October 2014 Ipsy Unbagging


It’s time for another Ipsy unbagging.  This month it feels like it took a long time for it to get here, but maybe I’m just imagining things.   As per usual, before we get into October’s bag, I like to take a look back at the previous month, since I unbag these items, but I don’t necessarily review the product.  Here is how I fared with September’s bag:

Briogeo hair mask: I really like this. I’ve used it a few times on the ends of my hair and have noticed a definite difference in how dry it is.  This was also a great sample size, and I still have probably 3-5 more uses.

Cailyn Tinted Lip Gloss: Eh.  This is an OK product, nothing special.  It also has an odd smell, so I’m going to get rid of it.

Crown Dual-Ended Brush: I like this brush.  It’s soft, and applies the product well.  There is a bit of fallout though, which I’m not a big fan of, but it does the trick.

Pacifica Eyeliner: I love the brown color, and this goes on really smoothly.  Not sure it is truly waterproof though.  It does smudge quite a bit, but I like this.

NYX Eye Shadow: This is a beautiful, very usable color, and I’ve been enjoying it.  It is very soft and crumbly though, but it’s a great all-over color.

All in all, September’s bag was a good one.  On to October!


The theme of this month’s bag is Beauty Candy, which is kind of an odd theme for fall, I think.  I suppose candy could be a nod towards Halloween, but as you can see from the color of the bag, which is much more to the green side of teal in person, and if you’ve looked at any of the promotional materials Ipsy put out for this bag, you’ll see that everything is pastel colors.  It honestly reminds me of Easter or spring, but the idea is little makeup treats.  Seeing the contents of this bag, I definitely feel like they missed the “treat” part.  The bag is OK – it’s a plasticky, vinyl bag.  It’s not my favorite, but it’s not awful by any means.

My first product is Ayres Patagonia Body Butter.  This is a body butter that is supposed to nourish and protect skin.  It feels good on the skin, and a little goes a long way, but wow does this smell bad.  It smells like a mixture of sunscreen and lemon bathroom cleaner.  Definitely not a scent I want on my body, no matter how amazing the cream itself feels.  This is a 1 oz sample, worth around $4.15.  The full-size is 6.75 oz and retails for $28.

The next product is H2O Plus Face Oasis Hydrating Treatment. This is a facial moisturizer that is supposed to minimize the appearance of fine lines.  I haven’t had the best luck getting moisturizers from Ipsy.  This one is a light weight blue gel, and unfortunately, it smells a lot like the body butter.  It’s definitely more on the citrus side and less on the chemical side, but it does smell like alcohol.  The gel itself feels nice and is cooling on the skin, but again – do I really want to smell like a citrus scented bathroom cleaner?This is a .33 oz sample worth about $7.20.  The full-size is 1.7 oz and retails for $36.

My next product is Jesse’s Girl Mineralized Baked Shadow Powder. I got the color Ocean Breeze.  This looks really cool in the packaging.  It’s very celestial looking.  It’s a dark blue shadow, with silver and light blue shimmery undertone.  I’m unsure of this color on me, but I’ll see if I can make it work.  I’ve never tried any Jesse’s Girl products, but I know they are supposed to be decent drugstore products. This feels really creamy on my skin when I swatch it, and just swatching it doesn’t produce any fallout, so this could be a winner. This is a full-size product and retails for $3.99.

Next is Skyn Iceland Mini Glacial Cleansing Cloths.  These are just face wipes that are supposed to foam and be a great alternative to washing your face when you’re in a rush.  They are also supposed to remove makeup.  I’ll see how these go.  I haven’t had the best luck with face wipes (most are too rough on my skin). These also have a bit of an off-putting chemical citrus smell, so I’m not too keen on them already.  This is a 10 cloth sample size, worth about $5.00.  The full-size is 30 cloths and retails for $15.

My final product for October is Starlooks Lip Gloss in Guilty Pleasure.  I’ve never heard of this brand, but the color is a nude pink. It smells like vanilla cupcakes, but this is a heavy sticky gloss, which I’m not a fan of.  I’ll probably toss this because I have other lip glosses in this color that aren’t sticky.  This is a .03 oz sample, worth about $2.57.  The full-size is .14 oz and retails for $12.

So that is my Ipsy bag for October. Overall, this bag is just okay. It contains some “staple” skin care products, and the makeup products aren’t very exciting to me, considering that I got an eyeshadow and lip gloss last month. Frankly, I’m really not that satisfied with my Ipsy subscription.  The products themselves are mediocre at best in terms of quality, brand appeal, and size, and I’m just not keeping or using a lot of the stuff I get from Ipsy.  This bag also illustrates a trend I’ve been noticing.  Overall, if you look on the Ipsy site at all the products they sample any given month, there is a good mixture of products.  There are makeup samples, hair care, skin care, body care, fragrance, nail polish, tools.  But, their algorithm for putting the bags together is terrible, because I feel like there is no variety here.  I got 3 skincare products that all smell extremely similar (in a bad way), and two drugstore makeup items.  The total value of the bag this month is around $23, which is good for a $10/month bag, but this one leaves me seriously contemplating canceling Ipsy.  Is anyone else feeling disappointed by their Ipsy lately?

The spiel:
Ipsy is a $10/month subscription service, and you get 4-5 beauty products ranging in size from deluxe sample, to travel size, to full-size.  You can go to Ipsy.com for more details and to sign up (that is not a referral link – it just goes to the Ipsy homepage).  Be forewarned that there is a waiting list at the moment, and I’ve heard that you can be on the wait list for up to two months now.

That is it for this month’s unbagging.  I am going to leave coupon codes from the brands I received this month down below, so if you see anything you want you can snatch it up for a discount.  If you also got an Ipsy bag, or have used any of these products, or are also feeling pretty meh about Ipsy lately, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

October 2014 “Beauty Candy” Coupon Codes:

AYRESIPSY at ayresbeauty.com for 25% off + free shipping on any purchase of $40 or more.  Valid until 10/31/14

IPSYGCC at skyniceland.com for 50% off one item + 20% off all additional products.  Valid until 11/21/14

IPSY at starlooks.com for 20% off cosmetic orders.  Valid until 11/30/14

three things

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1 — I have so been enjoying walking around my neighborhood.  The hallmark of Hyde Park is the University of Chicago, and even though I’ve been in Hyde Park for around two years now, I’d never really explored campus.  These beautiful fall evenings Chicago has been having are great for walks, and campus is quite the bustling place now that classes are back in session.  This is a picture of the newly opened and renovated Saieh Hall for Economics, which used to be the Chicago Theological Seminary when it was built in the 1920s, and I just think it is a gorgeous building.  Plus, the benches outside of it are a great place to sit and listen to one of the university’s carillon concerts on a Sunday afternoon.

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2 — I have recently become pretty obsessed with YouTube and watching videos.  One of my favorite channels is essiebuttonvlogs.  I just love watching her weekly (and now every-other-day) vlogs.  I hadn’t watched in a while, so this week I played catch up and loved every minute of it.  I think I like these vlogs so much because they are just depictions of normal, everyday life.  Nothing fancy here, and that is the beauty.  If you find yourself with 20 or 30 spare minutes, head over and check them out.  You won’t be sorry.


3 — Changing seasons means that I like to change up my music and my playlists.  I was putzing around on my Spotify account, looking for new stuff, and stumbled across this album, Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, by M83.  It came out in 2011 and I was obsessed with it.  It’s one of the few albums out there that I like every single song on.  I’ve been listening to this album on repeat pretty much exclusively this week.  Sometimes there is not much better than rediscovering an old favorite.

Feast Friday: Pumpkin Ravioli in a Brown Butter Sauce, with Lemon Parmesan Broccoli and Roasted Potatoes


I have been a little remiss with my cooking lately.  I don’t know what it is, but I have just not been in the mood to cook, so I’ve been relying on old boring standbys and meals quickly grabbed from the grocery store each day.  This week however, I found myself in the mood to do up a whole meal.  I built this meal around a pack of honey roasted pumpkin ravioli from Trader Joe’s, that I had in my fridge and needed to use up.  I decided to use it up and make this perfect fall meal of pumpkin ravioli with a brown butter sauce, paired with lemon parmesan roasted broccoli and garlic roasted potatoes.  I already did a post on the potatoes here, so this post is going to primarily focus on how to make the brown butter sauce and the roasted broccoli.


Ingredients for the brown butter sauce:
1 stick of (unsalted) butter
2 1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 TBSP brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Ingredients for the lemon parmesan roasted broccoli:
1 large head of broccoli
5 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 cloves of garlic -OR- 1 tsp garlic powder
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

To make the roasted broccoli:
Begin by heating your oven to 425 degrees.  Cut your broccoli into florets.  You can see I even cut some of those florets into smaller pieces.  The smaller your broccoli pieces, the crispier they will come out.  I also did not wash my broccoli.  If you do wash it, dry it thoroughly.  If the broccoli is not dry, it will not get crispy.

In a bowl, combine your broccoli florets with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic (or garlic powder).  Stir together until the florets are coated, then transfer to a foil lined baking sheet.  Make sure the broccoli is laid out in a single layer, so all the pieces get crispy.


Bake the broccoli in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the broccoli begins to brown.


Remove the broccoli from the oven.  Sprinkle it with your lemon juice and top with the parmesan cheese while it is still hot.

To make the brown butter sauce:
Melt your butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Once it is melted, continue to let the butter cook until it begins to brown, about 4 minutes.  Do not walk away from your cooking butter.  It can burn really quickly, so keep an eye on it.  Once the butter has browned, remove it from the heat.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar until combined.  Toss your cooked ravioli with the brown butter sauce and garnish with your chopped pecans.


Then just serve it all up, along side the roasted potatoes and you have a really delicious, filling fall meal.  This is a great vegetarian option, but I could also see pairing the broccoli and ravioli with a roasted pork tenderloin instead.

Happy feasting!


October 2014 Birchbox Unboxing


It is already that time of the month, can you believe it? This is potentially the earliest I have ever gotten my Birchbox.  I usually get it between the 10th-15th of the month, but for whatever reason my October box shipped on the 5th (!) and arrived today.  Definitely not complaining.  Before we get into October’s box, I want to look back at how I fared with September’s products.

Atelier Fragrance: I haven’t used this a lot.  A little goes a long way and it’s a little sweet for me.  I will probably save this for spring / summer.

Macadamia Healing Oil Spray: I love this product, so it breaks my heart that the 2 oz sample I got in my box costs $14.50.  It smells amazing and has really helped the ends of my hair to be less dry and frizzy.  I will definitely be ordering a bottle of this with some of my Birchbox points.

Real Chemistry Peel: this product was a dud.  Honestly, my skin didn’t feel or look any different than it does when I just wash it.

TEMPTU Highlighter: This is really pretty and feels really good on my skin, but I just don’t use highlighter a lot (okay, ever).  It’s good to have on hand, and because I don’t use it a lot this little sample will last forever.

Tocca Hand Cream: I like the way this smells, but the cream itself is very drying.  It feels moisturizing at first, but then it dries into something akin to a powder finish.  At least, that is how it feels to me.

Chapstick Night & Day: This is your basic chapstick.  It’s really nothing special, but it does the trick.  The night side smells really great.

So that was September.  Overall, it was a good month.  Now onto October’s products!

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Because  my box came so early this month, I had absolutely no idea what was going to be in it.  The box previews go up on the 10th, and I haven’t been keeping up with the sneak peeks that Birchbox does on their Facebook / Instagram accounts.  This month’s theme is Fanfare, which I guess is in reference to the fact that October is a big sports month with the MLB playoffs, college football, and professional football.  I also love that this month’s Birchbox book club picks are Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Dark Places and Sharp Objects.  I love all three of these books, and I cannot wait until I can go see the Gone Girl movie.  They also had sample choice again this month, but I opted to be completely surprised.  I love that they have the sample choice option though, so if there is ever something I really want to make sure I get, I can pick it.  Otherwise, I really like the element of surprise.

The first product this month is dr. brandt pores no more vacuum cleaner.  This is a gel that you put on and leave for about 10 minutes, and it is supposed to de-gunk your pores.  I like the idea of this product, but, sadly, there is next to nothing in my tube.
photo 1_FotorNot the best picture, but as you can see there is a tiny amount of product in the tube, which is still sealed.  This is not a knock on Birchbox, since they don’t have any control over the production of the samples, it’s just disappointing.

My next sample is Essentiel Elements Wake Up Rosemary Shower Gel.  This smells like Christmas in a bottle.  It’s a really refreshing combo of rosemary and peppermint. I will definitely be giving this a try, and the sample size is quite generous.

The next product is Harvey Prince Petaly Noir Perfume.  I’ve sampled 2 or 3 other Harvey Prince perfumes and I really liked all of them. This one is what I’ll call a “dark” scent.  It’s more like men’s cologne to me, and what I will call a fancier fragrance.  I’ll probably use this up, but it’s not my favorite scent.

The next sample is actually not a sample, but a full size product.  It is a Mally Beauty High Shine Liquid Lipstick.  I have been wanting to try a Mally product for a while now, but they are not the most affordable.  This liquid lipstick is super pigmented, really shiny, but not sticky.  The applicator reminds me of the Stila lip glaze pens, since it has the brush applicator.  It goes on so smooth, and feels really moisturizing.  It’s also perfumed, which I’m not the biggest fan of on my lips, but I like the soft pinky purple color of Petal to the Metal.

My final sample is a ModelCo High Impact Black Mascara.  If I’m over getting black eyeliner, I am definitely over getting black mascaras.  I will definitely give this a try, though at first glance the wand doesn’t look particularly special. It claims to add length and volume, so we will see.

That is my October 2014 “Fanfare” Birchbox.  Over all, I’m really happy with this box, and I love that for the first time since probably my first box, it was a complete surprise to me.  I can see myself getting use out of all the products, and I would say I’m most excited to use the Mally liquid lipstick this month. If you are interested in signing up for Birchbox, it is a $10/month subscription service.  You can pay monthly or pay for a full year up front.  Everyone gets 4-6 different samples each month, tailored to the beauty profile you fill out and you can review your samples to earn Birchbox points.  Birchbox has the best points system, hands down.  You get 10 points per review and 100 points  = $10 to spend in the Birchbox shop on full size products they sample.  It’s like they pay you $4-6 every month just for taking your box.  If you’re interested in learning more or signing up, you can click here for more details.

Happy October!

three things


1.  I am absolutely in love with this book.  I seriously don’t have enough good things to say about it.  Reading it is like have a real-talk session with your best girlfriend.  It is witty and timely, and Roxane Gay isn’t afraid to point out her own falterings as a feminist, which makes it completely relatable.   It’s not preachy or overly serious, but it does make you take a good hard look at yourself.  If you can get your hands on a copy, I highly recommend it.  If you can go hear Roxane Gay read from it, even better.


2. Gilmore Girls is on Netflix, and yes, it is a big deal.  I love this show.  I didn’t always, but as an adult it is definitely one of my favorites.  It’s been on Netflix for 5 days now, and I’m already on season 3.  Whoops.  I love the cooky, small town charm of Stars Hollow, the fast-paced banter, and all of Michel’s one-liners.  Has anyone else out there been marathoning Gilmore Girls this week?


3.  Saturday was the Great Chicago Fire Festival.  A big fire isn’t something I would peg as festival worthy, but the theme of the festival was revival and rebirth, which is a good message.  It was cold (in the low 40s) and there were a lot of technical difficulties getting all the floats lit on fire, but this was charmingly quirky enough to work.

What I Liked in September


I can’t believe it, but it is that time again – time to wrap up another month and look back at what I liked in September.  I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer‘s What I’m Into for this post.  In all seriousness, I’m glad to be done with September.  I have such a love-hate relationship with this month.  On the one hand, I love it because it signals the start of a new season.  On the other, it just seems to always be such a dull, whomp whomp kind of a month for me.  Here are a few of the things that I liked this month.

pumpkin all the things: there has been a pumpkin explosion this month and I secretly love it.  Pumpkins are out at the grocery stores, and I may or may not have gone pumpkin overboard at Trader Joe’s when I went grocery shopping this month.  Pumpkins just make everything feel festive this time of year.

PSL: yes, I am one of those horribly obnoxious people who waits patiently for the day when Starbucks brings back their pumpkin spice lattes.  I even have a 10th anniversary PSL tumbler to prove it.  I’ve had a couple from Starbucks already, but this year I am dipping a toe into the world of homemade pumpkin spice.  I’ve tried one recipe so far, and it is definitely a winner in terms of taste and cost savings.

chilly nights: we have gotten some very chilly weather in Chicago this month.  It’s warmed up a bit again, but it hasn’t been uncommon for it to get down into the 40s and 50s at night.  I can’t wait until it is consistently cool enough to wear a scarf every single day.

reading rainbow: A lot of good books and good writing have been devoured this month. I’ve already professed my love of Creative Nonfiction, but I also made my way through Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch, Wasted by Marya Hornbacher, and Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs.

burn, baby burn: candles, that is.  I love burning candles in the fall and winter.  It’s really the only time of year I burn them consistently (read: every night) and I love the spicier scents in the fall.  I picked up a bunch from my go-to for candles, Bath and Body Works, and have been trying to savor them and not burn through them too quickly.  My favorites so far this year are Warm Caramel Cider and Pumpkin Apple.  It just makes my whole apartment smell like a delicious autumn day.

new beginnings: September signals the start of the school year here in Chicago, for both public schools and colleges.  It is also signaling a new beginning for me, since I’m not really returning to the classroom anymore.  I’m in the thesis phase of my MFA, which is exciting and scary, since now I set all my due dates and have to really motivate myself to get work done, instead of relying on imposed due dates.  It’s nerve-wracking, and has already ushered in lots of icky feelings of self-doubt, but going forward into October, I’m feeling much more positive about the whole thing.

What did you like in September?


Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs


Being in academics, I read a lot of books, and talk to a lot of people who also read a lot of books.  Most of the stuff I read for school is very dense, typically elevated in language and syntax, and well, let’s be honest here, at times downright unpleasant to read.   When it comes to my own personal, purely for fun reading, I don’t think it will come as much of a surprise that I don’t migrate towards dense literature.  That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy it, but sometimes it can be nice to put my brain on autopilot and enjoy reading for the story, and not reading for all the hidden meaning and sentence structure.

I am a big fan of mystery and thriller novels, but needless to say in the academic world, these books are not considered worthwhile.  That bugs me.  I get it – these aren’t works of high art.  The writing is mediocre compared to literary giants.  But does that mean that books like this, “pulp” as they are often called, have no value? Absolutely not.  Any book that someone wants to read and gets pleasure and enjoyment out of reading is a good book.  Even Fifty Shades of Grey, while definitely not my taste, has merit because it got a lot of people who don’t like reading to hit up their bookstore.

I’ve been a fan of Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series for about four years now.  After I began watching the show Bones, which is extremely loosely based on Reich’s character, I started reading the books.  It’s a long series, but all of the books have been quick, enjoyable, suspenseful reads.  Bones Never Lie is the seventeenth book in the series and follows forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan on the hunt for a killer she’s encountered before, the only one who has gotten away.  The book assumes that you’ve been keeping up with the series and read 2004’s Monday Mourning, though it’s definitely not a prerequisite.  Reichs rehashes enough details and pertinent information, so Bones Never Lie could stand on it’s own.

One of the strengths of Reichs’ writing style is the suspense.  Sure, sometimes thrillers can be cheesy in their syntax.  Reich’s is guilty of often ending chapters with phrases like “…and then the world spun out of control,” but those clichéd phrases are cliché for a reason and they work.  I tore through this novel in about two days.  The story moves rapidly and is almost nonstop action, that twists and turns in unpredictable ways.  Reich’s relies on her real-life knowledge as a forensic anthropologist, so the book does contain a fair amount of scientific language, but it’s not unbearable.  One thing Reichs is good at is giving readers the gist of the science, without going so far that eyes begin to glaze over.  I like to think that I’m learning a little something about forensics while I’m reading these novels.

But the focus isn’t solely on the science.  It can be easy for thrillers to skip over a lot of the human aspects in the lives of characters, but not so with Brennan.  Bones Never Lie sees a continuation (and surprising twist) in the love life of Brennan and longtime on-again-off-again boyfriend Andrew Ryan, and hinges on Brennan’s ability to feel compassion towards her victims.  Overall, this is another great installment in the Temperance Brennan series.  Be forewarned though – it ends on a bit of a personal cliffhanger for Brennan, which makes it even harder to stomach the book eighteen probably won’t come out until the fall of 2015.