Month: July 2013

Product review: Alba Botanica Natural Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes Deep Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme

After I fell in love with my Giovanni towelettes (review here), I thought nothing else could ever compare. Once my local Target stopped stocking them, however, I had to find a replacement while I waited to order more towelettes from the Giovanni website, so I picked up these cloths from Alba Botanica. I’ve had good luck with other Alba Botanica products in the past and I remembered seeing these recommended in a beauty magazine some time back, so I thought they were at least worth a shot!

The product: Alba Botanica Natural Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes Deep Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme; $5.99/30 count at drugstores.

The claim: First, gentle cleansers remove makeup. Second, pore-refining pineapple and papaya enzymes break through oil and dull surface cells for a pore-deep clean. Finally, aloe and awapuhi tone and balance to refresh without tightness. pH Balanced. 100% Vegetarian. No: Animal Testing, Artificial Colors, Parabens, Phthalates, Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate or Sodium Myreth Sulfate. Leaping Bunny certified.

I tried it: Same standard deal as any facial towelette: open up the resealable package, use the sturdy and well-moistened cloth to clean your face, reseal the package and be done with it. Except that in the case of these wipes, I did not feel like they’re a one-step wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am deal. They promise to be a “makeup remover + cleanser + toner”, but they left my face and hands feeling tacky and not thoroughly cleansed. I had to wash my hands after using them, and as for my face? Well…

I’ve recently become a convert to the school of using witch hazel as a natural toner post-cleansing, and let me tell you, it makes such a difference in the way my skin looks and feels. It’s also a great test to see if your “cleanser” is really cleansing. In the case of these wipes, when I used them to wipe away a long day’s worth of foundation, grime, etc., it took not one but two cotton balls soaked in witch hazel to finish the job and leave my face feeling truly clean. I’m sorry, but that is not my definition of a “cleanser”, nor am I pleased that I have to add another step to what is supposedly a one-step cleansing routine.

I want to point out one more thing as a comparison to the Giovanni wipes. If you look up the ingredients for both of these products (just search for them at, the Giovanni wipes have a much more natural ingredients list. The Alba Botanica wipes also contain both limonene and linalool; limonene has been rated a 6 out of 10 on Skin Deep’s hazard chart and both of these ingredients are listed as known allergens, with linalool apparently serving as a trigger ingredient for eczema.

I am not 100% hippie natural (well, not yet anyway) and I am okay with some products being a little less “natural” if they’re just for my use, but I’m trying to rid the house of skincare products with these ingredients because my husband will from time to time pick them up to use them, and I feel like it’s just better to avoid these allergens where possible. And obviously, if you have allergies, it’s a bummer to realize that a product that looks and sounds so green and pure has something in in that can be so harmful.

My verdict: I love Alba Botanica and I’d love to love these towelettes, but quite frankly they do not even come close to cutting it for me. They just don’t leave my face feeling clean! I will definitely not repurchase.

Product review: Dr. Scholl’s For Her High Heel Insoles

(Disclosure: I received this product complimentary of Influenster for testing purposes. I did not receive any form of compensation for writing a review and as always all thoughts and opinions are my own.)

One of the items that arrived in my Influenster Sunkissed VoxBox this week was a pair of Dr. Scholl’s For Her High Heel insoles–score! I love these and wear them in all of my high heels, so I wanted to share a quick review of them for those of you who might not have tried them yet.

The product: Dr. Scholl’s For Her High Heel insoles; $10-$11 online and at drugstores and mass market retailers.

The claim: Slim design fits into your high heels to relieve ball-of-foot pressure. Won’t crowd toes or show in open-toe shoes.

I tried it: These insoles have a peel-and-stick backer to hold them in place, yet they can be removed easily for shoes without causing damage. They’re cut a bit shorter and slimmer than traditional insoles to accommodate heeled shoes without crowding toes. If you have larger feet like me then you may want to place the insoles in your shoes and walk around for a moment to find the best placement for them.

I like that these are clear, so you can wear them in strappy sandals without an embarrassing insole peeking out for the world to see. They do so much to relieve the pressure on my arches and the balls of my feet, and make my high heels so much more comfortable to wear for hours on end!I also feel like having insoles in my high heels relieves some of the knee, hip and back pain I feel from wearing heels, and makes it easier to walk without biting my tongue and wincing!

My verdict: I won’t wear heels without these insoles–as soon as I buy a new pair of heels I drop into Walgreens for a pair of insoles to go with! 

(Disclosure: I received this product complimentary of Influenster for testing purposes. I did not receive any form of compensation for writing a review and as always all thoughts and opinions are my own.)


Influenster Sunkissed VoxBox

Well well, look at the lovely surprise that showed up in my mailbox this weekend…

It’s the Sunkissed VoxBox! I love getting these testing packages from Influenster; it’s so fun getting to try new things and sometimes I find new favorites in these packages that I might not have picked up otherwise.

There were four products inside, starting with the big “it” summer product, Olay Fresh Effects BB Cream. To be honest I will probably not even be testing this, because a) it’s tested on animals b) it’s not my shade and c) I’m not a fan of BB creams. Also, I have three or four different bases in my makeup box already, so I don’t need another!

The Dr. Scholls For Her High Heels Insoles are another story–I love these things! I put them in all of my high heels to make them more comfortable. I’ll probably post a review soon.

The Goody Ribbon Elastics are neat. I feel like these look better than a plain hair tie if you’re doing a braid or wearing it on your wrist. I’ll review them soon.

Finally there’s a bottle of the new Sinful Colors SinfulShine Gel Tech polish. The putty color seems like an odd choice for summer–I’m wearing more brights this time of year–but it’s an interesting concept.

That’s it for now! I’ll post more detailed reviews in the next couple of weeks.


Birthday vacation part three: big makeup haul!

Time to wrap up the posts about my vacation! After my spending ban I was overdue for a makeup haul, but I saved it until after I went back to work so I would have something to make those first nights a little less soul-crushing. So here are the pictures of everything I got!

First up: a bunch of the Milani Shadow Eyez pencils, which I’ve been wanting since I saw them on Pang’s blog this spring. Almond Cream and Cafe Au Lait are both matte, which is hard to find on the cheap (these are $6.50 apiece), and then I grabbed Brown Deluxe and Golden Bronze because they were just so pretty. I was happy to get some individual shades instead of a palette of powders so I wouldn’t get any dupes for shades I already own.

Next is a new limited edition blush from Essence, part of the Floral Grunge collection. Be Flowerful is a silky coral blush. This retails for $3 so it’s a real steal if you can find it.

These Wet n Wild shadows were BOGO 1/2 Off so I grabbed a pan of rosy shades (they’re warmer in real life) for $3 and a jade green single pan that ended up being $1.

I don’t have a black liquid liner at the moment so I thought instead of buying another traditional liquid liner, I would try something different: a felt pen style (Milani, $7.50). The Hard Candy polish is called “Tinsel Town” ($4) and it’s the only bar glitter I’ve found at the drugstore thus far, so I justified adding it to my stash.

I kind of went nuts with the Hard Candy products! There were still a few of these mini $4 kits at Walmart, so I grabbed them so I can try a bunch of different products on the cheap. Now I have minis of face and eyeshadow primer, bronzing and highlighting liquid, a silver eyeshadow, a thickening mascara and a glitter mascara, and two glitter eye pencils in teal and purple. Pretty good for twelve bucks, huh?

This was the more practical part of my splurge. I love this Physician’s Formula mascara and Walmart usually sells it for $9 per tube, but these packages have a bonus tube inside–so that makes it $4.50 per tube, which is dirt cheap for any mascara, let alone such a nice one. The Glamoflauge Concealer ($6) has been recommended by a bunch of my favorite bloggers including Pang, Jasmine and Niki, so I finally bought that too (after eyeballing it for months!). I hope this finally solves my dark circle dilemma!

The Shadowholic sticks ($5) in Pink Lady and After Hours are supposed to last all day without creasing; Pang reviewed a couple of different shades (can you tell I stalk her blog?) and they looked awesome, so hopefully they work for me too. The All Lid Up cream shadow ($5) is called Tidal Wave and it’s such a lovely shade of bright turquoise.

Last but not least, I finally bought a can of Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak dry shampoo. Arielle recommended this one and it was only $5, so I figured it was a good foray into a product I’ve always been kind of leery of using. I do like the idea of boosting my fine hair’s volume so I’m willing to try it out!

So there’s my big birthday cosmetics haul! Going on a spending ban and shopping spree has taught me a few things: it’s easier for me to stick to a seasonal budget than a monthly one, I get more enjoyment from the occasional splurge rather than regular shopping, and I end up buying fewer, nicer items because I have time to make a list of the things I really want for the season instead of just buying something because it’s new or I “need” a treat. So now that my shopping spree is over, I think I’ll go back on a small spending ban so I can have another shopping spree when autumn arrives!

Thanks for reading through all of my birthday vacation posts! I missed you all while I was gone and I have so much blog reading and YouTube viewing to catch up on now, plus, obviously, tons of reviews to write. So I guess it’s time to get back into my routine and get back to regular work on the blog!

Birthday vacation part one: road trip and shopping

So now that I’m back from vacation I thought it’d be fun to write a post telling y’all about it. Once I started writing I realized it would be a really looooooooooong post, so I’ve split it up into three parts.

I have this thing about making a hundred lists before I leave on a trip and I’m constantly nervously vibrating around checking that I’ve packed all of my chargers and have enough socks. No surprise then that I woke up at 4 AM ready to go. It was 40 degrees and raining when I left, which suited me just fine, but it made it kind of hard to pack; I had to keep reminding myself that I wanted sundresses and shorts because it would be hot and sunny once I hit the desert.

The drive was actually pretty easy, especially during the first few hours when there were few drivers on the road. Having good music helps, even if it does necessitate the use of cruise control to avoid driving too fast:

It wasn’t until later in the day that the roads got busier and I got to deal with some of the less wonderful drivers of the west. If I ever write a book on all the ways people drive me batty, this trip will have given me plenty of material for the chapter entitled “Vehicular Shenanigans”. There are some people who drive maddeningly slow and others who scoot their noses right into your bumper and stay there no matter what. For every slow driver there’s one who will fly down these roads at 80 MPH (no exaggeration) or drive right into oncoming traffic to pass.

Keep in mind that you’re on a narrow, twisty two-lane road running through a river canyon with a rock wall on one side and a river on the other, narrow (or nonexistent) dirt shoulders, and constant road signs warning you to slow down for curves, do not pass, watch for rock, look out for deer, remember that there are no guard rails, beware of trucks for the next five miles on the 7% grade (don’t worry–there are lots of runaway truck ramps in case of emergency!), and occasionally…

Beware of Cows Falling from Mountains    It looks like a avalanche or rock fall warning, but it's not. It's a cow. In fact, it's a cow that's falling from a mountain and that's going to land on top of the car. Thanks for making me paranoid about falling cows, now.
(image via Pinterest)
Suicidal cows, apparently.

So after the first few hours of low-traffic driving, several of us wound up stacked behind two pickup trucks hauling large trailers. And by “several” I mean six eager vehicles who did not want to drive slowly, because they had destinations, dammit. These are Western roads; if you want to go from point A to point B there is one route and you don’t have the option of taking a different road to circumvent slow traffic. You can only hope that eventually you’ll come to a stretch of road with a sign stating that…

(image via Pinterest)
YES! So naturally all six of us got really excited at the prospect of being able to pass the trailers and resume a normal traveling speed. But do you think either of the trucks used the turnouts?


They decided to proceed along as normal, while I silently berated myself for “packing light” and not bringing the shoulder-mounted grenade launcher; then there would have been no such problems. NONE. ZILCH.

We went on like this for several long miles until we came out of a canyon and into a wider stretch of road with two lovely lanes on our side of the road and a sign admonishing slower traffic to stay on the right to allow for passing. Now, I get that the lay of the land makes road construction tricky to say the least, but it’s almost as if some bored sadist built these roads using advanced math to make sure the passing lanes would end just before you had a chance to actually pass. The result being that for quite a ways as we drove, with our friends ahead refusing (again) to move over or slow down, none of us were quite able to pass.

Finally the second truck-and-trailer pulled off the road and as we all passed him, I realized…his trailer lights were not hooked up. So for the past hour or two, we’ve been watching for falling rock, suicidal cows, and all other manner of dangerous rural road horrors, at highway speeds, behind someone whose brake lights weren’t even functional. (Western drivers are nothing if not talented multitaskers!) I think that was the point where we all got really desperate to pass Trailer #1, because the cars in front started revving it to pass him at all costs.

Needless to say he did not appreciate this, and it was only through totally disobeying the speed limit that everyone finally squeezed past him. I slipped by just before rolling into one of those typical tiny towns with a 20 MPH speed limit, and got to watch the driver in my rear view mirror. He was talking to his passenger and gesticulating wildly about something–probably being passed by an Oldsmobile–to which I silently replied, That’s right, gesticulate all you want. I bet your trailer lights don’t work either.

Despite all of the nuttiness on the roads, I did make good time and got to my parents’ town late that afternoon, which meant we had time to do a little shopping and sight-seeing around town. One thing about visiting home: I have to adjust from the silence of cats to their dog, who enthusiastically howls at anyone who comes near or in the house. Say what you will about cats, but they don’t bay at guests and scare the bejeesus out of them when they try to sneak up and down the stairs.

While we were out shopping we managed to load up on goodies from Bath and Body Works (sale time!). I got shower gels and body lotions in three scents I haven’t tried before: Wild Honeysuckle, Secret Wonderland, and Rome Honeysuckle Amore.

At Pier 1 I got this awesome tree-shaped jewelry tree to hold all of my rings and bracelets, and my mom got me some peacock notecards. She got the funkiest metal bird statue that you ever did see, which unfortunately I forgot to photograph, because it was pretty darn cool. And then I got these neat earrings; Pier 1 actually has some cool jewelry if you want something with a global influence.

When we got back to the house I decided I’d better take my shopping bags straight up to my room so I wouldn’t misplace anything. Little did I know that the cream-colored dog was lounging stealthily at the top of the stairs on the cream-colored carpet, watching me come up the stairs while looking at my purchases rather than paying attention to my surroundings. I was about at eye level with her when I finally looked up and she promptly let loose with an “ARRRRROOOOOOOOOOOO” that nearly made me fall backwards down the stairs.

Welcome home!

The next day we decided to get up early and make the two-hour drive to the Big City to hit the mall. Neither of us had really put two and two together at this point and realized that it was Saturday and therefore the mall would be packed. The first store we went in was H&M. I was excited to take my mom there because she’d never been in one and when I had wandered through H&M the month prior, I had seen a lot of cute stuff. Not so here! The racks were packed so tightly you could barely pull clothes off, there were clothes on the floor, and the whole store just wasn’t that impressive. All I could do was repeat, “The one at home is so much nicer!”

That kind of summed up our run through the mall. Crowds, messy stores…overall, a very underwhelming experience. And where was all of the cute stuff I saw this spring?! I guess summer isn’t my season. Nonetheless, I did pick up a few awesome things, among them the most epic set of cookie cutters ever. I can’t wait to use these at Christmas!

These moccasins were on sale at DSW and I thought they’d be cute with denim shorts and boho tops this summer.

The striped dress is from Romy and has a soft fit-and-flare shape that makes it really flattering. The boho floral dress came from a little shop we visited after the mall (more on that below); it’s such a cool summer maxi and I love the muted grey/black/green/yellow floral print.

After the mall we decided to head to a small imports shop that specializes in art, clothing, home goods and more from around the world. It is a decidedly boho/”hippie” shop, and it was awesome. I wound up finding the above great maxi dress, a shoulder bag from the Himalayas, and some Nepalese prayer flags to hang up in the house.

I also got this t-shirt from the men’s department. How cool is this elephant?

And then there were these:

As it turns out, my mom had seen these wooden statues a few months ago and wanted to buy them for my apartment, and on the day we went in, they were marked way down. Score! Now my only challenge was getting them home. We wound up wrapping them in a blanket and buckling them into the backseat of my car. I was convinced at some point someone on the road would call the police to report I had a body in the backseat of my car, but no one did.

[My husband, by the way, is not as taken with these giant cats as I am. The tallest one is about three feet tall. When I brought the body bundle in the house and unwrapped the first one, I only heard a quiet “Oh my God” behind me. Then silence. Once they were set up I turned to see what he thought.

He looked at them for a while. “They’re not that weird,” I said helpfully.

“They’re pretty weird,” was his response. His only request: “Don’t put those things in the bedroom. I’ll never get any sleep with them staring at me.”]

When we were done shopping we stopped for coffee at a local coffee house and then, tired as anything, decided to head home. We were wandering through the downtown area when I realized my sunglasses weren’t on my head or in my bag. I thought I had left them at the coffee shop or maybe in the bathroom there, so we retraced our steps and asked the hipster at the counter if he’d found any (no) before heading to the bathroom to look on the counter.

I don’t know why but while we were standing in the hallway my mom looked at me and suddenly went “They’re right there!” I had them on the neck of my shirt, zipped up under my jacket! We both just about died laughing. I hope that barista didn’t see them while we were talking to him. A pair of gold aviator sunglasses? Uh, nope, not seen anything like that lately! We left by the back door.

When we got back to the house from shopping we were both tired and starving, so I got the bright idea to make some vegan nachos for my mom’s birthday dinner. She had mentioned that they had a case of hot enchilada sauce for me to take home and there was also some in the kitchen to use on the nachos if I wanted. So when I saw a large can of hot sauce sitting on the counter, I thought, Great! I’ll just pour that on for extra flavor.

Here’s what I didn’t realize: this stuff was fairly hot, and there was actually an open container of it in the fridge that I could have used for a less, ahem, fiery effect. The can on the counter was just a reminder for my mom to get the extra case out of the cupboard for me to take home. So as I was spooning the hot sauce on the nachos, I thought, What the hell, I’ll just pour the whole thing in, and I threw them in the oven without a second thought.

Well, you can imagine what the first bites were like…we wound up in a fit of giggles over how hot they were. Luckily the brownies and ice cream turned out a little better. But I learned my lesson: don’t trust the “medium” label and use sparingly. And maybe don’t cook when you’re that tired!

If you go check out the second birthday vacation post you can read about hiking and my mini post-vacation staycation. And then in part three I’ll show you my birthday makeup haul. :)