Paula Begoun/The Cosmetics Cop

I first came across consumer advocate Paula Begoun about fifteen years ago; she focuses her attention on “beauty products”, including skin care, makeup, and hair care.  She started out by writing books such as, “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me”, and “The Beauty Bible”, and has expanded to web sites like Cosmetics Cop and Beautypedia, a PBS series, speaking engagements, and radio programmes.  I’ve saved a lot of money by reading her books, and combing her web sites for information.

In some ways, I do find it rather off-putting that she is now sporting her own line of cosmetics and skin care, however, her consumer advocacy does not seem to have suffered as a result, and she uses legitimate scientific research sources, not “claims” and anecdotal nonsense to back up the information she shares.  I have actually purchased a few of her Paula’s Choice skincare products, and have been extremely happy with them; I am a huge fan of her 2% BHA exfoliating liquid.

Beautypedia is now offered for free, and has reviews of thousands of products.  Cosmetics Cop has myriad articles for information, and is the place to purchase “Paula’s Choice” products.

Lu Guang (卢广), freelancer photographer

Amazing Pictures, Pollution in China.

This collection of photographs is stunning, and mind boggling.  Lu Guang recently won the $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his documentary project “Pollution in China”  at the 30th annual awards ceremony of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund.  The event took place at the Asia Society in New York City on October 14, 2009.

Robert Genn’s “Painter’s Keys”

Canadian painter Robert Genn shares thoughts, quotations, and wisdom about art and creativity twice a week in his e-letter “Painter’s Keys”.  It never fails to inspire, or provoke thought.  It costs nothing, and contains no advertising or spam-like material!  I have been receiving this newsletter for several years and have found it to be of tremendous value in my artistic and creative journey.  Mr. Genn’s web site is a terrific resource for artists of all kinds, as well as an archive of all of the Painter’s Keys letters.the Painter's Keys Artist Community

Ant Moats at Lee Valley Tools

I plant flowers in my perennial beds specifically to feed the hummingbird families that come back summer after summer, but I also like to hang hummingbird feeders in the front and in the back of the house. I discovered this clever Ant Moat at Lee Valley Tools that solved my problem of unintentionally feeding the nearby ant colonies:

No matter where you hang your feeder, the ants cannot get to it as long as you keep the umbrella full of water! No more ants in the sugar-water reservoir, no more ants crawling up the pole or the walls of the house to get to the feeder…nada!

UPDATE:  Not only do our Ant Moats keep the Hummingbird feeders ant-free, but they provide the small birds in the neighbourhood a perfect place for a drink or a quick bath!  An unintended but enjoyable dual function 🙂

Chickadee Enjoying Hummingbird Feeder Ant Moat

Home Made Ant Bait

(ingredients as per Ed Lawrence)

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon boric acid

Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water. Add the boric acid and stir until dissolved.

Take any pint-sized plastic container and cut small holes into the sides at the bottom to allow ants access to crawl inside. Dip cotton balls into the solution, and place inside the container. Seal the container with the lid, and place the container on a pathway that the ants are using.

The ants will eat the solution, and take it back to the other ants in the nest, where it will “build up” and eventually destroy the nest. The solution can be refrigerated and stored for a couple of weeks if it is carefully labelled.

Arghand Soaps

soaps1g.jpgArghand soaps are gorgeous to look at, beautifully scented, heavenly to use, and are carefully created by hand at a co-operative formed in Afghanistan to try and rebuild this war torn country. The artisan soaps resemble stones, and feel lovely in the hand. The lather is rich, creamy, and profuse. Update: This soap is incredibly long lasting! It does not disappear or dissolve quickly like so many handmade soaps tend to do, making it very economical.

Sarah Chayes, a former war correspondent for American national public radio, is the founder of the co-op. One of the co-operative’s main goals is to wean dependence on the opium poppy onto local licit crops which are used in the production of Arghand Soap. In a Guardian interview, Chayes is quoted:

in the long run, “this is the only way to beat heroin,” she says. “We have to re-weave the economic fabric of the country … so that people will have too much to lose from a return to war.”

“The Power of One: Making a Difference in Afghanistan“, World Vision’s page dedicated to Chayes and Arghand includes audio interviews. “Life After War” is a documentary film, shown on CBC Newsworld which chronicles Chaye’s journey.

The Arghand web site has a list of retailers in Canada, and the USA. I purchased my first order of Arghand soap via mail order from Planete Monde, a company in Montreal which has just begun to sell via their bilingual web site. My order arrived extremely quickly, it was well packaged, and the customer service was superb. I found it interesting to note that Planete Monde’s business partners opened their brick and mortar store after hearing Sarah Chayes being interviewed on CBC radio! Oresta’s Organic Confectionary in Ottawa also sells Arghand soaps via their web site. Oresta’s packaging includes a lovely little tag describing the Arghand Co-op and the ingredients, as well as a colourful photographic bookmark with the same (which makes for nice gift giving). Oresta’s service is extremely quick and friendly; I will be a repeat customer!

The New York Times has a blog written by Sarah Chayes: A Voice From Kandahar. At the time of this writing, the most recent post was dated August 1, 2006. The updated Arghand web site offers the writings of Cheyes from May 5, 2005 up to the present in a link entitled “Notes from the Field”; it is incredibly worthwhile and enlightening reading.  Update: Ms. Chayes now has a web site that consolidates much of her writing (unfortunately as of August 2011, the site seems to be gone).