Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The First Wunkle Wednesday!

So since he's on the banner and in the blog title and all, I figure it's probably time to introduce you to Munky Wunkle. Wunkle is, as you may have deduced, a stuffed monkey. I'm not really positive how he came to be in my possession; he just turned up in the back of my SUV one day many moons ago. I think he must have fallen out of a load of stuff I hauled to Goodwill for someone, and gotten tucked up under the seat or something. In any case, he languished in there for a long time... and then one day, my boyfriend (at the time) and I were on vacation. We'd vacationed in the same place four or five times at that point, and every time we took the same pictures of us in the same places, and I was bored. So when we went to visit a nearby lighthouse, I grabbed the monkey out of the backseat and took his picture instead. And thus, the legend of Munky Wunkle was born.

Munky Wunkle at the Ponce de Leon Inlet Light. He really likes lighthouses.
It's not a very good photo... I hadn't yet mastered the fine art of stuffed monkey photography, so you can see my thumb holding him. I've come a long way since this photo, and now this little guy has become my version of Travelocity's "Roaming Gnome," stowing away in my travel tote bag and posing for all kinds of photos. He's even been places that I've never gone, because he's taken a couple of trips with my wackier friends. Can you believe this little shit has been to Paris, and I haven't? Le sigh. In any case, dear reader, you'll be able to enjoy Wunkle's travels every Wednesday, when I'll be sharing some of his greatest hits, and I'll also bring you new adventures whenever I get a chance to take a trip!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 2014 Ipsy Bag Review: "Fresh Picks"

Another month, another Ipsy bag in my mailbox. But wait! This month, there were actually two bags in my mailbox. That's right... since Ipsy bags contain 4-5 items out of a larger array of possible products (26 items total for May), and since I have tended not to receive the items I wanted the most in past months, I decided to sign up for a second bag in hopes of receiving a wider variety of the available items. A little over-the-top? Perhaps. But better for you, dear reader? Again, perhaps... but not so much for this month, because I ended up getting multiple duplicate items. Le sigh.

Bag #1, in which I blow your mind with my amazing powers of camouflage.
So since I recently discovered the joy of using my stash of craft papers as backdrops for my photos, I was happy to dig this print up. But then I discovered its fatal flaw... it goes so well with May's "Fresh Picks" vine-printed bag that the bag is practically invisible! It amuses me, though, to make you play a wee bit of "Find the Bag." It's there, I promise. (Side note: I just noticed that this also flows nicely with my blog's background. Mind = blown.)

Okay, fine. Here's the bag.
The bag itself, as per usual, earned mixed reactions from me; I like the print, minus the standard "ipsy" logo incorporated into it, but was disappointed that the print is only on one side. The bag is made from a nubby burlap sort of fabric, which is a refreshing change... but I could see it getting stained up very easily.

Bag #2's contents, duplicates and all.
 Before I delve into reviewing the products, I'd like to take a moment to raise a little hell about Ipsy's shipping. It's included in the $10 price, which yay, but they ship via DHL, which I have discovered is the CRAPPIEST SHIPPING SERVICE EVER. It is so appallingly slow that I almost wish they didn't send tracking numbers, because it's excruciating to watch my packages travel to Georgia only to languish there for days, then get stuck in Hebron, Kentucky, for another ridiculously excessive amount of time before finally being transferred to the USPS and reaching me in Louisville. And then this month! Two Ipsy bags, both shipped at the same time, traveled together all the way to Hebron, but then were transferred to the USPS three days apart! To be fair, in this case, it was actually kind of nice to get my little treats on two different days instead of all at once, but still. How does that make any sense? I wish Ipsy would switch to a more reliable shipping service.

Anyway, let's get on to the important stuff, shall we? I'll admit that I wasn't looking particularly forward to either of my bags, and in fact was having a little buyer's remorse about signing up for that second bag, because I didn't find any of the available options terribly exciting. As with January's Ipsy bag, this month's selections were very skincare-heavy, which isn't nearly as fun as getting pretty colored things. The only item I really wanted from Ipsy's sneak peeks was a Too Faced bronzer, and clearly that's not in either of the above photos. Boo. Hiss. And then when I saw I'd be receiving duplicates of three items, the bloom was definitely off the rose. As usual, though, at least one item pulled through to make my subscription worthwhile!

In both bags, I found:
  • Jersey Shore Sun Sans Tan Anti-Aging Sunscreen with SPF 35 (deluxe sample, valued at $10.00): So sunscreen is always a good thing in my book, because I am a grown-up who does grown-up things like putting on high SPF (usually) and not using SPF 2 oil (anymore). I wasn't particularly enthused about getting these small sample sizes, because I am of the "slather it on and re-apply often" school of thought, so this tiny tube would probably not last a day with me. I also found the price off-putting, because I am not opposed to buying the industrial-sized vat of No-Ad, and I consider buying Hawaiian Tropic for the smell to be a "splurge" in the realm of sunscreen. So, unless Jersey Shore Sun's SPF is SPF-ier than any other SPF, I see no reason to spend that much money on something people won't even be able to see on me. Except... THEY CAN SEE IT ON ME. The bottle says "Pure White Mineral Sunscreen" as though that's a good thing, but it left an unappealing pallor on my skin (see ghost wrist below), which I'm pretty sure was not the goal. I was able to dissipate the white sheen with a crap-ton of rubbing, but frankly, that makes me worry that it has to be spread too thinly in order to disappear on me. No thanks. I'll pass these along to one of my fair-skinned friends, and go back to soaking in the No-Ad.

  •  Pacifica Mineral Eyeshadow Duo in "Duo 1" (valued at $4.45): These duos appear to be exclusive to Ipsy, since Pacifica's eyeshadows are currently all in quad form, so I calculated the value based on shadow weight. Two color options were available, and I was really hoping to get one of each, so of course I got two of the same one. Oh well, off to my little sale/trade box with one of them! I wasn't expecting much from these shadows, because the colors looked pretty bland in photos, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much better they are in person. The golden shade, "Celestial," is a nice "my eyelids but shimmery" color that will come in handy for neutral but pretty work makeup, and the other shade, "Opal," looks like a blah pale beige in the pan but applies with a pretty pink sheen... opalescent, if you will, so I guess it's not just a clever name. Opal is a little powdery, but not too bad. The main issue I had with this product is the cheapness of the compact; upon opening it, the lid popped right off when I pushed it just a little further back than vertical. It didn't break, so I was able to snap it right back on, but still. A little dinky, Pacifica, especially when I'm used to your products having impeccably beautiful packaging. I doubt I'll buy these in the future, only because I already have plenty of eyeshadows and some higher-quality neutrals in the same vein, but I wouldn't throw them out of bed either. I will, however, most likely use the Pacifica promo code to buy more completely unneeded smelly-goods, at which Pacifica absolutely excels.

  •   Hey Honey Take It Off! Exfoliating Peel-Off Mask (deluxe sample, valued at $7.00): This may sound ageist or something, but I'm generally not a fan of peel-off masks, because they just seem juvenile to me... something I used as a pre-teen because they were fun to try to peel off in big pieces, not something I'd choose to use as an adult. That's probably silly of me, but it's just how I roll. Also, this is another sample that I think is too small. I'm not trying to whine, but in terms of skincare products, I feel like a sample should be large enough for multiple uses in order to see how it performs on one's skin over time. I'll be lucky to get two full uses out of one tube. This sample is so small that there wasn't even room on the back to print instructions... instead, it directs users to the Hey Honey website. Funny. Anyway, this mask is a chemical exfoliant featuring alpha hydroxy acid... and upon reviewing said instructions, I have to say I found it odd that users are supposed to put moisturizer on *before* applying the mask. Call me crazy, but it seems to me that treatments like this would work better on a clean face, so I found myself worried that the AHA was going to burn like a mofo. Anyway, it's a thick, clear gel that goes on without much of a noticeable scent at all. Slathered it on... waited... and peeled. Amazingly, unlike the peel-off masks of my youth, this one came off in more or less one giant piece, leaving only a few little scraps that had to be cleaned up. (And some of that was user error... stupid eyebrows getting in the way.) Followed up with some moisturizer, and my skin did feel tightened and a little refreshed, although no visible difference. Since I've got two tubes, that should equal four to maybe five uses, but I doubt I'll re-buy after that unless my skin suddenly starts absolutely glowing, because I'm generally happy with the physical exfoliants I currently use.
"Don't call me honey, honey!"  -Pierce Hawthorne

 Okay, enough with the duplicate items! Hopefully next month, I'll get a better variety of products. When signing up for Ipsy, you fill out a quiz about your beauty habits and preferences, so I've gone back and tried to make sure that there's no overlap between my quiz answers for the two subscriptions. Fingers crossed... but if my bags are dupe-y again, I'll be canceling the second one. Now, let's move on to the items that were unique to each bag.

  • Pur-lisse Pur-Moist Hydra-Balance Moisturizer (deluxe sample, valued at $16.18): While 20-something me would have scoffed at the high price of this moisturizer, then maybe slapped some random body lotion on my face if it felt particularly itchy, 30-something me has become completely okay with the concept of spending exorbitant amounts of money on skincare. I'm very accustomed to people guessing that I'm somewhere in my 20s and being shocked when I reveal my age, and I want to keep it that way as long as possible. I'm not going to pop the seal on this sample yet, because I JUST cracked open some expensive-ass creams from Skyn Iceland that I bought myself as one of my rewards for quitting smoking, so I'm going to keep this little guy to try the next time I'm traveling.

I hate the lower-case affectation. Capitals are your friend!
  • Avene Thermal Spring Water (deluxe sample, valued at $9.00): My first reaction to this: "WATER IN A CAN? You have GOT to be shitting me." I know I used this reference in a past Ipsy review, but to me, this product is really like "The Emperor's New Clothes," in that I picture an Avene executive saying, "But if we put FRENCH on the label and call it something fancy like THERMAL, nobody will notice that we just put WATER IN A CAN!" And then all the Avene test subjects start spraying themselves, trying not to choke as they accidentally inhale water vapor, and oohing and aahing over the restorative magic of Frenchie spring eau thermale. Although I'll certainly never buy this, it will get used... I am saving this bottle for the next particularly hot day that I have to spend outside for some reason. I'm sure it will be refreshing when I'm roasty-toasty at the beach or an outdoor concert or something. I mean, it's water. (In a can.)

Water. In a can.
  • Eva NYC Therapy Session Hair Mask (travel size, valued at $12.00... or less): Beware, faint praise and a bust ahead! I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this product, quality-wise, but nothing particularly good either. It conditioned my hair about the same as my usual conditioner, so I certainly wouldn't say that it's restorative enough to be called something snazzy like a "hair mask." It smells okay, nothing mind-blowing, but not unpleasant. I would certainly never pay the $40 price on Eva NYC's website... which, amusingly enough, appears to be a mark-up by Eva NYC to compensate for the 65% off promo code offered to Ipsy subscribers. For comparison, here is the same product regularly priced at $14.99 at Ulta, and $15.99 at Walgreens. So basically, I can buy the full-sized product at one of those locations for almost the same price that Eva NYC has listed for this travel-sized bottle. Ridiculous.

  • Derma E Microdermabrasion Scrub (deluxe sample, valued at $16.25): I saved the best for last... I almost decided not to keep this, since I have zero problem with whipping up my own sugar scrubs, but then I sniffed it and found myself in love with the scent. It's a beautiful bright lemony aroma, no artificial Pledge lemon smell here! So I figured I'd keep it and see if there was really anything to the whole "micro" part of "microdermabrasion." As it turns out, I may have been missing out all that time I was making my own scrubs! The exfoliating grains in this scrub are super-fine and don't feel nearly as abrasive as my sugar, but my face still feels just as smooth afterward. My only nitpick? The label on the jar is wrinkled in a couple of places, as you can see below. If I'm going to spend $30 on a product, I think it should at least look like it was packaged with care, and since this sample is actually half the amount of product put into a full-sized jar, the wonky label bothers me. Still, this is something that I might actually purchase once I run out... which won't be too awfully soon, because the sample size is pretty generous, and a little goes a long way.

Label wrinkles = OCD tweaked.
Overall, I was not terribly happy with this month's Ipsy offerings. The return on my $20 investment was good from a price-only standpoint; Bag #1 rang in at $51.70, and Bag #2 at $46.63, for a total of $98.33. However, the value plummets if we look at the Ulta/Walgreens vs. inflated Eva NYC price for the hair mask. And then let's break that down to the value of the products I'll actually use.... and at least two of those are products I would absolutely not buy again (the Avene and the Eva NYC), and I probably won't wind up buying the Hey Honey or the Pur-lisse (unless either one surprises me and blows my mind, I'll keep using scrubs and will remain Skyn Iceland's bitch). So the actual value for me is pretty low this month, but I'm still happy enough with a couple of the items that I'm not left shaking my fist angrily and cursing Ipsy's name. I'm already looking forward to June; since this month was so skincare-heavy, I'm hoping for a return to lots of fun makeup next month!

If my less-than-glowing review has somehow left you chomping at the bit to try Ipsy for yourself, please feel free to clicky-clicky here to sign up using my referral link. (As always, a disclaimer: I get points if you use my link, which I can redeem for products, but I would not share my link if I did not find Ipsy entirely worthwhile.)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Munchies by Mail Review: Graze Box #4

So somehow I completely failed to document the existence of this week's Graze Box before throwing all the snacks into my work lunches the last couple of days... no photos for you, dear reader. Oops. Luckily, at least it wasn't a pretty new box, but the same fig design as last week's box, so go take a glance at that one if you need a refresher. Also, on the topic of refreshers... in case you'd forgotten or just plain don't know, Graze is a snack subscription service I'm test-driving. In the interest of having at least something graphic to look at for this review, here's a screencap of the box's contents, courtesy of Graze's website.

On to the eating!
  • Toffee Apple: This snack was a pleasant surprise. I generally prefer the creamier texture of caramel to toffee, and I dearly love the combination of fresh apple slices dipped in some Marzetti caramel dip, so I wasn't sure that some dried apples and toffee would live up. I was wrong, though... this toffee dip is smooth and delicious, and the flavor is strong enough that a little goes a long way. The dried Granny Smith apple slices are pleasantly chewy and tart, a good contrast to the sweetness of the dip. This didn't quite earn a "love" rating, but it's a solid "like," which means that I want to receive it occasionally in the future.
  • My Thai: This is one of the snacks I was really looking forward to receiving, and I wasn't disappointed. This combo features "baked soy bites" with a dipping sauce that reminds me very much of Trader Joe's Sweet Chili Sauce. (If you have not tried this sauce, get thee straight to your nearest Trader Joe's and buy a bottle or three. And perhaps some of their frozen Veggie Gyoza, and dip those bad boys in the sauce. You're welcome, in advance.) The sauce is a beautiful balance of sweetness and spice, with just the right amount of chili-infused heat to light up your tastebuds without setting them on fire. The dippers are light, crunchy little vessels that let the sweet chili sauce be the star of the show... I just wish there had been a few more of them! This snack didn't quite earn a "love" rating either, only because the sauce isn't completely unique to me, but it did earn a "like."
  • Sour Cream and Onion Cashews: This is the first snack I've received that has actually stumped me in terms of a rating, because I can't decide if I like it or not! I like cashews, so that part is fine, but the sour cream and onion seasoning... I'm just not sure what I think. I like the flavor, but it's strong enough that I don't really want to eat more than a few at a time, which I guess is maybe a good thing for a snack? But because of that, I don't know if I really find them satisfying or not. I'm actually leaving these rated as "try" for now, so I can give them another whirl at some point before committing to a real rating.
  • Tropical Daiquiri: The first couple of fruit-only blends I received in previous boxes were disappointing... but this one has broken the streak. A blend of dried pineapple, green mango, and lime-infused raisins, this snack won me over with its tartness. No bland sweetness here! I daresay the mango even verges on sour, but in a thoroughly refreshing way. I really like what Graze does with flavor-infused raisins; I don't know if I was just thinking it because of the snack's name, but I swear that in addition to lime, the raisins also offer up a hint of rum flavoring that enhances the overall impression of "daiquiri." Again, not *quite* a love, but a hearty "like" for this little treat.
So, overall, this was a very solid Graze Box for me. No true star of the show, but nothing got "trashed" either. As I say each time, I'm still not 100% sold on the overall value of these boxes from a price perspective, but I enjoy receiving them enough that it's worth it to me anyway. If you're interested in checking it out for yourself, please feel free to clicky-clicky here to sign up using my link. You will get your first and fifth boxes free, and I will get to either take a dollar off a future box or donate a buck to the Graze School of Farming.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Product Review: Demeter Cologne in Lilac, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Pink Grapefruit, Thunderstorm, Salt Air, Saltwater Taffy, Almond, and Piña Colada

Demeter Fragrance Library is, to put it mildly, an overwhelming extravaganza of olfactory experiences. Billed as offering "simple, subtle, singular scents," Demeter's library encompasses hundreds of fragrances designed to evoke specific, individual scent associations rather than the complex blends found in typical perfumes. Really love an individual flower, food, or have fond memories of your grandpa's pipe or the smell of church incense? Demeter's got you covered. What really sets Demeter apart, however, is a bold willingness to make damn near anything into a perfume; some of the more, shall we say, "exotic" offerings include Wet Garden, Crayon, Turpentine, Funeral Home, and even Earthworm. No lie. (Not being particularly brave, I only ventured as far as Thunderstorm, but maybe one day I'll go rogue and find out how I smell wearing Dirt.) Demeter's fragrances are all available in a variety of forms, ranging from half-ounce "mini splashes" to full-size cologne sprays and home fragrance products.

I discovered Demeter via my Ipsy subscription; Demeter's Jasmine rollerball perfume was one of a variety of options available to Ipsy subscribers in April, and although I actually wound up not receiving one in my bag, I decided to avail myself of the 20% discount code offered to all Ipsy subscribers. Because I had an impossible time winnowing my choices down to a reasonable amount, I decided to go with the "mini splashes" at $6 apiece (pre-discount) in order to try a healthy variety of scents without breaking the bank. I was also buoyed by Demeter's user-friendly return policy; any scent you don't like, you can send back for return, exchange, or refund (you pay shipping on returned items, but I think that's fair). I'll be sending back a few of my mini splashes in exchange for larger sizes of the scents I ended up adoring... or maybe for some of the scents that didn't quite make the cut the first time around (I'm looking at you, Condensed Milk).

Without further ado, on to the smelly-goods!

Left to right: J/K, I'm not listing them here. If you can't read the labels, we've got problems.
  • Honeysuckle: I. LOVE. THIS. FRAGRANCE. I cannot say enough good things about it. It is the exact scent of honeysuckle warming in the summer sun, more purely and simply reminiscent of the actual flower than I could have expected from a cologne. Seriously, one spritz and I'm a kid again, biking past a honeysuckle bush on my way to the swimming pool and stopping to suck that one sweet drop of deliciousness out of a blossom. If every Demeter cologne hit the nail on the head this perfectly, I'd go broke buying their entire line, and if I wore this to work, my patients would probably wonder why the nurse kept surreptitiously sniffing herself.
  • Jasmine: While I'm not quite as passionately enamored of this fragrance as I am of Honeysuckle, it's a pretty damn close second. Demeter can DO some flowers, y'all. To me, this is beautifully evocative of sitting in my best friend's South Carolina backyard, with the scent of the Confederate jasmine on her fence wafting on a balmy evening breeze. I wore it to work and one of my colleagues said I smelled like freshly cut grass and flowers, which also sounds like a good thing to me! It's just fresh, lovely, and relaxing.
  • Pink Grapefruit: I'm not entirely sure what I think of this interpretation. It starts off with the specific bright, tangy, juicy notes you'd expect from grapefruit in particular, but it dries down into something more... generic, I guess, is the only way to put it. Like, pick up any citrus-scented lotion or spray you've got, and this cologne probably smells sort of like that once the initial burst of scent wears off. I will be hanging onto this one to try layering it with some of the others, though, because I think I'll be able to come up with some tropical-leaning combinations that will make me happy.
  • Lilac: This is a sweet, clean, fresh scent... my only complaint is that it doesn't smell close enough to the specific variety of lilac that grows in my mother's garden, which is the scent association I was really hoping to trigger with this fragrance. I won't be keeping this one, only because I love the other two florals so much more that I'm not sure I'd ever get around to using this one!
Part Deux. Again, I really hope you can figure these out on your own.
  • Thunderstorm: So I wanted to try one of Demeter's more unique offerings, and since I adore that particular smell that permeates the air right before a good storm, I opted to check out this one. Unfortunately, I found it pretty disappointing... to me it's more of a generic "masculine" sort of scent than anything rain-related. This one will be getting exchanged.
  • Piña Colada: The name says it all... fruity, syrupy-sweet, a hint of rum, a little bit of an umbrella-drinky vacation in a bottle. On the downside, it's not particularly unique in the realm of tropical scents, and it doesn't have much lasting power, so I'll be sending it back even though I like piña coladas (and getting caught in the rain... yeah, yeah, I know you were thinking it).  
  • Almond: Admittedly, I should have trusted that Demeter can distinguish between almond and amaretto, but I still ordered this in the hopes that it would be more of an amaretto scent. Wrong on that one! This is a very "foodie" scent, redolent with nutty fragrance... it really smells like some baked deliciousness that, of course, contains almonds. It's a lovely scent, but not one that I can see myself wearing regularly. I'd say that I would love my house to smell like this, but Demeter's home fragrance products are priced a wee bit higher than I think is necessary (and I prefer candles to diffusers and whatnot anyway).
  • Salt Air: This was my most eagerly anticipated scent, and tragically, it's one that I'll be sending back. As with Thunderstorm, I was expecting something very different than this fragrance, which honestly reminds me of any candle with "Ocean" or "Beach" in the name. It's what fragrance makers think the ocean *should* smell like, not what it actually smells like, with the sharp brine of salty air, maybe just a hint of suntan lotion in the breeze, and even a little undercurrent of seaweed. If someone could master THAT scent, I would buy ALL the smelly-goods. As it is, this is a perfectly serviceable fragrance, but not the one I was shooting for, and not one that really suits me to wear. Sending back.
In addition to the eight scents I ordered, I received a bottle of Demeter's Saltwater Taffy cologne spray as a gift with $25 purchase. I doubt I'd have ever chosen this one on my own, and I'm not terribly enamored with it. Honestly, it reminds me very much of the Bath and Body Works vanilla spray in which I pretty much marinated throughout my high school years. Perfectly pleasant and serviceable, but just nothing special for me. I wouldn't keep it if it hadn't been a free gift to begin with.

So, overall, my order was pretty hit-or-miss, but the hits were HITS. Honeysuckle and Jasmine make me super-happy, and those alone were worth the price of admission. I will be returning Lilac, Thunderstorm, Piña Colada, and Salt Air, and getting spray bottles of my two favorite florals and a rollerball of Honeysuckle for my purse. A relatively trivial bother: I wish Demeter's labels were more stylish. As is, they're terribly boring, and I hate the Comic Sans-ish font on the mini splashes. I can see how label design would be an issue with as many fragrances as Demeter is juggling, but still. I like my pretty packaging.

You'll have to excuse me now... I'm off to go douse myself with Honeysuckle and sniff my wrist until I fall asleep.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Rainbow Honey May 2014 Mini Mystery Bag Review (and Other Pretties)

Anyone who knows me knows that I am pathologically incapable of growing long, ladylike fingernails. I have the nails of a 14-year-old boy, or perhaps a migrant farm worker... short, stubby, weak, and perpetually breaking off. It probably doesn't help that I can't completely break myself of the habit of using them as tools, and that as a nurse, my nails get drenched in hand sanitizer approximately eight basquillion times a day. And to add insult to injury, my nail beds are actually wider than they are long, so even when I manage to grow out a little bit of length, they STILL look like stubs. Just can't win, y'all. I'm reminded of a scene in the movie "Mean Girls" wherein the titular characters all start ragging on their own perceived worst features.

Get out of my head, Karen! It's like you have ESPN or something.*

Because I am cursed with these tragic little excuses for fingernails, I have generally avoided painting my fingernails for most of my life. I envied all the women with perfectly lacquered talons, while thinking that my nails looked like Skittles stuck to the ends of my fingers whenever I tried to put any color on them. Pretty polish was for pedicures only, and that was that. Well, NO MORE, I say! Somehow I have come to the realization that I am the only person who really gives a crap what my nails look like, and I happen to like having obnoxious colors and sometimes glitter stuck to them. So there.

Via my newfound interest in cosmetics, I have been introduced to an entire realm of amazing indie nail polishes, created by artsy-crafty individuals and often sold in Etsy shops or in other small-scale operations. I'm so glad I've learned to look beyond the drugstore or Ulta shelves for nail polishes, because branching out is leading me to discover creative sellers like Rainbow Honey. Based out of New Jersey, Rainbow Honey offers a unique array of vibrant colors and festive glitters, as well as a small selection of nail care products and other bits and bobs. Rainbow Honey's polishes are also "3-free," which means that they apparently don't contain some icky chemicals that people don't like, so yay for that, I suppose. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of things that are going to kill me long before my nail polish does. But anyway... on to the pretties! Rainbow Honey offers a monthly "Mystery Bag" that contains three nail polishes and a sampling of other Rainbow Honey products, which is available in either full-size or mini form. The Mystery Bag is available for one-time purchase, is included with purchases over $65, and is now available as a monthly subscription as well. At just $10 for the mini bag, I couldn't resist adding one to the order I was placing, just to check it out.

Too cute for words.
My purchase arrived in a timely fashion, and isn't the packaging just adorable? I don't know about you, but I'm sure glad my nail polishes are produced in such a happy lab. There was even a silver Rainbow Honey sticker "sealing" the USPS box it was shipped in; I really appreciate a little extra attention to detail, so I liked that. Inside the cute wrapping, I found...

Look at this stuff. No, seriously, look at this picture, because there won't be individual shots of most items down below.
Left to right: Waves, Neon Blossom, and Petit Four minis.
 All in all, my bag is pretty evenly split between things I'll use and things that just don't float my boat.

Will use:
  • Petit Four nail polish: This polish is a pastel yellow with turquoise, pink, and red glittery bits. This looks like candy to me, which is fun, and yellow makes me happy, so I'm looking forward to giving this one a whirl when I've got a few days off from work.             
  • Nail Honey cuticle balm: This product has a nice smooth consistency, feels very moisturizing, and has a pleasant "baked-goods" aroma. I don't love that application of this balm in stick form is a bit messy and I end up having to get my fingers all up in it... but that's the only thing I don't love. My cuticles are gnarly little things, and they need all the help they can get.
  • Sakura Matsuri sugar scrub: I try to exfoliate regularly, so I'll save this little guy to throw into my suitcase the next time I'm traveling. Unfortunately, that means no breaking the plastic seal and checking it out for this review... sorry, but I think you'll live.
  • Summer Juice rollerball (photo below): This perfume is a lovely kick of summer in a tube... a smack-you-in-the-face citrus, redolent of grapefruit in particular for me. At first I didn't love the teensy size and unimpressive plain plastic packaging, but then I realized that this will actually be perfect to toss into my scrub pockets at work. I've learned that sometimes a dab of something pleasant under my nose can make the stinkier tasks of nursing a LOT easier to stomach. Suck it, stinky colostomy bag! I've got Summer Juice now, and I'm not afraid to use it. 

 Won't use:
  • Summer Juice shea butter soap (photo above): In theory, this has the same summery scent as the rollerball, which I like... but I just don't use bar soap. I don't even like to put out pretty little soaps like this for bathroom guests, because I feel like decorative soaps either sit there uselessly or get grody once they're used. Liquid soap ALL THE WAY.
  • Neon Blossom nail polish: Yellow glitter flowers + pink glitter hearts + a crap-ton of other tiny glitters in a clear base = just too cutesy for me. I don't mind large or bright glitters, but the saccharine-sweet shapes in this particular mix just aren't for me.
  • Waves nail polish: For some reason, although I love yellow and green nail polishes, I just can't cross the bridge into the realm of blues. Unlike the other two polishes, this one has a fine glitter shimmer instead of large pieces of glitter, and it has a pretty golden sheen that almost makes it lean a little green to my eye. On second thought... maybe I do need to at least try this one, because the more I look at it, the more that slight green shift makes me flash to snorkeling in the waters around the Turks and Caicos, and that's a pretty darn nice association for a nail polish to trigger.
  • Nail art supplies: Nail art just is not my jam. I've been known to do some occasional polka dots, but that's IT. Don't have the patience or the nail space for effective nail art, and although I try to refrain from uttering these words, I feel too old for a lot of the nail art I see. Maybe one day I'll attempt something like a gradient... so I suppose I'll hang onto the sponge applicators, but I will definitely never use the little square studs.
So. Will I sign up for a Rainbow Honey subscription? No... honestly, I just don't think a nail polish subscription in general is the right fit for me, and even if I decided to do one, Rainbow Honey's catalog includes an awful lot of polishes that, like Neon Blossom, are just too "precious" for my tastes. But will I order another Rainbow Honey Mini Mystery Bag in the future, if I'm already placing an order for something else? Yep, probably, because even though the bag was very hit-or-miss for me, it was a fun little surprise for $10.

Oh, I almost forgot! The bag I just blathered on about was actually a late addition to my original order, which I'll preview here and review at length soon. (Side note: this also marks the first blog entry for which I figured out that I can use my random scrapbook papers as product backdrops. I may be snapping my pictures on my bathroom counter with an iPhone instead of with a lightbox and a snazzy SLR, but HEY, COORDINATION.)

Even the boxes are stinkin' adorable!
Left to right: Sweet Talk, Nail Honey Cuticle Oil, Foxglove Foxtrot
Sweet Talk was the polish that won me over to Rainbow Honey... I don't remember where I first saw it, but I remember thinking, "Damn, that looks just like a jawbreaker, which is AWESOME." I read about the Nail Honey cuticle oil in a review while doing some research about Rainbow Honey's products, and decided that I needed to try it on my raggedy cuticles. I have to pause to give big credit to Rainbow Honey's customer care here... the cuticle oil, which was a brand-new item for the store at the time, went out of stock before my order could be fulfilled, and to make up for that, Rainbow Honey offered me the choice of any full-size item in the store! I chose the Foxglove Foxtrot as my "bonus" item, and they were super-quick to re-stock and send out both items. That's excellent customer service, in my opinion. Looking forward to trying out both polishes, and I'm already hopelessly in love with the cuticle oil. It feels so soothing, moisturizes beautifully, and smells just like cake batter. We're talking, like, an "if I'm not careful, someone might chew off my fingers" delicious smell. 

*Side note: if you've made it to the end and are still thinking that I'm a moron for captioning the "Mean Girls" image at the beginning of this post with "ESPN" instead of "ESP," you are way overdue for a viewing of "Mean Girls." Go Netflix it. You can thank me later.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Munchies by Mail Review: Graze Box #3

Another two weeks, another pretty Graze Box in my mailbox, a few flowers blooming on the sunny back porch... it's the small pleasures, my friends. A refresher: Graze is a snack subscription... for $6 a box (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly), subscribers receive four individually-packaged and customized snacks in a lovely box. It's honestly kind of ridiculous how much I enjoy Graze's presentation and the images they choose for the inside of their lids.

 Let's get down to business, shall we? This month's offerings:

  •  Wholegrain Banana Caramel Dippers: These are unbelievably delicious. The dippers are tender little shortbread bites with a strong banana flavor. The caramel is a pretty standard creamy caramel dip, nothing out of the ordinary. Combine the two, however, and you have sheer, unadulterated perfection. It actually provoked a really strong sense of deja vu for me, and it took me a while to place the flavor, but finally I recognized it as being very similar to a super-decadent layered dessert my sister makes called "Banana Split Cake." (It's basically this Kraft recipe, but her version involves more butter, powdered sugar, and a crap-load of maraschino cherries.) Since this snack is a very similar taste experience without the extra gazillion calories and grams of fat, it's rocketing straight to the top of my favorite-Graze-snacks list. My only complaint is that I can't get a Graze box just full of these. This garnered a hearty "LOVE" rating from me, which tells Graze that I would like to receive this snack often. Did you hear that, Graze? OFTEN. AS OFTEN AS YOUR KITCHEN PRODUCES THEM. SEND ME ALL OF THEM.
  • Bonnie Wee Oatbakes: So, we're going from the best to the worst here. Just to tell you how utterly appalling I found these, I actually had to fish them out of the trash can to take a picture because I threw them away so quickly that I neglected to even document their existence. The things I do for you (non-existent) readers. The oatbakes were the real problem with this snack; apparently they are meant to be "cheese and chive" flavored, but hand to God they taste exactly like what I imagine the flavor of dry cat food to be. They taste like my cats' Purina smells, the texture is horribly dry and hard, and they actually even kind of look like oversized cat food nuggets. (Or Scooby Snacks, which amused me for a hot minute once I realized it.) The red onion marmalade was better, an interesting blend of sweet, tart, and savory with a strong onion kick... too strong, I think, for me to eat as a dip, even if I scrounged up a more palatable dipper to use. I think this particular iteration of onion marmalade would have been good thinned out a bit and used to glaze some chicken, and I wish I would have thought of that before chucking this snack into the trash (both literally and figuratively in Graze-rating-speak).
  • Garden of England: From the good, to the bad, to the meh. This snack is a blend of dried apple pieces, strawberries, and blackcurrants. Nothing wrong here... just nothing to write home about, and nothing much left to say here. If you've eaten dried fruit, you get the idea. I hadn't tried blackcurrants before, as far as I know, but didn't find anything particularly unique about them, and I was unimpressed by the relatively small size of this snack as well. This one got a "trash" rating for sheer mediocrity.
  • Lightly Toasted Pistachios: another meh here. As with the Garden of England, these are just mundane. Pistachios are among my favorite nuts... and there's absolutely nothing to distinguish these lightly-salted nuts from the Wonderful brand of pistachios that I usually purchase. They are so similar, in fact, that after tasting a couple for reviewing purposes, I went ahead and dumped the package into my jar full of Wonderful pistachios. Hence, the following picture may be misleading, because I again forgot to take a picture of the Graze snack in its entirety, so instead I fished out a handful of nuts from the jar for a photo op. In theory, at least some of those pistachios should be the Graze ones. If not, sue me. Oh, and I "trashed" this snack too. Ain't nobody got time for the same ol' same ol' nuts.

So. Three boxes into this whole Graze thing, I'm finding that while I really enjoy the subscription as a whole, some of the individual snacks leave a lot to be desired. As I mentioned in my previous Graze review, one of the things I really like about Graze is the ability to "trash" snacks that you don't like. When I first signed up, I went through the entire range of Graze snacks and "trashed" all the ones that I knew wouldn't suit me, like BBQ-flavored things. Now that I know that Graze's all-fruit and all-nut offerings are perfectly adequate but bore me, I've gone through the range again and trashed most of those. In theory, this should mean that I will start getting more of the unique and interesting snacks that Graze offers, and even if they turn out to be failures for me like the Bonnie Wee Oatbakes were, at least I won't be bored! I also upped my subscription to arrive weekly, because I've found that these snacks are nice little surprises to toss into my lunch bag for work.

As always, if my ramblings about Graze have tempted you to want to try it, please feel free to clicky-clicky here to use my friend code to sign up. You will get your first and fifth boxes free, and I will get to either take $1 off a box or donate $1 to the Graze School of Farming.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Product Review: TokyoMilk Lip Elixir and Bon Bon Lip Balm

As I have recently learned, I am a total sucker for pretty cosmetics packaging. This is both a blessing and a curse; my wallet doesn't always appreciate it, but occasionally it leads me to a little gem of a product I might not have picked up otherwise. Case in point: TokyoMilk lip products.

TokyoMilk Dark Lip Elixirs in No. 42 La Vie En Rose and No. 36 Salted Caramel, Bon Bon Lip Balm in Candied Violette.
These lip balms are impeccably presented, and what's inside is generally just as appealing as what's on the outside... hit or miss on the scents/flavors for me, but there's sure to be something for everyone. I initially purchased the TokyoMilk Dark Lip Elixirs in the two flavors that caught my attention the most, Salted Caramel and La Vie En Rose. TokyoMilk offers an interesting array of bold flavors, including Clove Cigarette and Smoked Salt, but I wasn't feeling particularly brave when I placed my order. After receiving and loving my first two, however, I decided to expand my collection and scooped up two more: Coco Noir and Dead Sexy.

Apparently I'm a closet Goth.
These puppies are huge for lip balms! 0.7 oz. of product, and I think it's going to take me a long time to hit pan. The tins are lovely, with the logo embossed into the top and sealed with colored sticker bands that identify the flavor; one small tinge of disappointment is that once the bands are broken and removed, a bit of the flair of the packaging is also removed, plus there's no way to tell the flavors apart at a glance. You've got to check the label on the bottom of the tin. (I know, I know, first-world problems.) I suppose I could have left the sticker bands in place, but I know the torn edges would have gotten raggedy and dirty and tweaked the hell out of my closet OCD. Another issue with these tins is that they can be difficult to pry open if they've gotten knocked around in your purse and/or pushed a little more firmly closed than necessary. As someone who's actively trying to grow stubby fingernails out, I have to be careful to close mine only as much as necessary so I don't have to risk a nail break while trying to yoink my balm tin open. One last tin issue: while the tin that was bopping around loose in the bottom of my purse has stayed immaculate, the tin that has been living in my crowded makeup bag has gotten a little scuffed up around the edges. Of course this doesn't affect its performance, but because I appreciate the aesthetic of the packaging so much, it's a little disappointing. That's what Sharpies are for, though, amirite?
Here be balm.
Inside is a clear petroleum-based balm, which I find to be much more moisturizing and less greasy-feeling than others of its kind. Some people may find lip balm tins unsanitary, but I have absolutely zero problem with sticking my fingers all up in there. (In my opinion, if my generation and I survived a childhood in the old-school McDonald's playgrounds, we can survive anything.) It lasts a reasonably long time, and my lips feel great, but let's get to the important part: the flavors!
  • No. 36 Salted Caramel is, quite simply, heaven in a tin. Upon opening it, the initial scent is syrupy, like an epic stack of fresh waffles. On the lips, it turns into a beautiful, subtle burnt-sugar flavor... while I don't necessarily detect the "salt" in the name, it's not sickly-sweet like lip balms can be, so I attribute that balance to the "salt." True story: one day I put some on at work, forgot to wipe my finger off, then sat down to braid my colleague's hair (slow shift), and she immediately noticed the scent of it transferred from my finger into her hair. I kept catching her surreptitiously sniffing her hair for the rest of the night... and then she asked me where I'd ordered it, and placed her own order on the spot. It's that good. (TokyoMilk's flavor notes: "Sweet Cream, Sea Salt, Caramelized Sugar, Toasted Vanilla Bean.")
  • No. 42 La Vie En Rose is a lovely and surprising little flavor. To me the scent is definitely rose, but a modern, fresh rose scent, not your grandma's stuffy rose perfume. I wasn't sure what to expect from the flavor after smelling such a pure floral aroma, but the flavor is lightly floral with a hint of fruitiness. Not as stellar as Salted Caramel, but still pretty nice. (TokyoMilk's flavor notes: "Rosewater, Sweet Orange, Peach, Tahitian Vanilla.")
  • No. 60 Coco Noir is about to get damned with faint praise: it smells and tastes just like what you'd expect from a chocolate lip balm. By that, I mean that it's a somewhat artificial "cocoa" aroma and flavor... not bad, but not the complex and intriguing experiences of the previous two. I also detect a strong note of cherry in the flavor, but in keeping with the artificiality of the chocolate, it's a maraschino flavor rather than a true cherry taste. I'll use it, but won't re-purchase this one. (TokyoMilk's flavor notes: "Dark Rum, Maraschino Cherry, Sweet Milk, Cacao Bean.")
  • No. 72 Dead Sexy is one that I chose because I wanted to try one of the more unique offerings... and it was definitely a bad choice for me. The scent is overwhelmingly pungent; I could smell it before I even got the mailing envelope open, and I could honestly see it being a migraine trigger. I can't pick out any scent notes, because I can't stand to smell it for any length of time... it triggers some unpleasant olfactory memory for me, although I can't place exactly what it is. I almost want to say that it reminds me of a funeral home, but that's not quite right. In any case, it went right back into the envelope without even trying it on my lips. Sorry for the lack of details on this one, but I just can't with it. (TokyoMilk's flavor notes: "Ebony Wood, Warm Vanilla, Citrus Peel, Rosewater.")
Lest I forget, let's also talk about the last of my TokyoMilk goodies: the Bon Bon Lip Balm in Candied Violette, another unique winner in my book.

Pretty lid, so so pretty.
Here be more balm.

Again, the packaging is really appealing, this time with a silver lid with the embossed logo, and a nice substantial glass container. As seen in the first photo in this post, the box it came in is also BEAUTIFUL, and it's a damn shame it had to be thrown out, but I'm just not dedicated enough to keep my cosmetics in their original boxes. The balm itself is similar to the Dark Lip Elixirs, but doesn't seem to last quite as long. Scent and flavor: I'm not sure I've ever noticed that violets have a distinct aroma, but this smells pretty and has a unique, light and sweet floral sort of taste. I can't explain it, but I REALLY like it. (TokyoMilk's flavor notes: "Sugared Violette Leaves, Crushed Nectarines, and Honeycrisp Apples.")

In summary: GET YOU SOME SALTED CARAMEL NOW. And if you want more, Candied Violette. And if you still want more, La Vie En Rose. And then maybe you should question whether you really need that many lip balms... but I could be projecting. In any case, the TokyoMilk Dark Lip Elixirs retail for $7 apiece, and $10 for the Bon Bon Lip Balm.

April 2014 Ipsy Bag Review: "Beauty Rocks"

It's that time again... another Ipsy bag, another review from yours truly. If you don't know (or forgot), Ipsy is a cosmetics sampling program. For $10 a month, subscribers receive a makeup bag with four to five deluxe samples or full-size items. It's a fun little monthly treat, and I've discovered some new favorites through my subscription.

In which I attempt to not just show you the items standing in front of the bag.
 The April theme was "Beauty Rocks," which is apparently an attempt at some tenuous connection between makeup and the upcoming music festival season. Whatever. The bag itself actually had the potential to be kind of great this month... I love the deep purple color and the large square size, and the vintage-y record image is kind of groovy. But then you look at the record label, and there's that stupid-ass "Beauty Rocks" tagline. Cheeses it right up. If I cared a little more about the bag, I'd pull out some craft supplies and figure out a way to cover it over by snazzing up the label section... but I don't care that much. I'll still use it.

Aaaand here are the items standing in front of the bag.

On to the contents:
  • Urban Decay 24/7 Velvet Glide-On Eye Pencil in "Black Velvet" ("travel size" item, valued at $15): I was pretty happy to receive this product, because it seems that the Urban Decay pencils are the Holy Grails of eyeliners for a lot of people. My expectations were high after hearing all the praise... too high, as it turns out. I think the problem may be that this is a new product that is meant to be smudged for a "smokey eye" effect, and I prefer a nice defined line from my liners, so the joy of the smudginess is lost on me. My liner also seemed rather dry, and I did notice quite a few specks of fall-out under my eyes after only a couple of hours of wear. On the bright side, I contacted Ipsy's customer service to comment about the pencil being dry, and they are sending me a replacement item. Hopefully it will perform better, because I had high hopes for this little guy.
  • City Color White Gold Shadow & Highlight Mousse (full size item, valued at $3.99): Don't let the cheap-o price tag fool you, friends... this little container is by far the best thing I received this month! This creamy mousse goes on smoothly and blends out beautifully, adding a white gold (for lack of a better description... guess it's not just a clever name) shine wherever it's applied. I love that it's definitely a fine shimmer, not a glitter bomb, because I'm past the age where it's suitable to load my face up with glitter. I find that it's not great as a cheek highlight for me, because there is just the slightest tinge of a greenish cast to the color at some angles, but I am loving using it on my eyes. The container is tiny, but don't let the size put you off, because a little goes a LONG way. This product is exactly why I signed up for Ipsy: to discover new things that I would never have stumbled across or thought to try otherwise. I know that some people are disappointed by not getting samples of more high-end makeup brands from Ipsy, but between this and the also-dirt-cheap Be Matte blushes I ordered a while back, City Color is fast becoming one of my favorite makeup lines. For me it's not about the price tag or the prestige of a label, it's about how the product works for me, and this WORKS.
For scale, that cap is about the size of a half-dollar.
  • Cailyn Tinted Lip Balm in "Acid Pink" (full size item, valued at $19): In the interest of full disclosure, I actually received the shade "Apple Pink" in my bag, but I really liked the look of the Acid Pink, so I arranged a swap. I shouldn't have bothered. Calling this product a "balm" reminds me of "The Emperor's New Clothes," in that I picture a Cailyn staff meeting wherein not a single employee has the nerve to point out to the boss that this product is THE MOST DRYING LIP PRODUCT ON THE PLANET. It feels unpleasant on, and if your lips aren't in tip-top shape before application, this product will highlight every last bit of dryness and chapping. In addition, the packaging is kind of ridiculous and unwieldy; there is a lip brush built into the cap, so when you take apart the lid to get at the brush, you're left wrangling three separate parts. No bueno if you're trying to apply on the fly. I suppose if I were a "display my makeup on the vanity" kind of girl, this might have some sort of visual appeal, but for practical purposes, it doesn't seem like it would travel well at all. As for the color, it's bright as hell, but what can you expect from something called "Acid Pink," right? The opacity and matte finish of this product combine to make it too obnoxious for my liking... one day when I'm extra-bored, I will probably try melting it down and mixing in some actual lip balm to see if I can Frankenstein a more sheer, pleasant-to-wear gloss. The good news is that I will have plenty of room in the container to add in another balm, because the container comes mostly empty. (Can you tell I'm not a fan of this product?)
Two thumbs down. Way down.
  • Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion Skin Exfoliant (deluxe sample, valued at $9.75): I had zero desire to try a product that costs $40 an ounce to do the same job as something I can whip up in my kitchen (sugar + olive or coconut oil = exfoliation on the cheap that doesn't taste nasty when you accidentally get some in your mouth), but this was apparently a pretty in-demand item in the Ipsy crowd, so I traded it away for some other non-Ipsy goodies.
  • Sexy Hair Root Pump Volumizing Spray Mousse (mini item, valued at $6): I actually already had a can of this. In my bathroom closet. Way in the back, in a dark corner on a low shelf that holds all the nearly-full products that just didn't work for me, but that I feel too guilty just throwing away.
White Gold blended out, not blended out, and you can figure out the other two.
 So the overall value of this month's bag rings up at $53.74... again, none too shabby a return on my $10 investment from a numeric standpoint, but I wound up kind of underwhelmed with the actual products, so that lessens the value for me. Totally worth it because of the City Color White Gold, though, and hopefully the replacement Urban Decay product will work better for me. There were other products this month that I would have preferred to receive instead of the exfoliant and hair product (Benefit Lollitint, Demeter fragrance), but at least I didn't receive some of the products I would have REALLY hated, like self-tanner or appallingly ginormous false eyelashes. So there's that?

If my less-than-glowing review this month has somehow left you dying to try Ipsy for yourself, please feel free to clicky-clicky on my referral link to sign up. Full disclosure: I get points if you use my link, which I can redeem for products, but I wouldn't suggest signing up if I didn't think it was worthwhile. As you can see, even in a disappointing month, there's something awesome that totally saves the overall experience... and for just $10, it's a cheap, fun little monthly treat to yourself.
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