of her skin

High-quality and effective skincare should not be considered a luxury available only to the wealthy. You can find high quality, reasonably priced skincare products that are equal, if not superior to their department store cousins—right in your drugstore or discount department store.

Some years ago, as my dermatologist was wrapping up my routine office visit, I asked him what specific products he recommends I use for daily skincare. Without hesitation, he pulled out a note pad and wrote down the following:

Cleanser

Cetaphil makes is an excellent line of affordable skincare products. For example, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. Other cleansers that receive high marks with my dermatologist are Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser Moisturizing Deep Cleanser; Basis Sensitive Skin Bar; Lever 2000, and Dove for Sensitive Skin.

Moisturizer

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream is priced well. Tip: Walmart sells a generic version under its brand name Equate. I’ve had reports from several readers who insist it’s just like the real thing for a lot less.

Anti-Wrinkle

If you are concerned about wrinkles and avoiding skin cancer (tell me who’s not), Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream is a Retinol facial treatment with multi-vitamins—an excellent product you should consider. This is more than a moisturizer. It’s a skin preservation system and much cheaper than a very expensive dermatologist’s pre-cancer procedure.

Eye-Makeup Remover

Johnson’s Tear-Free Baby Shampoo is an excellent eye-makeup remover. I have had a number of ophthalmologists tell me that they prescribe baby shampoo for their patients who wear contact lenses because the product also removes protein build-up that plagues many lens wearers. Can be used full strength. Rinse well.

Toner

Instead of purchasing a name-brand astringent for use in your skin-care regimen, use witch hazel, an old natural stand-by that has been recommended by skin professionals for decades. As a natural astringent, witch hazel has the ability to remove excess oil from the skin and shrink down pores.

A topical application can help reduce the number of contaminants that enter the skin’s pores and can potentially aggravate skin conditions like blemishes, blackheads, and even acne.

Witch hazel is available over the counter at any drug store and any generic brand performs equally well to any brand astringent no matter how expensive.

Exfoliant

Mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar with the juice of one whole lemon to form a paste. While showering invigorate your skin with the paste. Rub heels and elbows with the inside of the lemon rinds. You will swear you’ve just had a spa treatment!

Daily Sunscreen

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen with SPF 45 is what my doctor recommends. It is available online but also in nearly every drug store and Costco. I love this brand because it is ultra sheer and non-greasy.

Updated: 11-9-19

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