Thursday, January 23, 2014

Birchbox Review - January 2014

January 2014 Birchbox. Sorry for the grainy pic. My camera's set to high resolution but has been giving me junky pictures lately :(

It's Birchbox time! Yup, got my box in the mail yesterday. It was a really nice ending to a really crazy weather day. Windy, windy, windy. Gusts up to 100 mph. Not to mention the superswell. Largest swell in a decade - 40-50 ft wave faces on north-facing shores! But I know that's nothing compared to what the East Coast was going through. Stay safe out there, friends! 

Now for some Birchbox business...

Birchbox is a beauty subscription box that sends samples of high-end products straight to your doorstep for $10 a month. Many have said the boxes are a hit or miss; some months you get an awesome box, other months you want to throw everything in the trash. But they do have one of the best points systems - each dollar spent in the Birchbox shop earns you 1 Birchbox point and each product review for your box earns you 10 points. Once you rack up 100 points you can cash it in for $10 worth of credit in the Birchbox shop. Pretty snazzy, huh? 

As soon as I opened this month's box I saw a sticker advertising Birchbox's Subscriber Sundays sweepstakes (say that three times fast) for a chance to win weekly prizes and a grand prize of 10,000 points.


January's theme is "Go Time" and encourages us to take on more challenges for the new year rather than give things up. For a kickstart, Birchbox included some inspirational cards with tips on how to get up off the couch and start achieving our goals. To get things started, BB supposedly included new products in this month's boxes. I beg to differ since I've seen some in previous BB variations, but they're new for me so I don't mind.

It's Go Time!


When I opened the tissue everything was so neatly packed. Brownie points!

And now on to the items:

Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser (Sample Value: $9.51)
A couple of months ago Liz Earle made its Birchbox-US debut. This is the only facial cleanser produced by the UK-based company, and it has won over 90 awards and accolades. How's that for bragging rights? So of course I was thrilled to see one in my box! It's a 1 oz sample size, which is about a third of the full size product. Definitely enough for me to form an opinion. The cleanser is supposed to be  applied to a dry face and a damp muslin cloth is used to polish it off. I've only used it once so far and haven't noticed any difference in my skin yet, but we'll see how it goes over the next few days. I really like the texture of the cleanser; it's smooth and creamy and doesn't burn if any gets in your eyes. One question: Is it just me or is your skin supposed to soak this stuff up instantly? There's barely any left on my face to polish off, and I used as much as I would a normal facial cleanser. Maybe I need to use more?

Klorane Shampoo with Desert Date (Sample Value: $1.77)
I've seen some dry shampoo from Klorane going around in some boxes this month, but I haven't seen this particular one. This shampoo uses desert date to moisturize damaged hair. I have long hair and lots of it, so this might be enough for one use, maybe two. And I might just have a whack nose, but it smells a bit like aftershave. But what'd I expect, a fruity fragrance? Dates don't smell very fruity anyway. 

Coastal Scents Revealed Eye Shadow Palette Sampler (Sample Value: $1.99)
I have no clue where the name came from since eye shadows are not all necessarily "coastal" shades, and they certainly aren't scented, but that's alright. They can name it "Old Shoe Shadows" for all I care but as long as it goes on nicely and wears well, I'm a fan. I'm actually happy to receive this in my box because I don't wear makeup too often, so I prefer smaller sized products rather than the full size. It's also perfect to stuff in your purse for touch ups. Plus, I like neutral shades like these instead of wild, adventurous hues. They blend well and you can't tell from the picture below, but they have a nice shimmer.
Swatches of Coastal Scents Revealed sampler palette
Soak Handmaid Hand Cream - Yuzu scent (Sample Value: $0.94)
This hand cream is packed with moisturizers - shea butter, olive oil, and vitamins A & E. Whoa! 
Upside: True to the claim, this cream is very moisturizing. I also like that it's yuzu-scented (Have you tried yuzu sake? Mmm). 
Downside: The instructions say to use sparingly (and they're right; a little goes a long way), but these packets make it so darn hard to keep for later. Maybe I'll just scrape everything into a container and use as needed.

Under Armour Braided Mini Headband (Value: $9.99)
This was my lifestyle extra this month. I'm not one to wear headbands (ponytails work fine), but I must say this is a good find for anyone who does. I'm not even sure if I'm wearing it right -- is it supposed to feel like it's going to fly off the back of your noggin every time you turn your head? Maybe that's because it's the mini headband? If it does end up hitting some unfortunate bystander in the eye, I guess I can always use it to hold back my hair when putting on makeup. Or hand it off to someone who will make use of it (and actually knows how to wear it).

My Birchbox this month had a value of $24.20, over twice the amount I paid for the box. Wow! Overall I am very happy with what I received. I know I can make use of the Liz Earle cleanser, Coastal Scents shadows, and the Soak hand cream. If you're interested in subscribing, please use my link to get your very own Birchbox. Thank you!!

Note: Post contains referral links. I paid for this box on my own and all opinions are completely my own.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Craft Loot!

I normally don't do posts for online orders I receive, but I'm just so excited about this one and wanted to share it with all of you. Sure, the package took 3 1/2 weeks to get to me, but the giddiness I felt opening it was like a 5 year old on Christmas morning and made the wait all worth it. I recently discovered a company called EK Success Brands which produces products under popular brand names such as EK Tools and Martha Stewart Crafts. Since then EK Success has become one of my favorite places to browse crafting supplies since they cover paper crafting, needlework, stamping, and jewelry making. 

The only downside is the shipping fees, as with most companies shipping to HI (begin mini rant): Five-dollar flat rate shipping specials? Fine print: Except Alaska and Hawaii. Free shipping(asterisk)? Applies only to the 48 contiguous states. HI is not quite International but almost, so let's charge halfway between domestic and international shipping fees. You get my point. On the bright side, if you spend a load of money then shipping is free! AND it applies to AK and HI! So of course I make a list of things I want and finally when it hits that sweet dollar amount a year later, I go nuts get my products AND my free shipping. So you can see why I was so so SO excited to get this order. Especially since I have all these card ideas taking up precious brain space that I could be using for something mundane like work. 

So what did I get? As you can see, a buttload. Mostly from K&Company, Jolee's Boutique, and Martha Stewart Crafts. Stickers, chip board, accents, washi tape, adhesives, stamps, and borders covering special occasions from weddings to birthdays to newborns. Plus a few I bought just cause I thought they were pretty. I'm not too much into pricier things such as punches and dies (yet), so I haven't felt the need to buy them. And I've been cheaping out on buying the "right" tools for the job because plain ol' scissors and rulers have been working fine for my purposes. I know, a hardcore true crafter somewhere is probably cringing at my lack of diligence, but let's face it: I'm a newbie and I'm cheap. Hopefully one day I can earn the title of "Crafter," but for now I'm fine with "cheap noob." Thanks for letting me share my loot with you guys. I'm so excited to dig right in! :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Smiley360 Mission - Centrum Flavor Burst Multivitamins

A few days ago I received my second product to try from Smiley360. Smiley360 is an online review community in which you receive products to review in exchange for an honest opinion. Sometimes the product you get to review is full-sized; other times you receive samples, but the amount will always be enough to enable you to form an opinion. The item I received this time for review are Centrum Flavor Burst Multivitamin chews.

Centrum Flavor Burst Multivitamin chews
Centrum is a multivitamin sold in most drug stores around the country. I don't regularly take any multivitamin supplements, but thought it'd be a good idea to try. All the adult multivitamins I've tried previously have been in pill form, so it was interesting to see an adult chewable. Centrum chewables come in several flavors - the info card shows Mixed Fruit, Wild Grape, and Tropical Fruit.

In the kit were 20 sample foil packets of Centrum chews. Each pack contained two chewables; I received 10 packets each of Wild Grape and Pineapple for review. I was surprised to receive a pineapple flavor, as it is not listed anywhere on the Centrum Flavor Burst website, but I tried it nonetheless.

These chewables taste true to their flavor and are yummy to take. Four chews make up one daily dose of multivitamins. The only downside is that the Flavor Bursts can be easily mistaken for candy in terms of appearance and taste, so be sure to keep it in the bottle and out of children's hands to avoid an accidental overdose of vitamins.

As a whole, I think the Flavor Bursts are easier to take than traditional multivitamin pills because they taste great and you don't need to be near a glass of water to get your daily dose. Although the samples I received tasted good, I'm kind of interested in trying the mixed fruit flavor. According to their website, Centrum also makes multivitamin drink mixes in Raspberry and Lemonade flavors. These sound interesting as well; I might give it a try if I ever see it in the stores. If you're interested in trying these for yourself, please click on my link to get a free sample!

Note: Post contains referral links. I received these Centrum samples from Smiley360 for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Barkbox Review - January 2014

Yay, it's Barkbox time! I think this is the box I get most excited about; even more so than my dog. I received my last Barkbox of my 6-month subscription the other day, and what a pleasant surprise it was. I didn't get the normal email with tracking info so I forgot that the boxes went out already. This month's box was huge. And by that I mean tall. My dog even got confused opening it since he's used to opening the smaller, flatter boxes. Let's get right in to what we received for January:

I decided I'm going to start calculating values of my boxes because (a) I'm an arithmetic freak, and (b) I want to start comparing similar boxes to figure out which has the better value/products so I can make a decision as to which to keep and which to cancel (cause times are hard, ya know?). This month's theme was all about football. Humans enjoy football, so why can't dogs? To get in the spirit, Barkbox decided to send us a box packed with toys and treats so that our furry friends can play and snack alongside us as we watch the game.

Loving Pets Barksters - Sweet Potato and Beef Flavor (Value: $8.99)
This is what was making the box so huge. At 5 oz, this box of treats could barely fit lying down in the box. Fuzzyboots hasn't tried these yet, but he likes anything with sweet potato in it so I'm sure he'll gladly accept these crisps. And it's wheat and gluten free - healthy snacks!

Sprong Football Toy (Value: $7.99)
Oh. My. Gosh. Macho LOVES this toy. Sprong makes velvety-like toys with a low pitched squeaker that is different from most other squeaky toys, and I think this is the reason he loves playing with it so much. He once had a Sprong bone toy that quickly became his favorite until I took it away because it started leaving tiny red flecks of velvet crumbs around the house. I'm sure this will be the same way and in a couple of weeks I'll be chasing him around with a vacuum, but watching him play football with himself makes it totally worth it. A word of advice: this material tends to get really slimy with dog slobber so be prepared for yucky hands if you plan to play fetch with your pup.

Grandma Bowser's Country Oven Bisquits - Peanut Butter Flavor (Value: $4.41)
I also haven't opened this yet but I know the furball loves PB so he should have no problem gobbling these up. They look like cookies, but they're supposed to be like a granola snack for pups and they're wheat, corn, and soy free. Perfect for dogs with food allergies.

Barkworthies Junior Bully Stick (Value: $2.63)
Macho already got one of these in last month's Barkbox, but I have no complaints about getting another one. These bully sticks have only one ingredient - beef bladder. Sounds nasty, but the furpup loves it. I think he even likes it better than pizzle sticks. (In fact after receiving this last month, I went ahead and purchased six 12" beef bladder bully sticks for him through a Doggyloot deal. Score!) This was the first thing he went for when he opened his December box and this month was no different. He immediately picked up the bully stick and ran away to his little corner. He didn't even notice the Sprong ball until he came back to investigate what else he got.

Think!dog Louisiana Alligator Jerky (Value: $6.99)
This was the first and only spoiler I've ever seen for Barkbox ever since I started my subscription. A few weeks ago I found out that Think!dog was promoting their line of alligator treats and partnered up with Barkbox to include a bag in each subscription. And I'm thrilled with them so far - we received a 6oz bag in our box! Very impressive size for jerky treats. These paw-shaped treats are wheat, corn, and soy free and what's more, Macho loves them! He's tried a variety of meat flavors before (mostly thanks to Barkbox), but I never thought I'd see alligator in a box. I gave him just one piece but he kept sniffing the ground around him long afterward trying to find more.

Mom, one of these days I will balance food on your nose. See how you like it.

Overall I thought this box was great! I paid $19 for this box and got $31.01 worth of goodies! I'm kinda sad this is the last one. Originally I was planning to cancel after the subscription was up, especially since he's been getting so many treats and is gaining weight (a 35 lb corgi!), but Barkbox has way healthier treats than the pet store and at a much more affordable price, so I'm still debating. Maybe I'll just take a break until he goes through these then restart again. We're trying to cut down on his treat intake and increase his exercise (as if an hour of fetch in the backyard everyday wasn't enough exercise?!) so it might take a while to go through his stash, especially with all the treats he received for Christmas. Eh, we'll see. If you'd like to see your dog jump for joy each month, then please use my link to get $5 off your first box!

Note: Post contains referral links. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Smiley360 Mission - Airborne Gummies

I qualified for the Airborne mission from Smiley360 a little before Thanksgiving last year. The email said it would ship out in 2-3 weeks and 8 weeks later I finally got it. Not sure what went on during those 5 missing weeks; I guess the package decided to stop off in every major city on the way here. I even emailed their member support - twice- to ask what the status of the package was. To this day I haven't gotten a response.

Update 1/21/14: I finally got a response yesterday (a week later...not bad) and got the lamest answer ever: "Our mission is about to end and we ran out of products for replacements. Please accept our apologies." Nothing about what they'd do when my score takes a nosedive because I didn't receive any product to review. Err. Okay, I'm done now.

Side note: In my experience they aren't the quickest to reply - the last time I had a question it took about a month for them to email me back, but once they did they were pretty quick at responding. I haven't tried, but I would think Facebooking them would be your best bet at getting in touch; they seem to monitor their page pretty well.

Anyway, back to the mission. I received a brochure and a bottle of Airborne gummies free of charge in exchange for an honest opinion on the product. Glad I finally received it because the mission ends in just over a week from today. Back when qualifying for the mission I had a choice between three Airborne types: effervescents, gummies, or chewables. I already tried the effervescent tablets, and I'm not a huge fan of chewables, so I opted for the gummies.

Airborne gummies

And guess what? Boy am I glad I did! These things are deeeeeelish! Three gummies make up one dose of Airborne. Perfect, because there are three flavors - mixed berry, grapefruit, and citrus.

Gummy flavors, from left: Citrus, Mixed Berry, and Grapefruit
In my opinion, the grapefruit flavor is the closest to the real thing, but my favorite is the citrus. This was surprising, since I'm usually a die hard berry fan. For anything. Fruits, scents, flavors. Pictures. Anything berry (especially strawberry) and you bet I'm all over it. And it's not that the mixed berry Airborne gummy didn't taste good, because it did. It's just that the citrus flavor tasted awesome. Not too citrus-y, but just the right amount of tartness. The only downside is that it might be hard to just stop at eating three of these. It tastes like candy. Is there a such thing as Airborne overdose? I'm not sure, but normally too much of any vitamin can have adverse effects so I'm guessing you shouldn't down this entire bottle in one sitting like it was a pack of fruit snacks.

I think this product is marketed toward children, who seem to prefer chewable things that taste yummy as opposed to medicinal drinks and pills. But that's not to say that adults can't enjoy it as well, because this adult would gladly take these over the effervescents any day. Thank you, Airborne and Smiley360, I think I just found a new favorite! If you're interested in finding out more about Airborne, use my link and get $1.00 off your next Airborne purchase!

Note: I received Airborne gummies for free from Smiley360. All reviews and opinions are 100% my own.

New Year, New Hopes

So along with the new year, most of us make resolutions. Resolve to shed a few pounds, resolve to treat everyone with respect, the list goes on. I'm still working up to the "resolution" bit, so for now they are still I-hope-tos. Hopefully they will soon gain resolution status.
I've become lazy. Not "give me some caffeine and I'll get off my butt" kind of lazy, but more like "my feet have grown roots and I might grow moss soon". Two years ago I was running 40+ miles a week when training for a marathon. Up until three months ago I could at least run a 5K without walking. Now I can barely run a mile without stopping. I know, how can I just sit by idly watching my fitness level plummet faster than a lead weight falling to the bottom of the ocean and not do anything about it? To be honest, I have no idea. I need to find some motivation to get back into shape. I don't even have the drive to hit the gym regularly anymore. Sad face :( And I think subconsciously I've been using lack of time as an excuse.
You see, several months ago I decided to help out a friend who was coaching the wrestling team at my old high school. Although I wrestled in high school, that was over 10 years ago and I've only gone back to a handful of practices since then. I thought it'd be an awesome challenge to help coach, especially since I thought I was still in fairly good shape since I'd been running and hitting the gym for the past few years. Hah! One practice and I was in pain for the next two weeks. I completely forgot that wrestling muscles are totally different from weightlifting muscles. It was like I was back at square one. But that's okay, keep at it and it'll get easier right? Nope. Factor in the toll time takes on your body's resilience and here I am, four months in and still sore everyday. On top of that, I keep telling myself that it's okay if I don't hit the gym as often now since I'm getting a good workout at each practice. But you see, whereas running and gym requires continuous moderate exertion, as a wrestling coach most of the workout comes from wrestling live matches which requires bursts of high exertion with breaks in between. And with the way my shoulder likes to dislocate at every opportunity, those breaks tend to be pretty long. So in the end, I don't really end up getting a good workout; I just tell myself I do.
So between 4-hour practices during the week following a full work day and day-long tournaments every Saturday, the only free day to hit the gym for a really good workout is Sunday, but I've reserved Sundays for errands and housework. Hence, my excuse of lack of time to get in shape. Maybe that'll change after wrestling season is over.
As any homeowner would know, balancing finances when you have a mortgage is no easy task. Couple that with the crazy cost of living in HI and it's a nightmare. So why not move to somewhere more affordable? To put it simply, I love it here. The good weather and blend of cultures makes the financial headache worth it. Barely. Yesterday we met with our insurance agent to ask about adding hurricane insurance to our policy, being that we live on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific and hurricanes love to scare us. I almost fainted and/or peed my pants when I saw the quote. Take a normal homeowner's insurance policy. Now times that by four. That's the cost of hurricane insurance. Alone. And remember that pesky thing called mortgage insurance? Add all of those together and that's what you get to pay for just the insurance portion of your mortgage. Now add property tax and your P&I to that. *Faint* Looks like I'll have to sell an arm or a leg pretty soon. Might explain why I've become such a freebieholic in the last couple of months. Complimentary bread at a restaurant? "Take it home in a doggie bag, we can eat it tomorrow for dinner." Okay, not that bad. Yet. Getting there though.
I tend to get so consumed in day to day activities and making sure everything is running smoothly that keeping good relationships kind of slips to the back burner. Between 15-hour weekdays and nonstop errands/chores on the weekends it's challenging to find the time to accomplish everything I'd like to get done. I guess I should make my new motto "Something's gotta give." I need to reassess my priorities and put down the broom and visit my grandparents more often. Skip a practice to hang out with an old friend who's only in town for two days. Put off that trip to Target and spend more quality time at home with my boys - the human one and the furry one. Sure, it's not a good feeling to see my to-do list growing, but it's a worse feeling to see loved ones drift further away.
So here's to a year for improvement. Time to make life better for me and those around me. And maybe add in some random acts of kindness, as this awesome mom did. Everybody loves a nice gesture. Live happy. Live healthy. Live loving. And love living. Because life is too short for would'ves and should'ves.

Monday, January 13, 2014

BzzAgent Campaign - Cottonelle Fresh Care Cleansing Cloths

A while back I qualified for and accepted my first BzzAgent campaign. BzzAgent is a word of mouth online review community where you receive a product to try free of charge in exchange for an honest review. The more reviews you do (in person, online, etc), your BzzScore goes up and you increase your chances of receiving more campaign offers. I guess they sent my BzzKit the slowest way possible because the kits went out on December 2nd but I didn't receive mine until the 26th. That's long even for ground shipping to HI. But at least it's here. And look at the cute bee adorning the outside of the box!

In addition to the cleaning cloths dispenser, my BzzKit came with five coupons for $3.00 off Cottonelle toilet paper + cleaning cloths combo and one coupon for $3.00 off the toilet paper alone (for me to purchase for his mission). Also attached to the dispenser were coupons for $1.00 off another dispenser and $0.50 off a replacement pack of cloths.

Simply put, these are baby wipes for adults. Apparently there is a lot of confusion as to how you actually use the wipes (i.e. when??!), and from what I gather there really is no proper procedure. Before or after you do your thang, it's up to you. I just wouldn't recommend using it in lieu of TP....okay I know, TMI. As an infant I'm sure I didn't mind baby wipes, but I have to admit as an adult it can feel pretty awkward. Even in the privacy of a locked bathroom. Definitely something that takes some getting used to. But once you get past all that it's actually kinda refreshing. The bf agrees. He laughed at me when I told him I was gonna review the FreshCare system, but of course he decided to sample in secret and totally blew his cover when he blurted out that it actually does make you feel cleaner.

I give Cottonelle credit for marketing a product that will likely be met with skepticism. It's definitely not a subject that most people feel comfortable talking about. Will I end up incorporating the FreshCare system into my normal routine? Probably not. But that's not to say it's not worth giving a shot. Everyone has differing standards of cleanliness they must feel at all times. I know people who feel compelled to shower after every potty break. These people will most likely benefit from the cleansing cloths as it would save them a whole lot of time. I personally do not feel that need and will probably offer these coupons to family and friends who may want to give it a try.

Disclaimer: I received Cottonelle FreshCare Cleansing Cloths for free from BzzAgent in exchange for an honest review.