Friday, October 31, 2014

Smiley360 Mission - 5-hour Energy

I better get this review pumped out before the month ends, reason being because Smiley360 sent out this product in honor of breast cancer awareness and October is breast cancer awareness month.

If you haven't heard of them before, Smiley360 is an online review community in which you go on "missions" and receive free products to review in exchange for your honest opinion. Sometimes the item you get to review is full-sized; other times you get samples, but the amount will always be enough for you to form an opinion on it.

I must be the only one who hasn't tried 5-hour Energy. Ever. I normally try to avoid energy drinks which are pretty much diluted sugar with loads of caffeine or taurine (but I still looove my soft drinks; they just taste better). Over the past year I've seen more 5-hour Energy flavors popping up in stores, and apparently they also make a breast cancer awareness pink lemonade flavor. I've heard stories about how the original version tasted horrible. When Smiley360 offered to let me try the pink lemonade flavor I opted in because I wanted to see if it would taste un-horrible.


The kit came with two 5-hour Energy pink lemonade shots. We science folks like to do things in triplicate to account for any anomalies and get an average opinion so of course I would've liked three shots instead. You know, in case two of them were, um, flukes. But whatever, picky greedy self aside, I was at least happy we didn't get a single one-time use sample. I'm talking about you, Birchbox.

5-hour Energy has no sugar so their claim to fame is that there's no sugar crash. But it's packed with caffeine (and taurine) which stimulates adrenaline and dopamine production and has its own version of a crash when the stimulants wear off and you return to normal, which I'm guessing happens at the 5-hour mark. It also has tons of vitamin B which supports metabolism and helps in red blood cell generation and DNA replication.
This sorry-looking photo confirms that this energy shot is pink. And liquid.
The drink itself looks and smells exactly like pink lemonade. So you can smell the lemons but can you taste it? Oh yeah. Along with a crapton of artificial sweetener. I avoid diet drinks at all costs because I cannot stand the taste of artificial sweetener in my store bought drinks (although I'm fine with it when it's in the little packets...go figure). This was no exception and I don't like the taste specifically because of the NutraSweet-ness. 
According to the 5-hour Energy website, you can feel this working in MINUTES.
Ok, I took this before my first wave of tiredness usually hits (around 10am), and I didn't catch myself dozing off like usual so I guess it's working. Now for Part 2: 5-hour Energy claims the effect will last for HOURS. Specifically five hours. But the website does point out that individual results may vary, so it in fact may not work for you at all if you're used to drinking 15 cups of coffee a day. 

Speaking of coffee, I should mention that one 5-hour Energy shot has the caffeine equivalent of an 8-ounce cup of coffee. That said, if you're part of the 15-cups-of-coffee-a-day group you may want to opt for the Extra Strength 5-hour Energy (yes, just like how Tylenol comes in extra strength, so do energy drinks), which contains the caffeine equivalent of a 12-ounce cup of coffee. It's still not equal to 15 cups but you probably shouldn't be drinking 15 cups a day anyway. If you're on the opposite end of the spectrum and are watching your caffeine intake you can go for the decaf version which has the equivalent to a 1/2 cup of decaf coffee. I'm not sure how well decaf 5-hour works since it sort of relies on caffeine for its touted effect.
So it's five hours later and I'm still wide awake. Looks like this energy shot thing works. I'm not a coffee drinker so I'm not used to high doses of caffeine, but I don't feel jittery or anything as long as I keep myself occupied. 

I guess now the big question is, Would I recommend this product? I drank both bottles on separate days with success, so based on my experiences so far I'd say it works. I wouldn't recommend using this as a daily thing because I really don't think that much caffeine is good for you, especially if you're like me and already drink a can of soda a day. But for the occasional pick-me-up I suppose it's fine. Plus, for every specially marked bottle of Pink Lemonade 5-hour Energy sold through December 31, Living Essentials (the makers of 5-hour Energy) will donate $0.05 to Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a nonprofit organization and support community that connects people with trusted breast cancer info. So go ahead and pick up a bottle or two and help support breast cancer awareness. Happy Pinktober (and Happy Halloween)!

Note: This post contains referral links. I received these Pink Lemonade 5-hour Energy shots complimentary from Smiley360 for testing purposes. This post reflects my honest opinions of this product.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Birchbox Review - October 2014

Halloween is just a couple of days away and I have no costume as of this moment. I completely forgot about dressing up for work. I went as Progressive girl Flo a couple of years ago and haven't been able to top that costume idea.
My hair does not like the bumpits.
Photo credit: Kalani Pascual
I was hoping October's Birchbox would autum-ize us in the form of pumpkiny scents and brown sugar scrubs. Or something.

What: Birchbox contains 4-6 samples of high-end beauty and lifestyle products
When: Ships on the 10th of each month
Cost: $10/month or $110/year upfront
Fun fact: Birchbox has an awesome points system where you can review products or make purchases from the Birchbox shop to earn points. Every 100 points gets you $10 credit in the BB shop.

I missed the monthly pick-your-sample email by about 12 hours so by the time I opened it everything was unavailable. Even the last choice was no longer a choice which was kind of a bummer because for once I actually had a preference. So I ended up getting the complete surprise box (and of course ended up not getting my preferred choice. boohoo). 

October info card (click to enlarge)
October's theme is Fanfare. Nothing too autum-y about it, but it is the time of TV's season premiers and I guess I'm a fan of the boob tube. Okay who am I kidding, I'm a huge fan of rotting my eyes while also rotting my teeth with TV snacks. I'm not talking popocorn or chips and salsa. I'm talking entire bags of Reeses and quarts of ice cream. It's how I get my dairy requirement (C just surprised me with a gallon of choco-vanilla swirl yesterday; that's why I love him :D).

Clarisea Rapid Detox Charcoal Exfoliant (Sample value: $4.50)
This little jar is what I'm most excited about this month. This is a carbon-sea salt exfoliant. Activated carbon is great for absorbing stuff (including odors, which is why you often see charcoal sticks in bathrooms and such). In this case, activated bamboo charcoal powder absorbs dirt and oil, and Pacific and Himalayan sea salts stamp out acne-causing bacteria. How? Geek moment time! I'm guessing this happens because the salt creates an alkaline environment (>pH 8) and inhibits the growth of the acne-causing Propionibacterium. The exfoliant itself looks pretty coarse, like sand, so this probably isn't something you'd want to use more than once or twice a week.

Perlier Body Balm - Shea Lavender (Sample value: $4.25)
Perlier is an Italian skincare manufacturer based in Turin. They have their own estate on which they grow their own plants and flowers for research. I'm not feeling particularly lavenderish at the moment so this tube remains sealed, but this lotion has shea butter extracted from the fruits of the Tree of Youth. I'd like to see this tree because I'd live under it forever. That and the Fountain of Youth. Together they sound like a pretty sweet deal. This contains up to 25% pure shea butter to deliver extra plenty moisture for smooth and supple skin. In the famous words of Buffalo Bill, It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again. Happy Halloween, folks.

Jouer Matte Moisture Tint SPF15 in Nude (Sample value: $3.80)
If you're prone to oil buildup, this is the moisturizer for you. It's a mattifying tinted moisturizer that controls shine AND has some added sun protection. Nude is their median shade intended for light to medium complexions (that's me). In reality this shade was quite a bit lighter than my natural skin tone but it did blend easily without making me look pasty. The only thing I can't get over is the sunscreen smell. Ack.
Jouer Matte Moisturizer swatch in Nude
Love this effect. Hate the pencil. This is a glittery black eye pencil that's buildable for extra sparkle. I have nothing like this in my collection so I was super stoked to get it. Unfortunately, it's not creamy at all despite its claims, and it doesn't apply evenly. You can see what I mean in my little swatch below. The glitter factor is definitely there, although you can't tell from the swatch. This is supposedly smudgeproof, but I'm guessing they're referring to the glitter because the color rubbed off with ease but the glitter didn't want to go anywhere. When they improve their formula I'll be the first in line to get this sparkly liner, but until then I'm gonna pass.
Lord & Berry Pailette Glitter Pencil swatch in Black
Number 4 Lumiere d'hiver Clarifying Shampoo & Reconstructing Masque (Total sample value: $6.60)
I received a similar shampoo/conditioner duo (the hydration version) in my June Birchbox. I did not like the scent and was afraid this would smell just as masculine. Thankfully it doesn't. It's musky but not manly. I'm not a huge fan of musk either, but I can deal. This vegan shampoo is sulfate- and paraben-free (Nooooo! I like suds!!) and has lots of natural ingredients: black currant, soy, acai, vitamin C, oolong tea, Irish moss, lemongrass, and oatmeal. The masque is a leave-in treatment with soy protein to strengthen hair, shea butter, jojoba seed oil, and sunflower oil to moisturize, and silicone polymer to smooth and detangle.

Did October deliver? So far not really. I wasn't particularly fond of the Lord & Berry eye pencil and I don't care to smell like sunscreen when I'm cooped up in the office all day with the Jouer slathered on my face. I haven't tried anything else yet, but I  have high hopes for the Clarisea exfoliant. If you'd like to sign up for a Birchbox, use my link and start discovering some awesome beauty products. The shop also has some lifestyle and foodstuff too, so have a look around, but be forewarned  you can spend hooours browsing their stock!

Note: Post contains referral links. All opinions contained within this post are my own.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ipsy Unboxing - October 2014

November's Ipsy spoilers began releasing this morning. My October Glam Bag arrived yesterday so technically it's not late. I sort of expected them to go with a Fall/Halloween theme this month, or even pink for breast cancer awareness, but I was wrong. October is Beauty Candy Month. Well I guess it's sort of pink if you count the chair and extra large hard candy in the corner of the info card.
So those are Ipsy's stylists in the above photo. I don't know about you, but the three on the right look like they could pass as triplets. Blonde hair, brown eyes, same hairstyle, same cat eye makeup. Is Ipsy saying everyone can look like that? Cause I'm still waiting for my hair to un-frizz and my dark spots to go into hiding. I've been patiently waiting for 15 years.    

It's a BB cream...for your hair!? What the... This is actually a styling cream/lotion that moisturizes and protects hair without weighing it down. It contains jojoba oil, monoi oil, silk protein, and the star ingredient is acacia collagen. I'm pretty sure we're talking about the tree. So, tree proteins. But as far as I know, there's no proof that collagen can incorporate itself into your body's proteins when applied topically. Furthermore, isn't hair already dead? I think this is basically a moisture mask to coat aka smooth hair cuticles.

New York Color Big Bold Curl Mascara (Full size value: $5.00)
How convenient. I just ran out of mascara this morning. They all claim to pump up volume but I have yet to find one that does so without clumping. Even the non-clumping ones clump up. But NYC's Lash Expand technology supposedly gives quick dry volume so your lashes stay flexible and clump-free. And it's got a huge fat brush! This one boasts up to 12x more volume and up to 99% more curl and lift. Unfortunately, 99% more curl on stick-straight-downward-pointing-uncurlable lashes still equals no curl. Seriously, not even eyelash curlers can curl them. Prove me wrong, NYC. Prove me wrong. Oh, and it's not waterproof so that makes me sad. But I can't tear because my mascara will run.
Will this be the end of my mascara woes?
Noyah Lipstick - Deeply in Mauve (Sample value: $5.60)
This lipstick has a semi-matte cream finish and is buildable for a subtle daytime or intense nighttime look. It only contains natural ingredients and they never test on animals. I love everything about it except the color. I can't pull off dark colors, even if it is fall. But I'm sure lots of people would go nuts over this so I'll let someone else enjoy it. Oh! And if you want more of what they have to offer, use code FALLinLOVE to get 15% off your order plus a free lip balm! AND. For every photo you post online of a Noyah product with the tag #livedivinely, Noyah will donate a lip balm to the homeless through the National Health Care Coalition for the Homeless Council. I'm almost entirely sure beauty is the last thing on the mind of the homeless, but you can't blame a company for trying, right?

Epice Purifying Exfoliant (Sample value: $9.70)
This exfoliant activates collagen production and has anti-bacterial micro-fine polyspheres to remove excess dirt and dead skin without irritating skin. It contains emollients, humectants, and barrier protectors for hydration. This sounds like a regular run-of-the-mill exfoliant. I'm still undecided about keeping it since I still have about 8 lbs of exfoliant to go through. I haven't opened it so I don't know how abrasive the microbeads are, but they must be pretty darn tiny if it doesn't irritate sensitive skin.

Figs & Rouge Hand Cream - Mango Mandarin (Full size value: $6.56)
Figs & Rouge is a UK-based company specializing in lip balms, lip butters, and hand creams. I couldn't find this scent on the company website (actually all the hand creams from Ipsy's linked site weren't on the company site). It smells very citrus, like a tangy creamsicle. I don't use hand creams, but I was really in the mood for a new fruity scent. I love that it's not greasy at all and not overly thick. I'll probably just use this because it smells so good.

The Bag
I'm happy that all the makeup bags I've gotten since starting Ipsy have been decent (i.e. no tacky designs or godawful colors), but now I have way more than I'll ever need. This one's a turquoise plastic bag with a quilted pattern. The only thing I don't care for is that the zipper is side-mounted and it makes me feel like the top inch is wasted space.

Overall another good bag. It was valued at over $34 and had two full-sized items. The contents spanned haircare to makeup to skincare. I'll be passing a couple of the items along but I still think it's a great value. If you'd like a chance to try makeup you never would've seen yourself spending $$$ on otherwise, use my link to sign up for an account. You almost always get an insanely high valued bag without the hefty price tag. There's a waitlist for Glam Bags, but you can skip the wait by posting to Facebook and having a friend subscribe from your link.

Note: Post contains referral links. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

PetBox Snack Unboxing - October 2014

I first got into subscription boxes because of my dog. I found myself spending almost $50/month on just treats and toys alone. For one dog! I admit Macho may be a wee bit spoiled (biggest understatement ever), but he loved the new treat smell and I loved bribing him. Then I saw a Facebook ad with a coupon code for a pet sub box and I was officially sucked in. After expanding my subscription list to a few beauty boxes for myself I decided it was time to treat the dogs (cause now there were two!) to another box too. That's when PetBox entered our lives.

What: PetBox is a subscription box for cats & dogs filled with healthy treat, toy, and hygiene items. Boxes are curated according to the size of your pet and come in four box sizes of increasing item count. Multi-pet boxes are now available as well! This review is for the Snack box (smallest size) for a medium dog.
When: Ships monthly on your sign up date
Cost: Snack: $7.95-$9.95; Deluxe: $14.95-$19.95; Premium: $29.95-$39.95; Multiple Pet: $49.95-$59.95 per month depending on the length of your subscription

I actually picked up two 3-month subscriptions, one for a medium dog profile (for Macho) and one for a small dog profile (for Pebbles). You'd think that since they ask how big your dog is on your account they'd send you size-appropriate boxes. Not so. We've received medium boxes for both of them every month. But PetBox is unique in that you have the option of choosing goodies yourself using your monthly allotted points (number of points vary according to your plan). Since this was my last month I wanted to finally take advantage of that option. I had 200 points to spend for each box so I chose a treat for Macho's box and a toy for Pebbles' box.
Special holiday message from PetBox
PetBox #1
I normally only do one PetBox review since both boxes are identical, but since they're slightly different this month I'm shoving both boxes into a single post. I spent my points on a bag of treats and thought that was all I'd get since I was almost at 200 points. But when the box arrived, the packing slip listed a "dog sampler" was included. Hm? There was a slight delay in shipping due to some mishap at the warehouse but they added an extra 50 points to my account to make up for it. Maybe they also threw in extra goodies because of it? Not sure why the extras but I'm not complaining. 

Doggie Beer Bones (Value: 160 points, $7.00) - When I saw this as an option, I just had to. If I can't share a beer with my rascals, I need something to toast with them. These treats are made with repurposed spent brewing grain from San Diego craft breweries. They don't contain hops or any alcohol so you don't have to worry about Fluffy staggering or barking some obscenity he'll regret in the morning. These bones are also soy-, corn-, wheat-, and preservative-free. Macho happened to be out and about when I took this out of the box and next thing I know he's insisting on being a lap dog . Fat dogs don't make good lap dogs. Especially when you haven't trimmed their nails in three months :(
In case you were wondering just how close to beer it really is

Loving Pets It's Purely Natural Pure Beef Jerky Bars (Value: $8.00) - Here's the first item in the "dog sampler." We received this before in the August box and my carnivores ripped through that bag in three days. There's only 6 strips in a bag and I like to spoil my dogs; leave me alone. The strips feel pretty rigid and tough to chew, but that's from a human standpoint. Dogs are totally different. My two animals scarfed it down as if I don't feed them or something.

Pawsitively Wholesome Sadie's Sweet Pawtato Chips (Sample Value: $1.20) - Part 2 of the dog sampler. This is something else we got before in the iHeartRadio PetBox. These are single-ingredient sweet potato chips that I'm guessing would never pass my potato chip test because they lack DEEP FRIED GOODNESS. There are only three sweet potato chips in this packet, making each worth about $0.40! Good golly Miss Molly, I don't care how much I love my dogs, I'd never spend that much on something that'll be gone in less than 5 seconds. They do love these chips, though. But that's because I don't let them taste how good people food is. They think cookies made of flour, water, and a touch of honey are the bomb diggity. Poor ignorant fools. 

PetBox #2
The second box also had the dog sampler in addition to the toy I ordered with my remaining points. 

Aussie Naturals Floatie Dolphin (Value: 240 points, $12.00) - I have been wanting this toy ever since it made its appearance in a Barkbox over a year ago. It's much larger than I thought - 1.5' feet long! This is a neoprene dolphin that has no stuffing (= no mess!) and it floats. There's also a squeaker in the tail for dogs like mine who are squeak-driven. Since pups have no mercy on cute things, if they happen to rip this adorable guy apart (sad face), there's also a rope and tennis ball inside to keep the fun going. I'm sure my land dwellers won't swim with this dolphin, but they'll gladly play tug of war with him (and in all honesty will probably rip him apart in less than a day despite being constructed of the tough stuff of knee pads).

These were super awesome boxes thanks to the added value of the sampler packs. You're allowed about $10 worth of points to customize the Snack box, and with the sampler having a value of about $9, these boxes averaged about $19 apiece. That plus 50 free points more than makes up for shipping being delayed a week. Plus, I only paid about $6 total for these two boxes from an awesome 3-for-1 deal they had going on a while back.

So my first PetBox subscription has officially ended. These were a fun few months and I love that they're the only pet sub box company I know of that lets you fully customize each box. I do think the doggie Snack box subscription is kind of heavy on the It's Purely Natural line of treats from Loving Pets, but I didn't really mind because the dogs seem to love it. But do you get your money's worth each month? As I mentioned above you get about $10 worth of points to play around with each month, so I think the longer plans are more worth it. But Gropuon has been having PetBox specials up the wazoo so just keep an eye out if you want to snag a deal.

If you want to start your own PetBox subscription then sign up here and choose the type and length of plan you want (cat lovers: remember they have cat subscriptions too!).

Note: Post contains referral links

Monday, October 27, 2014

What's an Affordable Wedding?

Alright, I decided to crawl out from under my protective shield of a bed and face the wedding reality: they cost $$$. Besides, with our (tentative!) date less than a year away it's about time to get on it if I want to avoid a bridezilla episode(ssssss).

I recently read an article in the local paper that said Honolulu weddings are among Hawaii's most affordable, averaging $52,190. (Yeah, I supersized that number to let it sink in) Sweet mother of--- what the friggin fresh hell is this????? Here I thought the national average was around $30K and thought Okay, let's increase that by 5% to account for Hawaii's markups and we should be on point. Apparently not. I guess Hawaii's markup is more like 70%. So if you're planning on a destination wedding out here with the full reception and everything, be sure you have some serious dollars saved up on top of the plane ticket and hotel. Just a tip.

The article goes on to say that couples here spend an average of 72.19% of their household income on a wedding. I don't know about you, but I really don't think one day of fancy ruffles is worth 1 1/2 years of mortgage payments. I'd rather keep my house than have a dream normal wedding and be homeless. But! -because there's always a silver lining- if you're looking for a career prospect, I propose moving to Hawaii and becoming a part of the wedding industry because you'll get to take all of our hard-earned money. 72.19% to be exact. What madness. As if the lovely cost of living wasn't already kicking me in the yet-to-be-steel buns. $4.29 for a gallon of gas is not cheap, folks.
In reality I'll be driving up in my own car. It'll also run out of gas on the way to the reception because I didn't have enough money left to fill up the tank.
I'm normally pretty frugal but I still wanted to have a small and practical wedding, nothing fancy. But after reading that article I thought about going the cheapest route and just heading to the courthouse. Then we considered eloping because oddly, both our parents are cool with it. Kudos for awesome understanding parents. Vegas weddings, ftw! That will be our fallback plan.
For now I'm trying to see how many corners we can cut and still have a wedding where our friends won't leave thinking, "What the heck was that?" So far we've narrowed the potential guest list and nixed the hotel reception - seriously, who can afford to pay $70/head?? I have a growing list of other ways to trim wedding costs because in the end, all that really matters is that everyone has fun, right? Who's going to remember what kind of flowers were decking the tables or how many tiers the cake had?
This cake will not be at my wedding. What is that, 500 layers?
It helps that we recently won a lucky drawing at a wedding expo for a free in-studio engagement photo shoot with a local photographer. We've browsed his portfolio before and were impressed with what we saw. C is starting to stress out and insists that he needs to lose some weight for the engagement shoot. I wonder how groomzilla he'll get before the wedding.
Have you planned a wedding before? Do you have any tips on cutting costs without cutting out the fun? We're going for a casual, non-traditional kind of shindig so all suggestions are welcome, no matter how wacky! Thanks in advance for your ideas!

Friday, October 24, 2014

What's On My Mind?

It's been a long week and I have nothing of value to write about, so you get pointless babble today.

First off...WHERE ARE MY PANTS???

I fully understand and believe in the sock troll, but pants?! They're not exactly tiny. I have a favorite pair of light blue jeans (I have 50 shades of blue jeans...if you want to send me a Christmas present, I need black jeans) and I swear I JUST saw it. Not in the laundry basket, not in the washer/dryer, I don't just drop trou in random places, what the hell, man?

I was rummaging through the snack table (part of my job description) and found a candy bar I've never seen before. Mine! I have a soft spot for international chocolates, especially the strawberry kind. This one was just milk chocolate, but I don't discriminate when it comes to chocolate. I think this one may be a Chinese chocolate bar. But since it's not Cadbury and since it's over 5 years later I'm guessing I don't have to worry about any melamine being in here? Anyway, I still ate it. But when I tore it open I was kind of sad. It's pretty much just like chocolate Ruger wafers with some skimpy chocolate coating. Not even Kit Kat chocolate covered wafer status :(

Don't toy with me, woman.
I mentioned that Macho's 3rd birthday was this past weekend and I passed off our perfectly-timed Barkbox as his birthday present. But I think he may have figured out that the real reason was because I forgot all about his birthday beforehand; when I made him his birthday meatball (also from a past Barkbox), he gave me a less than enthused look. I may have overbaked it, though. It was kind of hard on the outside (actually throughout the entire meatball) and Macho didn't even bother chewing. Well he broke it in half because it was too big for his mouth. But after that, gulp and swallow. I also gave a smaller one to Pebbles and she gulped and swallowed faster than Macho--without even breaking it in half. Then she went and cleaned up all the crumbs he dropped. My own personal vacuum cleaner.

All those little lines? All. Worms. And this was just one small part of my driveway!
This one needs an extra large picture. It rained a lot this past weekend which happens often in these parts, but this was the first time I ever witnessed a full blown earthworm(?) exodus. I'm talking about hundreds. Usually when it rains the millipedes and slugs make a (slooow) run for it, but I've never seen so many earthworms journey across the pavement. Just thought it was pretty cool in a kinda gross sort of way. But earthworm poop is supposed to be good for your soil, right? I thought the dogs always shoved their noses into the grass because they saw those Surinam roaches but maybe they were really playing with worms? And then they lick my face.

Tomorrow is our monthly corgi meet up and we're supposed to dress up our dogs in Halloween costumes. I'm taking Pebbles with me (C's working tomorrow and there is no way I can handle two insanely excited dogs by myself) so I thought about making her a poop factory. When I googled how to make that costume it seemed like everyone has made their pooper a factory at some point in time. I wanted to do something a little less common. We found something just as easy to make and have been working on it the past couple of days. I'll post pics later :)

I happened to catch Pebbles in a pondering/focused state and immediately thought of Sad Puppy. I have no idea what she was fixated on, perhaps earthwormzzz in the hizzouse? She's actually staring at the section of carpet that Macho pulled up as soon as we moved here. It's basically an open passageway from the house's foundation so I'm sure lots of things pass through there throughout the day. I've seen ants, crickets, geckos, roaches, and millipedes around there so far. Or she could just be staring at a carpet fiber blowing in the breeze. She has a weird selection process when it comes to choosing objects to stare at. As long as it's not at an empty corner I'm okay.

Oh, I found my pants. I remembered that I ordered some incredibly oily food the other day because I live for deep fried noms and some of it dropped onto my jeans. A couple of months ago my friend Rebecca taught us how to remove oil stains from clothes using dish detergent. I followed Steps 1-3 with no problem then forgot about Step 4...for four days. I left it sprawled across the sink in the downstairs bathroom that only C uses. The expectation was that the next person who walked in there would wonder why jeans were in such a weird place and inquire about it. Nope. In typical C fashion, he just nudged it so that it's only half covering the sink and continued along his merry way. For four days. *sigh*

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Smiley360 Mission - TAZO Chai: Where #SweetMeetsSpicy + Coupon!


Several years of working in the office has taught me one thing: you're either a coffee drinker or a tea drinker. Of course there are a few lucky ones who can go either way but generally you fall into one of those categories.

I love tea. I don't love coffee.

I think my aversion to coffee started in high school when our symphonic band took a trip to Japan. I wanted to celebrate my independence and since we were strictly forbidden to buy booze from the vending machines, I did the next best thing: I bought vending machine coffee. Dude. It doesn't sound like a big deal but coffee was something I only saw the adults drinking. And I was parentless in freakin' Japan. I don't remember what brand the coffee was but I do remember I was ill-prepared for such an indulgence and had no sugar or creamer. But who cares, I was cool and was about to drink coffee with friends. Without supervision! And I really think I may have been okay with black coffee. Then after my first sip some other friends came over to hang out in our hotel room. After 45 minutes of socializing I had completely forgotten about my coffee. Not wanting to see my ¥100 go down the drain, I got the bright idea of downing the coffee. Bottoms up! Holy sh*t, that was horrible. Nobody should be subjected to room temperature black coffee. Since then I have avoided all black coffee like the plague and will only succumb to coffee-related beverages if they are iced and blended with everything else in the world to cover up the coffee taste. I don't even eat coffee candy. I've only tried black coffee once since then and that was because I got a sample from a subscription box.

It's much easier to get me to drink tea.

Every time I go to Starbucks I drool over the Tazo teas. I've only ordered the strawberry passion tea lemonade (I'm sure there's some Tazo tea in there somewhere) but never got around to trying the chai. I have a friend who won't buy anything else from Starbucks except chai so I figured it must be good. 

Then the tea gods took pity on me and I got an opportunity to try Tazo Chai through Smiley360. If you haven't heard of them before, Smiley360 is an online review community in which you go on "missions" and receive free products to review in exchange for your honest opinion. Sometimes the item you get to review is full-sized; other times you receive samples, but the amount will always be enough for you to form an opinion on it.

First of all, WHAT IS TAZO CHAI?
Tazo's Chai tea is an Assam black tea blend of ingredients sourced from all over the world. In general, the sweetness from cinnamon and vanilla are blended with the spiciness of black pepper, cardamom, and star anise.
The Tazo Chai kit came with three flavors of chai (Classic, Chocolate, Vanilla Caramel), a product brochure, and three coupons for a free box of Tazo Chai teabags. Sorry the coupons didn't make it to the photo; I snatched them up and put them in my purse as soon as I could. They are meant to be shared with friends but screw that, they're staying in my greedy mitts. 
Tazo Chai ingredients come from all over the globe
The brochure is styled like their website - very elegant and simple yet informative. It's clear from browsing these sources that Tazo takes great pride in their craft. And I had no idea they had so many flavor varieties!

Tazo does filterbags. That's good because I do too. I mainly drink tea at work and don't have the resources to brew my own loose leaf tea. The only downside is that a lot of their chai flavors sound better with milk (especially the chocolate and vanilla caramel I got in this kit), and I don't keep a carton of milk at work. Some mystery person does because I always see a carton in the fridge, but I don't want to be that office moocher/thief. FYI all the teas I got contain 31-45 mg of caffeine per serving.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the varieties I received (and Tazo has hands-down the best tea descriptions I've ever seen):

Classic - A robust blend of black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper & spices. Black tea takes a Saturday drive through an exotic marketplace. The essences of sweet cinnamon, spicy ginger and fragrant cardamom float in through the open windows while black pepper flirtatiously grabs the steering wheel - just to heat things up a bit.
INGREDIENTS: Black teas, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, star anise
I decided to start off with the classic Tazo chai to get a feel of the basic blend I can expect from the others. This was also the first time I tried a tea with cardamom, anise, and clove notes, all of which I don't especially care for in food. You can definitely taste the ginger in it, but it wasn't strong at all. The milk may have had something to do with it because I could barely taste anything at all even after steeping for 10 minutes. It was like the milk prevented the filterbag from imparting any taste. Ohhhh. I guess that's why they also have a latte line with black tea concentrate made specifically for brewing with milk. And I guess it also would've helped to read the directions online beforehand: "Pour water over the filterbag" Doh. You seriously wouldn't think you could screw up using a teabag. BUT YOU CAN.

Chocolate - Robust black tea blended with rich cocoa & classic chai spices. Feeling especially decadent, cocoa went in search of a new winter coat that swings. Cinnamon sticks sewed a gingery satin lining and cardamom buttons from collar to hem - for sweet spice with every step.
INGREDIENTS: Black teas, cocoa peels, natural flavors, licorice root, cinnamon, ginger, yerba mate, cardamom, black pepper, cloves
Now that I know how to drink this correctly, I can give an actual opinion on this one. And um, I've got mixed feelings. I can definitely taste the chocolate, but chocolate milkshakes and chocolate ice cream have spoiled my expectations and now this is watery chocolate and my tongue is just so confused right now. I definitely think this would be better in the chocolate latte form.

Vanilla Caramel - A delicate blend of black tea, vanilla, caramel & classic chai spices. Cinnamon sticks gather on a lush black-tea lawn for a leisurely afternoon of croquet and conversation. Ginger offers to keep score from the sidelines while handing out elegantly wrapped vanilla caramels.
INGREDIENTS: Black teas, cinnamon, natural flavors, licorice root, ginger, black pepper cloves
I'm not sure where the vanilla and caramel are in that ingredient list? "Natural flavors," perhaps? 
Hm. Well I do like this one better than the chocolate. It's got a little spice to it and you can actually smell the cloves and licorice in it. I normally don't care for either but in here they actually work. I can't find the vanilla or the caramel though, I'll have to keep look-- er, tasting. It tastes more like a spiced tea than creamy and smooth like I expected. One thing I noticed with both the Chocolate and Vanilla Caramel flavors is that the tea suddenly turns sweet as it's going down your throat. Odd but interesting. 

My favorite of the three varieties was the Vanilla Caramel. I may have liked the Classic, but I managed to use a filterbag incorrectly so any opinions I have on that are moot. The Chocolate was just too weird for me to get used to; I can't do the watery chocolate thing just yet. 
I use yogurt lids to hold my tea bags. Ghetto fab y'all. It's called being resourceful.
After browsing Tazo's tea lineup I found an armload of others that I'd like to try. Some of my top choices are the peachy green, baked cinnamon applecocoa mint maté, apricot vanilla creme, and peach cobbler varieties. 
organic peachy green organic baked cinnamon apple cocoa mint mate apricot vanilla crème organic peach cobbler

I've been looking for Tazo at the grocery stores but haven't been able to find one in my area that sells it. :( Unfortunately, you can't order straight from the Tazo website, but I'm pretty sure there are other online retailers who sell this brand. If you have better luck at finding a store, you can save $2.00 on any Tazo product with this link. Happy sipping!

Note: This post contains referral links. I received these TAZO Chai samples complimentary from Smiley360 for testing purposes. This post reflects my honest opinions of this product.