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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Getting old, honey!

There are few things more uplifting than a little retail therapy, and very few less demoralizing than a visit to a department store's cosmetic counter floor. I don't know if it's only me, but if by any chance I'm browsing at Bloomingdale's ground floor, inevitably, a salesperson with a bright lipsticked smile approaches me and comments on my tired looking face, my bad complexion, my lack of skin glow, elasticity, plumpness, radiance or whatever else; and promises to fix it with her (or his) new DNA, enzyme, Japanese crystallized lava, whale's gastric juices, or Australian seaweed extract-infused potion. I always fall for those. They never help my skin, but they do a great job at augmenting my lack of self esteem and reducing my bank account.
Lately, I've been noticing--without the help from any individual with perfectly made-up eyes and a name tag-- how my face is wrinkling more and more.
If the creases were around the lips or eyes, they would be witnesses of laughter and smiles, and I would be able to sport them proudly. But my forehead is the most affected area. And that, I cannot take. It means that most of the time, I frown and have a worried-look expression. That's pretty sad...
Coincidentally, I just finished reading Stacy Schiff's excellent biography about Cleopatra, which inspired me--I'm sure the author would jump of joy if she knew about the deep impact her book had in me--to try to find the secrets to a youthful-looking skin, naturally.
OK, the book wasn't really about the Egyptian queen's beauty secrets, quite the opposite, as Schiff's main point is to document how Cleopatra's intelligence was far more defining in history than her beauty. But to my favor, in those days and location, honey was often used to concoct cosmetics, medicine and even to embalm bodies, besides sweetening the Queen's wine.  
So inspired I was, that I proceeded to smear ambrosia (a mixture of raw honey, royal jelly and pollen that I bought at Andrew's Honey's stand in the farmer's market) all over my face. My family shrieked in terror. My kids begged me to rinse it off and my husband inquired why I had chia on my face. I corrected him, explaining that for the first time ever, it wasn't about chia, but bee pollen. Which I'm sure made him feel relieved...
I've been trying to apply the mask every night before I shower. The children are getting used to their sticky-ugly looking mommy one evening at a time (or might explain why they are afraid to sleep!). Do I look 25 years younger? Nope, but my skin does feel softer, less dry and looks a bit better (I think), and since the family didn't love the ambrosia as much as they like Andrew's other honeys, I still have a nice part of the jar to document the shrinkage of my wrinkles...

What exactly is the rationale behind this act of vanity(besides desperation and an urgent need for a shrink)?

Well, I'm not THAT crazy: bees collect flower nectar in their mouths and add salivary enzymes to turn it into honey, which then they deposit in cells in back in the hive. They aerate the sweet liquid by fluttering their wings to remove excess humidity, making honey a food that never spoils.
Through this fascinating process, a collaboration of the plant and insect worlds, the sweet liquid ends up being loaded with trace minerals, amino acids, B vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants (and makes pollination possible).
RAW honey (it has to be raw, as most attributes are removed from it if processed) is an antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal substance. It's scientifically proven to help relief the symptoms of upper respiratory infections, and it is effective at healing infected wounds. It reduces swelling and scarring, helps remove infected and dead tissue, and stimulates the growth of new tissue*.
Honey also acts as a humectant, attracting and retaining moisture. 
The mechanisms and characteristics of the many different compounds present in honey are not fully understood yet, especially because each jar of honey has a different concentration of them. Just like wine, each batch of honey reflects the characteristics of the flowers from where the bees collected the nectar. The flavor, color, consistency and scent of the honey vary according to the type of flower, the soil, season and weather in which the blossoms grew.
Usually, lighter-colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker ones tend to be bolder tasting AND RICHER IN ANTIOXIDANTS. Try it: smell the honey and see how there's a reminiscence of either orange, eucalyptus, or lavender origin.
The best place to taste different kinds and purchase fresh, raw honey is at local green markets.

There's even some evidence that honey may increase immunity and help better blood sugar control, although there are still many specialists stating that sugar and honey are metabolized similarly. So stay tuned for the newest research, but in the meanwhile, enjoy honey (in reasonable amounts, of course), and do NOT feed honey to children under 12 months old!
Also, be aware that often, what is sold like "honey" in supermarkets isn't the real thing. As I mentioned, look for RAW honey and don't heal your own wounds with it, unless you get medical advice first.
*most studies were made using manuka honey from New Zealand, which is especially known for its bioactive properties and antioxidant richness, and can be found in some health food stores or pharmacies. However, Andrew, the apiarian (beekeeper) behind Andrew's Honey, told me that his buckwheat honey is comparable in its properties to manuka, and it's local (if you are in the NYC area)
For more information on honey visit:


As fabulous as the ambrosia masks could be (and we'll see...), I know it's also really important to keep hydrated and eat foods with lots of antioxidants to give my body the tools to fight the aging process. Not only to avoid wrinkles, but to help prevent heart disease, arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis and Alzheimer's. 

This salad could be an appetizer, a side dish of a whole meal by itself. It has complete protein (which happens when a whole grain and a legume are combined), it's full of fiber and every single ingredient is abundant in antioxidant phytonutrients, and an indication of it are the beautiful colors, which make it a gorgeous winter dish.

  • Vegetarian (uses honey). Free of gluten, nut, egg, soy and dairy
  • Super ingredients: All of them!
For salad:

1 cup organic forbidden (black) rice, cooked according to packaging instructions and cooled
1 can organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I buy Eden brand, as it's BPA free)
1 avocado, pitted and cubed
1 pomegranate, seeded
1 bunch (about 2 ounces) organic arugula (pre-washed is fine)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup kombucha (original flavor) OR apple cider vinegar
Fresh juice of 1 orange (I used blood orange)
2 Tablespoons raw honey, or to taste
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a serving bowl.

In a jar with a lid, add the ingredients one by one. Cover and shake until emulsified. NOTE: if using Kombucha, don't open the jar right away, as the carbonation in Kombucha might splash. Wait a couple of minutes. Taste for seasoning and pour on the salad, mixing so all the ingredients are dressed.

Serves 4-6 people


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