Beauty

Unboxing: Conscious Box December 2013

My Conscious Box arrived a little late because of the holidays, so I’m just now posting the contents. I honestly had really mixed feelings about this month; there were lots of items included, but some were repeats, some were just not that interesting, and a couple were just “nopes” for me. If you’re interested in Conscious Box, it’s a monthly subscription box that brings you samples of natural health, food, beauty and lifestyle products for $19.95; choose from a classic, vegan, or gluten-free subscription. There are no preview or skip windows with this subscription. You can cancel anytime. When you rate the products received in your box, you earn points to spend in the Conscious store. Learn more at their website.

Right away, I have two repeats from last month: the African Black soap and the three-pack of Mighty Leaf loose leaf teas. I have no complaints about getting soap and tea in boxes, but I don’t think you should send someone a carbon copy of an item two months in a row. It’s bad for business and irks paying customers who want to try new things.

This Floating Soap, in a brown sugar and sweet potato scent, sounds interesting. I actually tuck most of my soaps in my dresser drawers to scent my clothes, but I might try this in the bath to see what it’s like.

They really went bonkers with the soap samples this month. I’m just sayin’. This seaweed soap from Earth’s Enrichments sounds really nice, though.

The Truly You amber candle is a welcome addition to the box; I love candles. I don’t get into the whole thing about burning to purify chakras and whatnot, but it smells good.

The idea behind this Blue Avocado java sleeve is that you’ll use it instead of the cardboard sleeve that comes on your takeout coffee cup, thereby cutting down on waste. You know what else cuts down on waste? Brewing your own coffee at home and toting it in a washable reusable cup instead of hitting the drive-thru. I know, that’s snotty, but I just don’t see myself using this, ever. Maybe if your lifestyle called for lots of take-out coffee because you were on the go and couldn’t brew at home…then it would be handy. But knowing me, I’d forget to stash it in my purse anyway.

These three samples are okay, but disappointing. (Left to right: Mountain Green laundry detergent, Natural Homelogic dish soap, BumBoosa baby wipe.) I just don’t get all “woohoo” about samples of cleaning products.

Finally! A cosmetic item! This mini bottle of Piggy Paint doesn’t have a color listed on the bottom, but it’s a pretty shade. These polishes are all non-toxic and safe for pregnant ladies or small children.

I’m always up for more protein shake samples. It’s hard to find ones that taste good. This veggie protein pack from APS is in a berry flavor, which should be interesting (I normally buy vanilla or chocolate).

I didn’t like these roasted chickpeas (The Good Bean). To be honest I’m not a big “nut” person anyway, so maybe if you were, you’d like them more…they’re certainly a great alternative to roasted peanuts. Just not my taste.

I really liked this Two Degrees bar, I just didn’t like getting bits of quinoa stuck in my teeth. Kind of problematic, since I usually eat this type of bar on the go or whilst running from one office to another at work, and I really felt the need to floss as soon as I’d finished eating it!

I wasn’t sure about this Numi tea. Beet cabbage? For reals? But it was good, light and slightly spicy–a nice savory tea to go with a meal, as opposed to a sweet dessert tea. I would repurchase this in the future, once I’ve worked through my Christmas stash of tea!

The MegaFood vegan vitamins are a good sample for me, since I’m thinking of getting a multivitamin to add to my diet for the new year. You don’t realize until you go vegan that there are sources of dairy and other animal products lurking everywhere, even in vitamins!

(Slight pause) This Florax DS is, in my opinion, just a weird sample to include.

Extras. A BioBag, for picking up pet waste, and some coupons. There were also coupons included on a couple of products in the box, like the soap and the Numi tea.

Here’s a rundown of everything I got and the approximate item/total box value:

African Black soap: $0.79
Mighty Leaf tea: $1.50
Floating Soap: $1.00 (?)
Seaweed soap: $1.00 (?)
Tea light: $3.00
Java sleeve: $3.00
Laundry detergent: $0.40
Dish soap: $0.10
Baby wipe: $0.10
Piggy Paint: $4.00 (?)
Veggie protein: $2.00
The Good Bean: $2.00 (?)
Two Degrees bar: $2.00
Numi tea: $0.60
MegaFood supplement: $0.80
Florax: $14.27
BioBag/coupons: N/A
Total: $36.56

Overall I liked quite a few of the items–the teas and soaps, candle, nail polish and snack bar–and I would say out of seventeen items, ten were good, five were okay but not for me, and two were just “bleh”. I feel like the inclusion of the Florax DS bumped up the box value and that’s why they felt okay putting in the super-cheapie samples of dish soap and the BioBag, as opposed to other food, beauty or lifestyle samples.

Once again I did find some new items to try out that I would not have purchased off the store shelf at full retail price, but the total value of those items doesn’t exceed the box price, especially if you don’t count the two repeat items. That could be a deal breaker for some people. I do still feel like the box offers a nice mix of items for someone who’s new to vegan and/or green living and needs a place to start before they start buying full-sized items, but I would like to see them improve the “lifestyle” items and start offering more beauty items that are not bar soap.

In any case, while this box had a mixed value for me, I already knew before it arrived that I would be canceling most of my existing subscription boxes on the first of this month as part of my 2014 goal to reduce my unnecessary spending. While these boxes are certainly fun, they’re not a necessity and I know I could put that $20 each month toward something else, so is the last one I’ll be unpacking for some time.

Do you subscribe to any monthly boxes? Any favorites? Any you’re quitting this year, or picking up brand-new? Tell me in the comments!

This year…

I was browsing Twitter yesterday when I saw this Pin tweeted out by Elle from the blog ElleSees (go check it out, it’s one of my faves).

What an easy way to make a list of resolutions, right? I have lots of changes to make this year, and sometimes it can be overwhelming to think of a list of resolutions in one giant chunk. I think that’s part of the reason so many resolutions fail–it’s just too much all at once. I like how this list gives you just nine very specific things to focus on.

A bad habit I’m going to break…Spending money for the hell of it because I’m bored or sad. I’ve never been one to spend money I can’t afford to spend, and I don’t carry a credit card, so it’s not that I get myself into financial hard spots with frivolous spending. It’s just that I have a really bad tendency to say, “I’m bored and I had a crappy night at work. I think a trip to (Target, the bookstore, ULTA) is just the thing I need.” And while $20 doesn’t seem like a lot, it really adds up at the end of the year to a houseful of stuff I don’t really need and a chunk of cash I would have preferred to spend on a big-ticket item, like a vacation or a piece of furniture. I’m going to do a longer post on this later, but 2014 is going to be a year of minimal buying, partly to save money, partly to save myself from an avalanche of unneeded stuff, and partly so I can learn better ways to cope with dissatisfaction (a bike ride, reading a book, etc.).

A new skill I’d like to learn…I want to improve my yoga. I have a lot of problems with back pain and I think this will do wonders for my physical health, as well as my mental well-being.

A person I hope to be more like…I don’t like to pick out one person as a role model. I think there are a lot of reasons not to model yourself after a single person, but rather to look at the traits of a group of people you admire and emulate the things they do that you admire.

A good deed I’m going to do…I don’t talk much about stuff like this because I feel like good deeds, charity or what-have-you should be a bit more private. But I do have a couple of things in mind for 2014.

A place I’d like to visit…I don’t have a particular place in mind, but I do have a general goal of getting out of the house more. I’m hugely introverted and my idea of a good day off is snuggling under a blanket with tea, a book and my cats. I want to get out to go new places, do new things, and see new people. I don’t think being introverted is a bad thing, by the way, and I wear my badge proudly; I just know that for myself personally, my love of hiding in the house can sometimes cut me off from new and fun experiences, and I don’t want that.

A book I’d like to read…Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. I’ve always been scared away by the idea that it must be really long and hard to read, I suppose simply because it’s a classic, and we all know that classics are scary with a capital S. But I finally bought it and stuck it on the shelf, so no more excuses.

A letter I’m going to write…I’m going to write a letter to my future self and tuck it away to be opened on January 1st, 2015. I think it will be really interesting to read it and see what goals and plans I had and how I achieved them.

A new food I’d like to try…I want to be more experimental with my cooking in general. I tend to get in a rut and not try out new recipes, even when I’m bored to death with the food available in the house.

I’m going to do better at…Exercising daily. I tend to get into these modes of either exercising daily and feeling very proud of myself, or not doing it at all and loathing myself. With all of the other things in my life that eat up time and energy, it can be really hard to stick to an exercise routine, so this year I’m going to try for a simple fifteen minutes each day throughout the month of January. Obviously I can do more, but this is just a basic benchmark to hit on even the really busy, exhausting, I-can’t’possibly-do-one-more-thing kind of days. I think doing something daily will make me feel better physically and will make the routine easier in the long run.

If you decide to fill this in, be sure to leave me a comment with your blog post link so I can check it out!

Happy New Year!

Happy 2014 everyone! I can’t believe it’s a new year already. This past year seems like it really flew by, which is sort of sad, but at the same time I’m excited about the new year and all of the new things it will bring.

Being the wild party animal that I am (eye roll) I did very little to celebrate the holidays. I did manage to do some pretty nail art for Christmas Day, but the only big excitement was hitting the movies with a girlfriend. The next day we opened presents, which basically involved books and tea from everyone I know. My friends and family know me quite well!

I almost always work through the holidays so I was pretty excited to have New Year’s Eve off. And then I…fell asleep on the couch. For hours. And when I woke up shortly after midnight, I said “eh, whatever” and stumbled off to sleep in the bed for the rest of the night. See? Told you I was wild.

But lack of midnight festivities aside, I am excited for the new year. I think this is one of my favorite holidays ever, because I love the fresh start and the chance to embrace new things and big changes. Sometime in the next few days I’ll do a longer post on some of my new year’s resolutions but for now I just want to wish you all a very happy new year! Also, if you’re doing any new year posts or resolution posts, leave me a link in the comments so I can check them out!

Product review: Steamcream

Disclosure: I was sent a product in exchange for a review. However I was not compensated for writing a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.

Hey beauties! Are you enjoying your winter? We got several inches of snow here yesterday and I’m loving it. If there’s one thing I don’t enjoy about winter, though, it’s the fact that colder temps and drier air turn my skin super-dry and sensitive, and my regular body and face lotions just don’t cut it anymore.

Hence, I was pretty excited when Katie from Steamcream contacted me to ask if I’d like to try a tin of their all-in-one moisturizer, suitable for use on face, body, hands and feet ($20/75ml). After a couple of weeks of testing, I’m finally ready to share my thoughts with you! Steamcream is vegan and natural and contains ingredients like almond oil to soothe and moisturize without piling on heavy synthetics that can actually do more harm than good. You can learn more about Steamcream’s ingredients and sourcing here

The Steamcream formula comes packaged in your choice of a variety of different beautiful tins. I opted for Thalia, with a pretty orange and white floral design, but if you browse their design gallery you’ll see they have nearly two hundred tins to choose from, meaning there’s something there for everyone! The metal tin is very sturdy but small enough to fit in your hand.

Steamcream has what I would describe as an earthy fragrance, due to the combination of almond oil, lavender, chamomile and neroli. It’s not terribly strong and doesn’t linger long, but if you prefer preppy or uber-fresh scents to what I like to call “hippie” scents, you might be disappointed with the fragrance. Just an FYI. Personally I love natural scents, but I’ve also gotten the side eye for saying I like patchouli, so to each their own. I like that the scent fades away quickly so you can add your own perfume or body spray without creating a competing mix of fragrances.

Surprisingly, the formula is very thin–I expected it to have the consistency of a body butter, but it’s thinner than even a facial lotion. Obviously if you’re used to piling on heavy moisturizers in the winter, such a thin consistency seems odd; it’s hard to imagine how Steamcream can moisturize so heavily when it feels like there’s nothing on your skin. However, when I tested out the cream on one side of my face and body versus a thicker face cream and body butter, I found that there was no noticeable difference in moisturization even after several hours. At the twelve-hour mark, the side with Steamcream actually felt like it was retaining moisture better without reapplication–no dry or itchy patches!

The really lovely thing about Steamcream is that it’s truly an all-in-one product: it moisturizes my dry legs and hands like a much thicker product, but it’s still lightweight enough to use on my face without triggering a breakout. Also, since it’s so light and non-greasy, it’s very good for layering under makeup. I think it would be great for someone who didn’t like using very thick products, or for someone who wanted to layer products without feeling that they were slathering a layer of buttercream frosting over their limbs.

If you’re looking for a new cream to add to your winter skincare routine I highly recommend heading over to the Steamcream website and browsing their tins–it’s a great way to treat yourself this holiday season!

Full ingredients: Oatmeal infusion, orange flower water, almond oil, cocoa butter, glycerine, stearic acid, triethanolamine, organic jojoba oil, lavender oil, chamomile blue oil, orange flower absolute, rose absolute, neroli oil, cetearyl alcohol, coumarin*, geraniol*, citronellol*, limonene*, linalool*, perfume, methylparaben, propylparaben. (*Occurs naturally in essential oils)

Disclosure: I was sent a product in exchange for a review. However I was not compensated for writing a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
 

Unboxing/review: Conscious Box November 2013

Today I’m unboxing the November 2013 Vegan Conscious Box. Conscious Box is a monthly subscription box that costs $19.95 (includes shipping); there are no preview or skip windows in this subscription. Subscribers choose from a classic, gluten-free or vegan subscription and receive a box each month filled with ten to fifteen samples of natural beauty products, food, health items, and lifestyle extras. If you want to learn more about the box you can visit their website. I also recommend checking out the company’s Facebook page, as they often post offers for free or discounted first boxes (which was what prompted me to finally order one for myself!).

When you get your box, you can rate the products and share on social media to earn points; those points are then redeemable on the website toward full-size products, with the points working just like coins. A single review earns you ten points and in turn knocks ten cents off a purchase. Keep building up those points (they tally more quickly than you might think), and you can save on products like food, beauty essentials, household products and more. It’s a nice perk and I think the system of using points to knock down the purchase price is a better way to encourage reviews and feedback than a system where you have to have lots and lots of points to cover the full price of an item, since it will take a long time before you can redeem anything worthwhile.

Okay, on to the contents of the box!

First up we have two food items: a bag of YogaVive Chocolate Apple Chips ($4.49 per bag) and a three-pack sampler of Mighty Leaf teas ($7-$10 for a 15-bag box). The apple chips were just okay–nice and crispy, but it was hard to detect the chocolate flavor. These were a nice snack, but they aren’t something I’d run out to buy, especially for the price. I’m always happy to see tea samples as I do drink a lot of it, and while these are a little pricey for my usual drinking habits I would definitely consider buying them on sale.

The Rebootizer packet ($15 and up for a three-packet box) is supposed to be used as part of an allover week-long detox system, drinking one packet per day, so it’s kind of hard to say how well it works based on one packet/one day of use. I will say that the flavor was strange–like bitter apple cider, but “off” somehow–and while the pouch design is ingenious, it’s not very easy to pop open and shake up per the directions. That said it’s literally a shot glass of a drink so if you needed to detox and wanted to do it in the smallest portion possible, I could see this being a good way to do it.

The MRM Relax-All ($25 for 60 capsules) is a sample of a sleep aid. I’m not big on getting dietary supplements in subscription boxes because I just don’t use that many of them. I’m not big on unnecessary medication and in my long sad pursuit of something to give me a better night’s rest, I’ve found very little that helps. These didn’t necessarily do anything to help me sleep for a longer period of time, but I do feel like these helped me to relax and enjoy a more restful period of sleep, and I didn’t wake up feeling groggy or drugged like I have in the past when taking things like Tylenol PM.

Two travel-size soap samples: one of African Black Soap from Coastal Scents ($12.95 per 15-oz. bar) and one of Lemongrass Summer bar soap from Harmony Acres ($6.95 per 5.5-oz. bar). I could smell the lemongrass, one of my favorite scents, before I opened the box!

The natural perfume sample from Pour Le Monde is intriguing, especially since sales from this perfume benefit the charity Guiding Eyes For The Blind. A full size 1.7 ounce perfume costs $95, so this is a pretty high-end sample to include in the box. The Blood Orange & Juniper lip balm from Ivre de Fleurs is full size (retails for $7.50) and contains ingredients like mango butter to nourish dry chapped lips.

The Sunology Natural Sunscreen sample is a nice idea, but…foil packets! Argh! You just can’t adequately judge a product from a tiny packet, in my not-so-humble opinion. I do like that it has a high SPF (50) and doesn’t contain ingredients that sting my eyes, but it’s just really hard to say how well I like it based on such a tiny application.

The Better Botanicals Apricot Eye Therapy packet ($18.99 for 15 ml) is a lot better, since eye cream goes so far that a 1.5 ml packet will last a good while provided it’s kept in an airtight baggie. I’ve been using this under makeup and before bed all week and it really does help with tired, puffy eyes, making me look much more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed even on my worst days, so I will definitely consider purchasing this in the future.

This box also included a few coupons, but I didn’t count them into the box’s value. Overall, my estimate of the box’s value is as follows:

YogaVive apple chips (full size): $4.49
Mighty Leaf tea (3 bags): $1.50
Rebootizer: $5.00
MRM Rest-All: $0.83
African Black Soap: $0.79
Lemongrass soap: $1.84
Pour le Monde perfume: $6.00
Blood Orange lip balm (full size): $7.50
Sunology sunscreen: N/A
Better Botanicals eye cream: $1.89

Total value: $29.84

Overall, I would say that I was pretty happy with this box. There was a decent mix of items, two full size items and two high-value cosmetics samples (the perfume and the eye cream). I wouldn’t say it was the best value overall but it did exceed the purchase price and I liked enough of the items to give it a thumbs-up.

I’ve seen some really great boxes and some sort of blah boxes come out over the past year, but overall I think I like it enough to stick around and see what the December box will hold. If you’re subscribed to Conscious Box, or to any other vegan-friendly boxes, tell me about it–I’d love to hear your recommendations/rants/general thoughts about these boxes!

Glowy winter makeup (selfie)

Well, I suppose I kind of failed at BEDN–I skipped out yesterday because I was way too tired from work to even check my e-mail, let alone sit down and compose a post. Today’s prompt is supposed to be writing about something outside of your comfort zone, but sadly today I am again drawing a blank on a proper post!

However, I do have something that kind of counts–a selfie from our movie date night last week. I feel weird posting selfies either on the blog or social media, probably just because I am not used to it. So here you go! (Sorry for the grainy quality, I didn’t have time to dig out the real camera for a snapshot.)

It was a chilly, snowy day, so I went with a knit hat and fluffy scarf to keep me warm. To get a low-makeup look that was rosy and bright, I used a tinted moisturizer all over to subtly warm up my skin tone, then used a blend of peach and wine blushes to warm up my cheeks. A generous amount of highlighter on cheek and brow bones and in the inner corner of the eyes adds more glow. I used  waterproof mascara (to avoid smudging in the damp) and a trace of creamy pencil on the waterline to brighten my eyes. A slick of lip balm and light pink gloss finished it all off.