Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In Vinotemp Veritas

Chickens, its time to talk about wine.

I’m not talking about that casual after-work grab whatever bottle is in the fridge left from the weekend and glug it into the nearest vessel for some decompression.  I’m not talking about that bottle you picked for the clever cutesy name on the label that you take to “book club” because you presume it will go well with salsa and Tostitos and girl talk.

Today we are talking about wine.  Serious wine.  Wine you choose as much for what it will be in 5 or 10 or 25 years as for what it is today.  Wine you choose because it is the best possible pairing for the meal you are preparing.  Wine that is a passion, a pleasure, a way to connect as much as a way to relax.  Wine with a capital W, where the winemaker knows that the wine is made in the vineyard and not the winery, and the name of the importer is as important as the name of the grape.

I may have mentioned before, that my Charming Suitor is a wine guy.  A serious wine guy.  A collector for over 30 years.  You know how when you marry someone, you also marry their family and friends?  In my case, that family includes some names like Donnhoff and Zind-Humbrecht and Comte LaFon, and the friends include pinot noir, nebbiolo, mourvedre, and riesling. 

Here is what I learned when I met CS.  It isn’t the grape, it is the producer.   And the terroir, like territory, the expression of the land on which the grapes are grown developed in the barrel.  You should be able to taste the geography in the glass.

I thought I didn’t like Chardonnay, finding it like licking an oak tree covered in butter.  Turns out I don’t like oaky California Chardonnay, what I like is Chardonnay from Burgundy which is much more like licking lime juice off a river rock, or unoaked Chardonnay from New Zealand which is like eating fresh melon with a squirt of lemon and a drizzle of honey. 

I thought I hated Riesling, waving it off as cloyingly sweet, and always suspect in the weird blue bottles.

I was wrong.

So. Very. Wrong.

CS took me to the best wine store in Chicago, Howard’s Wine Cellar on Belmont, and put a 20-year-old Riesling from the Mosel in my face.  I swooned.  Turns out?  Riesling is the single greatest white grape, and in the hands of a decent producer, one the best possible things to drink with great food.  You think you need red wine with lamb?  You’ve never tasted it with Riesling.  Thai food?  Riesling.  Trust me, good Riesling isn’t sweet, it isn’t cloying and it is freaking delicious.

What I also learned is that CS, while a serious collector and passionate wine guy, isn’t a wine snob.  He is a "collector" not  "curator".  He buys wines that he believes will be delicious with food we prepare and shared with friends and family.  He isn't in it for the prestige of a massive cellar, he just wants to drink well with people he loves.  He doesn’t give a whit for the “famous” star wines, for the “90 point” wines, for things that are expensive for the sake of being expensive.  He says “Any idiot can spend $100 and get a decent bottle of wine.  Show me the guy that can spend $10 and get something delicious, that is the guy I respect.  I don’t care about a point system.  If you think you can taste the difference between an 89 point wine and a 90 point wine, you’re dead wrong, but you can pay the 50% upcharge for that little point.”

Since he has been at this for so long, he has amassed something of a large collection.  You know, enough wine so that we can drink very well.  For the rest of our natural lives.  Even if we open a restaurant in our living room.  And he has, for all of this time, been storing it in a special wine storage facility.  About 4 miles from our house.  Which is, as you might imagine, somewhat inconvenient.

For our first anniversary I bought him a 160 bottle wine fridge so that he could keep a decent stash in the house and not have to drive to the storage facility every time we needed wine.  We did a ton of research, and after reading every possible article and review, found that Vinotemp was the company to go with.  Founded by a winemaker who was looking for better and smarter ways to store wine at home, the Vinotemp units have the dual temp system that you need for storing red, white and champagne in the same unit, humidity control, and they run quiet and with energy efficiency.   Plus they have a lock on them, in case you are worried about bottles walking away, or finding themselves in the hands of the underaged.  We set it up in the basement and it became the “house cellar”, allowing CS to rotate the wines from storage that were at their peak onsite where we could remember to drink them!  Win/win!

When we began designing our house, the first thing CS said was that whatever else we did, it wouldn’t be a real dream house unless he had a wine cellar.  And when he dreams of a wine cellar, it isn’t some fancy room with grape vines painted on venetian plaster walls, with special bottles lit on display racks.  Nope.  He dreams of a wine cellar that looks a little dirty, a little dusty, a little musty.  A cellar where he can organize his wines for easy access.  He doesn’t need a tasting room, he doesn’t want to taste wine in a damp cold room, he wants to taste wine in our living room or dining room.  The wine cellar just needs to store it properly.

So when we again set out to do our research, it came as no surprise that when it comes to building a wine cellar from scratch?  You guessed it.  Vinotemp to the rescue.  We sent them the dimensions of the space, the number of bottles and types of wines we were looking to store, a general layout of the basement.  And they helped us figure out which cooling system to order, and advised us on every aspect of prepping the space properly.  Since we were starting from scratch with a gutted space that needed no retrofitting, we were able to go with a very efficient ducted system.  It essentially works like your central air-conditioning system, with ductwork feeding the space and a thermostat regulating the temperature but also the humidity.  It is precisely calibrated so that you can keep the conditions in your cellar absolutely perfect at all times. 

Once we decided on the unit, Vinotemp began to build it.  They put all of the cooling systems together custom, and then test them at the factory to be sure that what arrives is what you need and in tiptop working order. 

Ours arrives Wednesday.  We have finished framing out the cellar space, and are in the process of installing vapor barrier and a tremendous amount of insulation, per their detailed specs.  We are using special wood and drywall that is designed to be moisture and mold resistant.  Once the space is built-out and painted, we will work with our Vinotemp designer to do the racking system.  CS is still debating what sort of racking he wants, and they have many to choose from, so stay tuned and we will keep you posted on the design of the space as it comes together!

I love this stone racking, similar to the stuff they use in Burgundy cellars, and totally gorgeous!

Even better, we are designing a space in the future butler’s pantry to move the Vinotemp wine fridge upstairs, where it will be a godsend for both our everyday drinking and for parties.

Stay tuned for more cellar updates, along with some pictures of the progress!

In the meantime, here are CS’s top five tips for wine buying and drinking:

1.  We have a tendency in this country to drink white wines too cold and red wines too warm.  Room temp is 70 degrees or more.  Reds are best stored and drunk at 56 degrees.  Whites at 54.  General rule?  Use the half-hour philosophy.  Take whites and sparkling wines out of your fridge half an hour before you want to drink them, put red wines into your fridge half an hour before you want to drink them.  And if you are ordering in a restaurant, ask to feel the bottle, especially for reds.  If it isn't cool to the touch, ask for the bottle to be put on ice for five minutes.

2.  Make friends with a competent wine seller.  You don’t have to learn all there is to know about wine, you just have to know someone who does!  Find a place that you like, and talk to the wine seller about what you enjoy about wine and what you don’t, what you want to eat with the wines you choose, and what price points you are comfortable with.  Let them guide you to two or three bottles.  Drink them.  Did they nail it?  Now you have your person.  Did they fail?  Find someone else.

3.  Only buy what you can store properly until you want to drink it.  I know you might like the look of a full wine rack, but if the only place to put it is in your kitchen next to the stove, leave it empty.  Wine stored at room temp is already less than ideal, anywhere in the kitchen is just going to cook it.  If you don’t have space or budget for a small wine fridge, at least store your wine in a dark cool place, basements are preferable, but out of the way closets are okay too, and don’t invest in a lot of bottles, just keep it to what you are likely to drink within the next few weeks.

4.  Wines for food are not necessarily the same as wines for casual drinking on their own.  Sometimes a wine that might not be terribly delicious for just sitting around having a bit of a relaxing time after work, but will be absolutely spectacular with food.  For casual drinking, stick with things that are juicy and fruit forward like a young syrah, something refreshing like a rosé, or crisp and bright like a gruner veltliner.  With appetizers, champagne or sparkling wine is always welcome, and there is a very affordable bubbly out of New Mexico called Gruet that you can keep on hand.  For dinners, you can bring more complexity to the table, like a burgundy or Riesling, and if you can, maybe something with a little more bottle age on it.

5.  If you have the ability, invest in a Vinotemp wine fridge.  They have a range of sizes and styles, and a price for almost any budget.  They even sell refurbished units at a fraction of the retail price, some of them as inexpensive as $120!  Most importantly, once you have one, you’ll be able to store and serve wine whenever you like, and know that it will always be the perfect temperature and best possible condition.

Yours in Good Taste, 
The Polymath

Monday, November 17, 2014

Did Someone Say Fried Chicken?

Just a quick one today, to share a new recipe I am awfully proud of...


My sister and brother-in-love had a very cool party this past weekend.  An indoor tailgate!  They used the excuse of a Saturday night college football game to invite over all their best pals for a tailgate themed potluck party.  Plenty of snacks, plenty of beer and cocktail fixin's, and everyone got to bring their best dish.

I was on deck for fried chicken drumsticks.  I love great fried chicken.  I actually don't mind mediocre fried chicken, to be honest, but I try not to eat fried chicken too often, so if I can avoid fair to middlin' and stick with great, that is always a good thing.

I especially love a big pile of fried chicken drumsticks on a buffet for a crowd.  They are a perfect one-hand food, so you can eat them while standing or milling about.  They are a small enough piece that you don't overly fill up on them, but still have enough meat on them that they are more than just a delivery service for fried skin and breading.  (I'm looking at you, wings.  Delicious though you are)
I also have a very specific idea of what make for great fried chicken.

1.  The meat has to be both juicy and well-flavored, the seasoning has to have penetrated.  Juicy and bland isn't going to cut it, and dried out is simply unacceptable.

2.  The outside has to be extra shatteringly crunchy, with enough seasoning in the coating to provide oomph.

3.  The breading cannot just all fall off when you bite into the chicken the first time.  Defeats the whole purpose.

Now, my Charming Suitor is from Kentucky, so he knows him some quality fried chicken.  The bar isn't just high, its off the charts.  No pressure for the Yankee wife at all.

Here is my official, don't need to change a thing, perfection on a stick, fried chicken.  The recipe is designed for 24 drumsticks or a combo of drumsticks and thighs.  That is because dark meat is just better.  Stays moister, perfect size, better flavor.  It isn't that you can't use this recipe for white meat, but you will need to adjust the cooking times, wings will cook much faster, breasts a little longer.  I know you think 24 pieces of chicken sounds like a lot, but this is fried chicken for a party.  If you are having a sit down dinner party, you can serve 8-12 amply with this, but for a potluck or holiday buffet, you can cover up to 24 people.  And frankly, there are worse things than leftover fried chicken.  And if you love it, I hope you will check out my other recipes in the new digital cookbook, Big Delicious Life!  Only $3.79 for over 150 recipes, 40 never before published, and the first chapter of my next novel!  BUY HERE.

I'm just saying.

Fried Chicken Drumsticks
Serves up to 24 as part of a buffet, or 8-12 as a main course

24 chicken drumsticks (or a mix of drumsticks and thighs)

Spice Rub
2 t dried thyme
2 t dried marjoram
4 t onion powder
4 t garlic powder
3 t espelette pepper (can substitute Aleppo or Cayenne)
6 T salt
2 T freshly ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg

Buttermilk Brine

2 quarts buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons hotsauce (Tabasco, Sriracha, whatever you have on hand)

In a large bowl, mix all of the dry spices. Add chicken and toss until well coated.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.  Mix the hotsauce and honey together until combined, and then blend into the buttermilk.  Pour the buttermilk brine over the chicken to cover completely. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours, up to 24 hours.

To prep the chicken for frying:

Pour chicken legs into colander and allow buttermilk to drain.  With paper towels, pat each of the legs completely dry, and arrange in a single layer on more paper towels on a large sheet pan.  Place in the fridge uncovered for 1-3 hours.  This step will dry the skin out and tighten it a bit, trust me, worth the extra step and time.  

4 ½  cups all-purpose flour
4 ½  tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons fine sea salt
3 teaspoons espelette pepper (can substitute Aleppo or Cayenne)
3 tablespoons baking powder

1 quart buttermilk

4 quarts peanut oil

Combine the flour, black pepper, paprika, sea salt, cayenne, and baking powder in a large rectangular pan (I often use deep disposable foil pans) or a wide bowl. Whisk to combine well, and make sure the flour is well seasoned.

Pour the buttermilk into a separate pan or bowl. Set a rack over a baking sheet. Dredge the dried chicken pieces in the flour, shake off the excess, and set them on the rack. Do all of the pieces to this stage.  Then dip each of the pieces in the buttermilk, hold briefly to drain excess, then toss them in the seasoned flour until well coated and return them to the rack.  They should look a little shaggy.

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan for deep-frying to 350°F. Add as many chicken pieces as you can without crowding the pan, you may have to do this in 3-4 batches depending on the size of your pot. Cook the chicken, turning the pieces occasionally, until they are cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes depending on their size. After 9 minutes remove one piece and check for doneness with an instant read meat thermometer, they should be 165-175.  Remove to a sheet pan covered with paper towels that you have first crumpled up and then pulled back flat.  While they are resting, let the temp of the oil come back up to 350 and then add the next round of chicken pieces.  When the pieces on the paper towel have drained, place them on a clean rack over a baking tray and allow them to rest for 10 minutes before serving.   If not serving right away, hold in a 200-degree oven on the rack for up to 30 minutes.

These are delicious hot, warm, or at room temp.  And if you have leftovers, cold right from the fridge for breakfast.  If you have to transport them, slide the tray with the rack into a paper grocery bag, and cut a large opening on the top to let out steam, and then cut the bottom 6 inches off another paper grocery bag and slide it over the second end.  You do not want them to be covered, steam will make them soggy. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

So. Much. News.


Buckle up, this is going to be a doozy!

First off, I want to thank all of you who pre-ordered my new digital cookbook Big Delicious Life.  It should have been delivered to you wirelessly on the 21st.  For those of you who have not yet pulled the trigger, welcome to instant gratification!  You can get yours HERE.

It's only $3.79, kids, and has not only over 150 recipes, including over 40 that have never been printed, but it also has a chapter of my new novel Recipe for Disaster, to give you a sneak peek at what is coming your way in March.  Makes a great gift for a foodie pal or relative, and there are plenty of holiday centric recipes for the upcoming celebrations.  And if you've ever cooked one of my recipes, either from the novels or from here on the blog, it would mean the world if you would work your social media network on my behalf.

Now, are we ready for a house update?  I bet we are!

Much to report from here at the castle.  The Matts have left the building.  Yep, all eight of our strapping 25 year old tenants headed out last week for new digs.  They were a fun bunch, consumed their collective weight in pizza, beer and Mountan Dew on a weekly basis, and generally made it not horrible to play Mrs. Roper.  We have found a new group of tenants for the third floor, who will move in next week, and we are looking forward to getting to know them.

The concrete floor in the basement FINALLY cured, and so we polished and sealed it.

ISN'T IT YUMMY?  I wish you could feel it.  It is like one huge river rock.  The first chance we got, we ran around barefoot.  I have never been barefoot in my basement EVER.  Not since the day I moved in.  It was strangely gratifying. The floor looks a little shinier in the pics than it does in real life, the finish is more of a matte glow.

Now that the floor is done, we can start framing up walls and really pulling stuff together!

In the meantime, with the decampment of the second floor Matts, we were able to start the demolition where the new eat-in kitchen will be.

What used to be a dining room...

Butler's Pantry...
 Small bedroom....

 And kitchen....

Is now....

Now, I know you are probably looking at the "before" and thinking "Those are lovely spaces!  Why on earth would anyone turn them into something that looks like Beirut?"  And the answer is, because your Polymath needs a great kitchen that is bigger than a postage stamp, where she can cook with her Charming Suitor and not elbow each other in the eyeball.  A kitchen with actual counter space.

We salvaged all of the woodwork and built-ins for re-use elsewhere (stay tuned for those projects), and are now dealing with the information resulting from the demolition.  Because as anyone who has ever renovated a home over 100 years old knows, there are always surprises.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad.  We got very lucky in the basement, no bad surprises at all. But what we have discovered here does create some challenges.  We knew that the construction of the building was steel, so YAY!  Won't fall down!  We assumed that the floor joists would have been laid out on TOP of the steel beams.  Demolition revealed that not to be the case.  The floor joists are all laid out directly into the beams.  Which creates some serious issues in how we had thought to lay out our plumbing runs and HVAC ductwork.  Usually these things go between the joists.  On top of the beam.  Since the joists run INTO the beams, all of the runs we planned would run smack into the middle of steel beams.  Not functional.  So we are meeting Monday with our contractors and our architect to come up with some solutions.

We also demolished half of the closet in one of the future guest bedrooms:

Closets were a later addition to the building, in 1907 people used armoires and such to store clothes.  In this room, they added two side by side closets, one of which contained a small window.  Because nothing is better for your best duds than constant access to direct sunlight.  By removing half of the closet, our guests will still get some closet space, but what feels like a much bigger room!  We have a beautiful English Arts and Crafts tall dresser with a mirror that will fit beautifully in this nook.

We also demoed parts of the bathroom:

When we took out the horrid 1978 corner tub it revealed some of the original tile floor:

Buried under layers of ghastly linoleum, and partially demolished from previous plumbing work, we are very sad that we can't salvage it.  I love that the accent tiles are blue instead of the more common black, and would have loved to just restore a floor like this, but not enough of it survived, so we will be looking into other options.  But it was very cool to get to see it, and we are going to try and save some of the cove tiles that are along the baseboard just for our "treasures" box.

Things are going to start to move pretty quickly over here, so stay tuned for much more frequent updates!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, September 15, 2014

Let's Get Cooking!


I've been teasing you about my upcoming digital cookbook for ages, and I'm delighted to let you know that it is coming very soon.  This cover is so hot off the presses that it isn't even posted on Amazon yet!


Big Delicious Life is a digital collection of 150 recipes from my novels, including 40 recipes that had to be cut from the original books for space considerations.  Even better, because it is digital, it is a recipe resource you can keep in your pocket on your phone or tablet, perfect for those moments you are at the grocery store and don't know what to make for dinner!  I love having recipes on the go when I'm traveling or staying with pals, and there is something for everyone in here.

The absolute best part?  In a day and age when a new cookbook will run you anywhere from $25-$65?  Big Delicious Life is $3.79.  BOOM.  I've had such wonderful feedback from you all about cooking from the books, and I know what a pain it is to have to go searching through multiple books to find a recipe, so I really wanted to make all of them available in one super-convenient format, and at a price that makes it a real value, and an easy fun gift.  We're talking like 2 1/2 cents a recipe, people!

I spent a lot of time working on the indexing, so there are actually two ways to navigate, you can find recipes from a specific novel, but I've also indexed them based on ingredients, so if you are staring at a package of chicken in your fridge and don't know what to do with it, you can get all the chicken recipes in a flash.

It is currently available for pre-order and will be delivered to your E-Reader on October 21, in time for all of your holiday menu planning.  

I'm very proud of it, and can't wait to hear how you all like it.  Also?  It includes a chapter (and a recipe) from my upcoming new novel Recipe for Disaster just to whet your appetites.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Stick a Fork in Me!


I'm finally getting my head above water!  I'm delighted to announce that I've finished the revisions on my new book, and I really really think you are going to like it.  Recipe for Disaster is the story of a contractor whose life blows up around her, forcing her to live in the half-finished ruin of her current renovation with a miniature schnauzer that hates her.  I'm very excited about it, and there are plenty of new recipes as well!

Luckily for us, our own renovations are moving along without disaster!  We officially have a completed concrete pour in the basement, so no more dirt floor.  We are waiting for it to cure for 28 days so that we can polish it.  Once that happens, it's time for fun things like, you know, WALLS!  I have a feeling that once we start to see some framing, things are going to move very quickly, so get ready for a Fall full of updates. In the meantime, I thought I would share some of the unexpected pitfalls of doing such a renovation.

When you know that more square footage is imminent?  It can become tricky not to purchase things for the "future house" as opposed to the "current house".  This is where what used to be a casual flirtation with Craigslist can turn into a dangerous full-fledged affair.  Case in point, the recent Hall Mirrorpalooza (which Charming Suitor might refer to as a Debacle).

I have wanted a built-in antique pier mirror for the foyer for the longest time.  It is appropriate to the time period of the building, and I have always thought it would make for a wonderful addition. Of course, salvaged genuine antiques of the right age have had three things working against me.  One?  They are very often terribly ornate, carved, gilded items, which certainly hits a Princess where she lives, but CS is viscerally opposed to things that are overly "decorative", being more of an Arts and Crafts/Prairie kind of guy, so the fancy ones are right out.  Two?  Even non-fancy ones are CRAZY expensive, ranging in my research from an almost-reasonable $1500 to a "are-you-effing-kidding-me?" $27,000.  And no, that is not a typo.  Three?  They are very often far far away, on the East Coast.  Or France.  And shipping costs for an item like this from NY to Chicago can be a thousand bucks or more and you don't even want to think about overseas shipping.  Um? No.

I've been looking around for one of these things for the better part of two years to no avail.

So you can imagine when I spotted this on Craiglist, it caught my attention.

Vintage Hall Mirror- $500 - Chicago

I looked at the picture.

Hard to see, I know, but not overly ornate, mirror in nice condition, and the style and finish of the woodwork is very much in line with the existing woodwork in our house.

I looked at the measurements.  I measured the wall in the foyer.  With very little adjustment, it will fit like a glove.  I show it to Charming Suitor who likes it.  I email the seller, yes it is still available, pretty close to our house, and yes, there is wiggle room on price.  

When we arrived at the house to see it, the owner mentioned that he is converting a two-flat into a single family home, so this is salvaged from that property.  "Oh,"  he says. "And there are two of them, so you can pick which one you like more."

My heart leapt.  Behind me I heard CS mutter. "F***."  Because he knows me, and he knows that unless one of the two of these is harboring a family of venomous spidersnakes, I'm gonna want them both.


They were both perfect.  Solid as a rock.  Mirrors beveled, and just the tiniest bit speckled in a way that lets you know they are over 100 years old.  All the moldings intact, original finish with plenty of patina.  I batted my eyelashes.  I gave my most winning smile.  And CS said, "You negotiate it."

I offered the guy $600 for both.  And he came back with an offer of "Absolutely, get them out of my garage."

Oh, yeah!

We decided that the second one will eventually get installed in our master bedroom to serve as a cool full-length mirror.  Of course, we are still a long way of being able to install either of them ANYWHERE, so for the moment?  They live in the dining room.  Along with the eventual vanity for the basement bathroom, and the eventual basement bathroom sink.  And all of our dining room furniture.  


All of the rest of the stuff I've found for the "future house" like a pair of repro Louis VIV chairs, and an Arts and Crafts desk, and four really cool art nouveau iron folding chairs...not to mention all of the stuff we took out of CS's bungalow now that we have sold it.  And THIS BAR CART!

you can kind of see the art nouveau folding chairs behind it...

How could I not?  It's Italian, 1920s, it's SILVERPLATE!  Look at the WHEELS!!!

I know.  Its a sickness.

Our formerly lovely dining room for dinner parties now looks like one of those storage units on Garage Gold, and when people come over, its all "how much fun to eat pizza on your lap in the living room!" party.  CS had to put me on a strict "No Craigslist till some new square footage is actually finished." moratorium.

Luckily, we only have to live like a Hoarders episode for another month or so, because when our second floor tenants vacate mid-October, we will move it all up there while we finish the renovations down here.

Stay tuned for more updates coming soon, there are a couple of exciting announcements to be revealed in the coming weeks!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, August 11, 2014

Winners Announced!

Congrats to Rebecca and Kelly Rollinson on winning the Naturals By Gina B Body Balm sets!  Email me at staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) com with your shipping address and Gina will get you your products.

And thank you again to everyone who entered all of the giveaways these past couple of weeks.  So great to see all of your comments.

I'm back to rewrites, but stay tuned for some exciting updates on the house project!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Winners announced and YET ANOTHER GIVEAWAY!


Thanks to all who entered to win Laura Caldwell's darling summer read, The Dog Park.

Congrats to Trish Ryan, Erica, and KW!  You have won signed copies.  Email me your shipping address at staceyballisinfo(at)gmail(dot)com and Laura will get them out to you.  For everyone who didn't win, you can pick up your copy HERE.

And since it is my summer of prizes, I have another guest post from a pal with another giveaway!

Gina B is one of my besties who has accidentally invented a couple of fabulous new  skincare products!  I'll let Gina tell her own story but I can vouch for the quality, I've been lucky enough to be one of her testers and I just love them.  They do exactly what they are supposed to do, and they smell delicious.  Gina is providing TWO sets of her body products to a lucky reader, just comment below with the skin or hair problem you wish you could fix forever!

Gina- take it away!

I'm excited to announced that I’ve released a line of body products - if two products can be called a line.  The company name is Naturals by Gina B, and the line is aptly titled Kiss My Ash.  The name is very appropriate because it kisses away the ashy appearance of dry skin.  

There’s a tale of how this came to be (because of COURSE there is).  Long story short, I was unhappy with my hair.  (If you knew me personally you would know that I’m ALWAYS unhappy with my hair, but I was especially distraught about it this time).  I was displeased because my naturally curly/wavy hair had been heat damaged from a terrible run-in with a smoking hot flat iron, and I was left with areas that are bone straight and others that have remained curly, somehow.  Not really high on the cuteness scale, and very distressing.  I loathed of the products on the market (and I have an entire closet full of them to prove it) and I willfully decided that I was going to make my own super-product that I would formulate specifically to address my issues and get my curls back.

Chemistry was one of my favorite subjects in high school, so I got busy blending natural ingredients and came up with a usable conditioner.  I used it enthusiastically, and learned a harrowing lesson.  The trouble is that, once damaged, curly hair can’t be restored (it’s still a hot mess and I will ultimately have to cut it in stages).  However, I did really enjoy the residual effects that my concoction had on my skin as it rinsed out of my lifeless hair in the shower.  So I retooled it, worked on creating a creamy texture, and lo and behold I had body butter.

I instantly fell in love with my own product because it was made with my issues in mind and addressed all of my needs for moisturized, glowing skin.  I hated sticky products and watery lotions.  I also detested lotions and oils that soiled my clothes, and my concoction dried quickly on the skin without staining my garments.  I wanted something that I could use on my face without it making me look like a walking oil slick.  I also enjoy a simple product with only a handful of ingredients that are easily pronounced.  

I was lounging poolside in LA with a girlfriend.  She needed moisturizer and I offered mine.  She wanted to know the brand, and I confessed that I had made it myself.  After asking several questions she enthusiastically told me that I should think about marketing and selling them.  I laughed and sipped my refreshing Chardonnay spritzer.  What a cute and funny idea.

Then, as I began letting others try my product, they agreed.  They say that it’s very emollient and works wonders on dry skin.  And when the boyfriend became addicted to another product that I made — the body scrub — I gave it serious thought.  Love him, but he’s one of the most particular people I know.
So here we sit, nearly a year later.  I’ve done endless market research.  I’ve gotten deeper into the science of it — which has been SO much fun and rewarding.  I’ve enjoyed picking out packaging and sourcing materials.  I’ve turned my friends into my own personal guinea pigs and foisted samples upon unsuspecting strangers.  I’ve created a list of future releases and I haven’t been this excited and anxious about anything in years.  If ever.  Who knew?

Because Stacey is a dear friend, amazing writer and most importantly she was kind enough to sample the second-to-last iteration of the formula, I wanted to make sure to provide a giveaway for her esteemed readers.  Two lucky readers will receive a full 4 oz jar of Kiss My Ash Body Balm, and an 8oz jar of Kiss My Ash Body Buff.  If you don't win, feel free to visit my website at www.naturalsbyginab.com.

Be sure to comment below by 11:59 PM on Sunday August 10, I'll announce winners on Monday.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath