Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December Birchbox Review

My goodness it's taken me forever and a day to get around to reviewing this month's Birchbox. With all the craziness from Christmas, I pushed it to the back burner (along with writing in general), but I'm back. Sort of. At least for now. I am consistently inconsistent. Here's this month's lineup:

Sheer Glo Shimmer Lotion by Manna Kadar in Birchbox Love
Number Four Non Aerosol Hairspray
Hello Perfume by Harvey Prince
Honest Healing Balm by The Honest Company
Hair Elastic by Twistband

*plus a weird little screen sticker for your phone...not entirely practical, but it's promoting the new app*

Surprisingly I didn't use anything straight away. The holidays were hectic and I didn't want to overwhelm myself any further, so I waited. I'm so glad I did because now I won't have to wait quite so long to review the next box. January is right around the corner! So let's get to it. 

Sheer Glo Shimmer Lotion

Personally, this one is reminiscent of the NARS Illuminator in Orgasm. That said, I do like the color. It's not something I'd want to apply over my foundation because I feel like it takes off what I've already applied, but it is a product I'll use over a tinted moisturizer or BB cream. Otherwise I'll be mixing it in with my foundation and applying it to my cheeks. On a day when I really don't want to wear much make up at all but still want a little rosy cheek, I'll be reaching for this tiny tube of shimmer.

Verdict: Not bad. It's not something I'll use everyday, but I will use it more consistently during the warmer months. A little goes a long way!

Number 4 Non Aerosol Hairspray

Not only does it smell like hairspray, but it smells like fancy hairspray. I don't really know what that means, but it just seems like a high end product smell. Anyway, it's sulfate-free and delivers a firm, yet flexible hold. I usually lean toward an aerosol hairspray, but this one will be great for when I'm on the go and need to make sure my hair isn't all over the place. One reason I love these samples is that they're a deluxe sample size or a travel size, so I can count on them when I need to jet set to my next location. I don't use hairspray often, but I'll use this one until the end.

Verdict: It's a hairspray that I would turn to in times of need. Smells great, works well. 

Hello by Harvey Prince

When I first asked my mom what she thought of this fragrance, she said it reminded her of summer, which was entirely appropriate since Birchbox touted this as a warm weather scent. For me, it sort of reminds me of my friend Rachel. Not sure why, but maybe it's because she has great taste in perfume. Anyway, I love that it's made with eco-friendly ingredients and it just seems like it's a big old bottle of cheerfulness. I'll definitely be dabbing this on from time to time regardless of the season. Between the citrus and the floral notes, this is right up my alley.

Verdict: It has staying power without being overpowering. This perfume really did have me at hello. 

Honest Healing Balm

The healing balm is part of a winter wellness kit, so I can't speak for anything other than the balm itself. First impression? It came out of the tube a little grainy. I double checked to make sure I didn't mistake this for a scrub and then I continued to rub it into my arms, focussing on my elbows since they were the driest. It says to apply liberally, but to be honest, I thought less was more. It's a little on the greasy side and I was nervous to pull my long sleeves back down for fear that it would leave greasy marks. While the scent was nice, I definitely needed to wash my hands when I was done applying it, though they still were soft after I did that.

Verdict: Great smell and it's organic! While I see the benefits of this balm, I think it's more of a night use product for your skin's driest areas (think applying it to feet and then putting on socks).


Did someone know my affinity for polka dots when they sent me this month's box? They couldn't have picked a better band to include. These little guys are fun, but surprisingly simple. Who would've thought you could sell a printed band of elastic that is knotted on one end? I've seen this type of product around and I never really saw what all the fuss was about, but after using it nonstop (or wearing it around my wrist just in case) I've grown quite fond of it. Sure, the center elastic piece is coming out on the short part after the knot, but it hasn't stopped me from using it because it keeps my hair firmly in place without giving me a headache. Fantastic.

Verdict: I can't really see myself spending $12 on a pack of 6, but I could see myself using my Birchbox points if I got the itch to have some more. I do like the way they work, but they aren't as resilient as my typical hair elastic. 

What does Birchbox have in store for 2014? I can't wait to find out.


Monday, December 30, 2013

The Day After Christmas

I don't know about you, but when Christmas day starts to turn into Christmas evening, I start to get a little blue. Once December 26th appears, I'm in full on depression mode. Some people can't wait for the holidays to be over, but I want them to last forever. There's something about the way people come together, pay it forward, be kind to one another, and smile a little bit more that makes me so happy.

Now that a few days have passed, I'm feeling a little bit better, but un-decorating Christmas yesterday was pretty brutal. I'm trying to focus on the positive aspects of the season, like being able to spend time with my family and eat a crapload of sweets. The presents certainly help things, too. Like my new watch that I need to have sized down because I have the wrists of an 8-year-old and the new speakers that are waiting to be installed in my car. I also have a nice little chunk of change to plunk down at Sephora thanks to all of my gift cards. Retail therapy is about to be in full swing.

So while I wait for my favorite UPS driver to bring me presents, I'll be trying to get back into the daily grind and focusing on the work-related tasks I've been neglecting, like writing names in red ink in the book. I may or may not have been putting this off for some time, although it doesn't exactly scream "top priority" with my day-to-day tasks. Anyway, I hope you're all still basking in the afterglow of the Christmas season and you don't forget to treat others the way you want to be treated - with love and respect.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve

I love Christmas. 

This year I have been bingeing on Christmas tunes (The Carpenters, especially) and I've been trying to watch Christmas movies as much as possible, although there are still a few I haven't gotten around to.

The Hallmark channel has been airing tons of Christmas flicks and while they are utterly predictable and wildly unbelievable in the falling in love department, they are quite heartwarming nonetheless. Last night my mom and I watched a movie from 2005, The Christmas Blessing. I figured since Neil Patrick Harris was starring in it that it would be a lighthearted movie with some humorous one-liners. Boy, was I wrong.

I knew going into it that he was playing a doctor who loses a patient on the operating table and subsequently questions his path, so he returns home to work with his father as a mechanic. I figured it would lead to him repairing a strained relationship with his father, falling in love with a pretty girl, and then saving someone's life and realizing he should be a doctor again. While some of those things occurred, it turned out to be a really somber movie and one that resulted with my eyes leaking like a faucet. Not exactly the way I was hoping to spend my eve before Christmas Eve, but hey, it was still a pretty good movie.

If I had known it was the second movie in a trilogy based on a series of books which is based off of the song "The Christmas Shoes," I most certainly would not have picked it as the movie to watch last night because crying wasn't exactly on my list of things to do. Even though the story behind the song is nice, it's one I try to avoid during the holidays since my emotions tend to run a little high during this time as I remember the family members who are no longer here. Same goes for sad Christmas movies. I did get a fairly good cry out of it, which I'm sure I needed, but I was thankful that the tears of reacting to sadness became tears of laughter when my mom and I turned it around for ourselves (because who wears lipgloss mere hours after surgery???). Anyway, I awoke with a twinge of a headache today, but on the plus side, my eyes weren't nearly as puffy as I anticipated them to be today. For that, I am grateful.

Now that Christmas eve is here, I'm looking forward to spending time with family, indulging in dinner and dessert, and waiting anxiously for Santa to bring me presents! I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! Be safe!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Beauty Spotlight

You know when a product is so wonderful you wonder how you lived without it for so long? 
That's how I feel about this Benefit miracle: 

The POREfessional. 

Photo from Sephora

On one of my visits with Raye, we got to talking about beauty products and she introduced me to this priceless balm in a tube. She told me was that it basically makes your pores disappear...Ummmm, what??? SERIOUSLY?!? I was hooked before I had even tried it out. It sounded too good to be true, so I naturally bombarded her with questions while I tried to iron out what this stuff was and how to use it.

Once I got over the fact that it wasn't a product I had to use under my foundation and that I could apply it over my foundation without noticing it (it still boggles my mind a bit), I immediately started to figure out the next time I could make it into Sephora to get a sample. I was still in a bit of denial about how well this would work, but one finger dipped into the sample pot and I was a goner. The full size product was about to land a permanent spot in my bathroom cupboard.

The first time I used it, I applied it under my foundation, but I quickly realized that Raye had the right idea about using it over the foundation. It just works better (of course you can use it before and after for added pore-erasing potential). I use a little dab around the sides of my nose and out towards my cheekbones and my skin looks flawless. If your pores don't seemingly disappear completely, they will be seriously diminished. And that's no joke. A little goes a long way, so you do still need to be careful about using too much or you might notice some streaking. The balm only comes in one color (which is a nude hue), so I'm not sure how it works on darker skin tones, but my guess is that it pretty much does the same thing as it does with mine - vanishes without a trace and leaves your skin looking amazing.

On the days when I have to leave the house but I don't feel like putting on a full face of makeup or even so much as a BB creme, I dab a bit of The POREfessional here and there and it's like my skin has been lightly airbrushed.

My seester even tried it and was shocked by how well it worked. I sent her home with a sample to try at her leisure since I had already received my full size product and I think she was caught off guard by how cool this product is. Of course my sis doesn't need to wear a lick of makeup ever, so she doesn't need it, but I think she'll be able to use it from time to time, too. If you don't believe me about how well this stuff works, try it for yourself. Sephora is pretty generous with their samples, so they should give you enough to use for at least a week, though I found my sample lasted much, much longer.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Raider Nation

I don't know why I feel the need to reiterate that I'm a "Bay Area" fan, but it probably has something to do with the fact that people don't seem to think I should be. Like I should choose a side. Sorry, but I'm not sorry that I want to support my Oakland teams as much as my San Francisco teams. So, I don't care how many people tell me that's not "acceptable," but that's just the way I am, so that's the way it's going to be. Even though my pro athlete crush on Colin Kaepernick prompted me to buy a jersey, my heart still mostly bleeds silver and black before red and gold. That said, while I have been to a 49ers game, I have never been to a Raiders game...until this past Sunday.

I acquired a set of tickets and a parking pass and could think of no one I'd rather go with than my dear ol' dad. Thankfully he didn't have plans because it was nice to have a father-daughter day together! I got all dressed up in a mostly black ensemble with a white Raiders tee and I even went so far to paint my nails black, you know, because I'm dedicated like that. I was expecting it to be a bit chilly, but since the seats were facing the sun and it was an unusually warm day, it turns out I could have left a few layers at home.

That didn't stop me from enjoying nearly every bit of the game (except for the numerous interceptions thrown by the home team and Kansas City scoring seemingly effortless touchdowns). Even though the Raiders lost, I still had so much fun with my dad. It was definitely an experience! We didn't tailgate prior to the game or anything like that, but when we got there, the parties were in full swing. It was actually kind of amazing. And I have to say, with the bad rap that many Raiders fans seem to get, they were all very civil and I didn't witness a single altercation. Not even in the beer line.

Before the masses made their way in. 

Despite all the Raiders haters and their uncanny inability to win a game (though they do have a better record than the Texans),  I still remain loyal. You have to be there for your teams through the highs and lows...and let's be honest, it isn't always easy being a Raiders fan. But it doesn't mean I like my team any less. It also doesn't mean I'm a bandwagon fan when the 49ers make it to the Super Bowl and I don my jersey because I'm still cheering for them through the regular season, too. The Raiders have been my team for a long, long time. And what can I say? I look good in black.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Beauty Spotlight

I mentioned Bumble and Bumble's Texture way back when, but I never really got into using it too much. Then one day I decided to add it into my hair routine and I've been using it virtually non stop for the past few weeks.

Texture is kind of a tricky product. Too much makes my hair super crunchy, too little won't hold the curl like I want. It's a delicate balancing act, but once you master it, it's fantastic.

First of all, my hair is naturally straight. Over time it has developed a slight wave, which I try to capitalize on from time to time when I don't feel like drying my hair completely, but more often than not it's pretty dang straight. The wave has the potential to stay all day if I do things right, but sometimes I just want effortlessly curly, voluminous hair. Since I knew standard curly hair products weren't really going to work (think gel or mousse), I gave Texture a whirl. It's a winner.

My hair is more wavy than curly, but that's because I didn't use quite as much product. If I use a bit more, the curls stay a little tighter.

I start off with a quarter size amount and work it into my hair. I've found for me that it's best if I scrunch my hair as I do it because the curl really starts to take hold instantly. Once I've applied the desired amount, I snap on the diffuser to my hair dryer and I go to town to scrunch and dry. The outcome is exactly as I desire - curls without a curling iron.

For some reason, it seems as though making my hair curly takes less time than blow drying it straight and though it's probably not true, at least I'm enjoying doing my hair. Maybe I just like the wild, slightly unkempt look that come along with my having curly locks, but it's definitely a nice change.

From what I can tell, this crazy sticky goo does the trick with giving hair that "undone-yet-tone quality, with a hint of grit, extra lift and a tousled, shine-free finish." The results are there. One reason I like the matte finish is because it doesn't lend any extra shine so I don't have to worry about greasy looking hair. Besides, the tousled look is nearly always welcome in my day-to-day appearance. I also know this stuff works exceptionally well when it comes to keeping updos in tact without a ton of flyaways or bobby pins. Need a quick and easy bun? Look no further than a dab of Texture. Just keep in mind you should use it on wet/damp hair.

Despite loving this product, there are some drawbacks. This isn't exactly a hair product that results in soft, tangle-free hair. So if you're the type of person who needs to run a comb through your hair or nervously run your fingers through it, you will be disappointed. That said, it isn't impossible to give your hair that lift, wiggle, and flip at your roots because I find myself doing that throughout the day. Also, it has a tendency to dry my hair out a bit. Though it seems to have the biggest effect on my overly processed ends, the rest of my hair certainly seems a bit parched by the end of the night and screaming for conditioner the next morning. It isn't anything your normal shampoo and conditioner can't handle because after a wash, my mane is back to normal.

So my overall verdict? I love Texture. It's a product that is simple to use, gives me the look I want, and is versatile. Hair up or hair down, this tacky creme hasn't let me down. I don't even use hair spray after I use it to make my hair curly. I'm going to continue to use this product and experiment with it along the way by blow drying and trying it out with curlers, scrunching and letting my hair air dry (in the warmer months of course), and using just a dab on my roots to give my hair some extra lift on days when I don't feel like using it all over. Oh, the possibilties!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hollingworth Candies

It's that time of year again - the time of year when vendors start sending Christmas goodies to their customers. Every year I wait ever so patiently for one of our suppliers in Chicago to send us a Christmas treat in the form of a box of toffee. When it finally arrives (and it's usually the first edible gift of the season), I naturally try to hide it and hoard it for myself, but alas, it is the season of giving and sharing. While I do enjoy seeing the pure joy on the faces of those who sample the deliciousness that is this toffee, I do still have to suppress the urge to be completely and totally selfish.

This delectable toffee treat has changed the way I view toffee candy forever. If you think Almond Roca has tasty toffee, you won't ever want to pick up a piece again because Hollingworth Candies' product outshines them all. Even See's.

Hollingworth Candies has basically altered the course of my life...

I can BARELY contain myself when I open up this box...I'm actually impressed that I was able to keep myself composed long enough to snap not one, but two photos. 

The Signature Toffee is the only variation I've ever tried, but it's the only one I really need because it is pure perfection. The way I first described it after tasting the magic a few years ago was, "Soft, but crunchy." Seems a little like an oxymoron, but it's true. Even after pulling out a refrigerated piece, it's still hard, but you're not likely to break any teeth on it because it has a soft, crunchy quality to it. It's difficult to convey the peculiar nature of the toffee until you've truly experienced it, but trust me, you want to take the leap and indulge. In fact, once you taste it, you may never want to purchase toffee from anywhere else ever again. And while I realize that is a bold statement, I honestly would give up eating any of the See's candy that appears in our office if I could eat every last bit of the Hollingworth toffee. And THAT speaks volumes. 


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Beauty Spotlight

I received my first sample of this AMAZING product from Sephora. I used the tiny packet for 2 months, which is essentially unheard of. Throughout that time it didn't even dry out and the package was pretty much wide open. All I did was press the sides together to close it and that certainly wasn't air tight. And did I mention the TWO MONTHS of use? Translation: A little goes a heckuva long way. So what is this miracle product?

Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer
Photo from Sephora

It received the Editor's Choice Award in 2005 from Allure, they do not test on animals, and it's made here in the good ol' U.S. of A.

The packaging states that it's "The world's best concealer" and I'm inclined to agree since it's basically a miracle worker. A little dab will do ya and it erases your imperfections. It's a full coverage concealer that is highly pigmented and water-resistant. I don't know about you, but I surely wasn't blessed with perfect skin, so I'm always a little self-conscious when my skin is freaking out. Add swimming or some other kind of water activity to the mix and I know whatever little makeup I choose to wear will wash off and leave me feeling exposed. This item fixes everything because I know it's tough enough to stand up to a little splashing (as long as you don't rub it off!) and I can focus on more important things like enjoying myself with my friends and family instead of wondering if I'm going to look awful in that next photo. It also hold up to sweaty situations well, so if  you're out in the heat or you're going to be active and just need to camouflage a spot or two, this product has you covered. Anyway, I didn't bother to buy the full size product because it lasts so long, so I just bought the smaller "To Go" version.

The sample wasn't exactly my color, but I continued to use it because I loved the coverage. When I had finally had enough of it, I broke down and bought it in my shade. Of course they aren't carried in every Sephora, so I had to take a bit of a gamble on the color when I ordered online and prayed the color guide and descriptions were accurate. I usually shy away from anything with "beige" in the name because that typically implies "pink," but for some reason I had a hunch that Light Honey was going to do the trick. It was in the same darkness category as the Medium Beige sample I received, but it looked like it had the yellow undertones I need. Turns out, I was right! I'm so glad I didn't opt for Light Golden (which honestly sounded more promising), because when I finally made it into a store in SF that carried it, it had more pink tones than golden. A complete misnomer. The only reason I made a special stop into the Powell Street shop was because I thought I needed a slightly darker shade, too, but Tan ended up being really dark. So, I swapped it out for another Light Honey since I figured it wouldn't hurt to stock up.

Anyway, this stuff is aptly named because it is AMAZING. It might seem a bit pricey ($28 for the To Go version, $42 for the full size), but honestly, it's completely worth the cash. I do suggest finding a store that carries it if you aren't great at color matching yourself online because you don't want to waste too much time and money sending it back and forth before you finally find your shade. Once you do find your hue, you'll see why I love this concealer so much. It's perfect.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Boycott

In the same way that I don't believe in getting a flu shot, I don't believe in shopping on Black Friday. And, in what was dubbed "Gray Thursday," I also don't support retailers opening up their doors early on Thanksgiving. I just don't think it's right. I'm sure there are some employees who love the overtime or holiday pay, but I'd like to think there are more who would rather spend the time with their families rather than deal with the masses. So, in my great stand against stores being open on our day of thanks, I refused to go get my Starbucks beverage yesterday morning despite how badly I wanted one.  

If I am going to do any holiday shopping today, you better believe I'll be doing the online variety in the comfort of my own home, beneath a cozy blanket, in front of the fire while sipping on some tea or hot cocoa. I'll have Christmas music softly playing in the background and I will be savoring the quiet, calm atmosphere rather than the chaos and aggressiveness that the outside world holds on this dreadful day. 

Whatever you decided to do today, I hope that there were more people who got to stay home today and enjoy an extended weekend rather than who had to work. 


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Potential Christmas Wish List

With Christmas rapidly approaching, I'm finding it harder and harder to resist the urge to listen to Christmas music right now. So far I've managed to hold off, but I guarantee that I'll be jamming out to some holiday tunes while I'm helping my mom get the bread ready for the stuffing/dressing the night before Thanksgiving. It's sort of a tradition. And since it's been Christmas inside Costco since before Halloween, I think it'll be alright.

So, while I haven't had many things I've been dying to add to my life, here are some gift ideas I wouldn't mind receiving as my "big" gift for Christmas...

MICHAEL Michael Kors Coat

I already have this wonderful jacket in orange, and while I do love it, I would like to have one in a more versatile color, like black. Right now it's on sale, so that's even better. And if the price isn't as low in stores, just show them the online price and Macy's will match it. Doesn't get much better than that.

Karl Lagerfeld '7' Watch

It's pretty rare for me to leave the house without a watch. While I do switch between my Michael Kors and my Betsey Johnson watches, I do wish I had a nice gold tone watch. I used to have a knock off MK watch that I picked up from Target, but once I had the real thing, I didn't even bother to put it back on again so I passed it on to someone else. This Karl Lagerfeld watch is both beautiful and classy and at 36mm it's the perfect size for my tiny wrist. There is a larger option at 44mm, but that's far too oversized for my liking.

A Bicycle

Photo from Trek

Now I'm not planning on doing a ton of mountain biking or a ton of road biking, but I would like a bicycle so I can do something. I really haven't had my own bike since the hand-me-down Schwinn I got way back when. Luckily for me I have awesome parents who got a custom paint job to make it brand new and just for me. The color I chose? Bright green. Not unlike the color of my latest phone case or the details on this one. Anyway, I've never ridden a bike I liked more than that one, but I'm thinking I'd like one that has the best of both worlds - road and mountain capabilities. I don't need a full suspension bike, so one that's similar to this would be perfect. Well, at least I think it would be. And yes, I realize this is a man's bike and not a woman's. I prefer boy bikes.

I could be wrong, but I feel like I'm a fairly easy person to shop for. And more often than not I'm going to love what someone gets me because it really is the thought that counts. But if you're still having trouble, when in doubt, there's always some interesting ideas on Pinterest...or the guitar from last year's list. 


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Simple Pleasures

Gosh I've been slacking in the Simple Pleasures department. I start them and I don't finish them in time to post on Friday. Or I lose steam, so by the time Friday evening rolls around, I'm even more exhausted. Anyway, Sundays seem to have a lot going for them in terms of how thankful I feel about things, so here are my simple pleasures...

A "New" Phone

Don't mind the orbs...

I still have an iPhone 4. Even though I could have upgraded last year, I opted not to. I also could have upgraded this year, but I'm holding out until the iPhone 6 rolls out next year. Since my trusty cover began to break on the sides, I tossed it and fished out an older one I kept around "just in case." I wasn't too fond of it anymore, so while I was out shopping the other day, I decided to look for a new one. This is the one that made the cut. If Jessica Day can have a bunny cover on her phone, why can't I have a turtle/baby dinosaur on mine? Besides, it was $5 and it's totally fun.


Just the beginning...

Baking soothes my soul. I suppose that's why I spent the majority of Saturday in the kitchen making a big ol' mess. Actually, to be truthful, the mess I made wan't as bad as it usually is and I came out with a ton of delicious cookies. Also, I got to use the Pampered Chef mat which made everything so much easier.

A Delivery

Inside, Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish

When I ordered the full size Liz Earle face wash from the October Birchbox, I was pretty excited to receive it. That is, until I received an email telling me it was backordered. But to make things better, Birchbox gave me 100 extra points, which translates into $10 to spend at the shop. Now THAT is quality customer service. Seriously. Well, it finally arrived and I'm still just as thrilled with the product as I was when I first reviewed it. Maybe even more. Besides, getting a package in the mail still thrills me even when I already know what's inside.

Well, I hope you enjoyed your weekend! Tomorrow is Monday and I'm dreading it as always, but at least I'll get a little bit of a break with Thanksgiving just around the corner!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Beauty Spotlight

When it comes to bronzers, I instantly fell in love with NARS bronzing powder in Laguna. Then this started happening...

Every beauty lover's nightmare...seeing the bottom of the compact.

I continued to use it and tried to focus on using the right side, but eventually tragedy struck and I was left with a crumbly mess. It's still usable, but I can no longer tote it around in the makeup bag I keep in my purse. So, instead of going out to buy a new one, I decided to try one I had received just before summer in the Sephora Sun Safety Kit.

Enter my new favorite matte bronzer....

Based on the gold font chipping, you can tell it's been in my makeup bag

Too Faced in Chocolate Soleil

When I first swiped my brush across this bronzer and applied it my cheeks, I immediately thought, "Oh my gosh, this smells like CHOCOLATE!" A quick flip of the case revealed that Too Faced Matte Bronzing Powder is made with REAL cocoa. What does that mean? It means that every time I use it, I am met with the sweet scent of cocoa and it absolutely makes my morning. I am a chocoholic after all! While I thought it might be a bit dark for me, it turns out it isn't too bad when I top it off with a finishing powder that tones it down just enough to make it look more natural.

This is definitely a bronzer I will repurchase because it's officially part of my no-makeup makeup routine. It's also something I've been enjoying wearing during the fall because it's lack of sparkle makes it seem more appropriate for the current season and also for the upcoming winter. I haven't ditched my NARS bronzer completely, but for now, I'll be thinking about having a nice hot cup of cocoa every time I wear this particular Too Faced bronzer.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November Birchbox Review Part Deux

I wanted to knock out the whole November Birchbox review in one post, but I didn't feel it was fair until I actually painted my nails and used the other products again to give them a thorough testing. So here we go with the second part...

Chella Highlighter Pencil 

Photo from Birchbox

While a highlighter isn't usually a part of my morning makeup routine, I found that this one was more of a multipurpose pencil that works not only as a highlighter, but also as a concealer. I did take a few extra moments to make sure I sampled it properly as a highlighter, however, and was pleased with how smoothly it glided onto my face. I chose to use it under my eyes and down the bridge of my nose (locations typically reserved for my favorite concealer) and also on my brow bone. I certainly wasn't disappointed with the way Chella's pencil performed and I will likely alternate between using this and my concealer. I was really surprised with how a little highlighting on the brow bone does wonders for brightening the eyes. Maybe it was the contrast with my dark brows, but it just did something. And that something was amazing. The pencil also did a fairly good job as a concealer, but I will probably stick with my concealer for problem areas. 

Verdict: It's much more than just a highlighter. This multifaceted pencil works well as a concealer and is a fix-it type product. If you only have room to take one product with you for the night to brighten and conceal, this is will be your new secret weapon. 

Vasanti BrightenUp! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator

Photo from Birchbox

I don't know about using this three to five times per week since my skin is so sensitive, but I would use it once a week, possibly twice if I felt the need. After the first use my skin did seem to feel softer (likely from the aloe) and it seemed to appear brighter as well (because that's what happens when your exfoliate!). Since my skin is currently in an overly sensitive stage, it's hard to say if it has contributed to a breakout, but I'm inclined to say it hasn't. The microderm crystals (which are Aluminum Oxide) exfoliated well and I liked that they were smaller granules than some other products I've used in the past. It didn't sting, it was gentle yet effective, and the scent was pleasant enough.

Verdict: While the product itself is vegan, not tested on animals, and is without a whole slew of other things like parabens, sulfates, and GMOs, it's still too soon to say if I'll be buying the full size product. I'll definitely continue to use the sample until it's gone and I'll revisit the possibility of purchasing once I see how my skin reacts over time. 

Color Club Nail Lacquer in Top Shelf 
from the Cocktail Hour Collection

Photo from Birchbox

I already sampled an opaque Color Club lacquer and loved it, so when this metallic beauty showed up this month, I was a little excited. Okay, I won't lie, at first I was apprehensive about trying it because it looked like it was a coppery shade my mom is particularly fond of rather than one that I gravitate towards, but after the first coat, I was hooked. It still does have a copper tone to it, but it's lighter than I expected it to be and it has a brilliant shine. While I tend to think of hard alcohol when I hear the words "Top Shelf," this one has a champagne-like feel to it that I've been searching long and hard for. I don't mean just months, I mean years. So, even though it has less sparkle and more sheen than the Raise A Glass strips I've been hoping to find in liquid form, this one is the closest I've come to a match and I am SO excited. I did apply two coats like I usually do, but I would even be content with one coat because it covers well enough and it has a semi-translucent effect that was incredibly appealing. Next time.

Verdict: Color Club comes through again with a quality nail lacquer. I honestly couldn't be happier with this metallic hue and I'll likely be buying another bottle so I'll have a backup when this one runs out. Also, I recently discovered that Color Club's products are vegan and they aren't tested on animals, so this is another purchase you can feel good about making. 

And just so you know I wasn't fooling around when I said I painted my nails, here's a snapshot.

Well, that's all the reviewing I can do for now in terms of Birchbox, so, until next time! I hope there's something special in next month's box for Christmas! 


Monday, November 18, 2013

November Birchbox Part Une

I think the mailman was surprised to see me burst out through the door on Friday after I heard the creak from the mailbox lid opening. I waved hello and tossed the rest of the mail on the table because there's nothing more important in those moments than discovering what's inside this month's Birchbox.

Photo from Birchbox
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the first thing I tried from this box was the bar of chocolate. I opened the package so quickly and took a bite that I didn't even have time to snap a photo of the pretty ChocoPod. I sure did savor the rich, dark chocolate and bursts of orange. It brought me back to those Christmases when I would get a chocolate orange in my stocking. The difference? This chocolate was at least 10 times better and the orange flavor seemed fresher. I would purchase another one of these in a heartbeat and I'd also love to try some of their other chocolate fusions. Might have to look into getting a gift set for myself! Verdict: Any chocolate lover will love this chocolate. While I can only truly speak for the dark chocolate and orange combination, I have no doubts the other flavors will satisfy your tastebuds as well. 

TOCCA Crema da Mano in Cleopatra

Photo from Birchbox
After devouring my chocolatey treat, I reached for the hand cream because after a long day at work, my hands were DRY. The cold weather has finally hit and it's certainly taking a toll on my skin. And with a scent name like "Cleopatra," this was essentially made just.for.me. Before I even tried it, I had high hopes. Of course I expected it to be a little on the greasy side (it is a cream after all), but it surprised me with how quickly it absorbed into my skin. For the thickness, I assumed it would sit on the surface a while, but after rubbing it into my skin, I realized it just left my hands feeling incredibly soft and smelling oh so divine. The light grapefruit and cucumber scent was delicious and clean. Verdict: I enjoyed the fragrance and the way it absorbed so quickly into my skin. It's definitely a product worth trying and I'll be using this down to the last bit. 

I'll be posting the second part of the review tomorrow. While I've tried the rest of the items, I want to give a couple of them another go around to make sure I accurately review them. Stay tuned! 


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Delivery Man Bonus Birchbox

The Delivery Man movie screening was a great way to promote Birchbox and introduce their products to people who maybe haven't tried them before. By allowing the ticket winners to bring a guest, Birchbox was opening up their potential customer base. Especially on the man's side since there were a fair amount of gentlemen in attendance. I actually wish I has asked for a man's box instead so I could have passed it along to someone who could be interested. C'est la vie. Maybe next time.

I was a little surprised to see there were only four items in there as opposed to 5, but considering the size of each of the samples, I wasn't even upset about it. I already have a sample of Folle de Joie from last month's box, but the other items I haven't had the opportunity to experience until now.

Evologie Stay Clear Cream

Photo from Birchbox

It's part of an all-natural skincare program that is free of parabens, sodium laurel sulfate, and alcohol, which is great. I've already used it a few times, but I have to say this is a face cream that I'll only be using at night. While it was fairly light and seemed to be hydrating, I did find that it didn't absorb into my skin completely and seemed to leave a film. For a night application it's not as big of a deal because I'm going to wash my face again in the morning, but when I tried to put makeup on over it in the morning, the residue seemed to start clumping and that's not attractive. A little unsettling, so I washed my face and used my regular moisturizer. I'm still giving this product a shot at night since I felt like there were a few problem areas of my skin that may have benefited from it, but I'll stick with my usual product for my morning routine. Verdict: After 8 hours of wear during the night there was less residue, so I do feel like it could have some redeeming qualities. Overall it's good for night, bad for mornings and makeup. A little goes a long way, so less is more with this product. 

Beauty Protector Shampoo & Conditioner

Photo from Birchbox

I love when I can try a shampoo and a conditioner together to really get the full effect of the products. Right away I loved the scent of them both, which made it great from the get go. The other benefits? This a vegan product that is without sulfates. I've used Pureology for years, but these two items are are a little more economical and almost seems to work better. At least that's how I felt after the first and second uses. My wet hair was not tangled at all when I ran a brush through it and as I dried it, I could feel just how soft it was going to be when I was done. Not only was my hair soft, but it was also silky and shiny. I can't even begin to describe just how hydrated my locks looked, especially the last few inches of my hair that have been subjected to two bleach washes. I'd probably still use a clarifying shampoo once a week like I usually do, but I'm already in love with this duo. Verdict: These are products worth investing in. They smell wonderful, make your hair look fabulous, and they're cruelty free. Truly a purchase you can feel great about. 

It's a little curious that I haven't tired of talking about Birchbox yet. Maybe it's because they have introduced me to so many new brands that I'm still in a state of wonderment. Or maybe it's because I like the surprise of what's inside in each month, but I have a feeling this is a company I'm going to be passionate about for a while. I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be receiving my November Birchbox in the mail today because I can't hardly wait! 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Birchbox Delivery Man

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a special screening of Delivery Man, prior to its release, put together by the great people at Birchbox.

While there weren't any Birchbox employees there like at the dinner in SF last month, there were a few lovely ladies from SutherlandGold who were looking fabulous and were also quite friendly. I had the pleasure of visiting with them for a few minutes prior to the screening. Now, I certainly wasn't going to go alone (going to the movies by myself isn't exactly the type of thing I like to do), so I naturally asked my seester to join me as my guest, and thankfully she was able to make it.

Photo from IMDb
First of all, I loved the movie. It was funny, it was cute, and who doesn't love Vince Vaughn? I was really happy with the film and I can honestly say that if I had paid to see it, I would not have been disappointed. I won't give anything away because that's quite honestly one of my biggest pet peeves, but here's the trailer if you want a sneak peek.

And of course there was the highlight of receiving a Birchbox once the film was over. I could barely stand to wait to open it...but that's the way I feel every.single.time. Anyway, I couldn't very well open it before my sis, especially since she's still waiting for the email to officially claim her subscription, so I tried to wait patiently. Once we were back on BART, people started to notice our bright pink boxes in hand, so if course I jumped at the opportunity to share with just about everyone within earshot of us about how wonderful Birchbox is. I even shared with the gentlemen around us that this isn't just for women, but there's also a little something for the men, too, with the Birchbox Man box! As a result, and with slight coercing from our peers, we opened them to display the contents. The man seated across from me even whipped out his keys to cut the tape. So what was inside?? You'll have to wait until my next post to see! Stay tuned!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Bonus Birchbox Part Deux

Alrighty, as promised, here is my review on the two remaining items of the bonus Birchbox I received from the San Francisco Birchbloggers dinner.

LA FRESH Eco Beauty Waterproof Makeup Remover

Photo from Birchbox

I'm always skeptical about eye makeup removers because I've only found one that I've ever really liked. I tried to be positive about this one, but unfortunately, it still fell a bit short. While it did remove most of the two coats of waterproof mascara I put on earlier today, it didn't remove all of it. I'm sure it does a much better job in removing stubborn lip color, or even water resistant eyeliner, but in terms of mascara, it could use some work. One thing I did like about it was that it felt fresh. Yes, I realize that "fresh" is in the name itself, but it did feel quite refreshing while I was attempting to remove my mascara. Also, it didn't irritate or burn my eyes at all. Verdict: I like the freshness, but I don't think I'll be using these regularly. They'd be perfect for travel and I'm confident they'd be great in removing lip color, but I'll be using a different product for my mascara removal.

Whish Three Wishes Body Butter

Photo from Birchbox - shown in Blueberry
Body butter is a product I don't regularly use because I don't like the overly greasy feeling that is often left behind. In the case of Whish's body butter, I didn't think it left my skin feeling greasy...as much. For my hands during the day, I'll stick with my go-to lotion, but for arms (especially elbows) and legs (especially knees), this worked like a charm. Since it's officially autumn and winter is just around the corner, this will be a great product to help keep my skin hydrated. Not to mention that it smells DELICIOUS. Like almost edible delicious. And while I am thoroughly enjoying the scent, I associate pomegranate with spring and summer, so I'd like to look into the almond or lavender scents for the cooler months. Verdict: I'd be willing to use this on my hands at night before bed, but not during the day. However, I will be using this on more consistently on my arms and legs. 

And just to recap from earlier today...

Davines LOVE Shampoo - It smooths hair and makes it shine. It's apparently good for all hair types and I'd purchase the full size product. 

Color Club Nail Lacquer in Mod in Manhattan - It's a smooth polish and goes on great. I'll continue to use this shade and will definitely look into some of their other colors for future nail lacquer purchases. 

Eyeko Skinny Mini Liquid Eyeliner - This liquid liner is a keeper. It's easy to use and goes on flawlessly. It's best stored upside down so when you do go to use it, the liquid is at the tip and not settled on the bottom. 

I am really pleased with the products I received in my bonus Birchbox and while I certainly wouldn't complain about having another box of them, I really hope the November Birchbox has other new products for me to try. 


Bonus Birchbox Part Une

I mentioned when I went to San Francisco for the Birchbloggers dinner at The Cavalier that Rachel and Alta gave us a Birchbox, but I didn't mention what was inside...until now. 

Bonus Birchbox Breakdown:

Davines LOVE Smoothing Shampoo
Color Club Lacquer in Mod in Manhattan
Eyeko Skinny Mini Liquid Eyeliner
LA FRESH Eco Beauty Waterproof Makeup Remover
Whish Three Wishes Body Butter

Davines LOVE Shampoo

Photo from Birchbox

If you haven't already noticed, the Davines LOVE shampoo isn't exactly full. That's because I've been using it! It's for dry and frizzy hair, but even my nearly never frizzy, oily hair didn't mind the formula. I've never smelled Indian Fig Extract, but to me this shampoo smells a little citrusy like grapefruit. I have a tendency to alternate shampoos, so I don't use it every day, but it's always a treat when I do. A little goes a long way with this shampoo. Verdict: It's apparently good for all hair types. I'd purchase the full size product. 

Color Club Mod in Manhattan 

Photo from Birchbox

This little guy was apparently part of the Wanderlust Collection, so it's a little smaller than their regular polishes. This opaque, off-white is not a color I would generally buy, but I was incredibly eager to try it. So, paired with my Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab, it's basically amazing. One coat isn't going to do it, but I find that you generally have to do two coats of anything to get a nice, smooth, rich color. Especially with opaque lacquers. I found that when I held my hand up to my off-white blouse that this particular hue has the slightest tinge of pink, but it's barely noticeable when it's just on your fingers (or toes!). Verdict: It's a smooth polish and goes on great. I'll continue to use this shade and will definitely look into some of their other colors for future nail lacquer purchases. 

Eyeko Skinny Mini Liquid Eyeliner

Photo from Birchbox

When it comes to eyeliner, I'm a pretty consistent user; however, I mainly gravitate towards a good pencil liner. Of course, this didn't deter me from trying it because who doesn't love a good cat eye or winged liner look? It takes some practice to master these eye makeup styles, but this Skinny Mini liner makes it a breeze because it's shaped like a traditional eyeliner and you can hold it more like you would a pencil liner. The liner flowed out easily and I didn't have a single problem with it. It stayed all day, didn't flake, and came off with my favorite eye makeup remover. I loved it so much, I'm particularly looking forward to using it when I don a set of faux lashes! Verdict: This liquid liner is a keeper. It's easy to use and goes on flawlessly. It's best stored upside down so when you do go to use it, the liquid is at the tip and not settled on the bottom. 

Stay tuned...I'll be finishing up my review with the last two items later on this evening!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Simple Pleasures

I started doing Simple Pleasures a couple of years ago to remind myself to appreciate the little things in life and also to reming myself that no matter how many bad days I've had, that life is good. Yesterday, I was having one of those days where I was feeling highly annoyed, incredibly irritated, and all around pessimistic regarding just about anything. Literally, the only thing I could possibly feel thankful for in those moments was the fact that it was Friday and the last work day before the weekend. That was the silver lining to my bad mood.

I realize I could have dug a little deeper to find things to be grateful for, but I didn't have it in me yesterday. I also realize those are the times I should really be posting because it will likely change my outlook on the day, but I was fully content in wallowing in my own displeasure.

Yes, I was (and still am) breathing and I acknowledge this as a good thing, but the second my last commenter told me to keep a positive attitude, I sort of just wanted to punch him in the face (no offense). I was having a bad day and I was fine with it. I wasn't posting it as a way for someone to try and cheer me up. I'm fully capable of doing that myself. At least while being fed up with the annoyances of the past few days I was able to find something that was positive. I wasn't being a total Debbie Downer. In fact, if I had just had the ability to withdraw from everything and everyone for a few hours, I probably would have emerged a happier, more balanced person. Today, I was able to enjoy the silence for a few hours and I can honestly say it's exactly what I needed.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Silver Jewelry Club

It may seem like a scam, but it's not...at least not in terms of the pricing. I have yet to take the several items I've ordered from Silver Jewelry Club to see if they're authentic gems as they claim to be, but seriously, I couldn't care less. Each and every item I've purchased has been wonderful and has looked great. Obviously, for such an economical price there are going to be some differences or cutbacks like the occasional lab created gem or a back that isn't as finished as the front, but you really can't beat the price for the pieces you're getting.

Now, there have been some changes over the years. For one thing, the jewelry isn't free any longer. They used to charge just $5.99 as a shipping fee for each piece of jewelry, but now shipping is free and you pay for the piece itself at a reduced price. The prices are incredibly reasonable and if you're just looking for a little something, you really can't go wrong.

So, what's the catch? Well, you kinda sorta have to wait for the item you want to appear online. See, the format for the site is that they sell one piece of jewelry (or a set) every 15 minutes. If it's not what you want, you can wait around for the page to refresh, or you can randomly check back to see what's new. Here's an example of an item on the site that was selling this afternoon.

Accurate descriptions are given (it clearly states this item is made with a lab created ruby and the cubic zirconia), but just make sure you check out the photos with the labeled dimensions so you can really get an idea of the size. The pictures are large, so sometimes you might think it's going to be larger than it really is, but if you take the time to pull out a ruler, you won't be surprised when it arrives. One drawback? Sometimes the rings aren't in the size you need and there's not really a whole lot you can do about that except hope it'll show up in your size at a later time...or do you even have to wait?

Here's the thing. The jewelry really comes from a place called Peora. So, if you missed your item, or you'd like to purchase a ring in a different size (or a different ring altogether) than the one offered by SilverJewelryClub.com, you can purchase it through the Peora website, but you'll be paying more for it. The above piece is retailing there for $24.99.

hile I'll probably never venture into the Peora site to purchase something at full price, I will continue to occasionally check out Silver Jewelry Club because I love the pieces I've bought and I don't feel guilty about buying them since they're so economical. So what are the items I gambled on nearly a year ago?

This Marquise Cut London Blue Topaz
Photo from Peora

This Trillion Cut necklace, but in the Green Amethyst. 
Photo from Peora

And most recently, I had an impulse buy with this Garnet and Citrine necklace, which I gave to my mom. 
Photo from Peora

Those are the website grabs, here are the first two items in real life...though the lighting could be better. 


The chain is my own, although I did "splurge" on an 18" silver chain when I bought my mom's necklace...it set me back a whole $5. I really don't have any complaints. The items I bought met or exceeded my expectations and I've received quite a few compliments when I've worn them. And if you're worried about spam or having them flood your email with promotions, don't be. In the past year, I haven't received a single email from them other than a confirmation of my order (just make sure you don't check the box to receive promotions and you'll be fine). As for how long it took for the pendant to get to me, well, I didn't even have time to wonder where it was because it arrived rather quickly. It's hard to say how long it would take to get to, say, New York, but since Peora is based out of LA and I'm a mere 400 miles north, it was fast.

Another thing to mention is that when you receive the item, it does come with a box, but the jewelry inside is also in a small plastic bag. So if you're planning on giving it as a gift, I'd make sure you remove it from the bag and also take off the product number tag that is affixed to it. Well, what are you waiting for? Go check it out and see if the next item on the site tickles your fancy.