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.