Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DIY Paracord Zipper Pull/Keychain Tutorial

With wrestling season just about finishing up I began thinking of what I can get for the kiddos and the other coaches for their end-of-season gift. Last year I made goody bags with (awesome) foodstuff, but this year I wanted to get crafty and make something. 

Hydro Flasks are all the rage in Hawaii right now and I don't know why. It's an insulated bottle that keeps your water cold or your coffee hot all day long. I think a Thermos works perfectly fine. AND they can hold soup. I might be the only person in the entire state who still uses a squeeze water bottle but that's okay; the way I see it, when you're parched you don't care if your water is cold or not as long as it hydrates. Anyway, the newest Hydro Flask fad is putting parachute cord ("paracord") handles on them. Since every single kid and coach on the team has a Hydro Flask I thought I'd make them paracord handles. 

Then I did the calculations. Each requires about 9' of paracord and I'd have to make 35 of them. That's a whole lot of freakin' paracord, and since money - and time - was a factor (I need to finish these by next Saturday), I needed to find something cheaper. Then I stumbled upon these DIY paracord zipper pulls that use only half as much material as the handles. I know it's not a Hydro Flask handle, but it's still practical; I mean, we all have zippers, don't we? It also doubles as a keychain which is what I would probably use it for.

Sarah (original post here) provides great step-by-step instructions for these zipper pulls/keychains on her blog Frugal Fun For Boys, but I'll go over it here as well using my own photos. She explains how to make one- and two-color pulls. In this tutorial I'm making the two-color ones. Since I'm making these for the high school kids I decided to make it in the school colors, red and yellow (well gold but there was no gold paracord at the store). 

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:
2.5' of paracord Color #1 (550 thickness)
2.5' of paracord Color #2 (550 thickness)
Scissors
Keyring
Masking Tape
Lighter

STEP 1. Cut a 2.5 ft length of each color. The cord will immediately fray when you cut it, and since the outer sheath is ever-so-slightly elastic it will begin to shrink back from the inner fibers. Stop the fraying by fusing each end. To do this, hold a lighter to it for about 5 seconds or until the fibers melt together. But don't hold it too long or else the end will turn black and look like a mushroom.

STEP 2. Fold one end of each color up about 1" and wrap masking tape around the folds to hold it in place. The fold is to give the end of the keychain a nice rounded look. Pass 3" or 4" of the folded ends through a keyring, depending on how long you want the finished product to be. My keys and zippers aren't super huge so I think a 3" keychain or zipper pull looks more proportional.
This is why I don't want to buy glass tables anymore. I just cleaned it yesterday and LOOK at it.
STEP 3. The first knot is the most important. Tie a square knot around the two center backbone strands. Here's how: Make an "L" with Color #1 (the red one in the picture below). Pass the Color #2 over the red one, under the two center strands, and over the red again. Basically you're tying a knot around the backbone strands. Pull the knot tight so that it's snug around the keyring.

Front of the keychain
Back of the keychain
STEP 4. Continue making square knots, alternating starting strands each time (left, right, left, right). An easy way to remember this for a two-color keychain is if you start with the red strand, then you're always going to start with the red strand (since it'll alternate sides when you tie the knots). This keeps the keychain flat, or else it'd twist and look like a spiral.

STEP 5. When you reach the folded ends, keep tying square knots over the ends. Pull each knot tightly so that the ends won't slip out and unfold. Once the ends are secure you can remove the masking tape.

STEP 6. Keep making knots until you reach as far down as you can go without risking the knots slipping over the folded ends. Cut off the excess paracord and fuse the ends again. It may help to fuse it to the surrounding cord as well by heating up the area immediately around the ends and applying pressure to the fused surfaces for about 15 seconds or until they cool. Just remember that the heated cord will be VERY hot so don't use your bare hands for this last part!

Here's what the finished product looks like:
I was able to make six of these in a couple of hours so making 35 by next Saturday's state tournament is totally doable. I'm still working on fusing the ends nicely, but I hope by the time I reach #35 it'll look almost flawless. :) Each keychain/zipper pull takes about a dollar's worth of material to make, and I bet these could go for $5 at a craft fair. Easy money! A word of warning, though: after making about three of these my poor fingers were rope burned so I highly suggest wearing band-aids or something around your fingers while tying your knots.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Birchbox Unboxing - February 2015

I'm glad the West Coast port negotiations aren't affecting domestic oversea shipments because my February Birchbox would definitely come in March if that were the case. But to my surprise it arrived even earlier than usual...in 11 days! Alllmost the timeframe that one would expect. 

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 didn't like any of the February sample choices so I opted to go with the guest editor box again. February's guest curator is Rent the Runway and the box's theme is "It's All in the Details," as in beauty accessories and products that set you apart from the crowd. I knew what was going to be in here when I picked it but of course I didn't remember a single thing by the time it arrived so it was pretty much a mystery box anyway.

Info card for the February Rent the Runway Birchbox
Something had leaked enroute and everything in the box was a bit slimy because of it, but I didn't see cracked bottles or anything so it wasn't a huge deal.
Oh noes! Leaky bottle somewhere :(
Not Soap, Radio Body Wash - The Stuff that Cupid dips his arrows in (1.5oz sample value: $1.75) - This was the source of the sticky goo. And I'm a little sad because now I remember that this was the only reason why I chose the guest editor box this month - I love blackberry-vanilla scents, and this does an exceptional job at smelling like it! The cap wasn't on well and about a fourth of the bottle spilled and was making everything else sticky. But it's not worth complaining to Birchbox about; I already have way more body wash than I'll ever need, and I still have the majority of this so it's no biggie. On the bright side, everything in the box smells delicious now :)

Fekkai Blowout Hair Refresher Dry Shampoo (1.7oz sample value: $7.00) - Lots of people love dry shampoos but I don't use them. For one, I always forget that I have a couple of cans stashed in my drawer. But more importantly, I don't think they work. Dry shampoos are supposed to absorb excess oil and give hair volume, but every one I've tried so far only made my hair feel greasier so I end up washing it anyway. I think this might smell like hairspray, but I'm not sure because I'm not going to try it. The outside of the can smells like blackberry-vanilla though, thanks to the leaky body wash :D

Derma e Anti-Wrinkle Vitamin A Glycolic Scrub (1oz sample size value: $3.20) - I love scrubs, but like with body washes, I have more scrubs than I need to last me a lifetime. Especially for something you're only supposed to use a couple of times a week. There's no way I'm going to use up all of them by the time they expire so I may have to clean out my scrub stash. I want to use this one though because it's formulated for normal to oily skin which is what I have. Maybe this will go to the front of the line. But on the other hand it doesn't expire for another three years so maybe I'll hold off on it...... Spoiled girl problems.

Sumita Color Contrast Eyeliner - Raina (0.024oz sample value: $4.40) - Raina is a navy blue color. Funny, because I never picture dark blue when I see my friend Raina. Yeah. Anyway. Believe it or not, I don't think I own any navy blue eyeliner. Well, none that actually look blue. I did get one from Julep but it looked black to me no matter how I looked at it. I hope this one looks blue because I can definitely use one in my collection. And since blue is not something I intend to wear daily, this one-third size sample is perfect.

theBalm Read My Lips Lip Gloss - BAM! (rose pink) (0.08oz sample size value: $5.75) - Yet another thing I have too much of. I've never tried a lip gloss from theBalm cosmetics, but this one is a very pretty light pink. Supposedly it's not sticky, but that's what all glosses say and I haven't encountered any that my hair isn't immediately attracted to (except for Manna Kadar Lip Locked, but that's way too oily for my liking). Enriched with ginseng, this gloss delivers a dose of antioxidants along with intense color and shine. In my experience ultra-shiny = ultra-sticky. You can't have one without the other.

Nothing incredibly exciting in this box, but it's a nice variety of skincare, makeup, and body and haircare. Plus these are all pretty useful things. Unfortunately, the dry shampoo will have to go because I just don't use it enough. The lip gloss too because I already have fifty shades of pink. But everything else can find a home in my bathroom. Yay for collecting everything! (I'm born in the year of the rat so I feel like it's my sworn duty to become a pack rat :] )

Birchbox currently has a special until this Thursday, 2/26: spend $35 on February products and get 50 bonus points with BUY35EXTRA50!  If you want to sign up for a Birchbox, use my link and start finding some great beauty products. The shop has tons of stuff spanning home and foodstuff, so have a look!

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Barkbox Unboxing - February 2015 + Get 10% Off A New Subscription!


What: BarkBox is a subscription box for dogs filled with 4-6 treat, toy, and hygiene items. Boxes are curated according to your dog's size. This review is for a medium-dog box.
When: Ships monthly on the 15th
Cost: $18-$29 per month depending on the length of your subscription
Fun Fact: 10% of proceeds from each BarkBox goes to rescue groups!

BarkBox has the timing thing nailed down. This month's theme is Mardi Gras and of course my box lands on my doorstep right on Mardi Gras. I wish I had gotten home earlier in the day so the dogs could partake in Fat Tuesday celebrations, but we'll have to make up for it tonight with Fat Wednesday. 
February info card...IT'S MARDI GRAS!!!

Delca Corp Jester Ball (value: $9) - First item of the box and I'm already intrigued and somewhat confused. This is a Barkbox exclusive that looks like a typical plush jester hat on the outside. But when you pick it up there's something inside the round part that feels like mardi gras beads, though I'm pretty sure no dog toy company would be so dumb as to put a tiny choking hazard in their toys. When you squeeze the ball it squeaks. There's also crinkly paper in the hat tails for added amusement. Pebbles would go nuts for this, but I want to find out what the bead-like things on the inside are first. Perhaps it's a gum-massaging rubber ball, in which case that's awesome because my dogs can use all the dental care they can get.


PetSafe Indigo Catfish Po'Boy with Chicken (2oz value: $7) - Indigo has some of the most interesting treats. We've gotten a triple layered chewy moist dental chew thing in one box and treats that bore a scary resemblance to lil' smokies in another. Now here we have a Barkbox exclusive created specifically for Mardi Gras. I mean, when else are you going to see a jester pug?? I personally prefer saltwater fish but I highly doubt the furballs would discriminate. Just add a baguette and your pup has his very own Po'Boy sandwich. I swear dog food is sounding more and more like human food. Just keep in mind that since this is a meaty treat with no preservatives, once you open it keep it refrigerated and finish it when three days. I'm saving these for when I want the dogs to be on extra good behavior.

New Angle Pet Junior Gulpy (10oz bottle value: $9) - Yesss! I've been wanting another water bottle for the doggies. We seem to be the only pup parents at the dog park without this type of water bottle. Instead of this nested bottle design, ours has a non-folding bowl attachment with a snap-close cover for the bottle. It's pretty bulky and leaks all over the place. This water bottle is the first non-treat or toy item we've gotten from BarkBox in months, and I'm quite pleased at the change up. The Gulpy also comes in a 20oz size which would have been more suitable for my slobberpuffs, but since we only need water bottles for the dog park this will work just fine. 

Etta Says! Chicken Pot Pie Little Bitz (5.5oz value: $9) - So as I was saying, dog food is starting to sound just like human food. Perfect example: It's CHICKEN POT PIE, people! Since when do dogs get to eat chicken pot pie??! Granted I'm sure it's not as tasty as the Homo sapien version, but I still can't help but get a bit jealous. Etta Says is the maker of the reoccurring crunchy duck and deer chews we always find in our Barkboxes. This is a welcome change to that norm, and it's meaty! Macho and Pebbles love meaty treats. Well Pebbles loves everything (even leaves), but Macho prefers the chewy ones. I've been wanting Barkbox to send a training treat for a while now and here it is! As far as I can tell, though, it smells nothing like the savory dish. It smells like herbs. Ah. Well that's why. There's rosemary in it. It's the last thing on the ingredient list, but it's the only thing I can smell. There's only natural ingredients in here (i.e. things I can pronounce) so I can feel confident about giving one or ten of these to my dogs.

Aussie Naturals Salmon Half Cigar (value: $5) - And finally in true Mardi Gras fashion, my dogs can have a smoke during the celebration. But this is the kind of cigar that's good for your dog's skin. This is a piece of 100% natural salmon skin rolled up to look like a cigar. It must stink to high heaven but it's wrapped in thick plastic so I'm safe for now. I'm totally taking a picture of my dogs with this in their mouth.
Underside of Aussie Naturals salmon cigar
Well there you have it; another successful BarkBox curation. One thing BarkBox has always been great with is themes. To me half the fun of getting them is seeing what theme-related toys or treats they manage to find each month. This box had a BarkValue of $39, and while the prices may be a bit inflated, a lot of the items are BarkBox exclusives. That's something I've noticed over the past 6 months or so. Lately each box has had one or two items specially created for BarkBox, which makes it super hard to unsubscribe despite the $5 shipping/box; their exclusives are so freakin cute!! I'm certain that the dogs will love every single edible item in here. Pebbles might even find the plush toy tasty as well because she's strange like that. And I'm a happy dog mama now that I have my very own nested water bottle!

If your dog has been hounding on you to jump on the BarkWagon, you can sign up here to receive 10% off a new subscription of any length! Your pup will get tons of toys and treats, and in return you get to take hundreds of derpy doggy face pictures =P
Update 2/22/15: Barkbox has just announced that using my referral link will get both you and me a free box. Barking awesome!!

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

Ipsy Unboxing - February 2015

Over the past few months I've cut back on boxes and pretty much all online spending in general so I can save a bit of money, so any package I get in the mail nowadays feels like a Christmas present. This Christmas present arrived just after President's Day weekend, and although it didn't arrive in time for Valentine's or President's Day festivities, it didn't matter because the items were appropriate for any time of year.

What: Ipsy Glam Bags contain 5 deluxe samples and full sized beauty products in an exclusive makeup bag.
When: Glam Bags ship monthly on the 10th
Cost: $10/month
Fun Extras: You can review your products each month to earn ipsyPoints, which can be redeemed for monthly bonus items.

February's theme is about Love and all the ways to express it. Love comes in all shapes and sizes, whether it's a hug, a new makeup fave, or a status update. Let's see if the Glam Bag has anything I'll love...

ModelCo Blush - Peach Bellini (3.6g value: $9) -  Ipsy sent out two variations of ModelCo blush - Cosmopolitan (ballerina pink) and this one. I'm glad I got this peachy pink because I'm 99.99% sure I'd look like a porcelain doll if I got the other color. This is a pressed powder blush that I haven't opened yet because I still have three others in rotation at the moment. Blush is one thing that I never run out of because it takes so darn long to go through a compact (I have yet to finish one) and I keep getting more in boxes. This is a pretty color that I think I would love, but with the amount of blush I use on the daily (hardly any) I really don't think I'll get to it before it expires.

Medusa's Makeup Safari Eye Shadow - Headhunter (2g full size value: $8) - Medusa's Makeup's Safari line contains 12 shimmery eye shadow colors that I assume are geared toward those who are still working up the courage to try their Electro line (think normal colors but BRIGHTER...we're talking hot pink and electric yellow). My courage when it comes to eye makeup is basically zero, and even this mauve-y eggplant shade is quite a bit out of my comfort zone.
Close up of Medusa's Makeup eye shadow in Headhunter
Luxie Rose Gold Large Angled Face Brush (value: $16 $8) - Soooo soooooft. I'm having flashbacks of the Blackheads No More Memebox and its therapeutic pore brush. This is a (cruelty-free!) angled face brush that's perfect for applying bronzer or blush. The synthetic bristles are coated with an antibacterial solution and resist product absorption. I'm pretty sure the coating won't last through more than a couple of washes, though, so regular cleaning is still a must. This brush is currently on sale for half off on the Luxie Beauty website, so if you're in the market for a new blush brush, now's the time to pick one up!

Glamglow Brightmud Eye Treatment (2 cells value: $11.50) - Hm, this is new to me. This is an undereye treatment that is supposed to get rid of dark circles and puffiness, but it's not your usual cream. It's a...powder I think? Or mud as the name suggests? Basically you tap this onto your eye orbital and wait three minutes before wiping it off with a tissue. Based on the reviews I read this baby burns a lot, so if you have sensitive skin you may want to steer clear of this.

Demeter Roll On Perfume Oil - First Love (0.29oz full size value: $10) - I like roll-on perfumes since they minimize wasted product and prevents making your significant other who's standing behind you from smelling like a woman due to accidental over spray. Plus, I like perfume oils because I feel they're a lot more potent than the regular stuff so all you need is a tiny bit. This perfume hails from South Korea and is a combination of lemon zest, jasmine, honeysuckle, water lotus, and white rose. Unfortunately, all I can smell is rose so I won't be keeping this one. Sorry, deal breaker.

Makeup Bag - I typically don't care for patterns on my bags. I'm a boring solid block type of girl. But! There are always exceptions. This is one of them and I'm not totally sure why. I think it's because I like the color combo. Like if this were pink and orange I'd throw this faaar across the room. I kind of wish the zipper was on top instead of the side but it's not like 3/4" less space will cramp my lifestyle or anything so I'm cool with this bag. I'm keeping it.

So did I find love this month with Ipsy? Maybe. I'm kind of in love with the soft bristles on the makeup brush, and I didn't even try it yet. I hope it's a good brush; if not I'll just run it across my face all day just because I can. The bag was my second favorite part because pink and gray are awesome together. Actually gray with anything is awesomesauce. I wish I made my wedding colors blue and gray instead of blue and silver. The only advantage silver has is that I'll be able to decorate everything with tin foil and still say it's within my color scheme. Anyway, for a bag valued at $46 I kind of thought I'd love more stuff in it but oh well. The blush is nice.

If you want to subscribe to Ipsy click here to get on the wait list! You won't be charged for your first bag until you get off the list. And for $10 you really can't beat the value, especially when everything you get is a deluxe sample or bigger. Not every bag will be a hit, but it evens out over a few months so you end up with a pile of awesome finds and a pile that you can trade for awesome finds :) Win win, right?

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fortune Cookie Soap Spring 2015 Box "Wonderland" Unboxing

Over the past few months I've kind of come to terms with the realization that I sort of have an unhealthy obsession for things that smell good. But I'm not so ashamed of it anymore because at least now I've got a handle on it since I can actually bring myself to use those darn smell-goodies. There once was a time when all I'd do was collect, collect, collect and eventually those little soaps would turn greasy and the little bottles of wonder would crack and leak all over my drawer. AND I DIDN'T EVEN GET A CHANCE TO USE THEM. Not like I was planning to anyway, obviously. 

And as if I didn't already have drawers overflowing with little bottles of heaven, I decided to go ahead and got more. Yep, despite saving for a wedding (and failing horribly), I brushed off that frugal shoulder angel and indulged in my very first Fortune Cookie Soap box. 

What: Fortune Cookie Soap Company specializes in bath and body products in unique exclusive scents. The Soap box contains 8 pre-release FCS bath product samples
When: Ships quarterly (Feb/May/Aug/Nov)
Cost: $19.99/quarter
Fun fact: Each box comes with a $10 code to use in the upcoming product launch!

As soon as I cut open the box I was greeted by a rush of sweetness (plus something a tad musky).
The info card showed a nice variety of items. There was also supposed to be a $10 off code on the flipside but mine was blank :( I'm gonna send them an email and ask if they ran out of ink and/or alphabets. Or maybe there's some Harry Potter shiznit going down where once the new spring collection is launched my code will magically appear on my card? Hey, when you're in Wonderland as this box suggests, anything can happen.
As I mentioned, the spring box's theme is "Wonderland." As in Alice in Wonderland. I guess I had a deprived childhood because the first time I ever saw what Alice looked like was when I was old enough to associate it with drugs, thanks to Jefferson Airplane. And the first time I ever sorta knew what the story was about was when I saw the 2010 film adaptation starring Johnny Depp. But no, I've never watched/read the actual story, just the synopsis because I think I might get high just seeing a talking doorknob or a caterpillar with a hookah. Anyway, that sets up the expectation for this box. A whole lot of weird. Hoooly crap.

"Who Are You?" Incense Cone - Speaking of hookah, this isn't too far fetched. But I must say that I've never encountered incense that smells so good before. I've only used the incense sticks you find in temples and the like, so this is a welcome change. I haven't burned any of these yet but I want to. It's supposed to smell like a mix of pear, lime, vanilla orchid and cane sugar. Sounds lovely, though I'm not so sure about the sugar cane part. If you've ever been nearby when they're harvesting that stuff it stinks. I'd much rather smell ordinary incense over that. Hopefully the other notes smell divine and make up for it. If you've never used an incense cone before (I haven't), you use this by standing it up on a table, light it for 10 seconds, then blow it out. The incense smoke will fill the room until the cone burns down. I may have to use this when C's at work because he hates strong smells; he has yet to come to terms with my candle burning (he complains with every new one I bring out) so I'm pretty sure this is a heck no in his book :-/ Alternatively, you can leave the cones in the bag and use it as potpourri or something. That's my Plan B.

And look, FCS included a pretty butterfly...if you sniff the cones enough it might actually fly!

"It's Only A Dream" Whipped Cream - Whoa, this is like shoving your nose into a tub of Ivory soap and rose petals. This cream is waaay too floral for me. Ugh. Supposedly this smells like verbena, lemongrass, calla lily and citrus had a run-in with leafy greens, ylang-ylang, rosewood, and ozone. Ozone has a scent?? I could have sworn it didn't. I did a study on ozonated water once, and it smelled no different than non-ozonated water. In my dream, ozone would smell like fresh linen and would put a sleeper hold on all the other scents so I can't smell them. It could happen; we're in Wonderland after all, aren't we?

"Futterwacken" Body Wash - Lilies + grapefruit + air = Futterwacken, apparently. If I knew how to Futterwack I imagine it'd smell like feet and sweat with a splash of strawberry because that's what I'd end up with when I fell down. I guess this smells more like grapefruit than lilies (or air?), but I personally think it smells exactly like a creamsicle. Looks like it, too. I love creamsicles. Can't wait to use this!

"We're All Mad Here" OCD Hand Sanitizer - If you had a sprig of mint in one hand and a handful of leafy greens in the other while standing under a giant cedar, I'd imagine you'd smell like this hand sanitizer. Not really my cup of tea dish of soap, but it does smell clean. Kind of reminds me of mens' deodorant. I have enough hand sanitizers from Bath & Body Works 5-for-$5 sales (and none of them smell manly), so I think I'll pass this along to a manly friend.

"Eat Me" Perfume Oil - Heavens to Betsy, I think I've found a new favorite perfume! I loved it before I even read the description and now that I've read it I love it even more. Get this: scrumptious yellow cake with a fresh slathering of rich, creamy vanilla frosting, topped with fresh white pineapple slices and garnished with a sprig of blooming cilantro. I love cake, frosting, pineapples, and cilantro so this is a match made in heaven! I really don't know how cilantro would even mesh with the other notes, so it's a good thing I can't pick it up. I smell pineapple top notes with some frosting on the dry down. It's a very sweet scent, so if you prefer sensual and sophisticated, this probably wouldn't be your top choice. I'm not sophisticated and I like funky scents so this is right up my alley. I want to eat my arm. Omnomnom.

"Off With Their Heads!" Bath Bomb - I suppose this is the festive part of the box - sensual for Valentines Day. And it was pretty fitting since this box arrived on Valentine's. However, I'm not a rose scent fan so it's no surprise that I kind of gagged at this bath bomb. There are lots of stuff in this one: Meyer lemons and oranges intertwined with roses, violets, and star jasmine with bergamot and Egyptian musk tones. But all my nose smells is rose rose rose. For me this is right down there with the whipped cream. Ack. This one is a bit more rosy-smelling than the cream, but both are all floral and no fruit. I like fruits over flowers, in my bath products and in real life.

"Twisted Tea Party" Bath Tea - Hm. I've never tried a bath tea before. This smells like green tea with some floral hints, but nothing overpowering like the whipped cream or the bath bomb. Under the green tea are notes of vanilla bean, cucumber, and golden amber, with hints of neroli, geranium, and spearmint. It's a very relaxing scent that reminds me of my college dorming days. I don't know why; I think maybe one of my roommates used a shampoo or soap that smelled like this. Anywho, I use my tea bags three times before they lose their infusion ability, I wonder if the same goes for bath tea... #luxuryonabudget

"Almost Alice" Fortune Cookie Soap - And now for the namesake of the box. This soap smells, well, like soap. I guess Alice almost smells like soap too. They say it's like sweet pea flowers and freesia accented with snap peas and pears with a sprinkling of ripe berries. But to me it smells like jasmine soap. Not as headache-inducing as the rose, but still too floral for my liking.

My overall thoughts on this box? Not too bad for my first one. There was a nice mix of bath items in a large assortment of scents. I wish there was less floral and more fruity, but I'm not always gonna love everything. I'm sure there are people who wanted less fruity and more floral. I think the value just about broke even with what I paid, but if I count the $10 code (if I ever get it) then it's a better deal. But that'd entail making another purchase so I don't know if it should count to begin with.

I think the spring box is sold out, but you can sign up for the summer box here. I'll probably be keeping my subscription for summer because I anticipate more fruity goodness to come!

Note: I paid for this box and all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread: The Better Butter?

I love unhealthy food. This includes butter. Especially when it comes to baking, NOTHING can substitute butter. Yep, I do love my butter. To make myself feel less gluttonous, I also keep butter spread in the house and use it for stir fry veggies or breads. It's called reasoning with myself.

Recently, Influenster let me reconsider my options when they asked me to try a brand of buttery spread that was new to me. If you've never heard of Influenster, it's an online review community where you review products to unlock "badges" and connect your social media networks to increase your Impact score. The higher your score and activity level, the greater your chances of receiving a specific product or maybe even a free VoxBox containing several full-sized items for review. 

This time around Influenster wanted me to review an Earth Balance Spread. Challenge accepted! Sounds fun since I've never tried Earth Balance products before. I received a coupon in the mail for the full face value of a tub of my choice. But before I dive in to the review, here's a little tutorial on the difference between butter, margarine, and spreads in case you were wondering. Not that it'll really matter for this review, but it's useful knowledge. Basically it's all about the fat:
% Fat Fat Source
Butter 80% Milkfat
Margarine 80% Milkfat and/or vegetable
Spreads Varies Vegetable
Source: http://www.landolakes.com
So there you have it. Butter and margarine must be at least four-fifths fat, with margarine being a tad bit "healthier" because its fat source can be from vegetables. Spreads are probably the "healthiest" choice because fat content is not regulated so companies can put as little as they want. This is why they discourage using spreads in baking - you need the fat or else you might end up with dry cake and burnt cookies. Oh, and the fat is sourced from plants and vegetables. This supposedly healthier butter alternative will be the focus of this review.

THE PRODUCT
I hardly ever look at the buttery spread selection in the supermarket (I only buy it about once a year), so when I visited Safeway's spread selection I was impressed. Even more unbelievable was the Earth Balance product selection. It didn't occur to me until later that I should've taken a picture of it; it was huge. How have I not noticed this before?? Here's a glimpse of what Earth Balance has to offer:
Their assortment includes six spreads; Safeway had five of them to choose from: Original, Olive Oil, Soy Free, Omega-3, and Organic Whipped. I ended up picking the olive oil variety off the shelf. Why? Because I don't care if my food isn't soy-free or organic so my selection was immediately narrowed to three choices. Eeny-meeny-miney-moe did the rest. Then I realized that the olive oil one was soy-free anyway, so I really don't know what advantage the "Soy Free" variety had.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
  • vegan
  • lactose-free
  • gluten-free
  • non-GMO
  • have no trans fat

It's a nice dairy-free alternative for vegans and those with sensitive stomachs. The Olive Oil variety of buttery spread has an added oomph in the taste department with a hint of extra virgin olive oil. 
With the cover removed, it looks like any other container of buttery spread. I wanted to compare its consistency texture spreadability (I make up words when I'm frustrated) so I put it side-by-side on a slice of bread with Country Crock Original Shedd's Spread (the one I already had at home).
Country Crock Original Shedd's Spread (left) and Earth Balance Olive Oil Spread (right)
Earth Balance did spread rather nicely, but that doesn't mean anything if the taste isn't there, so I took a bite from each half. I couldn't taste any hint of olive oil. Must be a really tiny hint. But the Earth Balance had a sweeter, more true-to-butter aftertaste, though it wasn't incredibly noticeable. If I hadn't compared them side-by-side I wouldn't have been able to tell. 

And no wonder I thought it tasted yummier; it has a higher fat content than the Shedd's spread with 9g per tablespoon (versus 7g). The nutrition facts label shows how those 9 grams break down:


First of all, I want to point out that this is not "healthy" spread compared to others. It's over 80% fat (for comparison, Country Crock Shedd's spread is about 50%). Aiyeeeee! But there's always a silver lining, and in this case it's that there are more unsaturated than saturated fats. These so-called "healthy" fats can be beneficial in improving blood cholesterol levels. Not that you should eat a tub of this in one serving, because I'm sure that's pretty gross no matter which way you look at it. Naturally, I wanted to see where the unsaturated fats came from so I consulted the ingredient list:
This spread contains only plant-based oils. It does have palm fruit oil though , which isn't as bad as regular palm oil, but that's probably where the saturated fat comes from. On the bright side, the flax and canola oils contain omega-3 fatty acids which have some heart benefits.

THE VERDICT
So how do I feel about Earth Balance buttery spread? I'll probably give this a shot and see how it fares in the baking department since it has about the same fat content as butter. I'd much rather buy just one product that does everything anyway. But since butter and the spread don't have the same kinds of fats, I'm guessing my cookies will taste a bit different. If you love to live healthy though, I'm not so sure you'd choose this brand as there are others that still have the same saturated:unsatured fat ratio but have less fat altogether. Now I have two full tubs of buttery spreads to finish in the next year. Time to get cooking!


Note: I received a coupon for the face value of Earth Balance Buttery Spread from Influenster for testing purposes. All opinions expressed in this post are my own. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Julep Cupid's Mystery Clutch Review


It's been a while since I've picked up a Julep mystery box because I've gotten quite a bit of polish overlap which made me think that they used the boxes as a way to get rid of old stock. But I've heard lately that there's been an improvement in mystery box polish selection, and when I saw one of the polishes that would be in Cupid's Mystery Clutch I had to get it. I'm a huge fan of glittery/confetti nail polishes, and both featured polishes were confetti types!

Cupid's Mystery Clutch is on sale for $24.99 until 2/15 and promises over $100 worth of nail polish and beauty finds. They also said that if you ordered by 2/6 you'd get it in time for Valentine's Day. I took them up on that promise because my Julep orders always take 4 weeks to reach me. BUT! They must have heard my expletive-filled grumbles because this box took just three days to get here. I guess Julep forked over the extra $$$ for Express service in order to avoid hearing my pitiful whining over 2500 miles of ocean.

Anyway, here's what was inside the box:

Black Sequin Wristlet - This wristlet is great for a night out. Unfortunately, I'm not a clutch/wristlet type of gal because I am that person who will end up setting it down to grab a plate of food (because it's ALWAYS a good time for food) and totally forget about it. I need things to be slung over my shoulder. Large pockets work well too. But this is actually a very nice 9"x5" size that will easily fit a phone, coin purse and maybe a few keys. This is probably way dressier than any clothes I own so it'll look out of place with my hobo getup, but if you own nice clothes and don't get distracted by food so much, this is a perfect addition to your collection.

Julep Nail Polish (Value: $14 each/$11.20 Maven) - There were five polishes in the mystery box: two confetti toppers and three regular polishes. The purple one on the right is a freebie I added using the code GETCOLOR.

Valentina (Bombshell) - Pink chevron glitter top coat. Chevrons are cool...if they're all facing the same direction. I'm weird when it comes to angles and points - they all have to face the same way or else it just looks messy to me. Holy crap, Type A much?
Yuki (Classic With A Twist) - Snowy heart glitter top coat. I love hearts, and it's okay if they're not facing the same direction because they're rounded. I know, what the hell is my deal, right. Yuki means snow in Japanese and this gives a nice snowy but slightly pink touch to your manicure. I heart hearts.
Myriam (Classic With A Twist) - Casino red creme. Whoa. It's like walking into a stop sign. I'm not sure if I'm confident enough in my nails to draw so much attention to them.
Margit (It Girl) - Mushroom with rose shimmer. Very nice color. Horrible description. Who wants to wear mushrooms? This is a shimmery taupe that I'm sure I can get tons of use out of.
Jessie (Bombshell) - Deep Kalamata creme. As in the olive. Better than being named after a mushroom, I guess. The folks at Julep must be hungry.
Sylvia (Classic With A Twist) - Lilac purple creme. This was my freebie add-on. I know I always gripe about purple, but with spring just around the corner I thought it's about time to get out of my comfort zone. And what better way than getting a free polish to do so?
Close-up of the confetti toppers, Valentina and Yuki
Lip Gloss - Posh (Value: $20.00) - Although I mainly buy nail polish from Julep, I really like their lip glosses too. They're not sticky and they smell yummy. The only downside is that they don't have very much staying power and I find myself having to reapply within a couple of hours. This is a dark boysenberry red lip gloss that I'm sure lots of people will love, but I prefer subtle colors that almost match my natural lip color.

Gel Eye Glider - Navy Smoke (Value: $16.00) - It's called navy smoke but I call it black. Even up close the swatch looks black. I haven't done a side-by-side comparison with the Blackest Black color which I also own, but I'm fairly certain I won't be able to tell the difference. That said, I do love how well this pencil glides and sets. The description doesn't lie - within 30 seconds it really does stay put. I tried rubbing the swatch off my hand so people don't start asking me why I'm drawing smiley faces on my body like a middle schooler, but I failed at it. I was able to smudge it a little, but it lasted through several hand washings before finally coming off.
Gel eye glider (Navy Smoke) swatch on my hand and on a piece of paper
If you think you'd like this box, it's still available for purchase until 2/15. I'm not sure if the GETCOLOR promo code for a free full-sized polish is still valid, but if not then you can use TAKE10 to get $10 off a $20+ purchase. It doesn't work on the Cupid's mystery clutch, but if there's anything else you were also eyeing at Julep it'll work on those.