Showing posts with label Margaret Schindel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Margaret Schindel. Show all posts

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Reviews of Silicone Kitchen Tools and Accessories for Cooking and Baking Enthusiasts

Silicone sponges, potholders, spatulas, baking pan liners, muffin pan liners, food storage bags, cooking utensil rests, chocolate chip molds, ice pop molds and other silicone molds have become some of my favorite and most-often-used items in my kitchen.

Although I love cooking and baking, I don’t enjoy washing dishes, so I appreciate being able to toss my silicone kitchen tools into the dishwasher. It’s often just as easy to hand wash them with just a soapy sponge, since even sticky foods wash off easily.
Read on for my reviews of the best silicone kitchen tools and accessories!

Silicone Scrubber Sponges

I started using silicone “sponges” a while ago to protect our nonstick pots and pans. I liked them, but found them hard to handle because they were thin, floppy and a bit small. Also, when something did stick a bit, they didn’t work at all to remove the stuck-on food.

When one of them eventually ripped, I decided to look for something a bit larger and sturdier. I was a bit skeptical when I ordered this set silicone scrubber sponges, but I really liked the fact that they had the nubby silicone sponge “fingers” on one side and a sturdier scrubber pad on the other side. I find it much easier to hold these thicker, less floppy scrubber sponges while washing dishes, utensils, pots or pans. And, like the ones they replaced, they’re made of silicone, so they protect the nonstick finish, don’t trap bacteria and don’t get smelly, as cellulose sponges can. They’re also dishwasher safe.
These silicone scrubber sponges won't scratch nonstick pots and pans
The set includes 3 silicone sponge scrubbers, so I can keep one at the sink, one in the dishwasher and still have a spare. I wish the colors were a bit less drab, like the thinner, brightly colored silicone sponges I purchased originally, but I’m happy to trade less attractive color for more effectiveness in my kitchen.

Silicone Potholders

My hands are very sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, so I've gone through a lot of potholders over the years. The first silicone potholders I tried were the OrkaPlus cotton-lined silicone mitts by Mastrad. These long mitts were like barbecue mitts, providing great coverage that protected my fingers, hands, wrists and the lower half of my forearms. This appealed to me a lot, since I'm prone to burning myself in the kitchen! They also came highly recommended by a respected cooking magazine and had great reviews. Unfortunately, I found them very clumsy and had a hard time getting a good grip on the edges of cookie sheets without smooshing the big silicone thumb part into the cookies (or whatever else was in the pan I was trying to remove from the oven). Next, I tried a pair of small, ribbed silicone pinch mitts, also called mini oven mitts, that just covered my fingers, thumbs and palms. But I found them very awkward to use.
These ribbed silicone potholders protect your hands without getting in the way
Finally, I bought two Architec Silicone HotGrip ribbed silicone potholders that turned out to be the perfect solution. I use them every day, throw them into the dishwasher every evening and they still look like new. They're thick, large enough to protect my hands and grip well, thanks to the ribbed texture. Mine are red, since at the time the pretty teal blue color wasn't available. I can't imagine them wearing out, but if they ever do, I'll definitely be buying the blue ones!

Silicone Spatulas

I frequently use nonstick cookware and bakeware and silicone spatulas help protect the nonstick coating. I’ve added to my silicone spatula collection over time because I use them for so many things.

The first ones I bought (many years ago) had silicone heads attached to handles of a different material (wood, metal or plastic). I soon realized I’d be better off with a seamless, one-piece design. This eliminates the possibility of the business end of the spatula becoming detached from the handle (something that happened to me several times with two-piece designs) and eliminates seams and crevices that can trap food and breed bacteria.

Two years ago, I purchased 4-piece silicone spatula set made by UpGood. I was unfamiliar with the brand but bought it because I liked the shapes and sizes in the set, the reviews were great and the price made them an excellent value. The set includes a long, slim spatula for scraping out jars, a curved spoon spatula and both long and short traditional scraper spatulas with one curved edge and one straight edge, These are very nice quality and they're still going strong in my kitchen a couple of years later, And the charcoal gray color is a neutral that won't clash with your kitchen's color scheme. Here's a photo of the spoon/spatula (AKA "spoonula") from the set.
One of the spoonulas in my growing collection!
I find myself using the spoon/spatula shape the most for cooking and baking. Since I rarely have only one pot or pan going on the stove when I cook, I decided to get a couple more in that shape. I was delighted to find one in a pretty aqua/teal, my favorite color, so I ordered the GIR (Get It Right) 11-inch Premium Silicone Ultimate Spoonula in Teal. This high quality, seamless spoon spatula is made of pharmaceutical grade platinum-cured silicone that's heat resistant up to 550 °F. It also has a sturdy fiberglass core that doesn't heat up like the more common iron or stainless steel spatula cores. It's still one of my favorite cooking utensils - I just love the color and using it makes me happy. (It's the little things, right?) It also comes in Red, Orange or Gray.

I use an iSi Slim Silicone Spatula to scrape out my very tall Vitamix blender. It works extremely well for this purpose and I am very pleased with it.
This iSI slim silicone spatula is perfect for scraping the bottom of my Vitamix blender
Note: Any silicone spatula that is used to scrape out the contents of a blender will eventually get cuts or nicks from the sharp blades, at which point it should be replaced for sanitary reasons.

Silicone Baking Pan Liners

I've been baking for decades and, as any experienced baker will likely tell you, silicone baking mats are a baking staple. When I was younger, I used baking parchment much more often than I do now. But the older I get, the more concerned I become about the pervasiveness of wasteful habits that wreak havoc on the environment. So, increasingly, I've been trying to switch from disposable to reusable items.

For many years, I've used Silpat baking mats to line my cookie sheets. This French brand is so closely associated with this type of silicone bakeware liner that it's most often used as a generic term for them. But when I lost the use of my full-size double oven, I needed to get some smaller ones that would fit the smaller rimmed baking sheets for my tabletop oven.

I had been planning to buy the iconic Silpat brand again, but the name commands a premium and my income is not what it was when I worked in the corporate world. So, when I looked at a pair of silicone baking mats from an unfamiliar brand that had both great reviews and a great price, I took a chance.

Both my husband and I have been using these Quarter Sheet Silicone Baking Mats by WildCow several times a week. They're great for baking, of course, but we also use them to line our tabletop toaster oven rimmed baking sheets before inserting a rack to oven-bake regular or turkey bacon. We much prefer this method to pan frying, since there's no splatter, no turning and no watchful eye needed. These 11 3/4” x 8 1/4" nonstick cooking and baking mats fit inside the 12" x 10" rimmed baking sheets we use in our tabletop toaster oven (although I may trim the tips of the corners on a diagonal at some point). Despite the excellent price, they're thick and sturdy and have held up great. I can hand wash them quickly with my silicone scrubber sponge and hot, soapy water or just toss them into the dishwasher. (I can't figure out why the mat looks stained in this photo, since it isn't in real life!)
This inexpensive silicone baking mat works as well as my expensive Silpat mats
Be aware that these are heat resistant up to 400 °F, so don't use them for something that requires higher heat, such as browning the top of something under the broiler.

If you're using regular 18" x 13" pans — known in  professional kitchens as half size pans — I recommend getting the AmazonBasics Silicone Baking Mat Sheet, Set of 2 in the Standard size. AmazonBasics is one of Amazon's popular private-label "house brands".These silicone baking mats measure 11.6" x 16.5" and can also be used with 11" x 17" baking sheets (although they'll overhang two of the sides slightly). These mats currently have an average customer rating of 4.7 stars based on more than 4,300 customer ratings, are heat-resistant up to 480 °F and are also very well priced.

Silicone Mini Prep Bowls / Pinch Bowls

I've had a set of medium-sized stainless steel prep bowls for years that I still use. But when I set out and prepare all the ingredients before starting to cook or bake (an activity known in the chef / foodie / Food Network world as mise-en-place), it's also nice to be able to prep and measure out small amounts of ingredients, such as seasonings or garnishes.

My Norpro set of 4 silicone mini pinch bowls are perfect for that purpose. The four colorful bowls in the set are bright red, blue, yellow and green, respectively. These cuties are just 2.5" in diameter and 1.5" tall, so they take up practically no counter space, which is a big advantage if you're prepping a lot of ingredients. In the photo, you can see how tiny they are next to a 1-cup measuring cup.
These tiny, colorful silicone pinch bowls are perfect for small amounts of ingredients
The nonstick silicone means I can measure and set out even sticky ingredients, like a couple of tablespoons of molasses or honey, and easily scrape them into a pot, pan or mixing bowl. These bowls are also microwave safe and heat resistant to 500 °F, so I can melt small amounts of butter or coconut oil in them. And because they're flexible, it's easy to pinch the sides of these flexible prep bowls (hence the name "pinch bowls") to control and direct the ingredients as I'm pouring them into my pot or bowl or drizzling melted butter or chocolate or a sauce over a dish.

When I'm through with whatever ingredients I used them for, I just toss these brightly colored mini pinch bowls into the dishwasher.

Reusable Silicone Baking Liners / Baking Cups

I often bake in cupcake or muffin tins, and even more so now that I’ve switched to eating low carb. I love baking batches of low carb, high-protein, sugar-free chocolate muffins made with almond flour or low carb mini cheesecakes that I can keep in the freezer. Baking a recipe in muffin tins rather than full size cake pans helps me with portion control, since I can just grab one serving and defrost it.

While I could just grease the wells of my muffin tins for my protein muffins, that won’t work for recipes like the mini cheesecakes, since they're too soft to turn out onto a rack after they come out of the oven (and since if I chilled them first to firm them up, they wouldn't release easily from the greased muffin tin).

I stopped buying disposable, single-use paper cupcake liners a few years ago, so I decided to look for some reusable silicone baking cups. Also, since our wall oven died a year or two ago*, we’re using a tabletop oven that isn’t wide enough to fit a full-size, 12-cup cupcake or muffin pan. So, I wanted silicone baking cups that were sturdy enough to be used on a baking sheet, without the support of a muffin pan so I could bake a dozen muffins (or mini cheesecakes) at a time in my small tabletop oven. And, of course, they could also be used as cupcake liners for my 6-cup muffin pans, which do fit my tabletop oven.

After considerable research, I chose Pantry Elements Silicone Cupcake Baking Cups & Liners. They’re made from high-quality, 100% food-grade silicone with no fillers, as demonstrated by the fact that they pass the “pinch test” perfectly. (According to numerous sources, if you pinch or bend and twist a flat area on a colored silicone food preparation product and the color appears white in that stretched area, it can indicate the presence of fillers vs. 100% silicone.)
These reusable baking cups work so much better than paper cupcake liners!
They are also thick and sturdy enough to hold their shape after being filled with thick muffin batter. However, if you use them as stand-alone baking cups rather than as cupcake liners inside a muffin tin, place them on the baking sheet before you fill them with batter. Because they are flexible, moving them to the baking sheet after filling them with batter can be messy. (Ask me how I know, lol!)

Cleanup is easy. Sometimes I let them soak in warm, soapy water for a bit and wash them by hand with my silicone sponge, but they’re also dishwasher-safe. And they come in a rainbow of bright, pretty colors, which adds a nice, cheery pop of color to my kitchen.

Best of all, unlike paper cupcake liners, they release cleanly, so I don't end up losing the outer layer of crumbs to the trash. Just look at those sharp, crisp ridges on that muffin!
See how few crumbs stick to these cupcake liners?
I bake with these silicone cups every week and they still look and act brand new. You get 24 liners for around 50 cents each in a convenient, see-through, lidded storage tube. I can’t imagine ever having to replace them.

*In case you're wondering, our defunct double wall oven, which is original to this 1950s house, is too old to be repaired, according to several appliance technicians who have looked at it. Unfortunately, we also can't replace it because it’s surrounded by built-in cabinetry that runs the entire length of the wall and contemporary ovens don’t fit the opening. Believe me, we've tried!

Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags

Since I switched to a low-carb diet, I’ve been baking grain-free, sugar-free rolls, bread, muffins and brownies to make it easier for this former carbohydrate lover to stay on track. To make this process less time-consuming, I’ve started measuring the dry ingredients for multiple batches and storing them in freezer bags. Now, I can just pull out a bag of my “baking mix” for that recipe, let it come to room temperature, add the wet ingredients and put the batter in the oven. Easy peasy!

Since I am trying to reduce my use of plastic wrap and food storage bags that end up in landfills. So, rather than using disposable plastic freezer bags for this purpose, I decided to get some reusable food grade silicone food storage bags. The ones I chose have bottoms that let them stand up on the counter, which makes them easier to fill. The sliding closure is a bit stiff at first, by design, but loosens up just enough after the first few uses so they’re easier to slide but still airtight. They can also be used in the microwave and for sous-vide cooking and they’re dishwasher-safe for easy clean-up. The one in the photo holds the remaining 1/4 of a psyllium bun from my last batch — time to get baking!
These reusable silicone food storage bags keep disposable plastic bags out of landfills
At roughly 9.5 inches x just under 7 inches, they’re a good size for my baking mixes. And, unlike rigid food storage containers, these fold flat for efficient, space-saving storage when not in use.

Silicone Cooking Utensil Rest

For many years, we’ve kept a marble spoon rest next to the stove. I bought it because I thought it was pretty. However, pretty is as pretty does, and this kitchen gadget has been a thorn in my side for a long time! Marble is absorbent, so the surface frequently stained when I was cooking a tomato-based sauce or dish. Also, I rarely use just one utensil when cooking. So, even though the marble spoon rest was fairly wide, it wasn’t big enough to accommodate multiple cooking utensils.
This easy-to-clean utensil rest holds up to 4 cooking utensils
I finally got rid of it and replaced it with a multi-slot silicone utensil rest. It’s certainly not the prettiest thing in our kitchen and the only color choices are a medium grey or a bright yellow-green, but both my husband and I love it. The four slots are wide enough to accommodate the handles of any of our cooking utensils, but also narrow enough so that the business ends of the utensils are held at an angle, so four utensils can fit without resting on top of each other. That also allows the base to be narrower than it would need to be if the “heads” of the cooking utensils were lying flat. In addition, there’s a small lip or rim around the edge of the base, so if there’s a bit of liquid that drips off a utensil, it doesn’t spill over onto the stove or countertop. The only cooking utensil we have that it isn’t large enough for is our enormous slotted spatula, which is nearly 5” wide!

Best of all, because it’s made of silicone, it’s stain-resistant, non-stick, heat-resistant up to 450 °F and dishwasher safe.

Silicone Chocolate Chip Molds

Most commercially available chocolate chips aren’t as high quality as those same brands offer in bars or chunks. In fact, many of the best quality chocolate manufacturers don’t make chocolate chips at all. So, if you’re a true chocolate lover like I am, whenever you use chocolate chips in a recipe, you’re usually settling for second (or third) best.

In addition, as I’ve matured, my taste buds have evolved. Now I prefer really dark chocolate, which has the added benefit of being heart-healthy in modest amounts. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find high-quality, very dark chocolate chips. The so-called dark chocolate chips in the grocery store are 60% cacao; but for heart health benefits, dark chocolate should be labeled 70% cacao or higher according to the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic.

If you want sugar-free chocolate chips, it’s even more of a challenge. The darkest I’ve found are Lily’s stevia sweetened chocolate chips which, while delicious, contain only 55% cacao – much too low to improve heart health.

Whether you prefer traditional or sugar-free chocolate, the lower the percentage of cacao, the higher percentage of other ingredients, which increases the number of net carbs per serving.
Sure, you can chop up a sugar-free dark chocolate bar instead, if you’re using them in a recipe. But sometimes you really want real chocolate chips!

So, I was delighted to find these silicone chocolate chip molds, which allow me to make my own healthy, sugar-free, dark chocolate chips that look as though they came right out of a bag from the store.
These adorable chocolate chip molds let you make better quality chips for less!
If I’m feeling lazy, I can just melt a sugar-free dark chocolate bar, smooth it into the molds, let the chocolate harden (or chill the molds for a bit during the hot summer months), then invert and twist the molds to release the chips. I store them in one of my silicone food storage bags until I’m ready to use them in recipes (or eat them just the way they are). The molds come in a set of three. I've shown two facing up and one facing down so you can see the shape of the chocolate chips it makes.

If I have a bit more time, however, I make my own sugar-free, melted dark chocolate from scratch and use that in the molds. Homemade chocolate chips are also less expensive for the quality you get. Either way, I can get sugar-free dark chocolate chips with a much higher percentage of cacao than I can buy commercially.

Silicone Ice Pop Molds

Who doesn't love to cool off with a sweet, refreshing ice pop during the dog days of summer? Many years ago I stopped buying them and started making my own at home. My homemade ice pops are healthier, more nutritious and much cheaper than what I can buy at the store. More importantly (to me), I have complete control over the choice and quality of the ingredients. I use organic produce, dairy, coconut milk and other ingredients as much as possible. No food coloring in my food, thank you! Now that I'm eating low carb, I've also cut out not only processed sugars but also organic honey, maple syrup, date syrup and other natural sweeteners. So, pretty much the only way to ensure that the ice pops I eat meet my strict criteria for food quality and nutrition is to make them myself.

One of the low carb ice pop recipes I've really been enjoying is called Creamy Keto Fudgesicles. Personally, I think they taste much richer and creamier than their namesake, more like a chocolate pudding pop. They're made by blending ripe avocado, unsweetened cocoa powder, full fat coconut milk, erythritol, vanilla and a little sea salt, pouring them into frozen treat molds and freezing them. The first time I made the recipe, I discovered that the pudding-like mixture was too thick to go through the silicone funnel that came with my Lebice Popsicle Molds (which are very nice unless you're trying to make a frozen treat such as pudding pops or cheesecake pops that involve a very thick mixture). When I tried spooning the mixture into the molds with a teaspoon, even though I was extremely slow and careful I was unable to prevent some of the mixture from getting on the lip and exterior of the ice pop molds.

Since I knew I'd be making this recipe often, especially during the summer, I decided to look for a set of molds with wider openings. I wanted these new molds to have not only wider openings but also reusable lids and sticks. Ideally, they would be dishwasher safe. They would need to be made of BPA-free, FDA-approved food-grade materials and release the frozen ice pops without a struggle.
These brightly colored ice pop molds make nice, big popsicles
The pudding pop recipe makes 6-8 pops, depending on the size of the molds, so I decided to buy a Silicone Popsicle Molds Set with two molds that can make up to 8 ice pops. One of the molds is a deep, bright pink (which the manufacturer calls "rose red" for some reason) and the other is a bright lime green. The set comes with integrated one-piece lids/sticks, two each in pink, lime green, orange and aqua-turquoise. (Kids probably would love getting to choose their favorite color.) And each well holds a generous 3.38 ounces.


Believe it or not, I've got even more silicone kitchen tools, and I'm sure there will be more in my future! If you have some favorites, I'd love to hear about them.



Silicone Kitchen Tools and Accessories for Cooking and Baking Enthusiasts reviewed by 
Margaret Schindel


For more product reviews, visit ReviewThisProducts.com.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Good Omens 2019 TV Miniseries Review

Lovers of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman rejoice! Good Omens finally has been released as a television miniseries for Amazon Prime Video and BBC Two viewers.

Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime Video - image courtesy of Amazon

When Pratchett and Gaiman's World Fantasy Award-nominated satirical fantasy novel Good Omens was published 29 years ago, it was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman's wonderfully twisted mind and wickedly funny sense of humor. If Neil Gaiman’s name doesn’t ring a bell, you may know him from the big-screen adaptations of some of his novels, such as the 2007 movie Stardust starring Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett, Ricky Gervais, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Peter O’Toole or the 2009 3D stop-motion animated film Coraline featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French.

My husband and I have long been huge fans of Sir Terry Pratchett's work, especially his well-known and much-loved Discworld fantasy novels. We have read or listened avidly to pretty much every Pratchett book or audiobook we could get hold of (many of them multiple times). So when Good Omens was published, we were quick to buy the paperback. It was bizarre and intriguing, but it had such a huge cast of characters, many in fairly minor roles, that I found the story hard to follow and had to listen read it a second time. Both Pratchett and Gaiman are brilliant – and hilarious – but they do require their readers to do their part by giving the their full attention to their extraordinary writing, especially if you don't wan't to miss all the puns and dry humor. Admittedly these authors' works aren't to everyone's taste, but my husband and I love them.

We also love audiobooks, so when Good Omens was released as an audiobook narrated by one of Pratchett's favorite narrators, Stephen Briggs, I downloaded immediately. I enjoyed it immensely - much more than the print edition. Briggs' distinctive voices for the different characters also made it much easier for me to keep them all straight! Sadly, that recording is no longer available for some reason, but there is a very good unabridged audiobook of Good Omens on Audible narrated by Martin Jarvis.

Good Omens – The Miniseries That Almost Wasn't


After listening to Good Omens I thought what I always do after reading or listening to a Terry Pratchett novel: "Wouldn't this make a great movie?" I didn't hold out much hope, however, since none of Pratchett's books have been made into movies and only three of his Discworld novels have been made into television miniseries: The Color of Magic with Sean Astin as the naive and ever optimistic tourist Twoflower, David Jason as the hapless "wizzard" Rincewind and Jeremy Irons as the wily Patrician; Hogfather; and my personal favorite, Going Postal starring Richard Coyle as Moist von Lipvig, Claire Foy as Adora Belle Dearheart and David Suchet as dastardly Reacher Gilt. (Pratchett's characters' names are always a hoot!)

However, there were, indeed, concerted efforts to have Good Omens made into a movie, to be directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, which continued long after the book’s publication in 1990. Then in 2011, Gaiman’s website announced that a television series adaptation of the book was “in the works” from another member of the Monty Python troupe, Terry Jones. But in 2016, Gaiman announced that he himself was writing the scripts for a six-part TV series at the request of Terry Pratchett in 2015 shortly before his death from Alzheimer’s disease.

When my husband and I heard that Amazon Studios and BBC Studios would be co-producing a miniseries based on Good Omens and written by Gaiman himself, we were really excited, especially when the cast was announced, including David Tennant (our favorite Doctor Who), wonderful Welsh actor Michael Sheen, Mad Men star Jon Hamm, Miranda Richardson and the voice of Frances McDormand!

Often, movie or television adaptations of books are poor imitations of the original. In the case of Good Omens, however, having to streamline the story for video made the TV miniseries even better than the book in many respects. It makes the intricate story line much easier to follow. (Even so, this isn't something you'll want to watch while checking email, or you're likely to miss an important detail or plot point.)

What I Love About Good Omens, the 2019 Television Miniseries


The Fabulous Cast and Terrific Performances

While the entire cast is wonderful, David Tennant and Michael Sheen are simply outstanding. Sheen, an actor I wasn't familiar with before watching Good Omens, is marvelous as the fastidious, antiquarian bookshop-owning angel, Aziraphale, who sometimes chafes at the restrictions of being "good" by the book, especially when it prevents him from doing what he believes is right. He's the perfect foil for Tennant's inspired portrayal of  Crowley, a creepy yet strangely likeable demon who enjoys his powers and revels in the freedom of being "bad" but who also, deep down, shares Aziraphale's secret desire to do what's right for humanity.

Jon Hamm's Archangel Gabriel pulls heavily from his Mad Men character, Don Draper (without Draper's infamous womanizing tendencies, obviously!). Miranda Richardson is perfect as the endearing medium and former madam with the heart of gold, Madame Tracy. And Frances McDormand is perfect as the voice of God, who narrates the miniseries.

The Authors' Perspective on Good vs. Evil

The interplay between the "good" angel Aziraphale and the "evil" demon Crowley is brilliant. Watching these two find common ground over the course of centuries in pursuit of a worthy goal –saving humanity from Armageddon – is both fascinating and believable.

The Brilllant Script and Deft Word Play

Pratchett and Gaiman share a deep love of language and word play (as well as irreverent but affectionate satire), such as placing common phrases in uncommon or ironic settings. For example, Crowley catches himself starting to say, "Thank God!" and Aziraphale catches himself starting to say, "What the hell..."

In Gaiman's script for the miniseries, the conversations between Aziraphale and Crowley are masterpieces where what isn't said is as important as what is said. These conversations serve to draw the arc of growth for these two central characters as these historical enemies first learn to understand each other, then work together and, finally, develop a true and lasting friendship. And, even though they can never overtly state their affection for one another, Tennant's and Sheen's superb performances allow us to watch its growth over the course of the show.

What's Not to Love? 


The Questionable Motives of both Divine and Infernal Characters

Gabriel, Beelzebub and their respective followers in Heaven and Hell are absolutely obsessed with starting Armageddon, just to see which side wins.

The Negative Portrayal of Organized Religion

The authors of Good Omens appear to view organized religion as a human construct that has been used as a tool for both good and evil throughout human history.

The Implication That Neither Good nor Evil is Absolute 

There are no purely "good" guys or purely "bad" guys in this story, an idea that some people may find disturbing.

An Irreverent Religious and Social Satire


Humans often struggle to determine the right thing to do in a particular situation, especially when the only option seems to be choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils. The fundamental message of this extremely funny, firmly tongue-in-cheek story seems to be that most humans – and even an angel and a demon who live among us and have become extremely fond of our kind – are neither purely good nor purely evil, and that human morality is not absolute and may sometimes depend on the circumstances.

In Good Omens, there are no sacred cows (as it were). The authors lovingly and humorously poke fun at everyone and everything, although that humor also points out serious human failings. For example, Pestilence has retired as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and has been replaced by Pollution, a scourge of humanity's own making. The story also puts a humorous, contemporary twist on things. For instance, The Horsemen – actually, two horsemen and two horsewomen – ride motorcycles.

Fair warning: if you find religious and/or social satire offensive, Good Omens is definitely not for you.

The Good Omens television miniseries provides nearly 6 hours' worth of rollicking entertainment with a brilliant script, a fabulously talented cast and extraordinary sets and special effects. It definitely doesn't take itself seriously, and neither should its viewers.

Good Omens Main Characters


Aziraphale – the angel who is Heaven’s representative on Earth; previously the guardian of Eden’s eastern gate, now the owner of an antiquarian bookstore in London. Fastidious in his dress, language, posture and manners. He loves humans even though he's often disappointed in them.

Anthony Crowley – the demon who is Hell’s representative on Earth; previously known as Crawly, the serpent who tempted Eve with the apple. His most prized earthly possession is his beloved, pristine 1926 Bentley. Predictably hedonistic, coarse and jaded, he swaggers, slouches and lounges. He's grudgingly grown fond of the humans he routinely tempts as part of his demonic duties.

Agnes Nutter – a 17th-century witch, history’s only 100% accurate prophet and author of The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. Burned at the stake in 1656 by a mob of Agnes’s neighbors led by Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer. Like the witches in Pratchett’s Discworld novels, Agnes wore many hats, including those of midwife, doctor, herbalist, wise woman, psychologist, undertaker, showman and the moral center of her witching “territory”.

Anathema Device – witch, occultist, Ph.D. holder and distant descendant of Agnes Nutter. Also, the only person who can prevent the impending Apocalypse – if she can just figure out what Agnes’s cryptic prophecies mean in time.

Adam Young – a sweet and charismatic but also odd boy with a dog; also, respectively, the Antichrist and his hellhound. Due to a hospital mix-up by Satanic nuns under Crowley's direction, the newborn Adam was switched at birth with the baby of a random couple, Mr. and Mrs. Young, instead of with the baby of the U.S. ambassador to Britain and his wife, the Dowlings.

Newton Pulsifer – a failed, would-be software engineer whose attempts to fix any electronic device are pretty much guaranteed to render it unusable. A descendant of Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer, Newt is working as an overqualified wages (payroll) clerk when he is reluctantly recruited into the Witchfinder Army by Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell.

Gabriel – archangel and leader of the forces of Heaven; hell-bent (so to speak) on winning the Ultimate Battle Between Good and Evil against the forces of Hell, led by Beelzebub. Sees humans as a way to keep score in the final battle between.

Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell – the last remaining member of the Witchfinder Army; invents fictitious additional members with names inspired by whatever his eyes light upon, e.g., Sergeant Cabinet. Lives above the rooms of Madame Tracy.

Madame Tracy – professional name of Marjorie Potts, an over-the-hill but warm-hearted madam; also a medium who offers weekly séances for the gullible. She has a soft spot for crusty Sergeant Shadwell, who calls her Whore of Babylon, Painted Lady, Jezebel, etc., yet still grumblingly joins her for afternoon tea and accepts her financial help when he’s a bit short of funds.

Good Omens Plot


Two of Hell's Dukes, Haster and Ligur, deliver the newborn Antichrist to the demon Crowley who, in turn, entrusts him to the Chattering Order of St. Beryl, a Satanic sisterhood that runs a hospital in Lower Tadfield (a fictitious village in South East England). Crowley instructs the nuns to switch the newborn Antichrist with the infant son of U.S. Ambassador Dowling and Mrs. Dowling. But, thanks to a mix-up at the hospital, Satan's spawn is given instead to Mr. and Mrs. Young, a perfectly ordinary Tadfield couple. While Mrs. Young is sleeping after giving birth to her biological child, Sister Mary Loquacious suggests several names to her husband for the newborn he believes to be theirs. But Mr. Young rejects those names (e.g., Damien, Wormwood) in favor of "a decent English name," which is how the Antichrist was christened Adam Young.

The Archangel Gabriel and Beelzebub are both gung-ho for long-awaited Armageddon to finally start so they can see, once and for all, which side will ultimately win,  But their earthly representatives, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, respectively, aren't exactly keen on their bellicose and very competitive superiors' plans to destroy the human race.

After spending hundreds of thousands of years living side by side with humans and intervening in their lives, both Aziraphale and Crowley have grown extremely fond of them. And while the angel and demon are enemies in theory, in reality their shared love of humanity, coupled with the humans' very brief lifespans, have made the unlikely pair each others' only real friends. Crowley accepts this reality with equanimity, but Aziraphale is loathe to admit their friendship, even to himself. His inner conflict about collaborating with Crowley while trying to stay true to his "good" principles is portrayed very cleverly. For example, his deeply ingrained good manners compel him to hold the door open for Crowley while saying to him, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" – followed immediately by a polite, "After you."

Crowley persuades Aziraphale that they will need to collaborate if they are to have any chance of thwarting their higher-ups' elaborate plans to trigger Armageddon, The frenemies hatch a plan to provide Adam Young with Divine and Satanic influences in equal measure during his formative years, in the hope that he will grow up as an ordinary boy and not fulfill his dreadful destiny. They help cover for each other so Gabriel, Beelzebub and the rest of their minions won't discover their disobedience as they try to protect humanity.

In fact, it is Aziraphale's and Crowley's plan that is thwarted, Even a decade later, no one has found out about the Satanic sisters' mix-up at the hospital. So the pair have spent the past 10 years focusing their efforts on the U.S. ambassador's son, Warlock Dowling, whom everyone on both sides still believes to be the Antichrist. The hellhound designed by the Infernal Powers to obey and protect the Antichrist is destined to appear to him on his 11th birthday. Crowley and Aziraphale anxiously await the arrival of hound at Warlock's birthday party, but when tit doesn't materialize, they realize that something has gone dreadfully wrong and that they've been trying to influence the wrong boy for the past 10 years!

They rush back to the hospital run by the Chattering Order of St. Beryl to find out what happened to the infant Antichrist 11 years earlier, After Crowley finally gets the truth, he has to figure out which child is the Antichrist and more importantly, where he and Aziraphale can find him before it's too late. Then, as if things weren't bad enough, their bosses find out what they've been up to. Now they're really in Trouble, with a capital T!

Fortunately, Crowley and Aziraphale aren't the only ones trying to prevent Armageddon.

Back in 1655, rural witch Agnes Nutter published The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. To this day it remains the only book whose prophecies were 100% accurate, as well as extremely cryptic. (For example, one of her prophecies mentions "an apple you can't eat," which turns out to refer to Apple Computer.) The following year, knowing she was soon going to be burned at the stake by Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer and the mob of locals he has riled up, prophetic Agnes arranged to have the book passed down through various interim caretakers over the next three hundred-plus years  and, eventually, given to far-distant descendant, Anathema Device. Anathema will need to finish decrypting Agnes’s huge volume of prophecies in time to prevent the impending Apocalypse.

Anathema has spent most of her life working her way through Agnes Nutter's prophecies and, as a result, has moved to a cottage in Tadfield. She meets Adam Young, who seems like a sweet boy and the natural leader of his inseparable group of four friends. She shares with him some of her collection of magazines on the occult  and conspiracy theories, which he devours with fascination, while his friends pooh-pooh his assertions that Atlantis and aliens are real.

Meanwhile, Newton Pulsifer, a hapless, would-be software engineer working as a payroll clerk and, more importantly, a distant descendant of Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer, becomes a reluctant recruit into the Witchfinder Army. While doing his witchfinder research, Newt finds what might be clues to witchy doings in Tadfield. Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell sends him off to Tadfield to investigate, where he meets Anathema.

These two descendants of enemies from 300 years earlier are thrown together and must work together if the end of the world is to be prevented. In Good Omens, religion, rather than politics, makes strange bedfellows.

I'll stop here so as not to spoil the fun. As you can see, the plot is pretty complex, but fortunately, the 6-part television miniseries makes everything perfectly clear and the fabulous acting makes watching it a wonderfully fun and funny experience.

By now, you're probably wondering...

  • Will Crowley and Aziraphale escape their dooms at the hands of Beelzebub and Aziraphale?
  • Will Newt destroy Anathema before she can finish decrypting Agnes' final prophecies and prevent Armageddon?
  • Will Atlantis rise from the sea and little green men in UFOs land in England?
  • Will Adam Young fulfill his destiny as the Antichrist?
  • Will you laugh out loud while watching all the insanity unfold?

The only way to find out, of course, is to watch the Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime Video or on BBC Two, starting with the Episode 1, "In the Beginning."


An Inside Look at the Making of the Good Omens TV Miniseries 

I always enjoy behind-the-scenes special features. Since the bonus behind-the-scenes video of Good Omens is only 2 minutes long, I'd love to get the companion book to the miniseries, The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion by Matt Whyman. Since it's edited by Neil Gaiman, it's sure to be both excellent and accurate. And it's full of photos from the sets. Fun!

The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion by Matt Whyman, edited by Neil Gaiman, image courtesy of Amazon


Watching Good Omens on Amazon Prime Video


As Amazon Prime members, we were able to binge-watch all six episodes of Good Omens on Amazon Video for free, as well as two short bonus videos (a trailer and a 2-minute behind-the-scenes look at the making of Good Omens), as soon as the miniseries was released in the U.S. on May 31, 2019. For our friends across the Pond, the Good Omens miniseries will also will be shown as six weekly broadcasts on BBC Two.

IMPORTANT! In the US,  only Amazon Prime members can watch Good Omens and the TV miniseries adaptations of Terry Pratchett novels. 



We have been Amazon Prime members for years and have found the many benefits of membership well worth the annual fee, especially the enormous libraries of free video, music and Kindle content. This high-quality content includes Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning Amazon Original TV and movie productions, such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Manchester by the Sea, Sneaky Pete, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle,. Other benefits of Amazon Prime Membership including free 2-day shipping, free 1-day shipping (depending on your ZIP code) and Prime Now local delivery service with free 2-hour delivery (including groceries from Whole Foods Market), among other benefits. If you'd love to try out all those benefits and more without obligation, you can get a free 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime.

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Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime reviewed by
Margaret Schindel


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Sunday, June 9, 2019

Thermos Stainless King Travel Tumblers & Travel Mugs Review

Image: Thermos Stainless Steel Travel Mugs & Tumblers for Home, Office and Travel - copyright 2019 Margaret Schindel
Today I'm reviewing my favorite Thermos insulated stainless steel travel cups. I use mine every day, whether I'm at home, at work, or on the road. Staying hydrated is important to everyone's health and wellness. If you're on a keto diet or low carb diet, you need to drink even more water to help avoid damage to your kidneys. So, to help me drink enough water daily, I keep a Thermos Stainless King Vacuum-insulated Stainless Steel Travel Tumbler and a Thermos stainless steel hydration bottle next to me so I can take sips of water and hot or cold decaf or green tea throughout the day and refill the containers as needed.

Several years ago, my husband and I decided to replace our motley collection of plastic and probably BPA-laden water bottles and travel mugs (most of them free swag from employers and trade shows) with high quality, vacuum-insulated stainless steel bottles and mugs that had the features we care about.

We really liked our new Thermos stainless steel hydration bottles, so we ordered two Thermos Stainless King Travel Tumblers to try out. We loved them so much that we ordered three more, one for my husband's office, one for my office and an extra for home. So, now have five of these wonderful stainless steel travel cups, in Electric Blue, Cranberry, Midnight Blue, Raspberry and Matte Black. (The Matte Black cup isn't in my photos because my husband keeps it at his office.)

Prefer a Travel Mug With a Handle?

The Thermos Stainless King Travel Mug is identical to the travel tumbler except it has a handle.

Thermos Stainless King Travel Mug 16 Ounces - Pine Green - photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Why I Love Thermos Stainless King Travel Tumblers and Travel Mugs

Large Capacity

Both the stainless steel travel tumbler and the travel mug version with the handle hold a generous 16 ounces of your favorite hot or cold beverage. Both the tumbler and the mug are 7.8" tall and 3.3" wide (excluding the handle on the travel mug), tapering down to 2-5/8" wide at the base so they fit in most cup holders.

Keeps Hot Drinks Hot and Cold Drinks Cold

I love being able to use my Thermos travel tumbler for hot or iced tea or coffee, hot or chilled apple cider, hot cocoa, cold milk or any other non-carbonated drink I'm in the mood to drink.

Thermos' Vacuum Insulation Technology

The most important criterion in choosing a travel mug or tumbler is how long it can maintain the temperature of whatever beverage you put into it. Thermos’s vacuum insulation technology and double-wall stainless steel construction mean that hot drinks stay hot for up to 7 hours and cold drinks stay cold for up to 18 hours if you preheat or pre-chill the travel tumbler with hot or cold water for 5 to 10 minutes just before filling it with your beverage.

Travel Tumbler Exterior Stays at Room Temperature

Whether you fill it with a hot or cold beverage, the outside temperature of the tumbler is not affected by the temperature of its contents. (Of course, if you take it outside on a very hot or very cold day, the exterior of any metal container will get hotter or colder, based on the temperature of its environment.)

No "Sweating" Even When Filled With Ice-Cold Drinks

Even if you fill it with ice cubes and a cold beverage, this stainless steel travel tumbler doesn't "sweat" — i.e., condensation doesn't form on the outside of the mug. So, I never have to use a coaster under this tumbler to protect my antique mahogany dining table, coffee table or end tables.

The DrinkLock sealing lid has two openings

Leak-proof Lid

Thermos' DrinkLock sealing lid makes this travel mug leak-proof (unless you don't close the lid properly or reassemble it correctly after taking it apart for cleaning).

Dual Openings for Easy Access

There are slots on opposite sides of the lid that are controlled by a single lever. Sliding the lever to the side opens or closes both drinking slots simultaneously. So, when you pick up this travel tumbler, one of the openings will be no more than 1/4 turn away from your mouth.

Built-in Tea Bag Hook

The underside of the lid has a clever built-in hook for wrapping a tea bag string around or attaching the chain of a loose-leaf tea infuser.

Attractive and Functional Design

This vacuum-insulated stainless steel travel tumbler's graceful shape not only looks good but also feels good. The narrower "waist" (where the Thermos logo is) makes it easier for my small hand to hold this wide cup securely. Hand-washing is recommended and the surface colors and finishes stay looking great for years if you don't put these mugs in the dishwasher. There's also a great selection of colors to choose from:
  • Electric Blue (AKA Royal Blue)
  • Cranberry
  • Midnight Blue
  • Raspberry
  • Stainless Steel (Matte)
  • Pine Green
  • Army Green
  • Cranberry
  • Matte Black
  • Smoke (Grey)


Follow the Care and Use Instructions to Enjoy Your Thermos Stainless Cups For Many Years 

We bought the oldest of our Thermos travel tumblers, the Cranberry and Midnight Blue ones, in 2015. As you can see, after four years they've held up extremely well. However, to keep your Thermos travel tumbler or mug looking and functioning well, it's important to follow the manufacturer's care and usage instructions.

Hand Wash Your Cup in Warm, Soapy Water

Although these Thermos stainless steel travel tumblers and mugs are top-rack dishwasher safe in terms of their function, the company recommends hand washing them with mild soap and warm water to preserve their attractive appearance.

Worn finish on bottom edges of Cranberry cup after
dishwasher vs. like-new finish on hand washed blue cup
A few months ago, I found out the hard way what happens if you wash one in your dishwasher. I was feeling lazy and decided to put our Cranberry tumbler in the top rack of the dishwasher as an experiment. After washing it in the dishwasher this way a few times, I realized that the shiny, colorful finish had begun to wear off around the edges on the bottom of the cup.

Fortunately, the finish on the sides of the Cranberry tumbler still looks fine and the bottom hasn't gotten any worse since I went back to hand washing it. You can see in the photo that the bottom of my Royal Blue cup, which has always been hand washed, still looks like it did the day it arrived from Amazon.

I hand wash my Thermos travel tumblers with mild yet effective sulfate-free Puracy Natural Liquid Dish Soap, a soft sponge and long-handled OXO Good Grips Bottle Brush.

Don't Use Cleansers That Are Abrasive or Contain Chlorine Bleach

Abrasive cleansers (including dishwasher detergents), scrubbing sponges, etc., can dull or even wear away the finish on your Thermos travel tumbler or mug. (That is exactly what happened to the bottom of my Cranberry cup after I washed it in the top rack of my dishwasher a few times.)

The company also says not to use bleach or any products containing chlorine on these containers. Over time, some beverages, such as tea, can stain the gasket and seal if the lid is not washed promptly and thoroughly. Fortunately, replacement gaskets and seals are available.

If You Disassemble the Lid For Cleaning, Make Sure to Reassemble It Correctly

I don't disassemble the lid every time I wash my travel tumbler, but I do so fairly frequently to make sure I've cleaned it thoroughly. If you don't reassemble it correctly, your travel mug won't be able to maintain the temperature of your beverages as well and the lid may leak. I highly recommend reading and following the Thermos Vacuum Insulated Mug and Tumbler Care and Use Guide.





Thermos Stainless King vacuum-insulated stainless steel travel tumblers and mugs reviewed by Margaret Schindel



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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Review of EltaMD® and Colorescience® Mineral-Based Physical Sunscreens

Photo of my favorite EltaMD and Colorescience mineral physical sunscreen products
I’ve known for many years that it’s important to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection whenever you go outdoors, rain or shine. (I didn't learn about the importance of applying SPF indoors as well until this year.)

When I was 20, I found out the hard way that you can get burned even on a gray, cloudy day. A friend and I had planned a day at the beach to do a little tanning. (In our defense, that was in the 1970s, when people were much less aware of sun damage than they are today. That, and we were young and foolish and more focused on our looks than on our health.) The day of our beach outing turned out to be cool and heavily overcast, but we were determined to get some color. So, we put on our bikinis anyway and lay on our towels, shivering, for several hours. We were both fair-skinned and soon discovered the error of our ways. By the next morning we were as red as lobsters! That full-body sunburn was so painful that I had to go to my summer job bra-less all that week (ah, the good old ‘70s!), wearing only the loosest dresses I could find so the least material possible would touch my roasted skin.

Four decades later my dad developed skin cancer late in life, thanks to his years in the Navy during World War II. So, I’ve become pretty obsessive about wearing SPF 30 or higher every day.

I apply a physical sunscreen from EltaMD® to my face, neck and hands every morning a few minutes after finish applying my skin care. Then I use a Colorescience® brush-on powdered mineral sunscreen every two hours to make sure I'm protected throughout the day from damaging UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) ultraviolet rays, as well as from the HEV ("blue light") emitted by screens from mobile phones and other digital devices, including TVs.

Sunscreen With Broad-Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection Is Your Best Anti-Aging Product

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in human beings. But Wearing sunscreen protects not only against skin cancer but also against wrinkles. People often mistake my age as being 20 years younger than my actual 65 years, and I attribute my youthful looks to a combination of luck (good genes) and faithful use of sunscreen. Using a well-formulated, safe, high SPF mineral sunscreen daily will do more to prevent wrinkles than any other beauty product.

The American Cancer Society advises using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. Sunburn is mostly caused by UVB rays, which can damage skin cells' DNA directly and are thought to cause most skin cancers. If you have fine lines, wrinkles or hyperpigmentation (brown spots or patches), blame them on UVA rays. They also cause damage to skin cells' DNA, cause them to age prematurely and are thought to play a role in certain skin cancers.

The last letter can help you remember which ultraviolet rays your skin vs. age your skin: A is for Aging (UVA) and B is for Burning (UVB).

Moisturizers with SPF Don't Protect Nearly as Well as Physical Sunscreens

Many people look for moisturizers and makeup with SPF to avoid applying both a moisturizer and a sunscreen. But leading dermatologists say that's not a good idea.
  • Moisturizers are designed to soak into the skin to restore moisture balance and, depending on the product, to deliver ingredients deeper into the skin. But the purpose of sunscreen is to form a protective shield on top of the skin. The safest and most effective sunscreens use minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that form a physical barrier against damaging UVA/UVB ultraviolet rays. 
  • The FDA regulates sunscreen as a drug. Since they require a certain amount of SPF in a formula to  and in order to meet the agency's requirements for effectiveness, there isn't much room for other active ingredients. With a moisturizer, between using such a small amount (compared to sunscreen) and the dilution of the SPF by the moisturizer, you're effectively getting less significantly lower SPF protection than the number on the packaging.

The Dangers of Using Chemical Sunscreens  

Dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen on your face, neck, hands and any other exposed skin all day, every day, except when you’re sleeping. They also recommend physical mineral-based sunscreens that rely on zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide for sun protection, sit on the surface of the skin and reflect UV light instead of chemical sunscreens that penetrate the skin and absorb UV light. Another advantage of physical sunscreens is that, unlike chemical sunscreens, they provide protection immediately.

Recently, a preliminary study by the FDA found that the active ingredients (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule) in four popular chemical sunscreens were absorbed into the test subjects’ bloodstreams in higher concentrations than the agency’s threshold of toxicological concern. And the EWG (the Environmental Working Group), which publishes a highly respected annual sunscreen guide that grades products on safety, currently says both oxybenzone and octinoxate are chemical UV filters with "high toxicity concerns."

It's Hard to Find Physical Sunscreens That Look and Feel Great

Since that time, I've tried many physical sunscreen products over the years, from drugstore brands to fancy Sephora buys, in my quest for one that:
  • Provides broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection
  • Doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin
  • Doesn’t cause breakouts
  • Doesn’t feel or look heavy or chalky
  • Contains zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide
  • Doesn’t leave that ghoulish, slightly iridescent white cast typical of high-SPF mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide. 
Until a few months ago, none of the ones I tried met all my requirements,. Then, finally, I found my "holy grail" facial sunscreen!

EltaMD® UV Physical Tinted Facial Sunscreen

EltaMD® UV Physical Tinted Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 is water-resistant for 80 minutes, oil-free (so it doesn’t break me out) and, because it’s tinted and uses transparent zinc oxide (along with titanium dioxide), it doesn’t leave that awful purplish-white cast on my skin. After putting moisturizer on my dry skin, I let it soak in for a couple of minutes before applying the sunscreen to my face. This tinted version evens out my complexion like a sheer BB cream for a my-skin-but-better look on days when I go without makeup. It also works perfectly as a primer under my sheer foundation. In fact, I first learned about this product from a well-known makeup artist on YouTube who says it's her favorite primer!

The beautiful formulation make it feel more like skincare than a mineral sunscreen, so I actually enjoy using it every day. It costs more than a drugstore sunscreen, but after trying more than a dozen physical sunscreens that failed to meet my requirements, I’m happy to pay the price for one that does everything I need it to and also doubles (triples?) as a BB cream and a makeup primer.

I wear light-medium foundation colors. If you are Asian or African-American, you might prefer EltaMD® UV Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44, which has a darker, warmer tint as well as hyaluronic acid for hydration. If your skin is fair, you might want to try EltaMD® UV Replenish Broad-Spectrum SPF 44. Although the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in this untinted formula make it white when applied, some reviewers claim the whitish cast goes away after a few minutes. I have found that the best way to apply untinted mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide is to apply them in two thin layers, rubbing each layer in very well.

Note: EltaMD® has many other facial sunscreen products, including two clear, untinted sunscreen formulas. I was sent a sample of UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 (untinted version) and it's quite lovely. (The company's product names can be confusing. For example, how can there be a tinted version of a "clear" sunscreen?) Unfortunately, only the three products I mentioned above are 100% physical, chemical-free facial sunscreen formulas. The active ingredients in all the others, including the two clear, untinted facial sunscreen formulas and the SPF 31 lip balm, contain chemical (octinoxate) as well as mineral (titanium dioxide) UV filters.

A Less Expensive Option for Medium Skin Tones

Before I discovered EltaMD® UV Physical Tinted Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 earlier this year, my everyday sunscreen was Australian Gold® Botanical SPF 50 Tinted Face Mineral Lotion. It's a very good sunscreen that meets most of my criteria. The finish is a bit too matte for my dry skin and the tint is a bit darker than my skin tone, so it's not ideal for year-round wear. But I still wear it sometimes in the summer to give my complexion a bit of that healthy, warm glow, especially if I'm going to the beach. And it's inexpensive enough for me to apply to the exposed skin on body as well as my face, neck and hands.

HEV (Blue Light) From Digital Devices Can Damage Skin As Much As – Or More Than – UVA and UVB Combined

High-energy visible (HEV) light (AKA “blue light”) is emitted by our mobile phones, computers, TVs and other digital devices. Many of us are in front of some type of digital screen for much of our day (and evening). A recent study found that HEV light can cause as much skin damage as UVA and UVB light combined (eek!). Fortunately, a few sunscreens block HEV as well as UVA/UVB light.

SPF Needs to Be Reapplied Every 90 Minutes, All Day Long

Sunscreen becomes ineffective within 90 minutes of being exposed to air and light, so it needs to be reapplied frequently throughout the day. But very few people actually do that unless they're sunbathing, since carrying around a bottle of sunscreen everywhere you go and reapplying it every couple of hours isn’t really practical for most of us – especially if we’re wearing makeup.

Colorescience® Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-On Shield SPF 50 Makes It Easy To Keep Your Skin Protected All Day 

I was delighted to discover Colorescience® Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-On Shield SPF 50. It’s a powdered mineral sunscreen that comes in a convenient, portable tube of powder with a built-in brush. Thanks to the company’s proprietary EnviroScreen™ Technology, this do-it-all powder protects against UVA, UVB, HEV and IR (infrared) rays and also environmental pollution! It's available in four shades to suit a range of skin tones.

How to "Prime" the Built-In Brush With Powder and Apply Colorescience® Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-On Shield SPF 50

The first time you open it, remove the cap, push down the sleeve that protects the bristles, remove and discard the rubber band, slide the sleeve back up over the bristles and re-cap the tube. To use the product, first hold the tube with the cap facing down and the clear end with the powder facing up. Tap the cap end of the tube forcefully against a hard surface a few times (tap it 5-10 times the first time you use it) to move some powder into the brush. Remove the cap, push down the sleeve to expose the brush and flick your finger across the bristles to make sure the powder is flowing. (If not, re-cap the tube and tap the cap a few more times.) Then, swirling the bristles across your skin in circular motions, apply the powder to your face and neck in multiple passes for at least 60 seconds. Done! Then I apply the powder to my hands and any other exposed skin.

Note: This brush-on sunscreen powder gets rave reviews on the Colorescience website. On Amazon there are quite a few critical reviews complaining about the dispensing mechanism, but I follow these directions and have never found it to be a problem.

The Delicate Skin Around Your Eyes Needs Protection, Too!

Chemical sunscreens shouldn’t be used near your eyes, so for many years, sunglasses were my only sun protection for the delicate skin around my eyes. That’s why, even though I have no wrinkles on the rest of my face, I do have crow’s feet.

Fortunately, it’s fine to apply physical mineral sunscreen around your peepers. Most days, I just apply my EltaMD® UV Physical Tinted Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 around my eyes as well as the rest of my face, neck and hands. When I’m wearing makeup, however, I prefer to use Colorescience® Total Eye™ 3-in-1 Anti-Aging Renewal Therapy SPF 35. This mineral-based sunscreen and eye treatment, a favorite among beauty influencers, provides skincare benefits as well as sun protection. It reduces puffiness, hydrates, tightens, serves as a peach-toned color corrector when worn under concealer and adds a nice brow bone highlight. (One well-known Youtube beauty influencer mixes it with her concealer.)

As a bonus, Colorescience® Total Eye™ 3-in-1 is also an eye shadow primer. (After applying any eye shadow primer, I always dust my lids and brow bone with translucent powder before applying my eye shadow to minimize creasing and make blending easier.)  And it can also be used at night as an eye treatment, although I don’t use it for that.

Even though it's spendy, you only need a very small amount for both eyes. And, since I only use it when I'm wearing makeup, a tube lasts me for quite a while.




Wear Sunscreen Indoors as Well as Outdoors, in Rain, Shine or Snow

It’s important to wear SPF 365 days a year, both indoors and outdoors. While UVB rays are strongest midday (noon to 2 pm) and can be blocked by glass windows, the UVA rays that cause our skin to age prematurely emit at the same strength 24/7 and penetrate glass. So, you are exposed to damaging ultraviolet rays even if you’re inside a building or car.

Helpful Articles on Protecting Your Skin Against UVA, UVB and HEV light

American Cancer Society, "What Is Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation?"
Allure, "Sunscreen Tips: This Is When and Where You Should Be Wearing SPF"
CNN, "Majority of sunscreens could flunk proposed FDA standards for safety and efficacy, report to say"
Forbes, "How Sunscreen Chemicals Can Get Into Your Blood"
EWG (the Environmental Working Group), "The Trouble With Ingredients in Sunscreens"
Byrdie, "Ask a Dermatologist: Are Moisturizers With SPF Actually Effective?"
DERMASCOPE, "Fact or Fiction: Skin damage caused by HEV light may be as harmful as the damage caused by UVA and UVB light combined."


EltaMD and Colorescience physical sunscreens reviewed by Margaret Schindel.



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